Publications / Reports

Measured or Makeshift? Parliamentary Scrutiny of the European Union

9 Oct 2013

In this 2013 pamphlet, leading politicians, commentators and academics set out growing concerns that parliamentary scrutiny of EU business at Westminster was inadequate, questioned whether there was a democratic deficit at the heart of the UK's relationship with the EU, and canvassed ideas for reform of Parliament's EU engagement.

Measured or Makeshift – Parliamentary scrutiny of the European Union comprises a series of essays from leading politicians and experts, exploring how the system for Parliament's engagement with the EU could be improved to address the democratic deficit and ensure that Parliament is more effective and influential in its scrutiny of European issues.

The collection raised challenging questions including:

  • Do parliamentarians want to be better informed, to shape decisions or to make the government change its mind?

  • Should Parliament's intervention in EU business take place at an earlier, more strategic, stage?

  • Should parliamentarians seek to influence the development of policy and provide an early warning system for government, as well as holding it to account at a later stage?

  • How do other parliaments scrutinise European issues, and are there lessons for the UK?

The essays evidenced a common desire to 'mainstream' European issues across Parliament, making a range of suggestions including:

  • Changes to departmental question time sessions

  • Greater involvement by departmental select committees

  • Giving MPs more decisive influence through votes that bind government action

  • Greater direct engagement between MPs and MEPs and with EU institutions as a whole

Hansard Society Director Dr Ruth Fox, who contributed the introduction to the collection, said:

'A common thread running through the pamphlet is that the House of Lords scrutiny model is better than that in the House of Commons. Too few MPs have a real understanding of how the EU works and many more of them need to engage more actively with the detail. Our membership of the EU affects almost every aspect of national life, but too many MPs deal in broad populist headlines rather than engaging actively with the details of policy and legislation emerging from Brussels. The ideas for reform outlined in the pamphlet are neither pro-European or anti-European – providing effective scrutiny of policy and laws is important whatever side of the debate you stand.'

  • Foreword Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister of State for Europe

  • Introduction Dr Ruth Fox, Director, Hansard Society

  • Is it time to reconstruct the European scrutiny system in the House of Commons? Bill Cash MP, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, House of Commons

  • Effective House of Lords scrutiny of the European Union Lord Boswell, Chair, European Union Committee, House of Lords

  • The politics of European scrutiny Gisela Stuart MP

  • What does putting Parliament back in control entail? Christopher Howarth, Open Europe

  • Improving Commons scrutiny of the EU - while we work on a new UK-EU relationship Chris Heaton-Harris MP and Robert Broadhurst

  • Parliamentary scrutiny of Europe: what lessons from our neighbours? Dr Ariella Huff and Dr Julie Smith, University of Cambridge