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Business of the House - Motion on Standing Orders

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:07 pm on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 3:07 pm, 8th April 2019

My Lords, I will respond briefly to the Business of the House Motion. We had lengthy and passionate debates last Thursday on the most appropriate way to handle this Bill. This Motion gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude to all those who worked together in the margins of the Sitting to agree what I think is a more sensible way to proceed. By all sides compromising, we have had the opportunity to give this Bill more scrutiny than was possible on Thursday and have recognised the desire of those who want to see it progress following that scrutiny. Noble Lords have had a short but useful amount of extra time to consider the Bill and propose amendments for the House to consider. It has also allowed the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Constitution Committee to produce reports on the Bill to further aid the House’s scrutiny, and I am grateful to them.

I am pleased to see amendments tabled on the particularly problematic issue of the Bill inadvertently affecting the royal prerogative, and I hope that this can be resolved positively. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for bringing their expertise to bear in this area. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, who is today leading the Bill in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has tabled amendments that will allow the Motion to be debated in the Commons tomorrow should the Bill receive Royal Assent after midnight, and to maintain usual drafting practice by referring to a “Minister of the Crown”. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, has an amendment to remove two subsections of Clause 1; removing these subsections will allow greater flexibility after the European Council on 10 April and any further debates that need to be scheduled in the House of Commons. These are necessary amendments in light of our considerations today, which the Government will support to facilitate the tabling of business in the House of Commons.

Despite what I hope will be improvements, the Government’s position has not changed: we oppose the Bill and remain of the view that it is unnecessary. We are concerned about the manner in which both Houses have had to consider it, and its passage should not be taken as any sort of precedent. It has always been my belief that it is important in this House that all sides of an argument are aired and given due respect before decisions are taken, which is why I am pleased that we have additional time to consider and scrutinise the Bill. I trust that we will be able to consider its remaining stages in a timely fashion, and send it back to the House of Commons in a better shape than it arrived here. Although the Government oppose the Bill and the way in which it has been taken through both Houses, we will not oppose this Motion.