European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 3:58 pm, 7th September 2017

Absolutely. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. These are all curable, and readily curable, with just a little bit of will.

There is another example on which we have already touched. EU law never used to be divided between primary and secondary legislation. Interestingly, it is all being treated as primary, which has the nice merit—I am sure that someone in Whitehall dreamed this up—that none of it would be susceptible to be quashed by a challenge under the Human Rights Act. That may not matter, but it is capable of causing unfairness when it is linked to the fact that the other area of challenge that would normally be available, which is a challenge because something is in breach of the general principles of EU law, has been delicately removed along with the charter of fundamental rights.

I hope that I may be forgiven for saying this about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I have had some wonderful times with him—journalists once said of him that he used to stand up and club Labour Home Secretaries over the head and then I would come along and dissect them in public with a legal scalpel—but I just slightly detect that he was looking a bit like a fugitive as the legal scalpel started to move in on him. I do not know where that idea came from, but somebody will have to sort it out. We will have to do it at the Committee stage of the Bill. There are other examples that I could give, but I do not have the time to do so right now, so I shall leave them for the Committee stage in which I intend to participate actively.

Let me move to the Henry VIII clauses. The current situation is ridiculous. I recognise that there will have to be Henry VIII clauses. Of course we cannot carry out this massive revolutionary transformation by primary legislation alone, but we can ensure that we have the necessary safeguards in place. The most obvious one is to have an established parliamentary system of scrutiny to ensure that the different types of statutory instruments that will be needed are correctly farmed out. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend is right that the vast majority of them will be technical and of very little account, but some will be extremely important and will need to be taken on the Floor of the House. We need to have a system in place to do that.