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National Parliaments (EUC Report) — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:20 pm on 15th December 2014.

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Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench 7:20 pm, 15th December 2014

My Lords, it is customary in these debates to applaud their timeliness. I am afraid, unfortunately, that this debate is not timely. It is behind time by quite a long way. It should not have taken the Government three months, as opposed to the regulation two months, to reply to the report, although clearly the imminence of a parliamentary recess has acted as a magnetic pull. It should not have taken this House nine months to organise a debate on a report that can legitimately be described as one of the most significant and potentially consequential to be issued in recent years. It owed much to the skill and persuasiveness of the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, whose admirable introduction to the debate we have just heard and whose leadership I particularly appreciated when I served on the committee as this report was being prepared.

The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, set out some of the main recommendations of our report, which represent a wide-ranging menu of reforms to the role of national parliaments in holding their Governments to account and in shaping EU legislation. Those are the two broad thrusts of the role of national parliaments and there is no need to repeat what he said. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, suggested that asking the new Commission to take it as part of its duty to deal with national parliaments was nugatory and impossible to fulfil. In fact, with video conferencing and other such techniques, it is possible to do that with reasonable economy of time.

In the previous Commission, there were still commissioners who would openly say, in a quite aggressive way, that they had no responsibility at all to national parliaments: their sole responsibility was towards the European Parliament. That is not a correct interpretation of the Lisbon treaty, which gives them a distinct role. People who held those views would say: “National parliaments, you look after your own Governments; you do not have any control or influence over the Commission”. We have to break down those barriers. The recommendation, which was contained in the report and which I suspect the new Commission, with Vice-President Timmermans, is going to honour very considerably, was worth making.