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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 14th March 2018.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 8:15 pm, 14th March 2018

Well, I will make progress without the forgiveness of noble Lords on this occasion.

On Amendment 187A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, and Amendment 215 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, the joint report makes clear the Government’s commitment to avoiding a hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls—a point made on more than one occasion by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, most recently in her speech on 2 March. That is the policy of Her Majesty’s Government. We have put it before noble Lords as a statement of the policy; the interpretation of it must rest in noble Lords’ hands, but that is the policy we put forward.

Amendment 198 was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, in a very expansive and careful manner; I believe the entire House appreciates that. The Government made clear during the Bill’s passage in the other place that we will include an appropriate provision in the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill iterating each element of the agreement we reach, including the protections set out in the joint report. Passage of the implementation Bill will provide an opportunity for noble Lords to scrutinise the specific provisions envisaged in today’s amendment as they appear in that Bill. There will be an opportunity at length, I hope, to address these point specifically.

I am conscious that the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, require some attention. As I say that, I am conscious that the important issue she raised is about how we ensure that the children of Northern Ireland—indeed, of the entire United Kingdom—understand what we do here, not just in your Lordships’ House but in the other place too. To some degree, explaining what we do and why we are trying to do it is incumbent on each of us. The key thing will be ensuring that children can be part of that ongoing discussion and dialogue and see that making laws is not an easy process, responding to democratic challenges is not simple and sometimes there will be positions that are challenging to hear but none the less must be taken forward. A number of noble Lords have raised the issue again of the nature in which the Brexit vote took place.

I listened to the remarks of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, who can often calm the House with his careful and considerate remarks. He captured that very well when he reminded us of the challenges we face in trying to move this forward. We need to be careful because a generation awaits the outcome of what we do here today and what the Government do in ongoing negotiations. There is no doubt about that. That is why, as I have said on more than one occasion in your Lordships’ House, the key must always be to secure an Executive in Northern Ireland that will be part of that process. Those voices are missed from the processes we are taking forward at this time.

As we give consideration to the appropriateness of the amendments, I am also aware that there will be opportunities for certain aspects of them to be addressed more head-on as we move through the negotiations. In putting these points before noble Lords, I hope I appear to have been, in some respects, more focused on the amendments than the broader discussion, but I do not doubt that there will be opportunities for further broad discussion. On this occasion, I hope that the noble Baroness will find it appropriate to withdraw her amendment.