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European Parliamentary Elections Etc. (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 7:00 pm, 23rd October 2019

My Lords, this is of course a necessary SI. I say to my noble friend that I am not going to object to the nature of the SI, which is necessary, but I would like to make two principled points.

The first, in which I am to some extent following the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, is that it is remarkable, is it not, how we find time to bring forward necessary bits of legislation like this, which tidy things up—we have all sorts of discussions with all kinds of people about how it should be tidied up and then we make sure that those who are looking into statutory instruments are happy on the various elements—but we still have not found time, not for tidying up, but actually putting right our electoral system and the threats to it. It seems that, once again, we are spending time that we should never have to spend on tidying up, which we should not have had to do, but we cannot find time—nor the energy or enthusiasm—to make the changes necessary for the protection of our electoral system. Earlier this month, I suggested that now there is no question that we can possibly claim to be an exemplar of governance to the rest of the world, we might as well at least try to get an electoral system that is an exemplar for the rest of the world but, at the snail’s pace with which we are moving at the moment, it seems, sadly, that we are just not going to do that. Yet we do find time to tidy things up. In that sense, I am very happy that we should do the tidying but not that we should miss the fact that we do not have the energy to make the changes that are manifestly necessary, which all parties agree on, which the Cabinet Office has pointed to in what it says, but which we cannot manage to do.

My second point of principle is that I do not want this SI to go through without reminding the House of the serious damage that we have done to this nation by removing ourselves not just from the European Union but from the European Parliament. We have just had a debate, which I know my noble friend Lord Howe was sitting through, when my noble friend Lord Gardiner explained that the only way that we could handle the biosecurity of this nation is to do all the things that we have always done along the same lines as the rest of the European Union. That is what he told us: there is no way whatever that we are going to move aside from the European Union—and why? Because it is 22 miles away, and because we have to do that because there is no way whatever, except jointly, that we can protect ourselves. The only difference is that we will not be able to discuss it in the European Parliament. These decisions will be made by the European Union and the European Parliament and Britain will just take them. Oh, yes, we will take back control. We will take back control in order to say yes to everything that the European Union does. We have just had precisely that discussion. So when we pass this SI, what we are saying to the world is that we have been stupid enough to shoot ourselves in the foot by saying that we will now accept that we will have to do all those things that we are doing together now, only we are going to pass control to other people.

Members know that I do not normally allow these SIs to go through without reminding the House of the seriousness and the stupidity of what we have done. I hope that everyone here will go home and try to explain to their grandchildren what this ridiculous series of Bills and SIs do. What we have done is to give our grandchildren less control over the future, less opportunity to change things for good, less chance to be a real power in the world, and we have done it for the least satisfactory of reasons. We have lied to people—I do not talk about this House, of course—by saying that we are taking back control. No, we are giving up control, and this SI reminds us of the seriousness, the degree and the extent of giving that control to other people.