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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 23rd April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 6:15 pm, 23rd April 2018

My Lords, I had the privilege of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Warner, explain the position in Committee. When I heard him speak, it roused in my mind the thought that the decision in the packaging case was extremely important. In particular, the doctrine that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, seeks to establish must have been relied upon by the Secretary of State to defend that decision; important rights of the tobacco companies were at issue as well, such as complicated trademark legislation. When I looked at this, I thought it was absolutely clear that Mr Justice Green was relying upon Article 168 and the principle of the high value of human health in his judgment in favour of the Secretary of State. Therefore, that must have been part of our law at the time when Mr Justice Green was deciding the case, which was in 2016. If it was part of our law then, it will remain part of our law in light of the provisions in the Bill when Brexit comes along.

I was not privy to the earlier situation which the noble Lord, Lord Warner, described, and there may have been some difficulty in having this clarified. Mr Justice Green was deciding this in the High Court. The case went to the Court of Appeal, where in one judgment given by three judges—they say that they all contributed to the judgment—they absolutely affirm that the judge was right and that his approach was in accordance with EU law. That is EU law as it was; part of the law of the United Kingdom in 2016. Therefore, I consider that it must be preserved by the retention of the EU law that we have here. In my view, what the noble Lord the Minister has now said makes it clear that the Government now accept that position. It does not depend so much on the Government’s word as on the fact that the courts recognise this principle as part of EU law applicable in 2016. I cannot see any answer that can be given to try to rule it out. Therefore, I am content with what the Government have come out with and glad they gave me the opportunity to discuss this with them this afternoon. There were quite a number of members of the department there and we had a fairly frank discussion which has, I am glad to say, produced what I think is a reasonable result.