HC Deb 10 January 1996 vol 269 cc196-8
11. Mr. Spearing

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received about greater participation by national Parliaments in the affairs of (a) the European Community and (b) the European Union respectively; and what response he has given. [6848]

Mr. David Davis

We have discussed the role of national Parliaments in the European Union directly with other member states and within the reflection group. We have made it clear that Her Majesty's Government are in favour of an increased role for national Parliaments in the European Union.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister agree that paragraph 14 of the Government's response to the Select Committee on European Legislation about the place of national Parliaments says that national parliaments are, and must remain, the primary focus of democratic legitimacy"? Can the Minister explain, therefore, why, by coincidence, Command Paper 3050, which is a convention of 47 articles establishing a European police office and which has been laid on the Table under the Ponsonby rule, has just a reference in the appendix to the votes and proceedings and has now had about 10 days out of the 21 before it is ratified? Would not it be right for the Minister to approach the Leader of the House to suggest that we debate that convention next week? Unless we do so, the Government will be seen to be saying one thing and doing another.

Mr. Davis

I commend the hon. Gentleman on the cleverness and ingenuity of his question. He knows only too well that we fought very hard to ensure that proper notice is given of measures under the European Community and the other pillars. I shall look at the matter and see What can be done to expedite scrutiny. I cannot be drawn beyond that.

Mr. Congdon

Does my hon. Friend agree that passing legislation is a key role of national Parliaments? Does he share my concern at the continued encroachment of the European Court in legislation passed by the House when it has retrospectively overridden the wishes of the House? What do the Government intend to do about that?

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend has a point in his concern about retrospective overriding by the European Court of matters upon which the House has decided. However, we are signed up to the treaty and we expect the rule of law to apply to other countries in Europe. My hon. Friend may be aware that within the reflection group Britain has asked that we consider the possibility of limiting the retrospectivity of European Court judgments so as to make them more predictable and acceptable to the nation states of Europe.

Mr. Sheerman

If we want national parliamentarians to have more access to and, involvement in Europe, would not it be a good idea for the Government to back a move for a centre in Brussels where national parliamentarians could have meetings, make common cause with each other and have simultaneous translations, which would make that accessibility a reality? Will the Minister join in that campaign?

Mr. Tony Banks

I feel another junket coming on.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has it right; there could be another junket coming on. Although we are in favour of greater democracy and despite the fact that an arrangement already exists whereby the House will fund visits to European institutions, I do not see a great deal of benefit from the hon. Gentleman's proposal.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The question refers to participation by national Parliaments in the affairs of (a) the European Community and (b) the European Union". Would it not be more appropriate for the people of this country to be consulted about the European Community and future developments in the European Union? Does my hon. Friend accept that the only way to do that would be to hold a referendum on future political integration within the European Union?

Mr. Davis

The House is elected to represent the people of this country, and few people do it more vocally than my hon. Friend. As my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Thatcher said on one occasion, it is for us to take the hard decisions and then to make them stick.

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