278. We noted at the beginning
of this Report that our influence must be focused on the UK Government.
This is the key purpose of scrutiny; reflecting the primacy of
the UK Parliament. As we pointed out in the introduction, the
context of the Prime Minister's Bloomberg speech is highly relevant,
in particular the 'fourth principle'"It is national
parliaments, which are, and will remain, the true source of real
democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU". The
collective influence of national parliaments in the light of the
Lisbon Treaty, for example through the Reasoned Opinion process,
must also be considered to be part of the scrutiny process.
279. There are two reasons why
a system of Parliamentary scrutiny of EU proposals was first established
in 1972. First, by joining the EU the UK agreed to be legally
bound by directly effective EU legislation; such legislation became
automatically binding on UK citizens without the rigorous scrutiny
which accompanies the enactment of a Bill. This was a very significant
shift away from full Parliamentary scrutiny of legislation which
is, in effect, the same as national legislation but without Acts
of Parliamentand, because of Qualified Majority Voting,
does not necessarily originate in Government policy. Secondly,
if not directly effective, EU obligations were to be implemented
by secondary legislation by virtue of section 2(2) of the European
Communities Act 1972. Parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation
implementing EU obligations is limited in scopeit cannot
question the policy being implemented, but simply whether it has
been done so correctly. Hence the pre-eminent importance of Parliamentary
scrutiny of EU documents: it is the only means Parliament has
of influencing EU policy before it becomes binding legislation.
The reforms we recommend in this Report should be viewed in that
280. Our conclusions and recommendations
are set out in full in the following section of this Report.
They represent an agenda for radical reform of the scrutiny system.
On the primacy question, we make a set of recommendations to
improve the way in which debates are scheduled and conducted,
but also conclude that there must be a strengthening of the scrutiny
reserve to reflect the reality of decision-making in Coreper and
by Qualified Majority Voting. We ask that more use is made of
Supplementary Explanatory Memoranda to re-impose the scrutiny
reserve when documents change during negotiations. More fundamentally,
we see no reason why the idea of a national veto should not be
urgently developed and decided, given the emerging discussions
about collective 'red cards'.
281. The Modernisation Committee's
2005 Report on the scrutiny of European business was not debated
by the House until three years after its publication, which was
completely unacceptable. In the context of the current tone of
debate at EU level, the moves towards deeper EU integration highlighted
in successive Commission publications and the prospect of an EU
in/out referendum in or before 2017 there is evidently an urgent
need for the House and its Committees to address our conclusions
282. We ask the Government to
ensure that it responds to our Report within the customary two-month
deadline, and the Procedure Committee and the Liaison Committee
to consider those recommendations relevant to them, alongside
the Government's response, so that this matter is brought to the
floor of the House no later than Easter 2014.