Friday, January 27, 2012

In other words, we are not telling

As we know (or ought to know) the final decision on legislation, particularly the more important kind, rests with the Council of Ministers and, occasionally, the European Council. That does not apply to treaties, which is a completely separate problem though the Boy-King and his acolytes seem unable to grasp this.

In the Council we are told, the elected and accountable (stop laughing at the back) UK Minister can prevent legislation that is harmful or might be harmful to this country from taking shape. Of course, there is the small matter of Qualified Majority Voting, which used to be easy to compute but has become so complicated that Fibonacci would give up, but whose purpose is to ensure that measures cannot be blocked.

Theoretically, though, some measures might be stopped but, as there are no reports of those meetings we really do not know what happens and whether our Ministers or the UK Permanent Representatives do actually fight hard for British interests as they always tell us they do. (Oddly enough, the one time I had a chance to find out what really happened, over the inspection of slaughter houses and the destruction of small and medium sized ones, I was told on very good authority that those who assured us they had fought doggedly had been somewhat economical with the truth.)

In the circumstances it is not unreasonable of Lord Stoddart of Swindon to ask
Her Majesty's Government on how many occasions the United Kingdom has been successful in achieving blocking majorities in the European Council or Council of Ministers; and what are the details of those occasions.
We would, actually like to know the answer. After all, we are told that we can do this: block legislation that does not suit us. Sadly, we are not going to find out. Lord Howell of Guildford resorted to the time-honoured formula:
The UK does not hold this information centrally.
If I had a fiver for every time that formula was used not to reveal information, I would actually be able to afford to travel on London transport. But I digress. Lord Howell, or whoever wrote the answer, then added: However, under the Lisbon treaty, some information on formal votes in the Council of Ministers on co-decision dossiers is available on the following European Union website.
This information constitutes separate documents, available for download, on each formal co-decision vote since 2006, listing the issue and the voting positions of member states.
The Government recommends that the noble Lord treats this information with caution. In general, proposals only progress to a formal vote after member states have gone through a substantial period of negotiation. During that period, the UK and other member states seek to block, amend or remove proposals which do not meet their objectives. The UK would normally aim to prevent proposals to which we cannot agree ever reaching a formal vote. It is also possible that some negotiation might go to a formal vote more than once, with different outcomes. For both these reasons, a simple collation of voting numbers would be misleading.
Moreover, the information can only show whether or not the UK participated in a blocking minority; not whether the UK was itself successful in achieving said blocking minority. All these points apply equally to blocking minorities.
Or, in other words, we are not going to tell you because we do not know and do not want to find out.

1 comment:

  1. In 2008 the Council of M chose to release the results of 147 votes (out of a total of 536): 128 of them had been unanimous. I imagine that most of the 389 other votes were unanimous as well.