House of Commons
Wednesday 17 January 2018
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Tax Havens: Developing Countries
Mr Speaker, I start by paying tribute to Rebecca Dykes, the DFID staff member killed in such tragic circumstances last month in Beirut. Becky was passionate about helping others, and through her work has improved the lives of some of the most marginalised people in the world. Becky’s family have set up a charitable fund in her name to advance some of the causes Becky cared about so deeply, and my Department is providing support; we will also hold a commemoration next month to celebrate her life. I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.
The UK continues to lead efforts to strengthen international tax transparency. DFID supports developing countries to benefit from and influence new international standards which help them to tackle tax avoidance and evasion.
Lesotho has severely underfunded public services, in part due to high rates of HIV and AIDS, yet our Government have just concluded a tax treaty with Lesotho that severely constrains its ability to levy taxes. Does the Secretary of State believe that that is consistent with promoting international development?
One of my first actions, which I set out this week, is to establish a new team to help countries that we are seeking to develop and that are transitioning out of poverty to improve tax collection systems and set up public services. We need to focus on that as well as on alleviating crises and immense poverty. I will be happy to discuss the matter further with the hon. Lady, and it will be one of my priorities.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that aggressive tax avoidance involving tax havens can be tackled effectively only by collective global action? Will her Department therefore keep the issue high on the agenda at future G8 meetings and will she do all she can to ensure that the UK continues to take a lead?
Modern Slavery: Libya
Eradicating modern slavery is a top UK priority. We are helping to build Libyan capacity to tackle this abhorrent crime, and providing humanitarian aid and protection for migrants and refugees, not just in Libya but on the whole route of those travelling to that country. Last year, the UK supported more than 20,000 emergency interventions for migrants and refugees in Libya.
Over 2,000 people in my constituency signed the petition debated last month and the issue is of great concern to us all. What update can the Minister give my constituents on the implementation of the plan agreed by African Union and European Union countries at the end of November? Specifically, how many migrants have been repatriated?
After the debate, I asked the organiser of the petition to come in to my office to see me, and she, one of the supporters of the petition and I had a meeting last week, which gave my officials a chance to talk with her about the huge interest and concern that the petition demonstrated. Briefly, the matter worries us considerably. There is work going on across Government in relation to the criminal aspects of the slave auctions, but at the meeting I was also able to outline what we are doing to build capacity, such as—
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the significant investment from the aid budget that the Department has made available to tackle modern slavery in Libya and across all migration routes from sub-Saharan African into Europe, and will he reaffirm his commitment to this work?
Even though time is tight, I must thank my right hon. Friend for the remarkable support he gave to the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development when he was a Whip and his remarkable contribution to Government over the years.
My right hon. Friend is right. We have a £75 million programme focused on migration along routes from west Africa via the Sahel to Libya. This includes an allocation of £5 million in Libya aimed at providing that aid. He is right to raise this.
I have repeatedly raised in this Chamber the abuse endured by migrants in the camps in Libya, including sexual violence against women, girls and men. Will the Minister confirm that Libya has been designated a priority country under the UK preventing sexual violence initiative? It should have been.
My right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary yesterday inaugurated exactly the programme the right hon. Lady mentions. It is a matter of great concern to the UK, and we are in contact with the Libyan Government about it. I had a high-level meeting in Geneva last week about the issues she raises.
My right hon. Friend is quite right. Modern slavery is a key part of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s agenda—we have allotted £150 million to it—and the work of the Church of England, in making sure that people see victims and are attuned to their needs, is vital.
I join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to Rebecca Dykes. All our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time. I also congratulate the new Minister for Africa on her appointment.
I thank the Minister for his answer, but in truth we must do much more. This is not modern slavery; it is just slavery—pure and simple—alive and flourishing in the 21st century. It is racist and a stain on our humanity. The African Union says that hundreds of thousands are at risk, so repatriating a few thousand will never be enough. Will the Secretary of State address the root courses and re-examine the UK and Europe’s migration policy in the Mediterranean and across Africa?
I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks about Becky Dykes, who was part of the middle-eastern team in Lebanon. She, like my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary, spoke for all of us.
The hon. Lady is right to keep the attention on slavery, but I want to do as much as I can to reassure her that we have this very much in focus, although of course there is more to be done. There is a closer connection now between the EU, the UN and the African Union, and we are working with international partners on the whole route and, specifically in relation to Libya, on the criminal aspects. It is complex—Libya is a difficult state to work in; and this is a £150 billion criminal operation moving people around and putting them into slavery. We will continue—
Small Charities: Funding
Small charities are vital to the UK’s funding for international development. Last July, the small charities challenge fund was launched to support the work of small, UK-based charities in international development. The fund will enable these organisations to increase the reach and impact of their projects.
Scottish Borders makes a significant contribution to the UK’s overseas aid effort, often in the form of fundraising or volunteering for larger national charities. Local grassroots organisations can play a crucial role in some of the world’s poorest countries, but applying for funding can be challenging, and some worthy organisations might not be aware of opportunities such as the small charities challenge fund. Will the Minister reassure me that the Department is doing all it can to promote these funds and make applying for them as easy as possible?
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent question. I agree that we need and have tried to make the process as simple and streamlined as possible. We have publicised it through a range of different regional events and—importantly—written to every Member of Parliament, because excellent local MPs such as my hon. Friend can publicise these opportunities to the great grassroots charities.
During the Rohingya crisis, the Rochdale Council of Mosques, with its local Bangladeshi roots, made a material difference to our ability to convey aid to the area quickly. Could that be built into the framework for dealing with future disasters and emergencies?
Indeed, and I am grateful for the work that was done in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to raise money during that appalling crisis. As he will know, it is possible to secure match funding from the Department when local communities are able to do such an impressive amount of fundraising.
I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Given that larger charities are necessarily more bureaucratic, and given that the UK aid grant scheme was set up to help smaller charities, are Ministers satisfied that the due diligence processes for applications from smaller charities are entirely appropriate and cost-effective?
We do carry out due diligence for small charities, and we have received more than 100 applications to the Small Charities Challenge Fund. The cut-off in relation to size is an annual income of £250,000. I look forward to the announcement of the results of the first round of applications.
Will small charities that are particularly innovative in sub-Saharan Africa, providing clean drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people there, be able to avail themselves of the fund, and will the Minister actively promote it to them?
They will indeed be able to avail themselves of the fund, provided that their annual income is less than £250,000 and provided that they are working in one of the 50 poorest countries in the world. Larger charities can apply to other sources of funding.
The Secretary of State may talk up the £4 million Small Charities Challenge Fund, but the truth is that the Government are failing international charities and the people whom they serve. Civil society funding is being squeezed, the programme partnership arrangements and flexible funding have been scrapped, and the right to speak out has been restricted under the draconian Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. What plan has the Secretary of State to reverse that?
Occupied Palestinian Territories
I will answer briefly, Mr Speaker.
The UK Government consistently call on the Israeli Government to ease movement and access restrictions in the OPTs. Since 2011, we have been funding the United Nations Access Coordination Unit to work with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinians in the occupied territories face significant barriers to access to healthcare. Some have even died as a result of delays at checkpoints. Will the Minister urge the UK Government to recommend to the working group of the United Nations’ universal periodic review of Israel’s human rights record that Israel lift restrictions on the movement of Palestinian patients and healthcare workers and Palestinian-registered ambulances?
I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
The overnight announcement from the United States of the largest cut in aid for Palestinian refugees for 70 years follows the Israeli Government’s ban on 20 international organisations entering Israel, including three from the UK. Does that concern the Government, and what do they intend to do about it?
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has a unique role in protecting and providing essential services for 5 million Palestinian refugees. We are deeply concerned about the impact of potential cuts in US funding on stability in the region, and about the continuity of UNRWA’s vital services. We will go on supporting them.
What action is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that the funds given to the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli non-governmental organisations are used to promote peace in the area, so that we can see a peaceful co-existence between Israel and the state of Palestine?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. We have just this year allocated £3 million to co-existence projects so that those from the Palestinian community and Israelis can work more effectively together. One of the problems in recent years has been a growing divide between communities. We want to find projects that will break down barriers rather than erect them.
Will the Government oppose President Trump’s latest threat to withdraw funding from UNRWA, and will the Government attend a conference of donor countries, convened by the Norwegian Government and the EU, to discuss the imminent crisis that would result?
The answer to the second question is yes, and I am hoping to attend that conference myself. On the first question, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), that is a decision for the United States; we are concerned about the impact but our support for UNRWA will continue.
The US President’s threat this week to withdraw tens of millions of dollars from UNRWA for Palestinian refugees is an act of cruelty towards some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world. It attacks the long-established principle that development and aid cannot await a peace deal. What is the Minister doing to strengthen the resolve of the United Nations and our European counterparts to maintain vital humanitarian work in the region?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position; we look forward to hearing much more from him. I met the head of UNRWA recently in London. Our commitment for next year to its programme budget is £38 million. It assists in the provision of basic education for some half a million children. As I have explained, we are concerned about the loss of funding to UNRWA and our support for it remains clear, but this is another example of how something will not be properly fixed until we get the agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that we are all searching for, and we hope 2018 will be a landmark in that.
Yemen: Humanitarian Aid
Donor countries have spent over $2 billion in humanitarian aid in 2017. This does not capture all the aid flows to Yemen, including significant contributions from Gulf countries who channel much of their aid independently. The UK is the second largest donor to the UN Yemen appeal and the third largest donor to Yemen in the world.
The Minister will be aware that the 30-day relaxation of the blockade on Hodeidah port expires at the end of this week, and even while it has been in place, a combination of its temporary nature and the action of intermediaries has pushed up prices so many people have not been able to afford the food, fuel and medicines that have been able to come in. So what can the international community do to ensure that supplies continue to reach people in Yemen and they are able to stave off the famine that still affects over 8 million people?
We are working hard to ensure that commercial and humanitarian access to Yemen remains unhindered. It is vital that both commercial and humanitarian aid gets through. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this, and the UK is working hard to make sure that process continues to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
UNICEF’s report this week highlights the appalling impact on children of the conflict in Yemen. Will the Minister examine the proposal from War Child that at least 1% of humanitarian funding should be devoted to mental health and psycho-social support?
I will be very happy to see that proposal; I have not seen it yet. Looking after psychological and mental health used to be seen as some kind of benevolent add-on in terms of aid and support. Bearing in mind the crisis and trauma that so many youngsters go through, it is very important that it is brought right up front and the UK is a firm advocate of that. I will certainly look at the report.
As we all know, there are no winners in war, and in comments to The Daily Telegraph before Christmas the Secretary of State correctly said that Saudi Arabia has “no excuses” for blocking food and fuel shipments to Yemen. Is it not therefore sheer hypocrisy and simply inexcusable that her Government are providing billions of pounds-worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia when 7 million Yemeni people are facing the worst famine in decades?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made a significant contribution to humanitarian access by visiting Djibouti and Riyadh just before 20 December, and the resulting decision has improved humanitarian access there. Arms sales are strictly controlled, as the House well knows. We will continue our support for the coalition, which is fighting a serious insurgency and armed support from outside Yemen directed against it, but we will be firm in our determination to see an end to the conflict, which is the only thing that will resolve the humanitarian crisis.
Yesterday I launched the UK’s new action plan on women, peace and security, alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. Empowering women and girls and placing them at the heart of our efforts to prevent and resolve conflict helps to bring a lasting peace and a safer, more prosperous world. This is good for developing countries and for the UK.
I am not anticipating that will happen. I have been clear that we will work with all our European partners. We will be much more focused on the things that matter to us and our strategic priorities as we do so, but we will continue to work hand in hand with many countries in Europe.
As the House knows, we constantly challenge the Palestinian Authority in relation to anything that might encourage or glorify violence. I can assure the House that we ensure that no payments are made to those who have those connections. We do all we can to encourage the Authority to understand that naming places after those who have been involved in terrorism does not contribute to the peace process.
We look very seriously at any such allegations. There is a constant review in the Department to ensure that some of the challenges that come in on religious discrimination are evidenced. I challenge the agencies as well, and we will continue to do this. We do not have evidence of significant discrimination, but we are always on the lookout for it.
Does the Secretary of State agree that DFID money spent on repairing catastrophic hurricane damage in the UK overseas territories, which often hits the poorest the hardest of all, should always qualify as legitimate overseas aid?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. The rules that we are constrained by have not prevented us from coming up with the funds needed to help those areas hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This is also a lesson that we should continue to invest in our defence capabilities, because we were very reliant on our armed forces to get into those places.
I think the hon. Lady for her question because it affords me the opportunity to remind the House what these people have fled. They should have a say in what happens to them, and we absolutely agree that those returns must be voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable, but those conditions are far from being met.
Would I be right in assuming that my right hon. Friend will use my International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, which imposes a statutory obligation on every penny of her Department’s budget, to protect women and children in all matters in Myanmar and Bangladesh?
I absolutely will do that. Yesterday, as has already been mentioned, we launched further policy to strengthen our humanitarian efforts in that respect, and particularly towards women and children. We have also drawn on our defence capabilities to build capacity in the Bangladesh police force to keep everyone in the camps safe.
Order. The hon. Gentleman is asking about the conditions of life for occupants of refugee camps. I know there is an air of expectation, but I just remind colleagues that we are discussing some of the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalised people on the face of the planet. I ask for due respect.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Many of my Rohingya constituents have family in the refugee camps in Bangladesh who are fleeing persecution and who wish to join their family in the UK, as they are entitled to do. They continue to face obstacles and unnecessary bureaucracy, however, so what are the Government doing in the refugee camps to help to reunite families?
If any hon. Member of this House has individual cases, I would be very happy to look at them. A huge amount of effort is going into not just trying to reunite families but enabling people who have fled for their lives to identify who they are—many of them have lost documents. A very good, methodical programme is doing that, but I would be happy to discuss any cases that hon. Members have.
I am keen that the myriad health and vaccination programmes funded by my Department yield more than the sum of their parts. We can also use these programmes to set up sustainable healthcare systems in those countries. One of my priorities is to join up the programmes to yield primary care services in the countries with which we work.
I know my hon. Friend wants us to set up a dedicated fund for that cause, and I am looking at options for what we might do. He is right that we need to create more jobs to enable countries to collect taxes and set up public services, and he will see much more of that under my tenure.
Again, as the House knows, arms sales are very carefully controlled. Every case is looked at, and serious scrutiny is provided both by this House and through the law. The coalition, which is backed by the United Nations, is dealing with an insurgency in Yemen, and it faces serious challenges from rockets fired towards its own territories. We are working to apply the law rigidly.
I speak regularly with the Foreign Secretary about all these issues, and I would be happy to discuss that one. As we look at the footprint we have across this world and wish to do more to engage with more of the world, it is extremely important that we have that oversight of what is happening on the ground. We wish to help developing nations—not just their economies, but their human rights and civil society.
The Prime Minister was asked—
The Government must take responsibility for their role in the mess now left by Carillion. Thousands of staff face unemployment, and small and medium-sized suppliers face going bust, but I am concerned for the 1,400 Carillion apprentices, some of whom I have met locally. It is not good enough to pass the back to CITB—the Construction Industry Training Board—so will the Prime Minister guarantee today that every one of those apprentices will be able to complete their training and will be paid?
I recognise that this has been a difficult time for a number of people, who are concerned about their jobs, public services and their pensions. I want, first, to provide reassurance to all employees working on public services for Carillion that they should continue to turn up to work, confident in the knowledge that they will be paid for the work they are providing. But of course the Government are not running Carillion; the Government are actually a customer of Carillion, and our focus has been on ensuring that we are providing the public services—that they are continuing to be provided uninterrupted; on reassuring workers in those public services that they will get paid; on reassuring the pensioners and making sure the support is there for them—
Yes, I am coming on to the apprentices, but it is important that government is undertaking its role to ensure that the services it provides are continuing to be provided. I assure the hon. Lady that we are aware of the issues around apprentices, which is why the Minister with responsibility for that will be looking very carefully at what action can be taken.
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that commitment from the Government. He is absolutely right: it is very pleasing to see the figures the Office for National Statistics produced last week, which showed that production has now grown for eight months— the longest streak since 1994—and manufacturing output is at its highest since February 2008. And earlier this month, we saw that productivity growth has had its best quarter since 2011. That shows that our economy remains strong and that we are continuing to deliver secure, better-paid jobs. We will continue to do that and support our manufacturing sector.
In the last six months, the Government have awarded more than £2 billion-worth of contracts to Carillion. They did so even after the share price was in freefall and the company had issued profit warnings. Why did the Government do that?
It might be helpful if I just set out for the right hon. Gentleman that a company’s profit warning means it believes it will not make as much profit as it had expected to make. If the Government pulled out of contracts, or indeed private sector companies pulled out of contracts, whenever a profit warning was issued, that would be the best way to ensure that companies failed and jobs were lost. It would also raise real issues for the Government about providing continuing, uninterrupted public services. Yes, we did recognise that it was a severe profit warning, which is why we took action in relation to the contracts that we issued. We ensured that all but one of those contracts was a joint venture. What does that mean? It means that another company is available to step in and take over the contract. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that this was not just about the Government issuing contracts; actually, we see that the Labour-run Welsh Government issued a contract after the profit warning last July, and only last week a public sector body announced that Carillion was its preferred bidder. Was that the Government? No—it was Labour-run Leeds City Council.
For the record, Leeds has not signed a contract with Carillion. It is the Government who have been handing out contracts. It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that Carillion is properly managed.
Between July and the end of last year, Carillion’s share price fell by 90% and three profit warnings were issued. Unbelievably, the Government awarded some contracts even after the third profit warning. It looks like the Government were either handing Carillion public contracts to keep the company afloat, which clearly has not worked, or were just deeply negligent of the crisis that was coming down the line.
I asked the Government whether or not they had been negligent. They clearly have been very negligent. [Interruption.] Tory MPs might shout, but the reality is that as of today more than 20,000 Carillion workers are very worried about their future. For many of them, the only recourse tonight is to phone a DWP hotline.
The frailties were well known: hedge funds had been betting against Carillion since 2015, and the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland was making provision against Carillion last year. The Government are supposed to protect public money through Crown representatives, who are supposed to monitor these powerful corporations that get huge public contracts. This is a question that the Prime Minister needs to answer: why did the position of Crown representative to Carillion remain vacant during the crucial period August to November, when the profit warnings were being issued, the share price was in freefall, and many people were very worried?
Just answer the question!
I will indeed answer the question, but I know that the shadow Foreign Secretary has herself praised Carillion in the past for its work.
To answer the right hon. Gentleman, there is obviously now a Crown representative who has been fully involved in the Government’s response. Before the appointment of the Crown representative to replace the one who had previously been in place, the Government chief commercial officer and the Cabinet Office director of markets and suppliers took over those responsibilities, so it was not the case that there was nobody from the Government looking at these issues. That is standard procedure, and it ensured that there was oversight of Carillion’s contracts with the Government during the appointment process for the Crown representative.
Well, they clearly were not looking very well. Carillion went into liquidation with debts that we now understand to be £1.29 billion and a pension deficit of £600 million. At the same time, the company was paying out ever-increasing shareholder dividends and wildly excessive bonuses to directors. From today, 8,000 Carillion workers on private sector contracts will no longer be paid, but the chief executive will be paid for another 10 months—one rule for the super-rich, another for everybody else. Will the Prime Minister assure the House today that not a single penny more will go to the chief executive or the directors of this company?
First, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is obviously a situation that is changing as decisions are being taken, but my understanding is that a number of facilities management contractors have now come to an agreement with the official receiver that means that their workers will continue to be paid. It is important to say that the official receiver is doing its job and working with those companies.
The right hon. Gentleman raises the issue of bonuses, and people are of course concerned about the issue and are rightly asking questions about it. That is why we are ensuring that the official receiver’s investigation into the company’s business dealings is fast-tracked and that it looks into not just the conduct of current directors, but previous directors and their actions. In reviewing payments to executives, where those payments are unlawful or unjustified, the official receiver has the powers to take action to recover those payments. It is important that the official receiver is able to do its job.
What is also important is that the Government’s job is to ensure that public services continue to be provided, and that is what we are doing. The right hon. Gentleman said earlier that it was the Government’s job to ensure that Carillion was properly managed, but we were a customer of Carillion, not the manager of Carillion— a very important difference. It is also important that we have protected taxpayers from an unacceptable bail-out of a private company.
When Carillion went into liquidation, many contractors were still unpaid. The company was a notorious late payer, taking 120 days to pay and placing a huge burden on small companies. That is four times longer than the 30 days in the prompt payment code that Carillion itself had signed up to. Why did the Government allow a major Government contractor to get away with that? Will the Prime Minister commit to Labour’s policy that abiding by the prompt payment code should be a basic requirement for all future Government contracts?
Of course we look at the behaviour of companies that we contract with in relation to payments. The question of prompt payments has been brought up in this House for as long as I have been in this House, and work is always being done on it, but the right hon. Gentleman has raised an important point about the impact of Carillion’s liquidation on small companies. That is why the Business Secretary and the City Minister held a roundtable with the banks this morning to discuss credit lines to small and medium-sized enterprises and to make it clear that SMEs are not responsible for Carillion’s collapse. The Business Secretary has also held further roundtables today with representatives of small businesses, construction trade associations and trade unions—workers’ unions—to ensure that we are on top of the potential effects on the wider supply chain. It is right that we look at those very carefully and that we take action. It is also right that, through the Department for Work and Pensions, we put in place support for any workers who find themselves no longer employed as a result of this.
It is a bit late for one subcontractor. Flora-tec, which was owed £800,000 by Carillion, has already had to make some of its staff redundant because of the collapse. This is not one isolated case of Government negligence and corporate failure; it is a broken system. Under this Government, Virgin and Stagecoach can spectacularly mismanage the east coast main line and be let off a £2 billion payment, Capita and Atos can continue to wreck lives through damaging disability assessments of many people with disabilities and win more taxpayer-funded contracts, and G4S can promise to provide security for the Olympics but fail to do so, and the Army had to step in to save the day. These corporations need to be shown the door. We need our public services to be provided by public employees with a public service ethos and a strong public oversight. As the ruins of Carillion lie around her, will the Prime Minister act to end this costly racket of the relationship between Government and some of these companies?
I might first remind the right hon. Gentleman that a third of the Carillion contracts with the Government were let by the Labour Government. What we want is to provide good-quality public services delivered at best value to the taxpayer. We are making sure in this case that public services continue to be provided, that the workers in those public services are supported and that taxpayers are protected. What Labour opposes is not just a role for private companies in public services but the private sector as a whole. The vast majority of people in this country in employment are employed by the private sector, but the shadow Chancellor calls businesses the real enemy. Labour wants the highest taxes in our peace-time history, and Labour policies would cause a run on the pound. This is a Labour party that has turned its back on investment, on growth and on jobs—a Labour party that will always put politics before people.
I was very happy to join my hon. Friend on the doorsteps in Cheam and to hear from people about the issues to do with Liberal Democrat services in Sutton and Cheam, particularly those around rubbish bins. I believe that there are now up to six bins per household. I am beginning to think that the council is trying to go for one bin for every Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. He is absolutely right: the evidence is that Conservatives deliver better services at less cost to the council tax payer. While we are talking about costs to the council tax payer, only last week the then shadow Fire Minister announced that Labour policy was to put up council tax on every average house and typical home by £320. People should know that a vote for Labour is a vote to pay more.
Of course, as we go through the Brexit negotiations, we are constantly looking at the impact that decisions that are taken will have on our economy. What we want to ensure is that we maintain good access—a good comprehensive free trade agreement —with the European Union and also, as we leave the European Union, that we get good free trade agreements with other parts of the world.
Nineteen months after the EU referendum, the Prime Minister has not a shred of economic analysis on the impact of leaving the single market. On Monday, the Scottish Government published their second analysis paper revealing some horrifying facts: leaving the single market will cost each Scottish citizen up to £2,300 a year. How many jobs have to be lost and how much of a financial hit will families have to take before the Prime Minister recognises the folly of leaving the single market?
The right hon. Gentleman asks me for economic analysis. Well, I will give him some economic analysis. We saw the figures this morning for GDP growth in Scotland. In the third quarter, GDP in Scotland grew by 0.2%. In the rest of the United Kingdom, it grew by 0.4%. Over the past year, GDP in Scotland—under a Scottish National party Government in Scotland—grew by 0.6%. In the United Kingdom as a whole, it grew by 1.7%. My economic analysis is that 1.7% is higher than 0.6%; you’re better off with a Conservative Government than an SNP one.
My hon. Friend is right to put the case for the rights of victims, and he is absolutely right that we should always remember victims. I am very sorry to hear the case of his late constituent, Ann Banyard, and I know that the whole House will join me in offering condolences to her family in this tragic case. As my hon. Friend knows, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority administers the criminal injuries compensation scheme and applies the rules independently of the Government, but I am sure that the Justice Secretary would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the case.
The hon. Gentleman knows that we have a special and enduring relationship with the United States. An invitation for a state visit has been extended to President Trump, although I have to say that I am not responsible for invitations to the royal wedding. The hon. Gentleman referenced the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council. He should be aware that it has taken a number of actions to support vulnerable residents, including those who are homeless, with the establishment of an emergency night shelter that is open 365 days a year; a day service attached to that, providing support services to vulnerable residents; and a comprehensive seven-day-a-week service for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness. The council also applied the severe weather emergency protocol and offered accommodation to, I think, 32 homeless people on the streets, of whom 21 took up the accommodation and 11 did not.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. We want to ensure that patients get the best cancer services and that they get access to treatment in a timely fashion. Of course, the length of time it takes patients to travel to that treatment is an important issue. We are establishing radiotherapy networks, which will review access issues and service provision on a regular basis and address any shortcomings in the area. That is backed up by £130 million for new and upgraded radiotherapy machines. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that these decisions should be taken primarily at a local level, and I join him in encouraging the people of Cornwall to respond to the consultation.
Obviously I am sorry to hear of the experience of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. We are turning our words on putting a priority on mental health into action. Is there more for us to do? Yes. That is why we are continuing to put an emphasis on this. We do see more people being able to access mental health services every day. We have increased the number of people having access to therapies. We have increased the funding that is available for mental health. There is more for us to do, but we are putting more money in and we are taking more action on mental health than any previous Government.
I am very pleased to say that this week Iceland has made a commitment to be plastic-free. We have seen other companies make commitments to ensure that any plastics they use are recyclable over a number of years. I am very happy to join my right hon. Friend in saying that we will be encouraging companies to follow Iceland’s lead. We will also be consulting on how the tax system or the introduction of charges could further reduce the amount of waste we create. We are launching a new plastics innovation fund, backed up by additional funding that the Government are investing in research and development to ensure that we really do reduce the amount of plastic that is used and leave the environment of this land in a better state than we found it.
Following Transport for the North’s announcement on Northern Powerhouse Rail, will the Prime Minister confirm her Government’s commitment to investing in northern transport infrastructure and ensuring that the northern powerhouse materialises?
I am very happy to give that commitment to the northern powerhouse and to giving the great cities across the north the transport infrastructure that they need to be able to develop the northern powerhouse. We are spending a record £13 billion to transform transport across the north. We have made Transport for the North the first ever statutory sub-national transport body and backed that up with £260 million of Government funding. It has published its draft strategic plan for consultation. I would hope that all Members with an interest in this issue engage in that consultation and make sure that their views and their constituents’ views are heard.
John Worboys is likely to be one of the worst sex attackers our country has ever known. When he was in court, he denied his guilt; he was continuing to deny his guilt up until two years ago; he dismissed his crimes as “banter”; and only last year he was deemed too dangerous to be put into open release conditions. The short sentence he has served is an insult to his victims and shows a contempt for justice. Does the Prime Minister agree that the decision must now be judicially reviewed and that the police should immediately reassess those cases which were not tried in court?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this. This case has rightly raised deep concern among the public, but also among Members across this House. As my hon. Friend will know, the Parole Board is rightly independent of Government, and even in sensitive cases such as this, we must ensure that that independence is maintained and we do not prejudice decisions. It has decided to approve John Worboys’s release, with stringent licence conditions, but my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary has made it clear that he is taking legal advice on the possibility of a judicial review of that decision. It is also the case that the Justice Secretary has said he will be conducting a review to look at options for change and at the issue of the transparency of decisions by the Parole Board. Public protection is our top priority. I think people are often concerned when they see decisions of the Parole Board being taken and they are not aware of the reasons behind them. There may be limits to what can be done, but I think it is right that we look into this case and question the issue of transparency.
The hon. Lady clearly raises a very distressing case. We want to ensure that we give proper support to all those who have been subject to domestic violence or to abuse of the kind to which the hon. Lady has referred. The Home Secretary will be issuing a consultation shortly on the proposed domestic violence legislation and that will be an opportunity for issues such as this to be raised.
A brutal attack occurred in my constituency over the weekend in which Cassie Hayes, a young woman, tragically died. Will the Prime Minister extend her sympathies to the family of Cassie and pay tribute to the hard work of the emergency services who attended the scene?
My hon. Friend told me about this very distressing case last night. It is a horrific case. I extend my sympathies, and I am sure the whole House extends its sympathies and condolences, to Cassie’s family and friends following her tragic death. I also congratulate the emergency services on the action that they took. From the description that my hon. Friend gave me last night, I think we should also have some thought and care for all those who, sadly, were witnesses to this particular incident—through no fault of their own, other than happening to be in a particular premises at a particular time.
We are committed to re-establishing a fully functioning, inclusive devolved Administration that works for everyone in Northern Ireland. I do not underestimate the challenges that remain involved here, but we still believe that a way forward can be found and an agreement can be reached. I would say it is imperative, therefore, that the parties re-engage in intensive discussions aimed at resolving the outstanding issues, so that the Assembly can meet and an Executive can be formed. We do recognise, however, that we have a responsibility to ensure political stability and good governance in Northern Ireland. Obviously, as I say, our priority is ensuring that we can work with the parties to re-establish the devolved Government in Northern Ireland, but we recognise the need to ensure that Northern Ireland can continue to operate and that public services can continue to be provided.
I thank the Prime Minister for her response to my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann). NHS England and this Government are investing a further £130 million in radiotherapy treatment for rare and less common cancers, but will she confirm, and reassure my constituents, that there is no need for existing good radiotherapy services in the Sunrise centre to be moved in order to deliver cancer treatment for rare cancers?
As I said in response to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), we recognise the importance of ensuring that people have access to the treatments that they require, and we recognise the issues that people sometimes face in relation to travelling to the centres where those services are available. This is primarily a decision to be taken at local level and, as I did earlier, I encourage people to take part in the consultation and to respond to it so that local views can truly be heard and taken into account.
We are putting more money, as the hon. Gentleman knows, into the national health service. In the autumn Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer put a further £2.8 billion into the national health service, but if we are looking at the issues of treatment across the national health service, we have to be very clear that, while Labour’s answer is always just more money, it is about ensuring that all hospitals across the NHS operate and act in accordance with best practice. We have world-class hospitals in our NHS—we want to ensure that they are all world class.
I understand that London has been mentioned as a potential host for the Bayeux tapestry. Given that visitors to London who wish to see two sides chucking things at each other are well catered for in the Public Gallery, may I ask the Prime Minister to put in a very good word for Battle abbey in East Sussex, where viewers could not only see the tapestry but look through the window and see the rolling East Sussex countryside where sadly the Normans gave the Saxons six of the best?
It is very significant that the Bayeux tapestry is going to come to the United Kingdom and that people will be able to see it. I hear the bid that my hon. Friend has put in, but from a sedentary position on the Front Bench my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who represents Hastings, put in a bid on that particular issue. I am sure that we will look very carefully at that to ensure that the maximum number of people can have the benefit of seeing the tapestry.
It is this Government, and I in my former role of Home Secretary, who introduced the Modern Slavery Act. It is this Government who improved the response to victims and the response of the police in catching perpetrators. More cases have been brought to prosecution, and more victims are willing and able to come forward, and have the confidence to do so. Have we dealt with the problem? Of course there are still problems out there, but we want to ensure, as my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary said in International Development questions, not just that we take action in the United Kingdom but that we work with countries where women are trafficked into this country and with other countries to eliminate modern slavery across the world, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Members across the House have sung for Syrians. Last week, in Idlib, a clinic and kindergarten that we support were bombed by Syrian Government destroyers. Will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to the bravery of the staff of the Hands Up Foundation who continue to work there and in reassuring ordinary Syrians that in the seventh year of this terrible war we have not forgotten them?
My hon. Friend has been a great champion of charities working in Syria, particularly Singing for Syrians, and I am very happy to join her in praising the bravery of all those working for the Hands Up Foundation as well as others working for other charities in the region doing valuable and important work. We continue to make every effort to achieve our goals in Syria, which of course include defeating the scourge of Daesh but also ensuring that we achieve a political settlement that ends the suffering and provides stability for all Syrians and the wider region. We also continue to provide significant humanitarian assistance—£2.46 billion to date.
We of course have a priority to ensure that children across the country, whether in the north or the south, receive a great education. Of course, seven of our 12 opportunity areas that are providing that support are in the north or the midlands. That is the frontline of our approach to tackling inequality in education outcomes. The hon. Gentleman is concerned about northern schools. We are taking forward recommendations on the northern powerhouse schools strategy. We are putting record levels of funding into our schools and have announced increased funding over the next two years.
In Market Harborough, I and local charities will be holding a meeting to discuss how we can fight the problem of loneliness in our community. At the national level, what is the Prime Minister doing to implement the important recommendations of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. He is absolutely right that for too many people loneliness is the sad reality of modern life, and we know that loneliness has an impact not only on mental health, but on physical health. Later today I will be pleased to host a reception at No. 10 Downing Street for the Jo Cox Foundation to look at the issue. I think that the work that Jo Cox started, which has been continued by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy) and the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), is very important. I am pleased to say that the Government have appointed a Minister for loneliness. This is an important step forward. Of course there is more to do, but it shows that we recognise the importance of the issue. I pay tribute to all Members of the House who have championed the issue.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we believe that universal credit is a better system because it is simpler than the benefits system it replaces, it encourages people to get into work, and it ensures that the more they earn, the more they keep. Our proposals mean that once universal credit has been fully rolled out, 50,000 more children will be eligible for free school meals than were under the old system.
May I welcome the great speech that the Prime Minister made on the environment last Thursday? It is right that she, and indeed the Conservative party, support companies that promote sustainable growth, but does she also agree that any commercial development must now take into account the needs of the environment?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments on the speech, which was about the 25-year environment plan that the Government have published. It is an important step that we have taken to ensure that we leave our environment in a better state than we found it. I agree that all too often people see economic growth and environmental protection as opposites; they are not. It is absolutely possible for us to ensure that we protect our environment while producing economic growth, not least because of the innovative technologies that we can develop to ensure that environmental protection.
Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. The people of Wales have been taking back control since 1999, but the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will put our powers back under lock and key in Westminster. My colleague Steffan Lewis AM is today proposing a Welsh continuity Bill to ensure that our powers are at liberty. When this Plaid Cymru Bill wins a majority in our Assembly, will the Prime Minister support it and respect Wales’s sovereignty?
The hon. Lady’s portrayal of what is happening in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is simply wrong. We are working with the devolved Administrations to deal with the issues that have been raised about clause 11 and the question of powers that need to remain at UK level to secure our internal market, and extra powers will be devolved to the devolved Administrations. We continue to work with the devolved Administrations on this and we will be bringing forward amendments in the House of Lords to clause 11. We want to ensure that it meets the needs of the UK and of the devolved Administrations.
Points of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope to get your advice on an exceptionally serious issue, which has been brought to me by a whistleblower in my constituency, relating to the East of England Ambulance Service. It has been put to me that the service became critically overstretched as a result of high demand on 19 December. At that point, senior operational managers wanted to move to REAP4, which is the highest state of emergency, and seek mutual aid, most likely from the armed forces. However, that decision was not taken until 31 December, some 12 days later. Even then, aid was not requested by senior management.
I have been informed that, during that period, 20 people died in incidents when ambulances arrived late. If that is true, it raises serious questions for the trust and the Government as to why REAP4 was not declared and no aid was sought; what potentially avoidable deaths resulted from those decisions; and, above all, how we can avoid that ever happening again. Given that this is, quite literally, a matter of life and death, can you advise me, Mr Speaker, on how I may urgently seek answers to those questions from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice of his intention to raise it. The answer is twofold. First, he should undertake the short journey from the Chamber to the Table Office in order to table such questions—there may be many—to which he seeks answers from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. The hon. Gentleman may already be working on these matters now; if not, I am sure he will apply hot, wet towels over his head as he prepares his line of questioning.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman may seek to consult his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench if he wishes a party view to be taken on this matter and the issue to be pursued not only from the Back Bench, but by his fellow Members of the Front Bench. Meanwhile, he has aired his concern, and it will have been heard on the Treasury Bench.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has come to my attention via a story by Peter Geoghegan on the website The Ferret that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), whom I have informed that I will be mentioning him in the House, may be in breach of the rules concerning the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
The hon. Member is listed on the website of the Cobden Centre as a co-founder; and he is listed by Companies House as a director in papers that were last updated only in September. Of most interest to the House would be the centre’s stance on Brexit. Although there is no question that the hon. Member has a pecuniary interest in the organisation, it would seem to me that the directorship of the company contravenes paragraph 55(b) of the guide to the rules on the registration of Members’ financial interests, namely:
“Any other interest, if the Member considers that it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a Member in the same way as a financial interest.”
Let me emphasise the next part:
“This might include an unpaid employment or directorship”.
I seek your counsel, Mr Speaker—
Order. I am immensely grateful—I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman how grateful I am to him—but I do not think that any further words from him are required. I shall give a response, and then I shall invite the hon. Gentleman concerned to respond, if he wishes.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes), of course, for raising this concern, but let us be absolutely clear—I say this for the benefit of Members of the House and those attending to our proceedings—that responsibility for registration or declaration rests with the Member concerned, not with the Chair. If another Member—or, indeed, anyone else, for that matter—has reason to believe that a Member has failed to register or to declare an interest, that person should write to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for an investigation in accordance with procedures approved by the House. Whether a Minister has breached the ministerial code is, of course, a matter for the Prime Minister.
As the hon. Gentleman has raised his point—if I may say so, in some painstaking detail—it seems only fair to offer the hon. Member concerned, the Minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, the opportunity to reply if he so wishes. I must emphasise that I do not want a precedent to be set here. He is under absolutely no obligation to respond on the Floor of the House, but if he wishes to do so, let us give him the opportunity.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am happy to tell the House that I resigned my trusteeship of the Cobden Centre within days of taking up my post in DExEU, knowing that with the centre’s interest in free trade, in particular, that might be considered relevant. I resigned, if my memory serves me, on 17 June. I very much regret that an administrative error was made by others after my departure, and I have asked them to correct it.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During a debate on the NHS winter crisis last Wednesday, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), misquoted what I said in the course of the debate. I tried to intervene to correct the matter, but he would not take my intervention. He said that I had said that the NHS is a political organisation. I said no such thing. What I did say was that the NHS is a political entity. Had he taken my intervention, I would have explained that the very existence of the NHS, which of course was created by a Labour Government, and the way in which it operates are reliant on the political decisions made in this Parliament. I feel that the Minister owes me an apology, and I also feel that he owes an apology to this House. I wonder whether you could advise, Mr Speaker, on how such apologies may be secured.
The hon. Lady should have given notice to the Minister concerned, but I will not dwell on that point; it speaks for itself. Nevertheless, I would say to the hon. Lady that if the Minister feels, having heard what she has said, that he has been inaccurate, it is open to him, and would normally be expected of him, to correct the record. Meanwhile, the hon. Lady has made her view of the matter clear, and it is on the record.
I hope that the hon. Lady will not take it amiss if I say that, notwithstanding the importance of the matter that she raises—not least to her—it is not uncommon for Members of this House to be, or to feel that they have been, misquoted or misrepresented. Some of us have some decades’ experience of this. I very gently counsel the hon. Lady, while perfectly legitimately pursuing the matter, if she so wishes, not to allow the matter to disrupt her sleep pattern.
Private Landlords (Registration)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require all private landlords in England to be registered; and for connected purposes.
Over the years, one of the key issues consistently raised with me by my constituents has been the role played by some private landlords and their tenants in the local community. Let me say up front that the majority of private landlords are responsible. As always, there are those who do not fall into that category—private landlords who do not care about their tenants or who they rent to, or the communities in which their properties are placed; all they are interested in is the rent they can secure, and nothing else.
The whole policy area surrounding the regulation of private landlords is frustrating. It is failing to solve the problems faced by local communities, local authorities are stretched beyond their ever-shrinking budgets, and local people feel neglected. I now believe it is time to consolidate regulation on private landlords, underpinned by a mandatory licensing scheme to help to remedy some of the disquiet felt by people in Sedgefield and throughout the country.
Once, Durham’s economy was based on coal: 100,000 miners worked down 100 collieries and, with their families, lived in tight-knit communities. Many of the colliery villages thrived in that economy—villages such as Ferryhill, Fishburn, Chilton, the Trimdons, Wheatley Hill, Wingate, Thornley and West Cornforth. They all had and have one architectural characteristic in common: row upon row of back-to-back colliery terraces. Now, years after the end of the coalmining era, they have become the preserve of private landlords, and in some areas a hotspot for neglect and crime.
Some residents who have lived in the local area for years and remember earlier times can tell better than most how it has changed. To help to resolve the problem, selective licensing schemes have been introduced in the county, with some success, but they can be administratively burdensome and very staff intensive. The council’s accreditation scheme is voluntary and attracts only the good landlords. A mandatory registration scheme would place the onus on the landlord. In 2008, the Labour Government ordered a review of the private rented sector. In response to the review, in May 2009 the Government outlined their intention to introduce a national mandatory register of the private landlord sector, but the general election intervened and the coalition Government decided not to take the proposal forward.
By the time of the 2011 census, the number of private rented homes in the county had increased by 78% to nearly 16,000 properties, or 14% of the housing stock. Half of that stock consists of typical colliery terraced housing, which is difficult to sell and difficult to let. Also, there are about 4,000 long-term empty homes in Durham. They are empty for different reasons: some are inherited, some are part of the estates of deceased persons with no living relatives, and some are left empty because the owners have moved on and cannot sell their property; while other properties are bought by investors and left empty through choice. Under current legislation, properties can stand empty for as long as the owners like, and their only duty is to ensure that accessible windows and doors are secure. This leads some properties to become an attraction for antisocial behaviour, arson and fly-tipping. The county council informs me that it sometimes takes weeks or even months to track down the owner of a property so that a problem can be addressed.
I have been working on this issue with the police and crime commissioner for Durham, Ron Hogg. The police are concerned about the effect that a high concentration of private landlords has on areas of high deprivation. Ron Hogg’s office has provided me with data from the Office for National Statistics showing that nationally there is a link between the prevalence of private landlords in areas of high deprivation and levels of crime. In Wheatley Hill in my constituency—one of the most deprived communities in the county, where the number of people who are economically inactive due to long-term sickness or a disability is almost three times the national average—43% of households in an area of the village that is of concern to the local authority and agencies are private lets, of which 30% are standing empty. The crime figures for the village are equally startling: in 2017 there were 122 crimes per 1,000 head of population, whereas the average for County Durham is only 77 per 1,000 head of population.
The lack of information on private landlords leads to an increased workload for the police. In one incident, a property in County Durham was being used for drug taking. The police had the previous landlord’s details and later discovered the details of the new landlord, but did not have a contact number. Letters were written to him, but it took a fixed penalty notice from environmental health to make him contact the council. The tenants who had caused the problems had moved on by this time due to rats in the property, but the house had also been trashed. Had the landlord’s information been available at the start, the issue could have been resolved quickly, instead of dragging on for seven months. In another incident, a police constable reported that he had attended an empty private rented property after an arson. It was in the process of being burgled. Two arrests were made. Local letting agents and the council were contacted, but no one knew who the landlord was. Those arrested were released under investigation because the matter could not be recorded as a crime without an injured party. If the landlord’s details had been known, charges could have been brought.
Ron Hogg has said about the private landlord sector:
“Not only are large numbers of properties unfit for habitation...but the lack of control over the market is resulting in the breakdown of many of our communities and in many cases resulting in increases in crime and disorder.
He goes on:
“This is costly to local communities and costly to the state—too much police time is being spent dealing with problems that could be avoided if it were possible to identify the landlords and provide enforcement at an earlier stage.”
Mr Hogg says:
“Only a mandatory private landlord registration scheme, administered by local authorities and funded by private landlords and fines from enforcement, can create a situation where this can be brought under control.”
Chief Constable Simon Cole of Leicestershire police, who is the National Police Chiefs Council portfolio lead for antisocial behaviour, has said that
“it would be helpful to local policing if local authorities had to have a register of private landlords so that they can fulfil their responsibilities in protecting vulnerable people.’
Chief Constable Mike Barton of Durham constabulary has said:
“A mandatory register would save time and public money for the whole range of organisations delivering services in areas where antisocial behaviour is common... It would mean that police and our partners...would be much better placed to nip problems in the bud rather than being unable to carry out enforcement on unidentifiable landlords, often based hundreds of miles away. I am sorry to say that, too often, such people couldn’t care less about the misery their indifference causes to decent hard working families”.
I, those who work in local government, the police and, more importantly, the communities we serve want attention to be paid to this issue, which has been neglected, or at best addressed with piecemeal legislation from those who believe a light touch is best. Light touch is not good enough if you have to live with the consequences of inadequate resources to chase people who do not care.
How would a mandatory registration scheme work? Under such a scheme, to rent out property a landlord would have to register, pay a fee and adhere to a strict code of compliance. The code should require all landlords to manage their properties to ensure they are fit to live in, with tenancies managed in such a way that any issues are addressed immediately. The scheme should be administered by individual local authorities with appropriate budgets attached. Revenue would be raised by a registration fee, with tough fines imposed for failing to adhere to the code. Tenants’ rights should be enshrined in law, and fit-for-habitation certification procedures introduced. A mandatory scheme should make data sharing between statutory agencies easier. That would bring in revenue to the Exchequer by ensuring that all such incomes were registered for tax purposes, and enable statutory agencies, the police and HMRC to co-operate more effectively to tackle landlords who are not prepared to play by the rules. The benefits would be improved quality of life in our communities, reduced demand on policing, reduced demand and cost to local authorities, and potentially increased revenue to the Exchequer. This would be a self-funding scheme administered locally.
Before some people start mentioning red tape, I point out that the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016 require private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. Non-compliance can lead to a fine of up to £3,000. It would seem that national schemes can be implemented when we want them to be.
I believe that a mandatory scheme would look after the best interests of private landlords, their tenants and the communities in which they are located. The people of Wheatley Hill and similar communities deserve the security such an initiative would offer.
Let me say at the outset that I understand that the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) has issues in his constituency, about which he has spoken eloquently. However, I believe that his Bill is a totally disproportionate response to a local matter. I have always been of the opinion that any Member of this House who wishes to introduce a Bill should be able to do so—I have presented a fair number of my own, so I will not oppose the hon. Gentleman’s request to be given leave to bring in a Bill—but I wish to put on record the fact that I will not support his Bill.
There is great pressure on this House to pass ever more regulation. That regulation needs to be necessary, effective and proportionate, and having heard the hon. Gentleman’s speech, I believe that his Bill fails all three tests. I speak as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the private rented sector, which is sponsored by the Residential Landlords Association. Among the APPG’s distinguished vice-chairs is the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), whose private Member’s Bill comes before the House on Friday. That Bill is strongly supported by the Residential Landlords Association. I wish to impress on the hon. Gentleman that while the RLA is perfectly rational in its approach to this issue and shares his dismay at there being so many bad landlords, it recognises that by far the majority in this country are responsible and good landlords, and that the last thing they need is another stealth tax placed upon them, which is what he is proposing.
I share the view articulated by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government when he said that
“public safety is paramount and I am determined to do everything possible to protect tenants. That is why government will support new legislation that requires all landlords to ensure properties are safe and give tenants the right to take legal action if landlords fail in their duties.”
Let us deal with the substance of the matter and ensure that where there are bad landlords, every facility is made available to ensure that tenants can get proper redress against them. At the moment—let us not dispute this—responsibility is given to local authorities to enforce the legislation already on the statute book. That responsibility is to enforce housing standards in rented homes. As a result of a freedom of information request, the RLA found that in 2016-17, among the 296 councils in England and Wales that responded, there were just 467 prosecutions of landlords. This averages out at just over 1.5 per council. In the same year, councils received 105,359 complaints regarding landlords. That is an indication that, although the responsibility lies with councils, they are not fulfilling it.
The hon. Gentleman’s Bill would impose on councils the additional burden of maintaining a register of landlords and then carrying out enforcement against those who have not signed it. The inevitable consequence of his proposal is that once again the responsible landlord—the person who lets a house to family members or lodgers, or who brings into use a family home that would otherwise be empty—would end up being penalised and brought before the courts, but there would be no impact on bad landlords, whom I assume, on the basis of his definition, would include those thousands of people who are illegally sub-letting social housing, despite that already being a criminal act that is subject to criminal sanctions. Why do we not deal with that? Why do we not enforce existing laws against bad landlords and those who are illegally sub-letting social housing?
Another reason to oppose the hon. Gentleman’s proposal is that it would have a disproportionate impact on the law-abiding. Ultimately, it would be another deterrent to people letting their properties. Labour Members often refer to the slogan “property is theft” and try to create an atmosphere in which every private landlord is regarded as scum. I am just trying to redress the balance and make it clear to those who wish to legislate against bad landlords that we already have an enormous amount of relevant legislation on the statute book. It might well be that the Bill being debated on Friday will be an additional part of that legislation, but setting up an expensive, bureaucratic registration system is the last thing we need.
Question put (Standing Order No. 23) and agreed to.
That Phil Wilson, Anna Turley, Bridget Phillipson, Grahame Morris, Graham P Jones, Mr Kevan Jones, Stephen Timms, Ian Austin, Gareth Snell, Liz Kendall, Toby Perkins and Conor McGinn present the Bill.
Phil Wilson accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 April, and to be printed (Bill 152).
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) felt very strongly about the ten-minute rule Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) just presented, but given that he did not call for a vote or oppose the Bill, was it in order for him to make a speech criticising it?
Yes, it was perfectly orderly. The truth is that although the hon. Gentleman did not then seek to divide the House, he was, even though he politely and gently indicated otherwise, opposing the Bill. The technical position is very clear: he was opposing the Bill—he was expressing his opposition to it. Possibly in the interests of time, however, or for other reasons—it is not my responsibility to fathom his motives—he did not seek to divide the House. His behaviour, as usual, was orderly.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
[2nd Allocated Day]
Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Committee
New Clause 1
Retaining Enhanced Protection
“(1) A Minister may use regulations provided for by an Act of Parliament other than this Act to amend, repeal or modify retained EU law if, and only if, the use of the regulation is necessary to maintain or enhance rights and protections.
(2) The procedure in subsection (3) applies if a Minister of the Crown proposes to use regulations provided for by Acts of Parliament other than this Act to amend, repeal or modify retained EU law in the following areas—
(a) employment entitlement, rights and protection,
(b) equality entitlements, rights and protection,
(c) health and safety entitlement, rights and protection,
(d) consumer standards, or
(e) environmental standards and protection.
(3) A Minister of the Crown must—
(a) produce an explanatory document which must explain why using the regulation is necessary to maintain or enhance rights and protections,
(b) consult for a period of no less than 12 weeks after the publication of the explanatory document with—
(i) organisations, and persons who are likely to be affected by the proposals, including representative bodies;
(ii) the Law Commission, the Scottish Law Commission or the Northern Ireland Law Commission in such cases as the Minister considers appropriate; and
(iii) where the proposals relate to the functions of one or more statutory bodies, those bodies or persons appearing to the Minister to be representative of those bodies,
(c) give details of any representations received under the consultation provided including Ministerial responses.
(4) Any regulations to which this section applies may be made only if they have been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”—(Matthew Pennycook.)
This new clause would ensure that important EU-derived employment and other rights can be amended only by primary legislation, subordinate legislation made under this Act, or subordinate legislation which has been approved through an enhanced scrutiny procedure.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 2—Meaning of Withdrawal Agreement—
“It shall be the objective of Her Majesty’s Government to ensure that the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU which comprise the “withdrawal agreement” specified in subsection (1) of section 14 shall include full, comprehensive and sufficient detail as if it were a legal instrument capable of acceptance and deposit as an international trade agreement at the World Trade Organisation, with detailed agreements on the following aspects of the future relationship between the United Kingdom and European Union including—
(a) geographical scope of application,
(b) regulatory cooperation,
(c) national security,
(d) cross-border trade in services,
(e) market access,
(f) tariff arrangements,
(g) tariff rate quotas on all products,
(h) customs duties on imports,
(i) duties, taxes and charges on exports,
(j) fees and charges,
(k) import and export restrictions,
(l) provisions concerning anti-dumping and countervailing measures,
(n) sanitary and phytosanitary measures,
(o) trade conditions,
(p) customs valuation,
(r) dispute settlement and mediation,
(s) establishment of investments,
(t) non-discriminatory treatment,
(v) enforcement of awards,
(w) mutual recognition of professional qualifications,
(x) cross-border financial services,
(y) prudential regulatory alignment,
(z) maritime transport services,
(bb) electronic commerce,
(cc) competition policy,
(dd) state enterprises and monopolies,
(ee) government procurement,
(ff) intellectual property,
(gg) trade and sustainable development and the environment,
(hh) trade and labour standards and employment conditions and
This new clause would make it the objective of HM Government that the withdrawal agreement sought prior to exit day should include proposals setting out the full details expected of a comprehensive international trade agreement.
New clause 3—Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland—
“(1) Nothing in the provisions made under section 8 or section 9 of this Act shall authorise any regulations which—
(a) breach any of the obligations of Her Majesty’s Government made under the Belfast Agreement implemented in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (which made new provision for the government of Northern Ireland for the purpose of implementing the agreement reached at multi-party talks on Northern Ireland), or
(b) create hard border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, or
(c) undermine the full alignment of the United Kingdom with the rules of the European Union Internal Market and the Customs Union which support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the Belfast Agreement.
(2) Subsection (1)(c) shall apply unless Her Majesty’s Government, the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the European Union agree alternative specific solutions which can continue to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland, the obligations of the Belfast Agreement and the avoidance of a hard border arrangement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
This new clause would ensure that the aspects of the Phase 1 agreement between the UK and the EU regarding the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are brought into UK law.
New clause 4—Financial Settlement—
“The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall publish, within one month of Royal Assent of this Act, the full details of the methodology agreed between Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union as set out in the “Joint Report from the Negotiators on Progress During Phase 1” which was published on 8 December 2017.”
This new clause would ensure that the agreed methodology for calculating the financial settlement between the UK and the EU set out in the Joint Report from the Negotiators of 8 December 2017 are published and brought into the public domain.
New clause 5—Trade in Services—
“It shall be the objective of Her Majesty’s Government, in negotiating a withdrawal agreement, to secure the same rights, freedoms and access available to UK businesses trading in services as exists through the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, as if section 1 of this Act were not brought into effect.”
This new clause would ensure that the negotiating objectives of Ministers would be to secure the same benefits for service sector trading businesses after exit day as are available under the existing Single Market and Customs Union arrangements by virtue of membership of the European Union.
New clause 6—Alteration to the notification under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on the European Union—
“Her Majesty’s Government shall publish a summary of the legal advice it has received in respect of the ability of the United Kingdom to extend, alter or revoke the notification, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on the European Union, of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.”
This new clause would require Ministers to place in the public domain a summary of the legal advice they have received concerning the options available for the United Kingdom in respect of the notification made under Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union.
New clause 10—Governance and institutional arrangements—
“(1) Before exit day a Minister of the Crown must make provision that all powers and functions relating to any right, freedom, or protection, that any person might reasonably expect to exercise, that were exercisable by EU entities or other public authorities anywhere in the United Kingdom before exit day, and which do not cease to have effect as a result of the withdrawal agreement (“relevant powers and functions”) will—
(a) continue to be carried out by an EU entity or public authority;
(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly established entity or public authority in the United Kingdom; or
(c) be carried out by an appropriate international entity or public authority.
(2) For the purposes of this section, relevant powers and functions relating to the UK exercisable by an EU entity or public authority include, but are not limited to—
(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements;
(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements;
(c) enforcement of legal requirements;
(d) setting standards or targets;
(e) co-ordinating action;
(f) publicising information.
(3) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from retained EU law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.”
This new clause would ensure that substantive rights and protections cannot be removed by the “back door”, and that the institutions and agencies that protect EU derived rights and protections are replaced to a sufficient standard so those rights and protections will still be enjoyed in practice.
New clause 11—Meaningful vote on deal or no deal—
“(1) The Prime Minister must publish and lay before both Houses of Parliament an assessment of the impact on the economy of the United Kingdom, and on each nation, province or region of the United Kingdom, of any unratified agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.
(2) Any agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU may not be ratified unless—
(a) subsection (1) has been complied with,
(b) the House of Lords has considered a motion relating to the unratified agreement,
(c) the House of Commons has approved the unratified agreement by resolution,
(d) the statute mentioned in section 9 (approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union) has been passed, and
(e) any other legislative provision to enable ratification has been passed or made.
(3) If no agreement has been reached by 31 December 2018 between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union setting out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the Prime Minister must publish and lay before both Houses of Parliament within one month an assessment of the impact on the economy of the United Kingdom, and on each nation, province or region of the United Kingdom, of leaving the EU under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union without an agreement.
(4) If no agreement has been reached by 31 January 2019 between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union setting out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU,
(a) a Minister of the Crown must propose a motion in the House of Lords relating to the lack of an agreement, and
(b) a Minister of the Crown must propose a motion in the House of Commons approving the intention of the United Kingdom to leave the EU under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union without a withdrawal agreement.
(5) Unless the House of Commons approves by resolution after 31 January 2019 the intention of the United Kingdom to leave the EU under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union without a withdrawal agreement, the Prime Minister must either—
(a) reach an agreement before exit day between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, or
(b) request the European Council for an extension of negotiation under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, or
(c) rescind the notice of intention under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union to withdraw from the EU given in accordance with the European Union (Notice of Withdrawal) Act 2017 and request the European Council to accept that rescission.’
This New Clause would ensure that the Government assesses the impact of either an agreement or no deal on the UK economy and regions before a meaningful vote, and that if Parliament does not agree to the agreement or to no deal, then the Government must request a revocation or extension of Article 50.
New clause 12—Environmental protection after EU exit—
“(1) Before any exit day, the Secretary of State must publish a report detailing all EU environmental protections, powers and functions.
(2) The report pursuant to subsection (1) shall specify—
(a) all environmental legal protections which derive from EU law;
(b) the powers and functions relating to environmental protection or improvement exercised by EU institutions;
(c) the empowering provisions in EU law relating to those functions; and
(d) any loss of environmental protection, or the monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections, which may arise as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU.
(3) Before any exit day the Secretary of State must publish proposals for primary legislation (the “Draft Environmental Protection Bill”).
(4) The Draft Environmental Protection Bill must include provisions which would—
(a) ensure that the level of environmental protection provided by EU law on the day this Act receives Royal Assent is maintained or enhanced;
(b) make provision to remedy any loss of environmental protection, or the monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections, established in the report pursuant to subsection (1);
(c) create a statutory corporation (to be called “the Environmental Protection Agency”) with operational independence from Ministers of the Crown to monitor environmental targets previously set by EU law relating to environmental protection and other such environmental targets that may be set by Ministers of the Crown and international treaties to which the United Kingdom is party;
(d) require the statutory corporation in (4)(c) to report to Parliament every year on progress in meeting those targets and to make recommendations for remedial action where appropriate;
(e) allow the statutory corporation in (4)(c) to publish additional reports identifying action or omissions on the part of Ministers of the Crown that is likely to result in targets not being met; and
(f) extend to the whole of the United Kingdom.
(5) The Secretary of State must publish annual reports to Parliament on how environmental protections and the monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections have been affected by the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU.
(6) Before publishing a report pursuant to subsection (5) the Secretary of State must hold a public consultation on the effect of leaving the EU on environmental protection.
(7) The Secretary of State must publish and lay before each House of Parliament the first report pursuant to subsection (5) no later 29 March 2020 and each subsequent report must be published no later than the period of one year after the publication of the previous report.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to produce a report on the loss of environmental protection as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU, and to prepare an Environmental Protection Bill to make up for any loss of environmental protections, and the monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections. It would also require the Secretary of State to produce annual reports which make an assessment of the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on UK environmental protection.
New clause 14—Maintaining individual rights and protections—
“(1) When making any agreement under subsection (2), the Secretary of State shall take steps to ensure that UK citizens enjoy standards of rights and protections equivalent to those enjoyed by citizens of the EU under EU law.
(2) This section applies to—
(a) any agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU which prepares for, or implements, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;
(b) any international trade agreement—
(i) between the UK and the EU, or
(ii) between the UK and another signatory which seeks to replicate in full or in part the provisions of an international trade agreement between the EU and the other signatory.
(3) In relation to any agreement under subsection (2), the Secretary of State will maintain the highest standards of transparency.”
This new clause creates a duty for the Government to ensure that individual rights and protections are maintained to a level equivalent to (although not necessarily the same as) those in the EU when making agreements with the EU or international trade agreements.
New clause 15—Non-regression of equality law—
“(1) Any EU withdrawal related legislation must be accompanied by a statement made by a Minister of the Crown certifying that in the Minister‘s opinion the legislation does not remove or reduce protection under or by virtue of the Equality Acts 2006 and 2010.
(2) In subsection (1) “EU withdrawal related legislation” means—
(a) any statutory instrument under this Act;
(b) any statutory instrument made by a Minister of the Crown wholly or partly in connection with the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU; and
(c) any Bill presented to Parliament by a Minister of the Crown which is wholly or partly connected to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.”
This new clause would ensure that legislation in connection with withdrawal from the EU does not reduce protections provided by equality law.
New clause 17—Effect of losing access to EU single market and customs union—
“(1) The Prime Minister must publish and lay before both Houses of Parliament an assessment of the impact on the economy of the United Kingdom, and on each nation, province or region of the United Kingdom, of any unratified agreement (“the Agreement”) between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.
(2) The assessment in subsection (1) must so far as practicable analyse the expected difference in outcomes between the Agreement and continued participation in the EU single market and customs union.
(3) The assessment in subsection (1) must be prepared by the Treasury and must include separate analyses from the National Audit Office, the Office of Budget Responsibility, the Government Actuary’s Department, and the finance directorates of each of the devolved Administrations of the methodology and conclusions of the Treasury assessment.
(4) A statute of the kind mentioned in section 9 (approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union) may not come into effect until the Prime Minister’s assessment under subsection (1) has been—
(a) debated by each House of Parliament, and
(b) approved by resolution of the House of Commons.”
This purpose of this New Clause is to ensure that the alternative of remaining in the EU single market and customs union is formally considered by Parliament on the basis of an independently validated economic assessment before any statute approving the final terms of withdrawal takes effect.
New clause 18—Consultation on environmental governance and principles—
“(1) Within one month of Royal Assent, the Secretary of State must consult on and bring forward proposals to—
(a) provide that all powers and functions relating to the environment or environmental protection that were exercisable by EU entities or other public authorities anywhere in the United Kingdom before exit day which do not cease to have effect as a result of the withdrawal agreement are fully carried out.
(b) introduce primary legislation to establish a new independent environmental regulator with the purpose of, responsibility for, and appropriate powers to oversee the implementation of, compliance with and enforcement of environmental law and principles by relevant public authorities.
(c) incorporate EU environmental principles in primary legislation as a basis for relevant decision-making by UK public bodies and public authorities.
(d) establish a process for the publication of a national environmental policy statement or statements describing how the environmental principles will be interpreted and applied.
(2) EU Environmental principles include but are not limited to—
(a) the precautionary principle;
(b) the principle that preventive action should be taken to avert environmental damage;
(c) the principle that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source;
(d) the polluter pays principle;
(e) the principle that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development;
(3) In carrying out a consultation under this section, the Government must—
(a) consult with the devolved authorities;
(b) be open to responses for at least two months; and
(c) consider the resources and legal powers that the proposed regulator under (1)(b) will need in order to properly carry out its functions.”
This new clause enshrines the Government’s stated intentions in respect of the environmental principles and the establishment of a new independent environmental regulator. It sets out the minimum standards for consultation on these matters.
New clause 20—Citizens’ Jury on Brexit Negotiations—
“(1) A citizens’ jury shall be established to enable UK citizens to be consulted on the progress of negotiations between the UK and the EU on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, and the approach outlined in UK Government White Papers.
(2) The citizens’ jury shall in total be composed of exactly 1501 persons.
(3) Members of the citizens’ jury shall be randomly selected by means of eligibility from UK citizens on the current electoral register as registered on the date of this Act receiving royal assent, with allocation across the 9 UK Government Regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland weighted by population, and a stratification plan, with the aim of securing a group of people who are broadly representative demographically of the UK electorate across characteristics including whether they voted Leave or Remain.
(4) The jury will be broken down into individual sittings for each of the 9 UK Government Regions in England, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
(5) The sittings will be for no more than 72 hours at a time, facilitated by independent facilitators, and if required, by electing fore-people from within their number.
(6) Membership of the jury will be subject to the same regulations and exceptions as a regular jury, but membership can be declined without penalty.
(7) The citizens’ jury will be able to require Ministerial and official representatives of the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations to give testimony to them to inform their work, and to have the power to invite other witnesses to give evidence as required.
(8) The citizens’ jury shall publish reports setting out their conclusions on the negotiations and UK Government White Papers.
(9) The first report from the citizens’ jury shall be published within two months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, and subsequent reports shall be published at intervals of no more than two months.
(10) Costs incurred by the citizens’ jury shall be met by the Exchequer.”
New clause 21—Environmental protection and improvement: continuation of powers and functions—
“(1) The Secretary of State must establish and maintain a publicly accessible register of EU environmental powers and functions.
(2) The register produced pursuant to subsection (1) shall specify—
(a) the specific powers and functions relating to environmental protection or improvement exercised by EU institutions;
(b) the EU institution previously responsible for exercising those powers and functions; and
(c) the empowering provision in EU law relating to those powers and functions.
(3) The register produced pursuant to subsection (1) shall include the following functions—
(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements;
(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements;
(c) enforcement of legal requirements;
(d) setting standards or targets;
(e) co-ordinating action; and
(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.
(4) Within one month of Royal Assent, the Secretary of State must—
(a) publish and lay before Parliament a statement identifying those powers and functions identified in the public register established under subsection (1) that will continue to be exercised by EU institutions or, alternatively, the existing or proposed new public authorities to which these powers and functions will be transferred; and
(b) make Regulations containing provisions to ensure that all relevant powers and functions relating to environmental protection or improvement exercisable by EU institutions anywhere in the United Kingdom before exit day continue on and after exit day.”
This new clause would ensure oversight of the transfer of functions from EU institutions to domestic institutions, 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.
New clause 22—Dealing with deficiencies arising from withdrawal – further provisions—
“(1) This section applies where there is a deficiency in retained EU law on and after exit day in respect of which regulations have not been made under section 7.
(2) A deficiency includes, but is not limited to, retained EU law which—
(a) contains anything which has no practical application in relation to the United Kingdom or any part of it or is otherwise redundant or substantially redundant;
(b) confers functions on, or in relation to, EU entities which no longer have functions in that respect under EU law in relation to the United Kingdom or any part of it;
(c) makes provision for, or in connection with, reciprocal arrangements between—
(i) the United Kingdom or any part of it or a public authority in the United Kingdom, and
(ii) the EU, an EU entity, a member State or a public authority in a member State,
which no longer exist or are no longer appropriate.
(d) makes provision for, or in connection with, other arrangements which—
(i) involve the EU, an EU entity, a member State or a public authority in a member State, or
(ii) are otherwise dependent upon the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU,
and which no longer exist or are no longer appropriate
(e) makes provision for, or in connection with, any reciprocal or other arrangements not falling within paragraph (c) or (d) which no longer exist, or are no longer appropriate, as a result of the United Kingdom ceasing to be a party to any of the EU Treaties,
(f) does not contain any functions or restrictions which—
(i) were in an EU directive and in force immediately before exit day (including any power to make EU tertiary legislation), and
(ii) it is appropriate to retain, or
(g) contains EU references which are no longer appropriate.
(3) A deficiency within the meaning of subsection (1) includes any failure or other deficiency arising from the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU together with the operation of any provision, or the interaction between any provisions, made by or under this Act, but does not include any modification of EU law which is adopted or notified, comes into force or applies only on or after exit day.
(4) Where this section applies, the retained EU law in respect of which the deficiency arises is to be interpreted in accordance with subsections (5) to (9).
(5) The retained EU law does not allow, prevent, require or otherwise apply to acts or omissions outside the United Kingdom.
(6) An EU reference is not to be treated, by reason of the UK having ceased to be a member State, as preventing or restricting the application of retained EU law within the United Kingdom or to persons or things associated with the United Kingdom.
(7) Functions conferred on the EU or an EU entity are to be treated as functions of the Secretary of State.
(8) Any provision which requires or would, apart from subsection (7), require a UK body to—
(a) consult, notify, co-operate with, or perform any other act in relation to an EU body, or
(b) take account of an EU interest,
is to be treated as empowering the UK body to do so in such manner and to such extent as it considers appropriate.
(9) In subsection (8)—
“a UK body” means the United Kingdom or a public authority in the United Kingdom;
“an EU body” means the EU, an EU entity (other than the European Court), a member State or a public authority in a member State;
“an EU interest” means an interest of an EU body or any other interest principally arising in or connected with the EU (including that of consistency between the United Kingdom and the EU);
“requires” includes reference to a pre-condition to the exercise of any power, right or function;
(10) This section ceases to have effect after the end of the period of two years beginning with exit day.”
This new clause provides a scheme for interpretation as a backstop where the transposition necessary to avoid deficiencies has not been effected by regulations made under Clause 7.
Amendment 2, in clause 7, page 5, line 6, leave out subsections (1) to (6) and insert—
“(1) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers necessary to prevent, remedy or mitigate—
(a) any failure of retained EU law to operate effectively, or
(b) any other deficiency in retained EU law,
arising from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.
(2) Deficiencies in retained EU law are where the Minister considers that retained EU law—
(a) contains anything which has no practical application in relation to the United Kingdom or any part of it or is otherwise redundant or substantially redundant,
(b) confers functions on, or in relation to, EU entities which no longer have functions in that respect under EU law in relation to the United Kingdom or any part of it,
(c) makes provision for, or in connection with, reciprocal arrangements between—
(i) the United Kingdom or any part of it or a public authority in the United Kingdom, and
(ii) the EU, an EU entity, a member State or a public authority in a member State, which no longer exist or are no longer appropriate,
(d) makes provision for, or in connection with, other arrangements which—
(i) involve the EU, an EU entity, a member State or a public authority in a member State, or
(ii) are otherwise dependent upon the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU, and which no longer exist or are no longer appropriate,
(e) makes provision for, or in connection with, any reciprocal or other arrangements not falling within paragraph (c) or (d) which no longer exist, or are no longer appropriate, as a result of the United Kingdom ceasing to be a party to any of the EU Treaties,
(f) does not contain any functions or restrictions which—
(i) were in an EU directive and in force immediately before exit day (including any power to make EU tertiary legislation), and
(ii) it is appropriate to retain, or
(g) contains EU references which are no longer appropriate.
(3) But retained EU law is not deficient merely because it does not contain any modification of EU law which is adopted or notified, comes into force or only applies on or after exit day.
(4) Regulations under this section may make any provision that could be made by an Act of Parliament.
(5) Regulations under this section may provide for—
(a) functions of EU entities or public authorities in member States (including making an instrument of a legislative character or providing funding) to be exercisable instead by a public authority (whether or not newly established or established for the purpose) in the United Kingdom,
(b) the establishment of public authorities in the United Kingdom to carry out functions provided for by regulations under this section.
(6) Regulations to which subsection (5) apply must ensure that the functions of such EU entities or public authorities are exercised with equivalent scope, purpose and effect by public authorities in the United Kingdom.
(7) But regulations under this section may not—
(a) impose or increase taxation,
(b) make retrospective provision,
(c) create a relevant criminal offence,
(d) be made to implement the withdrawal agreement,
(e) amend, repeal or revoke the Human Rights Act 1998 or any subordinate legislation made under it,
(f) amend or repeal the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (unless the regulations are made by virtue of paragraph 13(b) of Schedule 7 to this Act or are amending or repealing paragraph 38 of Schedule 3 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 or any provision of that Act which modifies another enactment),
(g) contain any provision the effect of which is that, in comparison with the position immediately before the exit date—
(i) any right conferred on a person by retained EU law is either removed or made less favourable,
(ii) any standard laid by retained EU law is lowered, or
(iii) any remedy, procedure or method of enforcement, in relation to any rights or standards conferred by retained EU law, is made less effective, or
(h) amend, repeal or revoke the Equality Act 2010 or any subordinate legislation made under that Act.”
This amendment restricts the Clause 7 powers so as to ensure they are only used as far is as necessary for the purposes of the Bill, that they do not abolish enforcement functions and that they do not reduce rights or protections.
Amendment 9, page 6, line 16, at end insert—
“(da) amend, repeal or revoke any retained EU law which implements a provision listed in Schedule [Exceptions for Directives etc.].”
This amendment, which is linked to NS1, would except EU Directives relating to workers’ rights from the power to make regulations to remedy deficiencies in retained EU law.
Amendment 56, page 6, line 23, at end insert—
“(6A) Within three months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, and every three months thereafter, a report must be laid before each House of Parliament listing—
(a) all deficiencies which Ministers of the Crown have identified would arise in retained EU law after exit day but which they do not intend to prevent, remedy or mitigate in advance using the powers under subsection (1);
(b) the reasons for each decision not to prevent, remedy or mitigate such deficiencies, and
(c) an assessment of the consequences of that decision.”
This amendment (linked with Amendment 55 provides for Parliamentary scrutiny of any decision not to use clause 7 powers to save retained EU law from being unable to operate effectively.
Amendment 59, in clause 9, page 7, line 16, at end insert—
“(5) No regulations may be made under this section until the Secretary of State has signed an agreement with the European Union guaranteeing that the United Kingdom will remain a permanent member of the EU single market and customs union.”
This amendment would mean the UK would confirm its continued membership of the single market and customs union before Ministers of the Crown carry out any actions under Clause 9 of the Bill.
Amendment 10, in clause 14, page 10, line 40, leave out from “means” to the end of line 41 and insert
“the time specified by an Act of Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU;”.
This amendment would require exit day to be specified in a separate bill on the terms of withdrawal.
Amendment 39, page 11, line 37, at end insert
“and the arrangements for a status quo transitional period which encompasses—
(a) a “bridging period” to allow new agreements to be reached satisfactorily between the United Kingdom and the European Union lasting as long as necessary for a full trade agreement to be ratified, and
(b) an “adaptation period” to allow the phasing in of new requirements over time to provide for the implementation of changes to new agreements in an orderly and efficient manner.”
This amendment ensures that the meaning of “withdrawal agreement” is also taken to include a detailed transitional period with two distinct aspects, firstly allowing for a “bridging period” during which new agreements are concluded and secondly allowing for an “adaptation period” to give business and other organisations a period to adjust to those new arrangements.
Amendment 1, page 11, line 40, at end insert—
“(2A) Subsection (2B) applies if any “exit day” appointed in this Act is not in accordance with any transitional arrangements agreed under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union.
(2B) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations—
(a) amend the definition of “exit day” in the relevant sections to ensure that the day and time specified are in accordance with any transitional arrangements agreed under Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, and
(b) amend subsection (2) in consequence of any such amendment.
(2C) Regulations under subsection (2B) are subject to the affirmative procedure.”
This amendment ensures that the Bill can facilitate transitional arrangements within the single market and customs union.
New schedule 1—Exceptions for directives etc.—
“The power to make regulations under subsection (1) of Clause 7 shall not apply to provisions listed in the Table.
“The power to make regulations under subsection (1) of Clause 7 shall not apply to provisions listed in the Table.
ARTICLE 157 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Equal pay for male and female workers) COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employer‘s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 92/85/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding (tenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 94/33/EC of 22 June 1994 on the protection of young people at work COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 94/45/EC of 22 September 1994 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996 on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 96/71/EC of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 97/74/EC of 15 December 1997 extending, to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Directive 94/45/EC on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 97/75/EC of 15 December 1997 amending and extending, to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Directive 96/34/EC on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 98/23/EC of 7 April 1998 on the extension of Directive 97/81/EC on the framework agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 98/59/EC of 20 July 1998 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to collective redundancies COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 99/70/EC of 28 June 1999 concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 99/63/EC of 21 June 1999 concerning the Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers concluded by the European Community Ship-owners’ Association (ECSA) and the Federation of Transport Workers’ Unions in the European Union (FST) COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2001/23/EC of 12 March 2001 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2001/86/EC of 8 October 2001 supplementing the Statute for a European company with regard to the involvement of employees DIRECTIVE 2002/14/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community DIRECTIVE 2002/15/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 March 2002 on the organisation of the working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities DIRECTIVE 2003/41/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 3 June 2003 on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2003/72/EC of 22 July 2003 supplementing the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees DIRECTIVE 2003/88/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time DIRECTIVE 2005/56/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 26 October 2005 on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies DIRECTIVE 2006/54/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast) DIRECTIVE 2008/94 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 October 2008 on the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer DIRECTIVE 2008/104/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 November 2008 on temporary agency work DIRECTIVE 2009/38/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of companies for the purposes of informing and consulting employees COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC DIRECTIVE 2010/41/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity DIRECTIVE 2014/67/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 15 May 2014 on the enforcement of Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (“the IMI Regulation”).”
ARTICLE 157 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Equal pay for male and female workers)
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 91/533/EEC of 14 October 1991 on an employer‘s obligation to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 92/85/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding (tenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 94/33/EC of 22 June 1994 on the protection of young people at work
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 94/45/EC of 22 September 1994 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996 on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 96/71/EC of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 97/74/EC of 15 December 1997 extending, to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Directive 94/45/EC on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 97/75/EC of 15 December 1997 amending and extending, to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Directive 96/34/EC on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 98/23/EC of 7 April 1998 on the extension of Directive 97/81/EC on the framework agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 98/59/EC of 20 July 1998 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to collective redundancies
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 99/70/EC of 28 June 1999 concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 99/63/EC of 21 June 1999 concerning the Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers concluded by the European Community Ship-owners’ Association (ECSA) and the Federation of Transport Workers’ Unions in the European Union (FST)
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE NO 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2001/23/EC of 12 March 2001 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2001/86/EC of 8 October 2001 supplementing the Statute for a European company with regard to the involvement of employees
DIRECTIVE 2002/14/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community
DIRECTIVE 2002/15/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 March 2002 on the organisation of the working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities
DIRECTIVE 2003/41/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 3 June 2003 on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2003/72/EC of 22 July 2003 supplementing the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees
DIRECTIVE 2003/88/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time
DIRECTIVE 2005/56/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 26 October 2005 on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies
DIRECTIVE 2006/54/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast)
DIRECTIVE 2008/94 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 October 2008 on the protection of employees in the event of the insolvency of their employer
DIRECTIVE 2008/104/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 November 2008 on temporary agency work
DIRECTIVE 2009/38/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 6 May 2009 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of companies for the purposes of informing and consulting employees
COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC
DIRECTIVE 2010/41/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity
DIRECTIVE 2014/67/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 15 May 2014 on the enforcement of Directive 96/71/EC concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System (“the IMI Regulation”).”
This new schedule, which is linked to Amendment 9, lists the EU Directives relating to workers’ rights which would be excepted from the power to make regulations to remedy deficiencies in retained EU law.
Government amendment 33.
Amendment 58, in schedule 7, page 48, line 7, at end insert—
“12A Any power to make regulations under this Act may not be exercised by a Minister of the Crown until 14 days after the Minister has circulated a draft of the regulations to the citizens’ jury appointed under section (Citizens’ jury on Brexit negotiations).”
The intention of this Amendment is to provide for a citizens’ jury to be consulted before regulations are made under this Act.
Government amendments 35 and 36.
I rise to speak to new clause 1 and amendments 2 and 1, which stand in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. As you are aware, Mr Speaker, this remaining group contains a significant number of important issues, and while I want to spend time talking to each of our three amendments, I am conscious that time is limited, so I will endeavour to keep my remarks as brief as possible.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) reminded the House yesterday, as far back as last March the Opposition set out six ways in which the Bill required improvement. The first was that it be drafted in such a way as to enable transitional arrangements after 29 March 2019 on the same basic terms as now—including being in a customs union with the EU and within the single market. The second was that the sweeping delegated powers in the Bill be circumscribed. The third was that it needed to contain clear and robust protection and enforcement mechanisms for all EU-derived rights, entitlements, protections and standards. Sadly, despite some small steps in the right direction, the Government have largely failed to respond in any meaningful way to the concerns we raised in relation to these three areas. The purpose of new clause 1 and amendments 2 and 1 is to press the Government once again to do something about each of them.
I turn first to new clause 1, the purpose of which is to ensure that retained EU law enjoys a form of enhanced protection from subordinate legislation contained in other Acts of Parliament. This is a highly technical matter but a crucial one for the rights and protections our constituents enjoy. Mr Speaker, you were not in the Chamber at the time, but hon. Members who were present will recall that the House debated clauses 2, 3 and 4 in great detail on day two of Committee, and I certainly do not intend to cover the same ground again today. As we heard again yesterday, however, there are very real problems that flow from the ambiguous and uncertain status of retained EU law—a problem to which we believe new clause 13, tabled by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), provides a pragmatic solution, or at the very least a sensible starting point for a conversation about how the status of this new category of law could be more clearly defined.
Leaving to one side the issues relating to the status of retained EU law—issues that I have no doubt the other place will return to at some length—there is another, related concern, and that is the vulnerability of this new category of law to subordinate legislation and what that means in practical terms for the rights, entitlements, protections and standards our constituents currently enjoy. I want to be very clear as to the argument I am making at this point, because when I first did so on day two of Committee, the debate was prone to veer off on to other related but distinct issues.
The concern I am highlighting does not relate to the issue of how Parliament is to scrutinise and, where necessary, approve the hundreds of statutory instruments that will flow from clause 7, as well as clauses 8, 9 and 17. We welcomed the Government’s acceptance of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) and other members of the Procedure Committee, although we still believe that they do not go far enough, particularly in relation to the new sifting committee’s inability to request that Ministers revoke and remake specific statutory instruments.
Nor does the argument that I am advancing concern how the powers contained in this Bill might be used to amend, modify or repeal retained EU law. The specific issue that I am highlighting, and what new clause 1 seeks to address, is our serious concern that the Bill as drafted leaves retained EU law vulnerable to amendment, modification or repeal by subordinate legislation contained in numerous other Acts of Parliament.
Is it not the case that workers’ rights have no privileged status under the Bill? Once the Bill becomes an Act, those rights can be picked off by secondary legislation. If the Government wish to prevent workers from receiving proper holiday pay or to cap awards for discrimination, they will be easily able to do so.
That is absolutely true. The Government would be able to do that by using subordinate legislation in other Acts of Parliament. That applies not just to workers’ rights, but to other areas of law such as the environment and consumer rights. That category of law will lose its underpinnings following our departure from the EU.
Wrenched away from the enhanced protection enjoyed as a result of our EU membership, retained EU law—and we should bear in mind that that category of law might be with us for decades—will in many cases enjoy the lowest possible legislative status, and consequently the wide range of rights and protections that flow from it will be more vulnerable than they were before. The Opposition have repeatedly emphasised that Brexit must not lead to any watering down or weakening of EU-derived rights, particularly rights and standards in areas such as employment, equality, health and safety, consumers and the environment. That is why we tabled new clause 58 in Committee. Setting out the reasons why the Government were opposed to new clause 58, the Solicitor General argued that it would
“fetter powers across the statute book that Parliament has already delegated.”
“Relying only on powers set out in this Bill to amend retained EU law would be insufficient”.—[Official Report, 15 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 418.]
In keeping with the constructive approach that we have taken towards the Bill throughout this process, we have engaged seriously with the Solicitor General’s argument, and new clause 1 is the result. Like new clause 58, it seeks to give retained EU law a level of enhanced protection, thus avoiding a situation in which laws falling within the new category might enjoy the lowest possible legislative status. It also accepts the defence put forward by the Solicitor General, and provides a mechanism whereby a Minister may use regulations provided for in other Acts of Parliament to amend, repeal or modify retained EU law, but only in cases in which it is necessary to maintain or enhance rights and protections, and only after consultation. In short, it concedes that there are many instances in which the use of subordinate legislation contained in other Acts of Parliament might be necessary, but seeks to reconcile its use with a presumption of enhanced protection.
Since the referendum, Ministers have repeatedly stated that the Government do not wish to see any rights and protections diminished as a result of our departure from the EU. That is also what the public expect, but it requires a level of protection that the Bill as it stands does not provide. We hope that the Government will engage seriously with the new clause and accept it, but we intend to press it to a vote if they do not.
I think most of our constituents assume that the guarantees that they currently enjoy will continue. They will not know that many of these rights flow from and are underpinned by EU law, but they would expect them to be transposed in a way that would provide the same level of protection rather than the lowest possible legislative status. This is an issue to which we shall have to return, and one that the other place will no doubt tackle.
Amendment 2 seeks to further circumscribe the correcting powers contained in clause 7. Throughout this process, we have been at pains to argue that, to the extent that relatively wide delegated powers in the Bill are necessary, they should not be granted casually, and that when they are granted they should be limited whenever that is possible and practical. It is clear from their tabling of amendments 14 and 15, and consequential amendments, that the Government accept that there are shortcomings in the drafting of clause 7. We welcome the fact that the deficiencies identified in clause 7(2) will now form an exhaustive rather than an illustrative list—with the caveat, I should add, that the further deficiencies can be added at a later date. In effect, the list as drafted will be exhaustive unless Ministers subsequently decide that it is not. That is not perfect, but it does represent some progress.
Nevertheless, even with the incorporation of Government amendments 14 and 15, the correcting powers provided for which clause 7 provides are still too potent and too widely drawn. Suggestions on day six of the Committee stage that the clause ought to stipulate that the correcting power should be used only when necessary have been ignored, as have concerns that the Bill as drafted does not guarantee that the powers and functions of entities such as the European Commission and other EU agencies will continue to operate with equivalent scope, purpose and effect after exit day. Concerns that the Bill as drafted could be used for a purpose other than that which was intended— specifically, that it has the potential to diminish rights and protections—have likewise been ignored.
On day six, the Government had the chance to justify the drafting of the clause in detail and to address each of those concerns, but they did not do so adequately. They were also given an enormous menu of options, in amendments tabled by Back Benchers in all parties, whereby the powers in the clause—and, indeed, similar powers elsewhere in the Bill—might be constrained. Amendments 14 and 15 represent the totality of their response. As I have said, they are a step in the right direction. but on their own they are not enough. That is why we tabled amendment 2, which addresses comprehensively the range of flaws contained in clause 7 so that the correcting power is reasonably and proportionately circumscribed. If the Government do not indicate that they have taken those concerns on board and are prepared to act on them, we will press the amendment to a vote.
Amendment 1 seeks to ensure that the Bill can facilitate transitional arrangements after 29 March 2019 on the same basic terms as now. The Opposition have argued for some time that we need a time-limited transitional period between our exit from the EU and the future relationship that we build with our European partners. We believe that, to provide maximum certainty and stability, that transitional period should be based on the same basic terms as now. That includes our being in a customs union with the EU and in the single market, both of which will entail the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice for the period that is agreed. Our view is shared widely by businesses and trade unions, but for a long time it was considered to be anathema to the Prime Minister and senior members of her Cabinet.
I thank my hon. Friend for being so generous with his time. There are many cases, such as Marshalls Clay Products Ltd v. Caulfield and Gibson v. East Riding of Yorkshire Council, in which domestic courts have reached incorrect decisions on workers’ rights. If the European Court of Justice will no longer be the adjudicator after the transitional period, what will?
After the transitional period, the ECJ would not be the adjudicator. That would be dealt with as a matter of retained law. My hon. Friend has reinforced a point that I made earlier. We need a level of enhanced protection and the courts need clarity on how to interpret this new category of law, because if they do not have that clarity and certainty, they will be more vulnerable.
I hope shortly to be able to make a brief speech on that very subject, dealing with the question of whether or not there should be a power for the courts to disapply Acts of Parliament in relation to the matters to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.
Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), does my hon. Friend agree that either the institutions and agencies that currently enforce EU rights, privileges and protections should be maintained as EU agencies, or a transitional arrangement should involve agencies and institutions that will protect people’s rights in respect of, for instance, work, the environment and consumer issues?
I certainly believe that, when it is appropriate and when the country will derive benefit, we should continue to participate in EU agencies. The important point, however, is that when the functions and powers of EU agencies are transferred to either an existing or a new body, the purpose, scope and effect of the rights and protections that flow from those agencies should continue. That is one of the issues that clause 7 fails to address.
Returning to my earlier train of thought, all of this was why the Prime Minister’s Florence speech of last year was so welcome. It made it clear that Government policy was to seek, semantics about implementation versus transition aside, a time-limited period in which the UK and the EU would continue to have access to one another’s markets on current terms, and with Britain continuing to take part in existing security measures.
Crucially, the Prime Minister made it clear that this bridging arrangement would take place on the basis of
“the existing structure of EU rules and regulations.”
That quite clearly implied the acceptance of the jurisdiction of the ECJ, as confirmed by the Prime Minister in an answer to the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) in the weeks following the speech, when she stated:
“that may mean that we start off with the ECJ still governing the rules we are part of”. —[Official Report, 9 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 53.]
It is also set out in black and white in the phase 1 agreement.
With regard to the issue of transition or implementation, as the Government call it, does my hon. Friend agree that while it is of course necessary in particular to give time for our businesses to prepare, transition or implementation is no safe harbour if this Government are determined to pursue the extreme break from our relationship with the EU which have set out with their red lines? That is no safe harbour to jumping off a cliff; it just delays it, in fact.