Amendment 2

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 10:30 am on 6th September 2019.

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Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative 10:30 am, 6th September 2019

My Lords, I add my support to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, who has set out clearly why the Bill is plainly defective. I think it happens to be a terrible Bill, and all that it will achieve if passed is to kick the can further down the road, which has a huge cost in terms of prolonged uncertainty and putting off decisions to make new investments.

As my noble friend who has just spoken has pointed out, there are different possibilities as to how the EU will react and respond to a request for an extension. Noble Lords will remember what happened at the last request for extension: there was a very long debate in Council, with President Macron seeking to allow us a much shorter extension whereas some other member states wanted to offer a very much longer one, and 31 October was a kind of compromise date. There was also much talk in the Council as to what other conditions should be applied to any acceptance of a request for an extension. That is the reason for the noble Baroness’s amendment.

It is not just on that point that the Bill is defective. I would like to know what is a “Lords sitting day”. There are two instances in the Bill of something called a “Lords sitting day”, which I have never heard defined before, as well as “calendar days” and “days”. So, the Bill is a bit poorly drafted. I have always understood that the role of your Lordships’ House is to scrutinise and improve deficient legislation.

I have another question; I think it is for the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, because he introduced this Bill. Clause 3(3) refers to what happens if the House of Commons has decided not to pass a Motion between two calendar days. It does not say what happens if the House has not decided to pass, or not decided not to pass, a Motion within two calendar days. Also, should “decision” have an upper-case d? If it is intended to signify a formal decision of the Council, it should have an upper-case d. If the decision is made on a Friday, or a Thursday when the other place is not sitting on the two subsequent calendar days, it is quite likely that the other place will not have had an opportunity to decide whether or not to pass such a Motion.

Quite apart from the very harmful effect of this Bill on our country and the current negotiations with the European Union, I think the least your Lordships’ House could do would be to support the noble Baroness in doing something to mitigate its harmful effect by making it a little clearer.