United Kingdom Internal Market Bill - Committee (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative 6:15 pm, 9th November 2020

My Lords, I am humbled to follow so many powerful, erudite, emotional and persuasive speeches. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, presented the case brilliantly. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Hain, my noble friends Lord Howard and Lord Cormack, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and so many others across the Committee, have outlined why it is essential that your Lordships’ House removes each and every clause of Part 5 of the Bill. We cannot allow the Government to rewrite an international agreement to suit ourselves, and to undermine the very foundation of our democracy, which is based on the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty.

I am proud to sit in your Lordships’ House, and to have grown up in this country, which I have always considered a beacon of respect for the rule of law, for upholding international law, and for honesty and moral standards of behaviour, but I too join my noble friend Lord Howard in opposing the Bill, and agree with him that this is not about whether one was for Brexit or remain. It is much more important even than that.

I join my noble friend Lord Howard and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in paying tribute to the exceptional and irreplaceable noble Lord, Rabbi Lord Sacks, a friend and inspiration to me for years, as well as to so many others. I urge my noble friends on the Front Bench to recognise that this Bill is not just unlawful but unethical, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds pointed out, and, I believe, immoral. In his last book, Morality, the noble Lord, Rabbi Lord Sacks, warned of the breakdown of society and its impact if societies become insular and ignore the international partnerships and respect on which civilisation has been based. As he observed, removing the moral matrix of civil society leads eventually to the death of freedom, in the name of freedom.

As referred to by other noble Lords, Europe, let alone other continents, has had more than its fair share of regimes that have overridden international law and disrespected ethical principles and norms of decent behaviour in pursuit of nationalistic goals. I never believed that Britain could be among them. Tonight is the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, which saw an authoritarian regime that had seized unfettered powers override its courts and civilised norms; it ended up wiping out millions of people, including most of my parents’ families. Since those dark years, however, our recognition of the importance of co-operation and the rule of law have helped promote peace across our continent.

I put it to your Lordships that, as my noble friend Lord Cormack, said, it is our duty to oppose all the clauses of Part 5 of this Bill to protect the rule of law and ensure that the balance of power and peace in our United Kingdom are not overridden by a group of the Executive in the name of national sovereignty. If this House does not oppose Part 5 of the Bill, what is it for? The Government and the other place must think again.