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

Letter to Mr David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office,from the Chair of the Committee

Thank you for your letter and attached "non-paper" of 15 July sent to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and copied to me among others, concerning pan-European parliamentary oversight of the Common Security and Defence Policy following the dissolution of the WEU in mid-2011. The Foreign Affairs Committee considered this matter at its meeting on 8 September.

The Committee does not wish to see the WEU Parliamentary Assembly being dissolved without some form of successor body in place, and regards it as essential that there should continue to be an inter-parliamentary forum for discussion and oversight of the CSDP, to reflect the nature and importance of the policy area. Discussion and joint working with our colleagues from other interested states can significantly enhance our national scrutiny work, and may be a more efficient means of information exchange for all of us involved than purely national processes.

The Committee endorses the Government's view that post-WEU parliamentary oversight arrangements should reflect the intergovernmental nature of the CSDP, and that national parliaments, not the European Parliament, should be in the lead. The Committee similarly shares your view that the need to bear down on costs should be a leading consideration in settling post-WEU arrangements.

Of the options set out in your paper, the Committee tends to favour some form of "conference of committees"- type format i.e. a specialised COSAC, or a combined/enlarged/enhanced version of the current Conference of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairs and Conference of Defence Committee Chairs, to include other representatives of these Committees. The Committee considers that this type of model would create the strongest link with national parliamentary scrutiny and allow the participation of Members with specialist knowledge, without duplication of other international bodies and with the best prospects of bearing down on costs. The Committee also considers that the differences between this type of model and a new, smaller assembly might be more bridgeable than might appear. Nevertheless, a considerable number of potentially awkward issues would remain to be resolved.

The Committee would be glad of a written update from you as to how the Government envisages the process of agreeing post-WEU arrangements being taken forward in the next few months. The Committee would also welcome an early meeting with you to discuss the issues further.

I am copying this letter to Mr Speaker, the Chairs and Clerks of the European Scrutiny Committee and House of Lords EU Committee, and Robert Walter MP.

9 September 2010

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 18 January 2011