Treaty on European Union

Part of Orders of the Day — European Communities (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 4th March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney 7:45 pm, 4th March 1993

I want to develop some of the main points contained in the document on "Structure and Strategy" for European union. It is of interest to the House to know the following. With regard to the Council of Ministers, the document says: its development into a second legislative chamber in the sense of a genuine chamber of states and alongside the European Parliament must be accelerated, with it becoming a standing body of the Union, its meetings on legislative matters held in public and taking majority decisions and co-decisions and on an equal footing with the European Parliament. Those words are particularly important. So the Council becomes a second legislative chamber.

With regard to the Commission, the document says: "it must hold Executive power in the European Union and as such must manage the Union's affairs on the basis of the European Union's Laws"— and so on. There is no question about the Commission. Its powers are there. It is to be the executive and the authority.

With regard to the European Parliament itself, the document says: it must collaborate with the Council on the basis of equal rights and powers in all spheres in which the European Union has legislative competence and with respect to all decisions concerning revenue and expenditure. Further, and most significantly, it must have considerably enhanced control over Foreign and Security policy …it should be given the right of assent with respect to all fundamental common foreign and security policy decisions, in conclusion of international treaties and all decisions adopted unanimously by the Council in the framework of the European union. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) reminded me that the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recently took evidence from five members of the European Parliament representing the institutions committee of the European Parliament. It became clear from our exchanges that they were envisaging a federal constitution for the European union, modelled closely on the federal German state with the nation state occupying the role of the German Lander, with the European Parliament fulfilling the role of the Bundestag and representatives of the nation state serving in an upper chamber similar to the Bundesrat. That is the very shape and outline not merely of a constitution but of a familiar federal structure. That is quite interesting. As I say, that was the MEPs' strongly supported view.

We had some exchanges earlier—I shall not go far into the subject—on subsidiarity and people misunderstanding what is meant by federalism. There is no misunderstanding of what is meant here. It is similar to the German or American systems which we know all about. There is a national assembly, in the case of the Americans, and there is the Bundestag in the case of Germany. Those are the sovereign parliamentary bodies. In both cases, in the Senate and the Bundesrat, there are representatives of the 51 or so states and the different Lander. It is a familiar picture.