United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Excerpts
3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 View all United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 155-I Marshalled list for Third Reading - (27 Nov 2020)
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is a great honour to be speaking at this point. My noble friends on the Cross Benches have brought their wide range of experience, wisdom and differing views to crucial amendments to the Bill.

The Bill is of huge constitutional significance: it goes to the heart of our history, to the devolution settlements that have matured as we enter a new era outside Europe. As the UK takes back control and seeks to be more independent than over recent decades, decision-making and mutual respect among the four nations of the United Kingdom will be more important than ever.

We now see that Scotland is withholding legislative consent and Wales is pending, as is Northern Ireland. To lose those nations would compound the threat to the union from a party that is called the Conservative and Unionist Party. In each nation, elected representatives know the intricacy of local problems and ways to achieve solutions to make our nations attractive for innovation and new ways of working. Covid has made the challenges greater, as many in the population have been deeply traumatised by bereavement, isolation and rising unemployment.

This House has examined every word of this Bill with rigour. The amendments it has made have been resoundingly supported around the House and outside. They have laid a foundation for the UK’s reputation to be restored, as we foster new relationships and rebuild older ones around the globe. Through its amendments, the House has shown its commitments to the future well-being of our national relationships and constitution. We have delivered a clear beheading sentence to Henry VIII’s dangerous clauses, and the rumble of Llewellyn the Great and Robert the Bruce turning in their graves was audible at times.

We have ensured that there is a secure negotiating framework on the face of the Bill to achieve that consensus across our four nations, which history has taught us achieves so much more than mere directive dominance. We have removed one clause that would allow the Government to use the allure of taxpayers’ money to work around, not with, the devolved Governments and to undermine their priorities. We have removed another that would explicitly impose new reservations on their competence in respect of state aid. We have protected the devolved institutions’ ability to introduce ecological and environmental improvements and new public health initiatives in their nations, the learning from which will benefit us all.

This Bill has posed a major threat to the union itself. With my noble colleagues on these Benches, particularly the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, we have done all we can to ensure that threat diminishes. It has been an enormous privilege, if daunting at times, to be able to participate in this Bill. So many across the House have brought their expertise—from the Select Committees on which they serve, particularly on common frameworks, as well as past experience as elected representatives of widely differing areas—to a shared goal of improving the Bill.

Now we send the Bill on to the next part of its journey, and I hope the Government will continue to listen hard and will reflect on the importance of the amendments and the eloquent speeches of many, including my noble and learned friend, Lord Judge. I genuinely believe that noble Lords should and will resist the reinsertion of distasteful parts of the Bill and the deletion of key amendments.

Finally, it is my pleasure to thank all those who have contributed to the Bill’s passage: the outstanding Public Bill Office and parliamentary clerks, the Bill team and the many who work to support us behind the scenes, particularly the digital team and broadcasting hub, which enabled so many smoothly unmuted contributions—I beg your pardon that mine failed just now—and efficient votes. We have shown that we can function very effectively as a hybrid House, voting remotely, with numbers that showed how clearly the Lords can express its collective views.

The Ministers, Whips and Peers showed they can still maintain a sense of humour under pressure. I would particularly like to thank the Lord Speaker and my fellow deputies, who chaired us through very complex parliamentary procedures. I thank them all very much indeed. Once again, to all in this House who supported these critically important changes to the Bill, I give a huge thank you.