European Scrutiny Committee

No. 5
(Session 2002-03)




WESTMINSTER HALL DEBATE

DEMOCRACY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE EU AND THE ROLE OF NATIONAL PARLIAMENTS

On Thursday 30 January at 2.30 pm, the House of Commons will debate a report which sets out major new roles for national parliaments as part of a plan to bridge the gap between citizens and European Union decision-making.

The report, Democracy and accountability in the EU and the role of national parliaments *, which was published in June 2002, was intended as the European Scrutiny Committee's contribution to the Convention on the Future of Europe.

The Committee considers that national parliaments generally have a much closer relationship with their citizens than EU institutions, which are sometimes seen as remote and bureaucratic.  There are a number of ways in which national parliaments could bridge the gap, and could help to make EU institutions more democratic and accountable, and enable citizens to feel more able to influence political developments in the EU.

Issues covered by the report include:

  • Greater openness and transparency in the Council of Ministers;

  • Ways of preventing the Council agreeing controversial legislation before national parliaments have had time for scrutiny;

  • The role of various EU institutions;

  • The need to replace the system of six monthly Presidencies;

  • Whether the President of the Commission should be elected;

  • The co-decision process;

  • The relationship between MEPs and citizens;

  • The allocation of powers (i.e. who does what);

  • How to ensure that the principle of subsidiarity is respected and national parliaments' role in this;

  • The possibility of a second chamber;

  • Joint meetings of MPs and MEPs;

  • Regional and other sub Member State authorities;

  • Referendums.

The debate is expected to range widely over matters covered in the Report, taking into account subsequent developments such as the recent Franco-German proposals on EU presidencies.

For further information telephone 020 7219 6481/3292.

27 January 2003

* (Thirty-third Report of Session 2001-02 (HC 152-xxxiii-I) and Government Response, Third Special Report of Session 2001-02 (HC 1257))


Notes for Editors

The Convention on the Future of Europe began meeting in February 2002 and is expected to report in June 2003.

The main purpose of the European Scrutiny Committee is to report to the House on the legal and political importance of each EU document and to determine which EU documents are debated. Such debates take place either in a European Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House. The Committee normally reports weekly on a range of documents when the House is sitting.  The Committee also monitors business in the Council of Ministers, especially the activities of UK Ministers in the Council, and produces occasional reports on wider EU developments.

The Scrutiny Reserve Resolution, passed by the House, is crucial to the Committee's work.  Under that Resolution Ministers are constrained from agreeing to EU legislative or other proposals until parliamentary scrutiny is completed.  There are certain circumstances in which agreement is nevertheless permitted, but in such cases the European Scrutiny Committee or the House must be informed as soon as possible.

The Committee has 16 Members, as follows:

Jimmy Hood MP (Chairman) - Labour - Clydesdale
Richard Bacon MP - Conservative - South Norfolk
Colin Breed MP - Lib Dem - Cornwall South East
Roger Casale MP - Labour - Wimbledon
William Cash MP - Conservative - Stone
Michael Connarty MP - Labour - Falkirk East
Tony Cunningham MP - Labour - Workington
Wayne David MP - Labour - Caerphilly
Terry Davis MP - Labour - Birmingham Hodge Hill
Jim Dobbin MP - Labour/Co-op - Heywood & Middleton
Mark Hendrick MP - Labour - Preston
Jim Marshall MP - Labour - Leicester South
Anne McIntosh MP - Conservative - Vale of York
Angus Robertson MP - SNP - Moray
Anthony Steen MP - Conservative - Totnes
Bill Tynan MP - Labour - Hamilton South

The text of all Committee publications, including Press Notices and Reports, can be found on the Committee's website:                                                                          http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/european_scrutiny.cfm

The entire debate can be watched live at http://www.parliamentlive.tv

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