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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 9:30 pm, 2nd May 2018

With respect, I must say that it is our clear intention, which is reflected in the memorandum of understanding in the agreement, that we will engage with the devolved Administrations in the consideration of these framework agreements and their application. Of course, these matters will be taken into account at that stage. But I do not consider it appropriate to bring that sort of granular detail into this Bill, which is designed for a very specific purpose. I hear what the noble Lord says and, clearly, we wish to proceed on the basis of mutual respect and understanding with the other devolved Administrations.

In that context, I underline the point in response to a query raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, speaking, I understand, on behalf of the Scottish Government who are not otherwise represented in this House. There is no question of this process under Clause 11 being somehow the thin end of the wedge so far as the devolution settlement is concerned. The devolution settlement is a reality of our constitutional situation and one that we extended under the 2016 Act, really quite recently, in light of the Smith review. We continue to respect, understand and wish to apply the devolution settlement. But it is a devolution settlement that has to work for everyone in the United Kingdom. I return to the point that it cannot work for everyone in the United Kingdom if one devolved Assembly or Government assume that they have the ability to exercise what amounts to a veto over legislation that is relevant, pertinent and important to the entirety of the United Kingdom.

I move on to address one or two additional points raised by noble Lords in respect of these matters. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, referred to finance and whether the Welsh Government had missed a trick. I do not believe that they did for a moment. Indeed, they put themselves one step ahead by embracing this agreement and the amendment. But the noble and learned Lord raised a point about funding. He is right to point out that our agreement for the Welsh Government does not speak to funding but that is not to say that funding has been forgotten or put to one side. Clearly, it is a matter that will be addressed. We recognise the importance, for example, of the Barnett formula. We understand why there is concern, particularly about agricultural funding under CAP Pillar 1 under the current EU budget that runs to 2020. We have provided a degree of certainty by promising to continue to commit the same total cash funds for farm support across the UK until 2022. At present, the Secretary of State for the Environment is in close discussion with his counterparts in the Welsh and Scottish Governments on exactly how our agricultural systems should work outside of the EU. I stress that that is not a matter for this Bill. This is the Bill that provides for our exit and our exit alone, so I hope that the noble and learned Lord will accept that. He raised the question of public procurement—again, these issues are not for this Bill but we are clearly conscious of them and they will have to be addressed.

The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, also raised the question of whether further areas might be the subject of reservation under the freezing provisions of the amendment. We have identified 24 areas for frameworks but a number of other areas that could be the subject of regulations going forward are still subject to discussion. I acknowledge that. Noble Lords may recollect that we published the list of frameworks and included not only the 24 areas I have referred to, but a further 12 where there is ongoing discussion about how they will be addressed and resolved.

I am conscious that I have not answered every question that has been posed. If noble Lords are concerned that I have not addressed a point that still concerns them about Clause 11, as amended, I would be content to receive their queries and write to them. In the event that I write to any noble Lords on this issue or any issue relating to this clause, I will place a copy in the Library. I seek to reassure noble Lords on that point. With that, I will formally move each amendment. I am sorry—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has to reply.