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Rights, Standards and Protections

Volume 642: debated on Thursday 14 June 2018

1. What steps he is taking to ensure that there is no change to (a) rights, (b) standards and (c) protections derived from the EU after the UK leaves the EU. (905829)

The UK has a long-standing tradition of protecting rights and liberties. The decision to leave the European Union does not and will not change that. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill retains the rights, standards and protections derived from EU legislation and treaties as they exist immediately before our departure from the EU. That will ensure that, so far as is practicable, all rights will apply as they did before exit. I have no doubts about the abilities of this House to uphold our rights, standards and protections after we leave the EU.

Given the Prime Minister’s insistence that the Government have committed not to roll back workers’ rights, can the Minister explain why Conservative MPs voted against yesterday’s Lords amendment to protect employment, equality, health and safety, consumer and environmental rights and standards after Brexit?

Our commitment to workers’ rights is unwavering. On the hon. Lady’s specific point, the fact is that, if that amendment had been taken forward, it would have severely damaged our capacity to have a functioning statute book as we left the European Union.

Is not it right that we in this country are not able to exercise some of the rights that people would wish us to exercise? The freedom to be able to transport live animals for slaughter is a freedom that we would prefer not to have. As soon as we leave the European Union, we will be able to take control of those things for ourselves.

My hon. Friend raises a point on which I am sure that many of us have received correspondence. I look forward to the day when it is within the powers of this House to change those rules.

Is not it right that we have a customs union that protects workers’ rights, with the right to allow state aid, the right to allow public ownership, and the right to be able to ban outsourcing and competitive tendering should the Government wish to do so?

If you will allow me, Mr Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s capacity to use parliamentary procedure to bring an enormous range of issues into his question. I suggest that he might wish to call an Adjournment debate if he feels that he has not had sufficient opportunity during the passage of the withdrawal Bill to debate all the issues that he raises.

In reference to the honour of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr Hepburn), I would simply point out that rights, standards and protections do amount to a pretty broad category, and he has behaved, as usual, in a perfectly orderly, if innovative, manner.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most fundamental rights is to decide who determines our legislation and where that legislation comes from, and that that is exactly the right that we are protecting when we listen to what the people have told us and withdraw from the European Union?

Yes. The fundamental political right is that power should derive from the consent of the governed. In leaving the European Union, we will re-establish that consent on a basis that has been traditionally understood, which is that it is this Parliament that will determine the laws of the United Kingdom.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that the loss of the charter of fundamental rights will lead to a significant weakening of the current system of human rights protections in the United Kingdom. Given that that is the advice of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, what specific steps is the Minister taking to prevent the loss of human rights protections following the loss of the charter of fundamental rights?

We disagree with the commission. The charter of fundamental rights is only one element of the UK’s human rights architecture. Most of the rights protected in the charter are also protected in domestic law by common law, the Human Rights Act 1998 or other domestic legislation. The fact of the matter, which the hon. and learned Lady does not seem to wish to accept, is that this House has voted repeatedly on this very question.

Does the Minister accept that animal welfare and environmental protection are extremely important to British agriculture? What guarantees will the Government put in place to make sure that there is no diminution in that regard? He need not take my word on this—he can take the word of the National Farmers Union.

We have had wide-ranging debates about animals and animal rights, and the hon. Gentleman will know that that is a subject of continuing interest for the Government. The Government have tabled amendments on environmental protections, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has brought forward a range of proposals on animal rights. I look forward to us carrying those forward.

Mr Linden, you are now much preoccupied with consulting your electronic device, but if you are still interested in contributing to our proceedings, let us hear you.

Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State’s departmental colleague, Lord Callanan, wants to

“scrap the working time directive, the agency workers’ directive, the pregnant workers’ directive and other barriers to actually employing people”.

Which one does the Minister think should happen first?

The Government’s position is that the UK firmly believes in strong labour protections while also embracing the opportunities that arise from a changing world of work. We do not need to stay aligned with the EU to have strong protections for workers, and a key tenet of the Government’s industrial strategy is continually to improve labour standards in domestic legislation.