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Transparency of Intergovernmental Relations: Update

Volume 683: debated on Tuesday 10 November 2020

Today, the Government are announcing new measures to improve the transparency and accountability of relations between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations.

We are taking these steps because the Government recognise that effective transparency, accountability and parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s participation in intergovernmental structures will support relationships between the Government and devolved Administrations so that we work together effectively on behalf of citizens across the UK.

A new dedicated page for intergovernmental relations (IGR) has been created. On this website, all documents relating to IGR, including the memorandum of understanding on devolution, relevant documents and reports related to intergovernmental forums will be published at timely intervals. This includes uploading communiqués after each formal intergovernmental meeting containing information on the date, location, chair, participants and discussion points of meetings. This collection will grow and evolve as we revise and strengthen our intergovernmental structures and conclude the review of intergovernmental relations. However, we are launching the website today as we recognise the benefits of implementing new behaviours and good practice immediately to support parliamentary and public scrutiny of the UK Government’s participation in existing intergovernmental forums.

Our long-term strategy for strengthening transparency of IGR will involve publishing a quarterly report on this page. This report will include a list of all engagements for each forum, any resolved disputes and their outcomes and associated third-party reports when relevant. The first report will be published in 2021.

On an annual basis, a report will be laid in both Houses of Parliament by Command Paper. This will collate the key information from the quarterly reports, as well as include any written or service-level agreements reached between Administrations over the reporting period, background information and a list of ministerial appearances before parliamentary committees. The Government also commit to making regular statements to Parliament on IGR, including appearances before relevant committees when requested.

The measures will not apply universally including where issues are commercially or market sensitive or matters of national security. They will not apply to the myriad regular official meetings or to informal bilateral discussions.

These measures apply to the participation of Ministers of the Crown in formal, intergovernmental structures and are intended to support Parliament’s capacity to scrutinise intergovernmental relations. The measures do not place any obligations on other Administrations to report to their legislatures, although they mirror the approaches taken by the Welsh and Scottish Governments.

In tandem, the joint review of intergovernmental relations continues to progress with the devolved Administrations and the UK Government remain committed to finalising a product at pace. These measures will complement any future structures at the outcome of the review.