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EU Action: Parliamentary Scrutiny

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL4496, tabled on 28 January 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, for each government department, from July to December 2014, (1) on how many occasions the scrutiny reserve resolution in the House of Lords was overridden, (2) on how many occasions the scrutiny reserve resolution in the House of Commons was overridden, and (3) in respect of how many documents an override occurred in (a) both Houses or (b) either House.

Answered on

11 February 2015

The Government seeks to avoid breaching the Scrutiny Reserve Resolutions, continuing to account for overrides in writing to the Committees. The European Union Committee’s Report on 2013-14 (House of Lords Paper 6) published on 1 July 2014, recognised that continued positive engagement between the Committee’s secretariat and Departments has seen the number of overrides fall significantly since 2010, noting that many of the overrides that continue to be recorded relate to sensitive and fast-moving foreign policy matters, which cannot be made public beforehand, and where a scrutiny override may be difficult to avoid. That remained the case in the period July-December 2014 where, of the 49 overrides across both houses, 36 (73%) were in this category, including 22 measures to address the continuing crisis in Ukraine and the Crimea and Sevastopol region and 6 measures against Syria. The Government regrets that a small number were the result of substandard handling of the scrutiny process – this is clearly not good enough, and in these cases the Department concerned has taken action to strengthen scrutiny and prevent reoccurrences. This includes holding scrutiny workshops and talks from Ministers and Senior Civil Servants to make clear that effective scrutiny is a top priority. The European Scrutiny Committee has recorded 1 additional override not in the total figure of 49 relating to the Government’s support for a partial general approach on the draft Data Protection Regulation. The Government is considering the Committee’s view and will shortly respond to the Committee. During this period, 412 Explanatory Memoranda were submitted.

The figures requested are set out below:

Department

(1). House of Lords Override

(2). House of Commons override

(a). No. of overrides in both Houses

(b). Total no. of overrides

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

34

32

32

34

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

5

5

5

5

Cabinet Office

3

3

3

3

HM Treasury

1

3

1

3

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

0

1

0

1

Home Office

1

2

1

2

Ministry of Justice

1

1

1

1

Totals

45

47

43

49