Debates between Lord Krebs and Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted during the 2017-2019 Parliament

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted
Wednesday 7th March 2018

(6 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD)
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My Lords, Amendment 57 in my name is to Clause 6(3) which says:

“Any question as to the validity, meaning or effect of any retained EU law is to be decided, so far as that law is unmodified on or after exit day and so far as they are relevant to it … in accordance with any retained case law … general principles … and EU competences”.

My amendment would delete the words,

“so far as that law is unmodified on or after exit day”.

This would mean that retained EU law was continuing to run using EU-derived interpretation, including for the amended parts. This is by no means a perfect amendment, but it is intended to probe the relationship between the wording in subsection (3) and that in subsection (6), which says that modified law can be incorporated as in subsection (3) if it,

“is consistent with the intention of the modifications”.

I want to gain some more clarity on the presumptive path around those two subsections.

The general message that we are being given by Government—the high-level presumptive path, if you like—is that there is not really an intention for policy change via modification. But, there are no absolute commitments to state that on the face of the Bill, perhaps because incidental things may nevertheless count as policy change.

My submission, which applies to other clauses and the schedules as well, is that the need for adaptability does not remove the possibility for a more granular laying out of the presumptive path. That leads me to query what presumption comes from the order of the subsections. I submit that the default presumption should be that EU case law, principles and competences apply unless the Government have specifically explained why that does not work in connection with a particular modification. That seems a clearer and easier way to do things because the modifications are the focus of the attention, presumably with explanation. That will surely then be fed into the scrutiny when we get to the delegated legislation.

However, I also have in mind some of the debate we got into late on Monday night about rights in Schedule 1. The structure of Schedule 1 is somewhat similar in so far as all challenges are first disallowed and then some might be allowed by regulation. I contrast that with the present clause, which disallows interpretation to apply to modifications, and then subsequently says that it does not stop it being as in subsection (3). I note it does not say who is making it clear whether the modifications come under EU law. I wonder whether it will be left to the judges—if it is, they may want better clarity—or will the modifications themselves make it clear when they are put before us?

In the context of Schedule 1, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, referred to the regulation that provides the right to challenge validity as an exceptional power, which I suppose it is by the way it is formulated as an exception to the earlier general exclusion of challenges. I took the noble and learned Lord to mean that the power would be used rarely, rather than, for example, as a list prepared in advance, which was the point probed by my noble friend Lord Beith. If I follow a similar logic on the follow-on positioning of Clause 6, does that mean that the situation envisaged in subsection (6), with the retaining of EU interpretation for some modified parts, will be exceptional, in the rare sense, or will it be normal in the sense of maximising the status quo? We need to know.

Also, again reflecting the Schedule 1 debate, Clause 6(3) refers to a question of validity of retained EU law, so is it correct that retained EU law can be struck down unless we follow the primary legislation suggestion of the Constitution Committee or unless it is already primary legislation, and that it would be struck down by common law, not EU principles or case law, which would just help with interpretation? If that is so, might some EU retained law be struck down in effect because it came under common law plus EU interpretation, whereas it might not have been struck down if it had been under common law alone? That is what I deduced from reading Hansard and the response to the question from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, on common law. I confess that I did not necessarily hear the response properly at the time. That is nothing against the noble and learned Lord’s diction and more to do with the temporary impairment of my hearing due to my head cold, as well as to my voice today.

The other amendments in the group are of a different nature. They relate to things that can be taken into account in interpretation. My Amendment 59 and Amendment 58 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, are similar, referencing recitals and preambles. My amendment is to subsection (3)(b), which relates to EU competences, because I wanted to draw attention to the fact that not only does the content of recitals need to be used for casting light on interpretation, but they are part of the competences architecture and directions relating to what is expected of delegated legislation, just as can be the case with empowerments for regulations in UK legislation. It is part of the definition of EU competences for interpretation purposes.

To make my position clear, Amendment 60 specifically references powers of delegation. Footnote 24 to paragraph 83 of the Explanatory Notes says:

“Recitals will continue to be interpreted as they were prior to the UK’s exit from the EU … casting light on the interpretation … but they will not themselves have the status of a legal rule”,

I do not think that that explanation is necessarily sufficient to encompass what I have just tried to lay out. Given that the role of EU agencies will be taken over by UK bodies, they should also take over the constraints that are written in, at least until Parliament decides otherwise. Therefore, recitals need to have a greater role than previously, or at least that possibility should not be excluded.

As a general point, I mention that there is a symmetry between how EU legislative Acts can be allocated as between those that should require primary legislation to amend and those which can be considered delegated, and the EU architecture of competences: those two are symmetrical. If that mapping is got right, getting returning powers allocated into their proper place in the UK, particularly between Parliament and regulators, then that logic of how interpretation is influenced, not just by EU competences versus member states but also with regard to internal EU levels of competences, will flow naturally into the structure.

There are other important policy points within preambles and recitals and I will leave those for other speakers to elaborate on. I will just say that I agree with all that I am expecting them to say on that point about their importance to policy. I beg to move.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 58, in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend Lady Brown of Cambridge. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, has already mentioned, her Amendment 59 has a similar intent to Amendment 58 and therefore I support it.

The purpose of this amendment is very simple: it is to ensure that recitals and preambles to EU laws are given a clear legal status by the Bill. Why is that important? The recitals and preambles explain the background to, and objectives of, legislation and are therefore essential to understanding the legislation that follows. While in UK law the purpose of any piece of legislation will be clear as a result of the process leading up to the legislation—for instance, a Green Paper, a White Paper and a parliamentary debate—with EU-derived law there is no equivalent process. Therefore, the recitals and preambles are essential for placing the legislation in context. If they are not given a clear legal status they may be forgotten or ignored by decision-makers and the courts. As has already been mentioned, although the great repeal Bill White Paper, in footnotes 17 and 24, recognised the importance of recitals and preambles, this does not provide the legal certainty that is needed.