Amendments made: 37, page 62, line 25, at end insert—
‘( ) Paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 does not apply in relation to any proceedings begun within the period of 3 months beginning with exit day so far as—
(a) the proceedings involve a challenge to anything which occurred before exit day, and
(b) the challenge is not for the disapplication or quashing of—
(i) an Act of Parliament or a rule of law which is not an enactment, or
(ii) any enactment, or anything else, not falling within sub-paragraph (i) which, as a result of anything falling within that sub-paragraph, could not have been different or which gives effect to, or enforces, anything falling within that sub-paragraph.”
This amendment amends the effect of paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 by permitting legal challenges on or after exit day based on the general principles of EU law where those challenges relate to anything which happened before exit day, are made within 3 months of exit day and are not for the disapplication or quashing of an Act of Parliament or the common law or anything related to them.
Amendment 38, page 62, line 29, at end insert
“or made on or after that day by virtue of this paragraph”.—(Mr Baker.)
This amendment ensures that paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 1 does not prevent certain legal challenges and other action on or after exit day on the basis of incompatibility with any of the general principles of EU law where those challenges or that action is also based on the necessary consequences of a decision of a court or tribunal made on or after exit day as a result of amendment 37 or under other transitional provisions in paragraph 27 of Schedule 8.
Queen’s consent signified.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time. Taking a leaf out of the Liberal Democrat book, I do so enthusiastically.
The Bill is essential to preparing the country for the historic milestone of withdrawing from the European Union. It ensures that on day one we will have a statute book that works, with this Government delivering the smooth and orderly exit desired by people and businesses across the United Kingdom. It is a complex piece of legislation, which is unsurprising given that it seeks to put into British law the entire acquis of European law—established over 40 years or more of membership—and to do so in a few years while active negotiations are going on.
The House has spent more than 80 hours discussing the Bill’s principles and why they are necessary. We have scrutinised each clause and schedule in detail, and we have debated the merits of more than 500 amendments and new clauses. I thank the Members who took the time to table amendments, and I thank them for the spirit in which they have engaged with the debate throughout. I pay tribute to the Clerks and officials in the Public Bill Office who have provided invaluable support for Members in all parts of the House, advising on the drafting and tabling of those hundreds of amendments.
I pay special tribute to several colleagues for their individual contributions. I thank my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin and my hon. Friend Mr Walker for tabling amendments that will undoubtedly enhance this legislation by providing greater certainty over the timing of exit day and how secondary legislation will be scrutinised. I also pay tribute to other Conservative colleagues for their contributions throughout the debate, notably my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox, my hon. Friend Robert Neill, my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve, my right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey, my hon. Friend Mr Jenkin and my right hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith). I am grateful to them all for their hard work—[Interruption.] I have not finished yet. I am grateful to them all for their hard work in effectively scrutinising this legislation and their tireless work in representing their constituents.
I also thank Opposition Members for their contributions. We heard impassioned and eloquent contributions from Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Mary Creagh, the right hon. Members for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), and the hon. Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) and for North Down (Lady Hermon) among many others, who all played—[Interruption.] I will take nominations, Mr Speaker, if you really want, but I think I just picked out the highlights; many others made fantastic contributions. In the interests of brevity and to allow others to speak, I would like the House to take as read the detailed thanks to the Front Benchers of both sides.
I said on Second Reading that I would
“welcome and encourage contributions from those who approach the task in good faith and in a spirit of collaboration.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 628, c. 343.]
All of us, as elected representatives, have a shared interest in making this Bill a success in the national interest. The Government have said time and again that we would listen carefully to all suggestions put forward and that, where hon. Members made a compelling case, we would respectfully consider it and act accordingly.
I hope that Members agree that in this debate we have often heard the very best of what this House is here to do. We have tabled amendments to provide extra information about equalities impacts and the changes being made to retained EU law under the powers in the Bill. We published a right-by-right analysis of the charter of fundamental rights, setting out how each substantive right found in the charter will be reflected in UK domestic law. It looks at how the right flows through retained EU law and how it is otherwise protected by existing domestic law or international law after exit.
If you forgive me, Mr Speaker, I am going to do two things I have never done before: not take interventions, which I have always taken before; and I am breaking that habit of a lifetime to allow time for the Scot Nats to put their reasoned amendment. [Interruption.] It is very much a lifetime first for me to be polite to the Scot Nats.
We have also brought forward amendments to provide greater certainty on how imminent or impending legal cases will be dealt with from the day we leave the EU. We committed to bring forward separate primary legislation in due course that would implement the withdrawal agreement, including an implementation period, and we set out the provisions for a vote on the final deal and the processes for implementing whatever is agreed. Linked to this, we respect the decision of this House to limit the power in clause 9, so that it cannot be used before primary legislation approving the terms of the withdrawal agreement has been enacted.
Perhaps most notably—and happily for me—we have listened to the concerns expressed about the scrutiny of secondary legislation. On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry shared her concerns about the process of scrutinising the 800 to 1,000 statutory instruments required under this Bill. I made it clear then that we would happily discuss the feasibility of establishing a triage process. With this in mind, the Government welcomed amendments made to the Bill proposed by the Procedure Committee to establish such a sifting Committee. I hope that all Members agree that we have approached scrutiny of this vital piece of legislation in a pragmatic way and worked collaboratively to improve the Bill.
We have also intensified our positive discussions with the devolved Administrations and legislatures to find an agreed approach to clause 11, and we intend to bring forward amendments in the other place.
No, I will not.
We are committed to achieving legislative consent for this vital piece of legislation. We are sending an improved piece of legislation onwards to the other place and I hope that that House will acknowledge the substance and spirit of the debate and scrutiny this Bill has received thus far and that debate there will unfold in the same constructive way in which it has in our House.
The scrutiny of this vital legislation remains one of the most important tasks that we parliamentarians have had before us for some time. I believe that this House is risen to the occasion by ensuring that the Bill continues its journey throughout Parliament in a much improved form. I commend it to the House, and I believe that this is an historic occasion.
This Bill has never been fit for purpose. It was not fit for purpose when it started its life last year, and after 64 hours in Committee and 10 hours on Report it is still not fit for purpose. We have repeatedly pointed to six serious defects in the Bill. We pointed them out when the White Paper was published 10 months ago, in March last year. We pointed them out again when the Bill was first published in July last year, and I wrote to the Secretary of State setting out those six serious defects and inviting him to address them before the debate on Second Reading. He declined to do so. We pointed them out on Second Reading in September and we pointed them out again in Committee, but we have been talking to a brick wall. The Government have not accepted any of the points that the Opposition have made. They have conceded some ground on their own side, but they have not taken seriously the propositions and arguments that we on this side have put forward. In my experience of dealing with Bills, that is unusual. They have simply robotically voted down all Opposition amendments.
Let me start with the shenanigans surrounding exit day. For purely political reasons, the Government introduced a gimmick amendment to fix exit day in the Bill at 11 o’clock on
“A court or tribunal…is not bound by any principles laid down, or any decisions made, on or after exit day by the European Court, and…cannot refer any matter to the European Court on or after exit day.”
So clause 6(1), as amended, means that there cannot be any reference to the European Court of Justice after
I acknowledge that the Government have accepted—as they had to—an amendment to their own amendment, but that does not remedy the defect. All it does is tidy up the problem if there is an extension of article 50. It does not enable transitional arrangements on the same basic terms as now, which is what will be needed, and it does not enable EU citizens to exercise the rights that the Government guaranteed to them in the phase 1 agreement. So we are now in a ridiculous position.
I have pretty well given up on predictions, but it seems to me that the Government will now be bound to introduce subsequent legislation to amend this Bill before it comes into force. They will have to do that. It is one thing to pass a Bill and say that there might come a time when it has to be amended. It is another thing to pass a Bill knowing that between now and its coming into force, they will have to intercept it again to disable a provision that they are putting into the Bill. That is how absurd this has got—[Interruption.] Well, let us see whether there is an amendment to repeal this provision next time we are here. If there is not, we will lose the jurisdiction of the Court just at the time when the Government have promised EU citizens they will continue to have it.
As I made clear on Second Reading, thousands of provisions are being converted into our law, and the charter of fundamental rights is apparently the only one that cannot be converted. That is nonsense. The Government are being driven by ideology, not law.
The Government’s defence of their position is in tatters. The Secretary of State says it does not matter because the charter never added any rights, overlooking, of course, the case he brought against the then Home Secretary. His junior Minister, Suella Fernandes, whom I welcome to her place, says the complete opposite. She wrote an article in The Daily Telegraph expressing her concern and objecting to the charter precisely because it does add rights. I do not think that is the only issue on which she agrees to disagree with the Secretary of State. I do not know what team meetings are like in these early days, but I would like to be a fly on the wall as they try to reconcile their irreconcilable views on how we deal with Brexit.
Of course, the truth is that some of the rights are covered elsewhere, but others are not. The exercise the Government carried out proves the point—the Government’s position is deeply unpersuasive. The whole point of the charter was to gather all the rights and protections that existed discretely in other places and put them into one document. The Government have now decided that the best strategy is to scatter them back to where they started.
When pressed forcefully by Mr Clarke on the simple question why on earth the Government are doing this, the Solicitor General was driven yesterday to the answer that the sole intention is to avoid chaos. Well, that is what the charter looks like—a slim document that sets out the rights clearly—and this is the Government’s alternative: 73 pages of material telling people where to look for other sources on their rights. One is clear and the other is chaos.
The delegated powers in this Bill are far too widely drawn, and they are still subject to far too little parliamentary scrutiny. In Committee and on Report, the Government have ignored concerns that the delegated powers should be used only where necessary, that enforcement mechanisms should not be abolished by delegated powers and that rights and protections should not be taken away by delegated powers. The proposed shifting Committee—sifting Committee simply is not sufficient to scrutinise—[Interruption.] I had “shifty” on my mind when I looked up momentarily and saw the Secretary of State.
That is not the only cause for concern. Until exit, many EU-derived rights and protections are protected because of our membership of the EU. The protection falls away as we leave the EU, and that is not an idle point. The Bill leaves areas of employment law, such as the transfer of undertakings, annual leave regulations and the working time directive, vulnerable to Ministers with wide delegated powers. Those areas will no longer be protected. Our simple proposal that primary legislation should be used to alter those rights has been rebuffed at every turn.
There is a pretty united view on both sides of the House that clause 11 is defective, and Scottish Conservative Members have argued that the clause is not fit for purpose. The Government said they would table an amendment on Report, which has come and gone with no amendment. Unless the Lords puts this right, a Bill with a serious defect will be passed by Parliament. The Government might have a defence if this issue had arisen at a late stage, but this is one of the issues we raised in March 2017, and it has been raised by everyone who has read the Bill since. In 10 months, there has been no progress. Stephen Kerr, a Conservative, said yesterday that he is deeply “disappointed, dissatisfied and frustrated”. As he rightly said, it is not appropriate for the Government to blame outside influences for the lack of amendment on this issue. Members on both sides of the House will have to ask themselves whether they are willing to wave through a Bill that they know will weaken the devolution settlement of the devolved Administrations. On this side of the House, we are not willing to take that risk.
Let me turn to the sixth issue, which is the meaningful vote on article 50. This is the one area where change has been forced by a vote in this House. The Government of course fought that tooth and nail. To those Conservative Members who voted on that issue and pushed it, and were as a result described as “traitors” and “mutineers”, may I just say thank you? I thank them for standing up for what was right when others told them to stay sitting down. That vote was an important step forward. As we have long maintained, it is crucial to ensure this House has a say on the article 50 deal. How it will operate is still not clear, so let me put the Government on notice: we on this side of the House, and I am sure some on the other side, will be watching like hawks for any backsliding. This has been described as “a meaningful vote” and it must be meaningful. So let me be clear: if the Prime Minister thinks she can come to this House, put forward her proposed article 50 deal, lose that vote and carry on regardless or walk the UK off a cliff with no deal, she has got another think coming.
In conclusion, I thank all those who have spoken in these debates. I thank both Front-Bench teams, particularly my own, who have done so much hard work. I also thank the Clerks of the House and the Public Bill Office for the extraordinary support they have given to my team and Members from across the House. From this side of the House, may I also thank the Department for Exiting the European Union staff, who have worked so hard? They may or may not have liked the instructions they were working to—I do not know that—but they have worked very hard on all the tasks that have been given to them, and we sometimes forget the amount of work they put in. At times, this House has been at its best during the passage of this Bill, while the Government have been at their worst. They have been unwilling to listen to reason, unwilling to reflect on the obvious defects in this legislation and unwilling to ensure this Bill is fit for the incredibly important purpose it seeks to achieve. The Government have simply ploughed on. They have sidelined Parliament and made a mockery of the phrase “Take back control”. For those reasons, Labour will vote against this Bill tonight.
In brief, this Bill, with clause 1, which says that we are repealing the European Communities Act 1972, reflects the will of the people on
That is all I need to say, other than that for 33 years it has been my privilege to try to fight for this proposal and I am deeply grateful to all the people in the House who have agreed to it and to those who have exercised their democratic right to oppose those views.
I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:
“this House regrets the non-appearance of any Government amendments to Clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill despite the announcement by the Secretary of State for Scotland that the Government intended to table them for Report Stage and declines to give a Third Reading to the Bill because it is not fit for purpose as it undermines the fundamental principles of the Scotland Act 1998 by reserving to the UK Parliament powers that would otherwise be devolved to the Scottish Parliament on the UK leaving the European Union.”
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the way you have made sure that these proceedings have been conducted in an admirable manner over the past few weeks, and I thank all those who have contributed. I have to thank the Secretary of State for the courteous way he has always behaved in his dealings with us in this Chamber and of course elsewhere—we do not take that for granted.
It grieves me to have to move the SNP’s reasoned amendment that would decline the Bill a Third Reading because I would like to be in a situation in which we were not doing so. Over the past five months, we have seen the Government ducking and diving any responsibility for the legal and constitutional make-up of the UK by railroading through Parliament a car-crash plan to leave the EU.
The Secretary of State for Scotland should be ashamed of himself. First, he promised the people of Scotland that the Bill would result in a powers bonanza; then he slapped us with clause 11—the now famous power-grab element of the legislation—the extent of which is not only staggering but an absolute constitutional outrage. Even Paul Masterton, who is in his place, has been clear, noting in this House that
“clause 11…is not fit for purpose”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 632, c. 731.]
In 1997, the people of Scotland voted for the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament. Clause 11 represents a massive power grab that undermines the very principles on which the Scottish Parliament was established. The Scottish Government have published a list of 111 powers that are at risk from the clause, and just last week the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee agreed unanimously not to recommend that the Scottish Parliament give legislative consent to the Bill. The Committee found clause 11 to be incompatible with devolution.
The Secretary of State for Scotland himself admitted that the Bill needed to be amended, which brings me to the latest insult that the Government have afforded to all the people of Scotland. In December, the Secretary of State promised that the Government would table amendments to clause 11 on Report. Report has obviously passed and not one single promised Government amendment was tabled to clause 11. Statements and promises made at the Dispatch Box cannot be sidestepped or ignored. The failure to deliver on commitments made at the Dispatch Box undermines the integrity of political office and undermines our democracy, never mind the democratic rights of the devolved institutions that we are seeking to protect. I am not talking about some abstract principle; I am talking about the rights hard won and delivered with, for example, the passing of the Scotland Act 1998, which brought in devolution. It is an insult to the people of Scotland, who are growing weary of a Conservative Government who promise everything and deliver nothing.
Last night, we saw the Scottish Tories traipse through the Lobby under the command of their London leader. They are just Lobby fodder here. How will they explain themselves to their branch manager in Holyrood? The Bill will carry on to the House of Lords. It is almost as if the Government are now acting as the independence movement for Scotland. The arrogance of those who think that the introduction of amendments on the legislative competence of the democratically elected Scottish Parliament can be implemented by unelected peers is an affront to democracy.
I echo some of the fundamental concerns about other parts of the Bill that only compound our opposition to it. There have been some dignified and honourable speeches from Members during the Bill’s journey so far, but the Government’s approach to the Bill and their attitude in respect of clause 11 is simply not good enough. A wise man once said that having a majority of seats did not mean having a monopoly on wisdom. I call on the Prime Minister to heed that advice. The Bill needs to be changed fundamentally, and the Government need to adopt a new approach fast, or they will trigger a constitutional crisis of their own making.
Conservatives should remember that their standing in face of demands for the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament contributed to the wipeout of Conservative MPs from Scotland in 1997. What happened yesterday was a failure of the Government and Scottish Tory MPs to defend our national interests and those of their own constituents. History is repeating itself. What are the Scottish Tories here for? Will they join us in standing up for Scotland’s interests? Tonight, by supporting our reasoned amendment, Parliament has the opportunity to remove itself from encroaching on the devolution settlement. Members of this House have the opportunity to protect the constitutional rights of devolved Administrations. We cannot allow the responsibility for digging the Government out of their task in this House to be taken by the House of Lords.
In conclusion—[Interruption.] The Tories can cheer, but the fact remains that the people of Scotland will be watching and will be aware of the fact that the Scottish Parliament has been stripped of its rights. In declining a Third Reading this evening, we send a clear signal to the Government that this House cannot allow the commitments made and broken to pass. It is the last chance for Scottish Tory MPs to join us and to stand up for the devolved settlement. It is for the people of Scotland to determine their constitutional future. We cannot pass that power to the unelected House of Lords. The irony that the Lords, not the Commons, has the responsibility for protecting Scotland’s interests will not be lost on people. I say to the Scottish Tory MPs that they should join us in the Lobby tonight or ultimately pay the price. Scotland is watching.
The shadow Secretary of State said that this Bill is not fit for purpose, and I agree with him. It is not fit for purpose for staying in the EU, but it is fit for purpose for implementing the greatest festival of democracy that this country has ever known. In June 2016, 17 million of our citizens voted to leave the EU, and all this Government are doing is implementing that decision in a positive way that will ensure that we are generous to all the EU citizens who live here, generous in terms of the EU budget and, in this Bill, generous in taking all EU laws and directives into our law.
In Zurich in 1946, Winston Churchill outlined his vision for Europe, but he made it clear that we should not be part of that united Europe. In 1972, plagued with self-doubt, we joined the European Union. Tonight—this historic moment—we plough a new historic course to create a world fit for free trade. Vote for the Third Reading.
This Bill is necessary but, as my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer so eloquently pointed out, deeply flawed. Despite the changes that have been made, it remains deeply flawed, and their lordships will have a lot of work to do as it passes down the corridor. I welcome the Government’s move to accept the need for primary legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement, but the task now for the House as we watch the Bill depart is to think about the future.
Sir Edward Leigh talked about a vision, but let us tell each other the truth. At the moment, we have no idea what is going to go into the withdrawal agreement, partly because it has not yet been negotiated, but mainly because the Cabinet is yet to decide what it wishes to ask for, and the House should be really rather anxious about the position that we find ourselves in. The referendum result was 19 months ago, but there are only nine months to go until the negotiations are meant to end, and the discussions on our future trading arrangements may not begin until March. The House will be very concerned about that position.
The truth is that the Government cannot reach agreement. The truth is that they are probably the first Government in history to go into negotiations knowing that they will almost certainly end up with a worse deal than we currently have because of the red lines that they have chosen to put in place, and knowing that it will not therefore be possible to honour the promise that has been made to the people of Northern Ireland and indeed of the Republic about an open border. Therefore, if I have one plea, as we see this Bill depart for now, it is that the Government will, very quickly, do their job and set out for this House and for the British people what it is that they are seeking, because when we come to that meaningful vote, believe you me, this House will ensure that it is meaningful when it comes to decisions about our future.
My right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve will go down in the history books as one of the great parliamentarians, as he has shown great courage and leadership in making what he rightly described a monstrosity certainly more palatable. That is why I and no doubt many others will now vote for this Bill on Third Reading. It delivers what it sets out to do, which is this transposing of law, and that is right, but it is by no means perfect and we have yet to discuss the big issues that divide our nation.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
The House divided:
Ayes 295, Noes 322.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice on how to inform the House of some breaking news coming out of the Welsh national Parliament. Assembly Members have unanimously supported the introduction of a Welsh continuity Bill to put a halt to the Westminster power grab. So great is the constitutional encroachment of the Westminster Government that this Bill to support Welsh democracy is supported by not only Plaid Cymru, but the Welsh Conservative party and the UK Independence party. This is of great constitutional significance, with implications for the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which has just received its Third Reading.
Whether it is a matter of great constitutional significance is not for me to say. It is, however, not a matter for the Chair. The hon. Lady inquires how she can achieve her objective, and the answer is that she has done so—it is on the record.