EU Council of Ministers

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 7th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 2:16 pm, 7th June 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals his Department has to increase the transparency of decision-making in the European Union Council of Ministers; and if he will make a statement. [25432]

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We will continue to press for more transparency in the Council's decision-making, building on the principles agreed during the United Kingdom presidency.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

In democracies, formal legislative decisions are made by Parliaments, with full details provided of their votes and the state of Bills and amendments. This place is full of volumes of documents listing such material, yet the Council of Ministers, which is effectively the Parliament of Europe, meets in secret and all we get from it are its final directives and decisions and, occasionally, a final vote, if a vote happens to take place. Is not there a long way to go before transparency, meeting democratic requirements, is introduced into the Council of Ministers?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The United Kingdom is interested in all practical improvements which command broad support in the Council. The hon. Gentleman does not give credit where credit is due. The achievements so far include routine publication of votes, wider public access to Commission and Council documents, full briefing of the press before and after meetings of the Council and some Council sessions being held in public and televised.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

Is not this House a good place to start in achieving real accountability of the European Union Council of Ministers? In that context, could not my hon. Friend have come back from the ministerial meeting at Messina and made a statement to the House about the preparations for the intergovernmental conference? The stand that he took at Messina was welcome, and he should never fear to stand alone.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for that compliment. Throughout the course of the next six months, there will be some 15 meetings of the reflections group and I shall ensure that a clear account of what I say at those meetings will be given in a written answer.