European Commission: National Parliaments

Part of Deregulation Bill (Programme) (No.3) – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe 6:12 pm, 10th March 2015

I am grateful to all Members who have taken part in this brief but interesting debate. Like my hon. Friend Jacob Rees-Mogg, I am conscious that there is other important business to follow, so I will keep my remarks very brief indeed.

I take note of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset about remaining outstanding debates, but I point out that there have so far been 51 debates on European Union matters on the Floor of the House during the course of this Parliament, whereas previously the custom was to have perhaps two such debates a year.

My right hon. Friend Mr Redwood referred to the tensions that exist between national democracy and the reality of how decisions are made at European Union level. Of course, European Union law is operative and has direct effect in this country only because Parliament has decided, through the European Communities Act 1972, that that should be the case. It is clearly open to this or a future Parliament to alter those arrangements should it choose to do so. However, although that is constitutionally possible, it would bring about an immediate crisis in this country’s relationship with the European Union.

I think that it is important for us to remember that although there are some things that we find objectionable and frustrating about European Union decisions, sometimes the things that we find most valuable and beneficial to our interests are those that other EU countries resent the most. It is for that reason that I think the idea that one could simply have a unilateral right of veto for any of the 28 member states simply does not work if the European Union is to exist in a meaningful form.

I agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset when they talked about the lack of a European demos. After all, that is the very reason why, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, the eurozone countries are finding it so hard to reconcile an economic imperative towards greater integration, with the political reality that national electorates want to hold economic policy decisions nationally accountable through their own national democracies.

What the Prime Minister said in his Bloomberg speech, which I read and re-read constantly, is that this is a challenge not just for the United Kingdom—as it is—but for every member of the European Union. It is the Prime Minister’s commitment and intention to negotiate a settlement between the United Kingdom and the rest of the EU that is good for us and good for our partners, and which achieves a balance between membership of the European Union and a need for a measure of collective decision-making there, with the need for national accountability and for the British people to feel that they are comfortable about their place in that European organisation. That is something to which the Prime Minister committed himself in January 2013. I know he is completely determined to deliver that.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 12425/14, the 2013 Annual Report from the Commission on relations between the Commission and national parliaments, and No. 12424/14, the 2013 Annual Report from the Commission on subsidiarity and proportionality; recognises the importance of the principle of subsidiarity and the value of stronger interaction between national parliaments and the EU Institutions; deplores the failure of the outgoing Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship to respond to national parliaments’ concerns about the proposal to establish a European Public Prosecutors Office; looks forward to the European Commission responding to the call of national parliaments and the European Council to strengthen national parliaments’ role in improving EU legislation; and welcomes the Government’s commitment to increasing the power of national parliaments in EU decision-making by strengthening and, where possible, enhancing current provisions.