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European Union (Scrutiny)

Volume 473: debated on Thursday 20 March 2008

28. What plans she has for new procedures to enable the House to conduct the scrutiny function for national Parliaments set out in the treaty of Lisbon. (195472)

As I said to the House during the debate on 26 February on the Bill to enable ratification of the EU treaty,

“We will work with both Houses to ensure that there is an effective mechanism, and we will also ensure that there is an opportunity for a decision before the Lisbon treaty comes into force.”

I also said that we would examine this alongside the review of

“the new scrutiny arrangements that we established last month.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2008; Vol. 472, c. 977.]

On 13 March, the Lords European Union Committee published a report, “The Treaty of Lisbon: an impact assessment”, setting out its views on the yellow and orange card mechanism. We will take that into account, alongside the findings of the forthcoming inquiry by the Commons European Scrutiny Committee.

I think that it is fair to say that opinions differed on the treaty of Lisbon, but the one thing that was welcomed in all parts of the House was the additional powers of scrutiny conferred by the treaty—not on the Executive but on Parliament, giving Parliament the chance to constrain some of the activities of the European Union when it did not show subsidiarity. Will the hon. Lady ensure that we have an appropriate mechanism that does not just send this to some Committee a long way away from the Floor of the House where nobody knows exactly what is going on, but gives this House and this Chamber centrality in the issue of what should be decided at European level and what should be decided by this Parliament?

The hon. Gentleman makes some reasonable points. As I said, it will be a matter for each House to decide how it plays its cards. Of course, the European Scrutiny Committee will maintain its role in making an initial scrutiny of the documents, and we anticipate that the explanatory memorandums produced by Government Departments will highlight the subsidiarity point more fully than is the case currently. Furthermore, when we come to look at this we will consider a number of issues, including the role of the whole House, what to do during long recesses, and the scope that there may be for inter-parliamentary co-operation through the COSAC mechanism.