It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. Like my hon. Friend Wera Hobhouse, I rise to speak to amendment 21, and new clauses 1 and 4. Ironically, I do so on the International Day of Democracy—a day when the people of this country might expect their elected representatives to be pondering the importance of listening, consultation and the rule of law. To be fair, in a way we are, but not in any way that fills me with pride or a feeling of hope for our future and for the United Kingdom. No, we are standing here in the mother of Parliaments discussing a Bill that is undoubtedly necessary to smooth trade within the United Kingdom, and I find that we are faced with a Bill—and this part in particular—which shows scant regard to several vital pillars of our democracy.
Where is the respect both for elected representatives here and the devolved authorities across the UK? Where is the respect for the need to consult, listen and produce a coherent, consistent and consensual approach with the other elected authorities? Perhaps amendment 21 would deal with that. Most importantly, where is the respect for the rule of law—a principle without which it is difficult for any democracy to work effectively for its people?
We have heard much over the past few days about the potential impact of the Bill on this country’s international reputation, but today I am concerned about, and would like to concentrate on, its impact on the Government’s reputation and on the future of the country. There are reports that the Prime Minister and his team are confident that the general population will not be too bothered about the Bill. I have to tell the Government that they have political opponents all over the country and in this House who will spend every waking moment, every hour, making sure that the electorate are entirely aware of their perception that this Bill is damaging to the devolved nations and how they operate, and they will use it to promote their own separatist agenda to split up not the European Union, but the United Kingdom. I take great offence at the suggestion earlier that I might be a nationalist simply because I am concerned about the impact of that argument. It is precisely because I believe in the United Kingdom that I want us to pay attention to the dangers in what this Government are saying.