All 3 James Duddridge 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

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

James Duddridge Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 2nd sitting
Wednesday 8th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Notices of Amendments as at 2 January 2020 - (3 Jan 2020)
Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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One of the things that interests me about the right hon. Gentleman’s argument is what we will do when we are trying to resolve a dispute over a trade agreement at a supranational court—[Interruption.] They will not be elected representatives. The World Trade Organisation court of dispute does not consist of elected representatives. Government Members seem quite happy to hand over control to the WTO court of dispute resolution and pretend that that is somehow more democratic. [Interruption.] Calling me silly is not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman.

We have been sovereign all this time. On our money, we have always had our sovereignty. We set our own budgets. We are represented at EU budget setting by our democratically elected representatives. As I have said, we have even had opt-outs, negotiated by Tory Governments, from some of those financial agreements. We have negotiated opt-outs, variations, rebates and all sorts of specific conditions for the UK.

The phrase used is “money, laws and borders” and I cannot remember which way around they are, but on borders we chose, rightly or wrongly—and we can decide for ourselves whether it was right or wrong—how we interpreted the requirements on the free movement of people, one of the four freedoms of the single market, which, I remind hon. Members, a Tory Government took us into. Other EU nations have interpreted that freedom differently. We chose, as a sovereign nation, not to participate in the Schengen area. We decide how we police our borders and whether or not there are enough border police.

We have also chosen to benefit from freedom of movement, which I acknowledge will end after 31 January. It is a freedom that I wish we had valued more and whose passing I will truly mourn, but it never undermined our sovereignty. That is implied even in the wording of the clause, because it states that “sovereignty subsists notwithstanding” various provisions. Of course, we agree—and will continue to agree after debate, scrutiny and amendment—to many other rules beyond our borders. International treaties, trade agreements and security co-operation arrangements all carry commitments to shared rules and to abiding by the rules of supranational bodies of dispute resolution, most of which are not elected, but Parliament’s sovereignty will remain intact.

I ask the Minister respectfully if he will explain the legal and practical purpose of clause 38. Even the phrase, “It is recognised”, has the feel of a political rather than a legal statement. The purpose of the Opposition’s amendment 11 is to discover the Government’s intention. We think that stating that Parliament is sovereign

“and has been so during the period since the passage of the European Communities Act 1972”

is entirely consistent with what the Government themselves said in their White Paper only a few months ago. We have been sovereign all that time.

I am sure that Members know this, but our sovereignty was never in doubt and was not diminished. I could spend a long time asking what this non-argument about sovereignty has all been about, but I am pretty sure that a lot of it—perhaps most of it—has been a false argument to distract attention from the desire to deregulate this country and turn us into a bargain basement nation with no attention given to workers’ rights, environmental protections, health and safety or any of the other regulations in which we played a part in Europe, which we have implemented and which have helped us help the people we represent. I would like the Government to explain the point of clause 38.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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Parliament is sovereign, was sovereign and will be sovereign, and the clause recognises that fundamental principle in our constitutional arrangement, which is of great significance to many hon. Members. Membership of the European Union has felt as though we have ceded control. We cannot pull back sovereignty piece by piece—Conservative Back Benchers mentioned a number of examples. Anybody who has sat on a delegated legislation Committee will have been told by the Minister, “We cannot change this because it has gone through the European processes and we have to rubber stamp it.” The presumption was that we were full members, and that was made worse by qualified majority voting; previously, we had the ability to come back to each individual matter.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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A very simple example of what my hon. Friend mentions is the EU’s port services regulation, which was opposed by every trade union, by the Government and by every one of the 47 port employers but went through this House simply because it had been passed by a majority vote in the Council of Ministers. That regulation was imposed upon us by the abdication of our sovereignty under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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My hon. Friend is right. We could not do anything about that law or any other specific issue without coming out of the European Union, taking back control and asserting our sovereignty. Clause 38 reaffirms that sovereignty going forward and, crucially, during the implementation period.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies
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Does the Minister accept that our sovereignty is diminished, because we currently have a veto on many votes? Some of them are subject to majority voting, as the former Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee said, but we are one of 27 nations. Now, under World Trade Organisation terms, we will be one of 164 countries and unable to change the rules. Those terms will jack up the cost of drugs and stop us nationalising things, which will constrain our sovereignty much more. The idea that we will have more sovereignty rather than less is wrong, and the clause is therefore misleading.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I disagree with virtually all the hon. Gentleman’s points. We will take back control, hold that sovereignty, take our seat as an independent nation state on WTO rules, and engage in international forums to look globally, rather than looking within Europe in European forums.

Clause 39 relates to interpretation. This type of clause is standard practice in primary legislation and contains key definitions. Subsection (1) lists items used in the Bill with accompanying definitions, such as the relevant agreements with the EU, the EEA, EFTA and Switzerland. Given the possibility of a change in EU summer-time arrangements, the clause provides for consequential changes in the exact time of the implementation period on 31 December in the United Kingdom. Let me be very clear: this power cannot be used to change the time and date of the implementation period for any other purpose. The clause is fundamental to ensuring the operation of the Bill.

Clause 40 and schedule 4 make further provision for regulations to make powers under the Bill, which is of interest and importance to Members of Parliament. Schedule 4 provides for the parliamentary scrutiny procedure for secondary legislation under the powers in the Bill. We recognise that our exit from the EU is momentous and Parliament will want to scrutinise any changes that we make to the statute book as part of that process.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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I am very much in favour of clause 38, which reasserts our sovereignty. If the European Union wanted to legislate punitively against us during the implementation period, can I take it from the Minister that we would use this clause to prevent such legislation from having effect?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Yes. Clause 38 not only restates the historical position but reasserts our sovereignty during the implementation period. Parliament will be given extra powers, such as the powers being taken by the European Scrutiny Committee, which is important because we will not be participants in the decision-making process.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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In a nutshell, laws are democratic when they are made in line with a manifesto following a general election. The bottom line, therefore, is that decisions taken by the European Scrutiny Committee on vital national interests will also go through departmental Select Committees, and then there will be a vote on the Floor of the House. That means this House will decide whether it wants to obey a legislative arrangement that has come out of the European Union, which is completely different from anything that happened since 1972.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee. As he knows, the powers will also extend to the House of Lords, allowing for an additional check.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies
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Does the Minister agree that if we must have a certain level of equivalence to sustain a reasonable level of trade, we will be obliged to accept the EU’s changes, which will be made without our consent because we will be outside the room, or else take the economic cost? That is not sovereignty; it is just self-harm for the sake of opposing things. If we just agree to the changes, what is the point of it?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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If we were taking the hon. Gentleman’s version of Brexit, of staying in dynamic alignment, he would be right, but we are not doing that. We are taking back control, so we will be an independent nation state.

Under schedule 4, the general position will be that the affirmative procedure will apply when the Bill’s core powers are exercised so as to modify primary legislation or retained direct principal EU legislation. Although not all the modifications will be substantial, this approach has been adopted given the exceptional context and the uniqueness of the matters dealt with in this Bill. Clause 40 recognises that Parliament wants a greater place in scrutinising legislation.

There is one exception to this rule, and it relates to the exercise of powers to make provision by regulation for citizens to appeal against immigration decisions. That exception is made to ensure such provision can be made in time for 31 January, and the made affirmative procedure is therefore adopted for that exceptional process.

Parliament has a duty to provide the British people with a functioning statute book. Clause 40 and schedule 4 provide essential further provision on the powers in the Bill, and I urge hon. Members to support their standing part of the Bill.

As hon. Members know, consequential provisions are standard, even in legislation of great constitutional importance. Equally, transitional provisions are a standard way to smooth the application of a change in the UK statute book. Schedule 5 already makes many consequential amendments, but there will be more. As is standard practice, we are therefore taking a power to amend those constitutional amendments.

I understand Members’ concerns about delegated powers in this Bill, and I would like to allay those fears and concerns today. This power is naturally constrained. It can be used only to make provisions that are consequential to the Bill. Transitional, transitory and saving provisions are equally standard in smoothing the introduction of a change to the statute book. As we implement the withdrawal agreement, it is in everyone’s interest that we ensure legal continuity for businesses and individuals. Again, schedule 5 introduces some of those measures, but we will need the flexibility to ensure that the withdrawal agreement can operate smoothly and efficiently for the people of the UK.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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Is the European Statutory Instruments Committee, which operated so effectively in the last Parliament, expected to be re-established in this Parliament to scrutinise statutory instruments made under this Bill?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank that Committee for the work it has done, although I must admit that my focus has been on the work the European Scrutiny Committee is doing during the implementation period. I am more than happy to get back to the hon. Gentleman later on the specific point about the Committee he mentions. As hon. Members will know, case law and an array of legal authorities provide a very narrow scope for Governments to exercise powers of these types. They are standard provisions to permit “housekeeping” modifications.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford
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The Minister is talking about the delegated powers, which are sweeping and extensive throughout this Bill. Why are the Government so reluctant to have limitations that protect key primary legislation such as the Human Rights Act and the devolved Acts, which were just voted against by Government Members?

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James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Our withdrawal from the EU does not impinge on our human rights commitments. That issue is dealt with in later new clauses. I will make some more detailed comments on human rights then, but our commitments to human rights are unaffected by this Bill.

Clause 42 provides for the extent and commencement of the Bill and sets out its short title. It sets out that the Bill will extend to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, save for a limited number of exceptions, with one being that section 1 extends to the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. The European Communities Act currently extends to the Crown dependencies and Gibraltar in a limited way. This means that the saving effect of the European Communities Act to allow for the implementation period must similarly extend to these jurisdictions—in effect, we will be continuing as we are during the implementation period. The Government have regularly engaged with the Crown dependencies throughout the EU exit process to keep them apprised of developments and to provide a forum for ongoing dialogue. That has been an important aspect of ensuring that this clause is fit for purpose.

The clause also sets out which parts of the Act will commence immediately at Royal Assent, and provides a power for the Minister to commence other provisions at different times by regulation. Provisions such as the consequential and transitional powers, and certain definitions, will commence immediately. It is also usual practice for the Bill to allow provisions to be commenced at different times through commencement regulations. This is an essential part of how the Act will come into place in an orderly manner.

On schedule 5, the House will remember the debates on section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the power to fix deficiencies in retained EU law. It was written so that in the event that the UK left the EU without a deal, deficiencies arising from our withdrawal would be corrected. Since that Act was passed, the Government and the devolved authorities have laid secondary legislation under the 2018 Act and other primary legislation to ensure a functioning statute book on exit day in the event of no deal. We do not want this legislation to come into force on exit day—rather, we want to defer these bits of secondary legislation en masse so that they come into effect at the end of the implementation period. This schedule provides for the mass deferral of this secondary legislation so that it comes into force by reference to “IP completion day” rather than “exit day”.

The schedule also contains the power to make exceptions to the mass deferral. It also covers the devolved Assemblies’ use of this power, and provides for a similar deferral of commencement, and a power to make exceptions in respect of certain primary legislation made by the devolved authorities. In addition to the provisions I have just set out, the schedule also expands the consequential power in the 2018 Act so that it can be used to make fixes in consequence of amendments that this Bill makes to that Act. A number of Acts now need to be updated to reflect the terms of the withdrawal agreement, including the implementation period. These amendments alter previous changes made by the 2018 Act to other legislation. The provisions contained in this schedule are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the statute book for the whole of the implementation period and beyond, so it must stand part of this Bill.

Amendment 11 was, I believe, a probing measure to allow us to discuss sovereignty. It has been a good place-setter, enabling us to have a robust discussion of what is meant by “sovereignty”. We have been able to confirm that the UK has been able to do things while inside the EU. We have strongly confirmed that we have felt constrained, and have been constrained, as part of the EU in not disagreeing with things that have been put through by the EU. We now have a closer understanding of what Conservative Members mean by parliamentary sovereignty and why we asserted ourselves during the Brexit debate and the general election, which we won resoundingly.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies
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Will the Minister give way?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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With pleasure.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies
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The pleasure is all mine.

Does the Minister agree that the United States is undermining the WTO by not appointing judges to the appellant court? The Americans do not want a rule-based system; they want a power-based system—their power, and they put most of the money into the WTO. The body has 164 members, so the idea that on our own, rather than as part of the EU bloc, we will have influence in the WTO that compares to our influence by virtue of our population in the EU is surely not credible. We will simply have less sovereignty.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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We will have more influence: we will have influence with the Americans, who want to do a trade deal with us early on, and we will work with other international partners. The WTO has been of immense value in liberalising trade, and in many ways the EU trading within itself has been a block on the liberalisation of global trade, although it has opened out trade within the EU. I have made that point around Parliament and I think Members support the principle.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
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Let me elucidate the point. I sometimes think the Opposition do not seem to understand that we are in the WTO through the EU anyway. The whole EU is governed by WTO rules and the WTO court, yet the Opposition say that we would sacrifice control by going into the WTO. That bit of it already applies to us. We will get our vote and our voice, so we will actually get some power.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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My right hon. Friend is right. I disagree with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), but if he was right we would be suffering those problems at distance through the EU; if indeed it was the problem that he describes, it would not be a new problem.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I am going to make some progress on amendment 9. I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman’s speech as a trade rep; I shall listen carefully to his remarks and intervene on him if that is appropriate and helpful to the debate.

The House will be aware that the Government previously published an impact assessment in support of the Bill. It is a standard assessment of the direct costs and benefits to businesses of elements of the Bill, and is available to Parliament and the public.

The assessment is in addition to the Government’s analysis, which was published in November 2018. It is detailed and robust and covers a broad range of scenarios.

In his letter to the Treasury Committee on 21 October last year, the Chancellor of Exchequer committed the Government to provide continued analysis of the appropriate points through the next stages of the negotiations. Hopefully, that will reassure the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), in addition to the reassurance she received from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who spoke on issues of parliamentary scrutiny in the debate on the previous group. The Government remain committed to providing that analysis and will inform Parliament with the best analysis on which to base decisions. We will do so at the appropriate time, and so that it does not impede our ability to strike a good deal. I do not think that Members of Parliament or the British public would want us to do otherwise.

The British people have voted to get Brexit done and we must honour that by leaving with a deal. Fundamentally, amendment 9 is sadly another attempt to delay Brexit. We do not want to test the people’s patience further by adding another step to the process, so I urge the SNP to withdraw the amendment. An impact assessment already exists and is there for everyone to see.

I thank the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) for tabling amendment 35, but unfortunately we cannot accept it. The clause recognises a principal fundamental to our constitutional relationships: that Parliament is sovereign. Nothing in the Bill derogates from the sovereignty of Parliament, as the clause makes clear. In passing legislation to give effect to the withdrawal agreement, Parliament is exercising that sovereignty. Clause 5 is a critical component of the Bill: it provides individuals and businesses with some clarity, such that they can rely on the withdrawal agreement. It also provides for the withdrawal agreement to take priority over domestic law where it is incompatible. That is consistent with parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament is giving effect to the priority of the withdrawal agreement. The effect of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment would go beyond that. It would be novel and it would bind Parliament’s hands in exercising its ability to make and unmake law. He should be assured that such an amendment is entirely unnecessary, so I hope that he does not press it to a vote.

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Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne
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I am not going to take the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, because I know what he is going to say.

In conclusion, will the Minister, if he has the opportunity to do so, refer in his winding up speech to the environment Bill that will shortly be brought before this House and explain the extent to which the protections sought in new clause 27 are likely to be enshrined in it?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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It is always a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne). I think I will be able to reassure him throughout my contribution, particularly on non-regression issues.

We have heard a number of good speeches. In the days since the general election, I have sensed a change in tone in Parliament, an acceptance of that which is happening, and a better debate across the House about what is actually going to happen. [Interruption.] There is a little bit of laughter, or chuntering, as the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) would call it. I have been an offender in that sense, but I do sense a small change in tone.

I would like to speak to 21 new clauses, but I will focus my time because I understand that the House wants to make progress on the substantive new clauses, as opposed to those that are technically flawed. Some are probing new clauses—that point has been made a number of times—and I hope they are more in number than the substantive new clauses that will be pushed to a vote.

I will first speak to new clause 2, tabled by the official Opposition, and to new clause 51 and new schedule 1, tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), who has been omnipresent throughout the day. I am grateful to her for her contribution. The amendments relate to the protection of workers’ rights. As the Government have stated and the Prime Minister has confirmed, we are committed to ensuring that workers’ rights are protected as the UK leaves the EU. I want to reiterate that and add some detail. There is no suggestion that this Government would propose, or that this Parliament would allow, a change or regression in workers’ rights to make them lower than currently required by EU law. We have been clear, in fact, that we will protect and continue to improve workers’ rights. We do not need to be in the EU to do that; we can do it on our own.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I give way to the hon. Gentleman, to save him from chuntering at me.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to chunter on the record. He is talking about workers’ rights and what the Government are going to do. If we are to believe the Government’s promises, we understand they will be coming by way of the employment Bill. When will that Bill be presented to the House and published?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Very soon after the Queen’s Speech, and the timetable will come through the normal channels in the normal way. I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any notice now, but if I get an inkling of when that Bill will be introduced, I will be sure to tell him as soon as I can. As he has pointed out, we announced in the Queen’s Speech that we would bring forward legislation to deliver on the good work plan and the Taylor review. It will give workers in the UK the protections that they need in a changing world; I think that there is an increasing recognition that the world of work is changing.

Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson
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Is it not precisely the point that it is for this Chamber and this sovereign Parliament to pass laws? My hon. Friend has mentioned the forthcoming Bill, and this House of Commons will determine the appropriate rights. We already enjoy enhanced rights, and we do not need to be a member of the European Union to have those rights.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank my hon. Friend for his succinct contribution. He is entirely right to say that, on this issue, we will have the freedom to determine our future. New clause 2 would require the UK to negotiate to become, effectively, a rule-taker in perpetuity. We would be subject to EU employment rules with little or no influence over their development. The type of alignment envisaged in the new clause is not necessary to maintain high standards and protection for UK workers. This Parliament has set higher standards than those in many EU directives. For example, the UK’s race and sex discrimination protections and equal pay rights were decided before we entered the EU.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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I want to clarify what the Minister said about dynamic alignment. Is he saying that if rights were to be enhanced by the European Union, it would not be the Government’s intention to follow?

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.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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Can the Minister confirm, as the right hon. Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) mentioned, that the principles of new clause 27 will be included in the environment Bill if they are not to be included in this Bill?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Forgive me if I am not definitive and if I have not ticked off every single point, but the underlying point is that there will be no regression. We have committed to environmental rights, and I will go into more detail on how we will move ahead of what the EU is currently doing and of what it proposes to do. The answer, in spirit, is yes, but I do not want to give a resounding yes, just in case there is one comma in one part of the hon. Lady’s amendment that deviates from what we are doing.

On the broader suggestions about participation in EU funding programmes, the political declaration envisages close co-operation across a range of areas, including science—I am coming on to that—and education. The declaration already provides a possibility for programmes, which will be done during the negotiation period.

The political declaration sets out that the parties will also explore co-operation between the United Kingdom and all the appropriate EU agencies. The nature of that co-operation will be subject to negotiation.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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The Minister says we do not need to be in the EU to protect environmental standards. I know from my experience as a young civil engineer that the EU had to take a Tory Government to court to force action on cleaning up our bathing beaches across the UK. That happened purely because we were a member of the EU; otherwise we would still have raw sewage in the seas and waters around the UK.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I will come on to the environment. If I do not answer the hon. Gentleman’s underlying point, he should feel free to intervene again.

It is good to see the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) in her place, as she tabled new clause 10. The Government secured agreement to participate in all elements of the Erasmus+ programme during the implementation period, and that will be done in the future relationship. We made it clear that we are open to maintaining and expanding co-operation in education. We strongly believe, as she does, in the value of international exchange, not just European exchange, and it is very much part of our vision for global Britain to extend that concept, rather than simply looking at the narrow area of the United Kingdom. We believe that the UK and European countries should continue to give young people and students opportunities around the world in universities and elsewhere—through other elements of Erasmus and support—post-Brexit. The political declaration envisages the possibility of UK participation in EU programmes, and we will negotiate the general terms of participation, where appropriate, throughout the implementation period. Ultimately, decisions about our participation will be a matter for wider negotiations, but we will look at all the available opportunities.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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The Minister mentions EU funding programmes. Scotland has been benefiting from €872 million of EU funding over the past seven years. In the highlands and islands, this is a net contribution benefit and it has changed communities across our entire area. Does the Minister have any idea, and can he give us any inkling, as to when the shared prosperity fund is going to be launched and what it will cover? Can he give us any information about that?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. In the broader arena, we will be taking back control of our money and spending it as we choose. As for his specific point, those decisions will come after a cross-governmental spending review and I am more than happy to commit the Treasury to write to him with any more detail if it is available.

New clauses 16 and 46 are on economic assessments, with the latter standing in the name of Social Democratic and Labour party Members. These would require environmental and equality impact assessments. We have had a few calls for impact assessments across the board, and I have made the point about their cost a number of times. In some cases, we are already making commitments, and this would be bad government spend, for the sake of producing a report. This debate is about the Bill and exiting the EU, whereas a lot of these reports would be about the future relationship, so this Bill would be an inappropriate place to put provision for these reports, even if they were the right thing to do. It simply would not be possible to agree to publish a detailed analysis of something that has not yet been agreed. In November 2018, the Government published a detailed analysis covering a broad range of— [Interruption.]

George Howarth Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir George Howarth)
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Order. It is a great discourtesy for people to be carrying on separate conversations when any Member of the House is speaking.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Thank you, Sir George. I suspect that the Committee is encouraging me to make progress, and I will take the hint. I do ask Members to bear with me, because I am dealing with 21 new clauses and it is important to cover them, as they have all been tabled with seriousness and deserve the Government’s attention.

On new clause 38, the Government have been committed to publishing an objective spending analysis of the UK’s withdrawal ever since the people voted to leave the EU three and a half years ago.

On the economy, we have already spoken about the objective analysis, and I am not going to say any more on new clause 38. I will address human rights in more detail when dealing with a slightly later clause.

New clause 20 deals with mutual recognition and raises a number of important issues relating to adequacy and equivalence with the EU in a number of areas for the future relationship. The Government fully agree that in some areas it would be appropriate to agree arrangements of the sort that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) mentions. For instance, the political declaration envisages reciprocal adequacy decisions in the area of data protection. However, the Government do not believe that adequacy decisions, mutual recognition or equivalence arrangements are always in the best interests of the country, with one example being where they rely on alignment with future EU rules. Although I understand the thrust of his proposal, I do not think it is helpful to constrain the Prime Minister and his negotiating team by prescribing negotiating objectives too precisely. The Government will always listen to the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden and we are particularly grateful for his stewardship of a Department that is about to come to an end as a result of the success of his work and that of many other contributors, including some fantastic civil servants and a truly exceptional Secretary of State, in the shape of my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Steve Barclay). It is always a good idea for me to be nice about my boss.

New clause 27 addresses further environmental issues. Sadly, the Government cannot support the new clause; I shall go into some detail on why. The UK is an advanced modern economy with a long history of environmental protections supported by strong legal frameworks that in some cases predate the EU. We will shortly bring forward an environment Bill that will set ambitious new domestic frameworks for environmental governance, including—crucially—the establishment of the office for environmental protection. The legislation will build on the 25-year environmental plan, which we are part-way through—admittedly, it is early on in the 25-year plan—and provide the assurances that will be upheld.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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On the new environment Bill and the Office for Environmental Protection, will the Minister guarantee that it really will have sharp teeth and the same enforcement powers that we have been used to seeing from the European Court of Justice? The previous environment Bill certainly did not have that kind of watchdog—it was much more of a poodle than a dog with a bark.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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There ain’t no point in having one of these things if it does not have teeth and if it does not bark and have a bit of bite, so I can commit the Government on all those points. The Government are committed to remaining a world-leader in environmental protection once we have left the UK. Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to put the environment front and centre in our policy making.

--- Later in debate ---
Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
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The NHS is of course devolved in Scotland. May I make a personal appeal, with which I am sure my colleagues in the Scottish National party will agree? Will the Government work as closely as possible with the Scottish Government to ensure that the laudable position that the NHS should not be for sale applies to Scotland as much as it does to the UK?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I agree, and I am meeting with the Scottish Government tomorrow so will make that point in my first sentence.

I am conscious of the time and the fact that Members will hear from me again after two more speeches, so I shall not go into any more detail on new clause 49 because citizens’ rights have been covered quite extensively.

On observer status of the devolved Assemblies in the EU, it would be wrong, given that, as a country, we are leaving the European Union, to give special status to the devolved Assemblies. The devolved Assemblies will come out with us.

Finally, turning to new clause 50 on the charter of rights, there is no need for a report. We will maintain our human rights and liberties. They are fundamental to the European Union and nothing that we do in leaving the European Union changes that.

Sir George, I thank you and your team for standing in for this Bill. I think that there has been a change of tone in the House. I am looking forward to serving in this Parliament over the next period. I think that it is a better place, and a better place for delivering Brexit. It is now over to the House of Lords.

George Howarth Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir George Howarth)
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Order. It is very kind of the Minister to say so, but I do not think that I can take any personal credit for the change in tone of the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Oral Answers to Questions

James Duddridge Excerpts
Wednesday 15th November 2017

(4 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Theresa May Portrait The Prime Minister
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In looking to the immigration rules to be introduced once we leave the EU, we are clear about the need to take into account the needs of our economy. That is precisely why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look at this issue and make recommendations to the Government.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)
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Given the recent events in Zimbabwe, what support can Her Majesty’s Government provide to Zimbabweans to help their country’s recovery, both economically and in terms of their democratic systems of government?

Theresa May Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend raises an important point. We have all seen what has happened in Harare, and we are monitoring developments carefully. The situation is still fluid, and we would urge restraint on all sides, because we want to see—and would call for—an avoidance of violence. Of course, our primary concern is the safety of British nationals in Zimbabwe. It is an uncertain political situation, obviously, and we have heard reports of unusual military activity, so we recommend that British nationals in Harare remain safely at home until the situation becomes clearer. On his specific point, we are currently providing bilateral support to Zimbabwe of more than £80 million per year, partly to support economic reform and development, just as he says.

Oral Answers to Questions

James Duddridge Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd January 2013

(9 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Cameron Portrait The Prime Minister
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No. The energy company obligation scheme is many times the size of the Warm Front scheme. Warm Front helped 80,000 families a year, but ECO could help up to 230,000 families a year, so it is a bigger and potentially better scheme.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)
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What assessment has the Prime Minister made of unemployment in my constituency, particularly the fact that more women are in work than ever before?

David Cameron Portrait The Prime Minister
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The point my hon. Friend makes is absolutely right. There are now more people employed in the private sector than ever before, and there are also more women employed in our country than ever before. When we look at the unemployment figures that came out today, we see that what is remarkable is that in employment is up in almost every region and unemployment is down in almost every region. There is a huge amount more to do, but clearly over 500,000 new jobs were created in the private sector last year, the fastest job creation rate since 1989. That shows that we are on the right track.