Treaties

31.17Under Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, a treaty requiring ratification is to be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days,1 and may then be ratified if neither House has resolved that it should not be. If the House of Commons resolves against the treaty, the Minister may lay a statement that they are of the opinion that the treaty should be ratified and explaining why, and may then ratify the treaty after another period of 21 sitting days unless the House of Commons resolves again that the treaty should not be ratified. If the House of Lords has resolved against the treaty but the House of Commons has not, the Minister may ratify the treaty immediately after laying a statement of this opinion. The Act also provides for the 21-day period to be extended and for treaties of various kinds (including ones requiring approval by Act of Parliament and double taxation conventions and arrangements) to be exempt from the procedure, and for an explanatory memorandum to be laid with each treaty.

Following comment by the scrutiny committees, the Government agreed that where an international agreement is made or amended and, though it is not subject to ratification, a statutory instrument needs to be made before implementation, the text of the agreement or amendment will be made available to Parliament, preferably when the instrument is made and normally before it comes into force.2

Footnotes

  1. 1. For these purposes, a ‘sitting day’ is a day on which both Houses sit, and the 21-day period begins on the sitting day after the treaty is laid (Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, s 20(2) and (9)).
  2. 2. See Erskine May (23rd edn, 2004), p 264, fn 3, for the ‘Ponsonby Rule’, which was replaced by the provisions in the 2010 Act as regards treaties requiring ratification.