European Union Bill: Lords considers Commons amendments and reasons

13 July 2011

The House of Lords will consider amendments made in the Commons to the European Union Bill this afternoon (Wednesday 13 July). The Commons disagrees with three groups of amendments made to the Bill in the Lords.

Both Houses must reach agreement on the Bill for it to receive Royal Assent and pass into law.

Two ‘compromise’ amendments have been tabled. One, concerning the ‘sunset clause’, seeks to suspend only parts of the Bill in the next Parliament if both Houses agree. The other, concerning the issues on which referendums can be held, seeks to restrict referendums to issues of constitutional and economic significance.

Both Houses must agree on the exact wording of a Bill. If the Lords disagrees with any Commons amendments, or makes alternative proposals, then the Bill is sent back to the Commons. A Bill may go back and forth between each House (‘Ping Pong’) until both Houses reach agreement.

Further information

The European Union Bill completed its stages in the House of Lords on 23 June. Four groups of amendments were made to the Bill during its Lords stages:

  • to set a turnout threshold of 40% of the electorate to ratify treaty changes by referendum
  • to introduce a ‘sunset clause’ expiring Part 1 and Schedule 1 of the Bill on the dissolution of the Parliament in which it becomes law and require an affirmative order to come back into effect in subsequent Parliaments
  • to insert a new clause about the status of EU law in the UK referring specifically to the European Communities Act 1972
  • to restrict the number of policy areas on which a referendum could be held.

The Bill returned to the House of Lords with further amendments and reasons for those amendments from the Commons, which considered the Lords amendments on Tuesday 12 July:

  • Commons disagree to Lords Amendments 3 and 5 because the outcome of the referendum should be determined by those who vote in it and should not depend on how many do not vote
  • Commons disagree to Lords Amendments 6-13 because the decisions concerned would involve an increase in the competences or powers of the European Union in relation to the United Kingdom and should therefore require approval by referendum as well as by Act
  • Commons disagreed to Lords Amendment 15 because Part 1 and Schedule 1 are not provisions to which it is appropriate to apply a sunset provision ('Sunset clauses' are included in legislation when it is felt that the legislation should lapse unless Parliament decides otherwise after a fixed period).

The European Union Bill aims to alter the UK procedures for agreeing to or ratifying certain EU decisions and Treaty changes,

When a Bill has completed all its parliamentary stages in both Houses, it must have Royal Assent before it can become an Act of Parliament (law).

Image: iStockphoto

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