You can watch my speech above, or you can read it in full here:
It is a pleasure to follow the energetic speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell). This is of course a Second Reading debate and we should properly be considering the general objectives and principles of the legislation. I think there is in fact some measure of consensus around the fact that such a Bill, or one similar to it, is required to give practical effect to our leaving the European Union. Even the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) admitted in his speech on Thursday that something like this was required, and even the House of Lords Constitution Committee accepts that something like this is necessary. It is clearly reasonable, when we have to pass 1,000 statutory instruments to effect leaving the European Union, that we do something like this Bill. I remind Opposition Members that all those 1,000 statutory instruments are votable, should they wish. The idea there is no democratic scrutiny is not accurate.
On Thursday and today, we have heard Opposition Members claim that the Bill gives unfettered power to the Executive, but it is very clear in both clauses 7 and 9 that the powers are circumscribed. Clause 7(1) states that the powers can be used only to correct a
“failure of retained EU law…or any…deficiency”.
Clause 9(1) clearly states that the powers can be used only to implement the exit agreement, an agreement on which this House will have a vote. The idea that the powers can be used across the board does not bear scrutiny.
Clauses 7(6) and 9(3) make it completely clear that a whole range of things, such as introducing new criminal laws, cannot be done under this Bill. The powers are fairly clearly circumscribed. To top that, there are sunset clauses that mean the powers are strictly time-limited, which gives further reassurance.
Clauses 7(4) and 9(2) mean that the Bill itself can be amended by regulation. If there is one little tweak we might consider, it is exempting the sunset clauses from that provision, but that is the kind of fine tuning that can quite properly happen in Committee, rather than on Second Reading.
I have heard quite a lot of extraordinary hyperbole and crocodile tears from some Opposition Members in this debate. The right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, who is not in his place, said on Thursday that he feels the Bill disenfranchises Parliament, but for the last 40 years he has been perfectly content for regulations and laws passed in Brussels by qualified majority voting, with no veto or definitive say by the UK Government, to be implemented in UK law by Orders in Council without so much as a sniff of a vote in this House. Where was his righteous indignation for the whole of the last 40 years?
The hon. Member for Holborn and Kilburn, who is in her place—[Interruption.] Sorry, Hampstead and Kilburn. I should know, having stood in that constituency in 2010. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) said the Bill is a wholesale threat to rights under EU law, but the Bill copies and pastes wholesale those rights into UK law. Any material amendment to those rights would have to be passed by a vote of this House. She specifically referenced human rights law. She obviously has not read clauses 7(6)(e) and 9(3)(d).
I have read them.
The Scottish National party is going into paroxysms of apoplexy at the merest hint that London might exercise even a smidgen of the powers currently exercised in Brussels. I have not heard a single word of protest in the two years I have been a Member about those self-same powers being exercised in Brussels. Where were the SNP’s shouts of indignation then?The hon. Lady should know, then, that the Bill expressly prohibits these powers being used in any way to interfere with human rights law. She will have seen that the Bill expressly precludes her concerns.
Everyone seems to agree that the Bill is necessary. No doubt there are points of detail that can and will be improved on, but anyone who is serious about implementing the British public’s decision should vote for Second Reading this evening.