European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 20th November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Willoughby de Broke Lord Willoughby de Broke Conservative 6:15 pm, 20th November 2001

I rise to support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Howell. I would like to find out more about the Committee of the Regions. It was established in the Maastricht Treaty. It seems to have areas of compulsory consultation—economic and social cohesion, trans-European networks, public health, education, youth culture and so on. What has it achieved? My noble friend said that it was not a talking shop. If it is not a talking shop, what has it done? If it is a talking shop, why do we need it at all? If it is not, perhaps we could be told why it is so important that it needs to be dealt with by qualified majority voting and not by unanimity.

It may be that the Minister can tell me this in a letter rather than in a debate, but it would be interesting to find out its remit and what it has done. I have not seen a report on the Committee of the Regions. I do not know whether it has a budget, whether its members are paid or unpaid, whether it gets its expenses, and where and how often it meets. I know that there is a so-called "bureau" of 40 members including a president and a vice-president, and so on. It seems to have a great deal of work to do. But I wonder whether it is worthwhile. What has the Committee of the Regions done? Perhaps a member of it can tell me. My old friend the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, is here. He was a member of the Committee of the Regions. We may be further enlightened. I wait to hear if we get some information from a member of the very committee about which we are talking.