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Scrutiny of Treaties 30/04/2019 The House of Lords Constitution Committee has published a report calling for urgent reform to strengthen Parliament's scrutiny of treaties.

Scrutiny of Treaties

The House of Lords Constitution Committee has published a report calling for urgent reform to strengthen Parliament's scrutiny of treaties. The Committee describes the current parliamentary processes of treaty scrutiny as limited, anachronistic and inadequate, and recommends the establishment of a new treaty scrutiny committee.

While recognising that treaty-making is a function of the Government, the Committee says that Parliament needs to be able to hold the Government to account for its treaty actions.

Parliament's scrutiny of treaties is based on a convention developed nearly 100 years ago. Parliament has no involvement in treaties until they are signed, and then is limited to a period of 21 sitting days in which it can look at a treaty. During this time there is no guarantee of a debate or vote as to whether the treaty should be ratified. While the House of Commons does have the power to delay the ratification of a treaty indefinitely, this is only possible if the Government makes time for a debate.

The UK is party to over 14,000 treaties and normally negotiates around 30 new treaties each year. Preparations for the UK's departure from the EU have already led to an increase in the number of treaties being laid before Parliament, and the Government has said that it expects to negotiate new, wide-ranging trade agreements after Brexit.

"The current processes for Parliament to scrutinise treaties are limited and flawed. Parliament needs more power and better structures to hold the Government to account for its treaty actions,” said Chairman of the Constitution Committee, Baroness Taylor of Bolton. "The creation of a treaty committee would provide Parliament for the first time with an effective mechanism to scrutinise treaties. This reform is required irrespective of Brexit, however there is a pressing need for change as it is likely that the UK’s departure from the European Union will lead to the Government negotiating more and broader treaties than in the past."

Further details can be found here.

 

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