European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:11 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 2:11 pm, 7th September 2017

I am not going to give way; I do not want the hon. and learned Lady to embarrass herself any more with the ridiculous argument that her party colleagues make. The truth is that they will leap on any excuse. My response to them is that those powers are not being stolen away; they are being reassured that what the Government then devolve back down to them will be more than they have ever had before. That reassurance has been granted and given.

The Constitution Committee paper is rather good. It makes another important point, which relates to the three closing recommendations I wish to make. I hope the Government will look at three areas. The first is the application of statutory instruments. The Government have accepted that we should have an explanatory memorandum that tells us what was in place before and what will happen afterwards, but they should also accept the recommendation that the Government should provide an explanation as to why an instrument is necessary. It is important that people can recognise quickly what the Government intend. I hope the Government will think about that.

When I was at the Department for Work and Pensions, a statutory body called the Social Security Advisory Committee had the role of looking at legislation as it was about to be introduced. Sometimes that is awkward when one is the Secretary of State, but none the less it makes recommendations. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State look again at such a process? It may offer the Government a way to reassure people that the things they are about to do may well be absolutely necessary.

Here is the deal. We are asking that whatever is done under the purposes and powers of the Bill is done for one simple reason: to transpose existing law with existing effect, so that that effect does not change. If the single exam question is asked of a body like the Social Security Advisory Committee, “Is this instrument doing that?”, that might help to reassure Parliament. I urge the Government to consider that because it works in one area of detailed and consequential legislation, so I wonder if it might work in this area, too.

I am not going to go into a lot of detail, but my final recommendation is on the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras about the exit day. I am one of those who think we ought really to have that in the Bill, because he is right that on it hinges just about everything. For example, the Government have moved a long way on the sunset clauses, for which I thank them, because it is important to put an end date on the powers that exist in the Bill. The question is about the two years, but the real question is: when does the two years start and thus when does it end? That would answer a lot of the questions that the right hon. and learned Gentleman raised about how far the Government might go in changing future legislation and everything else. As a strong supporter of the Bill, a strong supporter of the Government and a strong supporter of the principle, and as a big supporter of the idea of leaving the European Union, I urge the Government to think very carefully about what they do about that date.

In conclusion, I simply say that I absolutely support the Government on the principle of the Bill, as well as on the vast majority of the practicality and how it will be implemented, but I recognise that, in Committee, the Government will look again carefully at some of the need to provide some checks and balances as assurances to the House. We all want that, because none of us wants to defy the will of the British people, which is to leave smoothly, in a manner that does not bother business or upset individuals over their rights and their accepted ways of working.

I urge the Government to listen, but I congratulate them on getting to this point and getting us out of the European Union.