David Hanson contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

Wed 3rd April 2019 European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
29 interactions (1,773 words)

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
David Hanson Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd April 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Department for Exiting the European Union
David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 7:26 p.m.

On a point of order, Sir Lindsay. To be helpful and while we are awaiting the formal written list, could you advise us at what stage you will take Third Reading before 10 o’clock? It would be interesting to know how long we have to discuss the amendments, which will be forthcoming shortly.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman - Hansard

If the Committee takes up all the time, there will be no Third Reading. That is up to the Committee, which is why I want to make progress and get to some of the speeches. I am looking around to see who wishes to speak.

Break in Debate

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 7:55 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for all that. One problem with this whole negotiation is getting hung up over some clause or other in some EU treaty when we all—we or the UE—face a much bigger dilemma: how do we settle this political crisis? We have to consider how we find a resolution to this dispute, and achieve a reconciliation in our country and an outcome to this debate that can settle the Brexit argument and deliver the referendum result from 2016.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 7:55 p.m.

Does the Bill, as drafted, not give the Prime Minister—I am surprised at myself for saying this—the flexibility to discuss with Opposition parties and come to a conclusion as to the best date, in the interests of achieving the very objectives the hon. Gentleman has set?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 7:56 p.m.

Yes, but it does so through a Bill and it gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to make her case to Parliament, but without any constraint on that at all. Given that this is a very novel legal approach—a rushed piece of legislation, with a Bill being driven through the House in one day—we should be cautious about the scope we attach to that Bill. Attaching an ability to go for a very long extension of several years—potentially five years if Parliament decided that is what it wanted—is worthy of further deliberation.

Break in Debate

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:13 p.m.

I think my right hon. Friend’s comments were directed at my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson), rather than directly at me, so I will not become engaged in this discussion.

Regarding the provisions for subsections (6) and (7), the question still remains of what would happen if there were a counter-offer from the European Union. My contention is that that should then be a matter for the Government to bring before the House in a statement, to be challenged in the usual way. If at that point the House was unsatisfied with the Government’s proposal, it would still be open to it, through an initiative of the sort we have seen today, to introduce a Bill placing a further constraint on the Government, perhaps by requiring them to accept a counter-offer, for instance of a two-year extension, so that we could have a fuller, longer and perhaps more considered debate on what in my view would be a really big decision, because we would have gone five years since the first referendum and achieved nothing. The risk of not leaving the European Union at all and ending up arguing about a second referendum would grow. I believe that opting for such a lengthy extension would a very big decision, and one that would warrant a separate Bill with a separate, much longer and much more detailed discussion.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:15 p.m.

I hope that the Committee will bear with me, because the amendments were tabled only very recently. However, I think that they deserve exploration. I support the drafting amendments tabled my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). Having served on nearly 50 Public Bill Committees during my time in the House, I know that Governments bring forward amendments to correct drafting errors during the course of proceedings, and there will be an opportunity for further such amendments when the Bill is considered in the Lords. What my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman are seeking to do, in principle, is to rule out a no-deal scenario, and that is vital for the House.

The Bill, as currently drafted—in clause 1(2)—leaves open the date for leaving until the Prime Minister brings back a measure. The amendments that I wish to speak against tonight are those indicating that there should be definitive dates for the closure of that discussion by the Prime Minister. As I said when I intervened on the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), I find myself in a strange position tonight, in the sense that I want to give the Prime Minister maximum flexibility to join the together the House and the British people by achieving a deal that satisfies the British people, the Government and Opposition Members. My constituency voted to leave and I voted to remain. There is a settlement to be made, and the Prime Minister needs maximum flexibility to achieve that settlement. What the House has been very clear about is that no deal should not be an option, and that is what the Bill seeks to rule out.

The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth would set a date of 30 June, and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) would set a date of 22 May. Amendment 6, tabled by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), seeks the agreement of the Northern Ireland Assembly prior to any settlement being agreed, despite the fact that currently, for reasons I find disappointing, the Northern Ireland Assembly does not meet. There is no definitive date in the hon. Gentleman’s proposal. All those amendments would restrict the Prime Minister’s opportunity to make a difference and achieve a deal in this House.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:15 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Is it not also true that the Prime Minister has invited the Leader of the Opposition to discuss the political declaration and the withdrawal agreement? The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) would effectively curtail those discussions. Should we not pass the Bill cleanly in order to maximise the opportunities for that process?

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard

I accept fully what my hon. Friend says. The Leader of the Opposition has this very afternoon met the Prime Minister in Downing Street, at her request, along with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), to set out positions on a customs union and a single market, and potentially even a confirmatory vote, for the Prime Minister to consider. The Bill does not fix a particular debate, which provides the flexibility needed to give time for that process. The amendments, which I have only had a cursory look at, fix dates of 30 June and 22 May.

I recognise that there is a problem: the European elections are the elephant in the room. When I was the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, we regularly passed legislation to establish or not establish elections in the Northern Ireland Assembly within a day or two days. The Prime Minister is going to the European Council on 10 April to discuss what the House has decided. The House may well decide that this Bill should have an open date, or we can fetter that discussion by putting a date in place. I want to give the Prime Minister the maximum flexibility.

Mrs Main Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 6:59 p.m.

I will be speaking to my amendment, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman desires flexibility to deny Brexit altogether, given that he represents a leave constituency. The point of my amendment, which I hope he will look at a little more closely, is to stop the Prime Minister agreeing anything that may be unacceptable to the House. The date I have picked is the one currently being discussed by the European Union. Therefore, should the Prime Minister agree a date that the House finds unacceptable, she would have to come back to the House to suggest it, rather than being able to do what she can at the moment, which is to pick a date that this House may find unacceptable. That is the point of my amendment.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 6:59 p.m.

That is an interesting point. The amendments are fresh, but the key thing for me is that the House has shown in the last three months—certainly in the last two to three weeks—that it will not accept unilaterally what the Prime Minister wants to bring back to the House, and this House has many ways in which it can check the Executive’s decisions.

The simple point I make is that, in my constituency in north Wales, the manufacturing businesses that make cars have said that no deal would cost them £10 million per day; the farmers who produce lamb would not be able to export in a no-deal scenario; and Airbus, which makes the best planes in the world, would have difficulty exporting in a no-deal scenario. The Cabinet Office has said that prices would rise—it is not me saying that, it is the Government’s own estimation.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford mentioned the European arrest warrant and the SIS II agreement on sharing information. We do not know whether those would exist in their current form in a no-deal scenario. In the Select Committee on Justice, on which I sit, neither the Secretary of State for Justice this morning nor the Solicitor General yesterday could give assurances about the future relationship on important matters of security and justice in a no-deal scenario.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

The right hon. Gentleman makes a compelling case on people’s concerns about what may happen in a Brexit without a withdrawal agreement, but the European Union has explained to us on many occasions that the withdrawal agreement is now basically a hermetically sealed box, and many of the things he discusses in relation to the future relationship, such as trading, are encompassed in the political declaration, which cannot be binding—we have been told that many times. I genuinely fail to understand why, if he is so concerned about our leaving without an agreement, he does not just vote for the withdrawal agreement and then set about making his case for what should be in the political declaration, which cannot be binding until we have formally left the European Union.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:23 p.m.

With due respect to the hon. Gentleman, we have had that argument over the last three or four weeks, and the House of Commons has spoken. That is why his party leader has invited my party leader to discuss the next steps. I will wait to hear what the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), says about the Government’s amendments, because we need to be clear about those. However, the fettering of the process by the dates stated in the amendments would cause great difficulty for the objective of my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, which is to ensure that next week, whatever happens with our discussions, we have a date determined by the Prime Minister for when we will leave with a deal, rather than crash out without a deal in the future.

Mrs Main Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:24 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman has been saying that he would like to have certainty—I completely accept the worries about a possible no deal and not knowing what is going on, which is crucial for businesses—but, in relation to the amendments restricting exactly how long the Prime Minister can agree to on her own, how will he feel if the Prime Minister comes back and says, “I have accepted, because I am able to, a two-year extension”, and all the uncertainty for his constituents about what will happen is magnified for two years?

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:25 p.m.

Let me say to the hon. Lady that we have to have some trust in this process now. This House has to compromise and have some trust. The Prime Minister has made a genuine offer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—much to my surprise—to get herself and indeed, with due respect to the hon. Lady, the Conservative party out of a giant hole. Let us leave the Prime Minister unfettered in determining the date, because that is the important matter in discussing our objectives today.

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake (Ceredigion) (PC) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:25 p.m.

On the points the right hon. Gentleman has made about amendment 6, does he not agree with me that, as opposed to representing a sincere interest in and respect for the devolved Administrations, it is a very clever way of preventing the quick and effective enactment of this Bill?

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:26 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will know that I want the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Government—and the Scottish Parliament—to be consulted, to have a say and, I hope, to join in with the settlement, in whatever form it takes that can make the situation for my constituents and the country as a whole much calmer and better. He will know, and the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) will know—I am pleased to see her in her place—that the amendment would be a block in the event of the Northern Ireland Assembly not being restored. It is not even a block simply in relation to the Northern Ireland Government; it is a block even if direct rule is restored, for example, because the amendment refers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. We have no definitive date for that restoration, and while I would want it to happen tomorrow—it has been 12 years since I was the last direct rule Minister in Northern Ireland, and I would like to see the Assembly restored—ultimately, that is not going to happen.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:19 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman has made the point that the Northern Ireland Assembly has not been sitting. It has not been sitting since January 2017, and there is no expectation that the Assembly will be sitting any day soon. Further to that point, the right hon. Gentleman, as a former direct rule Minister in Northern Ireland, will know that it would be an unmitigated disaster for Northern Ireland if this country were to leave without a deal. It would be an unmitigated disaster in terms of security—he will know all about the threat from dissident republicans, and he will also know that Sinn Féin would use a no-deal Brexit to campaign for a border poll to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into a united Ireland.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:27 p.m.

The hon. Lady speaks much more sense about this matter than I could possibly do, because she is up to date on the situation, but that is clear to me. Let me take the example mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford—the European arrest warrant. We use the arrest warrant on numerous occasions to bring people who have committed crimes in the Republic into Northern Ireland and vice versa. If that is not in place, and in a no-deal scenario it would not be in place, the situation would be poorer, and we have no clarity on that whatsoever. The security of Northern Ireland would be in a worse place than it is now, and I am not prepared to vote for that.

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:28 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the arrest warrant, and I have to say to him that I am well aware of a case in the county of Staffordshire. A person under an arrest warrant was convicted in his absence of murder, but it in fact transpired that he was working in Staffordshire, and he was then found not guilty because he was actually working in a restaurant in England at the time when he was supposed to have committed the murder in Italy.

David Hanson Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:29 p.m.

Well, the hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that, because people are found innocent or guilty on different occasions, but, ultimately, if someone has done something, they are convicted. At the moment, if an arrest warrant goes out to a country in the European Union, an individual will speedily be brought back to face justice and a trial, and may face conviction and imprisonment. Any change in the arrest warrant procedure will ensure that the procedure is slower, more cumbersome and clunkier.

If the hon. Gentleman wants to see that, he should listen to what the Deputy Chief Constable of Northern Ireland said only this weekend. He said that not having the arrest warrant would be clunkier, more difficult, more bureaucratic and slower, and would lead to a worse position. With due respect to the hon. Gentleman, I will take no lessons on the arrest warrant, which is about protecting my constituents and all citizens in this country, and ensuring that criminals are brought to justice. If we have a no-deal scenario, which this Bill is trying to stop, that will become more difficult.

I have said my piece; I hope that Government Members will reflect on the position. This Bill is about protecting us against no deal and ensuring a positive future on the range of issues involved—agriculture, business, transport, crime and security. Any fettering of the Prime Minister’s discretion on that will make it more difficult to achieve the consensus that I understand she is trying to achieve with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, to ensure that we achieve a better settlement in this House than we have managed in the last few weeks and months.

Mrs Main Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 8:30 p.m.

I would like to speak to amendment 1, standing in my name, which addresses similar themes to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who spoke earlier.

I was quite horrified when I read this brief Bill, because it mandates the Prime Minister to seek an extension, but there is no date associated with that extension, as other Members have mentioned. On top of that, as we know, article 50 enshrined the date on which we would be leaving: 29 March. The Prime Minister, as was quite within her rights—my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) said it was her untrammelled prerogative—decided, when she went into her negotiations, that she would accept a new date, which was offered to her by the European Union, having been agreed in a room, in a debate in which she did not participate. She accepted a date that was not of her choosing.

My concern is that, whatever date this House considers to give the right amount of time, if the Prime Minister is not fettered, as the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) mentioned, she is quite within her rights—nobody here is seeking in any way, shape or form to curtail those rights—to accept another date that is offered to her and which might be the only date on offer. Whatever date this House might choose, for whatever associated reasons or purposes, the Prime Minister is quite within her rights to accept—or reject—the date on offer from the European Union.

I find that incredibly worrying. Depending on which side of the argument hon. Members find themselves, they could have the Prime Minister seeking a date in line with the House’s instructions, but not having to agree the date, even if the EU says that she can have it. That would be a rather bizarre scenario, but the Bill would not stop it, so whatever date the House fixed on could, in theory, only be asked for, but then be rejected.

The other side, which worries me far more, is that the Prime Minister could go along with a date—as yet unspecified by this House and with no associated justification—and be offered a date, let us say, two years in the future. I would suggest that at that point most hon. Members would have severe concerns about the legitimacy of whatever was being agreed by the Prime Minister—or any of us in this House—with the date set so far in the future.

Amendment 1, which stands in my name and that of 21 other hon. Members, simply proposes a date that has already been accepted by the European Union—I know that Guy Verhofstadt has talked about the end of June, but the European Union has suggested this date on many occasions—as a date that it would be comfortable extending to. It is also a date that would not oblige us, by default, to fight in the European elections. It would mean that the Prime Minister could accept the date offered to her—to the 22nd—but could not arbitrarily accept any other date offered without bringing it back and discussing with the House whether it met what the House wishes to achieve.

The right hon. Member for Delyn talked about not tying the Prime Minister’s hands, but if the House truly wishes to shape the next phase—I really do not like this process, but I am trying to look at it constructively—it is incredibly important that she does not have carte blanche to sit in a room in Brussels, meekly accept a date that is fixed, and then come back to the House, which will not be able to alter that date. I picked the 22 May date, because she can agree anything up until that point. After that date, with which we are all familiar, we will not have the Prime Minister accepting a date that may end up coming to this House and not finding favour. We are then back in the long grass. We are back to arguing about the date. We are back to arguing ad infinitum, to the great uncertainty for the many businesses who feel that what is going on here today is beyond a farce.

Other Members who have a better legal brain than mine—I have no such qualifications whatever—are looking at the Bill line by line and saying it is shoddily and poorly drafted, and that it does not stand up to scrutiny. The argument that comes back—I have heard it a few times this afternoon—is that, “Well, we haven’t had a lot of time and this is to stop no deal.” My amendment does not do anything to harm the Bill’s objectives. It gives the Bill belt and braces to ensure that the Prime Minister, to whom everyone says, “Let’s give her some latitude and trust”, is not able to accept something that is certainly beyond the wishes and scope of this House or the people who voted to leave the European Union.

I hope my amendment is given serious consideration, since we are now supposed to be engaging constructively with the process in a cross-party consensual way to try to get something through. I would be far more comfortable if the Prime Minister was not allowed free rein, or untrammelled prerogative, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said. As the House may have observed, we have already tried that and it has not got us terribly far. I therefore ask Members please to consider this amendment. It is very small. It does not stop anything. It simply might stop what some Members have maybe not thought through too well, which is the date.

Break in Debate

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 9:14 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. I could enlarge on the reasons why we would not want to have any European parliamentary elections and why we would not want to have any MEPs—they cost a fortune as well. Furthermore, a lot of them are, by all accounts, engaged in activities that are either useless or very expensive. I will not dilate on that, but it is a matter of fact.

David Hanson Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 9:18 p.m.

When does the hon. Gentleman expect the Northern Ireland Assembly to meet next?

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 9:18 p.m.

That is a very good question, because it may well be after exit day—on my proposals. That is the point. I am proposing amendments intended to provide that democratic element, which is needed by the people of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.