Work of the EU Committee
The European Union Committee of the House of Lords scrutinises the UK Government's policies and actions in respect of the EU, including its conduct of negotiations on the UK-EU relationship, and its implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement that came into force on 31 January 2020; it considers EU policies and draft laws; and more generally represents the House of Lords in its dealings with the EU institutions and the 27 Member States.
Since April 2020 it has also, through its International Agreements Sub-Committee, had responsibility for scrutinising all new international agreements, or treaties, negotiated and concluded by the UK Government.
The EU Committee is made up of six committees: a 19-strong Select Committee, appointed by the House of Lords, and five sub-committees appointed by the Select Committee.
The EU Select Committee oversees the work of the sub-committees, conducts cross-cutting work, and holds regular hearings with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and other Ministers.
The sub-committees conduct inquiries looking at major issues of the day and scrutinise EU proposals in detail, asking questions and raising concerns in correspondence with UK Ministers. The five sub-committees are:
- EU Environment Sub-Committee
- EU Goods Sub-Committee
- International Agreements Sub-Committee
- EU Security and Justice Sub-Committee
- EU Services Sub-Committee
EU Goods Sub-Committee
The Sub-Committee on Goods scrutinises the UK-EU negotiations on future trade in goods, including customs and tariffs, the ‘level playing field', public procurement, energy trading, consumer protections and transport. It holds inquiries covering these policy areas, and one-off evidence sessions on high-profile topical matters.
The Sub-Committee is also responsible for considering EU documents and policies in these areas.
In the course of scrutinising EU documents, the committees seek to identify issues of legal or political significance for the United Kingdom, and to ensure that the Government's position is clearly and transparently put on the record. All correspondence is published on the committees' web-pages.
You can keep up to date with scrutiny work by visiting the Committee's scrutiny webpage or consulting "Progress of Scrutiny".
The committees also undertake inquiries, drawing on evidence presented by witnesses. Such evidence is often submitted in writing, or the committees may hold public meetings with witnesses, before preparing a report.
Evidence is almost always published in full, and public meetings are webcast live on www.parliamentlive.tv.
At the end of an inquiry the Committee normally publishes a report, containing wide-ranging conclusions and recommendations for action.
Recommendations are normally directed to the Government.
The Government has undertaken to respond to recommendations within two months of any report being published; all responses are published online. Reports are also in most cases debated by the House of Lords.
The International Agreements Sub-Committee scrutinises all treaties that are laid before Parliament under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The Sub-Committee also considers the Government's conduct of negotiations with states and other international partners, for example with a view to concluding free trade agreements.
You can track the Committee's treaty work at:
- Scrutiny of treaties
Matters of ‘vital national interest'
Section 29 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 established a procedure whereby the Committee may report on EU legislation that, in the Committee's view, raises matters of ‘vital national interest' to the UK. Such reports must be debated by the House of Lords within 14 sitting days. The first such report was published on 5 March 2020.
The work of the six EU Committees combined involves a total of 62 members of the House of Lords. These include former MPs and Members of the European Parliament, and many others with wide-ranging experience of private sector, public sector and voluntary work. The Chair of the EU Select Committee, currently Lord Kinnoull, is a full-time salaried officer of the House of Lords.
The committees are supported by a total staff complement of 24, including specialist policy analysts and legal advisers, as well as clerks and administrators.