Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Taylor of Bolton Baroness Taylor of Bolton Chair, Constitution Committee 3:30 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I do not want to follow the two previous speakers by talking about what happens, deal or no deal, but I will say a word about the difficulties facing the House on this Bill and on other legislation before us. My noble friend mentioned the Constitution Committee, which issued a report on the Trade Bill in October last year. We did so because we wanted to get ahead of the game by advising the House on our approach to that Bill, as we had done on the EU withdrawal Bill in a way that I think was constructive for the whole House and, ultimately, helpful to the Government because our constructive criticisms meant that the Bill was more fit for purpose when it left this House.

We did that early because we knew of the weight of legislation that would come before us. We have tried to get the Government to give us more information on what legislation we will face and asked to see some things in draft, which we would have been willing to see in confidence. The House will have to face other legislation. We are already seeing arguments about the number of SIs and the difficulty of giving them proper scrutiny in the time available. Time is running out. The Constitution Committee—and, I think, the House as a whole—want to be helpful in making sure that any necessary legislation is actually fit for purpose and will do what is expected of it, but also that so we as parliamentarians can fulfil our role and responsibility to give proper scrutiny.

I ask the Chief Whip and the Leader of the House to reconsider their approach to giving information to the House about what our future work programme will be. It will be extremely difficult to consider as we should all the legislation that will be before us, whatever the outcome of discussions in another place. I have been a member of the usual channels, albeit in the other House. I know that there are indicative timetables on all occasions—maybe more than one in this instance. If the House is to function properly and fulfil all its obligations, it needs greater information to come through the usual channels about what our programme will be and what responsibilities we will face to get the necessary legislation fit for purpose, and to allow us to fulfil our responsibilities.