European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:19 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Howard of Lympne Lord Howard of Lympne Conservative 12:19 pm, 5th September 2019

I shall not give way on this any more. I want to move on to consider the Bill before your Lordships’ House today, on which we ought to focus our attention.

The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, whom we all admire and for whom we have so much affection, has recently propounded a novel theory of government and has given it a name—he calls it the government of good chaps. He is in a better position to explain his theory than I am but, as I understand it, one of the elements is that the constituent parts of government and our unwritten constitution should behave within their respective roles as understood by convention and tradition under those unwritten rules. I contend that the legislation before the House is a fundamental breach of the good chap theory of government.

I shall endeavour to explain why I have reached that conclusion. Our unwritten constitution is based on the separation of powers—in particular, between the Executive and the legislature. It is the role of the Executive to govern; it is the role of the legislature to hold the Executive to account—to hold to account but not itself to govern. This Bill represents an attempt by the legislature to assume the mantle of government. That is why it is wrong and illegitimate, constitutes a fundamental breach of the good chap theory of government and is in breach of the conventions of our unwritten constitution. These observations would apply regardless of the underlying reason which gives rise to the Bill; and the fact that the underlying reason underpinning the Bill relates to Brexit makes it even worse.