§ 18. Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
If he will make a statement on the plans to reform the decision-making process of the European Union. 
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Ms Joyce Quin)
The Cologne European Council decided that an intergovernmental conference should begin early next year to prepare the Union's institutions for enlargement.
The conference will cover three main subjects—the size and composition of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council and the possible extension of qualified majority voting. The Government welcome this timetable. We want European institutions that are effective, efficient and able to face up to the challenges that enlargement will bring.
§ Ms Stuart
I thank the Minister for that answer. We should never forget that it was the previous Government who allowed the culture of mismanagement to fester in the European Commission. I welcome this Government's commitment to reform it. May I urge the Minister to focus not only on a clear agenda but on the speed of its implementation, which is equally vital in view of the imminent enlargement?
§ Ms Quin
I agree with my hon. Friend that speed is important in this exercise and that we must apply ourselves to it assiduously. It is 10 years now since the Berlin wall came down and countries in central and eastern Europe have made a great deal of progress. We want to be able to welcome them into membership or closer association with the European Union. It is very important to us to keep that role firmly in mind.
§ Mr. Norman
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Does the Minister agree that the principle of subsidiarity in European decision making can be safeguarded only if national Parliaments have adequate time to scrutinise legislation? Is she aware of the real disquiet around the fact that in the past year on no fewer than 23 occasions the six-week time window agreed under the Amsterdam treaty for scrutiny of legislation has not been observed to the full? Will she undertake with her European counterparts to ensure that in future the time window is more precisely defined and that it is properly observed for all European legislation?
§ Ms Quin
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment. Like me, he was perhaps wondering whether he would be able to get to the Dispatch Box this afternoon. We are pleased with the arrangements that we have introduced for scrutiny, which are recent. We hope and expect that they will work well. We know that sometimes the pace of European business means that decisions get speeded up, but the Government have in all cases provided full explanation. Far from being aware of disquiet, I am very much aware of the widespread welcome in both Houses for the way the Government are approaching the issue.