European Commission: National Parliaments

Part of Deregulation Bill (Programme) (No.3) – in the House of Commons at 5:55 pm on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset 5:55 pm, 10th March 2015

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend and I was coming on to that.

The heart of the matter is the question of where we think democracy lies in the European Union. Does it lie in the Commission? The answer, in fairly short order, is no. Every country has a commissioner and, as Kelvin Hopkins has said, commissioners from very small countries sometimes get very important briefs. It was the Maltese Commissioner who finally decided whether neonicotinoids could be legal across the whole of the European Union. Malta has a population of about 250,000—which is tiny in proportion to ours, let alone that of the whole of the EU—and it was someone representing them who made a decision for all of us without any democratic accountability because the Council could not come to a decision.

There is no election for European Commissioners—they are appointed by their home Governments. The President of the Commission represents Luxembourg, which is hardly the great bulwark of population and importance for which one might hope. It is not exactly the Texas, or even the Illinois, of the European Union. Relatively minor figures from their own domestic functions are put forward as commissioners, with no support from, or knowledge of, the people living in the other member states. Before he became a commissioner, very few people in the United Kingdom could have named the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. There is no democratic accountability in the Commission.

Perhaps there is democratic accountability in the European Parliament, but, if there is, it is of a most extraordinary kind. The d’Hondt system for electing people is most unsatisfactory and means that most people have no clue who their MEP is. It is very difficult to seek redress of grievance through the European Parliament in the way our constituents can seek redress of grievance through this House. Indeed, one of my concerns about the whole European project is that it denies our constituents that proper redress of grievance that they can get through the House of Commons.

Crucially, the European Parliament cannot have democratic accountability because it does not represent a single people. When the issue of unemployment in Greece, Spain and Portugal came up in yesterday’s debate, it was absolutely instructive that there was a complete lack of concern for unemployment in the other member states of the European Union. There is not a feeling that somebody unemployed in Greece is as important as somebody unemployed in Newcastle. Until we have that fellow feeling—the feeling that they are one people with us—there cannot be a proper democracy. The jargon, clearly, is that without a demos there cannot be democracy and there is not a single European people. Therefore, even if the European Parliament had Members who anyone knew about, and even if it was elected on a system that anyone thought was a reasonable system to elect people on, it would still not have proper democratic representation because it does not represent a single people.

That brings us to the Commission, which I think is the closest we get to democracy in the European Union. The Ministers represent their Governments and those Governments have to command majorities in their respective Houses of Parliament. That brings us back to exactly where we want to be: the democratic rights of Parliament and what Parliament should be able to do within the overall system and context of the European Union. Ultimately, democratic accountability within Europe—that thin thread of accountability that exists—is through the Commission to Parliaments.