Mr Dominic Grieve contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018


Wed 20th June 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
19 interactions (1,993 words)
Wed 17th January 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: Second Day: House of Commons
27 interactions (1,462 words)
Tue 16th January 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Report stage: First Day: House of Commons
36 interactions (3,842 words)
Wed 20th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 8th sitting: House of Commons
88 interactions (4,462 words)
Wed 13th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 7th sitting: House of Commons
82 interactions (4,411 words)
Tue 12th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 6th sitting: House of Commons
57 interactions (3,506 words)
Wed 6th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 5th sitting: House of Commons
9 interactions (545 words)
Mon 4th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 4th sitting: House of Commons
7 interactions (296 words)
Tue 21st November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
95 interactions (5,651 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
59 interactions (2,419 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
85 interactions (4,499 words)
Mon 11th September 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
7 interactions (146 words)

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Ping Pong: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 20th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Exiting the European Union

It is unthinkable that any Prime Minister would seek to force through a course of action that would have significant consequences for many years which the majority in this House did not approve of. That is unthinkable, and the idea that that is how we would achieve an orderly Brexit is for the birds. The amendment would provide order where there would otherwise be utter chaos and, for those reasons, I urge hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House to support the amendment tabled by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, to preserve Lords amendment 19P.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:46 p.m.

I beg to move manuscript amendment (b), to leave out from first “19P” to end.

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for having enabled this amendment to be considered this afternoon by accepting my manuscript. It is a very odd and, I have to say, unsatisfactory aspect of the way in which our Parliament does its business that we frequently end up on ping-pong debating amendments that are irrelevant to what the House is really troubled about. I have to tell the House that, in order to get to this point, it has been necessary also to twist the rules of procedure in the other place, and I am immensely grateful to those peers who facilitated the manuscript amendment that was tabled there and that has enabled us to consider for the first time this afternoon the issue of the meaningful vote in relation to the Government’s view of what it should be and to the suggestion that has come from their lordships’ House. I should like to say here and now how deeply I object to the way in which their lordships are vilified for doing the job that we have asked them to do, which is to act as a revising Chamber and to send back to this House proposals for our consideration.

The issue, which has been highlighted by earlier speakers, is about the form that a meaningful vote should take. There are two options in front of the House. The House will recall that, when this matter first arose last week, the amendment that had come from the Lords included a mandatory element. That is constitutionally rather unusual. Indeed, I do not think that it has happened since the civil war in the 17th century, and I do not think that that ended very well. I seem to recall that it ended with Oliver Cromwell saying:

“Take away that fool’s bauble, the mace.”

Because of this, I considered it to be excessive. I apologise to the House that, in trying to produce something else very late at night last week, I probably did not draft it quite as well as I might have done. However, it led to a sensible discussion, prompted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who had a number of us in her room and said she would do her best to meet the concerns we were expressing on there not being a meaningful vote on no deal.

Last Thursday, it looked as though we were going to reach an agreement based on exactly the terms of the Lords amendment that has come back to us, but at a very late stage, it was indicated to me that the Government did not feel able to proceed with that. I should like to emphasise that I make absolutely no criticism of those with whom I negotiated, who have behaved impeccably in this matter. Indeed, at the end of the day I have to accept that negotiations may sometimes founder at the last minute. However, this was unfortunate, from my point of view, and I will come back to that point in a moment.

Be that as it may, the Government’s tabled amendment was the one that we are being asked to accept today—the one that simply asks us to note and does not give us the opportunity of amending. Two arguments were put to me to justify that change when it occurred and in the negotiations that followed. The first was that there was concern about the justiciability of the amendment. The Standing Orders of the House cannot be impugned in any court outside of this high court of Parliament, but it is right to say that if one puts a reference to the Standing Orders into a statute, that can raise some interesting, if somewhat arcane, legal issues about the extent to which a challenge can be brought. My view is that I do not believe that the amendment, which is currently the Lords amendment that has come to us, is credibly open to challenge. For that matter, I happen to think that the Government amendment is also not credibly open to challenge either, although it is worth pointing out that it is as likely to be challenged or capable of being challenged as the other. I do not accept a differentiation between them.

The second argument was of a very different kind. It was said to me—this was picked up by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman—that the Government had real concerns that this issue, which is one of detail, had acquired such a status with those with whom we were negotiating that it could undermine the Government’s negotiating position in trying to get the United Kingdom the best possible deal for leaving the EU. Now, I must say that I found that difficult to accept based on my own range of contacts and on how I thought that the EU is likely to work. However, it is not an issue that I, as a supporter of the Government, can entirely ignore.

I am very troubled about Brexit. It is well known in this House that I believe that we have made an historic mistake in voting to leave, but I am open minded as to what the best course of action should be and respectful of the decision of the electorate in the referendum result. I dislike very much the extent to which we can be fettered or pushed into frameworks of what we have or have not to accept in that negotiation but that is, if I may so, a reason why I should also give as much latitude to the concerns of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as she indicates to me that she might have.

Mr John Baron Portrait Mr Baron - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:52 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:52 p.m.

No, I wish to conclude.

In those circumstances, there is an issue that I cannot ignore. As the House will have noticed this afternoon, a statement was sent by the Secretary of State that will become a written ministerial statement tomorrow. The first part of it deals with the position of the Speaker and, if I may put it like this, the piquancy of this is that having on the one hand said that an unamendable motion to note is an unamendable motion to note in a statute, the fact is that it really has absolutely no force at all. The reality is that it is part of the Standing Orders of this House, and it is not open to any interpretation in any court and, ultimately, it will be entirely your responsibility, Mr Speaker, to decide what can or should not be treated as a neutral terms motion. Actually, the statement highlights the fact that, although this debate has been about trying to provide assurance—not just in this House, but to many members of the public outside who are worried about the end of this process and what might happen—the truth is that the assurance does not lie in the words of the statute, except in so far as the statute is the word of the Government. The assurance lies in the hands of this House and, in the first part of the statement, in the power of the Speaker.

I then insisted that a second piece be put into the statement, which I will read out. If I may say so, this ought to be blindingly obvious, but it says:

“The Government recognises that it is open for Ministers and members of the House of Commons to table motions on and debate matters of concern and that, as is the convention, parliamentary time will be provided for this.”

If this House chooses to debate matters, including matters on which it may wish to have multiple motions, the reality is that if we wish to exert our power to do that, we can. In the circumstances that might follow a “no deal”, which would undoubtedly be one of the biggest political crises in modern British history, if the House wishes to speak with one voice, or indeed with multiple voices, the House has the power to do so.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:55 p.m.

The bit I do not understand is that many motions have been carried by this House in the past few years—motions tabled by the Backbench Business Committee, by the Opposition and by ordinary Members—but the Government have just let them go through and then completely ignored them. The only thing that has legislative effect is legislation. That is why we must have a meaningful vote, not a pretend one.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:56 p.m.

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right, but if the Government were to concede to the amendment, as drafted in the Lords, for an amendable motion, the House must understand that the Government could ignore it. I can assure the House that it would not be enforceable in any court of law—[Interruption.] No, that really must be understood. It could not be enforceable in any court of law, because that would entirely undermine the rights and privileges of this place. It would be for us to enforce it. Of course, the ultimate sanction that this House has is a motion of no confidence but, short of that, there are other means by which the House can in fact bring its clear view to bear on the Government.

Mr John Baron Portrait Mr Baron - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:56 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:56 p.m.

No, I will not.

In view of that acknowledgement, I must say that I weigh that and the clear words of this statement against what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has told me about her anxieties. My judgment—it is purely personal—is that if that is the issue, having finally obtained, with a little more difficulty than I would have wished, the obvious acknowledgement of the sovereignty of this place over the Executive in black and white language, I am prepared to accept the Government’s difficulty, support them and, in the circumstances, to accept the form of amendment that they want. I shall formally move my amendment at the end, because I do not want to deprive the House of the right to vote if it wishes. Members have the absolute right to disagree, but it seems to me that, with the acknowledgement having been properly made, I am content to go down that route.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Mr Kenneth Clarke - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:58 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 2:59 p.m.

No, I want to end.

We are facing some real difficulties at the moment. It is rightly said that those whom the gods want to destroy, they first render mad. There is enough madness around at the moment to make one start to question whether collective sanity in this country has disappeared. Every time someone tries to present a sensible reasoned argument in this House vilification and abuse follow, including death threats to right hon. and hon. Friends. There is a hysteria that completely loses sight of the issues that we really have to consider. There is an atmosphere of bullying that has the directly opposite consequence in that people are put into a position where they feel unable to compromise, because by doing so they will be immediately described as having “lost”—as if these were arguments to be lost or won. The issue must be that we get things right.

Right at the other end of the spectrum, we get some other ridiculous things. I have had Daily Mail journalists crawling over the garden of my house in France. I do not quite know, but I think they were looking for silos from which missiles might be aimed at the mansion of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg). The area where I have a holiday home has a history of monsters and witches chucking megaliths backwards and forwards across the channel. Such is the state of our discourse, and that is the very thing we must avoid. We are going to have differences and, if there is no deal, those differences may extend to my taking a different view, as a Member of Parliament, from what the Government might wish. This House has a right to act if there is no deal in order to protect the interests of the British people, and the responsibility in those circumstances lies as much with us as it does with the Government.

Mr Speaker Hansard

I very gently point out that we have less than 45 minutes, and I do want to accommodate other Back-Bench Members.

Break in Debate

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:15 p.m.

He should speak to people then. I am perfectly content for this House to vote on whether it wants to accept the deal negotiated by the Government that they come back with. It is absolutely right that this House votes on whether or not to accept that deal, and the Government should accept the vote of this House. What it cannot do, having decided to give the people a vote in a referendum, is find some strange parliamentary mechanism in order to frustrate and overturn the result—

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:15 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:15 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend did not give way, and I am not going to give way either because time is limited. Parliament cannot vote to reverse the decision of the referendum. People outside this House need to know very clearly today that—

Break in Debate

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:20 p.m.

It is not for me to advise you, Mr Speaker, but please do not cross any roads between now and the end of this process.

It seems to me that the Government’s intention throughout has been to seek to neuter this House when we come to the end of the process. We are talking about the possibility of facing no deal at all. In his speech from our Front Bench, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) set the position out very clearly: first, not only would we be facing economic difficulty of the most serious kind—with impacts on trade, on our services industry and on broadcasting—but there would be impacts on the security of our nation, because with no deal in place, how would the exchange of information continue? These are not minor matters; they go to the heart of the Government’s responsibility to make sure that we are safe, that industry works, that taxes are raised and that public services are paid for. That is why people are getting exercised about this. It is not just some amendment to one Bill; it is the most important decision that the country has faced for generations.

As my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, we are not ready to cope with the consequences. Members should contemplate this, for a moment: if, because the House cannot do anything about it, we fall off the edge of the cliff, and future generations look at us and say, “What did you do at that moment? What did you do? Didn’t you say anything?”, are we, as the House of Commons, really going to allow our hands to be bound and say, “Well, at least I took note of what was happening”? Our responsibility is not to take note; it is to take charge, to take responsibility and to do our job.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:22 p.m.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, if he looks at the Standing Orders, he will see that, if the House wants to take charge at that point, it will be able to do so. If necessary, I will join with him in doing just that.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:22 p.m.

I absolutely bow to the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s expertise, but I am afraid that, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras pointed out earlier, under this Government, we have sat on these Benches on too many occasions, time and time and time again, on which the House has used the Standing Orders to debate a matter and pass a motion but the Government have sat there and said, “We’re not taking any notice of you whatsoever.” That is why the opportunity to ensure that we have the right to amend a motion is, in the next few minutes, in the hands of this House. There will be no further opportunity to take back control, so I hope the House will do so by voting in favour of the amendment of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: Second Day: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 17th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Exiting the European Union
Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook - Hansard

The hon. Gentleman tempts me down an avenue that has nothing to do with the point I am making, which is that it remains unclear why the Government tabled three exit day amendments to their own Bill which have sown further confusion. We do not know why they did that—whether it was driven by Tory party management considerations or some other reason. The effect of those Government amendments would have been to end the jurisdiction of the ECJ on 29 March 2019, thereby preventing agreement on a transitional period on current terms.

The Government clearly soon realised their mistake and to save face enlisted the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), who is not in his place, to table amendments to loosen the legislative straitjacket they themselves had created. But his amendments, which the Government have accepted, only provide a limited form of flexibility. Ministers may now amend the definition of exit day in clause 14 for the purposes of the Bill if the date when the treaties cease to apply to the UK is different from 29 March 2019. However, there is good reason to argue that that power might not be sufficient to facilitate transitional arrangements after 29 March 2019 on the same basic terms as now. If it is not—this might end up being the most bizarre aspect of the Bill’s curious parliamentary process—the Government will find themselves in the ludicrous position of having to amend this Bill when they bring forward the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill later this year.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard

I think that is a virtual certainty in any event. On the basis of the Bill that the Government have promised the House for the end of this year, it seems to me that it will be a substitute for the arrangements under the existing European Communities Act, so I think that must be what is going to happen.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook - Hansard

I agree, but what I would say—and why I would urge Members to support this amendment—is that it need not require the amendment of this Bill to allow the facilitation of transitional arrangements on the same terms in addition to the provisions that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to say will be needed in that further Act of Parliament.

We still believe that it should be Parliament, not Ministers, that decides exit day for the various purposes in the Bill. Our amendment 1 helpfully bolsters the position set out by the Prime Minister in the Florence speech by ensuring that this Bill can facilitate transitional arrangements on the same terms as now.

Given that this is, of course, Government policy, it is a wonder that the Government did not bring forward such an amendment themselves. They did not do so because they cannot agree on what the transition means. There can be no clearer evidence for that than the recent appointment of the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes) to the Department for Exiting the European Union team, given her past form in seeking to actively undermine the policy position set out in the Florence speech by encouraging her colleagues to sign a European Research Group letter to the Prime Minister objecting to crucial aspects of it. It is ironic that those Tory MPs who voted for amendment 7 back in December are viewed by many as having betrayed the Government, while those who actively undermine stated Government policy appear to get promoted in quick succession.

Amendment 1 is simply an attempt to restore some common sense to the question of exit day for the purposes of this Bill. It would ensure that this Bill can facilitate any transitional arrangements agreed as part of the article 50 negotiations and that we avoid the ludicrous situation of potentially having to come back to amend this Bill in order to do so. It is in line with stated Government policy, and we therefore look forward to the Government not only accepting it, but welcoming it.

The Opposition have made it clear from the outset that a Bill of this kind is necessary to disentangle ourselves from the European Union’s legal structures and to ensure that we have a functioning statute book on the day we leave. But as we argued on Second Reading in September last year, this Bill is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation. Sadly, despite the small number of welcome concessions, and the implications for the legislation of the defeat the Government suffered at the hands of amendment 7 and the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) on 12 December, it remains a fundamentally flawed Bill. Those flaws still need to be addressed either by this House today or in the other place, and on that basis I urge all hon. Members to support new clause 1 and amendments 2 and 1.

Break in Debate

I have put into new clause 2 the sort of basic headings that we would expect to see in a pretty basic trade agreement. If the withdrawal agreement is to be acceptable to me, those things need to be spelled out, because I could not recommend an agreement to my constituents unless we had buttoned down some degree of certainty with our EU counterparts so that we knew what we were to be getting.

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 2:15 p.m.

The issue of the withdrawal agreement was supposed to be resolved last December, as part of phase 1 of the negotiations. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is abundantly clear that there are massive potential pitfalls, particularly in respect of the relationship with the Irish Republic, in the translation of what appears on the face of it to have been a mutually convenient fudge into what will in fact be a binding treaty obligation?

Mr Leslie Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 2:16 p.m.

That is absolutely right, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman neatly and helpfully moves me on to my new clause 3, which deals with the question of the Irish hard border. I think that many people read the phase 1 agreement in an optimistic light. In many ways, those words were all things to all people. The can was kicked down the road, but there will have to be a translation into some sort of legal text by the time we get to the withdrawal agreement. Heaven help us when the two sides to the negotiations have to start talking in specific terms.

The Prime Minister had a slightly different view from the Republic of Ireland of what the phase 1 agreement meant. She reported back to the House that it was simply to be restricted to the issues listed in the Belfast agreement, which does not, of course, include trade in goods, to mention just one small policy area. There are massive questions about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. People in that area share reciprocal healthcare, as well as environmental factors such as rivers, streams and lakes. They have a shared energy market and shared fisheries, food and plant arrangements. All those are shared because of the very geography of what are two distinct countries, so trying to fudge the issue just will not work, particularly if the UK is a third party.

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:10 p.m.

Order. On my reckoning, about 12 people want to speak. I advise the House that it is reasonable for the Minister to have at least 20 minutes to reply to the various points that have been made—[Interruption.] Someone chunters from a sedentary position, “No more.” The Minister should certainly be allowed 20 minutes, and Members can do the arithmetic for themselves. I am encouraged, as I call possibly the most courteous Member of the House of Commons, Mr Dominic Grieve.

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:11 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I shall endeavour to practise courtesy by act rather than by anything else, in being brief.

It is a pleasure again to participate in this afternoon’s debate, which is wide-ranging and has moved away from the rather narrow focus of some of the perfectly sensible amendments that have been tabled and that are designed to explore the undoubted deficiencies in the legislation; for example, the Opposition have put forward sensible proposals in new clause 1. Those are matters that we have looked at for a considerable number of days.

I wanted to focus on an issue that has arisen this afternoon and is a particular concern to me. In doing so I do not want to repeat what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said. I agree with every word he said, and there is no point in my saying it again. There is a separate angle, however, on which we might pause and reflect. New clause 17 raises the issue of whether we should have continued participation in the single market and customs union.

If we look at the Bill as drafted and at its original intention, particularly now that the pernicious effects of clause 9 have been removed, we can see that it is about the legal order of the United Kingdom after we have left with no deal at all. So an argument can be made that this legislation is perhaps not the most satisfactory place to try to bring in the single market and customs union. However, that raises an entirely legitimate issue. Ultimately, as we trundle on with the legislation it becomes more and more apparent how different it is from the Government’s intention regarding the end product that they want the country to enjoy.

The Prime Minister set out her vision in the Lancaster House and Florence speeches. As I have said before, but it is worth repeating, if she succeeded in achieving everything that she set out, there might well be broad consensus in the House, because we would lose those aspects of EU membership that we do not like and at the same time we would retain all the benefits of EU membership that we—or at least many of us, the vast majority of hon. Members—consider desirable.

The truth is that most of us—again, I suspect—in the House know that that is unlikely to be achieved. We are asking our EU partners to engage in the bending of the rules of the legal order, which is not something that can be readily obtained. We started out on this negotiation with a major fallacy: the EU can somehow be twisted around from matters of self-interest into entirely changing its nature. In fact, it is an international treaty organisation underpinned by law: that is what it is. Having visited Brussels on Monday, it was brought home to me—I already knew it—very clearly that that is indeed the nature of the entity with which we are dealing. Unless we are realistic about that we cannot hope to secure a reasonable outcome to our negotiations.

What troubles me particularly is the timing of all this. The reality is that the EU, for very good reasons, wants order. It is a legal order, and it wishes order to exist, even when countries are leaving it. The point was made to us that ultimately it would negotiate according to our red lines and, if we decide to put red lines down that make it impossible to reach the sort of agreement that the Prime Minister wants, we will not secure that agreement—it is very simple. On top of that—I would like to add this point to the one made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe—all of this is likely to come to a head at a very late stage indeed for rational judgments by the House about what is in the national interest.

Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends seem positively to relish the prospect of the negotiations collapsing and our leaving the EU with absolutely no deal at all. I believe that that would probably be the single most catastrophic act perpetrated by any Government on this country in modern history, so I do not intend to allow that to happen. I simply make this point to my friends on the Front Bench, who have the difficult task of taking this project forward. On the point that is raised in new clause 17, this may not be the right place to amend the legislation, which is not particularly germane to it but, my goodness, it is a relevant point. At what point can the House and, indeed, the public have a proper understanding of what the Government have succeeded in negotiating? At the moment, it reminds me very much of the company set up at the time of the South Sea bubble in the early 18th century that said: “A company to be of great and inestimable value to its shareholders. Nobody to know what it is.”

Break in Debate

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:18 p.m.

In his discussions with Mr Barnier, did my right hon. and learned Friend gain any impression that the European Commission, and indeed Mr Barnier himself, had taken on board the fact that in relation to the legal order to which my right hon. and learned Friend refers—the European Union and its institutions—article 50 actually represented a radical change by giving people the right to withdraw if they wished? That changed the nature of the European Union from the day on which article 50 was passed as part of the Lisbon treaty.

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:19 p.m.

I am not sure I entirely agree. I do not think that Mr Barnier has ever suggested that the United Kingdom cannot withdraw under article 50—we plainly can. Indeed, new clause 6 deals with the question of whether article 50 is revocable. I think that it almost certainly is, so it is a pertinent question for the House to ask, although it is not an easy one for the Government to answer, in fairness, as ultimately it could probably be determined only by the European Court of Justice.

I do not think that the fact that we can revoke article 50, or that article 50 has kicked in, alters the EU legal order. The EU intends to continue with the United Kingdom outside. On the question of our future relations with the European Union, we will be outsiders, and some things that we are asking for, including a special and deep relationship, are currently—and, I fear, for ever—incompatible with the nature of that legal order. We either have to be in or we will get something that is very much less than what we have set out as our request. I therefore say to my hon. Friends that these amendments are perfectly pertinent, because they raise questions that will be asked over and over again, and with greater urgency, as each week passes in the course of this dramatic year.

I will end by saying this to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). I listened very carefully to what he had to say. He is an individual of complete and clear integrity when it comes to his own views about how the United Kingdom’s constitution should work, which is one of the reasons why he has been so dramatically opposed to our EU membership—a matter on which we differ—but here he was, highlighting that in the process of taking ourselves out of the European Union, we are smashing up our domestic constitution big time—“O Brexit! What crimes are committed in your name?” It is imperative that we in this House manage the process so that we prevent the sort of mischief that he has identified, but I am afraid that, in part, it is inherent in the nature of the venture that we have taken on.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:21 p.m.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that this constitutional danger is heightened by the fact that Conservative Members from Scotland are not listening to growing concerns about our lack of membership of the single market and the customs union, and the implications for our economic future, but simply following the Government through the Lobby?

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:21 p.m.

I am afraid that I disagree entirely—far from noticing any such thing, I have noticed the very reverse. My Scottish colleagues are very much alive to the constitutional implications of Brexit and have been working assiduously to address them, while not falling into the trap, as I am afraid the hon. Lady and some members of her party have, of constantly characterising what is a national constitutional debate—indeed, a crisis—in binary terms, with Scotland always appearing either as a victim or as having a halo over its head, neither of which, in the scheme of human existence, is justified.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:22 p.m.

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman might have misunderstood what I meant, which is that the binary nature of what the Scottish Conservatives are doing is heightening the binary argument in Scotland, and indeed playing into the hands of those who seek nationalism.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I am afraid that I disagree. My Scottish colleagues have been behaving with extraordinary good sense, particularly their leader, Ruth Davidson, and my colleagues here at Westminster. Perhaps I have misunderstood some aspect of the hon. Lady’s question. Far from seeing them as supporters of crazy ideas in the context of Brexit, I think that they have consistently shown a moderate common sense in trying to understand the wider United Kingdom position and Scotland’s distinctive position, and trying to take this forward. If I may say so, they are exactly the sorts of allies I want in the course of the work that I will continue doing in this House.

I have spoken quite enough and I thank the House for its indulgence.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:23 p.m.

I rise to speak to amendment 10, which stands in my name and those of colleagues across the House. I think this follows logically from the wise words that the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) has just delivered to the House. Like him, I support new clause 17, and I also want briefly to mention new clause 1 and amendment 44.

From the start of the Bill’s passage through the House, my concern has been about how it concentrates power in the hands of a small group of Ministers. Be we liberals, communitarians, socialists or conservatives, in this House we are democrats all. It goes against all our British political traditions to concentrate power in the way the Bill still does—even after the amendments have been made—over decisions that could affect our children and grandchildren for generations to come. The referendum decided that we will leave the EU, but it did not decide how, and those decisions should not be so concentrated in the hands of a small group of Ministers, especially in a hung Parliament.

In Committee, we often went one step forward and then two back with regard to the interests of parliamentary democracy. That is why further amendments are needed today. Ministers did agree to the amendments put forward by the Procedure Committee, which will give Parliament a bit more of a say over whether the affirmative or negative procedure is used for secondary legislation, but Parliament will not be able to insist on which procedure is followed or that changes should be made in primary rather than secondary legislation. That is why new clause 1 is so important.

The Bill would still allow a small group of Ministers to take away workers’ rights and equality rights, which have been hard fought for over generations and hard won through this place, and they would be able to do so with hardly any say from Parliament. Therefore, those of us who have been part of the fight for greater equality and for workers’ rights for many years cannot just stand by while those rights are diminished. Nor should any of us, whatever our view, be part of agreeing to the wide scope of ministerial powers still embedded in clauses 7 and 9, allowing Ministers to do simply “as they consider appropriate”. Amendments 44 and 2 are important attempts to limit those powers to what is necessary, and Parliament has a responsibility to do so. I hope that those in the other place, whose job is to scrutinise the Executive and stand up for Parliament, will consider these matters very seriously when the Bill reaches them.

Parliament has agreed that there should be more democratic say over the withdrawal agreement itself. The previous amendment 7, which was agreed to in Committee against the wishes of Ministers, made it clear that we must have a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement. It said that that vote should apply not to a motion, but to a statute, and that we should be able to take a decision before the treaty is ratified, not after, and before implementation starts. I know that Ministers have considered rowing back on that, and I strongly warn them not to do so. They should respect the spirit of our debates and the views of this House.

Several Government amendments relating to the date on which we will leave have undermined that meaningful vote. My amendment 10 seeks to deal with the conflict between the previous amendment 7, which was passed, and the amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and the Government. Those amendments on the date would bind Parliament’s hands and concentrate powers with Ministers when it comes to considering the final withdrawal agreement and as we come to the supposedly meaningful vote.

In Committee, we debated the fact that it was unwise at this stage in the negotiations to include the date in the Bill, because that could make it difficult to handle late problems in the process or to renegotiate any aspects of the agreement if we get a bad deal. It also restricts Parliament’s ability to scrutinise and call for changes, if necessary, once we see what the Government propose as the final deal. Suppose, for example, the transitional arrangements miss out something that is extremely important for our security, or for a sector of our economy. Parliament should at least have the chance to debate that and decide whether it wants to call on the Government to go back and try to negotiate a further change, or propose adjusting the timings—even for a few months—while the issues are sorted out. The Bill, as it stands, prevents us from doing so, and it could mean that Parliament is simply timed out. It would force us back to the very situation that Parliament rejected when it passed the previous amendment 7. In other words, Parliament would basically have to choose between the Executive’s deal and no deal at all. That is not a meaningful vote.

The amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset do not help, because they allow the date to be changed, but only by Ministers—not by Parliament, even if Parliament takes a different view from the Executive. In addition, they allow the date to be changed only if an alternative date is included in the withdrawal agreement, so if Ministers agree an alternative date with the EU, they can use secondary legislation to change the date in our legislation, too. That is not on, because it will effectively give the EU Parliament more of a say than this Parliament over whether the date should be changed. That is hardly taking back control.

Break in Debate

Chuka Umunna Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:40 p.m.

I will be as brief as I can. I rise to speak in support of new clause 6 on the legal standing of article 50. I voted in the last Parliament to invoke article 50 because I believed it was the duty of the House to seek to deliver Brexit in the form in which it was sold to the British people, but it was conditional on it being in that form. I said that if it turned out to be materially different at the end of the process, the people would be entitled to keep an open mind on what should then happen. By that I meant they were entitled to halt the process and revoke the article 50 notification given by the Prime Minister to the President of the European Council, if that was what the people decided to do.

The core purpose of new clause 6 is to clear up this matter. On the issue of revocability—halting the process or extending article 50—Ministers have sought deliberately to pull the wool over the eyes not just of this House but of the people. They have given the misleading impression that legally we are not free to keep an open mind and that we cannot revoke article 50 if we so wish. For example, on 9 October 2017, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) asked the Prime Minister if it was possible to halt the article 50 process, she implied that it was not and said:

“The position was made clear in a case that went through the Supreme Court in relation to article 50.”—[Official Report, 9 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 51.]

But it was not. The case she was referring to was brought by Gina Miller to stop this Government seeking to take back control for Ministers instead of for Parliament, as was intended.

The Prime Minster was pressed again on the same day by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) and each time gave a similar response. This gave a completely false impression of the reality, because what she said was not factually correct. The Supreme Court did not and has not opined on this issue in the Miller or any other case before it, though the author of article 50, the noble Lord Kerr, has made it clear that it may be revoked.

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:43 p.m.

It is abundantly clear that the matter has not been determined by the Supreme Court. The Government chose in the Miller case—for understandable reasons—to put forward the proposition that it could not be revoked, and both sides asked the Court to proceed on that assumption. It did not opine on the matter.

Chuka Umunna Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 3:43 p.m.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right.

The Brexit Minister in the House of Lords, Lord Callanan, repeated this false claim when asked by a Conservative colleague whether he could confirm that the judgement in the Miller case had in ruled in “precise terms” on the revocability of article 50. He replied, “I can confirm that” and went on to say that the European Commission had said that once invoked, article 50 was irrevocable. He was forced 10 days later to return to the other place to come clean on the reality of the legal position, which was of course that the Supreme Court had said no such thing. Indeed, the European Commission is clear that article 50 can legally be revoked, and politically no member state has indicated that it would object to this.

Last week, the Government received legal advice from three Queen’s counsels, Jessica Simor, Marie Demetriou and Tim Ward, all of whom are on the Attorney General’s A panel of counsel and represent the United Kingdom. They have provided the Government with a published legal opinion confirming that article 50 is revocable. On the political side, the President and vice-president of the European Commission and the President of the European Council have made it clear that if this country wishes to change its mind at the end of the process, it will be free to do so. The British people deserve to know that; our constituents deserve to know it. The Government should publish that legal opinion, which is why new clause 6 must be passed.

Break in Debate

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 4:20 p.m.

The situation is set out in detail in the written ministerial statement that we laid. Both Houses will have meaningful votes on whether to accept the agreement. It is my expectation that we would not ratify before that primary legislation has gone through.

New clause 1 was tabled by the Labour Front-Bench team. It seeks to place limitations on the use of existing and future powers to amend and modify retained EU law. It is absolutely right and necessary for existing domestic powers granted by Parliament in other Acts and any future delegated powers created after exit day to be able to operate effectively and without inappropriate fetter within UK domestic law after our departure from the EU. This includes parts of our existing domestic law which will become retained EU law after exit day, as well as retained direct EU legislation which will be converted into our domestic statute book.

The Bill’s current approach to existing and future delegated powers aims to ensure the successful operation of retained EU law within our domestic statute book beyond the time limits for the Bill’s more limited specific powers. Adopting the new clause, on the other hand, would undermine the position of certainty and have several detrimental effects that would risk creating significant confusion in the UK statute book. First, limiting the modification of retained EU law by existing and future delegated powers only to when this is necessary

“to maintain or enhance rights and protections”

could have uncertain consequences. A test of necessity would impose a high burden that may prevent powers from being used in the most appropriate and relevant way if the regulations they create are not deemed truly necessary for the protection of rights. That could mean that existing and future delegated powers would be unable to amend or modify irrelevant or unsuitable parts of the statute book, leading to ossification of parts of retained EU law within UK domestic law and creating confusion and uncertainty.

Secondly, a restriction of that nature inevitably will increase the possibility of legal challenge against any use of these delegated powers. That would create needless uncertainty for businesses and individuals and risk holes emerging within the domestic statute book. Finally, the measure would also impose significant consultation requirements on the exercise of the delegated powers, the use of which is running against the clock. I understand and support the intention to ensure that all relevant stakeholders, as well as the general public, are aware of the situation and can engage as new legislation is developed. However, the blanket approach suggested under the new clause would be excessively and needlessly onerous. It would risk delays to the implementation of important changes.

In using both existing delegated powers and those created in the future, the Government will, of course, remain bound by the rules and procedures laid out in the parent Act, as well as the accepted statutory instrument processes. I will take this moment to say that I am proud of what we have done to clause 7 to make sure that we have contained the list of deficiencies while making sure that it is amendable through the affirmative procedure.

Turning to new clause 22, I think that I satisfied my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) earlier in the debate, but he is not in the Chamber so, if the House will allow me, I will move on to new clauses 14 and 15—

Mr Grieve Hansard

May I take the Minister back to clause 7 and thank him very much for the approach that he took in the negotiations?

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
17 Jan 2018, 4:25 p.m.

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend, and pay tribute to him. Although I have occasionally disagreed with him, he has, of course, made a historic contribution to the passage of the Bill. I am very grateful for the way in which he has helped us to improve the legislation.

Labour’s amendment 2 would restrict the scope of the clause 7 power. Labour appears to accept the principle that the power is essential if the UK is to exit the EU with certainty, continuity, control and a working statute book, but restricting the power in the way proposed in amendment 2 would risk compromising our ability to ensure that that statute book continues to function, thereby leaving gaps in our law, and creating uncertainty and confusion for businesses and individuals.

As we have explained previously, making the list of deficiencies in clause 7(2) exhaustive and immutable would risk omitting important deficiencies, preventing us from fully correcting the statute book. To require primary legislation in such circumstances would undermine the purpose of the Bill and the usual justifications for secondary legislation: technical detail, readability, incompleteness and, crucially, the management of time. We cannot risk undermining laws on which businesses and individuals—often unknowingly—rely every day.

As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster set out yesterday, the word “appropriate” was chosen carefully to ensure that the Government have the discretion called for by this unique situation. The constraints that a test of necessity would impose would prevent the Government and the devolved Administrations from making the best corrections to ensure that the statute book continues to function properly. A provision of necessity would risk limiting the Government and the devolved Administrations to only the most minimal changes, regardless of whether that would leave the law deficient, create absurd outcomes, or change the outcomes that the legislation was intended to deliver. I cannot believe that any Member would want to risk leaving the statute book in such a state. I am very conscious that we are now in a position whereby either these instruments will be brought forward under the affirmative procedure or, if they are brought forward under the negative procedure, the sifting committee will have the opportunity to push us towards that affirmative procedure.

Amendment 2 and new clause 15 seek to prevent regression in the protection of rights and equalities as we leave the EU, and new clause 14 seeks to do similarly by maintaining equivalence with the EU. The UK already has strong protections for equalities and human rights as part of our domestic provisions, independent of our membership of the EU. Some of those predate or go beyond EU requirements. The Government are committed to protecting our equalities legislation as we leave the EU. As we set out in the paper that we published on equalities legislation, limited technical amendments will be needed to ensure that all relevant legislation continues to operate as intended by Parliament after exit.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report stage: First Day: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 16th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Attorney General
Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 12:49 p.m.

Amendment 57, which would leave out clause 4, is linked to new clauses 19 and 21. Many of the amendments I tabled in Committee have been proposed by Greener UK, a coalition of many environmental organisations that are concerned about the possible impact of Brexit on environmental protections. They see it as one of the biggest threats: I know other people see it as an opportunity, especially when it comes to rejigging how we subsidise agriculture once we leave the common agricultural policy. The concern is what protections would remain, given the importance of our membership of the EU for everything from cleaning up water pollution and protecting biodiversity to improving recycling and reducing waste. It is hard to believe that we used to allow untreated sewage to flow into our seas before the EU’s bathing water directive forced the UK Government to make our bathing waters fit for swimming and to test for bacteria such as E. coli. In 1990, only 27% of our bathing waters met minimum mandatory standards; by 2014, 99% complied.

When the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry on the natural environment after the EU referendum, she told the Committee that approximately a third of the more than 800 pieces of EU environmental legislation will be difficult to transpose into UK law. The Committee also identified a considerable governance gap, which the Government have acknowledged, and I support new clause 18, which would enshrine what the Government have said they want in relation to carrying over environmental principles and establishing a new environmental regulatory body.

My amendment addresses the substantial flaws, gaps and democratic deficit in the Bill that were not addressed in Committee, in particular to fully transpose current EU environmental legislation in all areas effectively into UK law to avoid any weakening or loss of existing environmental protection during Brexit. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been encouraging in saying that:

“We must not only maintain but enhance environmental standards as we leave the EU. And that means making sure we secure the environmental gains we have made while in the EU even as we use our new independence to aim even higher”.

Opposition Members share the same aspirations and visions, but we cannot just take his word for it. We need those promises written into the Bill and concrete measures to deliver on those aspirations. This has to last longer than he is in post.

Amendment 57 would leave out clause 4, with a view to replacing it with new clause 19 which would preserve—more comprehensively than clause 4—rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures derived from EU law. The new clause seeks only to properly realise the Government’s stated ambition for the Bill—they have repeatedly assured us of this during the process—that the same rules and laws will apply after we leave the EU as before.

In their White Paper, the Government sought to reassure us that this Bill will mean that

“the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law”.

The Prime Minister has promised:

“The same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before”,

but that is simply not the case. As drafted, the Bill will not properly capture and convert all EU environmental law into stand-alone domestic law.

Clause 4 appears to deal with full transposition. In Committee, the then Minister of State for Courts and Justice described it as a sweeper provision that

“picks up the other obligations, rights and remedies that would currently have the force of UK law under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972.”—[Official Report, 15 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 498.]

But it fails to do its sweeping properly, because some inexplicable and unnecessary restrictions in clause 4(l)(b) and (2)(b) mean that important aspects of environmental law will be lost. Those exceptions include rights that have not been recognised by a court before exit day. Effectively, the basic rights that everyone accepts but that have not been litigated on are at risk. Those rights have been hardwired into EU law and do not need enforcing, but once we no longer have the safety net of the EU, they could fall.

The Government’s defence of the limitations in these subsections in Committee was far from convincing. The Minister essentially argued that they were necessary because directives do not produce directly effective rights until they have been recognised as such by courts. However, if a provision in legislation creates directly effective law, it does not need a court to confirm that that is the case. If a piece of legislation creates a legal position, it does not need a judge to verify that that is the case. In fact, the Government have often not transposed certain provisions of directives on the basis that they function adequately directly from the directives without any need to transpose them into national law. That clearly demonstrates that there are parts of directives that currently form part of UK law that will be removed by subsection (2)(b).

Clause 4 does not adequately engage with failures to properly transpose EU law. An obligation should be placed on the Government to remedy incorrect and incomplete transposition. The powers to do so are contained in clause 7(2)(f), but there is a significant difference between a power to do something and a duty to use that power.

To summarise, amendment 57, in getting rid of clause 4 and replacing the linked new clause 19, seeks to rectify those errors. New clause 19 is simpler and more comprehensive than the existing clause 4. It would ensure that rights arising under EU directives are preserved and that a mechanism is in place after exit day to deal with problems arising from the incomplete or incorrect transposition of EU law before exit day.

If clause 4 is not amended, we could lose vital EU law provisions, including requirements to review and report on the adequacy and implementation of laws that are crucial to ensure the law is complied with and up to date. That includes the requirements contained in article 20 of the marine strategy framework directive, article 17 of the habitats directive and article 32 of the air quality directive. Without reported data under the latter, ClientEarth would not have been able to hold the Government to account through the courts on air pollution.

We will also lose obligations on the Government to report and send information to the European Commission, which is then able to aggregate it and use it for considering the appropriateness of laws and their implementation. On day 6 in Committee, I gave an example of how losing reporting requirements under article 10 of the birds directive could, for example, present a barrier to future investment in, and the roll-out of, marine renewable energy and other developments. The Government still have not said whether they intend these reporting requirements to disappear.

Without amendment, we will also see a loss of environmental standards and conditions. Some obligations on member states have not been transposed into UK law, such as article 9 of the water framework directive, which requires water pricing policies to provide adequate incentives for users to use water efficiently, or article 5 of the energy efficiency directive on energy performance requirements for publicly owned buildings. We have been promised a green Brexit, and we are told that leaving the EU will not threaten the health of people or nature, so why is there opposition to amending the Bill to make those promises legally binding?

Let me turn briefly to the other new clause tabled in my name. New clause 21 would ensure oversight of the transfer of functions from EU institutions to domestic institutions. It would do that by requiring the Government to establish a publicly accessible register of environmental governance functions and powers exercised by EU institutions and to make regulations that ensure that all relevant environmental powers and functions are continued. The register would allow the public to monitor and hold the Government to account on their plans for robust arrangements to be in place on exit day to deliver their ambition for a world-leading environmental justice system. The new clause also reflects strong public concern that the environmental governance gap that would arise on leaving the EU is filled as quickly as possible.

To conclude, I am simply saying that if the Government want the Bill to match their stated intentions, they need to accept these provisions.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 12:53 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) in respect of her provisions and to have the opportunity this afternoon to talk about the schedule of amendments in front of us, which we have to consider as a block between now and 4 pm.

The hon. Lady’s concern is about the fate of environmental law, as provided to us by the EU, once we leave, and about what provision we will make to provide it with adequate protection. However, the whole list of amendments, including those tabled by the official Opposition, goes to the issue of what happens to areas of entrenched law that have developed during our EU membership after we have gone. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench keep on repeating insistently that it is not the intention, as a result of our removal from the EU, that any of these protections should be diminished in any way at all.

It is true that one or two of my right hon. and hon. Friends have made hinting noises at various times that there are areas that they might like to alter in future, in a way that suggests a possible diminution, but in fairness to the Government, that has never been the Government’s position. Indeed, as we have spent time looking at issues such as equality law or children’s rights, the message has come back over and again that the disappearance of the charter of fundamental rights or environmental law issues, for example, will not be used as an excuse for diminishing the existing legal framework.

The difficulty—it is the one that exercised me in Committee—is that it is all very well Ministers coming to the House and making very pleasant statements that that is what they intend to do, but it must be the responsibility of this House to ask the Government how, in practice, that is to be done, when such a powerful mechanism as our EU membership is about to be removed.

That raises a second and more fundamental problem, where I have considerable sympathy with the Government. I understand why, for many in this House—I think that I count myself as one of them, as a good Conservative—the idea of entrenched rights that override the sovereign power of Parliament is something with which we are not comfortable. Indeed, the official Opposition, when in government post-1997 and when seeking to enact the Human Rights Act 1998, recognised that, in that they did not seek to provide entrenched laws; they sought to provide a mechanism through the Human Rights Act whereby rights under the European convention on human rights might be protected in a special way through declarations of incompatibility. That was not sufficient to override primary legislation of this House, but, of course, it did provide a mechanism by which it could be overridden and struck down in the case of secondary legislation. That has always been a way of doing things that has commended itself to me.

I have always accepted that one of the consequences and problems of EU membership is that it has provided entrenched laws that ultimately override by virtue of our international obligations and the direct effect of the European Court of Justice. So I can understand that there should be reluctance on the Government side of the House, as we leave the EU, to simply take this category of laws and say that we are going to give it a special status that overrides the ordinary way in which this House does its business.

If we do that, however, it raises the question of what the Government propose to do to provide, for example, at least as much protection for these categories of rights as is currently enjoyed under the Human Rights Act. One possibility—we canvassed it in Committee—was that the Government might wish to enact primary legislation to add clauses to the Human Rights Act to provide such a mechanism. Indeed, if the Government were to come up with such a proposal, I would be enthusiastic about it, and it is a matter to which we have to give careful consideration.

I am also aware that some of the rights provided in the charter, for example, clearly pertain to EU citizenship, so they are irrelevant to this country once we leave. I also accept that some of the rights may be said to have a socioeconomic aspect, which makes it debatable whether they should be categorised as rights at all. However, that still leaves a very big area indeed of matters that, as I understand it from listening to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, Ministers acknowledge are of such importance that they are now seen as being equivalent to rights, yet they do not enjoy the protection of the convention.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes), who is now a Minister—she is busy, I think, in the Department for Exiting the European Union—characterised the inability to get one’s head around the problem with this issue, if I may gently point it out, by first saying that these rights would be wholly protected after we left—they are plainly not—and then actually suggesting that the argument against the Opposition’s proposal was that there were multiple layers of rights. Those two statements cannot both be correct. The fact is that areas such as equality law will no longer enjoy any protection at all. Indeed, that will be capable of being changed by statutory instrument, by virtue of other changes that the Government are introducing in the Bill, so these areas do raise serious issues.

Break in Debate

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:02 p.m.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the best guarantee of the fundamental rights of the British people is the will of the British people as expressed through the Parliaments they elect? That is the system I thought we all believed in. I know of no threats to these important rights coming from this Parliament. There are not people proposing that they are watered down, and there would be no majority to do so. The guarantee to the British people is that their Parliament will look after their rights.

Mr Grieve Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:03 p.m.

May I gently say to my right hon. Friend that if his analysis were accurate, no statute would ever have been enacted by Parliament, at any stage in its history, providing additional protections to people’s rights over and above the common law? That must be the end point, because the whole point about the Human Rights Act was that it added to protections enjoyed under the common law and did so in a way that was compatible with this House’s sovereignty. All I am saying to Ministers is that given that, for 40 years-plus, we have been involved in an international organisation that in practice has entrenched certain rights, it must now be for Ministers to come forward with a sensible proposal as to how those rights, in so far as the Government consider that they are in fact rights, will be protected in the future.

I am afraid that I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). Nice as it is to rely upon the Executive’s good will, 21 years in this House—heaven knows, my right hon. Friend has been here far longer—persuades me that that good will is not something that we should always rely on. I am afraid that I have seen a number of instances—particularly when I was in opposition, I might add—where it did not seem very wise to do so.

Sir Bernard Jenkin Portrait Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con) - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:03 p.m.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) that in the end, because we are a sovereign Parliament, we are the only guarantor of our people’s rights. However, I am interested in what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) is saying about this matter, because the other danger that is lurking here is the fact that our courts may well decide that they have an obligation to maintain EU law even in the face of an Act of Parliament, and might strike down an Act of Parliament because, from reading the Bill, they see it as their obligation to retain certain principles of EU law. I like the declaration of incompatibility that my right hon. and learned Friend is suggesting as a very suitable compromise that enshrines what we have.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:04 p.m.

Order. This, if I may say so to the hon. Gentleman, is a mini-speech, with more emphasis on the speech than on the mini.

Mr Grieve Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:05 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

My hon. Friend makes a perfectly good point, which reinforces my impression that it is inadequate simply to say, “Because we are leaving we shall leave this to a later date.” I will return to that later.

We did actually, Mr Speaker, talk about this at some length in Committee. In Committee, as hon. Members may recall, I emphasised that one way out of this difficulty might be to move away from the charter and look at the general principles of EU law. We could allow them to continue to be invoked, in respect of retained EU law, which would include issues such as the laws which we have under the charter, until they were replaced. That seemed to me to be a stopgap. I emphasise that I put it forward as a stopgap—not as a long-term solution, but as a way of getting the Government off the hook of having to accept any part of the charter, because I know that one or two of my hon. Friends choke when they even mention that word. I have never shared that view—I think they should actually go and read the charter, because then they would realise it is rather a reasonable document. My suggestion provided a way forward, and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General very kindly said that he would go away and give the matter some thought, the consequence of which was Government amendments 37 and 38.

I am sorry to start this Report stage with a bit of carping, because later I shall say some very nice things about the response of my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench to some of the representations that I made to them in Committee. Some very good things indeed have been done, for which I am grateful—I will talk about those when we come to the right point—but I think that the response on this matter is, frankly, rather paltry. They have provided a mechanism by which for three months—the period in which it is possible to carry out judicial review—after the exit date it will be possible to invoke these rights, but not in a way that challenges any primary legislation. It is a minuscule change, but minuscule though it may be, it is actually a little wedge in the door, because it represents quite a major surrender or change of principle on the part of the Government towards this issue, and to that extent I am delighted to welcome it. Nevertheless, as I think the Solicitor General knows very well, the proposal is not what I was asking for. The problem is that although it starts to remedy the situation, it does not go anything like far enough, particularly when it is not linked to a wider statement from the Government about how they want to go ahead and deal with this.

I had to make a decision about whether to table a further amendment to put to the House on Report. Having rebelled—there is no other way to describe it— against the Government, because that was what I undoubtedly did on clause 9, and indeed incited some of my colleagues to join me in doing so, because I thought that clause 9 was so deficient, it is not my desire to cause further stir, in the harmonious atmosphere of early January, by doing that again if I can possibly avoid it. It crossed my mind that two things appeared to me to militate against doing it. The first is this.

I have to say to the Solicitor General that I do not think that the Bill will pass through the upper House without this issue being considered. It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Brexit takes place; it has to do with the state of certainty of law in this country, which is a matter to which plenty in the other place are capable of applying their minds. I very much hope that when the Bill goes to the Lords, they will look at the amendment that the Government have tabled and understand its spirit—it is well-intentioned, so I must welcome it—but perhaps decide that it might be capable of a little bit of development. Or, indeed, they may apply their legal minds to this matter and come up with an alternative that does respect—I want to emphasise this—some of the reasons, which I understand, why the Government do not wish to entrench these laws after we have gone.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab) - Hansard

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a point that gets to the heart of the purpose of the Bill, as stated by the Government: this is a technical transfer exercise—it is technically transferring the acquis communautaire into British law to facilitate Brexit. Does not the decision not to transpose the charter of fundamental rights make a mockery of that claim? Although the right hon. and learned Gentleman is making very valid points about some of the technical alternatives, do we not need to keep returning the Government to their stated fundamental purpose in the Bill?

Mr Grieve Hansard

The hon. Gentleman makes a totally legitimate point, especially as the Government themselves have emphasised how important these issues are to them. We are not turning the clock back to the 1950s—at least, I do not think we are—since when this country has moved on in respect of rights. The challenge to Ministers is that they have to come up with some solution to the problem. As I said, I do not want to put spanners in the works of how they do it.

Another factor influenced my decision not to table another amendment and divide the House on this matter. Realistically, although I realise that some may not like this, in leaving the European Union, we are about to embark on a lengthy period of transitional arrangements during which, in my view—I might be wrong—every jot and tittle of EU law will continue to apply to this country in every conceivable respect, except that we will no longer share in its making in the institutions of the European Union. I am afraid that I think that is where we are going; the alternative, of course, is that we are jumping off the cliff.

If that is where we are going, I accept that there is a little more time for the Government to start to reflect on how they will deal with issues of entrenched law before anybody’s remedy disappears. That is something else that influences me in not wishing to divide my own party or the House. I am always aware that quiet persuasion may be better than speeches from the Back Benches, and for those reasons, a bit more quiet persuasion might get us to where we need to be on this issue, but it will not go away.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con) Hansard

My right hon. and learned Friend says that he does not wish to divide the House. However, if he had tabled an amendment and divided the House, and then that vote had been lost, it would have sent a powerful message to their lordships not to mess with the Bill and that the will of the House had been firmly expressed. There would have been an advantage in his position, if he had maintained it.

Mr Grieve Hansard

There might have been, but as a loyal member of the Conservative party over many years, I have always been of the opinion that the best way to try to influence one’s party’s policy is in the quietest way possible. As this issue has the merit of being able to succeed in that way, I shall stick to my strategy. Of course, if and when I think it necessary for me to do something else, I could, very reluctantly, be forced to do so. On this matter, however, I prefer to leave it.

I turn to a related matter about which I did table an amendment, which I do not wish to press to a vote. It goes to the other issues about the certainty of retained EU law. There is an inevitable internal incoherence about how retained EU law is being handled in the Bill. In reality, retained EU law has a primary quality, because in all likelihood most of it is supreme over our own laws. Oddly enough, that situation is going, at least in part, to be retained, but the Government have dealt with that by allowing it all to be altered through statutory instruments.

In Committee, we tried to find a way out—I tried quite hard. That is why I have tabled new clause 13, which provides a way of identifying what EU legislation is in reality primary and what is secondary. I thought that the House might be interested—if it is not, the other place might be—in how one might go about making that separation, which would then provide a sensible measure of greater certainty. At the moment, the Government’s proposal, as I understand it, is that each measure will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. That seems a rather extraordinary way in which to proceed.

For that reason, I have put the new clause and a couple of consequential amendments forward for the consideration of the House. If the proposal were to be accepted, or taken away and thought about further, it would allow for what I think would be a credible mechanism by which we could identify primary and secondary legislation that had been retained and had come to us from the EU. I will say no more about that.

Break in Debate

Mr Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op) Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:28 p.m.

I want to speak briefly to several of the amendments in this group. In particular, I want to encourage the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) to elaborate on his rather carefully crafted new clause 13, which sets out quite a clever solution to the vexed question of EU retained law. He slightly rushed through his explanation of the new clause towards the end of his speech, but as I understand it, he is suggesting that, rather than treating as a new category of law the whole corpus of 40 years of accrued EU legislation, rights and duties that we all enjoy—or not, depending on how they apply—for the purposes of future amendment or reform of those rights and retained law, certain aspects should be treated as primary legislation and others as secondary legislation.

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was saying that issues that fell under article 289 should be treated as primary legislation because they were of greater import, and that if we wanted to amend them again in the future we should do so by Act of Parliament, whereas aspects of retained EU law that related to delegated instruments under article 290 should be treated as secondary legislation, and if there were future reforms of those aspects, Parliament could use the secondary procedure. It would be most helpful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman could give us a little more detail about why he felt that those were the right categories to pursue.

Mr Grieve Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:31 p.m.

I am certainly not going to make a mini-speech; I said what I felt was sufficient. I offer the new clause not as a perfect solution, but as an alternative to what I consider to be the rather incoherent approach that the Government have adopted. The new clause seemed to me to have some merit, especially because it includes a provision allowing the status of retained EU law to be altered by statutory instrument, so the House could be done with the process quite quickly. I thought that it was a way of trying to resolve what I saw as a practical problem. Let me emphasise that it was not intended to be a weapon with which to beat Ministers on the head. I saw it merely as a sensible way of trying to take things forward, and I present it to the Committee in that spirit. It is not perfect, but represents another way in which we might approach the issue.

Mr Leslie Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:32 p.m.

This may seem a dry and technical question, but from time to time Parliament does reflect on the nature of legislation that has been passed. We all assume that it has been accrued through Acts of Parliament or through secondary legislation, but we are now importing a third category, that of retained EU law, into our legal context, and we need to know how to treat it in the future. I do not think that the Government have addressed that question adequately, which is why I think that new clause 13 is of particular interest.

Break in Debate

Lord Neuberger, the former President of the UK Supreme Court, has raised this issue on a number of occasions, including in interviews with the BBC and in evidence to Committees of the other place.

Mr Grieve Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 2:18 p.m.

I agree entirely with what the hon. and learned Lady is saying, but it is my understanding, and I hope the Minister will say it again—he said it in Committee—that this will be dealt with in the other place. I am sorry that it could not be dealt with here, because that would have been rather better, but if the Government need more time, I expect them to address this issue.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 2:19 p.m.

That is what I have heard, too. What I would like to hear from the Government today—this is why I tabled this probing amendment—is some indication that they recognise the gravity of the issue. This is not a political football, and it is not about stopping Brexit; it is about addressing issues of legal certainty.

As a courtesy to this House, I would like to hear some indication of how the Government propose to address the issues of legal certainty, particularly so that Members of my party, which is not represented in the other place, can have some input and give our view. Of course Scotland has a separate legal system. Clause 6(2) will apply to the High Court of Justiciary, and we need to be reassured not just on behalf of judges in the UK Supreme Court but on behalf of judges in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. I very much hope amendments 42 and 43 will draw from the Solicitor General some colourable reassurance that the Government are taking these concerns seriously and that they have them in hand, as well as some indication of the route the Government intend to go down in the other place to address these concerns.

Finally, on the charter of fundamental rights, I will wait to see what the official Opposition do, as we each have an amendment down. Given the spirit in which we have worked together on other aspects of this Bill, I am sure we can come to an agreement on that. The Scottish National party will be happy to support new clause 7, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). Many of our constituents feel strongly about the issue it raises, as do those of other MPs, and we are grateful to her for persevering with it.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard

I will not; I am developing my argument. It was a point that was made clear, not only in the charter itself but in protocol 30, which was signed by Poland and the UK at the time of the Lisbon treaty. In addition—this is important, and this, it seems to me, having listened carefully to the debate, is not understood—the charter does not apply to member states in everything they do. Although it applies to the EU and its institutions in all areas, it binds member states only in so far as they are acting within the scope of EU law. Therefore talking about the charter in a domestic context misunderstands its purpose and point: it was not drafted in that context. I am afraid that there has, I think, been a regrettable misunderstanding about that in this debate.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I do not think I have been under any misunderstanding at all. That is why I have kept pressing the Government to leave the charter to one side but look at the general principles of EU law necessary to bring challenges to retained EU law, brought into our own domestic law, that was not enacted by this Parliament—and without which, frankly, the coherence of EU law starts to disintegrate. That is the issue. Linked to that, of course, is the other issue of protecting some of those fundamental rights, perhaps in a different way, that matter to so many on both sides of the House.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard

My right hon. and learned Friend and I agree about general principles, which is why the general principles that underpin the recently drafted charter remain and, of course, do apply in respect of retained EU law. His second point about the means by which individuals challenge that is, of course, a matter of ongoing debate. I shall come back to the points raised in not only his amendment, but mine as well.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:47 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady seems to be very focused on future referendums and the desire to rerun arguments that were held some time ago. I want to do justice to her amendments as much as to anybody else’s, and I will say this about the amendments posited by her and the Labour party: they offer different visions of how challenge might be mounted by using the charter. Amendment 4, which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, deals with a situation akin to that under the Human Rights Act, whereby a declaration of incompatibility can be given, but that does not guarantee full redress for individuals seeking it under the charter. I accept that the amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Lady goes further and would retain a power in effect to strike down legislation if it is incompatible with the charter. I simply say to both of them, with the greatest of respect, that their approaches work against the core aims of the Bill. We are leaving the EU, and there has to be certainty about the process; and certainty in the law lies at the heart of everything else we have to do. That is the simple reason why we cannot accept those amendments.

I was interested in the arguments of the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) about clause 4, when she moved her amendment 57 and spoke to her new clause 19. My argument about clause 4 is simply this: indeed, as the sweeper clause—the description she adopted—it has the important function of curing any loopholes that might exist in European law when we leave the EU and deals with the question of uncertainty that I know she is extremely concerned with. I will try to reassure her. She will remember that the explanatory notes contain a helpful and non-exhaustive list of the type of directly effective rights, such as equal pay—a very important right—that are designed to be covered by this important provision in clause 4. As I have said in evidence in another place, we are simply seeking to ensure the important principle of reciprocity in the enforcement of fundamental rights such as those of equality, which she referred to, and those pertaining to the environment, for which I know she also has a great passion.

In conjunction, I can deal with the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous), who succinctly and clearly made his argument on new clause 16, which deals fairly and squarely with equalities. We have already made our commitment clear that all the protections in and under the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010 and the equivalent Northern Ireland legislation will continue to apply once we have left the EU. In Committee, we tabled an amendment which would secure transparency in that regard by requiring ministerial statements to be made about any amendments made to the Equality Act through secondary legislative powers under the Bill.

What concerns me about new clause 16 is that it would go further by creating new free-standing rights, perhaps even more than have been proposed in amendments relating to the charter. That is not the purpose of the Bill. The Bill is about maintaining the same levels of protection on the day after exit as on the day before. It is not a vehicle for substantive legislative changes such as those that have been proposed, and for that reason we cannot accept the new clause.

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) for his qualified welcome for the Government amendments. The reason for a three-month time limit analogous to that which exists in domestic judicial review is the important policy consideration that there must be a degree of certainty when it comes to ongoing litigation and dispute about EU law as we enter the post-exit era. I think there must be some resolution of that by way of a limitation period. Retaining an open-ended right of action would create more uncertainty for businesses and individuals about rights and obligations.

After we cease to be a member of the European Union, it would not be right to allow “general principles” challenges to Acts of Parliament to continue, because that is not in line with the purposes of Brexit. To put it simply, outside the context of EU law, the ability of courts to disapply Acts of Parliament on “general principles” grounds is not consistent with the way in which our domestic legal system functions. That must be at the heart of our policy considerations.

Mr Grieve Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:51 p.m.

My hon. and learned Friend’s argument would make more sense if the Government had not decided to retain the principle of the supremacy of EU law in the Bill. Once they have done that, removing the mechanism of a challenge on the basis of general principles creates something that I think is rather odd. I would not have pressed the issue if the Government had adopted an alternative approach, but that was their own decision. This has, I think, highlighted some of the oddities of the way in which the matter has been approached. It may well be that they can be sorted out in the other place, but I think my hon. and learned Friend must acknowledge that they are odd.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:53 p.m.

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend is allowing me to intervene on his intervention. Let us not forget that we are dealing with the pre-exit situation. The EU acquis is being frozen, in the sense that its full effect in a pre-exit sense must be maintained so that we can maintain certainty. I agree that it is a strange and rather unusual concept, but I think it preserves that all-important certainty.

Time is short, and I want to ensure that I deal with further amendments.

Break in Debate

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 5:13 p.m.

If the UK Government were going to work together in that way, surely they would have tabled an amendment at this stage enabling them to do just that.

We now see a more successful and more confident Wales than we saw two decades ago, but I fear that we are about to go backwards. The Tories have made it clear that when it comes to devolution, they just do not get it. Anyone who understands the basics of devolution could tell them that the Bill, in its current form, is taking us backwards. We need a Bill setting up a procedure that devolved Governments could use in order to have a say on the common UK frameworks so that they would not have to depend on Whitehall’s good will or trust, and that must be on the face of the Bill. We need a Bill that does not propose regressive restrictions on the ability of devolved Parliaments to legislate on devolved areas; this Bill is not it, and I am disappointed that this UK Government could not get their act together between Committee and Report stage and offer better amendments to salvage it.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 5:15 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin). I want to raise two points, and the first of them goes to the issue around devolution and clause 11 and the lack of Government amendments. I do not share the hon. Lady’s somewhat apocalyptic view on this issue, but I certainly acknowledge that it is not desirable, because it is clearly not the Government’s intention for the process of Brexit to result in a diminution of devolved authority either in Scotland or Wales, or for that matter, in so far as Northern Ireland is going to get a viable Administration, in Northern Ireland. My view has always been, on looking at and reading the way the Bill was drafted, that we can do better than what appears in it at present. My understanding is that that is also acknowledged by the Government, although I do slightly regret that the Bill was introduced in its current form, because it seems to me that it was, to an extent, unnecessarily provocative.

However, it is worth bearing it in mind that ultimately the devolution system—I participated in the debates that set it up—had behind it the implication that the adjustments were not just a one-way ratchet, and I want to emphasise that point: the implication was that devolution might at times require adjustments that gave powers back to Westminster, just as they conferred more powers over time to both Cardiff and Edinburgh. That was clear in the course of those debates when Parliament set the original system up, and it has been repeated on a number of occasions since.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 5:17 p.m.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree with his colleague in the Scottish Conservative party Adam Tomkins MSP, the constitution spokesman, who said:

“Brexit must be delivered in a way that respects devolution…Looking at the substance of the 111 powers, many can safely be devolved without further ado; why aviation noise, for example, would need to come under a UK-wide framework I do not know”?

Mr Grieve Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 5:20 p.m.

Yes, 110%; I agree entirely with those sentiments, and the remark I made earlier about it not being a one-way street in the way it is supposed to operate does not in any way detract from what Adam Tomkins had to say, and for that reason I continue to look to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench to sort this out, and I share the regret that what should have been done in this House is clearly going to come back for consideration in this House at ping-pong. That is not very satisfactory, and I gently make the point at this stage, as I am confident that there will be the necessary amendments in the Lords, that when the Bill comes back from the Lords there must be sufficient time for us to consider it in detail, because ping-pong often has remarkably little time for detailed consideration of measures. I hope very much that we can get an assurance that, in view of the important constitutional nature of this legislation, we should get that.

I said earlier that I had been rather disappointed by the Government response to a matter I raised in Committee and that we debated earlier this afternoon, but that having been said, we debated the extraordinarily broad nature of the powers conferred on the Executive in respect of clause 7 and I am pleased at the way the Government have responded to the representations I made and the amendments I tabled. In amendment 14, it is rather nice to see the Government echoing the very words that I drafted when this matter was in Committee. I have no doubt that, as drafted, the Government amendments produce a significant safeguard on the way in which the powers can be used. They do that in two ways: first, by introducing an ejusdem generis clause, which refers to something of the same nature. In referring to the deficiencies listed, they state that if there are any others, they must be of the same nature as those in the list. The second protection that is now being provided is that, if the Government wish to add to the list of deficiencies, they are going to have to do it by an affirmative resolution of this House.

I entirely accept that this does not go as far as what I was seeking to achieve when I tabled my original amendments, which was to tie the Government down rather more. However, the Government certainly made a perfectly reasonable case in the discussions that I had with them. I think that that might exhibit a certain amount of neurosis on their part—neurosis is very common, as I know from my time in government—that they might have missed something that they ought to have put into the list. The fact that they are willing to come to the House and get an affirmative order to do this provides me with considerable reassurance that this power will now be used in the manner in which it was intended.

Having said all those good things, it is worth pointing out that this and many of the other power grabs in the Bill are quite startling in their scope. It is, however, to the Government’s credit that they have been willing to listen on this. Their amendments amount to a considerable improvement, particularly when associated with the other safeguards that we have been offered in respect of triage and scrutiny. I should therefore like to express my gratitude to the Secretary of State and to the Bill team, who have suffered my presence on probably more occasions than they might have wished in discussing how this might be taken forward. This is exactly what I came into this House to do, and it is always rather nice to be able to achieve something—and, furthermore, to achieve it without having to divide the House, as that is always the weapon of last resort for the Government Back Bencher.

With that, I come back to the point at which I started. The test of this legislation will be whether, after enactment, it is seen to be working fairly when it comes into operation. I have no idea when it will come into operation. I suspect that that is still a very long time off, but that is a product of the folly of the course of action on which we are embarked. All that we can do is to try to moderate it as much as possible.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 2:51 p.m.

I should like to speak to amendment 5, a cross-party amendment tabled in my name and those of other hon. Members. I should also like to indicate my strong support for the Opposition Front-Bench amendment 3. In principle, I also support many of the other amendments in this group, although not, I am sorry to say, the Government amendments, which do not go far enough towards addressing the concerns that have legitimately been raised by the devolved Administrations in particular. It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who has made some excellent points, as has my colleague and friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin), who shares many of my deep concerns about this part of the legislation, which have not been addressed.

I hesitate to raise this point, but it is odd that we are discussing devolution and Brexit in this, the most important piece of legislation to face the United Kingdom and the devolved nations since the second world war, without the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland being present in the Chamber with us. I cannot see any of their junior Ministers here either. Perhaps they all have other important business to undertake. That seems rather remiss of them, given that we are considering such serious matters. I raised a point of order with you about this the other day, Mr Speaker, as did other Members. Much of the concern about this part of the Bill relates to promises and assurances that were given by the Secretary of State for Scotland, yet he is not here to account for himself. I have a great deal of respect for him, but these are serious issues that have been raised in good faith, and Ministers should be here to hear our concerns, and those of the devolved Administrations, if we are truly supposed to be bringing the United Kingdom closer together—as the Prime Minister claims to want to do—rather than pushing it apart.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 8th sitting: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 20th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Exiting the European Union
Mr Leslie Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:23 p.m.

I have been vexed and exercised for quite a long part of the past 40 years, but that is my problem. The hon. Gentleman should know that as we go forward we are creating a new type of legislation. It is true that many of the European directives and regulations have been adopted over the years in different ways, but we are now importing this great body of EU retained law. It is going to affect him and his constituents, as well as my constituents. The first point to make is: can we understand what it is? That provides a useful opportunity in this exercise—

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:24 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman may agree with me that if there are deficiencies in the way EU law has been imported into our law, the last thing we want to do is to perpetuate them by keeping the uncertainties after we have gone. Yet schedule 5 raises a number of uncertainties, which this House would do well to address.

Mr Leslie Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:24 p.m.

We are doing our duty by at least trying to comb over these issues now.

I wish to commend the Labour Front-Bench team on their amendment 348, which seeks to ensure that impact assessments are made properly and thoroughly before we take many of the decisions in this whole Brexit process. We already know enough about what has happened with the Brexit Secretary promising impact assessments and their turning out to be sectoral analyses. Many of us will have gone to the reading room and looked at the hastily written 50-odd documents, which would be good if someone was writing a master’s degree dissertation on the aviation sector—they are full of facts and information—but do not really provide much more analysis than people can already get off Google.

Where we did get an insight, although it may have been a slip of the tongue, was when the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared before the Treasury Committee on 6 December and said that he has

“modelled and analysed a wide range of potential alternative structures between the European Union and the United Kingdom”

and that

“it informs…our negotiating position”.

So obviously there does exist within government some level of impact assessment and analysis that has not yet been placed in the public domain. It might be that the Brexit Committee wishes to explore that further or that the Treasury Committee wishes to do so, but it is important that we know whether this is simply a reference to the pre-referendum work that was done under the former Chancellor George Osborne or whether further assessments have taken place, independently undertaken by the Treasury. We need to know what analysis the different Departments have undertaken and what sort of modelling on the different sectors of our economy has been done.

Break in Debate

Mr Leslie Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:32 p.m.

That is the level of analysis and assessment that deserves to be shared and that was not available to the public prior to the referendum. It should not be dismissed but made more widely available. Members, and beyond them voters, can weigh up the different opinions. Some Members might rubbish representatives of the steel sector and say, “What do they know? I know better,” but we can weigh these things up and bring them into balance. We have the opportunity to debate transparency. Let us allow sunlight to flood over this issue and make sure that we are better informed going forward than we were before the referendum.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:33 p.m.

It is a pleasure to participate in the Committee’s consideration of schedule 5 and clause 13, although the reality is that the clause says very little and the schedule says a great deal.

As we have just heard, part 1 of schedule 5 provides for the publication of retained direct EU legislation by the Queen’s printer, which should be completely uncontroversial because its purpose is to promote transparency and access so that people in the United Kingdom can know what the law is. That is not some slight matter. One of the points that has been gently canvassed in the debate so far is the extent to which EU law may have created, in the way it has been brought into UK law, a degree of uncertainty as to what it is, in which case that is the last thing we should retain when we carry out this retention of the law. One of the central principles of the rule of law is that the law must be

“accessible…intelligible, clear and predictable”.

That is one of Lord Bingham’s principles of the rule of law, and it should matter to the House very much with respect to how it legislates. People need to be able to understand what activity is prohibited and therefore discouraged, and what their rights are so that they are able to claim whatever rights they have.

The interesting thing about part 1 of schedule 5 is that paragraph 2 empowers Ministers to make exceptions to the duty to publish retained direct EU legislation by

“giving a direction to the Queen’s printer specifying the instrument or category of instruments that are excepted.”

There appear to be no limitations on that power and no guidance on when such instruction might or might not be appropriate. My first question to my colleagues on the Treasury Bench, and particularly my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, is: what is the Government’s intention in respect of that exception? Why is it there—we need to understand why it has been included in the Bill—and how will it be used in practice? It seems to me that it is desirable that the entirety of retained direct EU legislation should be made available through the Queen’s printer, so what is the intention as to the circumstances in which a Minister might remove himself from the duty and give a different direction? There is, perhaps slightly to my regret, no amendment to address that question—had I focused on it slightly better at an earlier stage and not been diverted by other matters, I might have tried to tease it out by tabling an amendment—but as we are also debating whether the clause and schedule should stand part of the Bill, it is important that we give the matter some consideration. Indeed, it ties in exactly with what the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) said in introducing new clause 21, which is on exactly the same principle or philosophical issue of providing certainty.

My second question is about part 2 of schedule 5, which provides for Ministers by regulations to enable or require judicial notice to be taken of retained EU law or EU law. There are no limitations whatsoever on this delegated legislative power to enable or require judicial notice to be taken and, as far as I can see, nor are there any provisions to require that a Minister can make such regulations only under certain circumstances—for example, regulatory harmonisation might be a legitimate reason for making such regulations. This is a classic Henry VIII power, as paragraph 4(3) provides total Henry VIII powers, and is only limited, under paragraph 4(4), to primary legislation made or passed before the end of the Session in which this Bill is passed.

All that takes me back to an interesting debate the Committee had on a previous day—which one has rather faded out of my memory—in which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and I raised our continuing concerns about the judiciary having a lack of clarity about how they were supposed to interpret and apply retained EU law. Lord Neuberger and Lady Hale have expressed concern that the Bill is insufficiently clear about how retained EU law should be interpreted by the courts post exit. Lord Neuberger in particular was concerned by the prospect of the courts having to determine questions of regulatory harmonisation against divergence between UK and EU law—an essentially political topic, with possible economic consequences to the interpretation. As it happens, regulations made under part 2 of schedule 5 might address the judiciary’s anxiety about the need for better guidance on retained EU law, but what troubles me is that this provision again subtly sidelines Parliament from any role in providing guidance, as it is a matter of Executive discretion.

I must say to my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, and to my other colleagues on the Treasury Bench, that I do understand the Government’s difficulties. The whole Bill is about an accretion of power to a Government who do not really know how they are going to have to use that power and are fearful that something will come up that will require them to act swiftly, and who therefore think that they have to maximise the tools at their disposal.

Forgive my repeating this—I think that the Bill has been quite well improved as it has gone through the House and, indeed, some of the assurances that have been given will lead to further improvements, I have no doubt, on Report—but it was this sort of thing that made me describe the Bill as a monstrosity on Second Reading. It is so contrary to the normal way in which one would expect to legislate for Parliament both to grant the powers that a Government need, including, where necessary, powers of secondary legislation, and at the same time to make sure that these cannot run out of control. On the plain face of the Bill, this is really one of the immense Henry VIII powers. The Government have decided to resolve this issue by taking a very big sledgehammer to the normal structures.

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con) Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:41 p.m.

During last Wednesday’s debate, I specifically asked whether the Bill was first drafted before the June general election. My view—I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend shares it—is that this Bill was all about delivering a quick and hard Brexit, and the reason for these extraordinary powers is that they were needed by Ministers to execute that process in quite a short period of time. Does he think that there is any merit in that?

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard

I think I might be a little kinder to my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, because it seems to me that at the time the Bill came into being, the Government still thought that it was all that was required to take us out of the EU. I think that that is where its genesis and origin lie. In actual fact, one of the supreme ironies is that for all the heat that has been generated—we have carried out some proper scrutiny as well, but certainly, last Wednesday, there was a lot of heat—much of what we are doing here might well turn out in practice to be completely academic. In fairness to the Government, once they were landed with this immense problem, I am not sure that they were wrong to proceed in this way, but it just so happens that that is where we are going to end up. However, that is not a reason why we should not pay attention to the powers that the Government are seeking to take—we do have to pay attention to them.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:42 p.m.

rose—

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:42 p.m.

I will give way to my right hon. Friend in just a second, because I do not wish to speak for very much longer.

For that reason, I do hope that a bit of focus can placed on schedule 5. I do not have any amendments tabled. I am not about to create difficulties for the Government or to divide the House on schedule 5, but I will, if I may, just ask a question as we approach Report, because I cannot believe that this will not be looked at in the House of Lords. It would be quite nice for the Christmas period to be used for quiet reflection on just how wide these powers are and whether, yet again, the Government might, on reflection, be able to circumscribe them a little bit, so that they appear to be slightly less stark in terms of the power grab that they imply. That is quite apart from the fact, to come back to my first point, that the exception in paragraph 2 giving Ministers the power not to print strikes me as very, very odd.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:44 p.m.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Henry VIII powers, as he calls them, in the Bill are much more modest than the Henry VIII powers in the European Communities Act 1972 that it replaces? This is about only transferring existing law into UK law. Where and when we wish to amend, improve or repeal, that will require a full parliamentary process, which it did not need when it came from Europe.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:44 p.m.

I understand my right hon. Friend’s point. Of course, I am mindful of it—it has been raised on numerous occasions during the passage of the Bill—but the system that we had to follow as a result of our EU membership implied that that law, having been agreed by the Council of Ministers and translated into directives, had direct effect in this country and was then applied, not usually through primary legislation but by means of secondary legislation, or indeed directly sometimes. I understand all that, but it does not provide a justification for taking unnecessary powers in trying to effect our departure.

As I said, there is something a bit odd about schedule 5. There must be legal certainty, so why are the Government taking for themselves a power to create legal uncertainty if they so wish? Let us be clear about this: if guidance is a matter of Executive discretion, it is a very unusual state of affairs indeed. There is guidance and guidance. There may be general guidance that Parliament might give as to how it intends retained EU law to be treated. I do not have difficulty with that. Indeed, I think that it may be something that we will have to do. As we have discussed—my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and I were in agreement about this—we think that Parliament might want to explain how it wishes this matter to be approached generally. That, if I may say, is a rather different thing from saying that Ministers can suddenly wake up one morning and decide, “I want the law to be interpreted in a different way on some specific matter, and I am going to lay a statutory instrument before Parliament that will enable me to do that.” It is a very unusual thing to do, and the Government must be in a position to justify it. It slightly troubles me that the law can be tinkered around with in this form. Obviously, Parliament can decide what it likes about changing law. Occasionally, we change laws by statutory instrument, through regulatory change, but it is not something that we should do lightly.

Sir Bernard Jenkin Portrait Mr Jenkin - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:47 p.m.

Clause 13 is confined to the publication and rules of evidence. The schedule itself is about publishing what is retained direct EU legislation. Can my right hon. and learned Friend describe to me what latitude the Government would have that could do so much damage, or be so capricious, within the powers of the Bill, and can he give an example of what would be so damaging and outrageous?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:47 p.m.

As I have explained, this is a Henry VIII power, so within the period in which this power is operational—this is on my reading, but perhaps my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will correct me—a Minister of the Crown may, by regulation, essentially change the way in which retained EU law is handled by requiring

“judicial notice to be taken of a relevant matter, or…provide for the admissibility in any legal proceedings of specified evidence of…a relevant matter”.

That is a very extensive power. Effectively, it gives a power to rewrite how legislation should be interpreted.

Sir Bernard Jenkin Portrait Mr Jenkin - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:47 p.m.

Give us an example.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:48 p.m.

The examples could be endless—[Interruption.] Well, if there is an established rule by which, for example, EU law is currently being applied, a Minister could say that, in future, that should be disapplied because notice should not be taken of its previous application.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD) - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:48 p.m.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is not correct to compare the direct application of EU law with Henry VIII powers? When EU law is made, we all sit around the table. EU law is not other people’s law but our law. We sit at the table when EU law is being made, so it is an incorrect comparison.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:48 p.m.

I do actually agree with the hon. Lady and, I am afraid, disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin). Of course, membership of the EU implies a pooling of sovereignty, but the decision-making process by which law has been created in the EU is one that is done not by faceless bureaucrats, but by the Council of Ministers. There is absolutely no doubt about that at all—

Sir Bernard Jenkin Portrait Mr Jenkin - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 1:49 p.m.

In secret.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I do not wish to be dragged off into some new polemical argument. My hon. Friend says in secret, but, if I may say, we are signed up to hundreds of treaties other than that with the EU in which we pool our sovereignty to come to common positions with our fellow treaty makers.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind) Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

rose—

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

rose—

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I think that I am about to take up much more time than I wanted to. I give way to the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon).

Lady Hermon Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. I agree entirely with his eloquent points about the power that schedule 5 transfers to Ministers of the Crown. Will he spend a moment reflecting on the definition of a Minister of the Crown that is set out in clause 14? The definition comprises not just Ministers, but

“also includes the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs”.

The power in schedule 5 is being given to a very broad range of individuals.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

The hon. Lady is right. [Interruption.] Next to me, from a sedentary position, my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex is saying, “It’ll only be used for technical matters.” Indeed—let us be clear about this—I strongly suspect that that is the intention, but this is a very extensive power and, as it is worded, it goes way beyond technical amendments. As we are in Committee, it seems perfectly proper for me, as a Back-Bench Member of Parliament—it does not matter which side of the Chamber I am sitting on—to ask my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench to explain to the Committee how the power will be used. I gently say to my hon. Friends that the problem with this debate is that the heat that starts to come off very quickly goes into issues of principle about what has been going on over the past 50 years. Could we just gently come back to focus on the issue at hand?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

rose—

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

As much as I would like to give way to my right hon. Friend, I am actually now going to sit down.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Just for a second.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

All right, I will give way.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I want to take up my right hon. and learned Friend on one small point. After agreeing with the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) and justifying the past 40 years by saying that decisions were agreed by Ministers sitting together to make law, he knocked down his own argument as to why he cannot support what Ministers are doing because, of course, they would use this power as Ministers who have been elected to implement change and make law. My right hon. and learned Friend cannot have it both ways. Either he thinks that the last 40 years were wrong, which is why one defends the idea of change, as he did originally; or he thinks that the last 40 years were fine, in which case there is no attack on this particular aspect of the Bill.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I am afraid that I disagree totally with my right hon. Friend. In the last 40 years, we decided to pool sovereignty as a matter of national interest and necessity. This is a totally different issue; it is about our domestic law. When it comes to matters of domestic law, this House does not have the necessary constraint, which is the very reason why I have asked these questions. I am quite confident that my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will be able to provide some cogent answers to the points I have raised.

Mike Gapes Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

All right, but this is the last one.

Mike Gapes Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Is there not also another difference, which is that decisions within the European Union are not just taken by meetings of the Council of Ministers, as there is a co-decision process that involves elected Members of the European Parliament representing all 28 member states?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I do not want to get dragged into revisiting the way in which the European Union works. The European Union has many flaws, and there are many issues on which I have seen fit to criticise it during my years in the House—including, sometimes, the way it goes about its business. Having said that, this constant conflation of the two issues when we are carrying out scrutiny of what will be domestic legislation is, in my view, not helpful. We need to focus on what we are doing. If we do, we will come up with the right answers.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab) - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

It is a real pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who made a characteristically thoughtful and reasonable contribution. It is always remarkable to see how such thoughtfulness and reasonableness can be so provocative to some Government Members.

I wish to speak to amendments 348 and 349 in my name and the names of my hon. and right hon. Friends. I hope, in doing so, to build on the agreement across the Committee that was evident last Wednesday, when we made the decision that Parliament should have a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

Break in Debate

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:32 p.m.

My hon. Friend puts the point beautifully. That is actually the historical and traditional job of Back-Bench Members of Parliament. We should be here to protect the interests of our constituents and the interests of the constitution, and to hold the Government—of whichever party—to account.

That is why I am in such agreement with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield about the undesirability of Henry VIII powers. However, I said I would diverge from him at some point. The point on which I diverge from him is the perhaps slightly academic one about where we have started from. I think it is inconsistent to say that Henry VIII powers exercised by the British Government, subject to the normal parliamentary procedures of this House and another place, are worrying, but that the Henry VIII powers used under the European Communities Act 1972 were not.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:33 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a perfectly reasonable point, and there is an argument that this House should not concede Henry VIII powers without very good reason indeed. I suggest that the difference is that the 1972 Act carried the clear implication that this was a necessity in order to meet our international obligations. The question I have asked this afternoon is whether these powers are required to meet some domestic necessity. My hon. Friends on the Front Bench may be able to reassure me that they are, but as the powers are so extensive, it is right that we should question them.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:34 p.m.

It is always right that we should question such powers. That issue was about meeting our international obligations, but we volunteered to take on those international obligations by treaty without allowing the House to have the final say on the regulations that would come in. A political decision was made for the convenience of the then Government to do this in such a way to get that treaty agreed, but that was just as much a power grab from this House as what is currently proposed. Indeed, to my mind, it was a very much greater power grab because of the way in which laws in the European Union are introduced. The key is not co-decision making, which we have heard about—that is marginal, and came in at a later stage—but the fact that the right to present a new law rests with the Commission, which is the least democratic part of the European Union.

One of the glories of this House is that any right hon. or hon. Member may at any point, after the first few weeks of a new Session, go up to the Public Bill Office and seek to bring in a new Bill. The right of initiation of legislation lies with all of us, not just people who win the lottery or have ten-minute rule Bills. It lies not just with the Government; any right hon. or hon. Member has that right. It is such an important part of our ability to represent our constituents and to seek redress of grievance. The highest form of redress of grievance is an Act of Parliament; interestingly, Acts of Parliament emerged at the beginning of the 14th century from the presentation of petitions to this House that Members then turned into Acts. This is at the heart of our democratic system, but it was immediately denied by the basis on which laws are introduced within the European Commission.

Break in Debate

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:56 p.m.

I recognise it, because in my former career I appeared regularly in the Supreme Court of the UK and the supreme courts of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman may not recognise my concerns, but if he shares my professional background, he should recognise the concerns of senior members of the serving judiciary and the retired judiciary. These are very real concerns. They are telling us that clause 6(2), as currently drafted, on how they will be directed to interpret retained EU law after exit day, does not give them the clarity they desire and would leave in their provenance issues that are political and economic, and factors that, to use Lord Neuberger’s words, are rather unusual for a judge to have to take into account. This is complicated.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:56 p.m.

indicated assent.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 2:56 p.m.

I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield for agreeing with me on this point. I would expect him to do so, because he, like me, will be paying very careful regard to what current senior judges and retired judges are saying.

I would like to conclude by quoting what Lord Thomas said to the House of Lords Committee after Lord Neuberger and Lord Hope had given their evidence. He said that he entirely agreed:

“It will be a very real problem for future judicial independence and the rule of law if this”—

the guidance—

“is not clarified.”

Put briefly, the problem is that leaving domestic courts free to make independent judgments on such crucial constitutional issues raises the prospect of politicising the judiciary’s institutional role in the Brexit process, resulting, potentially, in further regrettable attacks on the integrity of UK judges like those we saw earlier this year and last week. I therefore ask the Minister to address this problem before Report. I have no doubt that it will be addressed in the House of Lords, but I think it should be addressed in the elected House. The elected House should sort this out and not leave it to their lordships.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:01 p.m.

I was about to say to the hon. and learned Lady that, tempted though I am to embark on a long debate with her about why it is important that those who criticise clause 6(2) come up with some sensible alternatives, I am conscious that the Mace is under the Table and that this is a debate in Committee on clause 13 and schedule 5. I do, however, commend to her the evidence I gave to the Lords Constitution Committee last week, at which the very questions she raises were asked of me by Lord Judge and Lord Pannick. In discussion with them, I made the point that, for example, a check list of dos and don’ts for judges would not be an appropriate way forward. There was a measure of agreement with that assertion, but inevitably these issues will be considered in the other place. Having said that, I think that she is right to make no apology for airing these matters in this House, because it is vital, on a Bill as important as this, that we, as elected Members, inform the other place that we have not given it cursory examination, but considered it very carefully indeed. To that extent, I am extremely grateful to her.

There have been many interesting and important contributions to the debate, and I urge the Committee to agree to clause 13 and schedule 5. It is good to see the hon. Member for Nottingham East back in the Chamber. I took the spirit with which he moved his new clause to heart, and I hope that I can respond in kind to him, but there is one word that perhaps sums up the debate, and indeed my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), who used it himself: sesquipedalian. It is a synonym for polysyllabic, and I am afraid that it is inevitable in such a debate that we will use words of more than two, three or, dare I say, four syllables. I will, however, try to curb my natural inclination to enjoy such diversions and to meet the hon. Gentleman’s argument that we speak in plain English.

On schedule 5, which is the meat of this debate, it is worth reminding ourselves—I say this particularly in response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve)—that we are talking about means of publication and the rules of evidence to be applied. It is important that I gently remind hon. Members of that, lest we start to soar again into the stratosphere of constitutional debate and get unduly worried about the Government seeking to accrue massive power, when really we are talking about, first, how all this information can be presented to the public and, secondly, how the courts should be enjoined to take notice of it.

I will go through the points raised by my right hon. and learned Friend, particularly with regard, first, to paragraph 2 in part 1 on exceptions from the duty to publish. It is important to note that the direction power under paragraph 2(2) does not allow a Minister to make something retained EU law; it is there merely to enable the Government to ensure that legislation that is obviously not retained EU law does not have to be published. We are trying to minimise the potential for confusion, but we have to be realistic. It will not be possible to ensure without exception that only retained EU legislation is published. We do not think—quite properly, in my opinion—that it is the place of the Queen’s printer to make the determination of what such legislation is. That is why the Bill, quite reasonably, gives powers to Ministers to do this instead.

The powers in part 2 are not quite as alarming as might have appeared at first blush. They are clear and limited. The purpose of the creation of new rules of evidence is to allow them to sit alongside existing rules, including those in primary legislation. Importantly, these powers are subject to the affirmative procedure, which ensures a vote in this House. I will give my right hon. and learned Friend two examples of where the power to make a direction under paragraph 2 may be used in respect of all or part of an instrument. The first would concern an EU decision addressed only to a member state other than the UK. For example, the small hive beetle is a particular issue in Italy, and Commission implementing decision 2014/909 concerns certain protective measures with regard to confirmed occurrences of that insect. It is addressed only to Italy and quite clearly should not be published as part of EU retained law.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:05 p.m.

I rather assumed that, given the other extensive powers the Government are taking, we would have that deleted before it became retained EU law in the first place.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:07 p.m.

As I have said, this is a power of publication. It is important not only that we formally delete it, as my right hon. and learned Friend says, but that we provide that it does not end up in the wrong place and thereby mislead the reader or those who want to find an authoritative source for retained EU law. Another example would be EU regulations that have entered into force but are only partially applicable here immediately before exit day. One example is regulation 2016/2031 on protective measures against pests of plants, which has entered into force. One provision applies now, but the rest will apply in the EU only after exit day. To answer him directly, that is why the power exists.

I shall move on to paragraphs 3 and 4. Paragraph 3, as the keenest Members will have observed, is based on section 3(1) of the 1972 Act, which provides that

“any question as to the meaning or effect of any of the Treaties, or as to the validity, meaning or effect of any EU instrument, shall be treated as a question of law”,

and, of course, when something is a question of law, a court can determine the meaning of that law for its own purposes. Foreign law is normally a question of fact to be pleaded and then proved, often by recourse to expert evidence. Quite rightly, however, we want to allow a question of EU law to continue to be treated as a question of law after exit day, for certain purposes, such as when it is necessary to decide the question of EU law for the purposes of interpreting retained EU law in legal proceedings here.

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:09 p.m.

To be fair to our judges, they already have the task of interpreting and applying EU regulations and all EU legislation that has direct effect. With respect to the hon. Lady, it will not be a new task for them, and I trust Her Majesty’s judges to get it right. As I said in response to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West, it is tempting for the House to try to set out a list of judicial dos and don’ts, but I do not think that that is an appropriate approach. I trust and respect the judiciary to get this right, as they almost invariably do. They answer the question that is put to them, and deal with it in a robust and independent way. As one of the Law Officers responsible for upholding the rule of law, I am happy to reiterate on the Floor of the House that I have the utmost confidence in our domestic judiciary to get it right.

Paragraph 4 is based on subsections (2) to (5) of section 3 of the 1972 Act. Those subsections distinguish between EU-related matters which are to be judicially noticed—such as EU treaties, judgments of the Court and the Official Journal of the European Union—and other matters which, in theory, fall to be proved to the Court, such as EU instruments. For the latter category, rules are provided about how such matters are to be admissible to our courts. It is worth noting that the power in paragraph 4 to make evidential rules is again subject to the affirmative procedure, as it will be used to replace rules commonly found in primary legislation. I think it is important for all Members to note the context in which these powers are to be used.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:11 p.m.

My hon. and learned Friend is giving a very helpful explanation of the powers in paragraph 4. He may agree that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) should listen to it with care. There he was, expressing his great concern about the way in which legislation and EU law was handled in this country—and is still being handled before we leave the EU—but here the Government are replicating the process for when we have left. I am not allowed to speak in French in the Chamber, but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 3:12 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend is not just a lawyer but an historian. He will know that a previous Solicitor General, the late Lord Howe, steered the Bill that became the 1972 Act through the House of Commons. I nod to his memory. He knew what he was about, and he helped to produce an extremely important and effective piece of legislation. I make no apology for replicating aspects of it in this Bill.

Let me reassure the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West that the fact that the provision is in a schedule is not significant. It is on the face of the Bill—in primary legislation—and it receives the same high level of scrutiny that it would if it were one of the clauses. I think it only right that clause 13 is drafted in a general way and there is particularity in the schedule. That is good, modern drafting practice, as I am sure the hon. and learned Lady will acknowledge, given her extensive study of other Bills on which we have worked together.

Break in Debate

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 4:46 p.m.

I am delighted by that. It is important to people on both sides of the arguments that it be something that Parliament can do, not that Ministers may simply do on their own. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), my south-western neighbour at the end of the Bench, very much agrees with that proposition, as does my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield in the middle.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 4:47 p.m.

I just want to thank my right hon. Friend for having intervened in this matter and found a way to resolve the issue. As my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) just pointed out, the oddity of the original amendment 381 was that it would have imposed a rather serious obstacle if, for any reason, there had been an agreement for the article 50 period to end earlier.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 4:47 p.m.

That is right. My right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset have always actually maintained the same point, which is that we need to keep the two sets of law in sync with one another. That is the overriding purpose of the whole Bill: to ensure that UK law matches what is happening in the international law arena and that we then import the whole of EU law into UK law for the starting point of our future.

Break in Debate

As we come to the final stages of these debates in Committee, we have an opportunity to reassert that this House will not be sidelined in the most important negotiations facing this country in our lifetime, not because of some obscure constitutional argument but because we are a representative democracy and it is our job in this place to defend the rights and interests of our constituents. This Parliament will not allow those who want to crash out of the EU at any cost to have their way. We will put people’s jobs and livelihoods first. We will ensure that the values and rights that we have forged in 43 years of EU membership are not discarded as we leave, and we should ensure that we remain close to our friends and partners on the continent that we will continue to share.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:02 p.m.

It is a pleasure to participate in this debate, and it was also a pleasure to listen to the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) opening it. He will not be surprised to hear that I entirely share many of his views about the merits of staying in the customs union, and the lack of advantage of leaving it. However, there is a time and place for everything. The customs union and the merits or otherwise of the single market are all matters that the House will have to debate in due course. In the meantime, we will have to see what the Government come up with in the negotiations, and what they return to the House with at the end of them, but I do not intend to get bogged down in that this afternoon.

Tom Brake Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:03 p.m.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:03 p.m.

I will give way in a moment.

I made it quite clear on Second Reading that the purpose of the Bill relates to process, not outcome, and I have tried really rigorously to confine my remarks to the process issue, although the extent to which people have kept interpreting my concerns about process as an intention to sabotage our leaving the EU altogether, which I have never at any stage sought to do, is remarkable. I will now give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but I must tell him that I want to get on to the meat of this subject, rather than talking about those other matters.

Tom Brake Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:03 p.m.

I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point about focusing on process rather than outcome, but does he agree that given that Cabinet Ministers are now sitting down to discuss the outcome, it would be helpful for Parliament also to use the opportunities available to us to express our views about what the outcome should be?

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:04 p.m.

Parliament should certainly be debating these matters. Individual Members will decide whether they want to use the opportunity of this Committee stage for that purpose, but I want to confine myself strictly to the issues in front of us.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Mr Kenneth Clarke - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:04 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend has been consistent all the way through our consideration of this Bill in agreeing with me on only the subjects of process, rather than substance, but I quite respect his view and always have the highest respect for his legal and political skills. Does he agree that if amendments actually went beyond the Bill, they would have been ruled to be beyond the scope of the Bill? It is entirely a voluntary decision on his part that he refuses to be drawn into the substance of Government policy, or the stance that the Government are taking on the eve of their starting the first serious negotiations on our future after we withdraw. It is a pity that he has made this self-sacrificing concession.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:06 p.m.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend. Yes, it is a self-denying ordinance, but it was taken for what I think is a good reason, and partly because I did not wish to inflame the debate into something more general. However, despite my best endeavours and making speeches of what I thought was studied moderation, I seem to have been singularly unsuccessful, but that is merely a reflection of the fevered atmosphere in which this Committee meets.

I have to accept that I did raise the temperature a bit on amendment 381, because when it was first presented to the Committee, I expressed myself in respect of it in very strong terms indeed. I did so not because I was making some statement that I refused to contemplate the day of exit as being 29 March 2019 at 11 pm, but because I considered that to introduce that date into the Bill as a tablet of stone made absolutely no sense at all for the very reason that I sought to highlight in my intervention on my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). In actual fact, that amendment would make it harder to move the date forward if we had wish to do so at the conclusion of the negotiations, because that would require a statute. I know that statutes can be implemented quite quickly in this House, but that process would nevertheless take significantly longer than the alternative. I could not see why we were losing the sensible flexibility provided by the way in which the Bill was originally drafted.

Underlying all this, there appears to be a sort of neurosis abroad that the magical date might somehow not be reached or, if it were to be reached, might be moved back. I am afraid that I cannot fully understand that neurosis of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but it is there nevertheless. It may give them some comfort to have in the Bill this statement of the obvious. However, it is worth bearing in mind that we are leaving on 29 March 2019 as a result of the article 50 process, unless the time is extended under that process, and we are doing so as a matter of international law even if the European Communities Act 1972 were to survive for some mistaken reason, which would cause legal chaos and put us in a very bad place.

In order to try to reassure my right hon. and hon. Friends and to give out the message that this is a process Bill, I am prepared to go along with things now that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) have so sensibly and creatively come up with a solution that appears to provide what my hon. Friends want and, at the same time, removes what I consider, perhaps in my lawyerly way, to be an undesirable incoherence in the legislation.

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con) - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:08 p.m.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for making so eloquently the point about the importance of process as the best defence of our liberties. Will he join me in welcoming the work that assiduous junior Ministers have done for their Secretary of State with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) in agreeing a package of amendments that I am happy to put my name to and vote for tonight, along with amendment 381? As he mentioned tidings of comfort, it seems at this Christmas moment that not since the soldiers met on no man’s land to sing “Silent Night” has peace broken out at such an opportune moment.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:09 p.m.

I am filled with my hon. Friend’s Christmas spirit, and very much wish that it may be carried through to the new year, and for many years to come. For that reason, I am prepared to support the Government on amendment 381, on the obvious condition that we have the other amendment, and with the assurance from the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), that we will get the necessary further change on Report to make the matter subject to the affirmative procedure. I fully understand why we cannot have that today—it is too late. We should have acted earlier if we wanted to get that into the Bill during Committee.

I want to put on record an argument that was made to me against this course of action: what we are doing has an impact on clause 9, as amended by my amendment 7. The intention behind amendment 7, which the House voted for, was always that the powers in the Bill for removal should not be used until after the final statute had been approved. That included the power to fix exit date. As a consequence of the amendments before us, those powers are removed from the ambit of clause 9, and therefore have a stand-alone quality that could mean that they could be invoked by making the date earlier than 29 March—so early that we would not have considered and implemented the statute approving exit. Some have expressed concern to me about that.

I have given the matter careful thought, and while I understand those concerns, they appear unrealistic. It would be extraordinary if we were in such a state of chaos that a Government—I am not sure which Government, or who would be the Ministers in government—decided to take that course of action in breach of our international obligations to our EU partners, because that is what that would involve. In truth, that would still involve getting an affirmative resolution of the House, hence the assurance that we needed from my hon. Friend the Minister, and this House would be most unlikely to give permission for such a chaotic outcome. I wanted to respond to what others, including individuals outside the House, had represented to me, but we should not lose sleep over that aspect of the matter. In truth, my amendment 7 was never aimed at exit day. It was aimed at the other powers that the Government might wish to start using before a withdrawal agreement had been approved.

I had an amendment 6, which was about multiple exit days, but that issue has been resolved, so the amendment can be safely forgotten about. I also had amendment 11, which dealt with whether retained EU law was to be treated as primary or secondary for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. My hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench know very well that that is part and parcel of a wider issue that we have debated on many occasions. I have chucked the ball—delicately, I hope—into their court to see how they respond to some of the many anxieties expressed by Members on both sides of the House about how fundamental rights that are derived from EU law that I think most people now take for granted can be safeguarded properly. I look forward very much to hearing a little more about that on Report.

I want to bring my remarks to a close. I am personally delighted that the problem that I could see coming down the track has been so neatly averted by the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon.

Stephen Gethins Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:09 p.m.

I would like to speak to new clauses 44 and 56, in my colleagues’ names. New clause 56 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) is on an issue raised with the Prime Minister today. Gibraltar voted by 96% to remain in the European Union—an even higher figure than for those who voted remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland. That vote clearly reflected the people of Gibraltar’s concern to protect the rights that they have acquired since joining the EU with the UK in 1973.

Gibraltarians need their border to be kept fluid, so that commerce can thrive and so that residents, workers and tourists can continue to pass through a border that should have only proportionate controls and reasonable checks. It is fair to say that they are not asking for anything from the UK that they have not had to date, and it is right that they should be given a firm, formally enshrined legal guarantee to add confidence for industries and commerce. The right of a person from or established in Gibraltar to provide services into the UK, where that right existed immediately before exit day as a result of the UK and Gibraltar’s common membership of the EU, should continue. There is strong cross-party support and, building on the Prime Minister’s comments earlier, I hope the Minister will touch on it in his summing up.

Break in Debate

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:30 p.m.

I rise on this eighth day of eight to propose that clauses 14 and 15, 18 and 19 and schedules 6, 8 and 9 stand part of the Bill.

Over the course of the eight days of debate, we have had almost 500 amendments tabled and more than 30 separate Divisions. I am very happy that, in this section of the debate today, the amendments under consideration run to just 39 pages.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:30 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:30 p.m.

I did want to make a serious point.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:30 p.m.

This is a serious point.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:30 p.m.

May I make my serious point first, and then give way?

It is sometimes said of this House that it does not scrutinise legislation well and that we send Bills to the other place in a mess. On this occasion, on this historic Bill, I think that the House of Commons has shown itself equal to the task of scrutinising important constitutional legislation. With that, I will very gladly give way.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:31 p.m.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. What I wanted to say was that, at the start, there was some disquiet over the timetable motion, and, actually, the Government responded positively on that. The evidence suggests to me that, in fact, the timetable has matched the scope of the amendments that we have had to consider, and that is greatly to the credit of the Government that that has happened, and I am very grateful to him for it.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 5:31 p.m.

I am very grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. For all the fire and smoke that we have had over the course of this debate, there has been quite a lot of consensus.

Break in Debate

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6:03 p.m.

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman, and I try to say this as gently as possible and in the spirit of Christmas, is that when I listened to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield talking about certain colleagues of a Eurosceptic persuasion, I hope he will not mind me reminding the House that he gave an articulation of—I think he used the word neurosis.

Mr Grieve Hansard

indicated assent.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6:03 p.m.

He says that he did. I think we need to recognise that as a Government we are trying to make this Bill work, and we have throughout the Bill’s passage worked closely with the House, listened closely to the concerns—

Break in Debate

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6 p.m.

I am really not going to any more on this point.

Amendments 11 and 380 relate to the treatment of direct EU law for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this point, which, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said, is related to his other concerns. The amendments concern the status of retained EU law, in this case specifically the status of retained direct EU legislation under clause 3 for the purpose of challenges under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Let me be clear from the outset that all legislation brought across will of course be susceptible to challenge under the HRA. Hon. Members will, however, understand that the remedies available under the Act differ for primary and subordinate legislation. It is therefore important that the Bill is absolutely clear on this point. Paragraph 19 of schedule 8 is clear. It sets out that this converted EU law is to be treated as primary legislation for the purposes of the 1998 Act, with the result that it will be open to the courts, if that legislation is challenged, to consider whether the legislation is compatible with rights under the European convention on human rights, and, if they conclude otherwise, to make a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the HRA.

The amendments, by contrast, would assign the status of subordinate legislation for the purposes of HRA challenges, meaning that a successful challenge could, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield knows, result in a strike-down of the legislation. The Government considered this point very carefully before we introduced the Bill. We recognised the potential arguments that, for example, detailed and technical EU tertiary legislation is more akin to our domestic secondary legislation. We are also, of course, alive to the concerns that this law must be properly challengeable. We concluded on balance, however, that assigning primary status to converted law for these purposes was the better course for three principal reasons.

First, this law comes into our domestic statute book in a unique way, but fundamentally Parliament will have chosen to bring each and all of these pieces of legislation into our law by primary legislation, albeit indirectly through the Bill. Contrary to the position for subordinate legislation, there will have been no exercise of discretion by an individual Minister. In that sense, converted EU law is more akin to primary legislation.

Secondly, if the law could be struck down by the courts, we would risk undermining the certainty the Bill is seeking to provide. None of this legislation can be challenged in UK courts now and some of it has been on the statute book for decades. Opening it up to being struck down is an invitation to challenge law which has long been settled, and to refight the battles of the past in the hope that a different court will return a different verdict.

Mr Grieve Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6:08 p.m.

Of the three points the Minister has made, the latter is without doubt the one that has the greatest force. It is worth bearing in mind that it highlights the fact of the supremacy of EU law, which is being preserved for the purposes of retained EU law. That, if I may say so, is a good reason why he should listen carefully to what I said about people being able to invoke general principles of EU law in order to challenge its operation. All these matters are interconnected.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6:08 p.m.

I am most grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. I know he is going to take this matter up further with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General. I did actually just make two points, but perhaps I structured them ambiguously.

The third point is that in the event of a strike-down there would be no existing power under which fresh regulations could be brought forward, so it would be necessary to bring forward a fresh Act of Parliament or to rely on the remedial order-making power within the HRA itself. I should say that the remedial order-making power within the HRA was not designed to be the default means by which incompatible legislation is remedied or to deal with the policy changes that could be required.

The remedial order-making power may only be used if there are compelling reasons for doing so and it is targeted at removing the identified incompatibility. If wider policy change were needed following a finding of incompatibility, a fresh Act of Parliament would be the only means of doing that and we could be left with damaging holes in the statute book unless and until such an Act was passed. That is why the Government concluded that converted EU law should have the status of primary legislation in relation to the HRA, and that is why the Government will not be able to accept the two amendments.

Break in Debate

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6:14 p.m.

I am not going to let the hon. Gentleman come in on this point, which we have dealt with.

I emphasise again that our approach does not immunise converted law from HRA challenges. If an incompatibility were to be found, it places the matter in the hands of Parliament to resolve, without creating a legal vacuum in the interim. This approach strikes the right balance and recognises that supremacy of Parliament. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has wider concerns regarding the rights of challenge after exit, including, in particular, where these are based on the general principles of EU law. I am happy to repeat the commitment made by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General earlier that we are willing to look again at the technical detail of how certain legal challenges based on the general principles of EU law might work after exit. We will bring forward amendments on Report to address this, and we are happy to continue to discuss these concerns with him.

Mr Grieve Hansard

That is a very sensible approach on these matters, and I am very grateful to the Minister and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for taking it forward. As for the other matter that has floated into our discussion, and which I have studiously avoided getting drawn into, I would simply recommend that, on the whole, kicking hornets’ nests is not a very good idea.

Mr Steve Baker Portrait Mr Baker - Hansard
20 Dec 2017, 6:14 p.m.

It is ironic that my right hon. and learned Friend and I should be constituency neighbours, and, if I may say so—and as we put on the record on a previous day—friends. It is also ironic that our other Buckinghamshire neighbours have swapped one rebel commander for another. But I think I should move on: I have kicked enough hornets’ nests myself for one day.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 7th sitting: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 13th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Justice

Secondly, the Government say that we cannot have a legislative process around an internationally negotiated deal, but of course we can. This is what parliamentary sovereignty is all about, and this is about us being mature. Thirdly, they have said that this would somehow stop Brexit. Again, that is rubbish. This is about how we should do this and how we can get the legislation right. Fourthly, I know that some Conservative Members have been told that if they vote for amendment 7 and do not stick with the Government’s line, it will somehow undermine the Prime Minister’s position and be a disloyal thing to do. All I would say to them is that the Prime Minister has proved to be remarkably resilient in the face of things that are considerably worse than losing one vote on one amendment in this place. Much as I would like it to be different, the fact that she is still standing at the Dispatch Box despite the result of the election and the result of a series of other things means that she really will not be knocked over by this one amendment.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 1:32 p.m.

The right hon. Lady might agree with me that what causes more consternation overseas among those observing what is going on are the signs that we as a Parliament and as a Government seem from time to time to completely lose our marbles and get involved in polemical arguments that are far removed from the actual matters that we are supposed to be discussing.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 1:32 p.m.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is exactly right, and I will defer to him to set out his amendment and describe its impact. The idea that we should make a confidence issue out of every single adjustment to the Brexit process or to the withdrawal Bill is just nonsense.

If we have a Bill before Parliament, it has to be possible for Members of Parliament to table amendments to it and to vote on them. In a hung Parliament, that is even more the case. The Prime Minister asked for a mandate to do all this her own way, but she did not get it. She got a hung Parliament. That puts even more responsibility on us all to work together to find something that will build consensus across Parliament and across the country. In a hung Parliament, the Government sometimes lose votes because Parliament has to do its job to build the right kind of consensus and to get the right kind of outcome.

In the end, this is all about Parliament and democracy. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to our constituents not to hand over, share or give up our authority and our sovereignty, but to exercise our responsibility to get the very best deal. For centuries, Members of Parliament have fought tooth and nail to defend democracy and the powers of Parliament against Executive power. We cannot be the generation that just rips that up and hands over all the power to the Executive. We have a responsibility—now more than ever, given the gravity of the decisions before us—to use that power responsibly and to try to build consensus. To be honest, if the Government cannot build a broader consensus in Parliament, there is no chance of their building a broader consensus in the country, and if they cannot do that, we will end up with everybody rowing over the Brexit deal for a generation to come. For the sake of all of us who want to get back to discussing our schools, our hospitals and all the other issues that face our Parliament, I urge Ministers to accept either amendment 7 or new clause 3, and to start trying to build a consensus that can get us a sustainable Brexit deal.

Break in Debate

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:22 p.m.

I will make some progress, I am afraid, because a number of hon. Members wish to speak. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) will do so.

New clause 66 would ensure that there is a vote on a motion, not just in the event of a withdrawal agreement being concluded, but, crucially, when no such deal has been concluded, should that be the case. That outcome appears less likely following the agreement the Government reached last week and the clarification that the default position in the event of no deal will be regulatory alignment, but it remains a possibility, and Parliament must have a say.

As I have said, there are many, many ways of ensuring that Parliament has a meaningful vote. Amendment 7, tabled by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), is very well drafted. I do not think that it is deficient. We would definitely support it and we would not press new clause 66 if he pressed it to a vote.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:23 p.m.

May I say now that that amendment either has to be accepted by my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, or it will be put to the vote?

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:23 p.m.

I am very, very pleased to hear that. We will support the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the amendment in that eventuality.

I will conclude by saying that, subject to the kind of constraint that would be put in place if amendment 7 were incorporated into the Bill, we remain of the view that the power to appoint an exit day for the purposes of the Bill should be placed in the hands of Parliament, not Ministers, and also that the flexibility inherent in clause 14 with regard to exit day should be retained, because it is essential to finalising in some scenarios a withdrawal agreement and any transitional arrangements that need to be agreed to. We need only look at the mess last week to justify the need for such flexibility. As such, we believe that amendments 381 and 382 tabled by the Government with the aim of putting a specified exit date, and indeed time, in the Bill are an ill-conceived and unnecessary gimmick and on that basis we intend to oppose them if they are pushed to a vote.

This whole debate is about whether right hon. and hon. Members are content for Parliament to be a spectator, a passive observer, of one of the most important decisions that has faced our country in generations. Parliament must have a grip on the process, which is why we have tabled our amendments and new clauses.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:19 p.m.

I am most grateful to have the opportunity to participate in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook). I agreed with virtually every word that he said.

In speaking to amendment 7, in the name of my hon. Friends, myself and other hon. Members, I am conscious that it has taken on a life of its own. When the Committee stage of the Bill started, it was my intention—and I hope one that I have observed and honoured throughout—to try to approach the amendments that I tabled in the spirit in which they are intended, which is to try to improve difficult legislation while entirely recognising the many challenges that the Government face. Brexit is full of risk and full of complexity—legal and otherwise—and the Government are entitled to my support, wherever possible, to carry Brexit out as smoothly as they can and with the least impact on the well-being of the citizens of our country. That has been my aim throughout.

I very much regret that—as often tends to happen in these matters—while some sessions in Committee have led to sensible amendment and the Government considering matters, or going away to look again and making some helpful suggestions, in the case of amendment 7 we seem to have run out of road. What happens in those circumstances, I regret to say, is that all rational discourse starts to evaporate. The purpose of the amendment, the nature of it, is entirely lost in a confrontation in which it is suggested that the underlying purpose is the sabotage of the will of the people, which it most manifestly is not. That is then followed by a hurling of public abuse; large numbers of people telling one that one is a traitor; and, I regret to say, some of one’s hon. and right hon. Friends saying slightly startling things. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), for example, said that I am grandstanding, when I do not remember ever having suggested such a thing to him about the way that he has expressed his views on Europe at any time in his career—including, I might add, when I tried to be a loyal member of his team when he was leader of my own party.

Mr John Baron Portrait Mr Baron - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:28 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend will know that I have never participated in any of that sort of language. May I gently put it to him that amendment 7 leaves open at least the possibility that, given that the EU does not want any member to leave and that there is therefore no incentive for it to negotiate a good deal that would be acceptable to this Parliament, we could find ourselves in a permanent state of limbo, deadlocked in unproductive negotiations?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:27 p.m.

I note what my hon. Friend has said and I am very grateful to him for the way in which he put it, but I happen to disagree with him. If he listens to me he will understand why I think that I am right on that point.

The consequence is that we completely lose sight of what the key issues are, and if I may say so before I move on, that matters a lot, because in the course of this, we also lose sight of the fact that we are the Parliament of a deeply divided country on this issue. When I go and lecture to sixth-formers occasionally and talk to them, I point out that the parliamentary process is not just about the imposition of the will of the majority on the minority; it is the process by which we obtain consent for what the majority chooses to do.

The difficulty with this referendum is that, having invoked the public will, which, I regret to say, is not entirely tempered in its expressions of view by some of the courtesies that we extend to each other here, we run the risk of losing sight of the fact that 48% of the electorate did not wish for the policy that we are currently pursuing and have deep concerns about, not trying to reverse it, but the extent to which it will have an adverse impact on their well-being, and request us as a Parliament to pay as much attention to what they are saying as we undoubtedly have to do to those who voted in the referendum and said that they wanted to leave. The most worrying aspect of the debate, as it has progressed, is how we become polarised and so fixated on ends that we fail completely to look at means. We look at the top of the mountain, but not at where we are going to put our foot next. As a consequence, we run serious risks of badly letting them down—all of them, collectively—by enacting bad legislation and taking very foolish decisions.

Of course, when this confrontation comes along, the negotiations immediately stop, the conversation ceases, the Government’s steamroller is invoked, and the atmosphere can suddenly get really quite unpleasant; and I regret it. As a consequence—I will come back to this in a moment—I have to tell my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that I think they have lost a series of opportunities in the dialogue we have had on this to come to a sensible outcome. With that, I turn to the issue that is, in truth, under debate.

Paul Farrelly Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:28 p.m.

Is not the advantage of the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s very helpful amendment that it would give certainty? It would nail down, in black and white, what we have agreed and would place a legal responsibility on the Government. We would then avoid a situation whereby what people think has been agreed simply becomes a statement of intent within a matter of hours and days.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that I will be able to develop some of those points in a moment.

As was rightly said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), the Government had a notion when this debate started that it was possible to pull out of the European Union by use of the royal prerogative. Fortunately, time, common sense, debate and a small amount of judicial intervention has pointed out that that is not possible. As a consequence, my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench have correctly begun to understand that in fact there has to be a proper process. I appreciate the points that have been made about a meaningful vote and how we can actually get that in the context of Brexit; it is a real, live issue. Nevertheless, I greatly welcome the written ministerial statement, which sets out what appears to be a constitutionally tenable process for Parliament approving or considering the deal by motion, and then moving on to implement the deal by primary legislation.

Of course, the Government know that they must proceed by primary legislation because, in view of the comments during the Miller case, it is blindingly apparent that there must be a serious risk of legal uncertainty if anything other than a statute were to be used to take us out of the EU at the end. That is the last thing that my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench should want, because that will cause even more trouble and difficulty than they already have in the challenges they have to face.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will forgive me if I appear pedantic, but does not this Bill and the enactment of article 50 take us out of the European Union at the end, whereas the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill legislate for the consequences?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Yes. If, indeed, we were leaving with nothing further to do, that might be a good point. But it seems to be a pretty universal view, even on the Government Benches—although this perhaps does not apply to my hon. Friend—that simply leaving to jump off the top of the tower block is not the best thing to do. Therefore, there will need to be primary legislation to implement the undoubted new constitutional order that we will have after 29 March 2019.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con) - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

May I just make a tiny bit more progress?

As the Government’s position has shifted, they have come up with a written ministerial statement, which seems accurately to reflect the right direction of travel. But the difficulty is that clause 9 is entirely incompatible with what the Government have set out.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I happen to agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that it would be undesirable for us to leave without an agreement. Indeed, I think that the Government agree with that. But I will go back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) a moment ago. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, in the event that it were not possible to reach a further agreement, it would then be the case that the actions of Parliament already taken—including in triggering article 50—would constitute a proper answer to the Supreme Court’s point that Parliament, and Parliament alone, can remove us from the EU?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Yes, I think I agree with my right hon. Friend that the action of Parliament in triggering article 50 would do that. But it is not, I think, the intention of the Government to do any such thing, and never has been. Indeed, if it is the intention of the Government to do such a thing, I hope very much that they will tell me as soon as possible, because I think I might be withdrawing my support from them.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly Portrait Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con) - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Is not the point that, everything else being equal, even if nothing else happens, article 50 has been triggered so we are leaving the European Union on a set date, unless 27 other countries decide to extend the date? Therefore, this argument is about the UK’s internal process. It is not a question of the EU or anyone else holding things up.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

There are a series of processes. I do not wish to get too diverted from my main point. We are intending, and will require, a further statute in order to achieve what the Government have set out. I hope very much that we do not leave with a no deal on anything, because we would not be able to fly off to Rome on the day after, we would have no security co-operation and we would, indeed, be mired in complete and utter chaos.

The reality is that clause 9 is incompatible with the programme that the Government have set out. At the time that clause 9 was inserted, I think that the Government had not yet fully worked out the implications of how withdrawal had to take place.

Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP) - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

In a moment. I do not wish to take up too much of the Committee’s time.

My point brings me to the specifics of clause 9, which is an extraordinary and wide power to remove us from the EU by statutory instrument, and moreover—this is the most telling point—to ask the House to give the Government effectively a blank cheque to draft statutory instruments to achieve something when at the moment we do not know what that is.

Sir Bernard Jenkin Portrait Mr Jenkin - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I am listening very carefully, but clause 9 is not about implementing our leaving the European Union; it is about implementing a withdrawal agreement. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) did not vote for article 50, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) did. That is when he voted to leave the European Union and that is decided, so he is incorrect to say that clause 9 is deciding when or how we leave the European Union.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

If I may say so, I think my hon. Friend has misunderstood what I said. The fact is that clause 9 provides a power, exercisable once this Bill comes into force before exit day, to implement something when we do not at present know what that is. Therefore, it is a very strange thing to ask Parliament to sign off.

Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Is not the supreme irony the fact that clause 9 is actually the child of article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which the Government are now supporting? This provision is the Lisbon treaty timetable. It is not in any way trying to give power or control back to this House to amend that in any way or to ensure that the UK leaves the European Union at the time that is fortuitous. The UK is just accepting what is in the Lisbon treaty and the Government have welded themselves to that very idea.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:38 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point.

Ultimately, the centre of this point is that we are being asked to give the Government a power that can be exercised on something, but we do not know what that something is. Logically, the moment to make the statutory instruments to enact our withdrawal would come when we have this further statute—whatever it happens to be called—and have debated it in this House. We will then have structured the powers conferred by statutory instrument to achieve what Parliament wants and thinks is necessary to carry out withdrawal. That is the point, and pre-empting matters in this fashion is odd. Indeed, it is so odd that I heard one Minister—I will not reveal who—informally saying that they questioned whether the clause 9 power was in fact still needed, in view of how the Government were progressing this matter.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:39 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:39 p.m.

In a moment.

On my key issue and what I was trying to tease out in tabling amendment 7, I could, I suppose, have simply said that I will not support clause 9. Indeed, if my amendment is not accepted, I am afraid I shall be voting against clause 9 this evening—I have no option—but rather than do that, the purpose of my amendment is to try to explore what it is that the Government want clause 9 to do that, in fact, we should not be doing when we enact the legislation at the end.

It is for the Government, in those circumstances, to explain themselves; it is not for Parliament simply to roll over and accept something because the Government say that that is what we should do. Indeed, if we all get told that we must support the Government out of loyalty because to do otherwise would undermine the Prime Minister—I think that is cuckoo, for the reasons given by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)—we need to know why.

Last week, I engaged in a whole series of dialogues with the Government, trying to understand what was bothering them. At one point, I thought we might be getting to the point where we would reach an agreement that some power might be needed in the Bill before we came to the final Bill, although I will come back to that in a moment. It started to dawn on me that one possibility was that this power might be exercisable, but only provided it could not be used to bring anything into force—we might lay some statutory instruments, but they could not be brought into force in any way until the end statute had been passed.

That is where I thought we might be—and then everything closed down, and I am none the wiser why the Government need this power, except that I note that a journalist who seemed to have been speaking to a briefing was told it might be required to effect the registration of EU citizens. I thought to myself, “I thought we were going to have an immigration Act to do that.” So I am still at this moment—this afternoon—absolutely at sea about why this power is needed. If the Government cannot make a case for this power, it should not be here.

Even at this stage, I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, if they accept this amendment, which is absolutely central and necessary to ensuring that a power of this scope cannot be abused in a way that the House should not tolerate, and if they want to come back on Report and tidy it up because there is some adjustment or some caveat they want to put in, I will of course listen to what they want to say—my job is not to make their lives more difficult—but I am not prepared to sign away such an extensive power, when it appears to be contrary to the Government’s stated policy on how Brexit will be carried out and, in fact, surrenders without any good reason the control of this House over how the Government conduct Brexit.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) - Hansard

If my right hon. and learned Friend’s version of what our vote would be were to prevail, rather than the Government’s version, what would happen if, close to our leaving date, Parliament voted against any agreement there might have been and against no deal?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:44 p.m.

Ultimately, as my right hon. Friend knows, this Parliament is sovereign, although its sovereignty does not extend to concluding agreements with other parties in international relations that the Government do not wish to adhere to or sign up to. I have no idea what the circumstances are going to be in 12 months’ time. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich: we are dealing with a whole series of hypothetical questions. I get a bit fed up when I keep on being asked, “What is it? Surely, it is a choice between the deal on offer and no deal.” I do not know. There is no way that any of us can know, and that is why the process matters so much. If we get the process right, we will answer correctly each question as and when it arises. Far from that hurting or damaging the Government, it will enhance their power. To come back to the point I made in an intervention, it will convey an impression of purpose and method to our EU partners in negotiation, whereas, at the moment, the major thing that has been undermining our negotiations is the impression of chaos in our procedure and our aims.

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:45 p.m.

I am extremely intrigued by the line that my right hon. and learned Friend has taken, with which I largely agree in relation not to the substance, but to the deficiencies he now seems to have accepted could, in some shape or other, be tidied up, as he put it, on Report if we were to get to that unfortunate situation. I simply ask him: is he able to elucidate how his amendment would actually work in practice?

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:46 p.m.

I have been pleading with the Government throughout the past four weeks, pointing out to them that this is a really important amendment, and asking them please to respond to it. I have asked them what alternative they might have that could persuade me that they had a working proposal that should command the approval of the House and my own approval. I have been doing that repeatedly, and I was striving to achieve those things last week, but the blunt reality is—I am sorry to have to say this to the Committee—that I have been left in the lurch as a Back Bencher trying to improve this legislation, because silence has fallen. There has simply not been a credible explanation. The last explanation was, “Here is your written ministerial statement. That ought to be enough for you. In loyalty, you should now support the Government.” However, that does not answer the question.

Anna Soubry Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:47 p.m.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend also looked at this issue: does he think that, should the Government decide that the best deal is the European Free Trade Association—we would effectively be Norway—some right hon. and hon. Government Members have worked out that, without his amendment or the new clause moved by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), this country would become like Norway and go straight into EFTA, without this Parliament having a say on whether that is what leave meant?

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:47 p.m.

It would indeed be a remarkable outcome. Certainly, I think that Parliament ought to have a say. Those reasons highlight the difficulty of clause 9. There are other difficulties with the Bill, but clause 9 really has it.

I want to bring my remarks to an end, and I simply say that I do want the Government to listen. The opportunity is here for them to accept the amendment and then to come back on Report and explain themselves further or to tidy the amendment up, and I will listen and try constructively to help them if, indeed, any of this power is needed, but I am not prepared to sign off clause 9 in its present form.

The one merit of amendment 7—I tailored it very carefully and I tried quite deliberately to avoid the no-deal scenario, which is a very legitimate issue, but it is not what I went for—is that I wanted to make sure that these powers could not be used to pre-empt a statute that we should probably be considering this time next year. It is plainly wrong, and if it is to be departed from, the Government have to provide a credible reason for it.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:49 p.m.

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend about a point I am struggling with and that others may be struggling with, too? On the one hand, given that the Government have conceded that there will need to be a statute to implement any agreement, it is difficult, for me at any rate, to see what the point is of clause 9, and Parliament should not legislate in vain. That is point one. On the other hand is the key point not that we will get a vote on that statute, so does this really matter? That is the part I am struggling with, and I would very much welcome my right hon. and learned Friend’s views.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:59 p.m.

I think that this does matter. If I understand the reason why the Government want this power, it is that, at the time when we may be considering the next statute, they will also be pushing through this House statutory instruments setting up structures for our departure from the EU that may be, or that we might consider to be, at variance with what we need in the fresh statute that we are considering. I think that that is a form of constitutional chaos, actually. I cannot see how it produces any clarity at all. For that reason—a reason of good process—this is a mistaken course of action, particularly because it is not necessary.

We have heard the argument, “We’re going to run out of time in leaving the EU.” I simply repeat what I have said previously. I realise that this is hugely objected to by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends because they are so fixated on getting us out. The article 50 mechanism provides for a sensible structure to enable us to leave smoothly, yet for reasons that I do not understand, the aim of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends seems to be to mess it up as much as possible. There is the famous amendment 381, for example, which we are going to come back to next week and which I have already indicated I will not support under any circumstances whatsoever. If we actually stick to a sensible process, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), then we will get the right answers. As I say, if the Government are to justify keeping clause 9, they have to provide us with chapter and verse—and they simply have not done so. I have asked, and I have not had it.

In those circumstances, the only proper course of action—I say this with the greatest reluctance—is that I am going to have to vote for my amendment, and, if necessary, if it is not passed, I will vote against clause 9, because without my amendment, clause 9 becomes a really very worrying tool of Executive power that does not appear to have any reasonable presence in this legislation. Apart from on HS2, I do not think that I have ever rebelled against the Government in my 20 and a half years in this House. I do find it quite entertaining that some who criticise me for speaking my mind on this matter are individuals who appear to have exercised the luxury of rebellion on many, many occasions. But that said, there is a time for everybody to stand up and be counted. As Churchill said, “He is good party man—he puts the party before himself and the country before his party.” And that is what I intend to do.

Sir David Amess Portrait The Temporary Chair (Sir David Amess) - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 2:52 p.m.

Order. The Chair obviously recognises the importance of this debate. There is a very, very long list of colleagues wishing to speak, so unless colleagues keep their remarks to about seven or eight minutes, without interventions, there will be many disappointed Members.

Break in Debate

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:21 p.m.

I think that is a very possible eventuality, which takes us back to our earlier discussion. I certainly agree that if, upon a resolution, the House refused to accept the withdrawal agreement suggested by the Government and agreed by the EU, it is very likely that the Government would go back and try to renegotiate it, and it is very possible that they would succeed in doing so. I do not deny any of that. My point is that amendment 7 would not force that result, because all it would do is, under certain circumstances, stop certain kinds of orders being issued under this Bill.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:22 p.m.

I picked this amendment with some care, precisely because I wanted to avoid the suggestion that by tabling it I was trying to sabotage Brexit. I was trying to prevent the potentially abusive use of a power in clause 9 when the Government were saying that they were going to do something different. That was the purpose behind the amendment. It was also, if I might say so, to prod the Government into responding, which I very much regret they have failed to do.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:22 p.m.

I am delighted by my right hon. and learned Friend’s intervention, because I agree that he has succeeded in doing that. He has not created the so-called meaningful vote that the right hon. Member for Leeds Central and the Opposition want. He has instead pointed out an issue with the use of the order-making power in this Bill. The question is: is it a good amendment in those terms? We have accepted that it is not a question of creating or not creating a meaningful vote, to use the term used by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central, but just a question of trying to get the Bill into good order—a pursuit in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield and I have joined on many occasions during Committee proceedings. However, I think that on this particular occasion, this particular amendment is not a particularly good way of doing that. I will explain why I think that is the case, and I hope that the Government will instead come forward with another way of achieving the same effect.

It is a very odd situation indeed to have an amendment to what will become a section of an Act that refers to another piece of primary legislation as the basis for an order-making power in the first piece of legislation. In fact I think it is virtually unprecedented.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:24 p.m.

The Bill is unprecedented, because it is asking us, in the light of what the Government themselves say they are going to do, to sanction a power that undermines a further statute that the Government intend to pass, which should be the source of power for removing us from the EU.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:25 p.m.

Now I am beginning rather to agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. Therefore, my suggestion is that if that is the purpose of his amendment, it would be far better that it come back as a Government amendment on Report that achieves that effect in a different way and directly, without the gross inelegance of referring to another piece of legislation. It should mainly limit the power in clause 9 to things that are urgent and immediate, and perhaps even specify what sorts of things they might be.

As a matter of fact, I rather share my right hon. and learned Friend’s inclination to believe that clause 9 in its present form came forward before the Government were clear about the need for the implementation and withdrawal Bill, and that Ministers and officials have so far been quite hard pressed to identify exactly which powers are required in clause 9 under the new dispensation of that forthcoming Bill. The Government therefore have a good opportunity to promise from the Dispatch Box today that they will come back on Report with an amendment that is correctly phrased in such a way as to limit the order-making power in clause 9. That would avoid the possibility—this is the point that I want to make to my right hon. and learned Friend and other hon. Friends—of suggesting that we are in any way creating a launch pad for the efforts of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central and Opposition Front Benchers to create what they call a meaningful vote, which is in fact an ability to trigger us not leaving.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:14 p.m.

There will undoubtedly be an opportunity at the end of this process, if this House were so minded, to reject a deal. I have to say—my right hon. Friend may agree with me—that ultimately the House could bring this Government down, if it had to or wanted to do so. That is our constitutional ability.

My right hon. Friend’s main point does not find favour with me, because the only way we will get something sensible on Report is by getting amendment 7 on the statute book and on the face of the Bill. I asked repeatedly for an engagement along precisely the lines that my right hon. Friend has identified, and it was consistently rejected. That is why I will vote for amendment 7, and if I may say so, I would encourage him to do likewise.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:26 p.m.

I am surprised by that, because my right hon. and learned Friend has a long and distinguished record of voting for good law. I do not think that this is good law, for the reasons I have identified. I think it really would be better if we had a correct amendment at a later stage of proceedings.

Break in Debate

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 11:30 a.m.

Now that there is to be an implementation and withdrawal agreement Bill I do not personally yet understand the need for clause 9. However, the right way to deal with that is for the Government either to say that they will consider getting rid of clause 9 or to make the kind of restricted amendments on Report that I was describing. In any of those ways, the problem would be resolved without the need for this kind of tension, and that would surely be desirable.

Mr Grieve Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:31 p.m.

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way again. In a sense, he unmasks my strategy. I have spent the whole time trying to be sotto voce about this, trying to get some common sense into the Government, which I have been unable to do. It is for that reason that, I very much regret, there really is no alternative to amendment 7. It may be inelegant—although I do not think it is—but it does the business. It would stop the Government doing something that they should not be doing. I could not agree with him more that clause 9 could be removed entirely. It would very sensible if the Government were to do that, but if I had suggested that they would have been upset with me, and it would have made the relationship and the negotiation even harder. In the spirit of conciliation I avoided that brutality and came up with something different.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 3:31 p.m.

Speaking personally, I do not think there would be anything very brutal about the Government deciding on Report that it would be sensible to not have clause 9 in the Bill, given that there will now be a separate piece of legislation to achieve the same effect.

Break in Debate

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard

I bow to my right hon. and learned Friend’s wisdom and experience on that point. I am a consensus merchant and simply thought there might be a way forward, but I totally understand that votes might have to be exercised tonight in order to stiffen the Government’s backbone to provide a solution. But nevertheless it has always been the case proposed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield that the Government will have an opportunity on Report potentially to alter his amendment.

Mr Grieve Hansard

If they can justify it.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard

If they can justify it, of course.

The second part of my remarks, which will be as brief as possible because so much time has been taken up, is about amendment 300, standing in my name, which has the largest number of signatories of any amendment to this Bill. I am astonished that only four of them are Conservatives, but I think that reflects the standing in which I am held in my own party; I could not even persuade the leader of the rebel alliance, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, to sign my Euratom amendment, and I really do not want my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset to talk about bad law when he comes to look at it.

The point of the amendment is simply to put the issue of Euratom under parliamentary scrutiny, and I note the comments made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) in her excellent speech about the importance of Euratom in our medical life, and her own real experience at the chalkface in her extraordinary work. So Euratom is not an esoteric issue; it affects us all. It has been debated in the House before and I shall not spend a lot of time talking about how extraordinarily successful our nuclear industry is. My own personal interest comes from the fact that although Culham is not in my constituency, many of my constituents work there, and it depends on Euratom. I thank the Government for last week’s announcement of £86 million of investment in Culham for two new centres of excellence for the testing of components and for fuel storage; that is a real vote of confidence in Culham.

The point, of course, about Euratom is that nobody voted to leave it. Euratom was not in the European Union Referendum Act 2015, and was not on the ballot; it falls under a separate treaty. So the British people did not have a chance to have a referendum on our membership of Euratom.

The reason we are leaving Euratom is technical. Legal advice, which we have not seen, deems Euratom to be inextricably linked to the European Union and therefore an article 50 notice would be defective if it did not include Euratom. However, the mood of the Government and, I think, the House is that we are leaving Euratom on a technicality, not because we object to being governed by Euratom. There is no mood among the general population to leave Euratom as far as I am aware, and I think that only one hon. Member has managed to stand up and say that there is a plausible reason to leave it.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I am entirely supportive of the intention behind this amendment, but being too much of a lawyer, I probably did not sign it because I realised the potential implications—

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland) - Hansard

indicated assent.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I see the Solicitor General nodding. However, the fact that it might have legal implications does not mean that it is not a very desirable objective.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Mr Vaizey - Hansard

The implications of leaving Euratom, some of which have already been identified by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire, also extend to our nuclear industry, which provides 20% of this country’s energy. At the moment, we simply cannot move nuclear material around unless we are members of Euratom. So when we leave Euratom, we will have to have, in effect, a Euratom-style arrangement to allow us to move goods around. “Goods” can mean a variety of things. We imagine highly radioactive canisters being moved in special trains at the dead of night, but the movement of goods also involves mundane things such as heat pumps, motors, spares and other components, all of which, because they are part of the civil nuclear ecosystem, have to be moved under the terms of these treaties.

Euratom covers not only objects but the freedom of movement of people. We depend on our membership of Euratom for a nuclear power industry, for our medical industry—isotopes have been mentioned—and for the Joint European Torus at Culham, where Britain has done extraordinarily well. Huge advantages have been made in robotics and other sciences, and there are £500 million-worth of contracts already in ITER, the successor to Culham, thanks to the expertise we have built up here.

Let me make it clear that, throughout this process of our technical move to leave Euratom, Ministers have been absolutely brilliant in engaging with me and other hon. Members who share my concerns and have similar interests. They have bent over backwards to do what they can to accommodate our concerns. Looking forward, we need Ministers to give us clarity on a number of issues. We need nuclear co-operation agreements with other countries—the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and possibly the European Union as well—and they need to be in place by March 2019. These agreements can be complex, and they can depend on the legislation in other legislatures. For example, the US Congress would have to pass a new nuclear co-operation agreement with us. We will also need a new safeguards regime, and this will come in through the Nuclear Safeguards Bill as a contingency, although I understand that the Government might want Euratom to continue to cover the safeguarding role.

Break in Debate

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for the constructive way she makes her point. Of course, until we have the withdrawal agreement, we will not know precisely the nature of the technical—

Mr Grieve Hansard

rose—

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 4:34 p.m.

May I at least give the answer before my right hon. and learned Friend jumps in?

That is why the agility that clause 9 gives us is important. I do not mean to correct my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) in a lawyerly way, but it is not quite right to say that clause 9 can legislate for anything in the context of departing the EU. It relates only to the withdrawal agreement, and I think she said it related to withdrawing from the EU.

Another illustration of what clause 9 could be used for is the spelling out of the technical detail of how ongoing UK cases at the European Court of Justice should be handled, and how the UK courts should treat resulting judgments. Some of that might be done under this Bill, and some under the withdrawal agreement, but we will need to clarify things such as the types of cases that would be in scope and the precise procedural points in terms of whether a case could be considered to be pending, among others. Without that clarification, how such cases should be treated might not be clear. We would run the risk of legal uncertainty, as well as uncertainty for the individuals involved in those cases.

I do not want to make too much of that before my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield jumps in. He is quite right—he has made this point before, and he may want to hear me out before I take his intervention—that, in 2016, there were 23 preliminary references from UK courts and just one infraction case against the UK. So we do not expect this issue to affect large numbers. None the less, for those affected, it is still important to get this right.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I want to understand this, because it is rather important. We are going to enact a withdrawal agreement Bill—I think that is what it is called. I would expect that to have statutory instrument powers—the very statutory instrument powers we can consider in relation to the scope of the withdrawal agreement when deciding what we then enact by secondary legislation to take us out. I begin to wonder whether, in fact, it is the Government’s intention not to have any statutory instruments made under that agreement at all, but to seek to make them entirely through the mechanism of clause 9 before we have had the opportunity of considering what we actually want. That is why clause 9 is, I have to say to my hon. Friend, so mischievous. While I would be prepared to listen to some great exception, abandoning the normal legislative process in this way seems to be utterly undesirable, so I would press my hon. Friend on what is going to happen with this withdrawal agreement Bill. Are we going to have secondary legislation under it?

Dominic Raab Portrait