Seema Malhotra contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

Wed 20th June 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
3 interactions (327 words)
Tue 16th January 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Report stage: First Day: House of Commons
3 interactions (66 words)
Wed 13th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 7th sitting: House of Commons
3 interactions (1,564 words)
Tue 21st November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
3 interactions (74 words)
Wed 15th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
3 interactions (1 words)
Tue 14th November 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
11 interactions (119 words)
Mon 11th September 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
3 interactions (745 words)

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Ping Pong: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Wednesday 20th June 2018

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Exiting the European Union
Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:30 p.m.

I do apologise to the hon. Lady, but I will not give way, because other people want to speak, and time is very short.

Therefore, the rights of this House are intact. The legislation will ensure that the Government can pursue their objectives, which is very important. The Chief Whip is in his place. I commend him for the tactful way that he has discussed these issues with so many people over the past week to ensure that we could come to something that every Conservative Member is able to agree to and put their name to that maintains the privileges of this House, ensures that the Government can negotiate properly, and sends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State to the negotiating table with a united House of Commons behind them.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:31 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today. I will make just a couple of remarks.

I want to reiterate the comments that have been made that this is not about reversing Brexit or about tying the hands of the Government. This is about what happens and the role of Parliament if things go wrong. It is about clarity, about what will happen in this Parliament and to the interests of our country in the event of no deal, or no deal being agreed by this House.

It is incredibly disappointing to have reached this position. It could have been so different. A week after the referendum, I wrote to the then Prime Minister. I then wrote to the current Prime Minister. I made the argument that it was in the interests of our country that this House came together, that we had ways of working across parties, across this House and the House of Lords, and that we came to a solution together and worked through the issues together. But, step by step, we have seen a Government who have run and a Government who have hidden—a Government who have not even wanted to bring forward their own impact assessments so that we can take part in an evidence-based debate on the impact of Brexit on our country and get the answer right. A process by which this country comes together is essential if, in the autumn, we reach a situation in which what was unthinkable becomes thinkable. To have a way in which we handle that is our responsibility.

Every large Government project has a risk register and a response to those risks. This is a critical risk for our country and it is vital that, in advance of such a situation, we all know what is going to happen and that we have a say, on behalf of our constituents, about what could be an incredibly catastrophic situation for our economy, our country and our society.

Mr Speaker Hansard
20 Jun 2018, 3:33 p.m.

Order. I would like to accommodate further speakers.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report stage: First Day: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Tuesday 16th January 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Mr Leslie Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:41 p.m.

That is right, and my hon. Friend will also remember that, before becoming Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) cited many of the rights in the charter in his own legal case against the then Home Secretary, who is now the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman took a case against her and cited many of the provisions in the charter; how strange it is that he now introduces a Bill that does not necessarily carry forward those provisions.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:42 p.m.

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that the issue at hand is not whether those of us in this Chamber now might want to change the rights and protections we currently have, but the process by which those laws and rights could be changed and the ease and lack of accountability and transparency that could put them at risk in future?

Mr Leslie Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 1:43 p.m.

I can certainly imagine cases where our constituents, feeling the need to assert some of those rights in the charter in future, find themselves falling foul of the provision in clause 5 that says, all of a sudden, that the charter of fundamental rights is not part of domestic law on or after exit day. They enjoyed those rights hitherto; where would that situation leave them?

The Government, when being sued by the tobacco companies which did not like plain packaging and thought it was against their rights of expression, cited the right to public health in the charter of fundamental rights and managed to defeat those tobacco companies. The charter of fundamental rights proved important not just for our constituents, but for the Government themselves in upholding what was a good piece of public policy at the time.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 7th sitting: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Wednesday 13th December 2017

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mrs Eleanor Laing) - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 5:35 p.m.

Order. Now that the Minister has spoken and taken a great many interventions, many of the issues before us have been fully discussed. I appreciate there are a lot more amendments to be spoken to, but the Committee will know that a lot of people have just risen to indicate that they wish to speak, and we have less than an hour and a half left.

I cannot impose a time limit in Committee, but if hon. Members speak for more than three minutes, they are depriving someone else of the opportunity to speak. That might indeed be the intention of some hon. Members, and there are many hon. Members who prefer to listen to their own voice than to give any time to others. We shall see in the next hour and a half which is which.

I am sure I can rely on Seema Malhotra to behave properly.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 5:35 p.m.

Thank you, Mrs Laing. I will do my best but, with short notice, I may struggle to bring my speech down to three minutes.

It is a pleasure to follow many hon. Friends and hon. Members in lending my support to new clause 3, amendment 7 and new clause 66, which speak to the intention of Members on both sides of the Committee to engage constructively and thoughtfully on the role of Parliament and on when, and how, Parliament has a say on the fundamental issue of the withdrawal agreement.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to address my new clause 69 and to thank the 40 hon. Members from both sides of the Committee who put their name to it. New clause 69 seeks to lay out a simple road map to provide clarity on the role of Parliament in the final months before Brexit.

The Government put out a statement today, setting out the role of Parliament in approving the agreements and how the agreements will be put into force. Notwithstanding the Minister’s comments, I will lay out why the statement does not go far enough in addressing this fundamental issue—the Minister also did not adequately address these points.

The Brexit Secretary said in his written statement—there is no disagreement with this—that:

“A Withdrawal Agreement will be negotiated under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union…whilst the UK is a member of the EU. It will set out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU…as well as…any implementation period agreed between both sides.

Article 50(2) of the TEU sets out that the Withdrawal Agreement should take account of the terms for the departing Member State’s future relationship with the EU.”

We believe that partially parallel process is soon to be under way.

Michel Barnier has said that he wants to have the withdrawal agreement finalised by October 2018, which is indeed the Government’s stated intention. The Prime Minister said today that she fully expects the vote to be “well before March 2019.” The Government have committed to holding a vote on the final deal as soon as possible after the negotiations have been finalised, and the Brexit Secretary’s statement says:

“This legislation will be introduced before the UK exits the EU”.

I very much hope that all goes according to plan. It is in the interest of the country for there to be an orderly, stable and predictable Brexit process that enables businesses and families to plan ahead and do all they can to manage the risks of transition. If the Government are as confident of that as they would wish us to believe, I hope they are able to confirm today that they will accept amendment 7 and respond to the points raised in my new clause 69, which seeks to do nothing other than include in the Bill the commitments the Government made in their stated policy intentions. Although I will not be pressing new clause 69 to a vote, I reserve the right to bring back the issues at a later stage.

Legislation is not passed to plan for when things go well but to provide protections and a route map for action when things do not go well. There may well be an honest intention to reach a deal by October 2018, but there is no guarantee. I am not attempting to talk down the Government’s negotiation attempts, but there has been a consistent view—indeed, reiterated by the Prime Minister today—that she fully expects a vote before March 2019. That is not a promise, because we know it cannot be.

I am also representing the views expressed by the Brexit Secretary on 25 October 2017, when he said we could go up to the 59th minute of the eleventh hour. The Government may have sought to row back on that, but the experience suggests and the reality is that it may well end up being the case.

Michel Barnier said this morning that negotiations are difficult and “tough” and that he wants steps to be taken for an “orderly withdrawal”. He has stated today that a full trade deal will not be possible by the time the UK leaves the EU. With only 15 months left to Brexit day, we must recognise that in these complex times the unpredictable can happen, and that in those circumstances, which none of us would wish to see, we need to have planned ahead effectively. We need certainty for Parliament, for our constituents, and for business and industry about how we will proceed.

My new clause states that in the event of no deal being reached by October 2018 or a deal not having been passed by both Houses of Parliament by February 2019, with a month to go the Prime Minister must: seek agreement with the EU to extend the article 50 time period; or seek agreement with the EU to finalise the terms of the withdrawal agreement through the period of transition after the article 50 notice expires and the EU treaties cease to apply to the UK; or seek agreement on any other course of action in line with a resolution of this House. This is important as it gives an opportunity for timely—I repeat, timely—engagement of this House, which is critical in order for any vote to be meaningful.

My new clause does not specify which of those the Government should seek to do, but it sets out three clear options that could be vital in keeping order and stability in the weeks and months before exit day. Let me be clear also that this is not about an unnecessary extension of the process; it is about allowing provision for and clarity on the circumstances in which it may be called upon, most likely for a short period of months. That can only be helpful in managing the risks of Brexit, particularly in the event that a deal is well under way but has not been finalised. It would certainly not be against the spirit of the referendum result, and at the time could precisely be in the national interest.

I do not believe that in truth this approach should be any great distance from Government policy, and it simply picks up on paragraph 3 of article 50, which states:

“The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”

I do not believe there has been any suggestion from the European Council or elsewhere that such a request would not be agreed to if it were proven to be necessary.

In the light of aspects of stated Government policy, new clause 69 and amendment 7 should be nothing other than helpful. I wish to make a few points on this, Mrs Laing, which I shall summarise. The Government have made it clear that they will want to see a vote of this Parliament—after a challenging journey on that policy, they made that commitment in their manifesto in May. As has been stated today, however, the challenge is that it is not clear, and there certainly is no consensus on, what constitutes “meaningful”. Indeed, there has been a difference in view on this. First, the Secretary of State said:

“The House will have the opportunity to vote on any number of pieces of legislation before we get to the end and then will have a vote to decide whether what it gets is acceptable. I cannot see how it can be made more meaningful than that.”—[Official Report, 2 February 2017; Vol. 620, c. 1222.]

Yet, five days later, his deputy Minister at the time, the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), said:

“Let me say this. It will be a meaningful vote. As I have said, it will be the choice between leaving the European Union with a negotiated deal or not. To send the Government back to the negotiating table would be the surest way of undermining our negotiating position and delivering a worse deal.”—[Official Report, 7 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 273.]

This is surely the crux of the issue about the ability of Parliament to influence this Government and the negotiations to get the best deal for our country.

That brings me to my final point, which is about the issue of no deal. If the Government were to proceed on the basis of no deal, that itself would not be after a vote of this House. No deal obviously would bring huge risks to our economy and it would have a legally questionable status, and those views of stakeholders are of no surprise to Ministers in this House.

I would rather we were not in this positon and I would rather not have had to table the new clause, but I believe strongly that it would provide important safeguards for the country and for people in our constituencies, who will be picking up the pieces if we crash out of the European Union. Parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty are our duty and responsibility. I may not push for a vote today, but I reserve the right to bring my new clause back to the House, depending on what further comments the Minister makes. The House deserves a definite timeline for a vote, and to be confident of the meaningfulness of that vote.

Sir Bernard Jenkin Portrait Mr Jenkin - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2017, 5:45 p.m.

I have listened to this entire debate with close interest. I think that we are all agreed that we want an orderly process for leaving the EU, which means a sensible withdrawal agreement along with a clear and detailed commitment to an EU-UK trade agreement and a period of implementation, but I also think we all agree that if no satisfactory agreement arrives, we still all voted to leave the EU. Well, we nearly all voted to leave the EU: I respect my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), but he voted against the triggering of article 50, as did some others. Those of us who voted to trigger article 50 voted to leave on 29 March 2019.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 3rd sitting: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Tuesday 21st November 2017

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Justice
Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 3:36 p.m.

If I may say so, I think that that is to misunderstand. I am not responsible for the false assurances that were given about the opt-out when this country signed up to the charter. They did not come from the Scottish National party, and I think it is fair to say that they have now been disowned by the Labour party. In reality, the incorporation of the charter in our law has meant enhanced direct effect. I use the term “direct effect” rather than “direct applicability” because people are able to take an action and refer to those rights in the course of their action, as we saw in the Supreme Court case last summer when a gentleman named Mr Walker was able to realise equal pension rights for his husband, despite a loophole in UK law about the equalisation of pension rights for gay couples, because the EU charter closed that loophole.

I want to give the House a brief list of some of the rights involved. We have heard a lot about data protection, and I know that others will want to address that issue, but it is worth remembering that the right to be forgotten on Google and other search engines—which I believe is of interest to some Members—stems from the EU charter. There is more to it than that, however. Let us look at the words of others, rather than simply accepting the argument on my say-so.

When the Exiting the European Union Committee took evidence on these matters, Caroline Normand, the director of policy at Which?, told us that

“the Charter of Fundamental Rights contains some really important principles for consumers. The particular ones that I would highlight are the right to a high level of human health protection, which is article 35, and a right to a high level of consumer protection.”

She referred to the case last May—it has already been mentioned today—when the large tobacco companies brought judicial review proceedings challenging the regulations that introduced standardised packaging for tobacco products. The High Court dismissed the case, referencing the public health and other rights set out in the charter. That is a pretty meaningful right for public health in these islands.

Dr Charlotte O’Brien, a senior lecturer at York Law School, told the Select Committee that she had produced an approximate count for the number of times the charter was referenced in case law. She found that the charter was cited in 248 cases in England and Wales, 17 in Northern Ireland, 14 in Scotland and 98 in the European Court of Human Rights, and in 832 EU judgments, 515 of which were from the Court of Justice. Her point was that that is an awful lot of cases that would have to be read differently, and it is not clear how they are to be read differently.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 3:39 p.m.

The hon. and learned Lady and I both sit on that Committee. I would like her views on another point made by Dr O’Brien, which was that the school of thought that says that excluding the charter might not make that much difference is misleading because of the extent to which it is embedded in a lot of what we would consider to be retained EU law, and disentangling that would be extremely complicated.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
21 Nov 2017, 3:40 p.m.

Dr O’Brien did indeed make that point, and I think that anyone interested in the detail of why removing the charter from domestic law would take away rights would be well advised to read her evidence.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Wednesday 15th November 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 6:06 p.m.

I rise to welcome and support a number of proposals in this group, in particular new clause 2, new clause 25, the amendments on the EEA and new clause 22.

I shall be brief because many others wish to speak. First, new clause 22 seems to me to be eminently reasonable and, in a sense, asks no more from Ministers than they have already pledged verbally. Call me suspicious, but I would like to see that locked down legally as well, but it goes no further than what they have already said.

Indeed, the new clause reflects repeated statements by Ministers, not least the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will not lead to a weakening or a dilution of workers’ rights in particular. In October 2016, the Prime Minister herself said that

“existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law”.

The same month, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said this:

“To those who are trying to frighten British workers, saying ‘When we leave, employment rights will be eroded’, I say firmly and unequivocally ‘no they won’t’… this… government will not roll back those rights in the workplace.”

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said that he wants not just to maintain environmental laws, but to enhance them. It is puzzling why there is still resistance to translating all that rhetoric into legal certainty. That is all we seek this afternoon.

Those and other more recent statements are welcome, because in June 2016 electors were not voting to jettison hard-won rights and legal protections. On the contrary, they were assured by the leave campaign that taking back control would mean improvements to their rights and legal protections, denied them, apparently, by the evil bureaucrats of the EU. However, the Bill risks retained EU law being vulnerable to chipping away through secondary legislation. That is a real concern and those are important protections. Furthermore, if we are to have that deep and special relationship with the EU27, in particular in trade, we will have to abide by those regulations in any case, so why not lock them down with certainty here and now in this debate?

New clause 25, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), again asks little of Ministers. I hope it will be accepted. It would simply ensure that the quite extraordinary delegated powers that the Bill grants be used only in pursuit of the Bill’s stated purpose—namely, to allow retained EU law to operate effectively after withdrawal.

As the Bill stands, it will allow Ministers to use those delegated powers to modify what are currently EU regulations. That simply does not provide a good enough guarantee that those delegated powers will not be used to water down EU-derived standards on key environmental safeguards—for example, on chemical and timber regulation—without proper parliamentary and public scrutiny. New clause 25 would address that weakness by establishing a new process for modifying retained EU law after Brexit—one that I believe strikes a better balance of powers—and it acknowledges that it is sometimes necessary to amend technical provisions using secondary legislation. It allows for that, but it would also ensure that more substantive modifications to retained EU law can only be made by an Act of Parliament.

I want to say a few words about the amendments on the EEA. I simply want to reinforce what other hon. Members have said—that while the EEA might not be the most ideal port for a ship seeking shelter from the worst of the Brexit storm, because by almost any standard EEA membership is clearly inferior to full membership of the EU, when the storm is bad sailors can nevertheless be glad to find shelter in any available port, and with the sand now running fast out of the article 50 hourglass, one would have thought that any strong and stable Government worthy of the name would want to keep their options open.

Membership of the EEA would at least allow the UK to retain access to the EU single market. That means that British citizens would still be able to live and work in EU member states. British businesses would have the certainty of being able to trade freely with countries in the EU single market and access that market’s more than 500 million consumers. It would mean as well that the NHS would not be facing the crisis that it is currently facing, with so many nurses and health workers now being put off from coming to work in our NHS because they are no longer welcome. It means that we would not have the crisis in agriculture, where we literally have crops rotting in the fields because we do not have workers here to actually do the work in those fields. Crucially, it would also mean that those EU citizens who have made their lives here in good faith, and who have paid their taxes and worked here alongside us as our family, our friends and so on, would not feel unwelcome in a country that has been their home, in some cases for decades and decades.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 6:13 p.m.


Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas - Hansard
15 Nov 2017, 6:13 p.m.

I feel ashamed of this country and of this Government when I see so many good people feeling so unwelcome and feeling that their only recourse is to leave this country. That is not right.

I believe that membership of the EEA is a compromise that we might look at, going forward. I commend very strongly the speech and the amendment from the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander). She made the incredibly powerful point that we have had so much rhetoric about pulling together, about not dividing society, and yet EEA membership would offer a compromise that perhaps people could gather around. There was no mandate on the ballot paper on 23 June for the kind of extreme Brexit that this Government are pursuing, pushing us potentially to the very edge of that cliff and beyond. That was not on anyone’s ballot paper. There is no mandate for that. So if there is to be any seriousness about bringing people together, to try to heal the deep rifts that there now are in this country, proposals of the type set out in new clause 22 will be vital.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Ministry of Justice
Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 5:22 p.m.

The hon. Lady is right. We had all those debates about taking back control and parliamentary sovereignty, yet somehow the Minister seems to want to rip it all up. The Government are trying to concentrate huge amounts of power in the hands of Ministers, rather than giving the whole of Parliament a say.

Ministers have to stop infantilising Parliament and treating Parliament as if it is the enemy. The truth is that the sky did not fall in because Parliament had a vote on article 50. The Government told us that it would, and they told us that the whole process would be stopped, but it was not stopped because each and every one of us understands that we have obligations and responsibilities towards the referendum result, just as we have obligations and responsibilities towards the negotiation process that the Government have to conduct on our behalf, and that we cannot directly conduct for them. We know that we have those different responsibilities, and we know that we have to take mature and responsible decisions given the complexity of the situation that faces every single one of us. We just do not think that those decisions should be entirely in the hands of Ministers; we think that the whole of Parliament should have a say on something so important.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 5:10 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful speech and argument. Does she agree that having the vote and support of Parliament behind the Government and the action they take would strengthen the Government’s hand in the negotiations with the European Union?

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 5:23 p.m.

I agree with my hon. Friend, because this should be about the whole of Parliament, just as when we had the responsible debate on article 50. We know it is complex. It is our job and our responsibility in a democracy to deal with that complexity, and not just to abdicate our responsibility and hand it over to Ministers because, somehow, it is too difficult for us in Parliament to deal with. Of course it is not too difficult, and of course we are capable of dealing with the complex situation we face.

Break in Debate

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 8:35 p.m.

Perhaps I can give way to my right hon. Friend when I come on to her amendments.

I turn to amendment 203, tabled by the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and to the related amendments 353 and 354. They would remove clause 6(7) and partially reinsert it into clause 14. Clause 6(7) provides key definitions of terms in the Bill that are crucial for the proper interpretation and full understanding of its content. Subsection (7) aims to alleviate any potential confusion and ensure that there is no vagueness or ambiguity about the different types of retained law mentioned in the Bill. That is vital for those who read, implement and interpret the Bill, because of the different effects of each type of retained law. The placement of the definitions in clause 6 is specifically designed to make the Bill easier to navigate and more user-friendly, by placing the definitions close to where they are used and deployed in the text.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 8:34 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 8:37 p.m.

I am going to make a bit of progress. Wider general definitions are set out in clause 14, and clause 15 provides an index of all the defined terms to make the Bill easier to use as a reference tool. To remove those definitions from clause 6 and only partially to reinsert them into clause 14, as the amendment would do, would undermine the certainty and clarity that we aim to provide.

Without statutory definitions of the different types of retained law, we would undermine the stability of our domestic legal regime after exit and exacerbate the burdens on the court system. Reinserting the definition of “retained domestic case law” into clause 14 would not alleviate that, because it would give rise to the question why that definition had been included, while others had not. Its placement in the body of clause 14, away from its original use in clause 4, would make the text far less easy to navigate—something that we are keen to avoid.

I turn to amendment 137, which is a joint SNP and Liberal Democrat amendment, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry). Clause 6(2) will allow our domestic courts and tribunals to take into account any decisions made by the European Court, an EU entity or the EU itself on or after exit day, if they consider it appropriate to do so. That will ensure that our courts are not bound by the decisions of the European Court, while enabling them to consider its subsequent case law if they believe it is appropriate to do so. It is widespread practice in our domestic courts to carry out a similar exercise with the judgments of courts in other jurisdictions—I am thinking particularly of Commonwealth and common law jurisdictions—so, in principle, there is nothing new or particularly different here.

The UK has always been an open and outward-looking country, and our legal traditions reflect that. We pay attention to developments in other jurisdictions, including common law jurisdictions, and we embrace the best that the world has to offer, but we do so on our terms and under our control. That is decided by our courts and, ultimately, it is subject to the legislative will and sovereignty of this House. Amendment 137 is therefore unnecessary, as the Bill already provides that post-exit decisions of the European Court can be considered by the domestic courts.

Amendment 137 would go further, however, in that it would require our courts and tribunals to pay due regard to any relevant decision of the European Court. What does “due regard” mean? It is not defined and, indeed, it is far from clear. It is evidently intended to go further than clause 6, and tacitly urges our courts to heed, follow or shadow the Luxembourg Court, but there is no clarity about what would count as due consideration. The amendment would alter the inherent discretion the UK courts already have to consider, without fetters, the case law in other jurisdictions, and it seeks to apply to the European Court a procedural requirement that is stronger but so vague that it is liable to create more, not less, confusion. I hope that I have tackled, or at least addressed the concerns that the hon. and learned Lady has expressed in her amendment, and I urge her not to press it.

I will now turn to amendment 303 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham. I thank her for tabling this amendment and for explaining it, as she did, in a very constructive spirit. I recognise that she is representing the interests of her constituents with her customary tenacity, but I will take a few moments to set out why we have taken our approach to the issues and my difficulties with her amendment.

Clause 6 supports the Bill’s core aim of maximising certainty. It is in no one’s interests for there to be a legal cliff edge. The Bill means that the laws and rules we have now will, as far as possible, continue to apply. It seeks to take a snapshot of EU law immediately before exit day. The Government have been clear that in leaving the EU, we will be bringing to an end the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. To maximise certainty, any question about the meaning of retained EU law will be determined in UK courts by reference to ECJ case law as it existed before our exit. Using any other starting point would be to change the law, which is not our objective. Our domestic courts and tribunals will no longer be bound by or required to have regard to any decisions of the European Court after that point, but they can do so if they consider it appropriate. These clear rules of interpretation are set out in clause 6.

Break in Debate

Helen Goodman Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 9:35 p.m.

No, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The problem is this dissonance between the content of the rules and the enforceability of the rules.

I just want to stress this point about the impact on exporters. In the Minister’s description of how the transition period and the future might pan out, there seemed to be no acknowledgement that, in addition to some of these disputes and rights that citizens will be claiming, whether they are under competition law or in the single market, there will also be citizens in this country making claims in the other European countries, or the other 57 third-party countries. In order to export, these countries need to have more certainty about their data protection—we will come on to that another day—about professional recognition, particularly the services, about licensing and about passporting. If those rights are not enforceable, they will be losing that certainty.

At the moment, we have a situation in which half the exports of this country go to the European Union, and 30% go to the other 57 countries in which the EU has negotiated the legal framework. We are talking about 80% of this country’s trade and this Government are not able to tell us what the legally enforceable base will be during the transition period.

The right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) said that it would be very nice if we could have a new arbitration system. Well, I am sorry, but that does not seem to be on offer. At the moment, there are three possibilities. One possibility is continuing with the ECJ, but the Government have set their face against that. Another possibility is to join the European economic area, but the Government have set their face against that. The third possibility is to crash out. The option of the bespoke arbitration system with the European Union will be extremely difficult to negotiate in the 15 months that we have left before the transition period begins.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra - Hansard
14 Nov 2017, 9:39 p.m.

With so many organisations and bodies, such as the judiciary, businesses and the Law Society, talking about the uncertainty that comes from clause 6, does my hon. Friend not agree that it is very challenging to believe the Government that this will be all right on the night when an alternative dispute mechanism would need to be created, designed, drafted, legislated for and in place before we leave the European Union?

Helen Goodman Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not just one alternative system; it is 58. It is one with the EU and another 57 with everybody else. This is really not going to happen, and Ministers need to get their heads round the fact that they have some hard choices to make, and they need to be straight with their own Back Benchers and with the public about what those choices are.

The Government are being irresponsible in wanting to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, which is the basis of our membership, and in setting the date at the beginning of the transition period, before they can tell us how they are going to handle that period. It would be great if they could give us a proper explanation because we have not had one yet. Ministers say that the whole purpose of the Bill—the very thing that the Bill is driving at—is legal certainty, but they cannot tell us what the legal position will be in 18 months’ time. The Bill is flawed and I urge Ministers to look constructively at the amendments tabled by the Opposition Front Bench.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Seema Malhotra Excerpts
Monday 11th September 2017

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Mr Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Con) - Hansard
11 Sep 2017, 6:15 p.m.

In an excellent speech on Thursday, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) referred to the fact that we are sent here on the wings of ballot papers sent in by our constituents. That is a precious right, and I agree with her that it is one that we should observe and uphold. I was sent here with a very clear message from my constituents, who on 23 June 2016 voted decisively to leave the European Union. They did so, contrary to what the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) says, in full knowledge of what that entailed: self-government over federalism, democracy over bureaucracy, and economic liberalism over protectionism. It is important to note, of course, that the third of my voters who voted to remain have accepted the result, and now simply wish for our departure from the EU to be as smooth and orderly as possible. That is why we need this Bill. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that we cannot have that without this Bill.

So let us be clear about the Bill’s function. This is not a Bill about whether we stay in or leave the EU; that decision was taken by our bosses, the British people, last year. Likewise, it is not a Bill about the substance of the withdrawal agreement; that is a matter for ongoing negotiation between Ministers and Brussels. The primary purpose of the Bill is simply to provide the legal continuity and certainty on exit day that I think all of us want.

To be clear, we have to do this. The House of Commons Library states that once the European Communities Act is repealed on exit day, without the legislative measures proposed in this Bill,

“huge holes would open up within the statute book”.

The Opposition talk a good game about Henry VIII and power grabs, but the Secretary of State was crystal clear on Thursday that the Bill will not be used to make material changes, and he made welcome commitments that he will consider sensible suggestions at Committee stage, and that is the point—this will happen in Committee.

If we vote down this Bill this evening, as Opposition Members want to do, we will be torpedoing the whole principle of the Bill, not the substance of the individual suggestions in it. We will be preventing the very chance of making the amendments that people want to see. It is hard to avoid the feeling that for some Members this is less about parliamentary scrutiny and more about parliamentary sophistry—that is to say, frustrating our best chance of making a success of Brexit. That is something I passionately believe in, although I accept some do not. The point is that we are all in this together, so we need to make this work. I put it to Members who represent seats that voted heavily to leave that they should reflect, as I have, on what message we would send out if we set about obfuscating their clearly expressed will in any way.

The right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) made a powerful speech earlier, joining those given by the hon. Members for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) and for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field). They understand the nature of the mandate we have been given. This is an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation moment, and I think it crosses party lines. People on Teesside, every single constituency of which voted to leave the EU, will be astonished that I am the only Member from that region who is going to be voting tonight for what they asked for.

I want to conclude by re-emphasising the calamitous consequences of our exiting the EU without the necessary legal provisions in place. Without this Bill, we will wake on the morning of exit day to find that thousands of our laws have changed or been rendered inoperative. The fallout from that scenario will make “cliff edge” sound euphemistic. With that in mind, voting against the Bill tonight will be interpreted by many as a vote to punish the British people for having had the audacity to vote for Brexit, for that is exactly what it will do.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard

I am grateful for the chance to contribute to this debate. I look forward to re-joining the Exiting the European Union Committee, whose important work will finally recommence this week.

I will vote tonight for Labour’s reasoned amendment and against the Second Reading of the Bill, not to frustrate Brexit, but because I believe that Parliament and the country must not be side-lined in how we move forward. The Bill has clearly been written without thought to its implications. As it stands, it sets a precedent that our democracy, or any other, should not allow. Ministers would be able to amend primary legislation—the Bill and other Acts—without needing a debate or vote in this House. Ministers could remove rights and protections through secondary legislation without any meaningful or guaranteed parliamentary scrutiny.

Many excellent points on the scope, scrutiny, transparency and accountability of the powers in the Bill have already been made, especially by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett). I want to focus the detail of my remarks on one specific issue of concern, on which I would be grateful for the Minister’s response.

Once upon a time, before the general election, there was a lot of stirring rhetoric from the Prime Minister about how no deal would be better than a bad deal. These days, we hear less public talk of no deal, but the Bill nurses one hangover from when the Prime Minister could still pretend she had a mandate for her vision of what Brexit means. We do not have to look very far to find it. It is in clause 1, which states:

“The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.”

“Exit day” is defined as

“such day as a Minister of the Crown may by regulations appoint”.

Now stand back. What clause 1 proposes is that any Minister can decide when our membership of the EU ends.

On any day, if the Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary decided, the Executive could withdraw from talks and decide to make hard Brexit a reality by repealing the European Communities Act, without a proper debate and without a full vote of this House. Clause 1 appears to put perhaps the most important power in the Bill—the power to repeal the European Communities Act—entirely into the hands of any Minister at a time of their choosing and whether or not there is continuity of our laws at that time.

Exit day is not even defined as being, at the earliest, 29 March 2019. There appears to be no parliamentary supervision over that power. It would appear that Parliament does not need to approve the regulations. Parliament does not even get to see them in advance. Hon. Members will have their own views about the wisdom of Ministers having that power. For my own part, I find it hard to see how giving an unfettered power to any Minister—especially a Conservative Minister—is what Parliament taking back control looks like.

There is no need for Parliament to be cut out of that decision. If our talks with the EU produce a deal, it will need to be approved by the other member states and the European Parliament before the cut-off date of March 2019. So there will be ample time for Parliament to choose to accept it, and consequently for the UK to see the repeal of the 1972 Act on what most assume will be exit day—29 March 2019. But if our talks with the EU break down, it must be for Parliament and not Ministers to determine our response. Parliament may decide to repeal the 1972 Act anyway, or it may say that no deal will have calamitous consequences—crashing over the cliff is a long way from the sunlit uplands promised to the electorate.

Either way, what is important is that it is Parliament, not a Minister, who chooses how to respond. That is why Labour’s manifesto promised voters a meaningful choice. The question of what action we should take if talks break down is for Parliament to answer. The power for Ministers to exit with no deal should not be in the Bill. I will vote against a Bill containing this unfettered clause 1, and I hope for some words of reassurance from the Government on that today.

The vote tonight is not about whether we leave the European Union, it is about how we do so. For want of a better phrase, the Bill is little short of a dog’s Brexit. Parliament and the country deserve better.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con) Hansard
11 Sep 2017, 6:30 p.m.

Without the Bill we cannot respect the will of the British people, as expressed in the referendum, and repeal the European Communities Act 1972. Without the Bill, as many Members have pointed out, we will see legal chaos. Given the sheer volume and complexity of the EU law that will have to be converted into UK law, I accept that the Government will need relatively wide delegated powers to amend legislation, but there is a distinction between necessary amendments as a consequence of our leaving the EU, many of which will be technical and minor, and those that implement entirely new policies.

The delegated powers in the Bill will touch every aspect of our lives, as many colleagues have said—their use could be unprecedented in scale, scope and constitutional significance—so I am glad to hear that Ministers are in listening mode. I will support the Bill tonight in the expectation that it will be amended in Committee and that there will be support for reforming the way delegated legislation is handled, so that Parliament, rather than the Government, can decide the appropriate level of scrutiny. Without that, we simply will not be able to bring control back to Parliament.

It may be useful to those who are following the debate from outside this place if I explain how delegated legislation works and why it is important that we amend it. I was first introduced to Delegated Legislation Committees when I was appointed to one dealing with draft double taxation relief and international tax enforcement orders. I thought there must have been a horrible mistake, so I sent a note to the Whip to ask about my duties. I received the following three instructions: “Turn up on time, say nothing and vote with the Government.”

People might argue that no one died as a result of my ignorance of international law on double taxation relief in Oman and Singapore, but what makes the system so absurd is that the very next Committee due to sit was a Delegated Legislation Committee examining the draft Medical Profession (Responsible Officers) Regulations 2010. It might be argued that, as someone who had just come to the House having been teaching junior doctors and medical students and having been an examiner for the Royal College of General Practitioners with an interest in doctors who were failing, I was better placed to be on the second Committee. It seems to me that there is an expectation that Members should not have any expertise at all. I think the general public would find that absolutely extraordinary; they expect Members to be able genuinely to scrutinise legislation.

There are many other reasons why the procedures should change. It is a great concern to people outside this place that many statutory instruments are subject to the negative procedure rather than the affirmative procedure and do not get any scrutiny at all—not even the current defective scrutiny. The power to change that does not necessarily need to come from legislation; we could use the Standing Orders. I commend the Hansard Society for the excellent work it did in advance of the Bill to set out how the procedures could be amended. Even though it is in our power as a House to put in place Standing Orders, for example to set up a Delegated Legislation Committee with the powers of sift and scrutiny that we have discussed today, it would help if Ministers indicated that they are in listening mode about that, too, and that they would support it happening over time.

I genuinely feel that the Government do not want to obstruct sensible debate. All Members from across the House should work with Ministers to put in place something that genuinely works. We know that delegated legislation needs reform even without this Bill, so let use this as an opportunity. As we have heard, up to a thousand statutory instruments will be coming before the House, and we need the House to decide whether the procedure will be negative or affirmative. We need reform so that we can genuinely develop expertise along the lines suggested by the Hansard Society and so that MPs with a genuine interest scrutinise the proposals.

The point is that a delegated legislation Select Committee could have the power to send a statutory instrument to a Committee of the whole House—not just a small Delegated Legislation Committee in a Committee Room, but with all of us here, similar to what we are doing today. It could also have the power to suggest sensible amendments that the Government would have to take away and consider. I have said that I will support the Government tonight, but I do so only in the expectation that they will support sensible amendments.