Clause 20 - Regulations: general

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

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 9:45, 29 Tachwedd 2022

I beg to move amendment 64, to clause 20, page 20, line 13, at end insert—

“(1A) A Minister of the Crown may not include in regulations under this Act any provision which is within the devolved competence of any devolved authority as defined in paragraph 2 of Schedule 2.”

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Ceidwadwyr, South West Devon

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

That schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The amendment was tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes and takes us back to a recurring theme of this Bill Committee—namely, the incursion by the UK Government into areas that are, and have been since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament more than 20 years ago, wholly devolved.

I assure Members that before today is out they will have heard a great deal more about the power grab that is happening and how the Bill and its partner, the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, are systematically undermining the devolution settlement and stripping powers from our Parliament. The amendment would simply protect the integrity of the devolution settlement by preventing a UK Minister from revoking any piece of retained EU law that currently sits within the competency of the Scottish Government, as defined in paragraph 2 of schedule 2.

The Union is hanging by a thread. The polls increasingly show a pro-independence majority, and among young voters in particular that majority is substantial and growing. We have heard lots of talk about the partnership of equals and how Scotland has an integral place in this so-called precious Union; those may be nice words and easy for politicians to say, but the problem is that fewer and fewer Scots believe it any longer. Not only have we been dragged out of the European Union in the face of an overwhelming desire to remain a member, but in the past weeks we have discovered that this is not a voluntary Union after all. We cannot decide our constitutional future without the permission of this place. Now, with this Bill, coupled with the insidious United Kingdom Internal Market Act, we have to sit and watch the powers of our Parliament being eroded and our democracy being dismantled.

I challenge the Government to prove me wrong and show the people of Scotland that this place is no threat to our Parliament and our democracy by accepting amendment 64 and allowing our Government to act according to the mandate given to them in 2007, 2011, 2016 and, again, in 2021. That mandate is to keep our regulations in lockstep with the European Union if that is what we choose to do.

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

I shall speak briefly to schedule 2. The need for the Government to act with devolved authorities when provisions are outside the devolution settlement makes a lot of sense. We are currently in a situation in Northern Ireland in which there is no Executive, the Assembly is not functioning and the Northern Ireland protocol, which is hugely affected by the Bill, is effectively broken. The schedule 2 powers will, in the end, as things stand—they do not look like they are going to change in the near future—be enacted by a UK Minister of the Crown rather than by the devolved authority, whether with or without a Minister. I note that that is made explicit. So we have a situation in which, although the Bill cannot have any impact on what happens regarding the Executive, there is a mismatch between what is happening de facto in Northern Ireland and de jure in the Bill. That creates a dichotomy, so will the Minister tell us how he thinks that will resolve itself, considering that a new Executive is nowhere in sight?

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

Following the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute, the existence of schedule 2 specifically tells us everything we need to know about the nature of what is sometimes claimed to be democracy in this place. There is an explicit assumption in the schedule that Ministers in this place have the right to directly hold to account the democratically elected national Parliaments of the United Kingdom. That is not devolution; that is colonialism. It is not democracy; it is elected dictatorship. I appreciate that what is stated in schedule 2 is simply a restatement of the assumption that has run through this place for the past 300-plus years, yet it is a false assumption. It is an assumption that ultimate sovereignty by gift of God resides with an unelected individual who then passes down that sovereignty to a semi-elected Prime Minister.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Ceidwadwyr, Bosworth

If the SNP decides to join the EU, is that not exactly what would be being joined?

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Chief Secretary) 10:00, 29 Tachwedd 2022

I think the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is not the case. The European Union is about sharing and pooling sovereignty; there is no shared or pooled sovereignty within this Union. There is absolute sovereignty exerted, in effect, by one individual. One individual was able to end the careers of 40 Conservative MPs in 2019, just because they disagreed with him. That is how powerful one individual in this place can be. No individual in the European Union would have that authority against the will of national Parliaments and national Governments. My final response to the hon. Member is that he might think it is in Scotland’s interests to leave the European Union but, with the greatest respect, it has nothing to do with him. It is—it should be—a choice for the people of Scotland—

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Ceidwadwyr, South West Devon

Actually, it is not much to do with this amendment, either. Please continue.

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

It is also for the people of Scotland to decide what restrictions are put on the actions of their national Parliament and national Government, as it is for the people of Wales and of Northern Ireland. The inclusion of the schedule is another example of the rights of those three devolved nations being usurped by a state that claims to have the absolute right of sovereignty over them—but it does not have that absolute right, and, quite soon, it is going to discover, to its cost, that it never had that right.

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

I urge the Committee to reject the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute. It would prevent UK Ministers from making provisions within the competence of any devolved authority in respect of any of the powers in the Bill. As Members will be aware, the UK Government are committed to respecting the devolution settlements and the Sewel convention. The territorial extent of the Bill is UK-wide, and it should take effect UK-wide so that the benefits of Brexit can be seized across all four nations of the UK.

Conferring the powers concurrently ensures that the UK Government are able to legislate on behalf of a devolved Government who do not intend to take a different policy position. That will ensure that the most efficient and appropriate approach to the reform of retained EU law can be taken in every situation. Because of the nature of retained EU law, the edges of where UK Government competence ends and devolved competence begins are not always absolutely clear, so it is important that UK Ministers are able to make provision in areas of devolved competence to ensure that nothing important falls between the areas of reserved and devolved competence.

When using the powers in the Bill, we will use the appropriate mechanisms, such as common frameworks, to engage with devolved Governments, enable us to take account of the wider context and allow for joined-up decision making across the UK. The idea that we are riding roughshod over the devolution settlement is incorrect.

The hon. Member for Leeds North West mentioned Northern Ireland. The powers in the Bill are concurrent partly so that we can work with the Northern Ireland Executive—when there is one—to ensure that the Northern Ireland REUL required to operate the withdrawal agreement and the NIP is preserved.

I think I have answered most of the points that were made—I hope so, anyway—so I ask the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute to consider withdrawing his amendment.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Over the course of today, I will give the Government numerous opportunities to show that they respect the devolution settlement and that they are not intent on usurping powers from our Parliament. Given their past record, I had no expectation that they would accept amendment 64, but I never wanted it to be said, in future, that they did not understand what they were doing, or that it was somehow accidental. The Minister said that it is not clear what is devolved and what is reserved. It is absolutely clear: it is in the Scotland Act 1998, which says clearly that if it is not reserved, it is devolved. We will vote against schedule 2, but I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Question put, That the schedule be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Rhif adran 14 Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill — Clause 20 - Regulations: general

Ie: 9 MPs

Na: 2 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 2.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.