My hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and I wish to announce that following the treaty of Lisbon’s entry into force on 1 December 2009, the Government intend that the extra seat in the European Parliament which is assigned to the UK under the treaty will be filled in accordance with the results at the June 2009 European Parliamentary elections. The treaty of Lisbon establishes an overall cap on the size of the European Parliament and an adjustment of the distribution of MEPs between 12 EU member states. The number of UK MEPs increases from 72 to 73.
An agreement of a transitional protocol is required to permit those member states who gain MEPs under the treaty to elect their additional MEPs during the current European Parliamentary term rather than wait until the next round of European Parliamentary elections in 2014. At EU level, unanimous agreement is needed for such a protocol, as it will mean a temporary increase in the number of MEPs allowed by the treaty. At UK level, a Bill will be required after the general election to ratify the treaty change in the UK. Legislation will also be required to provide for the seat to be filled.
Should the seat be awarded to a European Parliamentary electoral region of Great Britain, the results from that region at the 2009 election will be used to determine which party would have been awarded the next seat had an additional seat been available. The system used in Northern Ireland to elect its MEPs—the single transferable vote—is different from that used in Great Britain. If the extra seat is allocated to Northern Ireland therefore, the seat would go to the highest ranking candidate not to have reached the quota at the 2009 election following completion of the count.