“Creation of UK-wide frameworks

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 4th December 2017.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee 6:15 pm, 4th December 2017

I do not accept that the Bill is in any kind of a mess. I think that we ought to keep the effects of clause 11 in proportion. From the perspective of the Government—and, in reality, from the perspective of what actually happens in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—the clause is a status quo measure. The powers, while not reserved by the Scotland Acts, were reserved by virtue of our membership of the European Union, so there is no power grab. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to, I can quote from the evidence that the Committee received from Mr Nigel Smith. He was the chairman of Scotland Forward, which ran the pro-devolution campaign in 1997. He stated:

“Nobody who voted for the Scottish Parliament exactly twenty years ago need worry—there is no ‘power grab’
underway.”

We did receive countervailing evidence. Incidentally, the report we published last week is an interim report. We produced no conclusions or recommendations, but we wanted to surface and discuss many of the pieces of evidence that we have received and make them available for this debate.

Perhaps more relevant to keeping clause 11 in proportion, Professor Alan Page was commissioned by the Scottish Parliament to analyse the effect of leaving the European Union on the devolution settlement. Paragraph 5 of his paper states:

“The main conclusion that emerges from this analysis is that most existing EU competences are reserved to the UK Parliament.”

He also says in paragraph 6:

“The policy responsibilities that would fall to the Scottish Parliament are correspondingly few”.

We need to keep that in proportion.