Chair tables amendments to EU (Withdrawal) Bill on scrutiny powers for Commons

07 December 2017

The Chair of the Procedure Committee, Mr Charles Walker OBE MP, has today, on behalf of the Committee, tabled amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which will provide a statutory process for greater Parliamentary scrutiny of the delegated legislation to be made under the Bill.

Separately, Mr Walker is writing to the Leader of the House of Commons, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, with draft standing orders for a new European Statutory Instruments Committee which will have the job of sifting instruments proposed under the Bill.

The Government’s proposals in the Bill provide that certain categories of instrument will always require approval by both Houses before coming into law (the affirmative procedure). But it has been identified that a very large number of technical instruments would not, as the legislation stands, require parliamentary votes before being signed into law by Ministers. These instruments would pass under the negative procedure which relies on the House acting to annul the legislation.

The Procedure Committee’s amendments provide that every statutory instrument to be made via the negative procedure under the main law-making powers in the Bill will be laid before the House of Commons in draft by Ministers and sent to a Commons committee for consideration.

The new committee, a so-called ‘sifting committee’, will have the job of looking at each of these instruments and recommending which ones require the affirmative procedure instead (i.e. requiring debate and a vote in the House before they became law). The committee would have ten sitting days to make this recommendation.

Ministers could in theory ignore the recommendation of the new committee, but they could be summoned to the committee to explain why. 

The Procedure Committee’s amendments are tabled following the publication of its report last month which highlighted concerns about the Government's decision to propose no change to the present arrangements for scrutiny of delegated legislation in the Commons.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Procedure Committee, Mr Charles Walker OBE MP said: 

"I am pleased to be tabling these amendments on behalf of the Procedure Committee. They received the unanimous backing of members of the Committee at its meeting yesterday.

They reflect the constructive discussions the Committee has held across the House on the best way to implement its report. I think our amendments represent a sound basis for agreement on the House’s role in this process, and I urge colleagues across the Chamber to support them.

The Procedure Committee wants a system to give the House a decisive say over how it is to debate the many technical legislative changes to be proposed as a result of this Bill. Above all, we want the House to be seen:—

  • to have overseen the implementation of all the necessary changes contemplated under the Bill by exit day;
  • to have taken its scrutiny responsibilities seriously;
  • to have taken ownership of the parliamentary processes;
  • to have represented the interests of constituents, and
  • to have improved the outcomes for the people of the UK.

In Wednesday’s debate I shall look forward to a positive response from both Despatch Boxes to the constructive suggestions we have made.

The process of transferring over 40 years’ worth of accumulated EU law into UK law is one of the greatest legislative challenges Parliament has ever faced.

I shall be looking to the Government for assurances that the process is going to be managed appropriately and in a way which allows the new sifting committee to do its job properly."

Further information

Image: Dave Kellam (Creative Commons)

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