Amendment 1

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 1:30 pm on 6th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Chair, Economic Affairs Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee 1:30 pm, 6th September 2019

Oh my goodness. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for whom I have great admiration, that I am struggling with that response because the words say that a letter should be sent by the Prime Minister requesting an extension in order not just to debate but to debate and pass a Bill. He has to send a letter saying he wants an extension because he is planning to pass a Bill to implement the May agreement, which has been rejected three times—the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is absolutely right—and put in place the results of the discussions, on which I do not have information, other than what I have read in the newspapers. That is anticipating the decisions by the House of Commons.

My noble friend Lord Cormack said that he supported the May deal and that there are many people who supported the May deal, but the May deal was rejected by the biggest vote ever in the other place. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, made a very good point about the political agreement and having discussions. He may be right in his criticism that not enough has been done to take that part of the thing forward. Taking out this defective part of the Bill does not prevent discussions taking place.

My noble friend Lord Hamilton made a crucial point that if this provision is deficient—and everybody agrees that it is deficient—what is this House for if not to deal with those matters? The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said there is a matter of trust. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Callanan for his honesty and transparency. We were under the impression that the deal agreed between the Front Benches would result in this matter being taken out—he has confirmed that—and we are now being told that it is not being taken out because the legal advice is that it would not fly anyway, so we put into the Bill something which is legally deficient; that is okay, and that is what this House has come to. We do that because we do not believe that the Government will be as good as their word when the people who were on the other side of the agreement have not been as good as their word. I hope that the Government are rather better than that. We have a duty to pass legislation which is proper. I am not a lawyer, but the noble Lord, Lord Marks, told us that it would have no legal effect whatever, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern—not Drumlean —gave us the opposite advice, so it would appear that there is at least some doubt about whether it would have legal effect.

My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay said it was not meaningless and the noble Lord, Lord Marks, said he agreed that—I hope I am not pushing too far here—it should not be there but because it is meaningless, it could stay there. The noble Lord, Lord Jones, told us that the entire country is sick to death of all of us. On that, I am sure we can all agree.