European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Chair, Treasury Committee 3:34 pm, 7th September 2017

I congratulate Rosie Duffield on an excellent and confident maiden speech. I was sorry to hear about the online abuse that she has already experienced but pleased to hear about the support she has received. She talked about unity and togetherness, and she might have found the House at a challenging time for such things, but we will hopefully find a way through these debates. Her predecessor was a doughty champion of the armed forces, about which he spoke often in this House.

So it starts—the real process for getting us out of the European Union. The Bill is needed. It is needed legally to disentangle us and to make many people really believe that we are actually going to leave the European Union, something that I have not had difficulty believing. Like many colleagues who share my views, I have been clear since 24 June 2016 that it was going to happen because, as Yvette Cooper said, we believe in democracy in this House of Commons. However, the Bill contains two major ironies. First, as was said earlier, it is not a repeal Bill but a reintroduction Bill, and those who wanted to get away from EU law now seek to bring it all over here. Secondly, those who wanted to take back control showed no concerns about the amount of executive power that will be wielded as a result of the Bill until a number of the rest of us started to highlight such issues, and they now claim to be happy with the amendments that might be discussed in Committee.

In the limited time available, I want to draw attention to two parts of the Bill that have already been discussed. It is worth putting them on the record again so that Ministers are in no doubt about the parts of the Bill that they are going to have to discuss with colleagues throughout the House and agree amendments to if they want the Bill to pass. The first is the Henry VIII powers in clause 9, which could theoretically bite on the Bill itself and allow Ministers to amend the very legislation that the House is now debating and being asked to assent to. We might ask why we are going through the troublesome and time-consuming business of getting the Bill into shape when Ministers can use clause 9 to reverse the changes they dislike with speed, efficiency and a minimum of parliamentary oversight. The Secretary of State’s response to Hilary Benn, the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, about the fact that the withdrawal agreement should not be implemented until this House has had its say, is incredibly important.