There have been 10 exchanges between Baroness Morgan of Cotes and Department for Exiting the European Union
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||3 interactions (848 words)|
|Mon 11th March 2019||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Changes||3 interactions (133 words)|
|Tue 11th December 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018: Statutory Obligations on Ministers||3 interactions (81 words)|
|Mon 22nd October 2018||Leaving the EU: Meaningful Vote||3 interactions (83 words)|
|Wed 7th February 2018||European Free Trade Association (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (125 words)|
|Tue 12th December 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||9 interactions (2,218 words)|
|Tue 7th November 2017||Exiting the EU: Sectoral Analysis||3 interactions (107 words)|
|Thu 26th October 2017||Leaving the EU: Parliamentary Vote||3 interactions (108 words)|
|Tue 17th October 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||3 interactions (96 words)|
|Thu 7th September 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||13 interactions (1,088 words)|
Order. A five-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches must now apply with immediate effect.
The debate is proving to be thoughtful and considered. It is the debate that we should have had two years ago. There was an appetite from all parts of the House and from all different perspectives to have such a debate more than two years ago. There was also a spirit across the House—among those who voted leave and those who voted remain—to come together and find a way to make the process work. It is why so many Members from all parts of the House voted for article 50, but also put forward proposals through Select Committees and different debates, and wanted the chance to table amendments. That is why I called for a cross-party commission to oversee the negotiations from the very beginning. Sadly, that did not happen and the Prime Minister did not want to do things that way. That is why we are in this terrible mess and our constituents are tearing their hair out. Whether they voted leave or remain, people are feeling deeply frustrated and let down.
Just as our constituents—employers and trade unions, neighbours and friends, different parts of communities—come together to compromise and sort things out, it is our responsibility to do that now. The proposal to hold indicative votes was important. We will all have to compromise and vote for motions, parts of which we do not necessarily agree with. We might not agree with every single bit of a motion or an idea, but we might think there is the basis for finding some form of compromise.
When the CBI, which represents 190,000 British businesses, and the TUC, which represents 5.6 million British workers, come together to describe a national emergency, there is a responsibility on us to act. They spoke with other members of a national industrial coalition in Parliament this morning, in a meeting that the right hon. Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) called. They said that a plan B that protects workers, the economy and an open Irish border, commands a parliamentary majority, and is negotiable with the EU must be found. That is why I have put my name to the customs union motion. I have called for that from the beginning and I think it can be the basis of finding consensus and building agreement.
Businesses in our area—our big manufacturers, Burberry and Haribo; local retailers and distributors such as Asda and Teva; small businesses and traders, farmers and florists—have all warned that they need a deal that avoids border delays, tariffs or extra customs bureaucracy. It is why we heard from the motor manufacturers, the National Farmers Union and the aerospace sector in the meeting this morning. They all called for a customs union, which is at the heart of Labour motion (K) on an alternative Brexit approach. It is also why the TUC argued for the importance of the common market 2.0 approach.
In the motions and in points that Members of all parties have made, there is a range of options that we should consider and that mean we can continue to oppose the chaos of no deal, which would be deeply damaging to all our constituents. I keep very much in mind the words of a friend in Pontefract, who I talked to last week. He is waiting for radiotherapy but does not know whether the treatment will be delayed because no deal could put at risk the supply of the short-life isotopes that are needed for radiotherapy. In his interests and those of patients in all our constituencies, as well as constituents who could be hit by higher food, fuel and utilities prices in the event of a chaotic no deal, we must continue to argue against it.
I take a different approach from that suggested by motion (L), because I think that in those circumstances we should argue for more time with the European Union to try to get a resolution and, frankly, to sort things out.
Whatever the outcome today and on Monday, we are going to have to do two things that the Government have fundamentally failed to do—get clarity on what Brexit means and build consensus. We are talking about constitutional change, and nothing lasts without consensus. On Scottish and Welsh devolution, consensus was built and it lasted. On the Lisbon and Maastricht treaties, consensus was not built and support for them has not endured. The same is true in this situation. Unless clear consensus can be built, public consent or a public vote will be needed through a general election or referendum; otherwise it will not last. It is in all of our interests to build consensus, come together and do what we should have done two years ago.
The right hon. Gentleman, who is the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee, asked me a series of questions, and I think that he knows I cannot answer them all. My Secretary of State has reiterated to me that he is keen to give evidence to the Select Committee tomorrow, so perhaps he can update the right hon. Gentleman and his Committee on all those issues.
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. Of course we should pass this agreement, but it is vital that the Prime Minister has gone in to negotiate right up to the last moment so that she can address the concerns of this House. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the letter from the Presidents took some steps to address those concerns, but we have sought, and we will continue to seek, legally binding changes.
I have great respect for the right hon. Lady. I understand that she came to this House expecting to have a row about the Government’s interpretation, and I understand the questions she has just asked. I am responding to this urgent question because my Department is responsible for the legislation that enacts the deal, and I have given her our very clear interpretation of that legislation, which is that we will have a motion before the House by 21 January, in all the different scenarios I talked through in my statement.
The answer to the right hon. Lady is very clear. We respect the decision made by this House that the Government should come back to the House with a motion in the event that no deal had been agreed or in the event that this House had rejected a deal. That is clear from my statement.
What we are therefore saying is that there will be a motion by 21 January, and I agree with the right hon. Lady—I would much rather it were, and I fully expect it to be, sooner. I fully expect this House to have the opportunity to debate a withdrawal agreement that it is able to support. So let us work together to achieve that, but let us not allow some of the conspiracy theories and the scare stories that have been told about this to run away when I have just clarified the Government’s position.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s words, and I am happy to give that categorical assurance. As my statement reflected, we will be putting a motion before Parliament, even in the circumstances that no deal was before the House, but I strongly believe and expect that there will be a deal before this House, which I will be urging Parliament to support.
I always respect the views of the Select Committee Chair, but the position is set out in the memorandum. We think it the proper course to ensure both a meaningful vote to which substantive amendments can be tabled and a clear decision on the outcome.
We do not comment on legal advice, but obviously we took advice continually throughout the progress of the EU withdrawal Act, and the issue of section 13—the process and the need for it—and the importance of having a clear and decisive outcome to the meaningful vote, which is the surest way to make sure it is meaningful and substantive, were discussed at length during the passage of that Act.
My right hon. Friend is of course a lawyer and I am not, but I have had conversations with the president of the EFTA court, Mr Baudenbacher, and he would agree that her interpretation is correct and what she describes would be possible. That is only one opinion, but it is that of the president of the EFTA court and therefore it clearly carries some weight and some merit.
The EFTA court has made divergent decisions from the ECJ on numerous occasions. In fact, because the EFTA court deals with cases more quickly, it often hears the novel cases first, and in some cases the ECJ follows the EFTA court. The EFTA court’s rulings are only advisory domestically, so it cannot overrule our sovereign court, the Supreme Court. Again, the point is that we would be heavily involved in influencing.
My right hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Treasury Committee, is right. One great virtue of what we are talking about today is that we are looking at where the UK is at its best, in that we are looking at the economics rather than becoming obsessed with ideology about some of the political points. This proposal solves many of the legal arguments and gives economic certainty to businesses and citizens, which is clearly what the House wants.
This is exactly the point, is it not? Under this form of legislation Ministers will not be as accountable to this House. I am also of the view that environmental legislation, for example, has been well served by the European Parliament, so I have to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman.
Parliamentary scrutiny would be severely limited by the form of statutory instrument being proposed, but the sheer volume of secondary legislation that is likely to be washing through the system will render effective parliamentary scrutiny almost impossible. We need checks and balances inserted into the system to ensure that there is not legislation made in haste for which we all repent at leisure. I welcome the fact that at least a sifting committee has been accepted by the Government, but it does not go far enough. It would be a sensible argument for this secondary legislation, where it is necessary, to be subject to the super-affirmative procedure. I would like to hear from Ministers why that has not been considered or, if it has, why it has been rejected. Such an approach would not solve the problem, but it would, at least, nod in the direction of solving it.
We also have to recognise that other Administrations have a substantial interest in these decisions, and a degree of co-operation and respect is required. Therefore, “taking back control” has to have an element of that good, old-fashioned, EU principle of subsidiarity. Decisions that have large impacts on the devolved Administrations should be co-decisions. That is why the Joint Ministerial Committee should be involved in making them; it is why there should be proper consultation across the Administrations before changes are made to social security provisions; and it is why there should be consent from the Welsh and Scottish Administrations for any changes to the law that affect provisions within devolved competences.
We have heard the opinions of parliamentary Committees and of outside bodies. I know that experts are not viewed particularly favourably on the Government Benches, but they do have an important role to play, and many experts, including the Law Society of Scotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, have expressed serious concerns. Those concerns should be heeded in this place and heard by Ministers. It is clear that the furious Brexiteers who drove on when sensible voices were urging caution have ignored this advice:
“Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
That it do singe yourself.”
Did my right hon. Friend share my puzzlement at the answer that the Minister gave to that point at the Dispatch Box? It seemed an argument was being made that Dublin III requires co-operation that would be impossible to guarantee. As I understood it, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and my right hon. Friend herself are both recommending a change in our immigration law to ensure that we parallel the situation that currently obtains under Dublin III.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proposed changes to the standing orders are particularly welcome in that they provide specifically for the new committee, as I understand it—I am looking for approval from the Chair of the Procedure Committee —to use the Select Committees that deal with each Department to look in detail at the departmental statutory instruments, so we will have real expertise available?
My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does she agree that although time is short and there is a great deal of urgency to get this done, it seems that the House is up for it, and that we will find the time and the sense of vim and vigour to really exercise our scrutiny function?
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. It is a real privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan). I rise to speak primarily to new clause 18 and to new clauses 24 and 27 and amendment 124. I will also speak more broadly to a range of amendments that have been selected for today’s debate.
Clause 7, which today’s proceedings are primarily concerned with, stands as a significant extension of the powers available to Ministers of the Crown. The speech by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose) went to the heart of the debate we have had today in relation to what he called the principle of necessity. His test for whether clause 7 stands worthy to pass through to the next stage of the legislative process is, “Does it meet the principle of necessity or go beyond the test necessary to meet the principle of necessity?” I would suggest that, as it stands, the clause does not meet that test.
The right hon. Member for Loughborough made a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) made at the beginning of today’s proceedings: one of the key questions relating to that test is whether Members of Parliament in the future will look back at what we do today and over the next few months and determine that we gave Ministers too much power in this Bill. For me, that is one of the real questions at the heart of the principle the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare outlined earlier.
As it stands, the only pieces of legislation safeguarded in the clause are the Human Rights Act 1998 and some aspects of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. As has been pointed out many times this afternoon, not even the Bill is safe from the hands of Ministers once enacted. As drafted, the Bill will give Ministers flexibility way above and beyond what is necessary, allowing them to create or amend any legislation on the UK statute book to mitigate any failure or deficiency in retained EU law.
I am not convinced that my constituents—even those who voted to leave the European Union—possess the sort of blind faith the Government seem to be asking for, and I certainly do not have that blind faith at the moment. Indeed, a number of parliamentarians on both sides of the Chamber clearly have significant reservations. Further, of course, I am not persuaded that such sweeping powers are necessary.
I understand that the time constraints associated with the article 50 process and the volume of legislative amendments required to implement Brexit put pressures on the Government—I totally acknowledge that. I also understand that putting all the corrections into the Bill at this stage would be entirely impractical and that the Government do require flexibility to respond to all eventualities as negotiations with the European Union take place. In that sense, the spirit of the debate today has been very helpful, and the Government have to concede that most of the contributions have been made with the intention of improving the Bill and ensuring that it works in protecting the legislation we want to transpose into UK law.
Even so, as I have said already, the powers the Bill asks for are too broadly defined and risk undermining the sovereignty of Parliament. There is a balance to be struck between giving the Government the necessary tools to implement Brexit and not forgoing parliamentary scrutiny. What the Bill proposes does not strike that balance, which is why I support new clause 24 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), which stands as a really serious attempt to define properly the principle of necessity.
Just last year, the Brexit Secretary told the Commons Select Committee that he did not foresee any major or material changes being made by delegated legislation. If that is not necessary, what possible justification can he have for including such sweeping powers in the Bill?
In its recent report, the Lords Constitution Committee outlined a number of requirements of Bills granting Henry VIII powers. In essence, it recommended that the breadth of any powers given should be as narrow as possible, which is clearly not so in this case. This point is furthered by the Supreme Court justice, Lord Neuberger, who says that
“the more general the words used by Parliament to delegate a power, the more likely it is that an exercise within the literal meaning of the words will nevertheless be outside the legislature’s contemplation.”
In other words, the broader the powers given, the more likely that, if exercised, litigation will follow. That point was made very powerfully by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), and the Government do need to respond to it.
In their March 2017 White Paper, the Government said that their proposed procedures represented
“the beginning of a discussion between Government and Parliament as to the most pragmatic and effective approach to take in this area.”
I am afraid that so far, despite the concessions made, we have not got there. There are issues relating to the scope of the Bill that have been very clearly articulated today. Amendment 392, accepted by the Government, represents progress, but it does not go far enough because it deals only with part of the problem.
Triage is fine, but at the end of the day the scrutiny process does not allow Parliament to amend or send back a statutory instrument for further consideration by the Government. That is a real weakness in the scrutiny system that must be addressed, as the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield said. That is why I support new clause 18, which gives Parliament the chance to look properly and in depth at what is needed to ensure that Parliament has proper powers of scrutiny over the delegated legislation process in relation to this Bill. The Hansard Society report gives us a really good start in that process. The Government have no need to be alarmed about new clause 18. This can be done reasonably quickly, and Parliament has the right to expect it.
The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) is not here to speak to her new clause 27, which is a shame, because the environment is at the very heart of the Brexit process, yet so far it has been fairly peripheral to the debate. If we are going to get Brexit right, the Government need to understand that environmental standards are the one thing that matters to every citizen in this country. Everybody who voted in the referendum, whether leave or remain, will expect the Government to maintain environmental standards at least to the level where they are now.
The material that we hold includes commercially sensitive material and material that is relevant to our negotiating position. The House has previously voted not to release information that would be prejudicial to our negotiating position. If we were to give the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee the original reports commissioned at the beginning of the Department’s life, he would find that that material was incomplete and out of date. It is our intention to satisfy the motion by providing to him information that is relevant, timely and correct.
As I think I said to the right hon. Gentleman’s Committee yesterday, negotiating that during the transition would put us at a negotiating disadvantage. The House was promised, in respect of the approval of the negotiations, that all three elements—the divorce, as he terms it, the transition and the long-term arrangement—would be put to the House together. That is the best way to assess this whole thing. The hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) said that the decision should be made on the whole facts—all the decisions, all the facts.
We are in a negotiation. As the hon. Gentleman quite rightly points out, we have been talking for five rounds so far, and indeed I had another meeting with Mr Juncker and Mr Barnier last night. Let us just see what the European Council comes out with on Friday, shall we?
I am obviously a very bad communicator: I thought I was suggesting that workplace rights, environmental rights and consumer rights should only be capable of being taken away by primary legislation. If there is any doubt, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that when I say primary legislation I mean legislation in this House; I thought that was taken as read.
I am grateful for that intervention and agree with it.
May I move on to other rights, because they are dealt with more severely? Clause 5(4) singles out the charter of fundamental rights for extinction. There are thousands of provisions that are being converted into our law and will have to be modified in some cases to arrive in our law, but only one provision in the thousands and thousands has been singled out for extinction—the charter of fundamental rights. As the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) argued in an article published yesterday, the principles of the charter provide
“essential safeguards for individuals and businesses”.
That has been particularly important in the fields of LGBT rights, children’s rights and the rights of the elderly.
The Secretary of State asks why this matters. I have here the High Court judgment in the case of David Davis MP, Tom Watson MP and others v. the Secretary of State for the Home Department. This was in 2015, when the present Prime Minister was Home Secretary. David Davis the Back Bencher was bringing to court the now Prime Minister. He will recall that he was challenging the provisions of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014. He was concerned that they would impinge on the ability of MPs to have confidential communications from their constituents. He continued to make that point in debates that we were having a year or two ago. In his argument, he cited the charter. His lawyers made the argument that the charter was important because it went further than the European convention on human rights and therefore provided added protection.
I will not read out paragraph 80 of the judgment, although I am sure that the Secretary of State is familiar with it. As he knows, the Court found in his favour—he was right: the charter did enhance his rights—and rejected the arguments of Mr Eadie, the distinguished QC representing the then Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister. So when the Secretary of State asks whether this move will make any difference, the answer is yes. We can see that from his case. I suspect that if he were still on the Back Benches, he would now be talking to me and others over a cup of coffee about how we should fiercely oppose clause 5(4) and ensure that it came out of the Bill.
Break in Debate
I am afraid that time is now rather limited.
I am very much in favour of our Parliament making these decisions. The admirable principles we are discussing will often be reflected in British law. They are already reflected in many of the bits of legislation that are the subject of this Bill, and our judges will often be informed by them. If the judges start to use a principle that we do not like very much, it is in the hands of those of us who are in Parliament to issue new guidance to those judges— to say that we are creating more primary legislation to ensure that we have a bit more of this principle and a bit less of that—on our area of disagreement with them. In a democracy, it is most important that we have independent courts, but also that, ultimately, the sovereign people through their elected representatives can move the judges on by proper instruction; in our case, that takes the form of primary legislation.
Much has been made of how we implement whatever agreement we get, if we have an agreement, at the end of the now 19-month process in the run-up to our exit on 29 March. I think people are making heavy weather of this, because the main issue that will eventually be settled—I fear it will be settled much later than the press and Parliament would like—is how we will trade with our former partners on the date on which we depart.
There are two off-the-shelf models, either of which would work. In one, the EU decides, in the end, that it does not want tariffs on all its food products and cars coming into the UK market, and it does not want us creating new barriers against its very successful exports, so it agrees that we should register our existing arrangements as a free trade agreement at the World Trade Organisation. That would be a ready-made free trade agreement.
I do not think that there is time to make a special free trade agreement that is not as good as the one we have at the moment. Either we will have the current arrangements, as modified for WTO purposes, when we are outside the Union, or we will not. If we do not, we will trade on WTO terms when we are on the other side of the EU’s customs and tariff arrangements. We know exactly what that looks like, because that is how we trade with the rest of the world at the moment as an EU member.
The EU imposes very high tariff barriers on what would otherwise be cheaper food from the rest of the world, but if it decided on that option, its food would, of course, be on the wrong side of that barrier as well. We would have to decide how much we wanted to negotiate tariffs down for food from other countries around the world, which may offer us a better deal. It would be quite manageable; food is the only sector that would be badly affected by the tariff proposals under the WTO. More than half our trade would not be tariffable under WTO rules, and services obviously attract no tariffs. I have yet to hear any of the other member states recommend imposing tariffs on their trade with us, or recommend a series of new barriers to get in the way of other aspects of our trade. We will have to wait and see how that develops.
I am saying that either way, we could get a good deal. If the EU decides that it wants to impose tariffs on its food exports to us, we will be able take tariffs off food that comes from other parts of the world. Under WTO rules, it is always possible to take tariffs off. We could start getting from the rest of the world food that is cheaper than that which we currently get from the EU, even though it does not attract tariffs. I want to look after customers.
The other thing is that if we just accepted the full WTO tariff rules, we would have about £12 billion of tariffs, and I would recommend that all of that £12 billion be given back to our consumers. They would be no worse off at all, because we would return the money to them. They might even be better off, if we did free trade deals that brought down the price of food from other parts of the world.
My final point to the Government is that there is an issue about how we decide the date of our departure. I think it is clear that our date of departure will be 29 March 2019. It will definitely be so if we do not have an agreement, which is still quite possible, but I think we should aim to make sure that we leave on that date even if we do have an agreement. We still have 19 months left, and that should be the transition for most of the things that need it. That is, surely, what the time is there to achieve. I recommend that we have the argument of substance over that date now, and that it be put in the Bill now. I recommend very strongly that we aim for 29 March 2019, because in one scenario that will be the date of our exit anyway, and in any other scenario it would be highly desirable.
People are always telling me that we need to reduce uncertainty. If we told them not only that all the laws would remain in place—getting rid of any uncertainty about the law—but that the date of our exit would definitely be 29 March 2019, we would have taken a lot of uncertainty out of the system. I think that that would be very welcome. I find that businesses now, on the whole, just want to get on with it. They are very realistic, and they want to know what they are planning for. They have got some of the details, but they want as many details as possible. If we put that firm date in, we would make it easier still, so I would recommend that change to the Government.
Break in Debate
Thank you; many congratulations to the hon. Lady. The five-minute time limit is now restored.
Will my right hon. Friend advise ardent leavers, possibly those on the Government Benches, that there is a real danger that the amount of money that might be paid to the European Union by way of what we call this divorce bill could be decided by the Government without report or redress in this place by virtue of clause 9?
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) on a speech that was fluent, forceful and, at the same time, generous to her predecessor. Her speech has also made me determined me to visit Canterbury, which sounds such a delightful place.
I have a few points: on why people voted to leave in the referendum; on where the Bill stands in relation to why people voted to leave; and on how all the other aspects of Brexit are going, and how they relate back to why people voted as they did. There may be other areas, but there are three that I think are most relevant. First, people voted to restore the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. However they define that sovereignty, the issue was certainly debated forcefully, and it was occasionally raised on the doorstep—I use the word “occasionally” advisedly.
Secondly, people voted to restore some kind of economic independence. People felt that we were spending too much money in Europe and that we would be better off outside, where we could negotiate better trade arrangements with the rest of the world—everything in the garden would be rosy. Thirdly, the issue most commonly raised with me on the doorstep was immigration.
I will briefly address those three points. On the first issue of sovereignty, the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) can dance on the head of a pin all they want about what the Bill actually does but, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) so forensically demonstrated, the Bill is a transfer of power from Parliament and towards the Executive. That certainly is not what the people in my constituency voted for.
Secondly, on economic independence, apart from the fact that it will potentially cost us £70 billion just to walk away, people did not vote for a worse trade deal and for worse economic relationships within the European community. Okay, I accept that the Prime Minister says, “You can’t leave and, at the same time, be a member of the single market. You cannot leave and, at the same time, be a member of the customs union.” I am sure she is right, but let us be honest about what we know the Government are seeking to do.