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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:46 pm on 25th April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 4:46 pm, 25th April 2018

My Lords, I commend the Government for these amendments, which respond to and accept the arguments made in Committee. As I argued then, and there is a reason for me repeating this, the very way that we set up quangos—how they are appointed, funded and run, and particularly their reporting structures and independence from both government and any other organisation they happen to be regulating—is key to how they work, hence the need for primary legislation so that we can interrogate all these things. That is why I very much welcome what has been said.

I am afraid, however, that I am led to make one comment, which is aimed not at the Minister but at friends of his in another place. After the vote last week on the customs union, we read in the Sun that the Government were going to remove those Conservative Peers who had voted for a customs union from their various positions on public bodies. I am absolutely certain that those threats, although mere briefings, did not emanate from anyone in this House. That is simply not the way that I have seen those on the Government Benches here work. They recognise the role of the Lords and that it is our job, on occasion, to ask the Commons to think again, even if sometimes that is a bit inconvenient when it comes from their own side. However, it was rather disturbing to learn that there are certain people around No. 10 who could, even for a moment, think that it would be right to undermine the independence and arm’s-length nature of such bodies, as is often written into their statutes, simply because Members of the House of Lords voted in a certain way. Everything I know about Ministers in this House means I know that not only were they not involved in this but they were probably as shocked as I was. Perhaps the Minister would like to take the opportunity to distance himself from such threats and reaffirm what I know to be government policy: that any appointment to such bodies is done without fear or favour and nobody would be taken off them for a choice that they made in this House.

On the essence of the amendment, and particularly given the role of the Minister and his officials, we are happy to support the government amendments.