Mark Harper's excellent idea for a Bill has been voted down. As his press release says, somehow, amid all the turmoil on the financial markets , the Government still found time to whip its MPs to oppose the bill to increase the transparency of EU legislation. In a rare break with usual practice, even Government Ministers were told to oppose the Bill.
It really is amazing that our Government is so keen to keep people in the dark about the facts. What are they hiding? But what is arguably more unbelievable, is the speech given by former Europe Minister Denis MacShane in response to the Bill in Parliament today.
Not only did he begin his speech with his usual drivel that anyone who dares suggest any kind of reform of the EU at all is part of the "Better off Out" campaign, poor confused Denis then went on to give a sound argument in favour of the bill - before voting against it.
He launched a long-winded explanation of the various different existing estimates that are out there about the proportion of national legislation that comes from the EU - (atttacking all but his own which suggests 10%) He said there were all sorts of inaccuracies and "lies" being peddled and gave a good account of the endless row over what the figure actually is.
Which is precisely what this Bill sought to resolve. To put an end once and for all to this long and boring row about how much national legislation actually originates in the EU.
It is extraordinary that somebody who accepts that there is so much confusion over the amount of legislation coming from the EU should then oppose efforts to increase transparency.
But that's not all. MacShane also made a song and dance about the 80-odd percent figure which was cited in Mark Harper's speech. He said it was a "lie", from "some anonymous German" and that nobody had ever been able to source it.
He even said the BBC (Mark Mardell in particular) have never been able to find it.
Well it took us about 10 minutes:
Former President Roman Herzog said it here (translation of original article in Welt Am Sonntag, February 14 2007)
The information he was basing his figure on is on page 15 here: (April 29, 2005, in the German Parliamentary Journal 15/5434 of May 6, 2005)
This is State Secretary Parliamentary Undersecretary Alfred Hartenbach Hartenbach saying: From 1998 until 2004 167 EU regulations and 750 directives have been passed. During the same period the German Parliament has in total 1.195 laws (as well as 3055 Rechtsverordnungen) passed.
(“Rechtsverordnungen” are a wide category of binding acts by Parliament, government, administration)