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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Convenor of the Crossbench Peers 9:45 pm, 2nd May 2018

My Lords, it is for me to say what will happen to my Amendment 89DAA, which is an amendment to Amendment 89DA, moved by the noble and learned Lord the Minister.

I want to make a few short points. First, I want to pick up on a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that he will not accept the opprobrium that was visited on the Scottish Ministers for the way they conducted themselves in these negotiations. Having had discussions with Michael Russell and the Lord Advocate—like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern—the points I put forward in my introduction to my amendment were sincerely held. Those points were not made to cause trouble. The Lord Advocate in particular gave advice on his reading of the Scotland Act; Michael Russell, for his part, was entirely genuine in his points about principle as well. That should be clearly understood.

When I was in practice at the Scottish Bar, I was junior to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. As he pointed out, if I appeared with him, I would speak first; it would then be his function, as my senior, to speak second. Quite frequently, I found that when he spoke, he refined the kind of argument that I was attempting to put forward. It took on a slightly different—rather more attractive, perhaps—appearance after he had refined it. As he pointed out in his speech, the points that I made about the construction of Section 30 and the other sections do not really apply in the situation with which we are dealing here. I was grateful for his remark that the situation is unique and not seeking in any way to undermine the devolution settlement. I am extremely grateful to the Minister for making the same point that there is no question of this being the thin end of the wedge or in any way seeking to undermine the devolution settlement, to which he wishes to adhere. These remarks should help a lot in reassuring those in Scotland on how they should approach the continuing discussions. I was glad to hear from the Minister that the door is still open; I think that the Scottish point of view still regards the door as open too.

Perhaps this debate has refined things and shown that the purist argument—that of principle—does not really apply here. This is not about trying to construct the market that we were trying to construct in 1998, which was done by separating out the bits that mattered for that market into Schedule 5 so that they were clearly identified. We are dealing with a different, rather more subtle, situation in trying, as the Minister said, to create a functioning internal market with what has come back to us from Europe. That requires a rather more subtle approach that is not really dealt with in the Scotland Act, for understandable reasons. That being so, I hope very much that the way forward will be pointed by our discussion this evening. Without any further ado, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.