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Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Volume 732: debated on Thursday 11 May 2023

Before we begin the urgent question, I note that it is highly regrettable that the Government decided not to offer an oral statement on this matter yesterday, given the importance of the announcement. On such matters, full engagement with Parliament and its Committees is essential. Before I call the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, I remind the Government that we are elected to hear it first, not to hear it in The Telegraph, and a written ministerial statement is certainly not satisfactory for such an important matter.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Business and Trade if she will make a statement on her failure to come to the House before she made the written ministerial statement on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill and the article today in The Telegraph?

Who do you think you are speaking to, Secretary of State? I think we need to understand each other. I am the defender of this House and these Benches on both sides. I am not going to be spoken to by a Secretary of State who is absolutely not accepting my ruling. Take it with good grace and accept it that Members should hear it first, not through a WMS or what you decide. These Members have been elected by their constituents and they have the right to hear it first. It is time this Government recognised that we are all elected—we are all Members of Parliament—and used the correct manners.

Mr Speaker, I apologise. What I was trying to say was that I am very sorry that I did not meet the standards that you expect of Secretaries of State. Forgive my language. I have been trying to make sure that I provide as much clarity as possible, so I am actually very pleased to have come to the House to speak on this issue.

I have published a written ministerial statement to explain that yesterday we tabled an amendment to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill that amends the operation of the sunset in clause 1. It is a technical change that introduces to the Bill a schedule of retained EU law that will be revoked on 31 December 2023. The schedule includes around 600 pieces of legislation provided by nearly all Departments, and spans a huge number policy areas. We tabled the amendment in response to concerns raised in this House, and it will provide the legal clarity and certainty that has been called for.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee that the 600 pieces of legislation in the schedule are not the limit of our ambition—neither the beginning nor the end—but over the past year, as Whitehall Departments have been working hard to identify retained EU law to preserve, reform or revoke, it has become clear that time constraints have led to the programme becoming more about preserving EU laws than prioritising meaningful reform. That is why we are proposing a new approach. Had I known the intense excitement that the House would feel about this issue, I would have come running to make sure that the technical details could be investigated by all and sundry.

As I have said, we are proposing a new approach, one that will ensure that Ministers and officials are enabled to focus more on reforming retained EU law and doing so faster. I am pleased to say that the Government have already reformed or revoked more than 1,000 pieces of REUL. In addition to the list of about 600 revocations in the schedule to the retained EU law Bill, about 500 further pieces of REUL will be repealed by the Financial Services and Markets Bill and the Procurement Bill, which means that we will have repealed not 600 but more than 2,000 pieces of REUL by the end of the year.

We are committed to lightening the regulatory burden on businesses and helping to spur economic growth, and our Edinburgh reforms of UK financial services include more than 30 regulatory reforms to unlock investment and boost growth in towns and cities across the UK. Our regulatory reform announcement yesterday set out a long-term plan to improve UK regulation over the coming months. As a down-payment on that commitment, we announced changes that will reduce disproportionate EU-derived reporting requirements and could save businesses about £1 billion a year. That is just the first in a series of announcements that the Government will be making on reforming regulations to drive growth, and in addition to the schedule the powers in the Bill will still enable us to revoke, replace and reform any outdated EU laws that remain on our statute book by 2026. This new approach will provide space for longer-term and more ambitious reforms. Members will no doubt be pleased to hear that it will also mean that fewer statutory instruments will be required to preserve EU laws that are deemed appropriate to be maintained.

I want to reassure my hon. Friend that we will still fully take back control of our laws and end the supremacy and the special status of retained EU law by the end of 2023. That will ensure that we are ending the shadow statute book and the inappropriate entrenchment of EU law concepts in domestic statute.

Under the Standing Orders of this House, the European Scrutiny Committee is specifically charged with examining the legal and political consequences of EU legislation. The Committee reported on 21 July 2022 after a five-month inquiry in support of the Bill, which was passed unamended by a large majority in this elected House and by the Public Bill Committee, all of which endorsed the Government’s policy on the Bill.

Since February, the Secretary of State has been asked three times, formally and personally, to appear before the European Scrutiny Committee. Why has she failed to do so? The amendments published today are not accompanied by any explanation to the House—apart from her very short written ministerial statement yesterday and her article in the press today—despite the utter reversal in vital respects of the Bill as passed by this elected House. Why not? The amendments have not been subjected to any analysis or questioning by this House, which is now essential given the fundamental change in Government policy. The House is being treated in a manner that is plainly inconsistent with clear promises already made.

Will my right hon. Friend specifically seek and make arrangements for the immediate deferral of the Bill’s Report stage in the unelected House of Lords, which is due to take place on the 15th and 17th of this month, so that she can come to the European Scrutiny Committee next week and answer our questions—as provided for by Standing Orders—and produce a Command Paper before that Report stage to explain the reasons for these fundamental questions of constitutional importance, which affect all our constituents, all our voters, and the coherence of our statute book and our legal system?

My hon. Friend has asked many questions, and I will endeavour to answer them. I think he knows that he has heard the answers before, but I am nevertheless happy to respond on the Floor of the House.

My hon. Friend and I have had many private conversations in which we have discussed retained EU law. He wrote to me about attending the European Scrutiny Committee, and I replied that until the policy was settled I could not attend the Committee but instead could have engagement with colleagues, which is what I have done. I should, of course, be delighted to attend the European Scrutiny Committee. I attend numerous Select Committees in my role not just as Secretary of State for Business and Trade but as Minister for Women and Equalities, and I should be very happy to speak to the Committee, but—no doubt you will sympathise with this, Mr Speaker— there is no point having to talk about policy on the Floor of the House before we know exactly what is settled.

My hon. Friend claims that this is a change of policy, but it is a change of approach. The policy is still the same: we are ending EU supremacy, and we are ending interpretive effects. What we are changing is the way in which we are doing that. We could have ended up with a programme of 450 statutory instruments to preserve EU law. What I have done is respond to businesses in particular, but also to the parliamentarians—including many of those who are chuntering on the Opposition Benches—who have raised concerns with me about how we can have clarity and some transparency. I have shown exactly what we are doing. I have listed all the laws that we are removing. There is a key point to make here. We left the European Union not just to delete EU law from the statute book, but to make our economy better. To do that, we have to reform the laws. If we delete the laws from the statute book, we will be starting from scratch in bringing in the reforming primary legislation. This is a better approach. It was my suggestion to the Prime Minister. I am very pleased that he accepted it. I am very proud to be standing at the Dispatch Box showing that those of us who are Brexiteers can be pragmatic and do what is right for the British people. That is why I am very pleased to be explaining this change on the Floor of the House today.

What an absolute shambles. I think that the Secretary of State is the sixth different Government representative at the Dispatch Box on this Bill, and unfortunately for her she is the one who will have to hear from us the words that no Government Minister wants to hear: we told you so. We did, repeatedly, as did the Institute of Directors, the TUC, the Bar Council and a host of other organisations.

It has to be asked: why did not the Government listen to those experts in the first place? It was completely unrealistic, reckless and frankly arrogant to think that they could strike 4,000 laws from the statute book in the timescale set out in the Bill. It is no use blaming the blob, the anti-growth coalition or the BBC. This humiliating U-turn is completely down to Government hubris that has found them crashing up against reality, so will the Secretary of State apologise to the entire House, and to all the trade unions and business, legal and environmental groups that were told by the Government that they were wrong?

Will the Secretary of State also apologise for announcing this policy change not to the House but to her friends—or should I say now her former friends—in the European Research Group and to the press? Can she tell us at what point the Government decided on this change of course and on what basis they have chosen the 600 regulations to be removed—or is it 2,000 now, because she mentioned that in her statement as well?

Although we welcome the humiliating climbdown that sees the cliff edge go, the Bill still gives enormous powers to Ministers and at last the cat is out of the bag about what they want to do with them. We are concerned that, although the mode of delivery has changed, the destination has remained the same. That is revealed in the “Smarter regulation to grow the economy” paper released yesterday, which contains a clear plan to water down TUPE and working time rights. We have warned time and again of the threat to workers’ rights in the Bill and in response the Minister said:

“The Government have no intention of abandoning our strong record on workers’ rights, having raised domestic standards over recent years to make them some of the highest in the world.”––[Official Report, Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Public Bill Committee, 22 November 2022; c. 144.]

Well, we can strike that from the record, as we can strike the Secretary of State’s leadership hopes. How can a Government elected on a manifesto promise to

“build on existing employment law”

justify an approach that will water down workers’ protections? It just goes to show that you cannot trust the Tories with workers’ rights.

One of the things that I have found most illuminating about this process is how little those on the Opposition Front Bench understand what we are doing. They simply stand up and repeat their usual talking lines. We have made repeated commitments that we are not watering down workers’ rights in this House. If the hon. Gentleman actually read and understood what we have written, he would understand that we are maintaining workers’ rights but reducing the bureaucracy. That would save £1 billion and is something that both workers and employers want. I know that it is really tough and there are lots of words in it, but the truth is, I say to those on the Opposition Benches, that I can explain it but I cannot understand it for them.

This is a very simple change in approach. We are having the exact same effect that we were always going to have. We are removing more than 2,000 pieces of EU legislation. It is delightful to see those on the Labour Front Bench and the ERG on the same side for once, as they claim to be. If I am upsetting people on both sides, I am probably taking the pragmatic middle ground and I am pleased to be doing so.

There is so much opportunity we can take on EU law reform and that is what this programme is about.

May I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that I am not upset? Her description of this change of approach is useful, and it meets many of the criticisms of the unamended Bill. I hope it is successful, and I hope people on both sides of the House and in industry make sure we keep the right bits and drop the bits that are useless.

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We are taking an approach that works for everybody, not just for a particular group. We have to do what is right for business, we have to do what is right for consumers and we have to do what is right for the entire country. I voted to leave, and this is exactly the sort of reform I thought we would make when we left the European Union. I am very pleased to be able to take this through the House.

I confess to being a wee bit conflicted this morning. I led for the SNP during our consideration of the Bill, and my key phrase was, “If you must do this damn silly thing, don’t do it in this damn silly way.” I am at least glad to see that we are doing this in a less damn silly way than we were, although I still disagree with it.

I share the anger that we have heard from Conservative Members. I respect their principle, even though I disagree with it. I do not like what the Bill is trying to do. I voted to remain, I enthusiastically committed to Scotland’s path back into the European Union and I want to see the UK have a close relationship with the EU, but I accept the majority view of this House. The Prime Minister made this commitment and he has questions to answer, because to describe this as a change of direction and a minor technical thing is to miss the point. This is a gross betrayal of the promises made to secure his election, and it is a key part of his personal manifesto. I do not think that betrayal should pass without consequence.

I am glad to see the end of sunsetting, which is a pragmatic change about which I should be glad, but I still do not like the Bill. It can still overrule the Holyrood Parliament on retained EU law, which is democratically offensive. We should also consider the costs of this exercise. What assessment have the Government made of the direct cost to the taxpayer of the work done thus far and now abandoned? I will be tabling parliamentary questions on this, but what wider assessment has been made of the costs to organisations such as the National Farmers Union of Scotland and others in dealing with this uncertainty?

Again, I think Opposition Members are very confused about what this change is trying to do. [Interruption.] They are confused. The hon. Member for Stirling (Alyn Smith) talks about certainty, and this is the certainty for which people asked. He talks about a change and a betrayal, and I do not understand where that emotional language is coming from. No work has been wasted. It is the efforts of civil servants that have identified which bits of law need to be repealed and which need to be reformed. There is not enough parliamentary time, given that we have only one full Session, to carry out all the reforms we would like to carry out. If we are to do that, we need to truncate the process to make it about repeal and reform, not about preservation. The Bill, which was meant to be about reform, has turned into a preservation exercise. [Interruption.] I can see the hon. Member for Stirling squinting and looking confused, so I am happy to give him a private briefing. This process is technical and complex. I picked up this task in February, and I buried myself in the detail. This will deliver on the Prime Minister’s promises and make sure that we generate the benefits of Brexit.

Well said earlier, Mr Speaker.

I have checked Hansard, and the Bill passed Second Reading in the Commons on 25 October 2022 with a Government majority of 56, and with not a single Tory MP voting against it.

No one voted against it, Bob. Not even you.

On 18 January 2023, the Bill passed Third Reading with a Government majority of 59, and again not a single Tory MP voted against it. The Bill unified the Conservative parliamentary party on an admittedly controversial issue. It left this House without a single Tory MP opposing it. Why, after it has gone to the House of Lords, have the Government performed a massive climbdown on their own Bill, despite having such strong support from their own Back Benchers? Secretary of State, what on earth are you playing at?

I have already explained the reasons why we have changed the approach and I am happy to repeat them for my right hon. Friend. He should know that I am not somebody who gets pushed around lightly. The fact is that I went in, looked at the detail and decided that this was the best way to deliver this. I stress again that this was not the Prime Minister’s decision. As a Secretary of State, I have to be responsible and look at what we can make sure is deliverable. This is the best way to get my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) what he wants. It may be different from what was put on the Floor of the House, but if he wants what I want, which is ending EU interpretative effects by the end of this year, ending the supremacy of EU law by the end of this year—[Interruption.] He is not in the room. He is very welcome to send me the list of things that he wants repealed, but this is the way to get it done.

The biggest problem with this Bill is not the haste and chaos that has come with it, the failure to be able to identify what is EU retained regulation or the fact that it risks the Windsor agreement; it is that even with the changes the Secretary of State is now proposing, the Government are giving themselves power over 4,000 areas of public policy and taking back control from MPs over what happens next on them—that has not changed. The Secretary of State says that she is across the detail. Given the attitude that she has expressed today towards this Chamber, the process and the role of MPs, if she is serious about scrutiny and democracy, will she accept the amendment standing in the names of Lord Hope, Lord Anderson, Lord Hamilton, who is a strong Brexiteer, and Lord Hodgson, also a Brexiteer, that will give this place the ability to have the final say, whether laws are being revoked, rewritten or reformed? Will the Secretary of State accept that amendment—yes or no?

We can always discuss amendments. The ones I am supporting are the Government amendments, which provide the certainty and clarity that Members in both Houses have asked for. What I am doing is a more transparent process that provides a lot more clarity. The fact that everyone can now see all the laws on the dashboards and the things that we are removing shows that we are coming to this process in good faith. I would appreciate Opposition Members doing the same.

This is very bracing for a Thursday morning, and there is nothing I enjoy more than a good bunfight with a Secretary of State. I say gently that although many of us would have a great deal of sympathy with what the Secretary of State has outlined, it is important to make the point that the manner, tone and approach taken not just by her at the Dispatch Box now, but generally, is much improved, and the House tends to be much more receptive to it, when proper processes are followed and invitations to attend Select Committee are readily accepted. I urge that gently as a lesson that might be drawn from this. If she was at all concerned by the volume of statutory instruments that might be descending upon us, the attendance this morning proves that there are plenty of willing volunteers for such Committees.

I do not disagree with that, but the statutory instruments that I would want us to be focused on in this House should be the ones that are repealing EU law; all those hundreds of statutory instruments that would have come through were for retaining and preserving EU law. That is not what we said we were going to do, which is why this approach is better. It is faster and it accelerates us towards reform. I do not think anyone in this House can accuse me of shying away from Select Committees, questions or the Dispatch Box. I am always happy, no matter how difficult the questions are, to take the questions here.

Despite this screeching U-turn, the Bill still includes a power grab over environmental protections. Living in a nature-depleted country, it really concerns me that the Secretary of State can still change thousands of environmental laws at will, through secondary legislation, without scrutiny. Many of those laws relate to sewage that can be dumped into our rivers and chalk streams and on to our beaches. Will she make a firm commitment at the Dispatch Box today that the Government will not repeal or change any environmental law without due scrutiny by this House?

Again, these questions worry me, because they show that the process we are changing is not fully understood by the House. [Interruption.] It is certainly not understood by the hon. Lady. I can tell that many others do understand this. The regulations that are being repealed are going on the schedule. If she has a specific one on that schedule that she thinks is environmental and should not be repealed, she should say so. Instead, she is speaking in hypotheticals. She should look at the amendments and what they are doing, and if there are specific things she has concerns about, she can write to me. Claiming that things are being removed without looking at the schedule shows that she does not understand what we are doing.

Will my right hon. Friend explain whether this abdication to the House of Lords has come about because of civil service idleness or a lack of ministerial drive?

No, I do not think that it has come out of any idleness. If anything, I would say that the civil servants have been working feverishly on this, and what they have been doing is preserving, not repealing and certainly not getting the reforms that we want. This approach means that they can now do that. I know that it is disappointing, because it is not what my right hon. Friend had wanted; it was not his approach. I have spoken to him about it and explained my reasoning. I do not think that we will come to an agreement on this, but I would like him to understand that I am doing this because I genuinely think that this is the best way to deliver what those of us on the Conservative Benches voted for.

The Secretary of State seems to say that we have intense excitement about being here today and she is surprised. Our law is the basis of our democracy, and the flippant and ill-prepared way in which this has been brought forward is a disgrace; it is not worthy of our Parliament or, indeed, of our country. In the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, we are currently looking at international treaties. It is clear that our system for reviewing and monitoring international treaties per se is not up to scratch, and I hope that the Secretary of State will engage with that process. [Interruption.] She says that there is no time. She is in control of the time in this place as a member of the Government. It is not for me to speak for those on the Labour Front Bench, but I am sure that if there were discussions about giving the decision more time and perhaps to bringing it back, given the changes that are being made, that would be met favourably by Members on the Labour Benches. What lessons is she learning about the involvement of this place in the scrutiny of these treaties?

It is very surprising to hear the hon. Lady criticise the scrutiny process given that it was brought in by a Labour Government under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. The CRaG process on international treaties, which is what she is talking about, was brought in, as I have said, not by a Conservative Government, but by a Labour Government. We are carrying out this process using parliamentary procedure and Government amendments in the House of Lords; we are doing things on the Floor of the House. We are making sure that Parliamentarians have transparency. That is the right way to do it and I will not apologise for that.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) for his question and the Secretary of State for her response. I recognise the balance that she is trying to strike within the timeframe. There is a very large number of EU regulations at the Ministry of Justice, and yet we managed to identify more than 60% that could be either repealed or substantially revised within the timeframe. May I gently suggest to her that it would help the House with its scrutiny if a Department-by-Department analysis of what has been identified so far is published? May I also gently suggest that she resist the resistance in Whitehall that suggests it cannot be done. If it can be done at the MOJ, I am pretty confident that it can be done elsewhere.

That is right. I have published the dashboard that shows all of the laws that have been identified. Some are still, even as we speak, being identified now. The MOJ has done a good job in identifying those that are likely to be on the schedule—the ones that my right hon. Friend is referring to specifically. This is a pragmatic and balanced approach. I urge Members across the House to look for the opportunities for reform. We can hear those on the Labour Front Bench chuntering, but they do not have any ideas. They do not know what they want to do. All they want to do is sit down and complain about what we are doing. They are completely bereft of imagination and any sort of direction or approach. We are the only ones who have a way of delivering for this country, and we will continue to do so.

What a guddle! This Government amendment does absolutely nothing to address the powers in the Bill for UK Ministers to act in areas that are devolved to Scottish Ministers without consent or scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament has made its views clear on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. It has already voted in favour of a motion calling on the UK Government to withdraw it. That is the only way to deal with all of the risks that this damaging, anti-democratic legislation poses. Does the Secretary of State see that, and does she see why it is ever clearer that an independent Scotland in the EU is the only way to secure the best future for Scotland?

I am trying really hard not to laugh at what the hon. Lady has said. She is in a party that cannot even decide who paid for a caravan and is falling into a complete shambles. How will it in any way be able to do the sort of technical work we are doing? I am working with—[Interruption.] The SNP makes a lot of noise, but the way it is running Scotland shows that Bills such as this are best left in the hands of UK Government Ministers to stop the SNP making a shambles of everything.

There is still a sunset, and it will end the interpretive effects of the supremacy of EU law. The same number of measures that we were likely to revoke by the sunset will be in the schedule. As I said, the process had turned from one where we were reforming, to one where we were retaining—I know that is what the Bill literally says, but its purpose had been subverted because of the approach originally taken, which these amendments should address.

There is only one reason the Secretary of State is here: because she was brought here by an urgent question. The idea she is open to scrutiny is for the birds. There is also only one reason she tried to avoid it: because her Back Benchers are so angry. She has managed to divide her party again over the issue of Europe. This change is not taking back sovereignty to this Parliament, which those in favour of Brexit spoke about; it is a power grab by the Executive, allowing them to make decisions on 4,000 pieces of legislation. What will she do to ensure that her proposal has proper scrutiny through Committees and on the Floor of the House?

The point that the laws that we are not having on the schedule will either be kept or reformed—the reform process will be scrutinised in the House—is one that I have explained before. I am happy to make it again a thousand times if necessary for Opposition Members who clearly had scripted questions, which they have not been able to adapt to the comments made on the Floor of the House. This is a pragmatic approach that brings together people not just across the House but across the country; it delivers on the promises that we made, and I stand by them.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has pointed out, the Secretary of State has been invited on three separate occasions to appear before the European Scrutiny Committee, but for whatever reason has failed to do so. Given the seriousness of the volte-face she has now performed, will she accept the invitation of the Chairman, made this morning, and appear before the Committee next week? If not, why not?

Because I am in Switzerland next week and in the middle east the week after. As I said to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, I am happy to appear in front of the Committee, and now that we have a settled policy I will do so.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) said, this Bill is a shambles and it is felt to be so by my constituents in Putney, for whom this is having real-world effects. Businesses in Putney have seen rising costs and less investment because of the threat of the sunset clause and still not knowing what will be in it. The Government have left businesses across the country high and dry and the Bill is far from oven ready. Can the Secretary of State explain how the £1 billion figure for business savings has been estimated—or is that more pie in the sky?

You can see a classic example of what I am talking about, Mr Speaker. The hon. Lady complains that the sunset would not allow her constituents to know what is being repealed, but the whole purpose of the amendment is for people to be able to see what is being repealed in the schedule. I ask Opposition Members to please read the amendment and wait until the schedule arrives. On what we want to do and reform, the £1 billion savings have been calculated not just by the Department for Business and Trade, but by multiple external organisations that have raised with the Department how the working time regulations could be improved. Those are the benefits we can get from Brexit to make things better, and we will continue to do so.

Replacing retained EU law is both inevitable and necessary now that we have left the European Union, but does my right hon. Friend accept that it is critical that we do so in a way that preserves legal clarity and certainty, which are vital for business confidence? Does she accept that some of us deliberately did not vote for the Second Reading of the Bill because of a flaw in its drafting that did not identify that which was to be revoked, and would have created precisely that uncertainty? Does she accept that some of us are better placed to support the Bill now that that gap is being sensibly and pragmatically filled in—if I may say—a very Conservative and pro-business fashion?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. He is absolutely right: the Bill provides business certainty and legal certainty and removes interpretive effects and the supremacy of EU law, and it will do so by the sunset. Most importantly, it gives us the space to focus on the reform programme, which we announced yesterday and which will deliver the benefits of Brexit.

The Secretary of State has explained that the issue is not her U-turn, but that silly MPs on both sides of the Chamber have not properly understood the legislation. Can she explain to this silly MP, in her wonderfully patronising manner, which she has used many times this morning, what would prevent her from making a U-turn on workers’ rights, including holiday and maternity pay?

The hon. Lady calls herself a silly MP; it is not my place to disagree. She asks about the changes to holiday pay. We are just making the bureaucracy easier; we are not taking away any workers’ rights—we have repeatedly committed on the Floor of the House to not doing so. What Opposition Members are afraid of is reform and any sort of change. They cannot envision a world in which anything could possibly be better than the status quo. We are different; we believe in the aspirational approach and ambition for this country. They just want to stay the same and ossify. I will not stand at the Dispatch Box and allow that to happen. We are making changes that will benefit the British economy, British businesses and British workers.

I am less concerned with process, and I am quite for pragmatism, but my right hon. Friend has shown a tin ear if she thought for one moment that these changes would not arouse interest in the House of Commons. It needed a UQ to bring her here this morning. Nevertheless, my key question is this: is she convinced that, by this new methodology, the same number of laws will be repealed in the same time as if the pragmatic change had not been made?

The answer is yes. I wrote back to and engaged with all the Members who wrote to me about this issue as soon as I became Business Secretary. The response had been so quiet that it felt to me very much like a technical change, which is what it is. I am very happy to explain as much as possible on the Floor of the House. But I emphasise that this was my decision; it was not that of the Prime Minister or civil servants. It was me looking at the detail and deciding that this was the best approach because it is how we will get to that number but create more time for reform. It is about accelerating the process. I do not think anyone in this House can claim that I am not a Brexiteer. I stood here less than a month ago talking about how we had successfully negotiated the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, the biggest trade deal that we have ever done in this country since we left the EU. That is a benefit of Brexit. I am very proud to continue to do that. This is the best way for us to deliver more benefit over and over again rather than spend our time on parliamentary procedure, which does not mean much to people on the doorstep.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on working at height, I have been trying to get clarity for some time on the very specific Work at Height Regulations 2005. Can the Secretary of State tell me whether those regulations will be included or protected? The assurances that I have had so far have not provided the clarity that the sector needs.

The hon. Lady will know that I was not privy to those conversations. If she writes to me with the specifics, I should be able to provide an answer. What we have talked about changing is the bureaucracy around reporting, and that does not sound like what she raised.

As a committed Brexiteer, and having voted in the 1975 referendum to leave the European Economic Community, as it then was, I want to see the benefits of Brexit delivered as soon as possible. But I do recognise the concerns that have been expressed to me by businesses in my constituency, and I think the approach being taken by the Secretary of State is the best one. Could she give an assurance that if I or any Member bring forward recommendations for measures to include in the list, she will make those changes as quickly as can be arranged?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. That is exactly what this approach is trying to generate. We need to find the things that we know are holding Britain back, rather than just delete things because no one has found a reason to keep them. I think that if he speaks to businesses in his constituency, he will have many suggestions for measures that may require not complete revocation but reform, and if they are going to be reformed, we need to first keep them and then reform them, rather than first delete them then try to reform them. That is what this approach does.

The right hon. Lady is doing herself no favours at all this morning with her patronising and arrogant manner, not just to Opposition Members but also to her hon. Friends. I am all for upsetting her hon. Friends, and it looks like in the eternal struggle between the blob and the Mogg, the blob has prevailed. Is it not the case that, in their haste to create this hard Brexit utopia, reality has finally caught up with them? Does it not look like the Conservative party—this fragile Brexit coalition—is now starting to fragment into its constituent parts?

No, that is complete nonsense. The hon. Gentleman is talking about what he hopes and wishes would happen, rather than the reality.

I respectfully disagree with my right hon. Friend that this is a technical change, given the different status that retained EU law has in our system, but I look forward to discussing that further with her when she appears before us at the European Scrutiny Committee. In the meantime, can she give the House an assurance that not one jot of the concessions given in the House of Lords over this Bill are anything to do with upholding any commitment made in the negotiation of the Windsor framework?

I am very happy to say that. I was not involved in negotiations on the Windsor framework, and I have said repeatedly that this is my plan. It is not the Prime Minister’s plan, and it is not the civil servants’ plan—it is my plan. This is me going into the detail and deciding that this is the best way to deliver it. What my hon. Friend says about the special status of EU law is right. That is one of the things that is not changing; that is still ending. The sunset is still there for interpretive effects—for the supremacy of EU law—by the end of this year, which is the big thing we are trying to deliver, rather than lots of redundant regulations, many of which we have already got rid of. I re-emphasise that we will get rid of about 2,000 pieces of legislation in total by the end of this year. The schedule is just the final 600, and another 200 commencement regulations go with them. I think he will be very pleased with the result.

May I respectfully say to the Secretary of State that I do understand the amendment, and I believe colleagues on both sides of the House understand it? We simply do not agree, and it is an important component of democracy that we respect one another’s right to disagree. If there is any confusion and uncertainty today, it has been caused by the chaotic manner in which this has been done and the fact that the House feels the Secretary of State has had to be dragged here to explain it to us. Does she agree that a situation where the House feels that there will not be an opportunity to debate something as important as this and scrutinise it properly is unacceptable?

I disagree, because we have debated it. The only change is the use of a schedule. The hon. Lady claims that she disagrees with the Bill. The Bill passed through the House. All that is changing is how we are listing the regulations. The intent has not changed. Of course, I respect her right to disagree, but she is still claiming that the amendment does something it does not, which is why I keep emphasising that I am not sure Opposition Members understand it.

I had the privilege of PPS-ing the Bill when it was in Committee, so I have seen the complexities, the ideologies on both sides of the argument, and the difficulties inherent in trying to get the Bill through. What my constituents and people up and down the country—the vast majority of whom did vote for Brexit—want to know is what the message is for them, as they now have concerns that this could be reneged on.

I have a very strong message for them. My hon. Friend can tell his constituents that the Prime Minister is a committed Brexiteer, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade is a committed Brexiteer, and we are making sure that we can deliver this on time but actually show the benefits of Brexit, not just parliamentary procedure and legislative activity. That is not the outcome that is going to be delivered for the country, it is the process. This urgent question has shown that quite often, we spend too much time on process and not enough on outcomes. This is an outcomes-focused Government, and that is why I have made this change and why I will deliver for my hon. Friend’s constituents.

It would seem that there can be movement regarding decisions on EU laws when this Government see fit. Can the Secretary of State outline whether this symbolises a change in policy that will enable the final work on getting the protocol solutions finalised, in order to enable business and trade and allow everyone in Northern Ireland—Unionists as well as nationalists—to operate on an equal footing with those on the UK mainland?

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that this is not a change in policy: it is a change in approach, using a schedule to list exactly what we are removing. The purpose of the Bill was to remove EU law, and as the process was changing to one of preservation, we have just changed the approach slightly to make sure that we can conclude when we want to conclude, which is at the end of this year, and focus on reform. We are very pragmatic; we continue to listen to voices across the House and across the country. Many of the questions that the hon. Gentleman has raised are for my colleague the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but he will know that if he comes to me with a problem, I will always endeavour to solve it.

Between 2016 and 2019, the Procedure Committee heard regularly about the thousands of statutory instruments that either had to be translated into UK law, repealed, or reformed in some way. The problem that the Secretary of State now has is that by taking the pressure off that timetable, there will be a concern among Members on all Benches as to what happens, after the sunset clause kicks in, to the statutory instruments and other laws that we would like to see repealed or amended. What is the timetable, and how will it work?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that this change in approach actually helps with that. It allows us to continue beyond the end of this year, whereas the Bill as originally drafted meant that if we had not found things, they would just end up in UK statute with no mechanism to change that. I have now created a mechanism for us to continue, but I have also made sure that the time we spend in this House is about reforming and improving, not preservation, because that would just have swallowed up so much time and not delivered for our constituents.