• In Focus

    Parliamentary scrutiny of treaties

    When the UK withdrew from the EU it regained its ability to independently negotiate free trade agreements. The trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand were the first that the UK negotiated from scratch. The legislation implementing their procurement provisions in domestic UK law received royal assent on 23 March 2023 (the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Act 2023). This, and the negotiation of the agreements that underpinned the UK’s withdrawal, has highlighted the role of Parliament in scrutinising international treaties.

  • In Focus

    Parliamentary democracy in the UK

    A range of groups have expressed concern in recent years about the overall strength of the UK’s democracy or about particular elements of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Concerns range from observations that the relationship between Parliament and the executive has become increasingly unbalanced, to views on changes to certain rights, freedoms and norms seen as essential features in a democratic society.

  • In Focus

    Liaison Committee: Citizenship and civic engagement

    During the 2017–19 session, the House of Lords appointed a committee to examine citizenship and civic engagement in the UK. In 2022, the House of Lords Liaison Committee held a follow-up to this inquiry, considering issues including citizenship education in schools, the ‘life in the UK’ test, and whether the government’s policies in this area are coordinated effectively. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate its report on 17 April 2023.

  • Research Briefing

    Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill: HL Bill 105 of 2022–23

    The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill would extend the deadline for forming a Northern Ireland executive to 18 January 2024. It would also allow the secretary of state to set an Assembly election date earlier than this if no executive had been formed. It would also allow regulations to be made about the rule for organ donation in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning Assembly.

  • In Focus

    ‘Common frameworks: An unfulfilled opportunity?’: Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee report

    In its second report, the House of Lords Commons Frameworks Scrutiny Committee considered the progress made on the UK common frameworks programme. Common frameworks are non-binding agreements between the UK and devolved governments that set out ways of working on a range of policy areas. They are required for some devolved policy areas that have been affected by Brexit. The committee raised concerns that the programme was at risk of becoming a “missed opportunity”. It made a number of recommendations, the majority of which the government has accepted.

  • Research Briefing

    Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill: HL Bill 89 of 2022–23

    The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 6 February 2023. The bill would automatically revoke, or ‘sunset’, most retained EU law at the end of 2023. However it would also give ministers powers to exempt some retained EU law from the sunset and to restate, reproduce, replace or update retained EU law by statutory instrument.

  • In Focus

    Scrutiny of EU legislation within the scope of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Debate on committee report

    One of the tasks of the House of Lords Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland Sub-Committee is to scrutinise EU legislative proposals that may affect Northern Ireland because of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The House of Lords is due to debate a report from the committee that summarises the first year of its work on this issue and the government’s commitment to facilitating this parliamentary scrutiny.

  • In Focus

    Building a stronger union: House of Lords Constitution Committee

    In January 2022, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report calling for the UK government to set out a “clearer vision” for the future of the UK’s union. Although it welcomed the government’s commitment to the union, it argued that a more modern style of governance was needed, and that it was “imperative” that all executives and legislatures worked “constructively and in partnership”. The government has welcomed the report and said it would consider several of its recommendations.

  • In Focus

    Delegated powers and the impact on parliamentary scrutiny: Debate on two committee reports

    The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (DPRRC) and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) published reports in November 2021 criticising the government’s use of delegated powers. The committees are concerned about the amount delegated powers are used and how they are being used, and say it is negatively impacting parliamentary scrutiny. The government has defended its use of delegated powers but has accepted some of the committees’ recommendations to improve the system.

  • In Focus

    Revision of the Cabinet Manual: House of Lords Constitution Committee report

    The Cabinet Manual was first published in 2011. It was described as “a guide to laws, conventions and rules on the operation of government”. The House of Lords Constitution Committee ran an inquiry on the manual in 2021. Its recommendations included that a draft update be produced as soon as possible. Responding, the government agreed to produce a new draft by the end of the current parliament.

  • In Focus

    “Law but not law”

    Legislation is complete when it has finished its parliamentary journey and received royal assent. At this point it is said to be ‘on the statute book’. Before it can become active law, it must be brought into force. This is known as ‘commencement’. But what happens if provisions are not commenced?

  • In Focus

    Reform of the railways: Recent developments

    In 2021, the government announced plans to reform the railways in Great Britain, with many of the proposed changes set out in the ‘Williams-Shapps plan for rail’. In the 2022 Queen’s Speech, the government said that it would legislate for them. However, in October 2022 the government announced that it would delay this primary legislation until the next parliamentary session due to a lack of time but said that non-legislative reforms would go ahead.

  • In Focus

    The evolution of the Salisbury convention

    In recent years there have been three occasions in which leadership of the government has changed without a general election having been called. This has given rise to questions about the relationship between a government’s legislative agenda and its most recent election manifesto. This article looks at how the Salisbury convention has shaped the House of Lords’ treatment of government manifesto bills.