Parliamentary oversight of negotiations

Part of Informal European Council – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 6th February 2017.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 5:15 pm, 6th February 2017

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman rose to his feet, because I am about to turn away from my first point about the new clauses tabled by Opposition Front-Bench Members and to talk about the ones that I think could be much more damaging. Those include new clause 51, to which the hon. Gentleman has appended his name, and amendment 44.

In the Government’s amendment to the Opposition motion that was passed by the House on 7 December last year, the House agreed by 448 votes to 75 that the Government should indeed ensure that Parliament had the necessary information to scrutinise these matters properly. The instruction from the House also stated, however,

“that there should be no disclosure of material that could be reasonably judged to damage the UK”.—[Official Report, 7 December 2016;
Vol. 618, c. 220.]

This is an arguable matter, but my contention is that the detail called for in new clause 51 on, among other things, the terms of proposed trade agreements and the proposed status of citizens are details that we would not want to disclose during our negotiations. For example, we would not wish to disclose whether tariffs were to be introduced or at what level. To do so would be to reveal our negotiating hand, which would be counter to the strongly expressed view of the House. If new clause 51 or amendment 44 are put to a vote, I strongly urge the House to vote against them.