Select Committee on European Scrutiny Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 470 - 479)




  470. Welcome, Mr Bonde. We are delighted to have you with us this morning. The acoustics in here I am told are first-class so we do not have to worry about the great distance that we are apart. I am sure we are much closer as fellow-Europeans than we are in distance. It is great to have you here and I would like to thank you for your very interesting paper. Before we begin, may I just say that we are coming towards the end of our inquiry into the governance of Europe and we will find our questions to you very useful indeed when we write our report which is due to be published some time in May, and we will make sure you get a copy of it. Mr Bonde, could you summarise for us the sort of European Union you would like to see? What are the important changes you would make to the existing European Union?

  (Mr Bonde) I am happy to be here at the core of democracy . That is my vision: a Europe of democracies in the plural, not a democratic Europe, not because I am against a democratic Europe or against a Federal state. I think Federalism was very good for Canada, Germany and Switzerland, but you need the people and we have not got that in Europe yet. Therefore my vision is not the Federalist dream but what is possible, European institutions run by the national parliaments as much as possible. Then my core question will be to all 10,000 laws and the similar amount of amendments: are you really necessary to be decided upon on a cross-border basis? If you are not necessary to be decided in Brussels then you should for democratic reasons leave the decisions to the national parliaments. That is our basic view. On the other hand, if you have cross-border issues which you cannot solve in your own national parliament then my simple philosophy is that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by moving the decision to a higher level above the nation state. I am under no illusion that we can do that in a democratic way but we can do it as transparently and as democratically as possible and run it as much as possible by the elected people of the national parliaments. That is in short my vision.

  471. What changes would you make to the existing European Union treaties?
  (Mr Bonde) I have made a book on that, about the convention. You have got about 100 pages alone on a lot of detailed suggestions. The core question is to get rid of the monopoly of initiative of the European Commission. This is in my view the most artificial part of the European construction. The core in your democracy, as in ours, is the ability for the electorate to go for elections, have a new majority in Westminster on the voting, and after that you pass a new law because you have got a new majority. This core in democracy does not exist in Europe at all. Here you can go for elections and you can change the British voice in the Council of Ministers, and you can change after some days the British Commissioner, and you can change every five years the European Members in the European Parliament, but you can never, through your vote, have another law. That is the crucial lack of democracy in Europe. The core issue is to take back the monopoly of initiative from the Commission and bring that to the national parliaments. There might be different ways of doing that so that you should, for instance, have meetings between the national parliaments for every area and, if they agree, then they could ask the Commission to propose a new law, but it should not be up to the Commission to decide, "Here we need a new law". It should be up to you and your colleagues in the other national parliaments to decide, "Here we have a problem. We try to tax Coca-Cola. They do not pay a penny. What can we do?", and then we find a common solution to that. Here we cannot do anything. Then it is you who move the decisions upstairs instead of the Commission in Brussels taking them on their own initiative. The problem in the procedure today is that the Commission has not only the monopoly of initiative. If the Council, which comes from you indirectly, want to change the proposal for the Commission, the legal base, for instance, they need unanimity. It means that if one single country in the Council is in line with the Commission, then 40 national parliaments are outlawed. They are not able to propose what should be the legal base. Should it be deliberate co-ordination or should it be a binding regulation? I am very much in favour of co-ordination. As for regulation, I will reserve that for the very few core issues which are necessary to run the Common Market. To get rid of the monopoly of initiative from the Commission I think is the first crucial reform. The second is to make the Council meetings transparent for the public. I think we will have some reform now in Seville in June. The first meeting and the last meeting might be transparent. For the last two months I have had more successes in applications for transparency than in 22 years, so the time seems to be right. For the first time in their life the Commission minutes are published. For the first time you can go to the Commission website and you can find them now. They are available. The votes are still not really available. If you look in the figures on who decides what, you will find that 70 per cent of all European laws are carried by junior civil servants in working groups of the Council. You can say that the civil servants might be instructed from the minister at home, which might be an inspiration from the Scrutiny Committee. Research, at least in my country, has shown that it is the civil servants who ask for the instruction and who write the instruction and it is not the ministers who are really taking part in the legislative phase when it is done in real terms. Then you have the formal procedure when it comes to the Council as an A-point. Then it is clear that the ministers take the decision formally but they never see it. They never look at the A-points. In reality the decisions have been taken by junior civil servants. The system works because they have a good relationship to the TUC, to the employers, to the big farmers, to the smaller farmers, to the corporate world. They have connections to the civil servants. That is the reason it works but it has nothing to do with democracy because you, the elected people, of the UK and other countries are not involved in that phase at all. That is 70 per cent. Then they have 15 per cent in addition. That 15 per cent is carried by the ambassadors in COREPER. As an electorate I have no access to the minutes and no access to agendas for COREPER meetings, and neither have you. Then we come to the last 15 per cent of the legislation in Europe. It is carried from the Council, but what will be left for the ministers? That will be two or three square brackets where they will then have a battle about the last outstanding questions. If they cannot settle them it will go back to a working group or the friends of the Presidency or another group outside our control. Here I have to say that it is the most humiliating experience I have had (and you as well) in my parliamentary life. When you are sitting on a committee in the European Parliament reading a new law, then we, the elected members, are sent the original draft from the Commission, the first draft. Behind us we have youngsters, 22 or 23 years old, coming from the embassies, the permanent representatives in Brussels on the Council, on the Commission, and they are sitting with the updated versions of the laws. They are sitting with draft number seven, draft number eight or draft number nine. They have the documents with the square brackets. We have not. We have not got formal access to them. It is clear that some of us who are more clever than others pick up the documents from the civil servants who are kind enough to give us them, or some of you might have a political friend in the European Commission who will give them to you on a party basis, or you will know the minister who will give them to you, or you will know a guy in the TUC who can deliver that, or someone from the farmers' lobby who will deliver them to you, but you do not get them as an elected member. This is the humiliating situation with the democracy in Europe, that you have to pick them up and you have to beg for them. You have not got a member's right to be informed at the same time as those in the working groups of the Commission and the working groups of the Council. Here we have now a formal promise from the European Commission in one of our last meetings of the current Presidency of the Parliament that the Commission will now deliver to us what they deliver to the working groups of the Council. They will deliver those documents, not to everyone in Parliament but to some in Parliament according to the new framework agreement. They have not delivered them formally until now, but we have now for the first time a promise that they will deliver them to Parliament. It means that our rapporteur on an issue would then be able to follow also the draft number seven and see what the negotiations are about. We try now to get a similar promise from the Council. I was in Madrid two weeks ago to discuss with the Spanish Minister of State and try to put pressure around him through party friends in Spain to deliver a similar promise so that when the Presidency delivers a new draft for legislation then it will be sent to the European Parliament and to the national parliaments as well, and that our rapporteur, the person in charge, those who want to take a special look on it, should have a legal right to have all the drafts. If it is critical information in relation to persons, if it is not documents under investigation, if it is clear that there have to be secrecy rules, then they have to be respected from the members of national parliaments and the European Parliament as well if they expect to get such documents. I am not naive enough to think that every document can be handed out to everyone, but if it is in the legislative process you need very good arguments not to deliver documents for those who are competent for legislation in the national parliaments and in the European Parliament. That is the most humiliating thing, not to have that possibility to get the documents. Then my advice would be that you should maybe support that reform that your Scrutiny Committee will have a legal right to question any document in a working group of the Council at any time. Maybe not all of you but at least some of you would have the possibility to get it and control it because if you have that right then things will go much more smoothly in practice, I say. Those two reforms, complete transparency in relation to the parliaments and the right of initiative to the national parliaments, are the most crucial reforms we need. I would add also a demand that every European law should be read in a special reading in the national parliament so that even if it is decided on a qualified majority vote in Brussels for decentralisation reasons, for nearness to the public, I think it is a good idea to make a public reading of every single regulation, every single directive. Then if it might at the end of the day happen that your minister has been down-voted in Brussels, you can make up your mind if you want to decide it anyway. Why not? It is the game of life and marriage that you cannot gamble all the time. You are sometimes bound to accept that you are in a minority. Then you accept that you are a minority but you carry the law anyway. It has the big advantage that it is certainly public in the way people normally follow legislation. They follow Westminster. They do not follow what is going on in Brussels. From Scotland, a nation the same size as Denmark, there is not one single correspondent in Brussels on a permanent basis. How can Scottish citizens follow what is going on? Only if there is a reading in the House of Westminster. Then they will be able to follow what is going on and then Scottish journalists, fishermen and others would get the idea that they should maybe also try to convince a civil servant in Brussels or a lobbyist in Brussels or do something else. I think you need the reading on the place in the different national parliaments to be able to come closer to the citizens. If you then have a conflict where the majority in Brussels decide otherwise than the majority in your committee, then they would only accept a national veto if it is decided as a veto. It means you cannot adjust the height. You would have to say in a public reading, "We want to use a veto in vital questions"—the old formula from the Luxembourg compromise. "We want to use a veto and we instruct our government to use that and our Prime Minister will be prepared to defend this veto for the next European Council", so that a national veto is not something you can use every day. It will be reserved for really vital questions. That would be my mechanism to solve the potential conflict between a majority here and a majority over there.

Jim Dobbin

  472. You may have covered some of these issues in your first response but, when you say that the EU should legislate only on cross-border issues of common concern, what would you include under that heading, and how much of existing EU law would you exclude?
  (Mr Bonde) I have made a draft European agreement. It is not a finished document. It is for debate and it is published on the Bonde.Com web site where you can find it in full, like James Bond plus an e, then you have it. You have it in your own language. I have a core for common decision-making, a core around the Common Market which should be general rules for everyone in Europe. If you take part in the Common Market you need to adopt the same rules for trade, you need to have similar rules on state support, state aid, on competition rules. Otherwise the Common Market would not work. There is a minimum of common play rules that you would need also to decide in common what you would call the internal market, but in the internal market, as it is decided in Brussels, a lot of things which are not really necessary are included. On those issues I would go back to the members to decide. My core would be maybe half of the decisions in the internal market. That would make it interesting as well for Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein through being able to photocopy every internal market rule without having a say. Through the European agreements every applicant country photocopies those decisions without having a say, so to define that core that is in my view the major task of the European Convention, and that is a very difficult task. If you are serious it is very difficult to define what is necessary for the core and for this core I would accept binding regulations. Outside the necessary core I would not accept regulations. There I would have another way of deciding, which I call frames, which has a certain relation to the original concept of directives before the court changed them into another kind of regulation, so that those directives, those frames, are directed towards the national parliaments, but then it is up to you to decide if you want to make it a law or you do not want to make it a law. Inside the core you cannot hinder a qualified majority decision unless you really provoke the national veto. If you then go through what should be the areas of co-operation, if you bind the common core to regulations and only a part of the existing legislation, then you can be much more liberal towards what can then be co-ordinated in Brussels because then you cannot be overruled. In those areas Westminster can never be overruled. Then it is up to you to make the final decision, and therefore you can co-operate and co-ordinate on every issue and you do not need to be really restrictive in the other areas if you have no regulations. It is against the regulations you need to be restrictive because otherwise it would erode your democracy. In what areas should that be put back to to the member states' legislation? It is easy to say we should roll back education but there are the Erasmus programmes. There is a mutual recognition of diplomas. I am in favour of co-ordination among member states on those issues because it is practical, but you do not need a regulation. We should get rid of the binding legislation in those areas so that we have a co-ordination function in Brussels if it is above what is needed for the core. You cannot allow a member state to have their own rules of state aid so that you will see suddenly that your competence will compete with taxpayers' money from other states. It does not work. Then you would have competition on raising state aids and everyone will need to play. You need common play rules.

Mr David

  473. Can I say it is very nice to see you again on such good form. Judging from what you have written in your paper and also your introduction, you are placing a big emphasis on the need for greater transparency in the European Union, and also you say that you are particularly concerned about the EU monopoly of initiative which the European Commission has. I personally agree with your emphasis on those two areas. However, with regard to the issue of the Commission's powers, you make the very radical proposal that the monopoly of initiative should be taken away and given to national parliaments. My concern is not so much about the democracy of the proposal but the practicalities of it. Would it make more sense and would it be easier to have a working system if the power of initiative were shared or perhaps totally transferred to the Council of Ministers, who after all are the representatives of the nation states who make up the European Union? Following on from that, is not what you are proposing with regard to national parliaments a variation of Tony Blair's suggestion of a second chamber of national parliamentarians to the European Parliament? If that is the case, what are your views on Britain's suggestion in that respect?
  (Mr Bonde) If it was instead of the European Parliament I would agree entirely because I think that is a sin of European integration that we took away the representation from the national parliaments in Europe and changed it into European MEPs. I have to admit I am a sinner as well. If you make an institution in Brussels all members in that institution would be sinners. When they come from the torture centre in Copenhagen and ask me can I assist them to get some funds from Europe, my ideal answer should be, "You come from a rich country. We can afford that on our own. Why should you have money from Brussels for that purpose? You can easily do that with Danish money". Do I answer that? No, certainly not. I go to my member number 319 (because I need to know the 319 Members of Parliament) and I go then to the Christian Democratic rapporteur and I say, "Is it not a nice thing to give some money to them?", and he says, "It is a nice thing to give some money towards a torture centre in Copenhagen". What should I do? What would a chamber of national of MPs do if they worked in the Brussels institution? They would behave exactly the same way. It is not a question of being bad people. It is a question of, if you are elected for that forum then you will certainly find yourself certain people with solutions from that level. That is a recipe for a total situation which none of us defends. The Commission is now responsible for many more than 100,000 projects. They stopped counting when they came to the number 100,000. It is because there have been so many good sinners in the European Parliament who year after year use our "pocket" money, five per cent of the budget, to initiate a new law, a new European project which should never have been done and decided in Brussels ideally. My little torture centre shows it needs the money and your dear projects also need the money, and by the end of the day you have a sum which no-one would defend ideally. That is my fear to the project of making a new institution. My suggestion will be instead that we should have a COSAC type of co-operation where you come from the transport committee and meet your colleagues from other transport committees twice a year or so, and then you make a reading on the Commission draft legislation on their proposals for the annual catalogue of laws. Then the transport committee people meet in cross-boxes and then they say, "We want that to be a regulation because this is really a cross-frontier issue we cannot solve on our own". Here we only want co-ordination because this we can decide on our own. Then they, the representatives of the national parliaments, should decide definitely the legal base of a proposal so that when the Commission and then people from the overall scrutiny committees meet twice a year to collect the missives from their transport police, their environment police, etc, they then make the final catalogue of legislation. The Commission should then be obliged to propose a regulation, if you have asked for a regulation, a directive if you have asked for a directive, or a voluntary standard if you have just asked for a voluntary standard. This should not come to a regulation if you only want co-ordination. This should be done by your instructions. Then it is bottom-up instead of top-down. That would be a smooth working system and it is technically possible. We have not managed it; it is one of our weaknesses up to now, but we have added a lot of weight to this in the last few months because the time is right for certain progress. The Commission have now accepted to deliver the programme every year in October, so we have their legislative proposal for the coming year by October, and then we could have our readings in the national parliaments, in the national committees, meet cross-border, and then finally the European readings as well and the decision by you. Then we have a legal base. Then we will have another suggestion that could be done in the Council as well, that the right of initiative would be moved to the Council. I have been working in European affairs for 30 years, and 15 years ago I would have said what you say, that it should be in the Council, but my experience over the years is that the difference between civil servants in the UK, Denmark and the Commission in Brussels are not really very great. When it comes to the end of the day they work the lobbies the same way. We have some good examples, colour additives in food, for instance. The Danish position was to support heavily the monopoly of Danish Dairy wanting to cheat the Iranians into believing that our feta milk was produced by goats. We have no goats but a we do have a lot of feta milk which is produced with a colour additive. That was the position of the government. That was the position of the civil servants. That was the position for those three, four years when it was in the working groups, when they were instructed to negotiate in real terms. Then this issue suddenly blew up, an eight-column story on the front page of the most important newspaper, and the parliament changed overnight. They did not change because they had no position in advance, but the parliament had decided unanimously, every single member of the parliament, that our negotiation strategy should be the opposite: to get rid of colour additives which could produce an allergy. So you see, the reaction from the elected people was entirely different from the reactions of the civil servants, the ministers, because they are much closer to industry and the interests from the big national companies. That is one example which makes me much more in favour of the parliamentary line.

  474. Can I take you on a step from that? It logically follows that the European Commission itself has a fundamentally different character and a different role. The national parliaments are coming together on a basis not dissimilar to COSAC at the moment. It would have to have its own secretariat servicing that process and then you would have the European Commission who basically followed instructions given to it by the national parliamentarians, so that it came to the head of the secretariat, then the administration, for the decision making processes in the national parliament.
  (Mr Bonde) I have sympathy for the proposal but I also come now with warnings. If you make European institutions then they work like I have worked, from the top. That is my warning and it is the reason I prefer to have the official reading (in the national Parliament). It is something less personal. It is your colleagues and the majority here who decide. It should not be an institution in Brussels. You should have the majority in your parliament to decide, We want a law in this area. If they decide that then you also have genuine democracy in that you can make them responsible in the election the next polling day. You know who are responsible for the laws. If you move it into an institution it might be much more difficult to hold people to account.

Mr Connarty

  475. In a way what I am asking you is like an open question, Mr Bonde. I have read your latest paper which I realise had the word "futures" in it with a plural. I thought it was a typing error until I realised that—
  (Mr Bonde) As they say in England, I think we have a choice.

  476. I understand the value of what you are saying but in a sense I need to know where you are coming from. Would it be fair to say that you have been unhappy with the development of the European Union since the Maastricht Treaty was signed and really have been fighting a resistance to the things that flowed out of the Maastricht Treaty in Europe, that it is creating a type of Europe that you did not wish to see in the first place? In other words, it is the old Irish answer, that if you wanted to get to Dublin you would not start from here. If you wanted to get to the Europe of your vision you would not start from where we are, although you are making pragmatic suggestions about how to amend the machinery that has been created. Is that fair?
  (Mr Bonde) For the first 15 years in the European Parliament I worked for Danish withdrawal. Until 1992 I worked for Danish withdrawal and I could measure my success every year, with even more laws decided in Brussels. It was not a success. Then we started to realise that Denmark would never withdraw unless you decided to take the UK out, which I did not expect. Therefore it was not a realistic approach for Denmark. There was only one realistic approach and that was to reform the European Union. Then you have to put forward a lot of constructive and specific proposals.

  477. Can I just interrupt your dialogue? I have read your paper in detail and I found it very interesting but I thought it would be useful to try and clarify the genesis of what is your 40th contribution, I believe, in terms of printed work. We or any other parliament wish to control the ministers who go to the Council. At the end of the day, despite the work of the civil servants who are pulling strings, it is the ministers who sign off the agreements on behalf of our government and we as a parliament wish to hold them accountable. How does it really work in the Danish system practice? The Danish are held up as the most tightly scrutinised ministerial group going to the Council of Ministers. How does it work in reality and would you recommend that as a way forward for the scrutiny process in other parliaments?
  (Mr Bonde) I have already suggested that you could include the chair of the Danish scrutiny committee for a meeting. He is not my line politically but he is very critical towards the executive in Denmark and he tries to make it a much better place than we have had for all the years until now. The Danish system is very famous. The Danish Scrutiny Committee was nicknamed member "country number 13 at the time". That had some advantages because the ministers have to have a negotiating mandate. The disadvantage is that it is impossible for a European scrutiny committee to follow the European legislation. I could follow that by working 100 hours a week until 1986. When we had the internal market legislation from 1987 it was impossible for a person to scrutinise everything. I get every document from the scrutiny committee as well on my table. It is a nightmare of conscience every week to have those amounts of documents to follow, which I have no chance to read, and I do not believe any committee is able to do that. In my view the only possible solution is to have two different readings in every national parliament, to start the reading in the specific committee—transport legislation in the transport committee, environmental legislation in the environmental committee—and then your scrutiny committee should instruct the minister for the general negotiating mandate because here you should also ask, is this really a case where we should be very hard and tough in negotiations or should we be soft in this area? The overall estimate should be to you in the direct general scrutiny committee but you should have on your table when you meet to make a mandate the specific proposals for mandates from every single committee; otherwise it will not work. I have to say with regret that the Danish Parliament's committees do not want to take responsibility for European legislation. They hate it. They find it difficult and they only have success in the environmental committee and there it works very well. In the Danish Environmental Committee they make the concrete negotiating mandate for every single directive and it is very seldom that they are changed in the European Scrutiny Committee. It happens but it is very seldom. We have got a good preparation on the Danish negotiations but it is not from our parliament; it is from 35 specific committees. We have 35 specific committees and there you have what I will call the corporate Denmark taken on board. You have on trade all those interested in trade. On agriculture you have big farmers, you have small farmers, you have the consumers' council, those different interests. They are collected there. In those specific committees you have a good preparation, but all the documents from the specialised committees in the national administration are secret towards the scrutiny committee, with one exception. On agriculture it now happens that instructions have moved to the scrutiny committee. That started two years ago. On other issues the real preparation of the Danish ministers stands in the Council or in the working groups. It is hidden from the national parliament. They do not know. Then they come and give a so-called negotiating mandate when 95 per cent of the negotiations are finished. They go and they instruct the secret phrase from the specific committee, one of the 35, from the minister or the civil servants. Just before the decision in the Council the minister decides to come to the scrutiny committee with his so-called negotiated mandates. The way a compromise is built up in Brussels, you start with the working groups and you concentrate and at last you have only three square brackets. It means that the scrutiny committee, the genuine democracy, starts from those three square brackets. If you then have an interest in changing something which is outside the square brackets and therefore which is already solved, then you can formally, after it is decided, certainly raise any question, but if your minister raises a question which was settled three months ago, he is not very popular with his colleagues. If you raise that question in your committee you make a problem for your minister. You might find by the end of the day that you would like to fix a minister from the other side of the parliament but you would not like to bring problems for your own side. It means that the formal scrutiny which we should do in all parliaments we are not able to do in the Danish Parliament. It comes much too late. Therefore we have also another proposal in my book and in some of the documents from SOS Democracy, which is a group in the European Parliament dealing with those democratic deficits. One of our other proposals is that the European Commission should be composed in another way so that your commissioner by the end of the day will come here to Westminster every week to have advice, to discuss, to give early warning on what is going on in Brussels so that you can instruct him before the negotiations are finalised. You cannot come at five minutes to 12 every time and then try to amend retrospectively. It does not work that way. A good scrutiny committee would start negotiations in every specific committee in the parliament, raise it to your committee, make it instructions, follow what is then going on, have the possibility to follow the legislation, so that one of your members then follows as a rapporteur that directive, another follows that directive, a third follows that directive, and then you will have a chance to find the difficulties in good time. There we have the real problem in Brussels, which is that if a directive or a regulation is decided then you cannot change it. The system is much more conservative than your system. If you find a mistake you can just change it with a new majority in Parliament. We can never amend anything unless we have the Commission to draft a new proposal and 62 out of 87 votes in the Council to adopt it.


  478. I wonder if I could examine your views on the Folketing Committee. I joined this Committee almost 15 years ago and the Folketing Committee was always the committee that we all looked up to. That was where we all wanted to be. That was a committee that met the Prime Minister four times a year and that was the committee which mandated the ministers before they voted in council meetings. That was the Utopia. My practical experience in 15 years in parliament tells me that when a committee has powers over the executive the executive will have powers over the committee. Therefore, if committees are making decisions to mandate ministers, I suspect that the executive may be tempted to make sure that they have a fair majority on that Folketing Committee to make sure that that mandate is in line with what the executive wants. Is that what happens?
  (Mr Bonde) No, I do not see this as the real problem. As I see the problem, until 1986-87 our system worked very well, I have to admit, when it was agriculture, when it was trade, when it was areas you could cope with. You could read the documents, you could reason that you could give an instruction, you could follow what was going on. If certain strong economic interests were involved they would inform you. But since it became much more complicated you need a detailed division of work to be able to scrutinise it and this system has never worked in Denmark. I can give you one example. It has never been tried to see if the Danish Parliament could have a document from one of the 35 specialised committees. Your former colleague, Ivan Norgaard, my close friend and neighbour, never in all his years, not one single time, asked for a document from a specialised committee. His predecessors did not either, so we have never tested that. There has never been delivered one document from the specialised committees on request to the Danish Parliament. It shows lack of control in my view. If you are coming from the same side as the government then you can go to the minister who will let you have documents informally, or if you are at the other side you can go to the Farmers' organisations and they will be able to provide you with the documents you need, so there are other ways of getting the documents. It is the reason that the system works, that there are those other channels, but it is not very democratic. The democratic procedure should allow you, if you want a document, to have a legal right to request it and find it and receive it. It never happens in the Danish scrutiny committee. The new chair we have is very eager on involving the other committees.

Angus Robertson

  479. Mr Bonde, welcome to the Committee. I was intrigued by your observations about the lack of Scottish journalists in Brussels. Being a Scottish MP, perhaps I can update you. There is now one journalist from the Scottish newspaper Business AM, but it is a small-selling newspaper in Scotland. I was also interested in what you were saying about the disclosure of documentation and the lack of it in Brussels. That is not a monopoly held by Brussels. The Committee has just learned that the devolved institutions within the UK do not receive documentation via the UK Government, which I think is similar to the point that you were making. Similarly, in working groups, where Scottish officials only attend 1.6 per cent of working groups, there are issues for us here too; it is not just a question for Brussels. I want to ask you about the role of national parliaments that you envisage because, whilst agreeing with the democratic principle, the driving force behind how you are opposing the challenge to national parliaments, regardless of parliamentarians' views, whether one is a Federalist or a Euro-sceptic, my experience is that the number of parliamentarians, certainly in this country and, I would suspect, elsewhere, who have an interest in European affairs is a very small proportion of a "nationalist" or state parliament. I do not see how your proposals are going to change that. How do you foresee a circumstance where we do not just drive ourselves into the buffers and make no progress because only a very small group of people are interested in doing it, whereas one of the incentives at the European level is that the European Parliament, for example, are focused on developments at the European level?
  (Mr Bonde) That would be a difficulty. The difficulty would be to involve the national MPs in these specific committees to have an interest in those affairs because they are not used to reading directives. They do not know the principles of supremacy and Community law. They do not know that Britain has ten votes in the Council. It is so far away from those numbers. I think there is only one way forward, and that is to give the competence for making the draft negotiated mandate to the specific committee. If it is their responsibility then their names are mentioned under every instruction. They vote in favour; they vote against, and then they will find out that if they have voted the wrong way they will have run into trouble with some of their electorate and then they are forced to take that just as seriously as national legislation. There are a lot of populist arguments against Parliament as well, where we never attend the meetings, etc, but you know that our work is very serious. You know people come to us with their concerns. You know that the readings are very useful for the result at the end of the day, that people can meet you, that they can come with their concerns and you can bring forward their concerns, question the minister. The actual reading, where we get no publicity at all for the work we do, is the parliamentary work that we need to do behind every law to make it a good law. If you do not force members to take the system they will not do that. That is the Danish experience. We have now tried for legal affairs. It works now in the Danish Parliament, not satisfactorily but it works. They now have readings on that. There are some improvements all the time.

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