Letter to the Chair of the European Scrutiny
Committee from Mr David Lidington MP,
Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office |
Michael Connarty MP, Chair of the European Scrutiny
Committee of the last Parliament, wrote to the former Foreign
Secretary, David Miliband, on 30 March about the Western European
Union (WEU). Unfortunately, Mr Connarty's letter did not reach
the FCO until shortly before dissolution. This, added to the General
Election and change of Government, has led to a delay in replying
to Mr Connarty's letter.
This Government attaches significant importance to
the issue of parliamentary scrutiny of the EU's Common Security
and Defence Policy (CSDP). As you know, the UK and all nine other
Western European Union members announced on 31 March 2010 their
intention to close the WEU by June 2011. We can use this time
to have a period of reflection on the future of cross-European
parliamentary debate on European defence issues, currently performed
by the WEU Assembly. We see a value in collective debate and any
future forum could potentially play a useful role for exchange
of information on CSDP issues.
The intergovernmental nature of CSDP is fundamental.
I therefore believe in the primacy of national parliamentary scrutiny
of CSDP, as performed by your and other Committees. This can be
usefully informed by contacts between parliamentarians from all
EU Member States but I do not believe it should involve any expansion
of the European Parliament's competence. It would also be preferable
to include parliamentarians from non-EU European NATO allies and
EU candidate countries in any future forum given the important
role that they play in CSDP and the key partnership between the
EU and NATO on security matters.
One of the prime drivers behind Member States' decision
to wind up the WEU was its poor cost-effectiveness. Inter-parliamentary
structures in Europe are in general funded by the parliaments
themselves. But regardless of future funding arrangements, there
will be clear pressures in current times to keep the mechanism
of providing for inter-parliamentary dialogue on CSDP to the minimum
cost and bureaucracy possible.
The FCO is happy to facilitate debate on this issue.
I have therefore attached a non-paper
which puts forward a wide range of options for the future of European-level
inter-parliamentary dialogue on CSDP. We offer these options as
a basis for consultation with you and other interested parliamentarians.
I would welcome your views.
I am copying this letter and non-paper to the Chairs
of the House of Lords European Committee, the Foreign Affairs
Committee and Robert Walter MP for their views.
15 July 2010
1 Not printed. Back