HC Deb 10 January 1996 vol 269 c205
18. Ms Janet Anderson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his European counterparts about the need to reform the European Union's decision-making procedures. [6855]

Mr. David Davis

The decision-making procedures of the European Union have been the subject of discussions in the study group preparing the intergovernmental conference. The Madrid European Council agreed that this should start on 29 March in Turin.

Ms Anderson

What advice has the Minister received about the decision-making procedures within the EU from the Secretary of State for Defence? Does the Minister agree with his right hon. Friend that those who advocate a federal Europe should follow the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and of the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Miss Nicholson) and leave the Conservative party?

Mr. Davis

I intend to give a serious answer to a not very serious question. The decision-making procedures in the EU are not beyond repair or criticism. One of the items raised in the IGC reflection group, which has looked into this matter in some detail, is the concern that a great deal of blame for the lack of popularity of the EU could be attributed to the complexity of its decision-making procedures.

Mr. Charles Kennedy

Given that reform of decision making at European level raises legitimate concerns not only in the Tory party but in all parties in the House and throughout the country, and given that the Government are so immobilised on the matter that they cannot even publish a White Paper to tell us what they think, would it not make more sense for the Tory party and the Government as well as for the House and the country for the Government to commit themselves, as we have, to a referendum if the outcome of the IGC carries constitutional implications that go beyond the ambit of any one party or Parliament?

Mr. Davis

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that the IGC will not be allowed to carry major constitutional implications, but if it did, he would reconsider the matter.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Will my hon. Friend use the IGC to reinforce our ideas on the introduction of regulations and directives—that they should be deregulatory, that subsidiarity should be defined and, above all, that the European Union should use a light touch and publish directives and regulations only when they are really necessary?

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend summarises well some of the arguments that we have been successful in promoting in the EU in the past few years—in particular, the arguments about subsidiarity and deregulation. As I said, some 61 regulations were removed last year. That effort is continuing. At the Madrid Council, the Commission was required to produce a report with an action plan to carry on removing legislation that is unnecessary and burdensome on industry and to improve the competitiveness of the EU.

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