19th June 2012: Yesterday afternoon Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on whether the right of individual MEPs to initiate Written Declarations (a sort of petition limited to MEPs) should be restricted or even abolished.
He told the Committee members:
"I am not somebody who abuses the right to initiate Written Declarations. I have only ever initiated one, although I have signed several others from members of a variety of political groups, with some of which I would not normally be expected to have political sympathy.
"Written Declarations are a form of free expression and our default position should always be against restricting or suppressing free expression. There are some limited grounds on freedom of expression might be objected to:
"Particular Written Declarations might be considered harmful or offensive. However, that is not a justified objection, because the President of the Parliament can refuse authorisation.
"There might be an objection that they are expensive but there is no evidence for this. If there were evidence of expense, I am sure that they could be handled more cheaply electronically.
"It might be said that they hold up the business of the Parliament but they do not, because they can be ignored. The lobbying for Written Declarations can be annoying and that issue might be addressed. Mr. Duff wrote of offensive tee-shirts but I have not seen any; I shall have to look more keenly in future.
"A fourth objection is that most Written Declarations are unsuccessful. My answer to that would be, 'So what!'. That does not mean that they are without value. Many reforms that are eventually successful started as pet projects of a minority - in some cases a minority of one - but they later become agreed by consensus: votes for women; the abolition of slavery; the abolition of cruel and unusual punishments to name but a few.
"The restriction of legislative proposals and possibly Written Declarations to those with the support of people from three political groups is another way of saying that individual members have no right of initiative - that those without the support of people from three political groups are second class members of this Parliament."