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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:43 pm on 28th February 2018.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 3:43 pm, 28th February 2018

I support the idea that we should get legal certainty in the Bill, and if that damages the interest of the legal profession, it is damage in the public interest.

However, I venture to suggest that it may be wise to leave this provision pretty much as it is. That is because quite a lot of legislation was passed in the light of obligations imposed by the European Union, but we proposed our own legislation to deal with it. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, excellently illustrated, that legislation is exemplified by the Equality Act. I read this clause as referring only to the part of the enactment,

“so far as … passed or made, or operating, for a purpose mentioned in section 2(2)(a) or (b) of that Act”.

As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said, “enactment” sometimes suggests a whole Act, but this provision restricts it to the part of the enactment that deals with this point.

As the noble Lord, Lord Beith, said, it is quite likely that some of these measures are gold-plated—there used to be quite a lot of suggestions from various quarters that we went in for gold-plating. When I was in a sense responsible for some of these matters, I discovered that the gold-plating was more a result of some antagonism to the Bill in question than it was gold-plating in the sense of going beyond what the European Union required. So far as there is gold-plating of that sort—that is, unnecessary as far as the European Union is concerned—I do not think that this clause would strike it, because it is “so far as” the thing is made in view of the provisions “in section 2(2)(a) or (b)” and so on of the Act. Of course, as has been pointed out, it is perfectly likely that in some of these provisions that were introduced in that way adjustment will be required because we are leaving the European Union.

Some provisions—I have not looked too closely at how many but I imagine there might be quite a few—of these ordinary Acts of Parliament will have a connection with the European Union that may be affected by our leaving it. Therefore it is important that in that situation a power to deal with that matter in a reasonable time would be required, and we will be looking at these later. Therefore, I am inclined to think it may be better to leave this provision as it is. I am very interested to hear what my noble and learned friend the Minister has to say about that.

As for the supremacy principle, I will have something to say about that if I happen to be present when it arises. I said at Second Reading and I say again that I think the Constitution Committee has produced a superb solution to that problem, which enables us to forget forever the supremacy of European law over our law.