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Amendment 19

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Report (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 3:33 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Lord Goldsmith:

Moved by Lord Goldsmith

19: After Clause 37, insert the following new Clause—“Non-regression of EU-derived rights and protectionsAfter section 16 (maintenance of environmental principles etc.) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 insert—16A Non-regression in relation to protected matters(1) Any action taken by or on behalf of a Minister of the Crown under—(a) this Act, or(b) any other enactment, for the purposes of or in connection with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU,is unlawful if it is intended to have, or in practice is reasonably likely to have, a regressive effect in relation to the protected matters.(2) A public authority exercising a function in respect of a protected matter must not exercise that function in a way that is intended to have, or is reasonably likely to have, a regressive effect.(3) Regulations may not be made under this Act if they are intended to have, or are reasonably likely to have, a regressive effect.(4) The protected matters are—(a) animal welfare,(b) biodiversity and the environment,(c) chemical safety,(d) data protection,(e) disability access,(f) employment and social rights,(g) food safety,(h) public health, and (i) transport safety.(5) For the purposes of this section an effect shall be considered regressive if it—(a) reduces a minimum technical standard or level of protection provided for in retained EU law, or(b) weakens governance processes associated with that standard or protection.””Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment prevents Ministers from using powers relating to EU withdrawal to diminish standards or protections in retained EU law relating to a series of ‘protected matters’.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Labour

My Lords, Amendment 19 is in the name of my noble friend Lady Hayter of Kentish Town. One of the key issues in our debates has been the extent to which the United Kingdom will continue to safeguard the protections of certain rights that derive from EU law. The previous Bill, and assurances by the Government, indicated that protections would remain. The Government have repeatedly stated that, while they do not intend to undercut EU regulations, they want to retain the option of divergence and will therefore now refuse to sign up to level playing field provisions in a free trade agreement. It is time to know, if we can, what that actually means and just what the Government intend.

Just last Friday, the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, told the Financial Times that Britain would never accept ongoing regulatory alignment with Brussels. Ministers are arguing that it is not necessary to sign up to minimum standards, because in most cases the UK already exceeds what is required by EU directives or regulations, but we all know that that is not true in all areas.

The Government are telling us to trust them, even though they stripped out their previous commitments on workers’ rights and parliamentary oversight. As we saw in Committee, they cannot yet define the future relationship they want with a range of the EU’s executive agencies. We have, of course, been promised a ground-breaking new employment Bill, but Ministers will not tell us what its contents will be or set the timescales. We are not certain what engagement has taken place with trade unions and, while there is a need to regulate the gig economy, we need to be certain that this will not water down protections for other workers.

Yesterday, the European Commission briefed EU 27 diplomats on its preparations for the next round of Brexit negotiations. The presentation suggested that the EU will continue to advocate level playing field measures, with future co-operation to be underpinned by a single set of strong enforcement rules. It has been suggested that if the UK breaches any of its commitments under the future trade agreement, it could be fined or lose its preferential access to certain sectors. In response to the comments made by Mr Javid last week, one EU diplomat is quoted as saying:

“In the end it is all rather simple: If Britain wants to diverge from EU rules, it will diverge. Such an approach would obviously lead to new trade hurdles between Britain and the EU and in consequence less trade, less investment, less jobs.”

The Government need to be clear about their intentions. If they want a Canada-style deal, they should be honest with the public about the limitations of that approach. If they want Canada-plus-plus-plus or similar, and the economic and security benefits that a closer relationship would bring, Ministers need to be honest with the public that this will require a greater degree of alignment.

As we know, time is tight. The EU has been clear that it will not even adopt its negotiating mandate until the UK has departed at the end of this month. There needs to be sufficient time left for the ratification of any agreements by national and regional parliaments across the continent. My party has always been clear that it wants a close economic relationship with the EU and that regulatory alignment is not only a price worth paying but would bring benefits to UK citizens. The Government might disagree but, having won the election by promising to get Brexit done, they must now get on with the job of telling people what post-Brexit Britain will actually look like. The purpose of this amendment is to set out the protections that we believe ought to be continued. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about the extent to which assurance will be given on to those protections. For those reasons, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Fox Lord Fox Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, I support this amendment and associate myself fully with the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith. As such, I can be brief.

Until last weekend, the Government had resolutely maintained a twin-track narrative. Yes, they said, we will have an independent trading policy; yes, they said, we will have frictionless trading with the European Union. Many of us in Committee tried to point out that these would, in effect, be mutually exclusive, and at the heart of this were regulatory standards. Many of us tried to explain that for frictionless trade to take place, a level playing field with the EU 27 means just that: a level playing field with no divergence. The Minister, at his obdurate best, shrugged off those Committee- stage comments.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, outlined, the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, broke cover in his interview with the Financial Times at the weekend. He quashed any prospect of the Treasury lending its support to our country’s leading manufacturing sectors. He was very clear, saying:

“There will not be alignment” and he urged companies to adjust to the new reality, for our automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, chemical and food and drink industries, all of which have been clear on the vital need for alignment with EU regulations. Mr Javid added

“we will do this by the end of the year” which is not long to wait.

Therefore, at least one member of the Government has told the truth and told us where the Government are headed. However, it is simply amazing that any Administration, never mind a Conservative one, should turn their back on these important providers of jobs and prosperity. This amendment would prevent Ministers using regulation-making powers under the Bill to diminish standards or protections related to series of protected matters. That sounds very dry and cold, but those protected matters, specified in the amendment, affect everyone. They include the environment, employment, social rights, animal welfare and public health—really important aspects of the everyday lives of people in this country.

The amendment, so ably moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, in essence sets out in writing the aspirations that the political agreement purported to set out. We now know that those aspirations have come to naught. Will the Minister tell us where the Government are headed and what will happen to standards?

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

My Lords, I lend my support to the amendment, to which I have put my name, and I will add a couple of points which have not previously been made. We are of course going over ground which we pretty thoroughly discussed yesterday with regard to Amendment 15. The ground is a bit different but the issue is the same: a level playing field, maintenance of EU standards and so on.

First—I hope the Minister will reply to this—this is not an onerous obligation because, as I think he will find if he looks at the record, we voted for every single one of these EU measures, which we will not regress from if this amendment is adopted. Therefore, if we voted for them, why do we now want to diverge from them?

Another important point is that anyone who knows anything about Brussels knows that this will be an absolutely crucial factor in the political declaration implementation—the whole level playing field issue, and so on. I would honestly wager that, if we accept this amendment, we will get a much better deal than the one we will get if we insist on diverging. It is worth remembering that the cost to this country’s trade of insisting on the right to diverge will hit us long before we diverge. It will affect the terms we get in the deal we do, and the way in which inward investors and traders assess the chances of trade between the UK and the 27 not becoming more frictional. Therefore, the costs will be up front; they will not be somewhere down the road and perhaps avoidable if we never diverge. I would not be a bit surprised that, having beaten the tom-toms in this way in favour of divergence, the Government found that diverging was not as brilliant as all that.

Thirdly, noble Lords have probably not paid a huge amount of attention to what has been going on in the internal deliberations in Brussels. One of the Commission’s main proposals in the context of its green deal, which I am sure it will follow up, is to put tariffs on goods coming from countries which do not observe the same environmental conditions as those observed in the European Union. That could be us if we diverged, as the Government, in the form of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, suggested we would. Noble Lords may or may not think that the Commission’s proposal is a good idea; I do not, on the grounds of world trade policy. What noble Lords cannot disagree with, however, is that we are not going to influence greatly what the EU 27 decide to do: they will decide on the basis of their own inward dynamic, and strong forces are pushing for that.

We may find ourselves, therefore, confronted in the not very distant future by a European Union that is putting tariffs on imports from countries that do not follow the same environmental rules as it does. That will come on top of anything we negotiate this year, because you can bet your bottom dollar that any deal we negotiate will have an escape clause that enables the European Union to adjust its treatment of trade with third countries—of which we will be one—on the basis of movement in their own policies.

There are, therefore, very serious issues at stake here. In fact, if the Government accepted this amendment it would cost nothing. I hope that they will do so—but that is a hope that may take some time to blossom.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 3:45 pm, 21st January 2020

My Lords, I support in principle, as I did in previous European Union withdrawal Bill debates, the sentiments that underlie this amendment. I ask the Minister to clarify in his summing up a point about animal welfare. Does he recall when we diverged from the rest of the European Union—I think it was in the early 1990s—by introducing a unilateral sow stall and tether ban, which we believed would pander to the animal welfare lobby and ensure overnight that the Conservatives appealed to a group that was not in the habit of voting Conservative? The outcome at that time was not what we had hoped: it was to push many of our pig producers out of business and to encourage more imports from countries such as Denmark and Poland. That was because the consumer tended to buy their meat not from local butchers but from supermarkets, on the basis of price. While it may therefore be appealing to introduce food into this country from countries that do not meet our high standards, it is highly undesirable for a number of reasons.

In this regard, will the Minister clarify the Government’s position on the introduction of a standards commission? Great progress was made in the last Parliament between the National Farmers’ Union, other farm organisations and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was generally understood that a standards commission would be introduced to ensure that our home-produced foods and farm products would not meet unfair competition. The usual examples, with which we are all too familiar, are hormone-produced beef and chlorinated chicken, but there is also poultry and other products from Brazil, Argentina and other countries. Will my noble friend confirm that the Government are minded to introduce such a standards commission before the end of December?

I do not see it on today’s list, but I understand that potential problems are looming with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which I am not familiar with, but, having attended a conference this morning, I am more familiar with than I was yesterday. The Commission is due to introduce guidelines that we will be obliged to follow, although it has not yet done so. We will not have a regulator in place immediately, although I understand that the Government are going to announce an interim regulator imminently. Will the Minister confirm what the status of this directive will be as part of retained EU law, as it has already been adopted but not yet implemented? It would be very helpful if he could outline to the House today what that will be.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, who so eloquently introduced this amendment, referred among other things to chemical safety, biodiversity, the environment, animal welfare and food safety. What is the situation regarding new chemicals that will be introduced in this country and that we would hope to export to the European market in the run-up to December this year, given that we will have an office for environmental protection fully in place only by 1 January 2021?

Photo of Lord Hendy Lord Hendy Labour

My Lords, I am no thespian, and my abilities as a scriptwriter are minimal. However, I have prepared a 60-second play to entertain your Lordships this afternoon.

Imagine the scene: a chance encounter between the Prime Minister and one of those voters from the “red wall” constituencies who lent his or her vote to the Conservatives on the basis that they would “Get Brexit done”. I thought we might stage it in the National Railway Museum in York. I have to tell noble Lords that this play is not a comedy. I am going to call my protagonist “Billy” for the sake of argument:

“Billy: The Withdrawal Bill before the election had protections for my EU workers rights, but those protections have been removed from the current Withdrawal Bill. Why?

The Prime Minister: No problem. The protections will be in an Employment Bill later this year.

Billy: Ah yes, I saw you stated in the Queen’s Speech briefing that the Employment Bill would ‘Enhance and protect workers’ rights – as the UK leaves the EU … making Britain the best place in the world to work’, and I noted that your manifesto said that you will ‘Raise standards in areas like workers’ rights’.

The Prime Minister: There you are then.

Billy: But Ministers have said that there will be no dynamic alignment, and yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer said no regulatory alignment either.

The Prime Minister: Correct.

Billy: But that means you could cut my rights: you could reduce my EU right to paid holiday from four weeks to two.

The Prime Minister: That’s not our intention, but you must understand that we can’t have our hands tied in negotiations with the EU.

Billy: Ah! Now I understand. The EU might want to cut the rights of British workers, and you want the freedom to defend them.

The Prime Minister: Not quite. The EU will be seeking to defend your rights. It’s the British Government who might need to threaten to reduce them.

Billy: But I thought, when I voted to take back control, that the British Government would stand up for British workers’ rights.

The Prime Minister: Not quite.

[Dramatic pause.]

Billy: I’ve been conned. You’ve done me up like a—[expletive deleted]—kipper.

THE END.”

Will the Government give an assurance that they will not permit workers in the United Kingdom to have fewer rights now or in the future than those of their counterparts in the EU, the US or any other country with which a free trade agreement is sought? If that assurance is given, this amendment will be unnecessary. If that assurance is not given, the Minister should not mince words and should state clearly that in these negotiations the British Government will not defend the rights of British workers.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative

My Lords, after that rather enjoyable contribution, and despite the very distinguished movers of this amendment, I find the whole thing a little bit puzzling. First, surely it is obvious that we are a responsible trading nation seeking the highest gold standards of regulation, standards and welfare and that, if we want to trade with and to expand our trade in the great markets of Asia, Africa and America as well as in our neighbours in Europe, we must rigorously observe the best international standards. That is a must. Even if we had a choice in the matter, which we do not, we would have to pursue that course.

Secondly, is it not obvious that in exporting, as we must, not only to the great European market but to all the countries of the Americas, Asia—where all the major growth in consumer markets will be over the next 10 years—Africa and Latin America, we will have to conform strictly to their standards as customers? If we are measuring the design and thickness of windscreens in motor cars, the windscreen provisions laid down in the European Common Market will have to be observed or we will not sell cars into the European Union. The same goes for America, India and China, each with its own quite different standards. We will have to be very flexible in all our patterns of standards and regulations governing health and safety, conditions, durability and all the other conformities required in these new markets. That will happen anyway.

Thirdly, the EU standards in some areas are excellent, and no doubt we will parallel and continue with them as we have before, but some are a little out of date. We are now moving into a world in which the predominant pattern of our European economies is services; we are a service economy. Frankly, job security is not what it was for anybody, so we need to redesign rights, benefits and support for millions of workers in a world where the old guarantees of a job for life and so on—the security that the great trade unions battled for in the past—will no longer be there. A totally new pattern of work has emerged, in which businesses will be operated in completely different ways. This requires a completely fresh approach to the pattern of benefits, security, protection and support; we must pioneer it in this country.

With all the variety of the markets, standards and regulations that we will have to meet—to be a successful exporter into China and so on—why we should want to be tied solely to, and aligned solely with, the pattern of our neighbours in the remains of the European Union is, frankly, a puzzle. I see the motive and concern behind it, the worry that there may be a sliding away of standards, but the reality is that we have no choice but to maintain very high standards indeed. Varied export markets demand standards of a whole variety, and there is no choice in this matter at all.

A great deal of this level playing field stuff is not driven by those concerns—of protecting workers in the new environment and new working conditions of the digital age—as it should be. I think it is driven by something else. I say to the very noble and distinguished movers of this amendment that that is something worth considering before they press it, because I do not think it fits into the modern world into which we are moving.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, the importance of this amendment cannot be overstated. At a time when the Government like to tell us repeatedly how well they are doing on employment in this country, this always overlooks the growing anxiety in the country about the conditions in which many people are working and the exploitation, sometimes quite ruthless, that goes on. There is a real anticipated anxiety that there is a driving force, wherever it is coming from—within No. 10 or wherever—behind so much of this legislation and that its real objective is about reaching a situation in which we can have a deregulated society and a free-for-all. That is the belief, the conviction, that many people believe is behind it all. That is why what is said about employment and social rights is so important in this protections list.

I care about the whole protections list but, if I were to pick one other item on it, it is that we are living in an acute and immediate crisis with the environment and biodiversity. Unless we take this seriously, the kinds of problems that will overtake our society in future could dwarf any of the preoccupations which take up so much of our time in Parliament at the moment. It is imperative to ensure that we do not just have good intentions and great aspirations but that we have the means to deliver what we are aspiring to in this context. We must insist on the standards which have so far been achieved—not as an end in themselves but as a platform from which we can move forward to still stronger, more imaginative action. I cannot say how much I welcome this amendment.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 4:00 pm, 21st January 2020

My Lords, I offer the Green group’s support for this amendment. Noble Lords will have noticed that your Lordships’ House is not quite as crowded as it was when we were debating the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. I invite your Lordships to consider all the people who are not here—the people in our supermarkets, streets, workplaces and wilderness areas. We have been talking about EU standards, but I would call them the people’s standards. These standards were won by campaigns and struggles—by people in the UK and across the EU who stood up against the lobbyists and corporate interests. They stood up against those who had so much power in deciding what kinds of standards there should be in places such as the United States of America. They stood up for something better.

The Government keep saying that they want to have higher standards than the people’s standards that we have had to fight so hard to get. I entirely accept the need for much higher standards. In this hugely nature-depleted country, each year we are collectively consuming the resources of our share of three planets—although we have only one. We are pumping out so much greenhouse gas. As the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, so eloquently outlined, we have people in really desperate workplace situations. We need better standards, but these people’s standards are a foundation.

I am sure that we will hear from the Benches opposite about the UK’s crucial place in the UN climate talks as part of COP 26 this year. If the Government do not incorporate this amendment into the withdrawal agreement Bill, what kind of message will this send about us as the chair of COP 26?

Photo of Lord Howarth of Newport Lord Howarth of Newport Labour

My Lords, this amendment proposes that we should not regress from the existing EU-derived rights and practices in relation to the protected matters specified in the amendment. I see no difficulty in principle about that. There may be much merit in it in terms of continuity of public policy and of reassuring the public that we will maintain the standards that have so far been established by the EU and continue to conform with them.

But it is surely essential that we retain the right to diverge. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, gave some very important reasons for this. The world is changing, and our country and economy need to be alert to all the changes that will provide opportunity for us in the future, as we seek our fortune in a wider world. The eurozone economy is a relatively inert and sluggish region of the global economy. While much has been achieved and very important protections have been established for workers’ rights and environmental issues, as the noble Baroness has just mentioned, and we do not want to lose that acquis—those achievements and benefits—we have got to be flexible and be able to be innovative.

The essential principle of Brexit is that we take back control of our laws. It is an entirely reasonable proposition that this Parliament should legislate to perpetuate our conformance with certain particular laws that have already been enacted. It is a very different proposition that we should commit ourselves to the proverbial level playing field and the principle of non-divergence following the end of the implementation period. That is not what is envisaged in the amendment, but it seems to have been contemplated by a number of noble Lords in their speeches. If taking back control of our laws means anything, it means that we must reserve the right to diverge. Indeed, we will need to have the right to diverge even from what has already been established and achieved when it proves in some sense obsolescent, as new reasons and new horizons emerge for the kind of changes and developments that we would seek to achieve in our economy.

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

I thank all noble Lords who took part in this debate. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, for so eloquently introducing the subject. The amendment is very much like proposed new Clause 31, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, in Committee. I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the other noble Lords who took part in the debate on that amendment as well. Noble Lords will be completely unsurprised to discover that the Government’s position on this matter remains unchanged.

The amendment fundamentally mistakes the nature of the Bill before us. The amendment is about our domestic policy post exit in a number of extremely important areas. However, by contrast, the Bill is about implementing the withdrawal agreement into domestic law. It is not about our post-exit domestic policy, important though that is. Therefore, we believe that the amendment is wholly inappropriate for this Bill. However, since the amendment has drawn us into a debate, even though it is beyond the scope and purpose of the Bill, it might be useful for me to reiterate how we will take decisions about issues such as environmental standards and other matters once we have left the EU.

As I set out in Committee, these matters were debated extensively during the passage of the 2018 EU withdrawal Act. I remember replying to that debate; I think that many of the same noble Lords who contributed today took part in that debate as well. Noble Lords will remember that, back then, the concern raised was that the Section 8 power in that Act would be used to regress from EU standards. I reiterate that the Section 8 power can be used only for the purposes of correcting deficiencies that arise as a consequence of the UK’s withdrawal. That is what we said then, and I think that our record has proven that to be the case.

The 2018 Act does not provide a power to change laws simply because the Government did not like them before exit, and the Government cannot use the powers for the purposes of rolling back standards and protections merely because we wish to do so. Instead, where we seek to depart substantively from retained EU law, separate legislation will be brought forward, as indeed it already has been in certain areas. At that point, Parliament will, as normal, have its opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s actions. This would allow for tailored and intense scrutiny. I have no doubt whatever that this House and the other place will fulfil their duties in this regard with great vigour. Once again, I reiterate our view that these debates are for that future legislation.

In any case, I can reassure noble Lords that the Government have no plans to introduce legislation that would have a regressive effect. We will not weaken protections in these areas when we leave the European Union; rather, we will maintain and enhance our already high standards.

We spoke at length in Committee about the Government’s record on the environment, chemicals, food standards and animal welfare. For the sake of clarity, I will again set out some of our commitments. First, the UK has a long and proud history with regard to the environment and it is of the utmost importance that this is maintained when we leave the EU. There are areas where we are already planning to go further than EU legislation permits, such as single-use plastics. The Government will shortly be introducing the environment Bill, which we promised during the 2018 debates. It will strengthen environmental protections and enshrine environmental principles in law.

I will take this opportunity to reply to the point made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh on the subject of sow stalls, a debate which I remember well from my time in the European Parliament. That is an example of the UK going beyond EU rules in the full knowledge of the likely consequences. We chose to go further. We may decide—I am not committing us—to go further on live animal exports and in other areas, enhancing what protections are currently provided under EU law. If we do, we should consider the consequences. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, correctly pointed out, the whole point of Brexit is to take back control. These are decisions which we can make for ourselves in this Parliament in future. We do not need an external power dictating what we do in these regards.

On employment rights, I reassure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, that we are committed to ensuring that workers’ rights are protected as the UK leaves the EU. We are legislating in areas where the EU is only just starting to catch up. It is the UK that has been shaping the agenda on tackling abuses in the gig economy, a point well made by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford. As we announced in the Queen’s Speech, we will be bringing forward legislation to continue delivering and building on the Good Work Plan. This will give workers in the UK the protections they need in a changing world of work. Much as I greatly enjoyed the entertaining vignette from the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, I remind him that in a number of these areas—including holiday pay and maternity pay—the UK already goes much further than EU minimum standards permit. That is something that we should be proud of, and it is something that we are going to build on.

I have set out the Government’s view that this amendment is not appropriate for this Bill. I have also, I hope, provided some reassurance about the Government’s intentions regarding some of the issues raised by the amendment. I will close by noting that the effect of the amendment is unclear. The proposed new clause before us makes government action with a “regressive effect” unlawful, but it leaves many of the key terms unworkably vague. It is somewhat surprising that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, does not appreciate the poor wording of the amendment. First, the failure to define “protected matters” makes the scope of the amendment unclear. Secondly, the uncertainties in the definition of a “regressive effect” would create a great deal of legal uncertainty. Perhaps he is hoping for some legal uncertainties, as they would provide more work for lawyers. That was a joke, by the way. “Regressive effect” is defined as an effect that

“reduces a minimum technical standard … or … weakens governance processes associated with that standard or protection.”

The meaning of a reduction or a weakening, in this context, is not at all straightforward. Making this regressive effect unlawful without a clear definition carries significant legal risks, and may restrict policy with a progressive design, as the Government may avoid making policy changes for fear of acting unlawfully. This could impede delivery of post-Brexit government policy intended to deliver improvements in these areas.

To give an example, the waste framework directive sets targets for preparing for reuse and recycling of waste to achieve the EU’s ambition to move to a circular economy. I think that we would all support that. The targets are set on weight, so the directive obliges member states to ensure that a minimum of 55% by weight of municipal waste is reused and recycled by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. However, weight-based targets may not lead to the optimal environmental outcome. If the UK were to remove this target and replace it with a target set on a different metric—on carbon, for example—while the UK could have improved standards, we could still be held to have regressed on environmental protections, were this amendment to become law. This kind of legal uncertainty has been decried in other debates.

This Bill is the vehicle to implement the withdrawal agreement in domestic law; it is not to legislate for our post-exit domestic policy in these areas. That is for separate debates in separate fora. We will no doubt have them with great vigour, as we do in all these policy areas. The amendment is neither necessary nor appropriate for the Bill. The Bill will ensure that we move forward and focus on our domestic priorities. Noble Lords can already scrutinise any changes that regulations might make to retained EU law under the Section 8 power. As I said earlier, and say again for the benefit of clarity, the Government are committed to maintaining and enhancing our already high standards, including through legislation where appropriate. I hope, given the reassurances I have provided, that the noble and learned Lord is able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 4:15 pm, 21st January 2020

I followed my noble friend’s arguments closely and understood him to say that Section 8 can be used only to correct deficiencies following the EU withdrawal Bill. His summing up was comprehensive, but he did not respond to the potential obvious deficiencies in the audio-visual media services directive. This may not be the only directive that falls into this category, but it is a category that I banged on about ad nauseam during the first EU withdrawal Bill and it has still not been resolved. If my noble friend is not able to answer today, could he write and tell me, and everyone else who has spoken in this debate, what the legal position is? We have not implemented the directive, but we are now leaving the European Union and it becomes part of retained law, I would argue, in a very deficient way.

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

If it becomes part of retained EU law before the end of the implementation period, it will be transferred into British law by snapshotting the procedure. I do not know the details of that directive, so I undertake to write to the noble Baroness about it.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Labour

I thank the Minister for his reply and thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, particularly those—and it is the majority—who supported this amendment. I will just clear one or two matters out the way, from what the Minister said. The first is on the scope of the Bill. There was no problem including protections of this sort in the Bill before the election. It has been revised now, but I do not follow that point.

Secondly, he sees imperfections in the Bill. I have been in government too, and we always have the ability to improve amendments that have been tabled, the substance of which we agree with, to cure that problem. That is not the reason the Government are resisting this amendment. We all know that. The Government are resisting this amendment because they do not want, despite what has been said before, to be committed to non-regression. The point is about non-regression; the clue is in the title. It is about standards being lowered. Of course, they can be improved or changed, as long as, under this amendment, they are not reduced. That is the concern. For some reason—it appears to be ideological purity—the Government are not prepared to give that guarantee.

I was taken by the vignette—the play—of my noble friend Lord Hendy. I have heard him in court before, but it was the first time I have heard him in Parliament. He was as persuasive here as he is in court. But ideological purity risks damaging this country and the people in it. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is that the Government’s insistence on this divergence has caused damage already. We have given the Government the opportunity to give assurances about this. Everyone will read what the noble Lord said in Hansard very closely. We have given them the opportunity to give stronger assurances to the outside world and the workers in it, and the invitation was not accepted. If, as many think, the result will be damage to the country and the people within it, and the rights that people believed were going to be protected, we know at whose door the fault will lie.

I will not press the amendment because there is no point in doing so with the position that the Government are in in the other place. It is clear that they will not accept this proposal or anything like it, but we will continue to hold them to their warm words and will carefully define and interpret them to see how far they go. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 19 withdrawn.

Clause 38: Parliamentary sovereignty