Memorandum submitted by Robert Goodwill
I am a Conservative Member of the European Parliament
elected in 1999. I am a member of the Committee on the Environment,
Public Health and Consumer Policy, which handles more legislation
than any other in the Parliament.
Most of the legislation that the Committee considers
is under the co-decision procedure. I have experience in brokering
compromise deals with other political groups in the Parliament
and was also involved on the Parliament side in the conciliations
with the Council over the ground-breaking End of Life Vehicles
I am regularly besieged by industry and NGO
lobbyists, particularly if I am a "rapporteur" or, just
as importantly, "shadow rapporteur" for my group, the
European People's Party and European Democrats, which is the largest
in the Parliament.
I rely very much on support and information
from "UKREP"our British diplomats in Brussels,
and I also consult with senior civil servants at DEFRA, as it
now is, in London. For example, during the Animal bye-product
(meat and bone-meal etc.) legislation.
We are also courted from time to time by Government
Ministers who, having failed to achieve their objectives in Council,
seek to influence the Parliament to amend legislation. Where there
is a clear British interest we work closely with Socialist colleagues
to achieve these aims.
On the other hand our rapport with regional
bodies and members of the National Parliament in this respect
The Committee of the Regions shadows much of
the work of the European Parliament but does not convey its views
to us to take them forward. Other Member States with stronger
regional structures may well value this body but as far as the
UK is concerned it seems largely superfluous and is ignored universally.
ECOSOC is also a mystery to me.
There seems to be a view that the scrutiny of
European legislation by the House of Commons is little more than
a rubber stamping procedure occurring "after the horse has
bolted" should it wish to change legislation or draw attention
to particular national concerns.
I would welcome more communication with MPs
specialising in my field. Perhaps they should be more involved
at an earlier stage of consultation or even sooner by helping
to initiate or prioritise areas for new legislation.
Could I address your specific points?
What are the underlying reasons for the apparent
"disconnection" between national electorates and the
The main reason for the disconnection between
the EU and the electorate is the lack of coverage in the media.
This is partly due to the format of our debates which lack the
"theatre" of the House of Commons, but Editors obviously
haven't woken up to the fact that so many decisions are made at
EU level and the European Parliament can and does influence legislation.
How can the decision-making be made more open
and governments more accountable for the decisions they make in
the Council? Is it essential for a more open and accountable EU
that the Council meet in public when legislating?
If the Council were held in public then the
deals would have to be done outside in the corridor or by shuttle
diplomacy before Council meetings. It would be a good idea however,
to have an open session at the end when national positions, as
well as the final conclusions, could be stated to the press.
What should be the role of referenda be in the
EU? How should the EU respond to national referenda, and could
there be a role for Europe-wide referenda?
I do not favour referenda, except on fundamental
issues like the Euro where the asking of a Yes/No question is
possible. A referendum on a package like a treaty is not very
practical as campaigns tend to concentrate on one or two issues
which sometimes are not even strictly relevant to the matter in
hand. When the EU does not get the answer it wants, as in Denmark
and Ireland, it is assumed that the electorate need "more
education" and the question is asked again. If this happened
in a country like Belarus or North Korea it would be universally
condemned as an insult to democratic principles!
Would election of the Commission or the President
of the Commission either directly or by the European Parliament
a) be appropriate, or b) contribute to reconnecting electorates
with the EU?
Individual endorsement of newly appointed Commissioners
or dismissal of Commissioners would be better than the present
system when we can only take action against the Commission "en
bloc". I am not against the idea that the President of the
Commission should be elected by the Parliament.
Should there be any new institutional arrangements
to give national parliaments a more important role in the EU,
such as the second Chamber proposed by the Prime Minister or involvement
of national parliamentarians in the Council? (The Committee will
take account of the results of the Lords Committee inquiry into
the second Chamber proposal).
I do not support the idea of a second chamber.
The European Parliament is, in a way, already the second chamber
to the Council. We have the Committee of the Regions and ECOSOC
who already have this role but no-one pays them any attention.
What changes are needed to the EU's legislative
process to facilitate democratic scrutiny before decisions are
made? For example, is there adequate consultation at early enough
stages; and should there be tougher rules on allowing time for
scrutiny by national Parliaments?
Yes, we do need earlier consultation and, maybe,
some joint meetings with MPs in Brussels.
Could national Parliaments play a greater role
in informing the public about the EU and its activities, and in
channelling the public's views to EU institutions?
Probably not. If the European Parliament visited
Member States' Parliaments for sessions from time to time rather
than Strasbourg this would raise awareness of the institutions.
What is the potential contribution of delimitation
of competencies, subsidiarity and variable-speed Europe to reducing
any "disconnection" between electorates and political
institutions? Would a clear statement of the EU's purpose help?
What impact will enlargement have?
A statement on the extent of EU jurisdiction
would set clear limits of its powers and protect the Sovereignty
of National Parliaments against even further erosion.
What contribution can be made by regional and
local government and devolved institutions in the UK and elsewhere,
and should the EU have any new institutional arrangements in this
We already have the Committee of the Regions
which is a waste of time and money. MP/MEP bodies would be more
What is the role of the European Parliament in
promoting a more democratic EU? Is there scope for more co-operation
between the European Parliament and national Parliaments?
See above: MPs have a budget to travel to Brussels
but very few do. Maybe organised programmes would give better
How should the debate on the future of Europe
be conducted, eg should there be a convention, and if so, how
could it be made representative and how should it operate?
Maybe this is one role the European Parliament
is best suited to given its democratic credentials. EU-wide representations
and members who actually have first hand knowledge of how the
institutions interact in the decision-making process.
I would be happy to attend one of your meetings
to see how you operate; particularly if you are considering a
report of which I have first-hand knowledge.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute
to your deliberations.
Head of the Policy Unit and
Business Policy Executive at the Institute of Directors
21 September 2001