Common Fisheries Policy and Animals (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

– in the House of Lords at 3:44 pm on 4th November 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Lord Gardiner of Kimble:

Moved by Lord Gardiner of Kimble

That the Regulations laid before the House on 7 October be approved.

Relevant document: 2nd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Considered in Grand Committee on 30 October.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

I have a question for the Minister in relation to this, whether or not it came up in the Grand Committee. How will this be dealt with in the period now? We are dissolving tomorrow. Is this the final approval of it? How will it be affected by whether the proposals put forward by the various parties go ahead—if the Conservative Party were to win the election, if the Labour Party were to win, or if, as Ms Swinson keeps telling us, the Liberal Democrats were to win and we were to have an immediate revocation of Article 50? What would be the effect on these and the other, similar regulations?

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

If the noble Lord had joined us in the Moses Room, he would have understood that these regulations are to ensure that our statute book is up to date on leaving. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, was in the Moses Room. This instrument was to ensure that a number of changes coming from the EU are incorporated. Our purpose is to ensure that we have the most up-to-date statute book, and we are using the opportunity of every scenario. The noble Baroness and other Members of your Lordships’ House have been engaged in considering these statutory instruments precisely to ensure—in this case on common fisheries, but also on animals and transportation—that any changes that had taken place up to the current time from the EU, the Commission, were incorporated. That was the matter at hand.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

I apologise for not having been able to be there in October. I was looking after the interests of the Minister and other Members of this House at the meeting of the Council for Democratic Elections in Venice. As it happens, we were discussing very interesting things such as foreign interference in our elections—the kind of matter we were talking about in the PNQ earlier. I can tell noble Lords from that meeting in Venice that there is increasing concern about foreign—not just Russian, but particularly Russian —interference in our elections. That is why I was not here; we cannot be in two places at once.

I do not think the Minister has answered the question about how we are going to deal with a plethora of regulations—and there is a plethora; I am not sure what the latest figure is for how many hundreds of regulations we have considered—in the three different scenarios. I understand that the Government’s proposal is to leave the European Union one way or another—do or die, in a ditch, or whatever—by the end of January; I think that is the latest date. A Labour Government will look again at renegotiation and put it back to the people. If the Liberal Democrats were to win the election, Ms Swinson were to become Prime Minister and Article 50 were to be revoked, what happens to these regulations? How do we deal with them? What are the prospects for further consideration when we come back?

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Speaking on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, obviously I hope there will be the return of a Conservative Government, but the noble Lord is absolutely right that all sorts of different scenarios are possible. Our task with this statutory instrument was to have reassurance on our statute book and certainty that, whenever we left, the statute book was complete with everything that the European Commission and the Union had changed.

As much as I would enjoy having a discussion about would happen if the noble Lord’s party or the Liberal Democrats win the general election, all I can say is that we did a useful piece of work in the Moses Room to ensure that the correct statutory instruments were in place. The changes were all technical and on operability points, so there are no policy changes at all. It has the consent of the devolved Administrations. They are technical, but they went through all the required prisms.

Unless your Lordships wish it, I do not think there is a great deal of purpose in discussing the “might be” scenarios of what will come out of the general election. The truth is that none of us has a vote. It will be for the electorate to decide what they want in taking the matter forward. I am delighted that this statutory instrument has had this embellishment, because it is a very technical instrument, which we dealt with in the Moses Room. All I can say is that, yes, the result of the general election will have an impact on all these matters and legislation, and on the Queen’s Speech for the new Parliament.

This afternoon, I cannot gaze into a crystal ball to help the noble Lord. All I know is that, if there is a return of the Conservative Government, we have a deal and we will put it to Parliament. All the legislation discussed earlier will come forward, so we will have proper oversight. Most importantly, the discussions that we had on, I have to say, probably over 180 statutory instruments in the Defra family, were precisely so that we had certainty about keeping up with up-to-date changes from the EU—and yes, we made one or two amendments because of typographical errors and so on, which I always regret.

I think that is where I have to leave it. The noble Lord is going into a much wider political discussion about what will happen to the statute book after a general election. The electorate might help us with that.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

I have just one further point to raise. I thank the Minister; as always, he is really helpful. He is a Minister who knows his brief extremely well and answers questions. As he pointed out, none of us has a vote in the upcoming election—something that, by the way, needs to be sorted as quickly as possible. It cannot be done by the next election, but it had better be done by the one after that.

The Minister has very helpfully answered a question for me: there were 180 instruments from Defra alone, and hundreds more from all the other departments. The cost of these hundreds and hundreds of regulations —using the time of these wonderful civil servants and everyone else involved, and our own time—has to be added to the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on “Get Ready for Brexit: a total waste of money preparing for 31 October—“do or die”, “die in a ditch”, or whatever other phrases were used by the Prime Minister. Hundreds of millions of pounds was spent hiring ferries, twice; once from a ferry company that did not have any ferries and, more recently, very cleverly, from a ferry company that did have ferries. But now they have to be paid, and we do not need the ferries any more. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted by the Government. That is the legacy we face.

The sooner that the British people realise what the Tories are up to, the more likely it is that—with no disrespect to the Minister, who I praised earlier as being an exceptional Minister—this will be, if not his last, his second-last day at the government Dispatch Box.

Motion agreed.