Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"drowning parliamentarians in paperwork"

So says Europe Minister David Liddington tonight whilst rejecting an amendment from Giselle Stuart the Labour MP, and former member of the European Constitutional Convention. After sitting as the Government's representative on that body she is someone who knows how the European Union works.

What Ms Stuart was suggesting was that, a new clause should be inserted into the European Union Bill going through its third reading this evening. The clause would force ministers to publish advice, (quotes from PA)
"including all amendments sponsored by ministers and other member states during negotiation of the treaty or decision".

The MP for Birmingham Edgbaston told the Commons: "Advice which is given to ministers of the Crown should also be made public to Parliament.

"Then Parliament itself can also decide whether it wishes to pursue it and more importantly it would allow it to move from one administration to the next.

"It would allow Parliament itself to develop that collective memory of responsibility and decision-taking which I think is essential in our dealings with the European Union."
Rejecting the amendment Liddington said,
"appropriate access to information which provides the flexibility allowing citizens and other interested parties to see documents that contributed to policy-making" and "the need to preserve a space for candid, confidential discussion, deliberation and negotiation to ensure the best possible outcome in the interests of our country".
He added: "I believe that while I have sympathy for many of the arguments and the motivation of those hon members who have tabled this new clause today, I don't think this clause will actually deliver the right balance to which I have just alluded."
Mr Lidington said that rather than "drowning parliamentarians in paperwork", MPs could seek to call ministers before committees in advance of European Council decisions instead of waiting for the final verdict.
The point is that the request is to get the advice after the negotiations, so that ministers can be held to account, not to have it before hand, to hamstring them.

And you know what Mr Liddington, nice of you to care, but there are thousands of us who wouldn't mind being "drowned in paperwork" if it meant that we knew what you and your kind were up to, supposedly on our behalf. We would happily accept the burden of transparency, just to know that when you came back from those huis clos meetings in Brussels, you know the ones where even the translators notes are burnt to ensure silence. We would happily take on  that extra hour of work to hold you to account. So stop being so caring for our free time, and start being honest with us.

3 comments:

Ron said...

Full support to your last paragraph!

The Boiling Frog said...

...just to know that when you came back from those huis clos meetings in Brussels, you know the ones where even the translators notes are burnt to ensure silence.

Is that true? Blimey, not that it surprises me.

Gawain Towler said...

That is true, It has been the case since the year dot.

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