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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 1:45 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons) 1:45 pm, 8th January 2020

I do agree with the hon. and learned Lady on that. I say again that that shows why we need this amendment, because it is about the scrutiny of the process. If we are to accept this ridiculous idea that there must be no extension to the transition period, even if it is for just days, at least we should have the right to scrutinise that process, on behalf of the people we were sent here to represent. This is not about whether there is good or bad faith on the part of the EU member states. I am sure that they will, as we all hope, negotiate in good faith, but there are practical implications here about the sheer volume of work to be done to reach agreements on all these vital aspects of our future relationship and secure the parliamentary approval of 27 other countries by the end of this year.

I am saddened, but no longer shocked, that the Government rejected our sensible proposal yesterday, but I hope that today they will consider our sensible proposal on scrutiny. It is not too much to ask that we, the elected representatives of the United Kingdom—of all parties, including the Government party—have the right to hear from our Ministers on the aims and objectives of the negotiations, the progress made and the outcome. It is not too much to ask that we be guaranteed that right, with the opportunity to debate and discuss, rather than having to wait for possible a ministerial statement or being forced to beg for information via an urgent question.

Surely, Government Members can see the wisdom in our proposal. They, too, were elected to represent their constituents, not just to be lobby fodder for their Prime Minister. If they have a business in their constituency on which jobs depend, and the ability to trade relies on the continuation of an agreement between the UK and the EU, do they not want to be able to ask their Government about whether that is included in the negotiating objectives and to be able to find out how that is going? If they have a constituent whose life depends on the movement of a medical device from one EU country to the UK, do they not want to be able to find out whether that is part of the negotiations and how that is going? Surely, they will want to be able to represent their constituents.

Members may not realise that the Law Society has recommended reinstating the scrutiny role. They may have forgotten that the Supreme Court judgment in the 2017 Gina Miller case made it clear that the Government cannot make or withdraw from a treaty that amounts to a major change to UK constitutional arrangements without parliamentary oversight. Or maybe this does not count. I ask all Government Members to consider pushing their Government, and I ask the Minister—I say again that I know him to be an honourable man—to consider restoring the full process of parliamentary scrutiny. I ask them to commit today to doing that. They could choose to adopt the Opposition amendment, or they could achieve it in some other way. I do not mind; I just believe that, as elected representatives, we should be able to represent the people who sent us here on the most important change to our way of life, our jobs, our businesses and our security in our lifetimes.