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House of Lords Hansard
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Brexit: Legislative Timetable
07 January 2019
Volume 794

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their proposed timetable for the passage of all remaining (1) primary, and (2) secondary legislation required for Brexit by 29 March 2019.

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My Lords, we have already put in place many of the legislative building blocks to deliver our exit from the EU. Five exit-related Bills have been passed and six more are now making their way through Parliament. We are also making good progress on the secondary legislation needed to ensure that we have a functioning statute book on exit day.

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I welcome my noble friend back from his holidays, albeit for a particularly difficult and busy period for his department. Can he give the House an assurance today that the six remaining Bills before this House and the best part of 1,000 statutory instruments to prepare for Brexit will be given full and proper scrutiny in this House? Further, does he yet have a date for when directives such as the European falsified medicines directive will be scrutinised in this Chamber?

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I can certainly give the noble Baroness an assurance that we will allow for proper scrutiny. Perhaps I may correct her statement on the number of SIs. As we wrote to the sifting committees just before Christmas, we now estimate that the number of SIs we will need by exit day is slightly fewer than 600, of which we have already tabled more than 300.

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My Lords, can the noble Lord assure the House that legislation in the form of Acts of Parliament to come before us will not be treated as emergency legislation because the Government are running out of time?

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Discussions on the time allowed for legislation are a matter for the usual channels. Co-operation in this House has always been good, and I can assure noble Lords that that co-operation will continue with any required legislation.

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My Lords, with only 30% of the time left, there remains 60% of the anticipated SIs to deal with. Meanwhile, Mr Grayling has been conducting a no-deal exercise with 89 lorries, although 10,000 of them use Dover every day. It is hard to disagree with the former Polish Deputy Prime Minister when he writes about our Prime Minister’s deeply deceitful Brexit path, which has disintegrated before her eyes. When will the Government allow the people to pass judgment on this tragedy turned to farce?

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I assume that the noble Baroness did not listen to the answer I gave earlier, and not for the first time the Liberal Democrats have got their figures wrong. We have already tabled more than 50% of the required statutory instruments, as we informed the two sifting committees before Christmas.

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My Lords, the Government have wasted a full month by pulling the December vote and yet they are coming back with exactly the same deal. We still have seven Bills and only 600 SIs to deal with. Despite the urgency, the Prime Minister has today decided not to turn up in the House of Commons to explain what has been going on, which sounds like a Government in hiding. Can the Minister guarantee that the Government will heed the demand of 200 or more MPs, including some from his own side, to rule out no deal? Further, will he ensure that the Government will engage with business, with consumers and with the Opposition to find a way forward that is acceptable to the people of this country and to Parliament?

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The Prime Minister has appeared numerous times in the House of Commons and will be doing so later this week, but she has other matters to attend to as well. In response to the question put by the noble Baroness, no, I will not rule out the fact that there could be no deal. No deal is the absence of a deal. If the Labour Party is really serious about avoiding no deal, there is a deal on the table for it to vote for.

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My Lords, as chairman of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, perhaps I may say that we fully accept the challenge which the Government are facing in this matter and we will do our duty as required.

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I thank my noble friend for his extremely constructive attitude. It allows me to come back on a point raised by the noble Baroness which I did not answer. She said that there are 600 SIs to table. That is the total that will be required, and the figure has been revised down from our original estimate of between 800 and 1,000. We have already tabled more than 50% of them. The rest will be tabled in due course to allow for proper parliamentary scrutiny using the sifting committee chaired by the noble Lord.

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My Lords, as chairman of the other scrutiny committee, let me challenge what the noble Lord has just said to the House. He said that more than 300 secondary legislative instruments have been tabled, but 300 have not yet been scrutinised.

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I accept the noble Lord’s clarification. We have submitted over 300 of them for the appropriate scrutiny, and the rest will be submitted for scrutiny in due course.

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My Lords, if we do actually crash out on 29 March, what happens to the Northern Ireland border?

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I am not sure I like the noble and learned Baroness’s term “crash out”. We will leave on 29 March because we had a referendum on the subject and because Parliament, both in this House and the other, has voted on two occasions—in the notification of withdrawal Act and the withdrawal Act—for the UK to leave and for the referendum Bill to be approved. We, the European Commission and the Irish Government have made it clear that there will not be a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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My Lords, of the 600 SIs to which the noble Lord referred, how many have passed both Houses?

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I do not have those figures in front of me. I will write to the noble Lord on that.

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My Lords, can the Minister answer the specific question put by my noble friend Lord Bassam about there being no emergency legislation before 29 March? Can he confirm that the forthcoming Trade Bill, due in this House shortly, could be the last legislative vehicle to accept an amendment to rule out no deal?

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As I said in the earlier answer, the progress of legislation in this House is a matter for the usual channels, in which co-operation with the opposition parties is always ongoing. I am sure the Chief Whip will want to continue that. As for ruling out no deal, no deal is what happens if you do not have a deal. We leave the EU on 29 March this year because that is the legislation that Parliament has passed on two occasions, and it is what Article 50 says. There is a mechanism to avoid no deal, and that is to vote for the only deal available.

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My Lords, I did not ask that question. I asked whether the Trade Bill is the last legislative vehicle to rule out no deal.

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I will not advise the noble Lord and others what amendments can be acceptable. That is not my role. There are a number of pieces of primary legislation still before this House and, if we are in a no-deal situation, further pieces of primary legislation will be forthcoming.

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My Lords, is the Minister convinced that all this legislation can be carried through Parliament in the 40 working days we have left? How on earth will he manage that?

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Of course, it will be a challenge, but I am sure all Members of this House want to see us leave the European Union in a smooth and orderly manner, which requires the appropriate legislation to be put in place.

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How many of the statutory instruments that the Government have submitted to both Houses for scrutiny have been sent back by the sifting committees because they were put forward as negative instruments but the sifting committees think Ministers are slipping policy issues through and have recommended they be upgraded to affirmative instruments? How many are still in the queue for the Government to look whether to upgrade them to affirmative instruments? This delay is caused purely by the Government, not the sifting committees.

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I never said there was any delay caused by the sifting committees. They are carrying out the proper role allocated to them by this House and by the legislation. We are accepting all their recommendations. If they think SIs should not be negative but positive, our record is that we have accepted all their recommendations so far.