Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 8:30 pm, 21st January 2020

My Lords, in moving this Motion, I hope that the House will forgive me if I say a few words. I am delighted to say that we are now in the final stretch of our withdrawal from the European Union. Over the past days and weeks, your Lordships have debated the merits of the Bill and I thank the vast majority who have engaged so constructively in this process. It is a testament to the importance of what we do and the experience and expertise that noble Lords have to offer.

I particularly thank my colleagues on the Front Bench—in particular, the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip for their unstinting support, generally—and I thank all my ministerial colleagues. Perhaps I may be impolite and single out two in particular who have done a sterling job: my noble and learned friend Lord Keen and my noble friend Lady Williams, whose support, guidance and efforts in this House have been unstinting. Many other colleagues have helped as well.

I also pay tribute to my opposition counterparts, the two formidable noble Baronesses, Lady Ludford and Lady Hayter. They have worked so hard and kept us on our toes throughout the Bill’s progress.

I also note in particular the valuable work of the Select Committees of this House, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. As I noted during my Second Reading speech, their scrutiny and insight are most valuable, and their ability to report on the Bill so quickly in order to aid debate is to be commended.

Finally, I pay tribute to those working in my private office—to Bianca Russo and Joe Moore, who have generally exceeded all their hours, even in excess of what the working time directive would permit them to do. I pay tribute, too, to officials across government who have worked tirelessly on the Bill for many months and years, particularly the Bill managers, Oliver Ilott and Hugo Gillibrand. Personally, I particularly thank the government lawyers who have patiently briefed me on everything from glossing, which apparently has nothing to do with paint, to consequential amendments and all the legal technicalities in between.

I would like to take a moment to note that we are disappointed that the devolved legislatures have not consented to those parts of the Bill for which we sought their consent. I want to be clear that the Government recognise the significance of proceeding with the Bill without the consent of those legislatures. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in exceptional circumstances. The Bill must proceed so that we can deliver on the referendum result and leave the EU at the end of the month with a deal in place. However, I want to make it clear that we will continue to uphold and abide by the spirit of the Sewel convention. As I made clear earlier today, I look forward to continuing to work with the devolved Administrations and the legislatures on future legislation.

Tomorrow the other place will consider the amendments made in our House. It is, of course, your Lordships’ right and duty to rigorously scrutinise legislation, to hold the Government to account and, if necessary, to ask the other place to think again when noble Lords believe that is appropriate. However, I take this opportunity to remind noble Lords that we received a clear message from the elected House on 9 January. We have had important debates, noble Lords have made their views known and we must now see what the elected House thinks of those amendments. All noble Lords must bear this in mind that, as we prepare to leave the EU on 31 January, and deliver the Brexit that the people voted for. I beg to move.