It is clear from the Bill and from many of the contributions from Government Members, bar some notable exceptions, that there appears to be little or no respect for democracy, devolution or international diplomacy on the Government Benches. I have heard from many people in Newport West in the past few days and, like them, I believe that the Bill represents the starting gun of a crude and unacceptable race to the bottom. If approved, it will ultimately lead to the undermining of our high food standards, our animal welfare rights and the environmental standards that have helped to save lives and clean our air.
The principle of mutual recognition in the Bill will mean that if, say, the Welsh Government legislate to ban the sale of chlorinated chicken, a company based in England could add chemicals to its poultry, sell it across the border and face no penalties. In fact, if any attempt were made to prevent the sale of its produce, the company could sue for loss of profits. To quote my colleague the Welsh Counsel General, Jeremy Miles, the UK Government plan to
“sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from the devolved administrations”.
The Bill is an attack on democracy and an affront to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have all voted in favour of devolution on numerous occasions. This is nothing but a shameless power grab, and it must be stopped.
The First Minister of Wales, my right honourable friend Mark Drakeford, has said that he is willing to negotiate in good faith with the UK Government on the content, scope and structure of the frameworks that regulate the internal market, but he wishes to do so on a genuine national approach. I want to see the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Westminster Government working together to agree common frameworks. Anything forced on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by Westminster is simply unacceptable.
Our Prime Minister, who has developed a taste for breaking international law, now claims that the Bill is necessary because the withdrawal agreement was rushed through. I have not been here as long as some Members, but I have never heard such claptrap. The withdrawal agreement was negotiated by this Prime Minister, agreed by his Cabinet and taken to the country in a general election. I say to Members on the Treasury Bench: “Don’t try to take the people of Newport West or any other part of our country for fools, because you won’t get away with it.”
We have heard from two former Conservative Prime Ministers, including Mrs May; we have heard from former Conservative party leaders; we have heard from many senior Tory Back Benchers in this House and in the other place. They all raised caution, all recognised the importance of our international leadership, and all made it clear that we can never sanction law-breaking. I urge Ministers to heed their calls. Sir John Major said:
“If we lose our reputation for honouring the promises we make, we will have lost something beyond price that may never be regained.”
It is 2020, and my constituents in Newport West and millions across the country have a Government who seek to undermine treaty obligations, who openly admit to breaking international law, and who have failed miserably at giving the country the leadership that it needs. Britain deserves better than this.