European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: 7th September 2017

Anna Soubry
Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Davis
I will give way in one second to my right hon. Friend.

We have already committed to bringing forward a motion on the final agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded. That vote is in addition to Parliament’s scrutiny of any statutory instruments that we propose under these powers. It is also in addition to the enormous amount of debate and scrutiny that will be applied to the primary legislation, which will cover each and every major policy change relating to our exit from the European Union. Parliament will therefore be fully involved in taking forward a withdrawal agreement.

Anna Soubry
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way.

“One of the most offensive kinds of provision that appear in our domestic legislation is the Henry VIII clause, as we call it.”—[Official Report, 16 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 179WH.]

Those are not my words, but the very wise ones of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) in 2013. Long-standing, real concerns about statutory instruments have been expressed for many years by Members on the Government Benches.

To allay those concerns, will the Secretary of State look at what is called the triaging of the proposed statutory instruments? Many thousands of them will be completely uncontroversial and could be dealt with very quickly and efficiently, but those that really must be considered fully in this Chamber—in this place—could be so considered if we had triaging. Will my right hon. Friend please agree to look at that principle? It will solve many of the difficulties with the Bill across all these Benches.

Mr Davis
I thank my right hon. Friend for her suggestion. There will not be many thousands of statutory instruments, but between 800 and 1,000. The estimate has come down from several thousand because we have taken out much of the most serious legislation to put into other primary legislation. I will happily talk to her about mechanisms for making sure this is a fully democratic and open process. I will talk to her about it, and let us come back to that.

Anna Soubry
In the Bill.

Mr Davis
Well, I will talk to her about it during the Bill process, and about possibly changing—

Anna Soubry
rose—

 

 

 

Anna Soubry
rose—

Keir Starmer
I will give way to both the Members who have been trying to intervene.

Anna Soubry
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman believe that under clause 9, what is being called “the divorce bill”—the amount of money that we may have to pay to the European Union when we leave—could be agreed by a Minister, or by the Government, without this place having any say in the amount that was paid?

Keir Starmer
If it did not come under clause 9, it would certainly come under clause 17.

 

 

 

 

Anna Soubry
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the existing Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments could be that very body to do this exact work of triaging and sifting?
 
Hilary Benn
That would be one possibility. I hope that the Government will listen to all these suggestions and come forward with a proposal. I welcome what the Secretary of State said in response to my point about the relationship between Parliament voting on the withdrawal agreement and the exercise of the powers under clause 9. He was kind enough to say it was a logical point, so will he reflect on putting it in the Bill.

 

 

 

 

Anna Soubry
Will my right hon. Friend advise ardent leavers, possibly those on the Government Benches, that there is a real danger that the amount of money that might be paid to the European Union by way of what we call this divorce bill could be decided by the Government without report or redress in this place by virtue of clause 9?

Nicky Morgan
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. She is absolutely right. As a former EU budget Minister, I can say that money will be paid to the European Union, and I disagree fundamentally with the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). As one of our MEPs, Dan Hannan, said, this country pays what it owes. We have made financial commitments to the European Union until 2020, and we should pay what we owe. As the Secretary of State has said previously, we may well even decide to pay more towards some elements in order to have access to them, in particular Horizon 2020 and so on.​

 

 

 

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), but let me also say how much I agree with so many of the comments in Conservative Members’ speeches about the folly of the Opposition’s decision to oppose the Bill at this stage. Opposition Members will vote against it without seeing that it actually has to be done. They say it has to be done, and indeed, it does have to be done: we must transfer all the regulations, directives, laws and so on. There are, as we all agree, many faults in the Bill, but Opposition Members will be letting down many of the people in their own constituencies who voted leave, and who will see this for the playing politics that it undoubtedly is.

I fully endorse and totally adopt all the contents of the speeches of my right hon. and learned Friends the Members for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) and for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and my right hon. Friends the Members for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) and for Newbury (Richard Benyon). I very much note the outbreak of unity on the Government Benches, and indeed across the House as well. There have been some excellent speeches, and some very good points have been made by right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches. Notably, I have also taken into account the wise words of my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) and for Clwyd West (Mr Jones).

There is growing concern about the Bill, and my biggest concern is the power grab, as I would put it, by Ministers—the transfer of powers to Ministers with very little, if any, influence for debate in the Chamber and decision making in this place.

Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Anna Soubry
I will in a moment.

I want to thank my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, who have clearly already listened to the many concerns expressed by Government Members. I and others will be having a meeting with the Prime Minister, and I look forward to that. I also look forward, in due course, to some serious Government amendments being tabled, or perhaps the ​adoption of amendments that will no doubt be tabled by right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Benches.

As the House will know, I share the real concerns about clause 9. Frankly, I think it should simply be withdrawn. Clause 17 is certainly open, if not to withdrawal, at least to some serious, considerable and fundamental amendments. I am concerned about the delegated legislation for the reasons I have outlined in interventions and for those given in other Members’ excellent speeches. As I have said, I think we can find other mechanisms for delivering the delegated legislation while making sure that we scrutinise it properly. We have existing Committees that we can either strengthen or increase in size so that we can filter consideration out through so-called triaging. That is probably an appalling abuse of the word, but we all know what it means. It is a good idea, and it is gaining much support among Government Members as well as Opposition Members.

May I just say something that I think needs to be said? I say this to all the perfectly reasonable and sensible people, not just those in my constituency of Broxtowe, but the many millions throughout this country who voted leave on 23 June 2016. If anybody tells you that people like me are doing everything we can—in scrutinising legislation, tabling amendments and perhaps even voting for them—to thwart the will of the people, they are telling you lies. I am not going to put up with it any longer, because this needs to be said. We are leaving the EU. Even my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe accepts that we are leaving the EU. Some of us voted for doing that by triggering article 50, flying in the face of everything we have ever believed in, because we promised our electors that we would honour the result, and that is what we are going to do.

I would say to the millions who voted leave: you should not just question the motives of those who tell you that people like me want to thwart your decision, but look at the other things they promised you before 23 June 2016. They told you it would be this great opportunity to get rid of all the rules and regulations, the miles of red tape and all the things that were strangling British business and the economy, but we are going to take those very same things and place them lock, stock and barrel into substantive British law. They told you that you would get an extra £350 million for the NHS, and you will not. They told you that you would take back control, but if this Bill is not amended, you can forget that, because the people will not be taking back control in this place, but giving it to Ministers. That may not just be a Conservative Government; it could—God forbid—be a Labour Government led by the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). Finally, they told you it would all be so easy, and as you now know, it is not just challenging but a blooming nightmare. However, we will do our best to deliver it, and if it all goes wrong, do not forget that we will be here to clear up the mess, and do not forget who misled you and told you lies before 23 June 2016.