The House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has published its report into intergovernmental relations in the UK. The report, which draws heavily on evidence provided by CCC fellows, argues that the under-developed nature of inter-institutional relations has been brought into sharp focus by the result of the EU referendum.
The committee recommends that the systems of communications between central and devolved governments and parliaments be reformed. Chair of the Committee, Bernard Jenkin MP, said: “The time pressure of negotiating our withdrawal from the EU now forces the machinery of intergovernmental relations in the UK to be imbued with a sense of purpose. We cannot go on with the notion that the devolved administrations are treated as an afterthought by Whitehall, particularly as all the devolved administrations are run by different political parties.”
Professors Nicola McEwen and Stephen Tierney gave evidence to the Committee, as did CCC Honorary Fellow Richard Parry. All three are quoted extensively in the report.
Professor McEwen explained that: “We were very pleased to provide research evidence to the Committee to inform their enquiry and recommendations. This is the latest in a series of reports to conclude that the UK’s intergovernmental machinery is not fit for purpose. The Brexit process makes it all the more urgent to address these inadequacies.”
Among the report’s recommendations is the proposal that the four governments should examine evolving the plenary sessions of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) into an annual Heads of Government Summit, with the responsibility for hosting, and setting the agenda of these summits rotating among the four UK governments.
In relation to the relationships between parliaments, Professor Tierney said: “The Brexit process has shown how emasculated Parliament has become. As this report highlights, it is imperative that all the legislatures of the United Kingdom work together to ensure the proper scrutiny of the process by which the UK is taken out of the EU.”
In addition, PACAC recommends that the four UK governments consider further how the JMC structures can be best structured so as to assist the development of a truly UK-wide approach to the negotiations on our withdrawal from the EU. This might, for example, include the creation of new agriculture, fisheries and economic affairs sub-committees.