Today in Brussels, Parliament’s new committees meet for the first time to formally elect their chairs and vice-chairs.
Traditionally, before we proceed to elect our important posts at the start of a term, the main political groups try to reach an agreement allocating these posts to candidates from each group in proportion to the size of each group.
This is not an official rule. It’s a practice that could be changed to a winner-takes-all system, as in the United States Congress. But the main political groups have decided it’s better to involve all the mainstream parties in the running of Parliament, rather than give everything to the biggest group.
We have an unusual situation, though, because UKIP have proclaimed their intention to disrupt and obstruct the work of their fellow MEPs. Not unreasonably, other political parties don’t think it makes sense to have a chair of a committee who is liable not to convene its meetings and to otherwise prevent it from working! So most other parties will not vote for candidates from UKIP’s group, even if a proportional distribution might have allocated a position to them. They will no doubt bleat that this is unfair. But they only have themselves to blame: they can’t have it both ways, both working within the Parliament’s rules and professing to want to undermine it. At the end of the day, it is the members of each committee who vote and they will turn their backs on UKIP.
By the way, out of the six committee chairs allocated to the Socialist & Democrat Group, two have been won by Labour MEPs. If their committees confirm this on Monday, Claude Moraes MEP will become chair of the committee that deals with security and justice issues, and my Yorkshire colleague Linda McAvan will chair the one dealing with international development. This is considered to be quite an achievement for Labour, and a mark of respect from our colleagues from other countries as well as the negotiating skills of our leader, Glenis Willmott.
I was pleased with my own committee allocations (as a humble member, of course, not as chair): constitutional affairs (which will deal with any systemic reform of the EU in the coming years), fishing (a vital interest for Yorkshire & Humber), and economic & monetary affairs.
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