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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 28th February 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 4:30 pm, 28th February 2018

I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord not only for explaining the amendment but for their endorsement of it.

In responding to Amendments 16, 17 and 342, I start by reaffirming our view that Clause 2 is an essential provision for providing certainty and continuity regarding our law after exit day. I think that that is plain to all noble Lords. I shall then say a little more about why Clause 2 must stand part of the Bill. This clause, along with Clauses 3 and 4, delivers one of the core purposes of this Bill: maximising certainty for individuals and businesses when we leave the EU by ensuring that, so far as is practical, the laws that we have now will continue to apply. In that respect, Clause 2 preserves the domestic law that we have made to implement our EU obligations; we have touched on that already.

More particularly, on the point raised by the noble and learned Lord in this regard, Amendment 342 seeks to clarify that Acts of the Scottish Parliament are included within the clause only if they have received Royal Assent before exit day. I suspect that Amendment 16 also seeks to provide clarity on that same point. I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify any uncertainty that there may be here. Clause 2(2) states that,

“‘EU-derived domestic legislation’ means any enactment” that is described in that subsection. Clause 14 defines the term “enactment” to include an enactment contained in an Act of the Scottish Parliament. An Act of the Scottish Parliament must have received Royal Assent; until that time, it is a Bill. Section 28(2) of the Scotland Act 1998 provides for this. So an Act of the Scottish Parliament that has only been passed and not received Royal Assent does not fall within this definition, and would not be categorised as EU-derived domestic legislation for the purposes of this Bill. I believe that the noble and learned Lord rather suspected that this might be the case; his concern seemed to be one of certainty as regards the drafting.

The same applies in relation to Acts of the UK Parliament. The reference to “passed” in Clause 2(2)(b) is therefore a reference to the purpose for which the enactment was passed, not whether it was passed. In that context, I venture to suggest that Amendments 16 and 342 are unnecessary.