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Motion A

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Commons Amendments – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 22nd 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) 6:00 pm, 22nd January 2020

Well, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has enjoyed this. He has certainly given us some fun on occasions.

The purpose of this debate is to handle Commons “consideration” of Lords amendments. However, as I watched the Commons—after just 60 minutes of debate on what this House had considered with such care—eventually overturn all our five amendments, it was hard to take the word “consideration” seriously. More accurate, as I watched, tweeting as I went, was the reply that I received to one of my tweets from someone who identified themselves only as DeepblueBoy. It read, “That’s democracy for ya!” I guess that it was his way of saying—in line with No. 10’s view, I imagine—“We’ve a majority of 80, so we simply don’t need to heed the House of Lords.”

I regret that. I regret it for the four vital issues that we had raised, covering safeguarding the union with the devolution settlement, safeguarding the independence of our courts and judiciary, safeguarding EU citizens’ residency by giving them a document, and of course safeguarding vulnerable, unaccompanied refugee children. Because we take our constitutional obligation seriously, and part of that is to offer MPs the opportunity to give serious consideration to the issues that we have raised. And the issues that we had raised and sent to the Commons would not have delayed Brexit by one second, would not have affected the working of the Bill or the withdrawal agreement, and did not run counter to any Conservative election promise.

So I regret the damage done in those four areas. But I also regret it, as I think I have just heard from my noble friend Lord Howarth, for what it says about the new Government—that No. 10 has decided not to listen, whether to the devolved authorities, to experienced judges and senior officeholders, or to other experienced Members of your Lordships’ House. I will just point out—my noble friend Lord Liddle told me this; I had not done the numbers—that in all the votes that we had, the Conservatives had a larger vote than the combined votes of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Benches. So this was not a political divide; that side of the House still outnumbers us. It was, of course, with the all-important independent Peers that these results were won—an important consideration.

If this is to be the pattern of this Administration, breaking what I think are the conventions, including the recognition that in a bicameral system legislation is meant to be a dual responsibility, then I fear that we are in for an unfortunate time. Let us hope that this is a one-off as a result of the recent election and that normal service will shortly be resumed so that this House can play its full scrutiny role, secure in the understanding that all differing views will not simply be cast aside. As David Davis MP recognised in the other place, there was even a consensual way forward on the CJEU issue, crafted so carefully and expertly, as we would expect, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. It would have made sense for the Government to have swept up that solution without even having to give credit to anyone but one of their own. It was not to be, but I hope that they will now take up his new, generous and learned offer.

For now, the Government will have their way. In future, I hope that dialogue and compromise will once again be possible, perhaps even—who knows?— with the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, perhaps in a different guise.