Letter: Westminster impotent to curb Europe

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The Independent Online
Sir: The House of Commons Select Committee on European Legislation suffers from bad self-delusion. It is not its job to scrutinise draft EU legislation. That belongs to the European Parliament, which under the Treaty is the legislative partner of the Council and the Commission and has established formal procedural arrangements to make the partnership work. At the current IGC the European Parliament's law-making role needs to be reinforced, particularly with regard to secondary legislation: the UK government is alone in opposing this.

What should the European committee be doing? It should be co-operating better with the European Parliament's committees in monitoring the implementation of EU law and policy in this country; it should be assisting MEPs, especially in EU budgetary control; it should be questioning the broad lines of government policy and insisting on the publication of White Papers on pressing strategic issues, such as EMU; it should be assessing the causes and effects of government setbacks in the Council; it should go fact-finding in Brussels and act as a conduit of information between the EU institutions and Westminster; it should be collaborating far more closely with comparable bodies of MPs in other member states, especially to open up tricky dossiers, such as fisheries policy.

Bleat as the European Select Committee might about its treatment at the hands of the Government, the fact is that most MPs are deeply ill-informed about the European Union and more or less uninterested in the European dimension to domestic politics. When from time to time the House of Commons comes to exercise its reserve constitutional powers on major developments in the European Union such as enlargement, Treaty change or EMU, is it really a surprise that it makes such a poor showing?



The Federal Trust

London SW