12 July 2019
In October 2018, the House of Lords Constitution Committee launched an inquiry into parliamentary scrutiny of treaties. That inquiry appears to have been particularly prompted by a perception that Parliament’s scrutiny of treaties needs to be reviewed in the context of Brexit.
As part of the Committee’s inquiry, it heard and received evidence from (among others) David Lidington MP (the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), Sir Alan Duncan MP (Minister of State for Europe and the Americas), former Foreign Ministers, as well as former UK Foreign & Commonwealth Legal Advisors. The inquiry culminated in the publication by the Committee, on 30 April 2019, of a report on parliamentary scrutiny of treaties. The report concluded that Parliament’s current mechanisms to scrutinise treaties were limited and flawed, and that reform was required. It proposed the creation of a dedicated parliamentary treaty committee to provide effective scrutiny.
The Government responded to the report in July 2019. In its response, the Government agreed that improvements could be made to the operation of the scrutiny mechanisms and process of Parliament within the framework of the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRaG) Act 2010. It also committed to “engage with any committee tasked with scrutinising treaties in a constructive way”.
It remains to be seen what changes (if any) Parliament will implement in response to the Committee’s recommendations. However, it is clear that there is and will remain a strong appetite in Parliament to play a more significant role in the UK’s treaty-making processes, and that this could have long-term implications for the UK’s ability to negotiate and conclude treaties. To access the Constitution Committee’s Report and the Government Response, click here.