Letter: Subsidiarity in the EC will not preserve national sovereignty

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Sir: I hope we can all welcome John Major's decision to make subsidiarity 'a way of life'. Before we celebrate in the streets, however, we must ask what he means.

In the encyclical letter from which the term originates, Pope Pius XI was referring to a nation state arrogating to itself functions 'which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower


In Europe generally, the term has a clear and accepted meaning. It is good to see from today's Independent that your reporters are using and defining the term correctly as 'the doctrine that decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level'. Until now, Mr Major's distortion has been to act as if subsidiarity means concentrating all power on his own desk.

In this he follows Baroness Thatcher. Throughout the last decade the Government has been arrogating functions to itself that local authorities had performed more than adequately and in the manner desired by local people.

Moreover, decisions at a regional level in France and Germany are taken by elected representatives. In Wales and Scotland, as in some English regions, billions of pounds are spent by central government representatives who would never win a direct election.

Maastricht allows for regions to have a direct role in Community decision-making. Surely correcting the democratic deficit within the United Kingdom must be part of the 'campaign for real subsidiarity' advocated in your leader of 30 June.

Last week the Foreign Secretary defined subsidiarity as 'a minimum of interference'. If Mr Major is serious about making subsidiarity a way of life, he must stop interfering with local democracy and extend democratic accountability within the UK.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Cardiff South

and Penarth (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

2 July