All 1 Lord McNally contributions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

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Mon 19th Oct 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Lord McNally Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 19th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 29 September 2020 - (29 Sep 2020)
Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD)
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My Lords, my first duty is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on two excellent maiden speeches. It is not always like this, by the way. In his speech today, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear that we are an unelected second Chamber with a mainly advisory and revisory role, but along with those responsibilities is another power, rarely used but very important.

In 2006, along with my noble friend Lord Tyler, I sat on a Joint Committee of both Houses set up to examine the conventions that govern the relations between both Houses, and between Parliament and Government. The report and recommendations of that committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, were adopted by overwhelming votes of both Houses and stand as the basic rules of the conventions between them—not Salisbury/Addison, but the Cunningham conventions. Paragraph 281 of that report said about the powers of the House of Lords:

“Nothing in these recommendations would alter the … right of the House … in exceptional circumstances, to vote against the Second Reading or passing of any Bill”.

It is that right to say no that stops this House being simply a debating society. In the 110 years since the first major reform of this House, its most passionate defenders have argued that the Lords was the safety catch to prevent an abuse of power by a temporary majority in the other place. A constant in all our deliberations has been the special responsibility of this House to uphold the rule of law.

Over the next two days we are considering a Bill on which a Minister of the Crown in the other place admitted a proposed breach of the UK’s international obligations, and where the Government’s senior law officer in this House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, has resigned rather than be at the Dispatch Box today to try to defend it. When all five living ex-Prime Ministers express concerns about the Bill; when the joint briefing on it from the Law Society and the Bar Council calls for the removal of the offending clauses; when the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law says that these clauses are in fundamental opposition to the rule of law and damage our standing internationally; and when our own Select Committee on the Constitution calls in aid the late Lord Bingham and states:

“We agree with Lord Bingham that respect for the rule of law requires respect for international law”,

one is bound to ask whether this House could ever have before it legislation which better fits the term “exceptional circumstances” than that before us today.

I will vote for the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and it will undoubtedly be carried tomorrow. It does not, however, use the power of this House to remove the offending clauses—Clauses 44, 45 and 47—from the Bill. In that respect, it will allow us to go home feeling good but without having changed the mischief in the Bill.

I am clear that we should refuse this Bill a Second Reading, but am told by my more herbivorous colleagues that the Bill should go to Committee. I hope that during its passage through Committee and Report we will see an amendment to remove the offending clauses, and that, however many times it is brought back, this House will say no. If this is not an “exceptional circumstance” as set out in the 2006 report, I fail to see when this House will ever summon up the courage to use that power. Those who have a contempt for our parliamentary democracy and the rule of law will be emboldened by our failure, and this House will be diminished in the process.