The content on this page relates to the work of the Committee until the Dissolution of Parliament on 12 April 2010.

European Union Committee

Law and Institutions (Sub-Committee E) 

The Law and Institutions Sub-Committee is one of the seven sub-committees of the House of Lords European Union Select Committee . The Sub-Committee is chaired by Lord Bowness. Its remit comprises civil and criminal justice and the EU€™s Institutions, agencies and other bodies.

The European Union Select Committee holds the Government to account for its actions in the EU. The primary purpose of the Select Committee is to scrutinise draft EU legislation and other EU documents. This is carried out mainly by the sub-committees through Correspondence with Ministers , evidence sessions with Minsters and others, and inquiries. Documents currently under scrutiny are listed in Progress of Scrutiny .

Inquiries are based either on the scrutiny of particular documents or on subjects within the Sub-Committee€™s remit. Written and oral evidence is taken from EU Institutions, government departments and other interested bodies and individuals, and hearings are held in order to consider a range of points of view. The evidence is published with the Report.

About the Committee | Uncorrected Oral Evidence | Corrected Oral Evidence | Written Evidence

Latest news

The EU's Regulation on Succession

Sub-Committee E recently participated in the COSAC subsidiarity check, piloting the system now in place under the Lisbon Treaty. The document selected was the European Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and authentic instruments in matters of succession and the creation of a European Certificate of Succession. On December 17 the Committee submitted its response, indicating that it found the proposal to be in line with the principle of subsidiarity.

The Sub-Committee's Report on the EU's Regulation on Succession was published on 24 March.

While the Committee supported the principle of simplification, given the complexity of the law involved and the lack of empirical evidence as to the size of the problem, it felt that a more cautious, step-by-step approach would be more appropriate. In addition, the Committee identified a number of areas of concern, most notably the clawback provisions which would jeopardise lifetime gifts otherwise valid under UK law. These concerns were such that the Committee advised against the Government opting in to the Regulation unless these issues are satisfactorily resolved.

COSAC Subsidiarity Check

The Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees (COSAC) selected EU document 11917/09 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings for a pilot subsidiarity check.  COSAC subsidiarity checks are pilots of a system for greater parliamentary scrutiny of the EU, which came into effect on 1 December 2009 when the Lisbon Treaty was adopted.  

Sub-Committee E conducted the check by written procedure on behalf of the House of Lords and found that the proposal was consistent with the principle of subsidiarity.

Brussels I Report published

The Sub-Committee's Report Green Paper on the Brussels I Regulation was published on 27 July.

The Committee broadly welcomes the review of the Regulation, and agrees with the proposed abolition of exequatur, although it argues that a mechanism should be put in place to forewarn defendants that a foreign judgment is to be enforced against them.

The Committee is also in favour of the reform of the lis pendens rules to prevent the “torpedoing” of choice of court agreements and arbitration clauses.  It argues that, where there is a choice of court agreement, the chosen court should have priority to proceed and to decide on jurisdictional issues.

With regard to cases involving third-state parties, the Committee points out that English law has traditionally taken a flexible approach to the exercise of jurisdiction, and where cases are basically concerned with non-European issues it would be appropriate only to agree minimum, rather than maximum, bases for the exercise of jurisdiction at EU level.

Access to EU Documents Report debated

The Sub-Committee's report, 'Access to EU Documents', was debated in Grand Committee on Wednesday 15 July 2009.

Public Access to EU Documents Report published

The Sub-Committee report on Access to EU Documents was published on Thursday 18 June.

The Report raises concerns that proposals to change Regulation 1049/2001 will exclude draft documents from greater transparency and public scrutiny, and argues that the definition of a disclosable document is unclear.

The Committee also argue that provisions allowing Member States to withhold disclosure on the grounds of their own domestic legislation could significantly reduce the right of access.

With regard to the European legislative process, the Committee argues that the UK Government are seeking "a particularly high level of protection" for documents relating to negotiating positions.  The Report also raises concerns about restrictions on disclosure of legal advice relating to legislation.  It argues that the legislative process should, wherever possible, take place in public.

Current Inquiry

Brussels I

The Sub-Committee recently launched a short inquiry into the Commission's Green Paper on the Brussels I regime (conflicts of jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters). It published its Report on 27 July 2009 .

Recent Reports

European Contract Law: the Draft Common Frame of Reference

The Sub-Committee's Report, 'European Contract Law: the Draft Common Frame of Reference', was published on 10 June.

The Report examines the work recently done in the field of contract law under the European Commission's research budget, acknowledging the academic value of the project as an aid to mutual understanding. However, the Committee reaffirms its opposition to harmonisation of contract law at EU level, and to the desirability of an optional instrument, into which contracting parties could opt.

The Sub-Committee took evidence from Stefan Vogenauer, Professor of Comparative Law, University of Oxford, Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministy of Justice, and Jonathan Faull, Director-General, Justice Freedom and Security, European Commission.

Procedural rights in EU criminal proceedings - an update

The Sub-Committee€™s Report on EU criminal procedural rights was published on 11 May 2009.

The Report repeats calls in earlier reports for EU action to guarantee rights to suspects which go beyond those provided by the European Convention on Human Rights. These include:

  • the right to silence;
  • the right to legal assistance in a language the suspect understands;
  • the electronic recording of police interviews; and
  • the presentation of a €œLetter of Rights€ explaining these rights.

The Initiation of EU Legislation

The Sub-Committee's report on the Initiation of EU legislation was published on 24 July 2008. The Report was debated in the House of Lords on 12 December 2008.

The Treaty of Lisbon: an impact assessment

Tenth Report, Session 2007-08, published on 13 March 2008