Friday, January 16, 2009

The Impotence Of Parliament

Fundamental to any democratic system of government is the separation of powers between the Executive branch and the Legislative branch. In the UK, particularly in the area of foreign relations and treaties, the Executive branch is extremely powerful as it exercises the royal prerogative.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch has asked how many times the Government has overridden the scrutiny reserve of the Parliamentary European scrutiny committees, and received the following answer...

Period

House of Lords

House of Commons

Jan-June 2003 30 26
July-Dec 2003 34 33
Jan-June 2004 13 16
July-Dec 2004 20 22
Jan-June 2005 28 52
July-Dec 2005 17 19
Jan-June 2006 14 12
July-Dec 2006 24 29
Jan-June 2007 6 5
July-Dec 2007 9 14
Jan-June 2008 7 4


The Scrutiny committees are weak and powerless, as examined by Open Europe; mere sifting committees with no teeth to oblige the Government to adopt a particular line in voting or negotiations.

At the very least, while we are inside the EU, in order to have any degree of democratic accountability, the role of these committees ought to be significantly enhanced. The committees should have to pre-authorise Government action in EU affairs, and force full parliamentary votes on EU legislation of significance. It should be able to bind the hands of Government.

In an ideal world, Britain would regain Independence from the EU, and cooperate with our neighbours through a loose forum rather then political union. In this situation, a new "International Scrutiny Committee" should be established with full powers to bind the hands of Government. An unrestrained Executive is dangerous and undemocratic. National Legislators determine the remit of the Executive, and where international relations are concerned so national Legislators should be directly involved.

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