MPs' report is music to ears of Euro-sceptics: All-party group fears lack of accountability and makes plain its unease on 'subsidiarity'

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Indy Politics
ANY THOUGHTS the Government might nurse of burying its Maastricht woes once the contentious treaty is ratified were challenged yesterday as an all-party committee of MPs called for the Commons to be consulted on all important decisions taken under it.

The Government should likewise report regularly to MPs over how the much-discussed principle of subsidiarity is working in practice, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report, Europe After Maastricht, urges.

With barely a page failing to spotlight contradictory interpretations of the treaty and its potential effects, much of the report will be music to the ears of Maastricht sceptics as the ratification measure, the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, grinds on through its parliamentary stages.

The report's concerns about lack of accountability to the British Parliament come in the wake of protests that business managers' tactics on the Bill's Commons stages have left MPs sidelined, deprived of a vote on critical issues.

Much of the copious evidence taken by the MPs is likely to reinforce Euro-scepticism over the attention lavished by the Government on subsidiarity, claimed by the Prime Minister as an important safeguard against unjustified meddling by Brussels.

Loosely, the concept is understood as meaning that wherever possible, decisions should be taken nationally and not by Brussels. But the report steers clear of adopting any definition because opinions on the subject are so wildly different.

Evidence included the views of legal experts who said the principle would apply only when the Community legislated for the first time in a new field; in other cases the European Court of Justice would be unlikely to rule a measure illegal.

Contrary to the view of Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, the committee says the reams of paper devoted to the topic at last December's Edinburgh summit 'boil down to . . . an undertaking (not legally enforceable) that the principle will be considered . . . by all community institutions'.

It is also unimpressed by the European Commission's offer to 'repatriate' areas of unnecessarily meddlesome law-making to member states. The Foreign Office had been unable to supply a list of an allegedly large number of new proposals it said the Commission had frozen.