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Amendment 1

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 10:06 am on 6th September 2019.

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Lord James of Blackheath:

Moved by Lord James of Blackheath

1: Clause 2, page 2, line 30, at end insert “, including what steps have been taken to ensure that United Kingdom sovereignty has been an essential principle in those negotiations and will be in any forthcoming negotiations.”

Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative

My Lords, a week ago, I wrote a letter to the Lord Speaker in which I suggested that in certain circumstances which might occur, such as this morning, the entire House of Lords is ineligible to sit. I do not intend to pursue this point, but I want to explain why it occurs. I think it is important to us.

If the Lisbon treaty is allowed to stand and is not wiped away at midnight on 31 October, we are all, every single man jack of us, in breach of our oath on joining this House because we have allowed the omniscience of Parliament to be reduced by the elimination of the veto which was standing in our benefit until the Lisbon treaty. That has far-reaching consequences which go way beyond us and reach into the Palace and the Crown itself. We need to be aware of those implications. If I am right on that assertion—I have taken it to the Table Office and asked it to think about it, so there must be some professional opinions around—then we would be ineligible to sit today, and it would mean that this Bill cannot pass the House. I am not pursuing that.

What I am going to say is that I think the basis on which we are going forward from here is wrong because we have a situation in which we are facing a choice between remain, the no-go solution and, as came very much into focus in the latter stages of yesterday, the possible resurrection of the May deal. The May deal and remain both carry the same consequence that they would still leave us in breach of our oath. We need to have our oaths restored to us, which would happen if at midnight on 31 October if the Lisbon treaty was wiped away.

The first person we need to be concerned about in that respect is Her Majesty because we have the power of government placed in our hands by the coronation oath which she swore never to diminish, but we have diminished it for her. In those circumstances, do the British public realise they are being asked to consider a situation which might create a position in which Her Majesty would consider it was essential for her to abdicate? If that occurred, would it ever be possible to resurrect the monarch because nobody else could swear the same coronation oath? Let us be realistic about this. My whole criticism of the situation of opposition to no-go at the moment is that we simply have not informed the British public of what is at stake. It goes way beyond this.

We have this wonderful paper called Yellowhammer, which tells us all the dreadful things that will happen if we do go no-go. My secretary has an alternative list that I have complied called the Black Vulture, which is my list of the things that people do not know about which will happen if we do not go no deal. The first is the hazard it creates for the Crown. The second is: will somebody please tell us the truth about the European defence union? This is by far the biggest issue facing the British public and they know nothing about it officially. Can we please have a proper account of what it entails? Is it really true that the Government have entered into private agreements with the European Community that they will, on completion of remain or whatever it is to be, transfer to the European Union in Brussels the entire control of our entire fighting forces, including all their equipment? [Laughter.] Noble Lords may jest, but it has been done and they should check it out. It is too important to ignore. We must know the truth of this. We must have it clear for the whole public to know. I believe it is true, and I think we should be told. I understand that it is intended that the oath of every serving member of our forces will be cancelled and they will be required to undertake a new oath of loyalty to Brussels. I understand that in recent months, we have had a series of people sent from our Armed Forces to create and install the command and control centres to be used for the control of our troops once we have ceased to have any control over their use, application or deployment. It goes beyond this. They are to take control of our intelligence services, the whole core of Five Eyes. They will have MI6 and the Cheltenham monitoring centre, and we will be completely excluded from it under the new arrangements and have no access either to the—

Photo of Lord Blunkett Lord Blunkett Labour

I wonder whether the noble Lord would be prepared to give way just for one moment. I appeal to him to conclude, because it is not in either his interests or the interests of the Committee for him to continue.

Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative

I thank the noble Lord. It is, however, in the interests of the British public, who, in the end, will have to vote blind on this issue. They need to be informed but nothing has been done to bring that about. I beg to move.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative

My Lords, I want to ask one short question. I refer the Committee, and in particular the Minister, to col. 1203 of yesterday’s Hansard, in which my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering raised a very important question. She said in the final paragraph of her comments to this House:

“Can we have confirmation today not just that the Government will apply for an extension in the terms of this Bill”— this is the salient point—

“but will vote for such an extension in the European Council?”.—[Official Report, 5/9/19; col. 1203.]

I would add the proviso: “and will not seek to oppose such an extension”. The Minister was not in his seat when that observation was made. I make absolutely no criticism but it would be very helpful to have an assurance from the Government in those terms.

Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, for raising what are obviously much wider issues than are contained in his amendment. The amendment itself is probably not necessary and therefore we will not support it.

I want to make one point about today. From today there are 55 days until Brexit. Anyone who has gone to the Hampstead Theatre recently will have seen the play “55 Days”. I remind noble Lords that it relates to the 55 days between the creation of the Rump Parliament and the execution of the King. I do not think that we are quite in that territory yet but I urge all noble Lords to remember that a clock is ticking. We should get on with the Bill as rapidly as we can today, but I do not think that the amendment would add to it in any way whatever and therefore I hope that the Committee will not support it.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 10:15 am, 6th September 2019

My Lords, it is not clear which Minister on the Front Bench is responsible for the Bill. Is no Minister taking any interest in these affairs at all? The Minister for Exiting the European Union is notable by his absence in the Chamber now, as indeed he was for a large part of the debate yesterday.

Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the Minister for Exiting the European Union is at an important meeting at the moment but will be joining us.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

The reality is that this is private Member’s business and the Government Front Bench is on strike again, as I said at the end of yesterday’s sitting. It is as simple as that. That is what it is all about.

The noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, made a very important speech, which we listened to with care and attention. He raised a lot of serious and important points, but I turn to the nub of his amendment, which is what we are here to deal with. I think we can be guaranteed that almost any potential Prime Minister will seek to ensure that the sovereignty of the UK is preserved, as it has been all along. Therefore, the noble Lord’s amendment would not really add to the Bill and, with respect, I ask him to withdraw it.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

Perhaps the noble Lord will permit me to speak, because my noble friend Lord Hailsham brought up a very pertinent point that I raised at the end of what I realise was quite a long speech yesterday. If our Front Bench is not to reply, I cannot comment, but I find it very unsatisfactory that we could be in a position where my own Government apply for an extension and then, in the course of that process, vote against it. I would like a categoric assurance from our Front Bench today that that will not happen.

Noble Lords:

Answer!

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I understand that this matter has followed what has been a sometimes difficult and prolonged debate. I agreed with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrat party that we would make sure that the Bill was passed by the end of today and sent back to the Commons. As my noble friend indicated, the Government are not in favour of the Bill but we made those undertakings. We will complete them but we are not responsible for the Bill.

Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Chair, House of Lords Commission, Lord Speaker

The mover of the amendment has the right to reply at this stage.

Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative

I thank the noble Lord. I tabled my amendment because, in everything that has been said so learnedly on this matter, nobody has covered the subject of sovereignty, which is really at the core of the original intention to take back control. Therefore, I am concerned that the public might be asked to give an opinion on this—

Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Chair, Economic Affairs Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee

We had a very long period of what some people have called filibustering. It resulted in a deal between the Front Benches in which the Opposition Leader gave an undertaking not to use the guillotine or this procedure again. We respected that. We agreed that the Bill would be given safe passage with speed through the House. Does my noble friend not think that it might be more sensible to withdraw his amendment and allow us to proceed with what both sides of the House have agreed to do?

Photo of Lord James of Blackheath Lord James of Blackheath Conservative

I entirely recognise that fact. My concern, which I am sure the noble Lord will share, is for the understanding of the British public when they have to accept whatever is the final decision. I do not believe they have enough knowledge of the reality of what stands behind the agreements between which they have to choose. That is why I worded the amendment as I did, as the only way to bring this into the discussion today. I thank noble Lords for their comments. I will beg leave to withdraw my amendment but at the same time I make an urgent plea to all who are concerned about this to get the public better informed. They are not well informed.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed.

Clause 3: Duties in connection with Article 50 extension