Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [HL] - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 6:45 pm, 8th January 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that characteristically open-minded and engaging response. I would welcome the opportunity for further discussions. The interaction between my amendments and Amendment 7 is crucial. If Amendment 7 is carried, the scope of the changes we are talking about reduces so markedly that the need for advice also reduces. In particular, if Amendment 7 is carried, it is not clear to me that the generality of the issues in the Schedule would come before the House in the form of statutory instruments anyway; they would come before the House in the form of primary legislation.

Primary legislation is of course subject to all those processes of parliamentary scrutiny and decision-making that deal with the underlying concern that there will not be enough exposure of the issues at stake to debate and consultation. The interaction between Amendment 7 and my amendments is crucial. A good deal of the case for my amendments depends on what the Government and the House decide to do in respect of the issues raised in Amendment 7.

However, the wider issue that has come out in this debate and comes up time and again in this House is well worth us considering further on Report: namely, how Parliament deals with secondary legislation and statutory instruments. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe and the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, is completely right. I thought it was neatly put by my noble friend: there is far too big a gulf between the way we consider statutory instruments and the way we consider primary legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, mentioned bars. We have a very high bar for changing the law by primary legislation, with hour after hour of debate—in discussing this two-clause Bill we are now in our fourth hour of Committee. We have had a Second Reading, and we will have Report and Third Reading. Those procedures are tried and tested.

When it comes to secondary legislation, much of which introduces changes to the law—particularly under this Bill, potentially—that are equivalent to changes brought about by primary legislation, our consideration of these changes is cursory. It is a brief debate if you are lucky when a statutory instrument is debated by the House, and there is no power to amend it. As my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe said, if we try to reject it we will get immediately into a constitutional crisis because there cannot then be the process of reconciliation between the two Houses that takes place in the case of ordinary legislation.

Time and again we come up against this issue. To be blunt, time and again we duck it, because there is no great desire on the part of the Government to give us powers to amend statutory instruments or to have more elaborate procedures for discussing them, precisely because that would, in fact, make your Lordships more powerful on statutory instruments because we could then amend them and ask the House of Commons to think again. The issues raised by the Bill and all the requirements to do with leaving the European Union put this in stark relief, because a very substantial part of the legislative business of Parliament over the next two to three years if we leave the European Union will be conducted by means of statutory instruments, including all the fundamental changes to the financial regulatory system set out in the Schedule.

The conclusion I draw from all this is precisely the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Deben: we are at one on the fundamental issue that we should not be leaving the European Union in the first place. One of the reasons why we should not be doing so is that we are not taking back control but giving the Government unprecedented powers to rule by decree—which is, of course, farcical. We have far more control at the moment, from the combination of our established procedures for primary legislation when it comes to our changes in the law, plus all the democratic processes we have within the European Union in respect of changes to the law made at the European Union’s behest, than we will ever have by leaving it and having no role to play in the changes recommended or brought about by the EU, and then having to go through this truncated rule by decree process in this Bill and the EU withdrawal Act.

So the right response to all the debate we have had today is not to leave the European Union and to have a people’s vote to give us the opportunity to express the ever more pronounced view of the public that this whole thing is deeply antipathetic not just to the best interests of the country but to our proper parliamentary procedures. But it is probably going a bit too far to press the Minister to accept that whole case just in responding to my one amendment, so just for now I will beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 11A withdrawn.

Amendment 11B not moved.