‘A Bill to confer power on the prime minister to notify, under Article 50(2)…’. When it comes to the House of Lords, some of those trying to amend or delay the bill will be paid pensioners of the European Commission. Peers are obliged to declare any interest that ‘might be thought by a reasonable member of the public’ to influence the way they discharge their parliamentary duties — unless it is an EU pension. In 2007, a Lords subcommittee said that because their contracts oblige them to support the EU, an EC pensioner who made ‘intemperate criticism of the commission’ would have contravened their obligations under the Treaty of Rome ‘and therefore could in theory damage his pension’. Nonetheless, the subcommittee concluded, in a magnificent non sequitur, ‘There was no doubt of the integrity of the members of the House who had served as EU commissioners and it would be distasteful to call on them to declare their interest when speaking.’ Distasteful!
This is an extract from Matt Ridley’s Diary, which appears in this week’s issue of the Spectator