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Stockton: Devolution of decision-making

Speech to the European Convention

Mr President, I agree with you when you say that when discussing subsidiarity balance is the key question. Like the famous Blondin, my old friend Mr Méndez de Vigo has shown himself to have perfect balance as he has negotiated the narrow wire along which he has taken his committee.

I am relieved that the autonomy of national parliaments has been confirmed and enshrined. However, the mechanism for monitoring compliance and appeal concerns me. It seems it is returning to the centre once again. For me, subsidiarity does not stop with national governments and parliaments. Tomorrow I shall be in Cornwall and there they believe that subsidiarity should stop at the Tamar, rather than at the Channel. I would also be very concerned if the Committee of Regions were to be involved. The Committee of Regions is not representative, and I think the decision really must be taken at a national level as to how the competence is passed down at a regional level. There are as many variations in regional structures as there are Member States.

I am encouraged that the consultation process will allow national parliaments to alert our institutions under an early warning system, but I agree with many of the other speakers who have said that this should be a process which goes on during the parliamentary procedure. I also accept that under Article 230, the Court of Justice is the appropriate institution to make the rulings to bring about an end to a dispute.

However, what I would like to know is how and if it is possible for an individual citizen to become involved in this process. Issues are quite often initially raised by private individuals. Occasionally they come to us in the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament with issues that are quite clearly issues of subsidiarity. I do not see how we are going to operate that. I am sorry to have to tell Mr Moscovici that I am not altogether in agreement with him. When he described one of his proposals as Gallic, I would also describe it as rather centralist. I know that people across Europe do not trust the political process. To have decisions made at a political level is not going to encourage this trust.

Both Mr Michel and Mr Hain are concerned that national governments and parliaments will see the subsidiarity mechanism to be the mechanism by which powers can be pulled back from European institutions. Mr President, I am not concerned, I am overjoyed.

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