One of the key issues David Cameron is seeking to renegotiate in the run-up to the EU referendum is greater influence for national parliaments in Brussels.
However, in reality the House of Commons is failing to use the influence it has. Scrutiny of EU rules should be a serious responsibility.
Instead, MPs have relegated the job to the Commons European scrutiny committee, frequently ignored by the government.
Each year the committee sifts through more than 1,000 EU documents, some very complex. EU rules, whether on the environment or financial services, have significant effects on British families and companies. MPs ought to see service on the scrutiny committee as an important duty.
However, the overall attendance rate for the European scrutiny committee in the last parliamentary session was 48.7 per cent. Some members did not attend a single meeting.
We deserve a better system, to enable frank debate of the EU in Parliament.
If the government and MPs really want Parliament’s voice to be heard in Brussels, Commons departmental select committees should examine EU draft legislation in their areas of responsibility rather than being largely left to the European scrutiny committee.
In addition, the prestige of the EU scrutiny committee should be raised with a chair elected by the whole house.
If the UK votes to stay in the EU, MPs should look again at how Westminster handles EU business. The need for the Commons to examine what ministers agree to in Brussels will not disappear after a referendum.