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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 8th May 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 3:45 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, I am delighted to speak in support of the key Amendment 93, to which my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith added his name and which was moved so biblically and effectively by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds. Of course, at that time, I had not only a brilliant legal adviser on my right, but a theological one—my noble friend Lord Griffiths—who has now left the Chamber. I said, “I have to have a biblical quote”, but I am afraid he has a sense of humour and said, “The people who were wandering aimlessly in the pre-Brexit wilderness were soon squabbling among themselves, ignoring the advice of their leader”, and so on. But I will leave my noble friend’s helpful comments for another time.

I say this particularly in answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, and my noble friend Lord Adonis. This is an important and meaningful amendment because it would restrict the pretty wide powers given to Ministers in the Bill. That is why we need to pass it. We have on a number of occasions, on this Bill and the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, expressed our surprise that nowhere in the referendum process—in the immediate aftermath, nor in this legislation or any other—did the Government ever spell out that the Article 50 process automatically triggered our exit from Euratom. I will not repeat the costs and dangers of that eventuality given earlier debates on it, particularly the input at that point of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.

However, equally unremarked on and unmentioned by the Government, or by the Brexiteers during the campaign, was the similar removal of the UK from a swathe of agencies, many of which, as we have heard, we helped to construct and all of which have served this country well. Colleagues will already know, from medical researchers who have been in touch, patient groups, health professionals and the pharmaceutical industry, of the risks of being outside the European Medicines Agency, quite apart from the loss of jobs and specialisms that are now moving to Holland. But the same could be said about the European Food Safety Agency, often referred to, but not today, by my noble friend Lord Rooker; the environment agency, emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Whitty; the railways and aviation agencies, often referred to by my noble friend Lord Berkeley; the European Chemicals Agency, which has been mentioned; and, of course, Eurojust, suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and Europol, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.

The commonality is that any mention of those agencies in this House and beyond has included a plea for us to remain members, associates or partners with whichever such agency is in the frame. Sometimes this means following the same rules—as the Government have now accepted for clinical trials—to assist in monitoring; for safety; for easy and rapid transport, as for medical isotopes; to facilitate trade and exchange; to enable skilled persons to undertake checks or repairs; or, as my noble friend Lord Haskel said, to guarantee safe products for users and consumers.

For some of the agencies it might mean paying money in, as the Prime Minister acknowledged. For some it might mean harmonising assurance, governance or penalties for rule-breaking. But for all it will mean a willingness to adapt and respond to requirements, usually simply to maintain our existing rules and practice. What is clear is that, given the wide powers in the Bill for Ministers, we must ensure that none of those powers is used to frustrate our continued involvement with such agencies, whether because, for example, we set different sanctions for breaches, raise fees or charges in a different way that makes it difficult to move along in their way of working, or apply variant rules or any other similar change. That is why it is critical to circumscribe the powers in the Bill so that they cannot be used to prevent us having necessary EU rules or ways of working that would frustrate our participation in any of these agencies. We do not want the powers to be used for that reason, hence the very simple amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, had it right: the Bill should not be used to frustrate the intention, should that be the Government’s wish, to stay in these agencies for the good of the whole country. It is, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said in his introduction, entirely in line with what the Prime Minister said in Mansion House and it would allow this country to continue such relationships where that continuation is in the national interest.