European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 6:00 pm, 20th November 2001

These are similar provisions concerning the addition of QMV to other interesting and important areas in the structure of the European institutions. Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 refer to the extension of QMV to choosing the membership of the 350 member-strong Economic and Social Committee. Its members are appointed for four years. Amendment No. 30 concerns the Committee of the Regions.

Both bodies are valuable institutions. I have heard them criticised. People have said that they are only talking shops and so on. Talk and the airing of opinions and views from certain interests in addition to those of the citizens of Europe through the, sadly inadequate, general democratic system—an envelope of democracy encasing the European institutions—should not be dismissed. The institutions form a part of the pattern of exchange and dialogue from the grass roots. They are rather like the buttresses of a cathedral that has not been built because the democratic deficit is so obvious at the centre of the system. But around the edge are institutions where hard work is done by people from the various member states who offer their expertise and views. Apparently, that is all to be governed by qualified majority voting. I wonder why. I beg to move.