All 8 Baroness Ludford contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020

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Mon 13th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
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2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 14th Jan 2020
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Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 15th Jan 2020
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Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 15th Jan 2020
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Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Mon 20th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
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Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Tue 21st Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
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Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 21st Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
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3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 22nd Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
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Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading
Monday 13th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, said that he was gritting his teeth and holding his nose. I sympathise with his feelings on Brexit, though I shall not be copying his physical reaction.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, not least the 12 from the Liberal Democrat Benches. I congratulate the two maiden speakers, the noble Lords, Lord Barwell and Lord Mann. I also appreciated the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds. I welcome the reports of the EU Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee and look forward to that from the Constitution Committee due out tomorrow, as the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor of Bolton, confirmed.

In the case of this Bill, we have the benefit and insight of seeing the pre-election and post-election versions, with the latter displaying the confidence, or arrogance, of a comfortable Commons majority. It might have been a more statesmanlike move to keep the more conciliatory version, which included matters such as parliamentary scrutiny, child refugees and workers’ rights, all of which have been highlighted today. However, that route was not chosen, and we have heard about the many issues in the Bill that concern Members of this House and will be pursued in amendments in days to come.

I was interested to hear the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Barwell, which were not very complimentary about the new version of the Bill and, I think, encouraged us to try to secure some changes, contrary to the advice of the noble Lords, Lord Cormack, Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Lord Forsyth, but in line with the intentions of my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who said that we should do our job, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who said that we should not be intimidated.

Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, I do not think parliamentary scrutiny is an unnecessary process that drains the energy of Ministers and civil servants; they should be a little more robust than that. The deletion of Clause 31 of the previous Bill, asserting Parliament’s role in continuing scrutiny of the negotiations, alongside the addition of Clause 38, asserting the absolute nature of parliamentary sovereignty—which, as my noble friend Lord Beith said, is of no legal effect anyway—is a somewhat delicious but absurd irony or, one could say, hypocrisy. The Government are advancing a populist thesis, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, said, Ministers have to realise that parliamentary scrutiny is not an optional extra.

The Delegated Powers Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, has produced a most helpful report, warning about “potent” Henry VIII powers or, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, put it, “Henry VIII on steroids”. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, wisely warned against the devolution Acts being changed through delegated powers under this Bill. We will explore all these matters in Committee.

The Government’s plan under Clause 26 to give lower courts the power to overturn CJEU rulings rightly raises great concern. My noble friend Lord Beith doubted the enthusiasm for this in Whitehall. One imagines that HMRC is not thrilled at the thought of lots of taxpayers trying their luck in the tax tribunal at overturning European court rulings on, for example, VAT. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has a powerful article in the Times today warning that

“a flood of litigation would hit companies and individuals”.

Obviously, we hope that this is not some kind of revenge on the Supreme Court for its decisions against the Government in Miller and on Prorogation, otherwise we might have to organise some kind of march with judges from other EU countries similar to that held the other day in Warsaw in the face of the Polish Government’s repressive measures against the judiciary and cited by my noble friend Lord Campbell.

On citizens’ rights, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said that the independent monitoring authority would be “fully independent of government”, but under Schedule 2, the Government could abolish it through regulations, so that will hang over it as a threat. My noble friend Lord Oates made the point that guarantees given at the time of the referendum about automatic recognition and keeping the same rights have not been respected. I look forward to the debate on the amendments which he, my noble friend Lord Greaves, and others are proposing on appeal rights and a physical document.

My noble friends Lady Hamwee, Lord Teverson and Lady Miller raised the problem of US citizens losing onward free movement rights and the ability to work across borders. I have co-signed an amendment on that. I hope that, in the days to come, we will get clarity regarding Northern Irish trade with Great Britain, but I fear that the Government’s attempt to sow misinformation about checks and red tape on that trade will end in tears, or in the courts, possibly with infringement proceedings by the European Commission. Many Peers have rightly spoken up in favour of the Dubs amendment on child refugees. I suspect that that may well be a subject on which this House will decline to follow the advice that we should abstain from seeking changes to the Bill.

Regarding the level playing field, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, advised that there will be “hard choices” to be made on the extent to which the UK aligns with EU standards. One could add that there may well be hard consequences if we do not. My noble friend Lady Bakewell spoke of the key importance of upholding high environmental standards. One might cite air pollution, where the UK has been in breach of EU targets on nitrogen dioxide for a decade. Does anyone honestly think that Brexit will improve this situation? Last night, I heard a new Conservative MP, Alicia Kearns, on the BBC’s “Westminster Hour” saying that the EU is not what keeps us safe. My noble friend Lord Paddick cited the National Crime Agency’s support for EU mechanisms—for example, the European arrest warrant, or the Schengen Information System—and its warning that the UK would be less safe if we left or were less than full members of Europol. This will also be discussed in Committee, as will the crucial issue of a data adequacy decision.

The Government need to come clean on what UK citizens will potentially lose and what can be saved. They are losing the free movement to live, work or retire in another EEA country, which their parents and grandparents had, possibly Erasmus, research grants, data roaming caps, the EHIC and pet passports. They are losing visa-free travel, with the need for a visa-lite or ESTA, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Bowness, mentioned recognition of UK driving licences and blue cards. We would like to hear from the Government exactly which facilities that British citizens have come to take for granted are to be lost. Leavers, as well as remainers, would be shocked to lose some of these.

Finally, instead of unleashing potential, new GDP figures show that the UK has had the lowest 12-month growth for seven years. The Prime Minister’s insistence on a hard Brexit, and his willingness to keep a no-deal Brexit as a threat hanging over negotiations, is a major cause of this shockingly poor economic performance. There will be major hits to our economy from being outside the single market and from the exclusion of services—80% of our economy—from the Government’s intended free trade agreement, as well as the imposition on manufacturing businesses such as car and aerospace of rules of origin through being outside the customs union: an economic hit is sadly unavoidable. Some £130 billion has already been lost to Brexit: £8 billion on no-deal preparations, £100 million on Brexit ads and £11 million on a Brexit 50p piece, which had to be melted down. Now £120 million is to be spent on a festival of Brexit. How unifying is that?

I strongly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, that in 40 years this Parliament failed to properly engage with EU laws, or the European Parliament, and the BBC failed to inform and educate the British public on the EU. I suspect that, during this year, knowledge levels of what we are losing will increase.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill Debate

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Department: Department for International Development

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 14th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I support both these amendments. I will begin with the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, from the end of our very long day yesterday:

“EU citizens in the United Kingdom are our neighbours, colleagues and workplace friends, and of course we value the contribution they make to the United Kingdom and wish them to remain here.”—[Official Report, 13/1/20; col. 552.]


I contrast that with a report from 10 October, when the Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, was quoted as saying that EU citizens who do not apply for settled status face deportation.

I ask your Lordships to put yourselves in the shoes of an affected citizen here in the UK, who may have come here quite recently or have been here for many decades, and think about which set of words you will have heard more clearly, which set of words will be affecting your sentiment and understanding of your place in the United Kingdom. I think everyone knows that what people will be hearing, worrying about and fearing are the words “threatened with deportation”. We are talking about up to 4 million people being affected. The latest figure I have seen is that 2.5 million people have applied for settled status. However, as the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, said, there are also the 1.4 million UK citizens across Europe, for whom reciprocity means that they will be affected by how we treat their fellows here in the UK.

My arguments for these amendments fit into two groups. First, there are the practical arguments. As many noble Lords have said, to have a physical document will be immensely useful in dealing with landlords and immigration—just knowing that it is in your wallet or purse. There is also the fact that to have a declaratory scheme is far easier and far less daunting. That is a practical benefit. Those are the practical advantages. But there is also the question of sentiment—sending a message of welcome to our EU and other friends who are part of our communities. I urge noble Lords to back these two amendments, to back the message which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, delivered last night and which the Government say they want to send to these citizens.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I too support these amendments, which were introduced by my noble friend Lord Oates and which are in his name and those of the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Kerslake.

I too was pleased to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, say last night that those with pre-settled status would

“receive an automatic reminder to apply for settled status before their leave expires.”—[Official Report, 13/1/20; col. 552.]

I may have lost track of this issue, but is that new? I do not remember it. I remember that we on the EU Justice Sub-Committee asked repeatedly for that to happen, as well as for physical proof of status. Perhaps it is not new, but I do not recall when I was on that sub-committee that that system had been set up by the Government, and I am pleased that it now exists. Perhaps the Minister could explain whether it is new.

Some of us worry about 40% of people getting pre-settled status. Have the Government been able to do any surveys or analysis of how many people genuinely do not have the five years’ residence they need for settled status, or of those who give up because they have not managed to provide the evidence that is required for five years, some of which might be a little challenging to provide?

In a different context, I read in the papers about people who have had real problems convincing HMRC—regarding the years they need to clock up for a state pension—that its records are wrong about national insurance contributions. People have talked about how it has taken a year’s effort to persuade HMRC that they did indeed make national insurance contributions in a particular year. So the part of the supplying of evidence that relies on HMRC and DWP records may or may not be accurate. Some people might be struggling.

Can the Minister tell us whether there is any analysis of how many people genuinely do not have five years’ residence, and of those who are having difficulty providing the necessary evidence? A lot of us are very concerned about this. I agree that the Home Office appears to be putting good effort into it—some of my colleagues went to Liverpool; I did not manage to do that. None the less, the consequences come June of next year of people not having settled status are so severe that we cannot afford to overlook any possible problem—of course, I support the proposal that we pursued on the EU Justice Sub-Committee that applicants should get physical proof. We never managed to get, to my satisfaction at least, a good answer from the Home Office on why it refused to countenance that. I am sure the Minister will give us that answer.

That tracks into the fact that, as my noble friend said, there are people with permanent residence who believe, wrongly, that they do not need to apply for settled status. That adds to the concern about people who may find themselves bereft in 18 months’ time.

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Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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The Data Protection Act protects all data whether written or digital. Therefore the argument is nonsensical.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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I think my noble friend is forgetting that immigration data is not protected under the Data Protection Act put through last year or the year before. I think there is litigation going on about that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The point I am making is that if you have a physical document which outlines everything, people have access to everything. When people go into banks, they do not necessarily know which documents to bring. Under the digital status, employers and landlords are entitled to see only the data which they need to see.

Lord Warner Portrait Lord Warner
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Before the Minister moves on, sticking with this issue, I am totally confused—more than usual. The Minister said earlier that, if I have been sent my letter from the Home Office describing my status, I can then apply for another document of some kind that I can produce to other people who want the other document. That seems to be an alternative to the code. Will the Minister explain what is the difference between the letter and the other document that I can apply for, which apparently I can use to satisfy someone that I am entitled to something?

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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Before the Minister gets up, I do not think I heard her answer the question about whether the settled status database is going to be available outside the Home Office, within government and to third-parties outside government. Will she answer that very precise point?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I shall start with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner. The letter is confirmation that you have been successful. It is not evidence of your status, but it is there for anyone who wishes to have a physical document to say that they have been successful.

On the digital status—this comes to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford—if you want to rent, it could be accessed by the landlord. There is access to the data for people who need to see it for the purposes for which they need to see it.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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No. I am going to continue, and the noble Lord can speak when I have finished if he wishes.

I want to move on to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, made about the criminalisation of people who do not apply by the deadline. That is a very important point—made also, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord McNicol. An EU citizen who fails to apply to the EU settlement scheme before the deadline will not be acting unlawfully in the same way as an illegal entrant or overstayer would be. They will not have knowingly entered the UK in breach of the Immigration Act or overstayed their leave. That is an important point to make. Once free movement has ended, they will need leave to remain in the UK—there is an important distinction there. We set up the EU settlement scheme to provide a quick and easy way to secure that leave, confirming their status in the UK.

We have been very clear that we will take a pragmatic approach, in line with the agreements, to provide those who have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline with a further opportunity to apply. I hope that that helps the noble Lord. He might want to intervene to ask what constitutes reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. We have deliberately not published a list of acceptable grounds for missing the deadline. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, requested, we will send reminders to those with pre-settled status six months before their leave expires so that they can apply for settled status. In the first instance, we want to continue to encourage people to apply. We do not want to provide an exhaustive list as we want to give ourselves the maximum possible flexibility when this situation arises. Examples of people in such a situation might include a child whose parents or guardian failed to apply on their behalf, people in abusive or controlling relationships who are prevented from applying or from obtaining the documents they need, or those who, as I said before, lacked the physical or mental capacity to apply.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, pressed me again on the automatic reminder. I have previously confirmed that there will be an automatic reminder. In fact, in the EU Settlement Scheme: Statement of Intent, published in June 2018—quite some time ago—we committed to reminding people ahead of the expiry of their pre-settled status and it remains our intention to do so. That is not in place yet, as it will not be needed until five years after the first granting of pre-settled status, if that makes sense, so it will be September 2023 at the latest. The noble Baroness is looking puzzled. That is because March 2019 was day one, so it will not be needed for another five years.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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If they had already had two years, they would not need another five years.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I think that my last statement was wrong, but I shall confirm that to her in writing.

The noble Baroness talked about people struggling, and I think that I have outlined some of the ways in which we are trying to help people to make their application. She will have heard me say previously how we have put money into various centres around the country to help people.

The noble Baroness also asked whether we are still granting permanent residence. Yes, we are.

On the question of why settled status is better than permanent residence, you do not have to be exercising treaty rights to get settled status; there is a more generous right of return—so five years rather than two years permitted absence—and there is an automatic entitlement, as a UK national, to benefits for those with settled status. However, that does not stop people from applying for permanent residence, and they do.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Epsom and the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, talked about UK nationals in the EU. I recall the discussion that we had about unilaterally guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, but they asked about UK nationals in the EU. The withdrawal agreement that we have reached with the EU provides reciprocal protections and certainty on citizens’ rights. The agreement applies equally to EU citizens here and UK nationals in the EU, in their member state of residence, by the end of the implementation period. Ministers and officials have already engaged extensively with UK nationals across the EU and will continue to do so. I am very pleased to hear about the good experiences of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, in Portugal.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I agree with my noble friend; of course, that will be a matter for future negotiations. In the meantime, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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I should correct myself. The Minister was kind enough to say that she would have another look at that reminder system. After all, people could have four years and 300 or whatever days, just not five years. That system needs to come in a lot sooner; they might need a reminder in the next few months. Also, I do not quite understand—it may just be that I do not understand immigration—why the Home Office is twin-tracking settled status and permanent residence. I take the point that for settled status you do not have to be exercising treaty rights and perhaps simply have to meet a tougher standard for permanent residence. However, I do not see the value, either to the applicant or to the aim of simplicity and understanding of the immigration system, to have these two systems running coterminously.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I ask the noble Baroness to understand that perhaps they might not be EU citizens.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill Debate

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Department: Scotland Office

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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It would always be a proper use of this House’s power, albeit there are constitutional norms that apply. However, it is not just this House; the House of Commons would also have the opportunity to address the terms of any regulations. I have no doubt that, having regard to our constitutional norms, this House would have regard to the determination of the House of Commons on that point, but would not be absolutely bound by it. I fully accept that.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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The Minister has just said that this would improve consistency. How can it improve consistency in the interpretation of law if you potentially have a proliferation of lower courts that can all reach different judgments? The import of the objections made in the last hour is precisely that having just the Supreme Court, and the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland, is much more a recipe for consistency than what the Government are planning.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
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That is one view as to how we might achieve consistency. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, will have noted from the contributions made by a number of noble Lords and noble and learned Lords—in particular the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern—there are diverse views as to how this could be achieved.

For example, one view is that the power should rest only with the Supreme Court and the High Court of Justiciary but that there should be a reference process. Another view is that the power should be conferred upon the Court of Appeal, a lower court, or the Inner House in Scotland, because that would assist the Supreme Court as and when it came to consider the matter, and speed up the whole process of determining the issue. There are diverse views, as is reflected in the report of the Constitution Committee, as to how this could best be achieved. That is a very compelling reason for taking this regulatory-making power in order that, with the appropriate consultation, we can come to a suitable consensus as to how this is best done in the future. We can then allow for flexibility.

I stress that if, for example, we left the power purely in the hands of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, that might assist in consistency of decision-making—I will come back to the question of precedent in a moment—but it would put immense pressure on the Supreme Court itself and potentially create significant delays for litigants. Given that, it would not be a recipe for certainty; rather, it would be a recipe for uncertainty.

As I say, there are diverse views on how we can best achieve the result that we are all seeking. That is why it is appropriate that we should pause, take the matter forward by way of regulation, consult with the appropriate parties and then determine the best means of doing this. That will have to be resolved before the end of the implementation period.

At the end of the day, the power can be used only to determine which courts can depart from retained EU case law, the circumstances where they may do so and what test may be applied in doing so. It will not be used to set out how the courts are to interpret retained EU case law, because that is a matter for the independent judiciary, and it will not determine that courts may not follow established EU case law.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, made a number of points about unleashing uncertainty. With the greatest respect, Section 6 of the existing 2018 Act already provides that the Supreme Court may depart from established EU case law, although it may take significant time before it comes to address a particular question in a particular case. There is, therefore, what he referred to as “uncertainty with effect from now” if we proceed purely on the basis of Section 6.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Moved by
24: Clause 27, page 32, line 35, leave out paragraph (c)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment, coupled with another, prevents a widening of the definition of “deficiency” in relation to retained EU law which would allow the Government to make additional changes by delegated legislation.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, at the request of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, I will move Amendment 24, to which I am a co-signatory. I will also speak to Amendment 26.

When the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 was a Bill, our Constitution Committee—in an earlier report in September 2017—expressed great reservations about the exceptionally wide delegated powers in that Bill. In respect of what became Section 8, the Committee was not at all happy with the extensive powers to make such regulations as Ministers considered appropriate to deal with

“any failure of retained EU law to operate effectively, or … any other deficiency in retained EU law”

arising from withdrawal. The Committee was unhappy that this application of a subjective test to a broad term like “deficiency” made the reach of the provision potentially open-ended.

In the Explanatory Notes, the Government had said that

“a failure means the law doesn’t operate effectively whereas deficiency covers a wider range of cases where it does not function appropriately or sensibly.”

That was why our Committee was worried about subjectivity. It was also concerned that it was going to be difficult to distinguish between powers necessary to make more technical changes to the existing body of EU law and anything that would creep into the area of new policies on matters that previously lay within the EU’s competence. It was afraid that, whatever assurances there were from the Government about intentions to limit their powers to technical matters, the Bill as drafted did not impose such a constraint. That was all to express the worry at the time of the Bill that became the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

Now that we are two-and-a-bit years further on, our Constitution Committee—in the report it issued yesterday—has expressed further unhappiness at the Government’s wish in Clause 27 to amend Section 8 of the 2018 Act in order to expand the remit of correcting deficiencies. It is worried that

“clause 27(2)(c) and 27(6) amend section 8 to insert vague and potentially important new categories of deficiencies which would trigger the broad ministerial powers conferred by the 2018 Act. Neither the Explanatory Notes nor the Delegated Powers Memorandum make clear why such provisions are required.”

It reminds us that

“Section 8 of the 2018 Act lies at the heart of the concerns we expressed in our reports on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill”,


as I earlier cited. It concludes:

“Any expansion of the powers under section 8 requires substantial justification. The Government should explain why the powers in clause 27(2)(c) and 27(6) are necessary, and if unable to do so, should remove them from the Bill.”


That is the challenge to the Government: to explain why they need this further widening of the powers under Section 8 to correct so-called deficiencies.

The delegated powers memorandum says about the justification for taking the power:

“These amendments are necessary to allow the power to function in the revised context of the implementation period.”


We were always going to have an implementation period. I simply do not understand this next sentence:

“It was not possible to draft the power in this manner when the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 was passed, because that Act was drafted without prejudice to the outcome of the negotiations, and so could not take into account the prospect of a withdrawal agreement.”


We knew that there had to be a withdrawal agreement; Theresa May had reached a draft withdrawal agreement. I cannot now remember the date on which the 2018 Act became law—I have it here somewhere, but someone will remind me—but of course we knew there was going to be a withdrawal Act, so I do not understand that bit in the explanatory documents at all.

I remind noble Lords that Amendment 24 concerns the insertion proposed by Clause 27(2)(c) of the present Bill, where the Government would have power to correct deficiencies where the retained EU law is not clear in its effect as a result of the operation of any provision of Section 8 of the 2018 Act. The phrase

“not clear in its effect as a result of the operation”

gives the Government quite a wide scope for making regulations. As I say, that is on top of the already pretty wide powers under Section 8 of the 2018 Act. Amendment 26—I need to remind myself of its exact wording as I have too many papers in my hands—also addresses provisions to widen the scope for correcting deficiencies in a way that certainly worried the Constitution Committee and therefore worries me and colleagues, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, if I may speak for her on this, who have signed the amendment. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain very clearly why this power is justified.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, Clauses 27(2)(c) and 27(6) of the Bill amend Section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to expand the definition of deficiencies in retained EU law and to include deficiencies arising from the end of the implementation period. In its interim report on the first version of the WAB, your Lordships’ House’s Constitution Committee expressed concern that the power to expand the definition of deficiency was “vague” and could insert “potentially important new categories” without any real justification.

During the passage of the 2018 Act, we were repeatedly assured that there was nothing to worry about in relation to these powers, as they would cease to operate on exit day. However, we are now told that the power needs to be extended to address deficiencies arising from the implementation period. Given that we had an estimate of the total number of SIs to be made under the 2018 Act, can the Minister provide an estimate of how many would arise as a result of extending this power?

The Hansard Society and others very helpfully tracked the Government’s use of Section 8 powers during the withdrawal negotiations and the results were not promising, with many SIs tabled late in the process and some even having to be withdrawn and retabled as they contained their very own deficiencies. In the light of the Government’s record, is the proposed extension of the Section 8 powers simply a case of Ministers trying to buy more time for work that should have been done already? What guarantee is there that extending the Section 8 powers will not occur every other year?

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
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We certainly have no current plans to extend it any further.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

The Minister gave an example of telecoms legislation, which will change. Why can such deficiencies not be dealt with under the existing text of Section 8—namely

“any failure of retained EU law to operate effectively … or any other deficiency in retained EU law.”?

Why, in the example he gave, is Section 8, as it exists now in the 2018 Act, not adequate?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Of course it may be possible to continue to use that power but until we see how the legislation works out—how it is introduced during the implementation period—we will not know that exactly. We therefore think it appropriate to extend the sunset period, et cetera, to give us the new powers to correct upcoming or future legislation that may be introduced during the implementation period.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

I was not talking about the length of the time of the powers but about extending the scope. Amendments 24 and 26 are relevant to the provisions that would insert new subsections (2)(ea) and (9), which widen the criteria for finding a deficiency. If there were a change in telecoms legislation, the existing Section 8 in the 2018 Act seems perfectly adequate because the Government could say that there is a failure of retained EU law to operate effectively, because telecoms legislation has changed. That is enough. We do not need the new, widened scope to find a deficiency.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is certainly the view of our legal advisers that we would potentially need the new, widened powers to be able to do that, but I can write to the noble Baroness with further details of why it is necessary.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

I have probably made it fairly clear that I do not find the Minister’s assurances terribly convincing, and I look forward to his letter. Perhaps the legal advisers can explain to him why it would be necessary in my example. Our Constitution Committee has consistently warned us against wide powers in this area—things where there could be mission creep outside technical corrections to policy changes. I think its alarm bells are flashing on this, which is pretty convincing to me. The Government giving themselves a power to correct deficiencies because something

“is not clear in its effect”

and has something to do with

“any aspect of that withdrawal”

is pretty wide in scope.

I have to confess that I have not been reassured or convinced by this short exchange, but that is probably all I will get until we see further information. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 24.

Amendment 24 withdrawn.
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I have listed rather a lot of questions, probably too many for this time of night, and I am quite happy to have a letter from the Minister if she would feel more comfortable with that, but I would like some general shape to her response before we let her go this evening. I have outlined a range of important issues which will impact on an important sector of our economy. If the Minister accepts the broad drift of this argument, will she also agree that there is substantial interest in the sector about this? It therefore follows that my amendment, probing as it is and calling for formal Statements and reports, would be of value to all concerned. I beg to move.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I support this amendment, of which I am a co-signatory. I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, though I fear I might add a few questions for the Minister. As he said, free data flows across borders are an essential foundation of many key sectors of our economy, not just the tech industry as such but manufacturing, retail, health, information technology and financial services. It is vital that the free flow of data between the UK and the rest of the EU continues post Brexit with minimum disruption.

The European Union Select Committee, in its recent report on the revised withdrawal agreement and political declaration, pointed out that there was a lowering of ambition in the political declaration compared to what we have now as part of the EU’s digital single market. We have free flows, whereas the political declaration talks only about the “facilitation” of data flows. That is not the same as “freedom” of data flows. A host of organisations and the Information Commissioner have all persuasively argued that we need to ensure that our data protection legislation and practices are ruled as adequate. That is why it is so important that we get these regular reports and, as the amendment says, that we discover what the policy of HMG is if we do not have a data adequacy agreement after the end of transition.

We cannot take such a decision for granted merely because the GDPR more or less forms part of UK law. A major obstacle to an adequacy ruling is, of course, the bulk data provisions in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, particularly in the light of the European Court of Justice decision in Tele2/Watson, the case brought by David Davis and Tom Watson over the legality of GCHQ’s retention and bulk interception of call records and online messages. That judgment ruled that UK mass surveillance laws breach the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Just today there has been an opinion from the Advocate-General, the court’s legal adviser, who tends to get followed in 80% of ECJ cases, on a case which involves Privacy International, and a reference from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The Advocate-General has reinforced EU privacy law against mass retention and access to customer data by GCHQ, MI5 and MI6. I think this concerns provisions in Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. So we may get a second CJEU ruling, which will be problematic for any adequacy ruling given the very explicit requirements of Article 45(2)(a) of the GDPR, requiring the commission to consider

“respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”,

as well as

“national security … and the access of public authorities to personal data … and … international commitments”.

They will probably want to look at any potential transatlantic transfers agreed with President Trump.

It is already clear that many aspects of the Investigatory Powers Act fall short of satisfying the CJEU criteria. The purposes of retention are not limited to fighting serious crime, data retention is not targeted to what is strictly necessary, prior independent review or judicial authorisation is not required in all cases, and there is no provision for informing individuals.

What are the Government going to do in the area of the powers of intelligence agencies to satisfy the European Commission—and the European Parliament, where I had some experience of this, particularly in the era of the Edward Snowden revelations, when many in the Parliament were jumping up and down about GCHQ but there was nothing they could do about it while we were in the EU? Once outside, we actually get much stricter scrutiny about our interception practices than when we are inside; it is something of an irony, really. Then there is the problem about the exception for immigration data in the Data Protection Act 2018. The EU will no doubt closely monitor how the Home Office reviews settled status applications and whether data subjects can obtain full access to their personal data if there are disputes or problems about their status.

In addition, we discussed earlier today the accusation —it seems stronger than that—that the UK has illegally copied, and therefore misused, the Schengen Information System database by copying it into a national database and even sharing it with private companies. The commission report says that UK practices

“constitute serious and immediate risks to the integrity and security of SIS data as well as for the data subjects”.

That is another area where we are going to be under strict review. There is the trust issue, which we also discussed earlier today about the criminal records fiasco—I think one would have to use that word.

There are lots of questions and challenging reviews that the Government will have to answer in seeking data adequacy decisions. We need to know what steps they have taken so far to achieve this decision. Will they apply to continue to participate in the European Data Protection Board? What will they do if we get turned down for a data adequacy agreement? Anything else is second best. Have the Government thought through what their strategy will be if they do get refused? Will they change the legislation on handling personal data for national security purposes? Those are a lot of questions, but it is a very significant area of the negotiations with the EU 27. From past experience, I know that the European Commission will be very much on the ball— not least because of the eagle eye that the European Parliament will have on this area—so the Government have to be as well.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Barran) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, for this amendment, which seeks to add additional scrutiny to the data adequacy assessment process by introducing a bespoke statutory reporting requirement. It has certainly been very useful in drawing attention to the importance for both the UK and the EU of the UK pursuing and obtaining positive data adequacy decisions to enable the free flow of personal data after we exit the EU. It is also helpful that the noble Lord highlighted the success of our tech sector, which I thoroughly echo. I am sure that my noble friend the Secretary of State shares that view.

The free flow of personal data is an important feature underpinning the UK and the EU’s future relationship for economic and security purposes. The UK is currently a global leader in strong data protection standards, and protecting the privacy of individuals will continue to be a priority. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, referred to a lack of ambition. I do not think there is any lack of ambition on the part of the Government in this area. The Data Protection Act 2018 strengthened UK standards in line with the EU GDPR and law enforcement directive, providing a unique starting point for these discussions. The UK is ready to begin the adequacy assessment process and we are pleased that the EU has committed, in the political declaration, to the Commission beginning its assessment of the UK as soon as possible after our withdrawal, endeavouring to adopt adequacy decisions by the end of December 2020.

Before I try to answer some of the questions posed, I hope it will be helpful to touch briefly on some of the preparation that has been going on in government for the last two years for this eventuality. The Government established a data adequacy negotiation hub which sits within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It was set up early in 2018 and includes experienced experts in both data protection and negotiation. They are ready and waiting and keen to start negotiations with the Commission now.

This amendment would introduce a bespoke statutory reporting requirement, as we heard, covering the assessment period. However, as we heard very eloquently from my noble friend Lord Callanan earlier, there is a need for flexibility of reporting during what will be at times, I am sure, sensitive negotiations. While the Government are absolutely clear in our responsibilities to keep Parliament updated on that progress, and that obviously includes your Lordships’ House, we do not believe that such a rigid regime is appropriate. Obviously, both Houses have an array of tools at their disposal to scrutinise the Government, including through their Select Committees: I refer to the recent report of the Lords EU Committee, which scrutinised the revised withdrawal agreement and political declaration and concluded that the provisions on data protection were to be welcomed.

In this context, we believe there is no need for further bespoke reporting requirements for data adequacy, particularly as setting these out in legislation may have unintended consequences, as was discussed earlier this afternoon. I shall now try to address some specific points, but I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his offer that I might write to cover some of them.

In a sense, both noble Lords asked about the spirit which would underpin our approach to moving forward in these negotiations. Our aim is to try to find the right way to safeguard privacy while both promoting trade and innovation and protecting citizens from crime and terrorism. All those things are crucial to fully realising the opportunities from the data economy.

Both noble Lords asked how the Investigatory Powers Act might impact on our ability to achieve adequacy. We are confident of the standards included in that piece of legislation. We believe it provides unprecedented privacy, redress and oversight arrangements which I know both noble Lords have scrutinised in detail and which strengthen previous safeguards governing investigatory powers. Given the level of existing knowledge between ourselves and the EU of each other’s high data protection standards, we are very well placed to demonstrate that we meet and often surpass those standards.
Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but the fact is that the CJU has condemned our regime under the Investigatory Powers Act. The European Commission will have to take account of that, so to say that we and the EU have common high standards is not entirely borne out by the facts. The CJU has criticised, in a full judgment, the Investigatory Powers Act. How will we cope with that in the search for data adequacy?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the noble Baroness understands very well, the adequacy discussions will be broader than strictly personal data and data protection, and will cover these issues. It will be our role to explain to and convince the EU of that, which we are confident we can do.

Similarly in relation to immigration data, which the noble Baroness raised, we believe that there are some misunderstandings about how this provision works. Rather than going into that detail tonight, I can write to her on this. However, we are confident that the provisions included in the Act are fully compatible with EU law, although clearly we recognise that they will be closely scrutinised.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the independence of the Information Commissioner’s Office. We believe that the ICO is a strong, independent and effective regulator and that its relationship with DCMS upholds that independence. We really do not have concerns that this will be an issue in relation to adequacy.

The noble Baroness referred to the opinion received today from the Advocate-General of the EU; as she said, the opinion is non-binding and the impact will happen only when we have the court’s judgment, although I note her comments on the probability of that. Since the opinion was published only a few hours ago, my officials are currently digesting it, so noble Lords will understand that our ability to comment on these proceedings is limited.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about recitals in the future UK GDPR which still include the EU terminology. Recitals are non-binding in both EU GDPR and future UK GDPR. They are there only as an aid to interpretation and we do not believe that the references to the EU will be confusing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, referred to the Schengen Information System. I understand that the House will discuss the UK’s access to several EU law enforcement databases on the next amendment. If she will permit it, I think it would be easier to return to that question then.

Both noble Lords asked what will happen if an adequacy decision has not been granted at the end of the implementation period. Obviously both sides have committed clearly, and it is an absolute priority, to make this work, but in the event that an agreement is not reached, the Government have already done a huge amount around no deal, working proactively to communicate companies’ responsibilities in this area—particularly in relation to smaller companies, which we know might find this more challenging. The Information Commissioner’s Office produced a portal to support organisations preparing the standard contractual clauses referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.

I fear that time may not permit me to answer any more questions but I will endeavour to write and cover all the important points made. I hope that I have managed to reassure the noble Lord that, once adequacy discussions are under way, both Houses will continue to use all the available scrutiny tools at their disposal to ensure that they are absolutely appropriately informed on the Government’s data adequacy progress and policy. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Minister—the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who is now not in her place—spoke earlier about our seeking reciprocity with regard to children. I assume that the same is true as regards reciprocity for UK citizens abroad and EU citizens here. Thus far, the Government have singularly failed to negotiate successfully to secure the same rights for UK citizens as they have now to work, live and move across the EU. It is true that they can continue to live and work where they are at the moment at the end of the implementation period, but UK citizens will then lose their current right to move elsewhere across the EU—something that is, as we have just heard, at variance with the right of other EU citizens. Therefore, they will be disadvantaged compared with their fellow workers who are EU citizens already here, be they researchers, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, artistes, mentioned by the noble Earl, translators, interpreters, freelancers or a number of other specialist staff who tend to move around because of the nature of their jobs. Under the agreement so far reached, they will only be able to live, stay and work in one of those 27 countries but will lose their freedom to move elsewhere.

Therefore, it is vital that we raise this matter higher up the Government’s negotiating aims. This is urgent as well as important. It is time that the Government did more to defend their own citizens’ interests rather more robustly than they have succeeded in doing thus far.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I just want to add briefly that the wording in the amendment reflects the wording in the White Paper of July 2018 on the future relationship. I do not know whether that White Paper has become “paper non grata” under the present Government but it talked about a framework for mobility providing reciprocal arrangements, which is broadly what the amendment refers to. That is what we want to hear about—a framework for mobility.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, prompted me to think. To the extent that we have EU citizens with settled status, assuming that they do not feel that they have to seek British citizenship, they could be working on a research project based in the UK and, because they will retain their EU citizenship, they will be able to travel around 27 countries. However, the UK citizen may well not be able to do that, so will be second class compared to a work colleague who is an EU citizen and has a passport from one of the EU or EEA countries, unless a mobility framework with reciprocal arrangements and rights encompasses the ability of those UK citizens to work across the EU 27. Therefore, it is relevant to UK citizens living here but of course also highly relevant to UK citizens living in the EU 27. Many face difficulties in getting their residence finalised in an EU country but a lot are also very worried that they are losing their ability to work across borders. The fact is that nothing can be as good as EU free movement. The same applies to the security partnership —nothing is as good as EU membership. Therefore, we are trying to approximate as far as possible what we have at the moment, even though it falls short of that, but a key point is encapsulated in the final words of the amendment, which are:

“including the ability while resident in one state to work with ease across borders.”

My other point concerns pensions, pension uprating and healthcare arrangements, which are absolutely crucial to UK citizens in the EU 27. This is hugely important for the UK economy and for individuals—whether they are EU citizens or, perhaps even more, UK citizens resident here and resident in the EU 27 —who need to be able to move around where their work takes them.

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Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I believe that the policy which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister used to persuade his new supporters in the north of England and elsewhere to support is one that will produce more prosperity for the United Kingdom and a brighter future for all, and that those who voted for him in the north of England will see that it is in their interests to continue to vote for him and his successors, because his policy will have so clearly worked. Furthermore, since we will be free of the cash drain and the regulatory strictures of the EU, which have progressively stunted the United Kingdom’s voice in global fora—I speak as someone who has spent a large proportion of his working life outside the UK, looking in—the new supporters of the Conservative Party in the north will, I hope and trust, wish to continue to support it.

The noble Lord, Lord Fox, talked a lot about regression and standards. He is always trying to bind the Government not to resile or retreat from the high standards set by the EU. But standards are not about high and low; they are about what is proportionate, what properly balances the interests of the innovator with those of the consumer, and what sufficiently but properly protects the consumer against risk. EU regulation in many fields relies so much on the precautionary principle that it has a very negative effect on innovation. That places at risk the UK’s position as the best country in the world in which to conduct medical and scientific innovation, so for all those reasons I would resist the noble Lord’s amendment.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
- Hansard - -

Before the noble Viscount sits down, can I point out that the reputation he just mentioned, as the greatest country in the world in which to develop medical and other research, has been acquired while we have been in the European Union?

Viscount Trenchard Portrait Viscount Trenchard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Baroness is quite right—it is in spite of our being in the European Union. This precautionary principle regulation increasingly affects international pharmaceutical companies, which have said to me that it is important that we should not allow much more of that or we will be a less friendly place for innovation.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill Debate

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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

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Monday 20th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Barwell Portrait Lord Barwell (Con)
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My Lords, I had not planned to take part in this debate, but I wish to make three brief points. First, in response to my noble friend Lord Bowness, it is very clear what the Government seek to negotiate in this next phase of the negotiations; it is set out in the political declaration. For example, in relation to level playing field provisions, the political declaration goes into quite some detail about the kinds of level playing field provisions that will be required as part of the future trading relationship.

Where I certainly have sympathy with the proposers of this amendment is that, of course, it is important that Parliament has the ability to hold the Government to account as these negotiations progress, but there is no doubt at all in the other place that that will happen. If the Government do not voluntarily come forward after major moments in the negotiating process and offer a Statement, I suspect the Speaker in the other place will grant Urgent Questions; there will be accountability.

The arguments about setting out in detail the negotiating objectives in public and having them approved by Parliament are balanced on either side. There is a case to be made that getting broad-based parliamentary support for certain negotiating positions, beyond just the Government’s majority in the other place, may strengthen the hands of Ministers in those negotiations. It is certainly my experience that the Article 50 team on behalf of the European Union often referred to the fact that the European Council had endorsed the negotiating mandate it was pursuing, and that therefore its room for manoeuvre was limited. On the other hand—I think my noble friend Lord Bridges alluded to this—if at the outset both sides set out in detail what their positions are and there is no common ground, there is a danger of driving these negotiations into a bad place. Indeed, in my maiden speech in this place last week, my one lesson to the European Union from what happened in the first phase of these negotiations was that, while it may feel tempted to repeat the trick —it may feel that it worked well to set out its negotiating position in detail and that it got most of what it wanted —if it repeats that trick this time and in February publishes a detailed negotiating mandate that rules out lots of the options, there is a real danger that any possibility of a compromise will be eliminated.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
- Hansard - -

The noble Lord talked first about the amendment requiring Parliament to approve the negotiating objectives. I think that has changed; it is not in the current version at this stage but was in the Committee stage version.

Secondly, he said it is very clear what the objectives are because the political declaration sets out the level playing field provisions. The problem is that the Chancellor, in a very prominent interview at the weekend, completely threw that aside and said we will not have any level playing field provisions or converge at all; we will completely diverge. So what is the Government’s position? Is it what is in the political declaration or what the Chancellor has said? Surely the noble Lord can understand the puzzlement, the bewilderment—I am sure it shared by some on his Benches—as to what the Government’s policy is. This is why we want to see the colour of their money. What are the negotiating objectives? Are they what is in the political declaration or what the Chancellor is saying in an interview to the FT?

Lord Barwell Portrait Lord Barwell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not for me to speak for the Government, not least because I do not sit on the Government Front Bench. Indeed, noble Lords who have followed the debate closely will know that I do not entirely agree with the position that the Chancellor set out; the previous Government believed that there was a case for aligning with certain EU rules and regulations. But, having said those things, I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done what the noble Baroness suggests. If one looks at the slides that the European Commission has published on the level playing field, one will see that, on the vast majority of issues, it is not suggesting that dynamic alignment is required; it is effectively asking for non-regression from existing commitments. There are some areas where there may well be a problem in the negotiation, particularly state aid—I read what it has said as looking for an ongoing commitment to align with EU state aid rules—but I certainly do not think the Chancellor has gone as far as the noble Baroness suggests.

I was interested in remarks that several of your Lordships made: the Chancellor’s comments to the FT came as no surprise to me at all. That has been the clear policy of this Government from the point at which they were formed.

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Tuesday 21st January 2020

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Baroness Blower Portrait Baroness Blower (Lab)
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My Lords, I will be brief but I am moved to speak on this issue, particularly as the speeches have piled up. First, though, I commend the right reverend Prelate on talking about this as a moral bell-wether. In my earlier speech on this matter, I also said that this is as much a moral and ethical issue as it is a political and legal one. I genuinely believe that. The issue of trust that we are now getting into is difficult for us, but it is not just about trust; as the noble and learned Baroness opposite and the right reverend Prelate said, it is a matter of priority and of urgency. Why do we need a two-month delay, as the noble Lord who has just spoken asked, if there is a commitment from the Government to maintain the position?

In the manifesto on which this newly elected Government went to the country, there were commitments on refugees but not specifically on child refugees, and not beyond what was set out in the 2018 Act. It seems to a number of us on these Benches, both those who have spoken and many who have not, that this is not only a moral issue but an extremely urgent one that must have priority. Those who heard the remarks made in this debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, where she read the words of a child in a classroom in this country, will know that it is important to understand the profound sense among British people that we must do our utmost to deal properly with child refugees. I believe that there is a profound commitment to make sure that these children, who have come through some of the most difficult circumstances that can possibly be imagined and have the prospect of being reunited with members of their families—that is the group of children we are dealing with in this amendment—can look forward to a much better life. It seems to those of us on these Benches, along with the Cross Benches and I am sure among some Members opposite, that we cannot let go of this lightly. I therefore urge us all to vote for the amendment.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, to sum up briefly, the Minister will have heard the strength of feeling in this House and the state of perplexity and bewilderment at the legislative record on this: the section is in the 2018 Act and there was no provision in the first version of this Bill to delete it. Therefore, in terms of continuity, the position would point to the Government accepting the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, which would surely be the graceful and gracious thing for the Government to do. The strength of feeling no doubt indicates to the Government that they might otherwise have to deal with a vote in this House. There is a way out for them, and I very much hope that the Minister will be able to take it.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the debate has been eloquent and emotion has played its part. I must begin by paying yet another tribute, for the second time today, to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who has proved to have an expertise in the area of bafflement as much as anything else. The clever way in which he unpicked the strands from the balls of wool that had got tangled up and pulled them out for us to look at just left us totally bewildered, so that when it all settled back again we understood as little as we did before he began.

I have listened to the arguments, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for whom I have nothing but respect, will need to listen a little harder on the nature of the lack of trust, which is dependent not on political, adverserial positions but on a genuine feeling that we are at a moment in our parliamentary history where we have lost the art of building consensus and taking an argument forward with the respect and even affection we have for each other when we are outside the debating Chamber. It seems to me that in this debate we have reached that sort of point.

It is a source of great wonderment to me that something put in an Act just 18 months ago is now not in it and that arguments are being put forward to justify taking it out. I certainly do not understand it, but it is a long time since I took my bachelor of arts degree and perhaps I am getting addled in my old age. But it is for a small group of children—children with relatives, which limits the number even further—on the part of a Government who have already done so well in the area looking after the interests of children. It is not an instruction to the Government to do this or that which we are seeking to put into this amendment. It is not about outcomes. It is to start or keep alive a process of negotiation on this issue.

The right reverend Prelate is quite right that this has a moral dimension. We must never forget that. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, mentioning “urgency”, “two months” and all the rest of it reminds us that we have a chance here to put this into the Bill in a way that gets things started at once, for an objective which I cannot believe a single person in this House would refuse to want and desire. I do not know. I am new to this game of politics. I try my best, I really do.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, quoting the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, emphasised that point; nobody is seeking to tell the Government what to do or what point to reach in what they do. There is a difference between outcomes and process. All we want in the Bill is that a process be entered into. Outcomes will depend on the negotiations. That is the desire here. Other people have spoken eloquently. I hope that, in a spirit of generosity, there will be no riding of high horses because “We’ve won an election”. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, it is in the school of humanity that we will be judged, not on our party, partisan positions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is another person to whom I have listened with enormous respect in the short time that I have been doing this work, and I hold her in that respect now. Yesterday, an agreement was forged via the usual channels on a stance on an issue that would arise later in the evening. During the afternoon, that stance was totally modified, and we had to take our people through the Lobbies in an entirely different way. If that can happen in an afternoon, perhaps there is some justification for trust needing to be earned.

So, the matter is before us. I am quite sure that we will be asked to vote on it, but it is a terribly serious issue about the body politic in this country. This is an admirable debate where we can learn the art of constructive engagement and putting together a better tomorrow.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

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Tuesday 21st January 2020

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, this is a time for both thanks and regrets. Both are heartfelt and serious. We have a lot for which to thank the Ministers—all five of them, I think—as well as their Whips. They have kept to their script, given us no surprises and worked with courtesy and information to enable the process to proceed smoothly.

The Bill team has performed above and beyond normal expectations. Second Reading and three days in Committee in one week, and two consecutive days on Report, is not what they are taught when they go to the “managing a Bill” lecture. We thank them.

On our side, the team has been stellar. It includes my noble friends Lord Tunnicliffe—near silent but businesslike—Lord McNicol, Lord Murphy, Lord Bassam, Lady Smith, Lady Thornton and Lady Jones and my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith, with, as ever, Dan Stevens and Ben Coffman behind the scenes. They are a magnificent troop.

However, our regrets are also sincere. Despite the arguments set out across the House, not simply on these Benches, the Government have turned a deaf ear to improvements to the processes in the Bill; to safeguarding the independence of the courts; to pleas for reassurance from EU citizens; to requests from the devolved authorities—we have heard the results of not listening there; and, indeed, to the needs of refugee children. And now we hear that the Government will use their majority to overturn all four of our reasonable, and reasoned, amendments.

We do not lay that on the Ministers in this House but on their masters—or perhaps even their servant—elsewhere. For the moment, as Ed Murrow would say, “Good night, and good luck.”

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I too thank everyone involved in the Bill: Ministers, the Opposition, the Cross-Benches, the Bill team and other officials, the clerks and other staff of the House and, as the Minister mentioned, the committees of the House, which provided us with such useful and timely reports. Of course, I also thank the many colleagues on my own Liberal Democrat Benches—too numerous to mention—who have taken part in the Bill’s proceedings, as well as my leader and noble friend Lord Newby, my Chief Whip and noble friend Lord Stoneham, and our adviser Elizabeth Plummer who is, quite frankly, indispensable to us.

Clearly, we would have preferred not to have had this Bill. We on these Benches continue to think that Brexit is a bad mistake and that the UK will, sooner or later, re-join the EU. We feel that this Bill has been improved by the detailed scrutiny and votes in this House that I believe we were entirely right to deliver. We have improved the Bill in two major areas: first, respect for people—the rights of EU citizens and child refugees—and, secondly, respect for the law and the constitution regarding the courts, judicial independence and the devolution settlement. We hope that the other place will consider those carefully, but I am bearing in mind what the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has just said. I strongly believe that we have given value for the many days of work we have done on the Bill. I just wish that the Government had been in listening mode.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom Portrait Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I shall not delay the House long—I know that we all want to go home—but I had a conversation with a distinguished noble friend of mine a few hours ago, and he said, “Of course, the Government will give way on a few small amendments on this to satisfy your Lordships’ House,” and I strongly disagreed with him. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has confirmed that the Government will use their majority to turn down all these amendments.

There could only be two reasons why the Government might not want to do that. One would be if there were a tremendous fault in the legislation, and some drafting were completely inconsistent and needed to be adjusted. There seems to be none of that: there have been no compelling arguments as to why the Bill should be adjusted in any way. The other reason would be to create good will in your Lordships’ House. But I have to say that there is no good will towards your Lordships’ House in the other place. We have lost all our friends, who ensured that we continued as an appointed House. Jesse Norman, who was key to all that, is a Minister, and we roughed up everybody else.

The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, described the Government as suffering from euphoria as a result of their majority. I think “euphoria” is a bit strong, but the Government do now have a great feeling of relief because they have a majority that will enable them to ensure that the people’s wish in the referendum of 2016 is fulfilled. The Government, and the other people I talk to in the other place, feel that there has been a conspiracy of remainers, both in this House and in the House of Commons, to ensure that we stayed in the EU.

The debate I have listened to here on this Bill gives me the impression that this House is now resigned to the fact that we are going to leave the EU, but will make those negotiations as difficult as possible for the Government, so that we will get a very bad deal and people can be justified in their view that we should never have left. The storm clouds are gathering, and there is constant speculation in the press on what will happen to this House—but we seem to be completely oblivious to it. We should be very careful about where we go over the coming months.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Baroness Ludford Excerpts
Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords & Ping Pong (Hansard)
Wednesday 22nd January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 54-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons reasons - (22 Jan 2020)
Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, I simply have one request for the Government. What will shortly become Section 37 provides for a statement of policy within two months. The Minister talked about reassuring noble Lords. Those who need reassurance are EU citizens—those covered by my noble friend’s amendment—and those affected by the child refugee situation. I hope that the Government, who have told us that they have been negotiating, can bring forward a statement of policy well before the end of the two months.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, I am not quite sure why the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, singled me out for mention. I think that I must figure in his worst nightmares—which obviously delights me.

He referred to it taking three years to get the withdrawal agreement approved, but I remind him and the Benches opposite that the failure to approve it sooner was due largely to the refusal of Brexiters to support previous efforts. We remainers do not accept responsibility for Brexit or for the negative consequences that it will entail. We have played our part responsibly in trying to improve the process and the outcome of Brexit, as we have on this Bill.

I am glad that this House was not bullied or intimidated, and that it has improved the Bill. In better times, the thoughtful contributions that we made would have received a more respectful response from the Government—I agree, for once, with the noble Lord, Lord Howarth—but the Government were dogmatically determined to refuse any positive improvement to the Bill. So here we are, and we will see what happens in the months and years to come.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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Well, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has enjoyed this. He has certainly given us some fun on occasions.

The purpose of this debate is to handle Commons “consideration” of Lords amendments. However, as I watched the Commons—after just 60 minutes of debate on what this House had considered with such care—eventually overturn all our five amendments, it was hard to take the word “consideration” seriously. More accurate, as I watched, tweeting as I went, was the reply that I received to one of my tweets from someone who identified themselves only as DeepblueBoy. It read, “That’s democracy for ya!” I guess that it was his way of saying—in line with No. 10’s view, I imagine—“We’ve a majority of 80, so we simply don’t need to heed the House of Lords.”

I regret that. I regret it for the four vital issues that we had raised, covering safeguarding the union with the devolution settlement, safeguarding the independence of our courts and judiciary, safeguarding EU citizens’ residency by giving them a document, and of course safeguarding vulnerable, unaccompanied refugee children. Because we take our constitutional obligation seriously, and part of that is to offer MPs the opportunity to give serious consideration to the issues that we have raised. And the issues that we had raised and sent to the Commons would not have delayed Brexit by one second, would not have affected the working of the Bill or the withdrawal agreement, and did not run counter to any Conservative election promise.

So I regret the damage done in those four areas. But I also regret it, as I think I have just heard from my noble friend Lord Howarth, for what it says about the new Government—that No. 10 has decided not to listen, whether to the devolved authorities, to experienced judges and senior officeholders, or to other experienced Members of your Lordships’ House. I will just point out—my noble friend Lord Liddle told me this; I had not done the numbers—that in all the votes that we had, the Conservatives had a larger vote than the combined votes of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Benches. So this was not a political divide; that side of the House still outnumbers us. It was, of course, with the all-important independent Peers that these results were won—an important consideration.

If this is to be the pattern of this Administration, breaking what I think are the conventions, including the recognition that in a bicameral system legislation is meant to be a dual responsibility, then I fear that we are in for an unfortunate time. Let us hope that this is a one-off as a result of the recent election and that normal service will shortly be resumed so that this House can play its full scrutiny role, secure in the understanding that all differing views will not simply be cast aside. As David Davis MP recognised in the other place, there was even a consensual way forward on the CJEU issue, crafted so carefully and expertly, as we would expect, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. It would have made sense for the Government to have swept up that solution without even having to give credit to anyone but one of their own. It was not to be, but I hope that they will now take up his new, generous and learned offer.

For now, the Government will have their way. In future, I hope that dialogue and compromise will once again be possible, perhaps even—who knows?— with the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, perhaps in a different guise.