House of Lords

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32.14In the House of Lords the Select Committee on the European UnionA1 (see also Chapter 40, in particular paras 40.45, 40.51 ) normally meets weekly when the House is sitting. The Committee's Chairman is a salaried office-holder, who is formally appointed by the House on the first day of each session as Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees. The Chairman gives up any party affiliation for the duration of their appointment.

The Committee has power to appoint sub-committees, and at present there are six sub-committees covering defined policy areas: Energy and Environment, External Affairs, Financial Affairs, Home Affairs, Internal Market and Justice. The select committee occasionally appoints ad hoc sub-committees to conduct inquiries into specific subjects. The sub-committees consider EU matters in their policy areas, and scrutinise the documents referred to them by the Chairman of the Select Committee who, each week when the House is sitting, and as required in recesses, conducts a ‘sift’ of documents deposited in the House of Lords in the previous week. The Chairman distinguishes between those documents which do not require further scrutiny (which are ‘cleared’) and those requiring further examination. Detailed examination of documents is undertaken by the select committee or sub-committees, which typically engage in correspondence with Ministers. When the responsible committee or sub-committee is satisfied that its questions have been answered or its concerns addressed, it normally clears the document, thereby lifting the scrutiny reserve.

In addition to reports on specific documents, the Committee makes more general reports on aspects of EU policy or practice. Since the 2016 referendum, the Committee's reports have focused on the implications of UK withdrawal from the European Union in a range of policy areas, and on the Government's conduct of the negotiations with the EU.

Reports from the sub-committees are subject to the approval of the Select Committee and may be made for information or for debate. The Government has undertaken to reply to all reports within two months of publication and to ensure that debates on specific documents recommended by the Committee are held before those documents are adopted by the Council.1

In 2010, the Committee was given two additional tasks as follows:

‘To assist the House in relation to the procedure for the submission of Reasoned Opinions under Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union and the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; To represent the House as appropriate in interparliamentary cooperation within the European Union.’

Footnotes

  1. 1. HL Deb (1974–75) 354, c 641.
  2. A1. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the Select Committee on the European Union ceased to exist on 31 March 2021. Its successor is the European Affairs Committee (committees.parliament.uk/committee/516/european-affairs-committee/ ).