The European scrutiny system in the House of Commons is intended to ensure that you have opportunities to influence UK ministers on EU proposals, particularly for EU laws, and hold them to account for their activities in the Council of the European Union. The EU’s institutions are described in detail on its website.
The European Scrutiny Committee examines all EU documents submitted to Parliament by the Government. The Committee considers the document’s political and legal importance and the availability of information relating to it. It can refer documents for debate and these documents, together with the times of upcoming debates, are listed on the European Business page on Parliament’s website and available from the Vote Office.
Debates usually take place in one of the three European committees (different from the European Scrutiny Committee). The European Scrutiny Committee can also recommend a Chamber debate on a European document, but it’s up to the Government to decide whether to schedule it.
Ministers shouldn’t agree to proposals for European law or policy while the relevant documents are still subject to scrutiny. In the Commons, documents are still subject to scrutiny until the European Scrutiny Committee clears them, or, if the document is referred for debate, the House agrees to clear them.
There are a number of other opportunities in the House for you to scrutinise European policy:
- oral questions and oral statements
- debates on bills relating to the EU
- general debates on the EU
- departmental select committees: the European Scrutiny Committee has the power to require a select committee to provide an opinion on a particular document; there are also informal links and departmental committees can conduct EU-related inquiries
- the UK National Parliament Office in Brussels: this can assist you with European matters, particularly if you’re visiting European institutions in a representative capacity