EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT (REPRESENTATION) BILL |
This Bill has two main objects. First, Part 1 enables
the number of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) representing
the UK to be altered. Secondly, Part 2 enfranchises Gibraltar
for the purposes of European Parliament elections. The latter
object is to implement a ruling of the European Court of Human
There is a full memorandum from the Lord Chancellor's
Department which identifies all the delegated powers. The memorandum
is printed at Annex 3 to this Report.
Part 1: Changes in the total number of MEPs
The European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 sets
out the position for European Parliamentary elections generally.
Under the 2002 Act, the total number of MEPs, and the allocation
for each region, is specified in the Act itself. The Secretary
of State has limited power (in Schedule 1 to that Act) to amend
the distribution of numbers as between regions, to maintain an
even ratio of MEPs to electors in the United Kingdom as a whole.
There is no existing power in that Act to change the overall number
of MEPs. Clause 4 of the bill enables the Lord Chancellor, by
order subject to affirmative procedure, to change the total number
of MEPs to be elected for the United Kingdom. The order also enables
the number of MEPs to be elected for particular regions to be
adjusted (a necessary consequence of changing the total number).
The power may be exercised to "give effect to a change under
Community law in the number of MEPs to be elected for the United
Kingdom" (clause 4(1)).
The principal purpose of Part I is described in the
Explanatory Notes accompanying the bill as being to establish
a mechanism by which the numbers of MEPs representing the UK can
be reduced consequent upon accession of new member states to the
European Union, as agreed by the Treaty of Nice. The position
is described in more detail in paragraphs 5 to 7 of the Explanatory
Notes and paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Department's memorandum to
The Treaty of Nice was the subject of Parliamentary
approval by the European Communities (Amendment) Act 2002. The
Committee considers that the changes in numbers of MEPs from the
UK, to which reference is made in the protocol on enlargement
annexed to the Treaty of Nice, are accordingly appropriate for
subordinate legislation. But clause 4 is not confined to matters
arising out of the Treaty of Nice. Reference is made in paragraph
4 of the Department's memorandum to the safeguard of a prior Act
of Parliament required by section 12 of the European Parliamentary
Elections Act 2002 for Treaties increasing the powers of the European
Parliament. In the Committee's view the scope of clause 4 should
be expressly limited to changes arising out of Treaties which
have already been the subject of an earlier Act of Parliament.
Part 2: Gibraltar
Clause 10(1)(a) allows the Lord Chancellor, by order
subject to affirmative procedure, to specify the existing region
which will be combined with Gibraltar for the purposes of elections
of MEPs. Clause 10(1)(b) enables an order to provide for the establishment
of a combined region. If this order is made separately from the
order under clause 10(1)(a) it is subject only to negative procedure.
Clauses 11 and 12 contain extensive associated provision.
Powers under these clauses are subject only to negative procedure
unless combined in the same instrument as the clause 10(1)(a)
order, in which case the affirmative procedure applies.
Clause 11(1) enables the Lord Chancellor to make
"such provision as he considers necessary or expedient in
consequence of, or in connection with, the inclusion of Gibraltar
in an electoral region". Clause 11(3) lists some of the matters
which it is expected the order will include. But this is not an
exhaustive list. Clause 12 further enlarges the powers under clauses
10 and 11, enabling the application of legislation to Gibraltar
and the conferring of wide delegated power to make subordinate
legislation (the case for which is argued at paragraph 40 of the
Department's memorandum). Clause 12(4) confers (amongst other
things) power to exclude the application of enactments.
Clauses 13 to 15 set out provisions for the Gibraltar
register. Those provisions are subject to regulations under clause
16. Clause 16 sets out a number of matters about which the Lord
Chancellor may make regulations, subject to negative procedure.
(Clause 17(4) provides for the affirmative procedure where the
regulations are combined with regulations under the European Parliamentary
Elections Act 2002, but there is no obligation to combine.) Amongst
the matters for which regulations under clause 16(1) may provide
are prescribing circumstances in which a person is legally incapable
of voting (clause 16(1)(d)) and imposing a disqualification from
registration in Gibraltar (clause 16(1)(g)). Accordingly, the
regulations can take away a person's right to register and vote
apparently given to him or her by clause 15.
Clause 20 (by inserting subsections in section 10
of the 2002 Act) enables the Secretary of State, by order subject
to negative procedure, to disqualify persons from the office of
MEP. For the United Kingdom, disqualification provisions are set
out on the face of the 2002 Act itself. Paragraph 57 of the Department's
memorandum states the intention will be to try to have similar
provisions as far as possible for Gibraltar as for the UK. But
the power in clause 20 is not limited in this way.
The Committee deliberated on the provisions relating
to Part 2 of the bill in depth. We are aware of the need for legislation
to be in place in good time in order to enable Gibraltar to participate
in the European Parliamentary elections in 2004. At the same
time, we see force in the view that some of the powers under Part
2 are not the proper subject for delegation. We have in mind,
in particular, delegated powers under clause 16(1)(d) (legal incapacity
to vote), clause 16(1)(g) (disqualification for registration)
and clause 20 (disqualification from office of MEP). If the House
accepts such delegation, we consider, at the very least, that
these powers should be subject to affirmative resolution. We also
take the view that other powers in Part 2 which are delegated
appropriately should be subject to affirmative resolution.
The Committee draws to the attention of the House
its comments in paragraphs 19 and 25 above.
HARBOURS BILL [HL]
15. This bill contains no delegated powers.