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House of Commons
Session 2007 - 08
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General Committee Debates
European Standing Committee Debates

Funding of Political Parties



The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: John Cummings
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie (Blyth Valley) (Lab)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington) (Lab)
Evennett, Mr. David (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
Flello, Mr. Robert (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab)
Heppell, Mr. John (Nottingham, East) (Lab)
Keetch, Mr. Paul (Hereford) (LD)
Murphy, Mr. Jim (Minister for Europe)
Sheridan, Jim (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab)
Simpson, Mr. Keith (Mid-Norfolk) (Con)
Stuart, Mr. Graham (Beverley and Holderness) (Con)
Turner, Mr. Neil (Wigan) (Lab)
Walker, Mr. Charles (Broxbourne) (Con)
Younger-Ross, Richard (Teignbridge) (LD)
Alan Sandall, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

European Standing Committee

Tuesday 11 December 2007

[John Cummings in the Chair]

Funding of Political Parties

10.30 am
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): It is delightful to see you in your place this morning, Mr. Cummings. I am honoured to serve under your chairmanship.
I look forward to our debate and I am pleased to have been provided the opportunity by the European Scrutiny Committee to explain the basis of the draft regulation. I say on behalf of myself and my hon. Friend the Whip, for the enjoyment of the Committee, that the alternative to being here this morning was to play in a charity football match against the police of the Palace of Westminster. That annual outing might have been a rougher ride—as it traditionally is—than these proceedings. Nevertheless, instead of being there for an hour and a half, I expect to be here for the same time, or less, to discuss the draft regulation that will amend regulation 2004/2003 which deals with the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding.
As I set out in my explanatory memorandum and in correspondence with the Committee, the Government believe that the draft regulation will ensure that funding is available to enable improvements in the functioning of European political parties and affiliated political foundations through a new framework for their funding. We welcome measures that tackle the evidently low connection with the European political process that voters often feel and display. The Government believe that, through the draft regulation, the representation of citizens in the European Union will be enhanced through more effective European political parties. Given the low voter turnout in recent European Parliament elections throughout Europe, we believe that limited EU funding for European political parties to extend to financing campaigns conducted at EU level for European Parliament elections could help to reverse the trend.
It is important to note that the United Kingdom has been successful in strengthening the safeguards in the original draft proposal, ensuring that funds for European Parliament election campaigns cannot be used at national or local level. In addition, the UK has helped to ensure that funds can come only from the European Parliament’s own budget and that derogations from the financial regulation must be exceptional.
The Government support the proposal in the draft regulation to enable European political parties to carry over funding. Political parties will be allowed to carry over 20 per cent. of annual total income from one year to the first quarter of the following year. The draft regulation will also allow European political parties to build up financial reserves by saving income generated by the parties themselves, totalling up to 100 per cent. of their average annual income.
[Official Report, 14 January 2008, Vol. 470, c. 5MC.]

As I have said, derogations to the financial regulations are exceptional. Indeed, the UK stressed at the working group meetings that the derogations to take account of the nature of political parties and the electoral cycle should not set a precedent in other areas. Their exceptional nature was stressed in the final text of the draft regulation, so we are satisfied that they will not set a precedent.
The Government are clear that article 191 provides a sufficient legal basis for the provisions relating to European foundations, because the regulation requires the foundations to be closely linked to the relevant European political party. The splitting of the legal base will enable improved transparency of the funding of both European political parties and European foundations. Under the proposed system, it will be easier to enforce the rules that money can be transferred from European political parties to European foundations, but not from the foundations back to the political parties. That is an important difference.
The regulation relates only to European foundations that are tied closely to a political party at European level and that do no more than underpin and complement their parties’ activities. Foundations must be affiliated to a political party at European level. Their activities must underpin and complement the objectives of the political party to which they are affiliated. Their application for EU funding must be made through the political party to which they affiliated and, if the political party to which the foundation is affiliated forfeits its status, the foundation is excluded from funding. European political parties will have direct involvement in appointing directors to European political foundations.
The Government believe that political foundations can play a useful role. They already do so in many EU member states. Fostering at EU level of the activities of political foundations—of whatever political colour—could help to promote debate on longer-term EU reform issues.
The Government are also clear that plurality of views is protected under the proposals. The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to protect that principle. An amendment to the draft proposal has been secured that will ensure the protection of diversity of views among political foundations. Other member states and the European Parliament are content to accept the amendment. The Government have also helped to ensure that the draft regulations meet concerns about ensuring that funding of European parliament elections cannot be used at local or national level.
I hope that those introductory comments have helped to clarify the occasionally technical, but important matter of regulating European political parties and the funding of European political foundations. I hope that, after due consideration, the Committee will be minded to accept the draft regulation.
The Chairman: We now have until half-past 11 for questions to the Minister. I remind hon. Members that questions should be brief and asked one at a time. That way, there should be more than ample opportunity for all hon. Members to ask several questions.
Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): As the Minister has said, it is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Cummings. Like me, you are a member of that most sophisticated and influential group in Parliament, the parliamentary breakfast club, which meets in the Tea Room. Many junior Ministers, shadow Ministers and Whips are members, and it is where the agenda for Parliament is set.
The Minister has been wise to attend the Committee, although his bravura might be due to the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), whose appearance on any European Committee is likely, given his attention to detail, to spread fear and trepidation on all sides. The old military historian in me says that there are three things that one should never do: never play football against the police, do not march on Moscow and never campaign in Afghanistan. Sadly, we are on a loser on at least one of those.
The Minister read his civil service brief beautifully; he put all the emphases in the right places. As he explained, the draft regulation changes the rules on the funding of European political parties to allow money to be diverted to political foundations and political campaigning by such parties. One reason why we are really here is that the draft regulation was first considered by the European Scrutiny Committee back in July this year. We should place on record the valuable work that that Committee did. It originally concluded that funding political foundations was contrary to article 191, and there was a—
The Chairman: Order. I am loth to call the hon. Gentleman to order, but we are on questions.
Mr. Simpson: I bow to your experience, Mr. Cummings. If you will permit me a tiny bit of leeway as an old breakfast club companion, I was leading in to my question. The Committee concluded that there was a danger that political funding would be denied to those who do not support the process of European integration.
The European Scrutiny Committee received a reply from the Minister, but in its latest report has still concluded that the regulations are ultra vires of article 191. Why does the Minister disagree? Article 191 states that funding is only available to political parties. Either political foundations are independent of political parties, and therefore ineligible under the article, or they are not independent, in which case they are not proper foundations. They cannot be both.
On campaign funding, what limits will apply each year, and can they drift upwards? The draft regulation contains a block of text on use of funding money on direct campaigning in referendums or elections—
The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman is testing the Chair’s patience. Questions are to be asked one at a time.
Mr. Simpson: So I cannot do a block set of questions?
The Chairman: No.
Mr. Simpson: I apologise for my ignorance—I am a virgin in this particular Committee. I think that I have got through enough for the Minister to be getting on with.
Mr. Murphy: I thank the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk for his—I think—kind welcome. I share his sense of celebration that his hon. Friend the Member for Stone is not currently with us, but time may not be our ally on that matter. I also thank him for the complimentary way in which he referred to my presentation of the case. I assure him that the emphases were all my own.
In terms of the specific question that the hon. Gentleman asked, as I explained in my opening comments, the Government are clear that article 191 provides a sufficient legal base for the provision relating to European foundations. The European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Council and every member state of the EU are satisfied that that is a proper legal basis. It is my understanding at an informal level, through political networks, that at least the Labour and Liberal Democrat Members of the European Parliament endorse that assessment.
The question of a legal basis for the draft regulation has been thoroughly considered at working group meetings in Brussels, where it was felt that article 191 is the appropriate legal base for the proposal, given European political foundations’ close affiliation with European political parties. I hope that that helps to inform the Committee’s deliberations.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): The Minister will be aware that the European Scrutiny Committee has narrow but clear concerns regarding the regulation and its legal base. Will he explain further? The regulation clearly states that it covers public policy issues on the process of European integration. Given that clear use of the term “European integration”, how would a party that applied for funds to campaign for European disintegration—some hon. Members who are not here might wish to campaign for that—receive funds? Would they not be discriminated against?
Mr. Murphy: I welcome the hon. Gentleman to our proceedings. There are parties that are campaigning for European disintegration, which is not strictly the opposite of European integration, but that is another debate for another time. Incidentally, I give advance notice to the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk that I have an answer to his question on funding, when you decide that it is in order for him to ask the question and for me to answer it, Mr. Cummings.
On the point raised by the hon. Member for Teignbridge, the change in that regard relates to political parties’ comment on integration, not support for it. A number of organisations would comment on integration. The UK Independence party would comment on integration, as would the British Labour and Conservative parties and all of the sister organisations at a European level.
With your permission and at the appropriate time, Mr. Cummings, I will tell the Committee about the pilot projects on European political foundations that are being considered, of which there are 10. There is a real diversity of European perspective in those 10 organisations, which include the European Left party and the EU Democrats. There is also a European Greens initiative and a European Liberal Forum—there is real diversity in the proposed pilots. That diversity is reflected not only in the way in which the wording of the regulation has been altered, but by those who are already expressing an interest in becoming involved in the process. That is guaranteed in legal practice and by the operation of the procedures. The UK managed to achieve a very substantial amendment on that important matter.
Mr. Simpson: May I press the Minister to be quite clear on that subject? It is not a pedantic point. He would argue that inserting the phrase,
“and on the process of European integration”
will be satisfactory, but some of us are worried that if a political party does not campaign within those limits, it could be legally challenged and might have its moneys withdrawn or have to pay them back. Can the Minister give a categorical assurance that that will not happen?
Mr. Murphy: I can give that assurance. If the question is whether there is an open-ended guarantee that every penny or euro spent by a European political party or foundation will be spent in a way that fits with the procedure, that is an issue of human behaviour in the future, and the process of external auditing is important. However, the principle behind the policy and the legalese around it are very clear. Commenting on European integration is an entirely different matter from support of it.
There is a list of 10 European political foundations and their affiliated European political parties who are already involved in pilot projects. There is already real plurality and a fantastic diversity of political perspective on the issue. I can certainly reassure the hon. Gentleman about the policy intent and the legal wording and guarantees around it. In the future, it will become an issue for external auditors, who must assess whether due procedure is being followed, but the policy intention is very clear. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman.
Richard Younger-Ross: When the Minister wrote to the European Scrutiny Committee, he said that he had secured the amendment, which included the addition of the word “on”, but I am concerned that a legal challenge could be made at another date. I cannot understand why the words
“the process of European integration”
remain within the text. Does not the Minister agree that it would have been better to remove those words, as he seems to be telling us that they are superfluous to the article?
Mr. Murphy: I am doing no such thing. The change is remarkably important. In one of his more fair-minded moments, of which he has many, the hon. Gentleman will agree that to go from stating that one must support integration to a position where one can comment upon it, is an important significant, legal and policy distinction. I thank all of those who helped us to make that possible, because it guarantees in the regulations that diverse plurality of political persuasion that is of fundamental importance.
The Chairman: Keith Hill—Keith Simpson, I mean.
Mr. Simpson: I thought that I was having a senior moment there, Mr. Cummings. The obvious logic is that we should have the line about political foundations performing the task of
“observing, analysing and contributing to the debate on European public policy issues”,
but we should remove
“and on the process of European integration”.
The phrase “European public policy issues” fully covers integration—and opposition to it. The Conservatives would find that perfectly acceptable, and I suspect that many of the Minister’s hon. Friends would, as well.
Mr. Murphy: Inevitably as part of this process, we go through tried and tested questions and answers. I have served on European Standing Committees—A, B and C—for 18 months, and I have enjoyed the experience sitting in this seat. I am enjoying it just as much standing here.
It is clear that the phrase
“the process of European integration”
arises from article 191, which states:
“Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union.”
We have gone from a position that would have been difficult to support, because it was relatively prescriptive about the political parameters within which a political party or affiliated foundation could seek funding, to a system in which organisations, foundations and parties can comment on integration. Every European political party and foundation can comment on integration, whether they are for it, against it, undecided or any shade in between. It is reasonable to suggest that we now have the right wording—drawn from article 191 itself—to enable the protection of that diversity of plurality of opinion.
Richard Younger-Ross: I am amazed that the Minister can say with a straight face that he enjoyed his 18 months on the European Standing Committees; if he can carry that off, he can play the straight man in any comic double act. He has long experience of these Committees in different guises and will be aware that the 1,000 documents that come before the European Scrutiny Committee every year are about European issues, but they are not necessarily about European integration. Would political parties or foundations be prohibited from having funds if they were commenting on or working on an issue being discussed by the European Parliament or the Commission that is not related to European integration?
Mr. Murphy: No.
Mr. Simpson: It is like returning to a niggly toothache or, to mix the metaphor, I was about to say that the hon. Member for Teignbridge and I are like terriers shaking a rat, but that would be unfair and being a Norfolk man, a coypu is perhaps a better example.
I repeat that I am convinced that it would be acceptable to take out the phrase
“and on the process of European integration”.
I note that the European Standing Committee considered the Minister’s response but was unpersuaded and has therefore not lifted its scrutiny reserve. The body of cross-party parliamentary scrutiny still has deep reservations and I advance this argument as a constructive compromise on this issue.
Mr. Murphy: On that point, if one considers—I am sure that all hon. Members have had the opportunity to do so in advance of today’s debate—the Council of the European Union inter-institutional file 2007/0130 about the proposal for the regulation of European Parliament and political parties, the third paragraph is very clear.
“Provisions to provide financial support for political foundations at European level should be laid down in the context of this Regulation, as political foundations at European level affiliated with the political parties at European level may through their activities support and underpin the objectives of the European political parties notably in terms of contributing to the debate on European public policy issues and European integration”.
This matter is not just about people being able to comment on integration, whether they are for, against or neutral, it is about being able to debate European public policy issues and European integration, including, as file 2007/0130 states
“by acting as catalysts for new ideas, analysis and policy options.”
It is clear that there is a range of subjects about which foundations or parties can comment, publish, reflect, or organise events that are not captured by the narrower issue of commenting on European integration. That is the policy intent of the draft regulations. They enjoy substantial cross-party support among many political parties at European level. It is important to recognise the nature of the document.
Richard Younger-Ross: Many documents come before us for European scrutiny that have the support of different parties in the European Parliament, but I never take that fact as a commendation that we should necessarily support them—whatever their source or backing.
I come to the second point about which the European Scrutiny Committee were concerned. What controls our political foundations as opposed to political parties? The Scrutiny Committee clearly thought that political foundations were not political parties and therefore not controlled by the regulation, as the Minister seems to think.
Mr. Murphy: As for whether we respect the parliamentarians from our own parties in the European Parliament, I want to put on record the strong appreciation of Labour Members for the European parliamentary Labour party, its fantastic work and its thorough consideration of matters. Implicit in the hon. Gentleman’s comments was that he did not share that view of his own caucus within the European Parliament. However, that is an issue for him and his disagreements with the Liberal Democrat MEPs.
The regulations set out a clear legal framework about how foundations can provide support to the diversity of debate at European level and the flow of finance between European political parties and foundations. As I have said, that should be a one-way process.
Mr. Simpson: Having raised our first issue about which we remain unconvinced from the Minister’s statement, perhaps I can now refer him to my second question that I foolishly put until you correctly pulled me up, Mr. Cummings. What limits will there be each year in respect of the funding of campaigns and can those limits drift upwards each year?
Richard Younger-Ross: The point I was making about our sister parties in the European Union was merely that I would not necessarily take everything they say without questioning it first. The Minister seems to think that anything that comes from the European Labour party should just be swallowed and accepted without checking it first. I would never do that.
The Minister said that the funds could not be used for national or local campaigning. How would he stop an advert from one of the political parties appearing in a national or local leaflet when the costs that it was charged for the advert were clearly helping to subsidise the leaflet?
Mr. Murphy: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman knows me very well if he thinks that I just accept anything that comes from Europe as being a good thing. For him to reach that conclusion, it shows that he has not paid much attention to my 10 years in Parliament.
Europe is, and can be, of phenomenal benefit to the United Kingdom, but it is a Europe based on 27 sovereign and independent nations that pool resources and work together when we agree to do so. Europe can be an enormous power for good. Those remarks are by way of aside, Mr. Cummings, and I am sure that you will not let me expand on them much further.
I am sure that hon. Members will understand that I cannot today go into every what-if scenario. Nevertheless, there are important guarantees on transparency and there are safeguards on fraud and misuse. The draft regulations provide for the amount paid to European political parties and to foundations to be published on the European Parliament website along with annual audit certificates from external auditors. As I have said, I cannot comment on specific situations. However, if an alternative political party had objections, either on the basis of local or national experience or by virtue of details and reports on the website, those objections could be brought to the attention of the authorities and the processes that are set out in the regulations would kick in. Internet availability and external auditing provide important protection, therefore.
Mr. Simpson: Will the Minister explain the definition of a foundation under the regulations?
Mr. Murphy: My understanding of a political foundation at a domestic level is the type of organisation with which we are all involved, at which we occasionally speak, and with which we might organise certain publications. Let me mention the organisations that we are considering. There are 10 European political foundations. I shall read them, both to assist our deliberations and to help the Hansard reporters. I think they are all English names. They are: Transform Europe, the Centre for European Studies, European Liberal Forum, the Institute of European Democrats, the Green European Institute, the Foundation of European Progressive Studies, the Foundation for EU Democracy, and Europa. There are two others that do not have English names—I unintentionally misled the Committee about that, so I cannot read them in English, although I could read them in Glaswegian. They are: the Centre Maurits Coppieters and Les Refondateurs Europ(c)ens.
Those are the bodies on the pilot list. It might be helpful to explain that they are based on the German model for political foundations, of which there are five: the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Hanns Seidel Stift Foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Political plurality and diversity of opinion are guaranteed in the German prototypes for the European pilots, in which there is a remarkable diversity of opinion.
Richard Younger-Ross: May I press the Minister on my previous question, which I thought was fairly straightforward? He can answer yes or no—he said no in an earlier answer. Would an advert placed by a foundation or political party in the campaign leaflet of a British party be legal or not?
Mr. Murphy: I am not going to go into the hundred or potentially even thousands of what-ifs. I am here to set out the parameters of the regulations. Each claim must be approved individually by the European Parliament’s administration. That is an important additional check in addition to publication on the website and external auditing. If an organisation were to send out distribute an advert, leaflet or letter or a poster on a billboard, it would have to present that publication and justify why it came within the regulations. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand, however, why I do not want to get involved in second-guessing every potential scenario. Every single proposal must go before the European Parliament’s administration before it would be paid for.
Mr. Simpson: If I am following the Minister’s logic, at some future date, the British political parties in the European Parliament could set up foundations similar to the ones that were listed: the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. On the Labour side there could be the Roy Jenkins institute—let us be as neutral as possible—a great hero of the Labour party and a very good biographer. On our side, we could have the Harold Macmillan institute. My concern is that if there were such institutes, how would they be scrutinised in terms of their giving assistance during either a European election or a Westminster election? What would be the role of the British Electoral Commission and the Standards and Privileges Committee in terms of oversight on that kind of expenditure?
Mr. Murphy: Those matters, and the need for transparency are contained within article 9 of the draft regulations, which deals with the issue of transparency and efficacy, and the way in which money is granted and spent. Adding to my earlier point, the payments for spending would be granted upon the production of a receipt. It is important to put on the record that there would have to be a receipted notification that the money had been spent.
Article 1 of the new regulations lists in detail the activities that foundations will be able to participate in. It gives examples about the organising of seminars, conferences, training events, co-operating with similar bodies—north American think-tanks for example—producing reports and policy papers. Therefore, as long as a bona fide political foundation at a European level fulfils the criteria contained within the draft regulations and associated legal documentation, and as long as it is affiliated to a European political party in the way that I have set out, it would be entirely appropriate. I celebrate that fact: if it engenders a greater detail and understanding of debate about European issues, it is something that should be welcomed on all sides of the Committee.
Mr. Simpson: I think that the Minister may have misunderstood me. The issue is about what happens in the case of such a foundation, which receives its money from Europe, and could legitimately—I am not absolutely sure, but I am trying not to be negative—provide funding and support on European issues, for a UK Westminster election? What liabilities would it have with regard to our Electoral Commission, to analyse its spending and hold it to account?
Mr. Murphy: That would be entirely inappropriate, as I have already set out in my opening remarks. It would be an issue for the Electoral Commission and the appropriate returning officers at a local level.
Mr. Simpson: Does the Minister have experience of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung? I certainly have experience of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, which has always been a very generous host, and which has participated in and organised briefings and conferences, quite legitimately, that look into national political issues as well as European ones. I am not trying to be pedantic, but given that all political parties, and indeed the party of government in the country are, to use Harold Macmillan’s terminology, going through “a little local difficulty” over the issue, we need to be clear about it. It may be that the Minister might wish to go away and consult upon the matter, so that he can come up with a definitive line and so that all political parties are clear.
Mr. Murphy: It is absolutely essential that all political parties are clear on that. If the hon. Gentleman does not get that sense from the regulations and if he has specific questions about the interaction between the Electoral Commission, local returning officers and their national body, and the regulations, I am happy to enter into correspondence with him.
It is important to state again that the type of activity that the hon. Gentleman asks about in a fair rather than a pedantic way is expressly forbidden by the regulations. The UK has been successful in ensuring the safeguards in the original draft proposal and in ensuring that funds for European Parliament election campaigns cannot be used at a national or local level. All countries in the European Union have made clear that that is a red line and that money should not transfer from the EU to national or local levels and that money, for example, for local referendums or other such matters is expressly forbidden. That is an important protection, but if the hon. Gentleman feels that there are additional scenarios on which he would like to reflect, it is important to do so to provide a clear understanding of the regulations for all political parties.
Outside of today’s discussion, it is important in future that there is a clear understanding of what the regulations mean in practice for flow of finance and the generation of ideas at a European level and the impact they will have on UK domestic politics. In a formal, legal sense, the intention of the regulations are clear, but I accept that in the coming months and once the regulations have been agreed, we need a genuinely deep understanding of the impact of the regulations at a European level and how domestic national parties will interact with them.
Richard Younger-Ross: In writing to the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk, could the Minister also write back on the question I asked about advertising and its legalities?
Mr. Murphy: I am happy to enter into a correspondence if the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask me any additional specific questions, but I do not want to become involved in 100 what-ifs. Not only would that delay the Committee, it would lead to an endless round of correspondence. However, on the principles of the regulations, I am happy to do as he suggests.
The Chairman: If there are no more questions, we will now proceed to a debate on the motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Committee takes note of European Union Document No. 11559/07, Draft Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 2004/2003 on the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding; and agrees that the Government should support its adoption.—[ Jim Murphy.]
11.12 am
The Chairman: Mr. Keith Hill—sorry, Mr. Simpson.
Mr. Simpson: Mr. Cummings, I am sure that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Keith Hill), the former Parliamentary Private Secretary to the former Prime Minister, might feel insulted about that, but I am happy to be mistaken for him. He is a man of great power and influence, and whenever I see him at Prime Minister’s questions he is grinning from ear to ear—I do not know why, but I will leave it at saying that there is an advantage to sitting on our side of the House.
I will not delay the Committee. We have tried to press the Minister on a number of issues and he has either succeeded in responding to them or has kindly agreed to clarify them. The sticking point for our party is still the amendment that he carried out and that still causes concern for the European Scrutiny Committee. I would prefer the amendment to refer to political foundations performing the tasks of
“observing, analysing and contributing to the debate on European public policy issues”
full stop; and to delete
“and on the process of European integration”.
11.14 am
Richard Younger-Ross: I shall not delay the Committee for long either. The Minister has tried to respond to the points made, but he has responded in much the same way in which he responded to the European Scrutiny Committee; he did not convince the scrutiny committee and I am not entirely convinced. I accept the point made by the Conservative spokesman that the amendment would have been better if it stopped after “policy issues” and
“on the process of European integration”
was deleted.
11.15 am
Mr. Murphy: Thank you, Mr. Cummings, for chairing our deliberations. On the earlier comments about my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham, who was formerly the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, we are all aware that there are in truth probably very few hills—Keith Hill or otherwise—in North Norfolk or Mid-Norfolk.
On the specific points before us, these are important improvements on the previous set of arrangements; they are significant amendments. The main criticism from the hon. Member for Teignbridge seems to be that I have been consistent in my response with the explanatory memorandum. I cannot contort the logic to please the hon. Gentleman, in the way that is sometimes necessary for Liberal Democrats. Nevertheless, the regulations are clear, the legal basis for them is sound and there is strong support based on the improvements that the regulations will put in place. I will, of course, undertake to correspond with both hon. Gentlemen.
My final point is that this is not a catch-all solution for the wider disconnect between citizens of European member states and the European political process; it is a contribution but not a catch-all. Ultimately, if Europe is to connect with the citizens of the member states’ nations, that is about delivering on substance and improving people’s lives. When they notice that, they can then have a greater affection for Europe. The European political foundations and these important changes to European political funding are a step, but that is all they are. They are a significant, clear improvement, but there is still much work to be done in this field.
Question put:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 3.
Division No. 1 ]
AYES
Cunningham, Tony
Flello, Mr. Robert
Heppell, Mr. John
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Sheridan, Jim
Turner, Mr. Neil
NOES
Evennett, Mr. David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Younger-Ross, Richard
Question accordingly agreed to.
Committee rose at seventeen minutes past Eleven o’clock.
 
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