Treaty on European Union

Part of Orders of the Day — European Communities (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 4th March 1993.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney 7:30 pm, 4th March 1993

1 have wondered at times during this two and a half hour debate whether we have focused clearly enough on the question of the institutions. I shall try to be brief and to the point.

Against the background of a treaty of a federal character, which is what this treaty is, it is inevitable that the institutions set up under the Rome treaty and subsequent treaties and under the treaty of union should be strengthened. The powers of the union, the powers of the quasi-state, are expressed, after all, in its institutions. The institutions which most clearly reflect the federal character of the treaty are the European Parliament and the Commission.

I turn first, however, to the Council of Ministers. Both it and its powers are certainly affected by what is contained in the Maastricht treaty. Virtually the only safeguard that the nation state has against encroachment by Community powers under the Rome treaty is the unanimity rule—that is to say, the rule under which the agreement of all Ministers representing member states has to be obtained before a directive becomes law and before policy is implemented.

The trouble is that the unanimity rule is being weakened all the time—first, and unfortunately, under the Single European Act. I shall not go into a great debate about that, but under it the rule was removed from a whole range of areas, especially those affecting the creation of a single market.

The Maastricht treaty removes the unanimity rule from areas of policy to which it used to apply—and from all the areas listed under article 3, for which new competence is handed over to the European Community.