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Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010

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.

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