It is a long time since my last blog, but since we have reconvened from the summer recess I thought I would update you on my work in the House of Lords.
Towards the end of the last session I was invited, in my capacity as a Crossbencher and veterinary surgeon, to join the European Union Sub-Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment & Energy. It was rather a steep learning curve to catch up with the work of this committee, which is copious and revolves around two main themes: (1) holding the Government to account by scrutinising their actions and decisions with respect to proposed EU legislation; and (2) initiating inquiries into specific documents or major issues of pan-European relevance, such as the recently completed report on food waste.
The scrutiny process first involves proposed EU legislation being sent to the UK Government. An Explanatory Memorandum is produced within 10 days from the Department responsible for the relevant policy area and this is passed on to both the Commons and Lords EU Select Committees. There follows a process of discussion during which the EU Sub-Committees can hold a document for scrutiny or release it with or without comment (Figure 1). This facilitates the the House of Lords to engage in the policy-making process while policies are still being formulated at EU level.
A large amount of legislation governing the United Kingdom arises from the EU and the role of the EU Sub-Committee for Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment & Energy (and the other EU Sub-Committees) in effective scrutiny of EU policies, and the UK Government’s contribution to those policies is crucial.
EU Sub-Committee led inquiries into specific documents under scrutiny or wider EU policy areas are an opportunity for those with an interest in a policy to make their views known. Consequently they usually run for several months and culminate in a report, which is made to the House. However, the recommendations are aimed at both influencing the Government’s negotiation and the EU institutions directly.
The most recent inquiry, “Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention”, is very timely considering the recent interest in food security along the entire food chain. It will be debated in the House on Thursday 6th November at around 4pm and I intend to speak to it.
- A guide to the European Scrutiny System in the House of Lords (Source of Fig 1).