Introduction to scrutiny

Scrutiny examining proposed EU law and its implications for the UK is the main function of the EU Committee and its Sub-Committees. The EU Committees of both Houses have a Scrutiny Reserve, meaning that the UK Government cannot agree to a proposal in the EU Council of Ministers until the two Committees have finished their scrutiny

Purpose of scrutiny

In order to impact EU law-making at the earliest possible stage, the Committees scrutinise policy documents, such as Communications and White Papers, as well as proposed Directives and Regulations. The Committees then typically write to the Government, and occasionally to the EU institutions, setting out their views or seeking further informaton about the proposals.

As part of the scrutiny process, the Committees carefully consider whether the EU's proposals comply with the principle of subsidiarity and whether or not they think the UK should opt in to proposals relating to the area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

How scrutiny works

The scrutiny process begins with the Government depositing EU documents in Parliament, that is to say, by the Government sending documents to the EU Committees. The types of documents that should be deposited have been agreed between the two Committees and the Government.

The Government then produce an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) on each document within 10 working days, in order to provide the Committee with their views on the proposal.

Once the Government's EM has been received, proposals are 'sifted' to the Sub-Committee who deals with the relevant policy area. While a proposal is under examination by the Sub-Committee, it may hold evidence sessions, seminars with stakeholders, or write to the Government in order to better understand the proposal and its potential impact on the UK.

The outcomes of scrutiny

The Committees' scrutiny can have a variety of different outcomes, ranging from clearing a proposal without comment to a full-scale inquiry into the background policy area, the likely consequences of the proposals, and the alternatives.

Most scrutiny results in Correspondence with Ministers in order to pass on the Committee's views to the Government and to clarify areas of uncertainty about the proposal or the Government's position. Some proposals may not warrant a full inquiry, but are of such interest or importance that the Committee chooses to conduct 'enhanced scrutiny'. This often takes the form of a one-off evidence session or a seminar with stakeholders to investigate the proposal in greater depth. A recent example is the Internal Market Sub-Committee's evidence session on Connecting Europe.

In addition, the Sub-Committees track the progress of proposals and conduct follow-ups to their scrutiny. This might take the form of a follow-up report, such as the External Affairs Sub-Committee's follow-up report on Operation Atalanta, or a seminar with stakeholders, such as the Social Policies Sub-Committee's Seminar on the European Social Fund

Find out more

The Committees' scrutiny work is tracked in Progress of Scrutiny, which is updated every two to three weeks. You can also find out about significant items of scrutiny on each Sub-Committee's webpage.

The Cabinet Office runs a database of all Government Explanatory Memoranda, which includes the European documents they accompany. You can also find out about other Member States' scrutiny work on the interparliamentary scrutiny portal, IPEX.

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Progress of Scrutiny

Progress of Scrutiny records the decisions taken by the House of Lords EU Committee on European documents that have been deposited in Parliament for scrutiny.

EU Committee Digest

EU Committee Digest

The EU Committee Digest contains details of recent work by the House of Lords EU Select Committee and its Sub-Committees: