Michael Ellis debates involving the Cabinet Office during the 2019 Parliament

Iran-Israel Update

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Monday 15th April 2024

(1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu after that incident to express our very strong concerns about what happened. We are carefully reviewing the initial findings of Israel’s investigations into the killing of the aid workers, and welcome the suspension of two officers as a first step. The findings must be published and followed up with an independent review to ensure the utmost transparency and accountability.

Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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I congratulate the Prime Minister on his world-leading strength defending Israel and wider peace in the middle east. Saudi Arabia—this country’s friend—has now said in an official statement that Iran “engineered a war in Gaza” in order to destroy the progress that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was making in normalising relations with Israel. That very important statement from the Saudis yesterday also said that Iran is a country that sponsors terrorism and it should have been stopped a long time ago. Is my right hon. Friend as hopeful as I am that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel—both allies of this country—will normalise their relations as soon as possible, as it looked like they were on track to do before the pogrom of 7 October?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I had a very constructive meeting in Saudi Arabia with MBS at the end of last year. I know how important it is to normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours. It is clear from this weekend and the comments that my right hon. and learned Friend just made that there is momentum and a desire to see that happen. I believe that holds out precious hope for the region.

Cyber-security and UK Democracy

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Monday 25th March 2024

(4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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The front page of The Telegraph today reports Whitehall sources saying that China, Russia and Iran are even fuelling disinformation about the Princess of Wales to destabilise the nation. Hostile states with leaders who fake their own elections and are hated by their own people are spreading wild conspiracy theories about the royal family, among many other things—our royal family who are hugely popular and much loved. Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that British people will ignore that grotesque disinformation despite the pathetic attempts of those autocratic regimes?

Oliver Dowden Portrait The Deputy Prime Minister
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I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for raising the issue, and extend my best wishes to members of the royal family at this very difficult time. The appalling speculation that we have seen over the past few weeks comes as a reminder to us all that it is important for us to ensure that we deal with valid and trusted information, and are appropriately sceptical about many online sources.

Ministerial Severance: Reform

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Tuesday 6th February 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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I begin by making a disclosure to the House, which is of course in the public domain and has been for some time: I have received severance pay in the past. I want to make that clear from the outset. I also want to make it clear from the outset that, in my respectful view, some of the ad hominem attacks on named Members of Parliament that we have heard damage the institution of politics rather than working in a partisan way. Those individuals did not do anything wrong: they were part of a system that allocated funding to them, so there should be no legal or moral opprobrium attached to them in their absence, whether they have been notified or not. It is fine to say that the system ought to change, but surely it is not fair to criticise people for being subject to a system that has not been changed.

As I said, I have received severance pay, but I served in Government roles of one sort or another for over 10 years, if one includes non-ministerial positions. In terms of ministerial positions, I served as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Transport, Solicitor General, Attorney General for the first time under one Prime Minister, Paymaster General, Minister for the Cabinet Office, and Attorney General for the second time under a second Prime Minister. In fact, I served under four Prime Ministers in one role or another, and in Cabinet on three occasions. Should I not receive severance pay?

The hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) asked where else this would happen in the outside world. Well, where else in the outside world would we have a situation where there are no redundancy arrangements, no notice periods, no contract between the parties and no consultations, and the employees—if they were employees—could be removed without cause? I am not criticising those things: that is the way Government works. Ministers take on those roles knowing that that is the position, so they should not criticise it—that is the way the cookie crumbles, and those who do not like it should not take the position.

However, there is no point in comparing chalk and cheese. The system operates in a different way from the outside world: we have a constitutional situation in which the Prime Minister, whether he or she be Labour or Conservative, has to have the right of hiring and firing his or her ministerial team. That is an essential prerequisite of the role, and the way it must work—the only way it can work—is by giving the Prime Minister that primus inter pares role, where he or she has that function.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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I agree with the right hon. and learned Member: Ministers should get severance pay, as I did when I was a Minister. That is absolutely right, but the motion does not suggest that they should not. He was a former Deputy Leader of the House; does he think it is right that a Deputy Leader of the House who served for 81 days should receive three months’ severance pay? That is the question that we are debating today, not the general principle. I agree that there should be appropriate severance pay, and I think other Labour Members do too, for exactly the reasons he has given.

Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis
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When one has a system in law, whether it was created 10 years ago, 30 years ago or 100 years ago, it must apply to all. If the system falls out of favour, it can be reviewed, but the example that the hon. Member has criticised is of someone who served in a role and was entitled to take a severance payment. As he himself alluded to, people in the last Labour Government received these payments; in fact, they received payments that were statistically more generous than has been the case under this Government—some £1.6 million in real terms in today’s prices. As has already been said, none of the four Labour leadership candidates in 2010 returned their severance pay; I think they were under some pressure to do so at the time, but declined. When Ministers have no contract, no notice period and no consultation or redundancy arrangements, and can be removed without cause, it is right that that is differentiated from what happens elsewhere, because there is an increased risk.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders
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The right hon. and learned Member makes an interesting point, but if working conditions are so poor, may I suggest that he joins a trade union?

Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis
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How does the hon. Member know that I am not already a member of a trade union? Actually, I am not, but he did not know that.

Let us talk about trade unions, because this motion is rather alien to the concept of what I understand trade union organisations work to do—indeed, I think they would be appalled by the motion. By the way, as a lawyer, I have always considered that trade union organisations are very robust in defending their own members and their legal rights. They are very robust, and they throw the kitchen sink at it, with the best-quality lawyers and the best-quality legal advice, if they think the case is appropriate. That is how they represent their members, and I think they would be appalled by this motion, because they would say that it is contrary to the ethos of how trade unions work.

If we look at trade unions, we see that they used to support Labour—they still do—in the 1890s and 1900s, when Parliament did not pay salaries to MPs. It was because of trade unions that early Labour Members of Parliament—and before that Liberal MPs—could afford to be here at all. In those days, prior to 1911, if I am not mistaken, Members of Parliament were not paid at all. When they started to be paid in 1911, they were paid £400 a year, at a time when the average salary in this country was £70 a year. Labour argued that it was right and proper that those salaries should be started, because then everyone could afford to become a Member of Parliament. However, what we have to remember—and I encourage those on the Labour Front Bench to remember it—is that that argument is inconsistent with today’s argument, because what they would be arguing for is that only wealthy people would consider becoming Ministers.

Labour Ministers were earning double what Ministers have earned under the Conservative Government since 2010, because my noble Friend Lord Cameron froze ministerial salaries. They have stayed frozen since the 2010 Parliament, which has had a major impact. It is also worth noting that Labour Select Committee Chairmen and Chairwomen and senior Labour MPs on the Panel of Chairs have taken salary increases during the course of these Parliaments. I would suggest that is also inconsistent with the thrust of the argument of those on the Labour Front Bench, because if they think it is too much for one, they should say it is too much for all.

I think there are some significant inconsistencies, and we must bear in mind that we have to serve the public in the best way we can, which means encouraging people to come to this place to serve and to do their duty. I think that Ministers of the Crown—and, in fact, Members of Parliament from across the political divide—do come here with a view to doing that, and that is why I disagree with the motion.

Defending the UK and Allies

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Monday 15th January 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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The Leader of the Opposition rightly said we need to ensure that malign actors do not try to distort what we have done for their own purposes. I gently say to the hon. Lady that to conflate and link our action against the Houthis with the situation in Israel-Gaza just gives ammunition to our enemies who seek to make things worse in the region.

We acted in self-defence, and I have explained the reasons, the processes that we followed and the accountability that I have to Parliament, which I am now discharging. Separately, we will, of course, work very hard to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza and to try to bring about the sustainable ceasefire that we all want to see.

Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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I commend my right hon. Friend for prosecuting this military action. As a matter of law it was highly necessary and clearly proportionate, and his legal position is watertight. Countries around the world depend on that route but, as usual, it is the British and the Americans who do something about protecting it. However, there are reports that more Houthi attacks are taking place this afternoon. Will he take more military action, if necessary?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his support. Of course, he will understand that I will not speculate on future action. This was intended as a limited single action, and we hope the Houthis will now step back and end their destabilising attacks. As I said earlier, we will not hesitate to protect our security, our people and our interests, where required. If we do so, we will, of course, follow the correct procedures and precedent, as we did in this case.

Israel and Gaza

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Monday 23rd October 2023

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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As I have said, we do of course keep the list of proscribed organisations under review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription. I refer the hon. Gentleman to my earlier comments: hateful extremism of the type that we saw this weekend has no place in our society, and it should be met with the full force of the law.

Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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A group of 100 journalists from around the world have just been shown some indescribable raw footage of the Hamas attacks in a private screening. According to a BBC journalist, it features a father and two sons aged roughly seven and nine seen running into a shelter in their underwear. A terrorist throws a grenade into the shelter, killing the father and badly injuring the two boys, who run back into the house covered in blood. The two children are screaming for their father, and saying that they are going to die. The terrorist is seen calmly drinking water from the family’s fridge. That is just one of the videos that have been shown to 100 journalists from around the world in the last couple of hours. Will the Prime Minister confirm that any person in the United Kingdom supporting this vicious terrorism will be subject to the full force of the law?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I saw much of the same footage myself on my visit to Israel last week and I can tell the House that it is absolutely horrifying to watch. When we hear in this House about Israel’s actions, it is important to have those images in our mind. What happened to its citizens was unforgivable and it has every right to defend itself against that. I can also provide my right hon. and learned Friend with the reassurance that, as he well knows, under the Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006, the glorification of terrorism, support for proscribed organisations and the encouraging of terrorism are all offences and will be met with the full force of law.

Israel and Gaza

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Monday 16th October 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I gently urge the hon. Gentleman to examine what I said earlier from the Dispatch Box, particularly about standing with the British Muslim community at this difficult time. We will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in any form, and we will seek to stamp it out wherever it occurs. I am pleased to say that, in June, the Security Minister confirmed additional funding of £24.5 million available this financial year to provide protective security at mosques and Muslim faith schools as a demonstration of our intent to deliver on what I said. But I say to him: please see what I said earlier from the Dispatch Box. We stand with all communities at this difficult time.

Michael Ellis Portrait Sir Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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In the long litany of attacks against Jews around the world, this is the single most murderous since the end of the Holocaust in 1945. The Prime Minister’s support for the Jewish community in this country and for Israel has been heroic. This is an historic moment, and the response of His Majesty’s Government has been all anyone could have asked. Does the Prime Minister agree that Israel has acted entirely in accordance with international law, despite Hamas using human shields and every type of horrific provocation? Israel has not only a right to defend itself but a duty to defend its people from sadistic and vicious murderers.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. and learned Friend makes an excellent point that Israel has not just the right but the duty. One only needs to imagine, if a similar incident had occurred in our country, what we would do to secure the safety and security of our citizens. That is what Israel is doing, it has every right and duty to do so, and it will have our support as it does.

Counsellors of State Bill [Lords]

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con)
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I rise to strongly support the Bill. It is clearly a non-political piece of legislation, as the royal message from His Majesty the King to Parliament made clear, and will ensure that he is ably supported in the discharge of his constitutional duties. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said, the Bill follows long-established precedent. Her late Majesty the Queen, of blessed and glorious memory, asked her Parliament to do the same thing after her accession to the throne, and thus Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother was added to the list of Counsellors of State in 1953.

The daily workload of the sovereign is, of course, significant. His Majesty is extremely industrious and absolutely passionate about his work, as we all know, and always has been. In that way, as in many others, the King takes after the late Queen, if I may say so. We are lucky to have him and we should support him in this endeavour.

In rare circumstances—for example, when overseas or when indisposed—it might occasionally be necessary to appoint Counsellors of State. As we heard, that happened 30 times in the last reign. The Bill will broaden the pool of options available to His Majesty. The presence of the sovereign is sometimes required by law, or in the alternative, the formal approval of a Counsellor of State or a royal sign manual. The Bill will allow options to be deployed if His Majesty wishes. It will also prevent delay to the business of the Government of the day, as the noble Lord Janvrin, a former private secretary to the late Queen, said from the Cross Benches in the other place last week.

His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex and Forfar, and Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal command the confidence of the King, and the approval and respect of the people of this country, and for good reason. Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal is well known and highly respected for her work ethic, her drive, and her pragmatic approach. As we know, she carries out hundreds of engagements annually, and quietly and assiduously undertakes her duties with enormous skill. Like the Princess, His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex has been a trusted Counsellor of State before, and he will likewise be a welcome addition to the pool of options available to the King.

Even in the current world of online contracts, virtual meetings and automated signatures there is still, I am sure the House will agree, a practical need for Counsellors of State. Not everything can or should be done via online media platforms. The functions of the monarchy sometimes require physical presence—indeed, they often do, either for important legal reasons of state or for ceremonial reasons. As I said, not everything can or should be done via email. Parliament has set those requirements, and for good reason.

This is not a political Bill. It has nothing to do with royal or public finances or engagements. It is about allowing the sovereign expeditiously to clear his work every day. I read that His Majesty has a new red box, and as a former long-standing Minister of the Crown I recognise how important it is that such business is cleared efficiently. It is in the interests of good order and the administration of government that Parliament facilitates that. I support the way that His Majesty’s Government are proceeding with this matter, and I strongly support this Bill.

--- Later in debate ---
Angela Rayner Portrait Angela Rayner
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With the leave of the House, I will keep my closing remarks short. We have been debating a Bill that serves one narrow purpose: to ensure that Counsellors of State are available when His Majesty requires one to deputise in his essential duties. I want to mention—I hope I can call him a friend—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis). I absolutely miss him and our exchanges, and I absolutely agree with his comments—[Interruption.] That is not to discourage Members currently on the Government Front Bench!

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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May I say that I miss her, too?

None Portrait Hon. Members
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Ah.

Infected Blood: Interim Compensation

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Monday 5th September 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Written Statements
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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The infected blood inquiry has heard first-hand details of the terrible suffering experienced by the victims of infected blood over many years, and the urgent need to address the financial uncertainty faced by many.

This Government commissioned Sir Robert Francis QC to produce an independent study with options for a workable and fair framework of compensation for those infected and affected by the tragedy. A copy of Sir Robert’s report is in the Library of this House.

Following Sir Robert’s detailed evidence given to the inquiry in July, the chair of the infected blood inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, delivered an interim report to the Government. In accordance with section 26 of the Inquiries Act 2005, a copy of Sir Brian’s interim report has been laid before Parliament. In his report, Sir Brian made the following recommendations:

“(1) An interim payment should be paid, without delay, to all those infected and all bereaved partners currently registered on UK infected blood support schemes, and those who register between now and the inception of any future scheme;

(2) The amount should be no less than £100,000, as recommended by Sir Robert Francis QC.”

On 16 August, I wrote to Sir Brian to confirm that the Government have accepted his recommendation in full and that we will be making an interim payment of £100,000, by the end of October, to all infected beneficiaries and bereaved partners registered with the four national support schemes. The date of effect of the recommendation is 29 July 2022, the date that Sir Brian delivered his report. Any infected person or bereaved partner registered with one of the four schemes operating in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland on that date will be eligible to receive the payments. Sir Brian’s recommendation —which this Government accept—was careful not to exclude any eligible person who, for whatever reason, may have not registered themselves with their relevant national support scheme. Should they do so in future, before the inception of any future scheme, they will also be eligible for such a payment, subject to successful application to the scheme.

The intention is that payments will be tax-free and will not affect any financial benefits support an individual is receiving. In advance of the payments, the four support schemes will write to beneficiaries, confirming tax exemptions and benefit disregards, and provide practical details about how the payments will be made. The UK Government will provide the funding to ensure that those eligible, wherever they are living in the United Kingdom, will receive the payment.

As recognised by Sir Robert Francis and Sir Brian Langstaff, this group of victims is the immediate priority for the Government because we recognise that, tragically, many of these individuals will not see the conclusion of the inquiry.

However, I am mindful that there will be people deeply affected by this tragedy who will not benefit from these payments. Sir Robert’s detailed compensation framework study makes carefully considered recommendations about the further scope of compensation, including that carers and bereaved relatives—a cohort of affected people not currently supported by financial support schemes—should be compensated. In his interim report, Sir Brian makes specific reference to bereaved parents and children but notes the complexities in determining the approach to their compensation.

To those individuals and others who are out of scope of these payments, I would like to emphasise that the interim payments the Government have announced are the start of the process and not the end. Sir Robert’s study has been warmly welcomed by the inquiry and, without prejudging the findings of the independent inquiry, I fully expect his wider recommendations to inform the inquiry’s final report when it is published in mid-2023. Until that time, the Government will continue work in consideration of the broader recommendations in the compensation framework study so that we are ready to respond promptly when the inquiry concludes its work.

[HCWS279]

UK Commission on Covid Commemoration

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Thursday 21st July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Written Statements
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Michael Ellis Portrait The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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My noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord True CBE, has made the following written statement:

Today, I am establishing a UK Commission on Covid Commemoration to secure a broad consensus across our whole United Kingdom on how we mark and commemorate this very distinctive period in our collective history.

I have appointed the right hon. Baroness Morgan of Cotes to chair the Commission. She will be supported by 10 members from across the UK who have knowledge and understanding of some of the issues experienced by those affected by covid-19 and are well respected in their fields of expertise.

Working together with the Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Commission will recommend how those who have lost their lives should be remembered in our communities and across the UK. It will also consider how we can commemorate the service of critical workers, recognise the experience of those who were seriously affected by covid-19, celebrate the advances in UK science and remember the national spirit which led to so many people volunteering to support their neighbours and communities.

The Commission will engage individuals, particularly those who have lost loved ones, and organisations across the UK, to inform its recommendations. I have asked the Commission to submit its report to the Prime Minister by the end of March 2023.

I have today placed a copy of the list of the Commissioners and terms of reference for the Commission in the Libraries of both Houses in Parliament and published them on gov.uk.

[HCWS262]

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

Michael Ellis Excerpts
Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Indeed. The point I have made is that the powers the Government are taking remove responsibilities from the Northern Ireland Assembly. We want all communities to have a say on matters that affect them going forward. I am sure we will come on to a number of those amendments in due course.

In the same vein, we would support amendment 12, which relates to clause 18, tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), were he to press it to a Division. As the Hansard Society points out, clause 18 would give Ministers the power to “engage in conduct” relevant to the Northern Ireland protocol if they consider it—again this word—“appropriate” in connection with one or more of the purposes of the Bill. However, the Bill provides no elaboration on what type of activities that “conduct” could involve. Nor have the Government given a justification for why the additional power is needed. Indeed, the former head of the Government Legal Service, Sir Jonathan Jones QC, someone who has said a lot about the legality of the Bill, described this as a

“do whatever you like power”.

Given that the Government can provide no assurances on what types of “conduct” the power will be restricted to and that we have no justification for why it is even needed, this is not something we can support. That is why we support amendment 12, tabled by my right hon. Friend. The Government are in no position to expand their powers to such a degree, particularly in areas so sensitive. Not only are they a gross overreach of power, but they are also disrespectful to the constitutional role of this House.

I turn to some of the amendments that have been tabled. Labour has been clear, since the Bill was first introduced, that the way to solve the problems before us is to negotiate, and to do so in good faith. We recognise that the operation of the protocol has created genuine tensions that need to be addressed, but that is best done by all sides listening to each other and acting in good faith, and with the Belfast/Good Friday agreement at the heart of those discussions. I contend that the Bill simply does not do that. It is not an act of good faith for Westminster to unilaterally impose a solution, not least across Northern Ireland, and nor, tragically, will the solution proposed achieve its ultimate objectives. Only an agreement which delivers for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland, and respects the wishes of those on all sides and all communities, will provide a long-term and sustainable solution to this problem. That is why we support amendment 49, which references the fourth point in the protocol and the importance of protecting the Belfast/Good Friday agreement in all its parts, if it were to be pressed to a Division. Unilateralism is not the way forward on matters of such sensitivity.

I do not want to detain the Committee further at this stage. We have many amendments to get through today. To conclude, Labour’s amendments will prevent handing the Government overreaching powers that they are simply not fit to hold. Our amendments will protect the much-valued scrutinising and functioning of this House, and give a voice in this hugely delicate and important process to the people of Northern Ireland.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis)
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Allow me, Dame Eleanor, for I think the penultimate time, to thank hon. Members who have spoken in Committee. I would like to turn to the clauses under discussion in this debate. With the leave of the Committee, I will deal with some of the amendments very briefly.

Clause 13 outlines the exclusions that seek to redress the feeling that there is a democratic deficit created by the arrangements for the implementation and enforcement of the protocol. The present role of the Court of Justice of the European Union clearly causes Unionists to feel less connected to, and part of, the United Kingdom. That was reflected in the September 2021 joint statement by all Unionist parties on the protocol. Clause 13 provides that any provision of the protocol that confers jurisdiction on the CJEU over arrangements in Northern Ireland is excluded provision. That means that CJEU decisions, including infractions, will no longer have effect in domestic law across the entire protocol.

I confirm to the Committee that the Bill does not disapply the withdrawal agreement’s arbitration process, which would be convened at the international level in the event of a dispute. It simply affirms that the arbitration provisions in the withdrawal agreement do not have effect in our domestic law, and that is normal for international treaties. It then helps to restore the UK Government’s sole oversight of arrangements on the ground in Northern Ireland, providing that the provisions relating to the powers and presence of EU representatives are excluded. Finally, via subsections (4) and (5), clause 13 allows for the establishment of new arrangements for co-operation with EU authorities to monitor the trade boundary regime, and enables us to implement robust data sharing on the operation of the trusted trader scheme and on all goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That will support assurance processes to uphold our commitment to protect both the UK internal market and the EU’s single market.

Clause 14 supports the coherent functioning of the Bill by fully insulating any excluded provision from being brought back into our domestic law as a result of obligations arising from other provisions of the protocol and withdrawal agreement. If needs be, regulations under subsection (4) can be used to make appropriate provision in connection with any provision of the protocol or withdrawal agreement to which this clause relates. The clause provides important clarity on the interaction between excluded provision and any wider provisions in the protocol or withdrawal agreement related to it.

Clause 18 provides a power for a Minister to engage in non-legislative conduct where they consider it appropriate in connection with one or more of the purposes in the Bill. The clause also clarifies the relationship between powers to make secondary legislation under the Bill and those arising by virtue of the royal prerogative. The clause will ensure that actions not requiring legislation, such as issuing guidance to industry or providing direction to officials, can be taken in a timely manner by a Minister of the Crown. It is not, as I think has been misconstrued in some quarters, an extraordinary power. It simply makes clear, as would normally be taken for granted, that Ministers will be acting lawfully when they go about their ministerial duties in support of this legislation.

Clause 20 allows for the proper functioning of domestic court proceedings following the removal of the domestic effect of CJEU jurisdiction. That means that domestic courts would no longer be bound by CJEU principles or decisions when considering matters relating to the protocol. The clause provides a power to make related new provision. Regulations made under the power could, for example, provide for a procedure to refer questions of interpretation of EU law to the CJEU if a domestic court considered it necessary to conclude its proceedings.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
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Will the Minister give way?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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If the hon. Member would not mind, I will give way to him when I come on to his amendment specifically. I would be very grateful if he would give me that indulgence.

Clause 20 is important to the functioning of the Bill to allow domestic courts to consider proceedings relating to the protocol without being subject to CJEU jurisdiction, in line with the general principles of the Bill.

I now move on to the amendments in order. Some, with the leave of the House, I can deal with very briefly. Amendments 38, 39, 42 and 43, in the name of the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), would, as has previously been explained regarding similar amendments, in our view wrongly apply a necessity test for the use of such powers. Parliament has previously determined, for example in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, that “appropriateness” is the appropriate word. That is my response to that series of amendments.

Amendment 12 in the name of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) would remove the power for Ministers to engage in conduct in relation to the protocol which is normally within the Executive’s competence but not otherwise authorised by the Bill. As I explained a short while ago, this provision simply makes it clear that, as would normally be taken for granted, Ministers of the Crown would be acting lawfully when they go about their ministerial duties—for example providing instruction to civil servants or guidance to industry—in support of this legislation. It is not an extraordinary power, but rather it provides certainty that the Government can implement our proposals. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

Amendment 48 from the hon. Member for Foyle (Colum Eastwood) would be unworkable. It would require the Assembly—which is of course not sitting, which is part of the whole essence of this Bill—to pass a prohibitive number of votes to enable swift implementation of the solutions delivered by the Bill, so I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 49 also from the hon. Gentleman would require Ministers to have due regard for the principle that the Belfast/Good Friday agreement should be protected in all its parts. The hon. Member states this amendment is based on the fourth point in the preamble to the protocol which sets out the United Kingdom and the European Union’s affirmation of their commitment to do just that. The Government’s overriding commitment—I emphasise this as strongly as I can—is to protect the Belfast/Good Friday agreement in all its dimensions. That commitment is absolute, but the balance within that agreement, and which was critical to its negotiation, must be maintained, and it is for that very reason that the Government have introduced this Bill. Although I welcome and endorse the sentiment underlying the amendment, it is, for the same reason, unnecessary, and I urge the hon. Member to withdraw it.

Amendment 46 from the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) would require the Assembly to approve clause 20. That is inappropriate under the devolution settlements because it would prevent the Bill from making important changes that go to the heart of the current democratic deficit. Does the hon. Gentleman wish me to give way now?

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, I am grateful to the Minister, and I assure him this is only a probing amendment and I will not be putting it to a vote. In terms of the Government’s position of removing the ultimate jurisdiction of the ECJ, do they recognise that in doing so they will in effect unpick Northern Ireland’s access to the single market for goods in that we would not be fully in line with the required EU law for that to take effect?

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Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I do not accept that characterisation. This is very important to the whole community in Northern Ireland and it is very important that we have cross-community consensus in the working of these operations. I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s point.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister accept that in fact this Bill makes all the provision necessary for firms in Northern Ireland that wish to access the single market to be able to do so by opting for dual regulation? Dual regulation is what gives them access to the single market, not oversight by the ECJ.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman is certainly right about the dual regulatory regime, as the Committee discussed at some length yesterday; I agree with his contention.

Claire Hanna Portrait Claire Hanna
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister please clarify? I am struggling to understand. He repeatedly refers to the need for cross-community consent. Does he understand and has he noted the letter from a majority of MLAs—[Interruption.] Does he acknowledge that all MLAs representing others and representing nationalists reject this Bill in the strongest possible terms, and can he outline how these recommendations and powers have cross-community consent if they are rejected by two of the three traditions in Northern Ireland?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

As I think the hon. Lady knows, this cannot be about majoritarianism, and by the way I note a poll in December 2021 that indicated there was 78% agreement in Northern Ireland that the protocol needed to change. There is a requirement that there is cross-community consensus and—

Claire Hanna Portrait Claire Hanna
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

And there is not cross-community consensus!

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The hon. Lady is shouting from a sedentary position, but I think I have made the position clear. [Interruption.]

Eleanor Laing Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. The hon. Member for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) knows she cannot shout like that while she is sitting down. If she wishes to intervene again she can try to intervene; I will not have this shouting.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Dame Eleanor.

I simply reiterate to the hon. Lady and the whole Committee that our overriding priority is preserving peace and stability in Northern Ireland, and I make no apology for repeating that. The situation as it stands is undermining the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and it is undermining power-sharing, as proven by the very fact that we do not have an operating Northern Ireland Assembly—surely that is proof positive.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister share my bafflement at the intervention that he has just had to respond to? On the one hand, SDLP amendment 49 requires the Government to ensure

“the principle that the Belfast Agreement, including its subsequent implementation agreements and arrangements, should be protected in all its parts”,

yet at the same time we are being told that a majority in the Assembly—which does not include one Unionist: a key principle of the Belfast agreement—should override any of the views being expressed by Unionists on these Benches today.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The right hon. Gentleman makes his point with his usual eloquence, and the citation he makes from the agreement is irrefutable; it is simply on the face of the document.

Colum Eastwood Portrait Colum Eastwood (Foyle) (SDLP)
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Can the Minister point out the line, paragraph and page of the Good Friday agreement that he is quoting? This does not make any sense.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The hon. Gentleman is being mischievous in the best possible sense of that word; he is very familiar with the agreement and does not need me to cite the passages in question. I am sure all sides would agree that what is most important is the preservation of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement; that surely is irrefutable.

Amendment 13, tabled by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central, would bind domestic courts into the existing CJEU reference procedure without any choice as to what the new arrangements are. In the Government’s view, that would not resolve the current democratic deficit.

I have given the position of Her Majesty’s Government on the amendments; I hope I have outlined that in sufficient detail. I therefore recommend that these clauses all stand part of the Bill.

Jeffrey M Donaldson Portrait Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy to follow the Minister. Reference has been made to the oversight of the European Court of Justice. Although our primary concern about the protocol is in respect of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we do have a concern about the role of the European Court of Justice in respect of oversight, where there is a dispute between the United Kingdom and the European Union on matters pertaining to the protocol. We believe it is unfair and unreasonable that the European Court of Justice should be the final arbiter on such matters.

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Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This has been a very wide-ranging and thoughtful debate, albeit with passion at various points. The question of a democratic deficit is one of the key issues that we have discussed. I recognise the concerns of Unionist colleagues in the Chamber, but I find it odd that the Government are pursuing a Bill with parts that remove powers from this place and the Northern Ireland Assembly and give them to Ministers here. It strikes me that that is the real democratic deficit that we are dealing with.

I hope that the other place will look at these matters in great detail in the weeks to come. I indicate our support for amendments 12 and 49, if those are put to a separate decision, but I will withdraw amendment 38.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

I thank hon. Members, who have all spoken passionately. I will try very briefly to address some of their points.

The hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) asked about the impact of CJEU provision on Northern Ireland access to the EU single market. When he raised the point, I reiterated the importance of cross-community consent; I should also reassure him and the Committee that we want and intend to retain elements of the protocol that are working and preserve north-south trade and co-operation. As the Prime Minister has said, we want to fix it, not nix it. The Bill just makes targeted changes to address key concerns and restore balance.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) raised some technical questions about pharmaceuticals; I will write to him about them.

The right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) referred to clause 18, which I assure him is genuinely less exciting than some might think. Normally, as he knows, the lawfulness of Ministers’ non-legislative actions can be taken for granted or implied. The Bill is slightly unusual in that it clarifies how new domestic obligations replace prior domestic obligations that stem from international obligations. Those international obligations are currently implemented automatically by section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. That conduit pipe currently constrains—and could cause confusion in future as to —how Ministers can act in support of the Bill. Clause 18 will remove that potential confusion.

The hon. Member for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) juxtaposed Northern Ireland with Cyprus. I do not need to say to anyone on the Committee, particularly anyone from anywhere on the island of Ireland, that the history and geography of Northern Ireland is vastly different from that of Cyprus, so it is clear that different issues might arise from the remit of the CJEU. On that note, I recommend that the clauses stand part of the Bill.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 13 and 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Amendment proposed: 12, in clause 18, page 10, line 9, leave out subsection (1).—(Hilary Benn.)

This amendment would remove the Minister‘s power to engage in any conduct in relation to any matter dealt with in the Northern Ireland Protocol, not otherwise authorised by this Act, if the Minister considers it appropriate to do so.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

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Nigel Evans Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause 21 stand part.

Amendment 50, in clause 22, page 11, line 16, at end insert—

“(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not exercise any power to make regulations conferred by this Act unless a Legislative Consent Motion approving a draft of the regulations has been passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

This amendment would prevent a Minister of the Crown seeking to use powers conferred by this Act to make regulations unless and until the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly to said regulations has been obtained.

Amendment 51, page 11, line 16, at end insert—

“(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not exercise any power to make regulations conferred by this Act before a Minister of the Crown has presented a draft of the regulations to the UK-EU Joint Committee for discussion and has laid a full report setting out the details of those discussions before each House of Parliament and provided a copy to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

This amendment would prevent a Minister of the Crown seeking to use powers conferred by this Act to make regulations unless and until said regulations have been presented by a Minister to the UK-EU Joint Committee for a discussion and a report detailing those discussions had been laid before each House of Parliament and a copy provided to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Amendment 55, page 11, line 16, at end insert—

“(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not exercise any power to make regulations conferred by this Act in contravention of views agreed by the North-South Ministerial Council on EU matters, including those regarding future policies, legislative proposals and programmes under consideration in the EU framework as provided for in Paragraph 17 of Strand Two of the Belfast Agreement.”

Amendment 53, page 12, line 15, at end insert—

“(6A) A Minister may not exercise the power to make regulations under subsection (6) with respect to a devolved authority in Northern Ireland unless the exercise of any power by that devolved authority is approved by the First Minister and deputy First Minister acting jointly—

(a) on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive,

(b) following a resolution by the Northern Ireland Assembly,

or both.”

This amendment would prevent a Minister of the Crown seeking to use powers conferred by subsection (6) without the agreement of the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland acting jointly has been. The First Minister and deputy First Minister may be acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive and/or following a resolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Clause 22 stand part.

Amendment 19, in clause 23, page 12, line 25, leave out from “to” to “unless” in line 26 and insert “draft affirmative procedure”.

This probing amendment would apply “draft affirmative” procedure in place of regulations being subject to annulment.

Amendment 20, page 12, line 33, leave out “draft affirmative procedure” and insert

“super-affirmative procedure (see section (Super-affirmative resolution procedure: general provisions))”.

This probing amendment would replace draft affirmative procedure with super-affirmative procedure (see NC6).

Amendment 21, page 12, line 33, leave out from “procedure” to the end of line 37.

This probing amendment would prevent Henry VIII powers (amending Acts of Parliament by regulations) being made using the “made affirmative” procedure.

Amendment 22, page 12, line 38, leave out subsections (7) to (9).

This probing amendment would remove the “made affirmative” procedure.

Clauses 23 and 25 stand part.

Amendment 2, in clause 26, page 15, line 41, leave out subsections (2) to (5) and insert—

“(2A) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed.

(2B) The other provisions of this Act come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument appoint.

(2C) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (2B) may not appoint a day for the commencement of any section unless—

(a) a Minister of the Crown has moved a motion in the House of Commons to the effect that a section or sections be commenced on or after a day specified in the motion (‘the specified day’),

(b) the motion has been approved by a resolution of that House,

(c) a motion to the effect that the House of Lords takes note of the specified day (or the day which is proposed to be the specified day) has been tabled in the House of Lords by a Minister of the Crown, and

(d) the day appointed by the regulations is the same as or is after the specified day.

(2D) Regulations under subsection (2B) may—

(a) appoint different days for different purposes;

(b) make transitional or saving provision in connection with the coming into force of any provision of this Act.”

The intention of this amendment, linked to Amendment 1 to clause 1, is to require parliamentary approval for bringing into force any provisions of this Act.

Amendment 33, page 15, line 42, after “section” insert

“, section [consistency with international law]”.

This consequential amendment would bring NC11 into force on the day the Act is passed.

Amendment 3, page 15, line 44, at beginning insert

“Provided that the Northern Ireland Assembly has first passed a resolution indicating support for this Act,”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 4, will make all operational aspects of the Bill dependent upon the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Amendment 4, page 15, line 45, at end insert—

“(3A) A motion for a resolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly referred to in subsection (3) must be tabled by either—

(a) the First Minister and Deputy First Minister jointly, or

(b) any Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

This amendment, together with Amendment 3, will make all operational aspects of the Bill dependent upon the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Amendment 47, page 15, line 45, at end insert—

“(3A) Regulations under subsection (3) may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament, except that regulations under subsection (2) relating to tax or customs matters may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, the House of Commons.”

This amendment would make all the commencement regulations subject to parliamentary approval.

Clause 26 stand part.

New clause 6—Super-affirmative resolution procedure: general provisions

“(1) For the purposes of this Act the ‘super-affirmative resolution procedure’ in relation to the making of regulations subject to the super-affirmative resolution procedure is as follows.

(2) The Minister of the Crown must have regard to—

(a) any representations,

(b) any resolution of either House of Parliament, and

(c) any recommendations of a committee of either House of Parliament charged with reporting on the draft regulations, made during the 60-day period with regard to the draft regulations.

(3) If, after the expiry of the 60-day period, the Minister of the Crown wishes to make regulations in the terms of the draft, the Minister of the Crown must lay before each House of Parliament a statement—

(a) stating whether any representations were made under subsection (2)(a); and

(b) if any representations were so made, giving details of them.

(4) The Minister of the Crown may after the laying of such a statement make regulations in the terms of the draft if the regulations are approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) However, a committee of either House charged with reporting on the draft regulations may, at any time after the laying of a statement under subsection (3) and before the draft regulations are approved by that House under subsection (4), recommend under this subsection that no further proceedings be taken in relation to the draft regulations.

(6) Where a recommendation is made by a committee of either House under subsection (5) in relation to draft regulations, no proceedings may be taken in relation to the draft regulations in that House under subsection (4) unless the recommendation is, in the same Session, rejected by resolution of that House.

(7) If, after the expiry of the 60-day period, the Minister of the Crown wishes to make regulations order consisting of a version of the draft regulations with material changes, the Minister of the Crown lay before Parliament—

(a) revised draft regulations; and

(b) a statement giving details of—

(i) any representations made under subsection (2)(a); and

(ii) the revisions proposed.

(8) The Minister of the Crown may after laying revised draft regulations and a statement under subsection (7) make regulations in the terms of the revised draft regulations if the revised draft regulations are approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(9) However, a committee of either House charged with reporting on the revised draft regulations may, at any time after the revised draft regulations are laid under subsection (7) and before the revised draft regulations are approved by that House under subsection (8), recommend under this subsection that no further proceedings be taken in relation to the revised draft regulations.

(10) Where a recommendation is made by a committee of either House under subsection (9) in relation to revised draft regulations, no proceedings may be taken in relation to the revised draft regulations in that House under subsection (8) unless the recommendation is, in the same Session, rejected by resolution of that House.

(11) For the purposes of subsections (4) and (8) regulations are made in the terms of draft regulations if the regulations contain no material changes to the provisions of the draft regulations.

(12) In this section the ‘60-day period’ means the period of 60 days beginning with the day on which the draft regulations were laid before Parliament under section 23 of this Act.”

This new clause sets out the bi-cameral super-affirmative procedure regulations under the Act, except in relation to tax and customs matters.

New clause 11—Consistency with international law

“(1) A Minister of the Crown must not make regulations under this Act unless both the conditions in subsections (2) and (5) have been satisfied.

(2) The condition in this subsection is that a Minister of the Crown has laid before both Houses of Parliament a consistency report from a qualified person in relation to the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol that are, in consequence of the regulations, to become excluded provision (‘the provisions at issue’).

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), a ‘consistency report’ is a report as to whether, in the opinion of the qualified person, it is consistent with the international obligations of the United Kingdom for the provisions at issue to become excluded provision, and which—

(a) sets out the reasons for its conclusions;

(b) sets out the steps taken by the qualified person to obtain the views of persons appearing to the qualified person to have appropriate expertise in questions of international law; and

(c) attaches, or contains references to a publicly available version of, all materials considered by the qualified person in the course of preparing the report.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (2) a ‘qualified person’ is a judge or former judge of—

(a) the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom;

(b) the Court of Appeal of England and Wales;

(c) the Inner House of the Court of Session; or

(d) the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland.

(5) The condition in this subsection is that—

(a) the House of Commons has approved a resolution to take note of the consistency report on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown; and

(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the consistency report has been tabled in the House of Lords by a Minister of the Crown and—

(i) the House of Lords has approved a resolution to take note of the report, or

(ii) the House of Lords has not concluded a debate on the motion before the end of the period of five Lords sitting days beginning with the first Lords sitting day after the day on which the House of Commons passes the resolution mentioned in paragraph (a).”

This new clause would prevent any clause of the Bill (or regulations made under it) that create ‘excluded provision’ from coming into force until (a) an authoritative and independent legal expert presents a report to parliament as to whether it is consistent with the international obligations of the United Kingdom, and (b) the House of Commons has passed a motion noting that report, and the House of Lords has debated that report.

New clause 12—Adjudications of matters pertaining to international law

“No later than two weeks after any finding by any international court, tribunal or arbitration panel that any provision of this Act, or any action taken by a Minister in exercise of powers granted by this Act, is inconsistent with the international obligations of the United Kingdom, a Minister of the Crown must—

(a) report to each House of Parliament setting out the extent to which the relevant court, tribunal or arbitration panel has found that any provision of, or any exercise of power under, this Act is inconsistent with the international legal obligations of the United Kingdom; and

(b) set out what steps Ministers propose take in order to bring the United Kingdom into compliance with those international obligations.”

This new clause would provide that, if an international court, tribunal or arbitration panel found as a matter of fact that any actions taken by the government under the Bill were inconsistent with the UK’s international legal obligations, the Minister must report this finding to the House, and set out what steps the government will take to ensure the UK is in compliance with its international obligations.

New clause 16—Impact assessment

“Within six months of a Minister of the Crown exercising any power conferred by this Act to make regulations, a Minister of the Crown must publish a full impact assessment of the effect of the regulations on businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland.”

This new clause would require a Minister of the Crown who has exercised any power conferred by this Act to make regulations to publish a full impact assessment of the effect of said regulations on businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland within six months.

New clause 17—Consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly

“(1) A Minister of the Crown may not exercise the powers to make regulations conferred by this Act before a Legislative Consent Motion approving a draft of the regulations has been passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

(2) A Minister of the Crown must, at the end of the relevant period, seek a Legislative Consent Motion approving the continued application of regulations made under the powers conferred by this Act.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the ‘relevant period’ is—

(a) the period ending four years after the powers are exercised; or

(b) the period ending eight years after the powers are exercised where the original Legislative Consent Motion was approved by—

(i) the support of a majority of Members, a majority of designated Nationalists and a majority of Unionists,

(ii) the support of 60 per cent of Members, 40 per cent of designated Nationalists and 40 per cent of designated Unionists, or

(iii) the support of two thirds of Members.”

This new clause would require a Minister of the Crown to obtain the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly in order to exercise the power to make regulations conferred by this Act. It would also require a Minister of the Crown to obtain the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the continued application of the said regulations within the relevant period. The relevant period would be four years unless the vote passes with a majority in any of the ways described in Clause 3(b), in which case the relevant period is eight years.

New clause 19—Expiry

“(1) The powers conferred by this Act upon a Minister of the Crown will expire if the Northern Ireland Assembly passes a resolution pursuant to Article 18 of the Northern Ireland Protocol (Democratic Consent in Northern Ireland).

(2) A resolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly under subsection (1) can only pass with one or more of the following measures of representational support—

(a) the support of a majority of Members, a majority of designated Nationalists and a majority of Unionists,

(b) the support of 60 per cent of Members, 40 per cent of designated Nationalists and 40 per cent of designated Unionists, or

(c) the support of two thirds of Members.”

This new clause provides a sunset clause whereby the powers expire if the Northern Ireland Assembly does not vote to approve the continued application of the Northern Protocol in 2024 in the vote required by Article 18 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

Let me, for the last time, thank hon. Members who have spoken in the previous Committee stage debates. I remind hon. Members that, although the Northern Ireland protocol was agreed with the best of intentions, it is causing real problems for people and businesses in Northern Ireland, and this legislation will fix those practical problems.

Let me turn to the clauses under scrutiny this afternoon. Clause 19 gives powers to Ministers to implement a new agreement with the European Union as soon as one can be reached. A negotiated agreement with the EU remains the preferred outcome of this Government and this clause demonstrates that very commitment.

Clause 21 allows for preparatory spending undertaken to support the aims of the Bill to be made proper in the eyes of this place. This ensures that the Government can get on with delivering the new regime as soon as possible for the businesses and people of Northern Ireland.

Clause 22 sets out the general scope and nature of the powers contained in the Bill. This will ensure that the powers have the appropriate scope to implement the aims of the Bill, including setting out that regulations made under the Bill can make any provision that can be made by an Act of Parliament.

Regulations under this Bill may not create or facilitate border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which feature at the border either physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls that did not exist before exit day. I know that some Members are concerned about the possibility of border checks on the island of Ireland. This is the clearest possible way to show that this Government will not do that.

Jeffrey M Donaldson Portrait Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point, will the Minister also assure us that, consistent with clause 1, regulations brought forward as a result of this Bill will not harm the integrity of the United Kingdom and will respect Northern Ireland’s place within the Union?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
- Hansard - -

Yes, indeed.

Subsection (6) provides that a Minister can facilitate other powers under this Bill to be exercisable exclusively, concurrently or jointly with devolved Administrations to implement the aims of the Bill, and that is our intention where this is possible and appropriate.

Clause 23 sets out the process and parliamentary procedure for regulations made under the Bill, except for those in relation to tax, or customs, or commencement, which have been dealt with in other clauses by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Clause 23 will ensure that the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny is in place for the different arrangements that will be necessary for the functioning of the new regime.

I will now move on to clause 25, which sets out the definition of relevant terms in the Bill, including by cross reference to their definition in other pieces of legislation. This is a normal and regular feature of all legislation. Clause 26 makes a number of final provisions in the Bill relating to extent and commencement, which are a normal part of all legislation. That clause is vital to ensure the smooth commencement of the new regime and to give business certainty.

Moving briefly to amendments 50 and 53 in the name of the hon. Member for Foyle (Colum Eastwood). This would require approval from the Northern Ireland Assembly before the Bill could come into effect, but the Northern Ireland Assembly is not currently sitting and it is precisely because of this breakdown of institutions that we need this Bill, so I ask the hon. Member not to press the amendments.

Amendment 51 is in the name of the hon. Member for Foyle. This would require secondary legislation under the Bill to be presented to the Joint Committee. It is wholly inappropriate, in our view, to give scrutiny of UK domestic legislation to the EU in this way, as it would effectively give it a procedural veto, so I urge the hon. Member not to press that amendment.

Amendment 55 in the name of the hon. Member for Foyle relates to the role of the North-South Ministerial Council. As the hon. Member knows, the North-South Ministerial Council includes Members of the Government of the Republic of Ireland and, as I said yesterday, it would be wholly inappropriate and a wholly inappropriate role for the Irish Government potentially to veto the Acts of a sovereign United Kingdom Parliament. I therefore urge the hon. Member not to press the amendment.

I will consider amendments 19 to 22 and new clause 6 together. They are in the name of the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson). My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury covered similar amendments to clause 24 of the Bill during the first day of debate. I reiterate her comments that the normal affirmative and negative procedures for statutory instruments provide effective scrutiny for the House. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman not to press his amendments.

I will touch on amendments 2 and 47 in a little more detail. They are tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) and seek to require a parliamentary vote prior to the commencement of the substantive provisions of the Bill. As I have outlined to the House, the EU is not prepared to change the protocol to resolve the problems we face, and there is no prospect of seeing a power-sharing Government restored in Northern Ireland if we are unable to tackle those problems. We need to bring in solutions as soon as possible to help the businesses and consumers of Northern Ireland. Additional parliamentary procedures would risk delays to the regime’s coming into force and undermine the certainty and clarity that we are looking to provide through this very Bill.

Turning to amendment 47 specifically, it would also set a concerning precedent that, when the legislature has passed legislation, the Executive are not free to bring it into force. That freedom has been a long-standing rule and one that a Government of any party would not wish to depart from. Furthermore, the amendment deviates from the previous one in that, rather than offering this House a single future debate on the issue at hand, it hands an effective veto on most of the Bill to the other place. I understand that some may find that an attractive outsourcing of opposition and a way around the conventions governing relations between the two Houses. However, the Executive , as my hon. Friend is well aware, is grounded in this honourable House and must be able to commence legislation they have agreed with Parliament. I urge him not to press his amendments.

I come now to amendment 33 and new clause 11, in the name of the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). He is right to raise the important question of the relationship between this Bill and the United Kingdom’s obligations in international law. However, the consistency report that he proposes in his amendment, is unnecessary in our view. The Government have already been clear that the proposals of this Bill are consistent with international law, so I ask him not to press his amendment or the new clause.

I respectfully point out to the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) regarding his amendments 3 and 4 that, while we need to see the restoration of the institutions as quickly as possible, it is exactly because of the breakdown of those institutions that this Bill was needed in the first place. That is why we cannot have a resolution of the Assembly before it comes into force. His amendments, by contrast, would allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to constrain the UK Parliament’s power to legislate, even if that legislation relates to a reserved matter. That cannot be right; it would be wholly inappropriate under the devolution arrangements, and for that reason and the others I have mentioned I respectfully urge the hon. Gentleman not to press his amendments.

Moving on to new clause 12, and coming rapidly to a conclusion, this new clause is not necessary, as we have been clear that proceeding with this Bill is consistent with our obligations in international law and in support of our prior obligations to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. The Government have published a summary of our legal position alongside the Bill and would robustly defend our position in any relevant legal proceedings, should they occur. I therefore ask the right hon. Member for Tottenham not to press this new clause.

New clause 16, tabled by the hon. Member for Belfast South (Claire Hanna), would require an impact assessment to be published within six months of making regulations. We are currently engaging with businesses on the detail of regulations, but we need flexibility so that any regulations brought forward as the product of that engagement ensure that the new regime is as smooth and operable as possible.

Penultimately, new clause 17, tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle, would allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to constrain the UK Parliament’s power to legislate on reserved matters. As I have said before, that is inappropriate under the devolution settlements.

New clause 19, tabled by the hon. Member for Foyle, would remove the powers provided by the Bill in the event of a Northern Ireland Assembly vote for continued application of the protocol. This would freeze in place a muddied set of arrangements in Northern Ireland and remove the ability of the UK Government to manage them, so the new clause should also be withdrawn.

This Bill provides a comprehensive and durable solution to the existing problems with the Northern Ireland protocol. The Government remain open to a negotiated outcome with the EU on the protocol, but the urgency of the situation means that we cannot delay. We must act to preserve political stability in Northern Ireland and fulfil our duty to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. I therefore recommend that these clauses stand part of the Bill.

--- Later in debate ---
Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

While the debates in Committee have been heated—literally, given the ambient temperature—the exchanges have been productive. Members heard detailed scrutiny of the Bill and the Government’s planned solutions to the problems that the protocol is causing in Northern Ireland. Some Members do not agree with the Government’s diagnosis, but it has been reassuring to note how many Opposition Members do agree and accept the problems, even if they do not currently accept that the Government have no choice but to proceed unilaterally. I can understand that, but unfortunately, while our door is always open, there does not appear to be a fruitful negotiation to be had with the European Union at present.

We have not had a Report stage debate, as the Committee did not see fit to amend the Bill. I, and the Government as a whole, see that as a strong vote of support for our proposals, and we hope that those who are eagerly waiting for them to come to pass in Northern Ireland will take heart in the knowledge that they may not have to wait too long, and that the House of Commons has heard them. I hope that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson) and his party will hear that too, and will continue their moves towards returning to power sharing.

The Bill is a powerful toolkit. I know that there are noble Lords in the other place who might think it too powerful, but the Government have been clear on our policy and the range of detailed regulations that will be required, and these are the tools for the job. The Bill provides certainty that the elements of the protocol that have developed into problems will no longer apply in our domestic law and, alongside that, ensures that the Government can honour their promises to the people of all the communities in Northern Ireland. We will protect that which is working to maintain the economic and social framework for north-south traders and nationalists, and we will fix that which is undermining the lives and livelihoods of east-west traders and Unionists.

This Bill is the Government’s top legislative priority. Given the grave situation in Northern Ireland, it must be so. Negotiations will always remain a possibility, and the Bill ensures that implementation of any agreement will not cause further delays. Negotiations tomorrow are always a day away, but it is today in Northern Ireland and the issues are clearly with us now. In the absence of other comprehensive and durable solutions, the Government and Parliament must act. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Minister, Stephen Doughty.