Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirteenth Report


The European Scrutiny Committee has agreed to the following Report:


1. EU Foreign Ministers agreed in principle in September 2001 that a Convention on the Future of Europe should be set up, and this was confirmed by the European Council at Laeken in December. It will consist of representatives of governments, national parliaments, the European Parliament and the European Commission, and its role is to discuss the matters to be considered at the Inter-Governmental Conference in 2004 (including the role of national parliaments in the EU) and to put forward proposals. The Convention is to start work in March, so membership must be decided shortly.

2. When we reported on the proposed Convention in November, we recommended that the Commons Member on the Convention be appointed formally by a motion in the House.[1] The Government's reply said nothing on this point, and we were surprised to find that the Government thought it would be appointing the UK Parliament's representatives.[2] It has since become clearer that the invitations to nominate national parliament representatives will be sent to governments,[3] which is highly informative about the attitude of the Council towards national parliaments and democratic representation. We have recently written to the Minister for Europe on the subject. That letter, together with relevant paragraphs of our Report and the Government's reply, are in the Appendix to this Report.

3. We have also written to the Speaker, who has told us he is 'broadly sympathetic to the view that the Member selected should be the representative of the House and therefore appointed by the House'.[4]

4. The Foreign Affairs Committee has also made a Report to the House on the subject, emphasising that 'Those representing Parliament should be, and be seen to be, true representatives of Parliament, and not the choice of Government'.[5]

5. The representative of the House of Commons will have an important (and onerous) role in conveying the House's views to the Convention and reporting back to the House. It is essential that the Member concerned have the confidence of the House rather than being seen as a government appointee. Therefore we emphasise the need for wide consultation on the appointment, including consultation with the European Scrutiny Committee, and for the appointment to be approved formally by the House.

1   Fifth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Session 2001-02, Convention to Prepare for the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference, HC 152-v, paragraph 9. Back

2   First Special Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Session 2001-02, Convention to Prepare for the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference: Government Observations on the Fifth Report from the European Scrutiny Committee of Session 2001-02, HC 457, paragraph 5. Back

3   Official Report, 8 January 2002, cols. 407-10. Back

4   Letter from the Speaker to the Chairman of the Committee, 10 January 2002. Back

5   First Special Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2001-02, Appointment of Parliamentary Representatives to the Convention on the Future of Europe, HC 509. Back

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Prepared 18 January 2002