Friday, 22 March 2013

"Secret Votes " in the European Parliament

You may have seen the recent publicity about the EU budget, and the proposal to hold the vote in secret.

I recently received the following from the Unlock Democracy campaign group.

 Dear Alisdair,

I’ve got some great news: the European Parliament had a vote on whether or not to hold a secret ballot on whether or not to approve the 2014-2018 EU budget last week and the supporters of an open process won: by 553 MEPs with just 8 MEPs voting against.

As only 20% of MEPs can call for the final vote to be held in secret, it could still in theory be conducted that way. But with so few MEPs supporting the idea in principle, it looks exceedingly unlikely that they will now do so.

Over 1,300 of you took part in our letter writing campaign at the start of this month to raise concerns with their MEPs about the threat of a secret ballot. While most MEPs were already opposed to the idea, your letters let them know that there was genuine public concern about this issue. Thank you.

Having won this round, the question now is: where do we go from here? While most votes in the European Parliament are held in public, very few are recorded - so we often don’t know which MEPs supported controversial proposals (unlike in the House of Commons where the names of MPs are recorded in all but the least controversial of votes).  We don’t even know the names of the 8 MEPs who voted in support of holding a secret ballot on the budget, for example.

Regardless of whether you believe the UK should be in or out of the European Union, the way the EU makes its decisions is a crucial part of our democracy and is ripe for reform. The European Parliament is ostensibly the most democratic arm of the European Union, but all too often it can fall short of what it needs to be: the people’s voice in Europe. Holding recorded votes so we know how each MEP votes is potentially one simple reform we can make progress on. But what do you think?

I look forward to hearing your views.

With best wishes,

Peter Facey
Director, Unlock Democracy

1 comment:

Alisdair Gibbs-Barton said...

I got two replies from the North East Euro MPs.

Fiona Hall , Lib Dem , replied quickly supporting my comment. Stephen Hughes, Labour, replied saying that his group had all supported the view.

I have yet to hear from the Conservative Euro-MP for the North East.