Clause 28 - Functions of the CMA under this Part: general provisions

Part of United Kingdom Internal Market Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury) 4:45 pm, 15th September 2020

Yes, I support the devolution amendment, and yes I believe, as I will come on to explain, that this is all about the devolution settlement, which is a very different thing from independence.

How often did right hon. and hon. Members listen to me and my colleagues warn the Government they were heading to exactly where we are now? As I said earlier, I fully accept we need a framework by which the powers that were vested in Brussels and are now returning to the UK will work for every part of this country. We need a Bill that does precisely that, but, Sir Graham, this ain’t it.

I cannot understand why the Government, in forming this Bill, did not stop for a minute and listen to the many voices urging them to be more conciliatory—to look, for example, at measures such as those that my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have proposed: to appoint Ministers from the devolved nations to the CMA and be inclusive. But the Government did not listen to us, especially when we warned about the dangers of the withdrawal agreement to the Good Friday agreement, which everyone in the House should regret. Please listen to us now when we say that this approach—this Bill, these steps—do not respect the spirit of that agreement or the devolution settlement.

I appreciate, possibly more than many, that the devolution settlement is something that Conservative Members, particularly those from Scotland, were not comfortable with 20 years ago, but even they have surely learned to love the enthusiasm, commitment and benefits we have seen in Scotland, and I am sure in Wales, and the great changes brought about in Northern Ireland by devolution, and in London. We have come so far since the turn of this new century in devolving power in this country closer to the people most affected by it. It would be dreadful if this Bill—this attempt to allow us to trade more smoothly—were to undermine it, but I fear that that is exactly what it will do.

In supporting amendments tonight, I appeal to Government Members, many of whom have sat—and one or two of whom are aiming to sit once again—at Holyrood. I am confident that they cherish as much as I do what we have achieved for Scotland in Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, in Wales and, most importantly, in Northern Ireland, where we have peace for the first time in my lifetime. I disagree fundamentally with my colleagues on the SNP Benches about independence and where Scotland should be heading, but I cannot disagree with their anger at the lack of respect for ourselves, our Parliament and others across the United Kingdom.

I do not believe that that is what the Conservative and Unionist party truly believes or wants. I want to believe it was not what it intended when it opened this constitutional and legal can of worms, but we need more than words and platitudes about how it will be fine and it is all about trade. We need Conservative Members to stand with us and say to the Government: please respect our Parliaments, the will of the people across the country and the rule of law. If they will not abandon the Bill, I ask them please to accept the amendments, because that is the only way to respect and protect the United Kingdom.