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2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement) 4:07 pm, 11th September 2017

We are not talking about notional, theoretical powers; we are talking about actual powers on the statute book, and about whether one institution or another is able to enact laws according to that legislation.

There is a big difference between what was in the White Paper and what is in the legislation before us. What is more, undemocratic changes have been introduced without even a modicum of prior discussion, let alone negotiation, with the devolved institutions. This power grab by the Conservative Government is an affront to the devolved institutions, but it is also a slap in the face of the people of Scotland and of Wales. As Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, said in the Welsh Assembly in July, there is a popular mandate for what the Welsh Government are arguing. To quote him exactly:

“The 2011 referendum…saw a large majority vote in favour of giving this National Assembly primary legislative powers”,

but the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is

“an attempt to take back control over devolved policies…not just from Brussels, but from Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.”

In his letter to Members of Parliament, dated 7 September, the First Secretary of State said that the arrangement I have described was a “transitional arrangement”. My question is: how long is this transitional arrangement for? How long is the period to which we are referring? How long is the rapid period mentioned in the explanatory memorandum? Is it one month, one year, 10 years, 20 years—how long? This Bill is an undemocratic blank cheque that, if passed, will give unprecedented powers to this Government.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Bill has as its prime objective not so much withdrawing Britain from the European Union as concentrating as much power as possible in the hands of a feeble minority Government, headed by a caretaker Prime Minister. Under the cloak of leaving the European Union, the Government seek to emasculate this House and centralise power in their own hands. If the Government were solely concerned about leaving the European Union, there are other ways that it could have been done—other measures could have been put forward—but, no, they chose this particular route. Rather than looking forward to a new and positive relationship with the European Union, this Bill takes us back to the days when the UK was totally London-orientated and inward-looking. That is why I will vote against it, and why I believe that is the right thing to do.