European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:48 pm on 20th November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Biffen Lord Biffen Conservative 5:48 pm, 20th November 2001

I want to take up the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, about the availability of the European Union Committee's report on the Court of Auditors, which was proposed by this House. It was widely acclaimed and should be central to our discussions. The way in which the amendment is drafted inevitably prevents a wide-ranging discussion—it would be similar to the discussions that we have at Second Reading—of the topic. The situation is a commentary on the way in which we treat EU legislation. We treat it quite differently from our own domestic legislation; less determination—less precision—is involved. If ever there was a case for paying more attention to European legislation, this matter demonstrates that need.

I echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson. I cannot pretend that the question of whether the appointment is made by QMV or not is a ditch in which one is prepared to die. I have a purely practical request: how will the effective work of the Court of Auditors be improved as a result of its being appointed by QMV? How will the decision to choose the members of the court be improved by undertaking qualified majority decisions? If a change of this character were essayed in our domestic legislation, it would be subject to the most relentless examination of exact cause and effect. That would be done not as a result of partisan politics but with a desire to ensure that whatever the House of Lords or Parliament fashioned as law should be justified and effective.