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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 25th April 2018.

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Photo of Lord Trees Lord Trees Crossbench 7:15 pm, 25th April 2018

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this stimulating and interesting debate, and I hope that it has provided food for thought. Above all, I hope that it gives the Government an impetus to solve this problem. Perhaps I may address some of the points that have been raised.

The point about adding specific issues to a general Bill of this type was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and others. I have huge respect for the noble Lord, who is a great fighter for animal welfare. I will answer in two ways. Normally I would totally agree with the point, but these are not normal times; rather, we are living through extremely extraordinary times, and I think that extraordinary times need some special and novel remedies. The second point is that we are seeking to enable a very specific and defined issue through making a modification to the EU withdrawal Bill.

With regard to the technical objections raised on proposed new subsection (3), I absolutely defer to the expertise of the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope, Lord Judge and Lord Brown. We sought to give Parliament authority to have oversight of how proposed new subsection (1) would operate. Parliament could define the mechanisms and the definitions, getting over some of the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, said, it does not absolutely exclude the possibility of judicial review. It certainly reduces the possibility, which was a recommendation of the EFRA Committee report, but it does not exclude it, as the Minister acknowledged as well. We seem to have been criticised for excluding judicial review; on the other hand, perhaps we are not, so although that is an important issue it clearly needs further clarification.

No one would be more pleased than me to see the text of the amendment improved further. It could be done by the Government and tabled as an amendment on Third Reading. I had written that down before the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made his helpful intervention, for which I thank him. No one would rather see this improved than me. I am very happy to take criticism; I am an academic of long experience and used to lots of criticism. Let us get it better but let us get it done.

Finally, turning to the main issue, I do not doubt one bit the sincerity of the Government and the Minister in wishing to see this sorted but, as has been pointed out by several noble Lords, it has already taken a long time to get this rectified. A vast tsunami of legislation is coming along the tracks, which will demand a slice of a finite amount of parliamentary time. In particular, Defra has a huge burden of legislation and adjustment to make around Brexit. While I am in no way questioning the sincerity of the Government’s desire, stuff happens. Ministers come and go. Other priorities emerge. It is particularly disappointing that the Minister has made no commitment to when we might see an improved animal welfare Bill.

Our negotiators will shortly go into battle to negotiate the trade of livestock and livestock products. They need assurance behind them so that they can argue that our welfare legislative standards are absolutely the equal of those of the rest of the EU, and so on. If we wait, I fear that we will be waiting for Godot. Noble Lords need no reminding that Godot never came, so it is with a heavy heart that I feel I must test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 169, Noes 211.