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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:52 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 7:52 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, I am pleased to move this group of amendments as the final piece—to use the analogy of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths—of the devolution jigsaw puzzle in this Bill. The amendments in this group all relate, in different ways, to the scrutiny that the devolved legislatures will apply to the delegated powers for devolved Ministers in Schedules 2 and 4 to the Bill.

It is right that in conferring powers on devolved Ministers, the Bill should also provide for how they will be scrutinised. It would be irresponsible not to do that. We cannot confer powers and then make no provision for legislative scrutiny whatever. However, the Government recognise that the scrutiny of powers is ultimately a question for the legislature undertaking that scrutiny and the Administration being scrutinised. That is why the Bill consciously preserves the competence of the devolved legislatures, under the respective devolution statutes, to amend those parts of the Bill that make provision for scrutiny of devolved delegated powers. It is why we have sought the views of the legislatures and the devolved Administrations on the appropriate scrutiny arrangements, and these amendments reflect that engagement.

Amendments 69D, 72ZC, 78C and 115A allow for the “made affirmative” urgent scrutiny procedure to be used by devolved Ministers making regulations under their Schedule 2 powers. This was not included in the Bill as originally drafted because it is not a standard procedure in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. However, we have confirmed with the devolved institutions that this procedure is acceptable and that it should be available to devolved Ministers for the same reasons of urgency as it will be available to UK Ministers. These amendments will achieve that.

Amendments 69C, 70C and 77E provide for the “sifting committee” procedure to apply for negative procedure instruments laid by Welsh Ministers under their Schedule 2 powers. The National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government have both confirmed that this procedure should apply to the Welsh Ministers. These amendments would therefore apply the same procedure as currently applies in the Bill to UK Ministers.

Noble Lords will appreciate that there are very specific arrangements for committees in the Northern Ireland Assembly and this relates to the structures of power-sharing within the Northern Ireland devolution settlement. In that context it would not be appropriate for this procedure to apply, so we have not included it in the Bill. The Scottish Government have informed us that they and the Scottish Parliament wish to apply some form of sifting arrangement to the Schedule 2 power. However, their intention is to undertake this by means of their own legislation. As I have said, the Bill preserves the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate on this matter.