All Lord True contributions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020

Mon 14th December 2020
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Wed 9th December 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Ping Pong (Hansard)
Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
19 interactions (3,188 words)
Wed 18th November 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage
Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Report: 1st sitting
Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
11 interactions (1,450 words)
Mon 26th October 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
11 interactions (1,774 words)

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(Consideration of Commons amendments)
Lord True Excerpts
Monday 14th December 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Cabinet Office

Moved by

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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That this House do not insist on its Amendments 1B, 1C and 1D to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 1E.

1E: Because the Lords Amendments will create legal uncertainty, which would be disruptive to business.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, I will address Amendments 1F, 1G, 1H, 1J, 1K and 1L. Last week, the other place was clear in its disagreement with Amendments 1B, 1C and 1D when it removed them from this Bill.

I appreciate the ongoing contributions of noble Lords to these debates on the interactions between the market access principles and common frameworks. I very much welcome the constructive engagement we have had on this issue since last Wednesday. In particular, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his continued contribution and for his willingness to engage in ongoing dialogue on his amendments, which he has tabled in lieu.

There have also been constructive conversations with the Labour Front Bench over the past week, for which I am grateful. I look forward to continuing discussions with the noble Baroness opposite and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, in seeking to bridge the gap between our two positions. I should also express my appreciation of the helpful contributions and advice from my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern.

As I said in the House last week, the previous amendments from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, would have created a broad regime of exclusions from the market access principles, which would have denied businesses and consumers much-needed clarity regarding the terms of trade within which they operate. The Government have been clear throughout these debates that we agree on the need for an exclusions regime, but one that is carefully drafted and provides certainty for business. In drafting the Bill, specifically Clauses 10 and 17, the Government have designed an exclusions approach that achieves a careful balance.

I understand the aim of the noble and learned Lord’s revision to his amendment, which is to further specify the interaction between divergence agreed under common frameworks and exclusions to the market access principles. However, our assessment remains that the approach in these amendments goes too far in both the breadth of the exclusions it may require the Secretary of State to create and the uncertainty it could lead to. This runs counter to the certainty that the Bill is designed to provide.

To further emphasise the Government’s position, I will take the opportunity to clarify some of the points noble Lords raised during our debate last week. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, expressed concern that traders may need to consider relevant regulations in different parts of the United Kingdom. I reiterate that the mutual recognition principle provides reassurance for traders, in that as long as they comply with local relevant requirements they do not need to worry about those other parts. This is the advantage of our proposed approach: we have carefully created an architecture that means that a trader will have clarity regarding the rules they should follow. As I have said before, the uncertainty introduced by the wholesale exclusions from the market access principles afforded by the amendment should not be supported by the House.

The common frameworks process will encourage a conversation about a common approach and so provide for consensus-based decision-making in sectoral areas of the economy. However, the Government believe that common frameworks on their own cannot determine where matters should or should not be in scope of the market access principles. That is a job for the UK Parliament and for MPs from the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Government also believe that the system they have designed should create a proper balance between the independent operation of devolved powers and the automatic application of the principles that protect the market and give certainty. The Government have been clear in Parliament about our commitment to the common frameworks programme, which I repeat today, and the value we attach to the fora that common frameworks provide for collaborative working with the devolved Administrations. As noble Lords are aware, the common frameworks programme provides an avenue for discussing ways of working and as such is primarily concerned with processes rather than determining specific policy outcomes.

The programme aims to put in place durable arrangements for intergovernmental working between the Government and the devolved Administrations, and our intention remains that these mechanisms for co-operation on specific policy areas will allow for coherent policy-making between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in those policy areas. For this reason, we think that the common frameworks programme is complementary to the mechanisms set out in the Bill, and I respectfully suggest again that the approach put forward in the amendments is contrary to the Government’s responsibility to provide businesses with the certainty they need to operate across the United Kingdom. I repeat my gratitude to other noble Lords for the constructive conversations that have been taking place.

Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Moved by

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, perhaps we need to remember why we are here. It is really quite simple. When the case for Brexit was all about “taking back control”, we failed to understand that the Government meant taking control to themselves, even over issues that were fully devolved. However, when the Bill was published—without any involvement from the devolved authorities, remember—we soon discovered that it ran roughshod over devolved competences, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, said, trumping the common frameworks programme.

I have often wondered whether this was deliberate or an oversight, though the lack of prior consultation suggests the former. However, that makes the statement on the publication of the Bill, on 9 September, signed by the Scottish Secretary but not the Welsh Secretary, and by Mr Sharma and Mr Gove, a bit strange in the light of this Bill. It says that the devolved Administrations will enjoy a “power surge” when the transition period ends.

Let us take that at face value. Perhaps the particular construction of the Bill was clumsy—as an oversight rather than deliberate—and perhaps it is right that the Government did not intend to bring back to themselves all the powers long devolved to the other three authorities, but in that case the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, would rectify the problem. They would simply restrict the market access powers in the Bill, which of course are only about devolved competences, to those where the four-party process failed to reach agreement.

As the Government are one of those four parties, they will be in a very strong position to revert to the Bill, and to Parliament, for the powers they feel are vital for an internal market on areas where disagreement cannot be overcome. That seems, to this side of the House, a simple, clean solution. It would hard-wire in a common frameworks process which the Government themselves described last week in the latest of their three-monthly reports on the frameworks—reports which, I think, we added to Schedule 3 to the EU withdrawal Bill as a requirement for the Government to publish—as

“an agreed approach to ensuring regulatory coherence”

in devolved areas. That is absolutely spot on—coherence, not uniformity—and that is probably where we are trying to get to. The problem is that, as written, the Bill adopts “uniformity”.

The same document, which has just been published, despite having talked about coherence, then asserts:

“Common Frameworks cannot guarantee the integrity of the entire UK Internal Market.”

However, the document does not provide any evidence of why the frameworks will not work. It gives no examples of where, within devolved competences, any agreements might not work. Indeed, the Minister, in introducing the debate, again asserted that it would have to be for Parliament alone to decide when the market access rules would not be used, but he did not explain why the four-party process would not be able to deal with that and why they would come to Parliament only when there was a failure to agree. The same document notes the “freezing power” contained in the withdrawal Act, and it also notes that it has never needed to be used, but it fails to suggest where it might be needed.

Therefore, in the Bill the Government are saying that on the one hand the frameworks are very good and have been able to produce coherence but, on the other hand, the Bill allows the market access principles to trump that process, even if it produces agreement.

We have it said before and I say it again: we on this side of the House want an internal market which thrives and serves the needs of business, the professions, consumers and the environment, but it has to be one that respects rather than dismantles devolution. These amendments seem to us to offer the path to achieve that, so we will support the noble and learned Lord when, as I am sure he will do, he asks the House to vote. I hope that in the light of that vote we can, as the Minister suggested, continue the dialogue so that we can reach an agreed position that would safeguard all that has been going on with the devolution settlements and the common frameworks process but, in the last analysis, would of course come back here.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, once again, I am very grateful to those who have contributed to the debate. Although the cast is smaller, I know that the interest is no less great. The sense of respect for the devolved institutions, which has gone right across your Lordships’ debates on the Bill, is important and shared by all of us, however we view the question raised in the amendments.

I also thank all those who have participated in the ongoing dialogue outside your Lordships’ House on this matter. Naturally, I will shortly seek to persuade your Lordships not to support the noble and learned Lord’s Motion for the reasons I have given, but the strength of feeling expressed in this House and in the other place is testament to the important role that common frameworks play in intergovernmental working and this country’s future outside the European Union, and indeed within the overall structure of intergovernmental relations within the United Kingdom.

The Government are committed to working with the devolved Administrations to deliver these agreements to the benefit of people from all four corners of the United Kingdom, and we welcome the strong support that has been shown for common frameworks by both Houses, not least by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, in his noble efforts to unwrap a Christmas parcel. I am sure that the jewel of mutual respect is there, whatever the outcome of the debates on this question.

Common frameworks allow the Government and the devolved Administrations to engage in meaningful dialogue about how all parts of the country can benefit from the new powers flowing from the European Union. I say to the noble Baroness opposite that they are flowing from the European Union. However, common frameworks are primarily concerned with processes rather than determining specific policy outcomes, and as such they do not obviate the need for the market access principles in these areas. I believe it is common ground across this Chamber that it is for the United Kingdom Parliament and its Members from all four nations to have a role in safeguarding a market across all parts of the United Kingdom.

Common frameworks are not intended to be an all-encompassing solution to the maintenance of that internal market. The Government’s belief is that additional legislative protection provided by this Bill will provide certainty for the status quo of internal UK trade. Broad disapplication of elements of the Bill risks removing that certainty, which is needed for business and citizens in all four parts of the United Kingdom. Again, I believe that is a common objective. For that reason, we believe both common frameworks and the market access principles—if the word “complementary” is not cared for, I will say “working in tandem”—to be necessary to guarantee the integrity of the entire United Kingdom internal market.

The security that this Bill provides is crucial for the people and businesses of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is essential that we ensure that this certainty is provided in all areas, including in the devolved policy areas, where powers flow from the European Union to London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

Of course, I hear the arguments and representations put forward in the characteristically modest approach of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, but the Government’s belief is that we cannot afford to risk denying our citizens the ability to trade seamlessly across the United Kingdom, as they do now. I hope this is something that your Lordships’ House can agree with, and I hope that, in order to provide this certainty, the noble and learned Lord will find himself able to withdraw his Motion. In the event that he is unable to do so, the remarks that I made earlier obviously stand.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to those who have contributed to this short debate. I would like to pick up on some words that the Minister said in his reply. The words “mutual respect” have characterised the meetings that I have been privileged to take part in as we have moved towards the position that I am adopting. I think it is a very healthy system that allows us to conduct these discussions in such a manner as we seek out the positions that each of us is trying to adopt and possible ways of accommodating them.

At the end of the day, as I have said on a number of occasions, it really is up to the Government. I am looking to them to facilitate in some way the process by which an agreed decision to diverge, which has gone through all the processes of the common frameworks system, may be protected against the sharp edges of the internal market principles. I do not believe that that will in any way disrupt the workings of the internal market; indeed, there are benefits from allowing the devolved Administrations to develop their ideas in a way that is consistent with the internal market by the use of this process and the opportunity for divergence that it allows for.

The Minister has invited me to withdraw my Motion, but in truth I cannot properly do that, given that we are in a process of continuing discussion and we have not yet had a proposal from the Government that provides a solution to the problem that I am seeking to address in my amendments. For those reasons, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

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Moved by

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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That this House do not insist on its insistence on its Amendments 14, 52, 53 and 54 to which the Commons have insisted on their disagreement for their Reason 14C.

14C: Because the Lords Amendments (together with Lords Amendment 55 which has been agreed by both Houses) were only made in consequence of the omission of Part 5 by Lords Amendments 42 to 47 and so have become unnecessary following the Lords non-insistence on Lords Amendments 42, 43 and 46.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am introducing a new government amendment, containing new Clause 43A, as well as moving Motions C, D and E, which will rectify the oddities left by the removal of Clauses 44, 45 and 47. Now that we have an agreement in principle with the European Union through the joint committee, as we discussed in the last round of these discussions in your Lordships’ House, the safety net clauses are no longer required.

The EU’s declaration on Article 10 of the Northern Ireland protocol clarifies that subsidies are within scope of the state aid rules in the protocol only where there is a “genuine and direct link” to Northern Ireland and a “real and foreseeable” impact on trade between Northern Ireland and the European Union. The House has been concerned, as has the other place, about the risk of reach-back; the EU’s clarification addresses this. The concern was that a company in Great Britain with only a peripheral link to commercial operations in Northern Ireland could be caught inadvertently by the tests within the protocol’s text, which was neither acceptable nor what the protocol had envisaged.

However, public authorities giving subsidies and the beneficiaries still need guidance regarding Article 10 of the protocol. Therefore, new Clause 43A stipulates:

“The Secretary of State must publish guidance on the practical application of Article 10”.

The clause requires the Secretary of State’s guidance to reflect any relevant decision or recommendation of the joint committee or any declaration made by either party of which the other party takes note. The Secretary of State may update the guidance, for example, to reflect developments in either the joint committee or relevant EU law. Public authorities will be required to have regard to this guidance, helping to ensure a consistent and uniform application of Article 10. This approach is fully in accordance with the United Kingdom Government’s commitments under the Northern Ireland protocol and international and domestic law. The new clause is an important part of putting the protocol into effect and for the agreement in principle with the European Union to function.

I know that noble Lords have welcomed progress on this part of the Bill, and I beg to move.

Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I speak to Clause 43A. Consistent with the Minister’s undertaking last week, this new clause is not tainted with the admitted unlawfulness that marked Clauses 44, 45 and 47. By way of a footnote, in view of the Minister’s observation, I will say that those clauses should never have been there in the first place. As the Minister has explained, this clause is concerned with the issuing of guidance by the Secretary of State in relation to Article 10 of the Northern Ireland protocol, and any subsequent implementation of that guidance. Either process must pay full attention to the decisions and recommendations of the joint committee, itself established under Article 164 of the withdrawal agreement. Non-compliance, if it were to arise, would, if necessary, be justiciable.

There is nothing further that I can say in relation to this clause. It seems to be a very sensible solution to a difficult problem.

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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The noble Lord, Lord True, has been true to his word. He has produced Clause 43A, which does not contain any element of illegality, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said. I also agree with the noble and learned Lord that it is a sensible provision and we welcome it. It brings to an end a saga for which this country has plainly paid a price. Everybody commenting on the position of the European Union at the moment is saying that the reason it is currently seeking the arbitral and consultation provisions, and the threshold for the ratchet up, is that it does not trust us—and one of the reasons for that is the internal market Bill and its illegality.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the noble and learned Lord opposite always has a delightful habit of ending his eloquent speeches with a couple of sentences that I find it hard to agree with, and I do not agree with his interpretation there. But I thank those who have contributed to this short debate. I am grateful for the welcome for the Government’s proposal—I do not talk about tails between legs—and that the other parts of Part 5, to which your Lordships objected before, have been accepted. As perceived from this side of the House, that was the correct action.

I need not repeat the essence of this. Clause 43A is required in the Bill because, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said, it is an important part of implementing the protocol. The clause places a duty on the Secretary of State to provide guidance. I welcome the fact that the EU has clarified that subsidies are within the scope of Article 10 only under the conditions that I described—a genuine and direct link to Northern Ireland and a real, foreseeable impact on trade between Northern Ireland and the EU. This addresses the risk of reach-back and must be reflected in the guidance that the Government will provide.

I am also, of course, grateful for the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. In concluding, I will emphasise, as he did, that this approach is fully in accordance with the United Kingdom’s commitments under the Northern Ireland protocol and international and domestic law.

Motion C agreed.

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Moved by

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 45C.

45C: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—

“43A Guidance on Article 10 of the Northern Ireland Protocol

(1) The Secretary of State must publish guidance on the practical application of Article 10 of the Northern Ireland Protocol (State aid).

(2) For that purpose Article 10 is to be read in the light of—

(a) any relevant decision or recommendation of the Joint Committee, and

(b) any relevant declaration that is made in the Joint Committee by either party, of which the other party takes note.

(3) The guidance must be published before the end of the period of one month beginning with the day on which this section comes into force.

(4) A person with public functions relating to the implementation of Article 10 (including functions involving the provision of financial assistance or other subsidies) must have regard to the guidance when exercising such functions.

(5) The Secretary of State may—

(a) revise or replace the guidance;

(b) if satisfied it is no longer necessary, withdraw the guidance.

(6) In this section “Joint Committee” means the committee established by Article 164(1) of the EU withdrawal agreement.”

Motion D agreed.

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Moved by

Lord True Portrait Lord True
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That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 47C.

47C: Clause 43, page 35, line 3, leave out paragraph (b)

Motion E agreed.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(Consideration of Commons amendments)
Lord True Excerpts

1A: Because they will create legal uncertainty, which would be disruptive to business.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, I think I was on mute for a minute there.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, says, “Keep it up,” which I know is a sentiment widely shared.

Noble Lords have been clear throughout this debate on the UKIM Bill about their support for the common frameworks programme. I and the Government concur with those sentiments, and I reiterate the Government’s continued commitment to this programme. I am pleased to update your Lordships’ House that common frameworks are developing well, with three common frameworks currently undergoing scrutiny, including in this House’s committee chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews—and I pay tribute to the work of that committee.

Out of 33 active frameworks that we have assessed are needed, we expect 30 to be agreed by the end of 2020, mostly on a provisional basis, pending scrutiny by Parliament and the devolved legislatures. The common frameworks programme embodies the value of strong intergovernmental relations. The UK Government and the devolved Administrations are working together, on a voluntary basis, in support of cohesive policy-making and the maintenance of high standards in respect of the specific needs of each part of the United Kingdom. While recognising this positive collaboration, we also need to acknowledge that the common frameworks were always intended to cover only a specific set of issues where powers are returning from the EU. Common frameworks support the functioning of the internal market but cannot by themselves ensure regulatory coherence across the whole UK internal market—the key objective of this Bill.

As the Government have noted previously, we regret that the Scottish Government walked away from the joint internal market workstream in spring 2019. Detailed engagement has been ongoing with the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive on this Bill, and the door remains open to the Scottish Government to join similar discussions. The strength of common frameworks lies in the fact that they provide a forum for discussion and collaboration, with a clear process in defined, but limited, areas of economic activity.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his thoughtful participation in these debates and his considered amendments to the Bill, which he has now partly revised. I welcome also the willingness of the noble and learned Lord to continue engaging in discussions on his amendment with my officials, and those discussions may continue. I also thank noble Lords opposite for their own positive and practical engagement on these matters. Discussions are not exhausted on this topic.

On the amendment before us, I have cautioned your Lordships’ House before, regarding the previous amendments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, that this would lead to the automatic disapplication of the market access principles, creating a very broad exclusions regime, with the attendant risk of legal uncertainty for businesses and consumers over whether or not market access principles apply. It is the Government’s view that these revised amendments carry similar risks, both in terms of the breadth of the exclusions regime created and in terms of uncertainty. As to the latter, there is no safeguard against different Administrations attempting to implement different interpretations of an agreement into law, potentially leaving the courts in the unenviable position of adjudicating on these different interpretations. That would potentially invite the courts into the common frameworks process, which is inherently undesirable. Any such litigation would create great uncertainty for businesses. This is clearly not in keeping with the need to provide certainty and a stable trading environment for citizens across our United Kingdom.

Moreover, Amendments 1B and 1C prevent the introduction by a UK Government Minister of any new regulations in any area where discussions under the common frameworks process are ongoing. This could mean Ministers would be unable to act, even if there were an urgent need to do so.

Furthermore, the common frameworks programme was established in 2017 to manage the powers returning from the EU in devolved policy areas. In line with its voluntary nature, the programme has not been put into legislation, although I recognise that it is alluded to, in very high-level terms, in Schedule 3 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

While it is a key objective of common frameworks to agree consistent regulatory standards, in practice there may be cases where divergent approaches could be agreed through a common framework. If this were to occur, and if any such divergence were to fall within the scope of the market access principles, we should be in no doubt that the market access principles set out in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill would apply. That means that even if divergence is agreed in a particular case, it would not prevent businesses from other parts of the United Kingdom being able to sell their products into the relevant place. This would ensure that barriers to trade are not erected through the introduction of divergent policy.

We must also bear in mind that common frameworks are jointly owned by the devolved Administrations. Any proposal to legislate them into this Bill would need to take into account their involvement in the programme. While we have carefully reflected on the arguments made in both Houses, I respectfully suggest that the approach put forward in these amendments brings significant drawbacks to the Government’s ability to provide businesses with the certainty they need to operate across the United Kingdom.

I and colleagues across government look forward to discussing further with our partners in the devolved Administrations and devolved legislatures to consider how we can capitalise on the ways of working agreed through common frameworks. We are also working towards concluding a joint review of intergovernmental relations with the devolved Administrations. These future intergovernmental structures will create a system that secures strategic co-operation and proactive discussions on shared areas of interest, including on common frameworks. The aim of any reform will be to establish an adaptable and effective system of governance that facilitates building long-term trust between the Governments.

We are, of course, open to considering how to put these areas of co-operation on a sustainable footing for the longer term, complementing the IGR review and the market access principles to the benefit of citizens and businesses. I beg to move.

Motion A1 (as an amendment to Motion A)

Moved by

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, who is not in his place, will recall how the notion of common frameworks evolved. When we were doing the first EU withdrawal Bill, it became clear that some of the powers returning from Brussels clearly fell within devolved competences. It was therefore widely understood that, to facilitate trade throughout the UK—as otherwise the rules affecting trade could vary across internal borders—a coming together of the four authorities would be needed to balance the desire for, and attraction of, diversity on some issues with a UK-wide approach to help consumers buy and manufacturers trade throughout the UK.

From the start, it was agreed that such frameworks would be established where needed—this is from the communiqué of October 2017—to

“enable the functioning of the UK internal market, while acknowledging policy divergence”

and that they would

“respect the devolution settlements … based on established conventions … including that the competence of the devolved institutions will not normally be adjusted without their consent”.

That was how they started. At that point, a list of 24 such topics was identified and, with a lot of good faith and hard work—as the Minister has acknowledged—the initial three Governments, along with Northern Ireland officials, set to work developing frameworks to enable that UK-wide market to flourish while recognising where devolved authorities might want variations for whatever reason. The basis was, to quote again from that document signed by the Government, to

“maintain, as a minimum, equivalent flexibility for tailoring policies to the specific needs of each territory”.

Until this Bill arrived, everyone thought the system was working well and would accomplish the aims set for it. This should have been something for the Government to celebrate, as they have today, and build on. In fact, it has never been necessary for the Government to use their powers to freeze any devolved authority’s power—a provision set into the EU withdrawal Act, as the Minister has acknowledged.

While this Bill was anticipated, the expectation was that it would help build a new, in some ways unique, internal market across our four nations, which have different cultural, linguistic, agricultural, geographical and industrial histories and realities. Above all, our nations have different democratic governance structures from when we ceded rule-making to the EU in 1973. We thought the Bill would respect the devolution realities while helping to ensure the UK market could prosper for the sake of business, consumers, workers, our agriculture and the environment. As we now know, in addition to throwing the quite unnecessary Part 5 grenade into the Bill, the Government pulled the pin on another grenade by writing into the Bill market access rules which trumped, rather than solidified, the common frameworks programme, which is an approach built on consensus rather than top-down diktat.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is not a revolutionary. He is not trying to rewrite the Bill. He is seeking—rather like the Minister himself through the Government’s welcome amendments on regulation-making, for which we will give thanks when we come to them later—to start the process on the basis of consent across the four devolved authorities, and, where that is not possible, leaving it to the UK Parliament, rightly, to legislate. We support a union, and therefore we support Parliament’s right at that point to have its proper role. But we start with consent, and then move to Parliament. What we do not support is starting here in Parliament and government, rather than with the four-party common frameworks. So, we welcome the noble and learned Lord’s upending of the procedure, starting with common frameworks and, where or if those do not work, using the market access approach of the Bill in areas obviously otherwise within devolved competencies.

I think we would all warn the Government to be very careful about clawing back decisions from our now quite long-established devolved settlements. I find today’s vote in the Senedd, by 36 to 15, to deny legislative consent to this Bill extraordinarily regrettable. It is an important Bill; it is not a small one. That was denied because of the message sent to Wales and the other devolveds by the rejection in the Commons last night of this approach. So we need a backstop for any failure to agree, but we fail to understand that what should be a backstop has become the starting gun.

The amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, build on the devolution settlements and would support and strengthen the union, as well as creating what we all want: a successful, growing internal market, which is in the interest of all our citizens. We are right, as my noble friend Lord Adonis said, to ask the Government very genuinely to think again about the mechanisms—because that is what we are discussing—to achieve what I think we all want.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, said that if there was a will on the Government’s part to make the common frameworks system work, a solution could be found. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Fox, we concur with that view, and we welcome the Minister’s saying that “discussions are not exhausted”—I think I have his words right. Whether we do that by recognising the framework system in some way, extending the freeze provisions when they expire or pausing market access for a period of time while the four Governments talk—as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Adonis—there is surely a way forward. But I believe we need this amendment to get the Government to continue to discuss, so that we can get that way forward. That is why we will support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, when he calls for a vote shortly.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have contributed to this short debate and for the general tone of the interventions made. I was of course intrigued by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who emerged as a tribune of the people in this august senatorial assembly with his powerful oratory—a latter-day Gaius Gracchus, who said that your Lordships should reject everything sent to us by another place as a constructive contribution to law-making. I would respectfully give to the noble Lord, and indeed to any others who may share his views, the advice I would give to an overweight gentleman like myself: rejecting some of what is set before you, whether it is legislation or food, may well be desirable from time to time, but to reject everything is not conducive to the health of the legislature or of an individual. I hope that rather “Radical Jack” approach will not carry too much weight on the Opposition Benches.

I preferred the broader tone of the debate, which, as I heard it, actually reflected this Government’s resolve and the resolve of the parties represented in this place, at least—I cannot speak for down the Corridor: that all of us are committed to the security and future of this great union, to the common frameworks process and, as part of that, to hopefully developing further the next stage of inter-governmental relations, as I have explained to the House during the course of this Bill.

This Bill, however, works in tandem with the common frameworks programme by providing a broad safety net and additional protections to maintain the status quo of seamless intra-UK trade across all sectors of the economy, and there ought to be agreement on that in your Lordships’ House. It will ensure maximum certainty for businesses and investors, both domestic and overseas. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Naseby said from his perspective and experience in business. I am sure all noble Lords at heart support that objective and understand the need for a coherent internal market.

However, the broad approach of using common frameworks to disapply elements of the Bill, put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, goes too far in our judgment and could lead to legal and regulatory uncertainty. Of course, as I said in my opening remarks—and as was picked up during the debate—the Government will continue to reflect further on these matters, not only within this Bill but more widely.

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14A: Because they were consequential upon Lords Amendments Nos. 42 to 47 and so the changes they made are no longer needed as a result of the Commons disagreement to Lords Amendments Nos. 42 to 47.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, it seems that I am muted again, but I will find my way to the right spot. I turn now to Part 5 of the Bill. These clauses, as your Lordships may be aware, have been the subject of much debate here and in the other place.

Noble Lords will have seen that the Government announced yesterday that they have reached agreement, in principle, on all of the issues in the UK-EU withdrawal agreement Joint Committee. The Government have been clear throughout that they are committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol. We said that when the Bill was introduced to Parliament and have done so at every stage of its passage. We are also clear that, as a responsible Government, we could not allow the economic integrity of the United Kingdom’s internal market to be compromised inadvertently by unintended consequences of the protocol. That is why, through clauses in this Bill, we have sought limited and reasonable steps to create a legal safety net by taking powers in reserve whereby Ministers could guarantee the integrity of our United Kingdom and ensure that the Government are always able to deliver on their commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.

We sought these measures to guard against the possibility of not reaching agreement with the EU in the Joint Committee. As we have now reached agreement with the EU, I am pleased to say that the clauses which provided for the safety net are no longer needed and the Government are content for them to be removed from the Bill. I refer to Clauses 44, 45 and 47.

Hear, hear!

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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However, as I said in Committee, the clauses that provide for the safety net are not the only ones that make up this part of the Bill. It is vital that the other clauses are passed so that we can deliver on our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland. The protocol is clear that Northern Ireland is part of the UK customs territory, while our manifesto is clear that we would maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market. Clause 42 delivers on that commitment by ensuring that all authorities must have special regard to the following fundamental matters when exercising functions that relate to the implementation of the protocol on the movement of goods within the United Kingdom.

The first is the need to maintain the integral place of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom’s internal market. The second is the need to respect Northern Ireland’s place as a part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory, while the third is the need to facilitate the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The clause is also entirely in line with the protocol. Indeed, Article 4 states

“Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom.”

Article 6 goes on to state

“Nothing in this Protocol shall prevent the United Kingdom from ensuring unfettered market access for goods moving from Northern Ireland to other parts of the United Kingdom’s internal market.”

In the recitals it states that the application of the protocol

“should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland”.

This clause delivers on the commitments made in the Government’s manifesto, in the Command Paper published by the Government in May on the implementation of the protocol and on the protocol itself. These are not controversial aims, and indeed some were surprised that your Lordships feel differently.

Let me be clear that as there was some confusion about this in Committee, this clause is not dependent on any other in the Bill. There is no infection or so-called contamination here; it is merely about a Government fulfilling their commitment to the people of Northern Ireland. Indeed, the fact that the Government are seeking to ensure that the clause remains in the Bill, while Clauses 44, 45 and 47 are removed, proves the point. This clause does not provide for or allow for a breach in any way of the withdrawal agreement and is entirely in keeping with the protocol.

I turn now to Clause 43. As I have said, and as noble Lords will know, the Government have committed to providing unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses on multiple occasions. Clause 43 gives effect to that commitment by prohibiting the introduction of new checks and controls on Northern Ireland goods, with some very limited exceptions. This is in keeping with what the Government have said constantly and with what was promised in our manifesto. That commitment is critically important to the businesses and people of Northern Ireland. By including Clause 43 in the Bill, we will protect the vast majority of the £8.1 billion-worth of goods sales from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, and guarantee Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom’s internal market. I hope all of us can now agree on the importance of providing unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods to the rest of the United Kingdom. This clause delivers on that.

As with Clause 42, this clause is not dependent on any other in the Bill. I of course recognise that Clause 43(3)(b) refers to Clause 47, but that is only part of spelling out that it in fact allows checks where applicable international obligations require them. That subsection is being removed. This clause does not provide for or allow for a breach in any way of the withdrawal agreement and it is entirely in keeping with the protocol.

Given the broad support there is for unfettered access, the Government’s repeated commitments to legislate for unfettered access—including in the New Decade, New Approach Deal to restore the Executive, our May Command Paper on our approach to implementing the protocol and the manifesto that brought this Government to office in the last election—and given how important it is to protect access for Northern Ireland businesses to their most important market, it would be hugely disappointing for them and for business certainty in Northern Ireland if noble Lords were to remove these subsections unduly.

I turn to Clause 46. Under state aid rules, notification is the process through which EU member states inform the Commission about state aid or potential state aid. This process will continue to apply to the United Kingdom from 1 January 2021, but in relation only to the limited circumstances where Article 10 of the Northern Ireland protocol applies. This clause simply establishes a statutory requirement that no one besides the Secretary of State may notify the European Commission of state aid or potential state aid. It codifies existing practice in legislation and would not be considered novel or controversial to the Commission, as it is unlikely to accept notification from anyone other than authorised persons.

Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)

Moved by

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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We are in a much better place now, thanks to the Statement made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster yesterday, and the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord True, to us today. The effect of what the noble Lord is proposing is that all the unlawfulness is stripped out of Part 5. He proposes that parts of Part 5 remain in the Bill, but none of those parts can legally overtop the withdrawal agreement entered into in 2020, as the Government of the United Kingdom agreed at the time to legislate so that the withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol, could trump everything except primary legislation that purported to overrule it.

Now, as a result of what the noble Lord, Lord True, has said, the Government accept that there shall be no provisions in the Bill that can overtop the withdrawal agreement, which they agreed to give direct effect to. They have gone back to the position they committed themselves to with the European Union.

I completely respect what the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, have said. They have issues with the Northern Ireland protocol. They are both right when they say that Northern Ireland is being treated differently, for reasons that have been widely debated. But that is not what these issues, in this Bill, are about. For better or worse, this Parliament, earlier, had agreed to the Northern Ireland protocol and the withdrawal agreement.

Why did we see the Government try to escape from the provisions of the Northern Ireland protocol? I cannot remember whether it was the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, or the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, who said that it meant that their troops were marched up to the top of the hill and then marched down again. The reason given was that the Government feared what the European Commission might do in the negotiations.

Let me tell the House how the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster described the attitude of the European Commission in these negotiations. He described Maroš Šefčovič, the vice-president of the Commission, and his team as displaying

“their pragmatism, their collaborative spirit—and their determination to get a deal done that would work for both sides.”

If that was the attitude of the Commission, it is difficult to see why we needed those provisions.

I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said about this being an agreement in principle, not a locked-down agreement, as is much more candidly accepted in the letter sent by the noble Lords, Lord True and Lord Callanan, to Members of this House this morning, than it was by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Later, in the Statement that he made earlier today, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said:

“the agreement we have reached also enables the Government to withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill … Having put beyond doubt the primacy of the sovereignty of this place … we rest safe in the knowledge that such provisions are no longer required.”

I understand him to be saying that putting in these provisions and then running scared from them when it looked as if they might stand in the way of a trade deal constitutes putting beyond doubt the primacy of the sovereignty of this place. That is absolute nonsense.

I agree with what my noble friend Lord Adonis said, and I am glad that the Government have retreated. However, what they did has damaged the position of this country, and shows a terrible misjudgement. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord True, has been so gracious in his withdrawal, and we are all grateful for it—but it would have been so much better if the Government had been straightforward about why they did this. They did it because they know they cannot get a trade deal without withdrawing those clauses. I do not know whether they will get a deal, but they hope for one and they cannot get one without withdrawing them. That is why it has been done—and it was done today because this House is debating this today.

Although I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, for the fact that some attention has been paid to the Lords, I am glad that she is here to help the Lords influence the Government, which is what it does. It is because the Lords stood firm that constitutional crisis is averted. A good message is sent by the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and I single out the noble Lord, Lord Howard, for his stalwartness in standing up for the principle. If we had not, goodness knows what a mess this Government would have got this country into. We send a message that there are certain principles we will stand up for and will not be moved from.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am not a lawyer, as I am frequently reminded in your Lordships’ House, but I am a historian by vocation and occasional practice, and I know that history is the study of cause and effect. I have heard one version of a proto-history just put to us by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer; there are many other versions which no doubt could and will be put—indeed, some have been put in this debate. The thing to do now is to move forward. Once all the documents are revealed, no doubt people will be able to say what had an effect on what. We are here today to make a judgment on carrying draft legislation, a Bill, forward.

I, too, welcome prodigal sons, and indeed prodigal daughters, if I may say so. The noble and learned Lord was kind enough to say that the Government had graciously changed their position. I heard less comment in the debate—although the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, referred to it—about the change of mind, if I may use the phrase, by your Lordships. I hope it is forthcoming on Clauses 42, 43 and 46. I welcome that change of mind. I do not believe that unfettered access should have been called into doubt in your Lordships’ House, and I heard no one speak against that principle, although the noble Lord, Lord Newby, appeared at one moment to exult in the idea that it might not exist. I welcome and am grateful for what I hope will be the change of mind on those other clauses, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, will be able to confirm that.

I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, although I do not want to pick him out particularly, that I do not think that, whoever he or she may be, personal vilification of the Prime Minister is a conducive or beneficial way to broaden consensus in debate in your Lordships’ House. I counsel the noble Lord that vilification of the current Prime Minister will not particularly persuade me to listen to his arguments.

As I said in my opening speech—I thank noble Lords for their comments on the facts of it, not the speech —the Government will not be opposing the removal of Clauses 44, 45 and 47. I can confirm to the noble and learned Lord that new Clause 45 is in accordance with the rule of law. However, as I have argued, the remaining clauses in the Bill are vital to the Government delivering on their commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.

I must say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, that I will be repeating a Statement tomorrow, and I will obviously answer questions on that matter. I am sorry, but I do not make the rules and customs of the usual channels in this place, but I understand her feeling, and no doubt she will examine that Statement tomorrow. I do not think I am telling anybody anything that they do not know when I say that, unfortunately, that Statement will be repeated relatively late tomorrow.

The clauses which I hope your Lordships will allow to return seek to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s customs territory and internal market, and that is something, as the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, recited, that not only this Government and the Northern Ireland Executive but the EU absolutely committed to—unfettered access, so please let us see that back in the Bill.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the history, I hope that the reality of the day is that people in different parts of this House will be able to have some satisfaction in where we have reached at this point. I always agree that, in life, negotiation is desirable. As I said in my opening remarks, Clauses 42, 43 and 46 have now been sent to us twice by the democratically elected House, and on those I urge your Lordships, if the Question is put, not to vote them out again. I beg to move.

Lord Judge Portrait Lord Judge (CB)
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I do not think there is anything I could usefully add; I think we should get on.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(Report stage)
Lord True Excerpts
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this has been an excellent debate, despite the fact that it is decidedly one-sided—although the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, did her best to redress the balance—and I look forward to the Minister’s response. I said to him in an earlier meeting that this might be one occasion—perhaps the only one—when the House would be happy to hear a full response from him to the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and his distinguished co-signatories and supporters.

I say that because, as the noble and learned Lord said, although the amendments sensibly address the rules for the mutual recognition of goods in Part 1, services in Part 2 and professional qualifications in Part 3, their underlying, ancillary purpose is to support and enhance the relationship between the Governments of the four nations of this United Kingdom. They focus on the key question raised by the Bill: is this to be a single market under new rules created and imposed from Westminster or is it to be all four nations working together, managing appropriate divergence, as they are currently doing through the successful common framework process?

I hope the Minister will give us a full answer to the important questions raised by this debate. I also hope that he will reaffirm his Government’s commitment to our devolution settlement, because, as we have heard, our current settlement is under pressure—not least because of recent comments from the Prime Minister. This is not confined to the devolved Administrations. The virus, the recession and recent spats over local lockdowns, who manages public health and welfare best and who pays have exposed a centre that seems unable to listen and outlying areas that do not feel they are being consulted. As we will come to in later amendments, these are bodies with far greater knowledge of what is happening locally, but which lack the resources to solve the problems they identify. It can be argued that the Bill is actually about gathering powers which should be devolved to an insensitive centre which is trying to imprison a multinational country composed of vibrant, diverse regions with diverse histories and needs into a straitjacket of a unitary state. We can and need to do better than that.

As many noble Lords have said, the most striking aspect of this debate so far has been the wide cross-party support for these amendments, coupled with the fact that no fewer than seven members of the Select Committee considering common frameworks have made it clear beyond peradventure that the common framework process is alive and well, doing the job that the Government say they need done: supporting frictionless trade across the UK, improving standards, managing divergence and strengthening the union. Why is this process not at the centre of the Bill?

We support these amendments and will support the noble and learned Lord if he decides to test the opinion of the House. However, we heard from the Minister in earlier stages of the Bill and in separate meetings that his mind was not closed on this issue. Obviously, other interests are at stake here. However, the case made today by virtually everyone who has spoken has been strong and formidable in the arguments deployed. I urge the Government to give the House an assurance that they accept the principle that lies behind the amendments and that they will come back at Third Reading with amendments of their own which give effect to it. If so, we would support that.

It is clear that there is more that unites us on this issue than divides us, and it is clear from the tone and content of the debate that this would be the preferred solution of your Lordships’ House.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, in preamble, I say again that I agree with those who would like to see our old proceedings back; as long as I am trusted and have the privilege to answer to this House, I will seek to do so from this Dispatch Box. However, I say to my noble friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches that if they want to have heckling from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, they should be careful what they wish for.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, I try always to be in a conciliatory mood. Particularly after a debate such as this I am mindful of the wise advice of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “Accept modestly; surrender gracefully.” Unfortunately, however, as noble Lords who have had the privilege of serving in office will know, conciliation does not mean that one must accept specific amendments.

This debate was rooted in a passionate and sincere spirit, almost universally shared, of concern for the union and respect for devolution. As I say, that unites almost all of us who have spoken, including the Member now on his feet. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, made a fascinating and thoughtful speech, which of course I will study carefully. Those of us who care for the union and support devolution should be cautious in echoing the separatist claim that this or that action is being done to undermine devolution when it is not. The debate about effect and perceived effect is legitimate. The claim of bad intent that we have had from some is risky, if not perilous.

The UK Government and the devolved Administrations all have a clear stake in a smooth-functioning internal market, as my noble friend Lady Noakes pointed out. However, the Government have been clear—we have made no secret of this in the Bill—as my noble friend Lord Naseby said, that the right place for final decisions on the internal market should be the United Kingdom Parliament, where parliamentarians from all parts of the United Kingdom can debate and vote on legislative proposals.

I was asked a specific question by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, touched on it also. New restrictions on the sale of goods, including goods made from plastic produced in or imported into one part of the UK, will be subject to the mutual recognition principle for goods unless an exclusion in Schedule 1 applies. The Bill will preserve the devolved Administrations’ ability to regulate in line with their own strategies and regulate production of goods in their territory. However, goods, including ketchup, sold lawfully elsewhere in the United Kingdom will not be denied access to other parts of the UK market unless an exclusion applies. Consumers are of course not required to buy them.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, in his powerful opening speech claimed that the Bill “destroys divergence”—that it is not possible under the Bill. I want to make it clear that to say it is not possible is incorrect. The Bill will apply only where divergence would create a market barrier under the conditions set out in the Bill. Domestic producers will have to conform to local regulation, and devolved Administrations will be able to regulate the use of all goods.

My noble friend Lord Callanan and I have welcomed positive engagement with a number of your Lordships across the House on the common frameworks programme— some noble Lords have been kind enough to allude to that. This issue and the concerns raised in our debates are important. I hope we will be able to draw lessons from these discussions in the constructive spirit that they have taken on to date and find ways to set at rest some of the concerns expressed that we believe are unjustified.

As I have said before to your Lordships’ House, we, along with the devolved Administrations, remain committed to the common frameworks programme. We recognise the importance of the issue and the need to underline unequivocally the Government’s continued commitment to the frameworks programme, before and after the passage of the Bill. An iron curtain will not fall. For all the profound respect I have for the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, I do not believe that that sort of language is helpful.

Our commitment has been made clear to your Lordships’ House at every stage in our debates and discussions on this to date, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, said, and in the regular publication of framework analysis, which has been in circulation since 2008. The pursuit of this aim must respect the interests of the other parties involved in the common frameworks programme. There is no indication at present that the devolved Administrations would support placing common frameworks on a statutory basis. Indeed, when I had the privilege of giving evidence to a Welsh Senedd Select Committee last week, that was not the impression I received. However, in any case, common frameworks have not been designed to carry legal force.

The Government have made it clear—yes, I will use the word—that the frameworks programme and the UK internal market are two complementary undertakings. The devolved Administrations will continue to be able to innovate and regulate in devolved policy areas, but the UKIM Bill will create limits on the extent to which they can enforce new requirements against traders from other parts of the United Kingdom. The market access principles will ensure that any divergence does not damage the ability of UK companies or investors to trade with every part of the United Kingdom. I appreciate the feeling across the House on this matter, but the Government view retaining the flexibility and voluntary nature of the programme and respecting market principles as important and viable complementary objectives.

I acknowledge that there may be an appropriate way to put frameworks into the Bill while retaining the flexibility and the voluntary nature of the programme and respecting the market principles. However, I respectfully suggest that the approach proposed here to make these amendments to the Bill is not the right one, and I will seek to explain why.

The approach proposed in these amendments would significantly change the nature of common frameworks, giving agreements within them primacy over the market access provisions in the Bill, as acknowledged and argued by the amendments’ signatories. Although I understand the intention of these amendments in seeking to define the relationship between the common frameworks and the market access principles, they are problematic in a number of respects. The approach would automatically disapply the market access principles and mutual recognition of authorisation requirements in relation to regulations or requirements that implement agreements reached under common frameworks. I disagree with my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier; this creates a risk of legal uncertainty. On this I agree with my noble friend Lady Noakes in her powerful speech about the interests of business and consumers, particularly in the smaller economies of the United Kingdom—an aspect ignored by the signatories to the amendments.

The approach in the amendments goes against the very purpose of the Bill, which is to give businesses across the UK certainty on the conditions under which they must operate. The amendments would make the operating environment potentially unstable and create confusion for business. No one could know for sure, until the question was determined in court, whether a regulation or requirement, or a combination of regulations or requirements, was giving an effect to an agreement reached within a common framework. There would be uncertainty as to whether or not the market access principles applied.

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Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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The Minister cast doubt on warnings about the impact on devolution. Has he looked at opinion polls in Wales tracking support for independence? That is a country that only 20 years ago very narrowly accepted devolution. It is a country that voted for Brexit, and one that is governed by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition—two unionist parties. You can see in that country the clear feeling about the way in which this Government are behaving.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am not sure that is directly relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. I thought I had in fact made the point that imputation of motive and intent is a political choice that should be exercised wisely. This Government’s intention in this Bill is in no way to undermine the devolution settlement and I have restated, from this Dispatch Box, our commitment to the common frameworks. As for opinion polls, if I were a Liberal Democrat I would not live by them.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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[Inaudible.]—perspectives have offered support to what these amendments seek to do. Picking up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—sitting on my own in my little room, participating virtually—I too very much regret that it has not been possible for us all to join together in the Chamber. I see the value of the points he was making about introducing some more lively spirit among those in the Chamber, so there could be a real atmosphere of debate, which even remotely we would be able to enjoy.

I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord True, said. He expressed his position, as always, very clearly in careful language. I think, on a fair reading, that the clauses in Parts 1 and 2 are more absolute in their effect than he was making out, and I do not accept the criticisms that he makes of the amendments’ effect. Of course, I do not claim that the amendment I have put forward is a final solution; there was always an option open to the Government. If they thought the amendments could be improved upon or altered to meet some of the points that the Minister made, that could have been done—but there was no such offer forthcoming from him, for reasons that I understand.

The question was whether the devolved nations should continue to be free to develop and apply market policies within their devolution mandate which have secured agreement under the common frameworks process, or whether that freedom should simply be brushed aside, as the Bill really seeks to do. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this Government regard devolution as an inconvenience that can simply be ignored when they want to. I regret that very much indeed. I am a unionist and I believe in the union and all that it stands for, and all the values that I hope it will continue to give us in future. But I am afraid we see here an uncompromising, careless and centralist style of government, which divides our United Kingdom into pieces at a time when harmony is most needed. That has no place in our democracy.

I know that the Minister will reflect very carefully on what has been said today, and I hope that he will do his best to persuade those at the heart of government to think again, but what he has said in his reply leaves me with no alternative. I seek to test the opinion of the House on my amendment.

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Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
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My Lords, this debate raises an important and much wider issue about how statutory instruments are dealt with and how much consultation goes into them. When we discuss them in the Moses Room, the Minister often hears from all of us: “Who did you consult and can we hear the feedback?” There are some really important general lessons to take from that, because, as all of us who have dealt with statutory instruments will know, often someone gets in touch at the very last moment to say that a statutory instrument does not work for their industry or their sector. Usually it is an issue of practicality rather than the policy, but by then it is too late, which is immensely frustrating.

The problem with the Bill is that we should not have these powers when dealing with policy. It goes back to what I said in the earlier debate: statutory instruments were never meant to be about policy shifts, but about the practicalities or some adjustment. In a way these amendments, whether right or wrong, are wrongly focused. We should not be saying, “These things need lots of scrutiny because they are terribly important.” If they are terribly important they should not be using these powers.

It will not come as a surprise that I much prefer the amendments in my name that we will get to later, since Amendments 4 and 5 were pre-empted. They are also about the internal market. We are talking about regulations that affect the other parts of the United Kingdom, and very few, if any, would have no effect. Our other amendments propose that regulation-making will need the consent of the devolved Administrations unless that has not been possible within a month. In that case this Parliament will be able to put them through, but with a reason why it is doing so without the consent of the devolved Administrations. This is interesting, and in a way has a much shorter term than this amendment. It is more focused and specifically looks at this Bill, which is about producing regulations that affect the other four nations. I am sorry, but I prefer my amendments to these ones. The issue of scrutiny of statutory instruments is serious. Maybe we can get a better practice so that we do not end up with stuff that is not quite fit for purpose, and which it is then too late to do anything about.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to those who have spoken in the debate, which I will try to sum up briefly. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, indicated, because of the quite proper impact of the pre-emption rule, and of how the Bill is grouped and how we consider it, there will be further opportunities to address in a later group the points she raised and those raised my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe on the appropriateness of the use of powers. Obviously, most amendments in this group follow on from and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, said, precede discussion on powers that are all exercised in the Bill as drafted by the affirmative resolution procedure.

We contend that those powers are necessary to provide flexibility to respond to future developments in the provision of goods and services trade. As my noble friend Lord Callanan said, and I venture to suggest might say again, we are fully committed to ensuring that these powers are used appropriately. The powers will be subject to parliamentary oversight to give them the widest legitimacy, which means that we will consult appropriately on the use of the power, including with each of the devolved Administrations.

As my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, set out, most of the amendments in this group ask for a super-affirmative procedure; indeed, as she said, equivalent amendments were tabled in Committee. Without repeating all the arguments made in Committee, I remind the House that I said that your Lordships’ Delegated Powers Committee, which considered these issues carefully, did not propose any super-affirmative power for the Bill. I explained the problems with the proposed approach, which were graphically described by my noble friend Lord Naseby, with his great experience in the other place; this would cause unnecessary delay where a change is urgently needed.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

(Committee stage)
Lord True Excerpts
Monday 26th October 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Falconer of Thoroton Portrait Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this important debate. I say straightaway that we on these Benches support the principles that have been outlined by my noble friend Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, Lady Altmann and Lady Suttie, who have all put their names to the amendment. The essence of this amendment is that the Government should commit themselves to doing nothing that breaches the Good Friday agreement.

There is no noble Lord who has spoken in this debate who does not agree that a critical part of the Good Friday agreement is an open border between north and south. No noble Lord does not agree that, if the border is closed, one of the essentials of the peace agreement goes—and that threatens security and lives in Northern Ireland. That view is obviously accepted not just by the Democratic Party in the United States of America but by the Republican Party.

The dilemma the Government faced in reaching a conclusion about how to Brexit was how to keep the border open yet, at the same time, leave the single market while giving the European Union security whereby the border between north and south would not be an open door for goods from the north of Ireland flowing into the single market to the south. The solution reached, which the current Prime Minister said was “brilliant” and which he formally endorsed “strongly”, was that goods in Northern Ireland and those brought into it which were at risk of going to the south would be compliant with the single market regulations—both regulatory requirements and the payment of duty. That would be achieved with checks on goods, in so far as necessary, coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. That was a good solution to the problem and was, as I said, adopted by the British Government.

It was also agreed that there would be four protections in the Northern Ireland protocol to ensure that the constitutional arrangements would not create difficulty for the unionist community in the north. First, there would be a joint committee to settle the detailed arrangements. Secondly, there would be an arbitration provision if there was a dispute about whether they went too far one way or the other. Thirdly, Article 16 would allow the British Government to impose their own measures, in accordance with the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, if they were concerned about a threat to society, the economy or cultural links between the two. Fourthly, there is a provision for democratic consent if the people of Northern Ireland no longer wish to comply with the Northern Ireland protocol.

Those were the arrangements agreed by the UK Government. Now the Government say that we may not continue to comply with the Northern Ireland protocol. They are signalling to the European Union, to the Republic of Ireland and to the United States of America that you cannot rely on us in relation to the provision that keeps the border open. This Government have the impertinence to say that it is the European Union that is threatening the border. If you say, having just entered into an agreement, “We may not continue to agree or comply with it”, then of course the other side is going to think that you are not reliable. As it happens, you also trash our reputation as a country by doing it. You make this Government an absolute laughing-stock. First, Brandon Lewis said that they were breaking the agreement. Then the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, said that they were not. Then Brandon Lewis said, “Oh yes we are”. Then the noble and learned Lord resigned because of what Brandon Lewis said. Then Michael Gove said, “Maybe we are; maybe we aren’t”. That is the position of the Government of the United Kingdom, which has a reputation for complying with the law.

Could the Minister explain? First, are we breaking the law or not? Secondly, if we are, why are we doing so—or even threatening to—when we entered into those four protections to ensure that there was no pressure on the border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain? Thirdly, can he give the assurance required by my noble friend Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, Lady Altmann and Lady Suttie? We all require that the Government will do nothing that threatens the Good Friday agreement. Finally, will the Minister explain how it does not threaten an open border to say, as the British Government do, “We may not stand behind the Northern Ireland protocol”?

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Hain, the noble Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick, my noble friend Lady Altmann and the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, who all signed the amendment. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hain, on the measured and thoughtful way in which he presented his case, and on his ingenuity in getting this amendment in so early in the Bill, so that the Committee can debate this important topic, which is one of the abiding matters of interest in the Bill. I do not demur from sensing the opinions the House has expressed on aspects of the Bill, even if I do not agree with them.

I will and must, as invited, repeat the assurances that the Government gave to the House at Second Reading last week, and will do so again when the Committee turns more fully to the Part 5 clauses. I say again, without demur or cavil, that the Government’s overriding priority has been, and will remain, to protect the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and the gains of the peace process. We agree with all noble Lords who have spoken on that fundamental objective. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, that Her Majesty’s Government always give the most careful consideration to the impact of any of their actions in this important respect.

I was asked about the human rights aspect. The Government are, of course, committed to the European Convention on Human Rights. We have made that clear before, time and again. However, we have brought forward amendments to the Bill clarifying that regulations made under clauses which the Committee will discuss later will be subject to judicial review on public law grounds. That will provide an effective remedy in the theoretical and limited scenarios in which regulations might conceivably interfere with convention rights. My noble friend has obviously made the due statement on the European convention on the face of the Bill.

The Government’s commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and to the peace process is beyond question. We all acknowledge the importance of the delicate balance across communities in Northern Ireland. We should all reflect on the importance of not letting opinions and comment flow which suggest, either within or outside these shores, that this Government, this party, the party opposite or any Member of this House do not believe that this agreement is fundamental. We do. Where we differ is that the Government do not agree with many noble Lords who have spoken that the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill undermines the Belfast agreement. On the contrary, the Bill delivers on our commitment to unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the whole UK market. In so doing, it supports the economic and social links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. In that way, it complements the provisions of the protocol which avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. It is, and remains, the Government’s position and policy that there should be no such border. The Bill supports the interlocking and interdependent elements of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

The Committee will come back to the questions of the rule of law in detail in Part 5, but I repeat what I said at Second Reading: the Government believe that presenting this Bill to your Lordships’ House, and the fact that it passed through the other House, is in accordance with our constitutional norms and does not infringe the rule of law.

Northern Ireland Peers voted, by a majority, against the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, at Second Reading. That was not every Peer from Northern Ireland and I accept that it reflects differences of opinion. We have to note and respect that. The noble Lords, Lord Kilclooney and Lord Trimble, both of whom negotiated and signed the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, voted against the amendment your Lordships agreed to at Second Reading. I repeat: it is the firm resolve of the Government to maintain, and ensure compliance with, the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, and so I disappoint noble Lords who have spoken. I do not believe that the addition of these amendments to the Bill is necessary.

Turning to the references in Amendments 3 and 177 to the Northern Ireland protocol, again, as I have set out, the Government are committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and have already taken many practical steps to do this, and continue to do so. I assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and others that we are continuing to work with the EU in the joint committee to resolve outstanding issues arising from the Northern Ireland protocol. Our priority is to secure the outcomes that we need in that forum, working in a spirit of good faith, so that the protocol can be implemented in the pragmatic and proportionate way intended. This is intended to give the best platform for it to command support across the whole community in Northern Ireland. Let me repeat: as a responsible Government, we cannot allow the economic integrity of the UK’s internal market to be compromised inadvertently by certain provisions in the protocol without a safety net in place. The Government have been clear in our statements, including on the criteria set out by the Government on 17 September, that these provisions would, in any case, be used only where, in the Government’s view, there had been a material breach by the EU of duties of good faith or other obligations, and be used in parallel with the dispute resolution procedures that the protocol itself establishes.

These amendments as drafted could remove, prevent or suspend our ability to act in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, and so ensuring they are treated as our countrymen and countrywomen with equal access to the UK internal market. Furthermore, they could leave core elements of unfettered access—not only the safety net provisions—in a state of consistent uncertainty and open to persistent litigation. It is far from clear how compliance with the Northern Ireland protocol, for the purposes of these amendments, would be assessed or who would make the assessment. For example, it is possible that all the provisions in the Bill could cease to have effect if the EU alleged a breach of the Northern Ireland protocol. Any dispute then would be resolved by the appropriate dispute resolution mechanism, which in some cases would include the jurisdiction of the CJEU. That cannot be the means by which we safeguard the links between Northern Ireland and its most important market, Great Britain, which is the subject of the Bill. That cannot be the means by which we safeguard the interests of Northern Ireland from the end of the transition period and beyond.

I am well aware that we will return to these important matters in great detail later in Committee. At this point, however, I urge noble Lords to withdraw or not move the amendments. Before I do, I refer my noble friend Lady McIntosh to the whole of Clause 1(3), which says, as she quoted:

“Those principles have no direct legal effect except as provided by this Part.”

If she looks at the Bill, she will see that in the rest of that part there are number of provisions for secondary legislation. I apologise for that divergence, but I felt I should answer that point. I return to the fundamental position: this Government are wholly committed to the Belfast agreement, they cannot accept these amendments and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his courtesy and all those who have spoken in support of these amendments. I note that a third of the speakers are from the Minister’s own Benches. I think that shows that there is cross-party, cross-Bench support for the principles that these amendments enunciate.

My noble friend Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick spoke with passion about how this Bill, without these protections, imperils the Good Friday agreement. I want to return to that point when I pick up some of the arguments used by the Minister in a moment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, made a telling point: why are the Government not accepting their own policy? If their policy is, as the Minister states—I accept that in good faith—that the Government support the Good Friday agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol in protecting the Good Friday agreement, why are they not accepting these amendments? If there is some technical issue, and I will return to one of the issues he raised, we could discuss wording and come to an agreement. I ask the Minister to look carefully at what the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, said about the Government’s own policy being reflected in these amendments. At least, we think it is the Government’s own policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, spoke with great authority because he has spent many years on this. As Secretary of State, I worked with him on this and his review of terrorist legislation, as did the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who was a distinguished chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in the other place. He was hugely respected on the island of Ireland for his diligence and the conscientious empathy he showed towards the situation in Northern Ireland.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, again speaking from the Minister’s own Benches, was compelling on the fact that this should be a cross-party matter. It was, of course, John Major, as she said, who played a crucial role in the lead-up to the Good Friday agreement that enabled Tony Blair to pick up the baton and drive it forward.

Another contributor to this debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, to whom I am also grateful to for her support for these amendments, speaks with real authority, particularly about what is at stake here. This is not some technical issue; this is about the future of peace in Northern Ireland. My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, spoke also about the importance of keeping that border absolutely open on the island of Ireland, to take the process of peacemaking forward.

I ask your Lordships’ House to note that the Minister did not explain how the Bill upholds the Good Friday agreement. He asserted it, but he did not explain how it upholds is, especially given that it repeals the Irish Northern Ireland protocol. On Report, I would urge him to explain in great detail—if necessary, in technical detail—how he thinks the Bill actually upholds the Good Friday Agreement. The majority of contributors to this debate—in fact, everybody except him—dispute that. That is the problem that the Government face in setting their face against these amendments.

Unless there is an ulterior motive here, and I am not suggesting that of the Minister personally but of No. 10 Downing Street, I do not understand. If there are concerns about the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, there is a committee, as I mentioned in my speech, co-chaired by Michael Gove with a representative of the EU, to iron out the detailed implementation points. It is a joint committee. That makes us all think that there is something much more serious at stake here, which is undermining the whole foundation of the protocol and, indeed, of the Good Friday agreement with which it sits in partnership.

To conclude, this is a series of very modest amendments. They ask the Government to uphold their own professed policy. That is all they are doing. They are not suggesting some revolutionary change in the Government’s policy. They are asking them to uphold their professed policy on the island of Ireland, in particular on continued progress in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, I will seek leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this has been an excellent debate, brilliantly introduced by my kinsman, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and with some other excellent speeches, particularly from those who were members of your Lordships’ Select Committee and, of course, the chair, my noble friend Lady Andrews.

The weight of the arguments deployed in this group and the virtual unanimity of views expressed from all sides of the Committee were to be expected, but Ministers might not have expected to be offered a route out of the mess that they have got themselves into. If common sense prevails, there is a win-win here. As the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, said, the Bill currently has things the wrong way around. The Government need to signal tonight that they will take away the amendments in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and work with him to find a structure that better delivers the aims of the Bill.

They should use this legislative opportunity to encourage the completion of the current work on the common frameworks, to encourage the process to cover the remaining outstanding issues and to anticipate future needs. They should then draft an effective safety net for the Bill, based on mutual recognition and non-discrimination, while, as the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, said, having regard to subsidiarity and proportionality. They should ensure that the current informal processes have a light-touch underpinning, with a regulatory framework that commands trust and the confidence of the devolved Administrations. If they do this, we will happily work with and support them.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, it has been a most fascinating debate. I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has just said. While I sadly cannot claim to be his kinsman, I thought the opening speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, was a masterclass in how to present a case. That does not necessarily mean that the Government accede to the case, but it was entirely clear. I also pay tribute to those members of your Lordships’ Select Committee on common frameworks who spoke. Their experience is obvious and the work of that committee is important. I believe it will shortly meet or hear from my honourable friend Chloe Smith.

Many businesses welcome this Bill. They welcome it on the basis that, after the end of the transition period, they hope, expect and require that they will be able to operate in a period of certainty, not buffeted by any unexpected or unreasonable developments. I respond to the general tone of the debate by saying that it is, of course, the Government’s intention—it always has been and remains so—that the functioning of the UK internal market will be driven by co-operation with the devolved Administrations. The market access proposals here are designed not to replace but to complement the common frameworks; I know that is a phrase I have used before. The common frameworks are the key. They support coherent policy-making across the UK by setting out terms of engagement between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations as well as, where appropriate, common strategic goals and policy approaches.

The Government remain committed to the common frameworks programme. As many noble Lords have said, it is progressing well. The UK Government and the devolved Administrations continue to co-operate closely as we jointly develop the programme. Yes, progress overall has been slower than we would have liked, and I acknowledge the effect of the resource constraints driven by the response to Covid, and the need to prioritise planning in advance of the end of the transition period. However, all parties remain committed to the programme. At a recent JMC (EN) meeting last month, both the UK Government and DA Ministers reconfirmed their strong commitment to it.

However, common frameworks by their nature are largely sector-specific, and I acknowledge the point made by my noble friend Lord Dunlop. They do not cover the totality of policy relating to the UK internal market. They cannot address interconnected issues or future areas of policy development. They do not cover business costs, for example. In response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, let me give an example of something that might arise in future: should one nation specify that a particular nutritional additive for flour produced or sold in that nation was required in all food products containing flour, without mutual recognition and this Bill, this would mean that any foodstuffs that had flour in them from any other part of the United Kingdom would also have to have this nutritional additive. This would increase costs to business and consumers and create unnecessary barriers to cross-border trade.

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Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie (LD) [V]
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I shall not detain the Committee for long but the Minister came up with the example of flour. I think that as the Bill progresses we can all dream up examples of hypothetical possibilities. However, the question that arises from that example is: why should we not follow the principles and dispute resolution model of the common frameworks? Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said, where are the gaps that cannot be filled by the common frameworks? Why do the Government need to take such extreme powers for fast Executive action when, in nearly all these cases, the problem will emerge over time? Everybody agrees that if legislation is required, we should have it, but the Government seem to want to take powers in anticipation of unknown challenges. Therefore, why cannot the principles and model of the common frameworks be the basis on which these cases are taken forward and disputes resolved?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I should have acknowledged the very thoughtful speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Stevenson. I hoped that I had made clear that the common frameworks process would continue. I was asked to give an example of how circumstances might change in the future and how matters that need to be addressed might arise. The emergence of an unregulated new technology might be another example. However, I think it is better that we address these questions in the further discussions that we might have.

So far as pace is concerned, the transition period ends at the end of the year and there is a need to provide a climate of certainty for business when the EU system falls away. Therefore, I do not resile from the fact that it was necessary and sensible for the Government to bring proposals before Parliament to address the post-31 December situation.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for his courteous and careful reply. I also thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this fascinating and very well-informed debate. I shall not attempt to sum it up because the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, did that very ably for me in his contribution before the interval.

I was very grateful to the Minister for his kind opening words. Of course, I am disappointed that there is not more of an indication of movement on his part, but he said that he would consider the arguments, which I am sure he will, and that he was open to further engagement and discussion—for my part, I certainly am, and I am sure that others across the Committee are too. Of course, there is not much point in those discussions unless he has a rather more open mind in appreciating the problems than he has indicated so far.

One point mentioned from time to time was the fact that this measure, and indeed the White Paper that preceded it, emerged with very little consultation with the devolved Administrations. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me but I have the feeling that there was a certain amount of lack of consultation across the Government.

If I may offer the Minister a little bedtime reading, there is a clause in another Bill which is still before Parliament that illustrates the problem: Clause 39 of the Agriculture Bill. I do not suppose that the Minister knows what I am talking about so I will say a few words about it. It may help him—the Minister sitting in Westminster, looking at the matter from the other side of the fence—to see how things appear from the perspective of the devolved Administrations.

Clause 39 attempts to set marketing standards. It lays down a basis for the setting of market standards in relation to agricultural products that are marketed in England. It contains a long list of matters that will be covered by regulations—there are 15 of them. I will not go through the list, but one or two of them are important. They refer to regulations or cover matters about the type of farming and production methods, as to the use of certain substances and practices—one might think of pesticides, additions of flour—packaging and so on. At the discussions on the Agriculture Bill, I asked the Minister what this means for the farmers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, given the volume of goods that they move for marketing in England, since these are matters that have been set for all goods marketed in England. There is no reference in this clause to consultation, let alone consent, and my suggestion was that there should be, on the face of the Bill, a provision that if these standards are to be set and people coming from other parts of the UK are obliged to comply with them, then surely that would have to be done with consent. I do not think that the Minister responding to me had any idea that the Internal Market Bill was on the horizon. I mentioned that the White Paper had just come out, but I got no response from him about that either.

The effect of the mutual principles set out in Clause 2 solves the problem as far as farmers in Wales and Scotland are concerned. They need not trouble themselves about regulations, additives, pesticides, packaging, production methods and so on, because they have a complete opening to the market. The question is: is there any point in going through this huge list and laying down carefully regulated provisions for England when the Minister knows perfectly well that people can come from the other parts of the UK under his Bill and ignore them? I am not talking about a lowering of standards, but about different standards which are not provided for. That is the kind of problem that I mean. Can the Minister look at this before he goes to sleep tonight, think it through and see how it looks from the other side of the fence? These are really big issues. Although the Bill is still going through ping-pong, I wonder whether Clause 39 can survive and whether the regulation- making power in that clause will ever be exercised.

These are fundamental points and, to be honest, I do not think that the Minister has really grasped the importance of them. I would like to think that he will, and I look forward to further discussions with him before Report. For the time being, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.