All 4 Chris Stephens debates involving the Northern Ireland Office

Wed 8th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 2nd sitting & Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 30th September 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
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I absolutely recognise the competitive pressure that Northern Ireland faces, and it is something that I have discussed with hospitality and, indeed, the aviation industry in Northern Ireland. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Treasury is looking into what can be done on the APD front, and it is certainly something where we will take on board the views of Northern Ireland businesses.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential effect of the UK Internal Market Bill on the Good Friday Agreement.

Brandon Lewis Portrait The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Brandon Lewis)
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This Government will always make sure that the Belfast Good Friday agreement is protected. I speak regularly with my colleagues on that very issue. We will not allow anything to shake our steadfast commitment to it.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. He will be aware that the Good Friday agreement encourages co-operation across the island of Ireland, including in security. He will know that, last week, the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice said that, to prepare fully, she needed clarity on negotiations and on the delivery of the protocol. What guarantees can he give us that the vital sharing of intelligence and information will continue after Brexit?

Brandon Lewis Portrait Brandon Lewis
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As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the co-operation has been shown to work exceedingly well, as we have seen in the past few weeks with the quite phenomenally successful operation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and its partners in the Garda in arresting terrorists. That operation highlights how well that co-operation works on the ground. Obviously, we are very keen to ensure that that kind of co-operation continues after we leave the European Union, and I know that our partners are keen on that as well.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 5th February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
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As the hon. Lady will recognise, there are specific arrangements in the protocol that protect Northern Ireland’s position with regard to trade with both Ireland and the United Kingdom. It is in the UK’s gift—and we will deliver on our commitments—to ensure that Northern Ireland has unfettered access to whole of the UK internal market.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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13. What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on ensuring that additional funding allocated to Northern Ireland is subject to the Barnett formula.

Julian Smith Portrait The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Julian Smith)
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Here we go again from the SNP, but here we go again with the answer. As there has been no increase in UK Government departmental spending in England, there are no Barnett consequentials. Like previous Northern Ireland support packages, this funding addresses unique challenges, as was the case with city deals and support for farmers in Scotland and Wales.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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We welcome the return of the new Executive and new moneys for Northern Ireland, but given the Prime Minister’s previously stated opposition to the Barnett formula, will the Secretary of State confirm for the record whether the Government still intend to abide by it?

Julian Smith Portrait Julian Smith
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I can confirm that we absolutely plan to abide by the Barnett formula. That is why, as part of this Government’s commitments, we are levelling up across the nations of the United Kingdom.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 2nd sitting
Wednesday 8th January 2020

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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It is important to remember that working people in the United Kingdom have benefited from a number of recent landmark judgments by the Court of Justice, including the requirement for employers to keep records of all hours worked to comply with the working time directive, which is very important to many of our constituents, and the ruling that employers might not have to factor overtime into holiday pay calculations, which is also very important to many of our constituents, particularly to those who are not as well paid as Members of this House—even those who do not have a second job. We often hear from Government Members how much they care about the working man and woman, but if they really did, they would support the new clauses tabled by me and by the Labour party, and would give us the guarantees we require that there will not be a regression from the rights that many of our constituents have enjoyed as a result of European Union law.
Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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Many of those who advanced the leave cause during the referendum campaign said that one of the reasons they wanted to leave the European Union was to do away with workers’ rights and employment rights. Now that many of those people are on the Treasury Bench, the suspicions held by many of us are only going to intensify.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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Not all, but many Members on the Government Benches have spoken about just the sort of free-for-all on rights that we fear. Of course, this partly comes from the conceit that somehow the United Kingdom—by which they normally mean England—has a monopoly on rights, which is not shared by other countries across the world, including the other countries in the European Union. Unfortunately, the lived experience of working men and women across the United Kingdom is not one of confidence in Governments of the UK to protect them, particularly when those Governments are of the Conservative and Unionist party. That is why they have been so reliant on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, and on directives and regulations passed by the European Union institutions, in which Britain has of course had significant input over the years. My new clauses and the Labour party’s seek to achieve some minimum guarantees in relation to the continued enjoyment of many rights that exist only because of the European Union.

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David Linden Portrait David Linden
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but it is very much my concern that we have a Tory majority Government who will morph into Thatcherism on steroids over the course of the next five years. For me, the idea that we just sit back and let the Prime Minister and the current Foreign Secretary dictate what direction we take with employment rights is not a chance that I am willing to take.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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Is it not the reality that in the last 20 years the advances in workers’ rights have come mainly from Europe? When we look at the fixed-term workers directive for those on temporary contracts or doing part-time and agency work, we see that it was not this place that was advancing the cause of those workers; it was the European Union and the European Parliament.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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Absolutely. I think that was the very reason why 62% of people in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union. They did not want workers’ rights to be controlled somehow from London.

I want to go back to what I was saying about the right hon. Member for Esher and Walton and his remarks about the working time directive and some of the “obstacles” that he identified in relation to British businesses. The fact that he did so in an article calling for a renegotiation of the UK’s future relationship with the European Union does not bode well now that he is in one of the highest offices of Government. Our hard-won workers’ rights secured from 40 years of EU membership cannot be forgotten, diluted or abolished by this right-wing neo-liberal Government whom Scotland did not vote for. I therefore urge hon. Members to support new clause 51.

Let us be honest: we know the results of tonight’s Divisions before they even take place. We need to face the truth that this majority Brexiteer Government think that Scottish voters will simply lie down while they steamroller over their interests. The choice for the people of Scotland could not be clearer, because Scotland has the unquestionable right to choose its own future. Do we stay shackled to Brexit Britain and failed Tory economics, or do we rejoin the family of European nations, which is outward-looking, progressive and treats its member states with respect, dignity and equality? Of course, the Tories often accuse the SNP of trying to break up Britain, but the reality is that it is the SNP who are driving the bulldozer. Make no mistake: the Scottish independence referendum is coming, and the passage of this legislation tomorrow will doubtless result in people taking a very different view from that in 2014.

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James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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No; that is not what I said, and our intention is not as the hon. Gentleman suggests. But it is for this Parliament to decide what it wants to do, rather than simply following what an outside body recommends.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
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The Minister mentions the Taylor review. The European Parliament and Commission are debating similar issues and will offer something stronger than what the Government have proposed with the Taylor review. If the European Parliament goes further, will it be the UK Government’s aim at least to match what comes from the European Union?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Later in my speech, I will highlight areas where we are going to go further. Perhaps I will give way to the hon. Gentleman again at that point if what I say does not give him sufficient reassurance. The Government are committed to delivering high standards, and I will provide a bit more detail when I come to talk about other clauses.

I turn to new clauses 3, 8 and 30, which relate to alignment with or continued membership of the EU single market and customs union. I am grateful for the confirmation that new clause 8 is a probing amendment. The Prime Minister has set out a deal, and the political declaration contains a framework for a comprehensive and ambitious free trade agreement. The result of the general election shows that, across the whole United Kingdom, the public support that, notwithstanding the points that have been made in the Chamber today about different areas.

That mandate did not include negotiating a customs union or maintaining the UK’s place in the single market, as proposed in the new clauses. The public want us to move on to negotiating the future relationship without any unnecessary hurdles, and that is what the Government will do. Only by leaving the EU customs union and single market will the UK be able to pursue an ambitious free trade agreement and strike new trade deals with new and existing global partners. The political declaration provides a framework for all that.

The political declaration also provides a framework for security co-operation. That will include access to the European arrest warrant, which several colleagues have mentioned, as well as to Europol and SIS II. We have committed to being involved in them, and our European partners have committed to engaging in that through the political declaration.

We have also agreed to put in place a streamlined extradition arrangement, on which we continue to work with Europol and Eurojust. Beyond that, we have agreed to look at further areas of co-operation on the exchange of information. Beyond SIS II, on the broader point raised by the hon. Member for Torfaen, it will also include Icarus.

The detail, however, means this is best done in co-operation over the period. After all, the point of the level playing field is to do this in a paced way. As a cross-cutting Minister, I have engaged on this issue with a number of Ministers who are engaged much more directly. The hon. Gentleman will be reassured as this issue rolls out, but it is not for today’s Bill, although it is a perfectly acceptable placeholder for a probing amendment.

On new clause 29, I make it clear that we want an ambitious future economic partnership with the EU that allows us to control our own laws, with the benefits of trade with other countries around the world. Adopting this amendment would prevent that. Dynamic alignment with future EU rules is not in the best interests of this country. It is here, not in Brussels, where decisions should be made on the laws that govern our country. That point has been ably made by other hon. Members.

We will maintain and uphold high standards for workers, consumers and the environment. We do not have to follow EU rules to achieve that; we can do it on our own. We have made that clear in the revised political declaration and through our commitment to introduce legislation that will enshrine those high standards in our laws.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Stephens Excerpts
Wednesday 6th March 2019

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Theresa May Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. People will obviously have seen distressing cases of coercion and indeed some instances where that has been taken through the courts. We all need to recognise the importance of dealing with domestic abuse and recognise that for too long the issue of coercion was not accepted or addressed. It is important. It is this Government who are doing that. As he says, we must be very clear about the entry level behaviours that lead to that distress.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
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Q15. Today is the 10th anniversary of the blacklist of construction workers being exposed, and today various news reports detail the extraordinary admissions in the Creadon report that the police and special branches across the UK and the security services supplied information to the Consulting Association. Does the Prime Minister agree that there now needs to be a full standalone UK public inquiry into the human rights conspiracy of blacklisting so that truth and justice can be served and those responsible for blacklisting can be held to account?

Theresa May Portrait The Prime Minister
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The hon. Gentleman raises an issue that has been raised on several occasions. Of course, the Government have responded on this and I would be happy to write to him on it.