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Exiting the EU: Devolved Administrations

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2017

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I seek to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the UK exiting the EU and the role of devolved Administrations.

With Parliament on the cusp of debating the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the House should take note that the UK Government have not held a Joint Ministerial Committee with the Governments of the devolved nations since 8 February this year. On 15 June, the Scottish and Welsh Governments wrote jointly to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union requesting a meeting of the JMC. This request has not been granted by the UK Government, which is in direct violation of the rules set out in the JMC concordat, memorandum of understanding and supplementary agreements. Any request for a meeting should be actioned within a month. It is completely unacceptable that the UK Government are ignoring the request from both the Welsh and Scottish Governments for a JMC meeting.

We know that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill touches on areas of devolved responsibility. We know that the UK Government are going to have to ask for legislative consent motions from the devolved Parliaments. In doing so, they are seemingly not prepared to respect the established procedures that should allow both dialogue and mutual respect between Westminster and the devolved Administrations.

Often in this place, we hear the phrase “taking back control”. It should not mean taking powers from the devolved Administrations, as is happening, and certainly not without appropriate mechanisms for resolution. There has to be co-operation with all the devolved Governments, and the JMC is the forum for that to take place. The House needs to debate why it is not happening before the Bill is debated.

Emasculation of the devolved Administrations by itself undermines our democracy and questions the constitutional rights of our devolved Administrations. The UK Government seem to be provoking the devolved Administrations when we should be seeking co-operation. A minority UK Government have to seek to build consensus—I would venture that that is what the public want—and not seek division with democratically elected devolved Governments.

It is important that the House has the opportunity to debate those matters before the Bill is introduced. This is a Government who function as a minority Government. We have a society where there are divisions over Europe, and the legislative measures we will be discussing have an impact on devolved competency. The House has to hold the UK Government to account for their actions in the devolved areas.

The hon. Gentleman has asked for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the UK exiting the EU and the role of devolved Administrations. I have listened carefully to his application, but I am not persuaded that this is a matter properly to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. The Standing Order states that I should not give the reasons for my decision to the House, but perhaps I may give a hint that the Standing Order requires me to have regard to the probability of the matter being brought before the House in time by other means. I will leave it at that.