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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Lord Garnier Lord Garnier Conservative 9:00 pm, 9th November 2020

My Lords, unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, whose vigorous reasoning I respectfully reject, I will be voting to remove Clauses 42 to 47 from the Bill. I am privileged to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, my noble friend Lord Howard of Lympne and many other noble Lords from all parts of the House who have deprecated Part 5.

The noble and learned Lord, and those who have supported him so far, advanced compelling arguments that appeal both to my head and my heart. The arguments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, were precise, they were clear, they were right, they were devastating—and they left no room for contradiction. I agree with him.

At Second Reading I regretted the inclusion of Part 5 in the Bill. To repeat at length what I said then will not make any difference to the quality of my arguments, good, bad or indifferent, although I have subsequently discovered that my views were thought by some, although not all, close to the Government to be—let me say—extravagant. If that is what they think they are free to do so, although I have not usually found this Government’s closest advisers to be quite so delicate when they are offering their views. I hope I can tell the difference between a row and an argument—and I am advancing an argument.

At Second Reading, I did no more than advance some orthodox and widely accepted arguments against the inclusion of Part 5 in the Bill on rule of law grounds. I do so again. I also noted that the arguments put forward in and out of Parliament by the Government and their supporters for the inclusion of these clauses were risible and unconvincing. They still are. Like my noble and learned friend Lord Clarke of Nottingham, I am disappointed that nothing has changed. The proponents of Part 5 are beginning to look like post-revolution Bourbons.

Maintenance of the rule of law domestically and internationally by any United Kingdom Government, or breaking a treaty passed into British law, is no small thing and cannot lightly be tossed aside as though of no account or merely a matter of tactics in a negotiation. Moreover, denying the people access to the courts and independent judicial arbitration of disputes, or giving Ministers untrammelled executive power, cannot be acceptable. Part 5 does all these things. Eliding the sovereignty of Parliament with the international law obligations of the Government is both a confusion and a delusion. Passing the decision on when to break our legal obligations from the Executive to the legislature makes no difference and provides neither defence nor mitigation. I do not resile from a word I said at Second Reading.

No one in agreement with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, is so naive as not to understand the political imperatives driving this Government in relation to Part 5, although they are imperatives of their own making, flowing directly from a treaty they freely entered into and passed into UK law within the last 12 months. This has no parallel with the European example cited by my noble friend Lord Lilley, as simply explained by the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Carlile.

I also know that the author of Part 5, our modern-day Thomas Cromwell, as I implied at Second Reading, is not on the Government Front Bench in your Lordships’ House. I entirely accept that my noble friends, as Ministers bound by collective responsibility, have no discretion or room for manoeuvre in government. I, on the other hand, am fortunately free to acknowledge some different responsibilities—to the rule of law principles that guide me as a member of the Conservative Party, as a legislator, as a lawyer and as a former law officer. I cannot in conscience support these clauses; they must come out of the Bill.