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European Scrutiny Committee Launches Inquiry

 The European Scrutiny Committee, of which Bill Cash is Chairman, has announced that it will conduct an inquiry into the European Union Bill which was presented to Parliament on 11 November. The press release for this announcement is copied below.

 
12/11/2010
For Immediate Release: 
 
ANNOUNCEMENT OF INQUIRY
 
European Union Bill
 
The European Union Bill, which was presented to Parliament on 11 November, sets out the circumstances under which further transfers of competence and/or power to the EU will be subject to a referendum or will require an Act of Parliament or a Resolution of both Houses. The Bill also seeks to place on a statutory footing the common law principle of parliamentary sovereignty with respect to directly applicable or directly effective EU law. 
 
The European Scrutiny Committee will conduct an inquiry into the Bill. The timescale for the inquiry is extremely tight, since it is expected that the Bill will have its second reading in approximately one month’s time. The Committee therefore intends to report on part 3, the Bill’s parliamentary sovereignty clause, before second reading and on the Bill’s other provisions before the Bill begins its committee stage. The Committee invites written submissions which address the following questions:
 
Part 3, Status of EU law, the parliamentary sovereignty Clause:
What is the basis for concerns that parliamentary sovereignty “may in the future be eroded by decisions of the courts” (paragraph 106 of the explanatory notes), given the differences of opinion on this issue?
 
How far does Clause 18 address those concerns? In particular:
 
What (if any) is the likely effect of putting the principle of parliamentary sovereignty with respect to directly applicable or directly effective EU law on a statutory footing on the constitution of the UK? What additional protection does a statutory provision, which can be repealed, confer on the principle and practice of parliamentary sovereignty beyond the common law?
 
What (if any) is the likely effect of putting the principle of parliamentary sovereignty on a statutory footing on the interpretation of the European Communities Act 1972, particularly sections 2(4) and 3(1)? Does this Clause apply to future as well as present and past Acts of Parliament?
 
 
What (if any) is the likely effect of putting the principle of parliamentary sovereignty with respect to directly applicable or directly effective EU law on a statutory footing on UK judges reviewing the acts of public authorities and/or national legislation for consistency with EU law? Paragraph 106 of the explanatory notes says that this Clause “will provide clear authority which can be relied upon to counter arguments that EU law constitutes a new higher autonomous legal order derived from EU Treaties or international law and principles which has become an integral part of the UK’s legal system independent of statute”. Relied upon by whom? And in what circumstances? 
 
Is Clause 18 consistent with Declaration 17 to the Lisbon Treaty on the primacy of EU law, and the case of law of the Court of Justice that supports it? 
 
 
Part 1, Restrictions on Treaties and Decisions relating to the EU:
What is the meaning of, and difference between, the terms “competence” and “power” as used in the Bill? Are “competence “and “power” as used in the Bill terms that are already recognised under national law?
 
Are the conditions on which the Minister decides that a Treaty change or decision amounts to the transfer/extension of an area of competence or power from the UK to the EU sufficiently clear?
 
Are the distinctions in the Bill between national approval by referendum, Act of Parliament or Resolutions of both Houses consistent with the nature of the competence or power being transferred/extended?
 
Are there areas of extension of competence and/or conferral of power which are not covered in the Bill? 
 
Is it clear what a Minister must take into account when deciding whether “in his opinion” a proposal under Clause 4(1)(i) and (j) is “significant”? How far in practice would such a decision be amenable to judicial review?
 
How far is a decision whether or not to hold a referendum a legal question, amenable to judicial review, and how far a political question?
 
What might be the effect of Part 1 of the Bill on the UK’s future relationship with the EU?
 
 
The Committee is expected to begin taking oral evidence for its inquiry on Monday 22 November, and continue on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 November.
 
 

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