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EU law making needs greater transparency

26 May 2016

The European Scrutiny Committee demands that the lid be lifted on Council decision making. There should be far more transparency, particularly about negotiations conducted by officials.

The great majority of European legislation is proposed by the Commission and agreed by the European Parliament and the European Council, in which all Member State Governments take part. The process for agreement at Council is complex, and can include discussions at one of the 150 working groups at official level, and at the ambassadorial level in COREPER before being agreed by Ministers at Council level.

The Committee recognises that progress has been made in increasing the information available about the final outcome of negotiations between Ministers. Nonetheless the Committee considers it is still very unclear how those decisions are reached — especially when they are agreed by consensus after several years of difficult discussions, mostly at official level.

Committee report

The report sets out the details of Council decision making in a clear and accessible way

The Committee notes the real and significant tensions between the Council's role as a forum in which the Member States decide policy, analogous to that of the Cabinet and its role in deliberating on and adopting laws, where its actions are of a Parliamentary nature. It considers there should be more transparency in the information provided by the Council and its working groups.

The Committee says that the Government, and the UK Parliament itself, can do more to throw light on the process, and notes it intends to reflect on improvements to the Committee's own processes.

Chair's comments

The Chairman of the Committee, Sir William Cash, said:

"UK citizens should be fully informed and given the facts as to how the 55% (HC Library) of EU laws which govern them are made. Many UK laws and measures include obligations derived from EU law. The bulk of decisions on such laws are made by officials and then nodded through by Ministers. There is no information on how those decisions are reached, including who has had to compromise and at what price. Over 50% of decisions are agreed by consensus, which means policy differences can be invisible to the electorate.

We urge the Government to make proper information available to Parliament and the public, as to how these EU laws which impact their daily lives are made."

Further information

Image: PA