All 2 Baroness Noakes contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Thu 4th Apr 2019
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 8th Apr 2019
European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Baroness Noakes Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 4th April 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 3 April 2019 - (3 Apr 2019)
Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who is the chair of the International Relations Committee on which I sit. Even when I do not always agree with him in every respect, I always learn a lot from what he says.

I shall pursue my noble friend Lord Pannick’s theatrical image. Sitting here this afternoon, I had a vague presentiment that there was a similarity to the occasion when President Lincoln was assassinated at the theatre and somebody said to Mrs Lincoln afterwards, “And how did you enjoy the play, Mrs Lincoln?”. I think this afternoon’s events might have produced a pretty large raspberry to that, and I find it pretty shameful that not one of the people who kept us here all afternoon in an absolutely obvious filibuster has found the time to participate in the Second Reading of this Bill. Oh—I am sorry; I did not see the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. I apologise. But one swallow does not a summer make.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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There are two swallows.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick
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My noble friend Lady Deech did not move an amendment; nor did the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I am talking about noble Lords who moved amendments. That is what I said, and I think it is rather shameful that none of them, apart from the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, is here.

I will support the Bill. I think that it is both necessary and urgent. I think the reasons for it are the need to send, ahead of the meeting next Wednesday in Brussels, a very clear message to our 27 European Union partners—and they are still our partners. When this Bill becomes an Act, it will send a useful message to them ahead of that meeting. It would have been much better if we could have passed it through all its stages today, but I do not believe that Monday is too late to pass a useful message, and I hope that we will do that in due course.

What is the message that we are passing? First, as other noble Lords who have spoken have said, it is that this House does not share, the other place does not share and the whole British Parliament does not share the view that no deal is better than a bad deal. That appalling mantra, which dominated the negotiations for so many months, even years, is, I think, being laid to rest by this indication—and about time too is all I would say.

The second message we are sending is that both Houses of this Parliament need more time and space to work on a new course for our relationship with the EU in future, whatever that might be. That is a useful message to send. I do not think that we ought to be too specific about how long it will take. It may be that some rather flexible formula can be found in Brussels next Wednesday to cover that, but the idea—

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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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My Lords, I am not going to give the speech that I had planned to give at this late stage of the evening. I was nearly goaded into picking it up again by the typically hard-line speech of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, but I will leave my speech with my other papers down there, and just say that I would have said a lot more about the B-word. Instead, I will just associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, because I agreed with what he said about it.

I have stayed in the House to speak in this debate because, while I cared passionately about the issues that we debated during the day, and the constitutional issues raised by the way in which the Bill has been put through the House, I believe that there are aspects of the Bill that are worth debating. We should be very wary of restricting the scope of the Government to negotiate international treaties, and that is what this Bill does. It further restricts the royal prerogative. Of course, the royal prerogative has been restricted in many ways over many years, but this is a further restriction in the area of the Government having the effective power to negotiate internationally, which I believe is important. The royal prerogative is part of how our constitution works. It is important in enabling the Government to govern effectively.

So I regret that this Bill has come to us. It passed by one vote in the other place—but we have to accept that and move on. I was particularly interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, who is no longer in his place, about the way in which the Bill is over-restrictive in this area. I hope that he will return on Monday, together with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, to explain further what he means in an amendment there.

I accept that this Bill will come. We just need to concentrate on improving it—from my point of view because encroaching on the royal prerogative is so serious. The most important thing that we should do is ensure that the powers that have been created for Parliament are time-limited. In any event, it should only be needed for next week—or perhaps slightly longer—but we should look at putting some restrictions in the Bill on how the powers that have been created could be used. Whether we do that by time-binding the powers that are created in Clause 1 or by way of a sunset clause is something that I shall reflect on and return to in Committee. I do not believe that this is a statute that should be left for ever and a day on the statute book. I do not think that it is a good precedent, but I accept that we need to send it forward in a workable way.

I was also interested in the speeches earlier today of two of my noble friends, Lord Hunt, as a member of the Constitution Committee, and Lord Blencathra, chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Both of them indicated that this Bill should be improved through the process of scrutiny in your Lordships’ House, which we will now be able to do on Monday. I join my noble friend Lord Cormack in rejoicing in the agreement that was reached through the usual channels today. Now we can tackle this Bill in the civilised way in which we normally conduct our work of scrutinising legislation. I thank the usual channels for coming to that arrangement, and, for my part, I look forward to resuming discussion on the Bill on Monday.

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Lord Bilimoria Portrait Lord Bilimoria
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My Lords, I was on the phone at 7 am to one of my fellow directors in Australia. I said to him, “What a mess our country is in. It’s harming the UK so much”, and he said to me, “Karan, Brexit is not just a mess for the UK; it is a mess for all of us around the world”.

There is no question that Brexit was caused by the faction within the Conservative Party that has existed for more than 25 years and is vehemently anti-Europe, as we have seen today, and by UKIP, which polled 14% of the vote in the 2015 elections. Sam Gyimah, the former Minister, recently said in the Evening Standard that ambitious Conservative MPs used to talk about the economy and the big society, but:

“Now ambitious … MPs are saying, ‘I have no fear of no deal’”.


We have heard time and again in this debate that no deal would be a disaster by all accounts. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, a world-renowned economist, has said that the damage could be up to £200 billion—20 times the £8 billion to £10 billion a year that we contribute to the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord True, who is not in his place, said that I have spoken in 40 debates about the European Union. It may be more. We have looked at specific aspects of Brexit. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and I spoke on Erasmus and Horizon 2020, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and I have spoken in many such debates. In consumer rights and every field that you look at, no deal is a disaster for that area. It will be a disaster for our universities, our businesses and our consumers. This Bill is required because we are in a crisis. We are in an emergency and are facing a cliff edge. We have been watching a train crash in slow motion. The train is about to crash and in fact it nearly crashed on 29 March.

The Government and the Prime Minister have lost control. By how much more can you lose control than losing by 230 votes—the biggest loss in history—then 140-plus, then 50-plus? Three times the Prime Minister has gone back to MPs and asked them to change their minds, yet the people of this country are not given one chance to change theirs. That is hypocrisy beyond belief. How many times today, throughout the afternoon and in this debate, have I heard mention of the 17.4 million people? As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said: what about the 16.1 million? A true democracy is one that respects a minority, let alone a large minority. Let us not forget that, in the nationwide referendum in 1975, the number of people who voted to remain in the European Community was—wait for this, my Lords—17.4 million. The difference is that that 17.4 million people made up not 52% but 67% of the number that voted—an overwhelming, definite majority.

We have a divided Parliament, a divided House of Commons and a divided country. The House of Commons has voted more than once to say that no deal is not an option, but the Prime Minister has not been willing to legislate for that. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, started this debate by saying that there is a lack of trust. The most important thing that I have learned in business is trust. If there is no trust, there is nothing. How can we now trust the Prime Minister and the Government when they say, “No deal is better than a bad deal”? They refer to “the will of the people”, but which people? They are talking about the people who voted three years ago.

Then they say that the will of the manifesto has now overtaken the will of the people. However, when it suits them, the manifesto is ignored. What about the grammar schools and the dementia tax? What about the fact that people do not read manifestos? There are more than 200 items in every manifesto. First, people do not even know that they exist; secondly, they do not read all 200 items; and, thirdly, they do not vote for the one item in the manifesto that says, “We will implement the result of the referendum”. It is nonsense to say that.

The electorate has changed. We talk about the 17.4 million and the tyranny of the majority, but three years later two of my children are now of voting age, whereas they were not in June 2016. Three years later, there are 2.4 million people of voting age who were not of voting age then. Three years later, the youth who did not turn out to vote regret that they did not. If given another chance, they will mobilise and turn out in droves, and that 1.3 million majority will seem a pittance. This Bill is essential to delay Brexit and prevent no deal.

There is one thing that no one has brought up. In the final stages of Brexit, this House has been left out completely. We should have had all the meaningful votes and indicative votes that have been going on in another place. We should have been doing them side by side in this House to show what we feel about the issue, just as we do with legislation. We were not given the chance, although finally, today, we have been given a chance to have a say through this Bill. Time and again, it has been pointed out in the context of this Bill that the House of Lords is the guardian of our wonderful, special unwritten constitution and that it is a check and balance on the other place, yet time and again the Prime Minister has tried to sideline Parliament. She started by trying to implement Article 50 without coming to Parliament. It took the brave Gina Miller to take on the Government, the law and the whole of our constitution, with the Executive, the legislature and the judiciary being stretched and challenged, and finally we got a say through the courts. The Government then tried to bypass Parliament in not disclosing their legal advice.

Today, after 12 and a half years in this wonderful House, which I absolutely love, I have seen it at its worst. I have seen blatant filibustering by Members of the extreme Brexit wing. Seven Motions took seven and a half hours, but it felt like seven and a half years. They were strung out deliberately; those Motions could have been debated within one hour. In my 12 and a half years, I have never seen anyone use the Motion, “That the Question be now put”, which was moved by my noble Friemd, Lord Pannick, just to put an end to the first round of filibustering, let alone seen it used so many times just to vote to get on with things. The worst part is that a lot of the movers of those Motions had their names down to speak in this debate, but there are only two of them here; the rest have scratched.

Then the Government tried to insert a Motion from the Finance Bill Sub-Committee of the Economic Affairs Committee, which I have sat on for many years, to do with making tax digital. There were two other debates, one of them to do with Europe, which I was going to speak in but were scratched, but that Motion was left in. And who were the speakers in that debate? People who signed up at the last minute who are Members of that extreme pro-Brexit wing, whom I have never seen in all my years in that Finance Bill Sub-Committee having anything to do with the committee or speaking on anything that it has produced. Luckily, that debate was pulled at the last minute.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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I have been a member of the Finance Bill Sub-Committee for many years, though not absolutely every year. I was a member of that committee this year, so I intended to speak. I hope the noble Lord is not referring to me in those remarks.

Lord Bilimoria Portrait Lord Bilimoria
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Absolutely not. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, is here. She was a member of that committee, and I have sat on the committee with her. I was referring to other people. By the way, today’s running order was blessed by the Government. Could the Minister explain how they came to that?

Today, I was not proud of the behaviour of our House. At many stages I felt ashamed of the disgraceful behaviour that I do not think was befitting of the finest, highest-quality debating Chamber in the world. I asked one of our Members who has been here for nearly 50 years, “How bad is this compared with Maastricht?” He said, “Maastricht was a tea party compared with this”.

My noble friend Lord Pannick has clearly said that the Bill is not perfect. None of us says that it is perfect; it was rushed through at the other end. However, he and my noble and learned friend Lord Judge have already found a way of amending the Bill in Committee that will allow it to be effective and will prevent us reaching the cliff edge.

Before I conclude, I want to emphasise how much we need the Bill, because what has been agreed so far is nothing. If my noble friend Lord Kerr were here, he would say, “I wrote Article 50 in order for those two years to be used to agree a future relationship. The withdrawal Bill just becomes part of that, and then you leave after two years having agreed it”. We have not negotiated our future relationship. We have negotiated only three things: people, the backstop and money. And £39 billion out of a £2 trillion economy is absolutely not material in the long run; this big figure is actually not a material figure. What about the political declaration—the wish list of our future? Nothing has been negotiated at all: tariffs, customs, services, market access, regulation, financial services, digital, capital markets, intellectual property, movement of people, aviation, roads, maritime, energy, civil nuclear, data exchange, foreign policy, security, defence, space, cybersecurity or counterterrorism—

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill

Baroness Noakes Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 8th April 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments as at 8 April 2019 - (8 Apr 2019)
Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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My Lords, I oppose the amendment. It would frustrate the very purpose of the Bill, which is to leave it to the House of Commons to identify what it thinks is the appropriate date.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment for two reasons. First, this remains a wretched Bill, taking power away from the Government and their ability to use the royal prerogative. Therefore, I would support any restriction on that measure being put into the Bill. Secondly, I support the points made by my noble friend in respect of the financial impact of different variants of a delay in leaving the EU. The fact that the Bill was not treated as a money Bill in the other place is beyond my comprehension, as is the fact that my noble friend was unable to table an amendment explicitly calling for an impact assessment or something else—but the ways of the Public Bill Office are strange on occasion. I support my noble friend.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, there may be some flaws in the Bill—hence the support from these Benches for some of the other amendments. However, we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that this amendment is unnecessary and that it should be for the other place to set a date.

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Moved by
8: Clause 3, page 2, line 12, at end insert—
“( ) This Act ceases to have effect on exit day.”
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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My Lords, I shall not detain the House long. My amendment would ensure that this legislation ceases to have effect on exit day. It could be said that the amendment is there just for the avoidance of doubt because, clearly, there is nothing to be done with this Bill after exit day. However, I wanted to table the amendment because this is, by almost common consent, a pretty terrible Bill. One of the best things that has been said about it today is that it is a bit of a mess. During the brief passage through your Lordships’ House, it has been improved, which is what customarily happens when this House considers ill-thought-out Bills from the other place.

As I said at Second Reading, I have accepted that the will of the other place will prevail in the case of this Bill. Therefore, the powers that it creates to restrict the royal prerogative in this important area of international relations will come into force to the extent now drafted. I regret that, but I hope that we will return to the normal practice of leaving the royal prerogative for international relations and negotiations with the Government on an unfettered basis. I have tabled this amendment to make the point more forcefully that this should not be a permanent part of our statute book; we should write it out as soon as the purpose of those who have sought to make it the law of the land for this week comes to an end. I beg to move.

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard
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My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Noakes on this amendment. As she explained so clearly on Thursday and in her speech today, the curtailment of prerogative powers envisaged in this Bill is significant. I agree with her that the powers available to the Government to negotiate international treaties are important and should not be curtailed.

My noble friend Lord Norton of Louth, who is acknowledged across your Lordships’ House as the most knowledgeable constitutional expert, explained that the changes sought by the Bill, and the practices by which it was passed in another place, are not small but highly significant. I consider it unfortunate that your Lordships’ House is likely to pass this Bill, but at least it would be better if its destructive elements could be made temporary. Surely even noble Lords who support the Bill would agree that, against the background of the views of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on the matter, the restrictions on prerogative powers should be temporary. It would be unfortunate for the House to agree to a precedent created by such a rushed and controversial piece of legislation.

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Lord Robertson of Port Ellen Portrait Lord Robertson of Port Ellen
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Momentarily, of course, because that silence has been purely motivated by my loyalty to the Government Chief Whip and his assurance last Thursday about the speed with which this legislation would be put through. Like the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, I am not a lawyer, I am simply—like him—a politician. I heard one of the Bishops this morning on “Thought for the Day” quoting somebody as saying that politics is the art of the possible, and indeed it is. It is the possibility that we leave on Friday of this week—my birthday, as it happens—crashing out without any withdrawal agreement, which should frighten us all. Anybody who is in any doubt about that might read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, at Second Reading last week—a chilling and brief speech about the consensus view of economists.

A lot of lawyers have spoken in this debate and, indeed, last week as well. The House has a range of opinions from which it can choose, as is usually the case when you commission lawyers. In my case, I choose the view of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I simply point to the fact that I have said not a word during these proceedings on the Bill, but people will notice that the size of the majority in the last Division probably achieved record proportions. Maybe some other people should take a lesson from silence.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes
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My Lords, it does not surprise me that I have been supported by some of my noble friends and opposed by people on other Benches. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, that the Bill does not stop us leaving this Friday. If the EU decides not to agree an extension, we will leave on Friday. I am not frightened about that. I believe that the Government have made many significant preparations towards it, as have many on the continent. A lot of scaremongering has been going on. But that is not the point of my amendment, which was to draw attention to the fact that this unfortunate piece of legislation has been brought before this House and the way in which it has been processed in both Houses. I will not delay the Bill further by seeking to call another Division, much though I am sorely tempted to do so. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 8 withdrawn.