HC Deb 07 July 1992 vol 211 cc178-9
Q5. Mr. Spearing

To ask the Prime Minister what approaches have been received by Her Majesty's Government concerning reallocation of powers currently the responsibility of the Council of Ministers of the European Community.

Mr. Newton

I have been asked to reply.

The treaty on European union enshrines in Community law the principle of subsidiarity, but the Community should act only when objectives cannot be achieved at the level of individual member states acting alone. The principle should be applied strictly to existing as well as to future legislation. It calls for urgent work on the procedural and practical steps to implement the principle and invites the Commission and the Council to report to the next European Council in Edinburgh. The treaty contains a presumption of action at the national level.

Mr. Spearing

Yes, but that is answering a question that was not asked. So what is new? Is this not about the possible repatriation of powers? Is it not a fact that President Major as well as President Delors have been in favour of that, or have mooted the possibility? In respect of the President of the Commission, why is it that the Commission must always call the shots? Would it not be an advantage if it reacted only to requests from the Council of Ministers or the Heads of Government and therefore made the whole outfit more intergovernmental than it is already?

Mr. Newton

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that my answer did address the question that he asked. The plenary session between the United Kingdom presidency and the Commission last week, which I attended, very much addressed precisely that question. The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that plans are in hand to undertake a review of existing legislation before the Edinburgh summit at the end of the year.

Sir Peter Tapsell

Did my right hon. Friend see certain scholarly articles that were published over the weekend drawing attention to the fact that the word "subsidiarity" is derived from the Latin word "subsidium" which, apparently, is a term of Roman Catholic dogma and that the Roman interpretation of that word is quite different from the Anglican?

Mr. Newton

Coming from a somewhat mixed religious background, I do not intend to allow myself to be caught up in ecclesiastical controversy.

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