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House of Commons Hansard

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

16 January 2018
Volume 634

    [1st Allocated Day]

    Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Committee

    Clause 4

    Saving for rights etc. under section 2(1) of the ECA

  • I beg to move amendment 57, page 2, line 42, leave out clause 4.

    This amendment is linked to NC19, which would aim to preserve, more comprehensively than the existing Clause 4, rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures derived from EU law and incorporated into domestic law via the European Communities Act 1972.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    Amendment 4, in clause 5, page 3, line 23, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert—

    “(4) Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Charter of Fundamental Rights continues to apply to retained EU law after exit day save as set out in subsections (5) and (5A) below and all references in the Charter to “the law of the Union” shall be deleted and replaced with “retained EU law”.

    (5) The following provisions of the Charter shall not apply after exit day—

    (a) the Preamble, and

    (b) Title V.

    (5A) Article 47 of the Charter shall apply after exit day as if it was drafted as follows—

    “Right to a fair trial

    “Everyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by retained EU law are violated is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law. Everyone shall have the possibility of being advised, defended and represented.

    “Legal aid shall be made available to those who lack sufficient resources insofar as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice.”

    (5B) With effect from exit day EU retained law, so far as it is possible to do so, must be interpreted consistently with the Charter.

    (5C) With effect from exit day decisions, judgments, advisory opinions of the Court of Justice of the European Union must be taken into account when determining cases under the Charter.

    (5D) With effect from exit day in relation to the rights conferred by the Charter with respect to retained EU law—

    (a) section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply and the words “a Convention right” shall be replaced by “a Charter right” and all references to “primary legislation” shall be replaced by “retained EU law”,

    (b) section 5 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply,

    (c) section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply and the words “the Convention right to freedom of expression” shall be replaced by “the Charter right to freedom of expression and information”, and

    (d) section 13 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply and the words “the Convention right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” shall be replaced by “the Charter right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

    (5E) With effect from exit day, any derogation or reservation made under sections 14 or 15 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply to rights under the Charter in the same manner as they apply to Convention rights.

    (5F) With effect from exit day sections 16 or 17 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply to rights under the Charter in the same manner as they apply to Convention rights.”

    This amendment would retain the Charter Rights in UK law and afford them the same level as protection as the rights in the Human Rights Act.

    Amendment 7, page 3, line 23, leave out subsections (4) and (5).

    This amendment would allow the Charter of Fundamental Rights to continue to apply domestically in the interpretation and application of retained EU law.

    Amendment 42, in clause 6, page 3, line 36, at end insert

    “other than a matter referred to in paragraph 38 of the joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government on progress during phase 1 of the negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union dated 8 December 2017.”

    This amendment would ensure that UK Courts and Tribunals can refer matters to the CJEU as agreed between the EU/UK negotiators in December 2017.

    Amendment 55, page 3, line 36, at end insert—

    “(1A) So far as it is possible to do so, retained EU law must be read and given effect in a way which allows it to operate effectively.”

    This amendment (linked with Amendment 56) borrows language from the Human Rights Act 1998 to require courts and tribunals to interpret retained EU law, so far as possible, in order to overcome deficiencies in the operation of retained EU law which have not been dealt with using powers under clause 7.

    Amendment 43, page 3, line 37, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

    “(2) A court or tribunal may regard the decisions of the European Court made on or after exit day to be persuasive”

    This amendment enables UK Courts and Tribunals to consider the decisions of the European Court to be persuasive.

    New clause 7—EU Protocol on animal sentience

    “The obligation on Ministers of the Crown and the devolved administrations to pay regard to the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings when formulating law and policy, contained within the EU Protocol on animal sentience as set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty, shall be recognised and available in domestic law on and after exit day.”

    This new clause transfers the EU Protocol on animal sentience set out in Article 13 of Title II of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty into UK law, so that the obligation on the Government and the devolved administrations to pay due regard to the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings when formulating law and policy is not lost when the UK leaves the EU.

    New clause 9—Saving of acquired rights: Anguilla

    “(1) Nothing in this Act is to be construed as removing, replacing, altering or prejudicing the exercise of an acquired right.

    (2) Any power, howsoever expressed, contained in this Act may not be exercised if the exercise of that power is likely to or will remove, replace or alter or prejudice the exercise of an acquired right.

    (3) In subsection (2) a reference to a power includes a power to make regulations.

    (4) In this section an acquired right means a right that existed immediately before exit day—

    (a) whereby a person from or established in Anguilla could exercise that right (either absolutely or subject to any qualification) in the United Kingdom; and

    (b) whereby the right arose in the context of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and Anguilla’s status as a territory for whose external relations the United Kingdom is responsible.

    (5) Nothing in this section prevents the use of the powers conferred by this Act to the extent that acquired rights are not altered or otherwise affected to the detriment of persons enjoying such rights.”

    The intention of this new clause is to mitigate the impact of Brexit on the British territory of Anguilla which is dependent on frictionless movement between Anguilla and adjacent French and Dutch possessions of St Martin/Sint Maarten that are EU territories.

    New clause 13—Classification of retained EU law (No. 2)

    “(1) Any retained EU law that was a legislative act or implements a legislative act enacted under Article 289 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is deemed to be primary legislation on or after exit day.

    (2) Any retained EU law that was a delegated act or implements a delegated act under Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union or was an implementing act or implements an implementing act under Article 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is deemed to be a statutory instrument on or after exit day, unless that law is already enacted as an Act of Parliament.

    (3) Any change to the preceding characterisation shall be by regulation which may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.”

    This new clause would provide greater legal certainty by classifying retained EU law as either primary or secondary legislation.

    New clause 16—Consequences of leaving the European Union: equality

    “(1) This section comes into force when this Act is passed.

    (2) The purpose of this section is to ensure that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union does not diminish protection for equality in the law of the United Kingdom.

    (3) All individuals are equal before the law and have the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law.

    (4) All individuals have a right not to be discriminated against by any public authority on any grounds including sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation.

    (5) The following provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 apply in relation to the rights conferred by subsections (3) and (4) as they apply in relation to Convention rights within the meaning of that Act—

    (a) section 3 (interpretation of legislation);

    (b) section 4 (declaration of incompatibility);

    (c) section 5 (right of Crown to intervene);

    (d) section 6 (acts of public authorities);

    (e) section 7 (proceedings);

    (f) section 8 (judicial remedies);

    (g) section 9 (judicial acts);

    (h) section 10 (power to take remedial action);

    (i) section 11 (safeguard for existing human rights); and

    (j) section 19 (statements of compatibility).

    (6) A court or tribunal must have regard to any relevant decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in considering—

    (a) the application of this section generally, and

    (b) in particular, the meaning of discrimination for the purposes of this section.”

    This new clause would ensure that the rights of equality presently enjoyed in accordance with EU law are enshrined in free-standing domestic law after the UK leaves the EU.

    New clause 19—Saving for rights etc. under section 2(1) of the ECA (No. 2)

    “(1) Any rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures which, immediately before exit day are part of domestic law by virtue of section 2(1) of the European Communities Act 1972 continue on and after exit day to be recognised and available in domestic law (and to be enforced, allowed and followed accordingly).

    (2) Subsection (1) does not apply to any rights, powers, liabilities, obligations restrictions, remedies or procedures so far as they form part of domestic law by virtue of section 3

    (3) Where, following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, retained EU law incorrectly or incompletely gives effect to any rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies or procedures created or required by EU law in force immediately before exit day, a Minister of the Crown shall make regulations for the purpose of giving effect to such rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures.

    (4) This section is subject to section 5 and Schedule 1 (exceptions to savings and incorporation).”

    This new clause is linked to Amendment 57 to leave out Clause 4 and aims to preserve, more comprehensively than the existing clause 4, rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures derived from EU law and incorporated into domestic law via the European Communities Act 1972. Where such rights are incorrectly or incompletely transferred, it imposes a duty to make regulations to remedy the deficiency.

    Amendment 40, in schedule 8, page 54, line 6, at end insert

    “to which subsection (2) of section (Classification of retained EU law (Amendment2)) applies.”

    This amendment is consequential on NC13.

    Amendment 41, page 54, line 44, at end insert

    “to which subsection (2) of section (Classification of retained EU law (Amendment2)) applies.”

    This amendment is consequential on NC13.

    Government amendments 37 and 38.

  • Amendment 57, which would leave out clause 4, is linked to new clauses 19 and 21. Many of the amendments I tabled in Committee have been proposed by Greener UK, a coalition of many environmental organisations that are concerned about the possible impact of Brexit on environmental protections. They see it as one of the biggest threats: I know other people see it as an opportunity, especially when it comes to rejigging how we subsidise agriculture once we leave the common agricultural policy. The concern is what protections would remain, given the importance of our membership of the EU for everything from cleaning up water pollution and protecting biodiversity to improving recycling and reducing waste. It is hard to believe that we used to allow untreated sewage to flow into our seas before the EU’s bathing water directive forced the UK Government to make our bathing waters fit for swimming and to test for bacteria such as E. coli. In 1990, only 27% of our bathing waters met minimum mandatory standards; by 2014, 99% complied.

    When the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry on the natural environment after the EU referendum, she told the Committee that approximately a third of the more than 800 pieces of EU environmental legislation will be difficult to transpose into UK law. The Committee also identified a considerable governance gap, which the Government have acknowledged, and I support new clause 18, which would enshrine what the Government have said they want in relation to carrying over environmental principles and establishing a new environmental regulatory body.

    My amendment addresses the substantial flaws, gaps and democratic deficit in the Bill that were not addressed in Committee, in particular to fully transpose current EU environmental legislation in all areas effectively into UK law to avoid any weakening or loss of existing environmental protection during Brexit. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been encouraging in saying that:

    “We must not only maintain but enhance environmental standards as we leave the EU. And that means making sure we secure the environmental gains we have made while in the EU even as we use our new independence to aim even higher”.

    Opposition Members share the same aspirations and visions, but we cannot just take his word for it. We need those promises written into the Bill and concrete measures to deliver on those aspirations. This has to last longer than he is in post.

    Amendment 57 would leave out clause 4, with a view to replacing it with new clause 19 which would preserve—more comprehensively than clause 4—rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures derived from EU law. The new clause seeks only to properly realise the Government’s stated ambition for the Bill—they have repeatedly assured us of this during the process—that the same rules and laws will apply after we leave the EU as before.

    In their White Paper, the Government sought to reassure us that this Bill will mean that

    “the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law”.

    The Prime Minister has promised that

    “The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before”,

    but that is simply not the case. As drafted, the Bill will not properly capture and convert all EU environmental law into stand-alone domestic law.

    Clause 4 appears to deal with full transposition. In Committee, the then Minister of State for Courts and Justice described it as a sweeper provision that

    “picks up the other obligations, rights and remedies that would currently have the force of UK law under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972.”—[Official Report, 15 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 498.]

    But it fails to do its sweeping properly, because some inexplicable and unnecessary restrictions in clause 4(l)(b) and (2)(b) mean that important aspects of environmental law will be lost. Those exceptions include rights that have not been recognised by a court before exit day. Effectively, the basic rights that everyone accepts but that have not been litigated on are at risk. Those rights have been hardwired into EU law and do not need enforcing, but once we no longer have the safety net of the EU, they could fall.

    The Government’s defence of the limitations in these subsections in Committee was far from convincing. The Minister essentially argued that they were necessary because directives do not produce directly effective rights until they have been recognised as such by courts. However, if a provision in legislation creates directly effective law, it does not need a court to confirm that that is the case. If a piece of legislation creates a legal position, it does not need a judge to verify that that is the case. In fact, the Government have often not transposed certain provisions of directives on the basis that they function adequately directly from the directives without any need to transpose them into national law. That clearly demonstrates that there are parts of directives that currently form part of UK law that will be removed by subsection (2)(b).

    Clause 4 does not adequately engage with failures to properly transpose EU law. An obligation should be placed on the Government to remedy incorrect and incomplete transposition. The powers to do so are contained in clause 7(2)(f), but there is a significant difference between a power to do something and a duty to use that power.

    To summarise, amendment 57, in getting rid of clause 4 and replacing the linked new clause 19, seeks to rectify those errors. New clause 19 is simpler and more comprehensive than the existing clause 4. It would ensure that rights arising under EU directives are preserved and that a mechanism is in place after exit day to deal with problems arising from the incomplete or incorrect transposition of EU law before exit day.

    If clause 4 is not amended, we could lose vital EU law provisions, including requirements to review and report on the adequacy and implementation of laws that are crucial to ensure the law is complied with and up to date. That includes the requirements contained in article 20 of the marine strategy framework directive, article 17 of the habitats directive and article 32 of the air quality directive. Without reported data under the latter, ClientEarth would not have been able to hold the Government to account through the courts on air pollution.

    We will also lose obligations on the Government to report and send information to the European Commission, which is then able to aggregate it and use it for considering the appropriateness of laws and their implementation. On day 6 in Committee, I gave an example of how losing reporting requirements under article 10 of the birds directive could, for example, present a barrier to future investment in, and the roll-out of, marine renewable energy and other developments. The Government still have not said whether they intend these reporting requirements to disappear.

    Without amendment, we will also see a loss of environmental standards and conditions. Some obligations on member states have not been transposed into UK law, such as article 9 of the water framework directive, which requires water pricing policies to provide adequate incentives for users to use water efficiently, or article 5 of the energy efficiency directive on energy performance requirements for publicly owned buildings. We have been promised a green Brexit, and we are told that leaving the EU will not threaten the health of people or nature, so why is there opposition to amending the Bill to make those promises legally binding?

    Let me turn briefly to the other new clause tabled in my name. New clause 21 would ensure oversight of the transfer of functions from EU institutions to domestic institutions. It would do that by requiring the Government to establish a publicly accessible register of environmental governance functions and powers exercised by EU institutions and to make regulations that ensure that all relevant environmental powers and functions are continued. The register would allow the public to monitor and hold the Government to account on their plans for robust arrangements to be in place on exit day to deliver their ambition for a world-leading environmental justice system. The new clause also reflects strong public concern that the environmental governance gap that would arise on leaving the EU is filled as quickly as possible.

    To conclude, I am simply saying that if the Government want the Bill to match their stated intentions, they need to accept these provisions.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) in respect of her provisions and to have the opportunity this afternoon to talk about the schedule of amendments in front of us, which we have to consider as a block between now and 4 pm.

    The hon. Lady’s concern is about the fate of environmental law, as provided to us by the EU, once we leave, and about what provision we will make to provide it with adequate protection. However, the whole list of amendments, including those tabled by the official Opposition, goes to the issue of what happens to areas of entrenched law that have developed during our EU membership after we have gone. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench keep on repeating insistently that it is not the intention, as a result of our removal from the EU, that any of these protections should be diminished in any way at all.

    It is true that one or two of my right hon. and hon. Friends have made hinting noises at various times that there are areas that they might like to alter in future, in a way that suggests a possible diminution, but in fairness to the Government, that has never been the Government’s position. Indeed, as we have spent time looking at issues such as equality law or children’s rights, the message has come back over and again that the disappearance of the charter of fundamental rights or environmental law issues, for example, will not be used as an excuse for diminishing the existing legal framework.

    The difficulty—it is the one that exercised me in Committee—is that it is all very well Ministers coming to the House and making very pleasant statements that that is what they intend to do, but it must be the responsibility of this House to ask the Government how, in practice, that is to be done, when such a powerful mechanism as our EU membership is about to be removed.

    That raises a second and more fundamental problem, where I have considerable sympathy with the Government. I understand why, for many in this House—I think that I count myself as one of them, as a good Conservative—the idea of entrenched rights that override the sovereign power of Parliament is something with which we are not comfortable. Indeed, the official Opposition, when in government post-1997 and when seeking to enact the Human Rights Act 1998, recognised that, in that they did not seek to provide entrenched laws; they sought to provide a mechanism through the Human Rights Act that rights under the European convention on human rights might be protected in a special way through declarations of incompatibility. That was not sufficient to override primary legislation of this House, but, of course, it did provide a mechanism by which it could be overridden and struck down in the case of secondary legislation. That has always been a way of doing things that has commended itself to me.

    I have always accepted that one of the consequences and problems of EU membership is that it has provided entrenched laws that ultimately override by virtue of our international obligations and the direct effect of the European Court of Justice. So I can understand that there should be reluctance on the Government side of the House, as we leave the EU, to simply take this category of laws and say that we are going to give it a special status that overrides the ordinary way in which this House does its business.

    If we do that, however, it raises the question what the Government propose to do to provide, for example, at least as much protection for these categories of rights as is currently enjoyed under the Human Rights Act. One possibility—we canvassed it in Committee—was that the Government might wish to enact primary legislation to add clauses to the Human Rights Act to provide such a mechanism. Indeed, if the Government were to come up with such a proposal, I would be enthusiastic about it, and it is a matter to which we have to give careful consideration.

    I am also aware that some of the rights provided in the charter, for example, clearly pertain to EU citizenship, so they are irrelevant to this country once we leave. I also accept that some of the rights may be said to have a socioeconomic aspect, which makes it debatable whether they should be categorised as rights at all. However, that still leaves a very big area indeed of matters that, as I understand it from listening to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, Ministers acknowledge are of such importance that they are now seen as being equivalent to rights, yet they do not enjoy the protection of the convention.

  • My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), who is now a Minister—she is busy, I think, in the Department for Exiting the European Union—characterised the inability to get one’s head around the problem with this issue, if I may gently point it out, by first saying that these rights would be wholly protected after we left—they are plainly not—and then actually suggesting that the argument against the Opposition’s proposal was that there were multiple layers of rights. Those two statements cannot both be correct. The fact is that areas such as equality law will no longer enjoy any protection at all. Indeed, that will be capable of being changed by statutory instrument, by virtue of other changes that the Government are introducing in the Bill, so these areas do raise serious issues.

    I listen very carefully to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says about modernising the Conservative party, giving it a broad appeal to younger people, and trying to ensure that we reflect current norms and standards in our country and give effect to them in the policies we develop. I am sorry to have to say this to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, but it does seem to me that in simply batting this issue away and saying, “Don’t worry; it’s all going to be perfectly all right,” without even coming up with a plan for the future about, say, possibly adding a Bill of Rights clause or rights clauses to the Human Rights Act, we are sending out a very strange message about Conservative Members’ attitude to matters that I believe many in this country now see as rights of a fundamental character, particularly on such issues as LGBT rights.

  • Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the best guarantee of the fundamental rights of the British people is the will of the British people as expressed through the Parliaments they elect? That is the system I thought we all believed in. I know of no threats to these important rights coming from this Parliament. There are not people proposing that they are watered down, and there would be no majority to do so. The guarantee to the British people is that their Parliament will look after their rights.

  • May I gently say to my right hon. Friend that if his analysis were accurate, no statute would ever have been enacted by Parliament, at any stage in its history, providing additional protections to people’s rights over and above the common law? That must be the end point, because the whole point about the Human Rights Act was that it added to protections enjoyed under the common law and did so in a way that was compatible with this House’s sovereignty. All I am saying to Ministers is that given that, for 40 years-plus, we have been involved in an international organisation that in practice has entrenched certain rights, it must now be for Ministers to come forward with a sensible proposal as to how those rights, in so far as the Government consider that they are in fact rights, will be protected in the future.

    I am afraid that I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). Nice as it is to rely upon the Executive’s good will, 21 years in this House—heaven knows, my right hon. Friend has been here far longer—persuades me that that good will is not something that we should always rely on. I am afraid that I have seen a number of instances—particularly when I was in opposition, I might add—where it did not seem very wise to do so.

  • I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) that in the end, because we are a sovereign Parliament, we are the only guarantor of our people’s rights. However, I am interested in what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) is saying about this matter, because the other danger that is lurking here is the fact that our courts may well decide that they have an obligation to maintain EU law even in the face of an Act of Parliament, and might strike down an Act of Parliament because, from reading the Bill, they see it as their obligation to retain certain principles of EU law. I like the declaration of incompatibility that my right hon. and learned Friend is suggesting as a very suitable compromise that enshrines what we have.

  • Order. This, if I may say so to the hon. Gentleman, is a mini-speech, with more emphasis on the speech than on the mini.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker.

    My hon. Friend makes a perfectly good point, which reinforces my impression that it is inadequate simply to say, “Because we are leaving we shall leave this to a later date.” I will return to that later.

    We did actually, Mr Speaker, talk about this at some length in Committee. In Committee, as hon. Members may recall, I emphasised that one way out of this difficulty might be to move away from the charter and look at the general principles of EU law. We could allow them to continue to be invoked, in respect of retained EU law, which would include issues such as the laws which we have under the charter, until they were replaced. That seemed to me to be a stopgap. I emphasise that I put it forward as a stopgap—not as a long-term solution, but as a way of getting the Government off the hook of having to accept any part of the charter, because I know that one or two of my hon. Friends choke when they even mention that word. I have never shared that view—I think they should actually go and read the charter, because then they would realise it is rather a reasonable document. My suggestion provided a way forward, and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General very kindly said that he would go away and give the matter some thought, the consequence of which was Government amendments 37 and 38.

    I am sorry to start this Report stage with a bit of carping, because later I shall say some very nice things about the response of my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench to some of the representations that I made to them in Committee. Some very good things indeed have been done, for which I am grateful—I will talk about those when we come to the right point—but I think that the response on this matter is, frankly, rather paltry. They have provided a mechanism by which for three months—the period in which it is possible to carry out judicial review—after the exit date it will be possible to invoke these rights, but not in a way that challenges any primary legislation. It is a minuscule change, but minuscule though it may be, it is actually a little wedge in the door, because it represents quite a major surrender or change of principle on the part of the Government towards this issue, and to that extent I am delighted to welcome it. Nevertheless, as I think the Solicitor General knows very well, the proposal is not what I was asking for. The problem is that although it starts to remedy the situation, it does not go anything like far enough, particularly when it is not linked to a wider statement from the Government about how they want to go ahead and deal with this.

    I had to make a decision about whether to table a further amendment to put to the House on Report. Having—there is no other way to describe it—rebelled against the Government, because that was what I undoubtedly did on clause 9, and indeed incited some of my colleagues to join me in doing so, because I thought that clause 9 was so deficient, it is not my desire to cause further stir, in the harmonious atmosphere of early January, by doing that again if I can possibly avoid it. It crossed my mind that two things appeared to me to militate against doing it. The first is this.

    I have to say to the Solicitor General that I do not think that the Bill will pass through the upper House without this issue being considered. It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Brexit takes place; it has to do with the state of certainty of law in this country, which is a matter to which plenty in the other place are capable of applying their minds. I very much hope that when the Bill goes to the Lords, they will look at the amendment that the Government have tabled and understand its spirit—it is well-intentioned, so I must welcome it—but perhaps decide that it might be capable of a little bit of development. Or, indeed, they may apply their legal minds to this matter and come up with an alternative that does respect—I want to emphasise this—some of the reasons, which I understand, why the Government do not wish to entrench these laws after we have gone.

  • The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a point that gets to the heart of the purpose of the Bill, as stated by the Government: this is a technical transfer exercise—it is technically transferring the acquis communautaire into British law to facilitate Brexit. Does not the decision not to transpose the charter of fundamental rights make a mockery of that claim? Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman is making very valid points about some of the technical alternatives, do we not need to keep returning the Government to their stated fundamental purpose in the Bill?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes a totally legitimate point, especially as the Government themselves have emphasised how important these issues are to them. We are not turning the clock back to the 1950s—at least, I do not think we are—since when this country has moved on in respect of rights. The challenge to Ministers is that they have to come up with some solution to the problem. As I said, I do not want to put spanners in the works of how they do it.

    Another factor influenced my decision not to table another amendment and divide the House on this matter. Realistically, although I realise that some may not like this, in leaving the European Union, we are about to embark on a lengthy period of transitional arrangements during which, in my view—I might be wrong—every jot and tittle of EU law will continue to apply to this country in every conceivable respect, except that we will no longer share in its making in the institutions of the European Union. I am afraid that I think that is where we are going; the alternative, of course, is that we are jumping off the cliff.

    If that is where we are going, I accept that there is a little more time for the Government to start to reflect on how they will deal with issues of entrenched law before anybody’s remedy disappears. That is something else that influences me in not wishing to divide my own party or the House. I am always aware that quiet persuasion may be better than speeches from the Back Benches, and for those reasons, a bit more quiet persuasion might get us to where we need to be on this issue, but it will not go away.

  • My right hon. and learned Friend says that he does not wish to divide the House. However, if he had tabled an amendment and divided the House, and then that vote had been lost, it would have sent a powerful message to their lordships not to mess with the Bill and that the will of the House had been firmly expressed. There would have been an advantage in his position, if he had maintained it.

  • There might have been, but as a loyal member of the Conservative party over many years, I have always been of the opinion that the best way to try to influence one’s party’s policy is in the quietest way possible. As this issue has the merit of being able to succeed in that way, I shall stick to my strategy. Of course, if and when I think it necessary for me to do something else, I could, very reluctantly, be forced to do so. On this matter, however, I prefer to leave it.

    I turn to a related matter about which I did table an amendment, which I do not wish to press to a vote. It goes to the other issues about the certainty of retained EU law. There is an inevitable internal incoherence about how retained EU law is being handled in the Bill. In reality, retained EU law has a primary quality, because in all likelihood most of it is supreme over our own laws. Oddly enough, that situation is going, at least in part, to be retained, but the Government have dealt with that by allowing it all to be altered through statutory instruments.

    In Committee, we tried to find a way out—I tried quite hard. That is why I have tabled new clause 13, which provides a way of identifying what EU legislation is in reality primary and what is secondary. I thought that the House might be interested—if it is not, the other place might be—in how one might go about making that separation, which would then provide a sensible measure of greater certainty. At the moment, the Government’s proposal, as I understand it, is that each measure will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. That seems a rather extraordinary way in which to proceed.

  • For that reason, I have put the new clause and a couple of consequential amendments forward for the consideration of the House. If the proposal were to be accepted, or taken away and thought about further, it would allow for what I think would be a credible mechanism by which we could identify primary and secondary legislation that had been retained and had come to us from the EU. I will say no more about that.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) is not in the Chamber this afternoon, but she also put forward the issue, which comes into this bracket, of whether after exit day people would be able to litigate on matters that arose pre exit day exactly as if we had remained in the EU. That raises a fundamental issue of legal propriety that as yet remains unresolved. I note that the Government have not responded, although I understood that there would be a response. Perhaps it will come in the other place, in which case I will greatly welcome it.

    I am conscious that I do not want to take up more of the House’s time. We have a problem that ought, in fact, to unite both sides of the House about how best to go about retaining what is best of EU law. Although we have made some steps in the right direction, I regret that I do not think we have yet got anywhere near enough to the point at which I can feel really comfortable that we have done things as well as we should.

    Fortunately—or unfortunately, because in many ways I would love to get the process of Brexit out of the way as quickly as possible—we will have ample time over a considerable period to reflect on this matter before we finally achieve some longer-term stability. That encourages me to allow the Government to reflect, rather than challenging them on this issue.

  • As ever, it is a genuine privilege to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), whose integrity and honesty have shone through every day we have been debating this Bill.

  • Order. Forgive me. Before the hon. Gentleman gets under way—I think the Minister is keen to follow—I want to say that a number of Back Benchers wish to contribute. I am very keen that they be fully heard; I do not want the debate to be dominated by the Front Benchers, who I am sure will make succinct contributions.

  • I will seek to live up to that expectation, Mr Speaker; I do not intend to speak for long.

    Amendment 4 addresses one of the six key tests that we set out for the Bill before we could support it. Those tests were not set out simply on Second Reading or in Committee, but 10 months ago, when the White Paper outlining the Government’s approach was first published.

    The tests drew support across the House, but sadly the Government have made no significant concessions. In Committee, a meaningful vote for Parliament on the final deal was secured, of course—but against the wishes of the Government and only by decision of the House. Our five amendments at this stage address those other tests: facilitating a transitional period; protecting the devolution settlement; protecting workers’ rights; reining in the Henry VIII powers; and, in amendment 4, retaining the EU charter of fundamental rights in UK law.

    The objective of amendment 4, which would retain charter rights in UK law and afford them the same level of protection as those in the Human Rights Act, has wide support on both sides of the House. It is part of a sensible and responsible approach to Brexit that respects the referendum decision but does not sacrifice jobs and the economy or rights and protections on the altar of ideology. It is a sensible approach for which I believe there is a majority across the House—one that goes well beyond those who voted for amendment 7 in Committee. It is also a consensus that I think is reflected in the other place, from which I suspect we might see the Bill return with some improvements, as the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield indicated.

    The Opposition support amendments 42 and 43, which would enable UK courts to continue to refer matters to the Court of Justice and to consider CJEU decision to be persuasive. As well as amendment 55, we also support new clause 13, amendments 40 and 41, on clarifying the status of retained law, and new clause 16 on enshrining equality rights, which stands in the name of the my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous). We also support new clause 7 on animal sentience and new clause 9 on the acquired rights of Anguillans—an indication of the enormous complexity and range of the issues we face with Brexit. We accept that Government amendments 37 and 38 improve the Bill, but we fear that they do not go anywhere near far enough on legal challenges based on the general principles of EU law, which is why we prefer and support amendment 57, which was moved so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy).

    Amendment 4 addresses the concerns we raised in Committee around the charter of fundamental rights and provides an opportunity for the Government to think again. Human rights should not be a dividing line between parties in this House, so even at this stage we hope that the Government, either here or in the Lords, might accept our approach in the amendment and perhaps even accept the amendment today and avoid the vote that we will otherwise be seeking. As we said in Committee, the charter has been critical in developing, strengthening and modernising human rights in the UK. To abandon it risks reducing protections for UK citizens and leaving a gaping hole in our statute book.

    The Government claim that the Bill is about legal continuity and certainty in what will become the new category of EU retained law, but all of that EU law is interpreted through the charter, so excluding it would leave our legal system inconsistent and incoherent. To avoid defeat on this issue in Committee the former Justice Minister, the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), committed to publishing a memorandum that he claimed would confirm the Government’s case that the charter was unnecessary by identifying where all of these rights could be found in EU retained law or existing domestic law.

    Obviously that argument overlooked the main point of the charter, which was to bring all of these rights together in one codifying document, but as an Opposition we were willing to be helpful and awaited the memorandum with interest. We wanted to see a comprehensive document that identified not only the source of each right in the charter but—crucially—how the existing level of effective recourse would be guaranteed. The memorandum was published on 5 December, and it acknowledged that the Government envisaged all these rights being scattered back to their original sources. They are removing the material source of the rights, in the form of the charter, and leaving citizens with the formal source. Now that is a legal way of describing the problem, but I am not a lawyer. It means in effect that it will become more difficult for any UK citizen to assert their rights post-Brexit.

    In their defence, the Government insisted that nothing would be lost if we dropped the charter because it created no new rights.

  • I see the Solicitor General nodding. On this crucial issue, however, the Government’s cover has been blown. For this, I would like to thank the new Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes) —I am sorry she is not in her place today—because in an article in The Daily Telegraph on 18 November last year she made our case clearly. She expressed her concern about the charter precisely because it provided new rights. She wrote that it went beyond the European convention on human rights by creating “extra layers of rights”, and she went on to bemoan the fact that these extra rights covered

    “everything from biomedicine and eugenics to personal data and collective bargaining”.

    I appreciate that her thinking on this will probably be in line with that of her new boss, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, because he relied of course on the extra rights provided by the charter when he brought his own court case against the now Prime Minister asserting his right to personal data.

  • My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. In addition to the points he has just made, the Exiting the European Union Committee heard evidence from witnesses who said that something would be lost if the charter was not transferred. Given that the whole purpose of the Bill is to take the law as it is now and make sure it is still there the day after, does he agree that the Government have thus far failed to persuade the House that the one thing that should be left out is the charter of fundamental rights?

  • I agree absolutely with my right hon. Friend, and I hope even at this stage that Members across the House might join us in supporting amendment 4.

    I do not often agree with the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham, but I am delighted to say that in this case I do. She is right that the charter does indeed go beyond the European convention on human rights and that EU retained law will be incoherent without it. Our amendment is necessary, therefore, if we are to achieve the Government’s own stated objective of protecting the rights of UK citizens. This is a crucial issue. The chair of the Government’s own Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac, has said:

    “The government has promised there will be no rowing back on people’s rights after Brexit. If we lose the charter protections, that promise will be broken. It will cause legal confusion and there will be gaps in the law.”

    These are serious concerns. Human rights should not be a dividing line across the House but should be seen as a British value, and I urge all Members who do not want Brexit hijacked and the rights of UK citizens diluted and reduced to support the amendment.

  • I want to speak briefly to several of the amendments in this group. In particular, I want to encourage the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) to elaborate on his rather carefully crafted new clause 13, which sets out quite a clever solution to the vexed question of EU retained law. He slightly rushed through his explanation of the new clause towards the end of his speech, but as I understand it, he is suggesting that, rather than treating as a new category of law the whole corpus of 40 years of accrued EU legislation, rights and duties that we all enjoy—or not, depending on how they apply—for the purposes of future amendment or reform of those rights and retained law, certain aspects should be treated as primary legislation and others as secondary legislation.

    I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was saying that issues that fell under article 289 should be treated as primary legislation because they were of greater import, and that if we wanted to amend them again in the future we should do so by Act of Parliament, whereas aspects of retained EU law that related to delegated instruments under article 290 should be treated as secondary legislation, and if there were future reforms of those aspects, Parliament could use the secondary procedure. It would be most helpful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman could give us a little more detail about why he felt that those were the right categories to pursue.

  • I am certainly not going to make a mini-speech; I said what I felt was sufficient. I offer the new clause not as a perfect solution, but as an alternative to what I consider to be the rather incoherent approach that the Government have adopted. The new clause seemed to me to have some merit, especially because it includes a provision allowing the status of retained EU law to be altered by statutory instrument, so the House could be done with the process quite quickly. I thought that it was a way of trying to resolve what I saw as a practical problem. Let me emphasise that it was not intended to be a weapon with which to beat Ministers on the head. I saw it merely as a sensible way of trying to take things forward, and I present it to the Committee in that spirit. It is not perfect, but represents another way in which we might approach the issue.

  • This may seem a dry and technical question, but from time to time Parliament does reflect on the nature of legislation that has been passed. We all assume that it has been accrued through Acts of Parliament or through secondary legislation, but we are now importing a third category, that of retained EU law, into our legal context, and we need to know how to treat it in the future. I do not think that the Government have addressed that question adequately, which is why I think that new clause 13 is of particular interest.

  • One of the perplexing aspects of Brexit is the lack of certainty. Many external advisers have come to see us, both in our capacity as constituency MPs and as people who are concerned about the economy and the legal picture and who are asking for certainty. The new clause would assist that process.

  • These issues are very much to do with legal clarity. They are to do with ensuring that the body of our law can operate smoothly and with stability, and that the courts can properly interpret the way in which various rights will apply in the circumstances that our individual constituents may encounter.

    You were not in the Chair during the Committee stage, Mr Speaker, but you may recall that we had some discussion about aspects of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Amendment 4, and amendment 7 tabled by members of the Scottish National party, make the important point that, as we heard earlier from my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), this is not a simple “copy and paste” piece of legislation. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn): it seems very peculiar that the charter has been explicitly excluded from the carrying forward of rights. Ministers say, “Do not worry: all those matters are already covered”, or “Common law can deal with them adequately”, but I do not think that such verbal assurances are good enough, and evidence given to the Exiting the European Union Committee bears that out.

  • I read what the report said about the issue of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and I must say that I thought it very inconclusive. I do not think that the Committee took a strong position on either side of the debate.

  • The Select Committee consists of Members in all parts of the House. Far be it from me to interfere with the way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central manages—heaven knows how—to steer through a report compiled by a Committee that is not only august but enormous. Evidence was submitted, however, and I do not think that it can be swept away.

    Let me remind the Committee what we are talking about when we refer to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We are talking about rights that relate to

    “dignity, the right to life, to freedom from torture, slavery, the death penalty, eugenic practices and human cloning”.

    We are talking about

    “freedoms, the right to liberty, personal integrity, privacy, protection of personal data”

    —which will be a massive issue when it arises later in our proceedings—

    “marriage, thought, religion, expression, assembly, education, work, property and asylum”.

    We are talking about

    “equality, the right to equality before the law, prohibition of all discrimination including on the basis of disability, age and sexual orientation, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, the rights of children and the elderly”.

    Again, some of those rights are not necessarily enshrined in primary legislation, but have accrued because of our membership of the European Union over several decades. We are talking about

    “solidarity, the right to fair working conditions, protection against unjustified dismissal, and access to health care, social and housing assistance…citizens’ rights, the rights of citizens such as the right to vote in elections and to move freely, the right to good administration, to access documents and to petition Parliament”.

    We are also talking about justiciable rights:

    “the right to an effective remedy, a fair trial, to the presumption of innocence, the principle of legality, non-retrospectivity and double jeopardy.”

    We can all point to parts of existing UK law where many of those rights may be covered adequately, but other rights—particularly those relating to children and families and to social policy—are connected very much with EU law.

  • The catalogue of rights that the hon. Gentleman has just read out is impressive, without a shadow of a doubt. Will he concede, however, that throughout the glorious history of this place, Governments of all political persuasions have enshrined, in primary legislation and elsewhere, rights that include almost all of those? Indeed, in continental Europe, when many of those rights were being stripped down and attacked, this place had a fantastic track record of defending them both in the UK and in other parts of the world, spilling the blood of our young people in order to do so. How on earth can the hon. Gentleman think that we would strip them away?

  • No one is more proud of being a member of this fine body than I am. Parliament is a great institution: I would say that it is one of the greatest democratic institutions in the world. We are perfectly capable of dealing with many of these issues, but the hon. Gentleman unwittingly went against his own argument when he said “almost” all the rights in the charter were covered or duplicated in primary legislation. Not all of them are covered, as was made clear in some of the evidence that the Select Committee heard.

  • Is there not a fundamental inconsistency here? The Government’s reason for not including the charter is that those rights are covered in domestic law, so it would not add anything, but they propose to include thousands of other directives and rules, many of which we would also be unlikely to change in domestic law. The very same argument could be applied to those thousands of other rules that the Bill goes out of its way to incorporate. The Government say, “We do not want to change the labour laws; we do not want to change the environmental rules; we do not want to change the consumer rights.” However, they apply a different logic to the charter. Why does my hon. Friend think that is?

  • The logic of the Government is a mystery sometimes, and I wonder whether the Solicitor General actually secretly agrees that these are important rights that need to be defended and that the Government have got themselves into a bit of a pickle, possibly because they drafted this Bill before the general election and therefore before they saw some of the consequences of these things.

  • Those of us who are gay, who went to school in the 1980s and who remember very well the impact of section 28 might baulk at the idea that every Government have given rights and not taken them away. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a fundamental reason why we need to share and stay within the European Union and the fundamental rights system it provides?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That right of protection for freedoms and liberties on the grounds of sexual orientation is enshrined in the charter of fundamental rights. One of the examples given was civil partnerships where in the future pension rights might be divided but at the time when the partnerships took place certain UK laws were not in place; the charter provides protections against discrimination in a way that existing UK law does not.

  • My hon. Friend is making a strong point and I strongly support what he is saying and Labour Front-Bench amendment 4. I accept that many Conservative Members would strongly defend the rights in the charter and other provisions we have agreed to, but does my hon. Friend agree that the public have reason to be deeply suspicious, because they hear many Conservative Members talk about a race to the bottom in regulation, particularly in employment rights, and about wanting to scrap the Human Rights Act and pull us out of the European convention on human rights? That is why keeping such rights is so crucial.

  • That is right, and my hon. Friend will also remember that, before becoming Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) cited many of the rights in the charter in his own legal case against the then Home Secretary, who is now the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman took a case against her and cited many of the provisions in the charter; how strange it is that he now introduces a Bill that does not necessarily carry forward those provisions.

  • My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that the issue at hand is not whether those of us in this Chamber now might want to change the rights and protections we currently have, but the process by which those laws and rights could be changed and the ease and lack of accountability and transparency that could put them at risk in future?

  • I can certainly imagine cases where our constituents, feeling the need to assert some of those rights in the charter in future, find themselves falling foul of the provision in clause 5 that says, all of a sudden, that the charter of fundamental rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day. They enjoyed those rights hitherto; where would that situation leave them?

    The Government, when being sued by the tobacco companies which did not like plain packaging and thought it was against their rights of expression, cited the right to public health in the charter of fundamental rights and managed to defeat those tobacco companies. The charter of fundamental rights proved important not just for our constituents, but for the Government themselves in upholding what was a good piece of public policy at the time.

  • I think I played a small part in that, and the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Does he agree that all political parties are very keen to appeal to younger voters and that things such as rights really matter to young people, so it could be seen as somewhat ironic that a party that wants to get more young people to vote for it seems to be turning its back on provision for these very important rights?

  • I am sure that advice will have been heard in senior quarters. Indeed a vice-chair of the Conservative party, the hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly), is sitting on the row in front of the right hon. Lady. He is a very senior and eminent individual now, who has great responsibility for digging the Conservative party out of quite a deep hole.

  • If the hon. Gentleman wants to show us his spade, I will give way to him.

  • I am not trying to scrape over the point I made earlier, but I am very proud of the history of this place in enacting and protecting rights whether they are in primary legislation or not. The implication of what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that, upon our departure from the EU, unless we bind the hands of Governments of the future in some way, we can no longer trust this place to enhance and protect human rights. Can he reassure me that in no way is he implying that this place will in any way in the foreseeable future row back from its commitment to extending human rights?

  • Who knows what will happen in terms of future majorities in this place. The hon. Gentleman is still not explaining to me why this issue of all the issues should not be carried forward into legislation. He says he is in favour of almost all, or all of the rights in the charter, but we know there are examples where problems arise.

  • The Government boast about their protection of human rights, and of course they sign up to UN conventions on the protection of rights of women and children, but they do not then incorporate those rights into our domestic legislation, and because we have a dualist system in terms of international law the rights in UN conventions are not directly applicable in the UK. That is why it is so important that we retain the charter of fundamental rights, and that the Government give a commitment today that they will do so.

  • The hon. Lady’s legal experience speaks volumes about the issue. Simply explaining that one is in favour of these rights, having Members on the Conservative Benches say “They are all really important”, saying that in leaflets and posting them through letterboxes at elections, and having Ministers at the Dispatch Box saying, “Trust us, it’s all fine” cannot provide the solid protections that our constituents need in a court of law, whereas the charter of fundamental rights can currently do that.

  • They have never been in any of my leaflets. I may be in danger of repeating myself now, but when did that ever stop anyone? The reality is that I remember sitting where the hon. Gentleman is sitting now and being told from the Dispatch Box on this side of the Chamber by his party colleague the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) that the charter would never apply in the United Kingdom and indeed that it would have no more force than a copy of The Beano.

  • As it happens, since that time, we have learned that the charter provides extremely important protections for many citizens. I do not think the Government would have cited it in legal actions against the tobacco companies if it were such an unimportant protection.

  • Does not the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) make our point for us? So many on the Tory Benches disregard the importance of the charter.

  • I am worried. The right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) was saying to her hon. Friends, “Be careful because our constituents do care about rights.” She said in particular that younger people care about rights. They really do matter. They may not matter to them in their daily lives today, but they may matter to them or their family or relatives or the environment tomorrow. Those are all things our constituents care about.

  • The hon. Gentleman has been incredibly generous in taking interventions throughout his speech. When this matter was debated at the previous stage, we had a long discussion on the charter of fundamental rights and it was clear that it divides into three sections. One section is already covered by the Human Rights Act, another section will be meaningless when we leave Europe—it includes rights such as the right to petition the European Parliament—and there is a middle section where there are rights that we should look at carefully. The right way to deal with that is through a constitutional Bill in due course to reset our own rights settlement in this country for all citizens, not just for European law.

  • If that were the right way, the Government would have introduced a Bill to provide such certainty, instead of saying, “Mañana. Maybe at some point in the future we will try to close this loophole.” We have the Trade Bill now, as well as the Nuclear Safeguards Bill and a customs Bill. We are supposed to have an immigration Bill at some point, although I suspect that the Government are having a few difficulties figuring out how to bring it forward. These Bills are supposed to be the fundamental underpinnings of the copy-and-paste process that the Government are pursuing. They are supposed to be taking aspects of European Union rules and regulations and ensuring that they will still be here after March 2019, but no Bill relating to the charter of fundamental rights has been brought forward.

  • The hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of some of these rights, but may I suggest that incorporating the charter would create complete legal confusion? Under the convention, there is purely a power to make a declaration of incompatibility. Under the charter, however, UK law can actually be trumped. The extraordinary situation could arise in which, if a prohibition against slavery were breached, the courts could merely say that it was incompatible, but if there were a breach relating to data protection, UK law could be trumped. That would create confusion and chaos, which is not what we need in this country.

  • Personally, I believe that Parliament does and should value the provisions of the charter of fundamental human rights. I trust our legal system to be able to reconcile textual difficulties between different Acts. I would rather operate on the precautionary principle and have those rights covered within our law than see the protections that are offered to our constituents expunged at this point, only to unwittingly discover later that the rights we used to have under the charter are no longer provided for because the Government of the day did not want to transpose them.

    While talking about rights, but in a completely different context, I want to talk about new clause 7, which has been tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). It relates to animal sentience and the welfare of animals—not human rights but animal rights. If there is one issue that can be guaranteed to fill all our inboxes, it is the protection of animal rights. Our constituents really do care about this issue. The Government have already got into a tremendous pickle over this, and it would have been funny if it were not so tragic to see the Secretary of State for the Environment scrabbling around trying to pretend that, all of a sudden, the Government really cared about these matters.

    Brexit will affect this area quite considerably. On the International Trade Committee, we heard evidence from various animal rights organisations and others involved in the agricultural trade sector, including the National Farmers Union and those involved with what are known as the sanitary and phytosanitary regulations relating to the import and export of animal products. There is a reason that the Americans dip their chickens in chlorine, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether you have had chlorinated chicken recently. I am not that fussy myself, but perhaps we will be invited to a tasting session at the new American embassy at some point. The reason they dip their chickens in chlorine is that the welfare standards that cover their abattoirs and the way in which their animals are looked after before slaughter are far lower than ours. Before the animals reach the consumer, they need to be cleaned up in a way that is not necessary here in the UK because we have higher welfare standards, not least by virtue of our membership of the European Union. Across all the European Union, we take a precautionary principle when it comes to this kind of regulation. We do not have to dip our chickens in chlorine because they are already subject to certain health and safety standards.

    Animal welfare issues matter in relation to trade as well. I find it perplexing when Conservative Members say that our salvation will be a trade deal with President Trump and the United States. We all know that the primary goal of the United States will be to have a treaty in respect of agriculture. If we do such a deal, the Americans will want to sell us animal products that have been produced under lower welfare and regulatory standards. That will be the deal they will seek. However, if the Secretary of State for the Environment says that we are going to have exactly the same regulatory standards as we have now, he will effectively be telling the Americans that there can be no trade deal. That would be the outcome—[Interruption.] It would certainly be a very big sticking point.

  • In Dover and Ramsgate in east Kent, we have to put up with the evil and wicked trade of live animal exports, and we have to do that because of European law. We now see an opportunity to stop that evil trade, for the sake of our communities and for animal welfare, by leaving the European Union and taking back control. Does the hon. Gentleman not welcome that?

  • There are ways of mending, improving and reforming animal safety standards within the European Union. We should be making the case to do that. We do not want to throw away the benefits that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents enjoy, such as being free from traffic jams—not all the time but on many occasions. If Dover has to institute all the necessary sanitary and phytosanitary checking and inspections, with all the warehousing arrangements and other obstacles and regulations that will be needed at the border because we have left the European Union, his constituents will be mightily annoyed by the bureaucracy that they will encounter.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if the Government had had the political will to do this, they could have ended live animal exports by now? There are already references in the EU treaties to public morals, so they could have done it if they had had the political will to do so. Also, if the Government really want to persuade us that they care as much about animal welfare as they claim to do, why on earth would they oppose the new clause? It will simply ensure that we do not have a gap when we leave the EU and before the new Bill, if it happens, comes in?

  • The hon. Lady makes a very good point. In relation to specific issues relating to Brexit, the Government are finding, when the rubber hits the road, not only that there are potential problems such as the one relating to an American trade deal but that an awful lot of their constituents are saying, “Hang on a minute, what exactly are you doing about animal rights issues? Where will we be when we exit from these particular provisions?”

  • My hon. Friend knows that we do not agree on many issues relating to the EU, but we were both elected on the same glorious day in May 1997, and he will remember that our postbags then were full of campaigns to stop the export of live animals to Europe. The reason that that did not happen was not a lack of political will. The reason that the Labour Government, the coalition Government and the Conservative Government did not change the law is that it is a fundamental part of the treaty of Rome. That gives the lie to the argument that the EU can be reformed from inside. The treaty of Rome is not going to be reformed.

  • Treaties are reformed every time there are adaptations to them, whether it is Maastricht, Nice or Lisbon. The body of European rules and regulations is adapted and reformed all the time. It is all part of working together in co-operation. Sometimes we get our way on particular issues; sometimes we have to continue to argue our case. That is the nature of pooling some of our rules and sharing sovereignty in some respects with our wider neighbours. That is the nature of agriculture and of the environment in which we live.

  • It is an absolute fallacy to suggest that this Government have been dying to ban live animal exports and that it is only the EU that has held them back. I think it was Germany and the Netherlands that tried in the past few years to put a limit of eight hours transit time on live exports. The UK went along to those negotiations and argued against those proposals. This is definitely a question of political will.

  • My hon. Friend absolutely nails the point and brings it home. She knows a great deal more about such issues than I do. The Government of the day do have a say on the rules and can sometimes effect reforms or block them.

  • I do have to conclude my speech, but I will give way to the hon. Lady first.

  • I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but this country is a leader in animal welfare legislation, having introduced the concept of unnecessary suffering in 1915 and, in effect, the first protections for animal welfare, and we have continued that process. Indeed, this Government have reformed animal welfare and this country has high animal welfare protection standards.

  • We do have high animal welfare standards. I do not deny that there could always be improvements, but I want to retain what our constituents want, which is high standards. By leaving the European Union in this particular way, I worry that we will be forcing ourselves to chase after trade deals with other jurisdictions that have a totally different approach to regulation. The world effectively has three regulatory philosophies: the Chinese have a particular view of regulation; the European Union has a precautionary principle; and the Americans have a different cost-benefit analysis view of the world. If we depart from the precautionary principle ambit, that will affect agriculture, animal rights and many other issues. It would lead to wholly different and lower regulatory standards, which in some ways is the backdrop to this whole question.

  • I will take one last intervention, but then I must conclude.

  • No, I have to conclude.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for giving way; he is being very generous. Does he recognise that people are suspicious given that, for example, the new Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), who has just joined us in the Chamber, said that the Government were right not to copy the charter of fundamental rights into UK law because lawyers will love the extra rights that it gives? That shows the real intention behind what some Ministers want, which is to bring down the rights that have protected so many people and workers, the environment, and safety.

  • I congratulate the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes) on her appointment, but I am very much looking forward to her speech, which will perhaps wind up one of the sections of this debate, because Parliament will want to scrutinise her views, past and present. I will conclude with that because I have taken up more than half an hour and other Members will want to contribute.

  • Order. I will take Joanna Cherry next and then Mr Kenneth Clarke.

  • I rise to discuss amendment 7, which is in my name and those of my hon. Friends and other Members and relates to the charter of fundamental rights, and amendments 42 and 43, which are in my name, and to give support to amendment 55, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), who will be addressing it in due course. The amendments raise issues relating to the protection of fundamental rights, about which we have already had quite a degree of discussion today, and to the justiciability of those rights and their legal certainty in this country and its jurisdictions after Brexit. The amendments tabled by the Scottish National party have the support of the Law Society of Scotland, and those that relate to the charter have widespread support, including from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I am also interested in the wording of amendment 4, which was tabled by the official Opposition, and if I do not press my amendment, they can count on the SNP’s support should they press amendment 4 to a vote.

    The questions raised by the amendments have all yet to be answered adequately by the Government. As the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) alluded to earlier in his erudite contribution, the Government’s approach to the detailed and widely held concerns about aspects of the Bill tends to be rather dismissive or deals with them airily and in generalities. At this stage, before the Bill goes to the other place, which is unaccountable and undemocratically elected, it is incumbent on the Government to address the questions about clauses 5 and 6 that were directed to them in Committee, rather than to continue to deal in the generalities that they have used so far.

    The hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), who is no longer in his place, made a valid point earlier. When we hear constant reassurances from Government Members that this Parliament could not possibly do anything to contravene fundamental rights, we do not need to look back very far into our history, or into the lifetimes of many in this House, to see a prolonged period when the rights of gay people were denigrated by a Conservative Government through the use of section 28.

  • That was a long time ago.

  • It was not that long ago. Some of us were at school or were students at the time and fought very hard against it. Some of us still find it rather irksome to see the modern Conservative party presented as a great defender of gay rights, because we remember the years when it was not. It has seen the light since then and that is a good thing, but the contravention of human rights is something that Governments do from time to time, which is why it is necessary to have protections that go over and above the whims of the party in power.

  • I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because I think it needs to be put on the record that, as a Conservative, I could not be prouder of what we achieved between 2010 and 2015, when we introduced equal marriage. I also pay tribute to the fact that the leader of the Scottish Conservatives happens to be gay. We just need to move on from all this. We should not talk about the past, but look to the future. We are very proud of our history as it now is in the Conservative party.

  • I am sorry that the right hon. Lady has failed to take my point, which is that this is not about what has happened over the past five years, when there has been cross-party support across the United Kingdom—apart from the Democratic Unionist party—for things such as equal marriage. I am talking about recent history and my lifetime as a gay woman. When I was at school and when I was a student, the Conservative party had a policy of completely quashing the aspirations of gay people. We were not even allowed to hear about what our lives might be like when we grew up. That is an example of why we need protections that go over and above the Government and the majority of the day.

    Conservative Members do not like to hear it, but there are other similar examples from our recent history. Try telling the members of the nationalist and Catholic community in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and ’70s, whose civil liberties and human rights were routinely undermined, that they were defended by this House. They are now, and it is wonderful that we have moved on, but those rights were not protected in the past—in our lifetime—and that is why we need independent support for fundamental rights. It simply will not do for the Government to say that we can get rid of the charter and that all the rights in it will be protected in United Kingdom law, because they are not. I gave an example in Committee of where such rights were not protected—namely, the loophole in the Walker case in the Supreme Court, but we have yet to hear how the Government propose to close the loophole—and there are other examples.

    The hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), the Opposition spokesman, made the point that the cat was rather let out of the bag when the new Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), wrote an article for The Daily Telegraph last year—I mentioned this in Committee—saying that it was right to get rid of the charter because it contained many rights that she would like to see the back of. I wonder whether that isolated attack on the charter, as the one bit of European law that the Government do not want to bring into UK law, is connected to their previous antipathy to the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights. We have been hearing conflicting noises from Government Members about their attitude to the ECHR and the Human Rights Act, and I would be interested to hear the Government’s long-term proposals. We have a new Justice Secretary; what is his view on the matter?

    In any event, it is important for us to bear in mind that there are many voices from different parts of British society who want to keep the charter, including all the Opposition parties, the devolved Governments in Scotland and in Wales, large parts of the legal profession, significant parts of the judiciary, respected think-tanks and respected non-governmental organisations. It is time for the Government to take note of views held beyond the House and beyond their own party. This is similar to the attitude the Government take towards the views of the people of Scotland, 62% of whom voted to remain. We will debate what passes for the Government’s amendments on devolved issues later today, but the distinguished Scottish political commentator Gerry Hassan wrote in the newspaper earlier this week that:

    “British politics as currently conducted cannot go on indefinitely, with the will of the people interpreted on the basis of just one June 2016 vote, but ignored in everything else…public opinion north of the border cannot be permanently ignored without profound consequences.”

    Do not just take that from Mr Hassan, or indeed from the Opposition. The Conservative party’s spokesperson on constitutional affairs in Scotland, Professor Adam Tomkins, said at the weekend that

    “the political price of enacting legislation without consent”—

    from the Scottish Parliament—

    “might be quite significant indeed.”

    The wilful ignoring of the will of the Scottish people highlights a democratic deficit at the heart of the United Kingdom, which is why I and other Scottish National party Members would like to see an independent Scotland. The irony is that those who push so strongly for Brexit complain about a democratic deficit in the European Union, and many of them hold that view sincerely, but they seem not to care a jot for the democratic deficit in this Union, the United Kingdom.

    Many of the amendments being considered today are about defending democracy, and it is right they should be debated and determined by this House, not by the undemocratic and unaccountable House of Lords. The House of Lords contains a significant number of able people—indeed, I look forward to hearing what they have to say about aspects of this Bill—but they are not accountable in the way that Members of this House are. We should be debating these issues, which is why it is so disgraceful that the Government have not tabled their substantive amendments on devolution. My hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) will speak about that in more detail later.

    The SNP’s amendments, and indeed Labour’s amendment, on the charter are supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and many hon. Members will have had the benefit of reading the EHRC’s briefing and the opinion it commissioned from distinguished senior counsel Jason Coppel on the Government’s right-by-right analysis, which was published back in December 2017. The analysis repeats the Government’s assurance that the rights provided by the charter will not be weakened following Brexit, which we already know is not the view of the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham; nor is it the view of Mr Coppel, who has produced a detailed opinion showing that the loss of the charter will result in a loss of rights in a number of ways.

    As I and others said in Committee, there are gaps and, most importantly, this Bill will remove remedies that are currently available in UK law in cases of a breach of charter rights. As the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield said, there is also the very real possibility that charter rights could be repealed or overridden in UK law by the use of secondary legislation.

  • If the Scottish referendum had gone the other way, would not the hon. and learned Lady have regarded the result as completely binding on the whole United Kingdom, even though large parts of England might have voted against her view?

  • I will not be drawn into a discussion about that today. I can see why the right hon. Gentleman might want to take attention away from the matter in hand, but we are not here today to debate Scottish independence. That will come later, and I very much look forward to it.

    We are here today to consider the Bill. Rather than shuffling off our responsibilities to another place, we should be looking at the provisions here. The “assurance” published by the Government is not worth the paper it is written on. One of their Ministers will tell us otherwise, but, perhaps more importantly, the independent legal opinion of a senior English silk commissioned by the EHRC tells us so, and his view is widely held.

    I do not intend to press amendments 42 and 43 to a vote today, as I see them as probing amendments. Amendment 43 arises from matters raised in Committee, and amendment 42 arises from the terms of the agreement reached between EU and UK negotiators in December 2017. Amendment 42 would ensure that UK courts and tribunals can refer matters to the Court of Justice of the European Union, as was agreed between negotiators in December 2017 in relation to citizens’ rights.

  • Paragraph 38 of the joint report from the negotiators confirms that

    “the Agreement establishes rights for citizens following on from those established in Union law during the UK’s membership of the European Union; the CJEU is the ultimate arbiter of the interpretation of Union law. In the context of the application or interpretation of those rights, UK courts shall therefore have due regard to relevant decisions of the CJEU after the specified date. The Agreement should also establish a mechanism enabling UK courts or tribunals to decide, having had due regard to whether relevant case-law exists, to ask the CJEU questions of interpretation of those rights where they consider that a CJEU ruling on the question is necessary for the UK court or tribunal to be able to give judgment... This mechanism should be available for UK courts or tribunals for litigation brought within 8 years from the date of application of the citizens’ rights Part.”

    That shows that the agreement reached back in December fundamentally threw away one of the Prime Minister’s red lines, because the Court of Justice of the European Union will have continuing jurisdiction in relation to citizens’ rights for a lengthy period. I am gratified that the words “due regard”, which were in my original amendment 137 in Committee—the amendment was only narrowly defeated—were used in the agreement.

    The purpose of amendment 42 is to ensure that the agreement reached last December is reflected in the Bill, and the amendment has the objective of continuing the Court of Justice’s jurisdiction on citizens’ rights in this country up to a point. Of course that does not deal with the thorny problem of clause 6(2), which I attempted to amend in Committee without success. Amendment 42 was suggested by the Law Society of Scotland and is very much a probing amendment.

    It needs to be borne in mind that it is not just politicians who are concerned about clause 6(2), as the judiciary are also concerned—there is a real issue here. The Government seem to acknowledge that there might be an issue, but they are unwilling to say what they are going to do about it. The briefing from the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law says:

    “The interpretive principles of Clause 6 must be clarified, especially so that courts and tribunals have clear guidance regarding the treatment of retained EU case law by the Supreme Court and”—

    in Scotland—

    “the High Court of Justiciary to enhance legal certainty and individuals’ access to justice.”

    Lord Neuberger, the former President of the UK Supreme Court, has raised this issue on a number of occasions, including in interviews with the BBC and in evidence to Committees of the other place.

  • I agree entirely with what the hon. and learned Lady is saying, but it is my understanding, and I hope the Minister will say it again—he said it in Committee—that this will be dealt with in the other place. I am sorry that it could not be dealt with here, because that would have been rather better, but if the Government need more time, I expect them to address this issue.

  • That is what I have heard, too. What I would like to hear from the Government today—this is why I tabled this probing amendment—is some indication that they recognise the gravity of the issue. This is not a political football, and it is not about stopping Brexit; it is about addressing issues of legal certainty.

    As a courtesy to this House, I would like to hear some indication of how the Government propose to address the issues of legal certainty, particularly so that Members of my party, which is not represented in the other place, can have some input and give our view. Of course Scotland has a separate legal system. Clause 6(2) will apply to the High Court of Justiciary, and we need to be reassured not just on behalf of judges in the UK Supreme Court but on behalf of judges in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. I very much hope amendments 42 and 43 will draw from the Solicitor General some colourable reassurance that the Government are taking these concerns seriously and that they have them in hand, as well as some indication of the route the Government intend to go down in the other place to address these concerns.

    Finally, on the charter of fundamental rights, I will wait to see what the official Opposition do, as we each have an amendment down. Given the spirit in which we have worked together on other aspects of this Bill, I am sure we can come to an agreement on that. The Scottish National party will be happy to support new clause 7, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). Many of our constituents feel strongly about the issue it raises, as do those of other MPs, and we are grateful to her for persevering with it.

  • The hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) began his speech by saying that it was going to be very short but he then generously gave way to dozens of interventions from Members from all around the House and spoke for half an hour. He was expressing views with which I largely agreed, but I will try not to follow his precedent. I was not trying to catch your eye at all, Mr Speaker; I was waiting for the Solicitor General to reply to these points, as I was waiting for Ministers to reply to them in Committee, when I made speeches on one or two of them. However, I decided to make a short speech to save myself and the House from the long interventions that I am prone to make and would otherwise make on the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General.

    This speech concerns the three points that have dominated throughout, where I am in great sympathy with what many people have said. First, why are the Government singling out the charter of fundamental rights to be the only piece of EU legislation that they wish to repeal? Secondly, on retained EU rights, why are those people who have existing rights of action able to get only this strange concession that for three months they might be able to pursue those rights, otherwise retrospectively they will lose them if their solicitors do not act quickly enough or they do not realise in time that they might have an action? Thirdly, and finally, we have this strange question of how in future a sovereign Parliament will amend EU law if it wishes to do so and why we have this confusion about what is, in effect, primary legislation and will require an Act of Parliament to change it, and what is secondary legislation and will require regulations. I will not repeat the arguments on any of those points at any length, because I addressed some of them in Committee and they have been well put today. But I am astonished that we have got to Report without, as yet, having had an adequate response to any of them.

    I was rather doubtful about the charter of fundamental rights when it came before the House originally. I was a supporter of the treaty of Lisbon and I voted against my own party, with the then Government, quite frequently throughout those proceedings, as I thought the treaty was highly desirable. I am glad to say that when we came to power we showed not the slightest sign of wishing to undo any of it. The charter of fundamental rights was the bit I was least keen on, thinking it on the whole unnecessary, as it largely duplicated the European convention on human rights, and thinking that it was not going to make any difference; I did not use The Beano quote, but I could not see that it mattered very much and I went along with it reluctantly. I was wrong, as the charter has led to some extensions of rights in important areas. I cannot see why we should wish to halt that process. We have not yet got the Government’s proposals as to what they are going to do to fill the gap on things such as equalities law, which will emerge if we just repeal this.

    The point I wish to make in a short speech is about what kind of answer I want from my hon. and learned Friend. He is genuinely a personal friend of mine. He is an extremely eloquent and valuable member of the Government. Obviously, as all lawyers do from time to time, he follows a brief, but I am sure he makes a considerable contribution to that brief and gives very valuable advice to those who seek to instruct him to temper what they would otherwise wish to do. So this is not at all aimed at him personally. But the Government’s approach throughout these unsatisfactory proceedings so far has been not to debate the main issues; we get raised with us all kinds of technical, drafting or slightly irrelevant reasons why the proposals coming from the Front Benchers on all sides cannot be accepted. So far, as far as I am aware, the Government’s case on the charter of fundamental rights is, “Well, it would not make any difference to repeal it. It hasn’t added anything. This is just unnecessary. We have singled it out, uniquely among all other EU law, simply because our tidiness of mind makes us wish to remove something that is perfectly adequately reflected in other areas.” That is not good enough.

    On all three points that I have set out, the Government today, on Report, have the last chance in this House to say why they are repealing the charter, what evil it has done, what danger they think we are being protected from by its repeal and so on. I have yet to hear an example from anybody of a case where the charter of fundamental rights has been invoked in a way that anybody in this House would wish to reverse. We have not been given an example of an area of law that we have been taken into despite the bitter opposition of either the Government or this House. The advances that have been made, in some cases invoking the charter, seem to me perfectly worth while, so I hope the Solicitor General’s speech will specify those areas where the Government see that damage has been to our approach to rights and to law, and what hazards they are going to prevent us from falling into by reversing the charter.

  • I will give way in a second; before I finish, I will give way if people insist.

    Secondly, what on earth is the advantage we gain by putting in a three-month limit? The Government have taken weeks to come back with their alleged response to the points raised on the Floor of the House on acquired legal rights and it seems we can have a concession for three months. That is utterly ludicrous. Thirdly, what is wrong here? My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) is much more of a gentleman than I, and he is much more likely to adhere to party political loyalties. There is no more stout mainstream Conservative than me, and I would say that I am sticking to the Conservative principles that I have followed throughout my life until 18 months ago, but I do think some of these things, certainly on questions of rights, are not party issues. They usually do not have a whip applied. They are matters of conscience and cut across both sides. Going back to the future powers of this Parliament, which it must have of course, to amend retained EU law as and when the political will of the House wishes to do so, what is wrong with new clause 13 and its specification of what is primary legislation and what is secondary legislation? What alternative are the Government going to come up with, other than just saying, “The Government of the day will decide as each issues arises”? They must have a better alternative than that.

  • The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that this is the sort of amendment that the other place might just take to heart and bounce back, so it might be more sensible to have that difficult pain now and get it out of the way, and the other House will not have to return it?

  • I hope and believe that the other place will make an enormous number of changes to this Bill. The idea that a Bill with all these Henry VIII clauses is going to have an untroubled passage through the House of Lords is an illusion. This House just lets every extension of the Henry VIII clause principle through. The Opposition of the day object like mad but then that party takes office, cites the precedents of its predecessor and defends them as the way of proceeding, and the previous Government then start denouncing them. I hope the House of Lords will throw back some of the bizarre extension of the Henry VIII principle in this Bill and some of the European things.

  • The whole Bill has gone through under a self-denying ordinance—not all the time; the hon. Member for Nottingham East and I have not always stuck to it—that we are not talking about substance. The House has said, “We’re not going to bother very much with the future trade relationship and whether we are still in the single market or the customs union.” Well, they had better not take that view in the House of Lords. The other place is particularly full of highly distinguished lawyers. So is this place—there is no better lawyer in the other place than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield—but some of the lawyers there will not put up with some of this nonsense. The danger is that if the Government continue with the Bill as they have so far, they will simply take the view that, “Well, the House of Commons can reverse that. We are putting out a three-line Whip on Tuesday. We will all have a debate, solemnly nod, explain why the House of Lords has got the technicalities wrong and throw it back again.” So far, this is a pathetic Parliament in the way in which it has handled this extraordinary Bill.

    Let me return to where we are now. We have debated for some time now—over many weeks—all three of the issues I raised, but I have yet to hear an argument of substance on any one of them. I trust that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General will not get up and raise technicalities or say that we need more time, but actually say why we are either taking the step we are taking in the one case or, in the other, resisting the obvious improvements that have been proposed. If we do not do that, this whole Committee and Report stage will have been one of the most curious and ritual parliamentary processes that I have seen for a very long time.

  • I support amendment 57, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), along with several others, but I wish to speak specifically to new clause 9, which I have tabled and which is on the saving of acquired rights in Anguilla. I do not think there has been any discussion at all of Anguilla in any of the proceedings on the Bill so far.

    Before Christmas, I tabled a written question to

    “ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, whether the implementation phase of the UK leaving the EU will be the same for Anguilla as the rest of the UK; and if he will make a statement.”

    On 22 December, I received the following answer:

    “Both the EU and the UK have been clear that the Implementation Period will be agreed under Article 50 and be part of the Withdrawal Agreement. Both sides have also been clear that the Overseas Territories, including Anguilla, are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and our Article 50 exit negotiations…In these negotiations, we are seeking a deal that works for the whole UK family, including Anguilla.”

    So, there was no clarity there. It is not yet clear what is going to happen with respect to Anguilla.

    Why is Anguilla important? We have debated at some length Gibraltar, which has around 32,000 residents. It is a British overseas territory that has been in the possession of the United Kingdom since the treaty of Utrecht in the beginnings of the 18th century. [Interruption.] Yes, indeed, it was 1713. According the figures I have seen, Anguilla has a population of 15,263, and it has been a British possession since 1650. Just as Gibraltar has a border with an EU country—Spain—so Anguilla has a border with the EU, but with not just one but two EU countries.

    Anguilla is in the north of the Leeward Islands, and 8 miles to its south is Saint Martin or, to use the Dutch, Sint Maarten. That island is part of two EU states: the northern 60% of the island has been French territory since an agreement in 1648, and since that same agreement the Kingdom of the Netherlands has possessed the southern 40% of the island. The island of Saint Martin has a complicated history that I do not intend to go into at length, but it is important to discuss its relationship with Anguilla.

    Anguilla is one of five British overseas territories in the Caribbean, but it is very much more dependent on its relations with the European Union and with France and the Netherlands than any other British overseas territory. There is an international airport—Princess Juliana—on Saint Martin, but there is no international airport on Anguilla.

  • You could go by road.

  • Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could walk on water.

    Anguilla is economically dependent on Saint Martin. The relationship is essential for Anguilla. The northern part of the island of Saint Martin, which has been since 2007 a French overseas collectivity, has a population of 38,286. The southern part of the island is one of the four kingdoms that make up the Netherlands, the others being Aruba, Curaçao and the Netherlands proper. France and the Netherlands have a different relationship with their overseas territories than the UK has with ours, and that has changed the dynamics. For example, in September the massive, terrible Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean and wiped out whole communities and destroyed whole towns. President Macron flew very quickly to visit this integral part of France, where there is a tight, close relationship with the Netherlands.

    This afternoon, the Foreign Affairs Committee, on which I serve, is discussing the overseas territories and the response to hurricanes. I hope to get to the Committee in time to hear a representative of the Government of Anguilla’s London office give evidence, but I cannot be in two places at the same time. I hope I will be able to speak in advance and ask questions later.

    The population of Sint Maarten, the Netherlands part, is around 33,000, so the total population of the island to the south of Anguilla is around 75,000. It is much larger and much more important, so there are fundamental economic questions to be answered about what will happen when—if—the UK leaves the EU.

  • The hon. Gentleman will know that my colleagues in the Department for Exiting the European Union have been engaging with Britain’s overseas territories, including Anguilla, through the Joint Ministerial Council and other mechanisms. Does he agree that that is a perfectly adequate mechanism that should continue, and that that means his new clause is not necessary?

  • No, I do not agree that it is a perfectly adequate mechanism. The report published by the Government of Anguilla’s London office last summer, “Anguilla and Brexit: Britain’s Forgotten EU Border”, points out how we do not give sufficient attention to the needs and requirements of our overseas territories. Let me quote just one example: the position with regard to overseas development assistance. Since 2014, we have virtually stopped giving Anguilla any overseas development assistance through the Department for International Development budget, in contrast to some other overseas territories such as Montserrat and elsewhere, and yet it is receiving assistance from the European Union. There is a big concern, which I will come to later, about what will happen to the continued assistance that goes to Anguilla once we leave the EU. That assistance accounts for about 36% of the capital expenditure of the Anguillan Government. That huge amount comes as a result of assistance from the European Union, and it goes to Anguilla by virtue of UK membership of the EU, but once we stop paying into EU development assistance, does anybody think that the EU will continue to finance a British overseas territory when there is no longer any relationship between the UK and the European Union? These are very complicated questions.

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for treating us to the shorter version of his speech. Does he welcome the communiqué signed by the Government and the territories, which said that the UK acknowledged

    “the importance of EU funding for sustainable economic development in some Overseas Territories and committed to ensuring that these interests were fully reflected in the UK’s negotiating position”?

    Does he not think that that will be of great assistance to Anguilla and other overseas territories?

  • No, I do not; it is just words. It is all about what will happen in the negotiations. How much money are we prepared to put in? Will there be a payment into the EU budget in order to continue EU assistance to Anguilla, which does not come directly from DFID at this time? Those are interesting and complicated questions.

    Like the UK, Anguilla lies outside the Schengen area, which also does not apply to French St Martin. Under EU Council articles 349 and 355 of the Treaty of Lisbon, French St Martin is classified as an outermost region of France, while Dutch Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius and Anguilla are classified as overseas countries and territories of the EU. In 2017, in a factsheet entitled “Outermost regions”, the European Union’s Parliament stated:

    “Regardless of the great distance separating them from the European continent, the outermost regions are an integral part of the European Union, and the acquis communautaire is fully applicable in their territory. However, owing to their specific geographical location and the related difficulties, EU policies have had to be adjusted to their special situation.

    The relevant measures concern, in particular, areas such as customs and trade policies, fiscal policy, free zones, agriculture and fisheries policies, and conditions for supply of raw materials and essential consumer goods.”

    The outermost regions of the EU are specifically mandated by the EU and, as such, will require specific negotiation in the context of Brexit to take account of their needs. The problem that I face is that the Government have not given us any detail either in the written answer that I have secured or on any other basis as to what they will do to protect the interests of Anguilla. Unlike Gibraltar, Anguilla does not have an effective big lobbying operation, because it does not have a relationship with City financial institutions in the same way. It is very much dependent on tourism. One of its problems is that, because it does not have an international airport, flights go into St Martin, and, at present, at 10 o’clock at night, there is no means of transit from Anguilla to St Martin. Consequently, people have to stay in St Martin and not go across to Anguilla because of those difficulties in communication.

    We need to be able to help Anguilla help its tourist industry, and the best way to do that would be within the framework of the European Union, but of course the referendum decision and the way that it is being implemented by the Government mean that that will not be possible. As a result, Anguilla faces some real difficulties and dilemmas: 95% of its access for tourism and other economic measures will be subject to deliberations between EU member states during the course of the Brexit negotiations. Its fuel and desalination capacity will be exposed to negotiations on whether tariffs are to be added to oil imports from the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius.

  • There is a whole question about essential goods and services such as medical diagnostics, mail and the vast majority of international trade and tourism. Tourism accounts for 21% of the gross value added of Anguilla. So much about Anguilla is dependent on the relationship it has with the island to its south, and that is with the European Union. The Government have said nothing about this.

  • I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I do not want to interrupt his most eloquent speech, but does he not agree that the irony is that Anguilla reflects the position that we will find ourselves in at the edge of Europe should we leave? Indeed it is a concern that the Government have not given any sensible or sufficient answers to his queries, and it bodes worryingly for the future.

  • Actually, I do not agree. The UK has far bigger clout in the world than a small island with a population of just 15,000. My hon. Friend is right that we will be damaged—there is no doubt about it—by self-inflicted harm, but, as President Donald Tusk pointed out today, we can of course change our minds and if we do so, he would be delighted.

    The position with regard to Anguilla is potentially one of a country with a problematic border. I have referred already to that closure at 10 o’clock at night. If, once we leave the EU, relations between the UK and France become worse than they are now, how do Ministers and Government Members think that we will be able to speak for the interests of this British overseas territory when we are not able to succeed today in getting everything that it needs? We would have less influence and no seat at the table. We would not be in the room and we would not be able to say anything to help it.

    I do not wish to take too long, but there are important points about peoples whose voice has not been heard in this Chamber. Between 2012 and 2014, Anguilla did receive some UK official development assistance, but it was a very small sum, amounting to only £141 per person. Since then, there has not been such support. However, Montserrat received £14,000 per person and St Helena, which is even more remote, received £66,000 per person in ODA.

    Anguilla is worried that after the UK has left—if we leave—the European Union, EU initiatives that currently occur within the overseas territories will no longer continue. Anguilla understands that ODA will be vital, but that support has steadily declined and its people are worried about the threat to the European Union funds. As part of the UK Caribbean Infrastructure Fund, a £300 million programme was announced in September 2015, in order to fund infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ports across the Caribbean, via the various banks and the Department for International Development, but Anguilla is very concerned about what will happen in the long term.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that this is one of a number of examples? A place such as Anguilla or an industry such as farming has no sense of certainty about how or whether the Government will replace funding that will be lost after—or if—we leave the European Union. Does he think that the Government are not being clear about the future because they have not yet worked it out, or because they fear that if people see what the situation will be after we leave the European Union, they may begin to wake up to the fact that what is on offer is very much deficient to what we have now?

  • I actually think, in the case of Anguilla, it is because the Government have never even thought about it. Only now are issues like this coming up to bite them. We could have had an impact assessment on Anguilla. It would be nice to know whether there was such a thing; I suspect not. The Government did not give any consideration to these issues when they triggered article 50, so they probably did not even consider that.

    In “Anguilla & Brexit: Britain’s Forgotten EU Border”, which was published last summer, the Government of Anguilla call for four things. First, they want a

    “Common travel area between Saint Martin and Anguilla”,

    and state that

    “protocol 22 of the EU Treaties…provides that the UK and another EU member state…may continue to make arrangements between themselves for the free movement of people within the CTA.”

    The same model is adopted for Ireland because of the historical relationships. A common travel area would be a way to prevent an economic and social disaster for Anguilla. In practice, it would mean free movement of nationals of the French and Dutch St Martin and Sint Maarten, and Anguilla, between those islands with a

    “frictionless border without the need for passport control.”

    It would also allow visitors flying into St Martin from any country in the world to go easily as tourists into Anguilla.

    Secondly, the Government of Anguilla call for a customs union in the region

    “with European countries, territories and municipalités in the eastern Caribbean.”

    There has been a lot of talk about customs unions. I do not wish to repeat the debate that we have already had, as this issue will come back, but a customs union between the European Union territories in the region, the other countries in the region and the overseas territories of the United Kingdom could be really helpful in the Caribbean. Anguilla imports oil and other essential materials that it cannot exist without. It also exports fresh produce, which is predominantly sold to St Martin. There is therefore a real need for some kind of customs relationship that avoids tariffs and barriers.

    Thirdly, the Government of Anguilla call for a

    “Continued relationship between the UK and EU for the purposes of international development”,

    as well as,

    “Continued membership of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the European Union of Anguilla with full access to European Development Funds and support”.

    Now, that may come at a cost. Are the British Government prepared to pay that cost in the negotiations? If they do not, as I have already suggested, there will be a major impact on the Anguillan economy and future development.

    Fourthly and finally, the Government of Anguilla are looking to

    “Stronger ties between Anguilla and Britain”.

    This country has neglected our overseas territories for far too long. We do not give them the status that overseas territories have in France or the Netherlands. There is a wider issue that is not just about Anguilla and on which the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs may well comment after we have completed our current inquiry: we need a better ongoing relationship with these small communities of 15,000 people whose association with the United Kingdom goes back to the 17th century—longer, as I pointed out at the beginning, than the association of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom.

  • I strongly agree with the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) that the United Kingdom could strengthen her links and ties with Anguilla and could be very supportive as we go through Brexit. I trust that those on the Government Front Bench have listened carefully to what he has been saying. As far as I know, they have good will towards Anguilla. He mentioned some positive ideas about how the UK can help more and develop that relationship, which I welcome and which I suspect the Government may welcome.

    I will respond briefly to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). In her remarks—we have heard this in the many SNP speeches during the debates on the Bill—she referred again to the way in which Scottish voters had a different view from UK voters as a whole on the referendum and she implied that that had great constitutional significance. I urge her to think again. I pointed out to her that, had Scotland voted to be independent in its referendum, I do not think it would have mattered at all if, in a subsequent election—I think that there would probably have been one quite quickly—a lot of people in England had voted the other way and said, “No, we’d like Scotland to stay in.”

  • Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

  • If the hon. and learned Lady lets me finish my point, I will let her intervene. I would have thought that the result of the Scottish referendum was binding and, although I deeply want to keep the Union together, I would have felt that it was my duty to see the wishes of the Scottish people fully implemented because those were the terms of the referendum. She seems to be implying that it should have been otherwise.

  • The right hon. Gentleman has unfortunately forgotten that the Scottish referendum was preceded by the Edinburgh agreement between the British and Scottish Governments, which said that the outcome of the referendum would be respected by both sides. I think that he is rather trying to deflect attention from the issue in hand today by harking back to this.

  • I fear that it is very relevant, and probably even more relevant to what we are going on to debate in the next group of amendments—and the hon. and learned Lady did raise it as an important part of her case on how we handle EU law. I feel that SNP Members want to recreate the European Union in every way they can by amending this Bill, which is actually about us developing a new relationship—a very positive relationship—with the EU from outside the EU. That means changing some of the legal ties that currently bind us to the EU, while the many that we do not want to change come under our control so that future votes of the British people, and Parliaments, could make a difference if they so wished. That is the very important thing that we are debating. She has to accept that just as, had the Scottish people voted to leave, we would all have accepted the verdict and got on with it, against our wishes, now that the United Kingdom’s people have voted to leave the European Union, the whole Union has to accept that democratic judgment.

  • Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that the outcome of the 2014 referendum means that henceforth in this Union the views of the Scottish people can be blithely ignored on all occasions? Is that his view? I am sure that Scottish voters watching the television would love to know that that is what he saying.

  • Absolutely not. Scottish voters’ views matter very much. They have a privileged constitutional position, which we are all happy with, such that in many areas Scotland makes her own decisions through her own Parliament. However, when it comes to a Union matter, I thought we all agreed that where we had a Union-wide referendum, the Union made the decision and the Union’s Parliament needs to implement the wishes expressed in the referendum. That is why Members from every party in the House of Commons, apart from her party and a few Liberal Democrats, decided, against their own judgments in many cases, that we needed to get on with it, send the article 50 letter and give this Bill a good passage. We are bound by the wishes of the British people as expressed in the referendum.

  • Does my right hon. Friend detect, as I do, a tendency in SNP Members, which reaches its pinnacle in the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), not to accept the results of any referendum held in this country? They reject the alternative vote referendum result, they will not accept and respect the Scottish referendum result, and now they are trying to countermand the European referendum result. I really think it is high time that they accepted the decisions made in referendums in this country.

  • That is extremely good advice. I find myself in a rather different position from the hon. and learned Lady. She finds herself in a position where every time there is a referendum in Scotland or the UK, she is on the losing side, whereas I have found that I am usually on the winning side. I seem to be much more in tune with the people. I agreed with the people’s judgment on grammar schools when we had a referendum on that, I agreed with their view on the voting system, I agreed with the Scottish people’s judgment on staying in the Union, and I very much agree with the United Kingdom electors’ judgment that we should leave the European Union. The people are often much more sensible than their Parliament wishes them to be, and it is great when Parliament then has to listen to the people and get on with doing the job.

    The main point that I wish to make is in response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who tried to tackle the scholarship-level question that underlies our debates on this group of amendments—whether we can transfer all EU law into good British law, or do we, in practice, end up having to accept some European law because of the complexities involved. In my brief exchange with him by way of intervention, I pointed out that the rights of the British people have their best defence in the common sense and voting strength of the British people, that that will be reflected in their elected Parliament, and that if their elected Parliament gets out of line with the will of the United Kingdom voters, then the voters will, at the first opportunity, change the composition of the Parliament until it reflects the wishes of the United Kingdom voters on the matter of rights.

    My right hon. and learned Friend countered by saying that taking my view would mean that we only ever had common law and Parliament would never need to legislate. That is a silly caricature of the true position. We all know, I think, that it is very difficult to define eternal, immortal rights. Some rights last for longer and are more important than others, but people find it very difficult to define that. Looking back over past statements of rights over the centuries, one sees that some of them now grate or are clearly very much against our view of what a right should be, whereas others may last for rather longer. Quite a lot of statements of rights have a big component related to what is topical or socially acceptable at the time. We are largely pleased that what is socially acceptable evolves, so there are many bad practices of the past that we have come to see were bad practices, and that has been reflected in new legislation. We always need to legislate to reflect changing perceptions about what is a right and which rights we should give most cognisance to.

  • Of course, the charter is an excellent example of these rights. It incorporates rights on data protection and other issues, as has been described in the debate. Would it not make sense to incorporate it into UK law and allow it to be changed at a later date through the kind of evolution that my right hon. Friend is describing?

  • These rights have been incorporated into UK law because we have shared quite a lot of them before they were codified in the way they are codified and because, subsequent to their codification, they have helped to inform our debates about amending, improving and strengthening the law. No, I do not think it is a good idea to incorporate the charter of rights as though it had some special significance. Interestingly, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) stated that when the charter first came forward in the Lisbon treaty, he tended to the “Beano” view of it—that it was not very significant. He did not think it was a strong part of the treaty and was not very keen on it, and was therefore quite happy with the Labour Government treating it differently and exempting us from parts of it as being inappropriate. Now, he gives it greater significance and implies that it is dreadful that we will not be incorporating it, as though it has been transformed between the date when we first considered it as part of the treaty and its current presence.

    My view is that the British people and their Parliament will adopt all these good rules, and have done so, informing many of our laws. If there are other laws that need strengthening or improving, that is exactly what this Parliament is here to do, and if we are negligent in that matter, the British people and their lobby groups will make sure that our attention is drawn to whatever may be missing or could be improved. I would say to the House of Commons, let us remember what we are doing. We are taking back control. Where we need to strengthen or highlight rights by legislation, that is something that any of us can initiate, and if we can build a majority we can do it. There are many good examples of rights and laws emanating from Back Benchers or Opposition parties as well as from Governments.

    My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said, wrongly, that I was trusting the Executive too much. That is not usually a criticism that has been made of me. Whereas I often find myself in agreement with the people in votes in referendums, I have often found myself in disagreement with parties in this House, including my own party, on matters of some substance, and I have not usually been shy—but I hope polite—in pointing out where I have those disagreements. I therefore reject his idea that I am trusting the Executive. I said very clearly in my intervention that I was trusting the United Kingdom electorate and their successive Parliaments. If one Parliament does not please or suit, or does not do the right thing on the rights that the public want, a new Parliament will be elected that will definitely do so.

    My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe reminded us that we have had a lot of debates about Henry VIII powers, which are relevant to this group of amendments on how much European law we incorporate. I find this argument one of the most odd brought forward by those who are nervous about Brexit. One of my main problems with our prolonged membership of the European Union was that large amounts of legislation had to go through this House unscathed, and often little remarked on or debated, because once they had been agreed around the European Union table in private, they were “good law” in Britain. If those laws were regulations, they acted directly, so we could not even comment on them. If they were directives, we had a very marginal ability to influence the way in which they were implemented and the main points of the law went through without any debate or right to vote them down. That was the ultimate Henry VIII approach. In the case of this legislation, after extensive dialogue and discussion, we are talking about very narrow powers for Ministers to make technical adjustments and improvements. All of it is of course in the context of the right for Parliament to call anything in, debate it and vote on it.

  • I am interested in the issue my right hon. Friend raises about our not being able to scrutinise European law in this Chamber before it was approved over there. In other Parliaments, such as the Dutch Parliament, specialist committees scrutinised proposals before they reached the European Parliament; for example, the telecoms committee in the Dutch Parliament would scrutinise telecoms law before it got to the European Parliament. As we take our own law, would it not be helpful to use the specialist committees more on the detail?

  • We had 45 years to get that right, and I think my hon. Friend would probably agree with me that it did not happen in the way she now says she wished it had. When I was the single market Minister, I tried to do this. I brought draft proposals to the House to try to get comment before I went off to negotiate. I felt that that was the only time it was worth hearing Parliament’s view because there was still the chance of trying to change things. If Parliament agreed with me that the draft was very unsatisfactory, it was marginally helpful to be able to say to the EU, “By the way, the United Kingdom Parliament does not like this proposal”, although the EU did not take that as seriously as I would have liked it to have done. The truth was that we could then be outvoted, under a qualified majority voting system, and we often were if we pushed our disagreement, so the views of Parliament mattered not a jot, even if we did the decent thing and invited Parliament to comment before the draft was agreed.

    As my hon. Friend must know, once a draft was agreed, if it was a regulation, that was immediately a directly acting law in the United Kingdom and this Parliament had no role whatsoever. If it was a directive—directives can be very substantial pieces of legislation—we could not practically change anything in that law. Whatever Parliament thought, it had gone through.

  • I sit on the European Scrutiny Committee and have done so for some time. I can confirm that, although we briefly look at all the laws coming into this country, we certainly do not have the time to scrutinise them. I can assure the House that the House does not have the time to do so either.

  • There is also the point that, if we are scrutinising that after it has happened, that is not a lot of use. That can alert Parliament and the public to problems that the new law might create, but if it has been agreed under the rules, it is law and we have to do the best we can and live with it.

    Having sat through quite a few debates on the Floor of the House—in Committee, and on Second and Third Readings of Bills—while being a Member of Parliament, I do not think I have ever seen a Bill that has been so extensively debated, dissected, discussed, analysed and opposed. A huge amount of work has gone in to proposing a very large number of detailed and rather general amendments, discussing the philosophy, principles and technical matters in considerable detail.

  • Before he moves on to another point, does my right hon. Friend agree that the narrowness of the Henry VIII clauses has actually been very considerably intensified by the amendments tabled on Report to clause 7(1) and 7(2)?

  • Yes, I agree. I think the Report stage may even produce some agreement between my right hon. Friend, me and our right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield that improvements have been made in that respect, with some powers for Ministers being narrowed and the House having an even bigger role. I am perfectly happy that that has happened.

    The wider point I want to make is that this very extensive, forensic and thorough discussion could be a model for other legislation. It is interesting that MPs on the whole do not get as interested in other legislation as they have done in this Bill. The Lords should take into account the fact that, on this occasion, the Commons has done its work very extensively and thoroughly, and has considered a very wide range of issues in amendments. I am sure that the Lords will take that into account when it comes to have its important deliberations on this legislation.

  • After all, this Bill should not be that difficult or divisive. To remind everyone, what it does is to keep all the European laws that we currently have as they are, so that there is legal certainty. As someone who believes that Brexit will be very positive and good for this country, I wish us to go on and make major changes to our fishing laws, our farming financial system and our VAT system, which we are not allowed to do under European law—we are not allowed to take VAT off things that should not be charged VAT, for example. There are quite a few positive changes I want made to our law codes. We can do so once we have taken back control. On this Bill, however, everyone should be reassured because all the things they love about European law are simply being rolled over into British law.

  • Order. Several colleagues are now seeking to catch my eye, but I emphasise that the Minister must also have a decent amount of time in which to respond. I therefore urge colleagues to be brief in their contributions, while of course covering what is necessary.

  • I rise to speak to new clause 7, which is in my name and is supported by Opposition Members. I hope to push it to a vote. The new clause would transfer article 13 of the Lisbon treaty into UK law, so that the obligation on the Government and devolved Administrations to pay due regard to the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings when formulating law and policy is not lost when the UK leaves the EU.

    You will be glad to hear that I can be brief, Mr Speaker, because there is no need to set out again the case for transferring this obligation under EU law into domestic law. In Committee, the then Justice Minister, the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), rejected my similar new clause and, I would suggest, inadvertently misspoke in the House in the process by stating that the sentience obligation

    “is already recognised as a matter of domestic law, primarily in the Animal Welfare Act 2006.”—[Official Report, 15 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 499.]

    That was simply incorrect, and there can be no disagreement about that because the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has since published a new draft Bill providing for the transfer into UK law of the obligation on animal sentience set out in article 13.

    The Government therefore accept that they need to do what my new clause provides for, and the simplest thing would be for the Minister to accept it or, if the specific wording is considered deficient in some way, for him to bring forward a revised version as a Government amendment. As this has not yet happened—I will gladly give way to the Minister if he wants to say that the Government will accept the new clause—I can only assume he will say that the Bill is not the right legislative vehicle for the new clause: in other words, that a Bill to transfer the body of EU law into UK law is not the right legislative vehicle to transfer an important piece of EU law into UK law. To me, at least, that does not make sense.

  • I am very pleased to speak in support of the new clause brought forward, once again, by the hon. Lady. I am particularly pleased to see that it extends not just to Ministers in this Parliament, but to those in the devolved institutions. My one concern is that the wording could have been stronger by creating an obligation to uphold respect for animal sentience, rather than just having due regard to it.

  • Yes, in theory, I agree with the hon. Lady that the wording could be stronger. I was trying to be careful to avoid an accusation of gold-plating EU legislation, so I simply looked at the wording of article 13 and tried to bring that over from EU law into UK law. If we were starting again, I certainly agree that we could make the wording stronger.

  • Does the hon. Lady not agree that we can do better on animal welfare than the EU currently allows us to do? For example, making foie gras is prohibited in this country, but we cannot stop its being imported in from countries in the EU that make it, such as Belgium and France, because that would be against the free movement of goods. Does she not agree that the Conservatives are now putting in place tougher sentencing for animal welfare breaches, and we should focus on that, rather than looking at the past?

  • I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the new laws on sentencing are certainly to be welcomed, but I do not see why we need to see this as an either/or. I am trying to make sure that there is no legislative gap, because I do not have confidence—perhaps Conservative Members do—that the new Bill is likely to be on the statute books by the time that we leave the EU, if that is what happens. I want to make sure we have legislative certainty—belt and braces—by putting my new clause in the Bill.

    We can have a big debate about the extent to which the EU has promoted animal welfare. I would argue that usually the reason animal welfare has not been promoted while we have been a member of the EU is the lack of political will here, rather than because the EU itself has prevented it. I take the point about the rules of the single market, but cases can always be made for exceptions—for example, on seal fur. If enough political energy is expended in the EU, such derogations can be achieved. We could have done the same on issues such as live animals, but we chose not to. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said, the Government have a record of not supporting tighter legislation on the live animal transport trade. So I will not stand here and listen to Conservative Members pretending that their new-found detoxification strategy for the Tory party is a reflection of a long-held belief in animal welfare.

  • Does the hon. Lady agree that a bird in the hand—her proposal —is much better than two in the bush? It would be cruel of me to remind the House that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made a solemn pledge to support the Foreign Secretary in his bid to be leader, but then ended up stabbing him repeatedly in the front.

  • I am happy to agree with that intervention.

    In case a Conservative Member is about to embarrass themselves by repeating the spectacularly stupid suggestion yesterday by the Guido Fawkes website—[Interruption.] Yes, I know that is not hard to believe. It suggested that new clause 7 would weaken animal sentience law because article 13 of the Lisbon treaty applies to only six policy areas, whereas the Secretary of State’s Bill would apply to all Government areas. Leaving aside that it is hard to imagine a Government policy relating to animal welfare that does not fall under one of those six policy areas, which are pretty broad, the point is that we have no domestic animal sentience law to weaken. We have a hastily cobbled together draft Bill that may, or may not, become a substantive Bill that reaches the statute book before 29 March 2019—or ever.

    It is this Bill that will weaken our animal welfare law by failing to transfer into UK law the obligation on the Government set out in article 13 of the Lisbon treaty. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), had I tabled an amendment that in some way added to or strengthened the obligations set out in article 13, Ministers would no doubt have rejected it on the grounds that I was trying to gold-plate EU law, which is not the purpose of the Bill. If new clause 7 were accepted, nothing would stop the Secretary of State’s draft Bill subsequently addressing any real or perceived weaknesses in the wording of article 13, and that would have my support. But let us not be left with a gap in the legislation. The real risk is that, because of the volume of legislation with which Whitehall and the civil service are having to grapple, a new Bill would not come forward in time to plug any gap after we leave the EU. That is why my belt-and-braces approach would make sure that we have this legislation safely included in UK law.

    In the past, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) has called this solution inelegant. Yes, it is a bit inelegant, but I would rather be inelegant and effective than elegant with a big gap in the legislation. Let us stop playing political games with a draft Bill that may, or may not, get anywhere near the statute book. Let us do what the Secretary of State clearly wished to do himself as recently as July last year, when he was asked whether he wanted to include article 13 in the Bill—he said of course he did. There can be no better legislative vehicle right now to transfer article 13 of the Lisbon treaty into UK law than the Bill, which exists to transfer EU law into UK law. I therefore commend new clause 7 to the House.

    I also wish to put on record my support for amendment 57 and new clause 19, tabled by the hon. Member for Bristol East. The amendment would preserve more comprehensively than clause 4, which it would replace, the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures derived from EU law and incorporated into domestic law by the European Communities Act 1972. As the hon. Lady has already made clear, there are weaknesses in clause 4, as a result of which some provisions in EU law are at risk of being lost. She gave several examples, and I want to add one more. Unless amended, clause 4 could result in the loss from EU retained law of provisions that detail the aim and purpose of directives such as article 1 of the environmental liability directive, which includes reference to the polluter pays principle, and article 1 of the habitats directive, which specifies that the aim of the directive is to contribute towards biodiversity conservation.

    New clause 19 would remove the risk of transposition gaps in retained EU law. It is simpler and more comprehensive than clause 4, and it would ensure that the rights arising from EU directives are preserved and a mechanism would be in place after exit day to deal with problems arising from the incorrect or incomplete transposition of EU law. I hope that Ministers will accept the amendment and new clause.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), although I will not support her amendments. In fact, I will not support any amendments other than those tabled by the Government. The Bill will leave this place in much better shape than when it was first introduced, but it is still not fit for purpose, frankly. As hon. Members said on Second Reading, we need a mechanism to move all our existing law into domestic law, but the many faults in the Bill have been well rehearsed by my right hon. and learned Friends the Members for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). I wholly agree with them; I endorse their arguments; and I do not intend to repeat them.

    Many changes are still needed, but it will be the other place that will make good some of the faults that remain in the Bill. We are not trying to abdicate the responsibility for doing so, because that is simply the way it is, and has been, sadly, for some time. Many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House share our concerns, but given the nature of the political situation they have not quite gone the extra step to defy a three-line Whip or to be seen as disloyal to their leader. Many people do not want to undermine the Prime Minister as she enters the difficult next stage of negotiations with the European Union, but it will be important, when the Bill returns to this place, that we all have the courage of our convictions and put our country’s interests at the front of all that we do. We need to get the best piece of legislation because it is so important.

    There is every chance that in the next few months the sands will begin to shift as people begin to understand and appreciate that we have made an error in taking options off the table—or never putting them on in the first place—notably in the speech that was made almost a year ago, when the Prime Minister said that the single market and the customs union were coming off the table. Those red lines have not helped, and they will not help us in the forthcoming negotiations. All options need to be placed back on the table—and I mean all options. That includes the ability of the people—it must be the people—of this country to determine the future of Brexit. It must remain with them, and they must drive it. That must be taken into consideration as the Bill moves up into the Lords and then comes back here.

    Finally, this place voted, as we know, for amendment 7, and the Government lost that vote. If new clause 9, which many say has now become otiose, falls or is abandoned by the Government when the Bill passes into the other place, it must be made absolutely clear that, even in that event, this place wants a meaningful vote on the final deal and in good time—not some rubber stamp or some deal or no deal, but a proper, meaningful vote. That must be determined by elected representatives and by the people and in the interests of the people—in the interests of not just my generation but my children and my grandchildren, who I hope will come—so that we do this properly, putting the people in charge and doing the best thing for our country.

  • I will be supporting amendment 57 and other provisions. I rise to speak to new clause 16, which is in my name. I will not be pushing it to a vote, because it is a probing provision.

    The new clause seeks to ensure that there is no regression in our equality protection as we leave the EU and following the repeal of the charter of fundamental rights. That principle has already been agreed by the Government, so there should be little controversy about supporting new clause 16. Hon. Members were promised that the Government would introduce an amendment that required Ministers, on the presentation of any Brexit-related primary or secondary legislation, to make a statement before the House on whether and how it was consistent with the Equality Act 2010. While the Government may try to make out that amendment 391 covers that point, I do not believe that it properly addresses the issue of primary legislation—a point eloquently made by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve).

    For that reason, I have tabled new clause 16. We cannot allow any regression in, or diminishing of, our equality protections and rights when we leave the EU. I totally disagree with hon. Members who have suggested that we should just trust the Government to get this right. The equality protections and human rights referred to in new clause 16 have been hard fought for, and we cannot allow them to be put at risk. I commend new clause 16 to the House.

  • I rise to support the speeches made by my right hon. and learned Friends the Members for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). The idea that three months is sufficient protection in terms of somebody launching a legal action, while a welcome concession from the Government, does not go far enough. I urge the Government to listen to the proposal to retain the Francovich right throughout the transition period or implementation period—however it is described.

    I also support the points made on the charter of fundamental rights. When the charter was brought into effect, it said that it codified existing rights—rights that UK citizens already had. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), takes a different view. I do not really care which view is right; the fact is that we have moved on as a society, and these protections have now become important in UK law. I would very much urge the Government to consider that when approaching this matter in the Lords.

    Finally, it is eminently sensible that the Government look at new clause 13, which will not be moved to a vote today. It provides a very good mechanism for distinguishing between primary and secondary legislation in terms of the appropriate protections that will apply to UK citizens. I do not want my constituents to be in a worse position in a few years’ time than they are in now when it comes to their rights, so I urge the Government to listen to the debate today—I know they have their listening ear on.

  • I call Stuart C. McDonald—fairly briefly. The hon. Gentleman has amendments down and must be heard, but I know he will be sensitive to the importance of the Minister having adequate time to respond to all that has been said, so I am sure that he will be on his feet for only a small number of minutes.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to speak briefly to amendments 55 and 56 and to probe one simple issue: in short, what happens if there is a failure to correct a deficiency in EU law, so that it cannot operate effectively after exit, and how can we maximise the chances that such a thing does not happen?

    We have had plenty of debate on how we can restrict Government powers to correct deficiencies so that such powers cannot be used to undermine the incorporation of EU rules and so that we do not end up with some sort of watered-down or dysfunctional version of the original. However, perhaps the more realistic possibility, and just as much of a danger, is that we end up with a watered-down or dysfunctional version of EU rules not because of the inappropriate use of those powers of correction, but because of a failure to use them at all in appropriate circumstances, either by accident or design, or if various incorporated rules and regulations are simply allowed to fester away uncorrected and unable to operate effectively. So, I asked at Committee stage, “What happens if there is a citizen before a court in this country, seeking to establish rights under retained EU law when that retained EU law is actually riddled with deficiencies? Is the court supposed to try and make that work? Does the person simply lose their ability to exercise that right?”

    My amendment 55 simply requires the court to interpret retained EU law—as far as possible—in such a way as to make it function effectively, borrowing shamelessly from the language of the Human Rights Act. I fully acknowledge that that in itself would not take us very far, but it is there to prompt a response from the Government. What should the court do in those circumstances? There are alternative courses of action that this Parliament could take, not just in amending clause 6 but in other parts of the Bill. We could expressly require EU law to be interpreted so as to be given effect “as if the UK were still a member state”, with further provisions about how that should be done. We could put in place a procedure to allow courts to flag up rules that they have found cannot operate effectively. We could put Ministers under an obligation or a duty to ensure that retained EU laws operate effectively; indeed, amendment 57 and new clause 19 are of that nature. Alternatively, as amendment 56 suggests, we could simply require the Government to publish a list of all the deficiencies they found in retained EU law that they are not seeking directly to rectify.

    In short, the task of ensuring that we have a functioning rule book or statute book on exit day is twofold. Parliament must protect important rights, not only by preventing inappropriate use of Henry VIII powers, but by providing a means of ensuring that deficiencies are rectified where necessary, either by the Government, or by Parliament or by our courts, and I still think we have a long way to go in that regard.

  • I wish to speak in support of amendments 37 and 38 in the name of my colleagues in Government.

    I will try and answer the question that was put to me by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who has been getting frustrated in these debates about the somewhat technical nature of ministerial responses. Well, this is a very technical Bill. Like its illustrious predecessor, the European Communities Act 1972, it is a Bill of constitutional importance; it is a framework Bill. It is not—I stress this, because it is most important—it is not a Bill that seeks to convey a policy or a particular aspect of policy that we have discussed today. It is a framework that is designed to ensure that the law that is applied up to exit is downloaded in as clear and proper a way as possible because, to be consistent with the rule of law, the law needs to be accessible, it needs to be clear and it needs to be well understood. That is the fundamental basis of my concern about today’s amendments—that in seeking to retain the charter of fundamental rights in domestic law after exit, not only do we sow potential confusion but we fundamentally misunderstand what that charter means in the first place.

  • The Government have introduced welcome amendments to clause 7. While my hon. and learned Friend is talking about clarity, I just want to ask him to confirm, at this early stage in his remarks, that the Government will bring forward the amendments that we were hoping for, and that I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and I were, if not promised, at least led to expect, when clause 6 is discussed in the other place.

  • I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. If he had sufficient time at his disposal, he might have seen the evidence that I gave to the Constitution Committee in the other place, in which the issues in clause 6 were discussed—the interpretive provisions that he and I and others debated in Committee.

    May I come back to the fundamental point about the charter? It was never intended to create new rights. It was a document that reaffirmed rights that already existed in EU law.

  • Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

  • I will not; I am developing my argument. It was a point that was made clear, not only in the charter itself but in protocol 30, which was signed by Poland and the UK at the time of the Lisbon treaty. In addition—this is important, and this, it seems to me, having listened carefully to the debate, is not understood—the charter does not apply to member states in everything they do. Although it applies to the EU and its institutions in all areas, it binds member states only in so far as they are acting within the scope of EU law. Therefore talking about the charter in a domestic context misunderstands its purpose and point: it was not drafted in that context. I am afraid that there has, I think, been a regrettable misunderstanding about that in this debate.

  • I do not think I have been under any misunderstanding at all. That is why I have kept pressing the Government to leave the charter to one side but look at the general principles of EU law necessary to bring challenges to retained EU law, brought into our own domestic law, that was not enacted by this Parliament—and without which, frankly, the coherence of EU law starts to disintegrate. That is the issue. Linked to that, of course, is the other issue of protecting some of those fundamental rights, perhaps in a different way, that matter to so many on both sides of the House.

  • My right hon. and learned Friend and I agree about general principles, which is why the general principles that underpin the recently drafted charter remain and, of course, do apply in respect of retained EU law. His second point about the means by which individuals challenge that is, of course, a matter of ongoing debate. I shall come back to the points raised in not only his amendment, but mine as well.

  • My hon. and learned Friend kindly said that he would try to answer my question. The question was: what harm has the charter of fundamental rights done and what evil is he trying to avert? It is true that, unexpectedly, new rights have been created under the charter and he is right that those rights have relevance to EU law. But the whole point of the Bill is to retain large amounts of EU law and its principles. What is the point of the change? This is policy in this Bill—it is a policy change. I fear that it is a signal to some sections of my party: the only part of the acquis communautaire that will be abolished mentions the wicked words “fundamental rights”, and that is why it is being removed.

  • The position that my right hon. and learned Friend took on the charter back in 2007 is the right one. As I was saying, it is in the interests of maintaining the rule of law that we maintain clarity, consistency and a clear authoritative source for those rights. My genuine concern about the importation of this particular charter into our domestic law is that we will sow confusion. That is not good for the maintenance of the rule of law, for the citizens of our country, for the future development of the law or for the position of this place vis-à-vis that development.

  • I entirely endorse what my hon. and learned Friend is saying, not least because of the acquis itself. Secondly, there are the adjudications under the European Court itself. Thirdly, the charter is like a legal ectoplasm: it seeps into everything. There is no way in which we would ever be able to extract ourselves from the entirety of the provisions in perpetuity.

  • I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who raises a genuine concern about the impact of protocol 30. Many Opposition Members were here 10 years ago; they were anxious then to make sure that the protocol was included in the Lisbon treaty. They are now happy to resile from that position and take an entirely different view. I take great issue with that: the legal principles were the same then as now. Nothing has really changed about the potential force of the charter, so I am rather bemused to hear about that volte-face on the part of many Opposition Members.

  • I am grateful to the Solicitor General for giving way, particularly given that from a sedentary position earlier he described an intervention of mine as rubbish—but let us slide away from that. As he will know very well, human rights were an essential component of the Belfast agreement, and the protection of human rights was at the core of the Patten reforms to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. For the people of Northern Ireland, therefore, the protection of human rights is essential. By repealing the charter of fundamental rights—not the convention, the charter—we are sending out an extremely negative message to the people of Northern Ireland. Can he offer reassurances on that point?

  • I certainly can. First, we are not repealing anything. Secondly, the dog that has not barked in this debate is the European convention on human rights, which is much supported by both sides of the House, very much part of our law and a fundamental part of the underpinning of many of the human rights—

  • I know that the hon. and learned Lady treasures and rightly places great value on those human rights. I give way to her.

  • Can the Solicitor General confirm once and for all that reports that the Prime Minister wants to run the next Tory party general election campaign on a pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the convention are incorrect? [Interruption.] Conservative Members roll their eyes and make a noise. I am giving him the opportunity to confirm that that is incorrect.

  • May I just calm the hon. and learned Lady? [Interruption.] Well, she is making a point that is frankly not the case. We have committed to supporting our membership of the European convention throughout this Parliament, and that is a position I entirely support.

  • What about the next Parliament?

  • The hon. and learned Lady seems to be very focused on future referendums and the desire to rerun arguments that were held some time ago. I want to do justice to her amendments as much as to anybody else’s, and I will say this about the amendments posited by her and the Labour party: they offer different visions of how challenge might be mounted by using the charter. Amendment 4, which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, deals with a situation akin to that under the Human Rights Act, whereby a declaration of incompatibility can be given, but that does not guarantee full redress for individuals seeking it under the charter. I accept that the amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Lady goes further and would retain a power in effect to strike down legislation if it is incompatible with the charter. I simply say to both of them, with the greatest of respect, that their approaches work against the core aims of the Bill. We are leaving the EU, and there has to be certainty about the process; and certainty in the law lies at the heart of everything else we have to do. That is the simple reason why we cannot accept those amendments.

    I was interested in the arguments of the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) about clause 4, when she moved her amendment 57 and spoke to her new clause 19. My argument about clause 4 is simply this: indeed, as the sweeper clause—the description she adopted—it has the important function of curing any loopholes that might exist in European law when we leave the EU and deals with the question of uncertainty that I know she is extremely concerned with. I will try to reassure her. She will remember that the explanatory notes contain a helpful and non-exhaustive list of the type of directly effective rights, such as equal pay—a very important right—that are designed to be covered by this important provision in clause 4. As I have said in evidence in another place, we are simply seeking to ensure the important principle of reciprocity in the enforcement of fundamental rights such as those of equality, which she referred to, and those pertaining to the environment, for which I know she also has a great passion.

    In conjunction, I can deal with the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), who succinctly and clearly made his argument on new clause 16, which deals fairly and squarely with equalities. We have already made our commitment clear that all the protections in and under the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010 and the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation will continue to apply once we have left the EU. In Committee, we tabled an amendment which would secure transparency in that regard by requiring ministerial statements to be made about any amendments made to the Equality Act through secondary legislative powers under the Bill.

    What concerns me about new clause 16 is that it would go further by creating new free-standing rights, perhaps even more than have been proposed in amendments relating to the charter. That is not the purpose of the Bill. The Bill is about maintaining the same levels of protection on the day after exit as on the day before. It is not a vehicle for substantive legislative changes such as those that have been proposed, and for that reason we cannot accept the new clause.

    I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) for his qualified welcome for the Government amendments. The reason for a three-month time limit analogous to that which exists in domestic judicial review is the important policy consideration that there must be a degree of certainty when it comes to ongoing litigation and dispute about EU law as we enter the post-exit era. I think there must be some resolution of that by way of a limitation period. Retaining an open-ended right of action would create more uncertainty for businesses and individuals about rights and obligations.

    After we cease to be a member of the European Union, it would not be right to allow “general principles” challenges to Acts of Parliament to continue, because that is not in line with the purposes of Brexit. To put it simply, outside the context of EU law, the ability of courts to disapply Acts of Parliament on “general principles” grounds is not consistent with the way in which our domestic legal system functions. That must be at the heart of our policy considerations.

  • My hon. and learned Friend’s argument would make more sense if the Government had not decided to retain the principle of the supremacy of EU law in the Bill. Once they have done that, removing the mechanism of a challenge on the basis of general principles creates something that I think is rather odd. I would not have pressed the issue if the Government had adopted an alternative approach, but that was their own decision. This has, I think, highlighted some of the oddities of the way in which the matter has been approached. It may well be that they can be sorted out in the other place, but I think my hon. and learned Friend must acknowledge that they are odd.

  • I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend is allowing me to intervene on his intervention. Let us not forget that we are dealing with the pre-exit situation. The EU acquis is being frozen, in the sense that its full effect in a pre-exit sense must be maintained so that we can maintain certainty. I agree that it is a strange and rather unusual concept, but I think it preserves that all-important certainty.

    Time is short, and I want to ensure that I deal with further amendments.

  • Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

  • I must press on, I am afraid.

    The amendments tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield relating to the way in which we designate EU legislation make important contributions to the debate, but they are laden with problems. The sheer volume of what we are dealing with—well over 15,000 pieces of legislation—leads me to draw back from trying to create a convenient categorisation of retained EU law. With the greatest respect, I think it far wiser for the Government to approach each item on a case-by-case basis, not making glib assumptions and trying to downgrade EU law, but getting each particular measure right.

    Amendments tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West and others deal with, again, the debate on clause 6 and the interpretation of retained EU law. I entirely understand why the amendments were tabled, because the debate is intense, but I would say to those Members, with respect, that I think less is more. The more we try to enshrine in law principles such as persuasive authority—which is in one of the amendments—the more I see the potential for judicial head-scratching and litigation of a type that I do not believe the judiciary would welcome. I have said it before and I say it again: I trust our judiciary to answer the question put before them rather than to survey like lions of the constitutional savannah and to run across the landscape. They answer the question that is put to them, and I trust them to do that and to use the discretion that quite naturally they should be given.

    In relation to the new clause in the name of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), it is clear that the Government regard animals as sentient and we of course support the sentiment behind the new clause, as we did on a previous occasion, but we could not support it then and the reasons for not supporting it have not changed. Article 13 places an obligation on the EU when developing certain policies, and on EU member states when developing and implementing those policies. That obligation, because animals are sentient beings, is to have full regard to their welfare requirements, but article 13 applies only to a limited number of EU policy areas, and frankly it also allows for practices that we would consider cruel.

  • I would be interested to know what policy area the Solicitor General thinks the EU provision does not cover: what does he want to cover that the EU does not? Secondly, would it not be safer just to have this amendment in the Bill to make sure we have legal certainty, because he cannot guarantee that the Government Bill will get on to the statute book before we leave the EU?

  • May I reassure the hon. Lady by pointing out that there are many areas on which we have heard debates, such as on live importation? I want to make sure the new domestic law we introduce is comprehensive in a way that I know she would fully support. Cross-referencing to the obligations in article 13 —which apply only to EU policies, not to UK policies—would, if anything, create more confusion once we have left the EU.

    Frankly, article 13 has not delivered and its effect on domestic law is minimal, and as my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary has said, we can do better. We have made it clear that we intend to retain, and indeed enhance, our existing standards of animal welfare once we leave. This Bill will convert the existing body of EU animal welfare law into our law and will make sure the same protections are in place in the UK and that laws still function effectively after we leave.

    The purpose of this Bill is not to improve EU laws; it is about providing a functioning statute book. That is why, as the hon. Lady has acknowledged, the Government have now published draft legislation—the Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill—which sets out why we can do it better. It is a significant improvement on article 13; it will impose a clear duty on the state to have regard for animal welfare when considering all policies, rather than just the six areas in article 13.

    I also say to the hon. Lady that it is open to public consultation and we have to respect the views of thousands of members of the public who will be coming forward and making—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady believes in open and public consultation and democracy, and that is why we are doing what we are doing. [Interruption.] It ill behoves the hon. Lady to assume that my party somehow lies on a lower moral plain when it comes to issues of animal welfare. We share the passion and commitment to animal welfare that she professes and I know many other Members in this House do—I look to the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) as a shining example. We want to hear from the public and their view about it, and we want to get it right in domestic legislation, which is the right place for it.

    There is much I could say about the wonderful, if small, British overseas territory of Anguilla. Having visited it myself in a ministerial capacity, I was very grateful to the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) for his description. We are very conscious not only of the importance of Anguilla, its people and its economy, but the need to make sure that the concerns of the Anguillan Government are considered and the rights people have in Anguilla, which are exactly the same as those of UK nationals, are preserved after we leave the EU. We will make sure that that situation will not change.

    The debate on the charter has been an important one. It has been a further stage in the way in which we have looked carefully at the Bill. The Government remain open and we are listening to all views on how we can get this right. I am sure that, as the Bill makes its way into another place, the deliberations of this House will have done much to enhance the quality not only of the Bill but of our democracy itself.

  • I thank the Minister for praising me as a shining example on animal welfare, but that does not quite make up for my disappointment that he has failed to address the issues in my amendments. I therefore seek to press amendment 57 to a vote.

  • The hon. Lady had 10 seconds, and she has been indulged very modestly.

  • Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

    The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the amendment be made.

    Division 91

    16 January 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 296
    Noes: 319

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    The Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

    Clause 5

    Exceptions to savings and incorporation

    Amendment proposed: 4, page 3, line 23, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert—

    ‘(4) Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Charter of Fundamental Rights continues to apply to retained EU law after exit day save as set out in subsections (5) and (5A) below and all references in the Charter to “the law of the Union” shall be deleted and replaced with “retained EU law”.

    (5) The following provisions of the Charter shall not apply after exit day—

    (a) the Preamble, and

    (b) Title V.

    (5A) Article 47 of the Charter shall apply after exit day as if it was drafted as follows—

    “Right to a fair trial

    “Everyone whose rights and freedoms guaranteed by retained EU law are violated is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law. Everyone shall have the possibility of being advised, defended and represented.

    “Legal aid shall be made available to those who lack sufficient resources insofar as such aid is necessary to ensure effective access to justice.”

    (5B) With effect from exit day EU retained law, so far as it is possible to do so, must be interpreted consistently with the Charter.

    (5C) With effect from exit day decisions, judgments, advisory opinions of the Court of Justice of the European Union must be taken into account when determining cases under the Charter.

    (5D) With effect from exit day in relation to the rights conferred by the Charter with respect to retained EU law—

    (a) section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply and the words “a Convention right” shall be replaced by “a Charter right” and all references to “primary legislation” shall be replaced by “retained EU law”,

    (b) section 5 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply,

    (c) section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply and the words “the Convention right to freedom of expression” shall be replaced by “the Charter right to freedom of expression and information”, and

    (d) section 13 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply and the words “the Convention right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” shall be replaced by “the Charter right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.

    (5E) With effect from exit day, any derogation or reservation made under sections 14 or 15 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply to rights under the Charter in the same manner as they apply to Convention rights.

    (5F) With effect from exit day sections 16 or 17 of the Human Rights Act 1998 shall apply to rights under the Charter in the same manner as they apply to Convention rights.”—(Paul Blomfield.)

    This amendment would retain the Charter Rights in UK law and afford them the same level as protection as the rights in the Human Rights Act.

    Question put, That the amendment be made.

    Division 92

    16 January 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 299
    Noes: 317

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    New Clause 7

    EU Protocol on animal sentience

    “The obligation on Ministers of the Crown and the devolved administrations to pay regard to the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings when formulating law and policy, contained within the EU Protocol on animal sentience as set out in Article 13 of Title II of the Lisbon Treaty, shall be recognised and available in domestic law on and after exit day.”—(Caroline Lucas.)

    This new clause transfers the EU Protocol on animal sentience set out in Article 13 of Title II of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty into UK law, so that the obligation on the Government and the devolved administrations to pay due regard to the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings when formulating law and policy is not lost when the UK leaves the EU.

    Brought up.

    Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

    Division 93

    16 January 2018

    The House divided:

    Ayes: 297
    Noes: 320

    Question accordingly negatived.

    View Details

    Schedule 2

    Corresponding powers involving devolved authorities

  • I beg to move amendment 49, page 17, line 13, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

  • With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

    Amendment 50, page 17, line 18, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Government amendments 21 to 27.

    Amendment 51, page 22, line 39, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 52, page 22, line 43, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Government amendment 28.

    Amendment 53, page 25, line 12, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 54, page 25, line 16, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Government amendment 29.

    Amendment 3, in clause 11, page 7, line 23, leave out subsections (1) to (3) and insert—

    “(1) In section 29(2)(d) of the Scotland Act 1998 (no competence for Scottish Parliament to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “or with EU law”.

    (2) In section 108A(2)(e) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (no competence for National Assembly for Wales to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “or with EU law”.

    (3) In section 6(2)(d) of the Northern Ireland Act (no competency for the Assembly to legislate incompatibly with EU law, omit “is incompatible with EU law”.

    (4) The Secretary of State must lay before each House of Parliament proposals for replacing European frameworks with UK ones.

    (5) UK-wide frameworks shall be proposed if and only if they are necessary to—

    (a) enable the functioning of the UK internal market,

    (b) ensure compliance with international obligations,

    (c) ensure the UK can negotiate, enter into and implement new trade agreements and international treaties,

    (d) enable the management of common resources,

    (e) administer and provide access to justice in cases with a cross-border element, or

    (f) safeguard the security of the UK.

    (6) Ministers of the Crown shall create UK-wide frameworks only if they have consulted with, and secured the agreement of, the affected devolved administrations.”

    This amendment removes the Bill’s proposed restrictions on the ability of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate on devolved matters and creates new collaborative procedures for the creation of UK-wide frameworks for retained EU law.

    Amendment 6, page 7, line 23, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert—

    “(1) In section 29(2)(d) of the Scotland Act 1998 (no competence for Scottish Parliament to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “or with EU law”.

    (2) In section 108A(2)(e) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (no competence for National Assembly for Wales to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “or with EU law”.”

    This amendment would replace the Bill’s changes to the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales in consequence of EU withdrawal, by removing the restriction on legislative competence relating to EU law and ensuring that no further restriction relating to retained EU law is imposed.

    Amendment 13, page 7, line 23, leave out subsections (1) to (3) and insert—

    “(1) In section 29(2)(d) of the Scotland Act 1998 (no competence for Scottish Parliament to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “or with EU law”.

    (2) In section 108A (2)(e) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (no competence for National Assembly for Wales to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “or with EU law”.

    (3) In section 6(2)(d) of the Northern Ireland Act (no competency for the Assembly to legislate incompatibly with EU law), omit “is incompatible with EU law”.

    (3A) The Secretary of State must lay before each House of Parliament proposals for replacing European frameworks with UK ones.

    (3B) UK-wide frameworks will be proposed if and only if they are necessary to—

    (a) enable the functioning of the UK internal market, while acknowledging policy divergence;

    (b) ensure compliance with international obligations;

    (c) ensure the UK can negotiate, enter into and implement new trade agreements and international treaties;

    (d) enable the management of common resources;

    (e) administer and provide access to justice in cases with a cross-border element; or

    (f) safeguard the security of the UK.

    (3C) Frameworks will respect the devolution settlements and the democratic accountability of the devolved legislatures, and will therefore—

    (a) be based on established conventions and practices, including that the competence of the devolved institutions will not be adjusted without their consent;

    (b) maintain, as a minimum, equivalent flexibility for tailoring policies to the specific needs of each territory as is afforded by current EU rules; and

    (c) lead to a significant increase in decision-making powers for the devolved administrations.

    (3D) Frameworks will ensure recognition of the economic and social linkages between Northern Ireland and Ireland by—

    (a) recognising that Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK that shares a land frontier with the EU; and

    (b) adhering to the Belfast Agreement.

    (3E) UK-wide frameworks will be created jointly by the sitting devolved administrations and Ministers of the Crown, with the agreement of all parties involved.”

    This amendment removes the Bill’s proposed restrictions on the ability of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate on devolved matters and creates a new collaborative procedure for the creation of UK-wide frameworks for retained EU law using the principles as agreed at the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) on 16 October 2017.

    Amendment 44, in clause 7, page 5, line 7, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations under Clause 7 when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 5, page 6, line 18, after “it”, insert—

    “( ) modify the Scotland Act 1998 or the Government of Wales Act 2006,”.

    This amendment would prevent the powers of a Minister of the Crown under Clause 7 of the Bill to fix problems in retained EU law from being exercised to amend the Scotland Act 1998 or the Government of Wales Act 2006.

    Amendment 45, in clause 8, page 6, line 33, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 46, in clause 9, page 7, line 3, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 47, in clause 17, page 14, line 15, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 48, page 14, line 22, leave out “appropriate” and insert “necessary”.

    This amendment would ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations when it is necessary to do so.

    Amendment 11, in clause 19, page 15, line 11, at beginning insert—

    “(1) Subject to subsection (1A)”.

    This amendment is consequential to Amendment 12 to Clause 19 that requires legislative consent from the sitting devolved administrations before any of the provisions in this Act come into force.

    Amendment 12, page 15, line 18, at end insert—

    “(1A) None of the provisions in this Act may come into force until the Prime Minister is satisfied that resolutions have been passed by the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly, signifying consent to the Act unless—

    (a) direct rule is in place;

    (b) the devolved administration has been formally suspended; or

    (c) if the devolved administration has been dissolved for reasons other than recess or an election.”

    This amendment requires the Prime Minister to gain legislative consent from the sitting devolved administrations before any of the provisions in this Act come into force.

    Government amendments 14 to 20, 30 to 32 and 34.

  • The amendments I have tabled go to the heart of concerns that many Members have about the wide powers afforded to the Executive by clause 9, schedule 2 and other parts of the Bill in relation to secondary legislation. The purpose of my amendments is to ensure that Ministers can only bring forward regulations under clause 7 and the like when it is “necessary” to do so, rather than when it is “appropriate”. The word “appropriate” is too wide.

    These issues were discussed in Committee, but—surprise, surprise—it was very difficult to get a straight answer from Ministers about why they were so wedded to the word “appropriate” and were not interested in changing it to the word “necessary”, as supported by many organisations including Justice and the Law Society of Scotland. The change would also reflect judicial concerns about the breadth of discretion that the judiciary would be given if they had to determine whether something was “appropriate” rather than “necessary”. This will be subject to judicial review because we are talking about secondary legislation. I tried in vain in Committee to get the Minister to say what was meant by “appropriate”. He referred me to the dictionary definition, but that is simply not good enough.

  • It seems to me, and I am sure the hon. and learned Lady will agree, that as far as the Government are concerned, “appropriate” means, “We’ll tell you what we’re going to bring in front of you.”

  • The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. That is the gravamen of the concern. The Government are given too much discretion to decide what they consider is appropriate, rather than what is necessary for the purposes of the Bill.

    I have no doubt that, later in the debate this afternoon, a Minister will rise to reassure me and others that the Government would never do anything inappropriate, but I think we know what we all think about that. And I am talking not just about this Government; all Governments, particularly when afforded too much Executive power, will seek to abuse it—that is in the nature of the Executive.

    In Committee, I was rather struck by a sweeping statement by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), who said that, apparently, we all know what “appropriate” means and that the courts will know what it means. If that is so, why does the Minister not tell us what “appropriate” means in this context? Many distinguished lawyers have said that the courts will not know, and the judiciary themselves have expressed concern about the breadth of discretion given to the Government by the use of the word “appropriate” rather than the word “necessary”.

    The matter has been raised by the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, which recommended that the power in clause 7

    “should only be available where Ministers can show that it is necessary to make a change to the statute book”.

    I have no doubt that an amendment on that will be forthcoming in the House of Lords, but as I said earlier in the debate, it is important that this democratically elected and accountable House debate these matters and that we get some colour from the Government on their position.

    The issues raised by the amendment have also been referred to by the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee, which has produced an interim report on the Bill and supported the recommendation. I think that I am right in saying that the report was supported by a number of Conservative Members of the Scottish Parliament, so this is not really a party political issue. I do not want us to withdraw from the EU, but I recognise the need for this legislation if we are going to do so, and this amendment seeks to circumscribe Executive power.

  • I can see the hon. and learned Lady’s point that, in the light of the changes that the Government have made to clause 7, it may be appropriate to change “appropriate” to “necessary” in the schedule. However, will she confirm that her amendment 49 does that for devolved authorities’ Ministers, not for the Crown, and that that comes later in the sequence of amendments?

  • Yes. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It would not be very consistent if I thought that the British Executive should not get sweeping powers but the Scottish Executive should. All these arguments about curtailing Executive power apply to all Governments in these islands, not just to this Government. At the moment—my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) will address these matters later—the Scottish Government are getting precious few powers in relation to these matters, and that is a grave concern. However, others will address that later.

    The Solicitor General said he had listened with care to what was said about this issue in Committee, so what will Ministers do about it? Have they spoken to the judiciary about this? Have they taken on board the judiciary’s concerns about the scope of discretion granted to them and their fear of that, given recent politically motivated attacks on the judiciary? Have Ministers taken on board the concern expressed on both sides of this House and by many organisations outwith it about the broad scope of the powers currently afforded?

    As I said, I have no doubt that these concerns will be raised in the Lords, but now is the time for the Government to tell this democratically elected and accountable House what they are going to do to circumscribe the exercise of Executive power in this Bill.

  • I will speak only briefly to somewhat lament the fact that we have not made more progress on this clause 11 issue. Let me explain the background. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has taken an interest in this matter. We have taken an extensive interest in the inter-institutional relations between the different Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the different Administrations of the United Kingdom, which is a very undeveloped part of our constitution. We have the legal framework, but we do not have the practices, the culture or the institutional underpinning. The debate about the legislative consent motions in relation to this legislation has shown that up to a degree.

    I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), recently departed from the Government, who played a crucial role in making considerable advances on the question of how the legislative consent motions in support of this proposed Act of Parliament should be supported by the devolved Parliaments. It seems to me that the process has stalled somewhat, and it is unfortunate that we do not have the Government or others tabling amendments at this stage of the scrutiny of the Bill, when some of us had hoped that that would be the case. I am bound to say that it may reflect the fact that there is not yet a consensus, and it would be more important to reach a consensus on this matter than to table some amendments that do not reflect a consensus.

  • I totally understand the wish, perhaps, to have had more discussion or debate before bringing amendments, but is that not an argument for putting back this debate, rather than that these amendments should come up in the Lords, where not just Scotland’s governing party but all Scottish MPs cannot take part in the debate?

  • I do wish that the Scottish National party would take up its option of positions in the other place, so that it could—

  • No—so that the SNP could be represented in the other place, because I have no doubt that this matter will be addressed there. But I agree; I think that is unfortunate and that it would have been preferable for it to have been developed here.

  • Even if the SNP were in the Lords, it is the representatives here who are elected, and representatives from all Scottish parties are disfranchised by the amendment’s not being moved today.

  • I accept that. Whatever compromise or proposals emerge in the other place, we can either debate them, vote on them and accept them, or we can debate them, vote on them, reject them and send back our own proposals to the other place at that point, so this House will have an opportunity to debate this very fully—just as fully as on Report.

    This is, ultimately, a question of trust. We need to build up trust. Whatever the future holds for our United—or disunited—Kingdom, there need to be relationships of trust between the four Parliaments of these islands, the four Administrations of these islands, to enable us to make our way in the world as effectively as possible after we have left the European Union. That trust is still somewhat lacking in those relationships, and there may be one or two who want to foment distrust for their own political reasons. That makes getting this sorted out in an amicable way more challenging, but all the more necessary.

  • Is not trust based on experience, and is not the experience that we have witnessed over the past few weeks disappointing in that building of trust?

  • We have come a long way since the Government first published the Bill in draft last summer, when there were very peremptory conversations with the devolved Administrations and they felt very unconsulted about the Bill that had been published. There has been quite a lot of trust building and discussion, and the meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee, which has discussed these matters and produced joint memorandums, shows that the trust is capable of building. I do think we have gone backwards a little bit in recent weeks, but I hope that the work that my Committee is doing will help. My Committee is going to Cardiff at the beginning of February and then we will be making an official visit, following an unofficial visit late last year, to Edinburgh, to build up these relationships and these understandings between the different Parliaments and the different Administrations. I do hope that in the end we can arrive at the right destination.

  • I welcome the Committee Chair’s taking his Committee formally and informally to Edinburgh and I agree with what he says about trust, but I hope that he agrees with me and my party that trust would be ably demonstrated if the Government had tabled an amendment, committing to deliver all the 111 powers to the devolved Administrations.

  • Trust is about what is offered to the other party. In this case, the Government have been consistently misconstrued. Given the drafting, clause 11 can be read as though the Government intended to hold on to the 111 powers for all time, withholding them from the Scottish Government, but the Government have repeatedly said that that is not the case. My Committee has also consistently said that the Government’s intention is that the devolved Administrations and Parliaments should finish with substantially more powers as a result of leaving the EU than they had before.

  • We have not had a functioning Assembly in Northern Ireland for a year—since January 2017. How exactly does the hon. Gentleman and his Committee expect to build up trust with the Northern Ireland Assembly? How is that going?

  • It is very problematic. My Committee has repeatedly attempted to make an official visit to the Province, but that has not been regarded as expedient at this time. However, I sometimes run into the hon. Lady and I talk to other elected representatives of the Province; I hope that there is, at least within this House, trust and understanding between the democratically elected representatives on this matter. However, I invite the hon. Lady to a further conversation offline. We are continuing our inquiry and our work.

    I make it clear to my party’s Front Benchers that I expect amendments to be tabled to clause 11 to clarify how long the powers should exist. Why is there not a sunset provision at the end of clause 11, so that it is seen clearly as a temporary expedient and not a final destination? Why is there not some qualification to the powers that have been retained, to show that they are for a particular purpose rather than just a blanket withholding?

    As I said in Committee, it was instructive that even the work commissioned by the Scottish Parliament demonstrated that most of the powers being recovered from the EU—those with relevance to the UK single market, for example—are naturally reserved powers. We are dealing here with only a relatively small proportion, albeit on significant matters such as the environment, farming and fisheries.

    This is an important test for the relationship between Whitehall and its counterparts elsewhere in the United Kingdom—and, indeed, with this Parliament, because the relationship between the Parliaments is just as undeveloped, possibly even less so, than the relationship between the Governments. The Governments have to work together, and on the island of Great Britain we have a single civil service that naturally works together. But the idea of the Parliaments of the United Kingdom working together is a completely alien concept and has not yet come into our political idiom at all.

    Our Committee continues to work on the issue. I hope that we shall make some radical recommendations to help us learn from other, decentralised systems of government in other countries. This is in the DNA of their constitutions. We need to develop the same facility, so that after we leave the European Union and the powers have been devolved, the four parts of the United Kingdom work effectively and harmoniously together for the common good and the future of our country.

  • The biggest scandal about clause 11 is that the UK Government know that it is completely unacceptable; they are just not brave enough to admit it. Ministers, Tory MPs and civil servants have privately—and publicly, sometimes—acknowledged how extremely ill-advised it is to remove the power of the devolved Governments over devolved areas. This UK Government committed to introducing amendments on Report to address this, but where are they? Where is the Government’s acknowledgement that they have got this wrong?

  • No doubt the hon. Lady will develop her argument, but will she just clarify something? It is not the case, is it, that anything is being removed from the devolved authorities? It is a question of whether things that currently reside in Brussels should be devolved rather than returned to Westminster.

  • There are things that are devolved and on which we work with the EU, and we do not want those devolved areas returned centrally to the UK Government, as part of a power grab, rather than to our devolved Administrations. The Welsh Government are clearly arguing that case, and so are the Scottish Government.

  • Is the issue not the basic principle that when the Scottish Parliament was set up, certain powers were reserved, and if they were not specifically reserved, they were devolved? That was not originally the case in Wales, but it was later changed. This process reverses that.

  • That is absolutely the case. It is the case in Scotland and is now the case in Wales. The Welsh and Scottish Governments are clearly arguing this case, and we are now on the brink of a constitutional crisis. This is an issue of trust—trust to exercise devolved powers responsibly, trust to carry out measures that represent the people of Wales and trust to provide meaningful scrutiny of legislation. Why should we in Wales trust a UK Government who are leading us, at any cost, towards such a shambolic, hard Brexit? As it stands, after Brexit, the devolved Governments will be at the mercy of Whitehall, which will have complete control over the time, place, method and future of the powers being repatriated from Brussels. Whitehall may even decide that passing them on is too much trouble, and since the devolved Administrations are given no bargaining powers under the Bill, there will be no opportunities for either Wales or Scotland to demand their return. This is called rolling back the powers of devolution, and we in Wales will not stand for it.

  • Is the hon. Lady not aware that there are ongoing discussions between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations about this very subject, that there are positive signs that an agreement will be reached—if it has not already been reached—and that therefore she is scaremongering in respect of these powers?

  • I am aware that discussions are taking place, but I am also aware that the UK Government promised to bring forward an amendment at this stage but have not done so. So where is that trust?

  • Will the hon. Lady agree that a symbol of how seriously this is being taken by the Welsh Government and Welsh parties and in Scotland is the fact that consideration is now being given to continuity Bills to ensure that those powers are retained? In fact, my colleague Steff Lewis in the Assembly will be presenting just such a Bill tomorrow morning.

  • Yes, that is exactly right, and something I am coming on to. Just today, the Welsh First Minister has said he will take steps to protect Welsh powers after Brexit if UK Ministers do not change the Bill, stating that the Prime Minister’s plan to accumulate all the powers from Brussels in London is a “fundamental assault on devolution”.

  • Members from all sides have mentioned the issue of trust. Does my hon. Friend think that the Government’s attitude to the cancellation of the electrification of the line to Swansea and their promises on EU grants to Wales have helped trust between Cardiff and London?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. How can we trust a UK Government who cannot make a decision on the tidal lagoon, who cancel electrification, who do not give us fair funding, and who do not give Wales an equal say? The Bill says just that.

    The First Minister of Wales has explicitly refused consent to the Bill, and if nothing has changed by the end of January, the Welsh Government will introduce a continuity Bill to protect Welsh interests. The invitation from the Welsh Government to co-operate with the UK Government to make the Bill fit for purpose has been ignored. If the UK Government understood why devolution is one of the strengths of the UK rather than—as they seem to think—one of its weaknesses, they could have included a strategy providing for meaningful, positive scrutiny of legislation by the devolved Governments, and a smooth transition of powers from Brussels to the local, devolved Administrations who are best placed to know what is best for their own countries.

    Some EU frameworks will need to be replaced by common frameworks in certain devolved areas, such as agriculture, environment and fisheries, but it is unacceptable to sideline the devolved Governments in that process. The Welsh Government have always been involved in EU negotiations, and are involved in them at the moment. I know that because, in a previous role, I have been part of those EU negotiations alongside Welsh Ministers. I know at first hand what an easy process this is, and I know that it is a process that has always worked. For example, Wales leads the way on recycling and climate change. If environmental policy is reserved to Whitehall, what is to stop the deregulation and the rolling back of our progress to abide by the messy agreements that the Government are planning with the likes of Donald Trump?

  • I share the hon. Lady’s frustration that the Government have not tabled an amendment, which I think will be well documented in the debate. Does she agree, however, that there is an opportunity for us to have a stronger United Kingdom through UK frameworks? The environmental point is very clear: pollution does not respect national or regional boundaries. We need strong nations, but we need a strong United Kingdom as well.

  • We did table amendments, but the Government voted against them.

    I cannot possibly accept that the UK Government will decide all new policies for all the nations of the UK on issues that are devolved, when they are also acting as the English Government. English interests are not always the same as Welsh or Scottish interests. We know all too well that English interests come first. Wales voted for a devolved Government 20 years ago. I was part of the campaign, and I was proud to see the then UK Labour Government bring that about.

  • Surely the point is that we are a United Kingdom, and as we move across the United Kingdom we see a great diversity in our country. Walsall North is very different from some of the sunny areas in the south-east. I think that we need to operate collectively as a nation in these discussions.

  • If the UK Government were going to work together in that way, surely they would have tabled an amendment at this stage enabling them to do just that.

    We now see a more successful and more confident Wales than we saw two decades ago, but I fear that we are about to go backwards. The Tories have made it clear that when it comes to devolution, they just do not get it. Anyone who understands the basics of devolution could tell them that the Bill, in its current form, is taking us backwards. We need a Bill setting up a procedure that devolved Governments could use in order to have a say on the common UK frameworks so that they would not have to depend on Whitehall’s good will or trust, and that must be on the face of the Bill. We need a Bill that does not propose regressive restrictions on the ability of devolved Parliaments to legislate on devolved areas; this Bill is not it, and I am disappointed that this UK Government could not get their act together between Committee and Report stage and offer better amendments to salvage it.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin). I want to raise two points, and the first of them goes to the issue around devolution and clause 11 and the lack of Government amendments. I do not share the hon. Lady’s somewhat apocalyptic view on this issue, but I certainly acknowledge that it is not desirable, because it is clearly not the Government’s intention for the process of Brexit to result in a diminution of devolved authority either in Scotland or Wales, or for that matter, in so far as Northern Ireland is going to get a viable Administration, in Northern Ireland. My view has always been, on looking at and reading the way the Bill was drafted, that we can do better than what appears in it at present. My understanding is that that is also acknowledged by the Government, although I do slightly regret that the Bill was introduced in its current form, because it seems to me that it was, to an extent, unnecessarily provocative.

    However, it is worth bearing it in mind that ultimately the devolution system—I participated in the debates that set it up—had behind it the implication that the adjustments were not just a one-way ratchet, and I want to emphasise that point: the implication was that devolution might at times require adjustments that gave powers back to Westminster, just as they conferred more powers over time to both Cardiff and Edinburgh. That was clear in the course of those debates when Parliament set the original system up, and it has been repeated on a number of occasions since.

  • Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with his colleague in the Scottish Conservative party Adam Tomkins MSP, the constitution spokesman, who said:

    “Brexit must be delivered in a way that respects devolution…Looking at the substance of the 111 powers, many can safely be devolved without further ado; why aviation noise, for example, would need to come under a UK-wide framework I do not know”?

  • Yes, 110%; I agree entirely with those sentiments, and the remark I made earlier about it not being a one-way street in the way it is supposed to operate does not in any way detract from what Adam Tomkins had to say, and for that reason I continue to look to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench to sort this out, and I share the regret that what should have been done in this House is clearly going to come back for consideration in this House at ping-pong. That is not very satisfactory, and I gently make the point at this stage, as I am confident that there will be the necessary amendments in the Lords, that when the Bill comes back from the Lords there must be sufficient time for us to consider it in detail, because ping-pong often has remarkably little time for detailed consideration of measures. I hope very much that we can get an assurance that, in view of the important constitutional nature of this legislation, we should get that.

    I said earlier that I had been rather disappointed by the Government response to a matter I raised in Committee and that we debated earlier this afternoon, but that having been said, we debated the extraordinarily broad nature of the powers conferred on the Executive in respect of clause 7 and I am pleased at the way the Government have responded to the representations I made and the amendments I tabled. In amendment 14, it is rather nice to see the Government echoing the very words that I drafted when this matter was in Committee. I have no doubt that, as drafted, the Government amendments produce a significant safeguard on the way in which the powers can be used. They do that in two ways: first, by introducing an ejusdem generis clause, which refers to something of the same nature. In referring to the deficiencies listed, they state that if there are any others, they must be of the same nature as those in the list. The second protection that is now being provided is that, if the Government wish to add to the list of deficiencies, they are going to have to do it by an affirmative resolution of this House.

    I entirely accept that this does not go as far as what I was seeking to achieve when I tabled my original amendments, which was to tie the Government down rather more. However, the Government certainly made a perfectly reasonable case in the discussions that I had with them. I think that that might exhibit a certain amount of neurosis on their part—neurosis is very common, as I know from my time in government—that they might have missed something that they ought to have put into the list. The fact that they are willing to come to the House and get an affirmative order to do this provides me with considerable reassurance that this power will now be used in the manner in which it was intended.

    Having said all those good things, it is worth pointing out that this and many of the other power grabs in the Bill are quite startling in their scope. It is, however, to the Government’s credit that they have been willing to listen on this. Their amendments amount to a considerable improvement, particularly when associated with the other safeguards that we have been offered in respect of triage and scrutiny. I should therefore like to express my gratitude to the Secretary of State and to the Bill team, who have suffered my presence on probably more occasions than they might have wished in discussing how this might be taken forward. This is exactly what I came into this House to do, and it is always rather nice to be able to achieve something—and, furthermore, to achieve it without having to divide the House, as that is always the weapon of last resort for the Government Back Bencher.

    With that, I come back to the point at which I started. The test of this legislation will be whether, after enactment, it is seen to be working fairly when it comes into operation. I have no idea when it will come into operation. I suspect that that is still a very long time off, but that is a product of the folly of the course of action on which we are embarked. All that we can do is to try to moderate it as much as possible.

  • I should like to speak to amendment 5, a cross-party amendment tabled in my name and those of other hon. Members. I should also like to indicate my strong support for the Opposition Front-Bench amendment 3. In principle, I also support many of the other amendments in this group, although not, I am sorry to say, the Government amendments, which do not go far enough towards addressing the concerns that have legitimately been raised by the devolved Administrations in particular. It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who has made some excellent points, as has my colleague and friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), who shares many of my deep concerns about this part of the legislation, which have not been addressed.

    I hesitate to raise this point, but it is odd that we are discussing devolution and Brexit in this, the most important piece of legislation to face the United Kingdom and the devolved nations since the second world war, without the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being present in the Chamber with us. I cannot see any of their junior Ministers here either. Perhaps they all have other important business to undertake. That seems rather remiss, given that we are considering such serious matters. I raised a point of order with you about this the other day, Mr Speaker, as did other Members. Much of the concern about this part of the Bill relates to promises and assurances that were given by the Secretary of State for Scotland, yet he is not here to account for himself. I have a great deal of respect for him, but these are serious issues that have been raised in good faith, and Ministers should be here to hear our concerns, and those of the devolved Administrations, if we are truly supposed to be bringing the United Kingdom closer together—as the Prime Minister claims to want to do—rather than pushing it apart.

  • I count 10 Ministers on the Treasury Bench, so it is a little churlish to say that the Government are somehow under-represented when I can see only four members of the Opposition Front-Bench team. I think that says it all. This Government are listening hard to what the hon. Gentleman is saying even though he is being rather tedious.

  • I do not normally respond negatively to the hon. Gentleman, but he fundamentally misunderstands my point. I did not say that Ministers were not here and listening; they clearly are. I can see the Minister for Africa, a Health Minister, the Skills Minister, Brexit Ministers and the Leader of the House, but where are the representatives of the Departments that are supposed to be doing the frontline discussions with the devolved Administrations? They are not here. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), a former Northern Ireland Minister, is also here, but I think she moved in the reshuffle. [Interruption.] She might be at the Cabinet Office—that is wonderful to hear—but where are the relevant Ministers? They should be listening, because what is the point of their being in their roles if they are not taking part in debates such as this?

    Moving on, we had a lengthy and technical debate in Committee, and I do not want to repeat all the detailed arguments; I intend to focus on the principles that are stake. Fundamentally, this is about respect. The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) spoke about trust, and it is also about trust. It is about respect for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and for democracy in a wider sense, because the powers that the legislatures of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland now have are the result of several referendums, several elections, detailed debates and consideration, and a great number of Acts. This is about respect for the devolution settlement and, ultimately, for the Union. I made an election promise to stand up for Wales alongside many of my Welsh Labour colleagues, and I wanted to raise our concerns today because they are so serious.

    I have not re-tabled all the amendments that were tabled in Committee, because we have limited ability to consider them at this stage, but I live in hope that the new Cabinet Office Minister and the Government will work to address many of the concerns. However, I have no doubt that Members of the other place, where we have ex-First Ministers, distinguished former Ministers and Members who have served in devolved Administrations, will look carefully at the detailed concerns that were raised in Committee, at statements from the Scottish and Welsh Governments about the deficiencies in the Bill as it stands, and at the Government’s failure to address the issues, even in the limited set of amendments that they have tabled for consideration on Report.

    I share the serious concerns about clause 11 and the lack of UK-wide frameworks and mechanisms to address many things, which reflects the wider complexity in this endeavour that we are rolling ahead with. We heard about Anguilla earlier on, and who would have thought that that would be a concern? There is so much detail in the complexity of the integration of our relationship with the European Union that the Government simply have not given enough it attention. Whether someone voted leave or remain, trying to address some of the issues is only in the country’s interests.

    The White Paper of March 2017 claimed that there would be a significant increase in the decision-making power of the devolved Administrations and that former EU frameworks would be subject to decisions by democratically elected representatives of the United Kingdom. That clearly is not the case with this Bill as it stands. We have heard that there are 111 powers, but we are supposed to just take it on trust that all of them will transfer when the UK Government have repeatedly attempted to undermine the devolved Administrations. I raised that during the passage of the Trade Union Act 2016 and when discussing the Agricultural Workers Board. There is a litany of examples of when things end up in the Supreme Court or in complex disagreements, instead of being addressed in the first place.

    The Secretary of State for Scotland suggested that amendments would be made at this stage, but we have not seen them. They have obviously become caught up in some shenanigans that were partly dealt with in the reshuffle. The situation is greatly disappointing, not least because the amendments that were drafted by the Welsh and Scottish Governments that were tabled as cross-party amendments by me and many other hon. Members were proposed in good faith. They were not about stopping Brexit or trying to wreck the Bill; they were serious, well meant and well intentioned and tried to address the serious concerns about the provisions in the Bill. Indeed, we know those concerns are shared by many Conservative Members. It is a shame that the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton) has left his place, but he said in Committee that

    “clause 11, as drafted, is not fit for purpose and must be changed. It does not need to be tweaked a little; it needs to be amended and replaced with a new version.”—[Official Report, 4 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 731.]

  • The Secretary of State for Scotland said that these things would come back on Report. That has not happened, and now the Government are saying that it will go to the Lords. Of course, technically, the Government cannot guarantee any votes in the Lords because they do not have a majority, so this is another area where there is an element of failed trust; they simply do not have the numbers, even if they stack the Lords with a pile of the Prime Minister’s friends.

  • Indeed, and it is a great concern that we have not had a proper chance to discuss the issue in this place. Given some of the constraining efforts by Government Whips and others at previous stages of this Bill, we will no doubt have constraints at ping-pong, when we consider the amendments made by the Lords. I want these issues to be substantially addressed.

  • Would it not be an act of good faith for the Government to accept amendment 3 today, and then to amend that amendment in the Lords?

  • Amendment 3 is sensible, well meant and well thought through, and it enjoys substantial support. If the Government just accepted the amendment and moved forward, it would show good faith and we could try to resolve these issues.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) said, this Bill will not proceed with the consent of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Government or the Welsh Assembly without substantial and urgent changes over the next few weeks, or indeed today before the Bill reaches the other place. That is well understood by people across the EU who are watching this process—indeed, I raised it on the visit to Brussels yesterday.

  • The hon. Gentleman is making a good point about the legislative consent motion and the requirements that need to be in place for it to happen. The Labour amendment would not bring that about. There needs to be an agreement between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. Without that agreement, it is impossible to replace clause 11 satisfactorily to secure that LCM.

  • The bottom line is that these concerns have been raised for months. They were raised by the Welsh and Scottish Governments right at the start, when the Bill was published. The UK Government have had plenty of time to resolve things, which is why there is such deep distrust and suspicion about their intent. Until they come up with something that actually addresses the concerns, we will continue to raise the issue.

  • I will happily take more interventions in a moment, but I want to make a little more progress.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North also briefly referred to this, but it is important that we hear exactly what the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, said in his statement today:

    “The Bill as it currently stands represents a fundamental assault on devolution. It would replace current constraints on the National Assembly’s legislative competence, which will fall away…with a new set of constraints in devolved competences that would be controlled by the UK Government. We have consistently said there is no prospect of the Welsh Government recommending consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill as it is currently drafted… It is a matter of considerable regret that the Government has not, despite the undertaking of the Secretary of State for Scotland, introduced any amendment to Clause 11 which, as it stands, is wholly unacceptable to us.”

    He went on to say that he is deeply concerned about the Government’s failure to accept some of the reasonable amendments tabled on a cross-party basis in Committee, and he made it clear that there will be consequences.

    The hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) spoke about a continuity Bill, and the First Minister made it clear today that, over the past eight months, the Welsh Government have been developing a continuity Bill that can be deployed if it becomes clear that it will not be possible to amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill to ensure it properly reflects the devolution settlement. If amendments are not made, the Welsh Government will submit that continuity Bill to the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly.

    The First Minister could not be clearer, and I share his deep frustration, disappointment and concern that, despite all the warm words at different stages of the Bill—perhaps we will see a rapid turnaround from the new Minister for the Cabinet Office—these issues have not been addressed. We could have been debating the finer points today and moving on from this issue if we had ensured that we kept the constitutional framework in place.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that negotiations are two-sided? He talks about the agreement of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, so can he guarantee that if this House were to adopt the Labour amendment, the LCM would be passed in both of those?

  • I think the Government should accept the series of amendments we have tabled. I am communicating the concerns of the Welsh Government and the Welsh people—indeed, of many who want to respect and maintain the devolution settlement as it is. The hon. Gentleman is asking this question now, but these amendments were put down months ago and these issues have been raised.

  • This is exclusively the responsibility of the UK Government. They introduced the repeal Bill, designed clause 11 and acknowledged that there are issues for both the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, so it is up to them to fix it. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this attempt to share blame with Scotland and Wales, as if somehow we are semi-responsible for this impasse, is totally disingenuous?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an important point.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that this Front-Bench amendment was written alongside and in co-operation with the Welsh Government, which means they will accept what this amendment says? [Hon. Members: “The LCM?”] Yes.

  • The series of issues we have raised concerns about for months has been clearly set out. These issues have been raised since the Bill was drafted. We are in the absurd situation where the Secretary of State for Scotland admits there are deficiencies in the Bill and many Conservative Members agree with that. I have no doubt that the Minister for the Cabinet Office agrees with it, although I doubt he will say so today. We all recognise there are deficiencies with it, so the question is: why have they not been resolved before we reached this stage? We were hearing a lot from the Scottish Conservative Members, whose position seemed to be somewhat different from that of their counterparts in the Scottish Parliament. The Welsh Conservatives claimed today that they are disappointed; the whole of Wales will be disappointed by their failure to stand up for Wales and their own legislature, in which they sit.

    As I said, I do not want to go back into all the technical detail, so I finally wish to come to the nub of this issue: why does all this matter? Why do these issues matter? Why do these technical debates about the constitutional settlement matter? They matter because they have consequences for our Union, for the devolution settlement and for the economic operation of the markets within this United Kingdom. We are already going to be struggling to deal with the serious consequences we will face if we carry on along the Government’s hard Brexit path of, for example, leaving the customs union and the single market, with which I do not agree. Do we really want to add to that a series of complexities, challenges and problems within our own internal markets, logistics and functioning?

    There are serious consequences for relationships that we know are already under strain and the subject of lively political debate in the UK. There are also economic consequences of Brexit as a whole for the devolved nations. Just this week, University of Birmingham research showed that the nations and regions of the UK are very exposed economically, with 11.7% of Welsh GDP being exposed. As I said, there are serious consequences to leaving the single market and customs union. We heard yesterday from one of Wales’s largest employers, Airbus—I draw attention to my declaration of interests—which employs a number of people in the defence and space industry next door to my constituency and many people across Wales. Its chief executive, Tom Enders, said that the “wreckage” of Trump will be easier to repair than that of Brexit, given the increased costs and the challenges for competitiveness.

    The Welsh people, the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly need to have a proper say in where we go on this process, given the implications. As the consequences become clearer, the Welsh people, and indeed the British people, have the right to change their minds on this entire process.

  • Thank you for allowing me to say a few words in this setting, Mr Speaker. I wish to make it clear that, despite whatever else I may say in this speech, I support this Bill wholeheartedly and I wish it to be a success. Uppermost in my mind when considering the Bill are the ramifications of there not being a Bill. I think about the choice the British people made to leave the EU and I respect it. We made a commitment to act on that instruction and act on it we shall—we will honour that vote. Those who choose to disregard the vote of the British people must answer to the British people. My constituency voted to remain in the EU, but I know that my constituents are democrats who expect me, as their elected Member of Parliament, to ensure that their best interests are served in the light of the outcome and that the result is upheld. Many businesses and individuals in my Stirling constituency are ready to make the best of Brexit.

  • The hon. Gentleman is running through the start of the speech he made in Committee, during which I asked him four times to outline how he feels clause 11 is deficient and how he would like that sorted. Would he like to take this opportunity to tell us?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for remembering my speeches, which makes him very favourable in my sight. I shall come to clause 11, but first I wish to make it clear that the people and businesses of Stirling—the individuals who live in my constituency—want us to make the best of Brexit. All we hear from other parties, as we heard from the First Minister of Scotland yesterday, is an unmitigated diet of doom and gloom. The fact is that, as was disclosed in an esteemed social attitudes survey that was released last week, there are really no differences between the electorates in Scotland and England when it comes to what they want the Government to get on with doing. They want the best possible Brexit, and a smooth Brexit that will work for all the people of this country.

    The Bill is a necessary enabling measure. No one in this House wants to put our country and British businesses through a cliff-edge Brexit. The idea that there are Members who do is often repeated, but it is just not true. We want a smooth Brexit and a working statute book at the end of it. I repeat that, and I do not apologise for repeating it.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the electorate do not want a deficient Bill to lead them into Brexit?

  • Let me come to that—I promise that almost my next sentence will be on that. I want to make sure that the Bill and Parliament deliver what my constituents expect.

    I now turn to clause 11 and the amendments to it, particularly amendment 3. Let me be absolutely clear about the clause: we must have an agreement between the UK and Scottish Governments to allow for the passage of a legislative consent motion. I am not convinced that that is a legal necessity, but it is a convention that the Government are honouring and they should be commended for that. I am therefore intensely disappointed, dissatisfied and frustrated that a deal has not been struck between Scotland’s two Governments.

    In the past few days, there has been a lot of talk in the media about the claim that there is an agreement in principle between the UK and Scottish Governments. The Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister, Mike Russell, claimed on television on Sunday that such an agreement existed. Will the Minister tell us the status of the negotiations between Scotland’s two Governments? Is there an agreement in principle? Is there an agreement on the frameworks that we all agree are essential for the operation of the UK marketplace, to allow the UK to honour its international obligations and to strike trade deals?

  • Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the need to make amendments to improve clause 11, which is almost universally accepted as deficient, is not predicated on there first being an agreement on a legislative consent motion, or the agreement with the Scottish Government to which he refers? Amendments should be taken on their merits alone.

  • That is brave talk, but the facts of the matter are that Conservative Members are seeking to co-operate with the devolved Administrations so that there can be a unanimous approach to the legislative consent motion.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman not see that the way to achieve UK frameworks and to respect devolution would be to have all four Governments around the table as equals? We should not have this place handing things down from on high.

  • I do not recognise that description of what has been going on. In fact, as lately as October, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations set out the principles by which such an agreement as I am describing would be achieved. I do believe that an agreement is necessary for us to be able to see that clause 11 is fit for purpose. It is a very important part of the passage of this Bill. We have to respect the devolved settlement, and an appropriately amended clause 11, which is subject to the negotiation and agreement of the devolved Administrations, is how to proceed.

  • I will try for the sixth time over two debates to get the hon. Gentleman to answer this question. I ask him to please not say that he is coming on to it, when he never comes on to it. What is deficient in clause 11? What would he like to see changed in order to make it a clause that is not deficient? Does he stand by what he said in the previous debate that he expects the Government to come forward with amendments before it goes to the other place?

  • I am going to disappoint the hon. Gentleman—I will come on to that last point. What I believe should exist in clause 11 is the subject matter of the agreement that is reached between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, in terms of UK frameworks in particular. We all accept that it is necessary that there are UK frameworks.

  • When I was referring to having all four Governments around the table, I was talking not about negotiating clause 11, but about how to set up frameworks for fishing, food or the environment. Those things should be decided together and not just decided here.

  • My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, is not in his place now, but he dealt with that matter in his speech. I must say that I find myself in complete agreement with his sentiment and that of the Committee’s recent report, which is that, since we arrived at the position we are at with devolved Government in the United Kingdom, there has been a lack of appropriate machinery for our Governments to work together. There is a lack of appropriate constitutionally agreed machinery for even Parliaments to talk to each other. That must be addressed. One of the positive aspects of Brexit—

  • I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that amending clause 11 is the right thing to do, but the detail of amendment 3 would be mired in judicial review were it to be accepted. For that reason, it is the wrong route to go down.

  • I completely agree. Although I could not disagree fundamentally with the wording of the amendment, it is not adequate for its purpose in terms of the withdrawal Bill and the importance of achieving the legislative consent motions that this Government have rightfully determined are the way to proceed with what is—I agree—a major constitutional rearrangement of the affairs of this country because of our exit from the European Union.

  • We all accept that having those joint frameworks is a desirable and necessary thing, but we are talking about the sequence in which that should be carried out. It is not necessary for us to wait for that to happen before amending clause 11 and making it fit for purpose now. Why do we not crack on and do it today? What is stopping us?

  • What is stopping us is the fact that there is no point creating an amendment which then itself has to be amended. No one is more disappointed and frustrated than I am that we do not have these amendments. I sat and listened to the Secretary of State for Scotland make the same commitment. I will come on to that as it is a serious matter for me.

  • It is important that the hon. Gentleman understands the sequence and how this works. The repeal Bill is something that this Government have done to Scotland. What we have identified in that repeal Bill is a devolution threat in a clause that has to be corrected. If that is not corrected, there will be no legislative consent motion. It is incumbent on the Government who introduced this Bill to sort it and bring it forward. Then we will see whether we can give a legislative consent motion. That is how it works.

  • There is the soul of a nationalist. The hon. Gentleman manages to take any issue and to make it into a grotesque grievance, which does not even exist. The fact is that the Government are going to extraordinary lengths to achieve the necessary level of consensus and agreement by which clause 11 can be amended so that it is fit for purpose. I support that, but it does not take one iota away from the fact that I am intensely disappointed. I ask the Ministers again to tell us about the status of the negotiations and where we are on the agreement. If there is an agreement, no one will say any louder, “Where is the amendment that we were promised from the Government?” [Interruption.] I am saying it now; I just said it. The Government gave undertakings that the Bill would be amended at the stage before it left this place to go to the House of Lords.

  • I am not going to ask the hon. Gentleman for the seventh time, but will he tell the House what mechanism he and his Scottish Conservative MP colleagues would have in this House if the Government do not amend the Bill in the House of Lords?

  • The hon. and learned Lady, with her normal reserve, says that I do not know. The fact is that there are established processes by which the amendments that will now have to be made to the Bill in the House of Lords will come back here. Those processes were addressed by the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

    I do not want my next point to be lost, especially on my hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench—please do not underestimate the depth of disappointment and frustration among Scottish Conservative colleagues in the House. It does not seem appropriate for the Government to blame outside influences for the lack of an amendment. [Interruption.] SNP Members say, “Yes.” But it took until October to get an agreement to the principles by which we would proceed towards the agreement that I, and many of us here, regard as essential. Why did it take so long? Well, the fact is that the nationalist Government in Edinburgh are approaching the matter, as usual, with a wrecking mentality. They want to create a constitutional crisis that precipitates their beloved second independence referendum. The First Minister was at it again this week, talking about another independence referendum. The people of Scotland have spoken on this matter, but the SNP will not listen and its Members claim to be the democrats in this House.

  • The hon. Gentleman talks about trust, and about building towards agreement and compromise. Will he advise us as to how he expects that trust, agreement and compromise to come about? My understanding is that the UK Government have not shared any draft amendments to clause 11 with the Scottish Government.

  • I respect the hon. Gentleman’s point of view and question on this matter. Frankly, I believe that we will proceed on the basis of the negotiations, on which I have asked Ministers to update us. Even Ministers in the hon. Gentleman’s own Government in Edinburgh talk about these matters in the most positive terms; it is not necessary to dress the issues up as a crisis and make them into some drama. We need to proceed to a point at which we can get to an agreement, which will then be the basis for an amended clause 11.

  • I am just looking for some clarity. The hon. Gentleman mentions how difficult it has been to get agreement with the Scottish Government. If the Government continue to fail to get that agreement, is it the case that no amendments to clause 11 will be tabled in the other place?

  • The hon. Gentleman talks about there not being any prospects of an agreement. There is every prospect of an agreement, and I am quoting the SNP Brexit Minister. There is every possibility and likelihood of an agreement. My view is that it should have been achieved before now, and that we should have had an amendment to the Bill.

  • I will give way just one more time because I am sure that Mr Speaker’s patience with me is going to wear thin. In fact, I will take one intervention from the Opposition and one from my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex.

  • The Welsh Government and First Minister deemed it necessary to make a statement today about the lack of joined-up working with the UK Government, which is threatening a constitutional crisis; that is coming from a Labour Government in Wales. The very point is that we are on the brink of a constitutional crisis. We need an amendment. We need the Government to support Labour’s amendment 3.

  • The hon. Lady is describing the attitude of the Welsh Government, which in many respects has been more hawk than dove on these matters. I have no doubt that that is for the Labour party’s political purposes in Wales, as such things are for the SNP in Scotland.

  • It would be helpful if the Government gave an assurance today that in the event that there is no agreement with the Scottish or Welsh Governments, they will still amend clause 11—unilaterally, if necessary—to ensure that its effect is ameliorated as reasonably as possible. If the Scottish and Welsh Governments refuse to agree to that, it will be a problem for them and not for this Parliament.

  • I completely agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that we must not be foolishly optimistic but realistic. When SNP Ministers talk as positively as they have, which is a different sound from the one that we hear from SNP Members here, then we have every reason to believe that wise heads—adult heads—will have sway and there will be an agreement.

    I repeat—I do not want this not to be heard—that the Government made a clear commitment to the House on the amendments to clause 11, and I took those commitments at face value. As a Conservative Member, I never want to get to the point where I cannot take commitments given to me by right hon. and hon. Members at face value, because I hope, frankly, that they can continue to trust commitments that I might make to them. I really do want to understand why we have arrived at this point. I am afraid that there is a point of principle and accountability involved in answering these questions. What happened in the Departments in the past few weeks and months? Did they somehow lose focus? Were we not clear enough in what our expectations were?

    I share with the House a concern that has resurfaced time and again since I was elected as Member for Stirling: since the devolution settlement UK Governments of all flavours have tended to devolve and forget, and that is a very dangerous practice. Again, I appeal to the Government to consider the appropriate machinery that creates the means by which our Governments work together, because that is what my constituents want. They are tired of the voices of conflict that they hear regularly in Scotland. They want us to be conciliatory. They want us to work by consensus and through collaboration.

    When the devolution settlements first went through, when Labour was in power, there was a fashionable term that is still appropriate—“sofa government”. With a Labour Prime Minister in London and Labour First Ministers in Edinburgh and Cardiff, it was all very cosy, and so there was no need for any of the machinery that I am describing. In fact, one of the Scottish Labour leaders described their party in those days as the “branch office” of the party in London. By contrast, we as Unionists should believe in and work to the principles of partnership, and I believe that that is possible.

    The reason behind amendments to clause 11 was to strengthen devolution and by doing so strengthen the Union. The nationalists will always create their narrative of grievance and scream “power grab” at every imagined opportunity. A strong amendment would have pulled the rug from under their squalid argument. It would have shown them up as the creators of grievance rather than giving grievance a voice, which we are hearing today.

    Let me touch briefly on the rather weak amendments being offered up by the Opposition parties. The SNP amendment has no chance of passing and does nothing to address many of the concerns that Conservative Members have. The Labour amendment is well-intentioned but poorly drafted, and will only make room for legal wrangling and uncertainty. Not only that, but it shows no understanding that devolution in the UK is asymmetrical. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Parliaments are very different creatures, and there will undoubtedly be a need for frameworks that cover different parts of the United Kingdom and not just whole-United Kingdom frameworks.

    For the good of Scotland, any powers that are returning to the UK from Brussels that are not reserved must, by definition, be devolved. I accept that UK frameworks are required. They can pragmatically solve problems, and they should do so through an equal partnership where all sides—Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Stormont —can come together to solve problems and to share ideas. This is pragmatic partnership building. It is Unionism at its best, and even the enlightened nationalists seem to sign up for this. Everyone seems to agrees with it, so again I am left wondering why we would allow this Bill to leave this House and go to the other place without a suitable amendment.

    I make no bones about it: it sticks in my craw to think that unelected Lords will make the vital amendments to this vital constitutional Bill. It is not really good enough, and as a Member of the House of Commons I hang my head to think that we have somehow dropped the ball. The Bill will leave this House unamended and in an unsatisfactory state, and we are now dependent on unelected Lords to do our job for us.

  • The Government had control of the timetable—the deadlines were created by them—but they have let this Chamber down by not delivering on what they promised. I really want to hear from a Minister at the Dispatch Box what the Government now plan to do in detail about amending clause 11. I want to hear much more about the shape of the amendment they will bring forward. It is time to get into the detail: we have had enough of the generalities and of the reassuring news, and we now want the detail.

    Let me conclude—[Interruption.] SNPs Members will all be very disappointed, but I think that is only fair. The Government have a great track record of listening to the concerns of their Back Benchers. Despite what I am saying, I want that to be a matter of record as well. That is what makes dealing with the situation we find ourselves in so much more difficult. This is an aberration, not what we are used to. The Government listened to our concerns about the Budget and acted on them. I know from my own experience the intensity with which Ministers have listened to suggestions from Back Benchers like me on matters such as the roll-out of universal credit. I cannot speak too highly of the former Minister for Digital, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), for responding to the challenges and difficulties we have experienced in Scotland with the roll-out of superfast broadband, especially in rural areas.

    However, this critical clause is of huge importance to me and many of us in the Scottish Conservative party. For the promises made to us not to have been kept is a poor show. I want it clearly understood that my constituents voted to remain in the EU, but they accept the UK vote and want an efficient withdrawal to be executed by the Government, and the Bill will do that. However, we must also deliver on the powers for the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, and the Government have failed on this element of the Bill. I therefore expect some interesting and convincing explanations and some convincing commitments from the Minister tonight. Although the Government have run out of time to make their own amendments, they can take the time tonight to make amends.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), and I can sense the torture he is putting himself through. The shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Lesley Laird), who is sitting on the Bench beside me, described his trying to come up with a reason for not voting with the Opposition on amendment 3 as “dancing around handbags”. My only advice to him is that he can be as tortured as he likes and in as much turmoil as he clearly feels, but unless he votes accordingly, the Government will never take him seriously and his pleas will go unanswered, as they have so far. He has a good hour to reflect on that and to consider what he wants to do this evening, and I hope that he decides in the end to vote with us on amendment 3.

  • Does my hon. Friend not agree that the game-changing arithmetic is with the Scottish Conservative bloc of 13 MPs, and if they come together, show some gumption and stand up for the national interest, they can actually turn this around and improve clause 11 today? There is nothing stopping them: they could overturn the DUP bloc and change this if they brought forward their own amendments.

  • That is exactly what I am saying to those Conservative Members. I do not want to make it more difficult by goading them too much because I understand how they must be feeling—I will leave that to my SNP colleagues—but this is an important moment this evening. If we agreed amendment 3, we would be sending a very clear signal to the Government and requiring them to come back with something in the Lords—with the support, without a doubt, of the votes of Labour peers—to amend the Bill as we ought to be amending it this evening.

    I want to keep this very simple. I will speak to amendment 3 in my name and those of my Opposition colleagues. It was disappointing to have to table this amendment. It should not be necessary, because the Government, with the support of the devolved authorities, should have tabled their own amendment, but they have not done so, so here we are.

    From the outset, it has been clear that one of the greatest problems with this deeply flawed Bill is that it threatens the devolution settlements that underpin our Union. The Scottish and Welsh First Ministers have described it as a naked power grab, and there is a clear danger that a major piece of constitutional legislation that amends devolution settlements will not receive the consent of the devolved Administrations, which would be a real failure for the Government.

    What is the problem? As we argued in Committee, the presumption at the heart of clause 11 is that, as powers return from Brussels, they will be held in Westminster rather than being passed to the devolved Administrations. The Government say that will be temporary, but they have put no time limits on the hoarding of those powers, and there is no collaborative mechanism for the creation of UK-wide frameworks and the devolution of power. Instead, that is assumed to be in the gift of Ministers.

    The problem has been recognised by Conservative Members. The hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton) said in Committee:

    “On Second Reading, I said that I would not allow legislation to pass that undermined the Union or the devolution settlement, and that remains my position today.”

    He also said that

    “clause 11, as drafted, is not fit for purpose and must be changed.”—[Official Report, 4 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 729-731.]

    He was not alone. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) said that

    “changes will have to be made to clause 11 as it stands”.—[Official Report, 4 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 796.]

    The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) said that the Bill must be amended and added:

    “As the intergovernmental discussions progress and the Bill returns to this House, as it will, before it goes to the other place, it is very much my hope that there will be some greater detail in clause 11 to help all hon. Members to have a degree of confidence in its intent.”—[Official Report, 4 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 803.]

    Today, he said that he is deeply disappointed that that is not the case.

    Conservatives in Scotland must have been pleased when it appeared that the Government had listened and promised to amend clause 11 on Report. The Secretary of State for Scotland told the House that the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire had clearly set out why clause 11 needed to be amended, and he went on to say that the Government would table amendments to clause 11 on Report. The promised amendments have not been forthcoming, and the Government now say that they will be tabled in the Lords. But as the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland has said, the lack of transparency is becoming a habit.

    This is not good enough. Conservative Scottish and Welsh Members have been reasonable and given the Government a chance, but they have let them down. Now it is time to force the Government’s hand by voting for our amendment, because devolution settlements are more important than any party interest.

  • The EU referendum result was clear, and it was a decision by the House to put that question to the people. They gave their answer. Whichever way we voted in the referendum ourselves, we have been given instructions that must be carried out. In Scotland, as much as others might wish to portray the picture differently, more than 1 million Scots voted to leave the European Union, 600,000 of whom came from the SNP yes side.

    It is inherently the case that, as we leave the European Union, those powers that it exercises on our behalf will come back to the UK and to Scotland. That has always been the golden opportunity to exercise more powers in Scotland over areas such as fishing and agriculture. That is why Members on the other side of the House should welcome that. Rather than fighting to keep those powers in Brussels, we should be fighting to take them here.

    We have one opportunity to get this right. We do not get a dress rehearsal for leaving the European Union. There is one time to negotiate and get it right, and it is in nobody’s interest to see a rushed process or to get anything wrong that could damage our constitution. As the House knows, Conservative Members believe inherently in the power of our single market here in the UK.

  • The hon. Gentleman’s colleague, the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), quoted the Scottish social attitudes survey. Some 62% of Scots in that survey think that all decisions about fishing should be taken by the Scottish Government, and 59% think that all farming decisions should be made by the Scottish Government as well. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I know that Members can be selective, but that survey also showed that the majority of Scots want immigration to stay at the UK-wide level. It is really important that we still have UK-wide frameworks and things that are kept at the UK-wide level.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman way?

  • No, thank you.

    The survey also shows that Scots want to leave the single market. The Scottish Government published a paper yesterday saying Scotland has to remain in the single market, but Scots want to leave the single market—the survey is very clear. So Members can be very selective in the things that we quote.

    As I said, it is important that we get this right. Even the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry)—she is not in her place at the moment—said in her introductory remarks that, although she had voted to remain, it is really important that we get the Bill right. Having the Bill is important.

    Conservative Members not only want but require there to be proper changes to the EU withdrawal Bill, because we want to see the Scottish Parliament grant its legislative consent, and the Lords require that as well before they make changes. It is in the interests of all Administrations, whether in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, that we find a way to reach agreement. Therefore, I urge in the strongest of terms that the Scottish and UK Governments work and engage positively to ensure that negotiations advance well and that that important agreement can be reached. I welcome the fact that the UK Government have been absolutely clear to date that they want a constructive and consensual approach and that nothing will be imposed on any of the devolved Administrations.

  • The hon. Gentleman is making the same argument as the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) with regard to the negotiations being complete and the negotiations and the conclusion to them then influencing amendments in the other place. If the negotiations do not conclude by the time this Bill passes through the other place, what mechanisms do he or any of his Scottish Conservative MP colleagues have in this place to amend the Bill?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I am glad that he has recognised that my colleagues and I are saying the same thing, because it is the right thing and the sensible thing, and that is why we have been consistent in our approach. I am also glad that he acknowledged the power and influence that we hold on the Conservative Benches, compared with the Labour Benches, because there are more Scottish Conservative MPs than Scottish Labour MPs.

    However, we recognise that reaching agreement is in the interests of both Governments; both want to see a conclusion. Even Mike Russell himself—I have sat in the Scottish Parliament Chamber listening to his diatribes and to him railing against Brexit—wants to reach agreement with the UK Government; in fact, he said that in the Scottish Affairs Committee. Agreement is in the interests of all, and I am positive that changes will be made in the Lords and that we will get agreement, because it is not in any Government’s interests not to secure it.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • Can I make a little more progress? I will take more interventions.

    Looking at the amendment before us, it is clear that there is no safeguard in terms of UK-wide frameworks, which many of us agree are important when it comes to areas such as agriculture or animal and plant welfare standards. Further, and importantly, it does not secure any Joint Ministerial Committee consent, and it does not guarantee the legislative consent that is essential in the Scottish Parliament.

    We may all have areas of disagreement, but it is important that we do not pre-empt things by voting for this amendment tonight and that we work constructively to ensure we can get the JMC and our national Parliaments and Assemblies on board. I do not take the characterisation made by the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) that we can somehow speed ahead with the process and that, fingers crossed, things will be amended and then come back. We need to be working more collaboratively and constructively with the Scottish Government.

  • On that point, does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that the UK Government do not appear to have shared any draft amendment to clause 11 with the Scottish Government? Has he seen any draft amendment? Has he been involved in any of those discussions?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Obviously, Government Back Benchers have not been directly involved in negotiations between the Governments, but boy, have we been meeting with our ministerial colleagues and making our position and our asks very clear, and I am sure Ministers will reiterate what those asks have been. This is important, because it is in both Governments’ interests that we reach a conclusion. I would ask the Minister, have SNP Ministers shared with you some of the negotiating aims that they are looking for? This is a two-way process.

    Given the amount of work that colleagues on the Government side of the House have put into this, there is genuine disappointment and frustration that those amendments have not been tabled on Report; we are disappointed that they will have to come through from the Lords. However, as I said, we recognise that this process is very complex, and that the implications if we do not get it right are very far-reaching. So, we need to ensure that when it comes to UK-wide frameworks, we get agreement on both sides. Some powers will naturally go back to the Scottish Parliament, but some issues are best approached at a UK-wide level, and there is still no agreement between both Governments on that.

    If we do agree to the amendment, we must look at what happens where there is disagreement between both Governments in future in the exercise of some of these powers. The way in which those disputes are resolved is inherently complex; it is not simple. I do not think any of those points is addressed in the amendment before us.

    I shall touch on a point that was raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin). I know she is standing up for her area in the way she thinks best, but a lot of the rhetoric sounds very familiar. It is very like what many of my hon. Friends have been dealing with for a long time in Scotland, with the rise of nationalism and with the independence referendum. It is very easy to batter the UK Government in that way, but I believe it is very dangerous and divisive to do so. Maybe the hon. Lady can learn lessons from her Scottish Labour colleagues. It was as a result of that ambivalence towards the Union that Scottish Labour found itself a third party in the Scottish Parliament, and that it has again found itself a third party in Scotland since the general election. That is why there are more of us sitting on the Conservative Benches—because we believe that standing up for the Union is a good thing, not just battering all the time.

  • The Labour Government in Wales are not a nationalist Government, and if the UK Government were to work co-operatively with both the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government we would not be in this situation. We need that amendment, and the behaviour of this Government means that we are heading for a constitutional crisis. I do not want that constitutional crisis, and neither the First Minister for Wales nor, I think, the First Minister for Scotland wants it.

  • I do not accept the hon. Lady’s characterisation of the UK Government’s behaviour. I have seen people in the UK Government acting in good faith, and in fairness, I have seen that Scottish Government Ministers usually privately act in good faith. The public dance within the media and in public is something different, and I know that the SNP have to get from where they are to where they can accept UK-wide frameworks, but I know they are on that journey. I believe that both Governments are acting in good faith.

    The most interesting thing to emerge from this is that the Scottish Government and the SNP are demanding more powers; they demand that all 111 should rest with the Scottish Parliament, regardless of the effect on the UK internal market. But they never talk about outcomes from these powers. They demand more and more, but they never tell us how they want to use them. Sadly, the nationalist narrative now is to just demand more, demand more, demand more, because they want independence. It does not matter how much you try to dress it up. The First Minister herself said that independence “transcends” everything else. It does not matter how the Scottish Parliament is currently exercising its powers, but they will never be enough, because independence is always the end goal, which was why, yet again at the weekend, we heard about potential new dates this year for another referendum. That is why there are fewer SNP Members sitting in the House, because people in constituencies such as mine, and Stirling, and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, to name just a few, are absolutely fed up with that rhetoric. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling rightly said, people want our Governments to work more constructively together. They are fed up with the rhetoric, fed up with the ongoing bickering and fighting and point-scoring. They want to see both Governments working together, and both Governments have demonstrated that they can do it. Both can work together over city deals, for example, to deliver for Scotland and for regions. People get really fed up when they see “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday morning and yet again there is the kind of rhetoric that we have had to endure in Scotland for not just months, but years.

  • Did the hon. Gentleman watch the programme? The entire session was about Brexit. Andrew Marr asked the First Minister about independence—she was asked by someone else. You have just spent about five minutes talking about it, but suddenly it is the SNP banging on about it.

  • I have done no such thing. I have been a very good boy!

  • I was not talking about the questions asked but about the answer given. That is the broken record. The First Minister has always had the opportunity to accept the result of 2014. She never has and she never will. That is why independence transcends everything else for the SNP. It does not speak in the national interest, but only ever in the nationalist interest.

    To conclude, powers will come back from Europe and will be exercised directly in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government Ministers. I know that the Scottish Government do not have a great track record when it comes to managing things in Scotland, so I understand their trepidation about any other powers going to the First Minister. That is no doubt why they want to keep all those powers in Brussels.

    At least those of us on the Government side actually want devolution—not the kind of crazy centralisation that we have seen from the SNP. That is the hallmark of its Government and of the party here. That is why on this side we will stand up for Scotland and deliver for Scotland.

  • I shall return, for a moment, to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

    I rise to speak to amendments 12 and 13 and the consequential 11 in my name and those of my hon. Friends. Amendment 12 to clause 19 would require the UK Government to gain the consent of the sitting devolved Administrations before the Bill came into force. At this stage, hon. Members should not rehearse previous arguments or submit previous amendments, so following my attempted amendment on day one of Committee which also sought to require the legislative consent of the devolved Administrations, I have addressed the critical point raised by other Members about Northern Ireland.

    At the time of that previous amendment, there was no Northern Ireland Assembly to grant consent to the Bill and that, unfortunately, remains the case. My amendment, therefore, sets out that consent is required from all devolved Administrations unless direct rule is in place or the Administration have been formally suspended or dissolved for reasons other than recess or an election. Across the House, many of us would like the Northern Ireland Assembly to be up and running and serving its people once again, but if that was still not the case once the Bill was enacted, the amendment would still require the consent of the other Administrations.

    To echo the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), this Bill is about continuity, certainty and control. It is now clear that the convention of gaining legislative consent is flawed, as it has been held to be just that: a convention. In contrast, the devolved Administrations have come to see it as a normal and required aspect of legislative processes. It seems to me that until recently, at least in how the process worked from day to day, that was also the view of the Westminster Government, who have sought legislative consent from the nations on hundreds of occasions since devolution.

    The Minister has now confirmed that his Government are seeking legislative consent for this Bill as well. Given their own consistent actions, I am mystified about why they do not wish the principle of consent to be anywhere in the Bill—unless, of course, they plan to renege on that commitment, too. If I were a cynic, I might suspect that the Government here are happy enough to request consent as long as there is no risk that it might be refused, as might happen in this case. That is the Catch 22: consent is there only when it is granted.

    I also note that hon. Members, including me, have repeatedly asked Ministers what would happen were consent to be refused. In response there has consistently been—well, no response at all. One case in point will suffice. At Welsh questions on 13 December, I asked the Secretary of State for Wales:

    “What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.”

    I added:

    “I have asked the Secretary of State a number of times, both orally and in writing, what would happen if the National Assembly for Wales were to withhold its consent for the withdrawal Bill, and he has gone from looking hopelessly Panglossian to being unsure, evasive and even furtive. Will he now tell the House what would happen if the National Assembly for Wales withheld its consent for the Bill?”

    His answer made my case—that the Government were either clueless or evasive—for me:

    “I am optimistic that our work with the Welsh Government will lead to a legislative consent motion.”—[Official Report, 13 December 2017; Vol. 633, c. 381.]

    That was all: hopeless optimism and no real answer. Our leaving the EU has been characterised as taking back control, but surely to deny the sitting devolved Administrations their fair say on whether the Bill should be passed goes against the three principles of the Bill that the Minister set out: to provide continuity and certainty and to take back control. Control for whom?

    I turn now to amendment 13 to clause 11, which also stands in my name and those of my hon. Friends. It is clear that the Bill in its current form would weaken the devolution settlements that the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have enjoyed for 20 years. Even this Government have made it clear that clause 11 is not good enough and said that it will be amended. Our amendment seeks to guarantee that any future frameworks respect the democratic accountability of the devolved legislatures by being based on established conventions and practices that will not be adjusted without the consent of these institutions. That is the moot point: it is matter of consent.

    The amendment holds that

    “flexibility for tailoring policies to the specific needs”

    of the nations should be allowed, as is currently enjoyed under EU rules, and—most crucially—that these frameworks would

    “lead to a significant increase in decision-making powers for the devolved administrations.”

    Before Christmas, the Scottish Secretary gave a strong commitment that clause 11 would be amended on Report, based on the criticisms from across the Committee of the whole House. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, the Government have U-turned on this promise and failed to table any amendments that address the concerns about devolution raised by Members from across the House. What is even more striking is that this was brought to the Government’s attention again two days before the deadline for tabling amendments, yet they failed to act. In this, they have merely confirmed my point in an earlier debate that it appears they still have not accepted that the UK is a unitary nation and that we have more than one Parliament within the British state.

    The Welsh Government cannot just continue to hope that something might turn up, waiting in hope for this Tory Government to see reason, so I am glad that the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) noted that the First Minister had at last made a statement. I would also be glad if he could agree to the proposal for a continuity Bill that my friend in the Assembly, Steff Lewis, is bringing forward tomorrow. My party’s position in the long run is clear—we want the people of Wales to run their own affairs—but in the interim our sincerely held view is that we need a collaborative procedure for the creation of UK-wide frameworks to ensure good governance for the people of Wales.

    Given that the Government are so determined to press ahead and remove us from the already functioning EU frameworks, these UK-wide frameworks will have a significant impact on the existing devolved settlements and therefore must be created jointly by all the sitting Governments, and not be dictated by Ministers of the Crown here. This is only the first step to ensuring that devolution is not just respected but upheld during the upheaval that the Government are creating by leaving the European single market and customs union.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman agree that systems are already in place under which the Welsh and UK Governments negotiate together on EU discussions? UK Ministers are Ministers of the Crown, as are Welsh Ministers. That is already in place and just needs to continue. The amendment is necessary if it is to continue.

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. It brings me to the very point I was going to make. The Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations), to which she was referring, had a very rocky start. Some hon. Members will know that it met last February and then not again until October. During that time, momentous events were taking place here. Huge changes were being made in the relationship between Wales and the EU, and in the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU. However, the JMC, the very mechanism that was supposed to elicit the views of Welsh Ministers—and Scottish and Northern Irish Ministers, for that matter—did not meet. I am glad to say that since that suspension it seems to have recovered somewhat: the October meeting was much more positive.

  • The principles that underpin the JMC were agreed in order to ensure close working between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations on reserved matters and excepted matters that would have a significant impact on devolved Administrations. It was agreed that those principles would apply to common frameworks, but to ensure that that happens, we need to enshrine it in statute.

    The Government habitually insist that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. They must realise that unless they agree to the changes in the Bill that Members in all parts of the House want to see, they will not gain the consent of the devolved Administrations that they claim to be so easily able to obtain.

  • I am delighted to follow the hon. Members for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) and for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson), who highlighted the problem that we have had with the Government. I think that there should be an act of good faith this evening: the Government should accept amendment 3, tabled by Opposition Front Benchers, and if they want to alter it in the other place, they will be able to do so.

    One of the key problems—and the hon. Members for Stirling and for Aberdeen South failed to answer this question—is that their premise for amending the Bill now is that when the negotiations are concluded between the UK and Scottish Governments through the JMC, the UK Government will take the basis of the negotiated settlement to the other place, make the appropriate amendments to the Bill, and then bring it back here. If the negotiations fall apart—and I take them in good faith, but the Scottish and UK Governments do not have a particularly good track record of cordial discussions, and it might be in one of the political interests of a political party of any colour to bring those negotiations down—there will not, according to their argument, be an amendment in the other place, and the Bill will therefore be unamended.

    In that event, there would be no mechanism for the hon. Members for Stirling and for Aberdeen South, or, indeed, the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton), who raised these issues, to correct what they claim is a deficient clause. The hon. Member for Stirling said that it was not fit for purpose, and the hon. Member for Aberdeen South said that he would like amendments to be tabled on Report. The hon. Member for East Renfrewshire had previously abstained on the amendments to clause 11 because Ministers had promised him that they would table amendments. When making that promise, they never said that those amendments were dependent on the conclusions of a negotiated settlement, and the Scottish Conservative Members did not say that in their remarks to the press at that time of an emergency meeting between the 12 of them—excluding the Secretary of State for Scotland—to discuss this very issue. This has been concocted to save them embarrassment, and I feel sorry for them on that basis. Now they are saying again, in the Chamber, that they will not vote for amendment 3 because they have been promised that there will be an amendment in the House of Lords.

    If that does not happen, there will be no mechanism enabling the 13 Conservative Scottish Members who said that they would fight to amend this “deficient” clause to do so. The Bill will come back unamended, we will have no powers to change it, and a “deficient”, “not fit for purpose” clause—their words, not mine—will end up on the statute book. That is not acceptable to this elected House.

    I share those Members’ frustration that the unelected House will now be given the responsibility of changing the Bill, but let us look at the technicalities. The Government have no majority in the other place, so technically the other place may vote down any Government amendment. I admit that that is unlikely, but the promises that were given to the Back-Bench Scottish Conservative MPs were merely that. They have been let down already.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) said, the best option would be to vote for amendment 3 this evening to establish the principle of amending clause 11, and if alterations are required in the other place following the conclusion of agreements—or, indeed, if the Government decide that they want to spend some time concluding the amendments—they can be made there and be brought back to this place, and we can then make those changes during the ping-pong.

    I cannot understand why the Government have not brought forward the promised amendments on Report. We are always asked in this place to take the Government in good faith; they said those amendments would come forward, and on that basis in Committee I withdrew amendments, as did hon. Friends, and the Back-Bench Scottish Conservative MP the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton) withdrew his opposition and voted for the clause and the Bill. We did so on the basis of those promises, and they have not been delivered.

    I have no faith in those promises from the Government. I have no faith that the Scottish Government and UK Government, given that they play off against each other politically all the time, will come to an agreement that can be changed in the other place, and therefore the best way to resolve the problem this evening would be for this House to come to a consensual agreement on amendment 3 in the name of my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench, so we can then say that the principle of changing clause 11 is on the face of the Bill.

  • I will speak to amendment 6 in my name and that of hon. Friends and colleagues. It is crucial in protecting the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. I am grateful for the cross-party support, but most of all I want to acknowledge the officials in the Welsh Assembly Government and in the Scottish Government who worked together to produce good amendments that we can support on a cross-party basis. We were able to introduce them in Committee and to reintroduce them on Report. I have absolutely no idea why the might of the UK civil service has been unable to do so for either stage. At this stage of the debate, I hoped to have the opportunity to debate the amendments promised to us by the UK Government to amend clause 11. I know that the fact that that has not happened has been a deep disappointment across the Chamber.

    It is somewhat startling that amendments have been tabled that appear to be based on a presumption that clause 11 remains the same. That is why we cannot back those minor amendments. We were also told that the amendments had been tabled without consulting or agreeing with the devolved Administrations. We have heard a great deal about consultation and agreement, but I have no idea how we can strike an agreement on amendments without first seeing them; we have not even seen them. Members of the Scottish Government, and, I understand the Welsh Government, have not seen them either.

    Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) is not in his place, but on a proposal about EU nationals today from the Commission he remarked that the Government should just smile and do nothing. It would appear that the Government are taking half that advice because we are not seeing that many smiles.

    We have heard a great deal from the Scottish Conservatives about their unhappiness with their own Government. I wonder whether they will join in the opposition tonight and vote for the amendments that we have tabled, or vote for Labour Front Benchers’ amendment 3, which we do not think is perfect but it is better than what we have and we will support it. With the Scottish Conservatives and the Opposition, we have a majority in this place. That is a powerful voice that we could have here. Will the Scottish Conservatives vote with us, or will they be yet more Lobby fodder willing to prop up a failing and faltering UK Government who do not keep their promises?

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I am going to make some progress.

    On 6 December, the Secretary of State for Scotland was asked by MPs across this House about the amendments to clause 11. He said:

    “The answer is that it will happen on Report”—

    the stage we are at now. He added:

    “We have been very clear about this”—

    terribly clear it would seem—

    “The Committee stage is about listening and adapting to issues…we will table amendments to clause 11.”—[Official Report, 6 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 1021.]

    They have not. Now we are at the stage where this will go to the House of Lords. It is a democratic abomination that the Scottish Parliament will have less of a say, and this House consequently will have less of a say, than the House of Lords. The Scottish Conservatives seem to be embarrassed about that. I wonder whether they are joined by anybody else who is even remotely embarrassed.

  • As has been said, the Government do not even have a majority in the House of Lords. What does my hon. Friend feel about the newly ennobled Bishop of Chichester, who will now have a bigger say on these amendments about critical issues to do with the devolution settlement than my hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) and me?

  • As usual, my hon. Friend makes a very good point.

    I want to make it clear that the points I make about the House of Lords have no bearing on its Members’ personal characteristics. Rather, I am referring to the anti-democratic situation in which we find ourselves. I presume that we are now in a situation in which a Scotland Office Minister, appointed after losing an election, will debate these matters with Lords who are there by accident of birth or as a result of political patronage, and that this will happen after Third Reading. That is absolutely shameful. It should shame everyone involved. “Bring back democracy”, Vote Leave supporters cried. “Return our independence”, they cried. They also cried, “Bring back our blue passports”, even though they could have had those all along. After this, we can even have commemorative stamps. Does no one see the irony for democracy? I know that the Speaker wants me to make some progress on this—

  • Order. That is rather an understatement. I am looking for an opportunity for the Minister to reply to the debate, so I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be approaching his peroration ere long.

  • I will. I know that the Minister wants to respond and pick up on some of the points that have been raised, but as I represent the governing party of Scotland, I would also like to make some points on where we are with this—

  • Order. I say with due courtesy, but absolute insistence, to the hon. Gentleman that the Minister will rise to speak no later than 6.45. That is not advice; I am telling the hon. Gentleman that that is the situation.

  • I should like to thank the Speaker for his guidance on that—

  • Order. Sorry, that was not guidance. That is a ruling. End of subject.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker.

    Let me make these points. What accountability is there on the promises that were made during the EU referendum? The Secretary of State for Scotland told us that we would have a “powers bonanza”, but there has been nothing. The Environment Secretary said that we would get powers over immigration, but there has been no accountability over that. The Foreign Secretary said that there would be £350 million for the NHS, and quite remarkably, he doubled down on that last night. No shame whatever. Is it any wonder that the latest NatCen survey shows that, rather than 59% of people in Scotland thinking that the Government are handling this badly, the figure has shot up to 67%? The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) mentioned this earlier.

    Let us compare that to the attitude of the Scottish Government on this. The amendments that have gone down have been drafted working with colleagues from across this House and across the Administrations. We published our amendments in due time. Even yesterday, the Scottish Government used the economists that they have at their disposal to publish—not keep secret—their analysis of Scotland’s place in Europe. It showed an 8.5% loss in GDP, equating to £2,500 for every person in Scotland, through losing the value of EU nationals. Leaving the single market will be devastating. On this, I make a gentle point to our Labour colleagues, many of whom have stuck out their neck on the single market. This Government are on the ropes and we could have a majority that could achieve a sensible outcome. I urge my colleagues on the Labour Benches to reconsider some of their options on this. We can stay in the single market.

    In conclusion, compromises can be reached but we must see the amendments. All of this is happening even though we were told that the only way to stay in the EU was to vote no. Two thousand years ago, the first Scot in recorded history, Calgacus, was said to have told his followers about the Romans:

    “They are the only people on earth to covet wealth and poverty with equal craving. They plunder, they butcher, they ravish, and call it by the…name of ‘empire’.”

    As we leave the European Union, we have nothing on clause 11, nothing on the rights of EU citizens, nothing about what will happen to our trade, and nothing on the opportunities for young people. That leads me to conclude that the only plan that the Brexiteers have is to create a desert and call it Brexit.

  • The debate has been lively and has ranged quite widely over various aspects of the impact of this country’s withdrawal from the European Union on the devolution settlements. I therefore want to make it clear from the start that the Government’s expectation and intention are that the return of competences from the European Union will result in a very significant addition to the powers exercised in future by the devolved Administrations on the bases set out in their respective devolution statutes. However, we have to go about this complex task in the right way for the sake of individuals, families and businesses in every part of the United Kingdom, because the devolution settlements were negotiated, debated and enacted on the basis of certain competences being known to be within the power of the European Union and, on the quite reasonable assumption at the time that the devolution statutes went through this House, that that would continue to be the situation.

  • Broadly speaking, there are two key reasons why the Government have proposed the overall approach that is set out in the Bill. First, some EU competences straddle elements of both devolved and reserved powers. For example, the common fisheries policy deals with matters that would logically fall within the terms of the devolution settlements, but it also comprehends both multilateral and EU third country international agreements, which under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998—it would also apply to the other devolution Acts—are expressly reserved to the United Kingdom by virtue of their being international agreements. Secondly, the Government’s purpose is to ensure that the interests of everyone in every part of the United Kingdom is protected by the continuation of a single United Kingdom market in both goods and services. In plain language, that means that a manufacturer in Paisley would still be able to sell to a customer in Preston and not have to worry about a set of different product standards or chemical regulations, for example.

    I cannot emphasise strongly enough that no power whatsoever that is currently exercised by the devolved Administrations will be removed or harmed by this Bill. On day one after we leave the European Union, those devolved powers will remain as before. Competences currently exercised at European Union level will transfer to the United Kingdom and will remain at United Kingdom level until, but only until, we can sort out the practicalities of apportioning competences in accordance with the devolution Acts while protecting the single market of the United Kingdom and the provisions of the United Kingdom’s international agreements.

    The Government want the process of apportioning powers to be as smooth and as swift as possible. Therefore, since the Bill was in Committee, we have reflected carefully on the debates and have discussed the way forward with political leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We are proposing a number of amendments that respond to the concerns expressed during those earlier debates and are actively taking forward discussions with the leaders of the devolved Administrations with a view to bringing forward additional amendments in the House of Lords.

    Moving on to the detail—

  • I will give way briefly to the hon. Lady, who has not made a speech in this debate.

  • May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new job? I was absolutely delighted for him. He just mentioned that, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly functioning as we would want it, he has had discussions with leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland—that is what I understood him to say—so will he list which leaders of which parties he has had discussions with?

  • Parties have all been briefed on the Government’s position and therefore have had the opportunity to put forward their points of view. Obviously, in the absence of a functioning Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland, we have regular contact with the civil service authorities in Northern Ireland, which are maintaining the administration of Northern Ireland in accordance with Northern Ireland law.

  • I am grateful to the Minister for taking another intervention.

    I am very disappointed. I sit as an independent, and I take my seat in this House. Sinn Féin Members, seven of them, are absentee MPs. I would be extremely offended if I thought for one moment that the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland—she is not elected to this House—had been consulted when I had not.

  • The hon. Lady and I have known each other for a long time, and having now had overall responsibility for intergovernmental relations and devolution in the United Kingdom for seven days, I am happy to undertake to make it a priority to have that conversation with her to ensure that her views are properly heard.

    Government amendments 26 and 27 will replace the current requirements for devolved Ministers to seek the consent of the United Kingdom Government when exercising the correcting power in specific ways with requirements instead to consult the United Kingdom Government. That achieves the same effect as Committee amendment 169, which was proposed by the Scottish and Welsh Governments and tabled in the name of the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). Having discussed the matter with those Administrations and having listened to the debate in Committee, we have agreed to accept that proposal, with the addition of extending the change to the power by conferring it on the Northern Ireland Executive.

    The United Kingdom Government have a vital role in considering the broader consequences for other parts of the UK where devolved Ministers legislate under these powers, and we think this change is justified. It remains important that, in using the conferred power, no action is taken that inadvertently places us in breach of EU law while we are still a member state or that would prejudice or pre-empt the outcome of negotiations; but on reflection, we consider that the devolved Administrations consulting with the UK Government before legislating in these specific circumstances relating to our negotiations will provide a sufficient safeguard and will preserve the autonomy of the devolved Administrations in correcting their laws.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • The hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but there are a lot of amendments in this group and I want to try to do justice to them.

    Government amendments 25, 28 and 29 tackle a technical but important issue by allowing the devolved Administrations to use the powers conferred on them by schedule 2 to modify directly retained EU legislation in areas where a common framework is not needed. While we work with the devolved Administrations on where frameworks are or are not needed, we are maintaining existing common approaches to provide much welcomed cert