European Union (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 19th May 2008.

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Photo of Baroness Ashton of Upholland Baroness Ashton of Upholland President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office) 9:30 pm, 19th May 2008

I can confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Roper, said. This House will be completely at liberty. This is new and different. I hope that that reassures those noble Lords for whom this has been of greatest concern. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, for grouping on the Floor of the House as opposed to degrouping on the Floor of the House, which is the usual experience of Ministers. I am grateful to him and his colleagues who have done a lot of work on trying to condense some of the issues. I pay tribute to them for that.

The amendment deals with whether a Joint Select Committee would be more appropriate than what is being proposed. The noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that I disagree with that proposition. In both Houses we have experience of a way of looking at EU legislation that has served us well. I pay particular tribute to this House. The noble Lord was concerned that lots of legislation has been passed without scrutiny. I have checked this, and all proposals for EU legislation passed through the EU scrutiny processes in both Houses. Scrutiny overrides are much rarer than the noble Lord suggested. In 2005, there were 45 overrides. That was an exceptional year because as Parliament was dissolved, there were periods when the committees were not appointed. Parliament was operating, but the committees did not exist. I understand that that played a part in the number of overrides.

The noble Lord has different statistics. I was going to suggest that I write formally on this point because it is important. His concern that the committees have the opportunity to scrutinise properly is valid, and we need to take it seriously.