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Main power in connection with other separation issues

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:00 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) 1:00 pm, 8th January 2020

As, I think, a Committee of the House of Lords pointed out, it is unusual for restrictions in relation to the Human Rights Act, the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 not to appear in relation to delegated powers, so I am interested in hearing why those restrictions do not appear and in learning how the Government think the implementation of the Northern Irish protocol will impact upon the Scotland Act. Indeed, I am in interested in the impact on the Government of Wales Act and the Human Rights Act, and why the Government want to take delegated powers to interfere with the Human Rights Act and the devolved settlement in Scotland.

Turning quickly to clause 26 and my amendment 49, they relate to the concern expressed by many that the Government are amending section 6 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018—the original provision being that the Supreme Court for the whole of the UK or, in relation to criminal matters, the High Court of Justiciary were not bound by retained EU case law and could depart from that case law in the same way that those Supreme Courts would depart from their own case law. However, in an almost—I think I am correct in saying—unprecedented use of delegated legislation, in clause 26 the Government intend to take the power to pass regulations specifying additional courts or tribunals that could depart from EU law. That is a most unusual approach, and I am wondering what has prompted it.

I am interested in the justification for clause 26. Is it an act of revenge on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Supreme Court of Scotland for daring to defy the previous Conservative Government by ruling their unlawful Prorogation out of order, or is there some other rationale? I would be interested to hear what it is, because their lordships were taking a close interest in this clause. Even if I am not able to move the SNP amendment to the clause today, which would revert to the status quo in the previous Act, I am sure it will be moved in the House of Lords, because there is a real concern that the aim here is to impact upon the independence of the judiciary, and that different regulations applying to different courts about the extent to which EU law was overruled or could be applied will interfere with the important principle of legal certainty. In some ways, this is a probing amendment, but it is an amendment which, if not moved in this House, will be moved elsewhere, so it would be interesting to hear from the Government exactly why they consider it necessary to diverge so radically from the previous a course of action upon which they were determined.

Before I conclude, I want to say a few brief things about a number of important amendments tabled by the other parties. The SNP would be inclined to support the official Opposition’s amendment 4 on child refugees if they move it, although we would like to go a bit further than that, as I indicated earlier. We are also keen to support amendments from the official Opposition relating to transparency on the arrangements for Northern Ireland and on general scrutiny and oversight. We also give our wholehearted support to the amendment tabled by Caroline Lucas and to new clause 17 from our friends in Plaid Cymru.

It is, of course, a great pleasure, particularly for myself and my colleagues in the SNP, to have the company of Irish nationalists once more in this Chamber. While I totally respect and understand Sinn Féin’s historical reasons for abstentionism, it is good that we will again hear the voice of Irish nationalism on the Floor of this House and the voice of a significant part of the community in Northern Ireland. It is good to be reminded that Northern Ireland, like Scotland, voted to remain in the European Union. We will be keen to lend our support to the amendments tabled by the Social Democratic and Labour party.

In conclusion, I am certain that not one single amendment sponsored by the Scottish National party will pass in relation to this Bill, just as not a single amendment sponsored by the Scottish National party passed in relation to the Scotland Bill back in 2015, despite the fact that we had 56 out of the 59 MPs in Scotland and now have 48 out of 59.

It is worth remembering that the devolution settlement, which this Bill will undermine, was predicated on the idea expressed in the claim of right for Scotland, which asserts that it is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. Of course, on 4 July 2018 the previous Parliament unanimously endorsed that principle in the claim of right. The previous British Parliament accepted that it is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. That means that this House has itself recognised, explicitly and unanimously, the principle of self-determination for Scotland. I look forward to seeing whether the Government have any proposals to reverse that in this Parliament.

To return to what I said at the opening of my remarks, I say to the Government that the day is coming when the people of Scotland will once again vote on whether Scotland should regain its former status as an independent nation state. The hubris, insouciance and lack of respect for democracy embodied in this Bill will hasten that date and ensure victory for the independence movement.