Clause 19 - Consequential provision

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 29 Tachwedd 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

We have already debated how the Bill grants Ministers sweeping powers; we now come to clause 19, which looks like it literally and explicitly allows Ministers to do anything they want. The Minister needs to explain what the Government think the powers are going to be used for, specifically in relation to EU regulations.

On the face of it, clause 19 would allow Ministers to make the case for anything at all, provided only that they consider it appropriate and in consequence of the Act. It is entirely left up to Ministers themselves to define “appropriate” and “in consequence”. I would like the Minister to give the Committee further clarification of what “appropriate” and “in consequence” really mean—or perhaps he does not yet know.

It is noteworthy that the powers include modifications to any Act of Parliament—including this legislation. The powers are so sweeping that it is difficult to understand why the Government cannot better define the powers they are giving themselves in the clause.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary)

First, I have a concern similar to the hon. Gentleman’s. It is the same concern that the SNP has expressed repeatedly throughout the progress of this Bill and many others. If the Bill does not just give any Minister the power to do whatever they like, will the Minister explain what clause 19 does not allow them to do? I always think it is interesting that when they give powers to Ministers, the Government put it into legislation that the Minister can do only what they consider appropriate. It is almost as if they do not trust their own Ministers not to do things that are considered completely inappropriate—although, having seen the actions of some Ministers over the past few years, I completely understand why they put that restriction in.

Secondly, is there a legal definition of what is actually meant by the words

“in consequence of this Act”?

If there is not, we could see regulations made under clause 19 being challenged in court, with the case hanging on whether the Minister’s decision was in consequence of this Act. A phrase as woolly as that is going to be a field day for lawyers. It is going to end up with the Government, and potentially businesses, being tied up in exactly the kind of legal uncertainty that the Government claim they are trying to get rid of by the passing the Bill. Will the Minister clarify those two points, with particular regard to the legal interpretation?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Minister for Climate)

Clause 19 establishes a power to make consequential provision. It is necessary to enable the UK Government to make appropriate provision in consequence of the Bill. That includes the ability to modify any enactment, including provisions in the Bill. The power in the clause is exercisable by a Minister of the Crown and can be used to make regulations by statutory instrument.

You might not know it from listening to the debate, Sir Gary, but the inclusion of such a power is standard practice for Bills in respect of which minor additional changes to legislation may be necessary as a consequence of the changes brought forward by the Bill. Consequential amendments to legislation may be necessary to ensure that the UK statute book continues to function effectively. It is therefore appropriate that the power be included in the Bill to enable UK Government to deal with consequential amendments—and strictly consequential amendments.

The consequential power is subject to the negative procedure. If the power is used to amend primary legislation, it will be subject to the draft affirmative procedure to ensure the sufficient level of scrutiny. It is in fact entirely appropriate and proportionate.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.