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Amendment 30

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 15th January 2020.

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Lord McNicol of West Kilbride:

Moved by Lord McNicol of West Kilbride

30: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—“Publication of further legislation relating to EU exit(1) The Secretary of State must, within the period of three months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, publish draft Bills relating to the—(a) agricultural arrangements,(b) employment rights,(c) financial services legislation,(d) fisheries arrangements,(e) healthcare arrangements,(f) immigration arrangements for EU nationals,(g) monitoring and enforcement of environmental protections, and(h) trade remedies arrangements,that will be in effect in the United Kingdom after IP completion day.(2) When publishing these draft Bills, the Secretary of State must make a statement outlining the steps they will take to seek the timely passage of such legislation before IP completion day.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would require the Government to bring forward versions of the Brexit legislation published but not passed during the last two parliamentary sessions, as well as requiring Secretaries of State to outline how this legislation will be passed before the end of the implementation period.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Jones, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, for adding their names to this amendment. If passed, it would require the Government to bring forward versions of the Brexit legislation published but not passed during the last two parliamentary sessions.

During the 2017 to 2019 Session, the Government published a variety of Brexit Bills. These often stalled in the Commons due to the Prime Minister’s lack of a majority and ultimately fell when the parliamentary session ended. These pieces of legislation are listed in my Amendment 30. They covered agricultural arrangements, employment rights, financial services, healthcare arrangements, immigration arrangements for EU nationals, monitoring and enforcement of environmental protection and trade remedies arrangements. These are vital areas where businesses and the country need clarity on the future direction of travel. These Bills have not yet resurfaced and it is not clear what form they will take once they are published.

Many noble Lords from across the House—from the Government, the Opposition, the Liberal Democrats and the Cross Benches—spent many hours debating, discussing, negotiating and voting on complex details relating to these areas. For example, in relation to trade, we do not know whether the new trade Bill will include the scrutiny provision previously inserted by your Lordships’ House. We do know that the Bills are coming because they were reannounced in the Queen’s Speech, but it is not yet clear when we will see them and what their timetables will be. Amendment 30 requires the Secretary of State to outline how the legislation will be passed before the end of the implementation period.

This House has agreed to consider the Bill before us over the next few days on a truncated timetable due to the pressing need to ratify the UK-EU withdrawal agreement, and we understand that. However, I hope that the Minister can assure noble Lords that this truly is an exceptional case rather than one that sets a precedent for Bills in the year or 11 months ahead. I know that the Minister will resist this amendment, but I hope that, in doing so, he will outline approximate timetables for these Bills, including giving an indication of whether any of them will begin in your Lordships’ House.

In the past, the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has refused to be drawn into such debates, simply stating that all required legislation will be passed by the relevant deadlines. As he has been reminded several times over the last few days, the implementation period will come to an end in just 11 months’ time. Now is the time for the Government to provide more detail and instil some confidence that proper time for debate and deliberation will be given and that we will not, in this House, hear the tired old argument that dissent and debate have to be stifled to get Brexit done. These base arguments—as we have heard many times over the last three days—try to remove from this House its function as a revising body where we have often brought good sense to help ailing or deficient Bills. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 7:45 pm, 15th January 2020

Perhaps I might make a brief interjection. Following on from yesterday’s discussion on immigration, many of us were left a little uncertain as to what the Government were going to do with their new immigration system. So it is very important that we come back to the detailed legislation on immigration as quickly as possible.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Jones was absolutely delighted to sign this amendment. I know that she, before I arrived in this House, did a great deal of work on many of the Bills referred to here. Your Lordships will all remember to some degree being a student at school, university or college, and that last-minute rush to write the essay. I am afraid that we have seen far too much of that kind of operation from the Government. Under normal conditions, the timetable here in this amendment would be a huge rush, but what we are saying is, “Let’s not have an even bigger rush than this provides.” These Bills have appeared in three Queen’s Speeches; surely they are oven-ready by now and we could have them very soon. They are going to be big meals that require lots of digestion. Please let us have a timetable that is clear, so people know where they are going.

My noble friend Lady Jones asked me to mention the latest reincarnation of the Environment Bill. We need to know when the environment enforcement body will be established. We have been told that it will happen as soon as possible; surely that has to be now.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

My Lords, I am grateful to the three speakers that we have had in this debate on Amendment 30: the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and, briefly, the noble Lord, Lord Warner. I can be brief on this one. The procedures for introducing and scrutinising Bills are, of course, very well established, and those procedures are not without reason. All the Bills mentioned will be introduced with adequate time for scrutiny. To ask for so many Bills to be published in draft is unprecedented, as it is for the Government to commit to a statement on the amount of time each Bill might spend in Parliament. Let me reassure noble Lords directly, however, that this Government are committed to ensuring that all the necessary legislation is passed by the end of the implementation period.

As the noble Lord intimated in his speech, versions of the Bills covering many of the areas noted in his amendment have already been published in previous Parliaments and are publicly available for study. Others were mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. However, I am sure that the House can appreciate the tremendous amount of work being done to make sure that these Bills best achieve their policy aims. In some cases, this means that the Bills will differ slightly from the previous versions. I can assure the House that the Government are committed to proper scrutiny and that we will balance the need to have the necessary Bills in place by the end of the implementation period with adequate time for Parliament to scrutinise them.

I suspect that the noble Lord got the answer he was expecting, so I hope he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have taken part in this very short debate, and I thank the Minister for his response. The reason for launching this is that we want to secure proper time for scrutiny, debate and discussion. The Trade Bill was my first Bill in this House. My noble friend Lord Stevenson and I put a lot of time and energy into that Bill and this House made some good, sensible changes to it. It would be a shame for that to go to waste. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.