Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, attacked Tony Blair for delaying until the Parliamentary Recess the announcement that he had given his crony, Peter Mandelson, a job in Europe. He said this was a deliberate attempt to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of a dubious appointment which would damage Britain?s standing in Europe.
Speaking in Parliament, Peter Lilley provoked laughter across the Chamber by saying no-one was better suited for the post than a Minister who had had to resign twice from the Cabinet ? since European Commissioners are unelected, unaccountable, would not dream of resigning for individual misconduct ? and on the only occasion they had collectively resigned, promptly re-appointed themselves.
Peter Lilley added: “This sort of appointment undermines people?s trust in our political system and particularly confidence in European institutions. Why should a man who has twice been deemed unfit to serve in a British Cabinet be given a first class ticket to exercise power over us from Europe??
Note to Editors:
Extract from Hansard for the 22nd July 2004
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Can the Leader of the House explain why no decision has been announced while the House is sitting about the appointment of a British Commissioner to the European Commission? Can he reassure us that the Prime Minister is not having second thoughts about appointing the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who, as someone who has resigned twice from the Cabinet, strikes many Conservative Members as the ideal candidate for a post that is unaccountable and unelected and from which no one would dream of resigning for the sort of outrageous behaviour for which he has been responsible in the past, and to be a member of a body that, when it collectively resigns, immediately reappoints itself?
Mr. Hain: Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman and the whole House of the situation: European Commissioners have always been chosen by the Prime Minister of the day, and the appointments have not been subject to parliamentary debates, so the question whether that happens during the recess is not material. I shall remind the right hon. Gentleman of the timetable in Brussels. The President-elect of the Commission, former Prime Minister Barroso, is appearing before the European Parliament at the moment. His nomination as President should be approved by the European Parliament tomorrow; he will then take office on 1 November. In the meantime, the 24 member states will offer their nominations for their Commissioners over the coming weeks, and in August President-elect Barroso will agree the appointments with each of the member states. That list will then be agreed by qualified majority voting and submitted, before the end of August, to the European Parliament. The Parliament then prepares for hearings with Commissioners-Designate, which will take place from 4 to 14 October. From 25 to 28 October, the Parliament will vote to approve the new Commission as a body.