European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:35 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 2:35 pm, 7th September 2017

Absolutely. That is the cardinal principle.

The Henry VIII arrangement in this Bill is a mirror image in reverse of what was done in 1972 to absorb all the European legislation into our own law and apply it so that it could never be changed. It cannot be amended—there is the acquis communitaire, and it cannot be repealed until we have this Bill. That is the point. I ought to add that it would be impossible for us to translate all the European legislation through primary legislation, although, as has already been said, we will have important primary legislation on subjects such as immigration and fisheries. The Government have already promised that.

Section 2(2) of the 1972 Act allows EU law to have legal effect in UK domestic law by secondary or delegated legislation. Read with section 2(4) and schedule 2 to that Act, that secondary legislation, by sovereign Act of Parliament, is expressly given the power to make such provision as may be made by the Act of Parliament itself. There are hosts of examples—including, if I may say so to the Opposition and the shadow Secretary of State, section 75 of the Freedom of Information Act, where the amendment was made within the Act and passed by the Labour party. Let us not get hypocritical about this under any circumstances; this procedure is not as unusual as it is made out to be.

Indeed, the Minister on Second Reading of the 1972 Act, Geoffrey Rippon, acknowledged the novelty of the procedure—it was novel in those days—and added:

“As I conceive it, the power afforded by Clause 2(4) would be used only in exceptional circumstances”.—[Official Report, 15 February 1972;
Vol. 831, c. 285.]

We now know that, according to the EU legal database, at least 12,000 regulations have been brought in since ’73, with 7,900 instruments derived from EU law. It is a wild assertion that the Henry VIII provisions contained in this Bill are an infringement of parliamentary sovereignty, and for that reason the Opposition amendment should be completely disregarded.

Furthermore, Henry VIII powers have been used in enactment after enactment. Indeed, we had them in the recent Energy Bill and Immigration Bill, which contained 22 separate Henry VII powers. There is, however, another important point to be made. The European Scrutiny Committee report “Transparency of decision-making in the Council of the European Union”, published in May 2016, goes to the heart of the manner in which the policies and laws of the UK have increasingly been invaded, not merely in process but in practice, which we will reverse—abolish—through this Bill. The Committee established that although majority voting prevails by virtue of the treaties, the decisions are taken by consensus behind closed doors without any proper record, proper speeches or transparency. No votes are recorded, as they are in Hansard. That is the fundamental difference. It is a travesty of a democratic decision-making process and a reason why the Bill is so necessary. The people of this country have had legislation inflicted and imposed on them that is made behind closed doors without anyone knowing who has made it, for what reason and how.

There are political undercurrents that need to be brought out, because the question of who makes those decisions behind closed doors in the Council of Ministers is incredibly important, as Professor Vaubel, professor of economics at Mannheim University, made clear in his work “Regulatory Collusion”. Another report, by VoteWatch, demonstrates the extent to which the UK has been on the losing side an ever increasing proportion of times leading up to 2015. I am bound to say that the UK has been on the losing side more than any other state over that time.

I have made my point on the charter. The Opposition have no credibility on that question whatsoever.

Finally, let me say that this is an historic moment and I am glad to be part of it at last.