Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 9th May 2006.
When and how he plans to reform parliamentary scrutiny of EU legislation.
I will be considering closely with colleagues the proposals of the Modernisation Committee in the last Session on scrutiny of European business. We hope to bring forward ideas for taking this issue further forward in due course.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. I urge him to push with some vigour on the issue, because Parliament does a poor job of scrutinising EU legislation. Most EU legislation ends up going through in an hour and a half's debate in Committee with no opportunity to table amendments. We should have some means of making sure that more EU legislation is open to amendment.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's point. It is certainly unacceptable that the House's opportunity to scrutinise legislation often comes too late in the process, which means that there is insufficient time to give such matters proper scrutiny. However, there is not consensus in the House or its Select Committees on the way forward, which is what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I are seeking to achieve.
May I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the House that he might suggest to the new Leader of the House, whom I look forward to welcoming properly to his new role in business questions on Thursday, that there is a chance to succeed where others have failed? It is more than a year since the Modernisation Committee produced a report stating that
"there are also worrying shortcomings in the House's scrutiny of EU business".
Leader of the House after Leader of the House has put off that matter, and I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the House that now is the time for the Government to grasp that particular nettle and introduce firm proposals for improving this House's scrutiny of EU business.
I do not accept the right hon. Lady's account. The report to which she has referred was controversial. As she knows, the minutes of the Committee include the voting record, which shows the controversy—the Committee changed its mind before eventually coming up with a recommendation. The Committee was divided, and it is unfair of her to suggest that the Government could move forward as a result of that uncertain recommendation. I know that she shares the desire of my hon. Friend Chris Bryant and the rest of the House to have proper scrutiny of legislation, and we would certainly welcome any proposals from the right hon. Lady and her party on that matter.