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European Parliament

Volume 175: debated on Monday 25 June 1990

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To ask the Lord President of the Council whether he has any proposals to improve liaison between the House and the European Parliament.

The Government agree with the Procedure Committee that there are benefits to be gained from building up informal links between the two Parliaments. The House should be able to discuss this subject later this week. Meanwhile, the Services Committee is investigating the scope for improving Members' telephone and postal contacts with Community institutions.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend undertake to consider the systems that apply in other national Parliaments, such as the Folketing, to encourage liaison between Members of this House and British Members of the European Parliament who, after all, are fighting the same battle as we are?

I am certainly willing to consider any proposals identified by my hon. Friend. He will recall that the Procedure Committee concluded that there was no strong case for the introduction of legislation to establish formal contacts. I am sure that it is in the interests of the House and of the European Parliament to encourage in as many ways as possible the development of informal contacts.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that liaison between individual Members of both Parliaments is often very good, not least between the three Labour Members for the city of Leicester and the Labour Member of the European Parliament for Leicestershire, and not least concerning travesties such as the closure of Bewcastle house and De Montfort house old people's homes in our joint constituencies, without informing any of us in advance and without telling the old people, who had to find out for themselves? Is not that a disgrace in either Parliament?

Even for the sake of finding something to say, I shall not commend the constituency interest that was so skilfully and characteristically advanced by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend say a bit more about telephone call facilities to institutions including the Parliament in Brussels? I know that it means phoning wicked foreigners, which is an inherently dangerous activity, but, as we raised the matter about 18 months ago, it really is time that we made progress, like other Parliaments.

As I said in my earlier answer, that proposal is being considered by the Services Committee. Clearly it makes sense to establish workable arrangements for hon. Members to have ready contact with European institutions. I hope that the Services Committee will report on that matter as soon as possible.