I beg to move, That this House
agrees with Lords amendment 6.
The amendment relates to the treaty provisions of the Bill. I am glad that we managed to persuade some of the outliers that they should be included. The amendment was moved in the other place by Lord Norton of Louth. It puts a commitment on the face of the Bill that where a treaty is laid before the House there is to be an explanatory memorandum. That would have happened anyway, but I am very happy to accept the amendment so that now it must happen.
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There are two stages to the coming into force of a treaty. One is the signature and the second is ratification. I do not quite know what the hon. Gentleman means by consent. The signing of the treaty must be undertaken by the state party at the time when the treaty is agreed. I have been the signatory to a number of treaties and I cannot think of any process by which it would be possible to consult the hon. Gentleman and others before making the Executive decision to sign it.
If I may just complete this point; that is always subject to ratification. I felt, as Foreign Secretary, that it was wrong that the Executive alone should ultimately decide on ratification; it should be a matter for this place. That is why I pursued the matter as Foreign Secretary and when I had an opportunity I wanted to get it on the statute book, in this place. The hon. Gentleman's consent to ratification on all treaties-not just EU ones-will now be required.
I am grateful for that suggestion. I am quite sure that it will not happen, particularly in relation to European treaties. However, the key point is that in relation to consent the question of signature, rather than just ratification, should come before Parliament.
I welcome amendment 6. I suppose that it shows what can be achieved when minds are concentrated wonderfully. Certainly, Lord Norton of Louth was able to secure some significant and interesting changes to the Bill in the course of an evening.
It is plainly desirable that there should be an explanatory memorandum. I take the Secretary of State's point that it might have been provided anyway. However, I recall that this issue has arisen on a number of occasions and that it has often been pointed out how desirable it would be, if the Government are laying legislation before the House, which can sometimes be quite technical in nature, that there should be an opportunity before the debate starts for a full explanation to be provided about how the legislation or treaty will impact.
For those reasons, I am very happy to support the amendment.