Select Committee on European Union Seventh Report



83.  There has clearly been considerable support for a second chamber, from very powerful quarters. As FCO officials told us "In the end if Member States thought it was better for the chamber composed of national parliamentarians to oversee the area of intergovernmental [activity] that is for Member State Governments to decide and to give that authority to the second chamber. That is the way it is" (Q 37). We hope that Member States will not in fact go down that road. Having considered the various proposals for a European second chamber and having examined what we think are the underlying pressures behind calls for a second chamber, our conclusion that a second chamber would be an unreal solution to a series of real problems. We do not think that, in any of the cases we have discussed earlier in this report, the second chamber is the best, or indeed the only, means of solving the problems which have been identified. Where national parliaments need to co-operate they should do so by contacts between their organisations most closely concerned with particular topics and not under the umbrella of a generic second chamber. Co-operation can effectively be promoted through direct links between the relevant committees. We nevertheless believe that a number of the issues underlying proposals for a second chamber are themselves significant and bear much closer scrutiny than we have been able to give in this report. We therefore laud the Prime Minister's intuition in floating a proposal for a second chamber: he wisely surmised that doing so would launch the debate for the longer term (p2).

84.  We note that many of the issues which have been raised here may well come before the Convention being established to prepare for the IGC in 2004. We hope that our Report will make a contribution both to the work of that Convention, and to the work of national parliaments in scrutinising their governments in the run-up to the IGC. Although we do not consider that the second chamber proposal itself should be pursued, we nevertheless would like to see a much broader debate on the issues it has raised. We therefore make this Report to the House for debate and hope that the House would have an opportunity to debate it early on during the work of the pre-IGC Convention in 2002.

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