Power struggle

This is pretty revolutionary stuff. The Commons European Scrutiny Committee is urging a sweeping re-assertion of parliament's supremacy over EU legislation, to counter the inexorable extension of the EU's power.

The shopping list of new parliamentary powers published by Bill Cash's committee today includes creating a system under which MPs could forbid the introduction of a particular EU legislative proposal in the UK - so the government would be expected to oppose and vote against it at EU Council of Ministers meetings.

They suggest a high threshold, requiring, say, 150 MPs to sign a Commons motion before it could be debated.

They also want a new mechanism for dis-applying "parts of the existing acquis," the existing powers of the EU.

This would require an act of parliament to amend the European Communities Act 1972, to end the supremacy of EU law.

The report adds, with a straight face, "We look forward to the government's detailed response to this proposal."

I bet they do.

Taken together, these two reforms would give the Commons a way of addressing some of the major euro-irritants in politics.

But they would also restrict ministers' freedom of action at EU summits.

And other proposals would mean far greater scrutiny of the decisions taken at EU meetings.

The other proposals range across re-introducing a dedicated European Question Time in the Commons, with the foreign secretary and the Europe minister in attendance, beefing up the current ad hoc European Committees which debate EU documents referred for further consideration by Mr Cash's committee.

It would also give them permanent chairs and members, and giving each departmental select committee a dedicated rapporteur (sorry, the report determinedly sticks to the English term "reporter") for euro-issues, who could ensure their committee looked at the most important.

Bill Cash will be launching his report (which, incidentally, was approved unanimously by the EU Scrutiny Committee) with a statement to the Commons later today (Thursday) and the aim is to have the necessary changes to standing orders worked by the Procedure Committee and put to a vote next spring.

Given the enormous change they would produce in our relationship with Europe, especially if the 1972 Act is amended, it is not an understatement to suggest that this package of reforms (and I've only mentioned the big headline items) rival the EU Referendum Bill in their constitutional significance.

So will they end up in the long grass?

Or is Mr Cash about to leave a lasting constitutional footprint?