[Mr Christopher Chope in the Chair] — National Parliaments and the EU

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston 9:30 am, 16th July 2013

I fear to tread on the subject of the European Scrutiny Committee in the hon. Gentleman’s presence, because I know I would get it wrong. I would also rather rely on his intervening to tell the Chamber about the Committee’s work. It is significant that last night it was agreed that the negotiating positions had to be brought back to Parliament, but we all know that we are still only talking to each other in Committee Rooms rather than on the Floor of the House.

What would really improve national Parliaments? I am caught between a rock and a hard place, because I do not want national Parliaments to become separate institutions within the architectural framework of the EU. The EU has the Commission and the Council, but national Parliaments provide the majorities to form the Governments that send Ministers to the Council. There is, however, a little-known organisation that is known only to those who have been to some of its meetings—COSAC, which is the conference of European scrutiny committees.

Ten years ago, I was trying to broker a deal in that working group between national Parliaments so that COSAC would be strengthened in the red and yellow card system, but for that the MEPs would have had to leave COSAC. It is difficult for COSAC to arrive at a decision, because there are, say, four representatives from each country, two from the Government and two from the Opposition. If there is a coalition Government, in our case the representatives could be a Tory, a Lib Dem and two Labour Members, so there are probably three views among the four representatives. Consensus then has to be reached across 27 or 28 countries within extremely tight time limits. What then happens is that MEPs are the only people who are sufficiently united in their view and who caucus—they are usually united in the view that the European Parliament is good and national Parliaments are bad. The card system will not work unless the national Parliaments that exercise the veto have a network to talk to each other. If that network has an in-built number of MEPs who can outvote the national parliamentarians, it simply will not work. I do not know whether it is possible to change the job that COSAC does in such a way, but we will see.