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

Letter to the Chair of the Committee from Mr William Cash MP, Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee

I am grateful to you for taking the lead on drawing up a draft set of arrangements for adoption by the House as the basis for discussion at the April Speakers' Conference on successor arrangements for the WEU parliamentary assembly.

The matter was discussed by the European Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 8 September and meetings have since taken place between parliamentary stakeholders and the Minister for Europe. During the course of those discussions a consensus emerged, based on the fundamentally intergovernmental nature of defence and security, that:

  • New arrangements should be founded on Article 10 of Protocol 1 to the Treaties, and should include members of European affairs committees;
  • New arrangements should not provide an entrée for a new institution;
  • Doing nothing was an option; but, if national parliaments left a vacuum, the European Parliament would move to fill it;
  • New arrangements should aim primarily not at "direct effect", such as scrutiny reports and resolutions, but at the "indirect effect" of helping national parliamentarians to be better informed, in order to perform scrutiny of their own governments more effectively; and
  • Secretariat arrangements might need a degree of continuity, between six-monthly meetings. This might involve the use of the COSAC Secretariat. Cost was an important consideration.

Discussion of the issue at the recent Brussels COSAC meeting demonstrated general agreement that new arrangements should build on existing structures and expertise, add value, be cost-effective and be open to third countries. The UK delegation succeeded in ensuring that the COSAC Contribution was amended to reflect these factors.

The European Scrutiny Committee therefore endorses the proposals which you have sent to me, and which were agreed informally by the Chairmen of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Defence Committee, and the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons, together with the Lords European Union Committee.

I am copying this letter to Lord Roper and Andrew Makower in the House of Lords; to James Arbuthnot MP and Robert Walter MP; and to Les Saunders of the Cabinet Office.

16 December 2010

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