To be published as HC 711-vi

House of COMMONS



European Scrutiny Committee

European Scrutiny in the House of Commons

Wednesday 13 February 2013

MS Gisela Stuart MP

Evidence heard in Public Questions 248 - 278



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the European Scrutiny Committee

on Wednesday 13 February 2013

Members present:

Mr William Cash (Chair)

Michael Connarty

Julie Elliott

Kelvin Hopkins

Chris Kelly

Penny Mordaunt

Jacob ReesMogg

Henry Smith


Examination of Witness

Witness: Ms Gisela Stuart MP, Member, Select Committee on Defence, and Chair, PLP Departmental Group for Defence, gave evidence.

Q248 Chair: Thank you very much for coming. I will ask the first questions. What, in your opinion, are the strengths and weaknesses of the scrutiny system in the House of Commons? Secondly, to park the question, if you had to choose a scrutiny system from elsewhere in the EU, what would you choose and why?

Ms Stuart: I was looking up in the dictionary the word "scrutiny", to put it in context, and it had at the bottom of it the phrase, "It rhymes with mutiny". I thought, well, that’s the weakness of it; you can scrutinise but you cannot have a mutiny, in the sense that you can observe but your actions have no, or very little, consequences. In the parliamentary process, when a Secretary of State comes in front of you he or she will have made a decision they will have to defend-even if they are in a coalition, there is a kind of trail of their own decision making that can be challenged-whereas in the European sphere, Ministers will come in front of you having done some trading with 26 other members, and in a sense you very rarely are allowed or able to unravel those kinds of things.

It is a fundamental political weakness, which has to do with the institution. As for its strength, if you believe, as I do, that democracy is a system of government by explanation, you would probably go further. Few other systems really go through things with such care and attention to explain the things for those who are willing to listen. There is a problem that there are very few people out there willing to listen, but that is quite another subject. The system I like most I do not think we could operate, and it is a kind of combination between the Finns and the Dutch. The Finns will have a determined slot, which is regular, where everybody turns up-I have been to some of their sessions-and the Dutch bring the MEPs much more into their systems as well, which I think is a weakness; it is a kind of dialogue where a major partner is missing.

Most continental governments are coalition governments. We are just beginning to experience coalition government, and I speak for myself here but I do not wish this to become a particular British tradition; I am quite happy with not having coalition governments. However, countries that tend to have a history of coalition governments bring in their Parliament at a much earlier stage. The only final observation I would make is that I would be very much against Parliament mandating its Ministers as they go into negotiations, for reasons I would be happy to explain.

Q249 Kelvin Hopkins: Our current process begins with a sift, by this Committee, of European Union documents, according to their legal and political importance, advised by our excellent advisers. How aware are Members and others of this work, and what use is made in the House of the information in the reports and on our website?

Ms Stuart: I am right in assuming that you still meet in private for those?

Kelvin Hopkins: Yes.

Ms Stuart: That adds to the problem: even if there were anybody out there willing to listen, they cannot observe you, and I think that is a problem. To be brutally honest, I do not think people are very much aware of the work you are doing. The evidence for that is probably best demonstrated when we have debates on the Floor of the House. We all know each other so well, those who take part, and we could probably write each other’s speeches as well. There is very little new blood coming into the debate. Just to give you one example, recently I sat on one of the EU Committees and we looked at one of the documents: it was quite clear that the Front Benchers were not even aware of how those debates really flow, so there is very little awareness and very little appreciation.

Q250 Chair: Do you not think that that is the fault of those who do not take an interest? The material is there. It affects so many people in their daily lives-horsemeat might just be one example, but there are so many others-and yet you get this fantastic amount of information about the consequences, but very little engagement in the House by Members who have access to the information, through the Vote Office or whatever. We do the job, but the question is whether in fact people engage with it sufficiently. By the way, you may be interested to know that we had a similar response from the BBC last week, who said, "It is too complicated for people to understand; that is why we do not give it the priority."

Ms Stuart: If I might say so, the problem is that it lacks the drama, the processes are so drawnout. I negotiated the optout of the working time directive for doctors in 1999, as a Health Minister, a process that started in 1992; the decisions and consequences of that started to hit the NHS in a way that people were complaining bitterly about in around 2008-09, 18 years later. At what stage does it hit the news? When it has political consequences.

The second thing, which is a fundamental flaw within the system in which we work, is that we have a "delete" button of the political process, and it is called the general election: whenever a Government comes in, you wipe the slate clean and you start anew. The European Commission has no similar process. The only way you can ever kill anything is by negotiating it to death, until it is so diluted or nobody has an interest in it. The Prime Minister, the other day, heralded the conclusions of the patent agreement. I have not checked before, but I think that must have been negotiated for the best part of 25 years, because I remember teaching about the negotiations of the patent agreement when I was a law lecturer in the early 1990s.

Chair: Very interesting.

Q251 Kelvin Hopkins: I just want to take up one point, Gisela. You talked about meeting in secrecy. The reason we meet in secret, or have private meetings, is that we can take very candid advice from our specialist advisers, and we have these excellent papers prepared every week, in detail. If we did not meet in private, we could not have those papers, none of the information would come out, and we would be as confused as most other Members would be. At least we have this. Is it not possible that the other Members are bemused by all the European issues and they trust us to deal with the details?

Ms Stuart: I think they do trust you, but we are all elected politicians here. In all these years, I have never had a single constituent who came up to me on a particular issue that related to a European Union issue about which I could do anything in a Parliamentary context.

Q252 Chair: And yet legislation is passed day in, day out here, which is based on European directives, although understandably it is presented as an Act of Parliament implementing matters under Section 2, which you of course understand. When you are asked questions about the application of it in an Act of Parliament, what is really happening is you are asked a question about the European directive, but by then it is already being implemented.

Ms Stuart: Even worse, Mr Cash, whenever there is something very contentious, the way out is to delay implementation, just to make absolutely sure that anybody who made that decision is no longer politically accountable for having made it.

Q253 Julie Elliott: How effective is the current scrutiny system in nonlegislative policy areas, such as common foreign and security policy, and the common security and defence policy?

Ms Stuart: It is a very interesting question, because it is the last remaining area of the battle between national parliaments, the European Parliament and the European Union influence. In a sense, there are very effective bilateral agreements-for example, I am on the Defence Committee, and we have regular meetings with our French counterparts-but it is not done on an EU level. I was very surprised on the last Committee that I was on, dealing with defence procurement, that we had an area where, for years and years and years, the British Government was adamant that defence procurement should not be part of the single market. I confess I was taken aback, and I thought, "When did this change of policy happen? When did we agree to this?" Clearly we had, and it had passed me by. I have not yet quite allocated guilt, but clearly it is my fault that it had passed me by. It is one of those areas where there is very little substance, and when there is, it is very difficult to get hold of it. In preparation for the meeting today-again, I am not sure whether you want to come back to this-I was highlighting that when asked questions- For example, the UK Government uses the optout on security grounds for 20% of its procurement, and when I asked the Minister in the Committee, "How do other countries do this? How often do they use it?" and even put a followup written question, I was told they could not give me an answer, which of course made the figure of 20% completely meaningless. If the French use it 95%, then 20% is really very low, but if you tell me the French use it 5%, then I wonder why we use it so often. It is an area where, unless you have comparators, anything in isolation tends to be too freestanding to be meaningful.

Q254 Michael Connarty: You have already mentioned European Committees, or the one you were on. What is your experience of European Committees over the period you have been in Parliament, rather than just in the most recent period? What do you think they contribute to the scrutiny process? How do you assess their role in the scrutiny process?

Ms Stuart: Can I ask you what you mean by "European Committees"?

Michael Connarty: The Standing Committees to which you referred-the old A, B and C, which are now all mixed up.

Ms Stuart: When I first became a Minister, Jeff Rooker, who then was a fellow Birmingham MP, said to me, "Kiddo, you had better go into one of those and watch them, because sooner or later you will have to appear in front of them, and they are the toughest Committees to appear in front of." Structurally, I think they are the scariest meetings you can go to as a Minister, because you have to answer and relentlessly answer followup questions. You do not even know who is going to be there. I was reminded that the most horrendous meeting I had to do as a Minister was after we negotiated that British beef, following the BSE crisis, would be allowed to be exported again. There was a young MP called Owen Paterson who was my staunchest critic and attacker, and essentially as a Minister I had to sit there and know we had introduced about 20 measures, of which-I cannot remember it precisely-something like 12 were not really in our interest; three or four were neither here nor there, and the others we really, really wanted. As I went in there, I was told by the Agriculture Ministers, "You cannot touch this. This is a package. This is a deal. You cannot unravel it."

They are really good Committees-potentially, I think, a real nuclear weapon-because you are so exposed as a Minister; you really cannot hide anywhere. However, because sometimes the negotiating mandate with which you go into the Committee is, "You cannot negotiate," very often, you may politically get very little out of them. So that process, but perhaps taking place earlier. The real problem is, with those, we only enter once the deal has been struck, rather than before, whereas in Parliament we have a process by which Parliament indicates areas that it finds unacceptable and Government then has a period in which it can negotiate, either in the Commons or in the Lords. We have not got that in an EU context.

Q255 Michael Connarty: One of the things at the moment is that the European Standing Committees get about 35 debates referred to them per year. How do you feel about that? Is it too many or too few? Some years we have had a lot less than that. Do you think it is diminishing their impact if we have lots and lots of them? Do you think it is better to have lots of these kinds of debates in the Committees, where the Minister, as you say, has to come before Members of Parliament?

Ms Stuart: It is difficult to say whether it is too many or too few. The only thing I would say is that the Committee of Selection might occasionally show greater imagination in who they put on those Committees. I know that if it has the word "Europe" in it, I am in the firing line, and I am definitely on it when it has the word "Defence" as well. That is fine, because I happen to enjoy them, but it is a bit like the debates in the Commons when the word "Europe" appears: it seems to be that in those Committees, friends meet again rather than seeing many new faces.

Q256 Michael Connarty: On that basis of membership, as you remember, when they used to be called A, B and C Committee, they genuinely were A, B and C Committee, because they had specific remits and a permanent membership. Do you think European Standing Committees would be more effective with permanent membership again, since they now are random selections, on the basis that it might develop Members’ familiarity with the subjects under the A, B and C?

Ms Stuart: At the risk of now contradicting myself, having derided the meetings of old friends, I think it would, and I will tell you why. The thing that troubles me most about anything to do with matters European, as I alluded to earlier, is it has such a long process of decision making. It is almost Dickensian: Jarndyce v Jarndyce is alive and kicking. I sometimes struggle with where the collective memory of these decisions is, given the short lifespan of most Ministers, given that even the veil of administration comes down once you have a change of government. A Parliament is uniquely placed to remember some of these things, and therefore a core of permanent membership may be very helpful.

Q257 Jacob Rees-Mogg: Thank you very much for coming to see us. The Irish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales have recently mainstreamed-not that I think that is a particularly elegant word, but nonetheless that is what they have done-European business, which has given responsibility for sifting and scrutiny to subject Committees. Do you see advantages to this, or disadvantages?

Ms Stuart: I have been thinking about that. I think if you had a place where on the Friday morning or whathaveyou matters European are discussed, that would be very useful. However, the question is: who do you hold to account, and who do you ask? I am searching for a political accountability, which tends to be within the position of our permanent representative in Brussels. My dream is that I would very happily mainstream UKREP to appear every Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours, even in Westminster Hall, and be questioned, because that would be interesting, and would get people’s attention, but I am just not sure that more people would engage. Unless you have the narrative to make the story of the scrutiny process interesting, which is very rare, I do not think we would get anywhere.

Q258 Jacob Rees-Mogg: I assume from that that you do not think it would be a good idea to pass the European issue onto departmental Select Committees, because they would not necessarily take the interest in it, or am I reading too much into your answer?

Ms Stuart: Yes and no. You are right in some ways: I think the departmental Select Committees are the right ones to look at the detail as to what has been agreed, and then you need to look at the implementation. I think the departmental Select Committees are uniquely able to do this, but if I go to the political accountability, we fall foul of the system because the deals that are struck in Brussels tend to be a tradeoff between Committees: you get something in agriculture, and for that they take something off you in health, and for that you say you will change the train regulations. It is that bit that I think in Parliament, at some stage or another, we need to flush out. That is what political accountability is about.

Q259 Jacob Rees-Mogg: If I can go back a stage, when we were talking about the Standing Committees you said they lack influence because they come too late in the process and things have been agreed, and you think departmental Select Committees are good at reviewing implementation but not a developing policy. Is it perhaps our fault, as the European Scrutiny Committee, and we should push documents forward to debate at an earlier stage, which may be better able to influence the debate, or is it structural in our political system-the way the executive and legislature work-that we are never going to get it in time to influence the decisionmaking in a parliamentary sense?

Ms Stuart: It is structural, both inside here and in terms of the relationship with the institution with which we have the relationship. The stumbling block is the representation in Brussels, which is highly political in its decision making but utterly unaccountable in the decisions it makes, as well as the fact that when our Ministers go over and negotiate in Brussels, they too are politically unaccountable in the way they make the decisions. I say that having once been a Minister who did a 180degree turnaround on UK policy on a particular subject, because nobody knew that I had done that, other than the collective decision, because it hardly ever comes to a vote. It is a qualified majority; it hardly ever comes to a vote. I just sat there and said, "The UK Government agrees with Article 58," There were a few people around the table taking a sharp intake of breath, and it went through.

Governments always change their mind, but at some stage they have to stand there and explain why they have done it, and I think that is rather good. The lack of accountability is structural here and there.

Q260 Jacob Rees-Mogg: Going back to the Departmental Select Committees, I wanted to ask whether you think one member of each Committee should have a specific European hat to be the link person between scrutiny of European issues and their Committees?

Ms Stuart: I think so. I think you need to mark them. You need to finger them and say, "This is your can."

Chair: Excellent. We are going a little faster, because one or two people may have to go.

Ms Stuart: That is okay.

Q261 Chris Kelly: Is enough time spent in the Chamber debating European matters amongst "old friends"?

Ms Stuart: No, and I will tell you what my greatest grief is: that there used to be standard debates ahead of the European Council, and that was absolutely essential.

Q262 Chris Kelly: Should they be reintroduced?

Ms Stuart: Absolutely. I think I raised it in three consecutive Business Questions with the Leader, who got rather irritated with me. It is not Backbench Business Committee business, and it is no good saying, "The Wright Committee recommended it." The European Council is not the back benchers’ business; it is the Government’s business, and similarly with the fisheries.

Q263 Chris Kelly: Is a dedicated session for European oral questions in the Chamber feasible, given the number of subjects that could be covered? Would a crosscutting question session in Westminster Hall be a potential alternative?

Ms Stuart: No, no-don’t relegate it to Westminster Hall. It is cold over there, and you can lose too many people as they cross it. Again, my Christmas wishlist would be that it is at the level of a Deputy Prime Minister, who should be accountable for the negotiations done at European level, and there should be a dedicated Question Time.

Q264 Chair: But not necessarily him every time?

Ms Stuart: It is kind of the combination of what a proper Europe Minister is. Tony Blair was almost there when he appointed Geoff Hoon to be Europe Minister, and I think probably, with hindsight, Geoff thought he was almost there. You would have a Europe Minister who is actually accountable in a crosscutting way for the political decisions made at Brussels level. The reason that I say Deputy Prime Minister is that, when you think about it, it is a very significant political portfolio, so it is that accountability, with a senior figure who would answer them in the main Chamber.

Q265 Chris Kelly: Should this Committee be able to refer documents directly for debate on the floor of the House?

Ms Stuart: Now there I am not sure on whose toes you would be treading. Would that have to go through the Backbench Business Committee? Can I plead "No comment"? I am simply not sufficiently aware of the ins and outs of this.

Q266 Chris Kelly: Finally, should there be an annual debate in the Chamber on the Commission work programme?

Ms Stuart: Not only should there be an annual debate on the Commission work programme, but I think Commissioners should come and be questioned.

Q267 Chris Kelly: Rack up their air miles?

Ms Stuart: They can come by Eurostar, but I think they should come.

Q268 Chair: You raised this next question yourself, I am glad to say, but in a way you almost answered yourself the other day. Do you think there is scope to increase the democratic accountability of UKREP, and if so, how should this be achieved?

Ms Stuart: The decisionmaker at UKREP at the moment is, within Foreign Office, one of the senior political appointments-one of the big three appointments-and I think whilst probably our constitutional arrangements would not allow us to question that person, there should be a Minister who is accountable for those decisions. I could see no problem in having a Minister whom we would expect to, say, spend one or two days a week over in Brussels.

Q269 Chair: Would you be interested to know, if we are going to interview Sir Jon Cunliffe or somebody else in a senior position in UKREP, to ask him the very questions that we are asking other Members and other witnesses about their work, given what you have already said about majority voting? You may or may not know that there is a thing called VoteWatch, through which Professor Simon Hix demonstrates that of all the possible votes in favour, 91.7% are cast in favour of all directives and decisions over the last three years. Of every single directive, decision, regulation-the lot-91.7% are agreed in the Council of Ministers. Did you know that?

Ms Stuart: Can I caution you here? No decent diplomat would ever allow their Government to be seen to have lost a vote. The way it essentially works is that you sit there as a Minister, an issue comes up, you talk to UKREP, and they do the headcount. This is why I am saying mandating Ministers is a bad idea. They add up the votes, and if it looks as if we will not win the vote, we do not force a vote. The voting system in Brussels tends to be more an exercise in affirmation, rather than an exercise in testing the strength. This is why, whenever I hear arguments by some of our former Commissioners when they say, "Of course we always get our way. Look, we have never lost a vote." I say, "That is because we have some really good diplomats, who never allow us to be seen to be losing a vote. We usually cave in before it comes to a vote."

Q270 Chair: How do you think Parliament could be better informed by UKREP of what might be called horizon scanning, and the likely negotiating positions of the Government and Council?

Ms Stuart: That is a really, really difficult question, because to be effective, given all our time constraints, someone somewhere has to make a political judgment as to what is important enough to flag up to you. Given that we would be asking the Government, someone who works for the executive, to flag up to Parliament something that Government may find slightly difficult-it is a bit of a tricky option. However, when I was on the Convention on the Future of Europe, I received the briefings you get from the Brussels parliamentary office. I am assuming they are still what you get.

Chair: Very much so.

Ms Stuart: I found they were gold dust. They were the most useful and most insightful pieces of information, and I have always rather regretted that, for reasons they explained to me-they felt they could only be as frank as they were because it was in the ownership of the Committee-that was not shared more widely. Something like those, though, because I thought they were the most useful.

Q271 Michael Connarty: What impact do you think measures introduced in the Lisbon Treaty-for example, reasoned opinion procedure and orange and yellow cards-have had on national parliaments and the European Union?

Ms Stuart: I genuinely do not know. I thought the system itself was too weak to threaten governments. The whole point of the red card was, in a sense, that there would come a point where you could really scare governments, and for that I thought the threshold and the period you had available was wrong. Given that governments are formed of parliamentary majorities, it requires a serious mutiny of a significant number of parliaments to really get the red card going. I always thought that to have that was useful, but the second thing which I tried to do but failed was to get the MEPs off COSAC, because I thought parliaments needed a network in which they talked to each other and could find a view. The presence of the MEPs, to me, was always sufficient in that they were caucus enough, in their selfinterest, to scupper any kind of deals that national parliaments might strike.

Q272 Michael Connarty: A very fair point. Do you agree with the statement in the Prime Minister’s recent speech on Europe that the proper role of national parliaments should be recognised, and I quote what he said, "in the way the EU does business"? If so, how? How would it be recognised in the way the EU does business?

Ms Stuart: I heard him say that, and I felt like screaming, "No!" The architecture of the European Union is the Commission, the European Parliament and national governments. I have no desire to make national parliaments a fourth element in that geometry. National governments and national parliaments-that is the unit. I do not want national parliaments to become an alternative to governments. However, it is the openness of the national parliaments in relation to their own-it is that interplay that I thought was much more important. Other than thinking, "No, I do not agree with you", I was not entirely sure that he knew what he was trying to say, other than to be complimentary about national parliaments in a way that would have little effect, unless you found more in that.

Q273 Chair: Parking your last comment for a moment, I am sure you would recognise, as the distinguished Member for Birmingham Edgbaston, that your electors enter the polling booth, cast their secret ballot-hopefully for you, no doubt, from your point of view-and they are doing so on the basis of a choice that they make in relation to the legislation that is promised them in a manifesto, which must not be underestimated. Do you not think that, when those representatives in conclave here in Westminster are confronted with a decision to be taken in implementing legislation and passing an Act of Parliament, the fact that it derives from a decision taken by qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers, which may contradict the promises you made to your constituents or I made to mine, is a matter of real importance; and that, therefore, it is not merely a question of involving national parliaments, but there is also perhaps, in circumstances, given Section 2 of the European Communities Act, a case for Parliament saying, "That is what they have decided by majority vote, but we do not agree with it."? So the national Parliament, on behalf of the nation, would say, "We will disallow this and vote against it." What would your reaction be to that? It sounds democratic.

Ms Stuart: I have probably been around for too long, but if a Government has agreed on something at the European level, whether it did not use its veto or it was qualified majority voting, and Parliament is sufficiently rebellious to vote against it, if it then came to the Government being defeated- I am trying to think of something that would be sufficiently significant that despite the whipping system, the Government would be defeated on it, which-

Q274 Chair: You mean like the reduction of the budget, for example? On the reduction of the budget, it did actually for the first time only a few weeks ago. What I am saying is that Parliament is Parliament. If I could put it another way round, in the form of a question, do you not agree that we entered into the European Communities Act 1972 on a voluntary basis?

Ms Stuart: If I turn this around and say: yes, that debate where we all voted, and as I said, the Prime Minister became the 83rd rebel when he too wanted a reduction in the EU budget-

Chair: You mean he actually was.

Ms Stuart: Let us just turn this on its head. If he had come back with a deal that he had not been able to broker, and there had been an increase, I would be very surprised if he continued to lose the votes, and if he would have continued to have 82 rebels on his own side. I think it would have gone to a much narrower majority and the Government would have got its way.

Chair: Well, thank you very much for that.

Q275 Kelvin Hopkins: I have always been concerned about UKREP and the power there. He is the most political civil servant in a sense, and you suggested that the head of UKREP ought from time to time to come to Parliament and be somewhat accountable to Parliament, to explain at least, even if you do not have power over him. However, it occurs to me that it might be an idea to have a preappointment hearing before the head of UKREP is appointed, so that Parliament has some say in that position. We are now doing preappointment hearings for a number of other positions-the American style of appointment. I wondered if that is another thought to make him a bit more conscious of Parliament and their role, rather than just being secretive civil servants.

I must say we have met Sir Jon Cunliffe recently and we were very impressed with him. He is obviously an able man. I met one of his predecessors and he clearly took a strong Euroenthusiast view, which was, I think, not representative of the current Parliament, or indeed of popular opinion. Sir Jon Cunliffe is much more balanced.

Ms Stuart: The real difficulty is that of course the civil service is always in government and it rather likes a larger stage, so if I were a civil servant, I would think it is probably the best job to have, because you make many decisions. The preappointment hearing is a good idea, because we need to know each other, and there needs to be a familiarity. At the risk of really straying, one of the things that we in government did, which was really very bad, was to have the closed list system for the MEP election, because it even meant for elected Members of the European Parliament that the relationship between the voters and those whom they elect became even more remote. Yes, I think it would be a good idea.

Q276 Chair: I will ask the last question, which is about Europe, the public debate in general and the media. We had the BBC in last week, and the transcript will be available quite soon. What role do you think that the Government itself, Parliament, the media, and in particular, I suppose, the BBC, because they are so prominent in terms of the listening audience of the nation as a whole, should play respectively in improving the quality of the debate on Europe?

Ms Stuart: I think they play an extremely significant part. I am glad to say that certainly over the last 12 months the BBC, for example, with Radio 4, has commissioned some programmes that look at a whole wider spectrum of views, and no longer acts as though, if you find fault with the European Union, then you are some kind of slightly deluded heretic who needs to be put right. They are much more detached. The two journalists, Tim Franks and Mark Mardell, I thought managed to portray technically complex issues and appreciate the political significance in a way that engaged the viewer and the listener. However, there are very few journalists who actually can do that.

Q277 Chair: Would you be interested to know that last week Peter Knowles quoted something that James Brokenshire had said, which was by any standards complex, but then seemed to translate from that a suggestion that it was very difficult for the BBC to present information, contrary to what you have just said, because it was too complex for people to understand?

Ms Stuart: It probably has to do with the fact that the journalists themselves do not understand. Before I became an MP I taught European Union law; I spent two years as a Minister in the Council of Ministers; I spent two years negotiating the European Constitution. If I now think I understand about a quarter of the real political reality, then I am having a good day. It is very complex, and if the journalists themselves do not understand it-and I would suggest quite a number of them do not-then they cannot distil a complex message in a way that is understandable, which ought to be their trade.

Q278 Chair: Can I ask you, if you would be kind enough, to look, when the evidence comes out, at the questions we put to the BBC, for example? We asked a number of questions regarding, for example, the College of Journalism they have created. I do not know whether you are familiar with the Wilson report, which actually looked at this and the Trust said that the BBC had an urgent requirement to get its act together on the question of the treatment of European issues. You may well be right that things have improved, but it would be of interest, certainly, to us if you were to look at the transcript, in the light of your experience, and perhaps give us a few thoughts on what you think was being said by the BBC, and whether you think, in the light of what you have just said, there are any further comments you might wish to add?

Thank you very much indeed for coming.

Ms Stuart: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Prepared 20th February 2013