All Lord Mackay of Clashfern contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

Wed 16th May 2018
15 interactions (1,447 words)
Wed 2nd May 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Scotland Office
3 interactions (594 words)
Mon 30th April 2018
3 interactions (410 words)
Wed 25th April 2018
3 interactions (314 words)
Mon 23rd April 2018
11 interactions (1,036 words)
Wed 18th April 2018
11 interactions (661 words)
Wed 28th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 11th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Ministry of Justice
9 interactions (289 words)
Mon 26th March 2018
7 interactions (1,301 words)
Wed 21st March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 9th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Ministry of Justice
9 interactions (1,614 words)
Mon 19th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 8th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Northern Ireland Office
11 interactions (194 words)
Mon 12th March 2018
7 interactions (520 words)
Mon 12th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Department for Exiting the European Union
11 interactions (700 words)
Wed 7th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Ministry of Justice
11 interactions (619 words)
Wed 7th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Department for Exiting the European Union
3 interactions (647 words)
Mon 5th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Ministry of Justice
7 interactions (912 words)
Mon 5th March 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Scotland Office
3 interactions (27 words)
Wed 28th February 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Ministry of Justice
23 interactions (1,184 words)
Mon 26th February 2018
European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Ministry of Justice
3 interactions (30 words)
Wed 31st January 2018
3 interactions (842 words)

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 16th May 2018

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Lord Warner Portrait Lord Warner (CB)
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My Lords, as the author and architect of the earlier amendment on public health, I think that I should say a few words. I thank the Minister: we had a number of spirited discussions, and he also had helpful meetings with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. When I read them carefully after Report, I was satisfied with the assurances that he had given. I think the Government shifted their position from saying that such an amendment was not necessary to recognising that there was case law suggesting that they should make the position absolutely clear on the Floor of the House—and when I had time to read the assurances the Minister gave on Report, I thought that he had done that extremely well.

As my noble friend Lady Finlay has said, there is a good deal of anxiety out there about whether there will be a drop in standards after Brexit. The debate on the previous amendment showed that there was still a mountain to be climbed—not by the Minister himself, but by the Government—to reassure people that many of the pre-Brexit safeguards will be in place, and standards will be met, post Brexit. I think there will be an issue when we deal with any trade Bill in this area: people will want to look very carefully to see that there is no backsliding on public health standards and protections. But for the meantime I thank the Minister for what he has done; I have no wish to make his life any more difficult than it already is.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, your Lordships will know that I took part in the debate on the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. A clear decision on this matter was made by the Court of Appeal long before Brexit; it exists in our law and is based on European law. I know of no better assurance than that. The principle is clearly set out in the Court of Appeal and the High Court judgment in the packaging case. I do not know the nature of the legal advice to which the noble Baroness referred, but there are legal advices and there are legal advices. My advice is certainly very clear: if you have a judgment of the Court of Appeal on European law, which was part of our law before Brexit, under the retained law arrangements it will be part of our law after Brexit. If I had any reason to suppose that this amendment had been proposed according to that legal advice, I would feel that the amendment that we had before was, if anything, rather better.

Baroness Wheeler Portrait Baroness Wheeler (Lab)
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My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hunt, who is unable to be here today, I fully support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. It was helpful to be reminded of the strong concerns expressed on Report; I also endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. It is important to have clarification that the need to preserve Article 168 of the Lisbon treaty as part of retained EU law is recognised, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments.

I commend the Minister’s willingness to work with noble Lords across the House on this important matter and his helpful role in facilitating this and working through the issues referred to by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. Article 168 places public health protection and health improvement at the epicentre of policy-making, and the Government’s assurances that our domestic law implementing EU public health requirements will continue to be interpreted by reference to relevant EU law, including Article 168, will be welcome.

The Minister’s assurance of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that the UK remains a world leader in public health following Brexit would also be welcome. I hope he will provide the House with this, to be noted for the record.

Finally, it is important once again to pay tribute to and place on record the work of the wide coalition of major public health bodies, medical colleges, charities and the wider health community in helping us, one hopes, reach a consensus on the way forward.

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Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, I will not add to the exposition of the amendment and the reasons for tabling it, which have been so clearly set out by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. The committee felt that we ought to see whether we could get a more secure place for retained European law in the hierarchy of law as it would be viewed by the courts in this country. There will probably be difficulties in this area and we are probably persuaded that they cannot be resolved by the kind of declaratory amendment that we have tabled on this occasion.

There are further difficulties which the Minister might refer to, which have been pointed out by Professor Alison Young, who was referred to earlier. For example, constitutional statutes are not subject to the doctrine of implied repeal in the same way as other legislation. What will be the position if an item of retained European law is considered to be constitutional in character and appears to be in conflict with subsequent legislation passed post exit day, when the supremacy principle has fallen away and this has to be resolved?

In passing an earlier amendment which removed a discretionary power from Ministers to, in effect, decide whether matters could be put before the courts, we wanted to assert that, wherever possible, we should protect the courts and the legal system from having to be the subject of individual ad hoc ministerial decisions in particular cases. That was part of the motivation for what the committee sought to do in this case. But clearly it cannot be solved in the way that we first suggested.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, this is an important question. It is just possible that Clause 8 could be used by the courts in a situation arising under this particular amendment to extend the provisions of Clause 8 by analogy, where that seemed suitable. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, mentioned, fitting this to everything is quite difficult. On the other hand, for a court faced with a single problem, this way of solving it might be possible. Anyway, I am entirely in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said about Ministers determining this sort of matter; I do not believe that that can be right. However, I do not think the court would fail, if faced with this problem, in deciding something about it.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord’s amendment endeavours to provide a global answer to the question of whether retained direct EU legislation should have the status of primary or subordinate legislation—if and to the extent that is relevant. I am grateful to him for the engagement he has had with the Government throughout the passage of this Bill, especially in recent days. Let me say to the House that the Government understand that there is a desire that these new forms of law should be assigned a particular status. We are sympathetic to that view, which stems from a desire for clarity in the law. Of course, clarity is indeed highly desirable. The Government have gone to great lengths to try to make provision in the Bill for how retained direct EU law should be treated. The Bill addresses treatment of retained EU law by the Human Rights Act, the Interpretation Act and rules of evidence, among other things. That is an important part of this Bill. Our provisions on the principle of supremacy deal with the situation where pre-exit domestic law conflicts with retained direct EU law; our amendments on Report deal with amendability; and other provisions with validity challenges where the aim of the Bill is continuity.

On this specific issue of challenges to retained direct EU law, paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 1 states that:

“There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to challenge … on the basis that, immediately before exit day, an EU instrument was invalid”.

As retained direct EU law under the Bill will owe its incorporation into domestic law to primary legislation, it will not be possible to challenge its validity using domestic public law principles. However, as is currently the case, any post-exit Act by a public authority under direct EU law will be susceptible to judicial review, and the Bill does not restrict the use of other routes of challenges, such as breach of statutory duty or challenges under the Human Rights Act. But the crux of our approach and our concerns with the noble Lord’s amendment is that there is no such thing in domestic law as the “status of primary legislation” or the “status of subordinate legislation”. There are many different types of both primary and subordinate legislation. For each of those types of law, there are many different rules about how they are to be treated for different purposes. Whatever we took as our model for how we wished to deal with retained EU law and how it should be treated, we would need to consider each of those different purposes and ask whether that model truly worked in each context.

My submission today is that while the pursuit of a simple rule is laudable, in practice the clarity it would purport to give would be illusory. It would raise more questions than it answered and, ultimately, it would be bad for legal certainty. I will, if I may, seek to illustrate what I mean—the noble Lord himself touched upon this. If we take the status of, for example, primary legislation, we are aware of at least five different types of primary legislation: Acts of this Parliament, Acts of the Scottish Parliament, Acts of the Welsh Assembly, Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly and, indeed, Northern Ireland Orders in Council. Each is treated differently for different purposes; that is to say, it has a different “status”. Furthermore, to the extent that provision is made that provides that retained direct EU legislation is to be treated in the same way as an Act of, for example, the Scottish Parliament, as a matter of course the Government would want to engage with the devolved Administrations before making such a provision.

The so-called status of a particular type of legislation is not encapsulated in a single line or by reference to any simple rule. To take just one example, when this Parliament created the concept of an Act of the Scottish Parliament, it set out in the Scotland Act a number of rules, including how such Acts are made and in what circumstances and with what consequences they can be challenged. Nowhere did it try to define those rules by simply saying that Acts of the Scottish Parliament should have the status of any other existing form of legislation. What was right then is, I submit, right now. Once again, we are creating a new category of law. It needs its own rules, rather than being forced into an existing and ill-fitting set of rules made for another type of legislation.

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Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard
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The noble Lord probably knows more about it than me. I only know what I read in the UK press, which is almost nothing, and in the Scottish press. But my point is a slightly different one. I thought I would be attacked by the noble Lord on a slightly different grounds. I want SNP representation in this Chamber. On previous occasions the noble Lord has reminded me that it is entirely the theology of the SNP that prevents it being represented in this Chamber—and he is completely correct about that. I do not understand why the SNP, represented in the other place, adopts towards this House the policy that Sinn Féin adopts towards the other House. I do not understand it at all. The onus is of course on members of the SNP to change their minds if they wish to take part in our debates, but I would ask the Minister to say what some of his colleagues in the past have said: if SNP MPs were to change their minds, the Government would be delighted to see them represented in this place.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, it is certainly not my purpose to say or do anything that makes it more difficult to reach an agreement with the Scottish Government—that is the last thing I want to do. But I want to say, in answer to one of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, made, that the provisions that we are talking about in relation to the frameworks are provisions in which the Scottish Parliament does not have jurisdiction because the framework is for the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore, it is not within the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament. That is why I have said so far that the consent of the Scottish Government is not necessary at that stage. But I would like to see a consent to the arrangements: then they can go through pretty well formally in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

I had understood from Mr Russell from the early days—I will say a little more about this when we come to considering the Bill passing, which I hope we will do in due course—that the Scottish Government have said that they require to consent to the Parliament of the United Kingdom passing these. But, so long as their views are fully heard by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, that is the correct way to approach this. The legal competence in this matter lies with the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Therefore, technically, consent is not necessary from any of the devolved legislatures: otherwise, one of them could make these regulations impossible for the others. So consent at that stage is not necessary. It is highly desirable, which is why I was trying to concentrate on an arrangement under which it should happen.

I think that I am right in saying that the memorandum provides that, in effect, the Sewel convention will apply before these things are put to the United Kingdom Parliament. As I said before, the amendment and memorandum that the Government proposed went slightly further than I had suggested, by giving the opportunity for the dissenter, whichever Government it was, to put their point of view in their terms before the Parliament of the United Kingdom before it was considered.

So far as the question of consent is concerned, the technical question is: what is required? The intention of the legislation so far is that a decision has to be taken by each of the devolved Governments before anything is put in this connection before the UK Parliament. In other words, every opportunity is given for them to reach consent in their committees. I would like to see this settled, but the decision as to what is required is a legal decision, which, so far as I am concerned, does not require as a matter of law the consent of the Scottish Government—although that is very desirable. I am entirely in favour of doing everything that we can to deal with these matters.

Talking of papers going out and so forth, I saw an article about papers dealing with fisheries. It said that the document contained the idea that the UK Parliament can deal with fisheries in the world. Of course, we do not need to have discovered that in this paper, because it is in the reserved matters in the original constitution of 1998. The fact that the UK Government and the UK Parliament are responsible for international relations is well known; it is not a discovery one makes from a recently leaked document. That sort of thing does not help the atmosphere.

I certainly support strongly all that has been said about doing our level best to get the best atmosphere with the Government of Scotland as well as with the Government of Wales—and I would love to see a Government in Northern Ireland as well.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
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My Lords, I would also like to say a word about giving this Bill a Third Reading, in the absence of a legislative consent Motion from one of the two functioning devolved legislatures, as we heard, obviously. We know that this House regrets that absence.

There is no doubt that we are partly in this position because of the failure of the Government to start their Brexit process by engaging with the devolved authorities. Indeed, there was some six months when the JMC did not even meet, even after the outcry over the initial Clause 11, which had been tabled without consultation, much less agreement with the interested parties.

It was, like much of the Government’s Brexit handling, the result of no pre-referendum consideration of the impact of any withdrawal and indeed, even after June 2016, inadequate attention to this vital area of returning EU regulation. Of course, it was the result—maybe all of us are slightly to blame for this—of not fully appreciating how devolution has fundamentally affected decision-making across the UK. As in the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, some of this is continuing. Papers are still being produced without the consultation that I would by now have hoped was becoming regular. As I have said, I think, to the Minister, I hope that when this Bill is over, the Government will review the status and the functioning of the currently very ineffective Joint Ministerial Committee.

For now there is, as the Scottish as well as the Welsh Government recognise, a need to look at how to protect an internal UK market even as we pull out of the EU equivalents. Indeed—in a way it is quite funny—the Scottish Government have been the most vociferous about staying in the EU single market, so it is slightly odd that they seem to want to turn their back on an all-UK version of that.

The deal now in Clauses 13 to 15 seeks a way forward, allowing most of the non-reserved powers to be, rightly, with the devolved authorities, while on a temporary basis holding back some of those which may be needed either for trade agreements or for our own internal single market. Consumers and businesses will want to know that they can buy or sell across internal UK borders without safety, product or other regulations being different, such that they lead to border checks or inadequate standards or controls. The example of alcohol pricing across the border is not the same. If you are buying alcohol in Scotland, you know you are in Scotland and it may be cheaper or more expensive. But if you are buying a chicken when you are in Durham, you want to know whether it was chlorine washed when it was produced in Scotland. As a consumer, those products will cross the borders. So there are undoubtedly areas that we will want to sort out, for the consumers, as well as for businesses trading across the UK.

The Bill for now allows for decisions on these temporarily frozen areas to be taken by consensus, but where one devolved Administration disagrees, as we have just heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, their rationale—and indeed the UK Government’s response to their reasoning for withholding that consent—would come to this Parliament. It would not come back to the UK Government, but to this Parliament for consideration and final decision.

As my noble friend said, until very late in the process, the Scottish Minister had been part of these negotiations and appeared content with their direction of travel and outcome. It was at the very last moment that the Scottish First Minister took another view and demanded a veto—effectively a veto over what both Wales and England might do in some of these areas. This is understandable from an independence party that retains doubts about the role of the UK Parliament over any of its affairs.

We on this side of the House support the union. While absolutely defending and championing devolution —who could not, as an old friend of the late and much-lamented Donald Dewar, and indeed the then Labour Government who implemented devolution?— we do not see it as either separatism or proto-independence.

While acknowledging that the SNP does not share our commitment to devolution—and indeed still campaigns for something different—we nevertheless hope, as others have said, that the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments will convene cross-party talks to broker an agreed way forward, since we regret that the Scottish Government failed to negotiate something to which their Parliament could consent. We live in hope that it might still be possible. There is still time.

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Lord Pearson of Rannoch Portrait Lord Pearson of Rannoch
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I have saved noble Lords an awful lot of time. I hope that students of Brexit will read what I said at Second Reading on 30 January in column 1392. The core of my argument was that the Government were underestimating the strength of our hand in Brussels, because politicians and bureaucrats do not understand how to do deals; that they should have resiled from Clauses 2 to 4 of Article 50, which give the Eurocrats control over our leaving process; and that they should have dictated our terms for leaving to the Eurocrats. Those terms have not changed, and remain in the interests of the real people of Europe—as opposed to those of the Eurocrats, with their determination to keep afloat their failing project of anti-democratic integration. We should be generous with those real people, by offering them wide mutual residence, our ongoing security support and the continuation of our free trade together, which their exporters need so much more than ours. If the Eurocrats accept all that, we should be generous with the cash that we give them. If they do not, we should leave anyway, and give them no more cash after 29 March next year.

As the Bill leaves this House for the Commons, the Government still do not seem to believe that we can legally resile from those Article 50 clauses and leave anyway —yet I am advised that there have been some 225 unilateral withdrawals from international treaties and organisations since 1945. I recommend Professor de Frankopan’s opinion in Money Week on 21 November 2016, which covers supportive decisions from the German constitutional court and confirms that leaving without the Eurocrats’ consent is just a matter of political will.

The area in which the Government seem most confused—and most unnecessarily under the thumb of Brussels—is trade. We have free trade with the EU, so why do we not simply offer to continue it with a new arrangement under the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organization and threaten to go under the WTO’s normal remit if the Eurocrats do not agree? As I have said, continuing free trade would be much to the advantage of the EU exporters to us because, if it stops, they would pay us some £13 billion a year in tariffs—under present WTO terms—against the £5 billion that we would pay them. Nothing would change. We would all just go on as we are and the inflated problem of the Irish border would simply disappear. Moreover, there is even an article in the treaties that I do not think has been mentioned in these proceedings. It obliges the EU to continue free trade with us after we leave it and become part of the wider world. Article 3(5) of the Treaty on European Union contains the following:

“In its relations with the wider world, the Union … shall contribute to … free and fair trade”.

Have the Government pursued this clause with Brussels?

I conclude with two further observations on the passage of the Bill. First, I regret that not one of our five former EU Commissioners who spoke, and only one of our 17 former MEPs who spoke, saw fit to declare their EU pension entitlements. I refer especially to the entitlements of the former Commissioners, which can be lost if they fail to uphold the interests of the communities—now the EU. Secondly, our 156 hours of debate so far have shown me something that I had not spotted before: Europhilia is a hallucinatory illness. It affects otherwise quite sensible people and leads them to see the European Union as a good thing, when any normal person can see that it may have been an honourable idea in 1950, but now it does nothing useful that could not be done much better by the democracies of Europe collaborating together. It has become a bad, pointless, corrupt and very expensive thing, which the British people, I am glad to say, have seen through. I trust that they will also see through the blandishments of so many of your Europhile Lordships in our debates so far, and take pride in the decision they so wisely took in the referendum on our membership.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, I would like to say a word about my attempts for Scotland. I am going to read this from my note, because I have shown it to Michael Russell. As I said to your Lordships, on the Monday before Clause 11 was due to be discussed in Committee, I met a member of the SNP, Ian Blackford, to whom I said that I had not received any briefing from the Scottish Government on that clause. Next day I received briefing from the Lord Advocate and Michael Russell, the Scottish Minister in the consultation on Clause 11. Having carefully thought over what they said, I tabled an amendment to provide a mechanism for the consultation that I thought would meet their concerns, and in Committee I stated my view of the relevant law that would return on Brexit.

On Report the British Government tabled amendments that fully met my suggestions, and indeed went further. I had suggested that, if the consultation failed to reach agreement, the participants should provide an agreed statement of their disagreement to the UK Parliament before it was asked to approve the instrument approving the framework agreement in question. The government amendment also proposed that any dissenter should have an opportunity to state the reasons for their dissent in their own terms. Your Lordships will understand my dismay when I learned from Michael Russell that the Scottish Government could not accept that amendment.

The First Minister of Scotland then wrote to the Lord Speaker with a number of amendments that she asked him to circulate, which he did. My noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead and I decided that we should table the principal amendments in the letter: he would introduce them and I would explain the reasons why we could not support them. This we did. No member of your Lordships’ House questioned my explanations. The First Minister of Scotland has not corresponded with either of us; we have not corresponded with anyone other than Michael Russell and the Lord Advocate on this matter, and I have had talks with the UK Ministers and officials. Michael Russell has publicly and graciously acknowledged the help that my noble and learned friend and I have given, and I thank him for the courtesy he has shown in all his correspondence with us.

I am satisfied that Clause 11 as now amended is entirely in accordance with the devolution settlement, and is an appropriate way of dealing with the unique problem of adjusting the EU provisions for the internal market in the United Kingdom to the post-Brexit situation.

I have had my home in Scotland all my life, having been trained as a Scottish lawyer, and I am profoundly sad that I have been unable to achieve the agreement of the Scottish Government to these proposals. Although my concern was principally with my native land, I am glad that the Government of Wales have accepted the arrangements, and I send my best wishes to those in the other place, in the hope that they will succeed where I have failed.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley
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My Lords, as one who—unlike certain other colleagues—has barely missed an hour of the 156 hours of discussions on this Bill, may I say a few words before we send it back to the other place? I join others in thanking the team of Ministers for their patience and good humour, even on occasions when those could have been sorely tested. The noble Lord, Lord Duncan, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, and the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, have had a heavy workload, and I am sure that they and their officials will be glad to see us pass Third Reading. I thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for the way in which he responded, and made himself and his team available to discuss issues of concern. In particular, with his background in the National Assembly, he could readily identify with the concerns emanating from Cardiff Bay, even if his brief did not allow him to respond as fully as many of us—and perhaps even occasionally he himself—might have wished.

I have no doubt that the Bill we now return to the other place is significantly better than the one we received. Ministers should concur with this sentiment. After all, of the almost 200 amendments that have found their way into the Bill, all but 15, and a handful of consequential amendments, have come from the ranks of government itself. Let no one—the Daily Mail or anybody else—claim that this Chamber has delayed proceedings. We have not. The Government have their Bill bang on time, even if, at times, we had to spend 11 hours or more a day on our deliberations to make that possible. The Government clearly needed all this time: as we heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, a moment ago, it was only at the very last moment of Report that they were able to move the final form of amendments that they saw necessary to make Clause 11, as was, workable in the way that they desired.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd May 2018

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber

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Scotland Office

I do not share in the opprobrium that has been heaped upon the Scottish National Party from time to time during the debates. Scotland is a proud country with a population larger than 10 of the current 28 states that form the European Union. The SNP seeks to take back control. It is prepared to take the risk of economic collapse to gain sovereignty—whatever that means, as someone once said—and it pursues a mirage of prosperity by leaving not the European Union, but the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I would have thought that there are people in this House who might understand that. I understand its position, but I do not agree with it.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, it is appropriate that I should follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, on the Scottish amendments. The First Minister took the unusual step of sending these amendments to the Lord Speaker. I do not think she expected him to put them before the House.

I narrated in Committee how I had been invited to accept some briefing from the Scottish Government through Michael Russell, with whom I have had very pleasant and genial talks and communications since. I should acknowledge that he kindly said in a statement to the Scottish Parliament that he was grateful for the help that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and I had given, as well as many people in other parts of the House. Relations between us have been extremely good. I have communicated with nobody about it except for Mr Russell and the Lord Advocate. I have not sought to involve anybody else in these communications, except, of course, the Government of the United Kingdom, with whom I was authorised, if you like, to negotiate. I have enjoyed the best possible approach of the Government of the United Kingdom in the Minister responsible and the Bill team. The officials responsible for the negotiations have been extremely helpful. Like many others I am sorry that the Scottish Government have not yet found it possible to agree with the arrangements that have so far been made.

I will take a word or two to explain what I understand the new government Amendment 89DA amounts to. If EU law is removed from the Scotland Act, all EU law comes immediately either to Scotland if it is a purely local country legislation, or, if it covers more than one of the countries of the UK, to the UK Parliament. That happens on Brexit day unless something is done. From what I understand, the proposed new section before us in the amendment will suspend the application of the new arrangements until arrangements are made for the single market—or the internal market—in the United Kingdom. There are, as all of us know, provisions in EU law for that single market. They might require amendment in light of the fact that the EU is no longer the authority for the law, but it is important to keep them in place until it is possible to get them amended in a way that is satisfactory to the United Kingdom, including the devolved Administrations —I include Northern Ireland in that phrase. Therefore, a power is given in the proposed new section to suspend that part of the immediate operation of the Brexit treaty so far as it affects the law.

It is important to see that proposed new subsection (2) says that that kind of restriction does not apply to any modification of EU law so long as it was, immediately before Brexit day, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament. That restricts it to the kind of provision relating to the common market. That is what the amendment proposes in that situation, in the light of the discussions set out in the agreement—the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, spoke of that in a general way that applies to Scotland as well as to Wales. As far as I am concerned that is a reflection of the kind of amendment I proposed in Committee to try to get a better arrangement for negotiation. I am glad to know that such a memorandum of agreement has been accepted by the Welsh Government and, I hope, will be accepted by the Scottish Government.

The First Minister of the Scottish Government sent these amendments to the Lord Speaker. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and I wanted to give this House an opportunity to hear what they were and to give them some analysis. The noble and learned Lord has opened with that, and I am going to give my analysis. Those of you familiar with the Scottish procedure will know that, in Scotland, the junior spoke first and the senior came second. The noble and learned Lord and I were often in that position, but, at that time, it was a division of status whereas, now, it is a more regrettable division reflecting the age of the participants.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott
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My Lords, the interventions reflect what we have known throughout the passage of this Bill—and, indeed, politics since the general election. The overwhelming majority of Members in both Houses voted for remain in the referendum and, through all sorts of different mechanisms, they want to either delay or stop the whole Brexit process. It is Parliament’s right to do that, and if the House of Commons decides to do so, that is what will happen. I personally strongly recommend against it in the light of the referendum, but that is what parliamentary democracy means and that is how it operates.

My final point is in response to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. I have heard on a number of occasions that, somehow or other, if we query in any way the relationship between the Government and Parliament, we are denying the central argument of the people who want to leave the European Union: to enable Parliament to restore its authority, which it lost in substantial measure with the passing of the European Communities Act 1972. My answer to that is this. Quite simply, if anyone in this House, or the other one come to that, is deeply concerned about parliamentary sovereignty—and indeed if they love parliamentary sovereignty, as I do—the best thing they can do is to make sure that the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed as rapidly as possible. That is far greater a restriction on the authority of Parliament, and on the House of Commons in particular, than anything the amendment to hand attempts to remedy.

I am not going to be accused of in any way challenging parliamentary democracy because I do not think that this is a terrific amendment, but I will not lose any sleep if it passed, for the reasons that I have said: Parliament can do what it likes and the House of Commons can do this in any case. However, we must not miss the wood for the trees. As far as the sovereignty of Parliament is concerned, the problem comes from the European Communities Act 1972 and not from any amendment that this or any other House can pass.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, it had not been my intention to take part in this debate because I read in the newspapers a forecast of what the result would be. That suggests that, for most of your Lordships, the decision has already been taken. However, having listened to the debate so far, I thought it was right for me to say a word or two.

I have never been a Member of the House of Commons, but by the constitutional arrangements that then existed I was given a very senior position in Her Majesty’s Government, which lasted for almost 10 years. One of my fundamental approaches to the matter of discharging that office was to respect the views of Members of the House of Commons who were members of the Government. There are colleagues of mine here who know in practical terms that that was so. On the other hand, it was always possible to suggest ways in which their policy could be implemented with less danger to the community than otherwise might have happened.

I had the privilege of nominating my noble friend Lord Hailsham to be a silk. Her Majesty the Queen graciously accepted that nomination. But I did not have the opportunity to exercise power that would have enabled him to have the title “learned” in this House. That does not in any way derogate from the force of what he had to say except that, from my point of view, it is arrogant in the extreme for Members of the House of Lords, together or otherwise, to tell the House of Commons what to do.

I learned in the course of my experience as Lord Chancellor that it was very wise for Members of the House of Commons to be given what they wanted so far as possible. I am sorry to say that my colleague, the lady Speaker at that time in the House of Commons, is not in her place, but I remember that in relation to arrangements for things in which we were both involved it was universal that her wishes were implemented. There is an arrogance in our House telling the House of Commons how to go about its business. I agree entirely with what the noble Lords, Lord Grocott and Lord Howarth, said about that. As I said, I had not intended to speak, but I feel that this House needs to think about its attitude to the powers and discretion of the House of Commons.

Lord Bishop of Leeds Portrait The Lord Bishop of Leeds
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My Lords, I find myself torn between pragmatism and principle—the principle of parliamentary democracy and upholding and preserving the constitution; and on pragmatic terms, the ability the Government need to manage the process we are in. But I keep hearing in this debate the language of “telling the House of Commons what to do”. Call me ignorant, but I did not think that that was what we were doing. I thought the role of the House of Lords was to scrutinise, improve and ask the Government to think again. That is what we are called to do and that is where the principle applies. Then it is up to the House of Commons and the Government to decide what they do with the arguments put forward from this place. Not to do that is to deny the appropriate role of this House in doing its job.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 25th April 2018

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge
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My Lords, I want to add my voice and underline, if I may, how serious the issue arising under subsections (3) to (7) is. There are many executives that would be desperately pleased to have provisions such as these in primary legislation. There is no reason whatever why Parliament should not be able to deal with any issue arising in the context of sentient animals—there is no exclusion about that. However, to exclude the possibility of somebody seeking a remedy before the court would be an astonishingly dangerous principle to put into any legislation. The fact that it arises in this very sensitive issue relating to animals is one thing, but a lot of citizens, and individuals who happen to live in this country, rely on the possibility of taking the Government or the local authority to court to make them account for the exercise of, or failure to exercise, their powers. This would set an alarming precedent.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, the subject of animals is an extremely important one and I have great sympathy with the spirit behind both the amendments in this group. However, this subject needs to be properly dealt with in a statute of the United Kingdom. I know that criticism has been made of the attempts so far, but there is always room for improvement, and constructive suggestions have been liberally made in the consultations. As far as I am concerned, it would be much better to have a good United Kingdom statute for these animals than to try to do it through adapting part of an EU treaty.

The technical question of judicial review is quite difficult. I am not sure just how crucial it is to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Trees, but, years back, skilful Lords of Appeal—Lord Reid, a Scottish judge, and Lord Wilberforce from this jurisdiction—developed a theory that makes it next to impossible to prevent judicial review in an Act of Parliament. They did so by saying that what Parliament has protected is the judgment that is supposed to be come to, but, if the judgment that is come to has been falsified by some mistake or lack of proper process, then it is not a judgment protected by these provisions—Anisminic was the case. As was said by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Judge, at the end of a long process, the attempt to restrict judicial review was eventually torpedoed by these judges, with support of course. It is for that reason that the Government decided some considerable time ago not to put such protected clauses into legislation, because it is apt to mislead the public—they think that these clauses are, at face value, worth while, but when Lord Reid and Lord Wilberforce got on to them, they were not worth the paper they were written on.

Baroness Byford Portrait Baroness Byford (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly to these amendments. I am one of perhaps three or four people in the Chamber today who took through the original Animal Welfare Act 2006, so I am supportive of anything we can do to make sure that animal welfare is top of the agenda. As an associate member of the BVA and the royal college, and as somebody who has had animals on the farm, this is a key interest of mine.

I have talked often with the noble Lord, Lord Trees, about the fact that although I am 100% behind what he is trying to do, I am not sure in my mind that this amendment is the right vehicle. I apologise if that is a disappointment to him. I am grateful for the observations of the noble and learned Lords, which were above the understanding I had before the debate started. It is very clear that the Government have tried to rectify a problem that was raised in the House of Commons by bringing forward a draft Bill. I think they realise, in hindsight, that that Bill is not sufficient to do what they wish it to. As others have said, it is quite difficult to deal with this on Report because we have to wait and then we cannot come back. However, I am hopeful that the Minister will be able to give us much greater clarification than we have had up to now as to the Government’s thinking about where we stand. While we are not fully behind the wording of the amendment, I hope no one thinks that we in any way do not believe in the full commitment we should have to animal welfare. Although I have no idea what the Minister is going to say, I hope he will bring us up to date on where we are and what the Government’s thinking is.

I say to my good friend the noble Lord, Lord Trees, and others that I am grateful to them for bringing forward this amendment. It has given the House another chance to reflect on an issue that some people might think is not important but which, I say to my noble friend the Minister, is hugely important. I hope his words will give greater resolve to those of us who wish to see this welfare issue taken forward in a meaningful way.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I hold the legal profession in high esteem. However, in Committee, it was obvious to me as a lay person—a person on the Clapham omnibus—that the lawyers disagreed and kept disagreeing. That was very upsetting for me, because it meant chaos instead of clarity—and the same thing is happening again. When I support this amendment, all I can do is apply my intelligence and political knowledge and think about what the safest thing to do is.

In Committee, we heard some noble Lords on the Government Benches insisting that the charter was some sort of bureaucratic bogeyman created by the EU to destroy parliamentary sovereignty and create a whole load of new rights that were fundamentally opposed to the British way of life. Now, later, other noble Lords, including the Minister, assert that the charter does absolutely nothing of significance and that all the charter rights exist elsewhere. Both those points of view cannot both be right—and in fact neither of them is right.

I am not convinced that what we heard is a fair representation of what exists. If two views are so opposed, what are we to believe? We are losing rights that are fundamental to our modern way of life. Very many people outside your Lordships’ Chamber think that Brexit is nothing more than an attempt by elites—that is us and others like us—to tear up everyone’s rights and freedoms. I voted for Brexit, but that was not the Brexit that I had in mind. If we lose the Charter of Fundamental Rights today, I will feel that I have been complicit in doing exactly that. I will leave it to other more learned Lords to try to work out what the exact effect would be of retaining or losing the charter. However, on the Clapham omnibus it feels as if we are spinning round in circles.

I will ask a very simple question. If I am unusually kind and give the Government the benefit of the doubt and accept that the charter rights are all in our law elsewhere, one question would remain. Why would your Lordships’ House replace a simple codified charter with a complex and diffuse legal mess? I simply do not understand that. The general trajectory of good law- making is to take complexity and make it simpler and more elegant. This House often takes a chaotic mix of case law, statutes and treaties and rewrites them in codified statutes which put them all together in one place and make them easier to understand. I cannot think of another example in this or any other Bill where this House has been asked to take a simple legal situation and make it infinitely more complex while seeking to achieve exactly the same thing. It simply does not make sense to scrap the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is our duty as a revising Chamber to make sure that people outside understand exactly what we are trying to preserve, which is fundamental rights and freedoms.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I will say a few words about this amendment. First, it is important to notice that the charter applies only when the EU law is implemented; therefore, the non-discrimination that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, talked of is applicable only when EU legislation is implemented. There is a recent case in the Supreme Court which says exactly that. It did not allow claims of non-discrimination in a case where the law which was being implemented was not EU law. Therefore, this charter is very restricted in that respect. In addition, while we are in the EU we are implementing EU law, but there is a serious question as to whether we will be implementing EU law at all after Brexit. This is a matter of how you interpret the idea of bringing EU law into our law on Brexit day. However, it is extremely important that the whole charter is being incorporated by this amendment, including these serious restrictions, which are not easily applicable in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. I was interested to hear in Committee about the situation as regards Northern Ireland. The implementation of the charter in its present form in our law would be extremely defective.

Secondly, once we are out of the EU, surely the fundamental part of our constitution should be respected—that is, that the courts of Westminster Hall, as they were, and the courts of justice of our land have no jurisdiction to set aside Acts of Parliament. One of the fundamental aspects of this charter is that it professes to give the right to set aside Acts of Parliament when they are in breach of these particular responsibilities. In my submission it has been a fundamental part of our constitution for many years that Acts of Parliament cannot be set aside by the judiciary. That is nothing to do with the qualifications of the judiciary; it is to do with setting a reasonable control in a democracy in the hands of the elected representatives. You have only to look at the United States to know how different it is where the Supreme Court has the ultimate authority over the constitution of the United States and what the House of Representatives and the other aspect of its legislature can pass.

It is notable that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, whom I am glad to see in his place, brought forward our Human Rights Act there was considerable respect shown for that doctrine. Human rights are very important. So far as I am concerned, they are of fundamental importance and the European Convention on Human Rights is extremely important. I have sought to vindicate it at every possible stage, including getting Parliament to implement it when the courts in Europe have made a judgment. It is a fundamental treaty that was made after the war. I think a very important part of that treaty was to incorporate an international court because the problems of democracy in some of the European countries were so serious that only an international court was likely to have the kind of authority to deal with them. I suppose Germany is the most blatant example.

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Therefore, in that instance, Article 168—in so far as it was utilised by the courts when Mr Justice Green drew upon it and recognised that it was “at the epicentre” of European policy-making—will be available in the future to UK courts to draw upon, both its elements and its interpretation, and those elements will be available afterwards. I hope that those remarks are helpful in clarifying where we stand; I will of course return later on to engage with the full debate.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, I had the privilege of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Warner, explain the position in Committee. When I heard him speak, it roused in my mind the thought that the decision in the packaging case was extremely important. In particular, the doctrine that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, seeks to establish must have been relied upon by the Secretary of State to defend that decision; important rights of the tobacco companies were at issue as well, such as complicated trademark legislation. When I looked at this, I thought it was absolutely clear that Mr Justice Green was relying upon Article 168 and the principle of the high value of human health in his judgment in favour of the Secretary of State. Therefore, that must have been part of our law at the time when Mr Justice Green was deciding the case, which was in 2016. If it was part of our law then, it will remain part of our law in light of the provisions in the Bill when Brexit comes along.

I was not privy to the earlier situation which the noble Lord, Lord Warner, described, and there may have been some difficulty in having this clarified. Mr Justice Green was deciding this in the High Court. The case went to the Court of Appeal, where in one judgment given by three judges—they say that they all contributed to the judgment—they absolutely affirm that the judge was right and that his approach was in accordance with EU law. That is EU law as it was; part of the law of the United Kingdom in 2016. Therefore, I consider that it must be preserved by the retention of the EU law that we have here. In my view, what the noble Lord the Minister has now said makes it clear that the Government now accept that position. It does not depend so much on the Government’s word as on the fact that the courts recognise this principle as part of EU law applicable in 2016. I cannot see any answer that can be given to try to rule it out. Therefore, I am content with what the Government have come out with and glad they gave me the opportunity to discuss this with them this afternoon. There were quite a number of members of the department there and we had a fairly frank discussion which has, I am glad to say, produced what I think is a reasonable result.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, it is most helpful that the Minister has given a reassurance and further clarified the position. However, I have a lingering concern about what happens if we do not have Article 168 in the Bill. If a trade deal and negotiation end up going to court, something has already gone terribly wrong. The advantage of having this stress on public health in the Bill is to strengthen the arm of the Government to make sure that public health is not inadvertently compromised.

I found a recent review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which looked at the health impact in the context of trade negotiations. Particular areas of concern related to food labelling, alcohol labelling, tobacco control and the cost of medicines. As this House knows, we have a major problem with obesity in this country. If people are to make real, sensible choices over what they are buying, they have to know that food labelling covers all aspects of food safety, including exposure to toxic pesticides, herbicides and so on, and animal husbandry methods, which have been of concern.

Our producers may not want that degree of labelling because it may damage their profits. I can see that in negotiating trade deals there will be, at times, a balance between profits and establishing the trade deal and holding back in some areas because of public health. The same may happen with atmospheric pollution. and so on. So while I fully accept the intention of the Government to make sure that as, in that article, public health protection and health improvement will remain unequivocal and at the centre of things, I have a lingering concern that there may be drift over time and difficulty in negotiations if we do not have this formally in the Bill.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
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Perhaps I may ask the Minister to clarify what he said about providing no comfort. Speaking for the Official Opposition and, I think, for the Lib Dems, we have not had sight of the intervention that the Minister made this afternoon. I found that intervention helpful, as was the interpretation given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. I am suggesting to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, a way forward. If the Minister agrees that this matter can be brought back at Third Reading, we will have time to read that intervention. I think that that is a constructive response from the Opposition Front Bench. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, will have to decide what to do but clearly, if we are not allowed to come back to this at Third Reading, we will probably have to test the opinion of the House. It seems to me that a sensible, consensual way forward is to give us time to look at what the Minister said.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, perhaps I may break the rules of Report and intervene. The Government have said repeatedly that they cannot do anything about this or that. They have said, “If you want to vote on this, you have to do it now and not at Third Reading”. However, this is a rather different situation in that their position has been made clear rather close to dealing with this amendment, and it is only reasonable that the House should be given an opportunity to study it. I do not think that that would be a breach of the general rule that we try to get rid of everything before Third Reading, and I do not anticipate that those who have tabled the amendment will want anything else.

An important point is that the amendment has raised an issue which I think the Government now accept is covered by the terms of the Bill as it was—the principle of the value of human health recognised in EU law. They have accepted that and the Bill carries it forward. It is only right that those who have brought forward the amendment should have the opportunity to study what has been said. I know that that is not in accordance with the general rule that the Government have set for Ministers but I think that this is an entirely exceptional circumstance, and I will certainly be very disappointed if, instead of getting an agreement, which I believe we have, we have an unnecessary vote.

Lord Grocott Portrait Lord Grocott (Lab)
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I very much agree with the point that the noble and learned Lord has made. It may not be within the normal rules of a Report stage debate to have the kind of circular arguments that we have had but, without having the Companion in front of me, I am pretty certain that I am accurate in saying that this is precisely the kind of occasion when it is appropriate to consider a matter again at Third Reading. The rules on when you can bring forward amendments at Third Reading are quite restrictive but, where the Government effectively announce a change of policy or, at the very least, give a further clarification which this side of the House has no opportunity to consider in detail, I cannot see that anyone loses any face whatever. It is entirely consistent with the way in which Third Reading operates for the Government to say, “We may or may not be able to accommodate it but we’ll look at it again at Third Reading”.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 18th April 2018

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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My Lords, it may help if I speak now and then allow other noble Lords to comment: that might help elucidate the situation. This is a very important issue and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for providing me with the opportunity to make clear the Government’s position on the UK’s future clinical trials framework and to provide clarity on the introduction of the new EU clinical trials regulation.

As the noble Lord knows, the MHRA is working towards the implementation of the new clinical trials regulation. The new regulation, agreed in 2014, is a major step forward. It will enable a streamlined application process, a harmonised assessment procedure, a single portal for all EU clinical trials and simplified reporting procedures, including for multi-member state trials. The UK has been involved in developing the new regulation and this has been widely welcomed by the research sector, including medical research charities and industry.

I pay tribute to the perseverance and interest in this issue of the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Kakkar, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. Points raised in Committee were helpful; they were very instructive and assisted the Government. Indeed, a most useful meeting was held yesterday, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, mentioned, at which the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Kakkar, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay were most constructive in their approach. I thank them for that, because it greatly assisted in reaching what I think is a resolution of this matter. This means that today I can provide noble Lords with the strongest possible reassurance on the UK’s commitment to implement the CTR. If the CTR comes into force during the implementation period, as it is currently expected to do in March 2020, it will apply to the UK. If this opportunity does not come to pass, the Government will seek to bring into UK law all relevant parts of the EU regulation that are within the UK’s control. I shall expand on that shortly.

The Government have been consistent that a key priority through the negotiations is to ensure that the UK remains one of the best places in the world for science and innovation. Noble Lords will be aware that the life sciences sector in the UK is world-leading. It generates turnover of more than £63.5 billion per annum and the UK ranks top in the major European economies for life sciences foreign direct investment. Importantly, there are more than 5,000 life sciences companies in the UK, with nearly 235,000 employees. The Government are determined to build on this success as we leave the EU. Of course, it is not just UK industry that benefits from a thriving life sciences sector. More importantly, UK patients benefit from having access to the most innovative and cost-effective treatment available. It is in the interest of patients and the life sciences industry across Europe for the UK and the EU to find a way to continue co-operation in the field of clinical trials, and for continued sharing of data and information, even if our precise relationship with the EU will, of necessity, change.

As the Prime Minister outlined in her Mansion House speech, the UK is keen to explore with the EU the terms on which the UK could remain part of EU agencies that are critical for medicines. For example, membership of the European Medicines Agency would mean investment in new innovative medicines continuing in the UK, and it would mean these medicines getting to patients faster, as firms tend to prioritise larger markets when they start the lengthy process of seeking authorisations. It would also be good for the EU, because the UK regulator assesses more new medicines than any other member state.

It is only fair that I deal with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Patel. The amendment asks for the EU clinical trials regulation to be deemed operative immediately before exit day, in order that it forms part of retained EU law and is therefore part of the UK statute book after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. While it is true that the new clinical trials regulation was adopted at EU level in 2014, article 99 of the regulation states that it will only apply six months after the Commission publishes a notice confirming that the relevant EU database is fully functional. This is not expected to happen until after exit day. It is this stated date of application that is relevant to whether the EU law is incorporated by Clause 3 of the withdrawal Bill, and that is why it is not captured by Clause 3. As I have said, today I can offer noble Lords the strongest possible assurance of this Government’s support on the following.

If the clinical trials regulation comes into force during the implementation period, as it is currently expected to do in March 2020, it will apply to the UK. The withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill will give effect to the implementation period in domestic law and will allow regulations to continue to apply in the UK for this time-limited period. If this opportunity does not come to pass, we will give priority to taking the steps necessary to bring into UK law, without delay, all relevant parts of the EU regulation that are within the UK’s control, so that those planning clinical research can do so with certainty. The two key elements of the regulation that are outside the UK’s control, and therefore not covered by this guarantee or pledge, are, first, the use of a shared central IT portal and, secondly, participation in the single assessment model, both of which require a negotiated UK-EU agreement regarding UK involvement post-Brexit. We cannot pre-empt these negotiations and we do not wish to do anything that might disadvantage the negotiating position of the UK by giving any further guarantees at this time.

In short, the Government are committing to being as aligned with the new EU clinical trials regulation as we possibly can be, subject to the negotiatory aspects that I have mentioned. I was anxious to elucidate the position to assist the Chamber and contributors as to the Government’s position and I hope that the noble Lord can accept my reassurances.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I have had the privilege of being involved in this sort of question for some time. Clinical trials need to be in a system which makes it relatively easy to set them up. The new regulation to which this amendment relates has very much simplified the system. Unfortunately, for fairly technical reasons to do with the portal, it has not come into force yet but the assurance that the Government have given in relation to this seems the best that they could give. It is entirely in accordance with the agreement that we came to yesterday; namely, that the Government will do all they can to bring the regulation into effect. Of course, if it happens during the implementation period then nothing more is required but if, unfortunately, it does not come into force during that period the Government will do everything possible to avoid delay and give certainty to those who plan clinical trials. As your Lordships know, planning clinical trials is not something that happens the day before they start; there has to be a good deal of planning so that such trials may be effective. I think the Government have done all that can be done in this situation to give effect to the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Patel.

Lord Kakkar Portrait Lord Kakkar (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her very full response to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Patel. She has given a powerful reassurance that the important elements of the European clinical trials regulation that can be applied independently of the European Union to improve the situation for the conduct of clinical research in our country will be brought into force. That is vital, as the Minister said, for ensuring that those who plan clinical research can do so with absolute certainty over a period of time prior to implementation. I, for one, am most grateful to her for this reassurance.

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Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
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My Lords, I start by apologising for arriving a moment after the noble Baroness had started speaking. I did not know what had happened to Amendment 13. I want to speak briefly in full support of the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. I do not propose to rehearse all the arguments that we made at Committee at some length, but want to make four very brief points.

First, no one suggested in Committee, on behalf of the Government or anyone else, that the family law provisions contained in the European regulations Brussels I, IIa, the maintenance regulation and the arrangements for the enforcement of obligations and co-operation were not a considerable benefit to the citizens of the UK as well of other member states. Secondly, no one suggested that any benefit would flow from our not continuing to have those regulations applied in the United Kingdom. Thirdly, no one suggested that we could achieve reciprocal protections for UK citizens and citizens from other member states of the EU without negotiating for their continued protection. Fourthly and finally, all that could be said and was said by the Minister for the Government was that it was all a matter for the negotiations, but it would be possible to negotiate arrangements whereby we could continue to benefit from the regulations without accepting the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in overseeing their implementation.

It is on that point that I take issue with the Government, because I ask why the EU 27 should agree to a set of arrangements affecting private law rights—these are disputes between citizens of different member states, by and large—whereby citizens of those other member states have obligations that are enforceable in their courts at the instance of citizens of the United Kingdom, while the United Kingdom could refuse to honour such obligations unless the courts of the United Kingdom approve their enforcement. In other words, a different set of rules could be said to apply to the UK from the rest of the Union.

The Government’s obsession—and I use the word without embarrassment—with the direct effect of CJEU decisions in cases involving treaty rights threatens to scupper the whole system of family law protections that is so important to our citizens, as well as to the citizens of other member states. The noble Lord said that it would be easy to negotiate other agreements for non-binding decisions. That, I suggest, is simply impossible to achieve. I do not see any difficulty with our accepting, in the case of private law rights between citizens, the binding nature of decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union. That way, we could commit, and commit early, to continuing to have all the rights and benefits for all citizens bound by the regulations for the foreseeable future.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, I am certainly interested in family law, and have been for some time, but this amendment strikes me as rather otiose and ineffective. It says:

“Within six months of the passing of this Act, a Minister of the Crown must publish a report outlining the ways in which the rights afforded by EU family law continue to exist in domestic law”.

It has nothing to do with reciprocity in the sense of other people’s laws; it is that they will continue to exist in domestic law. As I understand it, this Bill transforms into our law all existing EU law to this effect—that is what the Bill is supposed to do. And if it is deficient in that respect, it is for the noble Baroness, with all her expertise, to point that out. So far as I have understood it, all law that applies here on Brexit day will become part of our law, and therefore there is nothing to report in respect of that because that is what EU law was before—which would now be the law here.

Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
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I do not know whether I am entitled to interrupt someone who speaks subsequent to me, but I want to explain. We are introducing this into domestic law, but take, for example, the current position for a wife divorced from an Italian spouse. She can go to her local court here in Britain and obtain an order which is then—because of reciprocity and the special arrangements—enforceable in Italy against her ex-husband, who lives there and has not been paying maintenance for his children. It is the business of reciprocity that is problematic. I am sure the noble and learned Lord knows that very careful arrangements have been made as to which court in which country takes cognisance of a case and where the matter is dealt with if there is conflict. All those rules, which have now been set down in regulations, need to be settled with our partners in Europe. It is not enough to introduce it into UK law; we have to have the component of the other party and the other court in agreement. That has to be part of the negotiations. Bringing this into UK law will not do it on its own.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I think the noble Baroness has demonstrated the truth of what I am saying: namely, that she is concerned with the rights afforded by EU law in this country. The fact that those rights will continue to be enforced in this country is what the Bill is about. Therefore, I do not see any possibility of this amendment having any effect. The noble Baroness has just mentioned its operation in Italy, if the husband is there. That depends not on the domestic law of this country but on the law of Italy, and that is not part of what we can do in this Bill.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames
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I am terribly sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord when he has already been interrupted, but the point is that these provisions are all about reciprocity. They are about the mutuality of enforcement in other member states and in the United Kingdom. Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause seeks to address the problem with reciprocity. It says:

“The report provided for under subsection (1) must include … the steps, if any, taken by Ministers of the Crown to negotiate the continuation of reciprocal arrangements between the United Kingdom and member States in the field of family law”.

The point of that reciprocity is to ensure that United Kingdom citizens can enforce rights in other members states under the regulation in the same way as member state citizens—or former member state citizens as they would be—can in the United Kingdom.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I take what the noble Lord is saying, but such a report would not be dealing with subsection (1). That is my point. Subsection (1) is the operative subsection and it deals with domestic law, and reciprocity is not a matter that can be dealt with by domestic law. The only thing we can do, as I said on the last occasion on which we discussed this, is make sure that our arrangements are suitable for reciprocity and, if the reciprocity comes, that we have the right arrangements to deal with it. That is our domestic side of reciprocity. The rest of the reciprocity belongs to the rest of Europe, and I hope it will see the benefit of this as much as us. However, as far as we are concerned, we are bringing the whole of EU law that refers to family matters into our law by virtue of this Bill, and a report about that would be otiose.

Lord Inglewood Portrait Lord Inglewood (Con)
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My Lords, if I may, I want to make a brief comment that I should like to have made in Committee but the time was not appropriate. Like a number of your Lordships in the Chamber, I was a Member of the European Parliament for 10 years. Looking back on my experience, the most distressing aspect of the job was dealing with problems relating to family law. I make a plea to everybody concerned with this: the personal unhappiness and anguish that surrounds these circumstances is severe, and when dealing with this the Government should please remember that we are talking not about money but about people. They must find a way—I am sure they can—to resolve these horrible circumstances in the most humane way possible.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 11th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 28th March 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Ministry of Justice
Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
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My Lords, I would like to intervene briefly to support my noble friend Lord Adonis, and I do this in defence of your Lordships’ House. When the 2011 Act was debated here, I was speaking on the Opposition Front Bench with my noble friend Lord Triesman. I think we gave it six days, possibly seven, in Committee, and three days on Report. We did our best to scrutinise this piece of legislation. It seems to me that the idea that it should be repealed in a schedule without any debate in the House of Commons is, as my noble friend Lord Adonis says, a bit of a constitutional offence.

The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, makes very good points, as he always does. Can I be allowed to make a political point in return? He says that there is no transfer of powers involved in what is going on now. Let me assure you that there is a big transfer of powers to Brussels. Brussels is going to be able to legislate, during the implementation period that we have now signed up for, without any British Minister taking part. We are asking for opt-ins to various pieces of Brussels legislation as part of the negotiations and British Ministers will have no say over those policies—no say on policies on goods trade or on financial services. We will be trying to maintain equivalence with a regime over which we have no say. As to the idea that this Bill is taking back control to Britain, it is in fact handing control in large parts to the EU, where British Ministers and the British Government will have no say at all. We on this side of the House should point out this position and explain that the way to deal with it is to stay in the EU, and that is what we should fight to do.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I understand that that political point can be shortly made and it would dispense with all our consideration of this Bill altogether.

I played quite a part in the 2011 Act—along with the noble Lord—in stating what the position in law was for EU law in this country. I was keen to point out that the treaty did not of itself have that effect. It became an argument later when the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, argued about these and other matters in the Supreme Court. However, the point was that the authority for EU law in our country is the 1972 Act. This House affirmed that and the House of Commons accepted it.

The important thing about the 2011 Act is that its repeal is consequential on the repeal of the 1972 Act and our departing from the European Union. Matters that are consequential are usually covered in schedules. If noble Lords wish to discuss purely consequential legislation, so be it, but it is not necessary. As the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said, we have used it quite a few times and, given the amount of time we have spent on this Bill, it is appropriate that this provision repealing the 2011 Act should be in a schedule.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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My understanding is that it is not consequential that the repeal of the 2011 Act under this schedule will take place when this Bill becomes law at a point determined by a Minister, whereas we only repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on Brexit day, 29 March next year, or later under Clause 14(4) if a Minister chooses to extend the date.

My understanding—it is important to tease out these issues because we are a revising Chamber—is that this is being done deliberately by the Government. They want to forestall any cases coming under the 2011 Act as soon as possible. I assume they have read the legal opinion which raised doubt about the interpretation of the 2011 Act and do not want them rumbling through the courts before the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 takes effect.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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That does not prevent the repeal of the 2011 Act being consequential on the main provision in this Bill.

Lord Dykes Portrait Lord Dykes
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My Lords, one has distinct memories of the European Union Bill and it then becoming an Act. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has done a great service by referring to it, although his objectives in so doing might be somewhat different from noble Lords in other parts of the House. That Bill was introduced at the beginning of the coalition period. I have always thought that the coalition was agreed too quickly. Both leaders, understandably, were keen to get going with it and some aspects of the agreement were left vague and unresolved. There was a great deal of excitement about the initial period of this unusual and first-time type of coalition. For those of us who pompously describe ourselves as good Europeans—rather than just fairly keen on the EU— this was a painful moment. Given the celerity of the agreement of the coalition at the beginning, the contents of the Bill were never properly gone into or discussed, despite the substantial vote in the House of Commons to which the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred. Again, that was because it was the beginning of the period of this new exercise of the interesting and fascinating coalition.

I believe David Cameron was not much interested in the legislation. He regarded it as a routine inclusion in the incipient contents of the coalition’s programme—not the things that appeared later on—but for the Liberal Democrats it was important. I remember it being described by a senior colleague who was then a member of the coalition representing the Liberal Democrat portion of it—I will not say who—as, “Just routine smoke and mirrors, old boy, don’t worry about it”. However, it was not easy for people to accept it in that sense and I remember vividly a substantial rebellion within the Liberal ranks in the Lords on this matter. There may have been a small one in the Commons as well—I cannot exactly remember those details—but in the Lords there was a substantial rebellion led by Baroness Shirley Williams and others in the team who were not members of the coalition Government because they objected strongly to the contents of the Bill.

The contents were elusive, vague and cynical, That is what put off people who regarded themselves as enthusiastic members of the European Union—members of the club—unlike some other people in Britain who were only half-hearted members of the club, including politicians. For example, a transfer of powers to Brussels had to be accompanied by a referendum and could take place only if the Government got the authority of Parliament to do so. However, the Government could suggest that something was too minor a matter to bother about and just leave it aside.

An extraordinary, ironical conclusion of one of the important items was that the enlargement of the Union would not be included in the Bill. In those days there was a rumour that Turkey was going to join at some stage—there were endless discussions about that possibility—and yet that would not have been part of the matter discussed in the democratic Parliament of the United Kingdom, particularly in the House of Commons. There were other anomalies which looked like opportunism. The rebellion was substantial among the Liberal Democrat ranks here, and the legislation was then forgotten and buried.

I always thought that rather than object to the repeal—I can understand why the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is suggesting it—the infamous 2011 Act should be repealed as quickly as possible. That needs to be on the agendas of both the Lords and the Commons for the future. At the moment, therefore, I am torn between agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for the reasons he has enunciated, and saying that it would be a mistake and that this should be included in the total repeal list. After all, getting rid of that obnoxious legislation would not be a precursor to any other anticipated legislation following the same theme later on.

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Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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My Lords, I have always disregarded health warnings on the grounds that one would never eat anything at all if one proceeded down those lines.

The debate has been disappointing in that I do not think the two key points I made have been responded to. I have huge admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, but they have not addressed the point that, in the way the Bill is framed, the repeal of the 2011 Act is emphatically not consequential on the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. Rather, it is consequential on the enactment of the Bill and it will take place well in advance of Brexit day and the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. If it was indeed consequential on the repeal of that Act, which I fully accept it should be because we would not be a member of the European Union at that point, I would have no difficulty at all with the repeal in Schedule 9. It is because it is being deliberately accelerated in advance that there is an issue.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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It cannot happen until immediately after Parliament has passed a Bill fixing a date for leaving the European Union. The 2011 Act has no substance or content at all apart from the European Union treaty, so this idea that it has to be consequential in time is an extra. It is consequential in its subject matter. That is what is really important.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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My Lords, we might not leave the European Union next year. We have not enacted the legislation to do so. At the moment there is no treaty. The 2011 Act would be repealed under the terms of the Bill. The two are clearly not consequential.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 10th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 26th March 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane (CB)
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My Lords, I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has said in moving Amendment 305 in the unavoidable absence of the chairman of the Delegated Powers Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. I know, the noble Lord being absent on parliamentary business, how much he regretted the unavoidable clash of commitments at this time. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was much too modest in his mention of the substitutes’ bench a moment or two ago.

In their delegated powers memorandum the Government have sought to make comparisons with procedures already established in the devolution legislation. I can be very brief, given the conspectus that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has given us. The sweeping effect of Clause 11 and Schedule 3 is to reserve to Westminster all returning competences unless the position is changed by Order in Council. The Delegated Powers Committee distils the problem effectively in paragraph 31 of its later, 12th report. The Government have said that the purpose of the Order in Council procedure is to provide an “appropriate mechanism”—there is that word “appropriate” again—to broaden the parameters of devolved competence in respect of retained EU law. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, made clear, the concept of the definition of retained EU law is anything but straightforward. The fundamental point is that something as important as the distribution of competences should not be left to take-it-or-leave-it statutory instruments. This is something for primary legislation and the much-enhanced scrutiny that it would receive.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I sought to explain in reference to the amendment I moved last week my belief about the simplicity of the real issue in this area. It seems absolutely clear that all the devolved Administrations—and the UK Administration themselves—are subject to EU law. However, on Brexit day that will all disappear and there will be the powers—these are the ones I am particularly interested in—that were kept to the EU. I said last week, and nothing I have heard since has persuaded me to change my mind, that all the powers which are effectively exercised within a single devolved area should be devolved immediately. That is the result of the EU no longer being in charge of our procedures. In addition, those powers the EU has which to be effective require to operate in more than one of the devolved areas should go to the UK Parliament. I thoroughly believe that that is the only way in which this can be properly accomplished. The idea of doing it with some form of legislation other than primary legislation is doomed to failure. So far as I am concerned, for example, the amendment tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Hope, which we will come to later, relates only to the idea that something of this kind can happen by statutory instrument. There is no power which creates statutory instrumental authority for this kind of thing. Therefore, what has happened is what Bishop Berkeley once said about the philosophers:

“We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see”.

That may have affected other areas of our national life.

This is a simple matter, and the simpler it is, the better what we are trying to do will be understood by ordinary people—the people who read the papers. Otherwise, we will be arguing away about what I certainly cannot understand and I venture to think that, if I cannot understand it, it is likely that one or two others will not understand it either.

Lord Morgan Portrait Lord Morgan (Lab)
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My Lords, this is one of a number of issues where it seems that the Government have created extraordinary difficulties for themselves—a quite unnecessary threat to the cohesion of the union in the long term—as well as the other problems introduced by this legislation.

I am a member of the Constitution Committee; the chairman of that distinguished body is sitting behind me. I am not speaking on behalf of the committee, but for myself. The committee has already noticed that the provision about EU-derived measures is quite inappropriate. It ignores the devolution settlement. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, explained, these powers should automatically go to the devolved legislatures—where they belong—but they are given no powers of redress or scrutiny. There seems to be very little consultation. I do not understand why such a high-handed and frankly colonial attitude is being adopted toward the legislators of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Needless complications are being caused. In Wales, which has had a growing accretion of reserved powers under the Government of Wales Act, unnecessary animosity that is not relevant to the Act is being created. It is a form of centralism that goes against the spirit of recent legislation and the consensual spirit in which this has taken place. Much of that consensus is owed to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. It is comforting to see him sitting on the Government Benches; I hope he can suggest the reversal of this.

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Lord Morgan Portrait Lord Morgan
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My Lords, I respond with considerable enthusiasm to what my noble friend Lord Liddle just said—and, if I may say so, with considerable pride, because a long time ago I once had the privilege of teaching him. Everything he said about introducing possible discord is profoundly true. I just make two points. This is trying to impose a static uniformity on a United Kingdom whose pluralism has increasingly been made manifest. It is simply the wrong approach: a heavy-handed, imperial approach which is inappropriate. We heard so much during the campaign about “take back control”. Well, control for whom? It was established in the courts by that courageous lady, Mrs Gina Miller, that it should be control for Parliament, because ours is a parliamentary democracy, but the clutch of issues we have been discussing this afternoon raises the additional point of control being vested not merely solely in the Executive, but in the Executive in Westminster, in a situation of pluralism and partnership. At this time, with other tensions emerging all over the European continent, it is very important that the Government get this right.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, it is important to remember that this debate is about a fairly limited matter. No doubt it has consequences, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said, but my principal concern is to get a procedure which is adequate and reasonably simple. As for differences in taxation, the noble Lord will know that for taxpayers in Scotland, there are differences already and even more to come—which may not altogether suggest that he should come to live in Scotland.

This committee has started looking at individual areas of devolved policy. It has come up with a tremendous number and has tended to look at them from that point of view. We now gravely need to look at things from the point of view of the ultimate result. The framework agreements are described in the documents as intended to promote the single market, and that is how I see them—trying to ensure the continuation of the single market which presently exists in the United Kingdom and which everyone, as far as I can see, would like to continue.

That approach has led to people saying, “This area is okay. You do not need a framework”—because of minute descriptions which I shall not attempt to recite—“but if you need a framework, the United Kingdom Government must create some form of control which enables them to lay out such an agreement”. That is the idea of the power to select 24 areas where statutory framework agreements were necessary; and there is another group where memoranda of understanding were thought to be necessary.

That way of looking at it is bound to be complicated, and you have to have some power to hold the devolved area that is to be subject to the single market requirement in order to put the single market requirement into effect. That is the purpose of this rather remarkable proposed new clause: giving Ministers power to hold for a time that particular policy area. Once that happens, I can see that some form of time restraint will be necessary, because you do not want to be waiting too long.

My suggestion, which I put forward in relation to my amendment last week, is that you forget all that and remember that the areas of devolution are defined by the areas which are presently controlled in Europe but which can effectively be legislated for in one of the devolved areas. Scotland cannot legislate for Wales, much as it might like to, and nor can Wales legislate for Scotland. Scotland can legislate only for itself, so it cannot set up by its own legislative authority a single market. Therefore, if the single market is to be legislated for, it has to be done by the Parliament of the United Kingdom—and all devolved areas are appropriately represented in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. We must not forget that.

I suggest that the committee should be defined as a group in the way that I have sought to set out, looking for consent for all the necessary provisions to enable a single market, as far as it is agreed to be required, in the United Kingdom. I sincerely hope that that will be agreed because, as I told your Lordships last week, when I spoke to the Minister from Scotland, he was very insistent that the chances of reaching agreement were very high—so I am working particularly on that assumption. It does not absolutely need to be fulfilled, for a reason that I will come to in a moment, but I certainly hope that it can be. That is why I think we should have a group in which the four different countries—three of which are devolved—should be more or less equally represented. That is what the proposed group is for—it is proposed only for this special purpose. I am not seeking to incorporate this into the Government of the United Kingdom for the future, as some people have suggested. I am thinking only of a group to solve this present problem, which is quite urgent, quite important and not too difficult.

We should remember that a single market exists in the United Kingdom already, so we do not have to invent it all. We may need to make modifications, but there is a kind of plan available to look at—so I think the chances of this group reaching agreement are very strong. If so, what I believe should then happen is that the things they have agreed should be incorporated in a United Kingdom statute. If they are all agreed, the sole convention should provide that there be statutory consent. I see no need for any kind of system for dealing with disagreements at that stage. The United Kingdom Parliament has a responsibility and will have to deal with it on its constituents.

I have also tried to make sure that the group is as united as possible, so I have provided that, where there is a disagreement, it should state precisely, in an agreed form, what it is, so that the Parliament of the United Kingdom—if it had to come to that—would have only that question to determine. I think that this is a better system than anything that starts from the bottom and seems to come up. Consent would come in the group right across the whole field and, if that works, as I hope it will, there is no difficulty whatever. If there is any difficulty, the Parliament of the United Kingdom will have to try to solve it and then the Sewel convention will apply to that United Kingdom Parliament. That is my solution—and, of course, the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, would then not arise. That is a much better system than trying to work up from the individual in 24 areas, or whatever it is.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley
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My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, again. I welcomed very much the points that he made last week with regard to looking for a mechanism. We can split hairs about the detail of it, but the need for a mechanism to be there is clear.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for proposing this amendment and, particularly, for proposed new subsection (3), which states:

“Ministers of the Crown may create UK-wide frameworks only if they have consulted with, and secured the agreement of, the affected devolved administrations”.

I personally believe that it is much easier to look at an issue like this if one looks at a specific aspect and asks oneself how it would work out in practice. I referred in an earlier debate in this Committee to agriculture, which is one of the areas which at present is under the common agricultural policy at a European level, but with devolution with regard to the working of agriculture in Wales and Scotland.

The nature of agriculture in Wales—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, mentioned this—is different because of the sheep meat regime. We have 12 million sheep in Wales—four times more sheep than we have people. The sheep meat regime is massively important in Wales, and more important relatively than it is in other parts of the United Kingdom. Within the European context it has been possible to find ways of enabling Wales to follow its own policies in some regards within the overall framework of the CAP for Europe. Indeed, at times there have been opportunities for Welsh Ministers to speak in Brussels on behalf of the UK, when there was something relative to a specialist interest in Wales, such as sheep, on the agenda.

The fear in Wales now is that, if the power over agriculture is in London primarily, the ability to fine-tune and develop new policies in Wales that has been exercised up to now will become more constrained—things such as the agro-environmental schemes that have been developed in Wales, for example. The fear is there because the nature of agriculture in England, and the dominant role of those interests in England, are very different to those in Wales. Therefore, if one is trying to secure a single market within the UK, which is obviously common sense, there has to be some mechanism of give and take. It may be all right for a regime in Wales to work in a way that gives added benefits to the Welsh sheep farmers, provided that is bringing them up to the overall level and not giving them unfair competition in the marketplace over other people—but the initiatives for those will need to be developed in Wales, within the context of Welsh circumstances.

That is why I believe that it is essential, whatever the final Bill contains, that it has this element not only of consultation but of agreement. My belief is that, with most things, there would be immediate agreement—and, if there is no immediate agreement, another problem will come and hit us down the road in a year or two, which will build up the type of tensions to which the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, referred. It is far better that we have this model working by agreement between the devolved Administrations, and it might come as a considerable surprise to find how willing people were then to work together.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 9th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 21st March 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Ministry of Justice
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port
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I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. Because I am where I am, I am equally certain that the points being raised will be addressed later in this debate.

What the Government have brought forward at this late stage is too weak. If the purpose is, as the Government claim, simply to give breathing space to negotiate new UK frameworks, which is fair enough, where it is agreed by the devolved Administrations that these are necessary—that is an important part of it—then we should be sure that the devolved legislatures agree that these are indeed the policy areas where restrictions are needed. It does not seem to be very difficult to come to these conclusions. Indeed, there has been no attempt to engage with the proposals put forward by the Welsh Government in their policy paper Brexit and Devolution some nine months ago, arguing for a system which would address precisely this issue. Perhaps the Minister could explain this egregious omission.

Over the last week, I have come across an intriguing poem by Waldo Williams, one of the dominant Welsh writers of the last century. He asks a series of questions and gives succinct, almost gnomic answers to them. As I conclude my remarks, I cannot forbear from quoting one couplet in Welsh, in order to forestall an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth—though he might surprise me yet again. I will quote it with a translation by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams of Oystermouth—I do not want to frighten the Hansard horses. Just listen:

“Beth yw trefnu teyrnas? Crefft

sydd eto’n cropian”.

That is:

“What is it to govern kingdoms? A skill

still crawling on all fours”.

We must urge the Government to stand up, to withdraw their amendments and to go back to the discussions with the devolved Administrations before returning with an approach which gives an appropriate role to the devolved legislatures to agree the areas—indeed, perhaps to go further and to put a list of frameworks into a schedule to the Bill—in which new restrictions on their legislative competence will operate. This may well turn out to be a test of whether the Government have the competence to lead us out of the mess they have so tidily put us in. I wish to move the amendments.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, my Amendment 318A is in this group. As your Lordships know, I am a lawyer, but I have already got limited support from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who has repeatedly explained that he does not suffer from this disadvantage—I will do my best to take him along with me.

As I have indicated, I was first introduced to this matter in a discussion with a very distinguished SNP Member in the other place, when we were travelling together from the north. I mentioned to him that I had had no briefing of any sort from the Scottish Government. The next day I got a message from the Scottish Government to say that the Lord Advocate and Mr Russell, the Minister, were very willing to speak to me. I was able to speak to the Lord Advocate that afternoon and to Mr Russell in the early afternoon that Wednesday. I was very emphatically assured by Mr Russell that the Scottish Government were keen to reach an agreement. I am quite satisfied that there is no indication in the attitude of the Scottish Government that this is an attempt to further their ultimate political aim, and that they are seeking to solve this matter in a way that accords with the dignity of the Scottish Government. I said that I did not want to do or say anything that would impede agreement, and I now hope to show how agreement can be reached.

Before I explain the amendment, I will say a word or two about the law that lies behind it—I will take Scotland as an example, as the other Administrations have similar provisions. The devolution settlement in the Scotland Act is subject to EU law. That considerably restricts what the Scottish Administration can do at present, but when Brexit comes along that limitation will disappear. Included in those limitations are the legislative powers of Brussels to legislate in the United Kingdom. From one point of view, it is wise to analyse these powers in this way: a power that can be made effective within a single area of legislative competence in the United Kingdom should go straight to that level—in other words, to the devolved Administration. That is, if the power does not require more than one of our legislative areas in order to be effective, it should go straight to the devolved Administration.

But there are EU powers which can be effective only when they cover more than one of our legislative areas. The one that is of most relevance in this connection is that which provides for the single market. As your Lordships know, and as the Scottish Government certainly know, the single market is quite an important feature of the present negotiations. Part of that single market is the single market in the United Kingdom. It is 100% obvious that, if you are going to legislate for the single market in the United Kingdom, it is legislation that affects all of the countries within the United Kingdom and the legislatures that support them. Therefore, it is absolutely plain that the ultimate power to settle the single market provisions lies with the United Kingdom Parliament.

But—and this is an important consideration—it is extremely wise to proceed by agreement where it is at all possible. A good deal of agreement has already been reached. As I said, I was assured by Mr Russell when I first spoke to him—and again when he later saw my amendment, which he welcomed subject to qualifications such as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, will propose—that the Scottish Government are very anxious to reach agreement.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very interested in this concept, which my noble and learned friend is putting forward, that powers which affect the single market that is the United Kingdom should be taken at a United Kingdom level. Does he see that operating both ways? For example, the Scottish Parliament has the power to set unit pricing for alcohol, which of course affects the single market that is the United Kingdom. Does the proposition that powers which affect the single market should be taken at the UK level mean that, as well as the powers which will come from the European Union when we leave it, powers might also be returned to Westminster from the Scottish Parliament? He might find that Mr Russell is less enthusiastic about that.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I am not suggesting that for a minute. I am suggesting that what is required is a single market which is the necessary concomitant of having cross-border trade. I do not think that the price of alcohol in Scotland would necessarily affect that. It might be wise for me, if I wanted to buy alcohol, to do it when I was here rather than in Scotland. I may say at once that I am not particularly keen to do that either. That is not an example of the need for there to be no obstacle at the border, because if I have to pay for the whisky in Scotland, I can take it with me, subject to not coming on an aeroplane, I suppose. It is a matter of what is required.

It is realised by various people who were at the meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee that framework agreements will be required in certain areas. That is because, for the single market in the UK to be effective, there must be agreement across the legislative areas. It follows, as night follows day, that the legislative vehicle for dealing with a market which is across the whole of the UK is a vehicle which has jurisdiction over the whole of the UK. It cannot be otherwise. That seems to be common sense and you do not need to be a lawyer to think that.

My next point is the “but” I was coming to before I was helped by my noble friend. I stress that it is highly desirable, when you are seeking to get a single market, to get the agreement of the components. They have different interests, but there is a very strong pressure to secure a single market. I am sure the Scottish traders do not wish to have something at Berwick-upon-Tweed which requires them to pay out money to English customs. It is absolutely clear that there is a very good pressure to reach agreement. As I say, I am assured by the White Paper that the Welsh Government put forward some considerable time ago, which was referred to earlier. I say in passing that that paper addresses itself to wider constitutional issues about future government in the United Kingdom and how it is not working very well and what-not. But I need something that will work now for the very limited purpose of getting the single market arrangements secure before Brexit comes into effect.

I have suggested in my amendment that there should be set up a group which consists of representatives of all four countries. I think it is wise to specify who they are. I have also specified, to try to reach agreement, that the chairman of the group should be decided on by the group. The Lord Advocate mentioned to me that one of the features of the present committee is that it is always a UK Minister who presides. There will be a certain amount of interest in the skill of the chairman in reaching agreement. It is often quite an important position—I have not been chairman of many committees that have not reached agreement—and it is an important aspect of the matter. I have therefore suggested that.

Of course, the details of this are very much matters for your Lordships to consider, but that is the ultimate thing: that the group should look at all these questions. If, as I am assured, they are very keen to reach agreement, I have no doubt whatever that there is a very high prospect that they will reach agreement—I emphasise that—when you consider that new rules must come into operation at the point of Brexit or the end of the implementation period, whichever is the later, and that if there was failure to reach agreement it would require the action of the United Kingdom Parliament. I am prepared to limit the amount of time for that to three months to emphasise my confidence that agreement will be reached and that therefore a formal legislative enactment in the United Kingdom with full consent from all four members of the committee would be the result.

This is a simple way of dealing with the matter, which is dealt with in a rather complicated way by the government amendment. The government amendment appears to inject powers into areas which may be devolved in fact. Mine makes it absolutely clear that the devolved powers are to be immediately made available to the Governments of the devolved legislatures; it is only the single market power that I consider needs to be reserved.

My very good supporter, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, has suggested in his amendment that there should be some extraordinary—I do not mean that in a pejorative sense—tribunal to decide when there is disagreement. I certainly hope that there will not be disagreement, but I have provided that if there is disagreement the group itself must specify what that disagreement is, to make the issue for the United Kingdom Parliament as small and definite as possible. In my analysis, the single market is within the legislative competence of the UK Parliament. All the four countries are represented there. I remember that the Scottish party that got many seats in the 2015 election said that one of the purposes was to provide a strong voice for Scotland in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I have no doubt there is a pretty strong voice for that purpose. Having all four countries represented is as good as any kind of remarkable thing with Speakers. I am not sure if my noble supporter has asked the Speakers whether they want to take this on, but I think that is not in their competence. That is a job for the legislative assembly of the United Kingdom which is set up under our constitution and which I believe would reach a very good agreement on this point, if it had to. In the meantime, I sincerely hope it will not be necessary for it to do anything except legislate with a form agreed by the four constituents.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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My Lords, I tabled Amendment 318AA as an amendment to the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. I did so with due deference and with considerable temerity to be trampling on the legal pastures in which he has such expertise and I am a layman. None the less, I confirm that I have had conversations not only with Mr Mike Russell, to whom the noble and learned Lord referred, but with people from the Welsh Government—and, as he raised the question with me, yes, I have discussed it with the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly, Elin Jones, who sees no difficulty at all with such a mechanism.

With that prelude, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, for tabling Amendment 318A, which he did following the earlier debates in Committee. Those debates pointed to a crying need for a sensible mechanism to be found for dealing with the vexed issue of securing agreement between Westminster and the devolved legislatures regarding those matters which the UK Government feel must be handled on a UK level, even though they deal with areas that may be of devolved competence.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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That is an open admission of it. As I look at the amendment, I think, “Who will speak for England?”.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean
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My noble and learned friend says that it tells me. Yes, it tells me that it is the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s responsibilities are for the whole of the United Kingdom, not for England. To suggest that there should be a rotating chair, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, did, is a nonsense in terms of our constitution. Ministers in the Government have a responsibility to act for the whole of the United Kingdom.

I have to say that I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, was absolutely hilarious. Here he was making an impassioned plea for democracy in Wales while at the same time arguing that all the powers that he was concerned about should remain in Brussels, where the ability to bring forward legislation rests with an unelected Commission and where our ability to influence it is one of 28 in the Council of Ministers. It is a complete distortion of the word “democracy”. What is being offered here to the Welsh Parliament and the Scottish Parliament by the Government is the ability to take back control of a whole range of issues and policies over which they have hitherto had no influence at all.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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Department: Northern Ireland Office

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 8th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 19th March 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Northern Ireland Office
Lord Broers Portrait Lord Broers
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I want to point out two things in response to the noble Viscount. First, I have introduced this amendment because research and development was ruled by the Public Bill Office to be outside the remit of the safeguards Bill, so it had to be brought here. Secondly, the fusion projects are large and collaborative; they are not projects where we can decide what we want to do and where we want to do it. We would be hopelessly underresourced if we did not join these European projects. That is why we have to join them. At the moment, we are major players in them and have always been so, but we have relatively small resources. ITER costs €13 billion—it has to cost that amount. It is certainly worth that amount. It is a tiny fraction of what we spend on energy, but, unless we collaborate with the other nations in this project, we will be nowhere.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I recall many years ago in private practice acting on the instruction of the late Lord Weinstock to fix the price of Hunterston A. At that time, we were in the very lead of nuclear energy development. I regret to say that I have the feeling that we are slightly less in the lead now than we were then. I do not have anything like the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Broers, but I want to emphasise the need to ensure the important place of nuclear energy in our future plans.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord remember what price he fixed it at? How does it compare with Hinkley Point B?

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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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In order to indicate cross-party support, I will say that I support this amendment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, I am just wondering whether the noble Lord who moved this amendment is thinking that the House of Lords should not reject an SI outright once it has been confirmed by the House of Commons but should ask that it be reconsidered, and whether that should be the only option apart from approving it.

Lord Lisvane Portrait Lord Lisvane
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My Lords, I think that if it were an SI concerned only with imposing a fee or charge, noble Lords would not have it laid before them.

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Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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I have tried to make it clear that we are not attempting to equate delegated legislation with primary legislation. I have been trying to clarify when the Government consider primary legislation is appropriate and should be used—for policy change, for example. However, we are in an extraordinary situation, as all noble Lords acknowledge. It is beyond argument that the Government are having to contemplate the transfer of a body of law of huge volume and massive complexity. We owe it to the people and businesses that rely on that law to make a good fist of getting it transferred from A to B by the critical point of exit day.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh mentioned the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which is one of the very few examples of where statutory instruments made under an Act can be amended by Parliament. The emergency regulations made under that Act are very unusual instruments. The nature of the situation with which they are intended to deal is self-explanatory. It is in a state of emergency and is such that Parliament cannot scrutinise these instruments before they are made. None of the normal scrutiny procedures of this House applies. That is intrinsic to the very unusual approach under that Act, drafted for unusual and extraordinary circumstances. Noble Lords may be interested to note that in the history of the Civil Contingencies Act no Government have ever made any emergency regulations.

We are not proposing in this Bill anything of the sort of action envisaged by the Civil Contingencies Act. I cannot think that allowing amendable SIs is the solution to the concerns expressed by my noble friends. Nor, I repeat, is reform of the legislative process the role of this Bill. It is merely intended to provide continuity and certainty in our statute book.

The amendments would not only fundamentally alter the nature of secondary legislation but imperil the Government’s programme of secondary legislation and Parliament’s opportunity to scrutinise it. If this legislation is subject to continued movement back and forth, we run the risk that crucial provisions are not in place in time to allow businesses and individuals to prepare for exit, and that so many SIs would become bunched at the end of the process that they would not be properly scrutinised. I have endeavoured to deal—I hope—fully with the very important points raised by colleagues in the Chamber, and I hope that my explanation reassures noble Lords and the noble Baroness. I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I was wondering whether my noble friend had any special comment on proposed new sub-paragraph (4) in Amendment 248, which seems to have nothing much to do with the amendments and seems in conflict with what the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was saying earlier.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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At this time of night my reading qualities are not at their most alert. May I look at that in more detail and revert to my noble and learned friend?

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 12th March 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, much has been said in support of the amendment. I do not see how the Government can argue against us going along with the flow of modernising regulation.

I hope that in responding the Minister might consider what we will lose if we do not go down this route. Quite apart from losing the ability to attract pharma here and so on, it is important to record that many research groups that currently collaborate with European researchers know that their only future to pursue research—and want to do so under the new, better framework—means that they will effectively have to move, either to Dublin or Amsterdam. Those are the two main university hubs currently being looked at, although others in other parts of Europe are too. It becomes very easy for very high-powered researchers to move into different academic units, yet if we do not have biological and life sciences research here as new discoveries are made, we will not reap any economic rewards from those discoveries—quite apart from then not having the industries to produce whatever has been discovered.

I hope the Minister will consider very carefully that the amendment is absolutely essential going forward. Irrespective of what we think of Brexit, we need to be part of this group. If we are not, we will massively become a loser.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I entirely support the main thrust of the amendment in the sense of seeking, if at all possible, to secure the benefits of the agreement already entered into—but not yet implemented—to which the noble Lord, Lord Patel, referred. This is not the only one that we have come across in the course of our discussions to date. The amendment does not actually produce anything except a sort of stop, so I wonder whether it would be possible, indeed acceptable, to Her Majesty’s Government to amend the Bill to allow discretion to use EU proposals to which we have already agreed and, in some cases, initiated and worked out in great detail—this is certainly a very important one, but there are others; that is, an amendment that would move, in a sense, the centre of the Bill. Of course, the Bill is a snapshot of what happens on Brexit day, but unfortunately some of the good things may escape because they are not yet implemented in time for Brexit. I therefore wonder whether it would be feasible to introduce an amendment to the Bill to give the Government a discretion to put into effect, in our law, agreements already made which are judged to be of use to this country after Brexit.

I strongly support the view that clinical trials are an absolutely essential aspect of our life. From time to time I have been involved in seeing just how complicated they are. One of the bureaucratic difficulties is that if you have a number of clinical trials in different hospitals for the same matter you have to get the consent of the ethics committee in each one. They all have an ego of their own so getting agreement is not always easy. The proposal which the EU has adopted, and which will come into effect in due course, is an extremely important step forward. I would like to see the power to implement and use it being adopted in the Bill. I suggest, as a possibility, that the Minister should have discretion to adopt such measures of EU law which are agreed to but not yet in force. This deals with a point debated earlier at the instance of my noble friend.

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Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge
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My Lords, my name is to Amendment 126. I do not want to say very much. I can think of another word to add to that great list and I could give my view of the history of how taxation became the weapon for democracy, ultimately. Taxation is the ultimate control that the Commons has over the Executive. Just reflect on the set-to in the United States of America a few weeks ago: Senate and President at odds over money. These issues must be resolved at parliamentary level and House of Commons level—not by regulation.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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The general principle referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, which has been very clearly enunciated by the courts, is that no public authority, including local authorities, has the power or statutory authority to exact money that exceeds the amount that the local authority—or other person making the imposition—sets. The charge the person is required to pay must be just equal to the amount that will be needed to carry out the service, or other thing. If it does exceed it, it is taxation and that covers all forms; it does not matter whether it is a payment, charge, fee or anything else. That is a general principle. Therefore, the provision in Clause 7(7), preventing the regulations imposing or increasing taxation, prevents any local authority or other power having the power to make any such imposition.

On the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, I wonder whether the first part of the clause —Clause 8(1), I think—is the subject of Amendment 126. My noble friend Lord Deben wondered why we were talking about this in a withdrawal Bill, but the clause says that we may have an international obligation that is breached by withdrawal; it therefore seems reasonable to deal with that in the withdrawal Bill because it is a consequence of withdrawal. That amendment implies that this power cannot be used to make any financial settlement that would cause a cost to the United Kingdom because, if it did, it would inevitably require taxation—presumably, whoever makes the settlement does not intend to defray the cost out of his or her own pocket. It is a fundamental restriction on the way in which these matters of international obligation may be resolved. I think I am right in that, but no doubt the noble Lord will tell us its effect on the amendment in due course.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, Amendments 86, 126, 127 and 155—in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Kramer, and the noble Lords, Lord Turnbull, Lord Lisvane and Lord Higgins—concern Clauses 7, 8 and 9 and the ability to provide for taxation or fees and charges under those powers.

Let me start by saying that the Government are aware of the concerns of many noble Lords about the raising of fees under these powers. On Report, we will look closely at how we can resolve those concerns. Let me explain the various issues, beginning with Clauses 7 and 9. I am glad to be able to reassure noble Lords that the restrictions in Clause 7(7)(a) and Clause 9(3)(a) already prevent Ministers establishing charges of a type that would involve any element of taxation or tax-like provision under these powers. Beyond that specific issue, I want to set out the Government’s intentions with regard to those fees and charges.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 12th March 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Lord Wallace of Tankerness Portrait Lord Wallace of Tankerness
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My Lords, I accept that, with regard to “once in a generation”, the Scottish National Party is guilty of not living up to what it said, but it is not right to say that, once the ink was dry on the paper, it totally forgot it. What was in that agreement informed both the Section 30 order that was passed and the legislation then passed by the Scottish Parliament in conformity with the agreement. A substantial part of that agreement was carried through in good faith by both parties.

The detailed wording of Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act was important in getting the right balance in the devolution settlement. If in the normal course of events that were to change, it would require an order under Section 30 of the Scotland Act, which requires an affirmative vote not only by both Houses of this Parliament but by the Scottish Parliament. What we are proposing is consistent with what would happen in the normal course of events when the balance of the devolution settlement was changed. That is why I strongly encourage the Minister at least to show willingness to think about this matter and reassure us that the Government are sensitive to it. That could go some way towards establishing a better basis for trust as we look forward to our debates on Clause 11.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, the amendments introduced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, might be perfectly okay from the point of view of the UK Government. The only change likely under Clause 7 is to something where it says “EU law”; it would have to be changed to something else. The powers in Clause 7 are intended to enable the knitting together of existing UK law and existing EU law which is not already part of it. That is a difficult job. These descriptions are meant to cater for that. I do not see it as likely that much will be required in relation to Scotland in that respect.

The main question is what happens under Clause 11. The Government promised that it would be brought before the House of Commons and hoped that it would be agreed. Your Lordships may or may not remember that I was keen at Second Reading to stress the need for agreement, because it is the only answer. Intense negotiations have gone on at official level over the last while. It now appears sadly possible—I do not make it any stronger than that—that the Governments may not be able to reach agreement. Therefore, it is important before anything further happens that your Lordships get a chance to apply your great experience to the problems separating the two parties. I greatly regret that there is no proper representation for Northern Ireland. I had the responsibility of being a Minister in Northern Ireland for 10 years; I feel very sad that the present situation has been reached and only wish that it could be resolved. From what I hear, I fear that it may not be very easy until after Brexit. In any case, agreement is essential if it is possible. I do not want to say or do anything that would impede the reaching of such agreement.

As for Clause 7, to retain a power to amend the Scotland Act seems unimportant in this situation, although I think the number of amendments generated by a proposal of this kind would be very small and the Government may feel it worth while to forgo such a power in the interest of making peace and progress.

The Clause 11 procedure is much more difficult. It is important to bear in mind that the Scotland Act—this goes for the Wales Act as well—was set up and legislated within the European Union. Therefore, the only powers that were dealt with were the powers that existed in the Parliament of the United Kingdom when these Bills became law. That did not involve the powers that the EU had and therefore I think it is not determinative of how these powers should be distributed on return to look at what was decided in the original Acts setting up the devolved Administrations, because the powers are now wider. It is therefore very much a matter of trying to resolve the issues between the parties by agreement. If we can help in that respect, so be it: I very much hope that we can. Certainly, I hope we do not do anything to hinder it. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to trust all the parties to do their best to reach an amicable solution.

Lord Elystan-Morgan Portrait Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB)
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The contributions already made make it perfectly clear how fragile and in many respects how insubstantial is the basis of devolution as we know it. The sovereign Parliament of Westminster has created a sub-Parliament in respect of Scotland and Wales. The sovereign authority that created that Parliament can undo that Parliament any day that it wishes to do so. If it did so I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, would agree with me that it would be the best recruiting sergeant that Plaid Cymru ever had. Be that as it may, the power is there to do exactly that. It is, of course, utterly understandable that nobody expects that power to be used. In fact, in Clause 1 of both the Scotland Act and the Wales Act of last year there is written in what is intended to guarantee the permanence of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. In terms of law, it has no restriction whatever; it is purely cosmetic but well intentioned. I do not think that, in so far as any legal interpretation is concerned, there is a different view held, but I will be corrected on that point.

Nevertheless, those two Parliaments exist at the mercy, as it were, of this sovereign Parliament. I do not know whether one can change the situation, because the concept of sovereignty means that it can be withdrawn at any time. Unless, of course, one has some self-abnegative discipline—for example, to say that there is a convention. In the Miller case that came before the Supreme Court some time ago, the argument was raised that there was a basic authority that related to each of the Parliaments. No, said the Supreme Court, it is a convention. However, nobody had defined a convention. If Parliament went out of its way to define a convention and said, “In this context a convention means a, b, c and d”, that might get us somewhere. It is a suggestion.

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Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 103 and 125, which are tabled in my name. I shall be extremely brief, because many of the arguments have already been rehearsed in the previous group of amendments. Again, these amendments raise issues of fundamental importance. Their aim is to amend the amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, to include Northern Ireland.

The initial devolution settlement in Northern Ireland was carefully constructed and delicately balanced. The settlement gave the Assembly real power to make decisions in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland. Since 1998, the powers have been enhanced, most notably with the transfer of policing and justice powers in 2010 to the Assembly, and with an Act going through this Parliament in 2015 to allow for the devolution of corporation tax to the Assembly at a future date.

Given the delicate and careful negotiations that took place over many years to reach the settlement, and the particular nature of identity politics in Northern Ireland, I hope the Minister agrees that it is only right that Northern Ireland Ministers—once there is, as we all hope, an Executive back in place—should have to give their consent to any move to make regulations under Clauses 7 and 8 which would encroach on the devolved competences of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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Does the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, think that it would be possible to deal with his point by amending the memorandum of understanding so that it meets a new situation?

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead
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My Lords, I can see the force of that, but I do not know whether that option is available in the present climate. As regards reassuring the parties in Cardiff and Edinburgh, something in the Bill is looked for. Again, it is a matter of trying to find a way to soften the atmosphere, which is highly unfortunate at the moment. I deliberately have not discussed Clause 11, because that is quite a different debate. However, the more we can do to clear the air by getting these points out of the way before we get into Clause 11, the better, and that is the basis on which I have moved this amendment.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
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My Lords, Amendment 138 is in my name. I will concentrate simply on the international treaties and agreements that relate to transport as an illustration of the complexity of the situation that we face. We are party to many hundreds of agreements as members of the EU that we will have to renegotiate as part of leaving the EU. There are other agreements that we will have to join because we cannot rely on EU arrangements.

To illustrate the complexity of the situation, in the field of transport it is estimated that the UK will have to renegotiate and replace 65 international transport agreements following Brexit. The Government’s preparedness for this is perhaps rather doubtful—the signs are not good so far. I give as an illustration the last-minute appearance of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill, which was not in the Queen’s Speech as an EU Bill, which was sprung on us at very short notice and which is being rushed through with great speed because the Government have discovered that, in future, we will have to rely on the 1968 Vienna convention to transport goods abroad and to take trailers abroad. We will have to rely also on the 1949 Geneva convention to get international driving permits.

We are going back a very long time in history, so it is not surprising that it took the Government a while to wake up to this situation. As a result of the rush in which we are having to deal with this issue—we signed the Vienna convention but never ratified it; we have to give a year’s notice of ratification and are running out of time to do that—we are faced with a Bill which is not so much skeletal as almost a ghost. It is so insubstantial that it fades in front of our eyes. There is perhaps a slight chill surrounding it as well, because the Government give no indication of what they want to do with powers which they admit they would rather not have to seek—and all of this is in preparation for the possibility of a no deal Brexit.

This is no way to make legislation. However well prepared the Government are, there will be dozens of agreements to reconsider. I have raised in this House many times the issue of the single European sky, which was mentioned earlier this evening. It is not just an EU issue; it is crucial to our arrangements with the US as well. Transport-related agreements are only one corner of the problem and are simply an illustration of the complexity that the Government face.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, it is quite important that the number of occasions on which this power will be used will be considerably lower than the number of adjustments for EU law. Therefore, it would probably be easier to make adjustments to what is required in the way of precautions when these powers are exercised than is the case with the huge number required in the other field. One thing I feel strongly about is that we want to find a way of doing it that is practical in the time and with the number of these other regulations that require to be put in place. This one is easier from that point of view, which perhaps makes it more suitable for the Government to consider further precautions.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their amendments, which are effectively seeking transparency. The Department for Exiting the European Union is leading cross-government work, including with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office treaty section, to assess and act on the international agreements for which, as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, there will need to be arrangements to ensure continuity for business and individuals. Alongside this, we are also working with our international partners—the EU 27, the Commission and third countries—to identify the full range of agreements which may be impacted by our exit from the EU, and we will be taking their views into account.

I might observe to your Lordships that it is not common practice to publish assessments on treaties that have expired, ended or been superseded. However, I assure noble Lords that any treaties which require new or amended implementing legislation and/or parliamentary scrutiny before ratification will go through the appropriate well-established procedures. Where the powers in subsection (1) are used, these will be subject to the scrutiny procedures set out in this Bill. To set all this in context, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern rightly identified that the instances where these provisions may be used are not likely to be plentiful. As I have explained, given that the Government’s approach to international agreements is to achieve continuity, I believe this renders unnecessary the impact assessment that the amendment would require.

I can confirm that we will, of course, continue publishing impact assessments to accompany legislation, in line with existing practice. I take this opportunity to remind the Committee of the Government’s overarching policy approach to international agreements after we leave the EU. As set out in the technical note recently published on this issue, we are seeking to ensure that our existing international agreements continue to apply to the UK during the proposed time-limited implementation period. Our officials are working with the Commission on the precise mechanics of this. The focus, both during the implementation period and beyond, is on seeking, wherever possible, to continue our current arrangements with third countries and international organisations. We recognise the need to promote stability for businesses and individuals and we will aim to transition agreements as seamlessly as possible to ensure an orderly withdrawal.

I hope that that background and this explanation provide the necessary clarity and with this insight, I respectfully ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 7th March 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Ministry of Justice
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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It is highly relevant to whether people are being guaranteed their existing rights to legally reside in this country. I am quite surprised that the noble Lord thinks it is not relevant to an amendment that is about maintaining and guaranteeing the existing rights of EU citizens. The confusion is caused by the Home Office’s lack of clarity, not by me.

I end on that note. I would like some answers from the Minister to these detailed questions and many others.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I want to make two short points. The first is that the precedent of giving rights in other countries when there is a separation is set up very well by the arrangements between ourselves and the Republic of Ireland in relation to Irish citizens and their rights in our country, which are guaranteed by statute in a number of cases.

Secondly, on the idea that we have to refer all these matters to the European court, anyone who reads the judgments of our courts from day to day will realise that the fairness they exhibit towards foreign citizens is of the highest possible standard. I know of no country in the world and no court in the world that succeeds in getting a higher standard; there are others that have an equally high standard, but I know of none that has a higher one. It would be a most retrograde step for this House to do anything that suggested to people in Europe that they could not get justice from the courts of this country.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
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Just to clarify, my amendment does not suggest that—quite the reverse. It would be the British court or the British tribunal that took the decision whether or not to refer such matters to the CJEU. It would still be the decision of a UK court.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I think that is meant to be an intervention, because I have not quite finished. The situation is that the British courts, the Supreme Court in particular, have discretion to look at any judgment that they wish, and to raise any question they wish in these judgments. There is nothing in the present Bill that impedes that, except in respect of questions of European law, because the courts themselves, and the members of the Supreme Court, have been anxious that if they paid too much attention to the European court after Brexit, they might be accused of being involved in politics. They have sought a direction from Parliament on this matter, and that has been attempted, and I hope it is successful.

I personally do not share the animosity that exists in some quarters towards the European Court of Justice. It is over 30 years now since I often appeared before them, and I have nothing but praise for the way in which they do things. They do things very differently to us. There are far fewer oral hearings—at least, there were when I did it, which was a long time ago. There is much less oral pleading than there is in our courts. Actually, our courts have moved slightly in that direction in recent years, since I was last involved with them—and in some cases quite far in that direction.

The respect I have for the European Court is of the highest order, but I do think there is a difficulty because, after Brexit, no judges or advocates-general of the British Bar will be members of the court or advocates-general in the court. That is an important factor to be taken into account in the arrangements. I am not part of the negotiations—I have nothing to do with them—but I do believe that that point has to be taken into account. There is a usual rule that the people administering justice are the people who are in accordance with the arrangements between states. International courts, for example, may not have representatives from all the states that appear before them, but there is a question to be considered in that connection, because the Court of Justice referred to in the amendment will not be the Court of Justice as it is now.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, I would like to intervene, following what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, has said, and referring to the amendment that was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock. One of the problems I have faced since looking at this Bill, is trying to find hard examples of situations in which the Supreme Court would wish to refer a matter to the European Court of Justice.

There is a very good example reported in Monday’s Times of a case called SM (Algeria) (Appellant) v Entry Clearance Officer. I will take a moment to explain what the case is about, because it is a good example of citizens’ rights. SM was a little girl, who was placed into the legal guardianship of EU citizens, who happened to be in Algeria. The question concerned her position in coming to the United Kingdom as a member of that family under the Immigration (European Economic Area Regulations) 2006. Merely referring to those regulations reminds us that they would become, as I understand the position, retained EU law under Clause 2 of the Bill.

The problem arose because the court saw that the regulation had been transposing wording from a directive, which is the normal way in which these things work, but the transposition was inaccurate. This is a situation I have encountered before—it happens from time to time. The question is how to deal with the inaccuracy. The inaccuracy was that while our regulation talked about “family member”—somebody who was put into the legal guardianship of a couple, would normally be regarded as a member of the family—the directive was talking about “direct descendants”, and she was not a direct descendant, because she was not actually related, in that sense, to the people who had become her guardians. In order to resolve that problem, the court found it necessary to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice—which it did on Monday. That was under the existing position.

In resolving the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, it may help to ask how that matter would be handled after exit day. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that it would be for the Supreme Court to resolve the issue itself. The directive would come into EU retained law under Clause 3, so we would have both pieces of legislation to look at. I think that the court, having regard particularly to the way in which we had translated the directive, would give great weight to our own language and regard this little girl as part of the family and therefore entitled to take the benefit of the regulation.

In explaining the situation, I hope I have not made it too complicated, but it is a good example of citizens’ rights, accorded by our own regulations, giving effect to EU law. There must be very many in the corpus of regulations which forms part of EU law. It comes back to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. The Supreme Court looks very carefully at the interests of children and would accord every weight to the normal rules about the priority given to the interests of the child in construing the regulation in a sense that fits with our own language. I should have thought that, after exit day, the question of referring the matter to the European Court of Justice simply would not arise because the court would be capable of resolving the issue itself without being bound by the problem of having to refer something which was not that clear. If I may use the English expression, it was not crystal clear; therefore they were bound to refer. Under the situation after exit day, any superior court will be fully able to resolve the problems of interpretation that arise. Will the Minister confirm that, in this situation, there would be no need for a reference because our courts would be able to deal with it perfectly properly, looking at the language of our own regulations, despite the problem that might have arisen in translating them from the directive into English?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
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I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, for pointing out that although the Minister has all the legality behind him, perhaps his argument is lacking in humanity. It is humanity that the European Union citizens deserve, not the legality that we have heard.

I was about to conclude by saying that this may not be the right time but it is certainly the right place. I look forward to returning to this, and I know that many noble Lords who have spoken do also, to argue and to fight for the rights of not just UK citizens on the continent, who matter as well, but the European Union citizens who have given so much to this country over the years and continue to do so.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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It is worth pointing out that these citizens have existing rights by law in this country, and that will remain the case until these provisions are repealed, if and when they are.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
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The noble and learned Lord is a distinguished lawyer and had great distinction as the Lord Chancellor. Perhaps he can explain to the European Union citizens in Scotland, where he and I both live, why they were allowed to vote in the Scottish referendum but not in the European Union referendum. Many of them have asked me but I do not have the intellect or ability to answer them; perhaps the noble and learned Lord can.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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That does not appear to be entirely relevant to the present debate and it is a bit late anyway. I had very little to do with the formulation of the franchise.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
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I think now it would be appropriate for me to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 7th March 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lang, pointed out that we are a bit thin on the ground for such an important set of amendments, but the Minister should know that there is behind us an army. I have had more representations on Clause 7 than on any other part of the Bill—representations from national organisations, human rights organisations, advocacy organisations, legal organisations, professional organisations, and from individuals. There is very widespread civic concern over these clauses, and the Government should heed it and accept these amendments, which have such widespread support also in your Lordships’ House.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, the existence of these powers in the Bill has created an apprehension in a lot of people that the Government are proposing to use the powers in some way to undermine something that is valuable to them. It is therefore important—apart altogether from the argument that examines the detail—that we examine this carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Dinton—with his background of great success as a civil servant, no doubt contributed to by his early experience as a lawyer—has moved the amendment in a way that has made it extremely clear. It is quite clear to me that necessity is a better test on which to leave these powers than the discretionary test of “appropriate”. It is not absolutely right that discretion is not subject to judicial review, but at least an objective test is certainly more likely to lead to successful judicial review if it is transgressed.

We have to remember the huge task involved in trying to put these two systems together; the European system, which has been here for 45 years, has been working alongside our system and kept separate from it over all that time. That is by no means an easy task. Indeed, what we already discussed with regard to Clauses 2 and 3 illustrate that. It is difficult and time consuming, and we must ensure that the solutions we suggest to the Government are practical and will enable this to be done in a reasonable time so that the statute book can be right on Brexit day.

I anticipate that the test of necessity will be an easier one to apply for those entrusted with the power than the test of what is appropriate. The latter involves an element of judgment, which is not always easy to exercise; whereas if it is obvious that these two bits do not fit together, it is necessary to do something about it. As the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, said, it is not necessary to circumscribe the solution. The argument that necessity suggests not only that the amendment is required but also what particular amendment is required stretches the matter a little far. So long as it is necessary to do it, that is a sufficient test for our purpose, and then it is for the Minister to do his best to sew these two pieces together.

I am somewhat alarmed at the survey by the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, of the people entitled to use this power, and the Minister may well have something to say about that. However, there is a lot of work to do, and we do not want to overwork the Ministers with necessary adjustments when they ought to be doing something else. There is certainly plenty to do between now and Brexit.

In addition, it has been said that this is surrendering the power of Parliament to the Executive. To an extent that is true, but Parliament retains a veto in respect of every single regulation, either by a negative or an affirmative resolution. It is true that we do not want to have thousands of these if we can possibly avoid it, apart from anything else. But there is an element of control there. How practical that would be is, I think, doubtful. There is an urgent need now to circumscribe these powers so that they work properly and effectively but not excessively. As I said, a lot of people have worries about human rights, equality rights and a whole lot of other rights. Sometimes people have spoken in conversation or in observations to the press or whatever, which does not represent the Government’s policy. This helps to inflame the idea that the Government are using these powers to take away all that has been so dearly won. I do not think that is true, but we should try to remove the possibility that this idea can be represented.

Lord Goldsmith Portrait Lord Goldsmith (Lab)
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My Lords, these are hugely important amendments. The Minister will have noted that not a single Member of the Committee has spoken in favour of the present position in the Bill. From all sides of the Committee, it has been stated that the Bill, as it stands, is not acceptable. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, is not present today, for reasons that we all entirely understand. Noble Lords will recall what he said at Second Reading, when he talked about this as the biggest transfer of power from Parliament to the Executive in peacetime. I entirely agree. I agree with what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Wilson of Dinton, Lord Cormack and Lord Lang of Monkton—with whom, or rather under whom, I was privileged to serve on the Constitution Committee, when he chaired it. I agree also with the noble Lords, Lord Beith, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Campbell of Pittenweem. Everybody has taken the same position in relation to that.

Let us look at the key amendment, Amendment 71, to which I am privileged to have added my name, just to note the importance of what it does. It would replace the statement that “the Minister considers it appropriate” with “it is necessary”. As a former Minister, as a former adviser to Ministers and as a practising lawyer, I fully see the significance of that change. I know as a lawyer that if I am able to say to the judge, “All that is required is that the Minister considers it appropriate—how can you say that he did not? How can you second guess that?”, I am home and dry. If, on the other hand, I have to show that it is necessary—not just in the Minister’s decision, not just on reasonable grounds, but that it is in fact necessary—then that is the test that the court has to undertake in order to satisfy itself. The point behind these amendments is that nothing less than that will do to enable this huge transfer of power to the Executive from this House.

I do not need to repeat the remarks made by other noble Lords about how taking back control should not mean taking back control by the Executive—that is not what anybody had in mind. I do not need to repeat the remarks about the number of Ministers that this gives power to. I am not even sure that the figure of 109 is right. I recall, in government—no doubt the Minister will tell me that it does not apply here—that all Ministers can act, and often do act, by their officials. The Carltona principle means they can sign the instruments, so it may mean that the 109 is multiplied manifold. I have no doubts about their good intentions, but this is not what our system requires, and we should not be giving it up in these circumstances.

Other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Dykes, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, have also spoken powerfully in favour of these amendments.

I have a couple of other points to make, as most of what I wanted to say has already been powerfully and clearly expressed by noble Lords. The most important point is the one I started with, which is that the Minister must see the unanimity of view, as it appears at the moment, around the Committee about the change that needs to be made. We can debate whether it is essential or necessary. I rather agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that “necessary” has become a term well understood by the courts and so it is probably the better one to have, but the end aim is the same. That it is not a decision for the subjective view of the Ministers is the other key point on which we agree.

One point that I want to deal with, which has not had much discussion so far—although the noble Lord, Lord Beith, raised it—is Amendment 244A. It proposes that there should be a statement by a Minister as to the need for the change, and it is not simply a policy change. There is merit in that proposal, I would suggest, though not as a substitute for the amendments we are proposing. I draw attention to the similarity with Section 19 of the Human Rights Act, an excellent provision which requires that a Minister has to certify that a piece of legislation is compatible with the convention rights. We see it on the very front of this Bill itself. I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, is not in his place. He had a lot of involvement in making sure that that worked, by insisting that when it came to certifying that legislation was compatible, it was not just on a wing and a prayer.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 5th March 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Ministry of Justice
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I very much welcome the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Sherlock, and the important questions that she posed to the Minister at the start of the debate. The debate has shown how critically important it will be to get the answers to these questions right, not just in the coming months but in the coming years and perhaps decades. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, was forensic in her description, which came from very real experience, of the benefits of the current system and of what might be lost if we make the wrong decisions in passing the Bill.

I will not go back over all the points that have already been made; in the current circumstances I will be deliberately brief. I will raise two points in particular. First, within the United Kingdom we have different jurisdictions concerning family law and some of the other legal rights that have been mentioned in the debate so far. I would welcome some reassurance from the Minister in his response that appropriate discussions are taking place with the Scottish Government and others to ensure that whatever we enact here in the UK Parliament is appropriate for the whole of the United Kingdom, and not just for the legal system in England or England and Wales.

Secondly, on a point of principle, there is a reason why this subject matters so much. We can have ideological debates about our future economic partnership with the European Union, and we can have ideological or political debates about the financial position before and after exiting the European Union—but children and family law are at the very core of the things that matter to us most: the relationships between parents and children; the relationships between children and other children who might be estranged from their brothers and sisters; the relationships between adopted children and their natural parents, whom they may wish to contract later in life; and the relationship between estranged couples.

That is why this debate is different from others, and why in this instance I urge the Government and everybody on all sides who supports or sympathises with Brexit to look for solutions to these issues that deal with the personal, not the political. I urge them to ensure that, whatever arrangements are finally agreed, those personal rights will give families an opportunity to continue contact and to seek appropriate rights and redress, and to be able to do so in the easiest and least expensive way possible.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, I hoped that I would get an opportunity to intervene, as the person who first presented to Parliament the text that has just been referred to in Section 1 of the Children Act. I strongly support the view that the interests of the children in question should be the primary consideration in everything that applies in family law. I am interested to see that the definition of family law chosen in Amendment 336 is not one of ours but is imported from the European Union. However, that is a rather unimportant point.

If this Bill is ever to finish its Committee stage, it is important that we realise that it is concerned primarily with putting existing European law which is effective in our country on to the statute book in a way that will work on Brexit day. It is not concerned with the negotiations—although your Lordships are interested in how they progress, and nobody is more interested than I am in how children’s affairs will progress. I agree with what has just been said: it is a question not of politics or ideology but of making sure that we have the best thing we can for our children. Incidentally, I do not agree that we did not enjoy the speech of my noble friend Lord Farmer. He can speak for himself, but it is not for us to make judgments of that kind about our fellow Members of this House—and I hope that nobody is judging me too hard, either.

My point is that the Bill cannot provide for reciprocity. We cannot legislate for the laws of France, Germany or anywhere else in the European Union—but we can do our best to ensure that our law conforms as far as possible with existing European law when Brexit day comes, because that is an invitation to the others to reciprocate. If we have a system that does not in any way mirror the existing European system when Brexit day comes, how can we ask others to do the same? We cannot. Therefore, it is a question not of reciprocity but of ensuring that this Bill does things properly from our point of view and that the ground that we have to plough for reciprocity is properly ploughed and ready. That is why the Bill is so important.

It is also fairly important that we make some progress with the Bill. Therefore, I will say simply that I entirely endorse the importance of family law and the reciprocal arrangements with the EU, and I would like to see more effective reciprocal arrangements with many other countries. From my time as Lord Chancellor for 10 years I have strong and sad memories of receiving many people who complained that their children had been abducted and taken to a country from which they could not be brought back. That is not the way in the European Union and, fortunately, it is not the way in quite a number of other countries.

It is true, however, as the noble Baroness said, that you may be required to employ a lawyer. In fact, it is rather difficult to get your maintenance payments in this country, never mind the United States. I did my best to try to improve that situation with the CSA—but it has not proved very satisfactory, as the noble Baroness knows very well. It was a difficulty: many times people came to me and said that although they had an order from the court for money, they could not get a penny.

This is an important series of amendments and it is right that we should look at them. However, we must restrain ourselves from considering the negotiations if we are going to finish this Bill at all.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I ask the Minister a few questions, because I suspect that his response is going to proceed on the basis that the Hague conventions are sufficient? It is true that the biggest number of abductions that come to our courts relate to Pakistan, the USA, Australia and then Poland. It would also be very sad if either we or the rest of the EU put ideology ahead of the welfare of children. Therefore, I want to know what the Minister’s prediction is as to the arrangements that might be made.

Overall, I feel that the amendment is perhaps too narrow. We have units in this country that study the effect of abduction: we have a permanent bureau, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit, which can look not just at the European Community countries but at the others. We need a global view of the welfare of children and cross-border abduction, not just an EU view. How does the Minister think we can cope, given that the EU takes apparently 164 days to deal with returned children, whereas we manage to do it in 90 days? For a small child, a matter of a few months is extremely important.

Is the Minister satisfied that we can swiftly and properly sign up to the 2007 Hague convention, which at the moment we are a party to only through the EU? We need to, and we should be able to, join it in our own right. Those are the questions that I put to the Minister.

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Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Portrait Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD)
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My Lords, I can be brief. I wish to support the various submissions made by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, but also to draw your Lordships’ attention to some revealing contents of the Constitution Committee’s report, in particular the words of the Solicitor-General, which seem to indicate very clearly the weakness of the Government’s position.

As I recall, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, confined himself to the first sentence of paragraph 69 of the report:

“It is constitutionally unacceptable for ministers to have the power to determine something as fundamental as whether a part of our law should be treated as primary or secondary legislation”.

He went on to say that this is a recipe for confusion and legal uncertainty. I invite your Lordships to look to paragraph 67 on page 23 of the report, particularly the direct quote from the evidence given by the Solicitor-General. He says of the powers under discussion that,

“there is nothing unusual about these powers. However, I accept that the way and the context in which they are used is somewhat unusual … I accept that we are in new territory here. Having said that … when embarking on new territory, all Ministers tread extremely carefully”.

If this is genuinely new territory, it is inevitable from the Solicitor-General’s expression that there is no precedent. If there is no precedent for exercise of powers in the way the Government seek, that is not just something where we should tread extremely carefully; it is something which should be rejected outright.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
- Hansard - -

I indicated at Second Reading that I would support the propositions that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has enunciated on behalf of the Constitution Committee. Bringing into our system legislation from an alien system and doing so reasonably consistently require it to have an allocated status of some kind. Making it primary legislation is probably the best. Otherwise, there will be doubt about precisely which item of legislation goes to a particular area. The result will be to make it possible to dispense with the rather outmoded idea of the supremacy of EU law once Brexit comes along by the date which allows our ordinary system to operate.

I have tremendous respect for the Bingham system and, as your Lordships know, for the noble and learned Lord whose name it carried. It has kept up the traditions and quality of his work wonderfully—I should perhaps in passing declare an interest: I find it very useful to support the Bingham institute in connection with its funding. However, it makes quite a lot of the difficulty of using Henry VIII clauses. This is a very special situation, as the Constitution Committee recognised some time ago, because trying to fit together two systems of legislation is certainly difficult. We must remember the timescale involved in trying to do it any other way. I shall not comment on the detail of the powers to amend proposed in the Bill—that is for a later stage—but it is reasonable at the moment to accept that this is a very special situation with a necessary operation which requires to be performed in reasonably short time to make the whole thing work. Therefore, the idea that we are dividing primary legislation by this method is open to doubt.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab)
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My Lords, when we last debated this issue, the Advocate-General for Scotland said that he was very attracted to the proposals published by Professor Paul Craig in his blog—the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, referred to that. I notice that Professor Craig published a subsequent blog on 26 February, also referred to by the noble Lord, in which he suggests that, once the process of transposing law has taken effect, we should assign,

“legal status to EU retained law in the UK based on the status it had in EU law”

Having read his blog as a non-lawyer, I felt that, if the intention is to give certainty, the proposals of Professor Craig would do that—except in one key respect which I hope the Minister might comment on: what process would be undergone between now and next February to allocate the huge body of retained law to one or other category if we were to adopt Professor Craig’s mode of proceeding? Since the Solicitor-General said in the House of Commons that about 20,000 pieces of EU law will be transferred, and if it were possible to establish, as Professor Craig sets out, a criterion based on the intention of existing EU law which would divide between primary and secondary legislation, can the Minister indicate, if he is minded to go down that route, what process would take place, so that, on 29 March next year, we know the status of law being transposed?

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 5th March 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Scotland Office
Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick
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I do not think that the courts have accepted that proportionality can be a challenge by way of judicial review where you are not raising an issue of EU law or convention law—but we have come a very long way towards recognising proportionality as a principle of the common law. That is one reason why I am asking this very important question. I simply do not know whether you can challenge retained EU law after exit day by reference to traditional common law principles.

One reason why this matters is that the Supreme Court, in the HS2 case, suggested that this might be possible under existing law. As was raised in the debate last Monday, we should also bear in mind that, under Clause 2, retained EU law includes statutory instruments that do not owe their legal basis to the European Communities Act. They include statutory instruments enacted through other mechanisms, albeit that they are linked to EU law. At present, one can challenge those instruments by reference to traditional common law principles. Therefore, if Clause 1(1) were intended to prevent such a challenge after exit day, it would be a significant change in the law.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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Are these questions affected by the proposal to make this particular branch of law statutory? In that case, certain principles of our constitution might cause some difficulty.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble and learned Lord is absolutely right. If retained EU law were to be categorised as primary legislation, such challenges could not be brought. But the Minister resisted that suggestion in our earlier debate. I am concerned with the Bill as it is at the moment. What is the Government’s intention in this respect?

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
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Wednesday 28th February 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Ministry of Justice
Baroness Taylor of Bolton Portrait Baroness Taylor of Bolton (Lab)
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My Lords, while I do not want this section of the debate to be dominated by members of the Constitution Committee, I should congratulate my noble friend Lord Pannick on the way he presented the amendment despite it certainly not being in the interest of the legal profession—if we manage to get legal certainty in the Bill, the lawyers will not have their field day. However, I fear that, unless we achieve legal certainty and the clarity that my noble friend mentioned, we will be in real difficulty. Our committee has put forward suggestions, but we do not think that they are the only ways forward. It is important at this stage that the Government recognise the extent of the problem and the damage that will be done if we do not have some amendment and some concessions from them in this area. It is of course an area linked to the other parts of the Bill, because, unless we make changes here, the powers that the Government will have under Clause 7 will be completely unacceptable because of the breadth of legislation there captured.

I therefore urge the Minister to reflect carefully not only on the suggestions of the Constitution Committee but on those of others outside, because this problem will dog the Bill for ever if we do not make some changes here.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
- Hansard - -

I support the idea that we should get legal certainty in the Bill, and if that damages the interest of the legal profession, it is damage in the public interest.

However, I venture to suggest that it may be wise to leave this provision pretty much as it is. That is because quite a lot of legislation was passed in the light of obligations imposed by the European Union, but we proposed our own legislation to deal with it. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, excellently illustrated, that legislation is exemplified by the Equality Act. I read this clause as referring only to the part of the enactment,

“so far as … passed or made, or operating, for a purpose mentioned in section 2(2)(a) or (b) of that Act”.

As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, “enactment” sometimes suggests a whole Act, but this provision restricts it to the part of the enactment that deals with this point.

As the noble Lord, Lord Beith, said, it is quite likely that some of these measures are gold-plated—there used to be quite a lot of suggestions from various quarters that we went in for gold-plating. When I was in a sense responsible for some of these matters, I discovered that the gold-plating was more a result of some antagonism to the Bill in question than it was gold-plating in the sense of going beyond what the European Union required. So far as there is gold-plating of that sort—that is, unnecessary as far as the European Union is concerned—I do not think that this clause would strike it, because it is “so far as” the thing is made in view of the provisions “in section 2(2)(a) or (b)” and so on of the Act. Of course, as has been pointed out, it is perfectly likely that in some of these provisions that were introduced in that way adjustment will be required because we are leaving the European Union.

Some provisions—I have not looked too closely at how many but I imagine there might be quite a few—of these ordinary Acts of Parliament will have a connection with the European Union that may be affected by our leaving it. Therefore it is important that in that situation a power to deal with that matter in a reasonable time would be required, and we will be looking at these later. Therefore, I am inclined to think it may be better to leave this provision as it is. I am very interested to hear what my noble and learned friend the Minister has to say about that.

As for the supremacy principle, I will have something to say about that if I happen to be present when it arises. I said at Second Reading and I say again that I think the Constitution Committee has produced a superb solution to that problem, which enables us to forget for ever the supremacy of European law over our law.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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My Lords, there is no more terrifying ordeal in your Lordships’ House than intervening in a debate between lawyers, particularly following the noble and learned Lord. It appears to me, however, as a layman reading the Bill for the first time and reading the reports of our Constitution Committee, that a critical issue relating to all the debates we shall have on Clause 2 and the following clauses is whether converted law is primary or secondary legislation. Will the Advocate-General for Scotland give us his view, so that that can colour our discussion of the later groups?

When I was wrestling with this issue and reading debates in the other place, I noticed that the Solicitor-General said on 15 November last year:

“Converted law … will not automatically have the status of either primary or secondary legislation”.

He did not then go on to say what will determine whether it is primary or secondary legislation. Somewhat confusingly, he then said:

“Indeed … paragraph 19 of schedule 8 sets this out: ‘For the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998, any retained direct EU legislation is to be treated as primary legislation’”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/11/17; col. 416.]

Again, as a layman reading this, I wonder whether that means only in respect of the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 or with general applicability. I know that the Advocate-General for Scotland is good at speaking plain English as well as legalese, so will he set out for us in plain English his view of whether the generality of law converted into UK law under the Bill will be primary or secondary legislation?

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I repeat the worries about coming in on a debate populated primarily by lawyers, but if my noble friend Lord Adonis can do it, I can have a go. I very much welcomed the intent of the Constitution Committee and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, but I subsequently received a briefing that raised a question about it. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for alluding to the issue of the amendment meaning that UK courts could not be required to consider existing European court decisions when interpreting and applying provisions that have been implemented through UK law by Acts of Parliament or regulations introduced under Acts of Parliament other than the ECA 1972. I am grateful that he referred to the Bingham Centre proposal that there needed to be consequent amendments later in the Bill to cover that. I want to highlight the importance of that because the reality is that about 80% of environment law stems from the European Union and much of it would be caught by this provision. We just need to be sure that if this provision were recognised as needing to be addressed by the Government, we will see that subsequent amendment to allow ECJ decisions to be taken into account.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I entirely agree with that proposition but since the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, had mentioned it, I thought for the sake of brevity I would leave it out of my remarks.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted (LD)
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My Lords, I do not entirely agree with the Constitution Committee and so, with suitable temerity, I will suggest modifications to its approach as we go through this and later clauses. Not surprisingly, I look at matters from the perspective of recent familiarity—one could say rather too much familiarity—with the making of EU legislation. So I know rather more about the input end of the pipeline than the output. But it is at the EU end of the pipeline that the genetic markers of EU principles and case law get attached, and since those markers have been reproduced in UK case law and the reasonable expectations of those affected, I have great concerns.

I accept that it is not easy to move legislation made in one constitutional environment to a different one without losing something. The Government have tried and their approach leads to various types of uncertainty, which are then plugged, as far as they can be, through sweeping ministerial power, which brings forward more concerns and uncertainty. So something needs to be done but the Constitution Committee package, while having good ideas to build on, does not quite gel for me. I have made some suggestions to sort out the wrinkles as I see them. They come mainly in amendments to later clauses but they have backwards relevance to Amendment 15. Like others, perhaps, I also discovered on Monday, thanks to my noble friend Lady Hamwee, that the Bingham Centre had done a report, which I think I can claim in part has similar conclusions to mine on Clause 2 and, indeed, elsewhere.

When it comes to Amendment 15, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, I am torn in two directions. Doing what the amendment suggests, as with other suggestions from the Constitution Committee report, is not without constitutional cost, as is mentioned in the report in respect of the Clause 5 proposals. But it happens with Clause 2 as well: some legislation that currently has an EU dimension, and therefore would benefit from judicial interpretation using EU general principles such as proportionality and fundamental rights, will no longer benefit from that. I could add to that environmental issues that are in the EU constitution. Against that, it reduces the extent of legislation that falls to be amended under Article 7 and there is a lot to be said in favour of doing less—there will be less confusion, more time for scrutiny of the remainder, and less chance of this becoming the great gold-plating Bill.

I am not immune to suggestions that if a directive has been transposed via an Act of Parliament and that Act of Parliament has established delegated powers that have been used for other transpositions, then Parliament knew what it was doing. But without examining all the documents and the details, what was the background? Did the Government say that they had to do certain things because of the EU? Did they in fact say that to close down some other amendments? What did Members have in their minds about equality and other EU fundamental rights that were well known? They could not just say that they were not taking those into account.

If you are looking at the hybrids, as has been mentioned, some Acts may be—let us say for simplicity—half EU and half UK. One that I would choose is the Data Protection Bill, where the UK has been prepared to go much further than the EU in what can be retained. You need to know which bit is UK-only and which bit is European-only. I have always assumed that it was to only the EU-derived part that supremacy and all the EU general rights would apply, and you would have to look at how it was couched.

There is also the matter of onward intertwining. The Bingham Centre also uses the example, at the foot of page 21, of the Equality Act 2010. However, it points out that there are decisions of domestic courts interpreting that Act in the light of CJEU case law, so our decisions are going to be consistent going forward. It is considerations such as that that then provoke its first conclusion on this, which is in paragraph 60 on page 22. That suggests, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has acknowledged, that to make things work, you need to do something extra in Clause 6 about how to interpret legislation that has been removed from the scope of Clause 2. There is also a second, alternative conclusion in paragraph 61, which suggests amending other provisions; a future report is then promised.

As I have said, I did not get the report till late, so I had already gone ahead and made my plans. When I thought about it, one of my conclusions was that, perhaps instead of closing down the scope of the application of Clause 2, the thing to do was to close down the scope of Clause 7. My proposal, therefore, is not to exclude subsections 2(b), (c) and (d) from Clause 2 but to exclude them from having effect in Clause 7. That way, they will not be amended and tampered with, possibly apart from when it is necessary to remove some trivial EU reference that might no longer apply. I have already tabled an amendment that does that, which is on the supplementary Marshalled List for today.

I know that leaves the judges still having to look at EU principles over a wider range of law. If I interpreted some of the comments correctly on Monday, they would perhaps prefer to change that constitutional burden so that it fell somewhere else. However, I do not see how one can avoid that having to continue: that is the status quo, and judges have to look at where there is an EU angle—some EU derivation—and apply general principles and other things as appropriate. Without knowing what the subject matter is, it is very difficult—even dangerous—to come up with a blanket change, because you do not know what might be missing. In some cases it probably does not matter, in other cases it might be quite sensitive, and in others you would most certainly be throwing away some of the things about which other noble Lords have already spoken passionately with regard to fundamental rights. You would also be throwing away certain things to do with the environment. I have other suggestions for modification as we go forward, but I will leave those to the relevant clauses.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, I support the amendment and declare my interest as being employed by Cambridge University; essentially my day job is teaching European politics. As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, have pointed out, this amendment fills a gap in the proposed legislation, although I understand that it is probing in nature. At present, Clause 2 talks about saving EU-derived domestic legislation—that part is clear—while Clause 3 looks at incorporating direct EU legislation. However, the gap lies in EU legislation which has been agreed or adopted, and here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.

If the legislation has already been adopted by the European Union it will not then be amended, so the issue is that if the 28, including the United Kingdom, have already agreed legislation but the UK has not yet transposed it, that is legislation which we would have expected to be in place at the snapshot point of 29 March 2019. If the legislation has not been transposed by then, there is a question of where we are on 30 March 2019. If, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said, it is simply a question of adopting things later, that is one thing for a crash-out Brexit, but if there is going to be a transition period and we are supposed to be absolutely at one with the EU 27 on the day we leave, surely that includes legislation that has been adopted but which we have not yet transposed and which we therefore have a duty to transpose.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lords, it is fairly clear that this Bill already has enough to do in trying to deal with the situation of withdrawal, and it cannot be right that it should take account of any transition period or implementation period, whatever you like to call it, until we know a good deal more about it than I do at the moment. That ignorance is possibly shared to some extent by other noble Lords.

On this point, the true position is that once a directive has been adopted by the European Union with a period for implementation by a member state, the obligation on that member state is to bring it into law in its own domestic arrangements within the period stated. The directive therefore does not become part of the domestic law of that member state until its implementation before or by that date. This Bill is intended to deal with the state of the law on the day of our withdrawal and therefore strictly speaking such directives, however desirable they may be, are not really part of our domestic law any more than an Act which has been passed but not commenced is part of our domestic law. I have a fair amount of experience of that happening.

The situation is clear so far as what this Bill should do, but so far as what my noble friend Lord Deben wants, that is another matter. It is perfectly reasonable that the Government should have a policy on that if they want it.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
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Is my noble and learned friend saying that the United Kingdom Government should absent themselves from all legislation and all the directives that are being discussed, whether it is the EU circular waste package or the water framework directive? I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, referred to 23 directives—I am most familiar with the environmental ones—which fall into the very narrow category where there is every expectation that the UK Government are prepared to sign up to the commitments. However, because the Prime Minister has set an arbitrary date for us to leave, we will not be in a position to implement them. Is it the case that even if we agree them in March 2019 and it is the wish of the Government to implement them, because of the arbitrary date, we will not be in a position to transpose them?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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The problem about the arbitrary date is that it is rather an important one because it is when we will cease to be liable to obligations under EU law unless they are made part of our law by this Bill. The problem is that a directive which has been adopted but not yet put into effect, but with the obligation to put it into effect still running, could in some cases last for as long as two years. That would greatly alter the clarity of the Bill in the meantime. If the Government want to implement one of them there is absolutely no reason why they should not. They will have plenty of legislative power and so long as they can get parliamentary time they can do so. That is a matter of policy that my noble friend has referred to. It is a perfectly reasonable way of dealing with this sort of point.

Lord Deben Portrait Lord Deben
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Does my noble and learned friend agree that my noble friend Lady McIntosh has raised an issue that probably should not be answered in this way, but provides a difficulty for the Government that would be overcome if they said, when they had agreed and supported a particular decision, that they would then carry it out in whatever way they thought was the most sensible? That means that we can go on discussing and not be left in some sort of oblivion.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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Before the noble and learned Lord answers that point, I add a further complication. Whether we agree to a directive or not, if it was adopted by qualified majority voting it would still be adopted with an obligation for the UK to implement it. That does not quite solve the issue. What is raised is surely a very valid issue. It may not strictly come within the definitions in the Bill, but there is still a legal obligation if a directive has been adopted at EU level, whether we agree to it or not.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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The legal obligation would cease on Brexit day. That is the situation. Unless something has been implemented by that time it is not strictly part of our law. On deciding what is to happen in the future, as far as I am concerned, there is enough to decide at the moment, but nothing will harm the Government if they give some indication of what they would do with instruments that have been adopted but not yet implemented, although, at the date of Brexit, we were obliged to adopt them on some future date.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the noble and learned Lord think that there is a distinction between those directives that we have agreed to where the implementation date is before or after 29 March 2019?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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If it is implemented before the 29th it is part of our law.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis
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What if the obligation to implement them is before that date, but we have not fulfilled that obligation?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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The question does not arise if they have not been adopted before. The amendment deals only with directives that have been adopted before Brexit day and, even if they are not part of our law, whether they should be admitted, which the Bill could do. The problem is that that might delay the finalisation of this as an Act in force for some considerable time.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would like some technical clarification on this. My understanding of the example I gave is that Europe will change the standards for packaging and packaging waste, the landfill directive, end-of-life vehicles, batteries, and electrical and electronic equipment and the old standards will no longer hold, except in Britain. Quite frankly, I am not sure that that is a viable way forward. We will continue to apply standards that everyone else has abandoned immediately on exit day if we do not take forward the implementation of that directive.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I am beginning to find myself answering questions that I should pass on to my noble and learned friend. So far as I am concerned, it is unlikely that all the member states, if they have plenty of time for implementation, will, except for us, have implemented them on exit day.

Lord Davies of Stamford Portrait Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am still not quite convinced by the explanation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. Clearly, if a directive has not completed its legislative process by 29 March 2019, there is no question about it: whatever happens to it later on is nothing to do with us and it does not in any way enter English law. Equally, if a directive has been assumed into domestic law and been implemented, there is no doubt that it is part of English law. However, where a directive has completed its legislative process, has been implemented into English law in the normal way but has not come into force because it contains a provision under which it comes into force only at a certain date after 30 March, the English law—or, for that matter, the Scottish law—has already been altered and adopted the new provision. Those provisions enter into force at a certain date subsequent to 30 March but without any further change in the corpus of statute because the measure is already provided for. Surely, in those cases, that directive remains in force in English or Scottish law in the normal way. Even though it had not reached the point at which it would come into effect on 29 or 30 March, it would nevertheless be part of the corpus of law in all the union countries.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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If it has become part of our law, even if it is postponed, it is subject to this Bill. If it has not come into our law, it is not part of this Bill. I shall not answer any more questions.

Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted Portrait Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would quite like to complicate matters a little further. It is unfortunate that the word “snapshot” was used, because, if we look at the way in which European legislation comes into force and effect, we see that it is a bit more like a movie in that it keeps on going. Certainly, we may well have implemented some things and they will then come into force, but it would not be on a single date beyond because lots of delegated Acts and implementing regulations would come in progressively over a period of time. I am curious as to what happens when we are straddling that. Will we then take the implementing regulations and delegated Acts on something that we have already adopted into our law, or will we make up those ourselves?

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2018

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Ministry of Justice
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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I should briefly like to thank all speakers in this extremely valuable debate, especially the co-signatories to my amendment, the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lady Smith of Newnham. It was evident that, almost without exception, there was very strong support for staying in these crucial law enforcement measures. I am not so sure we got what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, asked for, which was a reply of real substance. We certainly did not get the clarity that my noble friend Lord Paddick asked for on the ECJ. Quite honestly, that was an extraordinary response to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, there is no safety net in this area. The WTO is not much of one but it exists.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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Is the noble Baroness talking of the European Court of Justice as though there would be no change in its constitution as a result of our leaving the European Union?

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There obviously will be a change, in that there will not be a British judge or British Advocate-General. What we want to know is how we will plug into what the Prime Minister asked for in Munich: to have respect for the sovereignty of the UK’s legal order—the Minister really emphasised only that—but also respect for the remit of the ECJ, at least when participating in agencies. That raises the question: will we also respect the remit of the ECJ when it rules on the individual rights of people who challenge, for instance, a European arrest warrant? We have no answer to that question but the people who are nationals of those countries will want to know exactly what the jurisdictional regime is. I am afraid we are no closer to knowing that. As my noble friend Lord Paddick said, however, we do have clear negotiating objectives in this area—this is perhaps unique in Brexit—as the Prime Minister has set them out and the Minister has just confirmed them. What we are utterly in the dark about is how the Government propose to secure the arrangements, structures and mechanisms for continuing effective and efficient cross-border law enforcement co-operation.

The Minister said that we will have a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement, which is supposed to give us an opportunity to scrutinise at the end of the process, and hence that this amendment is not needed. But that is not enough; we want a purchase and input into those negotiating objectives. The Prime Minister makes a speech in Munich and tells us, “These are the objectives”, but the Government do not deign to tell us how on earth those objectives are to be secured. Like me, the Minister is a veteran of the European Parliament. We found there that the European Commission, the member states and the Council learned the hard way that unless you bring the European Parliament, in that case, into your confidence about your negotiating objectives and how you are going to secure them, the danger is that at the end of the process the deal will be rejected because it has not been kept informed along the way. The lesson in Brussels was to front-load the process by keeping the people who might be in a position to block the deal informed of how it was to be secured.

I am afraid the Minister did not convince me, at least, that we are any further forward than we were with the future partnership paper, because that paper did not set out how we are to achieve these objectives. It said what the Government wanted to achieve. That has been repeated by the Prime Minister and the Minister, but we are none the wiser about how these measures will be replicated when we no longer have the structures and mechanisms of the EU. I fear that we will have to come back to this in all seriousness at future stages but, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(2nd reading (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Mackay of Clashfern Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2018

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, to which I hope we are going to give an unopposed Second Reading tonight, is a pretty different animal to the one tabled some six or more months ago. It has been amended, against the will of the Government, to provide for a meaningful statutory process before any deal is approved by Parliament—a provision originally put forward by your Lordships’ House last March in the context of the Article 50 Bill. That is very welcome. The Government have also brought forward amendments on the handling of Henry VIII powers, which, while they certainly need further improvement and strengthening, at least show that the Government are aware that the original approach was excessively tilted towards the Executive. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House made a good move when she said that she was listening and would probably bring forward further amendments soon.

But this Bill remains, I fear, a serious case of putting the cart before the horse. We are, in fact, being asked to legislate before we know the outcome of the negotiations in Brussels with respect to the divorce settlement, the transition or standstill phase and the framework for a new partnership, all of which will alter—and probably in many cases override—much of what is in this Bill. Moreover, the Bill stands in the heavy shadow of a further piece of primary legislation, the implementation Bill, which will need to complete its course through Parliament before we leave, because it will need to give effect in our domestic law to any provisions to which we have agreed in the negotiations in Brussels. That implementation Bill had not even been thought of at the time when this withdrawal Bill was originally tabled, when it was then called the great repeal Bill. That is a bit of a sign of the Government’s remarkably haphazard and rather chaotic approach to Brexit.

Nevertheless, for all its defects, this Bill is clearly a necessity. The gaps in our statute book need to be plugged if, and when, we actually leave. That is why it is right to give the Bill a Second Reading. However deeply those like myself believe that leaving the European Union is a fundamental error of judgment, which will be damaging to our economy and to our influence in the world, we are absolutely required to put this Bill on the statute book without undue delay.

The Minister who will reply to this debate is particularly fond of dwelling on the democratic legitimacy of the June 2016 referendum vote and of the whole Brexit process. I have no intention of beginning a debate here today about the relative merits of plebiscitary and representative parliamentary democracy, but I would just say that people who live in glass houses should be a bit careful about throwing stones. The Minister’s presence at the Dispatch Box is largely due to the support in the other place for the Government’s Brexit policies by the 10 Members of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, but that party has no democratic legitimacy as far as Brexit is concerned at all, because the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain.

I shall mention just one or two of the matters that will certainly need more careful scrutiny. The first of these is the provision that would have the effect of extinguishing the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in this country on the day we leave. Whatever one’s views of the Government’s rather mindless demonisation of the European Court of Justice—and, in my view, it is both mystifying and self-defeating—the Government have already conceded the point in Brussels, since individuals will be able to take their cases on status issues and have them referred to the European Court of Justice for the next eight years after we leave. The standstill, transitional arrangements, which are currently under negotiation, are inevitably going to drive an even larger coach and horses across that red line. So why on earth should we be marched up to the top of the hill to eliminate the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice on the day we leave, only to be marched back down again in the implementation Bill?

Then there is the whole business of the exclusion from the scope of this Bill of just one piece of many thousands of pages of the acquis communautaire, the Charter of Fundamental Rights. How on earth can that be justified? The fundamental rights enshrined in the EU charter and the Council of Europe convention are values that we need to uphold, whether we are inside or outside the European Union. They surely need to be part of the new partnership, for example, which the Prime Minister, rightly in my view, is trying to negotiate as her ultimate objective.

Committee stage debates are all too often in this House treated as Second Reading debates, but I shall try to avoid falling into the opposite trap—so I shall stop talking about specifics. The complexity of the overall package of legislative instruments, not just in this Bill but in the others that will follow it, is pretty daunting. It is a reminder of the extent to which our economy has become integrated with that of our European neighbours over the past 40 years. It is shameful that those who campaigned to take us out of the European Union were so unaware of that or, if they were aware of it, were so unwilling to share that with the voters. I think that the voters are now becoming aware of what is in store for them; the chickens are coming home to roost, and it is going to be a pretty painful experience.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. He and I co-operated as closely as we could on the original attempt to keep us in the European Union. Today, however, we are faced with leaving the European Union and I make no comment on that except to accept it as a fact and to refrain from any prophecy as to what will happen next.

The Constitution Committee of this House has done a very good job, and most of the amendments it proposed would improve the Bill. I just want to mention one or two general points raised by these amendments. The Bill is to bring into the United Kingdom’s statute book legislation passed by Europe but not presently on the statute book. It also provides that this legislation would have priority or supremacy over UK legislation in the same area. This problem is one that the Constitution Committee has solved with great elegance. First, it has said that the direct EU legislation should be treated as primary legislation; that is, as legislation passed by Parliament not under the authority of Parliament. Secondly, it should be deemed to have a date of our leaving date. Because of our system, that will automatically give it priority over any Act with which it conflicts and which preceded it. I regard this as an extremely clever—indeed, wise—suggestion for dealing with this matter. The Government had thought to have a case-by-case decision about this, but I think this is much better and I commend it to the Government strongly.

The second point relates to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and to references by our courts to that court. The idea of the statutory reference is being swept away, but that still leaves the question of whether our courts should have regard to decisions of the European court. My experience, such as it is, of this is that our courts are free to look at any court decision they want—from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, or even Scotland. They are absolutely free to do that. Originally, I was therefore rather minded that this should continue as far as the European Court of Justice is concerned. If something helpful was said in that court, there is no reason why our courts should not take that into account. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, as President of the Supreme Court, pointed out that such was the political heat of that sort of suggestion, it would be very unwise to subject judges to that kind of conflict. Therefore, it would be right for Parliament to take responsibility for saying when they could refer to the European Court of Justice. The Constitution Committee has recommended a very sensible way of dealing with that: where a court here, considering a piece of pre-Brexit legislation from Europe, finds that the European Court of Justice has later made a decision relevant to that sort of case, it is entitled to turn to it.

My final point relates to the devolution settlement. I regard this as absolutely fundamental but also as extremely difficult, because there are various levels of power in Europe that may be in, for example, the area of fisheries. First of all, there are international powers in relation to that. Our current international relationships in relation to fisheries are with the European Union. If that power is returned here, it should belong to the state of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, detailed provisions about what happens to fisheries are made at a more local level, under the present devolution settlement. Therefore, there is a problem with how this should be done, which I regard as very much a matter for negotiation between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Governments—where they exist—of the devolved Administrations. I very strongly support the view that it would be most unfortunate if Northern Ireland continued without an Administration. I hope that will not continue and that the new Secretary of State—I am saddened by the health difficulties of the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—will, perhaps with the Prime Minister’s help, be able to restore the Administration. Anyhow, it is a matter for negotiation between the devolved legislatures—the Ministers of the devolved Governments —and the Government of the United Kingdom. I certainly hope and believe that the best solution to the Clause 11 amendment is for the Government to come forward with an amendment agreed by those parties. I have great confidence that they all seek a solution to what I regard as a very difficult problem. I hope they will succeed. If they do, I am sure it will be with the greatest pleasure that we will give effect to that agreement.

The last point I want to make—just after the last one, as it were—is that the European Charter of Fundamental Rights is a big subject. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, said a good deal about that. I will not take time on it now, since my time is up anyway.

Baroness Andrews Portrait Baroness Andrews (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I could not agree with him more on what he said about the Constitution Committee. It has done a lot of the Government’s thinking for them. I hope that the Minister may be inclined to bring forward his own amendments on that basis.

Like so many noble Lords, I deeply regret the necessity of this Bill, but I feel we have no choice but to do what only we in this House can do. I believe we are engaged in an historic act of self-harm, but by amending the Bill we may be able to mitigate some damage and make the future a little more predictable. We are awash in a sea of legal and political uncertainties, about which many noble Lords have already spoken brilliantly. They make a nonsense of the constant mantra we hear from the Government about the need for certainty and control. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, who is not in his place, made a most powerful speech yesterday when he spoke about the “normalisation of lies”, to which I would add the normalisation of delusion. The greatest delusion of all is that, after a year characterised by denial and bluster, the Government can magically achieve a deal that has never been on offer that will enable us to retain all the benefits of being in the EU with none of the obligations. We need to get rid of the culture of infantilisation—the fear of reality—that has so reduced the debate we should have had on Brexit.

We have an opportunity to reassert the constitutional balances of power that are so dislodged by Clauses 7 to 9 and 17. They give unprecedented delegated powers to Ministers and Whitehall—justified, as they always would have been, by the need for speed and flexibility. The transposition of EU law into UK law presents unique challenges but does not require draconian powers never before seen in peacetime. These clauses are, frankly, opportunistic. The first task is obviously to take control back from Ministers and put it back into the hands of Parliament, where it belongs.

The second task, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and many others in this House have alluded, is to prevent the constitutional car crash that is heading towards the United Kingdom in the potential failure of the devolution settlement and the deferred model. The challenge is technically complicated but politically extremely simple. If Clause 11 is not amended, the constitutional equalities will disappear as the devolved Governments are locked down, subject to a new set of restrictions and required to wait for their partial release while Westminster and Whitehall fix up the post-Brexit world.

After seven months in which little urgency has been shown, little regard for consultation with the devolved Administrations and no sniff of amendments, can the Minister give a guarantee that the amendments to Clause 11, which are badly needed, will be presented before we debate it in Committee and after consultation with the devolved Administrations? That is the least that they could expect.

The third task is, of course, to ensure that Parliament has the decisive vote, not just simply on the terms of exit but including on the real possibility of no deal, on the nature of the transition and on the framework of our future relationships.

The parties in the other place have shown us how to proceed by example. They made common cause to win a number of very welcome concessions around scrutiny and the notion of deficiency in retained law. I know that we can work together across this House to build on that to ensure not least that Ministers do not have the carte blanche to decide on the use of regulations to prevent, remedy or mitigate the failure of, or deficiency in, the retained law as they see appropriate—for which read “desirable”. Those powers are as wide as the definitions are boundless. Rather, as my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith said so powerfully, Ministers should be required to justify this as of necessity to achieve the limited object in question. This is not just a constitutional point; it goes to the heart of what our country will look and feel like after Brexit. The way those powers are used brings the possibility of greater risk, lower standards and the loss of opportunities. Anyone who is concerned about the fate of public and health services, the science base, the safety of the environment, the prospects of our children, and whether our inequalities continue to grow or shrink has a huge amount to lose by the winning or losing of that debate.

The Government constantly ask us to trust them not only to know what they are doing—I will be glad to park that—but to use their powers to change laws that they do not like. No Government could be trusted with these powers; they are irresistible. Time and again this Government have tried to take more power and diminish scrutiny. Remember our battles over the then Public Bodies Bill and the then Deregulation Bill; and the creeping use of secondary legislation to make policy and not merely correct technical errors? We should add that to a whole year spent trying to exclude Parliament, even in the courts, from having a say in the decision to leave, and a toxic obsession with secrecy that has kept under wraps any evidence of impacts which might inform, let alone change, public opinion. We end up with a Government who do not trust the people with evidence, let alone truth, and who have, I believe, forfeited the right to be trusted themselves.

We are already being bullied and we will go on being bullied, but the enemies of the people are those for whom all evidence is rubbish and all argument treason. I am sure that, just as has been done in the other place, we can work together in this House not just to make this Bill constitutionally acceptable but to restore trust in the democratic and parliamentary process itself. I believe that will be possible because, no matter where we stand on Europe, we all stand together in defence of parliamentary sovereignty.