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Introduction to scrutiny

17 February 2020

Scrutiny - examining the implications for the UK of proposed EU laws and policies - is the core work of the European Union Committee.

Purpose of scrutiny

The Committee scrutinises a wide range of EU policy documents, such as Communications and White Papers, as well as legislative proposals such as draft Directives and Regulations. After considering these documents, the Committee then typically writes to the Government, setting out its views and seeking additional information or clarification. The Committee may also launch inquiries, holding public evidence sessions and ultimately publishing reports.

Where proposed EU legislation raises matters that the Committee considers are of vital national interest to the UK, the Committee may publish a report in accordance with the procedure described in section 29 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

How scrutiny works

The scrutiny process begins when the Government formally "deposits" an EU document in Parliament. The types of documents that must be deposited are agreed between the two scrutiny Committees (Lords and Commons) and the Government, and include all legislative proposals, along with a range of other documents published by the EU institutions.

The Government produces an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) on each document within 10 working days, in which it analyses the document's policy implications, impact and legal base.

Once the EM has been received, the Chair of the EU Committee, with the support of legal advisers and clerks, decides which documents should be subjected to more detailed scrutiny. These documents  are "sifted" to the Sub-Committee with responsibility for the relevant policy area.

It is for the Sub-Committee then to decide how to scrutinise the document. It may take no further action, write to the relevant minister, or hold evidence sessions or seminars with stakeholders. In the case of particularly important proposals it may launch a full inquiry.

The process is outlined in the scrutiny process flow-chart.

Completing the scrutiny process

Once the Government has fully explained its position, and depending on developments within the EU, the Committee may decide that scrutiny is complete. That decision is announced in a regular publication called ‘Progress of Scrutiny'.