Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010
2010 CHAPTER 25
Commentary on Sections
Part 2: Ratification of treaties
Section 20: Treaties to be laid before Parliament before ratification
129.This section sets out the main procedure to be adopted in relation to treaties before they are ratified on behalf of the United Kingdom. The procedure described is based upon the convention known as the Ponsonby Rule, which has been applied to the ratification of treaties since 1924 (see Erskine May, 23rd edition, page 264).
130.Subsection (1) states that a treaty may not be ratified unless (a) a Minister of a Crown has in the first instance laid before Parliament a copy of the treaty, (b) the treaty has been published in a way that he or she thinks appropriate and (c) a period A has expired without either House having resolved that the treaty should not be ratified.
131.Subsection (2) defines the meaning of “period A” as a period of 21 sitting days beginning with the first sitting day after the date on which the treaty has been laid.
132.Subsection (3) then explains that a further procedure, which is set out in subsections (4) to (6) (see below), will apply if the House of Commons resolves that the treaty should not be ratified (whether or not the House of Lords did so too).
133.Subsection (4) provides that a treaty may still be ratified if, after the House of Commons has resolved that a treaty should not be ratified during period A, (a) a Minister of the Crown has laid before Parliament a statement explaining why the treaty should nevertheless be ratified, and (b) a period B having expired without the House of Commons having (again) resolved that the treaty should not be ratified.
134.Subsection (5) defines the meaning of “period B” as a period of 21 sitting days beginning with the first sitting day after the date on which the Minister has laid the statement as to why the treaty should nevertheless be ratified.
135.Subsection (6) states that such a statement as to why the treaty should be ratified may be laid more than once. This means that the process outlined in subsection (4) can start again, should the House of Commons resolve during the second or any subsequent 21 sitting day period that a treaty should not be ratified.
136.Subsections (7) and (8) then explain that, if the House of Lords has resolved that a treaty should not be ratified within period A, but the House of Commons did not do so, the treaty may nevertheless be ratified if a Minister of the Crown lays before Parliament a statement explaining why the treaty should be ratified.
137.Subsection (9) defines a “sitting day” as a day on which both Houses of Parliament sit.
Section 22: Section 20 not to apply in exceptional cases
141.Subsection (1) provides that the procedure under section 20 does not apply if a Minister of the Crown is of the view that, exceptionally, a treaty should be ratified without the conditions of that section having been met.
142.Subsection (2) provides that subsection (1) may not be invoked where either House has resolved against ratification in accordance with section 20(1)(c).
143.Subsection (3) provides that if, exceptionally, the treaty is to be, or has been, ratified without following the procedure in section 20, the Minister of the Crown must either before, or as soon as practicable after, the treaty is ratified, lay before Parliament a copy of the treaty and a statement indicating why the Minister takes the view that the conditions in section 20 should not apply. The Minister of the Crown must also arrange for the treaty to be published in a way that he or she thinks appropriate.
Section 23: Section 20 not to apply to certain descriptions of treaties
144.This section makes provision in respect of those classes of treaties that were dealt with outside the Ponsonby Rule, because they are scrutinised by other means.
145.Subsection (1) states that section 20 does not apply to a treaty covered by section 12 of the European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002 (which provides for treaties resulting in an increase in the European Parliament’s powers not to be ratified unless approved by Act of Parliament) or by section 5 of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 (which provides for amendments to the founding treaties not to be ratified unless approved by Act of Parliament).
146.Subsection (2) states that the section 20 procedure does not apply to treaties in relation to which an Order in Council may be made under section 158 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984 (double taxation conventions), section 2 of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010 (double taxation arrangements) or section 173 of the Finance Act 2006 (international tax enforcement arrangements).
147.Subsection (3) states that the procedure does not apply to treaties concluded by the government of a British Overseas Territory, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. (Such treaties are concluded under the authority given by the United Kingdom Government).
148.Subsection (4) provides for treaties that have already been laid before Parliament before section 20 comes into force. It states that these treaties will not be covered by section 20. This means that the legislation does not cover treaties that have already been laid under the Ponsonby Rule, even if ratification has not yet taken place.
- Explanatory Notes Table of contents