Select Committee on European Scrutiny Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 122 - 139)




  122. My apologies for the delay at the beginning of the meeting. It is always nice to see you. We are here as part of our inquiry and we really appreciate this opportunity to have a discussion with you. I wonder if you can just begin, because we are on the record, by telling us what UKRep does?

  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) UKRep is the permanent interface between the United Kingdom Government and the Union's institutions, the institutions here in Brussels, and the wider policy process which is centred here in Brussels. Our role is to negotiate within the Council framework on the decisions which are coming up through the system on which Ministers ultimately decide; to advise Ministers personally at Council meetings; to lobby for the United Kingdom with the Commission, with Parliament and with others here who are part of the policy process, to get information on what is going on here and what ideas are percolating through the system and seek to shape the Commission's ideas, and others' ideas on the way the Union is moving forward. In addition to doing that within a recognisable, negotiating and policy-making framework, we are also very conscious of the large numbers of businesses, regional and non-governmental representatives here in Brussels who have an interest in the process, whom we try to help, particularly in the area of business opportunity, as we have a commercial section in the representation which helps British business to exploit the opportunities within the Community's programmes to get a fair slice of that action for the United Kingdom. So I see our role primarily in representing the United Kingdom Government but there is a wider role in promoting the interests of the United Kingdom. That is certainly the way in which British businesses and other organisations see us.

Roger Casale

  123. I would like to ask a question about how UKRep sees the Convention that is starting on Thursday. We had a very valuable briefing from some of your officials last night and, if I may, I would like to take this opportunity to ask a rather more general question about the Convention and the overall approach to the Convention and the opportunities that the Convention presents, in particular to get a sense of how you and how your officials view the Convention. What is your overall attitude to the Convention, is it to serve, on the one hand, and one could slightly have a feeling of, here we go again, it is more tinkering, had we got it right at Nice, had it been left to UKRep many of the institutional issues would have been resolved—we know many questions remain to be answered—here we go, again let us hope we get it right this time so we may concentrate on other important issues later on. It seems to me that is one possible view, it is a slightly reluctant acceptance this is necessary, but it is unfinished business, let us get it over with and on to other things. On the other hand, it seems to me one can see the Convention as opening a new chapter in European history. There is the interview with Patrick Cox, where the new Europe starts, and this is something new, a new departure and it presents many valuable opportunities and it should be something that we should be excited about. Which of the two is it in terms of your own view and attitude towards the Convention?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) Before answering that can I introduce Shelagh Brooks, the UKRep Legal Counsellor and, head of our Legal Section. To try to divide this into substance and process, our Government was clear, and is clear, that the Nice Treaty provides the necessary institutional underpinning for the first wave of enlargement. There is no further institutional frontier before we can conclude the enlargement negotiations, and get the first wave of countries in. I think we must stand by that, otherwise there will be really serious delay to the enlargement process. But the Government recognises, and I personally recognise, that there are some profound long-term issues which Nice did not address which need to be addressed as we look ahead to how we work in an enlarged Union. That is why there is a need for a further period of reflection followed by another IGC in 2004 and why the Government, and those of us working here, certainly welcome that. Our Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and other Ministers feel there are big issues at stake, and they were addressed in Jack Straw's speech last week. We feel this debate is needed. It is not the only debate in the European Union. We must ensure that in embarking on another period of reflection, leading to another set of decisions in the IGC, that we do not take our eye off other balls. We have to maintain the drive for economic reform, maintain the momentum needed to get the enlargement negotiations concluded by the end of this year and work to make the foreign and security policy more effective. All of those have to be maintained as well. We must not lose energy because this additional track has been opened up, although it is an important area. On the process, I think that the Convention is a real innovation. I do not think that life will be quite the same again. In a way it is more of the same in the sense that it is looking at familiar, to some degree, institutional issues. However, the way of doing it is novel and was intended to be novel. The Government has welcomed that as well. The idea of bringing in at an earlier stage of the process a much wider group of people representing national parliaments, national governments, the European Parliament and the Commission to try to look at and sieve through the issues is, I think, a helpful addition when you are dealing with these very wide-ranging subjects, particularly those dealing with the issues of accountability and democracy and the legitimacy where the contribution of parliamentarians is needed. At the end of the day, in the IGC, Governments have to decide, as Governments have to be prepared to back whatever treaty emerges, to put that through their own national parliaments and, where that is necessary, to have referenda in some member states. It needs to be something that Governments sign upto. This is a new process we are involved in, one that, hopefully, connects more effectively with public opinion in the member states. National parliaments have a very big role to play because they are the largest constituent part of this Convention, and have a big role to play ensuring that that happens.


  124. I wonder if I can ask a question on the legislative process, there is a potential conflict between the desire to speed up the EU's legislative process and the desire for more openness and participation, including participation by national parliaments, and yet the time needed by national parliaments (such as the six weeks under the Protocol) is fairly short, do you consider it feasible to build in periods of minimum time at crucial stages to allow national parliaments to scrutinise? For example, would the proposal made by COSAC in October 2000 for a minimum of 15 days between the final reading of a text by COREPER and a decision in Council cause any problems?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) The six week rule has been applied since Amsterdam came into force and is generally applied. There have been some exceptions to it, which you are aware of. In the cases which have caused difficulties in relation to the United Kingdom Government and scrutiny over the past year, I do not think it was the six week rule as such which was the problem as the Committee saw it. I do not know whether it is one of the issues that will have to be looked at as we look at the role of national parliaments in the Convention, and whether it is that time frame which those involved and your committee want to see extended. I do not myself. What we need to build into our thinking is how things are normally done. Very often there will be a much, much shorter period of time than 15 days between the decisive COREPER discussion and the Council. Very often it takes place the week before. Sometimes, as in a case this week, where we have a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on Thursday, some of the issues will still be going through COREPER on the Wednesday. The pressure of business and the volume of business which is being funnelled through COREPER now does make it quite difficult for me to say that a two week time lag would in all cases be practicable. If you wanted to explore that, it is something that you need to think about against the practical realities. There is no point in putting it down if it is going to cause real difficulty and lead to unwanted transgressions.

  125. If there were procedures to prevent texts been redrafted at the last minute and immediately agreed in Council (expect in urgent cases), how would this affect the process of negotiation?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) Quite dramatically. It happens in COREPER, it happens in the Council. The Presidency will come with a text to a meeting and that text may have been around for weeks, it may have been around for days or hours. You debate it and then it is quite normal, in difficult and controversial cases, for the President of the day to go away to have some consultation, bilateral talks with the Commission or with individual member states, and to put another text on the table representing their reaction to what they have heard round the table. Council negotiations are a dynamic and fluid process. This can happen. It does not happen in every Council; sometimes the outcome is much more predictable. To give you an example, I hope a not too painful one, the Arrest Warrant. We went through a series of possible texts before the final one was agreed. That happened over a period of weeks leading up to the Council meeting, then there were discussions which the Presidency, had subsequently with the Italian Government which lead to the agreement.

  126. The Home Office told us in November it was seeking a "project management approach" to European legislation, is that likely to have much success?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) I think it should and could be successful. This is very much one which, I must say, is for you to discuss with home departments and with the Home Office and with others in the United Kingdom. In UKRep we would certainly play the fullest part that we could in trying to make that easier, by providing information to the channels which are being used for it. As I understand it, what Angela Eagle was getting at on that occasion was that informal contacts between departments, and with the clerks particularly, and informal contacts between Ministers and yourselves, where necessary, could ensure that you were aware of the issues coming up and of discussions and negotiations in the Council, how the Presidency was blocking off items in the programme, so there would be fewer surprises. The hope on the Governments' side would be that you would be able to formulate your own working programme in a way which matched the decision-making process here in Brussels. I would have thought that that is the best way of trying to improve the process from your point of view. It would have enormous advantages for us if we felt confident that the scrutiny system was working effectively at your end.

Jim Dobbin

  127. You have been talking about the legislative process, is there a problem with expanding the scope of that legislative process at a later stage in the process? Would that be a difficulty?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) Expanding it in what way?

  128. Expanding the whole width and breadth of that legislation, the scope?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) I suppose it does occasionally happen that the scope and meaning of the legislation changes under negotiation. I must say in my experience over the last 18 months directly here, I have not really been aware of that as a major issue. There have been substantive changes in the course of negotiations but I am not sure the overall issue of scope has been at issue. If you take the Arrest Warrant as an example and the way in which we handled the issue of scope there, the way in which to apply the principle of dual criminality was a key issue in the negotiations. It was obvious, really, from the first draft of the Commission's proposal that that was an issue and, therefore, I would not say there was a fundamental change in the course of negotiations.

Mr Cash

  129. Sir Nigel, I would like to take you back to our function in relation to what you are doing and look at it from the other end of the telescope. I understand perfectly well, and I am sure everyone does in this room, you have a difficult job to do because you are besieged by proposals that come in from every quarter, often stuff is deliberately delayed until the last minute in order to hijack negotiations, that is part of the process, and difficulties obviously arise from our point of view. The question is, how does one manage to ensure the democracy and accountability which lies at the heart of our process? Westminster Parliament is the fundamental principle of constitutional doctrine, if you like, as far as the United Kingdom is concerned. When things are being decided at the last minute, going back to the Chairman's second question, leaving aside the number of days, the fact is your answer was not only that negotiations are dynamic and fluid but that real difficulties could arise and we could have "unwanted transgressions". What that really means is that decisions would be taken, we would have made recommendations as to what could or should have been done about it when the text comes to us and we are effectively hijacked and we are told by the minister, "Terribly sorry, this was an urgent matter, it had to go through and, therefore, sorry, we apologise to you but it has gone through". Actually, I am not sure this really happened on the arrest warrant, which we have been following very closely, although there were lots of changes to the text. It happened over the VAT Directive, the one where we had the change extending to operations outside the EU, it is just that was something that was put in at the last minute. They can vary, some of them matter, some of them do not matter so much, therefore we would be criticising the department, and at the last minute it would have come through you, if I can put it that way round, in the department, therefore the buck stops here, as it were. Although I am not accusing you of anything, I am simply making the point this is where ultimately a lot of these things go ahead or get stuck. We have a job to do, which is to advise the House of Commons whether or not a matter should be debated and if so when and how and we find quite often that it does not really work. Your answer to the question is, if I can put it another way round, there are a lot of difficulties, I am not criticising you for observing that, what I am saying is we have a job to do and if this stuff goes through and it is important—suppose it had been something on the arrest warrant—that would mean that the British Parliament was faced with the necessity to accept something without debate or proper accountability. Could you comment on that?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) Gladly. Before I do, can I say that I do not completely accept the terms of the questions. I do not myself feel "besieged". I do not feel that the intention of the Presidency is to "hijack" the process.

  130. Not always, but it can happen.
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) I want to make that clear in answering the rest of the question. The second point to make, and it was a point made to you by Angela Eagle, is that decisions on scrutiny are for Ministers. They are the ones that have to stand before you and before Parliament and explain their decisions. Our job is to advise Ministers. I take the job of advising them on European Union issues that relate to scrutiny extremely seriously. My job is to alert Ministers and colleagues when I foresee a problem. Every brief I have in COREPER has the state of scrutiny written down in it. Every brief that Bill Stow my Deputy has in COREPER has the state of the scrutiny process written on it. We do not start reading, our briefing for any COREPER item without knowing what the scrutiny position is. That is the way we want it. Where we see that there is a potential problem, if something has not cleared scrutiny, and we know that the Presidency is pushing for a decision, then what we do is make sure that the departments at home are alerted so that they can put the right advice to Ministers. It is the Minister's job to make contact, take the decision; it is not our responsibility to do that, and you would not want that any other way. I do take the role of making sure that the system understands the decision-making schedule here very seriously. I just want to comment finally on what I said on "unwanted transgressions". I was referring there to the Chairman's suggestion of a two week delay between COREPER and a decision in the Council. What I said was that I thought it would be unwise to impose such a delay in the knowledge that it would be extremely difficult to implement because that would mean in practice that there would be unwanted transgressions, it would be a rule more honoured in the breach than the observance. Unless you fundamentally change the decision-making process a two week gap of that kind is unrealistic. That is that point I was trying to make. You would be making a rule that would be very difficult to maintain and would not be an entirely honest rule to put forward.

Mr David

  131. One of the most significant and important things that the British Government has been saying recently in the lead-up to the start of the Convention is the need to have more transparency and openness, particularly in the Council, specifically when the Council is legislating. I just want to have your views on what the implications of that actually are? For example, would you envisage that significant discussions would take place in private? Do you think that it is feasible to strictly divide non-legislative discussions from legislative discussions? Thirdly, what is the implication for documentation if you have at least a partial opening for the Council's deliberations?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) The Government's position is that when the Council is acting in its legislative capacity, in future the meetings of the Council should be open to the public. That reflects a judgment that we are able to distinguish between legislative items on the agenda and non-legislative items. We are already doing that. That is the way that agendas for meetings are drawn up. In addition you have to mark items where a vote may be held, that is an additional clarification which is introduced into the agenda which is circulated beforehand. We are in favour of greater openness through public sessions of the Council when acting in a legislative capacity. It equally means that when the Council is acting in an executive capacity or dealing with issues such as foreign policy we believe its meetings should be held in private. As far as documentation is concerned, that really has been, I hope, resolved through the regulation on access to documents which was agreed last year and which came into force in December. There are very extensive provisions there for access to documents by members of the public and others covering all areas of the Union's activity, with a certain number of exceptions which are spelt out in the regulation itself.

  Mr David: Thank you.

Mr Casale

  132. When we had the United Kingdom presidency I believe there were some interesting experiments made with certain Council meetings which were held in public, I just wonder whether this is an issue that the United Kingdom is really taking a lead on and strongly pushing with other European countries? Do you try to get other presidencies to follow the best practice on this particular issue of openness?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) This goes back over a period of years. I can go back to the 1992 British Presidency under the Conservative administration where we did begin, as the Presidency of the Union, the process of opening up the beginning of public debates, and so on, at least the decision was made that there should be this greater transparency and the beginning of open debates, those started following the British Presidency. We have always supported open debates in the Council and there are a minimum number in every Presidency. There will be a debate on violence against women in the Social Affairs Council, for example. There are a number of open debates in every Presidency and the United Kingdom is always in favour of that. In addition we have pushed over the years, and this was included in our own Presidency in 1998, for a large number of open debates and use of the internet to make the debates available to interested parties, making the Council's building available to interested groups so that they can watch it on CCTV but within the Council building itself, and opening up a public register of documents. There have been a number of British initiatives over the years. We are in the premiership as far as the advocacy of transparency is concerned, along with the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and others who have pushed it in recent years.


  133. In what way could the system of working groups and "comitology" be made more open, and what would be the main difficulties in doing that?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) There are already efforts being made to make them more open, for example through the availability of agendas, and so on. In the area, for example, of financial services, which has been a particularly high profile area recently, in the European Parliament discussions with the Council and Commission on the Lamfalussly Report last year and the new comitology commitments there, there was a commitment for greater transparency and openness and the involvement of the market practitioners in the implementing legislation. I do not have precise proposals to put to you today, but that is certainly something the United Kingdom government would want to follow up.

Miss McIntosh

  134. Presumably, Sir Nigel, some countries use a scrutiny reserve more than others?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) I think Angela Eagle gave you a good impression of the present position in the Council, where she said that apart from the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands were the two countries that probably one sees most often putting down scrutiny reserves. I would say that Sweden also does that reasonably frequently. The reasons for that and the system that lies behind it in each national system does obviously vary. The Danes, it seems to me, have a rather predictable system. My Danish opposite number is able to say in COREPER "I will not be able to lift the scrutiny reserve today, but I hope to be able to do so on a particular day", because there is an elaborately set out schedule of consideration in the Danish Folketing of the items of business coming up. It varies. A large number of other countries do actually enter scrutiny reserves from time to time. I would not like to give you the impression it is only a small minority, others do come in from time to time. I would say that they are probably less frequent than the countries that I have mentioned.

  135. Those that impose a reserve less frequently, are they sympathetic to those that impose the scrutiny reserve more frequently on the particular issue on the table?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) In my experience, which is only in the last 18 months, or so, I do not think it is a question of being sympathetic or not. People recognise it is ultimately a job for the Presidency and the Secretariat to record and observe scrutiny reserves. I have not detected a sense in which there is a lack of sympathy or understanding for what is involved. Particular cases do arise; one which obviously created difficulties with your Committee was over the Arrest Warrant—I can talk about that if you want to—where you were dealing with a situation where the Heads of Government gave Ministers in the Justice and the Home Affairs Council, and those of us who work for them, a very clear mandate, to which your Committee and others were alerted, to get a set of legislative measures agreed, if possible, by a certain deadline. That is what the European Union choose to do at a political level in response to the events of 11 September. We worked extremely hard to meet that deadline for political reasons. I do not think we shirked our responsibility to look at the details of the issue, the issues that were raised were difficult issues which we debated at length and extremely thoroughly. We knew the issue was going to come for political agreement at the December Council and Angela Eagle in her evidence to you in October repeated that point. When the moment did come, it was complicated because we were not able to reach agreement in the Council of 15. The Italian Government at that point declined to give its agreement, it was only subsequently that the Presidency received the agreement of the Italian Government through bilateral consultation, and at that point there was what was called a "provisional agreement" recorded in COREPER before the European Council meeting at Laeken which welcomed the decision that was arrived at. That was done expressly while noting the continued existence of, I think, five national Parliamentary scrutiny reserves. We were by no means alone in the compressed time available, having not had scrutiny clearance. The reason that term was used was for the reasons that Angela Eagle explained to you at her earlier meeting, before the Arrest Warrant was finalised. It was a term designed to show that there had been a political understanding on the item but which did allow those member states which had not cleared scrutiny to raise issues afterwards if necessary. This has come up very infrequently if you look at the overall volume of EU legislation, the term has come up only a few times. I am not sure it is a good idea to maintain this term, which has arisen only in the last nine or ten months, for the future. It was done in response to a particular set of circumstances with the United Kingdom in the case of the Arrest Warrant.

   136. There are other examples we could give you, we had enormous difficulty in the time available, particularly for the Social Policy during the French presidency, they galloped through some rather sensitive proposals.

  If that was approached in a slightly different way, rather than relying on the scrutiny reserve, and making it a binding requirement that national parliaments had the time to scrutinise the documents available would that not be a better approach?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) That is my understanding of why we have the six week rule. As I said at the very beginning to the Chairman, one issue, obviously, particularly for national parliaments to raise in the Convention, is whether that six weeks is adequate or not. It is a binding requirement which generally works and generally is observed, it is quite rare for it not to be observed.

Mr David

  136. Going back to your Danish example, can I take it you are not able to indicate when the scrutiny will be lifted?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) I have not had instructions of that kind.

  137. Would it help?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) Speaking personally, it would help. It would enable us to judge the angle of the difficulty we are looking at as we approach the Council in terms of the clearance of items. I guess if this information were available to Ministers it would also help them to decide what action to take with the Committee and would help those informal contacts. I do think that in the latter stages (what we have not been talking about in the area of Justice and Home Affairs) of co-decided legislation, where you are talking about conciliation and the uncertainties of the co-decision process, the answer must lie in more informal contacts, between the Scrutiny Committees and departments, because at that stage, after a common position has been reached, although the process itself is predictable, the time-tabling and the exact contours of the dialogue with Parliament vary very, very much from case to case.

Mr Cash

  138. One point of information, when you were talking about September 11 and the whole question of the arrest warrant there were actually two framework decisions, one on combatting terrorism and the other one on the other aspects of the arrest warrant procedure, I do not think anyone seriously believes any more that the terrorism was what drove the other parts, other than the framework decision on the combatting terrorism, they are quite distinct and separate and it so happens, for a variety of reasons, the opportunity was taken to link the two together in order to enhance the judicial area. That is, in practice, what is happening and we will wait and see when the Extradition Bill comes through as to how the government handles this. I am not criticising you for what you said, but I am concerned that nobody should be under a misapprehension that those two things do not follow from September 11. The substantive question I wanted to ask was about the disadvantage that you would see in the government imposing scrutiny reserves, some we have dealt with already, to what extent do you feel inhibited when we put down a scrutiny reserve? Can we go back over that territory?
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) Let me comment again on the terrorism effects- it is important to be clear about this. There were three measures which the European Council asked the Justice and Home Affairs Council to deliver. They were the Arrest Warrant, the Framework Decision on Combatting Terrorism and the third measure was the Framework Decision on the freezing of assets and evidence, which we were not able to get through in December, largely because similar issues were raised to those we were debating in the context of the Arrest Warrant and it was felt we should concentrate on the Arrest Warrant then as much as we could and read across the decision made on the scope to the other instruments. This is one of the items which will come up at the next Justice and Home Affairs Council in two days' time. There were three measures. My recollection is that all measures were ones which were programmed and forecast under the Commission's programme following the Tampére European Council and they were, to that extent, not invented on 11 September. Clearly they were in the programme and the Commission used that moment to bring them forward earlier than they had anticipated. I myself would agree with you that the Arrest Warrant itself is a much wider mutual recognition measure, but it is completely relevant to terrorism as well and perfectly legitimate to see in this context. It would be wrong if you were to say that it is only relevant to terrorism, it is relevant to a very wide range of serious crime, it does cover all of the classic terrorist crime and is, therefore, something which all of the governments concerned thought was relevant in our response after the 11 September. The asset freezing definition in the terrorism context has a wider application too. I do not feel at all inhibited about entering and confirming a scrutiny reserve. It is for Ministers to judge when they come to the Council how to handle that against the political pressure which is building up on a particular measure. That is why the rules that the Government works under in dealing with scrutiny do involve the safety valve of considering key national interests. That is the issue, it is the issue of a potential conflict between wanting to agree to something, as in the case of the Arrest Warrant, and British Ministers and the Prime Minister invested a great deal of political capital in getting the thing agreed on the terms we wanted, agreed in a time frame which was thought to be important as part of a robust means of political response to a major international event. To set the democratic requirements of scrutiny aside, is as I say, ultimately something that Ministers have to weigh and judge and to explain to you. I have to try to balance those myself, and my colleagues have to. What we can do is give the best advice we can to ministers about the prevailing mood here and the prevailing pressure and priority attached by the Presidency to individual measures coming up to the Council.

  Chairman: What we are concerned about is that ministers when confronted with circumstances like you outlined may be tempted to deal with other countries and just accept that they are going to get some difficulty by going back and explaining why they lifted the reserve. You mentioned Angela Eagle, the minister did not have a comfortable time at our Committee. We expect ministers to look after our national interest, not in doing deals with ministers but protecting the democratic right of our Parliamentary scrutiny, what they do in our name, and therein lies the conflict, therein lies the difficulty. We are not sympathetic to the rationale, "We have had some difficult negotiations, we had to get them through because we are coming to the end of our presidency", et cetera, et cetera. We take our position very seriously, indeed, and we believe that our national interest is best served by our National Parliament having proper scrutiny of what the government is doing in the Council.

Mr Cash

  139. Can I follow that up, not only do I totally agree with what you said but it goes back to the first question I put to Sir Nigel, which end of the telescope we are coming from. Looking at it in a more constructive way rather than looking across the table, you say things are going wrong and Angela Eagle had a difficult time on that occasion, which is true, within that context of Westminster Parliament. The bigger and deeper question you touched on when you suggested this should be addressed in the Convention I do not think it will get anywhere, I have to admit, and you probably guess from my approach, they do not want it, and I am not talking about the United Kingdom or UKRep, there are many countries and attitudes round where quite honestly they want to get on with the business if I can put it in a nutshell, that is their driving force. They have an agenda and they are not really terribly enthusiastic about too much interference in that. I am not sure it has not percolated its way into UKRep, it a very important aspect of the whole question of what this session is about, this on-going inquiry on democracy and accountability. That dovetails with what the Convention is meant to be about. If it is anything like the Assizes, you may recall, it was an outrage, and I sincerely hope procedures will be put in place to stop that happening, that is another form of scrutiny reserve and we are going to need to know how this Convention is going to operate and what procedure will be put in place to safeguard our national interest, because we have very few people there and they are going to have to report to the British Parliament and it is going to be very difficult.
  (Sir Nigel Sheinwald) For the avoidance of doubt, I agree with the statement you made, Chairman I do not think there is any difference between us on that. The Assizes in 1990 were not a good experience. I do think the Convention of today should be different, although we do not know exactly how it will work out. National parliaments will be the largest single group in this Convention. There are 100 odd members. By my arithmetic, you are talking about 56 national parliamentary representatives, plus, of course, their alternates, more than half of the members of the Convention will be representatives of the national parliaments. As you know, from your own experience 12 years ago, that does not mean that all national parliamentary views on the scrutiny process are harmonised, they are not.

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