Academics, politicians, and officials working the parliaments have long agreed that inter-parliamentary relations in the UK is an area in need of reform. The constitutional implications of the UK’s EU exit has given this a new urgency, particularly around scrutiny of inter-governmental decision making in the devolved UK.
Missing Links concludes that:
- Inter-parliamentary structures are often too informal and ad hoc,
- Asymmetric devolution isn’t working for any of the four nations,
- This has led to a gap in democratic scrutiny.
The report proposes a five-point plan to address the missing links in democratic accountability.
- Experiment, take risks, and learn by doing
The UK’s legislatures need to experiment with flexible models of inter-parliamentary working. A working group with members from each parliament should be formed to establish consensus on a way forward.
- Formalise the role of parliaments in scrutinising intergovernmental relations
Written agreements should be developed between the UK Parliament, UK Government, devolved legislatures, and the devolved governments on a framework for inter-parliamentary oversight. Devolved legislatures should have access to information prior to intergovernmental meetings and receive reports of the proceedings and their outcomes.
- Strengthen the role of devolved parliaments in legislative consent
The Legislative Consent Motion process needs to be redesigned to engage the elected members of the legislatures. The passing of a law by Westminster after consent has been withheld should require formal processes in the UK Parliament and potentially formal inter-parliamentary dialogue.
- Learn from existing best practice
The semi-formal inter-parliamentary Brexit Forum should be used as a starting point for future models of best practice. Further research should be commissioned to review inter-parliamentary relations.
- Improve public information about inter-parliamentary relations, and decision making
Better public information and education on the issue of inter-parliamentary scrutiny will be needed. Improved inter-parliamentary working should happen in a way which also improves people’s understanding of the new processes.
You can read the full report here: Missing Links: Past, present and future inter-parliamentary relations in the devolved UK
You can listen to the podcast of the ‘Inter-Parliamentary Relations: Missing Links’ event here
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