Select Committee on European Union Seventh Report



1.  Why would the European Union need another parliamentary Chamber? We[1] 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 Policy.

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[2].

1   Our membership is listed in Appendix 1. Back

2   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

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