34. Witnesses cited political problems with a
dual mandate, problems that would apply at several levels. Jean-Pierre
Cot was concerned that "competing legitimacy" could
unsound and unhealthy"
for the individual parliamentarian (p109). At the level of national
delegations, Richard Corbett MEP and Andrew Duff MEP both raised
concerns about how representatives in the second chamber would
operate in national delegations (p69, Q181). Other concerns
were raised about ensuring balanced representation from bicameral
national parliaments (p100) and about how a parliament with few
members would regularly be able to spare representatives to attend
a second chamber (p31).
35. There was evidence that some MEPs did not
find that their European work translated into political benefits
nationally, when important decisions - such as the composition
of party lists - continued to be taken at a national level (p108).
Lord Norton of Louth questioned how members drawn from national
parliaments could truly represent those parliaments (Q 40) and
Mr Pierucci from the Commission also doubted how an individual
could be mandated to vote (Q 163). It was suggested that a delegate
with no mandate would not be in a position to take decisions (Q
36. More generally, some thought the proposed
new chamber "one institution too far". This would not
be a second chamber, but a third. The European Parliament itself
is one; and the Council, acting in a legislative capacity is another.
There were thought to be dangers of competing legitimacy between
democratic institutions appointed by different procedures (p109).
Sir William Nicol, formally Director-General in the Council,
suggested that it would be "unedifying" if the EU saw
"running conflict" between three legislatures. Conflict
would be "inevitable", not least if a "second"
chamber saw its own national legitimacy (derived from representatives
of individual states) as a reason to block other institutions
37. Others argued that the political status of
any second chamber would be unclear; and that any necessary political
function was already provided by the European Parliament, even
if the work of the members of the European Parliament was not
widely understood. Andrew Duff MEP suggested that a second chamber
as proposed by the UK government would "second-guess"
the EU legislative processes. If its work was based on a political
code of competencies with no legal force, how would that fit with
the Treaties? "Legal uncertainty and political confusion
will ensue". (We say more on this in paragraph 51 below)
He also queried how "blatantly political intrusion"
into the existing checks and balances would work (p69).
38. We conclude that, while tension between
strong and powerful democratically elected bodies can be healthy,
we are not persuaded that this applies in the European institutional
context. An elected second chamber is bound to be drawn into
conflict with the European Parliament. It would also be hard
to avoid the members getting involved in the details of legislation
whatever the "Terms of Reference" of a second chamber
might say. There would also be difficulties in ensuring that
national governments did not seek to pack their delegations with
loyal supporters. More importantly, if a second chamber claimed
legitimacy equal to that of the European Parliament, who would
be accountable to the electorate for policy outcomes? There
is also a possibility that a second chamber, if it were to involve
significant numbers of national parliamentarians to the extent
necessary to make a substantial contribution, could, by distracting
national parliamentarians, weaken scrutiny by national parliaments
of national governments. There could also be problems if a three-chamber
system, with a three-way co-decision procedure, involved national
parliamentarians both in making legislation at a European level
and scrutinising it in their national parliaments.
39. A number of our witnesses were suspicious
of the motives underlying proposals for a second chamber. It
was suggested that the proposal was an attempt by the UK government
to "disable" the EU (p70) or made in opposition to proposals
for a written constitution in Europe (p118); or that the creation
of a "compliant" parliament - by implication one lacking
both legislative teeth and democratic legitimacy - would be for
the convenience of civil servants (p109). We make no comment
on these views. The very fact that they have been expressed to
us signifies deep dissatisfaction with the proposed second chamber.
It would be surprising, however, were these to be real dangers
as many of the proponents of a second chamber are clearly well-disposed
towards the European Union.
16 Witnesses from the FCO hoped that the experience
of the pre 1979 European Parliament "would not be directly
relevant to the second chamber" (Q 26). Back