Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)




  1. Good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming this afternoon to talk to us about the Convention, what has happened so far and how you see things. I think this is the first time that you have come to talk to either House officially. This evidence will be taken down and will be printed as a report to the House. That is the way we normally do our things in this Committee. Of course, it will be shown to parties for comment before it goes out to print. We have a number of question we would very much like to ask you. Could we start off by asking you to give us a general outline as to how the work of the Convention as gone so far and perhaps, from the point of view of this House, can you also say what your role is in this and what you feel you can do or you cannot do. Perhaps we could start off with Ms Stuart, who I know is a member not only of the Convention but of the Praesidium as well.

  (Ms Stuart) Thank you, my Lord Chairman, and may I say how much I appreciate the opportunity of the taking of evidence across the Houses. We have had the first sessions of the Convention itself, and it may be helpful if my colleagues convey their impressions. The Praesidium, as a rule, tends to meet on the day when there are information meetings, but also at least at one or two meetings in between to determine the work. Early sessions of the Praesidium, which is essentially made up of four representative blocks of the Commission; national governments represented by the troika; national parliamentarians; and members of the European Parliament, were very much occupied simply with working methods because the Convention itself had to agree on those. There was at one point really a danger that people were starting to mistake activity for achievements and we could have spent a year discussing the finer points of the working methods. What became quite clear was a determination to be quite dogmatic on how to take this forward. So we agreed on the working methods and we agreed on the timetable for meetings, and not only up to July; the list of the autumn meetings is now available. There was a significant debate on what days of the week the meetings would be most conveniently held. Whilst for all the others, Thursdays and Fridays were best as the European Parliament makes the facilities available to us in terms of the availability of translators, there was a significant minority of national parliamentarians who felt that Mondays and Tuesdays were more appropriate because some , particularly the Scandinavians, have their European scrutiny meetings on a Thursday and Friday. I think we have reached some compromise but the reality of the way the workings of the Convention will be arranged is that it is best to have Praesidium meetings and meetings of the national groups, to meet as national parliamentarians, to meet as political family, and to have the Wednesday to get all that out of the way and then to have the Thursday/Friday sessions, with the potential for a spillover to Friday afternoon, should that be required. There was a considerable amount of debate about the working groups. The working methods allowed for the setting up of working groups but it was unclear as to what their remit should be. Again, it was a clear reflection of what essentially was a power struggle of these four components. If you have a proliferation of working groups with extremely wide remits, you can create a situation where so many opinions are put forward that whoever finally drafts the document can claim reference to some opinion because it will have been expressed somewhere. I think the working groups, which will be suggested to the Convention at the end of May, will be six, fairly specifically defined groups with more to come in the autumn. So the process of the operation of the working group feeding in to the final document will be effective. The working groups will be suggested to the Convention at the session on 23/24/25 May and, subject to the Convention agreement to that, they will go ahead. As a point of information, the Praesidium will have another meeting on 8 May, which will be an all-day meeting, to refine what the remit of those working groups should be.
  (Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I would like remind the Committee that the four main tasks of the Convention are: to examine the division of competencies in the EU; the simplification of the treaties; the democratic deficit and how to bridge it; and, fourthly, the possibility of an EU constitution. We have now eventually got down to work on the question of division of competencies, which is a key issue, but my criticism would be, if I have one at this stage, that we are already beginning to lose sight of the democratic deficit, and people are beginning to talk in terms of the missions of the EU and all the things that must be exerted supranationally, without first discussing in basic, fundamental and radical terms about how we reconnect the entire process with the people of Europe.
  (Lord Tomlinson) I think you have had a very clear explanation from the two members of the other House as to what has been going on, but as you do ask us specifically what we Alternates can and cannot do, one thing we clearly can do is listen to a large number of highly repetitive speeches because at the moment the Convention is going through what it is calling its listening phase. But of course one of the things that it is doing is listening almost exclusively to itself. One of the things that I am hoping to take the opportunity of proposing is that in their listening phase perhaps they will want to listen a little bit more widely. To that end, I am suggesting that the Praesidium might consider dividing itself up into, say, three teams and becoming peripatetic, taking the opportunity of inviting itself along to meet National Parliaments European Scrutiny Committees, so that they can not only hear directly as members of the Praesidium from those European scrutiny committees, but possibly lay down the law to them by saying "so that we do not do this exclusively ourselves, perhaps you will reflect about the future of Europe and feed in, through us, some papers of your ideas that can then be submitted to the whole of the Convention". If national parliaments are challenged to do that, it does not give them the alibi at the end of the process of being able to say, "If only somebody had asked us". I am hoping that the listening will spread a little bit more widely than listening to ourselves. The Alternates, although they listen extensively and do not participate much in that process, are taking on and have the opportunity of taking a very full role in the meetings, say, of the British members from all sources and all parties. I had the opportunity of playing a very full role in my political group, and both Lord MacLennan and I had the opportunity as Alternates of playing a very full role in the preparatory meetings of national parliamentarians where we are as free to speak as anybody else is. Without saying anything further on what the Convention has been doing, just a bit about what Alternates can do: they can participate in all those preparatory meetings and, in the absence of a full member, in the Convention itself.
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) As for what the Alternates can do, I think perhaps it is helpful to say that there are only two things that I am aware of that they cannot do. One is to vote in the presence of a member for whom they are a substitute, and the other is to speak in the presence of the member for whom they are a substitute. Every other function, including participation in working parties and submitting papers, is fully open to the Alternates. To that extent, they are not really seriously second-class citizens.

  2. By the way, are you actually Alternates of each other, so to speak? For whom are you the alternative, or not? How does that work?
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) This has not been laid down by either House. In setting up this arrangement, we have an informal understanding.
  (Lord Tomlinson) I think I could say it is substantially easier for me to be the Alternate for Gisela Stuart than it is for the other member of your Lordship's House to be an Alternate for either David Heathcoat-Amory or Gisela Stuart.

  3. I can see that but it has not arisen yet.
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) None of us feel particularly disadvantaged by second-class status because the opportunity to contribute a three-minute speech is scarcely one which we would put down as crucial to the outcome. I would like to say, if I may, something about the atmosphere and the sense of direction because Mr Heathcoat-Amory said something about the four topics. My judgment at this stage is that the Convention is not seeking to confine itself in that thematic way, and that the plenary sessions which we have had have ranged quite widely. What is most striking to me is that the spectrum of opinions is not perhaps quite as wide as one might have anticipated amongst those who are contributing, with a few notable exceptions. The task of preparing a document appears now to be common ground. That was not, I think, the case when we started. Had a series of options been the objective, or a series of different papers, then that might have weakened the outcome right at the beginning. In so far as the single paper might take the form or include some draft constitutional provisions, it will be seen that this is an immensely wide-ranging debate, and there could be potentially dozens of issues to be decided. It seems to me that it is necessary to say that in order to explain the complexity of the interaction between the Convention and the national parliaments and the Convention and the public and what civil society has put on it. It is quite possible that we shall be required to address issues on which we have not received any kind of steer from either House of Parliament and in which we have to act as representatives, drawing such help and advice as we can from our own dialogue as well as any other procedures that may be established by the two Houses, following this meeting.

Chairman: Before we get on to the questions, if we are going to try to get through a reasonable number of questions during this hour or so that we have, may I kindly invite all the witnesses not to feel obliged, all of them, to come in on every question, if I can put it like that.

Lord Jopling

  4. One has heard suggestions that the Chairman of the Convention, M Giscard d'Estaing, has already decided what the conclusions for the Convention will be and that he has half of the report already written in his mind. Do you think there is anything in that?
  (Ms Stuart) Maybe in my position, as I have said, I can say that I have probably seen more operations than any of the other members. There are two things which have struck me. One is Giscard's willingness as an astute politician to make this work. In some ways I would fully have understood, for example, the issue of whether the candidate countries should have a place on the Praesidium, which according to Laeken would not have arisen but he knew politically that it would have been very damaging to have a row upon his hands. So he agreed on a phrase which does not breach Laeken but does allow a member of a candidate country from the national parliament to be represented. If he has a plan, he has not shown it to us. I think, however, that it would be very helpful to look at what the Institute of Florence has done so far in the simplification of the treaties. I do spend a fair amount of time going round some of the candidate countries and going to some of the Member States and I am struck by the fact that when he visits those countries the people are surprised by how specific his questions are. I would think there is certainly a draft somewhere.
  (Mr Heathcoat-Amory) My own perception is that, no, he has not drafted any conclusions yet. Nevertheless, Giscard created the French model of the European Union, which is essentially a technocratic structure, and therefore he inevitably, being human, feels some sense of ownership and perhaps a reluctance, therefore, to contemplate a radical solution, such as being less European in some respects. Given the contribution of French political thought over the years from Montesquieu to Je Tocqueville and others, I find it disappointing that as yet in the Convention I do not find a willingness to address the fundamental issues about what government is for and whether supranational government is possible on a continental scale like Europe.
  (Lord Tomlinson) I think a lot of unfairness has been directed towards Giscard d'Estaing. I must say I have been amazed by his resilience in the chair. He has sat through a five-hour session, from 3 o'clock to 8 o'clock, without taking a break. That is something that people who would readily confess to being 16 younger than him, such as myself, could not have contemplated doing. He has shown incredible resilience in the chair and he has listened to almost every word that has been spoken.

Lord Williamson of Horton

  5. I have one straightforward question, which arises directly from Mr Heathcoat-Amory's first intervention. On the substance, you started on the question of competencies and you kindly distributed this document which does include a text on that. As my reading speed is Mach 2, after ten years in European institutions, I have read the whole thing. The question I want to ask is: do you envisage that for the four main points that are in Declaration 23 at Nice and in the Laeken Declaration, there will be specific debates on those subjects coming up over the next months? It is a point of substance and I think it is very important because, if we are going to follow it, we have to know that those four points are being covered at one or another time,
  (Ms Stuart) Yes, and you will find that reflected in the working groups, too.

Earl of Selborne

  6. Lord MacLennan referred to the complexity of interaction with national parliaments. Could I go back to the complexity of interaction between Members and Alternates. Is it too early to predict the groupings that Gisela talked about? Are people going to group together on a national or on an institutional basis? Could you give us a flavour of the dynamics of this?
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) I would say it is a little early but I think each of these groups will have a significant input. I think that we have already seen that the candidate countries are tending to speak with a common voice, for example about their desire that the Union should be effective as a voice in the world, but that they should also want to preserve pluralism and the diversity of their own traditions, and many of them feel they have only just recovered, having emerged from the oppressive heel of the former Soviet Union. I think that we will see cross-party alliances and cross-country alliances, but before they will develop, these individual groups will be trying to see if there is common ground which they can put forward to the wider Convention or to the working parties.

Lord Williams of Elvel

  7. Following that question, do you see how the votes may go, because ultimately in the early stages votes will count. Do you see any groupings coming out in the Convention which will tend to vote one way after they go into a group, or is it all fluid at the moment?
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) Giscard has shown himself inimical to pressure and I think that the mood of the Convention present at the time is that this is a procedure that should be consensual and great efforts will be made to avoid votes. We cannot say how many it will turn out to be at the end of the process, but at the beginning I would not anticipate many votes.


  8. This time next year the constituency will be different.
  (Lord Tomlinson) In terms of the dynamics, at the moment there are clear differences as I observe them as a relative non-participant in the plenary session of the Convention. It strikes me that certainly the greatest coherence exists amongst the members of the European Parliament. They have got the structures, their committee work and the physical regular presence together to prepare best for it. That is flowing in to the political group meetings, which I think are the next most coherent. Clearly the least coherent of the groups is that of the national parliamentarians, who are like the visiting gypsies. On their occasional perambulation to Brussels, I can remember our member of the Praesidium complaining that she had nowhere even to put her coat down; there is that level of disadvantage. It has produced what is I think the most visible tension at the moment, which is the clearly existing one between national parliamentarians and the Praesidium itself. National Parliamentarians believe that they are under-weighted and under-represented in relation to the Praesdium and they are highly suspicious of the centralised role that the Praesdium is going to perform in forcing the solution at the end of the deliberations. In terms of the dynamics, that is as I see it at the present time.
  (Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I think at this stage we ought to be making individual contributions or building up informal and even shifting alliances amongst the other members, as we get to know them, because I think there is a danger that the process will be captured by the big interest groups and the existing institutions, and then even become a kind of unholy bargaining session in which everyone tries to get more power and influence. That is a criticism of the Community method. At the end of the day, everyone goes away happy because everyone has something. The European Parliament gets more power because that is perfectly democratic. The Commission gets some directly elected status as they get more power. The Member governments of course retain their influence through their status on the IGC. As Lord Tomlinson quite rightly points out, the victims could be the less well organised national parliaments when it is in fact a treaty obligation at Nice, thought not yet ratified, that the question of national parliamentary powers should be examined. There is a presumption that national parliaments do achieve some additional status. We could well be squeezed out if this simply becomes a bargaining process between the vested interests.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe

  9. To pick up on Lord Tomlinson's comments about who is best positioned for pushing the agenda froward, what are the dynamics amongst you as a group? It seems to me very important that if there are problems, particularly when you see the power base coming from the European Parliament, the individual parliamentary groups do have a unified approach.
  (Ms Stuart) There are a couple of issues. First, let me start by saying how much the House authorities have recognised that the work of the Convention should be supported. I express my thanks on my own behalf for how accommodating they have been. There is a real issue in terms of: do national parliaments have a role in the architecture of the European Union? There is a huge school of thought which essentially draws no distinction between governments and parliaments and says that because national parliaments ratify what government does, as long as government is there, national democracy is represented. That is a huge fault line. I think, once the working groups are set up, then the work between us will be much more close. There are two more fault lines which have not yet occurred to people, particularly among the candidate countries which do, as was said, wish to have strong national states and which would argue for strengthening of the Council of Ministers but want to be protected from the overpowering force of the big countries on these issues and that means they seem to be using the Commission as their protectorate. I do not think they have yet fully understood that the two are mutually incompatible. That will be something that has to be thought through. Similarly, at this stage I have not seen how the voice of the regions fits into the architecture and again the intentions which will flow from the voice of the regions.

  10. Could I pursue this on the democratic deficit as well, looking beyond the groupings that we have been talking about? How is the Convention going to engage with the European citizens on a wider basis? How will it engage with civil society and how will you ultimately be helped to get some input from individual citizens?
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) The Vice Chairman of the Contention, Mr Dehaene, has been given particular responsibility for overseeing that consultative process. Among the measures which have been agreed are that there should be a parallel convention for young people, defined as those between the ages of 18 and 25, established from all the Member States and candidate states, to meet, I think I am right in saying, in July. Some discussion is going ahead at the present time. The Minister for Europe in this country, Peter Hain, has been consulting with us about how a British presence at that parallel convention might go ahead. There is to be a plenary session devoted to the evidence being given by representative organisations of the civil society, and that also before the summer break. Those are the two principal themes which are coming from the centre. It is my impression that different countries are doing different things. With the extremely limited resources at the centre, and I think there are 15 members of the secretariat, I cannot think that it is going to be practical for a great deal to be organised from the centre.
  (Lord Tomlinson) In addition, there is the idea of a forum for which Jean-Luc Dehaene is responsible. If you look at page 19 of the very useful document that the members from the House of Commons have produced, you will see there a broad outline of the debate with civil society to be held via this forum. As it says there, it is a multidimensional concept with listening activities and dialogue on four levels: on the internet via the Convention website; in each national forum in Member States and candidate countries; with observers from the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the social partners and non-governmental organisations; and at the level of the Convention itself. I think that that forum will be potentially a very important, but it is a process that has to go wider than just talking to the usual self-proclaimed experts, by trying to get to the level of individual citizens as well.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: When does the UK Forum start then?

Chairman: That is probably a question for Mr Hain.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

  11. On that same subject, I want to ask how much it is felt that closing that democratic deficit is in fact going to make connection more effective. If the orthodoxy is that everything needs to be more democratic and continues to go unchallenged, would you not accept that the democratic process is only one strand of what David Heathcoat-Amory calls connecting with government? I would have thought there needs to be some really quite original thought given to it. It seems to be failing at the national level and at the European level, and in all parties. I would have thought it is something that really should be addressed with great serousness and originality and that needs to be done quite early.
  (Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I agree we need originality at this conference. Perhaps it is too much to suggest that it should be a continental think-tank but I think we should approach it in a questioning and original spirit, whereas I am afraid too many people arrive with a lot of baggage and they do not ask themselves these very fundamental questions about legitimacy and how the ordinary person sees it. We too quickly become politicians talking to each other, despite all the valiant efforts to connect with the public over the internet and so on. At the end of the day, we have to produce something that enables people to feel a sense of ownership so they can feel that decisions made in their name are at least done with their consent. There are many examples of where things are not working. These directives drop down from the sky, even confusing parliamentarians. The Harmful Gas and Fridges Directive in my House caused immense confusion, even in the mind of the Minister concerned who said it was all the fault of the Commission, hotly denied, of course, by the Commission. The public must wonder: if a professional politician with thousands of civil servants cannot quite understand how it all happened, how does the consumer or the small trader feel that these important decisions are made, other than "somewhere up there" by people he has never met, never elected and cannot get rid of? That is what I call the democratic deficit because we must solve that one before we make everything more efficient by more majority voting.
  (Lord Tomlinson) My Lord Chairman, I would like partly to dissent from that reply. In your Lordships' House in the Select Committee we have already had some interesting discussions about our own responsibilities. Very often we tend to confuse the process of producing extremely interesting and very well read reports on certain subjects, which we do extremely well, with the process of scrutiny of European legislation, which by and large we do far too little of and do it quite inadequately. In that sense, there is a responsibility in national parliaments for the lack of democratic control and accountability over what we allow our ministers to do on our collective behalf in all sorts of ministerial manifestations in Europe.


  12. I have worried myself about the role of our Scrutiny Committee, about whether we should have spotted the refrigerators coming along on the horizon. I must admit that it worries me. Moving on from that, do you think the Convention or the Praesidium or other members should visit national parliamentary scrutiny committees to examine what their role is? Would that be a useful thing to happen? I think this was touched on earlier.
  (Lord Tomlinson) I have already suggested they should. I do not know what the others think.

  13. Could the Convention conduct a written survey to inform themselves of the work of the scrutiny committees? I think that would be quite useful.
  (Ms Stuart) May I suggest, always subject to the approval of the Convention at the end of May, that one of the working groups certainly should provide an opportunity to feed into that. There is a danger, and something the Praesidium really does not wish to do, of taking it all upon itself to gather this information and swan out and you will have all the accusations of "here we go again, it is Brussels spreading itself". The mechanisms will be there for it to be fed back. Can I just make an observation on the use of the term "democratic deficit"? We should not readily accept that that is necessarily the right wording because, if you take that to its logical conclusion, you could very easily overcome that by simply strengthening the powers of the European Parliament, which is directly elected. Is that what we wish, merely because we are putting this on the table?. I do want to issue a challenge to parliamentarians that there is a big danger that this will be the one institution which is marginalised. Again, if you look at the dynamics of the Praesidium—13 members and three national parliamentarians—we three are the only ones who, in a sense, are defending a kind of redistribution of functions in our architecture for which we have no natural allies. There needs to be more input to try and have a mechanism by which parliaments find a voice; the European Parliament has that. They react to the Council. So they are used to finding a position which is a collective position. Even in this House, there is a real misunderstanding that there is a difference between parliament and government, and there is no mechanism as such. I hope that a change in the way that we take evidence and the way we are working together actually allows this House to find a role as a parliament which speaks with one voice on some issues.
  (Lord Tomlinson) If I could just add a sentence because I think it is important that we accept in national parliaments our responsibility clearly to formulate our own views and either get one of the members of the Convention to table it as a paper or get it into the paper mill by some mechanism. Not to accept the responsibility for doing that and then later go on to say, "but if only someone had asked us, we could have told them", would be an act of folly that we would regret. I think we have to find the opportunity of formulating clearly a view that this Committee, on behalf of your Lordships' House, believes in and make sure that that view is expressed, or otherwise accept the consequence of failing to do so.

Lord Williams of Elvel

  14. That is all very well but there are clear differences of political opinion, as now revealed in our evidence. Lord Tomlinson, how do you imagine this House or the House of Commons can arrive at a consensus, given the differences of political opinion right across the board?
  (Lord Tomlinson) My Lords, we did it on the Maastricht Treaty and we did it on the Nice Treaty through a process of debate and discussion.
  (Ms Stuart) I was also about to make reference to a wonderful picture in a book which Lord Williams wrote on Adenauer when Adenauer steps into the room and puts his foot on the carpet before being asked. I would urge that the House is here to put its foot on the carpet before it is being asked, if I can express an opinion. I do not think we can actually reach agreement necessarily on the five points of the politics but on the mechanisms. May I suggest two things? At the moment, in terms of subsidiarity and the way power flows, once something has gone to the European Union, there is no power which allow anything to be returned back. I think virtually everybody in this House could agree on a mechanism, never mind what should be in those two powers, but the existence of that. On the extension of competencies by the European Court of Justice, I remember the Eighties years when I loved all the ECJ did by extending the rights of women, pensioners and part-time workers because the Thatcher government was not doing that, but is that actually the right process? Again, I think you would probably agree that these are processes which we need to look at. I think that, with parliament as an institution and the architecture of the European Union as the mechanism, we could find agreement.

Lord Scott of Foscote

  15. I was very interested in what you had to say about the role of the European Parliament. If one is looking at democratic deficit, and as I understand it this is one of the things that the Convention is going to examine, there are two points at which it might arise. One relates to the relationship between national parliaments and the government delegates on the European Council who give consent to the various items of Euro legislation that come out of Brussels. As to that, I imagine that each Member State has a slightly different arrangement as between its executive and its parliament as to the control that parliament can exercise in the giving of consent by the executive to the legislative proposals in Brussels. There can certainly be discussion about what the relationship is in this country between government and this parliament and the manner in which the democratic deficit at that point could be created or improved. There is also the other relationship, which is between the European parliament vehicle and the executive decisions being made in Brussels. Most legislative provisions are that there is unanimity, so presumably each state has gone through the hoops necessary for the giving of consent. Is there likely to be any consideration of the democratic control the European Parliament might exercise in regard to Euro legislation? In this country, for instance, the government makes legislation, under powers given by Parliament supporting the legislation, but Parliament in the last resort can strike it down. It very rarely does, but it can. Is there any reason why the Convention should not consider whether the European Parliament might not be given like powers in relation to European legislation?
  (Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I personally think there is scope for giving the European Parliament more explicit power to scrutinise and audit the executive in Europe, but the solution to the democratic deficit of giving the European Parliament more powers turns into the problem that the last three treaty changes have all given the EP more powers, but turnout in the EP elections continues to fall and is down below 25 per cent in this country. I think therefore we have to ask a more basic question about whether people do feel represented in a European Parliament, whether there is a European electorate, a European people, a European public opinion, a European demos.

Chairman: There is clearly a division in the House, so we will return to this in about ten minutes or so.

The Committee suspended from 5.05 p.m. to 5.16 p.m. for a division in the House

Chairman: Could I point out that members of the House who are not members of the Select Committee are entitled to come in with questions.

Lord Howell of Guildford

  16. I was about to thank you, as a visitor, albeit a former member of this Committee, for inviting me to ask questions. I am grateful. I have two questions. The first arises from a hugely interesting remark Lord MacLennan made earlier when he mentioned the vast range of issues having been tackled and the question whether one could give them more order by defining the choices. Is there the remotest chance that the Convention could move towards presenting options, say three or four options, about the future shape of Europe, rather than a conclusion and then the various democratic processes of Europe, referendums, et cetera, with it being for national parliaments to decide, or is that really ruled out by the tendency towards single consensus, which is already evidenced in the domestic parliament?
  (Lord MacLennan of Rogart) I would say that it is unlikely that options will be put forward because it would, in a sense, not resolve or give a sufficiently clear pointer to the Council at which these answers are being directed. I think that where it is not possible to reach agreement, then the nature of the recommendation is likely to be quite general. To give an example, if I may, of the sort of question that already has arisen on subsidiarity, it is quite clear from the speeches that have been made in plenary session on the subject, and there have been many, that there is an interest in the possibility of there being some kind of political mechanism at the pre-legislative or legislative stage which identifies something as being not suitable for consideration by the Union, a political mechanism. Others have suggested that it should be a legal mechanism in which the Court is invited to rule, again perhaps pre-legislatively, or conceivably a combination of these methods. It seems to me that if the Convention simply said, "There is a problem and there are several ways of dealing with it", the Convention would feel, at the end of the day, that it had not greatly assisted the Council, but, on the other hand, if they cannot agree that there should be a political mechanism and a legal mechanism of the kind I have suggested, then they might be unable to do more than to make a general recommendation, which, as I say, would leave things not much further forward.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

  17. I am a former member of the Committee and back by invitation. To pursue the suggestion of Lord Tomlinson that this House and the Committee on behalf of the House ought to be more actively engaged in putting its own views before the Convention, what I would like to hear from some of you is how best the Committee and the House might do that? You have an extremely broad agenda. Are there some areas which it might be more useful for this House to comment on than others? Can we expect the flow of draft papers to be such that there will, in the not too distant future, be draft papers on which this House and the Committee might comment? What would you suggest might be the most useful areas in which to progress?
  (Ms Stuart) May I come back to the early observations, which are made on all the niche groups which are represented? All of them have a supportive audience. The only one which really does not is parliament as an institution. For that reason, I would suggest that this is something which the Committee may wish to engage in quite actively, in a sense. I know I may be being presumptuous, but my view is that parliament should be more than just a post hoc scrutinising body. There should be something which is far more proactive. As to papers which would be available, certainly post 24 and 25 May, the working papers will be on the table. The working groups will be forming. They will be chaired by a member of the Praesidium and you may well find after that that you will have very ready mechanisms to feed in through the Praesidium on that particular working group. It is that continuous dialogue, not least the paper which was tabled in the House under the name of Mr Heathcoat-Amory and myself, that triggers off a mechanism of a monthly reporting back period. I also hope that we make progress in changing some of the standing rules of the House, which will allow a feedback on the public record of the joint Houses, and again I think the mechanisms will be there in due course.
  (Lord Tomlinson) Before we move from that question, there are one or two things that your Lordships' House has already done in the production of documents which may well be of interest to the Convention. For example, the whole question of the Second Chamber has not entirely gone away. We have already done an enormous amount of work on that and submitting the document on the Second Chamber is something which is not for me to say we should do, but for me to say we should certainly consider whether we should do it. There will be some discussion in an enlarged Community about the whole structure of other institutions, such as the Court of Auditors. The work that was done in this Committee on the future role and structure of the Court of Auditors is already prepared. I think we have to go through some of the work that we have already done, particularly on institutional questions, and see if we want that to be submitted in the name of your Lordships' House to the Convention, as well as looking at reactions to ideas that become current. Some of the work in relation to the scrutiny of common Security and Defence questions is inevitably going to be a matter of concern. It is already being fed into the Convention by bodies like the Western European Union. Therefore, that sort of work already ought to be made available. There is no point in having that expertise already predetermined as a view of the House unless we make it available and formally input it into the discussion.


  18. How do we do that? The Second Chamber report, for example, is a published work of this House, as it has been debated on the floor of the House.
  (Lord Tomlinson) I am quite sure that if formally it requires a member to submit it, with your agreement and authority, Lord MacLennan and myself would quite happily submit it as a document to the Convention. That means it then has to be circulated to all members of the Convention. It will eventually be put on the Convention website. That is the way I think we have got to start working if we are going to put some of our ideas into the public arena.

  19. I think we would like that
  (Lord Tomlinson) Your wish is our command.
  (Mr Heathcoat-Amory) I thought your report about the possibility of the Second Chamber was decisive. I agree that we must get that put into the Convention in May. But we do not want to get a reputation for being against everything. I think we have got to be creative and find other mechanisms for involving national parliaments. In relation to what I have said already, I believe that must involve some transfer of competencies back to Member States. However, there will always be some power to be exerted at supranational level and we must think creatively about how to involve national parliaments. Just to advance one idea, we have a pillar structure of the European Union now. We have the first pillar, which is the Community. We have two intergovernmental pillars. Of course there is great pressure to collapse the intergovernmental pillars into the Community. But why can we not have an inter-parliamentary pillar so that we can discuss between the parliaments of Member States matters of common concern, not necessarily leading to legislation—it may be to framework or guidance or standards—so that we can discuss on a Europe-wide level between parliaments issues of common concern. I have not worked out the idea in any detail but I think advancing those sorts of ideas would prevent the allegation that we are always negative.

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