euselect pn240708

Embargo: Immediate Thursday 24 July 2008
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


In their report, Initiation of EU Legislation, published today, The Lords EU Committee look at how the European Commission uses its near-monopoly of proposing legislation ('the right of initiative').

They find that, while the right to propose makes the Commission a powerful player in the EU system, it is other bodies that decide whether a proposal will become law and, increasingly, set the agenda for what proposals are made - the European Council made up of the Presidents and Prime Ministers of all 27 member states of the EU, the Council of Ministers representing the governments of the 27 states, and the European Parliament representing the citizens of the 27 countries.

Overall, the Committee find the EU arrangements giving the Commission the main 'right of initiative' are still appropriate for the "unique multinational organisation which the EU constitutes" particularly when, in reality, legislation results from a "complex interplay of different actors" on the EU stage.

Having looked at how the Commission operates in practice, the Committee find that the Commission generally operates in an open way and has improved its processes for analysis and consultation in the development of EU legislation. They emphasise the importance of good quality impact assessment, and urge the Commission to make more effort to take account of the views of national stakeholders, such as professional bodies, as well as pan-European associations when drawing up legislation.

As well as the roles of the other EU institutions and the governments of the Member States, the report looks at the part played by interest groups and other lobbyists. The Committee stress that lobbying should be transparent and appropriately regulated, and they doubt that the voluntary register recently announced by the Commission will command public confidence.

The Committee also look at legislation put forward by individual member states and groups of states in the areas of police cooperation and criminal justice. They report that member states have not practised what they preach in producing good quality impact assessments and that experience shows that legislation supported by a minimum number of member states rather than just one results in better prepared legislation.

The Committee identifies a problem in developing EU legislation in the area of justice and home affairs which takes sufficient account of the different national legal systems in place across Europe. This is particularly relevant for countries with a common law system such as the UK. While acknowledging that the Commission recognises this problem, the Committee call on the Government to work closely with other common law countries, such as Ireland, to ensure the common law approach is taken properly into account.

Commenting on the report, Lord Mance, Chairman of the Lords European Union Sub-Committee on Law and Institutions, said:

"It is important that Europe's citizens feel confident in the process by which EU law, which affects us all, comes into being. We looked carefully at how the EU institutions and the member states work and at how stakeholders and other groups in civil society make their influence felt. The institutional system allows widespread and diverse opinions to be taken into account but there are ways in which the process could be further improved.

"The Commission's register and code of conduct for lobbyists was announced while our inquiry was under way. We think lobbying must be transparent, particularly since some interest groups receive a contribution from EU funds. While we welcome the Commission's initiative, we are doubtful whether the Commission's voluntary scheme would provide the necessary degree of public confidence, set against the mandatory system which the European Parliament has in place.

"We are keen to ensure that legislation on justice and home affairs issues takes account of common law systems such as the UK's. We are content that legislation coming from the Commission seeks to do this, and we welcome the Government's initiatives to second UK officials to the Commission as a further useful step in this respect."

Notes to Editors

1. The report Initiation of EU Legislation is available from The Stationery Office, House of Lords European Union Committee (Sub-Committee on Law and Institutions), 22nd Report of 2007/08, HL Paper 150.

2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at: