HC Deb 26 November 1979 vol 974 cc874-5
40. Mr Hooley

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proposals he intends to put before the House for the more effective scrutiny of EEC legislation.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

A number of recommendations for improving the scrutiny of EEC legislation were contained in the First Report from the Select Committee on procedure, Session 1977–78. As I informed the House on 31 October, we shall in due course be bringing forward proposals on these and on other outstanding recommendations of the Procedure Committee.

Mr. Hooley

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that we shall not have a repetition of the disgraceful performance a little while ago, when seven major documents on energy policy were supposed to be debated within 90 minutes, and most of that time was taken tip by the Secretary of State for Energy?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that what we want here is not merely a scrutiny of the edicts of Brussels but the right to disown or disallow them?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is always open to this House to express its views and its will. It has been the practice of this Government to bring EEC documents regularly before the House for discussion, and for my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to make regular statements. We shall continue with this practice.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us who are pro-European are sick and tired of the stream of so-called harmonisation legislation which is coming from the EEC, and which is adversely affecting commerce and industry in this country? In the circumstances, does he not think that it is a priority that we should begin to examine this matter much more seriously?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I certainly attach great importance to making progress with the recommendations of the Procedure Committee. I agree with my hon. Friend that one should economise on harmonisation, otherwise one creates discord.

Mr. Crowther

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is most desirable that this House should express its view and its will before the Government have committed us to something in the Council of Ministers which then is irreversible? Will he take steps to ensure that we get that matter right in the future?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This is the subject of a recommendation of the Procedure Committee. As I recall, the Committee concluded that the balance of advantage lay with the course that the hon. Gentleman suggests. However, this is something that we must examine extremely carefully and urgently.