I welcome that suggestion, and the idea should be considered. European Commissioners do come to our Parliament, but not systematically.
In Denmark, before European Council meetings the Prime Minister has to go before the European committee to discuss her negotiating strategy, and in the German system, the Bundestag now has much greater power to scrutinise the Government’s negotiating strategy for those meetings. Our Prime Minister, when he had just been elected as party leader, told the party to “stop banging on” about Europe, and there are rumours in today’s press that the first report on the balance of competences, which we all await with bated breath, has been put off until after the summer, apparently because Ministers are fearful of their own Back Benchers. I would be interested to hear why a dispassionate, objective assessment of the balance of competences should be put off in that way. The Government again seem to be putting the party interest before the national one. We are worried that they feel compelled to delay the initial report, and we are greatly interested in what the Minister has to say about that.
This debate comes at a particularly important time, because the eurozone member states are likely to pursue further integration among the eurozone 17. Their Parliaments, and those in non-eurozone member states such as ours—there are 10 others, including Croatia—will need to scrutinise better what happens and what the dynamic is between non-eurozone and eurozone member states.
In conclusion, it deserves to be repeated that it is regrettable that the Government have abolished the pre-Council debates. I would like to see them reintroduced. Scrutiny in Committees, such as the one chaired by the hon. Member for Stone, is all well and good but nothing substitutes scrutiny on the Floor of the House. The
Government should learn from the Dutch, Danish and German examples, and drive better and closer co-ordination between national Parliaments from across the 28 member states, to make the yellow card system work better and also to consider introducing a red card system.