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?
Absolutely. The UK is leading on this matter, having put it on the G8 agenda in 2013.
It is vital that developing countries have an effective tax collection system. What bilateral action are the Government taking to support countries to achieve that goal?
As I just said, I think we need to do something more hands-on and more practical, so I am dedicating some resource and a team within my Department to focus on that for every nation we work with.
Will my right hon. Friend commend the work of Conservatives in government to crack down on tax havens, including the leadership shown by David Cameron in making that a centrepiece of the UK’s G8 summit in 2013?
We have made considerable progress—for example, all our overseas territories that have a financial centre are now committed to global standards on tax transparency.
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—
Order. Minister, we have quite a lot of questions to get through, so we need shorter answers. Sorry, but we do.
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.
Will the Minister commend the work the Church of England is doing on modern-day slavery with its We See You campaign to help us all identify victims, including from Libya, more easily? All too often they are invisible to us.
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—
Order. I am sorry, but we must press on; we have a lot to get through. I call Mr Lamont.
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?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her appointment: we look forward greatly to working with her. We are proud of our track record on the 0.7% commitment, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will announce her strategic priorities shortly.
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?
The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to a serious aspect of the difficulties of restrictions. It is much in the UK’s mind, and we will continue to raise it.
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 the Minister taking to ensure that no taxpayers’ money from DFID ever ends up in the pockets of convicted terrorists?
It just does not. We do not give aid to terrorists, and the Palestinian Authority knows that.
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.
We obviously work closely with our EU partners on the delivery of international aid. As the Secretary of State makes her plans for working with the EU after we leave, is she working on the assumption that Turkey will be a member state?
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.
Order. We have got the gist of it.
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.
In relation to the work undertaken by the Department to combat modern slavery, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to praise our former colleagues Anthony Steen and Sir John Randall for the work they have done?
I am very happy to do that. They have made a huge contribution to an agenda that is one of our Prime Minister’s priorities. We are stepping up our efforts to ask other nations to lean in and follow suit.
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.
Will my right hon. Friend lead an international effort to support developing countries in creating jobs and livelihoods for young people?
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.
This Government have rightly been at the forefront of the international fight against modern slavery. Does my right hon. Friend believe that we can spread around the world some of the best practice learned here?
My hon. Friend is right. In addition to the leadership we have shown and the work my Department does, there is more we can do to harness the power of technology to prevent people from falling victim to slavery and trafficking.
One short sentence please, Patrick Grady.
There were a couple of semicolons in there!
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—
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
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—
What about the apprentices?
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 am very happy to answer questions when the right hon. Gentleman asks one. He did not.
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?
I am afraid I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that of course—
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.
Can the Prime Minister tell the House what official advice she has had on the impact of the UK economy from leaving the EU single market and when she requested any such advice?
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.
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is extremely alert, and I am alert to what he is going to say.
A question keeps me awake at night: how will companies be encouraged to follow the Prime Minister’s lead in the way that Iceland has done?
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.
We can all learn about brevity, myself included, from the right hon. Gentleman.
Obviously I am sorry to hear of the case that the hon. Gentleman has set out. I am very happy to ensure that that case is properly looked into.
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.
This country has a fine record, over not just decades but centuries, of welcoming refugees and ensuring that people can come to this country and make their home in this country, and that is what we will continue to do.
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.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That response was clear. If others wish to continue discussing the matter, they can do so, but they should not do so in this Chamber. I am deeply obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said.
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.
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me advance notice of her intention to raise this matter. I will just inquire of her whether she has given notice of this to the Minister concerned.
I have not.
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.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second 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.
Is it not important for the public to be reassured about workers’ rights, given reports in the media of Cabinet discussions about scrapping the working time directive?
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.
I am not sure that that warranted an intervention, but I await the hon. Gentleman’s contribution with bated breath.
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.
I absolutely agree; and the unpicking of, or wheeling back from, some of the progress we felt had been made in the Florence speech is one of our concerns.
The Bill before us was drafted before the Florence speech, but rather than amend the Bill to reflect the evolution of Government policy outlined by the Prime Minister in that speech, the Government chose instead to fashion a legislative straitjacket for themselves in the form of enshrining “exit day” for all purposes in the Bill as 11 pm on 29 March 2019. Let us be clear: bringing forward amendments to stipulate that exit day for all purposes of the Bill had nothing to do with leaving the EU. The article 50 notification made our departure from the EU on 29 March 2019 a legal certainty, so, for the purposes of the Bill, exit day could be left in the hands of Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman just used the phrase “legal certainty” in referring to our departure from the EU on 29 March 2019. Does that mean that he has seen legal advice that article 50 cannot be revoked? Is the Labour Front-Bench position that it is impossible, as opposed to politically inexpedient, to consider revoking article 50?
The hon. Gentleman tempts me down an avenue that has nothing to do with the point I am making, which is that it remains unclear why the Government tabled three exit day amendments to their own Bill which have sown further confusion. We do not know why they did that—whether it was driven by Tory party management considerations or some other reason. The effect of those Government amendments would have been to end the jurisdiction of the ECJ on 29 March 2019, thereby preventing agreement on a transitional period on current terms.
The Government clearly soon realised their mistake and to save face enlisted the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), who is not in his place, to table amendments to loosen the legislative straitjacket they themselves had created. But his amendments, which the Government have accepted, only provide a limited form of flexibility. Ministers may now amend the definition of exit day in clause 14 for the purposes of the Bill if the date when the treaties cease to apply to the UK is different from 29 March 2019. However, there is good reason to argue that that power might not be sufficient to facilitate transitional arrangements after 29 March 2019 on the same basic terms as now. If it is not—this might end up being the most bizarre aspect of the Bill’s curious parliamentary process—the Government will find themselves in the ludicrous position of having to amend this Bill when they bring forward the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill later this year.
I think that is a virtual certainty in any event. On the basis of the Bill that the Government have promised the House for the end of this year, it seems to me that it will be a substitute for the arrangements under the existing European Communities Act, so I think that must be what is going to happen.
I agree, but what I would say—and why I would urge Members to support this amendment—is that it need not require the amendment of this Bill to allow the facilitation of transitional arrangements on the same terms in addition to the provisions that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say will be needed in that further Act of Parliament.
We still believe that it should be Parliament, not Ministers, that decides exit day for the various purposes in the Bill. Our amendment 1 helpfully bolsters the position set out by the Prime Minister in the Florence speech by ensuring that this Bill can facilitate transitional arrangements on the same terms as now.
Given that this is, of course, Government policy, it is a wonder that the Government did not bring forward such an amendment themselves. They did not do so because they cannot agree on what the transition means. There can be no clearer evidence for that than the recent appointment of the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes) to the Department for Exiting the European Union team, given her past form in seeking to actively undermine the policy position set out in the Florence speech by encouraging her colleagues to sign a European Research Group letter to the Prime Minister objecting to crucial aspects of it. It is ironic that those Tory MPs who voted for amendment 7 back in December are viewed by many as having betrayed the Government, while those who actively undermine stated Government policy appear to get promoted in quick succession.
Amendment 1 is simply an attempt to restore some common sense to the question of exit day for the purposes of this Bill. It would ensure that this Bill can facilitate any transitional arrangements agreed as part of the article 50 negotiations and that we avoid the ludicrous situation of potentially having to come back to amend this Bill in order to do so. It is in line with stated Government policy, and we therefore look forward to the Government not only accepting it, but welcoming it.
The Opposition have made it clear from the outset that a Bill of this kind is necessary to disentangle ourselves from the European Union’s legal structures and to ensure that we have a functioning statute book on the day we leave. But as we argued on Second Reading in September last year, this Bill is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. Sadly, despite the small number of welcome concessions, and the implications for the legislation of the defeat the Government suffered at the hands of amendment 7 and the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) on 12 December, it remains a fundamentally flawed Bill. Those flaws still need to be addressed either by this House today or in the other place, and on that basis I urge all hon. Members to support new clause 1 and amendments 2 and 1.
I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) in his place behind me, where I always welcome him. When I arrived, I inquired whether he had had a cup of coffee before today’s long proceedings, and I undertake to try to have no soporific effects on those Members who have survived to the eighth day of this Committee and Report stage.
I do not intend to follow entirely the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), although I listened to many of the points he made with considerable sympathy; I am quite sure that clause 7 will require more work when it gets to another place, and I also have considerable sympathy with what he said about the confusion now surrounding exit day and the ability to proceed to what I am sure is the obvious transition arrangement we are going to have to have for quite a long time, which will be on precisely the same terms that we have at the moment, so far as access to the market is concerned.
I will turn my attention, however, to the Bill’s impact on the economy, following from new clause 17, which is in this selection and strikes me as excellent, and several more of the same kind. In our eight days, the House has not had anything like adequate opportunities to consider this absolutely vital policy implication of what we are embarked upon as we seek to leave the EU. I do not share the view that the Bill needs to be treated in this House or the other place as a mere technical or necessary Bill of legal transition; we have the opportunity to put into the Bill some of the essential aspects of our future economic relationship and to allow the House to express a view and put into statute things that we wish, and instruct in line with our constitution, the Government of the day to follow.
There is undoubtedly going to be some economic cost to this country, regardless of the means by which we eventually leave the European Union. If we have a complete break with no deal, the implications could be very serious indeed. I am one of those who think it rather foolish to try to put precise figures on this. The Scottish National party earlier tried to make precise estimates of what would happen because a think-tank had put out a range of consequences, depending on which options were followed. It was rather reminiscent of the arguments put forward by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer when he tried to help the remain side during the referendum campaign. They were really rather fanciful figures.
As I have mentioned the SNP, I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.
Clearly, any forecast or projection is going to be approximate, and I do not think that anyone is claiming that the Scottish Government’s figures are precise. But would the right hon. and learned Gentleman prefer to defend a position that was backed up by approximations and forecasts that may or may not be accurate, or would he prefer to be in the Government’s position of defending a position backed up by no impact analysis whatever?
I shall turn to that in a moment, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman entirely. I was not making a criticism of the think-tank, which has done its best, but we all know from experience that all economic forecasting should be taken with a slight grain of salt. It is utterly beyond the capacity of either the Treasury or the most expert outside groups to predict with absolute confidence what the precise consequences will be.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?
I would like to move on. I was merely making a passing remark about the unwisdom of trying to put a figure on this, but I will give way.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I wonder, given that he is talking about the impact on the economy, whether he has heard the remarks by Christophe Bondy, the legal counsel to the Canadian Government during the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations. He has described Brexit as being like trying to
“blow up a bridge without bankrupting yourself”
at the same time. He has also said that the Canadian deal and our coming out of the single market and customs union are very different.
I agree with that second point strongly, and I will consider the implications of the quote.
The point I am trying to make is that, whatever the basis on which we come out, there are bound to be adverse effects on the British economy if we create new barriers between ourselves and the biggest free market in the world. No other Government would remotely contemplate moving out of such a completely open and free market and deliberately raising barriers by way of tariffs, customs processes or regulatory divergences between themselves and such a hugely valuable market. It is particularly valuable to us not only because it is a huge market but because it is on our doorstep. We have played a major part in creating this totally open trade.
If we proceed to a deal in which we withdraw, we will inevitably find ourselves, to some degree or other, taking an economic blow and probably making future generations less prosperous than they would otherwise have been. It is important that we all realise that, which is why it is a great pity that the House is not being given the information necessary to make a really informed judgment, as the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) has just said, or being allowed any opportunity to guide the Government and hold them to account for the course on which they are set on these economic and trading implications.
In his assessment, has my right hon. and learned Friend taken into account the fact that services within the European Union have never been completed under the single market? Furthermore, our deficit in the past year with the other 27 member states has gone up by another £10 billion, while our surplus in our trading with the rest of the world has grown exponentially by another £6 billion or £7 billion, so I really rather doubt his conclusions.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s first point. For as long as I can remember, it has been the policy of Conservative Governments, some of which I have served in—indeed, it is a policy in which I have been involved from time to time—to press for the single market to be extended to cover all services. Until the referendum almost 18 months ago, we were still actively engaged in canvassing for that and trying to push it forward inside the EU. We are also making considerable progress towards a digital single market across Europe, which will be very important. The other member states are likely to go on and complete that quite soon.
On my hon. Friend’s second point, I think he is referring to the economic doctrine that used to be known as mercantilism, of which President Donald Trump is extremely fond. I regret to say that it is a great fallacy that a free market trading arrangement is valuable only to the party to it that has a surplus in trade for the time being and that it is a handicap to the party that, for the time being, happens to have a deficit. However, I do not think that this is the occasion on which we should debate this matter at length. He and I are both guilty of debating these things at length.
I do not accept my hon. Friend’s argument. For example, if we are going to solve our problems when we leave Europe by having a free trade deal with the United States, which I find wholly unlikely, one of the things that Donald Trump will eventually notice is that we have a large bilateral trade surplus with his country. That is why the only interest we will get from America is in how it can open up our market, mainly to its food products, with which our farmers will find it very difficult to compete. We will also discover that Donald Trump has decided that all trade agreements involve regulatory convergence. We will either have the same regulations or something that we as part of the EU were trying to negotiate with the Americans—namely, mutual recognition of regulations.
When our Secretary of State for International Trade came back from his preliminary excursion to offer the Americans this great opportunity to throw open their markets to us without conditions as never before, he found that one of the first things he had to do was try to persuade the British public to see the advantages of chlorinated chicken. He could have gone on to talk about hormone-treated beef and genetically modified crops. As it happens, I have no strong objection to those things—I have eaten in America and I have survived—but I am not sure that that would be an easy sell to the British public or to the House of Commons. Indeed, I think it would be a very difficult sell to the House of Commons.
The fact remains that the benefit of free trade agreements is that—so long as we are careful not to go into areas where we can see we cannot compete—they can stimulate increased economic activity on both sides of the deal. As for the fact that our trade over recent years with non-EU countries has grown more than our trade with EU countries has done, that is the way in which the globalised economy has worked since the 1990s. We actually do very badly in an awful lot of the strong emerging countries. The Germans completely outperform us in China, for example, but we have got going there. The fact is therefore that every other country will find that their trade with countries that were previously poor and are now rapidly emerging will grow faster than their trade with their traditional markets. That does not alter the fact that our European market is absolutely dominant.
My hon. Friend and I have been debating the subject for so long, and I think it would be unwise for the two of us to get bogged down in mercantilism. I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the assessment of impact. I think that it is important that we call it an assessment of impact rather than an impact assessment, because the Government can hide behind the formal impact assessment process. On the assessment of impact, would he like to speculate about why the Government are so adamant that Members of Parliament should not be allowed to receive this information?
The points I hoped to make in my speech are being put to me by others, which may have the welcome effect of shortening my contribution. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman.
My right hon. and learned Friend has not given us many numbers so far, and the one he has given us is wrong. We have actually had eight days in Committee and two days on Report, and we had an extensive debate on Second Reading in which many of these larger issues were strongly reviewed. We had very detailed short-term forecasts from the Treasury of what would happen in the year or so immediately after the vote if we voted to leave. We now know they were comprehensively wrong in forecasting a recession, a big rise in unemployment and a big fall in house prices. Why were they so wrong, and what has he learned from that?
My defence is that I did not use any of those arguments in the campaigning I took part in during the referendum. The referendum campaign was somewhat taken over by the then Chancellor and the then Prime Minister, both friends of mine and people with whom I politically agree on Europe, and I would not have made the same choice of arguments. I thought at the time that they were spinning the short-term forecasts far too far and, with hindsight following the rather narrow result, they rather discredited the remain campaign. Surprisingly, I am rather in agreement with my right hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend may not have been here in time to hear me begin by saying that all attempts to produce a precise forecast of any change in economic arrangements are fraught with peril. I would have preferred the referendum to have been fought on arguments about the benefits, in the opinion of those on my side, that membership of the EU has brought to this country in enabling us to develop a powerful political role in the world as one of the leading members of the EU, in helping the bloc to hold its own against America, China, India and the emerging powers and in the considerable economic success that we achieved for most of the 47 years of our membership. There is no doubt that the common market and then particularly the single market have made a considerable contribution to our prosperity.
That enables me to return to the point of my speech, which is the economic consequences and how the House might be enabled to hold the Government to account for the likely economic consequences—properly and cautiously anticipated—when they have a policy on the eventual outcome they are trying to negotiate and then, because it will inevitably change in the real world, when a deal is ultimately negotiated.
I would prefer us to continue in the single market and the customs union. The point has been made, including by me, so I will repeat it in only one sentence, but at no point in the referendum campaign did the leavers say that one of the advantages of leaving is that we will leave the single market and the customs union. Most of them never mentioned it, and the ones who were reported in the national media did not mention it. It was all about Turks coming here to take our jobs and about extra money for the health service. Both sides used equally foolish arguments, or at least the national media only chose to report the foolish arguments. The people I debated with in town halls did not use such nonsense.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that we are less likely to catch up with the Germans on penetrating the Chinese market if we are out of the EU? We will have our back to the wall, facing tariffs, if we are not in the EU, and the Chinese will be able to bargain harder against a small player with few resources and little trade.
That is possible. The idea that the Germans find membership of the European Union a disadvantage in their economic performance in the modern world is, of course, a rather farcical fallacy. If we weaken our attractiveness to inward investment and if we weaken ourselves as a base for trade with the rest of Europe, we will attract less investment and less trade with the wider world, too. I entirely agree that that is a risk.
The Lancaster House speech transformed things by suddenly making the Government’s policy particularly dependent, apparently, on leaving the single market, leaving the common market and, incidentally, repudiating the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which I will not go into because I have never been able to work out why the work of those judges, including the excellent British judges we have had on that Court, is particularly criticised. That is another matter.
I have never heard any Government Front Bencher attack the single market in itself or the customs union. When we hear speeches from Ministers about a bespoke new trade agreement, it sounds very much like an unbroken continuation of all the access we have to the rest of Europe under the single market and the customs union. The only objection to the single market, and the Prime Minister once expressed this to me at Prime Minister’s questions, is the four freedoms that go with it, including the free movement of labour. I still imagine that other countries would quite like to address the free movement of labour.
I think free movement of labour does us good—I would not want to get rid of it—but we do not need to run it in quite the lax way we have been running it for the last 20 years. The only other objection to a customs union, and I do not regard it as an adequate reason—staying in the customs union would solve the Northern Ireland and Irish Republic problem practically overnight—is that it stops the Secretary of State for International Trade going out and negotiating marvellous new trading arrangements with all sorts of places. Negotiating such arrangements would, of course, produce a hole in the common customs barrier that the customs union creates.
If anything, I am afraid the world is more protectionist than it used to be. The last great attempt by those of us who believe in a rules-based order in the global system was the Doha round, in which we tried to get the WTO rules to move on from their present rudimentary condition after what was then the triumph of the Uruguay round. The Doha round went on for years and years, and eventually it went into the sand. It was never completed to the satisfaction of anyone who agrees that there are benefits to all societies from having properly regulated and protected free trade.
I have already addressed the idea that, when we are no longer negotiating as a member of the EU, Trump’s America will be more likely than Obama’s America to throw open its doors to unfettered access to whichever goods and services we wish to send. The Brazilians are ambiguous. The EU has everything to gain from dealing with Brazil, but the difficulties are that Brazil insists on exporting food products on a grand scale and the internal economy of Brazil does not naturally lend itself to free trade. Mercosur, as a group, is almost incapable of agreeing on any common position.
I will not go on but, much though some in the present Administration would wish otherwise, I do not think India is yet ready for free trade agreements with countries such as Britain. I wish I could feel more confident it were otherwise, but I think the Lok Sabha will daunt anyone who tries to take on the various pressures in India in order to have a free trade agreement. I have been to India myself to try to get it to open up to legal services, with considerable support from a lot of Indian businesses that would like some of our countries to provide international quality services in Delhi so that they do not have to come to London to get their advice, but protectionism in every aspect of Indian society is not to be understated. We are not going to get far. I will not go on about China, as I said I would not go country by country.
This is all an absolute illusion. I would prefer to stay where we are, but apparently we are moving out. We are demanding a bespoke arrangement but, as yet, we have not been clear what that bespoke arrangement is, which is a considerable difficulty. This has been debated already and we have got some concessions, although they are not yet good enough, but when we finally reach a stage where the British Government intend to ratify a proposed deal, it is perfectly obvious to me from all our past constitutional conventions that they should come to Parliament to get its approval for that ratification. There was a key vote in 1972 when we joined the European Union. There was approval in principle of the deal that was proposed, which attracted Jenkinsite support to give the then Government a majority over their imperialist rebels, who were voting against it. But we started legislating in 1972 only when we had the approval of the House of Commons, by quite a comfortable majority, to ratify on the terms that were presented and explained. The same should happen here.
Given my strictures about the referendum debate, and some of the others we have had, I think that the more we can do to make sure we have an informed debate on whatever trade, investment and other deal is proposed with the EU, the more likely we are to uphold the duty we all have in this House to apply our judgment of the national interest, to think a little of the future as well as the short-term politics and to decide whether or not this vital consent of Parliament is to be given.
My right hon. and learned Friend has made a very important point. I represent a very young constituency in London. The bottom line, looking ahead, is that, if Brexit does not work for young people in our country, in the end it will not be sustainable and when they take their place here, they will seek to improve or undo what we have done and make it work for them. So we absolutely have a duty in this House to look ahead and ensure that whatever we get is sustainable and works for them.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend on that. One extraordinary thing about the division of opinion is that I have never known it to be so much on generational lines. There are some zealot young leavers and there are one or two, like me, old fogey, very sound remainers, but otherwise the public have not usually been divided so fiercely on generational grounds. In my limited experience—I do spend a lot of time in London’s House of Commons—I would have thought places such as Richmond and Putney would underline that very heavily. My experience of young, ambitious, professional business and other people in London has been that for the first time in my life I have had complete strangers from that category walk up to me in the streets just to thank me for taking part in this campaign. [Interruption.] I see that other Members have exactly the same experience. I am sure the silent people who walk by deplore my views, but this just brings home to me how divided the nation is and, curiously, it is on generational grounds. Therefore, unless something happens, the pro-remain sentiment is likely to increase as a proportion of the country as we go on. But if we leave and are then forced by events to start going back again, I cannot think of a more chaotic situation. That is why we need the information to make a proper assessment when eventually the Government, as they will have to and are entitled to, come back to this House to present the proposed deal—not a deal they have already done and signed up to—for approval.
The Government have vast amounts of material on this subject and vast access to resources, and they have no reason for excluding the House of Commons totally. I am talking not about their negotiating position, because of course they will exclude us from that, but about the basis of the objective, independent advice they have received. That is why I thought it was wise for the House of Commons to pass the motion, which the Government allowed it to do, asking them to produce papers, after Ministers had rightly said that there were all these impact assessments and so on. I bow to the Select Committee, to which we rightly transferred responsibility for looking at that and considering the matter, but I agree with the intervention I took from the hon. Member for Glenrothes.
The Government escaped from that position by suddenly taking the most narrow interpretation of the words “impact assessment”. Apparently, civil servants, who are always capable of coming up with helpful advice, said, “Strictly speaking, Minister, in Whitehall, ‘impact assessment’ means this.” That is not quite how we set it out, so that was refused. Then this was all edited, probably with large parts of it rewritten. What we do not have is what we undoubtedly require: an impact assessment, by whatever description, using the advice that comes to the Government from the Treasury, the central Bank, the Office for Budget Responsibility and any consultants they have taken in, of the basis on which this deal is being proposed and what the best advice they can obtain about its impact is. I am astonished that we have got so far into the proceedings and the debate on our future relationships with Europe and we still do not seem to be any nearer to persuading the Government ever to divulge any of this. I do not think we should wait for the 20-year or 30-year rule before we are allowed to see on what basis the Government were proceeding. As I began by saying, I agree with new clause 17 that we should specify that proper, full information is shared by the Government with this House before they come for our approval.
As ever, my right hon. and learned Friend is making an exceptionally important speech and doing so eloquently. As he will know, a group from the all-party group on EU relations has just been over to Brussels, where we spoke to a number of people. Many of those conversations will remain between us, as we agreed. Does he agree that it could well be argued that the Government made a mistake in rushing into saying no to the customs union and to the single market without fully understanding the implications, not just for our economy, but in terms of how this has meant that a range of options has now been taken off the table by the UK Government, when the EU has made it very clear that all options remain on the table as far as it is concerned?
My right hon. Friend and I have many friends in common. I am delighted that she went over to see Michel Barnier and others, whom I saw in slightly different company shortly before. I agree entirely with what she says, and I would add that the people she was meeting, people like Michel Barnier, are not Anglophobes. They are not just seeking to strike points off the UK. Every person of any common sense on either side of the channel knows that the minimum of disruption to trade between our countries is, for the reasons I was arguing with my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) a little time ago, of mutual benefit to those countries. They are looking to negotiate a serious, grown-up agreement that preserves, so far as is possible, the benefits of our present arrangement.
It will be extremely difficult. There is no getting away from the fact that the 27 countries will all have to be in agreement with whatever the eventual deal is and will all submit to their Parliaments a vote to approve that deal, and it is going to be very difficult to get them to agree. They will not surrender the basic tenets of the EU in order to leave us all the benefits of the single market without any of the obligations. Not only will they not agree that the British taxpayer should stop paying a penny towards the costs of market access so that the taxpayers of Germany, the Netherlands and other rich countries pay more to make up for our refusal to pay our share, but they will not let us get out of all the political implications of membership of the EU simply to have solely the trading benefits.
We saw this recently with the members of the European economic area and their perfectly comfortable arrangement. The Norwegians had to go into the EEA because they had negotiated a perfectly sensible arrangement to become full members of the EU—I had many happy discussions with my then opposite number, the Norwegian Finance Minister, who was looking forward to joining the EU—but then held a referendum. They got into the same mess that we have got into, so they put quite a good alternative together, which I still find quite attractive.
The fact is that what we get will be unsatisfactory compared with complete membership of the single market and customs union. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), I do not think that anybody realised at the time quite what was involved in respect of what seemed a speech likely to be valuable politically in getting good write-ups in the right-wing press. We are now trying to get out of that and to slip back a little to get a more sensible arrangement. The House needs to know what expert advice the Government have on the implications of any deal, and new clause 17 provides a mechanism by which we can legally oblige the Government to produce it.
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman concluded his speech?
I have, and everybody still seems to be awake!
Everybody is awake; we have been listening to the right hon. and learned Gentleman with rapt attention.
I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) on warming up the debate so well. In a way, Mr Speaker, I feel sorry for you in the Chair, because it is perfectly ridiculous that the programme order is such that we have to conclude our series of debates at 4.30 pm when so many issues have not been properly aired on Report. I said that during yesterday’s debate on the programme motion, and I hope that Members in the other place will bear that in mind when they consider the Bill.
I tabled amendments on six issues that I did not think had been adequately covered in Committee. Being a dutiful Member, I felt it my responsibility to table amendments to cover those issues, but I must rush through them, because otherwise I will not exactly be flavour of the month with many of my colleagues.
Don’t say “Hear, hear” in that way.
New clause 5 addresses a massive topic. It simply says, almost in the words of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, that after we have left the EU, we should have the exact same benefits for the service industries in our country—including financial, legal and professional services—as we have now. The service sector accounts for some 80% of the British economy. During our consideration of the Bill, we have not yet really debated the implications for the service sector. It is often easier to talk about the trade in goods, because goods are tangible—they are physical, and we can imagine them crossing borders, going through ports and so forth—but in many ways we excel in our service sector, so new clause 5 would simply put into the Bill the commitment that Ministers have previously given that they would seek the exact same benefits.
I do not have much time to go into new clause 5 and I shall try not to take too many interventions, but how can I resist my right hon. Friend?
Does my hon. Friend agree that on the question of services, never mind goods, this is probably going to be the first negotiation in human history in which a Government have gone into the process knowing that they will come out with a worse deal than the one currently enjoyed? The reason for that is the red lines that the Government have set for themselves. Does not that demonstrate what a profound error this has been, especially when we now know that the decisions on those red lines were taken without any assessment at all of their economic impact?
Absolutely; I could not have put it better myself. We currently have, in the shape of the single market, one of the finest free trade agreements available to any country anywhere in the world. It is frictionless and tariff-free and, of course, it offers great opportunities for those in the UK service sector to sell their services to 500 million customers. There was nothing about departing from the single market on the referendum ballot paper, so this is a ridiculous red line that the Government should not have put in place. I take this opportunity to gently ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench please not to acquiesce to the red lines. The fact that the Government have set them does not necessarily mean that they are correct. I want the Labour party to fight for permanent access to and membership of the single market, and I will not stop making that point.
New clause 2 might look a bit lengthy, but it sets out what we should hope to expect to see in the withdrawal agreement that is currently being negotiated by the Prime Minister and the European Commission. I think that a lot of people expected, having passed phase 1, that this was going to be the moment to talk about trade and the sort of deal we were going to get. That is not where we are in the negotiation. We have entered a period of talks about talks—that is simply where we are in this phase 2 arrangement. The article 50 process specifies that, after we have buttoned down a transition arrangement—I shall come to that in a minute—we can perhaps hope to get a framework for our future relationship. That could easily be a single side of A4 with very warm words saying, “Let’s all work together,” and we would then be supposed to depart on our one-way journey without knowing for sure where we were heading.
I have put into new clause 2 the sort of basic headings that we would expect to see in a pretty basic trade agreement. If the withdrawal agreement is to be acceptable to me, those things need to be spelled out, because I could not recommend an agreement to my constituents unless we had buttoned down some degree of certainty with our EU counterparts so that we knew what we were to be getting.
The issue of the withdrawal agreement was supposed to be resolved last December, as part of phase 1 of the negotiations. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is abundantly clear that there are massive potential pitfalls, particularly in respect of the relationship with the Irish Republic, in the translation of what appears on the face of it to have been a mutually convenient fudge into what will in fact be a binding treaty obligation?
That is absolutely right, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman neatly and helpfully moves me on to my new clause 3, which deals with the question of the Irish hard border. I think that many people read the phase 1 agreement in an optimistic light. In many ways, those words were all things to all people. The can was kicked down the road, but there will have to be a translation into some sort of legal text by the time we get to the withdrawal agreement. Heaven help us when the two sides to the negotiations have to start talking in specific terms.
The Prime Minister had a slightly different view from the Republic of Ireland of what the phase 1 agreement meant. She reported back to the House that it was simply to be restricted to the issues listed in the Belfast agreement, which does not, of course, include trade in goods, to mention just one small policy area. There are massive questions about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. People in that area share reciprocal healthcare, as well as environmental factors such as rivers, streams and lakes. They have a shared energy market and shared fisheries, food and plant arrangements. All those are shared because of the very geography of what are two distinct countries, so trying to fudge the issue just will not work, particularly if the UK is a third party.
Is not it essential that at some stage in these Brexit negotiations the Government legislate to protect the fundamental principles of the Good Friday agreement—the Belfast agreement? Those principles include freedom from discrimination, equality under the law and parity of esteem. They are fundamental principles—I could go on listing them, but I will not—so is it not essential that the Government protect them?
I believe that that is essential. I completely agree with the hon. Lady, which was why I took the exact words from the phase 1 agreement to create the text of new clause 3. If the Government really mean to commit to there being no hard border, they should enshrine that commitment in the Bill. That is the test for the Government—it is what they have to prove if they really believe that this was not just some mealy mouthed commitment to get them through a particular difficulty in the short term.
My hon. Friend has spoken about the island of Ireland on many occasions during our scrutiny of the Bill. Could not this complicated issue be easily resolved, and does not the resolution lie in the customs union and the single market?
That is indeed the case, but the Prime Minister said, “Oh no, that’s a red line.” The difficulty is that Prime Ministers can get into stubborn positions. Are they going to have to back down? How do they deal with these things? It would be a measure of the Prime Minister’s status and stature were she to say, “On reflection, I have looked at this issue and it cannot be solved.” I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), will be encouraging the Prime Minister to do that, because she has that way about her. The Prime Minister should change her mind and say, “Things have changed.”
My hon. Friend is obviously making some absolutely excellent points, but the crucial thing is how all this matters practically for people and businesses. I wonder whether he saw yesterday’s concerning announcement about the opening of a new ferry route between Spain and the Republic of Ireland. The port of Cork expressly said that it was doing that to avoid having to come through all the Brexit uncertainty that was being created in the United Kingdom.
I did indeed see that. Think of all the distorting arrangements that will pop up.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I must make some progress, because I have to talk about new clause 4, which relates to the divorce bill—the payment or the settlement. The Prime Minister said that the amount would be somewhere between £35 billion and £39 billion. When the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham, was on “Question Time”, she said that that was absolute nonsense and would never happen, but it turns out that £39 billion equates to over £700 for every adult in the UK. That is how much we are talking about. That is £700 a head for all the men and women in her constituency who voted for her and all those who did not vote. Strangely, that did not feature on the side of the red bus, and the notion of £350 million a week for the NHS has disappeared into thin air. We do not want to catch that particular bus ever again.
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), who chairs the Treasury Committee, has written to the Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office to ask him to examine the reasonableness of the sum. The phase 1 agreement said that a methodology had been agreed between the two sides to calculate the sum, but that has not been made available as far as I can see. I hope that the NAO will have that methodology, and that it will go through the agreement with a fine-toothed comb to find the exact figure that our constituents will end up paying.
Amendment 39 seeks to tease out what is happening on the question of transition, for which there are all sorts of metaphors. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) talked about there being no safe harbour, but the metaphor I like to give is that, if we have a cliff edge, transition is about our having a plank going a few feet out from the cliff edge: it would perhaps give us a bit of extra time, but it would not obviate the precipitousness of the fall that could affect the country—it simply defers when that will happen. The European Union side is absolutely clear that if we are going to have a transition, it will need to be on exactly the same arrangements that we have now, minus having Britain around the table with a say on the rules. That was why I tabled amendment 39. The Government have to get on with securing a transition, and the Chancellor was right to talk about it as a diminishing asset.
The arrangements had better be visible and available for businesses to see by the time we get to Easter and the March European Council meeting, because they need to know what will happen. Otherwise, quite naturally, they are going to have to make contingency plans to protect their business thereafter. I was talking to the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union, which has come up with the sort of transition deal that it believes that many of its firms that work and invest here, employing many of our constituents, want to see. It thinks that a transition needs to have two distinct aspects. First, there needs to be a bridging period during which we can settle all the rules, finish all the negotiations, and establish the treaties and procedure. That will definitely take more than 21 months, and I saw that the chief executive of the EEF was completely scathing yesterday about how little could be achieved in the period currently envisaged. Secondly, there needs to be an adaptation period—a phasing in of the new rules. We need to start getting into exactly what the transition will involve, and that was why I tabled amendment 39.
My final point is about new clause 6, on which I will seek the views of the House if I get the opportunity. It relates to what will happen if unforeseen circumstances arise in the process. What will right hon. and hon. Members do if the Government come back with an unacceptable deal? We need to know what our options are. We have asked the Prime Minister on many occasions about the article 50 process. It is a notification process, and she sent the letter in, but when we ask whether the process can be extended, altered or revoked, she says that that is not the Government’s policy. That, of course, is not the question we are asking. We are asking whether the process can be extended. What is the legal advice? The Government have obviously taken legal advice, and I suspect that it says that the UK, if it so chose and the circumstances arose, could unilaterally revoke article 50. We would of course have to do that before exit day, because if we chose to do so after exit day, we would be looking to apply to rejoin the EU under article 49, which would mean our losing many of the benefits in our current deal. We in the House of Commons need to know the options available to us.
On that point in particular, does my hon. Friend agree that all the new clauses and amendments are about trying to get greater openness and honesty about the pros, cons and trade-offs of the choices we face as a country? It is vital that that information is available not just to this House, but to the public. It is our job as Members of Parliament to put it before the country, because these huge decisions have big consequences, but we have had to drag the Government every step of the way towards putting such information before the country.
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is important that our constituents know that nothing is inevitable. One parliamentary decision cannot bind a successor Parliament, because Parliament has the capability to do a number of things. Although the article 50 notice signalling the Government’s intention has been sent in, it is not a binding commitment.
It might be my intention to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I might change my mind by the time I get there. I can walk towards a Division Lobby while thinking that it is my intention to vote for a particular issue, but I might change my mind at the last minute. We are all able to change our minds. That is the nature of life, and we can all do the same in a dynamic democracy and Parliament.
Article 50 says that treaties shall cease to apply from
“the date of… the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification”,
but we will have left only after those events. Article 50 is of course silent on what happens during the two-year interim period before the agreement. We are still full members of the European Union, prior to the withdrawal agreement or the expiry of the two-year period, so it stands to reason that we should continue to act as such. The framers of article 50, who include Lord Kerr, said that a “request readmission after negotiation” clause was not necessary because that was taken as read. That is how the 1969 Vienna convention on the law of treaties operates, and it is accepted by many jurisdictions around the world. Article 68 of the Vienna convention states:
“A notification or instrument… may be revoked at any time before it takes effect.”
That is the widely understood nature of such treaties.
I just thought that I would draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017. I do not think that he voted for it, but 499 other Members did, and it passed the House of Lords, so I would have thought that that would be quite a difficult problem for him to overcome.
No Parliament can bind its successor, and that Act was passed in a different Parliament. It may not be necessary for the UK to consider extending or revoking the article 50 process, but it might prove necessary. MPs and the public have a right to know that such options are available. Nothing is inevitable about this whole process. Choices and options are available to this country, and the Government should publish their legal advice and a summary of that advice. There is ample precedent for doing that. Indeed, when the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) was Attorney General, he published summaries of legal advice. The measure does not even ask for a breach of the confidentialities between client and legal adviser, but this House is entitled to a summary. We need to know and the public need to know, which I is why I want to press new clause 6 to a Division, if I get the opportunity.
There will be a change of tone, because the speeches so far have been understandably wide ranging, and mine will be much more narrow and technically focused and also much shorter. I say by way of preface that it is both strange and regrettable that the analysis of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) was not adopted by the remain campaign, because we might have been saved a great deal of trouble if it had been. Frankly, he speaks passionately and well, and I prefer the economic analysis as to risks and/or benefits of someone who was one of the most distinguished post-war Chancellors to that of those who have not had the opportunity to hold those exalted positions and whose view of the matter sometimes seems a little more based on articles of faith than on practical experience.
That said, I want to turn specifically to new clause 22, which is in my name. It is relevant to what has gone before. At the end of the day, we all accept that because of the decision that was made, we must find a way forward now that gives the best possible arrangements for our business and our jobs. In particular, I want to concentrate on the requirement that business has for maximum certainty in relation to the treatment of any deficiencies in the retained EU law, and it is dealt with in clause 7 at some length. It is particularly important for all businesses, but especially for the City of London and for the financial services sector, which, as has been rightly observed, is about 80% of our economy. In the course of the Committee stage, I moved a number of probing amendments, and this is a probing amendment, too, which seeks greater clarity from Government about exactly how we deal with some of the nuts and bolts of those matters.
The clause 7 scheme of course sets out a means for dealing with this deficiency by means of statutory instruments—I understand that. I previously proposed a fall-back scheme as an alternative scheme of interpretation to deal with deficiencies. In doing so, I had the advantage of advice from the City of London Corporation, the Financial Markets Law Committee and the International Regulatory Strategy Group, probably as great a body of expertise on financial regulatory law and process that can be found anywhere in a square mile—if I can put it that way—and not something that one would wish to see lightly ignored.
I am glad to say that in the course of those discussions, Ministers—the Minister on the Bench today, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General—were most constructive in their response. I accept that the Government are genuinely seeking to tackle this matter and to minimise the need for dealing with it by means of regulation as far as possible. For that simple reason, it looks as if there could be 800 to 1,000 pieces of secondary legislation needed. With the best will in the world, it is a massive task, so what I have done now is to return with a much narrower new clause, which will deal only with the default position in those circumstances where, for whatever reason, it was not possible to deal with potential deficiencies by means of regulation under clause 7. Therefore, it is even more of a stopgap, but there is still a sentiment among people in the business sector that things inevitably crop up that are sometimes time-sensitive—perhaps in the course of ongoing litigation or in the interpretation of a significant commercial contract where it may not be possible to wait for the process of secondary legislation to go through. It is that important but narrow point that my measure is designed to deal with.
My hon. Friend gives us a salutary reminder that it is important that we make all the appropriate corrections before exit day, and the Government do want to make all of those corrections and to ensure that the law is accessible for all. I can confirm to him that Government Departments and the centre of Government are listening to industry, including the City, as part of our planning. We have put in place procedures and tools to ensure that we prioritise the most important corrections and so that nothing is missed out. On top of that, as the Bill provides for, we have put in place an urgent procedure in case of last-minute developments to which he refers.
I am very grateful to the Minister for that helpful intervention. I am conscious, as I said, that the Solicitor General and other Ministers have done work on this, and that will shorten what I have to say. I hope that the Minister might meet me in due course to discuss the way in which the urgent procedure will operate so that we can get more detail. That is what I was seeking to achieve—to make sure that we have a means of dealing with something when a decision needs to be made pretty much in real time under these circumstances. That reassurance that the Government will find the means of doing that enables me to confirm that I shall not be pressing the matter. It does of course apply to situations in which, for whatever reason, something has been overlooked in the transition process, or in which something has cropped up that could not reasonably have been foreseen by means of the best endeavours. Against that background, I welcome the Minister’s clarification on that matter. I gather from his nod that he is happy to discuss the matter further with me, so I need not trouble the House any longer.
Order. A considerable number of Members are seeking to catch my eye, and colleagues will be conscious that these proceedings must conclude at 4.30 and that it is reasonable to allow the Minister some considerable time to respond to the points made. Therefore, a certain self-denying ordinance is required if I am to enable everybody to contribute. The hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) speaks for his party from the Front Bench and, of course, must be afforded a decent opportunity, but I know that he will want to tailor his contribution to take account of the interests of others.
With the consent of the House, I rise to speak to amendment 59 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) and other right hon. and hon. Members, and to amendments 9 and 56 and new schedule 1.
Before I speak in more detail about amendment 59, may I commend the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) for the amendments that he submitted? What he has done is to remind us of what a complete sham this entire process has been. Almost 90% to 95% of the way through these eight hours of debate, the Government who had promised, day after day after day, to listen to the debate and to take appropriate effective action still have not corrected some of the glaring deficiencies in their own Bill, the most serious of which, perhaps, is the fact that we still do not have any statutory guarantee that the Northern Ireland peace process, the Belfast agreement and all that that implies, will be protected in law. If the Government cannot be trusted to bring forward amendments to correct such a desperate deficiency in their own legislation, how can they expect this House to trust them with the draconian and unprecedented powers to use ministerial directive to correct deficiencies in domestic legislation after we have left?
Amendment 59 seeks to ensure that the withdrawal agreement can only be implemented when we also have an agreement to remain in the EU single market and customs union. Let us be honest: everybody knows that, on a free vote of this House, there would be a substantial majority in favour of remaining in the single market and the customs union. My plea this evening will be for all of those who know that that is in the best interests of their constituents to set aside the demands of the party Whips and to go through the Lobby in support of this amendment. We can win this vote this evening if all those who know that it deserves to win are able to set aside the demands of the Whips and vote for it. We can take a decision tonight that will keep us away from the cliff edge, not just for two years but for very much longer.
I am very grateful to colleagues from the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green party who have signed this amendment. Although there have been no signatures from Labour Members, either from the Front Bench or the Back Benches, I appeal to all of them to support this amendment today.
Let me first deal with the question of the constitutional or democratic legitimacy of the amendment. One of the very disturbing aspects of the referendum debate, which has continued all the way through the process since then, has been the degree of hostility and open hatred that has been created against anyone who speaks, or even thinks, against the wisdom of the Government, the newspaper editor, the blogger or whoever. I have a good bad example: just a day or two ago, a group of MPs who had the temerity to go over to Europe to meet Michel Barnier were denounced as traitors—treachery with a smiling face—by one well known bloggist. Apart from the fact that such inflammatory and violent language has no place in any supposedly respectful debate, I want to remind the House of some facts of our membership of the single market—facts that I appreciate will be very uncomfortable to some Members, but that are still utterly incontrovertible.
It is a matter of fact that the people of the United Kingdom have never voted in a referendum about membership of the single market or the customs union. This House had the opportunity when the European Union Referendum Bill was on its way through Parliament. We could have decided to ask questions about the customs union and the single market, but the House and the Government chose not to. Having chosen not to ask the question, none of us—including me—has any right to decide that we know what the answer would have been.
It is a matter of fact that it is possible to be in the single market and the customs union without being a member of the European Union. Hon. Members will have different views as to whether it would be wise, appropriate or in our best interests to do so, and they have every right to debate the benefits of membership of the single market and the customs union. But anyone who insists that it cannot happen is not engaging in debate; they are engaging in fiction. We have had far too much fiction in this debate already—from both sides, it has to be said—as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) mentioned earlier. The decision to leave the single market was a unilateral political decision taken by the Prime Minister without any prior consultation with the people or with Parliament. It cannot, under any circumstances, be described as an inevitable consequence of the vote to leave the European Union.
Finally, it is a matter of fact that when the Conservative party fought on a manifesto that said it wanted to stay in the single market, it won an overall majority of seats in this place—the only time in the last 25 years that it has managed such an achievement. It is also a fact that the Conservatives lost that overall majority two years later, when they stood on a manifesto saying that they wanted to take us out of the single market. Nobody can claim that that is clear evidence of a popular democratic mandate to stay in the single market, but it certainly blows to smithereens any nonsense that there is any mandate for us to leave.
I am conscious of the need for brevity from me as well as from others, so I will not go into the full and detailed argument for staying in the single market, as that would take us from now to Brexit day, if not beyond. However, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe referred to the latest analysis produced by the Scottish Government, entitled “Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment”. I certainly accept his caveats that we cannot be sure that the forecasts and projections in it are accurate. They are certainly not intended to be precise or definitive.
I have found some media chat saying that the Scottish Government’s analysis of staying in the single market was alarmist, giving the figure of a 2.5% loss in growth. That is actually less than the figure put out by the UK Treasury for the loss of growth of just being in the single market, with no deal and the Canadian-style option far worse still.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, but I should put it on the record that I do not use Her Majesty’s Treasury figures as the touchstone for reliability or honesty; that is just a personal gripe of mine.
“Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment” is available in summary form and in all its 58-page glory. As a bonus, the back page contains the full text of the United Kingdom’s impact assessment of leaving the European Union. The one that I have is actually the Chinese version for those who understand Chinese.
Among the likely—perhaps very likely—consequences, the Fraser of Allander Institute has forecast that GDP in Scotland could fall by £8 billion over a 10-year period; that the real value of wages in the pockets of the people of Scotland could fall by 7%, including those who cannot afford to live on the wages they have just now, never mind on 7% less; and that 80,000 jobs in Scotland could be at risk. The updated document published this week indicates that the cost of leaving without a deal would be of the order of £2,300 for every citizen in Scotland. Our economic output could fall by 8.5%. That has to be the recession to end all recessions.
Exports from Scotland to the European Union currently run at £12.3 billion a year. If we add other exports that we can only carry out because we have free trade agreements as part of our EU membership, that figure increases to a fraction under £16 billion. Some 56% of Scotland’s current international exports are either to the European Union or to countries with which we already have a free trade agreement, and that could increase to somewhere close to 90% by the time we actually leave the single market and the customs union. How much of that is absolutely, unconditionally guaranteed still to be available after we leave? Right now, the answer is nil or very close to nil. That is the economic cost that we could well be subjected to if we leave the single market and the customs union.
I have not even mentioned the horrific social cost. We saw another heart-rending story today of a lady from Spain who has given 15 years’ service to the NHS, but who has given up and gone back to Spain. Somebody actually queried, “Why is that newsworthy?” Well, given the current recruitment crisis in the NHS, if even just one more well-trained professional leaves, I think it is a bit more newsworthy than somebody leaving a jungle because 250,000 people phoned Channel 4 and asked for them to be thrown out.
It is established that the Government—almost unbelievably and certainly incompetently—have got us this far without undertaking a proper impact assessment to advise themselves of what might happen to ordinary people in these islands when we leave, particularly if we leave without remaining members of the single market and the customs union. The Government tried to hide their own incompetence by refusing to let the public, and initially refusing to let Parliament, see the assessments that they had not done. They said that publishing even the little work that had been done would be disastrous to the negotiations and give too much of an advantage to the negotiating partners or enemies, as I have heard them described by Tory Members. It would hand over information to the EU that needed to be kept top secret and that the EU could never have got for itself.
Among these jealously guarded state secrets, we find in paragraph 6 of the “Electricity and Renewables Sector Report”, the astonishing revelation that
“Electricity is a fundamental part of modern society. Residential and industrial users rely on its use to ensure basic and vital needs such as lighting, heating or refrigeration are met on a daily basis.”
I am glad that I saw that in the Government’s impact assessment, because I did not know that before and neither did the EU. In the “Defence Sector Report”, we discover that
“The Government is a key supporter of the defence sector”.
And in the “Gambling Sectoral Report”, the EU’s very own James Bonds can now discover that gambling legislation in Northern Ireland is devolved, when there is a Northern Ireland Assembly to exercise those powers, and that a lot of gambling services in the UK are actually owned by companies registered offshore.
Those are the kinds of facts that the Government try to keep from us. They were eventually forced to disclose those facts, but we can only wonder what else the Government know but are refusing to tell us. They do not trust this Parliament or the people of these islands with this information, yet they expect us to trust them to have unfettered rights to decide the future of these islands and the 60 million people who live here.
Since the hon. Gentleman raises public trust and legitimacy, would he acknowledge that the extension of that argument is that, were we to say to the British people that their express will in a binary choice to leave the European Union were to be frustrated through obfuscation, prevarication, delay and confusion, the trust between this House and the people would be broken in a way that would be very hard to mend, to the cost of not only everyone here, but our whole system, for a very long time indeed?
For the avoidance of doubt, I will repeat what I have said in this place before: I think we have to accept the views of the people of England and Wales who have expressed a wish to leave the European Union. Unless the people of those nations give a contrary view at some future point, that view has to be respected.
Some 62% of my people voted to stay in the EU. I want to hear just a single word from this Government that indicates they are prepared to change anything in their chaotic Brexit plan to recognise the sovereign will of the people of Scotland and, indeed, the majority of people in Northern Ireland who also voted to remain. Half the member states of this Union voted to remain in the EU, and there has been no recognition whatever of that fact from the UK Government so far. They have even shown their contempt: having promised to table amendments to correct yet another deficiency in the Bill on the impact on the devolved nations, they then changed their minds and are going to leave it to the other place, where nobody is elected or has any democratic mandate to do anything.
The Government’s woeful handling of Brexit from day one demonstrates that they are so incompetent that they do not even trust themselves to know what is a state secret and what is very common knowledge. It would be wrong for this House to hand over to a competent, cohesive Government the draconian powers contained in the Bill. It would be criminally negligent to hand them over to a Government so disorganised that they could not even appoint their own party chairman without announcing the appointment of the wrong person.
While the SNP’s main purpose has been to scrutinise and seek to improve the proposal from the Government, it has to be said—it hurts me greatly to do so—that the performance of Her Majesty’s official Opposition to date has left a great deal to be desired. We are seeing signs of improvement, which I warmly welcome, on membership of the single market and the customs union. The right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) has very helpfully tweeted recently reminders of the six red lines that his party had set out last year. The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) referred to them earlier.
The second of those red lines is whether the deal delivers the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the single market and customs union. The only way that that red line can be satisfied is if we remain in the single market and the customs union. I hope that in the intervening period since he sent that tweet, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues have managed to persuade the Leader of the Opposition that it is time to get down off the fence and to stop doing the Tories’ work for them and time for every Labour MP in this House to go through the Lobby to vote for this amendment to keep our place in the single market.
My hon. Friend talks about the principal Opposition party—by number, that is. Is he aware that in the past year, for five months they supported the single market, for five months they were against the single market, for two months they were uncertain, and sadly there were only two months—July and August—where they had a consistent policy without alternating every other month?
As I said, I have been disappointed in the performance of the official Opposition up until now. I think we are seeing some signs of cohesion, and quite a number of speakers have been very firm in favouring the single market, as indeed we have heard across the House.
I do not want to point out mistakes that have been made in the past or score political points. There is a time and a place for that. The situation that we will face within the next couple of hours is so important and could have such devastating consequences for all our constituents that how about, just for a couple of hours, we forget the mistakes that each other has made and look at the catastrophic mistake that we may be about to make if we allow the Bill to go through without amendment 59 or something similar being passed? This may be the last chance we have to keep ourselves away from the cliff edge. I say to all those in this House, regardless of their party allegiance, who know that the single market and the customs union is where we have to be, please come through the Lobby with us tonight to vote to make sure that that happens.
The European Scrutiny Committee, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, has been holding inquiries into the fundamental constitutional implications of the Bill, including clause 5. As is now shown on its website, I have had correspondence with the Prime Minister on its behalf since December. The provisions I refer to would empower the courts, for the first time in our Westminster-based legislative history, to disapply Acts of Parliament. This is no theoretical matter. Indeed, we are advised that such disapplication is likely to apply to a whole range of enactments, including those relating to equality, terrorism, data protection and many other matters.
I raised this massive constitutional issue, as I regard it, in Committee on 14 and 21 November, including by reference to the authoritative statements made by the late Lord Chief Justice Bingham in chapter 12 of his book on the rule of law and the sovereignty of Parliament. Let us bear in mind that he is one of the most authoritative judges in recent generations. He says:
“We live in a society dedicated to the rule of law; in which Parliament has power, subject to limited, self-imposed restraints, to legislate as it wishes; in which Parliament may therefore legislate in a way which infringes the rule of law;”—
I repeat, “infringes the rule of law”—
“and in which the judges, consistently with their constitutional duty to administer justice according to the laws and usages of the realm, cannot fail”—
I repeat, “cannot fail”—
“to give effect to such legislation if it is clearly and unambiguously expressed.”
In that book, he publicly criticised the attitude of Baroness Hale, who is now President of the Supreme Court, and Lord Hope of Craighead for suggesting that the courts have constitutional authority as against an Act of Parliament.
Lord Bingham also specifically approved the analysis of what he described as the “magisterial” authority of Professor Goldsworthy, whom he quoted as follows:
“the principle of parliamentary sovereignty has been recognised as fundamental in this country not because the judges invented it but because it has for centuries been accepted as such by judges and others officially concerned in the operation of our constitutional system. The judges did not by themselves establish the principle and they cannot, by themselves, change it… What is at stake is the location of ultimate decision-making authority… If the judges were to repudiate the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, by refusing to allow Parliament to infringe on unwritten rights, they would be claiming that ultimate authority for themselves.”
He went on to state that they—the judges—would then be transferring the rights of Parliament to themselves as judges. He says:
“It would be a transfer of power initiated by the judges, to protect rights chosen by them, rather than one brought about democratically by parliamentary enactment or popular referendum.”
That is the basic principle.
Members of this House and the House of Lords, including former Law Lords and members of the Supreme Court, are themselves deeply concerned about—
Lord Neuberger, who is the former President of the Supreme Court, has also expressed concern about the perceived illegitimacy of judges overturning Acts of Parliament. Is my hon. Friend concerned that the power in clause 5 to disapply Acts of Parliament might result in a worrying politicisation of the judiciary that I would have thought would be unwelcome not only to hon. Members but to the judges themselves?
I am indeed. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who also serves on the European Scrutiny Committee. The provisions I refer to would be express provisions. Therefore, the question of principle is fundamental and will also, no doubt, be taken up in the House of Lords. Furthermore, former Law Lords and members of the Supreme Court have expressed their concerns.
The European Scrutiny Committee’s unanimous view when we met this morning was that Parliament as a whole needs a solution that confirms the principle of parliamentary sovereignty along the lines of declarations of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998, as I indicated in my correspondence with the Prime Minister, whose letter I received on 9 January. To take this forward, may I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to intervene to give me and the House an assurance that when the Bill is in the House of Lords, the Government will constructively engage with the European Scrutiny Committee, with any other Committees of both Houses and with the advice of the Attorney General and the Lord Chancellor to explore and find a proper solution to the constitutional issues I have raised in the national interest?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the case that he has made. The Government are well apprised of the issue that he has brought to the House. It is absolutely right that we respect and uphold parliamentary sovereignty—