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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 14th March 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 5:45 pm, 14th March 2018

I accept the noble and learned Lord’s argument, but I respond by saying that in a sense we are trying to ensure that we have the maximum flexibility and the ability to respond rapidly. Just because something may be competent to be done elsewhere does not mean that there may not be merit in retaining the power here—a power that, as noble Lords have quite rightly identified, will disappear on exit day.

A number of noble Lords raised the question of scrutiny. I emphasise that the procedure set out in Schedule 7 to the Bill makes clear that such legislation would be under the affirmative procedure; in other words, no regulations to amend the Act itself can be made before Parliament has had the chance to debate and vote on them. The noble Lord, Lord Beith, envisaged a very radical situation. I have to say in response that if that were ever enacted, Parliament would have a very strong view about the proposal he described. That is, indeed, the role, the function and the democratic responsibility of Parliament.

I understand the legitimate concerns that some noble Lords have raised about the seemingly broad scope of the Clause 9 power. It is also worth remembering that after changes made in Committee in the Commons the use of the power is subject to the prior enactment of a statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal of the UK from the EU. This power is therefore already subject to exceptional constraints, a point helpfully reaffirmed by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, raised a significant matter: how regulations under Clause 9 affect the Sewel convention. I am informed that the Sewel convention applies to primary legislation only and that the Government will not make provision in devolved areas under the Bill without consulting the devolved Administrations and would not normally do so without their agreement. I hope that to some extent that meets the point that the noble and learned Lord was raising.