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Amendment 11

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 14th January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour) 5:15 pm, 14th January 2020

Amendment 11 concerns a sunset clause and deals with one of the most crucial aspects of the Bill as it affects EU and UK citizens: the implementation of the guarantee that all their health, pension and benefit rights will continue after exit. It is true that there is a fixed cohort of citizens, perhaps up to 5 million EU citizens here and UK citizens abroad, who will be covered by these provisions as at the end of December. However, some of the rules and regulations will have a very long tail, affecting the access those 5 million people and their dependents will have to a range of payments and services long into the future. Ministers may well say, “It’s a fixed cohort, but these rights, and therefore the regulations affecting them, will go on a long time; that’s why we need the powers to continue to make tweaks and adapt to changing circumstances”.

There are two flaws in this argument. First, doing this by statutory instrument means that there will be inadequate scrutiny—by those representing recipients to check that their interests are being well served, and by Parliament to ensure that the original aims are being met. This is particularly the case, as we set out yesterday, given the lack of statutory parliamentary oversight of the Joint Committee, which will have oversight of the implementation of such measures and decide on any disagreements over how social security and other issues are being dealt with. We will not have proper scrutiny of the Joint Committee; if there were disagreements which could not be resolved in the Joint Committee and so went to arbitration, under this Bill Parliament would only be notified and have no say over the outcome or any changes one would want to make after it.

Our concern is that, possibly many years in the future—because this will go on into the future—Ministers could be making some pretty crucial decisions with scant reference to Parliament. At that stage, some Members of Parliament might have forgotten the original purpose of the power, so it will be even more important that it is brought to Parliament’s attention.

Secondly, as our Constitution Committee pointed out in its report this morning—this is the other flaw in the Government’s argument that they will need these powers ad infinitum—given that there will be a detailed statutory scheme in a future Bill, it is not clear why the powers in Clause 13 of this Bill are required beyond the implementation period, or perhaps a year or so afterwards, as this could be dealt with in the future detailed statutory scheme. Our Select Committee therefore asks for a better explanation of why these powers need to continue or to include a sunset clause, which, in anticipation of the report—which I had not seen—we had nevertheless tabled. Amendment 11 would include a sunset clause on these powers. I beg to move.