Amendment 7

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Chair, Economic Affairs Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee 4:30 pm, 8th April 2019

My Lords, uncharacteristically, I think the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, made a slight slip when he said that the Prime Minister would come back with a deal. She will not be coming back with a deal; she will be coming back with a date. The committee report states:

“The date of the UK’s exit from the EU remains a matter of the greatest political and legal significance. It is right that the matter be debated in Parliament before the current date of 12 April is changed in our domestic law”.

When the Government changed the date from 29 March to 12 April, they did so by statutory instrument placed before both Houses, and we were able to discuss and debate that matter. What is proposed, as the 51st report of the committee makes clear, is to remove that right from both Houses to approve a change.

I must say that in introducing the debate the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, was very brief in his description. The outside world may not realise what is proposed here, which is entirely to cut the House of Lords out of approving the date, which the report rightly says is of the greatest political significance. Judging from the amount of grief I had at the weekend from people who are very disillusioned by the performance of Parliament on this matter, it is something that concerns many millions of our fellow citizens. I am therefore very surprised that this should be treated as just a matter of convenience.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which is held in the highest regard and afforded the highest respect, made clear recommendations. The point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is important: if this is to be done through a negative resolution, we will be invited after the event to consider whether we agreed with it, thus creating uncertainty. Again, we had the same discussion on Thursday. This is not about what the House thinks on whether we should leave the European Union; it is about whether our procedures and processes should be respected. The idea that it might be inconvenient or difficult to meet the timetable, and that we should therefore ignore our processes, is not good.