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Interpretation

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:30 pm, 8th January 2020

I want to develop my point before I take any interventions from the hon. Gentleman.

There are many other respects in which the European Union and our membership of it have advanced the cause of workers’ rights. Judgments of the European Court of Justice, expanding the law in the way that some hon. Members seem to find so objectionable, have also led to greater protections for workers in the United Kingdom. As well as the disappearance of what was clause 34 in the October Bill, this Bill also removes the provision that pre-Brexit judgments of the European Court of Justice will continue to be binding on UK courts until the UK Supreme Court departs from them. Instead, it has provision for Ministers of this Government to make regulations under clause 26—[Interruption.] I can see the Minister frowning at me, but we spoke about this in some detail earlier today. I am talking about regulations to enable certain courts and tribunals to depart from the CJEU case law. That, of course, underlines the concern that many trade unions feel in relation to this matter.

I have read very carefully what Unison, the TUC and the Scottish TUC say about this matter. I have also seen what has been said by Thompsons Solicitors, a well-known legal firm that many of us have had dealings with in the past, which has worked hard in the area of protection of workers’ rights. The fear is that the combination of the missing clause and the power that the Government are taking to themselves to interfere with the Supreme Court’s ability to overrule previous European Court of Justice decisions will create a chaotic free-for-all on workers’ rights in the United Kingdom, whereby the courts could potentially weaken existing workers’ rights and ignore past ECJ rulings from which trade unionists and workers across the United Kingdom have benefited. If that does not happen in the courts, it could well happen as a result of the unilateral action of Government Ministers through delegated legislation.

It is important to remember that working people in the United Kingdom have benefited from a number of recent landmark judgments by the Court of Justice, including the requirement for employers to keep records of all hours worked to comply with the working time directive, which is very important to many of our constituents, and the ruling that employers might not have to factor overtime into holiday pay calculations, which is also very important to many of our constituents, particularly to those who are not as well paid as Members of this House—even those who do not have a second job. We often hear from Government Members how much they care about the working man and woman, but if they really did, they would support the new clauses tabled me and by the Labour party, and would give us the guarantees we require that there will not be a regression from the rights that many of our constituents have enjoyed as a result of European Union law.