Clause 9 - Incompatibility orders

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 24 Tachwedd 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:00, 24 Tachwedd 2022

I beg to move amendment 80, in clause 9, page 10, line 36, at end insert—

“(4A) Within 28 days of the making of an incompatibility order, a Minister of the Crown must, by written statement, set out the Government’s view on the incompatibility. The statement must include consideration of the impact the incompatibility order has on rights of and protections for consumers, workers, and businesses, and protections of the environment and animal welfare, and whether the Government intends to produce regulations to revoke, amend or clarify the law in light of the order.”

This amendment requires ministers to set out, through a ministerial statement, their position on an incompatibility order that includes a consideration of the impact it will have on the rights of people.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Llafur, Knowsley

With this it will be convenient to consider clause stand part.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The amendment would require Ministers to report to Parliament with a written statement in the event that a court made an order to declare that EU law and domestic law are incompatible. As we explained in relation to previous amendments, the Bill could impact on many fundamental rights of citizens in multiple areas of daily life. It could also interfere with important existing environmental protections, which I have explained at length in previous amendments.

The clause might have the effect of a court setting aside laws that guarantee such rights and protections, without giving Parliament any opportunity to ensure they can continue in place. In the interests of transparency and proper scrutiny, the amendment is designed to ensure that Parliament is alerted if that happens, enabling us to scrutinise the court decision and to consider whether we should exercise our rights to legislate to ensure that there is no confusion about Parliament’s intentions. It is not my intention to press this amendment to a vote, but I would like the Minister to explain how we can ensure proper scrutiny when such clashes inevitably occur.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The clause gives the judiciary powers in connection with the ending of the supremacy of EU law. It requires a court or tribunal to issue an incompatibility order where retained direct EU legislation cannot be read consistently with other pieces of domestic legislation. It gives the judiciary broad discretion to adapt the order to the case before it. That includes granting remedies to the effect of the incompatibility.

Courts generally have wide discretion to grant remedies that they may grant in a given case, and the clause is consistent with that principle. Where the court considers it relevant, the order could set out the effect of the incompatible provision in that particular case, delay the coming into force of the order, or remove or limit the effect of the operation of the relevant provision in other ways before the incompatibility order comes into force.

The clause is a matter of judicial process. It grants powers to the courts but does not change any rights or protections in and of themselves, which is a matter for Parliament in the scrutiny of this Bill. We do not need to create a new scrutiny process for incompatibility orders. A process of “declaration of incompatibility”, similar to that set out in clause 9, exists under the Human Rights Act 1998, and no new scrutiny procedure, such as the one proposed by this amendment, has been deemed necessary. Similar court orders could also be made under the European Communities Act 1972, where conflicts arose—again, with no such scrutiny procedure.

Once again, the hon. Member for Leeds North West raised environmental regulations. To repeat myself, we will not weaken environmental protections. The UK is a world leader in environmental protection and, in reviewing our retained EU law, we want to ensure that environmental law is fit for purpose and able to drive improved environmental outcomes. We are committed to delivering our legally binding target of halting nature’s decline by 2030. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I take on board what the Minister says, although that last comment on the environment is slightly galling considering that on 31 October the Government were meant to bring forward, under their own domestic post-Brexit legislation—the Environment Act 2021—targets on a whole range of areas, including air quality and water quality. It is now 24 November and we still have no targets. If I am a little concerned about the Government’s performance here, she should not be surprised, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.