The House of Commons Procedure Committee has today published a report recommending changes that would make the way the House of Commons scrutinises EU documents easier to understand
"Subsidiarity" is the principle that the EU should only act if the objectives of that course of action could not be achieved by Member States, either at a central level or at a regional or local level. Under the Lisbon Treaty, if a national parliament decides that a proposal from the EU does not comply with this principle, it can send the EU institutions a "reasoned opinion"- a message explaining why it considers that the proposal does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity.
At the moment, motions asking for reasoned opinions to be sent to the EU institutions can only be moved by Ministers, even though the Government might not agree with them. This can create a confusing and illogical situation in which a Minister moves a motion but then makes a speech against it. The Committee’s report recommends a change to the Standing Orders of the House to make it possible for the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee (which recommends that the House consider the motion) to move a motion for a reasoned opinion.
Committee Chair Greg Knight said:
"If we want the public to engage with our proceedings, we must make them intelligible. A situation in which a Minister moves a motion but then speaks against it is puzzling for MPs taking part in debates and for members of the public who are watching. The change we recommend in our report is a small one, but we hope it will help the public to understand the House’s scrutiny of EU proposals."