“Creation of UK-wide frameworks

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 4th December 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 6:30 pm, 4th December 2017

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Jenkin, who I commend for his thoughtful speech and for how his Committee has sensitively considered some of these issues. We have seen the interim report, and I look forward to the full conclusions. My hon. Friend Ronnie Cowan is a member of the Committee, so the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex has more than able deputies to back him up.

I rise to support the amendments variously tabled on behalf of the Scottish and Welsh Governments in the name of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members. The key point is that where we are going requires cross-party attention, support and consensus, but it also requires cross-institution support. The efforts to try to resolve some of the difficulties in clause 11 not just in this Chamber but, to give them credit, in Committees, in the other place and in the Scottish Parliament have to be noted. We are starting to see progress on concluding some of these conversations and discussions. This debate will help us to move things on.

I will address the main point but, by way of context, we have to acknowledge that clause 11 is flawed. It does not work, it is unsustainable and it is not in line with what we understand about the devolution settlement. The clause has to be amended. There are very few people in this House who would get to their feet and try to defend it, because it is unworkable and does not respect what we understand as the principles of devolution. In fact, clause 11 turns the central principles and tenets of devolution on their head; it drives a coach and horses through everything we understand about the devolution settlement.

The central tenet of devolution is straightforward and simple. The basic concept is that if something is not listed as reserved, it is presumed to be devolved. That was the founding principle of devolution way before the Scotland Act 1998. It goes back to the days of the Scottish constitutional convention. In fact, it goes even further back to the days before Donald Dewar was even knee high to a parliamentary grasshopper—that is how far back our institutional memory goes when it comes to devolution.