Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (7th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 14th March 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 4:45 pm, 14th March 2018

Everything I say is meaningful. Although we can look again at elements of the power, we will not be removing it from the Bill in its entirety, as Amendment 194, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who I am glad to see is still with us, would have it.

It is prudent to keep Clause 9 as part of this Bill. We do not yet know the shape or the outcome of future negotiations. It is crucial that we have the necessary legislative mechanisms available to us to fully implement the withdrawal agreement in time for exit day. There may well be a number of more technical separation issues which will need to be legislated for, depending on the shape of the final agreement. It is long established that where legislation is intended to make smaller, more detailed changes, secondary legislation can be an appropriate vehicle. It is also not uncommon for the principles of an international agreement to be implemented through secondary legislation.

Let me give an example. The Nuclear Installations (Liability for Damage) Order 2016 implements the 2004 protocol to the Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy—a matter with which I am sure noble Lords are fully familiar.

To be clear, however, Clause 9 is not intended to implement major elements of the withdrawal agreement. I understand that this distinction might seem a little abstract so I will demonstrate with a few more illustrative examples, although with the caveat that we cannot know for certain until the withdrawal agreement has been finalised. Clause 9 may be required, for example, to legislate for the position of ongoing administrative proceedings when we leave the EU. This is a broad basket of more technical issues such as proceedings on competition and antitrust under regulation 1/2003 or procedures on the concentration of undertakings/mergers under regulation 139/2004. These are quite complex, technical issues that do not need to be put into any Bill but must be legislated for.

Another area that Clause 9 could be used for relates to the privileges and immunities afforded by the UK to the EU, its institutions, bodies and staff post exit. These are a standard feature of international law and are generally considered necessary for the proper functioning of international organisations. Privileges and immunities for the EU are currently implemented under protocol 7 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. After exit, the EU will continue to require privileges and immunities to cover any functions that it has during the implementation period or for winding down its existing operations, and our agreement on privileges and immunities will need to be implemented in domestic legislation. If noble Lords would like further detail, I encourage them to consult the Hansard record of Committee in the other place where further details were offered on potential examples.

I do not need to remind noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, that the amendment to Clause 9 that was approved in the other place means that the clause can be used only subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. That is an exceptional check on the power, and of course we stand by that.

I have been left in no doubt of the strength of feeling in the House about Clause 9. As with other contentious areas of the Bill, I look forward to meetings and discussions with noble Lords to see what can be done ahead of Report. With that in mind, I hope noble Lords will not pursue their amendments.