The Future of Europe

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Mr. Lilley: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Stuart: I will not, because I want to conclude my remarks.

Column Number: 040

Mr. Lilley: I am not surprised. It says a large majority.

The Chairman: Order. I do not want this House to give a bad example to our colleagues from the other place.

Ms Stuart: There is a debate about large and small, and left and right. There is a real tension in ensuring that we respect the interests of the small countries as much as those of the large ones. However, we must not reach a point at which one small country can hold up the whole process; nor must we create an ā la carte Europe, which would be equally divisive.

The issue of regions was raised. We in the Convention are keen to ensure that the mechanisms of regional devolution in each country are effective. We do not think that it would be right for the Convention to tell the Spaniards how to deal with Catalan, the Germans how to deal with the Länder, or the UK what its relationship with Scotland should be. Those decisions must be devolved.

Finally, I shall respond to the criticism that subsidiarity is not strong enough. I do not want to create a system in which individual national Parliaments have a right to veto Commission proposals. We are, quite rightly, represented by our Governments. However, if a third of the Parliaments were to say, for example, ''Hold on, that really should not be done at that level'', that collective view would force the Commission to reconsider. That is hugely significant. I wish that hon. Members would appreciate what a huge change in the EU architecture that represents. For the first time, national Parliaments will have a voice.

We are represented by our Governments. The biggest change is to access to information, so that Parliaments can carry out scrutiny in a politically effective way. When we considered the various systems, we found that all of them, on balance, could do better. There is a huge amount of information available to assist in exerting political influence on Governments, and that needs to be available earlier. I urge hon. Members to consider that, and to recognise what a huge change that is.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the Third Report (24th July) and the Fourth Report (15th October) from the United Kingdom Representatives to the Convention on the Future of Europe.

Committee rose at Seven o'clock.

Column Number: 041

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Anderson, Donald
Cash, Mr.
Connarty, Mr.
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr.
Davis, Mr.
Dobbin, Jim
Heathcoat-Amory Mr.
Hendrick, Mr.

Column Number: 042

Hood, Mr.
Illsley, Miss
McIntosh, Miss
Maples, Mr.
Robertson, Angus
Steen, Mr.
Stuart, Ms
Tynan, Mr.
Watkinson, Angela

The following also attended, pursuant to paragraph (4) of the Order of the House (12 June 2002):
Bacon, Mr. Richard (South Norfolk)
Burt, Alastair (North-East Bedfordshire)
Hopkins, Mr. Kelvin (Luton, North)
Lilley, Mr. Peter (Hitchin and Harpenden)
Prentice, Mr. Gordon (Pendle)
Redwood, Mr. John (Wokingham)

The following Members of the House of Lords also attended, pursuant to paragraph (5) of the Order of the House (12 June 2002):
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
Lord Grenfell
Lord Howell of Guildford
Lord Hylton
Lord Lea of Crondall
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
Lord Monson
Baroness Rawlings
Lord Stoddart of Swindon
Lord Tomlinson
Lord Waddington
Baroness Williams of Crosby
Lord Willoughby de Broke

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Prepared 23 October 2002