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Lords condemn Government over burying pro-EU investigation results

The Lords EU Committee last week published its report on the UK Government’s Review of the Balance of Competences between the UK and the EU. The review was mainly positive about the UK’s membership of the EU and it is believed that the Conservative leadership is embarrassed by the results and does not want to alienate their back benchers in the lead-up to a general election.

The last thing David Cameron would want is Tory civil war breaking out that would divide his party, resurrect the image of ‘Tories banging on about Europe’ and only help UKIP. As Lord Boswell says, “There is no point spending up to £5m of public money on an excellent Review, and then burying it. People need to know the facts about the UK-EU relationship.”

The Committee welcomes the Review as an ambitious piece of work, but criticises a failure to promote the Review effectively and a lack of clarity on its true costs. The Government has acknowledged costs amounting to just £1.78m, with £317,000 of non-staff costs and £1,465,000 of staff costs. The Committee says this estimate for staff costs is not credible, and estimates that the total cost of the review is likely to have been between £4.5-£5m. The Committee calls on the Government to publish a more accurate estimate of the total cost of the review as soon as possible.

The Committee criticises the Government for going back on an earlier commitment to draw together the analysis in the 32 reports in a single document. The Committee says that this overall analysis is key if the review is to have an impact on the wider public debate on the UK-EU relationship. The Committee calls on the next government to produce an overall analysis of the results of the Review as soon as possible after taking office, and also to make stronger efforts to publicise the results of the Review. The Committee also urges the European Commission and other EU Member States to take advantage of the reports, particularly in line with the REFIT programme being undertaken in Brussels.

Commenting, Lord Boswell, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Select Committee, said: “The Government’s Review of the balance of competences between the UK and EU is to be welcomed. It could contribute to an informed public and political debate about our relationship with Europe, by making it clear where authority lies in different areas of policy. “But if the Review is to have an impact, it must be better understood and much more widely read. We are disappointed therefore that the Government has gone back on its commitment to publish an analysis, summarising the key points in the 32 reports that make up the review in a single, readable, concise form. The next Government should get on with this immediately after the election.

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