United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick 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 Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff. At this stage, I thank the Ministers, the noble Lords, Lord True and Lord Callanan, the Opposition Front-Bench team, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on the Liberal Democrat Benches, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, from the Cross Benches.

In his speech today, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, referred to the meeting that he had with the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, and myself yesterday on the non-discrimination principle in relation to Clause 11 of the Bill, which specifically refers to Northern Ireland and the two commissions: the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which have agreed today with the dedicated mechanism in respect of the Northern Ireland protocol. Our meeting yesterday was very productive, and, in fact, the Minister’s subsequent letter to me, following our exchanges on Report, was also productive and provided good clarification on the point of the market access principles and the non-discrimination principle in relation to the Bill.

Both commissions found it very helpful, because the issue was central to the recent amendment and recent correspondence with the Minister and concerned the operation of those market access principles introduced in the Bill, particularly the non-discrimination requirement. The question was whether these principles applied to legislation introduced to ensure that there will be no diminution of certain rights in Northern Ireland resulting from the exit of the UK from the EU, as required by Article 2 of the protocol. As already referred to, the two commissions have direct responsibility, as they have agreed to act as the dedicated mechanism responsible for monitoring, supervising, advising, reporting on and enforcing the Government’s commitment under Article 2 of the Northern Ireland protocol of the withdrawal agreement from the end of the transition period.

Following that period of uncertainty, shall we say, the Minister’s letter to me of last Friday—which was productive—and our meeting yesterday proved a very useful exchange, providing the necessary clarifications, for which the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, and I are extremely grateful. I further note that the Minister has agreed to our request to put that letter, plus another one to do with procurements, in the Library of your Lordships’ House.

Robin Walker, Minister at the Northern Ireland Office in the other place, has agreed to write to both commissions: the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, for which he has responsibility, and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, which is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive. In that letter, he will state what the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has already stated to me.

I thank Ministers for their deliberations with us and productive outcomes, and I hope it all works well. I hope that Part 5 of this Bill, which deals specifically with the Northern Ireland protocol, will not be reinstated in the other place, because I firmly believe in the principle of reconciliation. Breaking international law and the other international agreement, the Good Friday agreement, at any point would not be good for peace or political progress in Northern Ireland.