Insufficient time allowed for effective treaty scrutiny – Lords International Agreements Committee
The recently formed House of Lords International Agreements Sub-Committee have today issued a report aimed at addressing the ‘deficiencies of Parliament's treaty scrutiny process', including suggestions that the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG) does not provide enough time to conduct effective scrutiny.
The report expresses doubts over whether effective scrutiny can truly be provided within the short 21-day timetable provided under the CRAG Act, and makes pragmatic recommendations aimed at enhancing scrutiny, in the absence of legislative change.
The Committee has the job of scrutinising new international agreements, including all Government non-EU trade negotiations, for example with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In the report, the committee highlights the impact that these agreements will have on individuals and the constituent parts of the UK, finding that international agreements can often ‘impinge' on the interests and competencies of devolved nations. The report therefore urges the Government to implement meaningful consultation to ensure international agreements reflect the interests of all nations in the UK.
Lord Goldsmith QC, Chair of the International Agreements Sub-Committee, said:
“This report highlights some of the constraints on Parliament in scrutinising the Government's negotiation and conclusion of trade deals, and other international agreements. The report recommends some practical ways forward, which are especially vital now that the UK Government has started negotiating trade deals with a range of partners.
The Committee welcome commitments from the Department for International trade about transparency and scrutiny, including a commitment to allow parliamentary committees to report on new trade agreements before they are put before Parliament. The report pushes for similar commitments from other Whitehall Departments on treaties in other important areas, such as security and the environment.
Our report reiterates issues that have been highlighted by several parliamentary committees in recent years, including the Constitution Committee and the International Trade Committee, and builds on some of their conclusions about how Parliament can improve its own ways of working to better scrutinise the Government. In particular, we reiterate the importance of working closely with the devolved administrations and legislatures, and a wide range of stakeholders, to understand how agreements will affect people and businesses across the UK.”.
More details on the ongoing Committee and view full report into working practices