Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Customs duties

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 20th December 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 4:45 pm, 20th December 2017

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, which is why it is so important that we give ourselves the flexibility on exit dates and in relation to the transitional period.

Our amendment 349 seeks clarification from the Government—I am looking at the Minister as I make this point—that they do not intend to use delegated powers to create criminal offences of a seriousness that carry custodial sentences. I hope the Minister will in his remarks state that that is not their intention, and if that is the case will he indicate now that the Government will give a commitment to amend the Bill accordingly on Report?

Let me turn now to some of the other amendments currently under consideration. We support many of the other new clauses that seek reports aiding transparency and good evidence-based decision making. New clauses 31 and 33, for example, tabled in the name of my hon. Friend Kate Green raise important issues for children’s welfare. New clause 44 in the name of Joanna Cherry requires an independent evaluation of the impact of this legislation on the health and social care sector, which we would also support. Others, such as new clause 11 tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Leslie helpfully seek to ensure that we do not fall behind the standards and protections we currently enjoy as they develop in the EU. We would support that, as we would new clause 56 on protecting the existing rights a person in Gibraltar can exercise in the UK as a result of our common membership of the EU; we will support that new clause if pushed to a vote by Peter Grant.

Amendments 102 and 103 in the name of my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy are right in seeking to limit the use of delegated powers in Bills other than this one, past or future, to modify EU retained law. That is a vital component of keeping the scope of delegated powers in check.

On that point, we have over the past few days seen a timely reminder of why we have opposed the extent of the Henry VIII powers in this Bill. The Government might wax lyrical about wanting to preserve workers’ rights, but in reality too many Members on the Conservative Benches—although I accept not all—cannot wait to get started on dismantling them. The contempt for the working time directive we have seen over the last few days is not a revelation: 20 of the 23 members of the current Cabinet have opposed that directive. The Foreign Secretary has made no secret of his view that the key rights that the directive provides represent “back-breaking” regulation. The International Trade Secretary has described them as a “burden”. The Prime Minister went further when she damned the whole social chapter as a “burden on business”.

Barely a week after the conclusion of the phase 1 negotiations, reports indicate that the Government are already champing at the bit to scrap vital protections for workers, including the 48-hour week, four weeks’ paid annual leave and rest breaks. On Monday, the Prime Minister refused eight times to guarantee that the working time directive would not be scrapped when it moved into UK law. She happily confirmed that the directive would be transposed into UK law on day one, but frankly, it is not day one that we are worried about: it is day two and all the days thereafter. She stopped short of giving any guarantees for the future. We will return to this matter on Report to ensure that those Conservative Members who look forward to the opportunity to scrap workers’ rights and many other protections have to come to Parliament to be held to account for that, rather than using delegated powers to push the measures through by stealth.

As we come to the final stages of these debates in Committee, we have an opportunity to reassert that this House will not be sidelined in the most important negotiations facing this country in our lifetime, not because of some obscure constitutional argument but because we are a representative democracy and it is our job in this place to defend the rights and interests of our constituents. This Parliament will not allow those who want to crash out of the EU at any cost to have their way. We will put people’s jobs and livelihoods first. We will ensure that the values and rights that we have forged in 43 years of EU membership are not discarded as we leave, and we should ensure that we remain close to our friends and partners on the continent that we will continue to share.