Letter: Boiled beef

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So John Major thinks Euro-MPs should "go and boil their heads" does he (13 October)? We invited Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture minister, to appear before the European Parliament's inquiry into the BSE crisis because we believed it was our role to scrutinise Commission and member state handling of the affair. His refusal gives our EU partners an impression of cowardice rather than principle.

We had thought we had the backing of the British government. John Major's paper on this year's inter-governmental conference suggests that MEPs have a role in "monitoring and restraining Community spending; by contributing to the fight against fraud and mismanagement; and by doing more to oversee details of spending". It is hard to see how any of these functions could be carried out without the co-operation of member state ministers and officials: Community spending is agreed by the member state governments; the vast majority of fraud occurs at a national level. How are we to "monitor and restrain" if national governments won't play ball?

This issue should unite Europhobes and Europhiles alike. We are not asking for new powers, merely to use existing ones tomaximum effect. It is not about intruding into areas of purely national concern - it is about bringing greater democratic accountability to the actions of our ministers in Europe. It is Mr Major's bonce that needs boiling.

Robin Teverson

Liberal Democrat MEP for Cornwall and West Plymouth