European Scrutiny CommitteeWritten evidence submitted on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, European Parliament ( ESI 02)

1. The main points made in this submission draw on the experience of the Conservative MEPs who sit in parliamentary committees in the European Parliament and key recommendations made in the publication by the Rt Hon Theresa May MP and Nicholas Timothy “Restoring Parliamentary Authority: EU Laws and British Scrutiny.”1

2. They include recommendations for scrutiny of transposition of EU legislation; discussion by the scrutiny committee of final negotiated texts (agreed between Council and the European Parliament); input at an earlier stage in the process when pre-legislative work takes place; implementation of the Scrutiny reserve and better coordination with the EU timetable and processes in Brussels.

3. This evidence is given by Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour (West Midlands), Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee in the European Parliament, on behalf of the Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament.

4. The committee may wish to read the motion for Parliament Resolution on better legislation, subsidiarity and proportionality and smart regulation (2011/2029(INI),2 and the report adopted in the European Parliament’s legal affairs (JURI) committee but which is only available at present in draft form.3

5. It is worth noting that since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, a total of 270 draft legislative acts have been sent to national Parliaments for examination under the terms of Protocol No 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon. 266 of those draft legislative acts are Commission proposals, while the remaining four are Council initiatives. In response, the European Parliament has received a total of 975 submissions from national Parliaments. Of these, 147 are reasoned opinions while the remaining 828 are contributions.

6. The scrutiny system in the House of Commons should fulfil two main aims: to hold the Government to account on the decisions taken at the European level; and to exercise the rights afforded to national parliaments under the reinforced subsidiarity procedure introduced in the Lisbon Treaty. It is appropriate that the following comments be limited to the latter responsibility, as the monitoring and impact of the subsidiarity check ties closely to the role of the European Parliament and the work of its Committees.

7. It is clear from regular monitoring of the submissions made by national parliaments that the House of Commons often complies with the eight week deadline for submissions under the subsidarity check, as provided for in Protocol No 2 annexed to the Treaties, where issues are raised in relation to a breach of the principle of subsidiarity.

8. We note that the House of Commons have submitted reasoned opinions and they have not been alone in expressing concerns. However, on only one occasion has the “yellow card” procedure been activated4 where a sufficient number of national parliament chambers have responded. This is disappointing and is due perhaps to the brief time scale for consolidating a quorum of National Parliaments. Another reason may result from a lack of coordination at the European level to ensure that the powers provided to national parliaments are used.

9. The document based scrutiny system places a very heavy workload on the Committee. As legislators with the power to scrutinise and amend all legislation referred to the European Parliament under the co-decision process, we would welcome more engagement with the House of Commons to help the Committee prioritise this work. We work on many proposals of great economic importance to the UK where a more detailed response from one of the Commons Select Committees would be welcome. At the moment, we rely entirely on the House of Lords to provide this detailed examination.

10. We also observe that the transposition of European Legislation is not systematically examined by the House of Commons. As MEPs will be very familiar with the detail of proposals subject to transposition, we would welcome a more public debate on the strategy that the Government proposes to follow and a check against the perils of “gold plating”

11. MEPs are largely unaware of the arrangements for House of Commons European Committees. They could clearly play an important role in examining new legislative proposals of significance, examining transposition plans and monitoring subsequent implementation.

12. By contrast, MEPs are well aware of the House of Lords European Committee organisation, and are regularly invited to submit written and oral evidence on the areas relating to their legislative responsibilities in the European Parliament.

13. In our regular contacts with interested stakeholders, we do not feel that the House of Commons scrutiny process for EU legislation is well understood. This is possibly because they do not perceive that external parties with an interest in EU legislation are involved in the examination of EU proposals. For the minority that do know about it, the House of Commons process is seen as an element of internal procedure rather than one that enables MPs with a specialist or constituency interest to contribute.

14. Scrutiny of new treaties and more formal arrangements for their consideration should take place. It could be considered whether a scrutiny reserve or mandating procedure would be appropriate in the case of negotiations which amend the Treaties.


15. The committee should establish a procedure, involving other Commons Committees, to scrutinise the Governments performance in transposing EU legislation.

16. During the co-decision process, legislation may be changed quite significantly from the Commission proposal originally submitted to the Committee. On crucial measures, the Commons may wish to comment on the evolving text at different stages of negotiation with Council and European Parliament. There should also be separate provisions for discussing the final negotiated text, which does not necessarily get transmitted to the scrutiny committee.

17. There should be much better coordination between the Committee and the European Parliamentary timetable and processes in Brussels. There should be more input into the pre-legislative work/reports of the EU institutions and these own-initiative (pre-legislative) reports. Such own-initiative reports are not discussed, so the Government is left to respond to them with no detailed Commons input on the strategy to be followed.

18. On the mention at the end of page 12 on the three European Committees (A, B and C), it highlights the potential of the European Committee format but states that the opportunities offered by this part of the scrutiny process have tended to be under-used. These committees should meet more frequently and their role could be strengthened and expanded to cover more policy areas

19. In order to respond to the disappointing number of subsidiarity challenges by the required quorum of national parliaments, the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons could aim to lead the way and encourage all Member States to comply with these provisions to ensure thorough scrutiny of EU proposals regarding compliance with the principle of subsidiarity.

20. An easily accessible and searchable register of documents considered for scrutiny should be established.

31 July 2012




4 Draft Regulation on the exercise of the right to take collective action within the context of the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services, COM(2012) 130

Prepared 28th November 2013