Letter: Westminster impotent to curb Europe

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The Independent Online
Sir: The "stifling of British democracy" (report, 20 August) was inevitable from the day in 1972 when Parliament reduced its own status to that of a subordinate legislature by enacting the European Communities Act. Sadly our politicians have been trying to conceal that fact ever since.

While it is clearly wrong that ministers and officials should abuse our internal constitutional processes by bypassing the Select Committee on European Legislation, one must question what useful purpose is served by this committee's deliberations now that so much federal legislation is determined by qualified majority voting. If Parliament were to lay down a policy to be followed on a particular issue, all they would achieve would be to tie the hands of ministers and officials in the "horse trading" which inevitably goes on in the Council of Ministers and the Commission, without any guarantee that this policy would not be outvoted by the other members. The process of scrutiny of federal legislation by national parliaments is at best futile, and at worst self-defeating.

If we want Europe to be more democratic, and there is a great democratic deficit at its heart, we should seek to make the Council and the Commission more accountable to the European Parliament, not to insist on the right of our own legislators to run interference on our own executive in federal negotiations. An exception obviously applies in respect of those issues where individual member states have a right of veto.

Assuming that we remain a full member of the Union, Parliament would serve us best by concentrating on performing the restricted functions of a "state legislature" as well as possible.


Bookham, Surrey