To ask the Senior Deputy Speaker on how many occasions this year the office allocated to the House of Lords in the European Parliament building in Brussels has been visited by a member of House staff; and what plans there are for using that office in the near future.
24 May 2021
On 31 January 2020, the date the United Kingdom ceased to be a Member State of the European Union, the UK Parliament ceased to be an EU ‘national Parliament’, except for certain limited purposes set out in Article 128(2) of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.
Up until this point designated staff of the House of Lords and House of Commons, as representatives of an EU ‘national Parliament’, were granted access to the European Parliament, along with office accommodation and other benefits. As the noble Lord points out, Norway has since 2012 been the only non-EU Member State to be granted comparable access thus far.
Despite the UK’s changed status after 31 January 2020, the European Parliament continued to afford access to House staff for the duration of the transition period, and on 22 December 2020 the Secretary General of the European Parliament offered “continued hosting” for the two Houses’ representatives after the end of the transition period, subject to “appropriate practical arrangements in the light of the evolving relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom”.
To date, no such practical arrangements have been required, given the guidance agreed by the House of Lords Commission in March 2020, which strongly discouraged overseas travel. Since that date there has been no committee or staff travel to Brussels, and the House’s representative has therefore undertaken the role remotely, using digital tools.
The House of Lords Commission continues to review the guidance on overseas travel, taking account of Government advice and the wider public health situation, and decisions on staff travel to Brussels will be taken as and when the guidance is updated.