European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:18 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 12:18 pm, 7th September 2017

Not for a moment. I will make some progress and come back to the hon. and learned Lady.

The conversion of EU law into UK law is an essential measure to ensure that the UK leaves the EU in the smoothest way possible. However, that action alone is not enough to ensure that the statute book continues to function. Many laws will no longer make sense outside the EU. If we were only to convert EU law into UK law, our statute book would still be broken. Many laws would oblige UK individuals, firms or public authorities to continue to engage with the European Union in a way that would be both absurd and impossible for a country that is not within the European Union. Other laws would leave the European Union institutions as key public authorities in the UK—a role they would not be able to perform or fulfil.

The problems that would arise without our making these changes would range from minor inconveniences to the disruption of vital services we all rely on every day. In practical terms, they would range from a public authority being required to submit reports on water quality to the European Union, to disruption being caused to the City by the removal of the supervision of the credit rating agencies entirely. It is essential that these issues are addressed before we leave the European Union, or we will be in breach of our duty as legislators to provide a functioning and clear set of laws for our citizens.

That is why the Bill provides a power to correct problems that arise in retained EU law as a result of our withdrawal from the European Union. This is clause 7, the so-called correcting power. Unlike section 2(2) of the European Communities Act—this goes straight to the point that the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford raised—which can be used to do almost anything to the statute book to implement EU law, the correcting power is a limited power. It can be used only to correct problems with the statute book arising directly from our withdrawal from the European Union. Ministers cannot use it simply to replace European Union laws that they do not like. It is designed to allow us to replicate as closely as possible existing European Union laws and regimes in a domestic context. It is also restricted. It cannot be used, for example, to create serious criminal offences, amend the Human Rights Act, or impose or increase taxation. We have ensured that it will expire two years after exit day so that nobody can suggest that it is a permanent attempt to transfer power to the Executive.