Divided but influential? The Exiting the European Union select committee


9caa65f1.ccfa.41f1.b3a9.c215903163f256529dfd.b7ad.416a.959b.ac44a05e40ceThe Select Committee on Exiting the European Union was formed in 2016 following the outcome of the EU referendum. Chaired by former International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, it is in many ways an outlier in the world of Commons committees. Philip Lynch and Richard Whitaker discuss what makes it so unusual and analyse how it has operated since its inception.

The Select Committee on Exiting the European Union (the DExEU committee, or Brexit committee) is one of the most divided since the creation of departmental select committees. Select Committees usually operate on a consensual basis, and unanimous reports are regarded as carrying more weight. Most reports are agreed without divisions. But the DExEU committee has seen divisions – formal votes on reports or amendments – on each of its reports, and eurosceptic members produced an alternative draft report in March 2018.

Of the committee’s 21 members, 14 campaigned for Remain in the 2016 EU referendum: six Labour, four Conservative, two SNP, one Liberal Democrat and one Plaid Cymru (see Table 1 below). Seven voted Leave: six Conservatives and one DUP.

Voting on DExEU committee reports

The DExEU and the Northern Ireland select committees are the only ones in which the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) together have a majority. However, they have rarely been able to take advantage of this, because the DExEU committee is not divided primarily along party lines. Continue reading

Pause to Wales Bill not only makes constitutional sense but is good politics too

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The announcement by the Secretary of State for Wales that the legislative process for the Wales Bill will be paused not only makes constitutional sense but, say Huw Pritchard and Lleu Williams, it’s good politics. The decision followed numerous critical reports, including a joint report by the Wales Governance Centre and the Constitution Unit.

The Secretary of State for Wales, Stephen Crabb, has promised to make ‘significant changes’ to the draft Wales Bill, a promise that has been warmly welcomed by many commentators.

Most notably, the Secretary of State promised to ‘pause’ the legislative process of the draft bill as the Wales Office undertakes these significant changes. This announcement follows reports by the Wales Governance Centre and the Constitution Unit, the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee in Cardiff Bay which all raised concerns about the draft legislation.

The changes announced by the Secretary of State will:

  • Remove the necessity test, so that the National Assembly can change the law without the need to apply this test
  • Reduce the size of the reservation list in the Draft Wales Bill
  • Remove the general restriction on the National Assembly modifying a Minister of the Crown function in devolved areas

Continue reading