(4 months, 2 weeks ago)Grand Committee
(6 months ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, here we are again. We return once more to parliamentary scrutiny of the National Security and Investment Bill. It is of course always a pleasure for me to be in your Lordships’ company, so to be here twice in one day on this legislation and once on a Statement repeat is obviously a treat of the highest order.
Noble Lords will have seen that the other place once again rejected the amendments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord West, by a further significant margin. Let there be no doubt that I welcome and value the considerable expertise that noble Lords have put into their amendments and proposals. In addition to their expertise, I now have the opportunity to further compliment their stamina and resolve.
However, as I said earlier today in this House, in our view the BEIS Select Committee remains the most appropriate committee for scrutinising the operation of this regime by the Secretary of State for BEIS. I have already put forward the Government’s arguments in this regard on a number of occasions, so I will not try your Lordships’ patience much further. Assurances have now been provided, both in this House and the other place, that there will be no barriers to effective scrutiny by the BEIS Select Committee. In particular, its handling of material, be it confidential or classified, will be appropriately dealt with.
I know your Lordships have some scepticism on this claim. I am not sure what else I can say to reassure noble Lords, other than that my department will work closely with the BEIS Select Committee and its chairman to ensure that effective scrutiny can and will take place. Of course, there will be times when further scrutiny by other committees is appropriate—for example, the Science and Technology Committee or even the Intelligence and Security Committee. As this House has heard in previous debates, there is also nothing stopping these committees carrying out the important work that falls within their respective remits.
I now look to this House to respect the clear wishes of the other place and to acknowledge our rapidly dwindling time to pass this essential Bill. I therefore hope that this House will now support the Government’s Motion and allow the Bill to pass. I beg to move.
My Lords, the sands of dissent are passing through the hourglass of incredulity. The Minister is right; there has been a long debate. It is very nice to hear that he values the expertise and that he has been able to hear it. It is disappointing that, having valued it, he considers it insufficiently valuable to take the advice that the expertise came up with.
Some time between our last meeting and this one, an email came through from Darren Jones, the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, setting out the fact that an MoU has been exchanged on the subject that we are debating. There is one curious sentence in there, which states:
“I have had to protect the position of my own committee …”.
It is late and I will not press that, but it smacks a little of someone being strong-armed, which is a shame.
The other sentence comes at the end of the email’s penultimate paragraph, which states:
“Should my Committee find any of our scrutiny of the Investment Security Unit is inadequate, we will of course make that clear on the record.”
That is somewhat reassuring. I know that Darren Jones is someone whom one can trust, and I am sure that if he and his committee find that to be the case, that is what will happen and we will of course be listening and watching for it.
We look forward to the Statement being brought forward for debate in both Houses as a consequence of the Bill, and we look forward to debating the technologies that will be put into the Bill.
(9 months, 2 weeks ago)Lords Chamber
A lot of discussions are taking place between the Government, the Construction Leadership Council and different parts of the industry; we are actively exploring possible solutions and are committed to improving payment practices and working with the construction industry to take this forward. Of course, any solution has to work for the industry and its clients, and it has to be sustainable, addressing all of the issues: the need for surety and fair, prompt payment. As I said earlier, several policy options are being considered, including a possible retention deposit scheme and, of course, phasing out retentions completely. During the current pandemic, the Government, in conjunction with the Construction Leadership Council, have provided guidance to the industry on responsible and fair contractual behaviour, which, of course, includes retentions.
(9 months, 2 weeks ago)Lords Chamber
The Treasury’s net zero review, to which the noble Lord referred, is considering how the transition to net zero will be funded. Alongside this we are publishing a call for evidence by April to begin a strategic dialogue between government, consumers and industry on affordability and fairness. We have also expanded government support schemes, which I referred to earlier, to those on low incomes, who are likely to benefit from them or to be at risk of fuel poverty. We will respond to our consultation on fuel poverty in due course.
(11 months, 1 week ago)Lords Chamber
My noble friend is right to highlight the problem of recycling batteries. We are investigating the environmental opportunities of a transition to zero-emission vehicles, and are keen to encourage a circular economy in these vehicles, particularly for batteries. We are supporting the innovation infra- structure and regulatory environment required to create a proper battery recycling scheme.
(11 months, 3 weeks ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Earl, whose work as chair of the EU Committee has illuminated the issues on this Bill, as on so many other issues that we have been debating over the years.
I agree with the speech made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. There are occasions, as this debate confirms, when clauses in a Bill raise issues of political, and indeed moral, principle of fundamental importance. This House has a responsibility to identify when that occurs.
I will make some observations on Clause 47, which has not featured in detail in this Committee debate. Clause 47 is innocuously titled “Further provision related to sections 44 and 45 etc.” Clause 47 is, however, a very substantial interference with the rule of law. Clause 47(1) says that any regulations which Ministers may make under Clauses 44 and 45
“have effect notwithstanding any relevant international or domestic law with which they may be incompatible or inconsistent.”
Clause 47(8) defines
“relevant international or domestic law”
“any other legislation, convention or rule of international or domestic law whatsoever.”
So whatever Ministers produce by way of regulations cannot be challenged in a court of law on any grounds.
(11 months, 4 weeks ago)Lords Chamber
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate so far. At the risk of agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, I can say I have been listening very carefully to what everyone has had to say in this debate. We take these matters extremely seriously.
Let me respond directly to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. No: the CMA did not respond formally to the consultation when we issued it, but as you would expect, there has been extensive, official-level discussion on the design and development of the OIM proposal with the CMA.
Before addressing the individual amendments, I shall set out why Clause 30 and Schedule 3 should stand part of the Bill. I have set out the purpose of the office in previous groupings, and noble Lords will be delighted to hear I will not repeat that here.
The purpose of Clause 30 is to introduce the office for the internal market panel and task groups and allow those task groups to carry out all the functions set out in Part 4 of the Bill on behalf of the Competition and Markets Authority. This will ensure that the CMA, through the OIM, can carry out a set of independent, advisory, monitoring and reporting functions to support the development and effective operation of the UK internal market on an ongoing basis. Building on existing governance arrangements, it allows the CMA to authorise the task groups to do anything that the CMA can do under Part 4. This would include delivering specific pieces of reporting, such as annual health of the market reviews or requested monitoring on the intra-UK trade impacts of specific regulations.
To fulfil those independent functions, Schedule 3 sets out the constitution of OIM task groups, to which functions of the CMA may be delegated by virtue of Clause 30. Schedule 3 also provides for the establishment of a panel from whose members such groups may be selected. In performing its role, the OIM will have the ability to gather market intelligence from UK businesses, professionals and consumers to develop its evidence base. The effect of removing Schedule 3 would be that no public body undertook those independent advisory, monitoring, and reporting functions to support the smooth running of the UK internal market. The Government believe that this outcome would be detrimental to the future health of the internal market and to the benefit of every region and nation of the UK. Thus, it is crucial both Clause 30 and Schedule 3 stand part of this Bill.
Amendment 116 would insert a new clause seeking to ensure that the creation of the OIM was subject to a memorandum of understanding being agreed between the Secretary of State and Ministers in the devolved Administrations. It also seeks to set out how the OIM should handle and use information that it requires to fulfil its functions. It proposes that the office for the internal market panel and task group members should include nominees from the English regions and devolved Administrations. It also proposes who should be members of any internal market work undertaken by the CMA if it undertakes such work separately from the OIM. I will respond to these latter points later, as they are referenced within other amendments.
The Government have considered a wide range of delivery options for the advisory, monitoring and reporting functions for the UK internal market as set out in the Bill. We have concluded that the CMA is best suited to house the OIM to perform these functions. This option was strongly supported by a wide range of stakeholders during the White Paper consultation earlier this year.
The Government have sought to work closely with the devolved Administrations. For example, I would like to say how much the engagement with the Welsh Government to date on this Bill has been appreciated. I believe these conversations have helped enormously to ensure that the purpose and effect of the OIM is understood. The Government are committed to continuing to engage constructively with the devolved Administrations on the establishment of the OIM and how it operates in future in fulfilling its functions as set out. In recognition of the keen interest of the devolved Administrations in the operation of the UK internal market, these appointments will be made following consultation with Ministers from all three devolved Administrations. This will ensure that the panel comprises members who all represent the interests of stakeholders in all parts of the UK. For the reasons I have set out, I am not able to accept the amendment by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles.
I turn to Amendments 117, 121, 122, 123 and 124. Amendment 117 would allow each devolved Administration to appoint a CMA board member, with Amendments 121 through to 124 setting the terms and conditions of those appointments. The CMA is an independent non-ministerial department with a global reputation for promoting competition for the benefit of consumers and ensuring that markets work for consumers, businesses and the economy. Ministers have no day-to-day involvement in its operations. It is for these reasons that the CMA is a natural choice to take on the functions of the OIM.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked how it is that the CMA deals with reserved matters but the OIM can address devolved issues. The statutory objective of the OIM in Clause 29 is designed precisely to draw a distinction with the current CMA objective and functions. This is wholly compatible with operating effectively and independently in relation to devolved matters, with a difference in focus on devolved and reserved matters respectively.
So that the advice and outcomes of the CMA’s work and the members undertaking such work are trusted and continue to be seen as impartial, it is clearly important that board members and the appointments process are seen to be trusted. As my noble friend Lady Noakes said, board members must be seen as capable of overseeing the promotion of competition throughout the entire United Kingdom, rather than as a representative of any one individual nation. It would therefore be inappropriate to risk politicising the CMA’s board by accepting this amendment.
Having different routes to the appointment, resignation and removal of CMA board members would be at odds with the UK-wide remit of the CMA and would have the effect of creating two categories of member. I recognise the keen interest of the devolved Administrations in the appointment process for the CMA board given that the proposed OIM panel chair will, by extension, become a CMA board member. We have stressed during engagement and written into the Bill that devolved Administration Ministers will be consulted on appointments ahead of the OIM becoming operational.
Amendments 118, 119 and 120 propose devolved Administration consent mechanisms for appointing the chair and panel members of the OIM. The first two of these amendments would require the Secretary of State to seek the consent of the devolved Administrations before appointing the OIM’s chair and panel members. As it stands, the Secretary of State appoints the CMA board chair and will appoint the OIM panel members and chair with full and mandatory consultation of the devolved Administrations. The priority will be ensuring that each appointment is on the basis of the relevant range of expertise and, crucially, is someone who can serve the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.
During this consultation and the appointment process, the Secretary of State will aim to work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that their interests and comments are taken fully into account before decisions are made on who should be appointed. These amendments, on the other hand, would encourage a narrowing of expertise and risk the effective establishment of the panel. Consent would give each Administration a veto, which could delay and politicise appointments, which would undermine the OIM from the outset. For those reasons, I cannot accept these amendments.
Amendment 125 would require CMA’s proposed and finalised annual plan and annual report to be laid before each Parliament of the devolved Administrations. I assure noble Lords that the Government share the concern of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, that adequate opportunities for debate and scrutiny of the CMA’s annual report and other documents exist for the devolved legislatures. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 requires arrangements to be made to lay the annual plan and report to Parliament; in practice, they are also laid before each devolved legislature. I assure noble Lords that this will continue in future. Should this reassurance be insufficient, the CMA’s annual plan and report are made public, allowing each legislature to scrutinise and debate them if it sees fit. In the light of those reassurances and reasons, I hope that noble Lords will not move their amendments.
Amendments 126, 128 and 129, and subsections (2)(b) and (4) of the new clause proposed by Amendment 116, would require either the OIM panel or task groups to have representatives from each of the four nations of the United Kingdom. This amendment could lead to members of the relevant task groups placing regional or political interests ahead of the CMA’s UK-wide mandate. This would harm the OIM’s ability to monitor the internal market effectively. All panel members chosen to be on each task group should represent the UK as a whole when undertaking reporting for the OIM. For that reason, I am unable to accept these amendments.
Amendment 127 would increase the mandated size of an OIM panel group from three members to five. Having consulted the CMA carefully on this and other points, the Government are confident that three members are sufficient to provide the range of expertise necessary to undertake the work of a task group. Since the panel may need to be able to form multiple task groups at a given time, increasing above this number would reduce the resilience of the panel as a whole and create additional unnecessary expense. For this reason, I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
My Lords, I apologise for detaining the Committee; I know I spoke at length on this group. Can the Minister clarify something that he said at the outset? I heard him say that responses to the consultation supported the Government’s proposals for the CMA having this role, but I have the White Paper and the consultation in front of me. No one asked; the Government did not ask. The CMA is not mentioned at all, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, indicated. In fact, questions 3 and 4 do not refer to the CMA, and in the entire section the CMA is not mentioned. To resolve this, would the Government publish the consultation responses before Report, or can the Minister clarify in his remarks that he may have inadvertently misled the Committee?
(1 year ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. I found myself in agreement with some of what she was saying, and I respect very much the background in business and marketing from which she comes, which of course is of great value to the House in this discussion. She said that we were all agreed on the need for a fully functioning internal market and, as I tried to make clear in my speech, I am in absolute agreement with that aim. Obviously, everything we would do is working towards that aim, despite the differences of perspective across the various nations of the United Kingdom.
The noble Baroness said that a brief reference might be a way of making the devolved Administrations more comfortable. For my part, I have been trying to adopt a light-touch approach, which may not be too far away from what she is talking about—but it would have to be pointed enough to meet the concerns of the devolved Administrations and give them the assurance that they need for the future. So in a way I find myself in a rather frustrating position. I cannot believe that we are all that far apart, but the gulf that divides us at the moment is very deep. I would love to find a ladder, or something, that would take us across this gulf and solve the problem. That is why I am certainly open to discussion.
Before I go any further, I should say that I am entirely behind the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, on the principles that lie behind her amendment. Indeed, I am extremely grateful to the Welsh Government, who have done so much to inform us about the background to the issue and who have done a great deal of drafting work to show us what amendments might be made to work to solve the problem as they see it. Although they look very different, my own amendments were inspired by the work that they have done, and I owe a considerable debt of gratitude to them for that, and for their generosity when I indicated that I would want to take a rather different approach in the way that the amendments should be worded. The principles behind us are exactly the same and, for that reason, I entirely support, in principle, the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness and applaud the way in which she introduced it.
This issue is simply not going to go away. We will be pursuing it in various ways on Report. For the time being, I encourage the Minister to appreciate that there is some force in the point made by noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. If her approach were adopted, one could see this frustrating gap narrowing slightly—and I would love to see it closed over so that we could solve the problem completely, to the satisfaction of both sides.
My Lords, I apologise to the House. I understand I was on the list for Amendment 5, but I never applied to speak on that one.
This is an interesting amendment. My colleagues, the noble Baronesses, Lady Noakes and Lady Neville-Rolfe, have already made the point that we are very close to 1 January—in fact, we are 66 days away, by a quick calculation—and so I look at that time dimension against the complications within this proposed new clause.
As I said much earlier in the evening, I am a marketing man by profession; I worked very closely with a large number of manufacturers when I was a senior director in one of the major advertising agencies. I find some of the elements of this amendment, or proposed new clause, too prescriptive. Take subsection (1)(a), where the whole principle is that nothing is going to happen until the
“access principles may be applied”
and have been “exhausted”. We are in a time framework where that is not going to work. It may be necessary, later on, to look at how it does work in principle, and maybe some changes should be made then.
I worry deeply. We are a creative nation. We are in an enormous period of change. One sees now what is happening in the fintech world: it is moving forward at an enormous rate, and it does not want to be stultified by a whole series of restrictions before it can be added to a particular schedule or not. All of us are conscious that there is a whole variety of different companies, across the world, trying to find an answer to Covid-19 through new drugs and vaccines.
Personally, I am terribly practical, and I just do not see the elements of this amendment helping the United Kingdom move forward. There may be bits of it that have some relevance—I am sure there are—and I recognise that they are put forward with a genuineness by people who want things to work. But when I listen to the noble Lord opposite talk about the Welsh Government, and having observed what is happening down in Wales now, one has to say that it is not terribly practical. I am not sure that the credibility of the Welsh Government is very strong in today’s world.
I hope my noble friend on the Front Bench will understand that, perhaps in the future, some of these elements may need to be applied, but, as matters stand today, with 66 days to go, frankly, I do not think that this proposed new clause helps at all.
I hate to disappoint the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, but it falls to me to respond to this debate. I will now speak to the two amendments—Amendment 6 and the consequential Amendment 44—concerned with how UK market access principles, as proposed in the Bill, will apply. I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, has tabled these amendments on behalf of the Welsh Government. Accordingly, I would like to begin by thanking the Welsh Government for their positive engagement on this Bill so far. The UK Government look forward to continuing constructive future engagement with the Welsh Government.
As my noble friend Lord True said earlier, we continue to work closely with the Welsh Government to develop common frameworks, in line with the framework principles agreed by the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) in October 2017. I know the Senedd were happy to see the Joint Ministerial Committee provisionally confirm the first two frameworks of the programme on hazardous substances and nutrition. Work continues in earnest to reach further such agreements in the coming months and beyond.
Before I turn to the detail of the amendments, I want briefly to cover the context of the Bill in order to explain the approach the Government took to applying the market access principles. At the risk of repeating the arguments of my noble friend Lord True, now that we have left the EU and as we recover after our fight against Covid, it is vital that we deliver legislation which allows the continuing smooth function of our UK internal market at the end of the transition period. The Bill aims to ensure frictionless trade, movement and investment between all the nations of the UK. The policies that different parts of the UK choose to pursue in the future is a matter for each Administration. The Bill ensures that these local policies can be pursued while maintaining seamless trade in the UK internal market. There is no question of the UK Government intending to bypass the common frameworks; the Bill is intended to complement them.
The approach we have taken in the Bill will give businesses the regulatory clarity and certainty they want. It will ensure that the cost of doing business in the UK stays as low as possible, and without damaging and costly regulatory barriers emerging between the nations of the UK. With this context in mind, I turn to the amendments. They would, in combination, prevent the market access principles from applying at the end of the transition period. The lengthy process they put in place before the principles can apply, including the need to exhaust frameworks discussions, would mean a considerable delay in securing business certainty that trade can continue unhindered within the UK’s internal market. The resulting threat of unmanaged regulatory divergence would not provide the certainty businesses need and could deter businesses that wish to expand and supply customers across the UK. This is not desirable, especially as we continue our recovery from Covid-19.
The amendments would also limit the areas to which the market access principles can apply. Again, this would unduly constrain the scope of the principles and fail to protect the internal market fully. In contrast, the Government’s approach is more comprehensive and ensures that businesses in all sectors can continue to trade across the UK without facing new barriers or discrimination.
The amendments also present a challenge in defining the exhaustion of the frameworks process. In all cases, common frameworks are designed as living arrangements, capable of change by agreement as required. Thus, the process is never wholly exhausted. The new clause also specifies a consultation process with the devolved Administrations and the CMA, or, failing that, a 12-month delay before any regulations can be made specifying areas to which the market access requirement would apply. The Government are already committed to appropriate consultation with the devolved Administrations; however, under the terms of the amendments, the time limits proposed would create unnecessary delay.
The noble Lord, Lord German, asked about the timing of the Bill. Reduced certainty would indeed be a disaster to our recovery from Covid-19. We do not believe that it is acceptable for businesses to have less certainty on trade with their UK supply chain after 1 January 2021 than they have today and have had for centuries. The UK Government are committed to ensuring that the status quo of seamless internal trade is maintained for the shared prosperity and the welfare of people and businesses across all four nations of the UK. Without the internal market, livelihoods would be at risk. There is also the issue of future-proofing the Bill to allow that, for the jobs of the future, mutual recognition will apply across areas that we may know nothing about today, including things such as the artificial intelligence industry.
My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked whether reference should be made to the common frameworks should be made in the Bill. We already have a statutory obligation to report quarterly on progress on the common frameworks, so there is no need to put this in the Bill as well. Far from being silenced, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, suggested, as she knows, two common frameworks have already been agreed. However, some 38 more have yet to be considered, with only nine or 10 weeks until the end of the transition period. They do indeed provide a very sensible framework, but they remain voluntary. Ultimately, the common frameworks depend on continued co-operation. In spring 2019, the Scottish Government walked away from the internal market project. This legislation is required to provide certainty for business and consumers.
The noble Baroness asked about labelling in Welsh. There is nothing to prevent labelling in Welsh for goods produced in Wales. I was also asked about the use of plastic teaspoons. The Welsh Government can still ban their use, but perhaps not their sale.
For these reasons, and for the uncertainty and confusion that it would generate for businesses and consumers, unfortunately the Government cannot support the amendments in this group and I would ask noble Lords to withdraw or not move them.
My Lords, I listened very carefully to what the Minister said about the need for certainty, which seems to be the overriding approach. But, having listened to my noble friend Lord German and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, I would refer to the Food Standards Agency report, Food and Feed Safety and Hygiene Common Framework Update. Paragraph 3.15 states, in relation to adopting mitigating measures against mutual recognition, which we will discuss in another group on another day, makes a quite interesting point that
“where common approaches are taken, mutual recognition will not apply.”
If that is the case in this Bill, the common approaches across the nations—the mutual recognition and certainty that she indicated—will not apply. But we do not yet have full agreement on all the common frameworks, so how can that apply under this Bill, given that we have not reached the agreements yet? However, the Government’s own position is that mutual recognition will not apply if common approaches are taken on any regulatory changes. So which is it? Is it in this Bill or is it within the common frameworks?
(1 year ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, I look forward to hearing, here and online, the contributions to come, especially the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz.
I also concur totally with the powerful and remarkable speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. What we are called to do above all in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly. We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law, reached properly, on which peace in part of the UK relies. My distinguished former colleague Sentamu, who paid with beatings for his defence of law and justice in Uganda would have spoken trenchantly. I regret his absence.
There are some who claim that I and my colleagues who wrote in the FT this morning are misinformed. But the letter—and this intervention—followed the lead of those who have spent their lives seeking peace in Ireland. Peace is surely something of which religious leaders should speak. We also listened to the Select Committee on the Constitution, to all five living former Prime Ministers, two former Conservative leaders, and distinguished judges, including former Presidents of the Supreme Court and the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, to name but a few.
This country has different characteristics and needs in its regions and nations. They must be reflected in all our relationships if the union is to survive. There is no watertight door in relationships between economics and constitutional issues. They overflow from one into the other. The timing of anything that the UK Parliament or Government do in Northern Ireland is always especially significant to relationships. It is particularly so at present. The revived Assembly is scarcely a year old; 2021 is the centenary of the establishment of Stormont and the creation of the border. Much progress has been made since the 1990s in building confidence and peace, yet it is clear from many visits in the last few years, and clear to anyone who listens, that the tensions continue. Peace and reconciliation need continual reinforcement and continual progress. I will therefore be seeking to work with others for amendments which ensure that the process of peace and reconciliation is pursued and that powers exercised under this Bill, when it becomes law, involve consultation amidst the immense complexities of Northern Ireland. I hope we may act on a cross-party basis.
Politics, if it is to draw out the best of us, must be more than just the exercise of binaries, of raw majority power unleashed; it exists to seek truth, to bring diverse peoples together in healthy relationships. Our reputation as a nation, our profoundly good and powerful influence and example, which I know from experience around the world, will suffer great harm if law-breaking is pursued—greater harm than this Bill seeks to prevent. In the Church of England, we are all too clearly aware of the shame that comes with failing morally. Let us not make the same mistake at national level. This House exists to amend and improve legislation, not to derail it, and that must be our urgent aim now.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and I congratulate him on his committee’s report. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, with whose every word I agree, I entirely accept that the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom has the power to legislate in breach of international law. That is not the issue that this Bill presents. The question is not whether we can so legislate; the question is whether we should so legislate. I do not often quote the President of the European Commission, but then the President of the European Commission does not often quote Margaret Thatcher. What Mrs Thatcher said was this:
“Britain does not break Treaties. It would be bad for Britain, bad for our relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future treaty on trade”.
That says it all.
I was surprised, nay astonished, that my noble friend the Minister did not deal with nor even mention—unless my hearing has totally failed me—that Part 5 is in breach of international law. The admission by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place that it is in breach was not, as was suggested by one of my noble friends in the recent debate in Grand Committee, merely a “clumsy” form of words: those words were read from a brief; they were prepared; they were premeditated; they were deliberate; they represented the Government’s clear intention, and, as far as I am aware, the Government have not sought to resile from them.
It was suggested that the dispute resolution provisions in the withdrawal agreement would be activated in parallel with the activation of the provisions in the Bill, but I draw your Lordships’ attention to Article 168 of the withdrawal agreement. It is short, so I shall read it in full:
“For any dispute between the Union and the United Kingdom arising under this Agreement, the Union and the United Kingdom shall only have recourse to the procedures provided for in this Agreement.”
The Government may have second thoughts about that article; they may regret that they have signed up to it, but it is too late: they did sign up to it. They are bound by it and they should honour it.
Together with the majority of those who voted in the 2016 referendum, I voted for Brexit. I do not for one moment regret or resile from that vote; I want the United Kingdom to be an independent sovereign state. However, I want it to be an independent sovereign state that holds its head up high in the world, that keeps its word, that upholds the rule of law and that honours its treaty obligations. I want it to be an independent sovereign state that is a beacon unto the nations. I do not want it to be an independent sovereign state that chooses as one of the first assertions of that sovereignty to break its word, to break the law and to renege on a treaty that it signed barely a year ago. I shall vote for the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and, if it is put to a vote, that in the name of my noble friend Lord Cormack. I shall vote against the clauses in Part 5 which are in breach of international law, and I urge your Lordships to do likewise.
(1 year, 4 months ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, surely the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, standing down is a devastating indictment of the unwillingness of Tory Ministers to permit him to do his job properly, as well as the Government’s subservience to vast vested interests and the immense power of digital platforms at the expense of customers and competition. The Covid pandemic means that there will be lots of business casualties, allowing national and especially local monopolies to trample over customers. I am sorry, but the Minister is not coming clean with us; the noble Lord, Lord Tyrie, is both honourable and highly capable: will he tell us straight, please, why Ministers have been so shamefully subservient to tycoons, plutocrats and dodgy dealers that he, an eminent fellow Tory, has been forced to resign from a job he wanted to do properly?
Well, characteristically the noble Lord has a great grasp of hyperbole, but I do not think that he is fairly characterising the situation here. It is a complicated area of detailed policy. We have an excellent competition regime in this country, the CMA is a highly regarded regulator and, as I said, we will consider giving it additional powers to protect consumer and business interests if that is required.