International Agreements Committee report on improving the framework for the parliamentary scrutiny of treaties

In September 2021, the House of Lords International Agreements Committee published a report on its experiences scrutinising agreements under the current statutory framework for treaty scrutiny. Among its recommendations, the committee called for government commitments on scrutiny working practices made since April 2020 to be consolidated in a formal concordat. The committee also asked the government to commit to giving it more notice of both treaties set to be laid before Parliament and significant other agreements.

International Agreements Committee report on improving the framework for the parliamentary scrutiny of treaties

Political opinion polls: Should there be greater oversight?

The House of Lords Liaison Committee has updated the findings of an earlier ad hoc Lords committee on the issues arising for UK politics from political opinion polling. The Liaison Committee welcomed recent advances in polling techniques and information prepared by the polling industry on how to interpret polls. However, it concluded that the case for greater oversight of polling remained a matter for debate.

Political opinion polls: Should there be greater oversight?

Queen’s Speech 2022: Devolved affairs

The Government has argued that devolution has “empowered communities” and provided “huge benefits across the United Kingdom”. Its stated aim is to continue to collaborate with the devolved administrations, “work[ing] together to deliver for the British people”. This article discusses some of the key issues in devolved affairs that may be addressed in the forthcoming parliamentary session.

Queen’s Speech 2022: Devolved affairs
  • In Focus

    Levelling up: plans for the South West of England

    Research has shown that the UK is one of the most geographically unequal countries in the developed world. Addressing these inequalities by ‘levelling up’ is a priority for the Government. This article examines inequalities in the south-west of England, the Government’s strategy to address them and the reaction to these plans.

  • In Focus

    Unpaid taxes: the ‘tax gap’

    HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) produces estimates of the tax gap—the tax revenue HMRC should receive but does not. Its most recent estimate for 2019/20 is £35 billion, or approximately 5% of total tax liabilities. As a percentage of total taxes, the gap has been declining in recent years. The Government’s tax strategy includes measures to reduce it further. However, some commentators have argued these need more careful consideration.

  • In Focus

    Trade union regulations: regret motion

    The Government has introduced regulations that would allow the Certification Officer, which regulates trade unions and employers’ associations, to charge a levy to fund its work. A second set of regulations would give the post holder powers to impose financial penalties on relevant bodies for non-compliance with statutory requirements. The Labour Party opposed the proposals in the House of Commons on the grounds they would harm trade unions and workers’ rights.

  • In Focus

    Vetting appointments to the House of Lords

    Appointments to the House of Lords are currently vetted for propriety by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. It is able to advise the prime minister on these appointments. However, the prime minister can disregard its advice. On 3 March 2022, the House of Lords will debate the powers of the House of Lords Appointments Commission to vet nominations to the House of Lords.

  • Research Briefing

    The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee: A Brief Parliamentary History of Her Reign

    On 6 February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth. Events and initiatives will take place throughout the year to celebrate this milestone, culminating in a four-day UK bank holiday weekend in early June.

  • In Focus

    Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013: post-legislative scrutiny

    The House of Lords Committee on the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 released a post-legislative scrutiny report in July 2020. It found that, despite the act helping to improve the accuracy of the electoral register, millions of eligible voters may still be missing, risking disenfranchisement and damage to electoral integrity. Debate of the committee’s findings comes as the Elections Bill 2021–22 makes its way through Parliament, promising further changes to electoral laws.

  • In Focus

    Changes to the Highway Code: regret motion

    In December 2021, the Government published proposed changes to the Highway Code which it said would improve safety for vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders. On 27 January 2022, the House of Lords is due to debate a regret motion on the proposals. The motion expresses concern that the Government has failed to sufficiently educate the public about them.

  • In Focus

    British passports, citizenship, and barriers for people born in the Republic of Ireland

    A person is eligible to apply for a British passport if they have British nationality. This includes a person who has British citizenship. Discussions have increased recently about how Irish citizens who were not born in Northern Ireland, but who are now resident there, can obtain British passports without cost. This article considers the eligibility criteria for a British passport, the citizenship process, and recent parliamentary scrutiny of the issue.

  • In Focus

    Forcibly displaced people

    The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimated that at the end of 2020 more than 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. This briefing considers the UNHCR’s findings and what action the UK Government has taken in relation to the issue of forcibly displaced people.

  • In Focus

    Skeleton bills and delegated powers

    Several Lords committees have expressed concern about the increasing use of skeleton bills. These set out the principles for a policy but leave the detail to be filled in later by ministers through delegated powers. Because these powers are subject to less rigorous scrutiny than bills, there have been calls for the use of skeleton bills to be restricted alongside a broader reset in the balance of power between Parliament and government.

  • In Focus

    The Integrated Rail Plan

    On 16 December 2021, the House of Lords is scheduled to hold a short debate on a motion tabled by Lord Berkeley (Labour). He will ask the Government “how the Integrated Rail Plan will deliver the (1) capacity, and (2) regional connectivity, sought for the Northern Powerhouse area”. This article provides background information on the plan, a brief overview of the plan itself and a survey of the reaction it has received.

  • Research Briefing

    Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Dayton agreement

    This briefing has been prepared in advance of a House of Lords debate on 16 December 2021 on Bosnia-Herzegovina and upholding the Dayton agreement. The briefing provides information on recent developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, focusing on warning from the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina that the Serb member of Bosnia-Herzegovina presidency, Milorad Dodik, was pursuing tacitly secessionist policies. It also summarises the international reaction to these developments.

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