Sir Robert Neill debates with Attorney General

There have been 12 exchanges between Sir Robert Neill and Attorney General

Thu 3rd October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 7 interactions (212 words)
Wed 25th September 2019 Legal Advice: Prorogation 3 interactions (135 words)
Tue 9th April 2019 Section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 3 interactions (124 words)
Tue 12th March 2019 Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion 3 interactions (79 words)
Mon 3rd December 2018 Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Position 3 interactions (139 words)
Mon 3rd December 2018 Points of Order 3 interactions (107 words)
Thu 29th November 2018 Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice 3 interactions (76 words)
Tue 13th November 2018 EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice 5 interactions (55 words)
Wed 13th June 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 3 interactions (530 words)
Thu 10th May 2018 Belhaj and Boudchar: Litigation Update 3 interactions (128 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 17 interactions (1,648 words)
Thu 29th June 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (68 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Thursday 3rd October 2019

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:01 a.m.

I very much appreciate the hon. Lady’s concerns and those of the industry, as I have already said. The Secretary of State, in fact, spoke to the Musicians Union earlier this week. We are acutely mindful of the concerns that exist, but I will say yet again that the best way through this is to have a deal and, when there is the opportunity to vote for one, I encourage her to please do so.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:02 a.m.

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of a deal, but she will recognise that the concerns of the Incorporated Society of Musicians are legitimate and need to be addressed. Will she also speak to those who run our major opera companies? Britain is a world leader in this regard and the ability to fly in replacements—often from the EU—at the last minute for roles, which, often, very few people can actually sing, is very important to our international status in this art form.

Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately - Parliament Live - Hansard

As my hon. Friend will know, I am new to this post, but I very much look forward to talking to representatives from the opera sector and making sure that we continue to support this hugely successful part of our economy as we leave the European Union.

Break in Debate

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:22 a.m.

May I tell the hon. Gentleman that I do believe in the law and I have spent 37 years of my life adhering to those professional values? As for the advice I may or may not have given to any member of the Government, he will know I am bound by the convention. I cannot tell him whether I have. I understand the purport of his question, and I do not criticise him for it in the least, but I regret that I cannot help him as to the content of any advice I have given.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:23 a.m.

I urge the Attorney General to reflect that departing from the norm that Law Officers’ advice is not disclosed should be undertaken only with great care, because of the implications for all future Law Officers and all future advice to Government. Is not the rub of this issue simply this: that, as the President of the Supreme Court said, the circumstances that gave rise to the judgment were a “one off”; the Court was asked to rule on a novel point on which, up until then, legal opinion had varied; it has made a ruling; and the Government accept and will abide by the ruling, as they should with any ruling of our independent courts?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:23 a.m.

I completely agree with both parts of my hon. Friend’s question. Plainly, the Law Officers’ convention is not a question of personal ownership by any particular Attorney General. It is a long-standing convention that protects all Governments on often extremely sensitive, complex and difficult subjects, sometimes affecting the most important interests of this country. Of course I agree that the Supreme Court’s judgment must be respected. It is final and binding as a matter of law, but it is peculiar to its circumstances.

Legal Advice: Prorogation

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Wednesday 25th September 2019

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 11:54 a.m.

I do not think that it was a constitutional coup. I know the right hon. Gentleman will know that I do not, and I do not believe that anybody does. These things can be said in the heat of rhetorical and poetical licence, but this was a judgment of the Supreme Court of a kind that was clear and definitive. It often happens that Governments lose cases. We did not agree with it, because of course we argued against it, but we accept the ruling of the Supreme Court, and we are proud that we have a country that is capable of giving independent judgments of this kind.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 11:56 a.m.

I welcome the Attorney General’s very clear statement of the importance that he and, I am sure, the whole Government attach to the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. Let me also say to him that many lawyers might well have given exactly the same advice as he did on the weight of precedent. Does he accept, however, that it is most important that the convention that the advice that the Attorney General gives to Government is not leaked and is not disclosed should not be lightly set aside? Would he also perhaps think it rather regrettable that such an important matter, which warrants very careful and calm and considered language and discussion, should be used for the purpose of rather unworthy ad hominem attacks and party political knockabout when so much is at stake?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 11:56 a.m.

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. I do of course agree with him that legal advice, and particularly the role of the Attorney General, is always difficult, because one polices and intersects a very difficult line between giving advice of an impartial, and politically impartial, character, and being a political Minister, but I hope that I have endeavoured to do that with all the conscience and candour at my disposal—and when I say to the House, as I do today, “I accept that we lost; we got it wrong on the judgment of the Supreme Court; but it was a respectable view on the law to take, and that view was taken by four of the seven judges who had opined up to the point of the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court has made new law. Let us be absolutely clear: from now on, the prerogative power of Her Majesty, advised by the Prime Minister, can be the subject—the justiciable subject—of the court’s control, and that was a judgment that the Supreme Court was perfectly entitled to make. What the implications are for the future of our constitutional arrangements will have to be reflected upon in the coming months and years, but it is never wise to reflect upon a court case and its implications in the immediate aftermath of that case. It will have to be done carefully and deliberately, and this House will have to decide, ultimately, whether these matters and these powers are for this House to regulate and control, or whether they are for the judiciary; but, at the moment, the Supreme Court has spoken, and that is the law.

Section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Tuesday 9th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard

As the hon. Gentleman knows, negotiations will carry on in the Council tomorrow, and I think it would be idle speculation for me to try and anticipate what might be agreed. Some people take offence at the word nebulous; I do not. [Interruption.] I really do not. What I have tried to do, at all stages of this process, is to find a way forward and to seek a solution. It is in all our hands, and I say that in a spirit of friendship and co-operation to all hon. Members.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 3:47 p.m.

It seems to me that the Solicitor General is simply giving the House a reality check as to the position that we have been put into by Members who voted in various ways. But is not the situation in law that, although it might be necessary to participate in elections—which neither he nor I nor, I think, most of us want—as a matter of law, the outgoing European Parliament exists until the moment that the new Parliament is created, and therefore there are certain things that could take place, such as ratification of any agreement, until the point that the new Parliament meets; also, the argument that British presence might impugn the new Parliament would not exist if we have left by that time?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 3:48 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think he is absolutely right about the way in which the European Parliament is constituted. It is due, I think, to rise on 18 April, but it does not cease to exist—it does not dissolve in the way that we do. That is important in terms of ratification, because section 13 of the withdrawal Act that we passed obviously includes that requirement as well.

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Opinion

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question, which I will deal with point by point. First, my opinion has changed in connection to this country’s ability to prove bad faith if it occurred. There is now a new contextual framework for judging whether the other party is using best endeavours or good faith.

Time has been made of the essence in specific connection to negotiating alternative arrangements. A specific work track and a specific timetable are set out, and it would be unconscionable, as I say in my opinion—I forget the paragraph, but the right hon. Gentleman will have it—if having said to this country that it will set up a specific, discrete work track on alternative arrangements, which are defined in this new document as meaning facilitative techniques, technologies and customs procedures, and if having set up a timeline for negotiating those alternative arrangements by saying “12 months, or we must intensify our efforts,” it never agreed to use a single one, and if it refused every proposal reasonably adjusted to its core interests. That would be extraordinary.

I say in my written opinion, and I stand by it, that it would be a potential breach of best endeavours and good faith. Best endeavours are now defined in this joint instrument as requiring the EU to consider adverse interests and matters that are adverse to its interests. Even if these facilitative technological and customs measures were adverse to the EU’s interests, the duty still requires it to consider them. Therefore if there were a pattern of refusal, a systematic refusal, to consider these alternative arrangements, we would have a case before the arbitration panel, and it would be a potentially serious breach of good faith.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman with all candour that I believe that, and he knows I would not say it if I did not mean it. It is there in my written opinion, and I urge him to consider it.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:09 p.m.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that although any practical lawyer will know that legal risks can seldom be totally eliminated from any agreement of any kind, what the parties must look at is the practical risk of something occurring? Does he not agree that what has been achieved markedly diminishes the practical risk, which is the key consideration we need to bear in mind when looking at the broader context of what is at stake here?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 1:10 p.m.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend; the legal ingredient in any political question must be subordinate, and particularly in connection with this political question. The fact is that there are always legal risks of various kinds. We walk among legal risks all the time—some of us more than others, perhaps—but we do not determine our behaviour by them. We take practical judgments every minute of the day, every day of the week about whether the legal risks we are engaged in are ones that are worth taking. I say to my hon. Friends, as I say to all hon. Members, that we must come to a decision on this question today. I urge the House to consider carefully this: there is no real legal basis to be seriously troubled that the European Union will never reach agreement with us. If it occurs through bad faith, we have further improvements in the deal now. But just because we cannot reach agreement, when the alternative arrangements are now cemented into this deal in a manner they have not been before? I think not, in all candour.

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Position

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Monday 3rd December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 6:09 p.m.

The Attorney General, by definition, is only called upon to advise on matters that are exceptional or in exceptional circumstances. The question here is what requires the advice of the Attorney General to be disclosed. In Lord Goldsmith’s case, the issue was whether the action of the Government was lawful. The action of the Government could not be taken if the Attorney General had not signed off on it, because it would be contrary to the ministerial code.

The circumstance here is that the House has available to it a wide range of highly competent legal advice that is just as good as mine and as those who advise me. There is nothing essential, I suggest to the House, about the advice of the Attorney General being disclosed in this case, but there is something that could lead to severe damage to the public interest. One hon. Lady on the Labour Benches said that I was being arrogant. I am not. I am trying genuinely to protect the public interest. The last thing I want to do is to be at odds with this House. I have been a Member for 13 years. I would very much like to ensure that the House is satisfied, which is why I am here today, answering these questions.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 6:09 p.m.

I am glad that the Attorney General draws a distinction with the Iraq case. Surely the act of withdrawal from the European Union must be lawful, because it is authorised by statute in this case. As to his advice, is not the reality that any lawyer often has to advise as to the difference between a theoretical risk and a practical risk? Do I take it that his assessment is that the likelihood of a theoretical risk being crystallised—namely, because the European Union is prepared to breach international law by breaching the best endeavours and good faith clauses, and at the same time to risk breaching its own Union law by relying on article 50 to form a permanent arrangement, for which it is not envisaged for—is not a realistic one, and therefore he advises that we accept it?

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Hansard

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s question. As I have said, I think that there is unquestionably a risk. There is a legal risk because there is no unilateral means out of the backstop. The question is with what degree of probability one thinks it would arise. My view is that it is not probable, but other Members will have their own views.

Points of Order

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Monday 3rd December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Speaker Hansard

Well, I await—[Interruption.] Order. I note what the Attorney General has said, and, of course, I shall be interested to see any letter that he chooses to send to me. It is important that this matter is dealt with in a timely fashion. That is a highly relevant consideration for me to take into account, but I have heard, with respect, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, and I wait to see what emerges.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 6:54 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The letter that the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) referred to touches upon a most grave matter in any view to all Members of the House. Is it either in order or courteous that the text of that letter should have been released to a journalist who has then put it up on Twitter? I know that that was because of the journalist, but was it in order for hon. Members or those acting on their behalf to release it before you were apparently aware of it or had had the chance to consider it and rule on it?

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Dec 2018, 6:55 p.m.

It is always best if letters sent to me are received and seen by me before they are seen by others, but I will address the substantive responsibility that is invested in me—that is frankly a different and on the whole rather more important matter, but I always treat the hon. Gentleman and all Members with courtesy. I note what he said and I issued my response in the first sentence of my reply to him.

Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Thursday 29th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 10:40 a.m.

I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman did not listen to the answer I gave. The Attorney General will be here on the next sitting day. He will make a statement and answer questions. Then the hon. Gentleman and other right hon. and hon. Members can form a judgment on whether the motion that was carried by this House has been satisfied. My argument is that the Attorney General will meet the spirit and intention of the motion passed, but preserve the important constitutional convention relating to Law Officers’ advice.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 10:40 a.m.

The right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the shadow Secretary of State, said during his speech:

“I wanted the Government to see the good sense in putting the legal position before the House, for all the exceptional reasons that have been set out”.—[Official Report, 13 November 2018; Vol. 649, c. 194.]

Accepting that, is that not precisely what the Attorney General intends to do and will be able to do on Monday?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
29 Nov 2018, 10:40 a.m.

My hon. Friend, the Chair of the Justice Committee, is absolutely right. The right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) is more familiar than most with the position of the Law Officers and their role within the constitution. I would have expected him to do better.

EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Tuesday 13th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Speaker Hansard

The House has resolved this matter, in that the motion has been put to it and approved without dissent or objection by it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely entitled—both in the course of his speech, as he did, and now via the ruse of a point of order—further and better to explain what he seeks, and there is nothing wrong, exceptionable or disorderly about that.

The ruling I give is simply that the motion is effective—I have been advised thus. It is not just an expression of the opinion of the House; it is an expression of the will of the House that certain documents should be provided to it. It is then for the Government to respond, and we await that response, which it is to be expected will be swift. I hope that that is helpful to colleagues.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Parliament Live - Hansard

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker Hansard
13 Nov 2018, 1:55 p.m.

One can always rely upon a lawyer to have a “further to that point of order”.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Hansard

I am grateful for your ruling, Mr Speaker. Will you also confirm that nothing in the resolution detracts from or undermines the obligation upon the Law Officers to consider the public interest when coming to a decision on the appropriate form of any disclosure that is made?

Mr Speaker Hansard
13 Nov 2018, 1:55 p.m.

The resolution is as agreed, and I do not think any violence to the position of the Law Officers has been done.

In response to the Solicitor General, who concluded the debate with his characteristic courtesy and good humour, I feel sure that the hon. Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) will treasure his tribute to her. It is to be expected that it will be framed, and I rather imagine that she will give it pride of place in her sitting room.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Wednesday 13th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Emma Reynolds Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Jun 2018, 6:19 p.m.

I will focus my remarks on the customs union and the single market. There may well be differences of opinion on our Benches, but I respect all my right hon. and hon. Friends; I know they are trying to do the right thing by the country and by their constituents. But our differences are nothing compared with the divisions on the Government Benches, and it is a bit rich of the hon. Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) to lecture us on being divided.

The truth is that the Government are making a huge mess of Brexit. Two years after the referendum, we still do not know what their position is. The truth is that kicking the can down the road cannot continue to be the Government’s strategy. The clock is ticking and time is running out; we cannot leave everything to the October summit.

I shall vote in favour of the customs union amendments because I believe that to remain in it is vital to manufacturing. Jaguar Land Rover is on the border of my constituency and has recently announced job cuts and the movement of facilities to Slovakia, which I am very concerned about; those announcements were partly down to concerns about Brexit uncertainty.

Today, the CBI president warned that manufacturing sectors, including the car industry, will face extinction if we leave the customs union. He also said:

“There’s zero evidence that independent trade deals will provide any economic benefit to the UK that’s material.”

That is borne out by the Government’s own leaked economic analysis. In trade, geography matters. The EU is on our doorstep and our economy is deeply integrated with its economy.

That brings me to Lords amendment 51 and the Labour Front-Bench amendment (a) to it, both of which I shall support, after careful consideration. These may be complex issues—as a member of the Brexit Select Committee, I have spent many hours hearing evidence about the customs union, the single market, the EEA and the other different models—but my approach to this question is simple: the economy has to come first. The economics are clear, and I feel I have a duty to prioritise jobs, livelihoods and public services for my constituents. I acknowledge that the EEA is not perfect, but, for the minute, the combination of the EEA and the customs union is the only way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

I acknowledge that my constituents and others have serious and sincere concerns about immigration, but another motivation for voting leave among people in my constituency was a sense that the economy is not working for them. We need a new settlement for working-class communities in our country. We need targeted investment in public services in areas such as mine. We need more teachers in schools and much better early years childcare. Austerity was one reason why we lost the referendum; people really do feel that their economy is not working for them.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Jun 2018, 6:22 p.m.

I think a bit of a reality check is happening in the House and in the country. There was realism from the Government yesterday and good progress in several areas, which I welcome. There must also be a reality check about what happens next.

The vote to leave the European Union was purely that: a vote to leave the political institutions. That is all that it said on the ballot paper. It said nothing else. I respect that mandate, but it is the right of Parliament, working with the Government, to have a say in how we deliver that and what our future relationship is. My test for that is twofold. First, in every circumstance, we must protect the integrity of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As far as I am concerned, that is more important than anything, including referendum results. I believe that the Government have got that message, and the very important step that was taken yesterday meets that test. I support the Government on that, but we must make sure that it is delivered in practice, with no hard border.

Secondly, my other test is to make sure that we look after the economic wellbeing of my constituents and the public services on which they depend. I do not favour some kind of ideological Brexit. There is an attempt to hijack the referendum result in pursuit of a very narrow, ideological version. That is not the pragmatic version that I, as a Conservative, believe in. I am a Conservative because I am a pragmatist. I listen to voices of business and want to put business and jobs at the centre of Brexit.

The customs union is not perfect and I shall not support the EEA amendments tonight, because this is not the Bill for them—this Bill is about process and getting the statute book right—but I say to the Government that the time to have that debate is when we return to the Trade Bill, an amendment to which I have put my name to, along with other Members. If a practical outcome involves something that looks like a union—call it an arrangement; I do not mind—I want to give the Prime Minister the flexibility to achieve that. She is entitled to time to try to achieve that between now and June, so I shall support the Government in all tonight’s votes.

On the legal matters, I am persuaded. It was a great difficulty to have to choose between my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General. On balance, I am with Lord Judge, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood and Lord Mackay of Clashfern. The Government have worked hard to improve the legal matters of retained EU law. I have had good and positive conversations with them and hope to continue to do so. The key thing about this is that, for the country’s sake, we have to be pragmatists now. I think that the Prime Minister gets that and I will support her for that reason, but the pragmatist takes nothing off the table, and that is how we should keep it, as of today.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Jun 2018, 6:24 p.m.

Mr Speaker, I am going to help you by being brief and I am going to speak from first principles.

I really wish, Mr Speaker, that I could fly you and Members on both sides of the House north into Scotland, north over the unedifying scenes that we saw earlier today and north into the clear sky of Caithness. I would take you to Scrabster, the small harbour that serves Orkney and Shetland and sits beside Thurso. At Scrabster, I have a constituent, Mr Willie Calder. He and his son, William, run Scrabster Seafoods Ltd, a highly successful company that indirectly employs 100 people in an area where jobs do not grow on trees.

I met Mr Calder and his son a few days ago, and he put the situation to me very clearly. It takes him two days to get his fish products to the markets in the south of France. It takes him one day to get to his markets in the north of France. One day’s extra delay, or even half a day’s extra delay, at customs or a port would ruin him. It is as simple as that. The bottom line—this is where I am keeping it short, Mr Speaker—is this: Mr Calder’s business, Scrabster Seafoods Ltd, matters to me a very great deal. My story is based on first principles, but it explains precisely where I am coming from. I sincerely hope that Members on both sides of the House and both sides of the argument will see where I am coming from. I say to them: please work for the best interests of the people whom I represent. I would be letting them down and betraying them if I did not stand up here and say that.

Belhaj and Boudchar: Litigation Update

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Thursday 10th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Jeremy Wright Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 May 2018, 12:44 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. On his first point, he is right that consolidated guidance should be kept under review. As I indicated to the shadow Solicitor General, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), we will certainly seek to do that. The hon. Gentleman will know that the current ISC inquiry on detainees will, we hope, feed into a proper look again at whether the consolidated guidance is in the right place. It is worth making the point, which the hon. Gentleman will recognise from his experience of these matters, that the UK is unusual in the publication of such guidance. It is of course important that we recognise our failures on a day like this, but it is also important that we recognise where we lead the world, and there are some aspects in which we do. It is important not just that this information is available to those who participate in the work of the intelligence agencies, but that the public can see it and that the kind of debates we are having can be held in public.

On the hon. Gentleman’s second point, he will understand that Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at that time, was an individual defendant in this case. I have made it clear that the claim against him has been dropped and there is no further pursuit of those allegations. I understand that Jack Straw will make his own statement later today. The points I have made are about the system more broadly, as are the points made by the hon. Gentleman. In relation to the system more broadly, it is important that we make what changes we can to ensure that we have the safeguards that we need to get as close as we can to a position in which we can answer the questions that the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) asked earlier, in the most absolute terms that we can give.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 May 2018, 12:46 p.m.

I very much welcome the statement and congratulate the Attorney General on it and on the way he has handled this difficult and sensitive matter. It is right that the Prime Minister has responded promptly in the terms in which she has.

Will the Attorney General confirm not only that we are resolute in the maintenance of our adherence to all international and domestic legal standards and rules in this matter, but that in any revision of the consolidated guidance and any other procedures going forward, the involvement in a full sense of the Law Officers, and the full and complete documentation of all advice from the Law Officers to other members of the Government and to any operational agencies, will remain a central feature of the decision-making process?

Jeremy Wright Portrait The Attorney General - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 May 2018, 12:46 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. I can give him that reassurance. I indicated one element in which that reassurance manifests itself—full membership of the National Security Council for the Attorney General, which is a significant change—but there are others. I hope that I speak for my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General in saying that we believe that our participation in these decisions is where it should be. We have the opportunity to get our points across and will make sure that that continues to be the case.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Wednesday 15th November 2017

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 3:16 p.m.

I am sorry. I need to press on.

Clause 3 converts the text of direct EU legislation, as it operates at the moment immediately before we leave the EU, into our domestic law. Such existing EU law is currently given legal effect in our law via section 2(1) of the 1972 Act. Without clause 3, those laws would no longer have effect in domestic law when we leave and repeal the 1972 Act. Again, that would leave holes within our domestic law. More specifically, the clause converts EU regulations, as well as certain decisions and tertiary legislation, into domestic law. It also converts adaptations to instruments made for the EEA. The clause is necessary to ensure that we fully keep existing EU laws in force within the UK.

In general, these instruments, or parts of them, will be converted only if they are already in force before exit day, meaning that an EU regulation set to come into force six months after we leave will not be converted into UK law. However, some EU instruments will be in force but will apply only in a staggered way over time, with different parts applying at different times. In those circumstances, only those parts that are stated to apply before exit day will be converted.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 3:18 p.m.

I might be anticipating the Minister’s later remarks, but does that not leave us with a possible loophole when we have participated in the preparation of measures that have not yet come into force and we might regard as thoroughly desirable, but we cannot by any means bring them into force?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 3:18 p.m.

I will deal briefly with my hon. Friend’s amendment 356. As I was saying, we have some examples here, such as the EU’s fluorinated greenhouse gases regulations, which are stated as applying from 1 January 2015. They include prohibitions on placing certain substances on the market from specific dates, several of which fall after exit day. With respect, however, his amendment could create further confusion, because there needs to be one standard cut-off point at which the snapshot of law is taken, and that is why exit day should apply. When it comes to measures affected by the cut-off point, we will do whatever is necessary before exit day to provide certainty for business, including by bringing forward further legislation, if required, to cater for those particular situations. If I may return to develop—

Break in Debate

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 3:46 p.m.

I will not give way any further.

It is our policy that we will not be a member of the EEA or the single market after we leave the EU, so introducing an obligation to produce a report on membership of the EEA, as new clauses 9 and 23 seek to do, is simply unnecessary.

I will now try to deal fairly with the Scottish National party amendments 200 and 201, which the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) spoke to. While we do not accept that the amendments are necessary, I welcome the chance to set out clearly the meaning of clause 2. Amendments 200 and 201 seek to provide clarity on precisely what is meant by “passed” in the context of the clause. Some have questioned the effect of clause 2 in relation to an Act that may have been passed by the Scottish Parliament, but which has not yet received Royal Assent when the clause is commenced.

We do not believe that there is an ambiguity. Clause 2(2) states that “EU-derived domestic legislation” is an enactment. As enactments can only mean something that has received Royal Assent, an Act of Scottish Parliament that has only been passed cannot fall within this definition, and it would therefore not be categorised as EU-derived domestic legislation for the purposes of the Bill. The reference to “passed” in clause 2 is therefore a reference to the purpose for which the enactment was passed, not the fact of whether it was passed. I hope I have been able to shed light on that area for the hon. Gentleman, and I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

Turning now to Plaid Cymru’s amendment 87, which is in the name of the hon. Member for Arfon, we do not accept the premise that lies behind the change. In trying to circumvent the provisions of clause 11, the amendment pays no heed to the common approaches that are established by EU law or to the crucial consideration that we—the UK Government and the devolved Administrations—must give to where they may or may not be needed in future. What is more, it undermines our aim to provide people with maximum certainty over the laws that will apply on exit day. The amendment would also be practically unable to achieve its underlying aim. The enactments that it takes out of retained EU law would also be taken outside the scope of the powers that this Bill confers on the devolved Administrations to allow them to prepare them for exit day. It would hamper their ability to address the deficiencies that will arise, and it would leave it likely that the laws would remain broken on the day of exit.

The process of making the statute book work for exit day is a joint endeavour between the different Governments and legislatures of the whole United Kingdom. This is an important project that entails a significant workload before exit day, which is why we are actively engaging with the devolved Administrations to build up a shared understanding of where corrections to the statute book would be needed. On that basis, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

I hope I have dealt with the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), the Chair of the Select Committee on Justice.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 12:46 p.m.

When the Minister talks about bringing forward a package on Report, do I take it that the amendment in my name and in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) is intended to be in that package?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 3:50 p.m.

I am always happy to engage with my hon. Friend and with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond). I know the spirit in which they tabled the amendment, and I look forward to the dialogue to come.

I commend clauses 2 and 3 to the House.

Break in Debate

Heidi Alexander Hansard

My hon. Friend has issued a very timely reminder to me. If it were possible, I would like that to happen.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 4:03 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hoyle.

This is another important debate on some key issues related to retained EU law. With no disrespect to my constituency next-door neighbour, the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), who made some powerful comments, I will concentrate specifically on those matters of retained law. As one might say in court sometimes, I adopt the arguments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve). I was about to say that I had nothing further to add, but I will not go quite as far as that. None the less, I do entirely agree with his approach to this part of the Bill and to what we should seek to achieve in relation to retained law.

May I add a couple of other broader observations? I very much welcome the spirit of the remarks made by the Solicitor General and the other Ministers currently on the Treasury Bench. I am grateful for their constructive approach. It is a reminder that Conservative Members have far more in common than that which ever might cause us to disagree about matters on this Bill. It is also a timely reminder that our commitment to protecting social standards and protections is undiminished.

As has been rightly observed, the Conservative party has historically always been a party of social protection and social reform, from the great Christian philanthropists such as Shaftesbury through to Peel—arguably one of the greatest of all Conservative Prime Ministers—and Disraeli and up to the present day. I include a short plug for a previous Member of Parliament for a good part of the Bromley and Chislehurst constituency, the late Lord Stockton, who was, of course, the Member of Parliament for Bromley. Many of us are proud to be in that one nation progressive tradition and want to ensure that we take that forward into the future.

I now turn to amendment 356, which is in my name and is supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon. I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) for adding his name to it. The amendment concerns the UK’s ability to maintain regulatory alignment in the immediate period after the UK leaves the EU, where there is EU-derived legislation that is not fully in effect on exit day. The Solicitor General was kind enough to refer to that topic when I intervened on him. I accept his intentions, but I would like to develop my view on these issues a little further.

As we already know, clause 3 will impose a strict cut-off on the law that is to be retained in that it must not only be on the books—so to speak—but must also be fully applicable and effective immediately before exit day. So far, so good; it is obviously right that Parliament should not automatically apply EU laws introduced after Brexit. It should decide whether we want to apply them, as a matter of our own sovereign judgment. There will be cases, however, where legislation is sufficiently far down the line as we leave the EU that a more flexible approach is justified. It is that limited, but important, area of cases that I will deal with.

There may be legislation that we have no problem with as a matter of policy and that businesses or other affected parties would wish to have—perhaps we were involved in its preparation when we were still a member of the EU. The European Scrutiny Committee and other parts of the House may even have had the opportunity to peruse the documents, and business and other affected parties might already be making preparations to implement and comply with that legislation. How do we deal with that? At the moment, it looks as though we would need primary legislation in those cases. That would be cumbersome for all the reasons that the Solicitor General recognised in his exchanges with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field).

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 11:30 a.m.

I do not see the problem with that. If the piece of legislation is as benign and generally agreed as my hon. Friend says, it will go through the House quickly. If it is not actually agreed and there are lots of issues to tease out, should not we put it through a proper democratic process?

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 4:08 p.m.

I rather think that what I am proposing in my amendment is the use of the affirmative procedure. I never heard my right hon. Friend say that that was not part of the proper democratic process when he was a Minister and used it many years ago; nor have I heard him say that on other occasions when it has been used. It is a question of what is proportionate. I entirely accept that there has to be scrutiny and a democratic process. But, for the very reasons accepted in the discussion between the Solicitor General and the right hon. Member for Birkenhead—the volume of matters that we would have to deal with, even with the sensible triage arrangements that we have to put in place—I am not sure that we need to go down the time-consuming route of full legislation going through both Houses. I am trying to propose a compromise that would get us through a limited number of quite technical cases.

I will use some examples predominantly from the financial sphere, but the amendment would also apply should we need to maintain regulatory equivalency in things such as data protection, which is important for criminal justice and legal justice co-operation. There may be no such cases when we leave, but they are always possible. That is what we need to deal with, and the principle holds generally.

We may also need to deal with the difficulties that might arise in the context of EU legislation that is only partly implemented on exit day, or legislation that is enforced on exit day but whose effective operation depends on secondary measures that will be passed after exit day, which is not unknown even in our own domestic arrangements. In that situation, it would seem sensible to have the option to domesticate that EU legislation as it comes into force in the EU, so that it is enforced with us at the same time. We could do that through a vote on an affirmative resolution statutory instrument, rather than by having to pass new primary legislation each time. That is a practicality matter, and I suggest it is important.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone - Hansard

Will the hon. Gentleman elaborate on that in the Scottish context? Further to what he has just said, we can imagine the discussions that would take place between Holyrood and Westminster. How would those be timetabled in terms of what he has just said?

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Hansard

It would be for the Government to choose whether to bring such things forward. At the moment, it would be quite onerous to have primary legislation. Not all these issues will, of course, affect the Holyrood situation. Holyrood may well wish to adopt a procedure for devolved matters, and we could look at that constructively. If there is to be a package of further discussions, we could also consider that further. Scotland is important as a centre of financial services, as is the City of London, and we could try to develop these things as we go forward.

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

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 4:11 p.m.

I need to make some progress, so I hope the hon. Lady will forgive me. I have not much more to say.

Let me explain how this procedure will work. The proposed use of the affirmative procedure takes account of the fact that this amendment addresses only EU legislation that is in train, but not wholly in effect. These pieces of legislation have been subject to policy input and scrutiny processes, so they are very limited in number.

Support for this approach comes from two practitioner-based groups in the City: the International Regulatory Strategy Group, which I referred to in debate yesterday, and the Financial Markets Law Committee. The strategy group includes most of the key players in the London financial world. The law committee is an independent body drawn from leading practitioners in City firms and institutions and from members of the judiciary—in fact, it is chaired by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who recently retired as Lord Chief Justice. Their imprimatur is likely to indicate that this modest proposal has a pretty strong parentage in terms of its expertise and application.

The two bodies identify potential sources of legal uncertainty affecting the wholesale financial markets. Let me give two examples. First, there is the situation regarding the second payment services directive. The directive will apply from next year and will be domesticated, but important regulatory technical standards that will underpin the operation of the directive are not expected to be finalised by the European Banking Authority until after Brexit. At the moment, the Bill will not allow us to adopt those standards into UK law. The amendment would give us a streamlined means to deal with that.

Some of the provisions of the prospectus regulation came into force over the summer, and some important elements are due to take effect in the months after Brexit. Do we have to go through full primary legislation to incorporate that, or do we deal with it through a streamlined procedure? The City institutions and practitioners think it would be much more sensible to have the procedure I propose, so that they have certainty that they will not have delays in the primary legislative process. They can then have the regulation in place, and they are already prepared for it.

That is the nub of the amendment. I am grateful, again, to the Remembrancer’s Office of the City of London for its assistance with the drafting. I am sure the Minister will want to find the means to achieve what is set out in the amendment. I hope that he will be able to respond and find a means of taking this forward.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 4:14 p.m.

I rise to speak to my new clause 25, which has cross-party support. The Minister has already praised me from the Dispatch Box for the clarity with which I have spoken to it, but I can reassure him that now this really is me doing so. I also support new clauses 55 and 58. All these new clauses relate to retaining enhanced protections after exit day. As will be evident from other measures I have tabled, including new clause 28, which is in today’s second group, my main concern is retaining the valuable environmental protections that flow from our EU membership. However, of course, employment rights, equalities, and health and safety standards, as set out in new clause 58, which was tabled by Labour Front Benchers, are also vital, and the same arguments apply to them.

Oral Answers to Questions

Sir Robert Neill Excerpts
Thursday 29th June 2017

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
29 Jun 2017, 10:31 a.m.

Again, the hon. Lady asks a general question about the merits of particular cases. If indeed there are grounds—for example, a judicial review procedure might be appropriate in particular cases—that application can be made. The important point in the context of this question is whether we can do more for families and bereaved relatives. I think we can, and the precedent set by the horrific events at Grenfell will allow us all to learn important lessons: that families have to be put first.

Sir Robert Neill Portrait Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) - Hansard
29 Jun 2017, 10:31 a.m.

Can the Solicitor General help us on the practicalities? What discussions has he had with the Bar Council and the Law Society as to how an independent advocate or advocates might be identified; what levels of remuneration will be available, so as to ensure that there is proper equality of arms in representation; and by what means families will be able to give proper and fully discreet instructions?

Robert Buckland Portrait The Solicitor General - Hansard
29 Jun 2017, 10:31 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is vital that we get these details right as we develop the policy. It is clear, certainly to the Government, that having quality advocacy so that the right documents are obtained and a proper challenge is made at all stages of the process is important, and it is what we seek to achieve. Therefore, fulfilling article 6 has to be at the heart of this.