1 Report |
1. The Member States of the Western European
Union (WEU) announced in March 2010 that they were dissolving
the organisation, including its Assembly, with effect from mid-2011.
A potential consequence of this action is that the EU's inter-governmental
Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security
and Defence Policy (CSDP) may be left without inter-parliamentary
scrutiny. The inter-governmental nature of decision-making in
the CFSP and CSDP means that parliamentary scrutiny of these policies
should not be left to the European Parliament alone; the significance
of the CFSP and CSDP activities to which national governments
may agree in the European Council and EU Council means that national
parliaments have an important role in holding national governments
to account. Inter-parliamentary oversight of the CFSP and CSDP
should be continued, with national parliaments taking the lead.
This short Report puts forward a proposal for successor arrangements
to the WEU Assembly. The proposal has been drawn up in a process
of consultation among relevant Select Committee Chairs of both
Houses of Parliament.
2. The WEU Assembly was founded in 1954 along
with the WEU itself, under the modified version of the 1948 Brussels
Treaty. Since the EU's 2001 Nice Treaty, the Assembly has been
the WEU's only residual stand-alone institution, with the WEU's
other institutions having been transferred to the EU. In 2008,
the Assembly changed its name to the European Security and Defence
Assembly (ESDA). ESDA scrutinises the EU's inter-governmental
Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The Assembly comprises
delegations of national parliamentarians from the 27 EU Member
States and the five non-EU European members of NATO (Albania,
Croatia, Iceland, Norway and Turkey). Other interested European
states, plus organisations including the European Parliament,
are partner or observer members of the Assembly. The UK Delegation
to ESDA comprises 18 members (13 MPs and five Members of the House
of Lords) and 18 substitute members.
3. On 30 March 2010, just prior to the UK General
Election, the then Government announced that it intended to withdraw
the UK from the WEU.
It commented that the WEU was "no longer relevant to today's
European security architecture", and that the role being
played by the Assembly did not justify its cost to the UK of over
2 million per year.
The following day, the WEU Member States announced that they were
terminating the Brussels Treaty and thereby abolishing the WEU,
which they stated had "accomplished its historical role."
The Member States expressed their intention to have the WEU wound
up by June 2011. As regards post-WEU inter-parliamentary scrutiny
of the CSDP, the Member States stated that they encouraged "as
appropriate the enhancement of inter-parliamentary dialogue in
this field including with candidates for EU accession and other
interested states". The Member States suggested that the
Lisbon Treaty's Protocol 1 on the role of national parliaments
in the EU (which had come into force with the Lisbon Treaty on
1 December 2009) might provide a basis for such inter-parliamentary
dialogue. We would like
to place on record our appreciation of the work carried out by
the WEU Assembly.
4. In July 2010, the new Minister for Europe,
Mr David Lidington MP, wrote to the Foreign Affairs Committee,
the European Scrutiny Committee, the House of Lords European Union
Committee and Mr Robert Walter MP, President of ESDA, soliciting
views on post-WEU inter-parliamentary scrutiny of the CSDP. Mr
Lidington set out a number of principles which the Government
saw as important for future such scrutiny, namely that national
parliaments should remain in the lead, and that there should be
no expansion of the European Parliament's competence; that parliamentarians
from non-EU European NATO countries and EU candidate states should
be included; and that costs and bureaucracy should be kept to
5. The addressees of Mr Lidington's letter shared
his view that there was an important role for a future inter-parliamentary
forum on the CSDP following the WEU's demise. The following developments
took place in the two Houses:
- In July 2010 the European Union
Committee of the House of Lords agreed a detailed position paper.
This endorsed the principles outlined by Mr Lidington and set
out a preferred option for post-WEU inter-parliamentary scrutiny
of the CFSP and CSDP. The Committee backed a "conference
of committees"-type institution to replace the WEU Assembly,
comprising a combined and enlarged version of the current informal
Conference of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairpersons (COFACC)
and Conference of Defence Committee Chairpersons (CODCC). The
Lords Committee circulated its paper to interested parties in
Westminster and beyond.
- In the Commons, the new Foreign Affairs Committee
and European Scrutiny Committee were not renominated in time to
address the issue before the 2010 summer recess. The Foreign Affairs
Committee wrote to Mr Lidington in September endorsing the broad
principles which he had set out in his July letter. We also expressed
our preference for a "conference of committees"-type
model, along the lines of the proposal made by the Lords Committee.
We took the view that this would create the strongest link with
national parliamentary scrutiny activities, and enable the participation
at EU level of national parliamentarians with specialist knowledge,
while avoiding duplication and minimising costs.
Mr William Cash MP, Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee,
also wrote to Mr Lidington in September, similarly expressing
support for a future model based on COFACC and CODCC.
6. The Chairs of relevant Select Committees in
both Houses felt that it would be helpful if the UK Parliament
could reach and express a collective view as to its preferred
arrangements for inter-parliamentary scrutiny of the CFSP and
CSDP following the dissolution of the WEU. In particular, the
Chairs wished this collective view to be placed on the public
record in advance of the meeting of the EU Speakers' Conference
in April 2011. (The Speakers' Conference has invited national
parliaments to express their views on this matter, with the intention
of, if possible, endorsing a common position at its April meeting.)
With the approval of their Committees, a process of consultation
took place between the relevant Chairs. The Chairs involved were
those of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Defence Committee
and European Scrutiny Committee, and the Lords EU Committee and
its Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development
Policy. Mr Robert Walter MP, as President of ESDA, also took part
in the consultation process.
7. Following several informal meetings held between
September and November 2010, the relevant Committee Chairs agreed
the text of a proposal, based on the House of Lords EU Committee
paper from July. Letters from Mr Cash and Mr James Arbuthnot MP,
Chair of the Defence Committee, expressing their Committees' support
for the proposal, are printed with this Report.
An email from Mr Walter commenting on the proposal is also printed.
The Minister for Europe, Mr Lidington, attended two of the informal
meetings. We would like to thank all those involved for their
8. The Committee Chairs further agreed that their
proposal might best be taken forward if it were presented to each
House in the form of a Select Committee Report, with a view to
seeking endorsement by each House. It was agreed that the Foreign
Affairs Committee would take the lead in presenting such a Report
to the House of Commons, on behalf of the other Commons Committees
involved in this process. We understand that the House of Lords
EU Committee is making a parallel Report to its House. The Chairs'
proposal is attached as an Annex to this Report.
9. We recommend that a Motion should be placed
before the House for decision, requesting Mr Speaker to present
to the EU Speakers' Conference in April 2011 the proposal set
out in the Annex to this Report.
10. We will explore with the Government
and with the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee the most
convenient and appropriate way of placing such a Motion before
the House and ensuring that time is provided for it to be debated.
1 The current delegation was appointed on 10 November
2010. The party distribution reflects the composition of the House
of Commons. Back
The UK Government deposited with the Government of Belgium on
7 May 2010 the UK's Instrument giving notice of Denunciation of
the Brussels Treaty from 30 June 2010 with effect on 30 June 2011;
FCO, The Supplementary List: Treaty Ratifications, Accessions,
Withdrawals, Etc., Treaty Series No. 20 (2010) No. 1, Cm 7952,
October 2010, pp 122-4 Back
HC Deb, 30 March 2010, col 103WS Back
Statement of the Presidency of the Permanent Council of the WEU
on behalf of the High Contracting Parties to the Modified Brussels
Treaty, Brussels, 31 March 2010, via www.weu.int. Article 10 of
Protocol 1, on inter-parliamentary co-operation, is reproduced
in the Annex to this Report. Back
Ev 1; previously published by the European Scrutiny Committee,
in Ministerial Correspondence 2010-11, at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/european-scrutiny/Ministerial-Correspondence-2010-11.pdf
Ev 1 Back
Letter of 8 September 2010, in European Scrutiny Committee, Ministerial
Correspondence 2010-11, via www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/european-scrutiny-committee/ministerial-correspondence/ Back
Ev 3-4 Back
Ev 2 Back