Foreign Affairs Committee: Press Notice

30 May 2007

Letter to Foreign Secretary about giving evidence

Mike Gapes MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee has today sent a letter to the Foreign Secretary about evidence on the future of Europe as follows:

"Evidence on the Future of Europe

As you know, the Foreign Affairs Committee has since February been seeking to hear oral evidence on the Future of Europe debate, preferably from yourself but failing that from the Minister for Europe. We have consistently requested an early date for this evidence, so that Parliament could be better informed on the Government’s approach to the discussions taking place and so that Ministers could hear the views of the Committee.

You made it clear at an early stage that you did not feel it would be appropriate for you to give evidence on the Future of Europe debate in May, in addition to giving evidence immediately before the June European Council. Reluctantly, the Committee accepted this and decided to invite the Minister for Europe to give evidence on the Future of Europe at an earlier date instead.

Initially, Geoff Hoon responded positively to this request and two possible dates in May were identified. However, on 8 May I had to write to Geoff, when it became apparent that he was no longer prepared to offer a date in May. The dates he did offer in June either coincided with the Committee’s visit to Russia or were within 7 days of your own appearance before the Committee. It is the strong view of the Committee that an evidence session in June is too late. By then, decisions concerning the approach to be followed by government Ministers and officials will effectively have been taken and the opportunity for Parliament to influence the debate will have passed.

The Committee regards the refusal of the FCO to provide a Minister to give oral evidence during this crucial phase of the discussions on the future of Europe as a failure of accountability to Parliament.

I have therefore been asked to write to you to express the deep concern of the Committee.

I look forward to your response."

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Membership of the Committee:

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) Lab, Chairman
Mr Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) Lab
Rt Hon Mr David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) Con
Mr John Horam (Orpington) Con
Mr Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central) Lab
Mr Paul Keetch (Hereford) Lib Dem
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) Lab
Mr Malcolm Moss, (North East Cambridgeshire), Con
Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) Lab
Mr Greg Pope (Hyndburn) Lab
Mr Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton North East) Lab
Rt Hon Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling) Con
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston) Lab
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) Lib Dem