A SECOND PARLIAMENTARY CHAMBER FOR EUROPE:
AN UNREAL SOLUTION TO SOME REAL PROBLEMS
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
1. Why would the European Union need another
parliamentary Chamber? We
have decided to produce this Report on this question at this time
for several reasons. First, the Prime Minister has made a significant
proposal for the creation of a new parliamentary body (which he
referred to as "a second chamber of the European Parliament")
to be composed of members of national parliaments with the primary
functions of overseeing the operation of the principles of subsidiarity;
and of scrutinising the European Union's Common Foreign and Security
2. Secondly, the case for such an additional
chamber has been made in various forms and over a number of years
by many other distinguished individuals and organisations on a
number of grounds. These include concern that the European Union
suffers from "a democratic deficit", arising from the
perceived distance between ordinary citizens and the EU institutions;
and a concern that national parliaments should be encouraged to
play a more active part in debating the European agenda and in
scrutinising proposals from Brussels.
3. There is also pressure from those who see
a collective role for national parliaments in scrutinising the
operation of the principles of subsidiarity; from those who are
concerned that inter-governmental co-operation in the areas of
Foreign and Defence Policy and Justice and Home Affairs (the second
and third pillars of the Treaty of the European Union) are insufficiently
subject to democratic scrutiny; and from those who wish the institutions
of the European Union to develop not only a directly elected parliamentary
chamber (the European Parliament) but also a balancing chamber
of Member States.
4. While the emphasis is generally on the functions
that such a second chamber could perform in scrutinising subsidiarity
and second and third pillar issues, the fact that there are a
variety of different forms of second chamber proposed, and that
the argument is still coalescing, are further reasons why we considered
that this inquiry would be timely.
5. A final reason for exploring this issue now
is that preparations are about to begin for the next Inter-Governmental
Conference (IGC) scheduled for 2004. The IGC will look at the
role of national parliaments and it will be no surprise that proposals
for a second chamber, and an analysis of the reasons for such
proposals, are bound to feature highly in the preparations for
the IGC. A "Convention" is expected to start work early
next year to discuss issues in advance of the IGC.
6. We have decided to look at three main groups
of issues. We first (Part II) set out the various proposals for
a second chamber. Some of these are specifically for a second
chamber of the European Parliament and some of these would in
effect provide a free-standing second parliamentary institution.
Much of the debate, however, does not make this distinction and
we accordingly use this general term "second chamber"
where it seems appropriate to do so. We then consider (Part III)
the case made for a second chamber; and (Part IV) some of the
practical problems which will need to be addressed if a second
chamber is to be established. This Part is, necessarily, rather
theoretical, as the practical issues will depend to a great extent
on the tasks a second chamber has to fulfil. Part V of our report
then tries to analyse why a second chamber has been proposed;
what are the real issues that the proponents of a second chamber
are trying to address? Part VI gives our overall conclusion.
1 Our membership is listed in Appendix 1. Back
References in this Report in the form "p00" or "Q00"
are to the pages and questions of evidence printed with this Report.
Other documents referred to but not printed are available from
the House of Lords Committee Office. Our witnesses are listed
in Appendix 2: We are grateful to them all. Back