Amendment to the Motion

Part of Business of the House - Motion on Standing Orders – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Wirral Lord Hunt of Wirral Conservative 6:00 pm, 4th April 2019

My Lords, I declare my interest as a member of the Constitution Committee. I would like to make a brief intervention. Thanks to the sterling efforts of the committee, our learned clerk and our legal adviser, Professor Mark Elliott, overnight we were able to produce a brief report, which I want to refer to, because it is mentioned in this amendment.

The report was very much a rushed attempt. In the early hours of this morning I sought to rewrite parts of it, but the clerk explained to me that, sadly, my rewriting had been blocked by the spam filter on his machine. Therefore, I thought I better just add a couple of words to explain. The Constitution Committee has always sought to advise the House on fast-track legislation. Indeed, there are one or two Members of the House who served on the committee when it produced the 15th report in the 2008-09 session, Fast-track Legislation: Constitutional Implications and Safeguards. I would like to see a little more reference during the course of this debate to the fact that we warned people that fast-tracking should take place only in exceptional circumstances. It behoves everyone in this place to demonstrate that these are exceptional circumstances.

We also sought to emphasise the need for effective parliamentary scrutiny. We set this out in our report. However, as a member of the Select Committee, I would have preferred far more time to get into more detail. I therefore refer the House to a brilliant analysis of this Bill by Professor Mark Elliott, Public Law for Everyone. Before we proceed any further, we should be aware that this is, in a number of respects, a defective Bill, and we have to be very careful how we proceed.

It was acknowledged in the other place by Oliver Letwin—the previous acting Prime Minister, before the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, took on the role—that there were drafting difficulties. He explained that it did not really matter very much because these would be dealt with and considered,

“in the Lords stages of the Bill”—[Official Report, Commons, 3/4/19; col. 1064]

Therefore, we must ensure that we have enough time to look into those defects. Trying to take all the stages of this Bill in one day, which is what the noble Baroness would have us do, may lead to us enacting defective legislation.

I am very grateful to the Printed Paper Office for making available our report, Fast-track Legislation: Constitutional Implications and Safeguards. I hope noble Lords will look at it before we proceed very much further with the Bill. It is necessary reading if we are to undertake this unusual attempt to fast-track a Private Member’s Bill.

We identified a key constitutional principle, as set out on page 8:

“The need to ensure that effective parliamentary scrutiny is maintained in all situations. Can effective scrutiny still be undertaken when the progress of bills is fast-tracked, even to the extent of taking multiple stages in one day?”

We went on to say that another fundamental constitutional principle was:

“The need to maintain ‘good law’—i.e. to ensure that the technical quality of all legislation is maintained and improved”.

We then asked:

“Is there any evidence that the fast-tracking of legislation has led to ‘bad law’”?

We as a House have to ensure that we do not enact bad law as a result of fast-tracking. That is all I wanted to say.

As I explained in a previous debate, I object to the idea that there should be a second referendum when it was the second referendum that created this problem in the first place. I do not want to stray too much, but I was the chairman of the Conservative Group for Europe in 1975, and I fought hard in the first referendum and fought hard again in the second referendum. I say to every Member of the House, whatever their strong feelings on this issue, for heaven’s sake, please do not let us have a third referendum. Let us get this sorted out. Let us respect the result of the second referendum but make sure that we do so by passing good legislation.