European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Shinkwin Lord Shinkwin Conservative 4:30 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, I put on record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, with whose arguments on Amendment 15 I entirely agree, for his long-standing championing and reaffirming of disability rights both in this House and in the other place.

However, I have a question that I am struggling with and it relates to the brilliance of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, of which we have just heard. I might be disheartened by the noble Lord’s arguments but his genius fills me with confidence that Parliament is well able to assert itself and to advance and protect rights after Brexit. Do we not believe in ourselves and in our proud history of championing rights? I believe that we have much to be proud of, and I personally have much to be grateful to our Parliament for, and your Lordships’ House in particular, due to the invaluable help it has given me and the charities I had the privilege of working with for almost 20 years spent in the voluntary sector.

I recall the crucial support that your Lordships’ House gave the Royal British Legion’s Honour the Covenant campaign when I was its head of public affairs. As a result, David Cameron, to his lasting credit, enshrined the principles of the Armed Forces covenant in law. I remember vividly the pivotal role that your Lordships’ House played in saving the crucial position of the chief coroner during the passage of the Public Bodies Bill, thereby securing long-overdue reforms to the coroners service to the great benefit of bereaved Armed Forces families and, indeed, bereaved families in general. However, I do not recall that those campaigns and changes to the law took place at the behest of the EU, the ECJ or the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Indeed, the EU, as I recall, barely got a mention.

As a child, my condition meant that I was for ever breaking my legs. I lost count of how many times I had to learn to walk again. You would think that you would remember something so basic, but you do not—not after months in bed with your leg in traction and not when you are afraid to put one foot in front of the other for fear of a fracture. You forget how to walk. I fear that we too have forgotten how to walk, and we need urgently to remember. We need to remember how to walk tall.

We need to reflect the simple fact that the people have spoken and they have chosen, by a clear majority, to leave the EU and to take back control of our laws. The UK is their country, not ours; the UK Parliament is theirs, not ours. We may have been their masters once; we are not now. We are their servants. They are the masters, and they have spoken in a once-in-a-generation referendum.

We do not need this charter. We in this great British Parliament set the benchmark for human rights. That was not done by the EU and certainly not by the ECJ, whose judgments, as we have already heard, are informed by the centrifugal force of everything that emanates from the rejected EU political project of ever closer union.

I conclude by agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, that a vote in support of Amendment 15 would be a vote of no confidence in Parliament and in your Lordships’ House. It would be a vote of disdain for the clear majority of the British people, who voted to leave the EU. I urge noble Lords not to support the amendment.