European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 5:30 pm, 2nd May 2018

My Lords, I will not detain the House for long. I want to make one or two points. First, my noble friend who has just spoken talked about intransigence and he exhibited it. I would remind him, very gently, that whatever happens after 29 March next year, the Republic of Ireland will remain within the European Union and we are therefore dealing with a very sensitive issue. I would also remind him gently that the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union.

I do not wish people to interpret from that that I am party to anything that the Daily Mail would refer to as wrecking the Bill. That is my final point, as touched on—gently but elegantly—a little while ago by my noble friend Lord Bridges. Your Lordships’ House is merely fulfilling its constitutional role in examining and scrutinising the Bill. We have every right to pass amendments. As those of us who seek not to wreck but to improve have said time and again, the ultimate decision will rest with the House of Commons. It is right and proper that the responsibility ultimately lies there, but that does not deprive us of our responsibility to scrutinise carefully. It does not recognise the reality of the British constitution to talk about playing with fire or to call for an elected second Chamber; think what impasse there would then be between the two Houses. It does not serve the constitutional debate to make threats of that sort, which have come up during the debate in both articles in the press and speeches in this House. We have a duty and we seek to perform it, as we should, but at the end of the day, the responsibility lies at the other end of the Corridor.

If your Lordships’ House did not vote against government measures from time to time, it would have no point or purpose. I say to some noble Lords on my side of the House, who have been cross with myself and others, that if we were dealing with a complicated Bill, brought in by a Government led by Mr Jeremy Corbyn, would we say, “Oh, we don’t want to vote against that”? I rest my case. I am sorry to have detained the House, but those points needed making.