Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Government rejects Committee’s calls for increased parliamentary scrutiny of treaties

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) today publishes the Government’s response to its report on scrutiny of international treaties.

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The Government’s response welcomes the Committee’s endorsement of the principle that treaty making is a prerogative power belonging to the government, and states that the ability of government to negotiate and conclude treaties does not undermine the legislative supremacy of Parliament. 

The Government rejects the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s recommendation for greater scrutiny of international treaties by Parliament, and their call for all treaties to be subject to approval by a vote in the House of Commons. 

The Government’s response does not accept that the existing framework for treaty scrutiny by Parliament is insufficient. The response argues that there is currently sufficient flexibility to enable Parliament to undertake effective scrutiny prior to ratification of a treaty.  

The Government does not agree that all treaties should be subject to the explicit approval of Parliament before they enter into force, and says “there has always been a subset of treaties that the Government has been able to enter into without prior parliamentary scrutiny”, which allows the Government to act with agility and urgency where necessary. 

The Committee had recommended that the Government establish a central repository of all Non-Legally Binding Instruments (NLBIs; also known as a Memorandum of Understanding) reached by the UK, stating that this should be made public on GOV.UK. The Government disagrees with this recommendation in its response, saying that it would be “impractical” and “provide little value compared to existing arrangements”. 

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