United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Report stage & 3rd reading & 3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage: House of Commons
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 View all United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 29 September 2020 - (29 Sep 2020)
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Government new clause 5—Office for the Internal Market panel and task groups.

New clause 1—Withdrawal Agreement and rule of law duty

‘(1) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part (Northern Ireland Protocol) applies must—

(a) respect the rule of law;

(b) allow for the possibility of judicial review of an enactment, decision, act or omission by the appropriate authority;

(c) use the provisions of Article 16 of the Protocol to protect the interests of the United Kingdom.

(2) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part applies must comply with the obligations of the United Kingdom under international law.

(3) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part applies must comply with—

(a) the requirement under Article 5 (Good faith) of the Withdrawal Agreement for the EU and the United Kingdom to assist each other in full mutual respect and good faith to carry out the tasks which flow from the Agreement;

(b) the requirement under Article 167 (Consultations and communications within the Joint Committee) for the EU and the United Kingdom to endeavour to resolve any dispute regarding the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Agreement by entering into consultations in the Joint Committee in good faith, with the aim of reaching a mutually agreed solution;

(c) the requirement under Article 184 (Negotiations on the future relationship) of the Withdrawal Agreement for the EU and the United Kingdom to use their best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders, to take the necessary steps to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship referred to in the Political Declaration of 17 October 2019 and to conduct the relevant procedures for the ratification or conclusion of those agreements, with a view to ensuring that those agreements apply, to the extent possible, as from the end of the transition period;

(d) the requirements of the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 10 April 1998 between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland and the other participants in the multi-party negotiations, which is annexed to the British-Irish Agreement of the same date.

(4) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part applies must comply with the Human Rights Act 1998.’

This new clause is intended to replace Clauses 42, 43 and 45 of the Bill, to require Ministers to respect the rule of law and uphold the independence of the courts and the practice of judicial review, and to require UK Ministers to implement the Withdrawal Agreement.

New clause 2—Internal market common framework

‘(1) The Secretary of State must seek to reach agreement with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on a common framework on the United Kingdom internal market.

(2) A common framework under subsection (1) may cover—

(a) the functioning of the United Kingdom internal market;

(b) the effectiveness of market access principles; and

(c) drawing up a shared prosperity fund to balance economic development across the whole of the United Kingdom.

(3) The Secretary of State must take into account the common framework on the United Kingdom internal market in exercising any powers under Part 6 (Financial assistance powers) of this Act.’

This new clause would put the Common Framework process on a statutory footing.

New clause 3—Duty to consult, monitor, report and review

‘(1) Within three months of the date on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must lay a report before each House of Parliament on the dates on which each section—

(a) was commenced; or

(b) is planned to commence.

(2) The Secretary of State must arrange for a review to be carried out within three months of the date on which this Act is passed, and thereafter at least once in each calendar year on the operation of this Act.

(3) The Secretary of State must invite the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to contribute to the reviews in subsection (1).

(4) The reviews under subsection (1) must make an assessment of—

(a) the functioning of the United Kingdom internal market;

(b) the effectiveness of market access principles;

(c) progress towards agreeing common frameworks with the devolved administrations;

(d) progress towards drawing up a shared prosperity fund framework; and

(e) progress in resolving issues through the Joint Committee machinery in the Withdrawal Agreement.

(5) The Prime Minister must arrange for a report of any review under this section to be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after its completion.’

This new clause would ensure Ministers have a duty to report back to Parliament on the progress of the functioning of the internal market; market access; progress towards agreeing common frameworks; progress towards drawing up a shared prosperity fund; and progress in resolving issues through the Joint Committee machinery in the Withdrawal Agreement.

New clause 6—Economic development: climate and nature emergency impact statement

‘(1) Any financial assistance provided under Part 6 of this Act for the purpose of economic development must take into account the overarching need for a sustainable strategy aimed at long- term national well-being.

(2) Every proposal for financial assistance under this Act must be accompanied by a climate and nature emergency impact statement.

(3) Responsibility for the production of the climate and nature emergency impact statement required in subsection (2) resides with the applicant for financial assistance.

(4) Responsiblity for assessment of the climate and nature emergency impact statement required in subsection (2) resides with Ministers, who are required to publish this assessment for any successful proposal.

(5) The climate and nature emergency impact statement produced should take account of any carbon budget, climate, nature and environmental goals approved by the relevant Parliament.

(6) In subsection (5), the “relevant Parliament” means—

(a) where the proposed financial assistance relates to a person in England, the House of Commons and the House of Lords;

(b) where the proposed financial assistance relates to a person in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament;

(c) where the proposed financial assistance relates to a person in Wales, Senedd Cymru;

(d) where the proposed financial assistance relates to a person in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Assembly.’

The intention of this new clause is to ensure that those seeking financial assistance for economic development, etc under this Act are obliged to undertake a climate and nature emergency impact statement to ensure public money is only granted to development consistent with climate, nature and environmental goals and targets.

New clause 7—Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market

‘(1) As part of its obligation under Article 6.2 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to use its best endeavours to facilitate trade between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK, the UK Government must—

(a) publish an assessment at least every 12 months of any impact on businesses and consumers arising from the Protocol on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and vice versa; and

(b) develop mitigations to safeguard the place of Northern Ireland businesses and consumers in the UK internal market.

(2) The assessment published under paragraph (1)(a) must include assessment of the impact of any actual or proposed regulatory or trade policy divergence on Northern Ireland’s place in the UK Internal Market.

(3) Any official or administrative costs arising from the duties under subsections (1) and (2) may not be recouped from the private sector.’

New clause 8—Interpretation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in accordance with International Law

‘(1) In the event that the European Union fails to act in accordance with the principles of public international law in its implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, by

(a) failing to undertake acts that are required by the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol;

(b) committing acts that are not in accordance with the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol;

(c) failing to undertake acts that are necessary for the effective implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol;

(d) asserting positions in the Joint Committee that are not in accord with the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol; or

(e) refusing to discuss in the Joint Committee proposals on implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol tabled by the United Kingdom;

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the principles of public international law that may be invoked include—

(a) the provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties between States and International Organizations or between International Organizations 1986, including, in particular,

(i) the need to act in “good faith” and

(ii) the need to avoid results that are “manifestly absurd or unreasonable”;

(b) established international practices, having the status of customary international law; and

(c) the commitments made in the preambular paragraphs of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

(4) A unilateral interpretative declaration issued under subsection (1) may not be submitted unless—

(a) a Minister of the Crown has laid before each House of Parliament

(i) a copy of the proposed declaration,

(ii) a statement on the nature of the dispute with the European Union,

(iii) a statement of the intended effect of the proposed declaration; and

(b) the declaration has been approved by a resolution of the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown; and

(c) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the declaration has been tabled in the House of Lords by a Minister of the Crown and—

(i) the House of Lords has debated the motion, or

(ii) the House of Lords has not concluded a debate on the motion before the end of the period of five Lords sitting days beginning with the first Lords sitting day after the day on which the House of Commons passes the resolution mentioned in paragraph (b).

(5) When a response to the submission of any unilateral interpretative declaration is received from the European Union, a Minister of the Crown shall lay before each House of Parliament the response received from the European Union, and—

(a) in the case of the approval of the declaration by the European Union, the Minister shall issue a written statement confirming that the declaration has obtained the status of an authentic interpretation of the Northern Ireland Protocol;

(b) in the case of opposition to the declaration by the European Union, the Minister shall issue a written statement, assessing any alternative interpretation formulated by the European Union and indicating the government’s intended response; or

(c) in the case of the recharacterisation of the declaration by which the European Union purports to treat the declaration as an illegal reservation, the Minister shall issue a written statement of what action it intends to take to resolve the dispute.

(6) In this section—

“approval”, “opposition” or “recharacterization” of a declaration shall have the meaning given in Guideline 2.9 of the Guide to Practice on Reservations to Treaties, contained in the report of the International Law Commission on its Sixty-Third Session in 2011;

“Joint Committee” means the Joint Committee established under Article 164 of the EU Withdrawal Agreement;

“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);

“submit” means to make a submission to the depositary of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, as specified in Article 183 of the EU Withdrawal Agreement; and

“unilateral interpretative declaration” means an interpretative declaration as defined by Guideline 1.2 of the Guide to Practice on Reservations to Treaties, contained in the report of the International Law Commission on its Sixty-Third Session in 2011.’

Government amendments 31 and 32, 19, 33 to 38, 20 to 26, and 1 to 11.

Amendment 16, page 37, line 10, leave out Clause 45.

Government amendments 12, 13, 15 and 14.

Amendment 18, page 38, line 36, leave out Clause 46.

Amendment 29, page 39, line 27, leave out Clause 47.

Government new schedule 1—Constitution etc of Office for the Internal Market panel and task groups.

Amendment 17, in schedule 1, page 48, line 14, at end insert—

‘(8A) In the case that there is one REACH authorisation process for Great Britain, an authorisation that is lawful for the Northern Ireland market will be valid for the Great Britain market.’

The intention of this amendment is to apply the non-discrimination principle to the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regime.

Government amendments 27 and 28.

Amendment 30, in title, line 7, leave out from “aid” to “to” in line 10.

Amendments 18 and 29 would remove both clauses in Part 6 (Financial assistance powers). This consequential Amendment removes from the long Title “to authorise the provision of financial assistance by Ministers of the Crown in connection with economic development, infrastructure, culture, sport and educational or training activities and exchanges”.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to begin by thanking all Members for their engagement throughout the passage of the Bill and the Public Bill Office for its excellent work in supporting Members and officials.

Before I turn to the specific amendments that we are debating, I want to briefly remind Members why it is crucial that we pass this Bill. Around 60% of Scottish and Welsh exports are to the rest of the UK, which is around three times as much as exports to the rest of the EU. About 50% of Northern Ireland’s sales are to Great Britain. In some local authorities in Wales, over a quarter of workers commute across the border. When we leave the transition period at the end of this year, laws made in Europe can be made in the UK.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
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The Minister will have noticed yesterday that the Scottish Government declared their intention not to give this Bill a legislative consent motion. Does he intend to ignore that or dismiss it, and does he hold Scottish democracy in contempt?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I very much do not hold the devolution settlement in contempt. It is right that we work together. I believe that the UK is stronger together. It is important that we give Scottish businesses—just as much as Welsh, Northern Irish and English businesses—the certainty that they want to be able to trade, so we will continue to engage with the Scottish Parliament and officials and politicians up there to achieve legislative consent.

Hundreds of powers will flow from the EU to the devolved nations and the UK Government in an unprecedented transfer. As we recover from covid, we must ensure that our economy is stronger than ever. That is why the Government have introduced this Bill and why it is essential that we pass it. We want to guarantee the continued functioning of our internal market, to ensure that trade remains unhindered in the UK.

I will begin by speaking to the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, starting with those that strengthen the Bill’s measures relating to the governance and functioning of the Office for the Internal Market. The office will sit within the Competition and Markets Authority to monitor and report on the internal market on an equal basis for all Administrations. The Competition and Markets Authority has a strong reputation for independence and impartiality. The Government have strived to preserve that reputation in setting out the functions to be carried out by the Office for the Internal Market. By providing non-binding, expert reporting and technical monitoring on regulations and proposals, it will provide robust evidence on the actual or potential impact of regulatory measures.

New clause 4 gives the Competition and Markets Authority the objective of supporting the effective operation of the UK internal market through the provision of economic and technical advice and expertise. That will exist in parallel to the existing objective of the Competition and Markets Authority to promote competition for the benefit of consumers.

New clause 5 enables Competition and Markets Authority functions under part 4 of the Bill to be carried out by an Office for the Internal Market task group and introduces a new schedule setting out the Government’s arrangements for the Office for the Internal Market panel and task groups. That mirrors the existing arrangements for the establishment of panels and groups that it has in place.

New schedule 1 establishes a panel of experts to lead the work of the Office for the Internal Market. The Secretary of State will appoint a chair and further members, following consultation with Ministers from all three devolved Administrations.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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Will the Minister confirm that the arrangements under the Bill regarding the CMA guarantee that we will not have any jurisdiction by the European Union or the European Court over the CMA and, furthermore, that one of the cardinal principles on which the European Union and the Commission are taking their stand is that they insist that we should not benefit competitively from leaving the European Union and we should not be able to compete with them on reasonable terms?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I am grateful for that typically wise intervention. I am happy to provide that confirmation.

Amendment 1 provides absolute privilege against defamation for the Competition and Markets Authority when carrying out its functions under part 4. That will ensure that it can report and provide advice independently without needing to expend resources on preparing to defend litigation, and that businesses with deep pockets cannot sue or threaten to sue the CMA to obstruct it from carrying out its functions.

I shall set out briefly for the House the amendments that will improve the Bill’s drafting. Through amendments 31 to 34, we are taking the opportunity to put it beyond any possible doubt that alcohol minimum unit pricing-type regulation and any other sales requirements are not in the scope of the mutual recognition principle, unless they amount in practice to a total ban on a good being sold. That came up in Committee. We want to make sure that rather than politicking, we can return to a business continuity approach.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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The Minister just told us about an amendment to take into account concerns about the minimum unit pricing aspect, but UK Government Ministers have been telling us for weeks that the Bill does not affect that. Clearly, that was a concern until now and we were right. Is it not also true that the non-discriminatory aspects of the amendment make it completely useless anyway?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but the answer is no. To ensure we take that political football totally off the table and return the Bill to what is was always designed to be about—giving businesses in Scotland and all parts of the UK the business continuity and certainty they need without such distractions—the technical amendment dots the i’s and crosses the t’s.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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For Northern Ireland to be a successful part of the United Kingdom, may I gently suggest that the Minister should work with us on new clause 7, which my party has tabled? It is an imperative tool to ensure that Northern Ireland is not left behind in Brexit in terms of being an integrated member of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—in other words, that we are treated equally.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I will turn to new clause 7 in a second, but clearly we will treat Northern Ireland equally.

Amendments 2 to 11, 24, 27, 28 and 35 to 38 are technical changes to remove sources of potential confusion in the drafting. Amendments 19 and 21 provide fuller clarification that a wide range of agricultural processes are considered to be in scope when we refer to the production of goods. Amendment 20 ensures that the UK Government and devolved Administrations can continue to respond to specific biosecurity threats arising from the movement of animals and high-risk plants and that they are excluded from the mutual recognition and non-discrimination principles of the Bill.

Amendments 22 and 23 clarify the meaning of clause 16 that a change to the conditions attached to an authorisation requirement would bring it in scope of part 2 of the Bill. Amendment 26 ensures that the exemption in clause 23 covers the replication of non-statutory rules as well as a re-enactment of legislation. Amendments 12 to 15 ensure that the higher courts in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may make declarations of incompatibility in respect of the regulations under clauses 42 and 43, but may not quash them. That will ensure that, in the unlikely event of a violation of convention rights, there is a remedy available through the courts.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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Notwithstanding the terms of amendments 12 and 13, can the Minister tell us whether the Secretary of State continues to be confident that the statement he has made in terms of section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 is accurate?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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We have been quite clear in the approach that we have taken in terms of the human rights impact, so I am confident that the Secretary of State has talked about that.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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May I press the Minister a little further in relation to amendment 13 and so on? I accept “preserving a remedy”, but it is a remedy by way of a declaration of incompatibility, as opposed to removing any offensive regulation in domestic law. It is a much harder burden or obstacle for a litigant—for every person—to go through to get a declaration of incompatibility. What is the compelling reason for adopting this unusual approach?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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This achieves the right balance in terms of a remedy, in the unlikely event of a breach of convention rights, for the reason that I have covered in terms of our impact assessment on human rights. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will feel able to support these important but mainly technical amendments.

I will move on to the Opposition amendments, because it is important that we give them due care and attention, but I first want to remind hon. Members of the core purpose of the Bill. The Bill puts into law a market access commitment by enshrining the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination in the law. That means that goods and services from one part of the UK will be recognised across the country, and it will ensure that there is equal opportunity for all UK-based companies trading in the UK.

New clause 2 would place an obligation on UK Ministers to seek to agree a framework covering the UK internal market, which would need to be taken into account in the exercise of financial assistance payments. The new clause would fundamentally alter the basis on which common frameworks are developed and would not be in line with the design of common frameworks that was agreed by the UK Government and devolved Administrations. The principles agreed made it clear that the common frameworks are based on consensus rather than legislation, as we discussed in Committee. The principles also set out that the common frameworks are limited in their scoped powers returning from the EU, which have a devolved intercept.

An overarching framework would not materially contribute to effective joint working between the United Kingdom Government and devolved Administrations. Through the common frameworks programme, we are agreeing mechanisms for effective intergovernmental working. Those will cover many areas engaged by provisions in the Bill for the internal market.

We are also developing proposals for an enhanced intergovernmental system, which will support work to maintain policy coherence across the United Kingdom. This collaborative model is likely to be more effective and provide greater clarity than the process set out in the new clause, which does not clearly define when the duty in subsection (1) and the due regard duty in subsection (3) would be met.

Common frameworks are designed to allow for collaborative and flexible working between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved Administrations. Creating a framework such as this, which is underpinned by obligations in law, could undermine that effective joint work.

New clause 3 seeks to require the Secretary of State to provide Parliament with regular reviews on the functioning of the internal market, the effectiveness of provisions in the United Kingdom Internal Market Act and progress towards delivering provisions not in the Act, such as common frameworks. While I commend the intention behind the amendment, the review provisions it seeks to deliver are already provided for. They exist either in the Bill, through the Office for the Internal Market, or in previous legislation.

As part 4 of the Bill sets out, the Office for the Internal Market will have a number of reporting and monitoring responsibilities. Clause 29 sets out how the office will need to compile yearly “health of the market” reports on the functioning of the internal market, and five-yearly system reviews on the operation of parts 1 to 3. Those reports will be laid before the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures for consideration, ensuring parliamentary transparency and accountability. I consider, therefore, that the new clause risks being highly duplicative.

It is essential that both those reports are compiled at arm’s length from both the UK Government and the devolved Administrations. That will enable the office to deliver a credible, impartial and expert analysis that delivers difficult messages to the Administrations, if necessary. However, when conducting those reports, the Office for the Internal Market will be able to consider the views of all relevant interested parties, including the devolved Administrations, in order to present evidence on how well the internal market itself and the Government’s proposals are serving stakeholders across the UK. Moreover, regarding the specific areas listed in the amendment, the Government already publish quarterly reports entitled, “The European Union (Withdrawal) Act and Common Frameworks”, which set out joint progress on common frameworks.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Minister is putting a brave face on things, as always. It is all very well talking about reviews and reports, but does he accept that, for an internal market to function, there actually needs to be communication between the Prime Minister and the leaders of the devolved Administrations? Why has the Prime Minister failed to communicate regularly with the First Minister of Wales, instead speaking to him only once every few months? Especially at a time of national crisis, why has the Prime Minister been so poor in his communication?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and Ministers work with all the devolved Administrations. My colleague in the Business Department has meetings—especially at this particular time—with businesses across the devolved Administrations, including in Wales.

As I say, for this particular area, we already publish the report I referred to. However, we consider it right that any reporting on the Joint Committee machinery or the UK shared prosperity fund should be undertaken separately from that on internal market provisions. For that reason, I am not able to accept the amendment.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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Will the Minister confirm that Brexit is a huge opportunity to increase the powers both of this House—over our own internal market and economic prosperity—and of the devolved Administrations, which will gain power? Should everybody not cheer up and welcome the fact that both the devolved Administrations and the Union Parliament can take back control?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I thank my right hon. Friend for the opportunity to absolutely agree with him that this gives us a great opportunity to come together as the United Kingdom, to give that sense of certainty to businesses and, just as importantly, to grab hold of the opportunities provided by leaving the European Union.

Before I address the amendments to the Bill’s Northern Ireland protocol measures, I remind hon. Members of the points made by the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), in Committee last week. He made it clear that

“the Northern Ireland protocol…is designed to recognise and protect the needs and unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. Central to that is ensuring that the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, its successor agreements, and the gains of the peace process are protected.”

He stressed that it was crucial to

“ensure that the delicate balance between all communities in Northern Ireland is maintained and that the UK Government pursue policies for sustained growth and stability in Northern Ireland…Through this Bill, we are acting to uphold those priorities and deliver the commitments we made in our election manifesto that we would provide unfettered access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and ‘maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of the internal market’.”—[Official Report, 21 September 2020; Vol. 680, c. 647.]

I will now speak to new clause 1, which seeks to replace clauses 42, 43 and 45, as well as amendment 16, which intends to remove clause 45. The Government have already been clear that these clauses are required to provide a safety net of powers in reserve, which Ministers may need to use to guarantee the integrity of our United Kingdom and to ensure that we are always able to deliver on our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, in line with the three-strand approach of the Belfast agreement.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
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The Minister talks about giving a safety net to the people of Northern Ireland. Does he recognise that the majority of people in Northern Ireland regard the Bill as taking away their safety net by undermining the Good Friday agreement? That is the view in Northern Ireland, and it is important that the Government listen to it, not act contrary to it.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I have spoken to businesses in Northern Ireland, and a number of them are very supportive of this. I suggest that anybody in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK who believes that the Bill actually takes away from the Belfast agreement is listening to the wilful misrepresentation of the Bill by certain people politicking. Actually, the Belfast agreement has a three-strand approach, and the Bill will be a safety net only in the event that we cannot reach agreement with the EU through the Joint Committee.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I will make progress, because these are important points. New clause 1 and amendment 18 would remove that safety net, which we just cannot agree with. These clauses were supported by clear majorities of the whole House at Committee stage.

I can reassure hon. Members that many of the proposals in new clause 1 are already addressed in the Bill. First, the Government have been clear that regulations made under clauses 42 or 43 would be subject to judicial review on general public law grounds, while ensuring that any claims must be brought within three months. This ensures any challenge to the regulations will be subject to timely resolution before the courts. This is essential to ensure that Northern Ireland businesses and investors in Northern Ireland have the certainty that they need. Amendments to this effect have already been agreed to in Committee, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), who helped make that happen.

Secondly, on article 16 of the protocol, which new clause 1 mentions, in the event that regulations were made under clauses 42 or 43, we have been clear that we would activate appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms to find a solution in parallel to domestic legislation. Thirdly, the UK Government will continue, as we have always done, to negotiate with our friends and partners in the EU in good faith.

For the avoidance of any doubt, let me confirm again that we are of course committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol, and have already taken many practical steps to do this. However, as a responsible Government, we cannot allow the gains of the peace process or the economic integrity of the UK’s internal market—

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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Will the Minister give way?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I will happily give way.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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Would the Minister confirm that the Government are not intending to break the law—and I do not think anything they have suggested is breaking the law—and will he confirm that those who say otherwise are deliberately undermining our negotiations with the EU?

--- Later in debate ---
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I thank my right hon. Friend for that. Indeed, our intention, as I say, is to work on implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol. I have talked about the fact that we have taken many practical steps to do this. We continue to negotiate in good faith.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I am going to make progress because I still have a number of amendments to cover.

We cannot accept any amendments that will undermine provisions in the Bill by rendering them no kind of safety net at all. New clause 1 does that, I am afraid.

I now turn to new clause 8. I appreciate entirely the spirit in which this has been put forward. While all of us hoped that the EU would negotiate and discharge its obligations under the withdrawal agreement and protocol in good faith, this amendment seeks to frame in statute a number of steps that Ministers could take under international law were that not to happen. However, this amendment is not necessary, as it would already be open to Ministers to take the steps my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) proposes.

As I have mentioned, the Government have been working with the European Union to reach agreement through the Joint Committee process, and through this Bill we are preparing for a scenario where that does not happen. On 17 September, the Government issued a statement setting out the circumstances in which we would use the powers provided for under clauses 42 and 43: the Government would

“ask Parliament to support the use of the provisions in Clauses 42, 43 and 45 of the UKIM Bill, and any similar subsequent provisions, only in the case of, in our view, the EU being engaged in a material breach of its duties of good faith or other obligations, and thereby undermining the fundamental purpose of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

Shailesh Vara Portrait Mr Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire) (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that those who object to the clauses he has just mentioned should bear in mind the language that has been used by the EU in recent weeks in terms of what it interprets the Northern Ireland protocol to mean? It has denied the existence, as it is written on the face of the Northern Ireland protocol, of matters such as the internal market, unfettered trade and so on. So these provisions are necessary as a safety net—nothing more than a safety net. I say to the critics, “Just look at the language of the EU” and if they look at the language of the EU, they will see that these measures are perfectly reasonable.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I am grateful for that, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right. These are reasonable steps to act as a safety net.

In the statement I referred to, the Government also make it clear that

“in parallel with the use of these provisions it would always activate appropriate formal dispute settlement mechanisms with the aim of finding a solution through this route.”

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I have a lot to go through, and I know a number of speakers—

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will happily give way to the mover of that amendment. [Interruption.]

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Actually, to be fair, the Minister has just been dealing with new clause 8, which I have moved. I am very grateful for what he has said. He seemed to suggest that the new clause was not in itself wrong, but was not necessary. But will he accept that, certainly when this Bill goes to the House of Lords, it might be helpful for the Government to produce an idea like this as another arrow in the armoury to reassure those who want to use international law in the right way, if the EU acts unreasonably? The advantage of a unilateral interpretive declaration under the Vienna convention, is that we can do it in this way, so I am grateful to the Minister.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. Friend. It is right that he gets to speak as it is about his amendment. He is trying to be helpful in this regard, and I know that Ministers in the other place will take heed of his comments as they engage with colleagues there.

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Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes. [Interruption.]

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to come in at this point. There is no need to consider what steps would be taken in that scenario, given this new clause. It is open to the Government to accept the new clause and thus give clarity and comfort to businesses in Northern Ireland who do not know, but suspect, that there may be divergence, difference and associated costs. Nothing that he has said thus far would be injurious to his position or frustrate his hon. Friends in supporting the new clause this evening.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I heard cries from the Opposition Benches, but I think it is fair that I give way to Members who have tabled amendments.

We will obviously consider how we reduce the burden further, but we do not think it necessary at this stage to make such reporting a statutory requirement or, notwithstanding what the hon. Gentleman said, to frame it in the very broad terms set out in the new clause.

Amendment 17 deals within the mutual recognition of authorisations granted under the EU’s REACH—registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—regulation. It would automatically allow substances authorised to be placed on the market in Northern Ireland under REACH to be placed on the market in Great Britain. The acceptance of mutual recognition that we have introduced for chemicals in schedule 1 is there to allow the relevant authorities to respond to local factors. Authorisations granted by the EU after the end of the transition period will not take into consideration local conditions such as lower river flows or exposure levels where those chemicals are used in Great Britain. I would like to emphasise that authorisations relate to the use of substances of very high concern, such as chemicals that can cause cancer. It is important that the Government and devolved Administrations can take local factors into account in order to prevent avoidable harm to human health or the environment from the significant risks posed by such chemicals.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That response is in precisely the same terms as the one we received last week in Committee, but we are not touching on, or interested in, what the local considerations may be. The fact is that this Bill, even though we are talking about non-discrimination and the implications that there could be for business, envisages businesses having to adhere to and satisfy two separate regulatory regimes. We cannot square the circle between discrimination and non-discrimination in two separate and distinct legal regimes, whether there are local factors or not; we should have to adhere to only one. From a business perspective and an animal welfare perspective, it would be useful to have clarity. We can have one or the other, but definitely not both.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, and obviously we are moving towards that one regime, when we can, but we are also already committed to working on a common framework for chemicals and pesticides policy. That common framework is being co-created by the Government and the devolved Administrations, and will allow us to co-ordinate policy making on matters such as REACH authorisations. Through this framework, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations will be required to set out the strategic direction for the UK regulatory regime, ensuring that existing environmental, human health and workplace standards are maintained, or exceeded where possible.

Finally, I want to discuss the amendments that address the power to provide financial assistance. By creating a new power for the Government to provide financial assistance in the areas of infrastructure, economic development, culture and sports, and education and training activities, the Government will deliver on the commitments upon which they were elected: levelling up, delivering prosperity for all our citizens and strengthening the ties that bind our Union together.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister did not seem to mention amendment 16 when he went over that area. The amendment would remove clause 45, because legal experts fear that if the clause stands as it is, it will set up the Government against the courts. Will he explain why he thinks that is not the case?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think I have covered why those clauses should remain, although I did not specifically talk about the amendment.

I want to turn to amendments 18, 29 and 13, which together seek to remove the power to provide financial assistance. The Government are determined to deliver on those commitments, as I was saying. It is important that we strengthen the ties that bind our Union together, that we level up and that we deliver prosperity for all our citizens.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way at the moment.

Part 6 of the Bill, which includes clauses 46 and 47, helps us to achieve that. This part of the Bill confers a power to ensure that the UK Government can invest UK taxpayers’ money nationwide on UK priorities. In terms of immediate relevance, it would allow the Government to support people and businesses across the country to recover from covid-19. The Government have a responsibility to people, businesses and communities across the whole of the UK.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to make some progress.

This part of the Bill will allow the UK Government to complement and strengthen the support given to citizens in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales without taking away responsibilities from the devolved Administrations. New clause 6 will require by law all financial assistance given under part 6 to take into account the applicable climate, nature and environmental goals and targets. It will require that any financial assistance be accompanied by the Minister’s assessment of the project’s climate and nature emergency impact statement.

The Government are committed to ambitious climate targets, and next year we will lead the world in discussions at COP26. It is also crucial that the UK meets its domestic obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008 and its international obligations under the Paris agreement. The Climate Change Act requires Governments to set five-year carbon budgets towards meeting our target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, covering the whole of the UK.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Not for the moment.

Any net emissions increase from a particular policy or project is therefore managed within the Government’s overall strategy for meeting carbon budgets and the net zero target for 2050, as part of an economy-wide transition. Moreover, through the Environment Bill that was introduced into this House in January, the UK Government will have a power to set long-term, legally binding environmental targets across the breadth of the natural environment.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That whole section of the Minister’s speech was a perfect example of why he should not be objecting to this amendment. It is a helpful amendment that would simply ensure that the financial contributions would actually support all those lovely climate and nature objectives he has just talked about. EU structural funds have a requirement to align with sustainability. His Government keep telling us how Brexit gives us the opportunity to go further than EU environmental policy, so in that case, why does he not accept the amendment? Why is he flunking his first test?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have had non-viability and flunking today—I am doing well! I will come to this in a moment. We are framing this in a number of pieces of legislation. I have talked about the Environment Bill, which was introduced in January. It will require the Government to set at least one target for each of four priority areas: air quality, biodiversity, water and waste reduction, and resource efficiency. It will also protect the environment from future damage by—

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman keeps wanting to intervene. At least he has had the decency to put his name down on the speakers list this time, so maybe he will have a chance to make his points when he speaks later.

The Environment Bill will protect the environment from future damage by embedding environmental principles at the heart of policy development across Government, with clear and pragmatic guidance on their implementation. The environmental principles will be used by Ministers and policy makers to ensure that policy and legal frameworks help minimise the ill effects of human activity on the environment. Given the Government’s strong commitment already to meeting their ambitious climate targets, and the frameworks established under the Climate Change Act and proposed under the Environment Bill, I do not think that it is necessary to put such a legislative requirement in this Bill.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

--- Later in debate ---
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that a number of people want to speak. I hope that I have set out the rationale for the Government’s amendments to the Bill, and that hon. Members will support them. I trust that I have addressed in sufficient detail the Government’s objections to the amendments put forward by other hon. Members, and that they will therefore feel able to withdraw them. I look forward to engaging in the debate on this crucial Bill.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to speak to the new clauses in my name and those of my hon. and right hon. Friends.

Here we are again—day five in the new House of Commons series, “The Internal Market Bill Debates”. While the coronavirus crisis rages on, here we are again, watching Ministers justify a Bill that breaches an international agreement signed only months ago and that threatens to break up our United Kingdom. It is a shame that we will not hear from the Prime Minister again today on Third Reading, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) was hoping for a sequel. He will have to make do with the Prime Minister’s understudy, the Business Secretary—what fun.

If Government Members have not been tuning in to the previous episodes, let me repeat our position on this Bill. We support a strong, successful internal market that underpins a vibrant, prosperous Union, with the UK Parliament as the ultimate arbiter of that market. We do not want a Brexit rerun; we want to get on to the next series—you know, the one where the Prime Minister delivers on his oven-ready deal and gets a good trade deal with the EU? That one. That is what the trailers promised us, anyway, and it is what the Prime Minister promised us, too.

--- Later in debate ---
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank everybody who has spoken in the debate, and I once again thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have engaged with the Bill during its stages. This is likely to be my last contribution on this particular Bill—[Hon. Members: “More!”] I know, but I only have five minutes, and I want to pay tribute to my colleagues, the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), and the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), who have played an amazing role and worked so hard. I also pay tribute to my Bill team—Jon Robinson, Jeff Yen, Satchi Mahendran, Dom Entwistle, Henry Hutton, Phoebe Gould, Dominic Bull, James Frisby and, in my private office, Ollie Benbow-Wyke.

Those of us on the Government Benches have heard and participated in the passionate debates on the Bill during the past two weeks, and I pay tribute to all their considered contributions. My right hon. and hon. Friends have made some impassioned speeches about the need for business certainty and about why the Union is so much better together than apart.

The debates have obviously been passionate, because of the importance of the Bill, but some of the other speeches in this Chamber today, and on some of the Committee days, have been somewhat circular. We have heard that there will apparently not be a US trade deal, but that we will get chlorinated chicken. We have heard that we love devolved spending, but that we would rather it be done from Brussels. We have heard people celebrating 62 countries having left the UK at various points in their recent history. Not one of those has the UK pound or wanted to join a bigger political union such as—oh, I don’t know—the EU, for example.

None the less, we want to make sure that we can get on with the Bill, because it is so important to continuing to provide certainty for businesses as we seek to recover from covid-19, prepare for the opportunities after the transition period and protect jobs. The Bill will ensure UK businesses can trade across our four home nations in a way that helps them invest and create jobs, just as they have for hundreds of years. We will do that in a way that supports and enables one of the largest transfers of power in the history of devolution, while maintaining that certainty for businesses. That will be done in a way that preserves our high standards, whether environmental, food or animal welfare, and in any number of other areas. It is therefore crucial that we pass this Bill, and I commend it to the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before I put the question, there are likely to be Divisions, so, please, will only Front Benchers go out through the door in front of me? All Back Benchers must leave behind me, go down to Westminster Hall and join the queue. I am going to ask the Doorkeepers and the Whips to enforce that strictly, because we have to have social distancing.

I apologise to the seven MPs who were unable to get in. If anybody wishes to withdraw from Third Reading, please come and see me during the Division.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 4 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 5

Office for the Internal Market panel and task groups

“(1) The CMA may authorise an Office for the Internal Market task group constituted under Schedule 4 to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 to do anything required or authorised to be done by the CMA under this Part (and such an authorisation may include authorisation to exercise the power conferred on the CMA by this subsection).

(2) Schedule (Constitution etc of Office for the Internal Market panel and task groups) contains provision about the Office for the Internal Market panel and Office for the Internal Market task groups.” —(Paul Scully.)

This new clause enables functions of the Competition and Markets Authority under Part 4 to be carried out on the authority’s behalf by Office for the Internal Market task groups constituted under Schedule 4 to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013: see NS1. This new clause would be inserted after Clause 28.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 1

Withdrawal Agreement and Rule of Law Duty

‘(1) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part (Northern Ireland Protocol) applies must—

(a) respect the rule of law;

(b) allow for the possibility of judicial review of an enactment, decision, act or omission by the appropriate authority;

(c) use the provisions of Article 16 of the Protocol to protect the interests of the United Kingdom.

(2) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part applies must comply with the obligations of the United Kingdom under international law.

(3) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part applies must comply with—

(a) the requirement under Article 5 (Good faith) of the Withdrawal Agreement for the EU and the United Kingdom to assist each other in full mutual respect and good faith to carry out the tasks which flow from the Agreement;

(b) the requirement under Article 167 (Consultations and communications within the Joint Committee) for the EU and the United Kingdom to endeavour to resolve any dispute regarding the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Agreement by entering into consultations in the Joint Committee in good faith, with the aim of reaching a mutually agreed solution;

(c) the requirement under Article 184 (Negotiations on the future relationship) of the Withdrawal Agreement for the EU and the United Kingdom to use their best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders, to take the necessary steps to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship referred to in the Political Declaration of 17 October 2019 and to conduct the relevant procedures for the ratification or conclusion of those agreements, with a view to ensuring that those agreements apply, to the extent possible, as from the end of the transition period;

(d) the requirements of the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 10 April 1998 between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland and the other participants in the multi-party negotiations, which is annexed to the British-Irish Agreement of the same date.

(4) An appropriate authority exercising any function to which this Part applies must comply with the Human Rights Act 1998.’ —(Lucy Powell.)

This new clause is intended to replace Clauses 42, 43 and 45 of the Bill, to require Ministers to respect the rule of law and uphold the independence of the courts and the practice of judicial review, and to require UK Ministers to implement the Withdrawal Agreement.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

--- Later in debate ---
18:05

Division 113

Ayes: 256


Labour: 191
Scottish National Party: 48
Liberal Democrat: 10
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Independent: 2
Alliance: 1
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 350


Conservative: 342
Democratic Unionist Party: 8

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
00:00

Division 114

Ayes: 258


Labour: 191
Scottish National Party: 48
Liberal Democrat: 10
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Independent: 2
Alliance: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 351


Conservative: 343
Democratic Unionist Party: 8

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
18:35

Division 115

Ayes: 264


Labour: 191
Scottish National Party: 48
Liberal Democrat: 10
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 2
Alliance: 1
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 342


Conservative: 341

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
18:51

Division 116

Ayes: 256


Labour: 192
Scottish National Party: 46
Liberal Democrat: 8
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Independent: 2
Alliance: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 354


Conservative: 344
Democratic Unionist Party: 7

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
Alok Sharma Portrait The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Alok Sharma)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

More than 150 right hon. and hon. Members have spoken during the passage of the Bill so far. We have had around 30 hours of often passionate debate, and I pay tribute to Members across the House for their contributions. The Public Bill Office has been unstinting in its support to all Members and officials across Government, and I am incredibly grateful for all its work. I particularly wish to thank the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), and the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker) who have ably steered the Bill through Committee and Report.

The UK internal market is the bedrock of our shared economic and social prosperity as a country. Since the Acts of Union, it has been the source of unhindered and open trade, which has supported growth and safeguarded livelihoods and businesses. It demonstrates that, as a Union, our country is greater than the sum of its parts.

Since 1973, EU law has acted as the cohering force for the UK internal market. In 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union, which the Government delivered in January, and as we leave the transition period at the end of this year, the Government will leave the European Union’s legal jurisdiction once and for all. We need to replace this law to continue the smooth functioning of our centuries-old internal market, while of course also ensuring that the devolved Administrations benefit from a power surge from Brussels.

Shailesh Vara Portrait Mr Vara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fact is that there is nothing in this Bill that in any way compromises the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is deeply regrettable that some people, for political purposes, seek to unnecessarily scaremonger, and that they should desist from doing so?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I will come on to it. As I was saying, we need to replace the law to continue the smooth functioning of our centuries-old internal market, while also ensuring that devolved Administrations benefit from that power surge from Brussels. The Bill will do precisely that.

Our approach will give businesses the regulatory clarity and certainty they want. It will ensure that the cost of doing business in the UK stays as low as possible, and it will do so without damaging and costly regulatory barriers emerging between the different parts of the United Kingdom. I cannot overstate the importance of this economic continuity Bill, especially as we seek to recover from covid-19. It is ultimately designed to safeguard jobs and livelihoods, protect businesses, give choice to consumers and continue to showcase the United Kingdom as a beacon for inward investment. That is why this legislation is so vital.

My Department and I, along with colleagues across Government, have spoken to a large number of businesses and business representative organisations across the whole of the United Kingdom about our proposals to safeguard our internal market. Businesses have overwhelmingly backed our approach. The British Chambers of Commerce has stressed that

“A fragmented system would create additional costs, bureaucracy and supply chain challenges that could disrupt operations for firms across the UK.”

NFU Scotland has emphasised the importance of protecting the UK internal market, stating:

“NFU Scotland’s fundamental priority, in the clear interest of Scottish agriculture as well as the food and drinks sector it underpins, is to ensure the UK Internal Market effectively operates as it does now.”

I could go on. Make UK has noted that it is particularly important to manufacturers that they can trade simply and effectively across all parts of the United Kingdom. The business community is clear: we must continue to safeguard the sanctity of the seamless UK internal market.

The Bill also respects and upholds the devolution settlements—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) says it does not. He will get a large number of powers—an unprecedented level of powers—back after the transition period. If he does not want them, he ought to stand up and say that, but the reality is that he is against this Bill because he wants to be shackled to the European Union forever. That is the reason he is against this—

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that I am talking nonsense. He just needs to re-read his Second Reading speech and he will see that it is full of inaccuracies. We have engaged in good faith with the devolved Administrations throughout the passage of the Bill. It was very unfortunate that the Scottish Government decided to walk away from the discussions on the internal market last year and, as I said, we want to continue to work constructively.



Let me turn briefly to the Northern Ireland element of this business Bill, which has attracted a disproportionate amount of interest and commentary. I and every Member on the Government Benches stood on a manifesto commitment to ensure that Northern Ireland businesses and producers enjoy unfettered access to the rest of United Kingdom, and that in the implementation of our Brexit deal we would maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market. The Bill delivers on those commitments. We have also been clear that we must protect the gains of the peace process and maintain the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State is absolutely right that the Bill has no impact at all on the Good Friday agreement, and, indeed, is only helpful to the economy in Northern Ireland—but only helpful in a limited way. He talked about access to the UK internal market for Northern Ireland goods going into GB, but will he say something about the opposite direction? Northern Ireland depends so highly on imports from GB, and yet there is no mention of safeguards to stop trade being blocked in that direction.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman knows that discussions continue. He and I have had those discussions as well. But he makes the point that this is a business Bill, and I hope that every Member, like him, will support it on Third Reading.

We have taken these powers to ensure that, in the event that we do not reach an agreement with our EU friends on how to implement the protocol, we are able to deliver on promises in our manifesto and in the Command Paper. This is a legal safety net that clarifies our position on the Northern Ireland protocol, protecting our Union, businesses and jobs.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Irish Foreign Minister said recently that this Bill undermines the EU withdrawal legislation, has damaged trust between the Irish and UK negotiating teams, and is damaging Britain’s reputation globally. Does that give the Secretary of State any cause for concern?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This has been debated over the long passage of the Bill in this House. As the hon. Lady and other Members will know, we introduced an amendment in Committee that provides a break-glass mechanism that ensures that the safety net will come into force only if a motion in this House is passed with a requirement for a take-note debate in the other place. I hope that will allow her to vote for the Bill on Third Reading.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

--- Later in debate ---
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not; I am now winding up.

This Bill provides the certainty that businesses want and need to invest and create jobs. It helps to maintain high standards and choice for consumers while keeping prices down. It reaffirms our commitment to devolution, supporting one of the biggest transfers of power to the devolved Administrations. It allows the Government to invest further in communities across the United Kingdom. This is about levelling up across the whole of the UK and strengthening our precious Union, which some would want to put at risk. I am a Unionist, as is the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband); neither of us are separatists. Above all, the Bill continues to preserve the UK internal market that has been an engine of growth and prosperity for centuries. In voting for this Bill, we protect our constituents’ jobs, businesses and livelihoods. I commend it to the House.

--- Later in debate ---
Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is correct. You know, we were told after the referendum in Scotland in 2014 that Scotland’s place would be respected and that we were to lead the United Kingdom, and here we find not just our Parliament in Edinburgh but the Administrations in Cardiff and in Northern Ireland being ignored. We can refuse to give consent, as we are doing, to this Bill, but the Government carry on regardless. Where is that respect for devolution? Where is the respect for the people of Scotland? In a referendum in 1997, 75% of the people of Scotland voted for a Parliament. It is not the SNP’s Parliament. it is not the Scottish Government’s Parliament; it is the Parliament of the people of Scotland—the Parliament of the people of Scotland when the Scotland Act 1998 was passed that gave powers over devolved matters. What those on the Government Benches refuse to see—what the rest of us can see—is that this Parliament is giving itself the power to override the Scottish Parliament in health, in education, in transport and in housing.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, it’s not.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can hear the Secretary of State shouting, but it is his Bill and I suggest he reads it, because clauses 46 and 47 are very clear: powers over infrastructure, including

“water, electricity, gas, telecommunications, sewerage or other services… railway facilities (including rolling stock), roads or other transport facilities… health, educational, cultural or sports facilities”.

The Secretary of State can sit and tell us that it does not override devolution. Well, the facts are in the Bill. What the Government have done is overridden devolution and, quite frankly, I can tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, we in Scotland will be having absolutely none of it.

So tonight, just as—[Interruption.] You can chunter and shout all you like, but at the end of the day, the people in Scotland have been watching what has been going on over the past few months, with Scotland being disregarded. The fact is that we won the election in Scotland last December on the right of Scotland to choose its own future. We had no desire to be taken out of the European Union against our will. In England, you can choose to do what you want as far as Brexit is concerned, but we do not—

--- Later in debate ---
Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand why the hon. Gentleman makes that call, but we should not be relying on the Members of the House of Lords; they are unelected. The fact is that this place has not done its job to defend the rule of law, or to protect devolution. I feel for Labour Members who were responsible, under Blair’s Government, for bringing devolution in, because everything that was established under that programme has been undermined. There is a real call to everyone in Scotland, regardless of whether they voted for the SNP in the past, to recognise the maxim that power devolved is power retained.

People in the past have said to me, “Could Westminster shut down the Scottish Parliament?” I have argued in the past that that would be fanciful. Nobody could believe that our Parliament could be attacked in such a way, but what is happening with this Bill is that our Parliament, which has had the support of the people of Scotland—

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is getting more power.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is being usurped. It is not getting more power—read the Bill. Read clauses 46 and 47, and read clause 48, which takes away from Scotland the powers that we have over state aid. When I look at the Government Benches, it really is Trumpesque—twisting the truth beyond reality.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is correct. It is perhaps worth reminding the House, in this context, that we have the joint ministerial committees, which recognise their responsibility to put frameworks in place.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear the hon. Lady saying that they have done, and she is quite right about that, because the Governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast recognised the need to work together, where it was appropriate, in creating the circumstances to ensure that there was continuation of a market across these islands. The commitment that I make, and that my party and my Government make, is that we will work constructively with the Government in London to ensure that that happens, but the rug has been pulled from under that by a UK Government who have introduced this Bill, who legislate for the market that they want to create and who attack the fact that we have provisions in Scotland in areas such as the environment, food standards and building standards, which we can no longer defend.

There will be a race to the bottom in accepting the lowest standards, and there is not a single thing that we can do about it. There is not a single thing that we can do to protect our food standards once this takes place. The Secretary of State is shaking his head, but we already have differences in, for example, pasteurised milk. What will happen post this? We will not have the ability to keep the uniqueness of our regulations. What happens to support for our crofters and farmers, for example?

The responsibility falls tonight on this House to do the right thing. I obviously understand if those on the Government Benches are unwilling to take advice from me and my party, but they would do well to listen to the strength of the arguments emanating from some on their own Benches. During Committee, the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), gave a powerful and insightful analysis of the dangers of this legislation. Her words are worth repeating for those left on the Conservative Benches who are not yet card-carrying members of Cummings and the Prime Minister’s ideological cabal. She concluded her remarks by warning:

“I consider that, in introducing clauses 41 to 45, the Government are acting recklessly and irresponsibly, with no thought to the long-term impact on the United Kingdom’s standing in the world. It will lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation and puts its future at risk.”—[Official Report, 21 September 2020; Vol. 680, c. 668.]

Those are stark words from the former Prime Minister on what the Government are doing to trash the reputation of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Member for Maidenhead and I may not agree on much, but few could deny that not only were those words powerful, but they are very likely to be proven prophetic.—[Interruption.] I hear a comment, “Too long. It is not fair on everyone else.” I will tell Labour Front Benchers what is not fair. It is what has been done to Scotland tonight. I have the right, as the leader of the Scottish National party at Westminster, to make sure our voices are heard, and I tell the House that the SNP voices will be heard and will be heard without apology.

Despite the bluff and bluster we have repeatedly heard, none of us are fooled that this is some kind of benign business Bill. We know the real intent of this legislation: after 21 years of devolution, the Tories are stripping powers from our Scottish Parliament. The Tories did not support devolution and now they see the popularity of the Scottish Government and they do not like it. It is little wonder why, because that support for the Scottish Government stands in direct contrast to the unpopularity of Tory Governments from Westminster.

Earlier today, the Scottish social attitudes survey showed that public trust in the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interest was at more than four times the trust shown in the UK Government. The survey, conducted in 2019-20, before lockdown, shows that people were nearly five times more likely to say that the Scottish Government should have more influence on how the country is run than that the UK Government should. Some 61% of people trusted the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s best interest, which compares with a record low of 15% for the UK Government—and you can bet your boots that after what has happened tonight it will be a lot lower now than the 15% that was recorded.

--- Later in debate ---
20:05

Division 117

Ayes: 256


Labour: 194
Scottish National Party: 46
Liberal Democrat: 10
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Independent: 2
Alliance: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 348


Conservative: 340
Democratic Unionist Party: 8

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.
--- Later in debate ---
20:21

Division 118

Ayes: 340


Conservative: 340

Noes: 256


Labour: 192
Scottish National Party: 48
Liberal Democrat: 10
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Independent: 2
Alliance: 1
Green Party: 1

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.