The Government in Crisis: Howard aims to curb commission's powers

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S case for limiting the powers of the European Commission to interfere on environmental matters was laid out yesterday by Michael Howard, Secretary of State for Environment, writes Colin Brown.

Mr Howard, a leading anti-federalist, said he would be pressing for the abolition of the commission's power to interfere on drinking water purity.

Although he held out little hope of securing support for such a move from the other 11 European Community members, he made it clear that he wanted environmental issues included in the agreement at the Edinburgh summit on 'subsidiarity' under which member states would retain powers to take decisions, unless there was an overriding reason for them to be taken at European level.

He wants to go further than Jacques Delors, president of the commission, who is preparing draft plans for the subsidiarity agreement. Mr Delors suggested the commission should no longer be able to dictate to member states over the quality of beaches and bathing water, or on shooting wildlife in protected areas.

Mr Howard told the Commons select committee on the environment that his 'rule of thumb' on subsidiarity was that environmental issues which had consequences crossing national boundaries, such as acid rain, should be dealt with at European level. Issues affecting neighbouring member states could be settled between them.