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The Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee will help enrich the future relationship between the UK’s four nations

The Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee will help enrich the future relationship between the UK’s four nations

Our committee has the privilege of expertise as well as experience, and we will bring this to bear scrutinising the frameworks as they are published, writes Baroness Andrews. | PA Images

Baroness Andrews

Baroness Andrews

4 min read

The Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee will be scrutinising the complex frameworks in the Internal Market Bill.

The Internal Market Bill, which the Government argues is necessary to ensure that the UK internal market will function smoothly post-Brexit, will have its second reading in the House of Lords next week. It has many implications for the devolution settlements, including the Common Frameworks, which are now also under close parliamentary scrutiny.

Common Frameworks are the process by which the four governments of the UK mutually agree to sustain the internal market in areas where devolved administrations retain powers that were previously held by the EU.

These proposed frameworks, which cover significant areas such as environmental policy and company law, are vital not least to ensure that the four nations trade seamlessly and equally together, but also because they reflect the balance and resilience of the devolution settlement. 

Common Frameworks have been in development since October 2017, but they have attracted very little attention – not least because progress has been slow and largely invisible. Only now, with less than three months until the end of the transition period, are parliamentary committees able to begin the process of scrutinising the disposition of policies and powers which have been determined by the four countries.

In response to this, the House of Lords has recently appointed the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee that I have the privilege of chairing. The committee consists of highly experienced members from across the four nations of the UK, indeed from all UK and devolved legislatures, as well as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices, the judiciary and a wealth of other areas. We expect to scrutinise five frameworks before the end of the year and to receive a further 35 after that. The initial five will cover topics as varied as the UK’s Emissions Trading System, how we regulate food safety across the UK and how the planning system deals with hazardous waste.

We aim to work with each of the devolved committees in a UK-wide conversation on how the four governments of this country can work effectively

Based on earlier interrogation by the Liaison Committee, and our initial experience, we have already written to Chloe Smith MP, the minister responsible for Common Frameworks in the UK Government, with a number of observations. It is clear that the work of the committee must address the whole process of decision-making, starting with the summaries of the frameworks. There is an evident need to provide Parliament with early and clear information on what legislation might be required, what dispute settlement process might be needed and what stakeholder engagement there has been. Obtaining such essential information early means that we will be able to scrutinise and support the entire process more effectively.

We recognise that this is not a task that our committee is undertaking alone. Committees in the devolved legislatures will also be scrutinising these frameworks and we will work alongside each other to present a full picture of process and impacts. We aim to work with each of the devolved committees in a UK-wide conversation on how the four governments of this country can work effectively and to ensure that Common Frameworks are the most successful they can be.

Our work will, I hope, help to enrich the future relationship between the four nations of the United Kingdom. It is therefore crucial that frameworks are published in a timely manner and receive the proper scrutiny they deserve.

Our committee has the privilege of expertise as well as experience, and we will bring this to bear scrutinising the frameworks as they are published. We also aim to reflect how we see the process working as a whole, including the complex interactions with the Internal Market Bill.

 

Baroness Andrews is a Labour member of the House of Lords, deputy speaker and chair of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee.

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