My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about today’s publication of a White Paper on the great repeal Bill. Yesterday we took the historic step of notifying the European Council of the Government’s decision to invoke Article 50. The United Kingdom is leaving the EU. That notification marks the beginning of our two-year negotiation period with the EU and it reflects the result of last year’s instruction from the people of the United Kingdom. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is our fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person. Now is the time to come together to ensure that the UK as a whole is prepared for the challenges and opportunities presented by our exit from the EU.
We have been clear that we want a smooth and orderly exit, and the great repeal Bill is integral to that approach. It will provide clarity and certainty for businesses, workers and consumers across the UK on the day we leave the EU. It will mean that as we exit the EU and seek a new, deep and special partnership with the EU, we will be doing so from a position where we have the same standards and rules. But it will also ensure we deliver on our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK as we exit. Our laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and interpreted not by judges in Luxembourg but by judges across the United Kingdom.
Some have been concerned that Parliament will not play enough of a role in shaping the future of the country once we have left the EU. Today’s White Paper shows just how wrong that is. This publication makes clear that there will be a series of Bills to debate and vote on, both before and after we leave, as well as many statutory instruments to consider.
Let me turn to the content of today’s White Paper. The paper we have published today sets out the three principal elements of this great repeal Bill. First, it will repeal the European Communities Act and return power to the United Kingdom. Secondly, the Bill will convert EU law into UK law wherever practical and appropriate, allowing businesses to continue operating knowing that the rules have not changed overnight, and providing fairness to individuals, whose rights and obligations will not be subject to sudden change. Thirdly, the Bill will create the necessary powers to correct the laws that do not operate appropriately once we have left the EU, so that our legal system continues to function correctly outside the EU.
I will address each of these elements in turn before coming to the important issue of the interaction of the Bill with the devolution settlements. Let me begin with the European Communities Act. Repealing the ECA on the day we leave the EU enables the return to this Parliament of the sovereignty we to some degree ceded in 1972, and ends the supremacy of EU law in this country. It is entirely necessary to deliver on the result of the referendum. But repealing the ECA alone is not enough. A simple repeal of the ECA would leave holes in our statute book. The EU regulations that apply directly in the UK would no longer have any effect and many of the domestic regulations we have made to implement our EU obligations would fall away. Therefore, to provide maximum possible legal certainty, the great repeal Bill will convert EU law into domestic law on the day we leave the EU. This means, for example, that the workers’ rights, environmental protection and consumer rights that are enjoyed under EU law in the UK will continue to be available in UK law after we have left the EU. Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, Parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses, as will the devolved legislatures, where they have the power to do so.
However, further steps will be needed to provide a smooth and orderly exit. This is because a large number of laws, both existing domestic laws and those we convert into UK law, will not work properly if we leave the EU without taking further action. Some laws, for example, grant functions to an EU institution with which the UK might no longer have a relationship. To overcome this, the great repeal Bill will provide a power to correct the statute book where necessary to resolve the problems which will occur as a consequence of leaving the EU. This will be done using secondary legislation, the flexibility of which will help make sure we have put in place the necessary corrections before the day we leave the EU. I can confirm that this power will be time-limited, and Parliament will need to be satisfied that the procedures in the Bill for making and approving the secondary legislation are appropriate. Given the scale of the changes that will be necessary and the finite amount of time available to make them, there is a balance to be struck between the importance of scrutiny and correcting the statute book in time. As the Constitution Committee in the other place recently put it:
“The challenge that Parliament will face is in balancing the need for speed, and thus for Governmental discretion, with the need for proper parliamentary control of the content of the UK’s statute book”.
Parliament, of course, can, and does, regularly debate and vote on secondary legislation: we are not considering some form of government “executive orders”, but using a legislative process of long standing. I hope that today’s White Paper and this Statement can be the start of a discussion between Parliament and government about how best to achieve this balance. Similar corrections will be needed to the statute books of the three devolved Administrations, and so we propose that the Bill will also give Ministers in the devolved Administrations a power to amend devolved legislation to correct their law in line with the way that UK Ministers will be able to correct UK law.
Let me turn to the CJEU and its case law. I can confirm that the great repeal Bill will provide no future role for the CJEU in the interpretation of our laws, and the Bill will not oblige our courts to consider cases decided by the CJEU after we have left. However, for as long as EU-derived law remains on the UK statute book, it is essential that there is a common understanding of what that law means. The Government believe that this is best achieved by providing for continuity in how that law is interpreted before and after exit day. To maximise certainty, therefore, the Bill will provide that any question as to the meaning of EU law that has been converted into UK law will be determined in the UK courts by reference to the CJEU’s case law as it exists on the day we leave the EU. Any other starting point would be to change the law and create unnecessary uncertainty.
This approach maximises legal certainty at the point of departure. But our intention is not to fossilise the past decisions of the CJEU for ever. As such, we propose that the Bill will provide that historic CJEU case law be given the same status in our courts as decisions of our own Supreme Court. The Supreme Court does not frequently depart from its own decisions, but it does so from time to time, and we would expect the Supreme Court to take a similar, sparing approach to departing from CJEU case law. But we believe it is right that it should have the power to do so. Of course, Parliament will be free to change the law, and therefore overturn case law, where it decides it is right to do so.
Today’s White Paper also sets out the great repeal Bill’s approach to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Let me explain our approach here. The Charter of Fundamental Rights applies to member states only when they act within the scope of EU law. This means that its relevance is removed by our withdrawal from the EU. The Government have been clear that in leaving the EU, the UK’s leading role in protecting and advancing human rights will not change. And the fact that the charter will fall away will not mean the protection of rights in the UK will suffer as a result. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was not designed to create new rights, but rather to catalogue rights already recognised as general principles in EU law. Where cases have been decided by reference to those rights, that case law will continue to be used to interpret the underlying rights which will be preserved.
I would now like to turn to devolution. The United Kingdom’s domestic constitutional arrangements have evolved since the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973. The current devolution settlements were agreed after the UK joined, and reflect that context. In areas where the devolved Administrations and legislatures have competence, such as agriculture, the environment and some areas of transport, this competence is exercised within the constraints set by EU law. The existence of common EU frameworks has also provided a common UK framework in many areas, safeguarding the functioning of the UK internal market.
As powers return from the EU, we have an opportunity to determine the level best placed to take decisions on these issues, ensuring that power sits closer to the people of the United Kingdom than ever before. It is the expectation of the Government that the outcome of this process will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved Administration, but we must also ensure that as we leave the EU no new barriers to living and doing business within our own union are created. In some areas, this will require common UK frameworks. Decisions will be required about where a common framework is needed and, if it is, how it might be established. The devolved Administrations also acknowledge the importance of common UK frameworks. We will work closely with the devolved Administrations to deliver an approach that works for the whole of the United Kingdom and reflects the needs and individual circumstances of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Let me conclude by stressing the importance of the great repeal Bill. It will help to ensure certainty and stability across the board. It is vital to ensuring a smooth and orderly exit. It will stand us in good stead for negotiations over our future relationship with the EU. And it will deliver greater control over our laws to this Parliament and, wherever appropriate, the devolved Administrations. These steps are crucial to implementing the result of the referendum in the national interest. I hope all sides will recognise that, and work with us to achieve these aims. I commend the Statement to the House”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, which introduces one of three broad areas of scrutiny facing this House over the coming 18 months. The other elements are the array of primary legislation—anywhere between seven and 15 Bills covering agriculture, customs, immigration and all their associated SIs. Alongside this will be our scrutiny of the Government’s negotiation with the EU 27, culminating in a vote in this House on the final deal.
Today’s foreshadowed Bill is, in one way, the easiest of those three tasks, as it takes existing EU law and incorporates it into domestic law. However, we have heard the Secretary of State for International Trade arguing:
“To restore Britain’s competitiveness we must begin by deregulating the labour market”.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary wants to use the “opportunity” to axe needless regulations that have “accreted” since Britain joined the EU. How do those comments chime with the Prime Minister’s introduction to the White Paper—and, indeed, the Government’s long-standing promise—which states:
“The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before”?
Will the Minister confirm that it is the Prime Minister who is the boss and that, despite the words of others, there is no intention to follow their madcap ideas within the repeal Bill?
Despite its aim of simply converting existing rules into UK law, the Bill will be, in the words of our Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee,
“a wholly exceptional piece of primary legislation”,
with implications for,
“the fundamental issue of the balance between the Executive and Parliament”.
We are pleased that the Secretary of State confirmed that delegated powers introduced by the Bill will be subject to time limits, but a number of concerns remain. At paragraph 3.21, the Government believe that current statutory instrument procedures in this House are sufficient for the task. We have our doubts—so will the Minister give serious consideration to our recommendations? They are: that an explanatory memo be published alongside each statutory instrument; that there will be early consultation with outside stakeholders; that there will be provision of a comprehensive delegated powers memorandum for Parliament when the Bill appears; that there will be provision of draft regulations, so that scrutiny can commence before the Bill is enacted, in view of the sheer scale and complexity of the secondary legislation; and, given that delegated legislation is unamendable, that there will be consideration of a strengthened scrutiny procedure to help ensure that Parliament retains some control over significant statutory instruments, including some “triage” of the various proposals. Everyone in this Chamber knows that our committees do excellent work on this, but it is clear that some form of extra capacity will be needed if we are to scrutinise the vast array of statutory instruments that are to come.
Many EU regulations are monitored or enforced by the Commission, the Court of Justice or another EU body. The question, therefore, is how the Government will ensure that the new regulations, once domesticated into UK law, will still be monitored and enforced. There is little point in entrenching EU rights and protections if the Government do not also make sure that they are enforceable. As converting EU acquis into domestic law will have significant implications for the devolution settlements, which were all premised on our continued membership of the EU, can the Minister tell the House about their plans for dealing with repatriation in areas of devolved competence, including London? In particular, can he provide assurance that consultation will improve?
Just yesterday, the First Minister in Wales confirmed that he had not seen the Article 50 letter in advance and had not been invited to contribute to its drafting. He described that as,
“unacceptable … the culmination of a deeply frustrating process in which the devolved Administrations have been persistently treated with a lack of respect”.
Today, again, he said on the White Paper:
“We are disappointed we were not given opportunity to contribute to its production, despite assurances that we would be”.
Is this the level of co-operation that the Government think is satisfactory?
Although lacking in certain respects, today’s White Paper provides some clarity. Labour has insisted that our withdrawal from the EU must not lead to a reduction in workplace rights or environmental and consumer protections. These must be retained with no qualifications, limitations or sunset clauses. The White Paper, although I have not had time to read every detail, seems to accept this entirely, and even sets out some welcome examples. However, given the comments by the Foreign and International Trade Secretaries, and the former chairman of the Conservative Party, there are dangers ahead.
If we are to do our job properly, we will need the resources and structures to deal with the avalanche of secondary legislation and a way of ensuring that delegated powers are limited, used only when it is vital and not misused. The Minister knows that the House stands ready to do what is needed, but we will need rather more detail and assurance before we can be sure that the Bill is fit for purpose. The Government stress the importance of sovereignty. For us, this means parliamentary sovereignty, not an unacceptable power grab by the Government. We will be watching you.
I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. If the price of pointing out when the Government’s Brexit emperor lacks clothes is to be labelled “a well-known pessimist”, it is a price I willingly pay. The first and most obvious flash of nakedness is in the title of the Bill. It is not great and it repeals nothing. It is, in fact, the “Sneaky Copy/Paste Bill”. After all, we learned yesterday that Brexit does not in fact mean Brexit; it means a deep and special relationship—so of course we will still be complying with lots of EU law. This is, of course, welcome in avoiding the destructive, off-the-cliff, no-deal Brexit that the Prime Minister threatened just weeks ago—and, I noted, repeated in the White Paper, although I thought it had been abandoned.
The deeper our relationship with the EU, the more the flimsiness of the emperor’s red-lined garments becomes apparent. It seems that the Government cynically hope that, as long as they pull out of EU institutions, the fact that the UK will continue to comply with most EU law can be sold as “freedom” and “regained control”. But, instead of taking back control meaning an increase in parliamentary sovereignty, as leave voters were deceived into thinking, Brexit in fact represents a shameless power grab by the Executive on a scale to make Henry VIII blush—and there are considerable doubts on the ability of the Civil Service to cope.
The Statement says that the Bill will,
“create the necessary powers to correct the laws that do not operate appropriately once we have left the EU”.
Paragraph 1.21 of the White Paper promises that there will be no “major changes to policy”, just enough to ensure that,
“the law continues to function properly”.
We will have to be watchful, given the wiggle room that that appears to allow. This power to correct will be exercised by secondary legislation allegedly to provide flexibility and speed. So, although government Executive orders are apparently ruled out, true reassurance is in short supply.
I want to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, about the resources in this House. The Liberal Democrats will be insisting on full parliamentary scrutiny, transparency and due process, including the involvement of the devolved Administrations.
The Statement and the White Paper pledge to end the supremacy of EU law in the United Kingdom, such that the laws we obey will not be interpreted by judges in Luxembourg. However, as I have already had occasion to remind the House today—it bears repetition—the Article 50 letter admits that UK companies trading in the EU will have to abide by EU rules while the UK takes no part in the institutions that shape those laws. In other words, we will become a rule taker and not a rule maker.
Therefore, the claim of no future role for the CJEU in the interpretation of our laws is simply untrue. Unless we want to forfeit whatever single market access is achieved, the CJEU will continue to play a large part in our lives. That is true also of treaty rights. Indeed, a few lines down from the ringing assertion that we will be ending the role of EU law, we learn that UK courts will determine the converted law by reference to the CJEU’s case law.
The abolition of the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights is shown also to be more apparent than real, because the Luxembourg court has taken account of it in many of its judgments. Again, this is admitted a few paragraphs later. Therefore, the assertion in paragraph 2.23 of the White Paper that the charter’s relevance is,
“removed by our withdrawal from the EU”,
is also simply incorrect. Can the Minister explain how our courts will keep up not just with historic but with new EU law and CJEU case law? There are obscure references to common frameworks, but this must surely mean EU-compliant ones.
Lastly, how will the Government reconcile their pledge not to repeal protective legislation with the pressure from right-wing Conservatives, backed recently by the Daily Telegraph, to promise a bonfire of EU red tape in their 2020 manifesto to put Britain on a radically different course? Is that what “correction” actually means? If so, when will the Government go back and tell the British people that they voted to diminish their rights, including rights over flight compensation, food labelling or roaming charges?
The Liberal Democrats will not support anything that weakens human rights or environmental, workplace and consumer protection, or which threatens freedoms to study and work in the EU, research funding or security co-operation. This reinforces the need, which my party demands, for the British people to have the final say on the Brexit deal and for that say to be before the repeal Bill is enacted.
I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Ludford, for their contributions. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for her overarching view that we have provided at least some clarity on the approach we are taking. I think we are providing a considerable amount of clarity.
In her first point, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked: is the Prime Minister the boss? To clarify, yes, the Prime Minister is the boss—I had better make that very clear.
On a more serious note, as for the points made by the noble Baronesses about changes that might be made in years hence to EU-derived law once it is in UK law, that is some time off for the very simple reason that we have to get this process through and done in the time that we have. Any changes to EU-derived-law, if they were to be made—I should say more correctly “proposed”—would obviously need to be passed by this Parliament, but that is not for now. As this paper makes very clear, the task before us is to provide for a smooth and orderly exit on day one.
I want to pick up on a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. I totally understand the concerns about people’s rights, but we are making it absolutely clear that we do not intend to undermine or erode people’s rights as they are derived from the EU. Furthermore, the noble Baroness suggested that this is a power grab. This is not a power grab. We make very clear in the paper the balance that we are striving to achieve between the need to get appropriate scrutiny from Parliament while, at the same time, having a fully functioning statute book on the day that we leave the EU.
From paragraph 3.16 onwards, we set out a number of constraints that might be taken. As I said in the Statement, we are committed to a time limit. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, made some very interesting suggestions about other constraints that are not in the White Paper as such. I draw the House’s attention to paragraph 3.17 on the scope of the power as it is currently considered and the potential that,
“we will consider the constraints placed on the delegated power in section 2 of the ECA to assess whether similar constraints may be suitable for the new power, for example preventing the power from being used to make retrospective provision or impose taxation”.
The noble Baroness made a number of other suggestions. She echoed the points made in the excellent report by this House’s Constitution Committee—and many thanks to those Members who contributed to it—on Explanatory Memorandums, which is a very interesting idea. She referred to consultation on drafts, which again is going to be very important as we move to implementing SIs that touch on sectors of the economy, a comprehensive delegated powers memorandum, which is worth mulling over, draft regulations, strengthened scrutiny procedure and finally triage. These are all thoughts that my door is open to have discussions on with any noble Lord who wishes to do so. I stress the point that is made in paragraph 3.23 of the White Paper:
“This White Paper is the beginning of a discussion between Government and Parliament as to the most pragmatic and effective approach to take in this area”.
The noble Baroness makes a very good point about the monitoring of EU regulations once they are converted into EU law and why those EU regulations are today enforced by EU regulators. I am glad she has raised this point. We are having extensive discussions with UK regulators on how this will work and furthermore, as she alluded to in her opening remarks, the need for consultation and discussion about that process and how we bring them over.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, moved on to the interpretation of case law. I simply say gently to the noble Baroness that we need to have the certainty of the interpretation of case law which underpins a number of significant legal and policy cases—I am thinking in particular of our VAT policy. A large number of CJEU case law precedents shape that policy. We need to have that certainty on day one, hence the approach that we are taking.
As regards the noble Baroness’s point on consultation with the devolved Assemblies, yes, we will need to consult. We are giving Ministers there a power to amend their legislation to ensure that it, too, is going to be fit for purpose on day one. We are having regular meetings and we will continue to do so.
I am very keen to continue to consult with all Members of this House about the measures contained in the White Paper as it is absolutely critical we get this right.
My Lords, I realise that the bulk of this is mainly a conversion exercise, which is very sensible and I greatly welcome that, but when it comes to the powers to correct statutes and make and approve secondary legislation, as the Minister has described, can we assume that there will be some degree of filtration and even removal? Many of these vast numbers of regulations are not only unwanted—that may be a matter for opinion and debate in Parliament—but obsolete and come down to us from a pre-digital age and an era of centralisation which is long past. It would be a real waste of time, effort and space on the statute book merely to place them there when they are redundant.
My noble friend is making a good point that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, made about the potential for triage and flagging up to Parliament whether an SI is of a very technical nature or of a more substantial policy nature and therefore the level of scrutiny that is required. All I will say at this stage is that I am very keen that we get the balance right between bringing noble Lords and the other place with us as we make these changes, making sure that we get the scrutiny right with the level of speed that we need to proceed with. I am very interested in the point that my noble friend makes and we will certainly look at that.
Will the Minister clarify the welcome reference in the Statement to a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved Administration? In respect of the Social Chapter, for example, will Wales be able to have that fully enforceable, even if it were to be amended at a UK level? Will he also confirm that any powers coming from Brussels to the UK applying in devolved areas will be able to be retained at, for example, a Wales level and will not need to be grabbed back by London? And will the European Convention of Human Rights still apply in the devolved areas?
On the second point, there is absolutely no plan for the Government to withdraw from the ECHR—I can assure the noble Lord of that. On the first point, there is again absolutely no intention to use this process in any shape or form to erode the decision-making powers that currently exist for any of the devolved Administrations. As regards how powers come back, that is clearly a matter, as the Statement makes clear, that we need to consult on very carefully to make sure that it works in all our interests.
My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Government have got rid of the Orwellian title the “Great Repeal” Bill on the title page, although they seemed to revert like a ponticum rhododendron when they got inside. Would it not have been better to adopt the by-line of the Prince of Lampedusa’s famous remark in The Leopard when he gave the definition of revolution as:
“Everything was changed so that everything may stay the same”?
I think that is probably rather more the title, and the Daily Telegraph’s regulatory bonfire may be a bit short of dry kindling.
I have two questions. First, paragraphs 1.16 and 1.19 recognise that the provisions of this Bill will be operated in parallel with the Article 50 negotiations but there is no parliamentary process for approving the changes that may have been agreed in a deal with the European Union other than the binary choice when that deal is brought to Parliament. Are the Government really asking us to give them a blank cheque for all those changes they negotiate and to deny Parliament scrutiny of the details?
Secondly, paragraph 1.20 of the White Paper makes it even clearer than it was before that the Government are anticipating no process of parliamentary approval in the context of the UK exiting without a deal. Surely this lacuna has shown even more clearly than it was shown before that we have to have a provision for approving or disapproving a decision to exit without a deal?
My Lords, for fear of frustrating noble Lords, I will not repeat all the arguments regarding the noble Lord’s second point. I will simply say with regard to all these points that there will be ample opportunity, as I have said many times at this Dispatch Box, for your Lordships and the other place to scrutinise how the negotiations are proceeding. In addition, as we make it clear here and as we said before, there will be a vote in both Houses on the agreement at the end of the process, and were measures to come out of the withdrawal treaty that needed to be implemented, again, there would be a chance for Parliament to scrutinise those.
My Lords, the White Paper referred extensively to the report of the Constitution Committee but not to its recommendation that both Houses need a mechanism for deciding whether enhanced scrutiny is required for some of these instruments. Given that statutory instruments cannot be amended and may be wrong in part but not as a whole, and that this House is reluctant to vote them down if they have been passed in the other House, surely we need that kind of mechanism.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a valid point. I have read that excellent report, which makes a very useful contribution to the debate. I will not start committing one way now; indeed, it is not my role to start committing on the precise point the noble Lord made. However, I have had private conversations with some of your Lordships about this, whom I thank, and I am happy to meet the noble Lord to discuss this. However, I will not make a commitment on his point right here and now.
My Lords, the Prime Minister’s foreword to the White Paper stresses the importance of trying to minimise uncertainty during the negotiations. Does my noble friend agree that among those suffering most from uncertainty are UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union and those from elsewhere in the European Union living in the United Kingdom? When the Prime Minister approached this in Brussels she was told that she must wait until negotiations had begun and Article 50 had been implemented. Can my noble friend assure us that we will now press ahead with resolving the matter at the earliest possible moment? Should we not be absolutely clear that we must avoid a situation where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed? That would perpetuate the uncertainty for this group of people and many other groups of people for two years or perhaps many more.
My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. As regards the substance of it, I draw attention to the second point in the “principles for our discussions”, set out in the letter that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister sent yesterday, which repeated our absolute aim to strike an early agreement about the rights of both EU citizens in this country and UK citizens right across Europe. It is absolutely our intention to do so, and it is obviously good news that we can now start that process. We have been heartened by the fact that in conversations with our European partners, they too largely share that overriding intent.
My Lords, the Minister should gain strength and succour—I am sure he will—from the fact that although he will be on his feet for hours on end in the complexities of this and other Bills, this Bill has the advantage that although the detail may be difficult, the objective could not possibly be simpler. It is to ensure that this Parliament—and we are all parliamentarians—makes, changes and amends the laws, which the people of this country expect this Parliament to perform. I know from all my experience as an MP that they expect Parliament to carry out that duty by being able to make the decisions on their behalf. Therefore, all of us who are keen parliamentarians and who value the priceless authority we have in either House, but principally in the Commons, should bear in mind, surely, that this is a wholly desirable piece of legislation.
I am delighted that the noble Lord sees it that way. I certainly agree that although the challenge ahead is extremely complex, we need to proceed with some simple principles and as simple an approach as possible, while being mindful of the complexity and of the view, which I know some of your Lordships hold, that in the process of restoring sovereignty to Parliament we should not give the Government excessive powers. We need to get the balance absolutely right and that is what I am determined to do.
My Lords, I am sure the Minister has well in mind the problems with amending legislation of a subordinate nature in this House. I have experience of dealing with a much more modest situation, which arose when I was Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor’s status was transformed, and we realised that over 300 pieces of legislation had not been taken into account. I suggest that it is possible to include in whatever the Bill will be called—great or otherwise—a provision which enables a statutory instrument to be amended without affecting its validity. That will give much greater comfort to those in this House with regard to what is proposed.
My Lords, I confess to an almost irresistible urge to return to full-time practice at the Bar because this is a legal minefield. When a relevant right of action arises between now and the date of our departure, is it not the case that any such proceedings which may follow fall to be determined by European Union law and are justiciable by the European Union Court of Justice, however long that might take?
I am not sure I entirely get the noble Lord’s point, I am sorry to say. I have set out the position on case law. Until we leave the European Union obviously we continue to be bound by the ECJ. Forgive me if I am missing the noble Lord’s point. I am happy to meet him to discuss it.
My Lords, as chairman of the Delegated Powers Committee, I am pleased that the Government seem to be taking on board many of the recommendations we have made in tandem with the Constitution Committee, with which we are working closely. The most important from our point of view is the sunset clause—the time-limiting one—which deals, I think, with many of the worries people have about giving the Government extensive powers. May I take it a little further? There will be primary legislation dealing with other matters where we will wish to take a different approach and have a different policy. My guess is that there will be considerable delegated powers. I ask the Government not to take too much for granted. Our committee will have beady eyes on it all.
I am delighted that the beady eye of my noble friend will continue to survey all that comes from government, and so it should. I thank very much my noble friend and the members of her committee for their work. As I said, we have confirmed that there will be a sunset clause in this piece of legislation. My noble friend is absolutely right about the other pieces of legislation that will follow. I will not say here and now the extent of any delegated powers they might have, but we are obviously very mindful of the need to ensure that those powers are proportionate.
My Lords, the Government’s policy is to leave the single market, with potentially devastating consequences for the British economy. It is already causing the deepest anxiety in the City and among manufacturing industry particularly. I hope the Minister has read the recent report of the engineering manufacturers’ federation on the subject. The Government defend their policy. Their stated reason, or excuse, for it is that any other policy would be incompatible with their desire to restrict EU immigration. Now that the Secretary of State for Brexit has publicly acknowledged that in practice there will not be any meaningful reduction in EU immigration for some time, would it not be elementary common sense to re-examine this whole policy? The cost of leaving the single market remains the same, but the potential gain or return for which the Government said they were hoping is obviously much less than anticipated and possibly non-existent. Is it not common sense in those circumstances to review their policy, quite apart from the other issues such as the difficulty it would create for Ireland to create a new frontier across the island of Ireland, which could be avoided if we remain in the single market?
I respect the passion with which the noble Lord speaks on this matter; he does so with great eloquence. I have very little more to say to expand on what I have said at the Dispatch Box on this issue many times before. We view the need to leave the single market as reflecting the view and the instruction that the people delivered on 23 June last year. We have always said that we believe we need to take control over our borders. We also see that as an instruction and part of the need to leave the EU. As regards how we do so, my right honourable friends the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have both said on many occasions that we need to do so in a sensible way, mindful of and sensitive to the needs of the economy. I have little to add to that.
My Lords, the Minister is well known for his engaging sense of perpetual optimism, so can he reassure the House that all the legislation in this vast Bill will be completed by the end of the next parliamentary Session, which presumably will start on 17 May or thereabouts? There will be more or less only a year to make sure that it all goes through. Will he also reassure us that, as the word “instruction” is rather an improper term to use in comparison with “indication”, “judgment” or other softer words, the final vote of the sovereign Parliament, particularly the House of Commons, will be the final decision on this matter?
My Lords, the people have said that they wish to leave the European Union and that is what we are doing. As regards the timetable for this Bill, the noble Lord makes a very good point. We obviously have a timetable that reflects the Article 50 process. We fully intend to see this Bill on the statute book as soon as possible so that we can start to use the powers and ensure that our statute book is fit for purpose on the day we leave the European Union.
In connection with the challenge set out in the White Paper of ensuring appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of the EU legislation being translated into UK law, might my noble friend consider the precedent set some years ago by the tax law rewrite committee? As noble Lords may remember, this Joint Committee of both Houses was set up in similar circumstances with the simple purpose of replicating laws without changing them. It had the advantage that laws could be published in draft, others could look at them, and a Joint Committee of both Houses could scrutinise them and ensure, as the remit was set, that the laws were being translated without changing their meaning. That might be an effective way of dealing with the volume of legislation in this situation.
My Lords, I have been encouraged by the Minister’s response to my noble friend on the Front Bench about his door always being open regarding the recommendations of the Constitution Committee, which have been marshalled around the House. He says—and the White Paper makes it clear—that the Government want to strike a balance between scrutiny and speed. I understand the constraints of speed but will he assure the House that, when it comes to finding that balance, they will have to lean towards scrutiny as far as this House and its role are concerned? In particular, will he look closely at the provision of draft regulations? One problem that has beset this House and its scrutiny processes in recent years has been our inability to comment on the impact of legislation because we have not had draft regulations for consideration. When so much of such a profound, not technical, nature will be dealt with through secondary legislation, we will need draft regulations to do that job properly.
I thank the noble Baroness for that contribution, and I totally take heed of what she says. I think this comes back to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and my noble friend Lord Howell about how to ensure, in some shape or form, that there is a reflection of the technical nature or otherwise of the SIs, making sure that the legislation is presented to Parliament in a timely manner. I hear what the noble Baroness says and I will certainly reflect on it.
My Lords, following the contribution of my noble friend Lord Campbell, can the Minister confirm my reading of the White Paper: any obligations incurred under pre-exit European law, including obligations on the Government of this country, will be justiciable in our domestic courts following exit?