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2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:01 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 8:01 pm, 11th September 2017

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate, and it is a particular pleasure to follow Jeremy Lefroy. He gave a thoughtful and considered speech, the tone and content of which were extremely consensual and helpful. If I may say so, it would be nice if more Conservative Members gave similar speeches.

I accept the referendum result, and I am happy to vote for the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition tonight because it accepts the result as well. A majority of my constituents voted for Brexit, but more people have contacted me to raise concerns about the Bill—in particular, about the timetable and the potential impact on environmental legislation—than to tell me that they are happy with it.

At the beginning of the year, the Procedure Committee embarked on an inquiry into what was then known as the great repeal Bill. The inquiry was halted by the general election, but in April we published evidence and interim findings, and I want to share some of them with colleagues tonight. The potential in the Bill for the excessive use of delegated legislation is alarming. The Bill is not what people were promised during the referendum campaign, which was greater parliamentary sovereignty. It is a power grab by Tory Ministers, who cannot be trusted, as they have repeatedly shown.

Relying on delegated legislation will not give Parliament proper opportunities for debate, scrutiny or control. Let me remind hon. Members of some of the processes. A statutory instrument introduced under the negative resolution process can become law without debate or a vote. It can even become law before it has been published and laid before the House. The Secretary of State for Justice is frowning, but that is the case. Paragraph 1(3) of schedule 7 sets out that most of the statutory instruments will be subject to negative resolution procedure unless—Ministers are nodding now—they are about transferring powers from European agencies. Last year, a fifth of statutory instruments were in force three weeks after publication. If Ministers were given such a power, there would be nothing to stop them signing laws one day and seeing those laws on the statute book the same day.

Scrutiny by the affirmative and super-affirmative processes is not much better. Such statutory instruments must be approved explicitly, but most go to Committees upstairs, and now the Government are trying to overturn the result of the general election by packing those Committees. Even when such statutory instruments are debated by the whole House, time is limited to 90 minutes, and they cannot be amended.

The drafting of clause 7 is wholly objectionable. It is too wide. Ministers may make regulations as they consider appropriate—not necessary, but appropriate—and regulations may repeal and replace primary legislation. That indicates that it is not the Government’s intention to limit such regulations to technical and non-controversial matters.