European Union Committee: Report on 2013-14 (EUC Report) — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:37 pm on 24th July 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Hooper Baroness Hooper Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 6:37 pm, 24th July 2014

I was not aware of that. The fact that the House of Lords European Union Committee reports are so widely respected and referred to is due to their being well researched and clearly written. Although I struggled at times with the technicalities and detail of financial and banking regulation when I served on EU Sub-Committee A under the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, the reports, when published, made it all comprehensible. We are fortunate in having excellent and high-calibre staff, and their work contributes to that as well.

I recently attended a meeting of COSAC, to which the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, referred at the outset. That, together with the committee’s report on the role of national parliaments, has confirmed my view that to understand the thinking behind a number of the proposals that come out of Brussels and the procedures that they advocate, it is necessary for us all to understand each other’s systems and procedures. It is not only the fact that a common-law approach to legislation is different from the civil law approach, which applies in most other EU countries; it is that here in the UK, in our parliamentary democracy, we are used to the Prime Minister and all Ministers being Members of Parliament and therefore immediately and regularly accountable to Parliament. That is different from a presidential system where the President and his appointed Ministers may rarely attend their parliament, assemblée or congress.

The European Parliament is based more on the presidential system, with the Council of Ministers taking the role of President, than on ours. I fear that many commentators and press reports do not understand that or take it into account. It is therefore necessary to have regular contact and communication between members of national parliaments so that we are aware of those differences and can find a way to make progress in spite of them. Parliaments are, after all, ever-changing bodies and so those contacts must be kept up to renew and update the message regularly.

Having said that, it is of the utmost importance to understand and maintain contact with the European Parliament itself, particularly with British MEPs, again so that we realise why they go about things in a different way. That is especially important at this moment in the aftermath of the European elections and the appointment of a new Commission. We need to work with them to achieve the best possible results not only for our own population but for the whole of Europe.

That is my message for today. I am delighted to add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, as chairman of the Select Committee, and support his Motion.