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EU Retained Law

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 22 June 2022

1.44 pm

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will make a statement about EU retained law.

Earlier this year, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out that:

“The United Kingdom’s uncoupling from the rules, regulations and institutions of Brussels was never simply about the moment of our departure; the act of Brexit was not an end in itself but the means by which our country will achieve great things.”

Now that we have left the European Union the sovereignty of Parliament has been restored and we are free once again to legislate, regulate, or deregulate as this sovereign Parliament redux pleases. As we maximise the benefits of Brexit and transform the UK into the most sensibly regulated economy in the world, we must reform the EU law we have retained on our statute book. Only through reform of this retained EU law will we finally be able to untangle ourselves from nearly 50 years of EU membership.

In September 2021 my predecessor the noble Lord Frost announced a review into the substance of retained EU law. The purpose of the review was to catalogue which Departments, policy areas and sectors of the economy are most saturated by European law—law that was imposed upon us in a time when Parliament was unable to refuse consent. The road to reform remains a long one; not all Brexit freedoms can be grasped at once. I am pleased to report that Whitehall fired on all cylinders to complete this review. As a result, Members across the House can properly appreciate the extent of EU law on our statute book and the extent of the opportunities that reforming this law provides.

In the 2022 “The Benefits of Brexit” announcement, the Prime Minister committed to making the outcome of this review available to the public. It is right that the public know how much retained EU law there is and that they should be able to hold the Government properly to account for reforming it. The public have already shown great interest in the EU law that remains on our statute book, as evidenced by the huge amount of correspondence I received in response to my request for details of EU legislation that still burden them—and I am grateful to readers of The Sun and the Sunday Express for their many replies. I am also encouraging some competitiveness between my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet, and hope that this spirit will inspire rapid reform, with returns published every quarter by Departments.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce that today we publish an authoritative catalogue of over 2,400 pieces of legislation, spanning over 300 individual policy areas. This catalogue will be available on through an interactive dashboard. It will be updated on a quarterly basis so the public can “count down” retained EU law as the Government reform it. I commend the Cabinet Office officials who developed this dashboard; it is a fascinating resource in its own right, and is of both political and—in my view—historic constitutional importance.

The pertinence of publishing the dashboard today should not be missed. Six years ago tomorrow—that day of legend and song—the United Kingdom voted decisively to leave the European Union. The public voted to take back control, and while it took some time to get there—two general elections and some constitutionally fascinating parliamentary prestidigitation between 2017 and 2019—the Prime Minister has delivered such control in spades. His Brexit agreement, which guaranteed regulatory autonomy for Britain, means that the publication of this dashboard offers the public a real opportunity: everything on it we can now change.

The author E. M. Forster once said

“two cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety, and two because it permits criticism.”

Therefore, as I did earlier this year, I am inviting the public from across the country—whether in Wakefield or in Tiverton and Honiton, or in other places selected at random for the purposes of illustration—to once again share their ideas of reform and to look further into pieces of retained EU law that have an impact on their lives. By using this dashboard, the public can join us on this journey to amend, repeal or replace retained EU law. Together we will make reforms that will create a crucial boost to productivity and help us bring the benefits of growth to the whole country.

Of course, Her Majesty’s Government are legislating to seize the opportunities of Brexit and have been since 2020. From introducing our points-based immigration system and securing the integrity of the United Kingdom’s internal market to boosting growth and innovation by allowing gene-edited crops and recognising high-quality professional qualifications, we are already showing—among others—the benefits of Brexit to the British people.

There are countless other opportunities for reform ahead of us. Members will know that the recent Queen’s Speech was full to the gunwales with the opportunities of Brexit, ranging from financial services to agriculture, data and artificial intelligence, transport, energy, and restoring sense to human rights law. This Government will work to develop a new pro-growth, high-standards regulatory framework that will give business the confidence to innovate, invest, and create jobs.

Those are the big, headline-grabbing issues, but the dashboard is, I hope, an opportunity to tackle hundreds of matters. They may seem marginal on their own, but all these measures in the margin will combine to usher in a revolution: not a French- style revolution with blood running in the streets and the terror of the guillotine, but a British-style revolution whereby marginal improvements move inch by inch so that soon we will have covered the feet, and the feet will become yards, and the yards will become chains and then furlongs and miles, until the journey is complete. With inflation running high, we need to search everywhere—under every stone and sofa cushion—for supply-side reforms that will make products and services cheaper, will make things easier for business, and, ultimately, will grow the economy and cut the cost of living.

The dashboard, therefore, is the supply-side reformer’s El Dorado, and, naturally, I am pointing to the treasure trove of opportunity that this publication represents. It highlights unnecessary and disproportionate EU regulations on consumer goods, such as those regulating the power of vacuum cleaners—why should that trouble Her Majesty’s Government?—and the expensive testing requirements mandated by REACH—the regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—for the plastics that make up items we use every day, requirements that shut out the newest and most innovative materials. Thankfully, we left the EU before it decided to mandate what sort of phone chargers we can have, a typically short-termist and anti-innovation measure which will only have a long-term negative effect for consumers.

The dashboard includes the overbearing reporting requirements which add costs to businesses and slow down progress, whether by building new developments in areas that need housing the most or by making it more expensive to hire people at a time of a labour shortage and to respond to militant strikers. We will continue to work with Departments to cut at least £1 billion of business costs from EU red tape to secure greater freedoms and productivity. Ensuring that we have the right regulation is crucial. Excessive and unnecessary regulations which burden business or distort market outcomes, reduce productivity, pushing up prices and negatively affecting everyone’s cost of living. Using our new-found freedom to address the over 2,400 retained EU pieces of legislation on our statute book, the Government will be able to remove and amend regulation that is not right for the UK. This will make a real difference to the process of reducing the number of unnecessary EU regulations that contribute to the cost of living.

Some—perhaps dozens—-of these rules we might wish to maintain. That will be a decision for the Queen in Parliament, our Parliament, rather than the European Commission. We will preserve retained EU law that is required for our international obligations. We will preserve high standards, such as those for water, and we may even be able to go further in some ways to move ahead of the European Union.

The publication of this dashboard will mark a pivotal step towards reform of our statute book and those 2,400 pieces of retained EU legislation, ahead of the introduction of the “Brexit Freedoms” Bill. That Bill will allow the United Kingdom to take the next step in reclaiming the sovereignty of Parliament. It will address the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which preserved and incorporated too much EU-derived law at too high a status, giving much of it the same status as an Act of Parliament. That is clearly mistaken, and means that many changes to retained EU law require primary legislation.

Undoing this vandalism to our constitutional order policy area by policy area would dominate the legislative agenda for Parliaments to come, which would affect the Government’s ability to deliver more fundamental domestic reforms and the opportunity for the UK to reap the benefits of Brexit. The “Brexit Freedoms” Bill will create a targeted power to allow retained EU law to be amended in a more sustainable way, and will go with the grain of the British constitution. This will help us to deliver the UK’s regulatory, economic and legal priorities.

Ahead of the Bill’s introduction, I invite Members to review the dashboard themselves, and to delve into the legislation that affects the communities that they serve.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for advance sight of his statement.

This appears to be simply a vanity project. It is quite extraordinary that on a day when inflation has topped 9%, when the cost of energy is soaring, when families are facing massive pressures and wondering how they will put food on the table, and when prices are rising at the fastest rate in 40 years, the Government’s offer to the British people is a digital filing cabinet of existing legislation that the right hon. Gentleman describes as “marginal”—his own word.

While the Government plan to cut 20% of civil servants, the Minister for so-called Government efficiency is running his own make-work scheme in the Cabinet Office, creating tasks for it to satisfy his own obsessions. How much has this exercise cost the taxpayer? How many civil service hours? Perhaps we could have a running meter counting them up on the dashboard so that we all know. What is the expected number of users among the general public? Is the dashboard even active? I am an eager beaver, but I could not find it on this morning.

The reality is that gimmicks do nothing to address the real challenges that the public face today. For all the Government’s talk about changes that we can make outside the EU, they still refuse to make the one concrete change that the Labour party has demanded for months, with the overwhelming support of the British people, and the Prime Minister himself has promised: the removal of VAT on home energy bills.

Other changes that are now possible post Brexit and which Labour has called for but the Government have refused include a ban on the import of fur; the imposition of VAT on private school fees to fund a transformation in the provision of mental health; and the introduction of US-style bans on the import of goods from China produced using slave labour. Those are all changes that the Government could make right now, but they were not mentioned in the right hon. Gentleman’s lengthy oration.

As for the regulatory changes that the Government propose, I have not heard a single example today of a specific change that depends on the passage of the planned Brexit freedoms Bill, nor have we heard an example of additional changes that will follow in due course as a result of that Bill. What is that Bill for? In the absence of any answers, it is only right that we are cautious about what the new legislation will mean and whether it could be used as a mechanism to fast-track changes that could, for example, impinge on the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, threaten workers’ rights or threaten the environmental protections and food standards that the British people were repeatedly promised would be maintained post Brexit.

It is also vital that we ensure that any changes proposed under the legislation are subject to the proper processes for scrutiny, consultation and impact assessment. Anyone in doubt about why that is necessary need only look at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s proposals, included in the paper “The Benefits of Brexit”, to ditch the UK’s current data protection standards. That one move, which has been confirmed in recent weeks, would jeopardise tens of billions of UK exports that depend on the ability to sell services online to EU customers quickly and easily. However, there has been no mention whatever of that threat, let alone a full assessment of its impact, and it did not feature today. That is all further evidence of a Government entirely driven by rhetoric and increasingly detached from reality.

Could it be that the dashboard is designed not only to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman’s obsessions, but to distract members of the public from the Government’s shambolic handling of the Northern Ireland protocol? All this self-congratulation comes from a Government who are now trying to convince people that what they described as their flagship achievement was not a negotiating triumph, but a deal so flawed that they cannot abide by it. Not only is their Northern Ireland Protocol Bill a blatant breach of international law, but it risks the integrity of the Good Friday agreement, risks causing divides across Europe when we should be pulling together against Putin’s war on the continent, and risks causing trade barriers in a cost of living crisis. We need negotiation, graft and statecraft, not unilateral action or gimmicks.

Those are just some of the very real and serious problems that will affect the lives of ordinary people in the UK and beyond for years to come. The dashboard that the right hon. Gentleman described will provide little comfort. A Labour Government would make Brexit work by unleashing the potential of British businesses and entrepreneurs so that we can lead the world in new industries. We would seize the opportunities of the climate transition to create well-paid, secure jobs in all parts of the country. Rather than pursuing vanity projects, the Government should focus on the real problems facing the British public.

The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to thank me for an advance copy of my statement; it is a pity, then, that he did not read it, because so many of his questions were answered there. He wants to know what the purpose is—the purpose is supply-side reforms that are essential for dealing with the cost of living crisis. [Interruption.] He quotes “marginal”, so he did pay attention to one thing, but he then wrenched it out of context to use it in a way that shows he was not following the argument. Each individual item is marginal, but cumulatively they are fundamental. That is how we have supply side reforms.

There are endless obstacles in the way of doing business—hundreds and thousands of them—and our job is to find them, expose them and remove them and to have a Bill that makes that simple. If you had to have primary legislation to remove every stone from your shoe, Madam Deputy Speaker—no doubt they are very elegant shoes that no stone would dare enter, but nonetheless, should a stone enter and we needed primary legislation to remove it, that brave stone would remain there almost permanently. What we are doing is speeding up the process so that stones may be removed from shoes.

Then the socialists complain that the agreement was not up to scratch. Bear in mind that at that point the Labour party still did not want to leave the European Union. It was still arguing about things such as a second referendum. Labour Members did not want to follow what the British people had voted for, and now they want slavish acceptance of EU laws. Have we not had a socialist recently calling for the single market to be where we should end up again? That is where they want to be: under the yoke of Brussels, ignoring the referendum and the will of the British people.

The hon. Gentleman also thought that this dashboard should be released before my statement to Parliament. Some people may remember that I used to be Leader of the House, and in that role I was regularly hearing from Mr Speaker about information being given out before it had come to the Floor of the House. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) nodding—he would be the first to raise a point of order.

I am glad that there are a few socialists in today, rather than being on picket lines. It might be that when they are on their picket lines, they could read a bit of “Erskine May” and the Standing Orders of this place to understand that things are meant to be announced here first, which is what we are doing.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having made this statement? It is quite right that we need to get on with this. To those who complain about not having absolutely everything done now on the Floor of the House by primary legislation, I say that so many of these rules and regulations were imported without so much as a single element being dealt with on the Floor of the House, so we need to ensure we get this in balance.

Can I press my right hon. Friend on general data protection regulation rules? One of the problems we have is that many charities, small businesses and start-ups face real cost problems and regulatory detail problems that they cannot cope with, and they have cried out for changes to be made. Will he confirm to me that this is one of the areas that the Government will look at to make sure that those charities, companies and individuals do not face anything like the terrible bureaucratic mess that is the regulations today?

My right hon. Friend makes two very good points. The first is that it is important to note that most of these laws came in using the section 2(2) power under the European Communities Act 1972. The vast majority were not subject to a parliamentary process, despite the diligence of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), the Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee. When we asked for debates on the Floor of the House in that Committee, they were often not given, and the debates that were held in Committee could not refuse or block a European law—even the ports directive, which everyone was united against. This great flood of regulations came in without so much as a by-your-leave from this House, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) is right to point that out.

My right hon. Friend makes a good point on GDPR, and it is worth bearing in mind that Australia has a general exemption from GDPR for smaller businesses. Whether we can go that far, I do not know, but I will certainly take his point up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

I know that the Minister speaks with passion as a Brexiteer, as I speak with passion as a remainer—at least we can both having conviction in our belief, unlike those who have slightly changed their minds. As I listened to his statement, replete with the usual—forgive me—flim-flam about Brexit Britain being liberated from the European yoke, I found myself wondering whether he really believes that this Palace is the only place capable of promulgating rights and laws. From listening to him speak, and from what we know about the Brexit freedoms Bill, it is almost as if those on the Government side have forgotten that there are other legislatures across these islands that have a role in making laws and that may wish to express an opinion on whether the laws and rights that we accumulated during our membership of the European Union should be snatched away by whatever whimsy this Government are attracted to in a given week.

Given that Scotland’s governance and destiny cannot be decided without the sovereign will and consent of the people of Scotland, not this place—this Government continue to ignore us at their peril—could the Minister tell us whether the Government will seek a legislative consent motion from Pàrlamaid na h-Alba, and from other devolved legislatures, and if so, whether they intend to respect the decisions of those Parliaments? We need to ask the question: do we actually live in a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or in a greater England, where the wishes of only one of the constituent nations need to be respected in order for such Bills to be carried?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that he and I have been consistent in our views on this matter, and therefore it is interesting, as always, to cross swords with him. He brings us to an important issue, because obviously where there are devolved consequences from laws coming back from the European Union, the power to amend will be with the devolved authorities. We have already seen a great flow of power from Brussels to the devolved Administrations so that the Scottish Government have received powers. The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 provided a great swathe of extra powers to the devolved authorities, and that will continue under this Bill and will provide benefits for all the devolved authorities to take back control for themselves. We will indeed ask for legislative consent motions, which is the habit of this Government. I cannot promise whether they will be granted; in that instance, he will be more influence than me.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the enormous progress he is making with respect to the freedoms Bill, and the opportunities that it will give the United Kingdom to regain its sovereignty, its self-government and its democracy? Does he agree, given his experience and having been a member of the European Scrutiny Committee for many years, that one of the most extraordinary aspects of EU retained law is that for about 50 years the laws were made by majority vote in the Council of Ministers—Ministers of other countries—behind closed doors and without even so much as a transcript, unlike in this House, so people did not even know the basis, let alone who had actually voted for them? Does he not regard that as so extraordinary that he would be surprised if anyone could possibly justify legislating for a country in that way, and particularly for a country such as the United Kingdom, with its freedom and democracy? It is completely unacceptable for it to have continued for so long?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the way legislation was made in Europe was entirely undemocratic. It was unscrutinised and then became our law automatically, and if we did not turn it into our law properly, we could be told to jump to by the European Court of Justice. The situation was entirely unsatisfactory. However, because we are a democracy and we believe in the rights of Parliament, we are ensuring that the process of reversing that is done in a proper parliamentary manner, and I hope that he will play his part in that manner.

It was widely reported that the right hon. Gentleman wanted to introduce a sunset clause under which all EU retained law would disappear after four years unless Government Departments had decided that they wanted to keep it. However, having listened carefully to his statement, it seems to me that he has suffered a defeat at the hands of his Cabinet colleagues—we should pay tribute to the Environment Secretary, who I think described that approach as “messing around”. If the right hon. Gentleman is serious about trying to remove constraints on businesses, what is he going to do about the barrel-load of red tape, cost and bureaucracy that has fallen on British businesses since the beginning of 2021 when they are trying to export to the EU? That has had a huge impact, especially on small businesses, some of which have just given up trying to sell goods to Europe.

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman is talking about sunsets. I think I once called him the high priest of remain. Yesterday, there was a marvellous picture of the latest sunset over Stonehenge, where those who like the sunsets coming late had all gathered to celebrate the longest day. I am surprised that the high priest of remain was not there joining in on the celebration.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s question, he will have to wait and see what the Bill has to say about that. He mentioned EU regulation. This great lover of EU regulation does not realise where the blame lies. The EU runs a fundamentally anti-competitive closed market, which was affecting us. It was making goods and services in this country more expensive because we could not trade freely with the world. Now the EU is applying its regulations to us—that is what we are getting out of. That is the economic opportunity: to be free from all of that which slowly strangles the European economy and to have an economy that can grow globally.

I thank my right hon. Friend for all that he is doing to advance UK prosperity and growth, including this Bill. The common fisheries policy sunk many of our fishing boats. Can we have a policy to replace that fleet? The EU policy ripped up many of our orchards with grants. Can we have some UK money and a policy to replant our trees? The EU imposed VAT on us and has left us with a burden on our energy. Now surely is the time to use our freedoms and cut VAT.

My right hon. Friend is right: it is one of our freedoms. In his spring statement, the Chancellor announced some amelioration of VAT. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend’s suggestion is passed on to the Chancellor.

As someone who supported Brexit, I welcome the statement today and the fact that the Government are going to monitor and identify ways in which we can make our economy more dynamic, more innovative and more competitive. But as a Unionist, I have concerns about the statement. The regulatory freedom that is being sought cannot apply to many aspects of law in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland will still remain under the dead hand of EU regulation, which will smother innovation and entrepreneurial dynamism. Will the Minister give an assurance that, in order for the freedoms that he is announcing today to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, the Government will make every effort and take every step to remove the dead hand of the protocol?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and share a lot of his views on this matter. It is fundamental that the benefits of leaving the European Union are for the whole of the United Kingdom. I am pleased with the Bill that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has introduced, and I hope that it will go towards ameliorating the problems that have arisen. Our single united country cannot be ruled by the dead hand of the Brussels bureaucracy, as we voted to leave as a single nation.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that it remains a priority for this Government to use our newfound Brexit freedoms to develop a pro-growth, high standards regulatory framework that gives businesses such as mine in Guildford the confidence to innovate and invest?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What we need is regulations that work rather than ones that require a lot of form filling. The Procurement Bill has been introduced in the other place, and that will replace 350 EU regulations with one British law. That is what we must be aiming at. We are not moving to the wild west. We are not going to have no regulation. However, our regulation must be understandable, simple to effect and accountable to this House. The best check on regulation is Members of this House coming forward and saying, “I seek redress of grievance for my constituent who is being harmed by this regulation.” The Minister at the Dispatch Box is then put on the spot and has to go back to his or her office and ask, “Why are we doing this to the Great British people?” That is how our democracy works, and that is how we must make regulation work.

The Minister is right that it makes a refreshing change from the practice of his colleagues that he came to this House first to tell us about the dashboard, but he might have tried to see whether it works on a mobile phone, because it does not. I know that he is not a fan of being able to simply charge one, but he might accept that most of the British public who want to use the dashboard will have one. No matter—with some assistance, I have been able to log on to the dashboard and I can see that on the list of items that he has put up for grabs are the length of maternity leave and the duty to pay statutory maternity pay. He said in his statement that everything on the dashboard “can now change”. Will he assure the thousands of women in this country who rely on the protections of maternity leave and maternity pay that they will not change? If so, what is the point of this? If not, will he be honest that it is really about reinventing the Beecroft reforms?

The dashboard worked perfectly well on an iPad, so I would have thought that it was not beyond the wit of Members of this House to get it to work. In many cases, the protections that we have in employment law in this country predate the European Union or we are ahead of the European Union. That is true of maternity rights, where we are ahead of the base rights in the European Union under our own law. To say, “Are we going to repeal bits that are not even EU law, but domestic law?” is missing the point of the statement.

Over a long time in this House, I have noticed that when the Government have done something well, the number of Opposition Back Benchers present for a statement is very few. I spy no Liberal Democrats at all—DUP Members are here, of course—and just four Labour Back Benchers were here at the start of the statement. They do not want to be here to listen to Brexit opportunities and the savings and benefits to this country. The able Minister said that there will be quarterly reporting, which I hope he will come to the House to do. Will he publicise that in advance, so that Liberal Democrats and Labour Members will know not to attend?

The Minister mentioned in his statement that he hopes that today’s proposals will reduce the cost of living, but is it not the case that the British Government’s post-Brexit policy is leading to reduced investor confidence and weakening the currency, which further fuels inflation? Would not a responsible Government, given the serious problems faced by households across the UK, stop shredding European regulations and rejoin the single market?

No. The hon. Gentleman knows that I will not agree with that suggestion, because it would negate the referendum where a majority of people in Wales voted in favour of leaving, as did the majority of people in England. This is about reducing costs and taking burdens off. The single market is an extraordinarily regulatory organisation that boosts the costs of services and manufactured goods. To go back into it would make life more expensive and make things worse for British consumers.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and say how much I welcome the publication of the dashboard, because it no doubt provides a revealing snapshot of the extent to which the body of United Kingdom law has been infiltrated by frequently undemocratically formulated EU law. I echo the words of the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson): the big exception is Northern Ireland, which is continuing to receive a stream of laws because of the Northern Ireland protocol. I urge the Government to press ahead with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is urgently needed.

This is beginning to sound like business questions. I will make sure that his request is passed on to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the British economy: they drive forward innovation and they create jobs, but they do not have huge departments to help them with the mountain of red tape that is suffocating them because of the Government’s botched Brexit. Can the Minister set out specifically what his plan is to reduce that mountain of red tape so that those SMEs can be supported rather than crushed by the form of Brexit that he supports?

Is it my right hon. Friend’s view that most of the bureaucracy placed on British businesses that are trying to export comes from the requirements made by other EU countries? They seem to be making it a lot harder for us to export to them than we are making it for them to export to us.

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because that is a very important point. Free trade benefits the receiver of free trade. Just because the EU makes it harder for us to export to it is no reason to retaliate in kind. All that does is make things more expensive for our consumers and our businesses. That is why, on 1 July, we will not impose the full set of controls that the EU imposes on us. We are looking to a single trade window by the end of 2023, which will lower the barriers to trade from around the world and improve the fluidity of our borders. Why? Because that benefits our economy, even if we do it unilaterally, and that is fundamentally important. The EU has never understood that, and it is why it is such a high-cost area.

I thank the right hon. Member for the statement. I am a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, to which he gave evidence on this subject a couple of months ago. The Treasury has announced reforms to the Consumer Credit Act 1974 as part of this package. In the current economic climate, it is imperative that vulnerable consumers be adequately protected, particularly when it comes to credit agreements. Will the Minister confirm how the Government expect to ensure full consultation with traditionally hard-to-reach groups?

I do not know if the hon. Lady will particularly want a compliment from me, but she is one of the most assiduous attenders in this House. She fights for constituents who face difficulties, holds Ministers to account, and ensures that people’s concerns are brought to this House, and while I may not agree with her overarching political philosophy, that is what we Members of Parliament are here to do. We are the champions of hard-to-reach people; we hold Governments to account; and we ensure that the result is included in Bills as they make their way through Parliament. The hon. Lady, dare I say it, is a model of how this can be done.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for giving a summary masterclass, in his usual way, of what the Brexit freedoms Bill will mean. I think that the British people have not realised how we got to our legislative framework; there is primary legislation in this place, directives, regulations, and the override of the European Communities Act 1972. Nobody can be sure of the position, be they manufacturing something, providing services or doing anything else—this goes for anything that moves—because we do not have consolidated legislation that says, “These are the rules on the manufacture of paper,” for instance. That cannot be fair. Does he agree that this proposal will be a refreshing opening up of our legislative framework, so that we can make it better, more streamlined and, most importantly, accountable to this place and the British people?

Yes, indeed. Putting the information online, and opening it up to people—including, of course, to Members of Parliament—will make it much clearer where the blockages, obstructions and difficulties are for businesses. Once we know where they are from the detail of the legislative instrument, it becomes much easier to remove them.

It is increasingly clear that the right hon. Member’s ministerial title refers to the political opportunities that the Government see in reopening Brexit wounds as often as possible. His pointless statement today ignores the wishes of the British people, who want the Government to stop banging on about Brexit and start tackling the issues that they face in their daily life. It ignores the wishes of business, although we know what the Prime Minister’s view is of business—it is summed up in a four-letter expletive. Was not the Minister’s Cabinet colleague, the Environment Secretary, right when he said that “messing around” with retained law wastes officials’ time,

“costs businesses money and is unlikely to make much difference”?

As it happens, my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary has been extremely helpful in this process, so the hon. Gentleman should not believe everything he reads in second-tier publications. This is not about opening wounds. It is the Labour party that always wanted to oppose what the people had voted for. It thought its voters did not know what they were doing. It treats its electors with contempt and the results were reaped in December 2019. This is about getting the advantages from Brexit. This is about the agenda set out in the 2019 manifesto, but also in 2016 at the time of the referendum, of how we benefit from leaving the European Union. We do not now want slavishly to follow the diktats of the EU. That would be a way of losing all the advantages. This is the way of making the economy more efficient, getting supply-side reforms, and making goods and services cheaper.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. It is great that we are finally moving forward with the task of optimising conditions here in the UK for businesses and individuals. Does he agree that this is an essential part of moving on with the process? A number of times I have had friends who might have voted to remain say to me, “What was the point of this? Show us what the point was, because we want to change things now. We actively want to change rules in the City and in agriculture.” Will he drive this forward with every effort?

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. Both of us represent rural constituencies in Somerset and one of the great advantages of Brexit is taking away the red tape that ties our farmers and simplifying processes to make it easier for them to get on with the business of farming. It is not surprising that a very large number of retained EU law Acts are within the auspices of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, because that has been a primary responsibility of the European Union. We need to be able to clear away the thicket to make life easier. He is absolutely right.

They remove our businesses from a single market of 500 million people. They remove our collective right to live, work and travel across the European Union. They are delivering the slowest economic growth in the entire G20—aside from Russia, of course. And what do we get in return? We get an interactive dashboard and potentially more powerful vacuum cleaners. The right hon. Gentleman makes a compelling case for Scotland to choose a different path, does he not?

There is a compelling case for Scotland to remain within the United Kingdom, which is what people voted for in 2014. There seems to be a remarkable short-sightedness about the length of a generation, which as I understood it was going to be the period before there was another vote. What we have done is what the British people voted for. The truth about the SNP is that whenever the people in the United Kingdom vote, they do not give the result the SNP wants, so the SNP goes off in a sulk and wants them to vote again and again and again in the hope that one day they might give the right answer. But life is not like that. We have had the referendum and it is all about proper opportunities. If the hon. Gentleman is so keen on Europe, just look at the spreads on bonds in the eurozone at the moment. Would he really want to be in an organisation that has that degree of fragility in its bond market?

I thank the Minister very much for his statement. Northern Ireland’s section on the dashboard should be incredibly simple. The Northern Ireland protocol has given the EU the final say without any elected input from Northern Ireland. I welcome the Minister’s statement today, but I would love to welcome the statement that allows Northern Ireland to operate as part of the United Kingdom in terms of our own legal place, so will he confirm the date for the withdrawal legislation, which I believe he is very eager to give but perhaps some of his colleagues are less so?

I was sorry not to see the hon. Gentleman in the Chamber earlier when we unveiled the shield to Sir Henry Wilson. I understand that he was, of course, in Westminster Hall, but it is about the only time I have ever been in this Chamber without his beady eye looking down upon me. He is, of course, right. We want the benefits for the whole of the United Kingdom, as the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) said, too. This is a United Kingdom activity. The whole of the United Kingdom left the European Union and we cannot allow Northern Ireland to be a satrapy of the EU.

Bill Presented

Bill of Rights Bill 

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57) 

Secretary Dominic Raab, supported by Secretary Brandon Lewis, Secretary Alister Jack, Secretary Simon Hart, the Attorney General and James Cartlidge, presented a Bill to reform the law relating to human rights. 

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 117) with explanatory notes (Bill 117—EN). 

Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill: Allocation of Time


That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill:


(1)(a) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken at today’s sitting in accordance with this Order.

(b) Proceedings on Second Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(c) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

(2) When the Bill has been read a second time:

(a) it shall, despite Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put, in accordance with Standing Order No. 52(1) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), on any financial resolution relating to the Bill;

(c) on the conclusion of proceedings on any financial resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

(3)(a) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee of the whole House, the Chair shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(b) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

(4) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (1), the Chair or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply:

(a) any Question already proposed from the chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment, new Clause or new Schedule selected by the Chair or Speaker for separate decision;

(d) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;

and shall not put any other questions, other than the question on any motion described in paragraph (11)(a) of this Order.

(5) On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chair or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(6) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(d) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chair or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

(7) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(e) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chair shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions, except that the Question shall be put separately on any Clause of or Schedule to the Bill which a Minister of the Crown has signified an intention to leave out.

Other proceedings

(8) Provision may be made for the taking and bringing to a conclusion of any other proceedings on the Bill.


(9) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill.

(10) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(11)(a) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken, to recommit the Bill or to vary or supplement the provisions of this Order.

(b) No notice shall be required of such a Motion.

(c) Such a Motion may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.

(d) The Question on such a Motion shall be put forthwith; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (c) shall thereupon be resumed.

(e) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on such a Motion.

(12)(a) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(13)(a) The start of any debate under Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) to be held on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall be postponed until the conclusion of any proceedings on that day to which this Order applies.

(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply in respect of any such debate.

(14) Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(15)(a) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at a time falling after the commencement of proceedings on this Order or on the Bill on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders or by any Order of the House, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day.

(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business so far as necessary for the purpose of securing that the business may be considered for a period of three hours.—(Dr Coffey.)