Linking the national and the European – the role of national parliaments

Guest Contributor
Lord Boswell speaking in the House of Lords

Lord Boswell speaking in the House of Lords

I am writing this guest blog because the House of Lords European Union Select Committee  which I chair, has today published a report on The Role of National Parliaments in the EU. I am a non-affiliated member of the House, and as is usual for committees in the House of Lords, the European Union Committee consists of members from all major political parties and the independent Crossbenchers.

The House of Lords has a strong track record for examining EU policies, and the UK Government’s approach to EU matters. Like a lot of what the Lords does, this is rarely glamorous or headline-grabbing work, but it is important.  Why? Well, national parliaments can give voice to national political concerns in a way that the EU’s institutions may find difficult. And parliaments can use their diverse experience, and knowledge of their national context, to examine the major issues facing the EU and contribute to better policy responses.

What might a stronger role for national parliaments look like in practice?  This video gives an overview of the report and the key recommendations.

In our report we set out five main areas:

  • effective national scrutiny by national parliaments of their own governments;
  • earlier engagement by national parliaments in formulating EU policies;
  • a stronger legislative role through a reinforced ‘yellow card’ procedure;
  • more effective co-operation by the EU’s parliaments, including the European Parliament; and
  • more effective supervision by national parliaments of the major changes currently being introduced to EU economic and financial policies.

I will take just one example from this list, on the yellow card procedure. (For the rest, put your feet up and treat yourself to a read of our full report.) Since 2009 national parliaments have had a limited formal role to examine new EU legislation. This is often called the ‘Yellow Card’ procedure. Under it a third of national parliaments can force a review of a proposed new law if they think that the issue ought to be tackled at national, not EU, level. This is a good start, but it needs to be toughened up. Only a few months ago we saw the Commission over-ride serious concerns raised by several national parliaments (including both Houses at Westminster) about a controversial proposal to create a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Amongst other changes, a Yellow Card needs to trigger something stronger than a review: it should mean that the proposal must either be withdrawn, or substantially amended to meet the concerns that have been expressed by national parliaments.

All these improvements can be achieved quickly, without treaty change. What is needed more than anything else is political will. We explain how in our report: most importantly, the changes could be embodied in an agreement between the EU institutions, and involving the national parliaments.

Our report does not imply that we think the Westminster Parliament is perfect: we know that we could do our EU work better. To take just one example, we intend to borrow from the Danish (and others’) playbook, and start holding regular hearings with the Minister for Europe ahead of European Councils. We are, though, sure that getting national parliaments more effectively involved would improve both the quality of EU decision-making, and the quality of EU laws.

10 comments for “Linking the national and the European – the role of national parliaments

  1. maude elwes
    24/03/2014 at 1:51 pm

    Anyone with two bits of sense would be aware that we, as a country within Europe, have to remain part, and a strong part, of the Europe. We should have joined the Euro and weathered it through as it will soon be flying high enough to save us all. Regardless of what those who love the US dollar will tell you.

    That aside we need a very strong voice at the top table and one that can lead rather than follow. So a clear out is desperately needed there. The first move must be to replace those we have their presently with clear thinking UK first interested individuals. There is no us and them, we are all us.

    Get rid of the policies that are creating discontent in the nations voters, they in turn will change overnight back into loving the idea of a Europe they can float with and voila, problems over.

    To take that one step further include Russia in future negotiations and look for unifying tactics. That way we will be in a good position for the driving seat of all the European entities. Leave the others to hang there and watch.

  2. Gareth Howell
    24/03/2014 at 2:46 pm

    Very Interesting. Thank you Lord Boswell.I shall try to use those ideas as a springboard to a little more study of the subjects.


    Commission Barroso (Govt)
    European Council Von Rempuy (College of Heads of State)
    Parliament Martin Schulz (and 14 V-P of EP)

    Lord Boswell stresses the need for greater interaction between the various states, but does he intend to say that the Council, the College of Heads of State, does not work sufficiently well?

  3. maude elwes
    25/03/2014 at 11:57 am

    Well clearly something is not working sufficiently well or we would not have the Ukraine crisis in our midst, would we, Gareth?

  4. Gareth Howell
    25/03/2014 at 2:52 pm

    the Ukraine crisis in our midst, would we, Gareth?

    The Guardian article by Dai Owen former foreign Secretary
    although a serious article about the possibilities re lease
    of Crimea by Russia to be compared with the US lease of Gunatanamo Bay from Cuba, is very witty.

    Similarly the check a sum of only thousands might never be cashed!

    Russia has a Mediteranean fleet to consider…. parking….. which it started to do in about 1790, so it is not exactly a new phenomenon. Being able to sail from the Black sea to the Baltic is essential to Russia as a world power, and has been, ever since that time, dont you know.


  5. Honoris Causa
    25/03/2014 at 3:04 pm

    “Only a few months ago we saw the Commission over-ride serious concerns raised by several national parliaments (including both Houses at Westminster) about a controversial proposal to create a European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Amongst other changes, a Yellow Card needs to trigger something stronger than a review:”

    Equally at the individual corporation level the immense damage done to the Cooperative group Manchester, by a lobbied change in European law which went uncontested, in Westminster, should also have a yellow card procedure.
    That happened between 2002-2005, and was despicable for the initiation of it.

    I think that Lord Boswell, as a farmers’ union and possibly farm cooperative supporter, will understand the predicament.
    Although there were a dozen or 20 Coop Labour members in the Hofc at the time none knew enough about directives or the passing down of Directives to be able to prevent the IACA
    and Chicago futures traders from having a field day, with the one share, one vote, one pound, membership of the Cooperative group, which it had not been necessary to change for many years.

    • maude elwes
      28/03/2014 at 8:47 am

      Today we see in that stalwart of the right, DM, the epitome of indignation at the vampires of debt for profit as they, at last, are ‘openly’ leading our so called ‘powerful’ further into the clutches of this one percent despotic rule. One time Goldman Sachs chiefs are pulling the joy sticks of the world, we are told, whilst we get on our knees in the forward position asking for it.

      Are these proposed European Public Prosecutor’s Offices (once up and running) going to accuse and charge those who have forced us into world bankruptcy, so they can trouser tax payers donations, and jail them for three lifetimes for their crimes against humanity? A Nuremberg style effort would be good, televised and braying for no parole ever? Which is what they deserve.

      Surely the first mission Europe has is to address this travesty and render these evil demons obsolete? Teach them a lesson, make them pay, show the world we mean business and let all see what fiddling the billions out of their rightful benefits does to you if you dare bring it on the way they have? Because if it is, then why not start now? At the same time, go for those war crime murderers of the West who colluded in the plunder.

      I, for one, wait patiently in the belief that they will not have to die like JS before the well of remorse pours out of their orifices as they watch their families suffer the way the innocent today are doing.

      Exactly what is it these new European highly paid cronies will be doing if it is not this? Will they be worth the money they are after or like the rest of them be as unworthy of their task? In other words, is this another waste of money in the worst kind of way?

      • Lord Blagger
        31/03/2014 at 12:04 pm

        Or will Europe let the cat out of the bag as to what governments have done with people’s pensions?

        The results showed the extraordinary sums that Britain has committed to pay its future retirees. In total, the UK is committed to paying £7.1 trillion in pensions to people who are currently either already retired or still in the workforce.


        I doubt it. EU commissioners are appointed by the people running the Ponzi fraud, and they know they depend on keep their relationships going with their patrons. Can’t rock that boat. Same with the Lords.

  6. maude elwes
    28/03/2014 at 9:41 am

    These are the facts on the financial system we live with and it is these who should be dealt with and fast.

    There is two parts to this video. Both riveting. A change of play is needed and it should start in Europe.

  7. Hansard Society
    Hansard Society
    01/04/2014 at 11:07 am

    This thread has moved a little off topic. Please keep subsequent comments focused on the subject of the original blog post.

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