House of Lords
Wednesday 14 March 2018
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Committee (7th Day)
Relevant documents: 12th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 9th Report from the Constitution Committee
Clause 9: Implementing the withdrawal agreement
142: Clause 9, page 7, line 7, after “to” insert “—
(a) approval by both Houses of Parliament of a mandate for negotiations about the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU; and(b) ”
My Lords, Amendment 142 is very ambitious and I am grateful to my co-signatories for their support. It is designed to assert the role of Parliament in the approach that the UK Government adopt to the future relationship of the UK with the EU. At the moment, where does Parliament stand on this vital future relationship? It has won the very welcome right to have a meaningful vote on any final deal that emerges from the talks, but it is conspicuously silent on the approach that the Government are taking to the talks on our future relationship. The amendment—noble Lords will see why I term it “ambitious”—is designed to claim the right of Parliament to have a meaningful vote as soon as possible on that approach, and, in effect, to give a mandate to the UK’s negotiators on the lines to follow.
Critics may justly say, “You’re a bit late; the talks are already starting”. Indeed, it is true that we are a bit late in addressing this question. But it was only 10 days ago that the Prime Minister gave her Mansion House speech, and only a couple of weeks since the Cabinet meeting at Chequers that managed to patch up at least some elements of a common position to take to the talks—and, I would guess more importantly, managed to pacify different wings of the Conservative Party. Many of us consider the position adopted to be unrealistic, wishful thinking and a pick and choose à la carte menu of what we like and what we reject. I fear that it is a fantasy to think that it will get anything other than short shrift in the forthcoming talks.
Other critics of this proposal might say that for Parliament to establish a mandate is unconstitutional, and might quote the convention that the Government cannot be instructed in how to conduct themselves when they are involved in international negotiations. But in fact it would not be unprecedented in recent times, because Parliament stepped in and intervened powerfully on certain occasions in recent years. In 2003 the Government sought a mandate for military intervention in Iraq, and more recently Parliament refused to sanction military action in Syria.
The decision on our future relationship with the EU is just as momentous as a declaration of war. So, to coin a phrase, it is time to take back control. “Take back control” was a powerful slogan in the referendum campaign. It should be equally powerful in this House and the other place now. Our future relationship with the EU is too important for us in Parliament, especially those in the other place, to play the part of spectator: too important for jobs, too important for prosperity, too important for peace, too important in relation to the Irish border question, too important for our future dealings with Russia—an issue that is very much in the headlines and on the front pages today.
As an aside, the importance of a close relationship with the EU is underlined by the present rupture with Russia. If economic sanctions are to be ramped up, it would be necessary for the EU to be involved because the EU is by far Russia’s biggest trading partner—as, of course, it is ours. The uncertain response so far of the United States to the Salisbury outrage contrasts with the solidarity from the EU and underlines the need for us to maintain a close and warm relationship with it.
Frankly, I do not know where a meaningful vote in Parliament on a mandate would lead. The position of the Front Benches would no doubt be key, as it was in the vote on triggering Article 50. It is possible that a vote could endorse the Government’s position, as set out by the Prime Minister in the Mansion House speech: ruling out membership of the single market, the customs union and any role for the European Court of Justice. That could happen—or a meaningful vote could perhaps lead to an insistence on a clean, sharp break and a switch to trade on WTO grounds. Or it could, as I would certainly prefer, aim for the UK to stay in the European Economic Area, perhaps via membership of a strengthened EFTA, thus retaining membership of the single market and the customs union. That would make us more than just a mere rule-taker. It is not an ideal position, but I believe it to be the best of the options available.
Additionally, I would favour using our existing powers—as, for example, do Belgium and Germany—to exert more control on migration. I also draw the attention of the Committee to new proposals from Brussels to ensure that the terms of employment of migrant posted workers do not undercut those of resident workers. We could have done with that three years ago.
Whatever the outcome of a meaningful vote on a mandate, Parliament would have spoken on the future relationship and not left these crucial matters solely in the fumbling hands of the Cabinet. After such a vote, it would be incumbent on all of us to get behind the decision, for better or for worse, and to make it work for both the UK and the EU. My message to this House and the other place is: assert yourselves. Do your democratic duty. Uphold the sovereignty of this Parliament before it is too late to do so.
Amendment 143 (to Amendment 142) not moved.
Amendment 144 (to Amendment 142)
144: Clause 9, in paragraph (a), after “EU” insert “, including a requirement to seek ongoing mutual recognition of professional qualifications”
My Lords, I am pleased to follow my noble friend Lord Monks. I support the fundamental aim of Amendment 142 that Parliament should be empowered to determine the mandate for the Government to follow in the talks about the UK’s future relations with the EU.
Amendment 144 seeks to place a requirement on HMG to secure mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The Government have agreed to seek to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU under the withdrawal agreement. This includes the continued recognition of professional qualifications. However, the withdrawal agreement is a draft agreement and still needs to be agreed with the EU 27 and then negotiated with the UK. The final withdrawal deal will make reference to the framework for our future relationship with the EU, which is why it is important that mutual recognition of professional qualifications, which I will refer to as MRPQ, is included. The amendment is about bringing more certainty to British and EU citizens, to businesses and to services about how they can operate in future.
I should like to outline why MRPQ is important to a range of professions and what the consequences would be for those professions if we did not have an agreement in place. The professional business sector generates a huge amount of wealth and jobs for both the UK and the EU, and the current system of mutual recognition of professional qualifications within the sector allows for a great deal of flexibility and freedom. For example, an architect who studied and qualified in France can work on a project in Rome and then establish his own practice in Birmingham. Lawyers who qualified in the UK can move between the UK and Belgium, providing advice to clients in Brussels on both English corporate and finance law and EU competition law, and there is no need for these individuals to prove that their qualifications meet local standards. UK auditors can take part in audits in other member states, although they cannot sign off an audit report in that state unless they have taken an additional aptitude test.
As I have highlighted, MRPQ is closely linked to both the ability to provide the services in the first place and the ability of providers to relocate without having to meet onerous immigration requirements. It is also needed for UK businesses to remain competitive and to attract the best staff for their operations. It is also worth noting that mutual recognition applies to UK schools of professional qualifications, which are highly respected internationally and which recruit a significant number of students from the EU.
In healthcare, we know that the NHS relies heavily on EU nationals to help fill the gaps in the workforce, and MRPQ helps to enable this. Figures show that 5.6% of NHS staff in England are nationals of other EU countries—just under 62,000 staff. Seven per cent of nurses, 21,237, and 10% of doctors, nearly 11,000, in England are EU nationals, due to the freedom of movement on qualifications.
What would be the consequences if we did not have any appropriate agreements for MRPQ? If none were in place, we would face having to renegotiate agreements country by country for some professions. With no agreement, recognition could be governed by different local regulations, forcing some professionals in certain jurisdictions to requalify from scratch or to leave the profession altogether. The process of requalification of professionals would become more onerous, expensive and, in some cases, quite unfeasible. Without an agreement, we would risk losing and being unable to attract talented workers from the EU, businesses may become less competitive and risk losing money and our UK schools of professional qualifications would certainly be negatively impacted.
I should like quickly to highlight some consequences for some specific professional groups. First, we know that 25% of architects working in the UK are from the EU. The Royal Institute of British Architects has outlined how that the risk of losing access to talents and skills from the EU, combined with the risk of losing access to the EU single market in a no-deal scenario, could reduce exports by £73 million a year— 15% of our total exports.
Without an MRPQ agreement, UK lawyers may need to retrain from scratch if they want to gain a home state legal qualification in some jurisdictions. This would mean that there would be 31 different routes for EU, EEA and Swiss jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions have significant barriers to requalification. For example, in Greece, a solicitor from England and Wales would have to take a Greek language test and be a Greek national to requalify. Similarly in France and Spain, only EEA nationals may requalify as Spanish or French lawyers respectively. In many jurisdictions, it is unclear whether that those who have trained as lawyers via a graduate diploma in law would be classed as having a law degree. This could affect an individual’s route to requalification. The same problems apply to auditors in many respects, and the same difficulties can apply to accountants.
I come back to healthcare professionals. Without MRPQ, there is a risk of there being additional barriers for EU staff to work in the NHS. We are already encountering some difficulties without such changes in the NHS and we must be concerned about our ability to keep the service working properly if we cannot get the appropriately qualified staff. No move on this front could discourage recruitment, which could put patient safety and services at risk.
Overall, I am sure we all agree that the potential consequences of no agreement on MRPQ are worrying not only for the professional groups I have mentioned but for the UK economy generally. I have outlined the extent to which UK and EU businesses and services currently rely on MRPQ. I have also highlighted some of the potentially serious consequences if we do not have an agreement. I am conscious that the Government are fully aware of the need for this to be agreed—the Prime Minister made reference to it in her Commons Statement on 5 March, which was good news. Given that, I can see no reason why the Minister should not accept this amendment today. It would not only be welcomed by the professional groups concerned, which strongly support it, but would be good for the country. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Monks in his excellent introduction and other noble Lords with amendments in this group, which contains Amendment 145 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Judd.
My amendment requires Her Majesty’s Government, in partnership with Parliament, as my noble friend Lord Monks would put it, to seek ongoing reciprocal arrangements in the field of consumer law. The consequence of this not happening would be consumer chaos in this country. It is a modest request, in the context that UK consumers are key to the prosperity of our country and integral to the economy. As we know, every month consumers spend £100 billion in the UK, and in doing so support UK businesses, manufacturers and employees. It is therefore vital that this Bill protects the rights of consumers into the future.
The Bill as it stands reveals the gaps left by the Charter of Fundamental Rights not being part of domestic law on or after exit day. One important gaping gap relates to Article 38 of the charter: the right to a high level of consumer protection. In the launch of its consumer charter for Brexit, which I attended this morning, the leading consumer body Which? called on government to maintain and enhance Britain’s vital consumer rights and standards, stating that those rights should be at the heart of the Brexit negotiations—negotiations of which, as my noble friend Lord Monks has said, we as a Parliament are at present spectators. We must ensure that Parliament is no longer a bystander.
Government reassurance is long overdue when it comes to consumer concerns about the uncertainty, risk and disruption of the Brexit process and the sheer lack of information coming out on areas such as food safety, energy bills, travel rights, the validation of aeroplane safety—as the representative from ABTA reminded us at the Which? launch this morning—and roaming charges. How will the Minister go about responding to those consumer concerns? What is his response to the list of consumer priorities that were set out this morning, such as the need to maintain the UK’s world-leading consumer rights framework? The consumer framework in this country is very much based on local government and on trading standards—and I am very proud to be a vice-president of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. The lack of resources to local government questions the Government’s insistence that, post Brexit, they will lead a race to the top in consumer rights in this country, given that the consumer framework is so heavily based on a local government framework.
Ensuring that we maintain and incentivise food quality and safety standards is another priority, as is maintaining the supply of affordable energy. Monitoring and maintaining access to the EU’s common aviation area to protect flight choice and suppress travel costs are also priorities. Further priorities include ensuring that reciprocal rights are maintained, such as in the field of healthcare and the European Health Insurance Card, which is used by nearly 250,000 UK citizens every year; and protecting mobile roaming in Europe. All these are urgent priorities for UK consumers which I do not believe the Government have really focused on and addressed so far.
What strategy have the Government in place to maintain reciprocal rights for consumers? If the Government are unable to secure a deal, for instance on aviation post Brexit, what will happen to all those passengers who are already booking holidays beyond 29 March 2019? What happens to their rights to holiday refunds or to compensation? What Government messages have been communicated to people about travel uncertainty beyond Brexit? Both Lufthansa and Ryanair have recently warned that UK holidaymakers could face flight disruption as a result of Brexit.
Surely it should not be left to individual travel companies, who themselves are unclear as to what a post-Brexit scenario will look like and who, not unnaturally, are looking themselves to their own interests in these uncertain times. For instance, according to Which? this morning, Thomas Cook has changed its terms and conditions to state explicitly that it will not provide compensation and will also not reimburse expenses or cover losses if it has to change bookings, which could occur in the event of airspace closures. Thomas Cook’s Brexit clause places airspace closure—
Is the noble Baroness aware that we are in this situation, which I agree is a serious one, because the European Union has declined to discuss any of these issues until there is an actual treaty dealing with the rights of EU citizens in the UK? That is the reason that none of this has been touched—and I agree that it is a very serious matter for many people.
I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. We have said from the start that UK citizens’ rights and the rights of EU citizens in our own country should never have been used as a bargaining chip. We have said right from the start, particularly on these Benches, that that should have been sorted out even before negotiations began.
As I was saying, the Thomas Cook Brexit clause places airspace closure as a potential scenario alongside natural disasters. We know how they feel. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute welcomes the Government’s aim in the Bill to transfer all directly applicable EU law to ensure that there are no fewer protections on the day we leave the EU. However, it remains concerned that regulations and networks that require reciprocal action and co-operation from remaining EU states, as my noble friend Lord Brooke said, will not be easy to retain unilaterally. It offered the examples of the RAPEX system for EU product safety risks, the online dispute resolution platform and the consumer protection co-operation regulation that allows for cross-border enforcement of rogue trader practices.
Divergence from the current system of rules, regulations and protections offered by the EU single market inevitably brings uncertainty and costs to businesses and consumers. The Prime Minister said as much last week. UK consumers need to be at the heart of these ongoing negotiations and need certainty that their protections will not be diminished, that rogue trading practices emanating from within the EU will be tackled and that they can enforce their rights in cross-border transactions. What is the Government’s strategy for consumers post Brexit and will the Government accept that these amendments bring greater clarity and safety to consumers?
Finally, what is plan B if consumers are not able to see beyond next week’s transition agreement? One of the issues that came up again and again with consumer bodies that came to speak to us was what happens if next week we do not get a transition agreement. Many of them are already making plans. Many of them have made their plans. They need a plan B. What plans are there for collaboration post Brexit to ensure that standards of outcomes for consumers will be there when UK and EU law diverge?
My Lords, Amendment 146 is an amendment to the one just moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monks, which I support. I speak on behalf of and will use the words of my noble friend Lord Puttnam, who cannot be here today as he is suffering from flu. I am sure your Lordships will want to send him good wishes for a speedy recovery.
I know that my noble friend is very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, and my noble friend Lord Judd for signing his amendment, and I look forward to their speeches.
Our creative industries have emerged as one of UK plc’s great success stories of recent decades. According to the latest figures, the UK’s creative industries represented nearly 4% of the UK’s gross value added in 1997. In the past 10 years this has increased by a massive 44.8% to the point where they now contribute £91.8 billion to the UK economy. But, just as importantly, the creative industries have become one of the instruments of soft power through which the UK has helped to shape ideas and thinking across Europe and the world.
Many of the policies developed by the EU, and warmly supported by the UK, have helped to grow our creative industries. I will leave it to others to talk about intellectual property, which is the basis of the creative sector, but I will give one example from the EU framework. It allows UK designers to register their designs and trademarks once in a single application that covers the entire EU and, like the recently established Unified Patent Court, provides an effective and efficient way of defending their IP.
Our creative industries cover a fairly wide range of subsectors, so let us take the example of cross-border broadcasters based in this country. The UK is Europe’s leading international hub for global media groups. It is home to more television channels than any other EU country. According to the Commercial Broadcasters Association, around 1,400 channels are based here, representing more than a third of all EU broadcasting. Over half the channels licensed in the UK broadcast direct to overseas countries. These channels employ thousands of people in this country and one in 10 jobs in the television sector is related, wholly or in part, to the presence of channels that broadcast outwith the UK.
They currently invest more than £1 billion a year in wages, overheads and technology, helping to ensure that the UK broadcasting sector has the critical mass to compete on the global stage. But the reason this works as well as it does—and it does work well—is that when the UK regulator Ofcom grants a company based in the UK a broadcasting licence, that licence, under EU law, has to be recognised by every other EU member state without further checks or review.
So, what happens when we leave? Unless we can reach a reciprocal agreement with the EU, this privileged position will be lost forever, along with the investment and jobs that go with it. It is not just the jobs at the broadcasters themselves—we should think of the value chain and the production hubs that have sprung up around them, helping to make the UK the leading centre for the audio-visual industry in Europe and, by a country mile, the most significant outside the US.
The scenario I describe and the economic minefield it represents are not a far-off prospect. There is a clear and present danger. Last week, as reported in the press today, a group of senior officials from Ireland’s audio-visual regulator was in London, pitching to the major broadcasters the advantages of moving to Dublin. Two weeks from now the President of Estonia, together with her Minister of Culture, will be in London on a similar mission. Others, from Holland, Luxembourg and elsewhere are planning to follow. Without some form of reciprocal agreement with the remaining EU member states, our creative and cultural sectors will undoubtedly suffer irreversible economic and cultural damage.
There is more. Research undertaken by Oxera for the British Film Institute indicates that the proposed diminution of freedom of movement will erode our available pool of talent. This could lead to a decrease of 5% to 6% in the volume of screen sector content made in the UK, along with the loss of some 5,000 jobs. The same research shows that the no deal scenario, under which we fall back on WTO rules, would lead to 14,000 job losses.
However, the freedom of movement challenge is even greater than that. Let us reflect for a moment on the difficulties that orchestras, rock bands, actors and every kind of creative person, whether from the UK or the EU, may have in crossing borders after we become a third country. Then add in the issue of moving equipment between two very different jurisdictions. Lorries queueing at Dover, Harwich and Holyhead will be stuffed not just with food and electrical goods but with musical instruments, sophisticated camera equipment and the physical goods that even in this digital age enable people across the UK and Europe to enjoy the very best of our common European culture.
We do not want to return to the era of the carnet, when an enormous amount of paperwork was required simply to move a film camera from London to Paris or Rome. Unless we can wrap a reciprocal agreement around our creative industries, we risk returning to those dark days of zero growth, little confidence and minimal opportunity.
The people who will suffer as a consequence are not just those who work in the creative industries; audiences across the UK will no longer be able to enjoy to anything like the same extent performances by orchestras, theatre companies, dancers, musicians and poets from across Europe. They will not be able freely to access the fruits of a common European culture—a culture that every person in this country under the age of 40 has taken entirely for granted.
The case for remaining in the EU is economic, but it is also cultural and historical. More than 50 years of peace, prosperity and culture exist and must not be forgotten. This is why we need to secure an agreement with the EU that underpins the future of our cultural industries, to the benefit of both our citizens and our economy.
My Lords, I am pleased to announce that this is the last speech I shall make in Committee on the Bill.
Well, when tempers got a bit frayed on Monday evening, I thought, “Well, I’ll make the next one my last one, so I don’t upset anybody even more”. It is my fourth but it will be my longest. I also support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Monks.
I cannot understand why—as one of my noble friends asked on Monday—after the December agreements the UK Government did not do exactly what the EU did and set out a legal document. It looked as though it was the EU’s job to do that but, when you read about it, you found out that it was not. The EU took the view that it would put that agreement into a legal form; we could have done exactly the same but we chose not to. In some ways, to put it at its crudest, I would rather have Monsieur Barnier looking after my interests than the amateurs representing the UK at the present time. It is a really serious issue that we have come to.
I want to raise food standards and have a couple of questions. First, will the UK remain a member of RASFF, the rapid alert system for food and feed? Its members are the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority and the EEA only. There is a legal basis for it; it started only in the late 1970s; it did not exist before we joined the EU and it has been evolving since then. It is a 24/7 system for exchanging information on serious risks detected in food and feed. It is a very simple system with clearly identifiable points.
The latest report on RASFF is from 2016. There were 2,993 notices issued—eight a day—all across Europe to the ports and authorities dealing with these issues. The system keeps people safe and it is run by the EU. You cannot be half in and half out of getting the notifications, or issuing your own.
When I was in government I discovered, much to my surprise, that only two departments run a 24/7 system: one is the Ministry of Defence, for obvious reasons, and the other is Defra. I would like to think that that is still the case, because they are the only two. Part of the reason is these notifications and other issues relating to food.
Research done by the Food Standards Agency for the balance of competences review when I was there back in 2013-14 showed that many people did not feel protected, but the thing that really stuck out when I was re-reading the research report the other day was that 80% of people in the UK did not know that the EU was responsible for the majority of food and feed laws in the UK. Part of the reason for that, of course, is politicians in Brussels masquerading as lying journalists telling falsehoods about the EU over three or four decades—so it was never really understand who was responsible for what.
The UK is a big player in the RASFF system. We are in the top 10 of notifying countries. In 2016 we notified on 79 occasions regarding salmonella and aflatoxins. The countries of origin that are reported most on the system are Turkey, Spain, Iran, China, the United States, India and Egypt, on matters relating to fruit and vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices, and fish and fish products. It is a 24/7 rapid-alert system for what is discovered at ports of entry and in manufacturing.
What are we talking about in terms of food law and what the EU does? I will go through the list. First are the general principles of food law, including traceability and incident reporting; the principle of control on farm to fork; and the establishment of the European Food Safety Authority. Then there are hygiene rules from the farm to the point of sale; official feed controls; and checking out abattoirs each time they are working, 24 hours a day—if there is no vet there, they cannot open. There are massive issues relating to feed safety. I spoke briefly about it the other night, so I will not repeat what I said then. One-third of the land that we use is growing feed; 85% of EU compound feed is now GM or GM-derived material; two-thirds of feed is produced by farmers; there are 4,000 feed mills in the EU; 500 million tonnes are needed each year; and there are serious issues with dioxins and PCBs. Feed safety is crucial. The animals cannot read the labels. We have to do it for them. We have to check this because the reality is that that feed becomes our food. We have to make sure that pathogens and other problems are not passed on through that food chain into the human one.
There are regulations on hygiene practices. On treatment of contaminants in food, there is an EU-wide framework for maximum levels of certain contaminants to protect public health. Food additives are controlled on an EU basis, as are flavourings. If you visit the ports of entry for food, as I did both as a Minister at Defra and with the FSA, you will find bonded warehouses of things that have been put on one side. Something might look like the product, will be labelled as it, might even smell like it, but it damn well is not the product. The crooked chemists have been to work to try to put filth through the system to cut corners and costs. These are massive issues that we need protection from. Flavourings are an area where corners can be cut. Smoke flavouring, food enzymes and extraction solvents used in the production process are controlled throughout.
Another key EU food standards issue is food contact materials. We cannot put food in any old pack. It might look like a cardboard box, but it has to be one that does not contaminate the food with whatever is in the cardboard, paper or printing. Because of trade issues, it is absolutely fundamental that these matters are dealt with on an EU-wide basis and contact materials are crucial. There are regulations about ionising radiation. I will not frighten people, but we do eat irradiated food, such as herbs, though this is not an issue. Novel food regulations relate to food production and foods that have never been used in the EU before. When someone invents a new product or process, it has to go through these regulations. This is crucial because it was not done across the EU before. GM comes under that heading, but so do other products. On quick-frozen foodstuffs for human consumption, rules are laid down for the speed of freezing, the packaging, labelling and inspection. These are fundamental to protecting trade and people. There are general rules on food labelling. One might want to complain about labels, but they are much more accepted and accurate than they ever were. I can find faults with them, but they work across Europe.
Beef and beef products are specially labelled—the only meat for which there are rules across Europe. We are the country that gave the world BSE. We do not have a lot to boast about. We know more about it than anybody else because our scientists did more work on it, but the fact is that we gave it to the world and we have to make sure that we keep the situation safe. Standards are laid down, across the piece, for bottled waters, soluble coffee products, cocoa and chocolate products, and fishery and agriculture products. There is a lot of money to be made selling expensive honey that is not actually that, so it has to be tested. You only have to look at the huge price range: the really expensive honey costs a fortune and there are people out there who want to do things that they should not. There are regulations for the labelling of sugars and fruit juices. The stuff that chemists have tried to produce in the past—I have seen it—looks like orange juice, smells like it and almost tastes like it, but laboratory studies have shown that it certainly is not orange juice. The EU lays down the rules on other products: jams and marmalades, dehydrated milk products—a fundamental one—spreadable fats and oils, which are used in massive numbers of food products. We do not invent the rules; it is done for our safety and the public interest. Natural mineral waters are also on the list.
That was just a run-through of about 25 regulations and what they cover. There is an idea that the EU does not involve us and is no good at all, but we are kept safe by those rules and regulations. We are kept safe by notification systems working instantly across the whole of Europe and the EEA when untoward things are found. Basically, we should just keep them. What is more, the Minister for Food and Rural Affairs also thinks that we should keep them. I invite noble Lords to look at Question Time on 11 January this year. There were six questions on food standards and Brexit. The noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble—a good Minister—listened to the House and did his best to respond to the points made. He said these six things:
“Our current high standards, including import requirements, will apply when we leave the EU”.
He said that,
“we have been very clear that we are not going to water down or compromise on the standards I have set out”.
“I want to be clear again: we will not compromise on the standards that will be on the statute book. Those are the requirements that we will adhere to in any trade deals”.
He then said:
“My Lords, as I have said, on our statute book will be all the current EU welfare standards”,
“I am absolutely clear that we will not water down any of our standards”.
Finally, he said that,
“we are not watering down; there will be requirements on the UK statute book”.—[Official Report, 11/1/18; cols. 306-08]
You cannot be clearer than that.
My Lords, since this is my noble friend’s last speech in Committee on the Bill and as we are so distressed at the thought of not getting his further advice on our procedures, has he detected any advantage whatever, on any substantial issue relating to food protection or standards, from us leaving the European Union?
The short answer to that is no. I will give the evidence as my final point. In 2013, the coalition Government set up the balance of competences review of 32 areas of government. At the time I chaired the Food Standards Agency, a non-ministerial department, so I was part of the coalition in a way. It was a bit of shock when I turned up to a Cabinet sub-committee one day. There was a separate review on animal health and food safety. We consulted and did a lot of research work. As I said, people thought that the EU does not do much and that they were not very secure. We consulted widely on food standards and safety. The balance of views from the Food Standards Agency and Defra—it was a joint report in the end—was that we were better off being in this system of regulations. I am a Brussels sceptic but I believe that, on balance, UK customers are better protected in terms of food and feed in this system. I have not spent much time on feed, but it is the Achilles heel of all this. But the short answer to my noble friend is no. The balance of competences review, which can be found in the Library, is there for everybody to read. We have been through all this before.
I will finish on this point. What happened to the 32 reports on the balance of competences? They were buried, because they all came out with roughly the same idea: by and large we are better off being in the EU arguing our case than being out. So we never heard any more about them until we had the barmy idea to have a referendum.
I spent a lot of my time in government negotiating the 32 reports in the balance of competences review. I remind the Committee that it was a Conservative demand within the coalition agreement of 2010 that there should be an extensive examination of the balance of competences between the UK and the EU. In almost all the 32 reports, the answer was that stakeholders across the country were satisfied with the current balance and did not wish any repatriation of competences from the EU to the UK. The noble Lord is absolutely right: the No. 10 press office did its utmost to ensure that they were published the day after Parliament rose, either for the summer or for Christmas, to minimise the amount of publicity that the reports would get because the Conservatives were scared of the right wing in their own party, as they still are.
My Lords, I rest my case.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 147A, which proposes a requirement to seek ongoing reciprocal arrangements in the field of professional sport. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, for their support of this amendment.
Sport in the UK is woven intricately into the fabric of European policy and the EU’s bilateral arrangements with the world’s international federations of sport. Professional football sits at the pinnacle of that intricate tapestry. Our duty to sports men and women is, first, to understand the ties that bind the sporting world in the UK to Europe and then to unpick, reshape and ultimately redesign a model that keeps our sporting industry robust, competitive and capable of retaining its positon as a global leader. In the brief time that I have available, I want to set out the key points, genuinely confident in the knowledge that the Minister and the Government, and indeed all parties, are interested in seeking the same solution: the retention of an environment in which the British professional sporting landscape can flourish commercially, competently and competitively on behalf of everyone involved in the industry.
It will not have escaped your Lordships’ attention that today is the second day of Cheltenham. Indeed, my expectation is that many noble Lords would prefer to be at Cheltenham than here, but such is their commitment to the Committee stage of this Bill that they are rightly here debating these issues. Cheltenham highlights an important point. The festival focuses and relies on the movement and transportation of horses and on welfare issues. Thoroughbred horseracing and breeding is a truly international industry, with significant roots in Europe. Its continued growth is predicated on the ability to move racehorses as freely as possible for competition and breeding while, crucially, retaining the highest levels of animal health, welfare and biosecurity. A key element to this is the tripartite agreement, or TPA, between the UK, France and Ireland, which facilitates 25,000 movements annually between the three countries for racing, breeding and sales purposes. There is no clarity at all on what will happen to that tripartite agreement post Brexit, but it is essential for the success not just of Cheltenham but of the industry. At Cheltenham alone, 30% of the runners have crossed European borders in order to race.
I very much hope the Minister can give comfort to the House and tell us that after the proposed transition and implementation period through to the end of 2020, when arrangements for the movement of thoroughbreds are finally determined, they will continue to be based on the thoroughbreds’ high health status. That would mean no severe delays at ports, which is vital, not least for mares who are toing and froing with foals. This issue is critical to the British Horseracing Authority and the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, and I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will take that point on board.
Is the noble Lord suggesting that Royal Ascot may not happen next year if these matters are not finalised? Does he know whether Her Majesty has been consulted about this eventuality?
I know that the whole question of Royal Ascot and the timing of the Queen’s Speech last year was very much determined by Her Majesty. I know for sure—and all noble Lords will know—that the Government, I hope, are absolutely committed to resolving the issues, which are vitally important and serious for the horseracing industry.
On the wider sporting front, we need clarity and certainty over the EU-UK’s future relationship for the sporting industry. I urge the Government to set out clearly what this relationship will look like so that the sports sector can prepare for the future. We also need to look beyond the specifics of top-level elite and professional sport. While the issues of players and transfers in football are important, they should not be the only focus of government in seeking to negotiate the best possible settlement for the sector.
We also need to focus on the continued freedom of movement on a seasonal basis for particular sports. I hope that the Government will consider proposing sports-specific visas to allow players, fans and support staff to enter and leave the European Union easily.
We have been a very important and attractive destination in hosting many events, not least the London 2012 Olympics. However, there will be increased challenges for fans and players to come into and exit the UK which could not just reduce the pool of workers but risks making the UK a less attractive international destination to host events. I hope the Minister will address that point.
As far as the Premier League is concerned, I mentioned that football was at the pinnacle of the debate. That is because there are very important points about player transfers—Bosman issues are high on that list. I will focus the Committee’s attention today on one point, although there are many aspects of professional sport that will be need to be addressed and I hope are currently being addressed. FIFA has a relationship with the European Union under Article 19, which allows international transfers to be permitted only for players over the age of 18, save for limited exceptions. One exception is that the transfer takes place within the European Union or the EEA, when the age criteria is reduced to 16.
When we leave the EU, we could potentially lose the ability to utilise the exception in Article 19 and therefore be prevented from signing players at other EU clubs between the ages of 16 and 18. That is fundamental to how UK clubs acquire young, talented and cost-effective players. This sort of youth development issue is extremely important in light of UEFA’s financial fair play regulations. Naturally, losing the Article 19 exception would have adverse consequences for all UK clubs. It is crucial for clubs to sign talented players whom they have identified at the earliest possible occasion, not just to limit the acquisition cost but to develop the young talent that is vital.
It is worth making the point that we are not talking about income for massive, rich clubs. We are talking about many clubs, which might be on the verge of insolvency in terms of their operations, having to seek through their scouting systems talented players within the EU who can not only contribute to the club by playing, but through their development can bring in later transfer fees.
I completely endorse that point. This is not just about the top clubs in the Premier League; it is about the survival of professional football in the country. I am delighted to hear the noble Lord place his points on the record and I completely endorse them.
Briefly, when we look at the rugby football world, there are Kolpak players. I mentioned this at an early stage on Second Reading, so I will not rehearse the Kolpak agreement. Kolpak players, under the Cotonou agreement, have specific non-discriminatory rights once they are lawfully employed in the European Union. In rugby, this means that, once a player from a Kolpak country has legally entered the UK, they cannot be classed as a foreign player under the Rugby Football Union regulations. Currently, the RFU regulations are that there should be no more than two foreign players in a match day squad in the top four tiers of English rugby. There are some 165 contracted Kolpak players in the top four tiers.
This is a very important point. Negotiations will need to take place within the context of the European Union and the UK Government and also with the Rugby Football Union. There needs to be early engagement with the RFU so clubs have visibility and can make strong commercial decisions moving forward over a number of years. That is vital. Many noble Lords have made the point today that we need consistency, clarity and vision so that decisions in the world of sport can be made early rather than the day before the season starts.
I will conclude by saying that the Government should, in my view, focus not only on the impact of, say, professional players in cricket but also the impact on the business of sport. In cricket many first-class counties rely on seasonal workers to deliver match day experiences, especially in the hospitality and stewarding sectors. Any change from the current migration system could affect cricket’s ability to host not only domestic competitions but future international competitions. The ICC Cricket World Cup comes just two months after Brexit. While the teams are primarily from outside the EU, nobody would wish to see any arrangement that inhibited the ability of fans to attend matches.
Again for cricket, the ability to set the appropriate level of overseas players in our domestic competition is essential. The ECB is the national governing body of cricket and its quota of overseas players is set to strike the balance between encouraging the development of home-grown players and ensuring that the best talent in the world can come and test their skills against the best English and Welsh talent.
I will conclude with one point that may be of benefit as a result of Brexit. I know that the noble Lord intervened on the last speech to ask if there was anything that might benefit. There is much EU-specific legislation that impacts sport. It clearly remains to be seen whether that will continue in the long term. EU state aid legislation is an important example in this context. It is one of the key pillars, as we all know, of EU competition law and essentially prohibits a member state from distorting competition by favouring one market participant over another. In the sports sector this has come up in the context of stadium developments, such as the allegation that licensing the Olympic stadium to West Ham constituted unlawful state assistance. Indeed, the European Commission has clawed back €18 million from Real Madrid after the city council transferred land to the club at a significant undervalue, while six other Spanish clubs were also found to be involved in similar breaches.
Given that there is currently no equivalent domestic law, this could be one of the first areas of legislation to be scrutinised—and I very much hope it will be, because if removed it would potentially allow public bodies to subsidise more stadium developments and other major sporting infrastructure projects in this country. We desperately need that investment at local authority level. I hope that that one benefit in a speech of otherwise significant concerns that face professional sport could also be looked at carefully by my noble friend the Minister and his colleagues. I am grateful once again to the noble Lord, Lord Monks, for giving us the opportunity to raise these issues. I am equally grateful to my noble friends for putting their names to the amendment.
My Lords, my Amendment 147B is in this rather diverse group of amendments. I declare an interest in that most of my close family are involved in the creative industries in Wales. My amendment is very similar to Amendment 146, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who cannot be here, unfortunately. I support that amendment. My wording makes reference to the creative industries in all parts of the United Kingdom.
By their very nature the creative industries are international. Nothing that emerges from the negotiations that the Government are undertaking with the EU should in any way serve as a disincentive to all elements of the creative industries to engage as fully as they do now with counterparts throughout the European Union, or for those engaged in creative industries in the other 27 member states of the EU to maintain their engagement with colleagues in the UK and, indeed, with the general public.
The creative industries are the fastest-growing sector of the Welsh economy, having increased by way of employment by 58% between 2005 and 2014. Film and television account for a significant part of this, and the Welsh Government have had creative industries as a growth target since 2006. Our Welsh universities generate 5,000 creative industry graduates each year in such subjects as animation, visual effects and digital and mobile technology.
The creative industries are a key component of the UK economy, worth more than £35 billion per annum, with almost half their exports going to the EU. The audio-visual sector alone contributes £16 billion to UK GVA, with £7 billion of exports—more than £3 billion of them to EU countries.
The Creative Industries Federation published its Global Trade Report in January, based on evidence from 130 leading creative businesses. Of these, more than 80% were not confident that the UK’s creative industries could maintain their global reputation after Brexit. Forty per cent said that a no deal outcome would harm their ability to export, with 21% saying that it would lead to them moving their business abroad. They desperately want the UK to continue to have an active role in future EU legislation, as that can have a far-reaching impact on their work. The sector urgently needs to know how alignment with the EU will be managed post Brexit. Who will make the rules and regulations that will affect their ability to export to the EU countries? They also need clarity on the movement of self-employed performers and are calling for a labour movement framework that enables individuals and businesses to travel unhindered throughout the EU in order to provide their services.
The federation is calling for ongoing participation for UK citizens and businesses in EU cultural and educational programmes. It wants mutual recognition of qualifications—as has been mentioned already—and an agreement that covers the key dimension of intellectual property. It also wants clarification about the future of the digital single market.
One very important function is provided by UK-based broadcasters which broadcast programmes and services to European Union audiences. It is a significant sector; I believe that a staggering 700 such services are generated from the UK. Will they be allowed after Brexit to broadcast without barriers? They need to know the likely position relating to intellectual property. In particular, there is a strong feeling in the sector that we must be able to bring in labour from the EU as we do not have enough home-grown skills to satisfy demand.
Last November, the Welsh Government hosted in Cardiff a conference of EU peripheral maritime regions on European co-operation beyond Brexit. Their final declaration emphasised the need for continued participation in Creative Europe. Will we still have access to Creative Europe, which supports transnational co-operation projects involving cultural and creative organisations from different countries? If we lose access to this resource, it will be a very great loss to Wales and many other parts of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister clarify the position on that point when he responds?
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 147C. In this rather pick-and-mix debate, as we go from one important topic to another, my amendment refers to transport. Our transport systems operate on a system of ongoing reciprocal arrangements and there is no WTO fallback position—indeed, I spoke about this in the early hours of yesterday morning. It is essential that we remain part of the arrangements that already exist, because our whole economy and society stand on the shoulders of our transport systems.
The noble Baroness described this as a pick-and-mix debate. Is there not one thing in common, that in every case we would be much better remaining in the European Union?
The noble Lord makes an excellent comment. I am not in any way undermining the debate. I said that these are really important topics. Of course, the one thing they have in common in the pick-and-mix—they are all sweets—is that they are all really important aspects that we need to remain part of.
If our transport systems stop, we all stop. It is essential that we continue with the existing international arrangements. In transport, it is estimated that there are some 65 of these sets of international arrangements in total. Do not worry, I am not going to go through all of them, but to illustrate, I spent yesterday in the Moses Room debating the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill, which is being rushed through here because the Government have discovered that for lorries to continue to travel abroad and vice versa, and for us to continue to be able to drive abroad, we might need to fall back on the Vienna convention of 1968 and the Geneva convention of 1949.
We signed the Vienna convention but we never ratified it. We did not need to because we joined the EU. We now need to do so, for which we have to give a year’s notice. Noble Lords might wish to think about what this country will be doing if the Government have their way in a year’s time. Therefore, that Bill is in a bit of a rush. It was not expected and it was not in the Queen’s Speech. It has clearly been put together by the Government at great speed because it is a very skeletal Bill. Indeed, the Delegated Powers Committee report called it not so much “skeletal”, more of “a mission statement”. We have no idea what system the Government will introduce in the regulations. Therefore, it is important that we retain the right to know what will be put forward to scrutinise it. At the moment it allows for only negative instruments, which is very unsatisfactory.
That example does not inspire confidence that the Government are on top of the job. There are probably other corners of the world of international transport that they have not come upon yet. Another example is the open skies agreement between the US and the EU, which we are a member of by virtue of being a member of the EU. I have a Private Member’s Bill on this that your Lordships might like to support. Without this agreement, planes will be grounded. It affects flights to and from the US, as well as within the EU. It affects not just our right for planes in Britain to fly to EU countries, but our right for them to go from one country to another in the EU. It is not easy to renegotiate this because of the complex ownership of our major airlines, several of which have a majority foreign ownership, although they are UK-based airlines. By the international judgment on these things, when we cease to be a member of the EU they in effect cease to be UK airlines, or could cease to be.
There is also the European Aviation Safety Agency, of which we have been a predominant member. It is very important that we remain a member of it. There are many other agreements relating to railways and a whole host of agreements associated with the maritime industry, including many that affect the protection of workers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, has already amply illustrated the importance and impact on consumer rights of these international agreements. Consumers in Britain have benefited enormously from the rights given to them, for example in relation to air travel, as a result of international agreements of which we are members.
The new customs we will have to be part of will have a major impact on our haulage and international travel sector. The British Retail Consortium believes that 180,000 UK companies, many of them small and medium-sized enterprises, will be drawn into customs declarations for the first time with new excise and VAT systems. Although they have exported, they have done so entirely to the EU and therefore have not had to have these customs arrangements. When they talk to me, they describe the huge cost to them of becoming involved in all these new systems. As this is such a massive topic, I am not going to produce any more examples, but I can assure noble Lords that there are many dozens more.
I wonder if my noble friend could add just one more example. She and I and the Minister—before he was sent to the Brexit gulag—worked on the Space Industry Bill. Nothing more typifies the need for co-operation within Europe than that industry. Will she add to her litany of examples the space industry, to which we have made such a contribution and about which there are many unanswered questions?
My noble friend makes a very good point. The uncertainty is already having an impact on the space industry because aspects of it are moving abroad. The same applies to the automotive industry, where we have had such growth in recent years. The impact of customs arrangements on the industry will be so complex that it will not be able to import and export parts across borders during the manufacturing process as companies have been doing. People occasionally say, “Well, what you can do is produce all the goods in one country”. They make the point that it takes about five years to develop a supply chain in one particular process in one country. It is extremely difficult, nigh on impossible, to do that in the modern world.
To conclude, I meet dozens of representatives of businesses in the transport sector on a weekly basis. I am assiduous in meeting organisations and individual companies and going on visits in order to take the temperature of their views. I am yet to meet a single one who thinks they would be better off outside the EU, outside the single market, outside the customs union. They are, with a will, trying to prepare themselves for the worst, but they still hope for the best.
Will the noble Baroness explain one point? She has set out a range of extremely important issues, as have other noble Lords. Clearly, a whole range of things is of extreme importance. I do not understand how this suggestion of putting all these issues into a mandate in order that, presumably, Parliament should take a view on it and then go to the European Union and discuss it can possibly work.
The noble Lord underestimates the level of wisdom and expertise that sits within Parliament. The EU is managing its negotiations in line with the European Parliament. There is no way in which we need to adopt a different model; the supremacy of Parliament should remain.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question in relation to these amendments—I am sorry that I was a little late because of the early start; I may have missed the answer. Given that three times as many European students come here as ours go to Europe—in my experience, ours always wanted to go, and still go, to the USA; given that we know that we will not expel our migrants in any brutal fashion; given that they will presumably want to fly here; given that we have more Indian and Chinese students coming here than we have from the whole EU because our universities are so much better and far higher in the league table than any single continental European university, and given that Australian and Middle Eastern airlines fly in and out all the time, what is the problem? Is the pressure not on European nations? Are they perhaps begging us in the negotiation to allow them freedom of movement to come here to participate in the activities that I have mentioned? Cannot our airlines fly in exactly the same way as Australian, Middle Eastern and American airlines?
My noble friend Lord Stevenson invited me to add my words to what he was saying, and I am very glad to do so, but I am associated with some of the other amendments as well. I want to speak honestly from past to past. In 1978, I can vividly remember enjoying being part of the Committee of Ministers in Europe working on mutual recognition of qualifications. What was so exciting about that discussion was that everyone in the room recognised that the issues with which we were dealing could not be contained within national frontiers, that they were all international in character and all crossed frontiers. We recognised that the way we looked at health, at the enhancement of the arts and at the quality of the professions as they built for our future would be best served if we fully co-operated. The measures we sought were there to support the whole concept of co-operation and enhancement of the quality of life for people in Europe. I find it utterly miserable that we have deserted that reality, have deserted that dream and are talking now about regulations to try to salvage a situation into which we should never have strayed.
My Lords, unlike for the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, this is my first as well as last contribution to the Committee stage, but it is on a very big question indeed. While I support the amendment effectively introduced by my noble friend Lord Monks, I have become rather sceptical about the value of most of the debates about the withdrawal Bill, because they are not put in any sort of picture about the architecture of the treaty that we are moving towards.
To use the current vernacular, cherry-picking is all very well, but frankly it will not get us very far. The amendment would give the Parliament whose sovereignty we hear so much about the opportunity to consider how we can get towards a satisfactory outcome from this affair for the nation as a whole. We do not at this moment need to split hairs about whether we would be amending a draft presented by the Government or whether Parliament would consider some sort of resolution on a mandate. Today is the day to consider the principle, which is the broader canvas on which this will be played out.
Only yesterday, the President of the European Commission, Mr Juncker, shortly to be succeeded, we are told on the Brussels grapevine, by Monsieur Barnier, stated:
“As the clock counts down, with one year to go, it is now time to translate speeches into treaties; to turn … broad suggestions”,
into “workable solutions”. We have to raise our game and address the bigger picture to see how the Bill can be amended to facilitate that.
The field that I know best, workers’ rights, provides a good illustration, particularly those derived from collective agreements made in Brussels under the Maastricht treaty, a baker’s dozen ranging from pro rata rights for part-time workers to rights to information and consultation. The blunt fact is that the only way they can be guaranteed if we leave the EU is to move from pillar 1 of the EEA, the EU, to pillar 2 of the EEA, which is EFTA and, by doing so, stay in the single market with all its provisions. That has yet to be broached with our friends in Norway, for example, and the clock is ticking on this too: how that could be worked out on the EFTA-EEA side. It would be very discourteous not to start that process in an exploratory fashion with them, especially given the context that it is now at least 50% likely that that is where we will wind up.
The nearest we have to a document that would show the architecture that the treaty would cover is the draft of the withdrawal agreement, which has been in the Printed Paper Office for two weeks. It is the first outline of what will become a treaty, like the treaty of Maastricht, for example, which caused Sir John Major so much difficulty with his “bastards” the best part of 30 years ago. It gives us an indication of the territory that must be filled in, a framework to add in what this country wants to insert separately as and when such can be agreed.
For reasons that we all understand and to which my noble friend has referred, it is counterproductive to the national interest to fail to take the opportunity to spell out the mandate that Parliament wishes to give our negotiators. Some people have not yet realised why this is so important.
I used to work at the TUC and I take a trade union negotiation as an analogy. In a trade union negotiation with an employer, one does not put into a remit, on the one extreme, “Let’s all have a 20-hour week. Let’s double our pay. Let’s have eight weeks’ holiday”, or whatever. Even if the members thought that that might sound like a good idea, the trade union executive would say, “No, that is ridiculously ambitious. You will not get it and, moreover, in failing to get it, the members will be disillusioned”. To go to the other extreme, you do not normally say, “Let’s negotiate and see what happens. Just wait and judge the outcome of the negotiations”. There is an interesting reason why that is not a good idea. Apart from anything else, the union executive would have no established criteria against which to explain how it has eventually come to recommend acceptance of an agreement. Not setting out a mandate is putting off the evil day when there would have to be that sort of difficulty or indeed guarantees that sort of crisis.
As regards the architecture and what is in the mandate as opposed to the detail—it is difficult to know how one would spatchcock in all the things that have been mentioned in the last two hours—I need to distinguish the major planks that do not stand on their own but have to be part of a treaty. They have to be part of a comprehensive solution. They cannot just be hanging there. The mandate has to have some major planks on the single market and the customs union, all within a framework of the family of trade relationships and rule-making relationships of which we want to be a part.
The examples given this morning can be added to. There are literally thousands of things that we cannot begin again to negotiate from scratch. We have to have categories that have some read-across. If you take a broad sweep, in industry and commerce about half the people would say that their number one worry is regulations in the single market and what happens to them. Will we have to have new standards and so on? The other one, if you take the broad sweep, is tariffs and customs. Many companies, ranging from manufacturing to financial services—it depends on the field—would say that it is about 50:50. They have worries about both and there are some overlapping concerns.
The referendum question did not say, “How many of these regulations do you want to get rid of?” Where I think we can distinguish the different levels of architecture in a mandate is to talk about, for example, the case for quasi-membership—if I can call it that—via EFTA of the single market and the customs union. It is not, in my opinion, “a customs union” but “the customs union”. It is there and it actually works.
I stress that these vehicles have been going strong for 20 or more years. They have all the problems removed from them by now. They run reasonably well. To bigheadedly deny ourselves the possibility of being in either pillar 1, the EU, or pillar 2, EFTA, would be to shoot ourselves in the foot. Membership of EFTA would mean that we were still in something that works and has relationships around the world and we would not have to start from scratch. EFTA is a vehicle that has been road-tested since about 1958. We would have half-price membership and not be at the table of the EU. Some people say, “That’s a downside. We voted to come out of the EU and now our objection is that we are not at the table”. I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. However, as a big player, we could help to beef up what is already written, in broad terms, in the articles of the European Economic Area on pre-legislative arrangements on consultation on rule-making within the EU.
We would not just be shooting ourselves in the foot if we did not recognise all those points; we would be shooting ourselves in the head. This is a tangible step that we can take right now. It is a broad framework for the other amendments to be taken today. In my opinion, it is the most important one because it is the architectural provision within which all the others have to be considered. This is the way in which Parliament, at this critical juncture in our country’s history, could exercise the sovereignty that we hear so much about.
My Lords, 20 months after the referendum we are no closer to knowing what the UK will look like in a post-Brexit world. In a series of speeches this morning, the Committee has heard desperate cries for clarity and certainty in everything from football to horseracing, from transport to the law. But there is no clarity or certainty and this really does not feel like taking back control. I put my name to Amendment 142 because it aims to give back some control of this process to Parliament. It was ably described by the noble Lord, Lord Monks, and then by the noble Lord, Lord Lea. It intends to get some process into what, at the moment, looks like a dreadful muddle.
We need to support all the amendments in this group—but they could all, in their way, hang under Amendment 142. They all demonstrate the need, and the wish, to impose some form of direction on a Government who look as if they would appreciate being given it. They need some help in how they conduct their negotiations with the EU 27, and that is what this amendment intends to deliver.
We have heard that the Government do not want to be shackled; they need to be free to negotiate on their own terms. Nonsense. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Lea, negotiations benefit from having their terms—for both sides—laid out relatively clearly at the beginning. I have seen it from the other side of the table from the noble Lord, Lord Lea, and it is jolly useful to be able to say, “My board won’t put up with that”. It would surely be very helpful for the government negotiators to go into their next round of negotiations with a clear view that they can say, “This far and no further as far as my board—Parliament—is concerned”. The EU 27 are making it very clear what their terms of negotiation are.
So we need to give clarity. We have heard various wish lists from the Government, but hope does not constitute a policy. We now need to empower the Government to go into negotiations with a clear sense of purpose. Like many in this House, I hope that that will include achieving a customs agreement. That is what business needs; it is what the country wants; and it is certainly part of the solution—although not the entire one—to the issue of Northern Ireland, which will be debated later today.
Time is running out, energy is being expended and money is being spent—getting us, it would seem at the moment, precisely nowhere. The Department for Business is going to be taking on an extra 1,000 people—it is nearly there now—to deal with Brexit. Goodness knows how they are going to do that. One knows that Boy Scouts should be prepared, but these people are having to prepare for they know not what and to cover all eventualities. It is like trying to shape water—without the prospect of an Oscar.
There is no point in the Government going into negotiations if they are going to eventually return to Parliament with the terms of a deal—and if the “meaningful vote” is to have any meaning, they will do—if Parliament is already clear that it will not accept that deal. How much more sensible and time efficient it would be to allow Parliament to hear what the Government really want and for us, in both Houses, to have a chance to debate it and to give the negotiators a mandate. That is what this amendment is about. It is very simple really, and I absolutely support it.
My Lords, I support Amendment 142 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monks, to which I also have added my name. I can be brief, in view of the effective, coherent and measured way in which the amendment was introduced, and I will confine my remarks to the question of sovereignty.
On the face of it, the purpose of the amendment, which I support, is to involve Parliament more considerably in the process of Brexit. A recurring theme of those who argued that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union was that we wanted to make our own laws. I interpret that, and believe that I am entitled to do so, as being by implication an assertion of the sovereignty of Parliament. To begin with, that was not an implication recognised by the Government, who were forced to do so by the Supreme Court in the case of Miller.
I think it can be argued fairly that sovereignty carries rights and responsibilities and that both of these exist in parallel—some might put it slightly differently and say that it carries powers and responsibilities. But the negotiations that are being carried on by the Government are being conducted on the principle that the Government are answerable to Parliament. The responsibility for the decisions of the Government, therefore, is a consequence of the sovereignty of Parliament. Governments are not sovereign, although some think they are—and it is not difficult to think of Prime Ministers who thought they were sovereign as well. If the ultimate responsibility is Parliament’s, then Parliament has responsibility but no power. I am not sure what the antonym for a harlot is, but I hope I make the point that the sovereignty that we enjoy is sovereignty that carries responsibility.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that we give practical application to the sovereignty of Parliament by giving Parliament in these matters a power to fashion the terms of the future of the United Kingdom’s relations with the European Union. To deny that power to Parliament is a breach of our sovereignty.
My Lords, I support Amendment 147A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, to which my name is also attached. I have a number of interests to declare in the area of sport, one of which is that I am the chair of ukactive. I am slightly disappointed that sport and physical activity has not had a higher profile within the debate on the EU withdrawal Bill. We cannot assume that sport will be okay just because sport is generally very good at looking after itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, raised many issues, and perhaps they are just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges we face as the impact on elite sport filters down to the grass roots. He talked about Cheltenham. It is not just the movement of horses that will be affected. That might be the very visible impact of the legislation, but there will be an impact on the local economy—on the provision of stables, food supplies, grooms and so on—that we will not see until it is too late. We might understand the impact of a high-profile player not coming to the UK or choosing to leave the UK, but we will not see the impact on associated personnel and coaches, on how it filters down to the academy structure, on the potential success of our clubs, and on whether fans choose to go and watch those sports. It will go right down to the individual owner of a burger van parked on the outskirts of a community if there is a huge impact on sport.
We know that the value of community leisure to the UK economy alone is £3.3 billion a year. That has been worked out via a social value calculator. The impact of sport amounts to many more billions. While I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that it might be a pick-and-mix group of amendments, each of them has a massively important impact on the economic prosperity and international standing of our country.
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, spoken to so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, as well as the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. Both noble Lords have set out very well why the creative industries are hugely important for the country, economically and in terms of soft power—and, I would add, in the potential growth of employment in the sector, not just in London but across the whole country, particularly in the area of creative tech.
As has been explained, the sector now faces many serious concerns in the light of Brexit. I will highlight just one: the mobility of the workforce. This concern runs like a thread through the briefings I have received. It is one that affects many who work in the arts and in creative industries, including those who run their own small business. This is not just about creatives coming into the UK but about British artists and creatives journeying into Europe—a direction that is to some extent being overlooked. Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has said, accounts for 45% of the market.
The potential loss of free movement is the greatest concern of many of the arts, and prompted the #FreeMoveCreate campaign to be set up last year by fine artists and musicians, namely the Artists Information Company and the Incorporated Society of Musicians, but joined now by a wide membership that includes the Creative Industries Federation and the British Fashion Council. That campaign has been gathering data from the industry, specifically about present patterns of movement, which will help the Government to understand precisely the extent of this concern.
The creative industries are naturally collaborative and internationalist in outlook. They are unlike the traditional industries in one key respect: people themselves are an essential aspect of the product. Whether we are talking about artists, musicians, fashion designers, creatives in film and television or creative tech, including video games and advertising, it is absolutely essential that the British creative industries have physical access to the rest of Europe. Free movement of personnel, more than in any other industry—43% of those in the creative industries are self-employed, rising to 90% for musicians—is a crucial element of the creative and, indeed, digital industries as a whole.
It cannot be overestimated how much that movement must be free. Flexibility and the need for rapid response are key aspects of the creative industries, with British musicians, dancers and fashion models, for example, often needed immediately on the spot, a plane’s flight away. Ad hoc visits with work found and taken up abroad are also hugely significant, particularly for the self-employed. As #FreeMoveCreate says, the time taken to secure a visa is lost work, and if every three months, for example, an artist had to turn down a performance or an exhibition to secure an ongoing visa permission, that could cause a major loss in income, or indeed the loss of a project.
Artists and creatives make multiple journeys abroad, move while in Europe and often individually work on many projects. Multiple visas, work permits and tax forms will not be a solution. Have the Government looked carefully at the effect of Brexit on the self-employed, who will often work for many different larger organisations or clients abroad? At present it is simple: their EU passport is their work permit, with the only thing required being their A1 certificate demonstrating the payment of national insurance contributions. Any kind of delay or paperwork additional to what is normal within the EU could kill this work, since UK workers will be immediately at a disadvantage.
The allied concern is that of the movement of equipment, including instruments, sets, costumes and much else, which has to be transported across borders as quickly as it is now without red tape. Finally, we are not necessarily talking about short periods of time abroad. As an example, a placement with an orchestra could last for years.
The recent House of Commons DCMS committee report on the potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries makes the recommendation that,
“the Government should seek to retain free movement of people during any transitional period after the UK formally ceases to be a member of the EU … If the visa system is to change subsequently, an intensive and detailed process of consultation with all those affected will need to begin as soon as possible”.
I hope that the Government are taking very careful note of this, alongside the many other recommendations in that report.
My Lords, I rise to add my support to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and wish him a speedy recovery. I also speak to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. May I add my thanks for the way in which recent Governments of all hues have got the point of the creative industries and their importance? In my case, it was the late Matthew Evans, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, who was a Labour Government Minister when I first entered this House. He encouraged me to support and put down debates and Questions on the creative industries—something that I duly did and continue to do. I also add my appreciation for everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, and the right honourable Ed Vaizey have done to support the sector.
However, their good work and prescient strategy now risk unravelling. To get to the substantive point of Amendment 146, without some form of reciprocal agreement with the remaining EU member states, our creative and cultural sectors will, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has said, suffer terrible economic and cultural damage. It is absolutely essential that, as well as being at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy—which they are—the creative industries are at the top table of Brexit negotiations.
As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, have said, many things are crucial to the continuing success of the creative industries—country of origin, IP legislation and collaboration, portability and funding. For example, the British Film Institute distributes around £50 million per annum in lottery funds, but Creative Europe contributes a further £13 million, which would potentially go. Another crucial issue is freedom of movement, which is access not just to international talent, as others have said, but to much-needed skills. Also crucial are the ability for touring performers to cross borders with minimum red tape; design law; and protection from the EU’s cultural exception rules.
Supporting this vital, vibrant sector is of paramount importance to our economy, to our country’s sense of itself and to our place in the world. Our rich history of cultural exchange must be maintained within Europe. Unless the interests of the creative industries are protected, leaving Europe will be a disaster for a jewel in the crown of our nation. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.
My Lords, I rise to add a few words to what has been said already. In particular, I will focus my remarks on the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Wigley. I should add that I and members of my family have been involved in the creative industries.
I want essentially to talk about broadcasting and its allied sectors, for which it has been said that the UK is the principal centre in the European Union and, as a result, has become one of the pre-eminent broadcasting hubs in the world.
The industry as it is now is essentially a child of the 1990s—a child of a union between digital technology and the European Union single market. In this country, noble Lords will remember, digital television was launched by the Broadcasting Act 1996, and the European single market officially came into being in 1993. Perhaps I ought to explain that I was the Minister for Broadcasting responsible for that legislation. For much of the 1990s, I was working in the European Parliament on the single market. I have always been a strong supporter of this Conservative initiative, but I am aware that that is perhaps a rather unfashionable stance at present.
We do not live in a laissez-faire, devil-take-the-hindmost market. We live in a regulated market like all the countries with which we usually compare ourselves. One of the characteristics of that is that legal access to a market does not of and by itself confer a right to trade in it. It is through the instrument of the single market that this sector has beneficially enlarged UK sovereignty in an interdependent world so that across the entire EU it has done things to its own and our nation’s advantage.
We have had a number of figures quoted already about the value of this sector to the country, so there is absolutely no need for me to repeat them. It is interesting that the two sets of confidential documents I have seen in 100 Parliament Street confirm the damaging impact of leaving that marketplace.
If we do not attain equivalent arrangements in any post-Brexit world, the capabilities of this sector will be much diminished, as has been said. As we speak, the sector is rearranging its modus operandi and exporting not only its products but its infrastructure elsewhere in the EU. Furthermore, as has also been said, its capabilities are becoming much reduced, as London is a magnet and a melting pot for many of the most talented across Europe.
Only a couple of weekends ago, I was talking to a friend who is a very senior director of one of the UK’s most well-known, globally esteemed firms of architects, a name that I suspect that every noble Lord would recognise without problem. He told me that the greatest damage Brexit was going to do to his business was to dry up the stream of highly talented people who wanted to work with them and contribute to this country in that way. It is happening now.
We sometimes forget that one of the United States’s greatest instruments of soft power is Hollywood, and this sector does something equivalent for this country. If we cannot reverse the inevitable consequences of serving Article 50 in this respect, real damage will be done to this country. The Prime Minister, to her great credit, recognised that and has assured us that she is striving to do whatever she can to mitigate that consequence. Parliament should support her in doing that.
The implications of all this should be spelled out to everybody in this country, not just the privileged few who are given access to 100 Parliament Street. That should strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand, not least here at home, as the reality of what is at stake—both the prize to be won and what could be lost—should be available to everybody.
Before the noble Lord sits down, I ask him the same question that I asked the noble Lord, Lord Rooker: can he see any benefit at all from leaving the European Union in respect of the broadcasting and cultural sectors with which he is so familiar?
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Monks said, we in Parliament appear at the moment to be mere spectators, highly dependent on the Government to negotiate on our behalf—indeed, on behalf of future generations—an agreement with the EU as to how we withdraw from nearly half a century of membership and, more seriously, how we work with and alongside the EU in the decades to come: the canvas, or the mandate, in the words of my noble friend Lord Lea.
It is to this latter task that Amendment 144 and its amendments draw our attention. At the moment, the Government are telling us nothing as to the shape of the agreement they wish to reach. “Deep”? “Bespoke”? Those words tell us nothing. What does it mean in regard to family law; our highly profitable creative industries; the protection of consumers, especially in food safety or transport—those trains, planes and ships that carry people and goods from here to there every hour of the day? How does it affect our artistic, sporting and other professionals, who are currently able to work across the EU, representing British companies or citizens, competing, performing or conducting architectural, veterinary or scientific work across that enormous market, or undertaking accounting or auditing work for multinationals? Indeed, a whole range of jobs are currently undertaken day by day by virtue of the IP agreements, broadcasting licensing or the mutual recognition of qualifications, which my noble friend Lord Brooke set out so clearly. Negotiations are needed on those areas.
Britain, as everyone has emphasised, is a country of talent. People with that talent tend to fly in and out of other countries to ply their skills. My noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith arrived early this morning from plying his skills elsewhere. That is how our professionals work. But they can do that only if the recognition is there. Within the EU it can happen by automatic recognition for professions with harmonised minimum training conditions—the nurses and doctors we have already heard about, dentists, pharmacists, architects and vets, albeit that they may have to register elsewhere. There is a general system for some, such as lawyers, auditors, insurance intermediaries and translators; or recognition by virtue of professional experience, for example for carpenters and beauticians; or the A1 system, if I heard it correctly, for artists.
In addition, there is the fly in, fly out route. For architects working on projects in other EU countries, in Berlin or elsewhere, or for lawyers representing our British clients, this ability is essential—as indeed it is, as we have heard, for a combination of racehorses, models, opera singers, pop stars, sports specialists, designers or even film crews. Understandably, organisations representing all those groups have been in touch imploring us to press the Government to raise the issue of reciprocity and recognition higher up their priorities, as they fear otherwise a loss of business in just one year’s time. It is why, like the other issues requiring reciprocity from our partners—whether in family law or in sports, emphasised by our Olympians, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, or the creative industries or broadcasting, which would have been emphasised had he not been ill by my noble friend Lord Puttnam—these amendments seek to insert these elements into the Government’s negotiating aims.
Equally crucial but less well recognised by the Government is the need to negotiate consumer rights, whether over goods and services purchased or the food we eat, as set out so clearly by my noble friends Lady Crawley and Lord Rooker, who knows a thing or two about food safety—even, as we heard, about honey.
There are two aspects to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Monks. One is to stress the breadth and importance of what is being negotiated, but the other fundamental aspect is to require the negotiating mandate—the “asks” which are to be put in the hands of our representatives to the EU—to be approved by Parliament, not just by “fumbling” Ministers, as my noble friend called them, or “amateurs” in the words of my noble friend Lord Rooker. Rather more politely, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, just said that Ministers perhaps need some help.
The importance of this is clear. It is our country’s future that these Ministers are negotiating. We need to see the objectives that they have set for themselves. These objectives will determine the sort of country we will be. They will determine our trading, security, legal, environmental and financial arrangements with the continent. This is too important to be left to a secret document. We want to see the path down which the Government seek to lead us.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 147A, to which I have added my name. The world of sport, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned, is a complicated one that fits into all the other strands here. He spoke about Cheltenham most passionately. I live in the village of Lambourn, which has a mass exodus to Cheltenham. However, round it are other things that are not, say, France and Ireland. When you come to the show-jumping world, there are other countries coming there, with other workers, and you have travel from other nations such as Germany and Holland. It gets more complicated the more you look at it. The employment rights of professional sportsmen get more and more complicated and tap into the other things we have spoken about. It comes into the creative industries. All of these come across.
Are you going to stop the expertise of Parliament getting into this? Government departments and Ministers tend to be very bad at picking up on these concerns—and that is effectively the function of Parliament. How many of us here spend our entire lives saying, “You hadn’t thought of that. You haven’t spoken about that”? It is virtually all we do. Civil servants do not have a limitless supply of crystal balls, and neither do party hacks backing up the machine of government. Unless Parliament gets in and we have comprehensive agreements, when we do something this complicated we are going to make mistakes. Sport is just one example. The creative industries is another. It was not that the list was long for this group; it was not long enough. There must be a way of getting this information in. The way to do that is to aim to get Members of both Houses of Parliament to get through, because there is nothing else that can start to do it.
The main amendment here—and those supporting it—point us this way, and unless the Minister can make some response that tells us how that is going to happen, we are going to have major problems. I hope this will be the first and last time I have to speak on this Bill—but if the Minister does not give a proper answer I will be back.
My Lords, there is a theme that recurs in many of our debates on the Bill; and perhaps in this debate most of all. I think the noble Lord, Lord Addington, expressed the view that this Government somehow do not respect Parliament, do not understand its place in the constitution and are somehow seeking to work around it or sideline it. With respect, I hope to demonstrate that this suggestion is unfounded. Let me be clear and emphatic. Given Parliament’s pre-eminent position in our constitution, it is not possible for the Government to disregard it or work around it—and nor, of course, would it be desirable for them to seek to do so.
Why, therefore, did Gina Miller have to take the Government to the High Court?
That is a separate issue—but we respected the outcome and the Article 50 Bill was, of course, approved by Parliament.
The need for parliamentary assent to executive action is woven into our constitution at every juncture, and rightly so. Of course, on occasion Parliament puts a question to the electorate directly for their views. The debate we are having today—and had on previous days—is of course the result of one of those occasions. In the course of the debates on this Bill, it has been asserted that it has profound constitutional implications, and so it does. However, I am wary of endorsing some of the language that has been used with regard to the delegated powers in this Bill.
If noble Lords have some time to take a look at the draft statutory instruments that we published last week, they will perhaps see what I mean when I say that there is a profound disconnect between the picture painted at times in this House of the types of powers we are taking and the actual uses to which we propose to put those powers. I urge noble Lords to look at these draft instruments on the GOV.UK website.
The group of amendments we have been debating so far today and the group to which we will turn next do of course raise some profound constitutional questions. They require us to ask ourselves who can act on the international plane on behalf of the UK, and how the mechanisms of control and accountability operate for the conduct of such action. They pose the question of if and how there should be a role for the courts in examining the conduct of those negotiations. They also pose questions about the circumstances—if any—in which it would be appropriate for Parliament to consider action that goes against a decision made in a referendum.
Our debate here today has, understandably, touched on a number of different areas. However, I now wish to address the core theme of the amendments in this group: that it is for the legislature to set the mandate for the negotiations that the Government are currently undertaking with the EU. It was right that the electorate had the opportunity to make its voice heard at the last election, and the result of that democratic exercise was the return of the Government in their current form, to pursue their stated objective of a deep and special partnership with the EU.
Most of the amendments in this group are attached to Amendment 142, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monks, and they raise important and valid issues in the context of our future relationship with the EU. I reassure noble Lords that I will revisit these issues later in my response. However, as a point of principle, it is not beneficial to enter into a negotiation with a number of domestic constraints on exactly what we can negotiate. Flexibility is necessary for a successful negotiated outcome.
The challenge now is to make a success of our exit and get the best deal possible for the UK, so that this House, the other place, and our national conversation more broadly can turn to discussing and taking decisions on what kind of country we wish to be after we have concluded our negotiations with the EU. After exit, and once we have negotiated the new deep and special partnership, great opportunities for new decisions will open up in this Parliament and in the devolved legislatures.
In case it appears that I am trying to exclude the role of Parliament in shaping our negotiating objectives, I once again reassure the Committee that I am doing nothing of the sort. Parliament does not need to go beyond our settled constitutional boundaries and set mandates in order to exert profound influence over the conduct of the negotiations. We take incredibly seriously our need to keep Parliament apprised of the Government’s negotiating intentions. That is for the purpose not just of transmitting information but of inviting scrutiny and allowing Parliament and its committees to take informed views. Government positions are created, tested and refined in the light of continual challenge from this Parliament. We are mindful always of the Government’s ultimate accountability to Parliament, and in this particular circumstance we are mindful, too, that we will be seeking Parliament’s approval of the agreements that are currently under negotiation.
My Lords, does the Minister not see a profound contradiction in his remarks? He has praised the role and significance of Parliament—until it actually chooses to express a view. Is it not the whole purpose of Parliament to express views? My noble friend is seeking to codify those views into a remit. The Minister’s response is that that is inappropriate because Parliament would then be taking on the responsibility that he wants to arrogate entirely to himself as a Minister.
Of course Parliament should express its view—but there are a number of ways in which it can do so.
Given that the next grouping on the Order Paper covers approval of the withdrawal agreement, I shall not prejudge that discussion by going into further detail here. That is part of the reason why we have sought to be as transparent as we can while protecting our negotiating position. Noble Lords will, I hope, acknowledge that this is a difficult balance to strike. But they will also note the information contained in speeches by the Prime Minister and other Ministers, in the large number of papers the Government have now published, ranging from White Papers to the raft of position papers on various areas, and in the papers for the negotiations themselves. Most recently, of course, we have also just published our draft text for the implementation period.
Access to information does not constitute the proper exercise of sovereignty.
Having access to that information helps to inform the views of parliamentarians for their many speeches and committee appearances. On top of these publications, and the legislation we have introduced, the Government have further sought to facilitate scrutiny through the frequent making of oral Statements, the timetabling of debates in both Houses in various forms, and through appearing frequently at a range of Select Committees. Of course, we have not covered every subject or satisfied every member of every committee with our answers to every question, but noble Lords should be in no doubt that there has been more parliamentary scrutiny of EU exit than there can have been of anything else in the history of our modern committee system. That is right and proper, and we support it as well as we can. In order to pay tribute to the wide-ranging debate, I hope noble Lords will be patient as I seek to set out, relatively briefly, the Government’s position on these various issues, many of which will be key parts of the wider negotiations on the future economic partnership.
First, on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, raised in Amendment 144, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, the Government have already stated that they will seek to agree a continued system of mutual recognition as part of the future economic partnership. This system will form part of the wider negotiations underpinning trade in services. The joint report from the first phase already includes provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications which apply to UK nationals already resident in the EU at the specified date and, of course, EU nationals in the UK on that date. Those provisions will be included in the withdrawal agreement to provide clarity and security to the individuals affected.
On Amendment 147A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and ably supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, the Government absolutely recognise the value of sport to the UK and are determined to ensure that our professional sports sector continues to flourish after we leave the EU. The Government also recognise and celebrate the value of international co-operation on professional and non-professional sporting issues. We are very keen to continue and deepen our excellent working relationships both with the EU collectively and with individual EU countries bilaterally on sports co-operation.
Will the Minister answer the crucial point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan: will there be free movement of horses around the European Union after Brexit?
I am sure that it will be at the forefront of our negotiation priorities, given the close interest that many noble Lords have taken in this vital national issue.
In response to Amendment 145, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, I reiterate that this Government have committed to maintaining high standards of consumer protection, delivering the stability that consumers need to continue to make purchases and a level playing field in trade with the EU—at the very seminar to which she referred, I believe that my ministerial colleague, Robin Walker, was present to set out the Government’s position. I myself have met Which? in Bristol on a number of occasions, and we will continue to engage with consumer organisations. We start from a strong position of long-standing co-operation on the effective enforcement of consumer protection laws, and it is essential that the UK through this Bill is able to ensure that UK consumer protections continue uninterrupted at the point we exit the European Union.
Amendment 147, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is rightly concerned with food standards. The UK has world-leading standards of food safety and quality backed up by a rigorous legislative framework. The Bill will ensure that we are able to maintain those high standards once the UK leaves the European Union. The Government are proud of our high standards of food safety, and these will not be watered down when we leave the EU. Maintaining safety and public confidence in the food we all eat is a high priority for the Government, and any future trade deal must work for UK farmers, businesses and consumers.
A number of EU agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority referred to in Amendment 184 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, have been established to support EU member states and their citizens. May I say how pleased I am to see the noble Lord in his place today? We missed him very much in our debates on Monday evening, with his great insights on our issues.
I may regret that.
I am not sure I missed the noble Lord quite so much.
Touché, as they say.
We are committed to exploring with the EU the terms on which the UK could remain part of EU agencies. However, our future relationship with the EU and arrangements with regards to agencies such as the food safety authority are still to be determined and are the subject of ongoing negotiations. I would give the noble Lord the same response to his comments on the RASFF system.
Is it possible to have an answer to the only question that I asked? Are we going to stay a member of the rapid alert food and feed system? If we do not, we are in real trouble. I cannot see the arrangements for that—nobody ever talks about it—but it is pretty crucial. Are we going to stay in that system?
I cannot give an absolute guarantee that we will; it is a matter for the negotiations. However, I can certainly tell the noble Lord that we see the value of it, and it is one of the many EU agencies and systems that we will seek to continue to collaborate with.
In response to Amendment 146, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, whose illness I was sorry to hear about, and Amendment 147, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, I can say that the Government want to seek the best possible outcome for the UK’s creative industries following the negotiations with the EU. In response to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, we are considering all our options for participation in future EU funding programmes, including the Creative Europe programme.
As the Prime Minister has already made clear, the UK will not be part of the EU’s digital single market, which will continue to develop after our withdrawal from the EU. This is a fast-evolving, innovative sector in which the UK is a world leader.
In response to Amendment 147C, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who has yet again spoken very effectively on this topic, as she did on Monday evening, the Government fully recognise the central role that transport will play in supporting our new trading relationships as we leave the EU. As I set out in my response on Monday, our ambition for transport is to maintain and develop the current levels of transport connectivity between the UK and the EU to underpin our future trading relationship.
The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, asked me about aviation agreements. She is of course correct to say that all worldwide aviation agreements are concluded on a bilateral basis, as are most of our existing aviation agreements. We benefit from a number of these as part of the single sky policy through our membership of the EU and we are currently discussing replacing those agreements with the countries concerned.
Listening to the Minister, it occurs to me that this group of amendments endorses almost precisely what he is saying, so are the Government going to accept them?
I think I have made clear that we are not going to accept them because we do not want our negotiating position to be constrained by them. We want to be as flexible as possible in the negotiations.
As I was saying, the UK will also seek to continue to collaborate with EU and international agencies to maintain critical safety and regulatory arrangements.
Finally, I turn to Amendment 227BF, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. Ministers and officials recognise that vehicle type approval can be a key enabler in such international trade and that the automotive industry in the UK and across the EU wants to be able to plan for future production and development with certainty at the earliest possible stage.
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply, but could he comment on a point made by my noble friend Lord Moynihan on competition policy and state aid? Will he remind the House what the Prime Minister said in the Mansion House speech about the Government’s attitude to competition policy and state aid? As I recall it, she said that we want to stay in that domain of policy. Can the Minister confirm that from the Dispatch Box today?
The Prime Minister did indeed refer to these important level playing field issues and said that we do not want to see a significant diminution of standards in these areas.
If I recall, the Prime Minister promised binding commitments in the area of state aid and competition, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patten, for reminding me of that element of the speech. The Minister tells us that he does not want to be constrained in the negotiations, but has not the Prime Minister already constrained the negotiations by accepting binding commitments in the area of competition law and by using the phrase “strong commitments”—apparently she was banned from saying “binding commitments”—with regard to regulatory alignment?
I will allow the Prime Minister’s words to speak for themselves.
It is in the interests of consumers and industry in both the UK and the EU to maintain the freest and most frictionless trade possible in vehicles and automotive products after exit.
I apologise that have I spoken at length about issues of constitutional significance, but—
My Lords, the Minister seems to be reaching the end of his remarks. In replying to matters raised on the individual areas of transport, sport and so on, he has simply ignored the fact that most of those who spoke to these areas talked about the need for rapid movement of people, rapid access and no impediment to such movements. Could he perhaps say something about that? At the moment, the Government seem to have a blank sheet in front of them on that. We have not been told a single thing about the immigration rules that will apply after 29 March 2019—not one word has been said other than that it is going to take a lot longer for the Government to consult everyone before they can tell us what they are doing. All the areas that have been referred to in the debate this morning involve the movement of people. Will the Minister please try to fill that out a little?
I fear that I will disappoint the noble Lord yet again. It is of course a vital subject. We are currently formulating our proposals. It will of course be a matter for negotiation, but the Home Office will, I believe, set out in a White Paper later this year how a future immigration system might work.
I am most grateful to my noble friend. I have heard every word of this debate and have refrained from taking part because the case was being made so splendidly by everybody who was. Quite honestly, I say with due respect to my noble friend, appreciating the difficulty of his task, that all he has presented to the House is a stone wall. Frankly, this is not good enough.
I can only apologise for disappointing my noble friend. Of course, we take very different views on the issue of our EU withdrawal, so perhaps he will forgive me on this occasion for not agreeing with him.
I thank my noble friend for giving way. Can he confirm that he said that the Government want to remain flexible about belonging to the rapid response and alert system which governs public health, public food safety and feed standards? It would seem to me that that is not something that the country or Parliament would think was an issue one could be flexible about. We need to be in that arrangement, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, so vividly explained.
I apologise to the noble Baroness, but I do not think I used the word “flexible” in respect of that agency. I said that the agency does some valuable work, as do a number of other EU agencies, and that is one matter that we need to discuss.
Will the Minister accept that it is not an agency? Get briefed. Have a look at the annual report of RASFF. It is a 24/7 system that is incredibly simple. That is why it works. We are either in it to give notifications or to receive notifications. You cannot be half in and half out. I should have thought this was non-negotiable, to be honest.
The noble Lord is right: it is not an agency. I was referring to the food safety agency. As I have said, the system, or whatever we want to call it, does good work, we value our participation in it and it is one of the things that we will want to raise as an urgent priority in the negotiation, as will be our participation in a number of agencies mentioned by the Prime Minister.
I am sure that noble Lords will return to this debate at Report, and I am more than willing to engage closely with any noble Lords who wish to talk about these issues in the interim. I hope—I suspect that I have not—that I have helped to allay some of noble Lords’ concerns in this debate and that the noble Lords will feel able to withdraw their amendments.
My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Amendment 144 (to Amendment 142) withdrawn.
Amendments 145 to 147C (to Amendment 142) not moved.
My Lords, I thank all the contributors to this debate. Amendment 142 was love bombed by many noble Lords with extra amendments raising important points which deserved airing and have received consideration, so we provided a vehicle for a lot of other important issues. At times, I was concerned that the central point—what the noble Lord, Lord Lea, called “the architecture”—was getting lost in the specifics that were being raised. We were brought back to those key central points very ably by my co-signatories, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, and the noble Lords, Lord Lea and Lord Campbell. By the way, to remind everyone, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, was a distinguished Olympian in his own right. We had references earlier to our Olympic heroes around the House.
The central point is about the role of Parliament. Is Parliament a bystander while the Government concoct a position and take it to negotiate the future relationships? Most people are sceptical about the way in which it will be received in Brussels. We wait to see what will happen, but are we passive, or do we try to exert some influence? In other words, do we take back control? Do we assert the sovereignty of this House and the House of Commons?
As one of the mothers of all Parliaments—perhaps the mother, although that is disputed by Iceland and one or two other places—do we just stand by and watch this being done with muddle and fumble, a word I used earlier, when we come to construct the negotiating position?
There is no doubt that we will return to this issue as the Bill progresses. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 142 withdrawn.
Amendments 148 and 149 not moved.
150: Clause 9, page 7, line 9, at end insert—
“( ) The statute provided for by subsection (1) must include the terms of the withdrawal agreement and make provision for any transitional arrangements which have been negotiated within or alongside the withdrawal agreement.( ) In addition to the statute provided for by subsection (1), the Minister of the Crown must, as a further precondition of making regulations under subsection (1), seek interim approval for the withdrawal agreement by means of motions in both Houses of Parliament, with such motions to be voted on, so far as practicable, before the European Parliament votes on the withdrawal agreement.”
My Lords, I move Amendment 150, which also appears in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, Lord Hannay, and Lord Patten, and shall speak more broadly about the objective which, in the mix, these various amendments seek to achieve.
Amendment 150 is perhaps the most modest in the group. It would put into statute the Prime Minister’s promise that the withdrawal agreement would be voted on in both Houses, before a similar—albeit more serious—vote in the European Parliament. Why “more serious”? It is because the European Parliament has to agree the deal or it can go no further. MEPs have a veto, whereas a mere Motion in either or both Houses this side of the water would have no statutory force.
In theory—in law, if not in politics—either or both Houses could say “nay” and the Prime Minister could still say “yea” and sign up. Or the Prime Minister could even, for whatever reason, fail to table a Motion in either or both Houses. We should at the very least write this into law. But the truth is that we must go further than this, along the lines suggested in other amendments, such as that in the name of my noble friend Lord Liddle.
Our amendments cover three specific areas: first, approval by Parliament of the draft withdrawal Bill, prior to the European Parliament vote, plus a procedure for the Commons deciding what to do should our Parliament decline to approve; secondly, approval by Parliament of the final agreement, including the framework for our future relationship and the transition arrangements, plus a procedure for the Commons to decide what to do if Parliament declines approval; and finally, preventing the Government walking away from the talks with no deal without the consent of Parliament and enabling the Commons to decide what should happen if MPs disagree with the Government.
In case anyone thinks that the no-deal scenario has gone away, just last week the Foreign Secretary was still saying that leaving without a deal holds no terrors and that the UK would do very well on World Trade Organisation terms, despite everything we hear from manufacturers and exporters about duties and red tape, the possibility of border posts in Ireland, and of Calais facing 30-mile tailbacks with potential food shortages if we end up with mandatory customs and sanitary checks at the French ferry terminal. Parliament must keep the Government’s feet to the fire and ensure more sensible judgments than Mr Johnson’s guide to negotiations.
It is not just this side of the Committee, nor the various noble Lords who have put their names to the amendments in this group, who want the outcome of the Government’s negotiations to be put to Parliament for endorsement. John Major, who knows a thing or two about negotiating treaties as well as about Parliament, has said that there,
“must be a decisive vote, in which Parliament can accept or reject the final outcome or send the negotiators back to seek improvements, or order a referendum … That is what parliamentary sovereignty means ... No one can truly know what ‘the will of the people’ may then be. So, let parliament decide”.
I might not quite share his view about a referendum, but I do share his view that it is for Parliament, not the Government, to decide on the outcome of the negotiations. That is what the sovereignty of Parliament is all about and it is vital on this issue because of its long-term implications. We need to ensure that the Government, at every stage of the way, remain very aware that it is not just the divided views in the Cabinet that must be satisfied, but Parliament on behalf of the people.
During the Article 50 Bill, this House voted overwhelmingly for a “meaningful vote” for Parliament. We will ensure that this demand is put into this Bill. I hope the Minister will give an undertaking that the Government will accept an amendment on Report to make that demand a reality. I beg to move.
My Lords, my name is to this amendment. I think most of us would agree that Clause 9 as it stands is simply not fit for purpose or constitutionally acceptable. It leaves it to Ministers to decide and implement whatever our divided and chaotic Government have by then asked for and managed to negotiate with the rest of the EU. I find it astonishing that the Government have failed to set out their negotiating preferences 18 months after the referendum and 12 months before the proposed exit day.
In six days in Committee we have had a process of discovery about the number of issues on which the Government do not have a coherent view. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has argued that the Government are protecting their negotiating position. It seems to me they are rather protecting their nakedness on much of it as they do not have a coherent position. In the speech he just made he said that they do not want to have their negotiating position constrained. The Government have themselves produced a number of red lines that constrain their negotiating position. Parliament must be allowed to constrain their negotiating position in other ways. Every day in Committee and on almost every subject we discover more issues that are important to Britain’s prosperity and security on which the Government remain confused and unclear about what their preferences are.
The Prime Minister’s speech the other week was a major step forward. She moved to recognise that we need to maintain in a number of areas that she specified—but only a few—close relations with the European Union. The Luxembourg Prime Minister’s comment on her speech was entirely appropriate: the United Kingdom now intends to move from a position where it is inside the EU with a number of opt-outs to one in which it is outside the EU with a large number of opt-ins. Parliament would wish to have a view on that. What we heard in the first debate this morning was: how many of these opt-ins do the Government wish to have? They must have a view on that and they ought to share it with Parliament. They need to share it with their European Union partners. It is not a negotiating position on which we wish to maintain flexibility.
Given all of that, it is all the more important for Parliament to have a meaningful and coherent vote on a package—or the absence of one—well before the prescribed exit date is reached. That is what Amendment 150 and the others in this group talk about, in one way or another. The Government seem to be more concerned about negotiations within the Conservative Party than with the long-term national interest of the country. We parliamentarians, in both Houses, therefore have to be the guardians of the national interest, and that requires substantial changes to Clause 9.
My name is on the second amendment in this group, Amendment 151. I am most grateful to my noble friends Lord Balfe and Lady Verma and the noble Lord, Lord Reid, for adding their names to it.
I have become increasingly depressed and disturbed with every day that we are facing this Bill, particularly because my noble friend—whom I totally respect—is so fervently on the Brexit side that he does not seem to be able to grasp the importance of the points that are being made about the sovereignty of Parliament. In the Lord Speaker’s corridor, on the wall opposite what the Americans euphemistically call a comfort station, is a row of cartoons. One of them concerns Queen Caroline. Most noble Lords will know that she had a somewhat unfortunate relationship with her husband, George IV, and was locked out of the abbey for the coronation, but she was the idol and darling of the people. The cartoon refers to her as “Britain’s best hope”, and “England’s sheet anchor”. That sums up, in a phrase, the attitude of many of those who have embraced the Brexit cause.
But where are the details? Where is the substance? The important point of this amendment, as of the one previously moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, is that it wants to give Parliament centrality. Indeed, it is building, constructively, upon the one amendment that was carried in another place and was most eloquently moved by my right honourable friend Dominic Grieve. I think he would accept, as would most of your Lordships, that that put down a marker but did not guarantee a position. This amendment, similar to the one eloquently moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, would build on that and rectify the position. It calls for Parliament to approve the final terms, by statute, before they are referred to the European Parliament and would guarantee Parliament a meaningful say on the withdrawal agreement at a meaningful, realistic, sensible time. There is no point in merely going through the motions if Parliament is not going to have a proper opportunity to deliver a verdict at a time when something can be done about it. It builds on Amendment 7—as my right honourable friend Dominic Grieve’s amendment was numbered in the other place—to ensure that Parliament has ample time for consideration of whatever agreement is reached. At the moment, there is not a sufficient guarantee that Parliament will have that time to examine the agreement before the European Parliament does so. In effect, we are also building on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monks, earlier today.
I want to be brief, because we had a long debate on the first group of amendments. I am delighted that my second amendment, Amendment 199, is a wholly Conservative amendment, because the other signatories are my noble friends Lord Balfe, Lady Verma again and Lord Deben. In this amendment, we are saying, as Conservatives who believe fundamentally that the nation is making a mistake but who want to rescue as much as we can, that a no-deal outcome is not acceptable. It aims to ensure that if Parliament fails to endorse the proposed agreement, the UK will continue with the existing arrangements and relationship with the European Union, and it will require the Government to seek an extension of Article 50 so that negotiations can continue.
Over the past 18 months and more, we have seen that untangling the United Kingdom from the European Union is proving far more difficult than even many of the exuberant Brexiteers believed. Indeed, I have had one or two of them in your Lordships’ House confess that to me. Although they do not resile from their commitment, they say that yes, it is more difficult. Far more questions than answers have been thrown up, far more difficulties than opportunities have been revealed.
The Government must at all times be answerable to Parliament, and Parliament has a duty, because it is answerable to the people, to express its views in a meaningful and binding vote. At the moment, it is not clear what the consequences would be if Parliament rejected the deal. Amendment 199 offers a far more sensible way forward than a mere take it or leave it vote, and it does not contradict the referendum. To say that we must continue to strive for a better deal is not cancelling out what people call the will of the people. It is saying to the Government what I often used to write on reports when I was a schoolmaster: “Try harder. Keep at it”.
No one in this country, however they voted on 23 June 2016, voted to make either themselves or the nation poorer. No one voted to reduce the influence of our country in the world. These amendments, and the others, give a chance for Parliament to assert its proper position in the constitution of the nation, and I hope they will have strong support.
My Lords, I rise to support Amendment 151, courtesy of my noble friend Lord Adonis, who is moving the next amendment. Amendment 151, in a word, is about sovereignty. That word is much used, much abused, perhaps overused, but anyone who lacks the feeling that the sovereignty of Parliament is in doubt need only, I fear, reread the first section of the Minister’s response at the end of the previous group of amendments. We are not speaking about the theory of sovereignty, abstract sovereignty, sovereignty as a slogan on the side of a bus, but what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, referred to earlier as the practical application of sovereignty. That is what is supposed to be at the root of this whole debate.
When I spoke in the debate at Second Reading, I said that it was the responsibility of this House to make absolutely sure that the other House in particular—the elected House—had the ability not just to accept or reject but to shape, to mould, to compromise, to send back, because it is in that House, above all, that sovereignty lies. This amendment underlines that sentiment, as it seeks to ensure that the meaningful vote that was voted into this Bill by the other House comes to Parliament in a meaningful timeframe.
It is worth reminding ourselves why the amendment proposed by Dominic Grieve and accepted by the other House—Amendment 7—was so important. Whatever the Minister may now believe, Clause 9 of this Bill contains the power needed for Ministers to implement the withdrawal agreement. However, the Government had originally sought sweeping and virtually untrammelled powers to implement whatever they thought “appropriate”, with no substantive reference back to Parliament, with no real further scrutiny in either House and without the consent of legislators. The Minister will forgive us if we are sceptics whenever we are assured that the sovereignty of Parliament is respected by the Government. The track record does not suggest that to be the case, especially when a citizen had to go to the High Court in order to impose or reassert the sovereignty of Parliament.
As noble Lords are aware, the Government failed to convince MPs that carte blanche should be given to them in this way, and the Government were defeated on the amendment referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, which proposed that the powers in Clause 9 could be exercised only,
“subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.
That amendment—known as Amendment 7 in the House of Commons—was passed and is now part of the Bill. That process started outside Parliament through the courts in order to reassert the primacy of parliamentary sovereignty. It means that the Government have to give both Houses of Parliament a legislative opportunity to vote on the final deal. For the purposes of my argument, I will refer to this as the Amendment 7 statute.
Let us remember the Government’s response to the defeat in the Commons. We now know that Ministers were hugely disappointed that this change was ever made. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU maintain now that they will place a Motion before the Commons to gain in-principle approval for any deal reached. We do not know what options—if any—such a Motion would contain or when it would be brought to Parliament. We know that it would be a Motion only, with no statutory effect.
In a Written Statement on 13 December—the day Mr Grieve’s amendment was being debated—the Government stated that they would also bring forward a withdrawal and implementation Bill to implement “the major policies” of the withdrawal agreement. But again, we do not know when that Bill will be brought to Parliament. I hope that such a Bill will fulfil the requirements of the Amendment 7 statute fully and that the Government do not offer instead a rushed, after-the-fact rubber-stamp exercise.
Can I point out to the noble Lord that it is of course possible that the European Parliament’s consent could be given only on the basis that the Houses of Parliament had had a valid vote? It could withhold its consent to the agreement on the grounds that there had been no valid vote in the UK Parliament.
With the noble Lord’s usual foresight he has accurately pre-empted what I am going on to say. That is precisely the point. The Government’s reassurances were not—for that reason among others—enough for the House of Commons and it proceeded to put the requirement of the statute in the Bill. My point about that is that, from beginning to end, that process was not the voluntarism of the Government reasserting the sovereignty of the House of Commons or Parliament; it was forced on them first by the courts and secondly by the House of Commons itself.
Further safeguards are needed and this amendment seeks to give one by ensuring that the Amendment 7 statute will be brought forward to Parliament in a fair, appropriate and, above all, timely manner. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, alluded to, as it stands, Britain could possibly face a scenario whereby the Government strike a sub-optimal deal with the European Union, then rely entirely on an “accept or reject” Motion in the House of Commons and delay the Amendment 7 statute and the regulations necessary to implement the withdrawal agreement right up until the 11th hour. This could take Parliament to the cliff edge and leave the legislature with no real alternative option. This would clearly not be in the spirit of the Amendment 7 statute which the Commons have sought, but, in the light of the Government’s record on the issue of parliamentary sovereignty, there are simply insufficient guarantees written into Clause 9 to ensure that we will see this statutory process in good time.
By ensuring that the Amendment 7 statute is placed before Parliament as soon as a deal is done—and every effort must be made to enact it prior to the parallel ratification stage in the European Parliament—we would enhance the rights of MPs and Peers to have such a “meaningful vote” in a meaningful way and at a meaningful time. We have been told time and again that Brexit is a matter of Britain taking back control. It is so loose in the current clause that it actually allows a huge gap in that control. That is what this amendment addresses. It would be preposterous if Ministers accepted a deal and UK legislatures were watching the televised proceedings from the European Parliament discussing our withdrawal agreement before this Parliament had the opportunity to make a decision itself. That is precisely what this amendment is about.
The Amendment 7 statute, passed in the House of Commons, is the only viable context in which MPs and Members of this House can express their views on the deal, and whether it should be rejected or, crucially, whether the Prime Minister should be requested to seek different or improved terms. In its simplest terms, this amendment is a protection for the will of the House of Commons, which it has already said it wants. If the Government are truly committed to a meaningful say for the British Parliament, if they truly believe in the British Parliament taking back control, surely they can accept this amendment today. I hope that they will.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 190 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno. I warmly support what has already been said on the important amendments in this group. My amendment is framed to ensure that it is quite clear in the Bill what the implications would be of Parliament not approving the terms of a deal negotiated by the Government. If there is to be a meaningful vote by Parliament as opposed to a take-note Motion, which would be a total travesty of democracy on such a vital issue, then there are three possible outcomes. First, Parliament could endorse the terms of Brexit negotiated by the Government, which would clearly mean the UK leaving the EU on those terms. Secondly, Parliament could reject the terms negotiated. Thirdly, Parliament could resolve to refer the issue back to the people for a confirmatory referendum, something which I believe is raised in later amendments. I am excluding, for the purposes of this debate, the possibility that Parliament could tell the Government to return to the negotiating table and come back with a better agreement—a course of action which appears to be the subject of Amendment 199 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.
Amendment 190 is essentially a reset amendment, meaning that if there is no deal at the end of the negotiating period then the UK falls back on to the status quo terms. On 7 February 2017 Mr David Jones, the MP for Clwyd West, then a Brexit Minister, said during a debate on the Article 50 Bill:
“There will be a meaningful vote. The vote will be either to accept the deal that the Government will have achieved—I repeat that the process of negotiation will not be without frequent reports to the House—or for there to be no deal. Frankly, that is the choice that the House will have to make. That will be the most meaningful vote that one could imagine”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/2/17; col. 273.]
MPs should not be put in a position where they can vote either for a really bad deal result from the negotiations or in a way that delivers a no deal outcome. There must be a reset alternative for MPs. In circumstances where the deal secured by the Government is transparently inadequate there must be an option provided for the UK to continue being in the EU on existing terms. If that is not an available option it is essentially telling MPs to vote with a gun to their head.
Since the Minister spoke the words that I have quoted, the UK Government have provided more information on exactly what a “meaningful vote” will entail. It will be a resolution in both Houses, comprising, therefore, two agreements. It will be held before the European Parliament votes on its resolution and as soon as possible after negotiations are concluded. But I still get the impression that it is a “like it or lump it” choice. That does not make it a meaningful vote in any sense. If there is a no deal outcome then even more so must there be our meaningful vote in Parliament whereby MPs can reject the no deal catastrophe—the cliff-edge scenario—and vote to retain the status quo. Falling on to WTO rules would be catastrophic for the UK, particularly for Wales, as it happens: the UK Government’s own impact assessment shows that under those terms Welsh GDP would drop 10%. This is the worst situation in any part of the United Kingdom, but it is bad for the whole of the United Kingdom.
Given the disproportionate impact of leaving the EU on a no deal basis or on terms that are unacceptably bad for manufacturing, agriculture and all the services, will the Minister also confirm that the devolved legislatures will be allowed to scrutinise, comment on and vote on any final deal put to Parliament? If Parliament is not to be allowed a meaningful vote along the lines that I have outlined, that only increases the pressure for the final package to be referred back to the people for their endorsement or, indeed, their rejection.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 216 and 217 in my name. I will come to the detail in a moment, but for present purposes suffice it to say that these amendments, individually and collectively, would give to Parliament—here I acknowledge the primacy of the House of Commons—a decisive and conclusive say over the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. It is for Parliament, not the Government, to determine whether we leave the European Union and, if so, on what terms. If Parliament thinks it appropriate that that decision should be tested by a second referendum that would be wholly appropriate. These conclusions are wholly in accord with our constitution and history, and are, in my view, quite unchallengeable.
I acknowledge that the amendments might be clumsily drafted; I am no parliamentary draftsman. So I say to your Lordships that if others on Report draft different positions that are more happily phrased but achieve the same purpose, I shall be pleased to rally behind them.
My purpose now is to explain in greater detail the nature of these amendments and the reasons behind them. I turn to the text of the two amendments. They are inevitably cast in the statutory language and I do not want to test your Lordships’ patience by going through each clause. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I summarise them. My intention is that Parliament shall have the decisive say over the outcome of the negotiations. In that determination, the House of Commons must have primacy. Its decisions must be conclusive. This House does not have the authority to reject Brexit—only the Commons can do that—but we can encourage and facilitate that process. That is what these amendments enable.
Taken separately or collectively, the amendments enable Parliament to approve or reject Brexit whether or not terms have been agreed. They enable Parliament to require the withdrawal of the Article 50 notification and the UK to remain within the European Union, which is indeed my preferred outcome. If Parliament thinks it appropriate, these amendments provide for a holding of a referendum either to test public opinion or to ratify a parliamentary decision. That is wholly correct. Most importantly, the amendments enshrine and protect the primacy of the House of Commons. Without going into detail, although I happily would, the method is set out in subsections (7) and (8) of Amendment 216 and subsections (5) and (6) of Amendment 217. These provisions are based on the Parliament Acts, suitably modified to deal with resolutions.
I will explain the differences between Amendments 216 and 217. Both are designed to ensure full parliamentary control over the outcome of these negotiations. Amendment 216 is simple and is based on a cross-party amendment which was tabled during the European Union (Notification of withdrawal) Bill. Its basic attraction is that it has achieved all-party endorsement. Amendment 217 is a little more complex. It is more explicit in its provisions for the withdrawal of the Article 50 notification: it enables the holding of a second referendum and deals more fully with what should be done in the event of no deal. However, in substance these amendments are designed to achieve the same result: namely that these decisions are to be taken by Parliament, primarily the House of Commons, and not by the Government.
Let me briefly explain the fundamental justification for these amendments. I believe that Brexit is the single most disastrous peacetime decision that we have taken since at least the end of the 19th century when we failed to offer effective home rule to southern Ireland. Indeed, I am inclined to think that Brexit is even graver than that. I do not think that the referendum of 2016 was authority for Britain to leave the European Union, whatever the terms or in the absence of terms. The electorate neither could nor did know what the outcome of the negotiations would be. In my view, the proper interpretation of the referendum is that it was an instruction to the Government to negotiate the best exit terms that could be achieved. However, that leaves open the fundamental question of who will determine whether the terms, or the absence of terms, are an acceptable basis for leaving the European Union. In my view, the only proper answer to that question is that it is for Parliament to make that decision, and, if Parliament thinks it appropriate, the decision should be tested or ratified by a decision of the electorate expressed in a second referendum.
In most political careers, and certainly my own, party and national interests are not seen to be dramatically divergent. Occasionally, they are. The debate in 1940 which led to the fall of Chamberlain is perhaps the most dramatic of recent examples. Going back in history, the decision of Sir Robert Peel in 1846 to repeal the corn laws was another. I happen to believe that we now face another such moment. None of us should put party interest before our assessment of what is right for our country. Our decisions may lead to the fragmentation of existing party structures—I hope not—but our duty is to put our country first. Whatever the cost to our respective parties, we must give Parliament the decisive say on the outcome of these negotiations. That is the purpose of my two amendments and I commend them to this Committee.
This debate should be what I think is called a “no-brainer” for anybody who believes in parliamentary sovereignty. I do not want to add to what has already been said on the subject. I find myself in the curious position, for the first time in my life, of beginning a speech by quoting the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, pointed out, his description of the—in many respects admirable—Mansion House speech was spot on: here we are, going down this flower-strewn path, from a position where we were members of the European Union with loads of opt-outs to one where we want to be outside the European Union with as many opt-ins as you can get on the back of a lorry. It is called a “bespoke” deal. I do not have many bespoke suits—most of mine are off the peg and on to the floor—and I think that it is more an “off the peg and on to the floor” deal.
However, it was after the Mansion House speech that the most significant question that anyone asked the Prime Minister was raised. After questions from all the “trusties”, a German journalist got up and asked the Prime Minister: “Is it all worth it?” The Prime Minister, perhaps excessively honestly, did not reply directly but just pointed out that we had had a referendum which had to be honoured. I think that some others, including some of her supporters, would have put the point rather differently. They would have said that it is of course worth it because—to use a phrase which has occurred again and again in this debate—we are going to take back control. I think that most of them would at least in principle have conceded that taking back control means this Parliament—the House of Commons and the House of Lords—having control.
I have been struck as we have sat through these debates by the elephant in the room: the person who in many respects is more responsible for us being here and having this debate than anybody else, the regularly occasional leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Mr Farage. When Mr Farage talks about taking back control and when some of our tabloid newspapers talk about it, they do not mean Parliament having that control—they mean them; they mean a populist way of running this country. I spent some time this morning looking at Dicey—I have not done that since I was an undergraduate. I looked too at what I think is the best book on the rule of law, by that great jurist and great man, Tom Bingham—I recommend it to noble Lords. I read again what he says about parliamentary sovereignty—the keystone of our constitution. When people talk about taking back control, what they should mean is Parliament having that control. When they talk about a “meaningful vote”, they should not mean a vote which does whatever they want. A meaningful vote does not mean that it cannot make any difference to the whole process of Brexit, which was more or less said the other day by the Secretary of State, David Davis —who had said that there would be a meaningful vote.
I hope that it is not unparliamentary for me to make this comparison, but the Secretary of State increasingly reminds me of a character in a PG Woodhouse novel, of whom it is said, “He’s like one of those people in a Tolstoy novel, living in those dreary birch woods, who’s just chopped up his wife, thrown the baby down the well, goes to the cupboard, opens the cupboard and finds that there’s no vodka in the bottle”. That is the position in which our negotiators are increasingly finding themselves.
On the constitution, the Secretary of State seemed to be absolutely clear: we must have a meaningful vote, but you cannot actually change what happens. It is important for this House to give an absolutely clear message that parliamentary sovereignty in our system is what happens in this House and, above all, in the House of Commons—I agree with what my noble friend Lord Hailsham said on this. This is an occasion when a lot of us will have to make speeches and say and do things which we never imagined we would have to in our political careers. I hope more people in future will take the advice of my noble friend Lord Hailsham and follow their conscience on this issue and assert the principle of parliamentary sovereignty.
My Lords, I want to direct the Committee’s attention to the fact that in the process of defending this Parliament and trying to bring back control to it, we are in danger of legislating one of the worst set of Henry VIII powers that could possibly be imagined. They would enable the Government to change the Northern Ireland Act, the Scotland Act and any of a series of things, so long as they were matters that had been considered in the withdrawal agreement.
Having come from a position of wondering why Clause 9 was in the Bill at all, because these are all matters to do with the withdrawal agreement—we have not got one yet, so we cannot legislate for it—we are now in a situation where I am surprised that the Government want to keep it. A poison pill has been administered to it by a very helpful amendment in the other place. None of the powers which we will put on the statute book can be exercised until a piece of legislation on the withdrawal agreement has been passed. It is entirely useless from the Government’s point of view, but from the point of view of those of us who are trying to protect Parliament, it is the one place in which we have a guarantee that there has to be an Act of Parliament to complete this process—if we do, indeed, complete it.
The grouping suggests that this is where we consider clause stand part. I think it would be wrong to pass over what Clause 9 contains, without recognising that it is not what we should be putting on to the statute book at all, certainly not without knowing what the withdrawal agreement is and without therefore being able to circumscribe the powers to things which reasonably arise from it.
There are things that cannot be done under these powers which are specified in subsection (3) but an enormous range of things can be done if a Minister considers them appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement. I will no longer be ready to turf Clause 9 out of the Bill, for the reason I gave. The Constitution Committee, when it considered it, thought that it was entirely inappropriate to have these powers at this stage. The stage at which we should have them, if at all, in modified form is in the withdrawal agreement Bill, and not before, but we have the compensation that the clause contains the guarantee that the process can go no further without another statute being passed in both Houses of Parliament.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 196.
My Lords, I think it is fairly reasonable as someone putting forward Amendment 150 that I should be allowed to speak.
My Lords, I just want to get Amendment 196 on the record, because it makes helpful points which should be taken into account by noble Lords when we come to devise a composite amendment on Report. That is why I am anxious to speak and I am sorry if I have upset the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.
We have had many excellent speeches. I think the three by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and my noble friend Lord Reid are among the best I have heard on this Bill and perhaps even since I have been a Member of this House. I fully support what they said.
The purpose of Amendment 196 is to build on the Grieve amendment that is now incorporated in the Bill. En passant I will say from this side of the House how much I respect the bravery of the Conservative MPs who voted for that amendment and put the national interest first. If they had not done that, a lot of the point of our proceedings would have been removed—so I respect them enormously.
The merits of Amendment 196—I will be very brief—are, first, that it specifies a date by which the Government have to produce their withdrawal agreement: 31 October 2018. That would prevent any attempt to bounce a last-minute decision through Parliament. Secondly, it attempts to deal with two eventualities: not just the eventuality of no agreement and no deal being reached in Brussels but also a failure on the part of the House of Commons to agree to and adopt the resolution that the Government will put forward seeking to endorse that agreement.
It does not give the House of Lords a veto. I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said: these matters fundamentally have to be decided by the Commons. This amendment allows the Commons to consider a whole series of options, including the extension of Article 50.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I agree very much with what he said about the speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Reid and Lord Patten, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham.
I am concerned about the point he is on now. Subsection (2)(b) of the clause proposed by Amendment 196 seems to me to open the possibility of a period after we have left the European Union before we have any agreement with it in respect of the terms of withdrawal. That would be an extremely dangerous legal vacuum.
One of the desirable features of the Mansion House speech was that we had no more nonsense about no deal being better than a bad deal. It was clear that the Prime Minister wished to do a deal. It is very important that, if we leave the European Union, we do so on the basis of agreement with it on the terms of our withdrawal. If not, our position with third countries would be impossible and they would be unable to do business with us until we had established a secure position with the European Union—and, of course, our position with the European Union would be pretty bad. So I agree with the spirit of this amendment—indeed, I agree with the spirit of all the amendments in this group—but it seems to me that there is a real danger lurking in the wording of subsection (b).
If the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, thinks there is a danger, we will have to look at it again because I so respect his judgment. I certainly do not want to create a legal vacuum; I want to see the possibility of an extension of Article 50 as one thing that Parliament might do if it decided to reject the Motion on the withdrawal agreement. I also think that it would be appropriate for the Commons to decide on any other course—and certainly I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that a referendum would be a possibility in those circumstances. How can we possibly judge at this stage what those circumstances will be? We have to have in our amendment—while maintaining legal certainty—the possibility of the Commons being able to decide on a number of different things.
One of the benefits of the Grieve amendment, as inserted, is that it refers to approving the “final” terms of withdrawal. Part of the problem we now face with an exit day in March 2019 is that the prospects of reaching a final and detailed agreement before then are receding day by day. So it appears to me—I read the Daily Mail every day and follow, as far as I can, what Jacob Rees-Mogg is saying—that the hard Brexiteers want to get us out with the vaguest possible interim agreement and do not mind about it. Parliament has not to allow that. Therefore, it is important to talk about the final and detailed terms of the agreement to be presented to Parliament before we leave, and it is something that we all need to ensure we have in this Bill.
I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is saying. That is why I think that the possibility of extending Article 50 is realistic, before one contemplates the possibility of a further referendum. The risk that we face at the moment is that the Government will seek to take us out of the European Union finally on the basis of a political declaration that will, frankly, contain mushy words that mean one thing to one set of people and another thing to another set of people.
Will my noble friend allow me to interrupt to check that I have understood what has been said in the last five minutes by both him and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr? As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said that we cannot have a vacuum and have to have what I would call a treaty. A treaty, in turn, has to be an agreed document. It cannot be just a piece of paper to say that we want to agree with each other; it has to fill the vacuum to which the noble Lord referred. Am I right in my understanding of what is being said?
My noble friend is making a good point, but I think that the vacuum that we potentially face is the risk of a vague political declaration that gives us absolutely no idea what the eventual economic relationship between Britain and the EU will be. In those political circumstances, one might want to say to the Government that we have to extend the period allowed under Article 50 and be given a much better idea of where this course that they are so in favour of is leading us. On that basis, we might then consider whether the final deal should be put to the people in a referendum. The risk is that this declaration will provide the opportunity for misleading the British public about what is involved.
That is all that I have to say. I am wholly in favour of all the amendments in this group and the sentiments behind them. It is wonderful that there is such support around the House for them, but we need to think through the precise terms of what I hope this House will eventually pass on Report.
My Lords, the Chief Whip has asked me to indicate that there is some concern about the availability of facilities if we do not adjourn the Committee. I therefore propose that at this point we adjourn and I suggest that we resume after Questions have concluded.
Death of a Member: Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde
My Lords, I very much regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, on 13 March. On behalf of the House, I extend our sincere condolences to the noble Baroness’s family and all her friends.
Universal Credit: Free School Meals
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect on Universal Credit work incentives of the recently announced proposals for passporting family entitlement to free school meals.
My Lords, the Department for Work and Pensions has been working closely with the Department for Education to support the delivery of their eligibility criteria for free school meals for universal credit claimants in England. When the Social Security Advisory Committee, which is independent of government, looked at this issue in 2012, it found that there was no rigorous research evidence to show that the provision of passported benefits acted as a work disincentive.
My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. I would like to remind the Minister of the policy promise that was made in a White Paper back in 2010 when universal credit was first introduced, and I want to put to her a question that relates to a statement made in the foreword by the then Secretary of State:
“Universal Credit will mean that people will be consistently and transparently better off for each hour they work and every pound they earn”.
Does the Minister accept that, under the proposals which are being brought forward, that proposition will no longer always be true?
The simple answer to the noble Lord is no: I do not accept that. I think it is important to dispel straightaway any potential misunderstanding of what we are doing to safeguard the free school meals system for the future. The Government’s purpose here is to ensure that the programme continues to reach the most disadvantaged households in a way that is consistent, simple and fair. As the rollout of universal credit continues, it is no longer fair to retain the temporary measure, which we always said was temporary, that allows all households in receipt of universal credit to access free school meals. That said, the new rules will ensure that the provision of meals continues to be targeted where it is needed most, with 50,000 more children expected to benefit by 2022 as compared with the previous benefits system.
My Lords, the noble Baroness has not actually answered the noble Lord’s question, so could she do so now? Can she also give an assurance that no one will be sanctioned if they are required to increase their earnings to the point which takes them over the eligibility limit and they lose their entitlement to free school meals as a result?
I have to take issue with the noble Baroness, because I feel that I have answered the question. I want to stress that the reality of this is that every child receiving free school meals now, and any child subsequently given free school meals while the universal credit rollout is under way, will have their entitlement protected until the end of the rollout or until the end of the child’s current phase of education, whichever is later. We want to ensure that, through the universal credit system, we are doing absolutely our best to give our young people the best possibilities in life; this is not the same as the old legacy benefits.
My Lords, perhaps I may put the question for the third time. At the moment, if someone reaches a certain level of income, they lose free school meals but at that point they gain working tax credit, which is worth much more. What the Government are proposing under universal credit is that, when a household’s earnings exceed a cash fixed point of £7,400 a year, once the system has been rolled out, a household in that situation will immediately lose free school meals for all of the kids. Someone could be offered an extra hour of work or a small pay rise and face the choice of either turning it down or accepting it and losing free school meals for all of their kids. While the Minister has said a great deal about the transitional protection during the rollout, when the system beds down, is not the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, right that this will fly right in the face not only of the quote from Iain Duncan Smith, but of the whole point of universal credit—at such huge expense and great disruption?
My Lords, I heard quite a lot of what was said in another place yesterday, and I am afraid that quite a lot of it is misinformation. One only has to look at Channel 4’s FactCheck, which looked at the claims made by the Opposition about children losing free school meals and was clear that the Government are not taking free school meals from the 1 million children who currently get them. I quote the article directly:
“This is not a case of the government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them. It’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios”,
both of which are more generous than the old benefits system.
My Lords, on what basis was it decided that the earnings threshold for eligibility in Northern Ireland would be double what it is in England? Is this because poor children in Northern Ireland are twice as malnourished as they are in England, or could it be political expediency?
My Lords, it is not a question of political expediency. In fact, the earnings threshold in Scotland, introduced last August, is lower than what we propose to introduce in England. Let me also explain further, referring—as the noble Baroness opposite did—to the threshold. The £7,400 relates to earned income and does not include additional income through universal credit. Depending on its exact circumstances, a typical family earning around the threshold would have a total annual household income of between £18,000 and £24,000, but let us remember that if we allowed free school meals to continue beyond the transitional period when universal credit is rolled out, we would include parents earning over £40,000 or £50,000. Is that absolutely fair? Is that what noble Lords opposite want?
My Lords, we have years of clear evidence that tackling child hunger improves outcomes at school and improves achievement and social mobility. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of these proposals on child hunger and on our investment in our children’s futures?
I thank the right reverend Prelate for her question. That is why we have chosen not to monetise free school meals; if we did, the benefits of a hot meal in the middle of the day could be lost for 1.1 million of the poorest children. That is because there would be a risk of children not getting the free school meal if it were just added to the rates for UC. We believe that the nutritional needs of children should be paramount. We therefore think it is right that free school meals should continue to be provided in the way we propose.
My Lords, can the Minister explain why there is a different threshold in different parts of the union? Surely all children should be treated the same?
My Lords, the issue is actually about ensuring that children receive the right treatment. There is not an issue about—
Answer the question.
I am seeking to answer the question. The devolved nations have decided on different thresholds for their own parts of the United Kingdom, but at the end of the day we want to ensure that we can target free school meals to those who need them. Let me also be clear that, throughout the current rollout of universal credit and until 2022, no parents of a child who currently gets free school meals will have to pay for their meals. It is either then or when they finish their primary or secondary education—whichever comes later.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask—
My Lords, is it not clear—
Is it not clear that there would be no point in devolved government unless devolved Governments were able to take different policy lines?
My Lords, the next Question has been called.
Rural Bus Services
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they have taken to improve rural bus services.
My Lords, buses are a vital part of our public transport system and the Government are committed to supporting them. They can be particularly important in rural areas, where many people depend on their local bus service, but no single solution will work for all rural areas. The Government are providing funding and powers, most recently through the Bus Services Act 2017, so that local authorities can work in partnership with local bus operators to identify and support services that best fit the needs of individual communities.
My Lords, the rural bus network has been cut by 40% in the last 10 years, with further cuts planned, for example in Norfolk and Kent. Councils blame a £200 million shortfall when the Government reimburses them through the concessionary fares scheme. Many older people, as the Minister said, rely on this in isolated communities. Will the Minister agree to review funding for concessionary fares and to look at funding for community transport to replace bus services where they are no longer provided?
My Lords, last year the Government renewed our commitment to supporting older and disabled people. We recognise the importance of accessible and affordable transport and are therefore entirely committed to the concessionary fares. Through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, local authorities are provided with the funding to meet their statutory obligations over concessionary travel. Bus operators are reimbursed on the basis that they are no worse off for carrying concessionary pass holders. We issue guidance to help local authorities administer that concession, consistent with that principle.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the statistics given by the noble Baroness opposite show that the Government’s efforts simply have not produced results? Does she accept that it is not just about the disabled and whoever, but also about social and financial exclusion? We do everything within urban areas—we have bus lanes and walking places for shopping, and we have Uber—but rural areas are becoming the vulnerable community through lack of government support for all services.
My Lords, of course bus services are incredibly important in rural areas; we absolutely want to ensure that those communities are as well connected as they can be. I recognise the extra pressure placed on local authorities in more isolated areas. Where there is not enough demand for a bus route to be commercially viable in its own right, all local authorities have the power to subsidise bus services. Since 2014, we have devolved the bus service operators grant so we can pay up to £40 million directly to local authorities to help them support the services that their communities need.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the cutbacks of nearly 50% in local government finance from central government since 2010 have had some impact here? Has she any figures about the cutbacks in rural services in, for example, Conservative-controlled Surrey, which has already announced impending bankruptcy? Or even in Conservative-controlled Northamptonshire, which is in similar difficulties? Do the Government not accept any responsibility for these matters, or are they “devolved”, to quote the noble Lord opposite?
My Lords I fully appreciate the pressure that local authorities are under in making difficult choices as a result of ongoing financial pressures. I commend them for providing the services they do, but we think local authorities are best placed to provide supported bus services, reflecting local needs within available budgets. As I said, we have devolved the £40 million of the bus service operators grant, but there are obviously extra costs in providing services for rural areas, so we are giving an extra £81 million to the most sparsely populated areas in the rural services delivery grant.
My Lords, does the Minister recognise that rural bus services, which in our part of Herefordshire are wholly inadequate, can be the lifeblood of isolated, small rural communities? Does she further recognise that sustaining communities of that sort can avoid spending—possibly considerable spending—in other areas of public expenditure?
My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord that buses can be a lifeline in rural areas. The Bus Services Act, which I mentioned earlier, provides extra powers for local authorities to work with bus operators to improve the bus services in rural areas. We are also encouraging local authorities to deliver better rural services through efforts such as our Total Transport pilot schemes, which have explored ways of commissioning publicly funded transport so that services and funding are able to go further.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one issue that has a perverse result is concessionary fares in rural bus areas? People travel out of towns into rural areas and the concessionary fares camouflage much of the subsidy that goes to rural bus fares. We support concessionary fares but, when they were set up, the local councils were not given the funding to run the level of service that has come into effect.
My Lords, as I said, we fully support the concessionary fare programme and we want to continue the £1 billion a year we spend through local authorities to guarantee that service. It certainly supports bus services and that is something we want to carry on with.
My Lords, I declare a former interest as the former chairman of London Buses. I agree with the noble Baroness that buses are a vital part of our community. They carry the poor, the old, the young and the sick. Labour would introduce regulations to designate and protect routes of critical community value, including those that serve local schools, hospitals and isolated settlements in rural areas. Why do the Government not copy those policies now?
My Lords, decisions on providing bus services are devolved to local authorities and, as I have said, we think that is right. We support local authorities with the bus service operators grant, and will absolutely continue to do so. As well as the devolution of the £40 million, we are reviewing the rest of that money to see whether we can spend it better and allow local authorities to use it better. However, local authorities are best placed to understand what their communities need and deliver their services. They are also democratically accountable to the people they serve.
Meetings with Ministers
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what checks are undertaken on individuals before they meet the Prime Minister or Cabinet ministers.
My Lords, for national security reasons the Government do not comment on the specific security measures in place for the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, including checks undertaken on individuals meeting them. As part of the Government’s transparency agenda, official ministerial meetings with external organisations are published each quarter. This provides scrutiny on the Government’s business.
I am grateful for the Minister’s reply. At the Conservative black and white party, somebody paid £55,000 to spend a day with the Prime Minister and somebody paid £30,000 to have dinner with the Defence Secretary. What is the difference between the cash-for-questions scandal and cash for access? Is it not time that the Ministerial Code was strengthened to disallow such practices?
My Lords, sadly I was not privileged to attend this important function but the noble Lord will know that fundraising events with party supporters are not new. I happen to have in front of me a copy of PR Week from 18 April 2011, when we were in coalition—doesn’t it seem a long time ago? It reported:
“The Liberal Democrats are offering lobbyists the opportunity to attend ‘exclusive dinners’ with Nick Clegg in return for an annual payment of £25,000 … In confidential documents obtained by PRWeek, Clegg calls for wealthy figures to get involved—regardless of their political persuasion. ‘You don’t have to be a Liberal Democrat to take part,’ he says. ‘In today’s politics, all are welcome’”.
I think it is important that no one is too pious on this subject.
My Lords, that might be the case but it does not change the argument that has just been made. Is it right that people can buy access into the Government?
Again, I am not sure that this dialogue will enhance public confidence in political parties, but Labour auctioned off a tennis match with Tony Blair in 2008. People could also buy at an auction the opportunity to become a character in an Alastair Campbell novel.
The noble Lord raises a serious issue. What is important is that Ministers adhere to the Ministerial Code and the standards set in public life. I have seen no evidence that any of those standards has been broken.
My Lords, is that not the most persuasive argument for sorting out the funding of political parties? Why has the noble Lord’s party always refused to come to a sensible agreement which would clean up politics?
The noble Lord will know that for the past decade there have been genuine attempts to reach all-party consensus on the key issue of party funding. No such consensus was reached, which is why there has been no agreement to take it forward, and the coalition Government did not think it right to take unilateral action on party funding. We remain open to discussions if there is a real possibility of a consensus. In the meantime, there is a Private Member’s Bill before the House, and I hope we might be able to make progress on a number of more minor issues—incremental measures of reform—where there is that consensus.
My Lords, does my noble friend think that we could talk a little about whether the Labour Party should have accepted money from a fascist source recently? They were quite large sums of money, hundreds of thousands of pounds, from Mr Mosley to assist the office of the deputy leader of the Labour Party. We could have a chat about that some time.
I am more than happy to answer questions on behalf of the Government or indeed my party. It is a matter for the Labour Party whether it decides to return the money received from Max Mosley.
Will the Minister enlighten the House about whether, when the lucky winners of the prizes that were available at the black and white ball take up their prizes, there will be civil servants present?
There will be due scrutiny of those who bid for the prizes. These are meetings that do not involve government property or government business but are undertaken by Ministers in their capacity as members of a political party, so my understanding is that they will not be official meetings with civil servants present.
My Lords, in 2013 the now noble Lord, Lord Lansley, introduced the lobbying Bill in the other place. It does not extend to activities such as those that the Minister just mentioned. Is that a satisfactory state of affairs? Should we not amend the lobbying Act to cover more of the activities now being revealed by the press?
The Government are genuinely open to discussions about how we improve accountability and transparency in our political process. I am very happy to look at those proposals. In the past it has not been possible to achieve the sort of consensus one would like on these sensitive matters of political issue.
My Lords, does my noble friend not think that where money is obtained by political parties from proven criminal sources perhaps the funds should be returned, as in the case of the very substantial donations made by Mr Michael Brown to the Liberal party, which held on to the money?
My Lords, behind this, there is a serious issue. Democracy in this country depends on political parties. If there is to be a choice at a general election, we need a range of financially viable, credible political parties which train and nurture the people who lead this country and which provide an opportunity for engagement and debate at a national and local level. Given the limited taxpayer appetite to fund those activities and that political parties need to be resourced, we should be cautious about denigrating those who support political parties. We should encourage more people to join and financially support the political party that most closely reflects their values.
My Lords, is there not a fantastic opportunity here for a cross-party competition with listed politicians, to see who would pay most money not to have a meal with those politicians?
In the past, when I put up as a prize a meal with myself, my wife made absolutely certain that she bought it.
My Lords, can I change the subject a bit? If the Prime Minister or any Cabinet Minister has the occasion to meet Mr Alex Salmond, will they express concern that he continues to front a programme on Putin’s propaganda channel?
Again, I am more than happy to answer questions on behalf of the Government or, if pressed, on behalf of my political party. It is not for me to answers questions on behalf of Alex Salmond or members of other political parties.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what investments they will make in order to reduce the national debt.
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Bird, and at his request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.
My Lords, the Government’s fiscal policy takes a balanced approach, getting debt as a share of GDP falling but also investing in key public services and in areas that are critical for productivity and growth. The latest forecast for public finances shows that we are on target to start reducing debt as a share of GDP next year.
I thank the Minister for his response. I am sure your Lordships will wish my noble friend Lord Bird a speedy recovery. As we all know, he is famous for launching the Big Issue and looking at matters through the prism of poverty. The Chancellor has said the age of austerity is all but over. Given that the day-to-day deficit has now been eliminated, will the Minister outline which new long-term and preventive investments Her Majesty’s Government will now make? Further debt reduction should not merely be the extension of the age of austerity. Will the Minister agree that, as we have learned from today’s Equality and Human Rights Commission report entitled The Cumulative Impact of Tax and Welfare Reforms, austerity has hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, with those with disabilities, certain ethnic groups, women and lone parents all bearing the brunt? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
I believe there is. First, I join the noble Lord in wishing a speedy recovery to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, who has done so much for alleviating poverty and giving people hope, a chance and a future in this country. Of course it is welcome that the OBR forecasts are now showing that debt will begin to fall from next year as a percentage of GDP, but it is still at the very high level of 85%. The interest we have to spend on that debt represents the combined amount combined on police and defence services. It is critical that we improve our productivity, which is why we have the £31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund, which is designed to do that by investing in R&D, housing and technology. But perhaps the best thing we can do for the poorest in our country is what we have been doing. We have seen an increase in employment to near-record levels, with 3 million new jobs, and the pay of the lowest paid has been driven up so that they are now experiencing, as a result of the national living wage, the fastest growth in real income that they have had for 20 years.
My Lords, can my noble friend explain why the Government insist on making the national debt appear even bigger than it in fact is? Is he not aware that as a result of quantitative easing—QE—a good quarter of the outstanding national debt is in fact owned by the Bank of England. In other words, it has been bought back. In the private sector, if a company buys back any of its debt, it is written off. Why do the Government not do the same?
My noble friend, who comes to this with immense experience, makes an interesting point. Even if the element of total debt covered by the quantitative easing programme initiated by the Bank of England—about £120 billion—is taken out, the debt figure is still continuing to fall. That is the point we are trying to emphasise: debt is beginning to fall and we are beginning to live within our means, which is the right thing to do.
My Lords, the greatest asset which any country has is the capacity and willingness of the people to work. Construction workers have been waiting for this Government to recognise and act on the housing crisis for several years. Does the Minister agree?
I wonder whether the noble Lord heard last week when we discussed the national infrastructure plan and announced the initiatives that we were taking to boost the housing market—some £43 billion over the spending period. We recognise that housing is a huge issue, not only of intergenerational fairness but also in terms of driving forward the economy. That is why we have announced the very substantial initiatives that we have to get that sector moving, including from the National Productivity Investment Fund, a large chunk of which is dedicated to housing.
My Lords, do the Government recognise that borrowing that arises from excess day-to-day spending and borrowing that arises for investment in infrastructure and other capital projects are two entirely different issues? Any corporation treats them that way and this Government surely should. Would that not allow them to take the borrowing cap off local authorities, which could then invest in the social and affordable housing that no other programme is currently delivering and which would underpin economic growth in future?
I again refer to the Statement, in which the Chancellor announced that in areas of high demand and low affordability local authorities would be given that additional flexibility, which is welcome.
My Lords, while we welcome the reductions in national debt, will the Minister confirm that household debt has been going in the opposite direction and that over the last five years there has been a 7% increase in personal debt to a staggering £1.6 trillion? Given that this is quite an albatross around the necks of many of the poorer families to which the Minister has referred, what are the Government doing to try to reduce the levels of personal debt?
There are two things that we can do. One we have done already: the action that we took on payday loans, placing a cap on the appalling rates of interest that were being charged, was the right thing to do. Extending that to other areas of financial services is also right. But ultimately, the best thing that we can do for people who are struggling with debt is to provide work and opportunities so that they can repay that debt and provide a living and a hope for the future of their families.
My Lords, is the Minister aware—
This side, my Lords. I ask my noble friend to resist the siren call from the Liberal Democrat Benches—
My Lords, time is up.
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Committee (7th Day) (Continued)
Clause 9: Implementing the withdrawal agreement
Debate on Amendment 150 resumed.
My Lords, I support Amendment 150, which, in the somewhat bizarre language that we tend to use when dealing with crucial issues, has come to be known as the “meaningful process amendment”. As we know, this reasonably recent addition to our parliamentary lexicon really means the process by which Parliament deals with the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, an issue that already has quite a long history. Let us start with Article 50. It provides for any deal to be submitted for decision to the European Parliament before it can be finally and formally concluded, so the European Parliament can approve or reject any deal that has been negotiated. It is surely therefore inconceivable that this Parliament should not have the same right, all the more so since the cause in which those who campaigned to leave the EU were speaking was to restore sovereignty and take back control to our own Parliament. The June 2016 referendum has no binding effect and therefore needs to be approved, or not, by Parliament.
Fast-forward, then, to Lancaster House in January 2017, when the Prime Minister committed herself to the fact that any deal would be submitted to both Houses for their decisions—rather oddly, in my view, saying nothing at that stage about the primacy of the House of Commons. So far, so good. Ever since that day at Lancaster House when the Prime Minister gave that commitment, the Government have been taking a series of steps backwards from that step forward, which casts doubt on just how meaningful they intend the process to be. Twice they have attempted to prevent the process being put into statute. On the first occasion, in the context of the Bill triggering Article 50, when this House by a large majority voted to set such a provision in statute, they succeeded. At the time, the Government, it has to be admitted, had a majority in the Commons and therefore this House did not insist. On the second occasion, in the context of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill we are debating today, they were equally determined, but they were defeated, thanks to a cross-party alliance which has provided that statutory provision for a meaningful vote is now not only desirable but necessary. So, the Bill before us provides for that statutory process. The amendment to which I am now speaking is designed not to replace that but to clarify and spell it out, and to say how best the provisions should be applied to give Parliament a genuine and timely say in the matter.
What possible respectable reasons can there be for resisting this provision, this amendment and the clarification being proposed to your Lordships? It is hard, I would suggest, to think of one, although I suspect that the Minister will manage to do his best at the end of this debate. Could it be that the Government’s objective is to ensure that the votes in both Houses to which they are committed will take place only at a moment when it is too late to do very much about things and when the sands of Article 50 are running out? That would be to deprive the whole process of its meaning.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, for whom I have long respect. Is he not proposing a bee sting, in effect—Parliament stings and then dies? The point of the Bill is to give powers to Parliament, which he would take away from Parliament’s control.
I am sorry but I think the noble Lord has slightly misunderstood the amendment. It is Amendment 150, and if he looks at it, he will see that it gives Parliament more powers than it currently has, or was envisaged. A further look will show that it is not taking anything away from Parliament. It is ensuring that Parliament gets the powers in not only a formal but a meaningful sense, such that it can make use of those powers to direct the outcome.
This is, after all, the most significant decision that Parliament will take in this period—nobody, I should imagine, could dispute that—and it is the need to do so that makes the case for the amendment. No doubt the Minister will conclude his remarks, as he habitually does—I do not criticise him for it—by asking for the amendment to be withdrawn. Might he not consider, as others have suggested, that the best thing to happen now would be for the Government to accept it?
The noble Lord said that the referendum was not binding on Parliament. Can he deal with the point that the then Government spent almost £10 million of taxpayers’ money putting leaflets through every letterbox in the country that said, “Whatever you decide, the Government will implement”?
I will do my best. I was not and am not a supporter of any Government—I am a Cross-Bencher—but the Government the noble Lord is talking about had a majority in the House of Commons at the time; the Government who are negotiating our withdrawal from the European Union do not have a majority of their own in the House of Commons.
May I point out to my noble friend that we are implementing the will of the British people as expressed in the referendum? That is what we have been debating all these many hours and days. The British people voted for us to negotiate a withdrawal from the EU and that is what this Bill is about. It is not about not respecting that, or indeed honouring the promise that was given to the British people.
Yes, that is exactly my opinion, too.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. My only point is that no Government can at any time bind a future Parliament.
My Lords, a final answer to the question by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, would be that we do not just leave automatically. There is a whole range of choices that have to be made and those choices involve the Government negotiating an agreement and then, I would respectfully submit, Parliament deciding whether it approves of the deal that has been done. As the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, rightly said, this is not about trying to frustrate the outcome of the referendum, but trying to get to a sensible answer, which Parliament takes responsibility for.
We had a fantastic debate this morning and I invidiously single out the four speeches by my noble friends Lady Hayter and Lord Reid of Cardowan, the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. They were absolutely terrific in terms of establishing—and re-establishing—the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. I recommend my noble friend Lord Reid’s speech; this is not some abstract principle—it is about Parliament performing its rule and its role in order that there is better governance of our country. There are three particular effects in this respect.
First—and I can say this, having been in government—there is nothing that makes government decisions better than the fact that you will be grilled by Parliament on those decisions; it makes you think them through much more. The more this Government think that they can do Brexit without being grilled by Parliament, the worse the decisions will be.
Secondly, every time I speak to people in the European Union, they ask whether this Government have the authority to do any deal, because of their precarious political position. The more that the people with whom we are negotiating think the Government will have the authority of Parliament, the more they will pay attention to what the Government are doing.
Thirdly, we want a deal that the country has confidence in. People are much more likely to have confidence in a deal that does not appear to be the product of a negotiation between the Prime Minister and Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg but which appears to be something that Parliament as a whole is willing to approve.
For those three reasons, all of which are practical, I think it is really important that Parliament has a meaningful vote. The debate this morning indicated that there was broad consensus around this House that Parliament should have a meaningful vote. I will just draw out three aspects of that meaningful vote—does the Minister agree that these aspects will be covered?
First, the meaningful vote must be in respect of the withdrawal agreement, the transition agreement and the political declaration that it is envisaged will be agreed between the European Union and the United Kingdom on the future trading relationship between the two. I include that because, as the Minister knows, Article 50 says that the withdrawal agreement must have regard to the future relationship.
Secondly, the meaningful vote—in order to be meaningful—must take place at such a time as it can affect the result. That means before the European Parliament has voted, and while there is still time for Her Majesty’s Government to go back and negotiate further, if that be the wish of Parliament, in accordance with any one of the three agreements or political declarations I have identified.
Thirdly, in order to be meaningful, this statute must make provision for Parliament—in practice that means the Commons—to be able to say to the Government what it should do next. To take an extreme example, if the Government came back and said, “We want there to be no deal except a really exiguous deal,” it would be open to Parliament to say, “No, go back and get a free trade agreement with the following indicia in it”. Or, if the Government came back with a free trade agreement only, and no customs arrangement of any sort, it would be open to Parliament—that is, the Commons—to say, “No, seek to negotiate a customs union on the following basis”.
Without those three elements covering the three items—it being the right time, and Parliament being able to say to the Government, “Go back and negotiate along these lines”, the provision would not, in my respectful submission, be meaningful. It is plain, because the Commons passed the amendment to the current Clause 9, that they wanted a meaningful vote. I am sure that all the amendments will come back in a form that has broad agreement throughout the House, and that they will propose to spell out what the Commons can do. I very much hope that in his response to this amendment, the Minister will take more seriously the questions he has been asked—and those that he was asked on the previous group of amendments.
My Lords, together with my noble and learned friend Lord Judge, and the noble Lords, Lord Tyler and Lord Adonis, I tabled notice of intention to oppose Clause 9 standing part of the Bill, in order to ensure a debate on the purport of the clause, not least on the generality of it—and not least because of the extended delegated powers that it contains. It has been a delight that that notion has been part of a debate with such outstanding speeches, including those of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Reid, and pre-eminently that of the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes. I suggest that his speech should be written in letters of gold and set as a compulsory constitutional text—and after his speech a few moments ago, I would add the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, to that roll of honour.
I was also musing on the effect of the words helpfully inserted in Clause 9(1) by Mr Dominic Grieve’s Amendment 7 in the Commons. If there were no deal, I wondered, would the requirement that the final terms of withdrawal should be approved by statute actually bite? But on reflection, I concluded that even if, at the end of the negotiation, there were nothing but scorched earth, there would have to be some sort of withdrawal agreement, and that in turn would make the proviso effective. In political terms it might, of course, be even more effective if no deal at all cast a different light on the fundamental question of withdrawal.
The area of great concern in Clause 9 is, of course, the powers proposed to be conferred by subsection (2). As I have Amendment 154 to that subsection, and as my noble and learned friend Lord Judge has asked me to move Amendment 153 in his unavoidable absence, I shall reserve any further remarks until we reach that group.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Kingsmill and I have been trying to get in on this group of amendments since the beginning of the debate. Unfortunately, the noble Baroness had a meeting with the Bank of England at 4 o’clock, and as the chair of a bank, she could not fail to go to it. I sought advice from the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, and she suggested that I should read the noble Baroness’s words into the record. I shall then make my own comments on Amendments 155 and 191.
On behalf of my noble friend Lady Kingsmill, I support Amendment 199. Many noble Lords have spoken eloquently about this amendment, which seeks to preserve our current relationship with the EU should Parliament decide not to approve the withdrawal agreement and ask the Government to go back to the negotiating table. The Brexit process has been characterised by uncertainty. We simply do not know what the final deal will look like, under what circumstances we will do business, be consumers, travel and work. We do not know what our future relationship with Europe will be, and Article 50 sets the clock ticking for when we would need answers to those questions.
This amendment seeks to ensure that the withdrawal deal put to Parliament is not a choice between a poor deal or no deal, whereby the UK would crash out of the EU and revert to WTO terms. Noble Lords have spoken about how that would be hard for our economy and for trade and services. It would, and it would also be hard for people. It is this last point, the rights of EU citizens, which I would like to touch on today. Negotiations are about the balance between what is gained and what is lost. Some of that will be quantifiable in financial terms but it will also be about culture, opportunity and identity.
My children have grown up as proud citizens of the UK and Europe. They do not question that you can be both, or that being one means diminishing the other. They have never had to question that they can travel, study, work and live across borders, and that their qualifications and skills are recognised. For them, Europe is a place of opportunities, not obstacles. When the UK leaves the EU, it is not just that generation which will lose a part of their identity and a sense of belonging, it is the UK as a whole.
I am an immigrant, brought to this country as a child from New Zealand. When I was 18 and a new undergraduate at Cambridge, I applied for a British passport to travel to Switzerland for a walking holiday with friends. I was refused on the grounds that I was not British because neither my father nor my grandfather was born in the UK. I was shocked and felt very insecure. Eventually, I obtained a New Zealand passport. On my return to the UK after my holiday, I was required to go to the purser’s office on the ferry and was questioned about my commitment to the UK by a police officer not much older than myself. I eventually received the stamp in my passport giving me indefinite right to stay. I think I have done pretty well since then.
A week ago, the House heard informed debate on amendments that sought to put the rights of EU citizens into the Bill. I welcome the fact that an agreement was reached in principle in December on EU citizens’ rights as part of the phase 1 agreement. However, as noble Lords raised last week, there remains uncertainty and anxiety for EU citizens about their position, in particular in the event of a failure to reach a withdrawal deal. Even if EU citizens’ rights are clarified in the withdrawal agreement, what if the rest of the withdrawal agreement is not a good deal for the UK and Parliament votes against it? What happens then? In those circumstances, until we are certain and ready and prepared for a successful positive future relationship with the EU, surely we should retain the status quo and relationship we have. Surely, we owe it to the EU citizens here and the generation who will have their British-European identity severed to extend Article 50 until the best deal can be reached. That is what this amendment seeks to ensure.
Speaking for myself, I support Amendments 151 and 199. I find myself in the very unusual and discombobulating circumstances of agreeing with most noble Lords on the other side of the Chamber. If noble Lords were present at this morning’s debate, they would appreciate that we are in danger of breaking out into unity across Benches and parties.
I suggest to the noble Baroness that it would save us all a great deal of time and effort in coming here if she simply read out all our speeches on our behalf, using this rather extraordinary procedure that she has embarked upon.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, wanted to participate earlier but had an inescapable engagement. She and her colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, spoke to me. I felt that, in all the circumstances, it would be in our interests because, as far as I am aware, we have not had a female contribution to this debate. It is appropriate that the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, be given the opportunity to express her views and, in these exceptional circumstances, to convey the views of her noble friend Lady Kingsmill.
Far be it for me to argue with my noble friend, but this is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of procedure of the House. If one is able to read out other people’s speeches without limit, it creates a most extraordinary precedent. I hope those in charge of our procedures will consider whether it is something that should be repeated.
There is no danger that anyone would want to read the noble Lord’s speeches on his behalf, so he need not worry and we can hear more from my noble friend.
I am making a perfectly serious point, and I do not think anybody has appointed the noble Lord to decide on the procedures of this House.
We all often enjoy the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. It is not a precedent; it is a convention of this House that if someone unavoidably cannot attend, they may ask someone else to deliver their speech. That was explained at the beginning of my noble friend’s speech, which the noble Lord would have heard had he been listening. It was an unusual discourtesy for the noble Lord to intervene in the way that he has done.
I thank the Minister and say to the whole Committee that I am willing to read out anyone’s speech should they come and ask me to do so. I say to the Minister that the problem is that I would answer the questions that Ministers put before me.
This morning, my noble friend Lord Reid of Cardowan used the word “preposterous”. That is the position we are now getting ourselves into. On one level, it really worries me that Amendments 151 and 199 needed to be tabled. It seemed completely preposterous that Parliament and the Government could get themselves into a position whereby the Government negotiate a deal, take it to the European Parliament, leave the EU and then bring the deal back to Parliament. That seems to involve all the conditions of creating a constitutional crisis. By tabling this range of amendments—specifically Amendments 151 and 199—this House is properly conducting its business of scrutinising the legislation and ensuring that it makes sense.
I do not want to repeat this morning’s speeches by the noble Lords, Lord Cormack, Lord Balfe and Lord Patten, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and my noble friends Lord Reid and Lord Liddle. Instead, I have a question for the Minister and I still hope he will be able to rise to his feet and say that the Government accept Amendments 151 and 199, but if he is unable to do so, could he please explain how Amendment 7, passed in the other place, can be implemented in a meaningful way?
My Lords, I will speak briefly mainly to Amendment 216, tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, which I also signed, but I will also refer briefly to Clause 9 and its generality.
On the recent exchanges, I may be incorrect, but speaking from a shaky procedural memory, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, was probably correct in what he said: the procedure that the noble Baroness opposite engaged in is unusual, although I understand that she had the permission of the House to do so. It was perhaps an exceptional moment, and noble Lords may agree, particularly in Committee rather than the whole House, that it is not necessarily a transgression. However, I think a law somewhere in the procedure book says that what the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, asserted is correct. Be that as it may, I pass on to the important matters of Clause 9 and Amendment 216.
I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, very much for his splendid delivery of the arguments this morning. The amendment is considerably detailed, going into its subject with great care, and it calls on the Government to study it with great care. I hope that the Government will therefore do that justice, because it is necessary. We heard other good speeches this morning—the noble Lord, Lord Patten, has been mentioned several times; I thank him again for what he said, because he said it with great humour. At long last, what I call the “Ian McEwan phenomenon”—total outrage and depression at the nightmare of Brexit—can be replaced with feeling a bit more cheerful about things as events develop. That is now affecting me as well, and I thank the other speakers for what they said.
When we began Committee of this tedious but necessary technical Bill—as I think we described it in the early stages—following the unleashing of Article 50, we anti-Brexiteers felt that we just had to get through it, however miserable we might feel, but that has not happened. The substance is now there, and it has increased much more in material terms. Now, at long last, in Clause 9—which is disturbing in the way it has been drafted by the Government—we come to a serious examination and careful consideration of the deep implications of the abuse of parliamentary freedom and sovereignty which would be engaged if the text remained unchanged. That is therefore much more than just a technical matter; it is a matter of the true sovereignty of Parliament. That is mainly, of course, the House of Commons and the parliamentary decision it will make about approving or not the final outcome of these negotiations—although I use that word in the widest sense, because they are not proper negotiations at all. The Government have been inept, clumsy and maladroit, under an increasingly unpopular Prime Minister, who has no authority after the 8 June election to pursue this course anyway, a dodgy alliance with a dubious political entity in Northern Ireland called the DUP, and a questionable First Minister to add to the gloomy picture. As we go on, we will see the effects of this dubious Bill unless it is resisted. I therefore agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, in his assertion that we should resist Clause 9 in its entirety and ask the Government to think again.
I also commend very much the speech on Amendment 190 from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, because it was the one that most clearly mentioned the magic phrase “or stay in the European Union anyway”, or however it is put. That needs to be said more and more as public opinion changes. I do not wish to deprive the public of the will of that referendum decision in any way; none the less I see the change of feeling that is now occurring in this country, with the beginnings of a clear net majority of the population—including the new, young voters who will come in next time—against the idea of leaving the European Union. That also has to be taken into account by the Government. Whatever the final text of the Bill, that must be acknowledged, and the Government might as well start saying things along those lines to get the public ready for transmission of the Bill back to the Commons and its ultimate verdict on this, the worst incident in post-war politics in Britain. I think someone said it was one of the worst decisions since the refusal to keep to the agreement on home rule for the whole of the Irish territory in the previous century. The British Government went back on that with all the trouble that ensued. This is now the worst decision we have seen, with the Government pursuing very dodgy talks and dubious negotiations on an increasingly weak basis. It is time for greater reality to set in when the Bill goes back to the Commons.
May I take up the very generous offer of the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, that someone else read his speech? I am very keen to get hold of it, and I will make suitable amendments, including accepting the amendments moved this afternoon, which are excellent. I am also keen to get hold of the future speeches of my noble friend on the Front Bench. If we have a meeting minds on what I think will be the increasingly important issue facing the House—that of how the meaningful vote is conducted and whether there should be a vote of the people on the withdrawal treaty—and get to the right place on that, I hope we can live up to the injunction of the noble Lord, Lord Patten, that we uphold our democratic traditions. We clearly need to, given the gravity of the issues we face.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said he thought that leaving the European Union was the worst decision taken by Parliament since the rejection of the Irish home rule Bills in the 1880s and 1890s. We all have our lists of the worst decisions taken by Parliament, but on Irish home rule I would note that the first home rule Bill was defeated by the House of Commons and the second by the House of Lords. We have not played an honourable part at all in the conduct of Irish affairs over the last 150 years. The second home rule Bill was possibly the last best chance of devolution to the island of Ireland as a whole, on an agreed basis, and was promoted by arguably the best Prime Minister —Churchill aside—this country has had in the last 150 years: Gladstone. That Bill was rejected in this House by 419 to 41 votes—nearly unanimously—on the recommendation of the then leader of the Conservative Party, Lord Salisbury, who said that the Irish were no more fitted to self-government than Hottentots and uncivilised tribes in Africa. We do not always get these decisions right as a Parliament and we need to pay very careful attention—as we seek to do now—to the frame in which we take these momentous decisions at the end of the year.
Does the noble Lord not appreciate the irony of choosing the home rule Bill as an example? This Bill is about restoring home rule to Britain from Europe.
What Gladstone showed so brilliantly is that it is possible to share sovereignty both within your nation and between nations. Gladstone was a great champion of the concept of Europe and, indeed, of international arbitration, which he pioneered to a significant extent.
Does the noble Lord agree that this is the point we are making? The Bill allows the European Parliament to vote on the withdrawal agreement without a meaningful vote necessarily taking place in the UK Parliament—unless there is agreement about the way that will be taken, the timing and the procedure for it. Is that not the case?
I entirely agree with my noble friend.
I have just a brief point on the previous remark of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. Does he not agree that the great essence of membership of the European Union is that it is a club of equal sovereign members? Can he briefly explain why he thinks the United Kingdom is the only member that has lost the self-confidence and maturity to deem itself an equal sovereign member, like all of the others?
That is a hypothetical question because I still do not take it as a foregone conclusion that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. We are engaging in a protracted democratic debate in the country. It is a debate centred on Parliament and which engages the people, and it still has at least a year to go. I think it may end up taking longer than that. I am a profound believer in the wisdom of our democracy if given the time for a proper and full debate, and, as is our duty, we are seeking to ensure that the nation has that full opportunity.
Coming back to the earlier brilliant speeches that we heard from my noble friend Lord Reid, the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Patten, the reason we need to pay such attention to these issues is that Parliament has so far not covered itself in glory. The decision to have a parliamentary process for the invoking of Article 50 had to be dragged out of the Government by the Supreme Court, with Parliament not exerting itself until the Supreme Court had opined. The debates on the Bill in the other House were grossly inadequate. This is the most important Bill that Parliament will discuss until the withdrawal treaty but large chunks of it were entirely undebated in the House of Commons.
The noble Viscount’s father talked very powerfully and movingly about the elective dictatorship. We have seen the elective dictatorship in full operation in the conduct of the negotiations and the procedures over leaving the European Union. I do not think that this House has covered itself in glory so far either. Speeches on the most important issue facing this country in a generation were guillotined at six or seven minutes at Second Reading, and the Government have had to have additional time dragged out of them day by day for the consideration of the Bill in Committee.
We sat until 2.37 am on Monday because the Government would not provide an additional day. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said that I was not here. He is correct. The reason I was not here was that, after eight continuous hours of debate, to be frank, I did not think I should be an agent to prolonging the debate, which I tend to do when I am present, from 2.37 am to what might well have been well after three o’clock in the morning. We were debating the whole of the future of the financial services industry of this country, air traffic control and aviation, and the European Chemicals Agency at 1 am on Monday. That is no way for this House to conduct the business of the nation.
We need these amendments because we simply do not trust the Government to have an adequate parliamentary procedure in place unless Parliament exerts itself in advance. That is why the amendments of the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, which discuss time, are so important.
I want to highlight two issues in respect of the procedure that we need to follow when the Prime Minister submits the withdrawal treaty to Parliament. First, there must be adequate time for Parliament to debate it, because there can be no democracy unless there is time to discuss it. We should remember that Clement Attlee famously said that democracy is government by discussion, but this Government are very keen on closing down discussion. Your Lordships and the other place need to put in place arrangements to ensure that there will be adequate time. To my mind, those arrangements are crucial. At the moment in the existing Clause 9, even as amended by Dominic Grieve’s amendment in the House of Commons, there is no requirement in respect of the time that must be given to Parliament to reach these momentously important decisions. That needs to be put right.
When the noble Lord talks about timing and Parliament, is he also anticipating that Select Committees will be given time to consider their issues and report back to the House so that Parliament can consider the appropriate course?
The noble Viscount raises a very important issue which has not been debated in either House of Parliament at all so far—whether there should be a Select Committee procedure when the withdrawal treaty is presented. That is exactly the kind of issue we should be discussing, and not at one o’clock in the morning.
The second issue, which goes to the heart of the bona fides of the Government, is the options that Parliament will debate and reach decisions on when the withdrawal treaty is presented. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly—indeed, the Minister has repeated it—that the only option that Parliament will be given when the treaty is presented is between accepting the treaty or rejecting it and leaving without a treaty on World Trade Organization terms. That is a completely false, misleading and unacceptable statement of what the options facing Parliament should be. Parliament, which is sovereign, can and should itself decide what options will be available to it. An absolutely credible option—indeed, in my view it is the most credible option facing the country—is that we simply stay in the European Union. The idea that this sovereign Parliament will not be allowed to consider that as an option is totally unacceptable. There obviously should be an option. The reason why we need to enshrine that as an option, as other noble Lords have said, is precisely that the Government, by executive fiat, are seeking to rule it out. That is unacceptable.
These amendments are vital. They go to the heart of the role of Parliament in our nation’s affairs. As the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said—I entirely agree with him—the ultimate test of Parliament is how it conducts itself on the biggest issues facing the nation at any given time. We may do brilliant work revising legislation—hopefully at more civilised hours, which is of secondary importance—but the thing that everyone in this country will remember about Parliament in our generation is how we conducted ourselves on this big issue of whether we stay in the European Union or leave it.
Noble Lords take inspiration from many great historical figures but I have always taken it on these matters from Churchill. One of his greatest speeches during the war—ironically, made in this Chamber after the House of Commons was bombed and it moved in here—was in October 1943 on a Motion to rebuild the House of Commons on precisely the model that Hitler had destroyed and not to a more modern design. He said:
“We attach immense importance to the survival of Parliamentary democracy. In this country this is one of our war aims … the House of Commons … has earned and captured and held through long generations the imagination and respect of the British nation. It is not free from shortcomings; they mark all human institutions. Nevertheless, I submit … that our House has proved itself capable of adapting itself to every change which the swift pace of modern life has brought upon us”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/10/1943; cols 404-405.]
If Churchill could say that about the House of Commons in 1943, we are certainly capable of having adequate procedures in place to debate the Prime Minister’s withdrawal treaty at the end of the year.
I am not quite sure what credence the noble Lord gives to the referendum. He did not mention it in his speech.
We are debating these issues precisely because of the referendum. However, the referendum is not the last word on parliamentary democracy; nor is it the last word, crucially, on a treaty which the people did not even see two years ago when they voted. They could not see it because it had not been negotiated.
Would the noble Lord wish to encourage the Minister to comment on the effect on timing if the ECJ makes a ruling in relation to the rights of UK citizens, inasmuch as we will still be citizens of the European Union and that ruling may come during the transition period or the implementation period that will be announced after the agreement has been agreed to?
Perhaps the Minister may say more about this when he replies. Given the complexity and difficulty of these negotiations, it is perfectly possible that the withdrawal treaty will not be submitted until quite late. I would not be surprised if we do not see the withdrawal treaty this side of Christmas, so it will not be a long period. If the withdrawal treaty is presented late, the Government should seek an extension of the Article 50 period so that there is adequate parliamentary scrutiny, debate and opportunity for decision on that treaty. If the Government were serious about respecting the sovereignty of Parliament, the Minister would announce that there will be at least a three-month period between the submission of the withdrawal treaty and the expiration of the date on which we leave the European Union.
I know he will not give that statement because we all know what he seeks to do. He is an ardent Brexiteer and he simply wants us out, come what may, on 29 March next year. He is not worried about parliamentary processes or democracy; he is one of that group of far-right nationalists who simply want us out. Our job is to see that Parliament is respected and that it is the British people and their parliamentary representatives who take this decision, but they cannot do that if they do not have adequate time to debate it.
One point that the noble Lord has made which I do not think has been emphasised enough is that the public are under the impression that Brexit is a done deal and there is no alternative. They do not realise that there is an option to remain, and it is Parliament’s job to put the message out because the Government are brainwashing people the other way.
My Lords, I support Amendment 150 and I have nothing to add to the memorable speeches that were made this morning, save to say to my noble friends on the Front Bench that if an amendment in similar form comes before your Lordships’ House on Report, I will, notwithstanding, vote for it.
I also ask the Minister to address the circumstances set out in Amendment 199, proposed by my noble friend Lord Cormack. Will the Minister tell us how the Government would react to the circumstances set out in that amendment? In particular, can he confirm positively that in those circumstances, the Government will give active consideration to requesting an extension of the period under Article 50? Indeed, I would submit that, given the difficulties which are becoming more apparent every single day, perhaps it would be wise to ask for that extension now and be honest with people by making it clear to them why we are asking for it. We could then reflect upon the wisdom of seeking to maintain the red lines with which we have managed to bind ourselves into an impossible straitjacket.
My Lords, I rise to support this group of amendments and I commend all those noble Lords who have tabled and spoken so eloquently to them. I too deeply regret that they are even necessary. It is hard to believe that in purporting to respect the referendum result, which the Government have portrayed as wanting to take back control, this legislation does not ensure that it is our Parliament rather than one group of Ministers that will have proper control over the future EU relationship. There must be a meaningful vote for Parliament.
We cannot accept a Bill which fails to respect the sovereignty of Parliament on an issue of such magnitude. That is how our democracy works. I support in particular Amendments 199, 216 and 217, tabled in the names of several of my noble friends, which relate to the no-deal position. We are trying to deliver what the British people voted for and they trust us to do that well. Surely, we know that the will of the people is not a no- deal outcome. Indeed, we were given in detail in the debate this morning on the first amendments a snapshot of the many disasters that could befall our country and its citizens if we lose all the benefits of the EU safeguards, protections and agencies on which their daily lives depend, as well as our industrial success.
These amendments are about parliamentary control and guarding against a no-deal outcome—just in case that is the outcome which is envisaged. Enough of the bluster and bravado; enough of those who are still saying that no deal is okay; and enough of seeming to rely on the EU to rescue us from the cliff edge before we jump because they assume that Europe does not want the damage that the no-deal outcome would do. I say this to my noble friend the Minister: please accept these amendments or bring forward an appropriate government version on Report which puts our Parliament properly at the centre and in control of protecting our national interest in this Bill.
My Lords, it may have changed since I was in the House of Commons, but can my noble friend explain to me why she thinks it necessary for this House to amend the Bill in order for the House of Commons to have a vote on anything it chooses?
It is indeed our job to make recommendations to the other place if we believe that there are issues in this Bill which go to the heart of some of the constitutional matters relating to it.
Will my noble friend remind my other noble friend that the Bill has gone through all its stages in another place? It is now before us. We have to amend it as and when we think, and the other place has to pronounce on our amendments. It is our duty to say to it, “Please think again”, if we feel that is necessary. At the end of the day, the other place will have the final word.
My Lords, a point was made by several noble Lords as to a delay in the operation of Article 50. If I remember rightly, under Clause 2, there is a period of two years. Can that be invoked unilaterally or does it need the consent of all 27 other members? I would be most grateful if the Minister could reply. If not, I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, will correct us.
My Lords, I was not intending to speak until the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, spoke. As I understand it, the position of the anti-Brexiteers until recently has been that they accept the verdict of the referendum—we should come out—but that the referendum did not pose the difficult question of how to do so and the whole debate was to make sure that the electorate understood how we will do this very complex thing. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, put the proposition that the referendum was of no account at all and we had to go back to the question as to whether we stayed in the European Union. I have not heard him say that before, I must say.
My Lords, I did not say that the referendum was of no account at all.
Giving an option to stay in is saying that we will go over the whole question again.
I invite the Minister to explain to my noble friend—who I have known for years and like very much—the difference between parliamentary sovereignty and plebiscitary democracy. It is quite a fundamental difference in our constitution.
If my noble friend will forgive me, I will concentrate on the amendments before us and leave this existential debate for my two noble friends on the Back Benches to conduct among themselves.
The approval of the UK’s final deal with the EU has already been the focus of a great deal of sustained debate during the passage of both the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act and this Bill. The Government have committed to hold a vote on the final deal in Parliament as soon as possible after the negotiations have concluded. Let me say, in direct response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, that this vote will take the form of a resolution in both Houses of Parliament and will cover both the withdrawal agreement and the terms of our future relationship. The Government will not implement any parts of the withdrawal agreement until after this vote has taken place.
As we have repeatedly made clear, we fully expect, intend and will make every effort that this vote will take place before the European Parliament votes. However, I hope noble Lords will understand that we do not control the EU’s timeframe for approving the withdrawal agreement and therefore cannot make any statutory assurances where it is concerned. This would be the case with Amendment 150 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, Amendment 151 tabled by my noble friend Lord Cormack and Amendment 216 tabled by my noble friend Lord Hailsham.
A much wiser and older head than me, Merlyn Rees, once told me that, when listening to a Minister’s replies, I should forget everything before the “but”; I include in that everything before the “however”. What follows the “however” gives the Government executive powers to take a course of action completely opposite to the amendments that say that a vote should be done before the European Parliament votes. Of course the Government do not control the timetable for the European Parliament, but they control the timetable for this Parliament. We are asking for the vote to be given substance and time—rather than being a theoretical meaningful vote—as well as an assurance that the decision will be taken by this Parliament before we have to sit and watch the European Parliament voting on the deal. Can the Minister address that issue and explain to us why it is impossible to do that simple thing?
Before the noble Lord sits down, will he pass comment about not just the European Parliament but the EU national parliaments? Will they have a yes or no, or ask their Governments to go back to the Council to keep at it?
Let us take it one step at a time.
In response to the noble Viscount’s final question, no, there will be no vote in national parliaments on this matter: it is a delegated function to the EU. Only a qualified majority vote in the European Council is required, and then a vote in the European Parliament. I can go no further in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Reid, than to repeat my statement that we expect and intend the vote to take place before the vote in the European Parliament.
I am sorry to interrupt, but if the withdrawal agreement is a mixed agreement then there do have to be votes in national parliaments and, indeed, in regional parliaments. Is the Minister saying that I am wrong about that?
Yes, I fear the noble Lord is wrong about that. I think he is referring to the final trade agreement, which we hope will be a mixed agreement and will therefore need approval in national parliaments. The Article 50 process does not require approval in national parliaments.
I respectfully suggest that my noble friend is wrong in saying that it is impossible to guarantee a vote in our national Parliament before one in the European Parliament. If we are taking back control, surely in this of all Bills we can give that assurance.
I can give him the assurance that we intend, we expect, we hope and we want the vote in this Parliament to take place before the European Parliament votes, but we do not know at what stage the European Parliament will vote: it may be, to quote a hypothetical circumstance, that this Parliament will be in recess and that the European Parliament will have a vote immediately thereafter. However, I do not know; I am just saying when we want it to take place and we expect and intend it to do so.
My Lords, the Minister is making pretty heavy weather of this. Has he not noticed that Monsieur Barnier has said that he believes the negotiations need to be completed by October, so as to give the European Parliament time for its processes, which include committee processes and which will thus have six months to take place? Instead of beating about the bush, can he not just say that we are going to do it first?
I thank the noble Lord for telling me about the processes of the European Parliament, but I was a Member of it for 15 years and I am aware of the processes very well. We have, however, made clear that it is our objective to reach an agreement with the EU by October 2018. This objective is shared by the EU and is one which we consider we are on course to deliver. We expect, therefore, that the vote will take place substantially before exit day and ahead of the deadline in Amendment 196 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and Amendment 213 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. To insert statutory deadlines into this process, however, would serve no purpose except to weaken our negotiating position, because while an early deal is highly desirable we must balance that with a recognition of the need to achieve the best possible deal.
The decision to hold a referendum was put to the electorate at the 2015 general election—
My Lords, if the Minister is not prepared to give any ground on the timescale in terms of the amount of time we shall have to debate it, will he tell the Committee what he thinks is the latest possible date the Government could submit the treaty?
I do not want to get into precise timings like that: we have said that we hope to have an agreement concluded by October 2018, which accords with the position set out by Monsieur Barnier. That is the timetable that we are working to. If we achieve that timetable, there should be plenty of time for a vote in this House and in another place, followed by the vote in the European Parliament.
My Lords, I am a little confused. Clause 9, as amended in the Commons, refers to Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal. If I understand the noble Lord correctly, he has suggested that there will be an interim agreement by the end of this year, before we leave, but the final agreement, about our future relationship, et cetera, will come a good deal later. Will he explain why these two are compatible?
If the noble Lord will allow me to make some progress I will come on to the issues of Clause 9 later.
The decision to hold a referendum was endorsed by Parliament, which then consented to the Government acting on the outcome of that referendum through the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act. More than 80% of voters in the 2017 election supported manifestos committed to delivering on that referendum result.
I say this only to underline to noble Lords that amendments which could be perceived as a means to delay or disregard that result carry with them their own risks to people’s faith in their democracy and its institutions. Many noble Lords, including the most respected and convinced of erstwhile supporters of the UK remaining in the EU, said at Second Reading that the Bill is not the parliamentary vehicle to seek to provide for that. The Government have received a clear instruction from the British people. On a turnout higher than at any general election since 1992, 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union—more than the 13.7 million who voted Conservative at the 2017 general election; more than the 11.3 million who voted Conservative in 2015; more even than the 13.5 million who voted Labour at the 1997 general election, which delivered the party opposite a significant majority in the other place, of which many noble Lords were distinguished members.
My noble friend speaks of a clear instruction from the British people in the referendum but the Bill which was introduced for a referendum, and then debated and voted on in this House, was very clearly for an advisory referendum. It was in no sense an instruction.
That point has been addressed in exchanges earlier. The then Government made a clear commitment, in a leaflet delivered to every household in the country, that the result of the referendum would be respected. The people voted to leave the EU and the Government have committed to deliver on their instructions. Therefore, we will not seek to remain a member of the EU, as Amendment 190 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, seeks to achieve. I am sure he will not be surprised to hear me say this.
Before the Minister leaves that point, in the event of there being a no-deal Brexit, the Government would have to come back to Parliament to put it before MPs and this Chamber. In the event of MPs refusing to endorse that, will he confirm that the status quo ante will prevail and we would remain part of a united Europe?
No, I will not endorse that. I will come on to the circumstances in a minute.
Let me say directly to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that while there are many possible outcomes for our future relationship, remaining in the EU is clearly not one which can be reconciled with the decision taken in the referendum.
But there was no decision taken; it was an advisory referendum. My noble friend refers to a leaflet distributed in the course of the referendum. If so, it was totally incompatible with what this House agreed.
My noble friend and I will just have to disagree on this one.
We have also made our position clear that the notice given by the Prime Minister in accordance with Article 50, and which was approved by both Houses of Parliament, will not be revoked. It will not be extended as Amendment 199 tabled by my noble friend Lord Cormack and Amendment 216 tabled by my noble friend Lord Hailsham seek to do.
If the Minister will forgive me, he is not in any position to make that clear because that is a decision which the House of Commons will take. It is not for the Government to say that there will be no rescinding of the notice under Article 50. If the House of Commons votes to rescind the notice under Article 50, that notice will be revoked. We are a parliamentary democracy.
The Government’s position is clear that Article 50 will not be revoked. We will discuss the question—
My Lords, with everything he says my noble friend is repudiating the authority and position of Parliament, and asserting the supremacy of the Executive. That is inimical to parliamentary democracy.
I think I am asserting the supremacy of the people who voted in a referendum.
My Lords, we will discuss the appropriateness of a second referendum later today—
The Minister has just, perhaps inadvertently, said something of profound constitutional consequence. Is he asserting from that Dispatch Box that parliamentary representative democracy is no longer sovereign if there is a plebiscite? This is an extremely important constitutional issue and he has just made that assertion. Would he like to withdraw the assertion or to reassert that parliamentary democracy is no longer sovereign?
I am asserting that Parliament voted to hold a referendum. The referendum took place, and we all know the result. We believe that that referendum should be respected. I am sorry that noble Lords do not agree with me, but that is the Government’s position.
Am I not right in saying that the Government have taken power to extend the exit day beyond the date in the Article 50 notice? That is contained in Clause 14(4). Why did they take that power if they were determined, as the Minister is saying, never to change the date?
We are leaving the European Union on 29 March next year in accordance with the Article 50 notification and we have made it very clear countless times. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Article 50 notification will not be revoked.
Is the Minister not contradicting the statement by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that the essence of a democracy is that it can change its mind?
Of course Parliament is allowed to change its mind. It does so on many occasions and no doubt will do so in future on other issues.
It is our view that the question of whether to leave and the process of approving how we leave have been decided. Parliament approved the referendum and has signalled its approval to every step the Government have taken since July 2016. Furthermore the people authorised the Government’s negotiating position as a result of the election last year. Lastly, we have made a solemn promise to seek approval, which I am confident will be granted, from Parliament of the outcome of those negotiations.
I stress that I understand many noble Lords’ deeply and honestly held conviction that the UK should not leave the EU. That has become very clear to me throughout the progress of the Bill, but this is a Bill to provide maximum legal certainty upon exit. I do not think it would be in the interests of either the EU or the UK to open the door to an ever-continuing negotiation process with no certainty that the UK will ever reach a new settled relationship with the EU. I do not believe that that is what the noble Lord intends, but that is what is being risked. The terms of the vote on the final deal are clear: to accept the terms of the agreement or to move forward without a deal. This is fully in line with the terms on which the European Parliament will be voting: a yes or no vote.
Amendments 196 and 213 are unnecessary because we have already made a strong commitment to hold this vote as soon as possible after the negotiations have concluded.
How does the Minister intend to prevent the House of Commons considering the option of remaining in the European Union? How does he intend procedurally to prevent it, given that he has said that that is not going to be an option?
I do not control the proceedings of the House of Commons. I can only set out the Government’s position on this matter.
The strength of that commitment and the political and public expectation that accompanies it mean that the Government could not conceivably renege on that commitment.
Perhaps I can help. This is becoming a rather complicated discussion and some of us are trying very hard to follow what the Minister is saying. Perhaps we are not being as intelligent as we should be. In the phrase “a meaningful vote”, what does the word “meaningful” mean?
We have never used the term “a meaningful vote”. We recognise clearly the desirability of maximising as much as possible the time between negotiations concluding and a deal coming into force. Knowing the terms of a deal as early as possible is good for business and the public in being able to prepare.
Pursuant to the earlier question, perhaps I have completely misunderstood what the Prime Minister said, but my understanding was that she promised a meaningful vote. Therefore, it would help if the Minister in summing up the debate we have just had would say what “a meaningful vote” means.
I have said on a number of occasions that we will put the outcome of the negotiations to a vote in this House and in the other place and of course we will respect the outcome of that vote.
I think there is huge confusion here about the Government wanting to implement the “will of the people”. I do not think the British people who voted to leave said we should leave on any basis. This is not just about rejecting a no deal but about rejecting a bad deal. Parliament will not be doing the people a service if we just accept a bad deal when faced with the option of crashing out with no deal or accepting the Government’s deal. The public would never accept that, and we as Parliament should not accept it either.
We do not intend to put a bad deal to the vote. As we have said, we want to negotiate the best possible deal that we can. Knowing the terms of a deal as early as possible is good for business and the public, in terms of being able to prepare. It gives confidence and certainty.
When my noble friend, in summing up, clarifies his understanding of “meaningful”, will he tell the Committee whether he believes that a vote after the European Parliament has voted would constitute a meaningful vote?
Perhaps the noble Baroness was not listening to what I said earlier. We fully intend the vote to take place before the European Parliament votes.
As I have said, I remain convinced that we will achieve a deal in the interests of all the nations and people in the UK and that this Parliament will approve it. After Parliament supports the resolution to proceed with the withdrawal agreement and the terms for our future relationship, the Government will bring forward a withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill. That Bill was announced on 13 November 2017 by the Secretary of State and followed on 13 December 2017 by a Written Ministerial Statement committing the Government not to implement any parts of the withdrawal agreement until this vote on the final deal takes place. I hope it is clear how the withdrawal agreement will be implemented and that Parliament will have ample opportunity to scrutinise it before it is given effect in our law.
I reassure noble Lords that the withdrawal agreement itself will be subject to the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 before ratification, in addition to the vote on the final deal that we have already promised and the scrutiny of the implementing legislation. There will therefore be ample opportunity to scrutinise the agreement and its implementation.
I know that many noble Lords have clear concerns about Clause 9 as it is currently drafted—I listened very carefully to the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane. The Government are listening very carefully to the debate on these concerns and we will take them away to see whether anything can be done ahead of Report to address them.
What is the point of leaving in this Bill the power to make regulations which can now only be brought into effect once the withdrawal agreement Bill has been passed? Should we not just remove those provisions now and ensure that any provisions included in the withdrawal agreement Bill meet the concerns that the Minister has said he would like to meet?
If I can make a little more progress talking about Clause 9, I think the noble Lord will find that his question has been answered.
However, let me ensure that my previous statement is not taken as more significant than it is—