Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Amendment 11

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 14th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice) 6:15 pm, 14th January 2020

I am obliged to all noble Lords who have contributed. Like many noble Lords who have already spoken, I am conscious of the sensitivities that surround the devolved settlement that could impinge upon its success in the future.

Let us be clear: Clause 15 is essential to implement our international legal obligation under the withdrawal agreement and under the EEA-EFTA separation agreement, which requires that we establish an independent monitoring authority. I hope that it also demonstrates our commitment to protecting the rights of those citizens covered by the agreements. Therefore, it is necessary for Clause 15 to stand part of the Bill.

Of course, the IMA will offer an important layer of additional protection over and above the wide range of complaint and appeal routes that already exist for EU citizens in the United Kingdom. However, expanding the IMA scope through Amendment 57—as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—would, I fear, divert the body’s resources from its important role monitoring citizens’ rights and obligations. Therefore, I would resist such an amendment. It also risks creating unhelpful duplication, with all the confusion and wasted resources that could accompany that, so I invite the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, to withdraw that amendment.

The withdrawal agreement requires that the IMA be established by the end of the implementation period; that is the goal. The appointment of an interim chief executive to the IMA—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—is considered vital to meeting that deadline, as it will be essential from the point of view of staffing and procurement decisions that will need to be taken in advance of that date. Indeed, there have been other examples of interim chief executives being appointed to such bodies in order that suitable preparation can be made for them to be up and running at the appropriate time. Removing that provision through Amendment 47 would jeopardise the timely establishment of the IMA, and risk putting us in breach of our international law obligations. I hope that I have explained the rationale for that approach.

In order to give full and proper effect to our obligations in international law, we have designed the IMA to be robust and independent, in line with the best practice for the establishment of new public bodies. While I understand the intention behind a number of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, which he perceives as strengthening the independence and robustness of the IMA, I hope I can assure him that they are unnecessary. I appreciate that they are essentially probing amendments in order that we can explain the position.