Future inter-parliamentary scrutiny of EU foreign, defence and security policy - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

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[1] 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

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