European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 26th February 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 10:45 pm, 26th February 2018

My Lords, I rise as a co-signatory to Amendment 35. I usually come to these debates feeling that I understand all the issues involved and, within minutes, I am confused by contradictory legal opinions and by arguments from across the House on issues that are not even relevant to the Bill. So can we go back to basics? I feel like the woman on the Clapham omnibus who is just seeing common sense. The fact is that the Government promised to bring over all EU law and are choosing to exempt this aspect of it. I do not understand that; they break a promise at their peril, because people out there will not understand.

I could not do better than repeat some of the things said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, about the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Let me read again what it says:

“The simplest and best way of achieving the Government’s intention that substantive rights should remain unchanged and ensuring legal certainty is to retain the Charter rights in UK law”.

I do not understand why the Government do not see that as well. The legal opinion produced for the Equality and Human Rights Commission by Jason Coppel QC, which we have heard of already, states that failing to keep the charter will result in,

“a significant weakening of the current system of human rights protection in the UK”.

Why is that not accepted? It is a legal argument. Have the Government read that opinion? If so, will they re-read it and give us a considered response to it? It clearly has a validity that I doubt the Government’s position has.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, spoke about being on the centre ground, which I did not entirely agree with. I feel that I am on the centre ground; I feel that I, here, can at least express things that I hear out on the street. Out on the street, people think that the Government are going to keep all EU law and then amend it when it comes. That was the promise, so why are the Government refusing to fulfil it?