The European Union Bill completed its third reading – final chance to debate and change its contents – in the House of Lords on Thursday 23 June. The Bill was passed has returned to the House of Commons for consideration of the Lords amendments
One amendment was discussed concerning Clause 18: Status of EU law dependent on continuing statutory basis. The amendment, tabled by Lord Lea of Crondall, was withdrawn.
The House of Lords agreed to four amendments to the Bill during report stage:
- Amendment 5, moved by Lord Williamson of Horton, sets a turnout threshold of 40% of the electorate to ratify treaty changes by referendum and sets out a process for ratifying treaty changes when fewer than 40% of the electorate votes.
- Amendment 35, moved by Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, introduces a sunset clause expiring Part 1 (Restrictions on Treaties and Decisions Relating to EU) and Schedule 1 (Treaty provisions where amendment removing need for unanimity, consensus or common accord would trigger a referendum) of the Bill on the dissolution of the Parliament in which it becomes law and would require an affirmative order to come back into effect in subsequent Parliaments.
- Amendment 33, moved Lord Mackay of Clashfern replaced Clause 18 with a new clause referring specifically to the European Communities Act 1972.
- Amendment 14, moved by Lord Hannay of Chiswick, reduced the number of policy areas that would be subject to a referendum.
The European Union Bill aims to alter the UK procedures for agreeing to or ratifying certain EU decisions and Treaty changes.
The Bill provides for the parliamentary approval of the Transitional Protocol on MEPs agreed at an Inter-Governmental Conference held on 23 June 2010. This means the additional UK MEP provided for in the current EU Treaty can take up his or her seat before the next European Parliament elections in 2014. It also makes arrangements for the election of the extra UK MEP.
The Bill also provides for a clause that affirms that EU law takes effect in the UK only because Parliament wills that it should; this is intended to confirm the principle that Parliament is sovereign.
The European Union Bill, which began its passage through Parliament in the Commons, completed its committee stage in the House of Lords on 25 May.
The European Union Bill was the subject of a report of the House of Lords Constitution Committee published on 16 March 2011. The report warns that adopting referendum provisions on such a large scale represents a radical step-change for the UK. This is inconsistent with the Government’s statement that referendums are most appropriately used to decide fundamental constitutional issues, the report says.
The Committee noted that the referendum provisions are unlikely to be used because the Government has said that it does not intend to use them during this Parliament.
After third reading in the House of Lords, a Bill that started in the House of Commons is sent back to the Commons for it to consider the Lords amendments.
Both Houses must agree on the exact wording of the Bill before it can receive Royal Assent and become an Act of Parliament. A Bill may go back and forth between each House known as ‘Ping Pong’ until both Houses reach agreement.