European Scrutiny CommitteeEuropean Scrutiny Committee—Inquiry (ESI 4)


1. The Committee might be interested to investigate the scrutiny system, which has been used since the 1970s by the Danish Parliament, the Folketing. During my work at the European Parliament on relations with national Parliaments, I was able to assess the effectiveness of the Danish system, and urge the European Scrutiny Committee to explore the possibility of adopting it.

2. The Danish system works as follows:-

(a)The European Scrutiny Committee of the Folketing receives from the Danish government advance notice of the business to be transacted by the Council of Ministers of the European Union. As the Scrutiny Committee will know, the Council meets as Ministers of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and so on. The agendas of these meetings are forwarded by the Danish government to the Folketing Scrutiny Committee.

(b)The Scrutiny Committee studies the agendas and, as and when necessary, summons the Danish minister who will be attending the Council meeting to inform it on the detail of agenda items.

(c)If the Scrutiny Committee forms a view that the interests of Denmark demand that the minister should adopt a certain point of view on a particular agenda item, and should argue that the Council should follow it, the Scrutiny Committee so decides.

(d)The Danish minister then seeks the view of his fellow ministers on the Committee’s instruction to him or her. If the other ministers concerned concur with the instruction, the relevant minister is then mandated to raise the question at the Council of Ministers in the interest of Denmark, as formulated by the Scrutiny Committee.

(e)The weight given to the Committee’s instructions will vary: while some may be of the nature of recommendations, other instructions will be definitive.

(f)The Danish minister is bound to argue in the Council that his government insists that it gives its assent to the will expressed in the instruction by the Danish Scrutiny Committee. If the latter’s instruction is definitive, and the Council indicates its unwillingness to agree, the minister may ask for the matter to be postponed to the next meeting of the Council, in order to allow him or her to consult further with the Folketing Scrutiny Committee.

(g)If this occurs, the minister attends the Committee to explain the views expressed in the Council of Ministers. The Committee may then decide either to amend or withdraw the mandatory instruction, or to insist that the minister returns to the Council and attempts to win its assent thereto.

*David Millar was a Clerk in the House of Commons, 1953–73, and Director of Research in the European Parliament, 1973–89

(h)If, on returning to the Council, the minister is unable to persuade it to adopt the Committee’s point of view, he or she may decide to insist on it and be outvoted, or he may succeed in obtaining the agreement of the Council to an amended version of the Committee’s instruction.

(i)The minister—depending on the arrangement made with the Scrutiny Committee—may in this case decide to accept the amended version of the instruction, or may consult further with the Committee.

(j)There have been occasions during the Scrutiny Committee’s work when the Danish minister has, in the early hours of the morning during the Council’s meeting, communicated with the chairman of the Scrutiny Committee to seek his or her views on an amended version of the Committee’s original instruction.

(k)On returning to Copenhagen, the minister reports to the Scrutiny Committee on the proceedings of the E.U. Council of Ministers in relation to any instruction given by the Committee.

3. It is therefore argued that the benefit to a parliament of this Danish system is that it offers the most effective opportunity to representatives of the people to bring influence to bear on the Council of Ministers of the European Union. For this reason I would urge the Scrutiny Committee to consult its fellow in the Folketing as to the operation and effectiveness of its scrutiny system.

4th July 2012

Prepared 28th November 2013