Page 5, 29th April 1977

29th April 1977
Page 5
Page 5, 29th April 1977 — European elections

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Locations: London, Worcester


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European elections

While respecting Kevin McNamara's right to oppose direct elections to the European Parliament. I hope he will accept one or two comments on his article of April 22. First, the argument for direct elections is not exactly, as he asserts, a purely legalistic one. Whatever one's views on the merits or demerits of the EEC, or of British membership, it is surely better to have that organisation regulated by the mechanics of parliamentary democracy — the free will of the people, expressed through the ballot box — than by unelected bodies, no matter how expert.

And on a more personal level, having different MPs for Westminster and the European Parliament must be preferable to the present system of obliging such men as the late Sir Peter Kirk to try doing both jobs at once.

Secondly, Mr McNamara is not correct in his description of the Parliament's budgetary powers. Under the Treaty of 1975, Parliament can reject the budget as a whole, and can both increase or decrease items of "non-obligatory" expenditure — virtually everything except agricultural expenditure (admittedly 75 per cent of the total). Thirdly, Mr McNamara asks: "To whom does the loyalty of the European elected member lie to his own government or to the new Parliament . . .?" as with members of all Parliaments, the elected member of the European Parliament will have several loyalties to his constituents, to his party, and to the European Parliament as an institution.

But to say that a British elected member should somehow owe a loyalty to the British Government — possibly of a different Party — is like requiring London members of the House of Commons to owe a loyalty to the leader of the GLC! Finally, it is true that a marginally larger number of the British people are currently dissatisfied with the EEC than are satisfied. Yet opinion polls show a majority in favour of direct elections to the Ftiropean Parliament of about two to one.

' Ben Patterson Deputy Head, European Parliament Information Office, 20 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, WM.

Kevin McNamara is wrong on a matter of fact to say (April 15) "the functions of any parliamentary assembly is to legislate . .." Even if he means to make legal "the policies of the executive arm of government," that has not always been the case even in Britain. Moral sanction is only legal sanction when the law makes it so.

While endorsing his unhappiness about the excesses of the present EEC administration I must remind him of equivalent problems in national and local government and even in company management. Parliament and boards are essentially for auditing and talking out policy.

So it is quite baffling the way authorities stick to the theory of hierarchical subdivision of responsibility when the observable need is to match areas of control with areas of relevance --to differentiate. But then, stupidity always is baffling!

I). J. Taylor North Malvern, Worcester.

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