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Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Mackintosh Mr John Mackintosh , Berwickshire and East Lothian 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

My point is that it is not a suitable matter for legislation. It involves alteration of the Standing Orders of this House.

If we are to have an adequate scrutiny system it means setting up Select Committees to look at those items and draft regulations being considered by the Commission, to draw them to the attention of this House, and to enable us, if necessary, to have a Supply Day debate, a vote of confidence in the Government, or an Adjournment debate if a matter affects a particular constituency. That is the kind of thing we need.

Our difficulty is that the two Front Benches have not in the past liked that kind of development in the House. Though they bewail the transfer of sovereignty from this country to an international organisation, they are not prepared, as Ministers or would-be Ministers, to strengthen the power of this House against an Executive, whether it is purely British or is partly amalgamated with the European Executive.

When members of the Select Committee on Procedure who have struggled to strengthen the procedures of this House have said "Let us look at this; let us devise a procedure which will not merely give adequate scrutiny of things going on in Europe but enable us to do a better job on matters which are solely the province of this country and its Government", they have tended to get a rather dubious answer.

I fear that when the Bill is passed the two Front Benches will revert to their normal approach: that the more that is left in the hands of the Executive the better, and the less scrutiny made available to hon. Members the better. If that is not so, I shall be delighted to be corrected.