European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:23 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 2:23 pm, 7th September 2017

No, I will not—unless the Government move on this—because the flaws are so fundamental that they should go away and do their homework again. Not a single person in this Chamber does not accept that legislation is required to undertake the task; we are just saying that it is not the legislation before us.

There is a huge difference between a statutory instrument that proposes in some regulation to delete the words “the Commission” and insert the words “the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs” and a statutory instrument that will, for example, give responsibility for the oversight and enforcement air-quality legislation, which derives from an EU directive, to an existing public body. What assurance can Ministers give us that whichever body is given that responsibility will have the same effective enforcement powers as the Commission has had, including ultimately taking case to the European Court of Justice, and will give the public the same power to hold that body and the Government to account if there is a continuing lack of progress in making sure that our air is pure enough to breathe? If that is not provided for, Government cannot argue that the Bill’s aim is to produce exactly the same situation the day after we leave as existed the day before. Therefore, as many people have said, the Bill will have to produce a mechanism for sifting. We need to sift the proposals that come forward, so that we can distinguish the absolutely straightforward and non-controversial and those that raise really quite important issues of policy, so that we as Parliament can do our job.