Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons

Session 2004-05 Press Notice No 5   22 March 2005


Parliament should have a new forum for discussing European Union business and the opportunity to question Commissioners on significant policy issues, the House of Commons Modernisation Committee recommends.  In a Report published today, the House of Commons Modernisation Committee recommends a major overhaul of the way in which the House examines European Union business.

The centrepiece of the Committee's recommendations is the creation of a new Parliamentary European Committee, bringing together MPs, Peers and UK MEPs four times a year to debate EU issues of major importance.  European Commissioners would be invited to attend the Committee to make statements and respond to questions.  The UK Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, has already agreed to do so.

The Committee recommends that the scrutiny process in the Commons should start earlier, with  the Government giving advance notice of Commission consultation exercises to the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, the body which decides which proposals merit further consideration by the House.  Departmental select committees should also play a greater role, with the Scrutiny Committee passing some matters to them for further inquiry.

The number of European Standing Committees, where the majority of Commons debates on EU proposals take place, should be increased from three to five in order to allow greater specialization; they should be given permanent Chairmen and greater powers to shape the Motions which the Government subsequently puts to the House.

The European Scrutiny Committee, like all select committees, meets in public when it is taking evidence and in private when it is deliberating.  The Modernisation Committee recommends that the Scrutiny Committee should be able to meet in public when it is considering which EU documents to refer for further debate.