In a very interesting academic paper titled “Do rapporteurs receive independent expert policy advice? Indirect lobbying via the European Parliament’s committee secretariat“* the author David Marschal concludes on the basis of structured interviews and questionnaires that:
“Secretariat officials play an often important role in the legislative process, but, rather than serving as the source of independent policy expertise, they act as conduits for the interests of entrenched policy actors. As a consequence, it turns out that the independent advice sought and received by rapporteurs in order to overcome policy uncertainty is, in fact, endogenous to the lobbying process that they seek to illuminate. […]
It follows that for entrenched interests, i.e. actively participating lobbyists and Commission officials, the secretariat represents an additional and viable pathway to seek legislative influence by biasing the rapporteur’s source of independent expert policy advice.”
Interestingly, the role of interest groups and Commission officials are put on the same level, i.e. as possible outside influences that may bias independent expertise by the committee secretariats. Although one might doubt whether even the concept of independent expertise in a political body such as the parliament is even a realistic idea.
* Journal of European Public Policy, iFirst (published online 11 May 2012)