The House of Lords concluded its 11 days of Committee stage debate on the Bill on 28 March. In total, the Lords spent over 115 hours in deliberation (with some very late sittings), and considered some 372 amendments. The final amendment was moved by Lord Adonis – perhaps appropriately, as he was one of the most active participants in the debates.
We have previously posted on Day 1, on the debates on Days 2 to 5 so far they concerned amendments relating to particular aspects of EU law or policy, and on the debates so far as they concerned certain technical aspects.
This post covers the remainder of the debates (Days 6 to 11).
Days 6 to 8 covered Clauses 9, 16 and 17, with the Lords continuing their consideration of the main powers in connection with withdrawal, regulations, and consequential and transitional provisions.
Many of the amendments debated were similar to those in Days 2 to 5, in that they in sought to preserve, on the face of the Bill, particular aspects of EU-derived law or policy, or to require the government to explain (eg by means of a report to Parliament) how equivalent provision would be made domestically after Brexit.
The following (non-exhaustive) list gives a flavour of the breadth of issues debated:
The Government’s response to all these issues was consistent (as it had been on earlier days): these matters may be of mutual benefit to the UK and EU, but remained subject to negotiation; substantial progress had been made so far, and the Government would endeavour to ensure that it made good progress in the next phase; it hoped to be able to provide more information on Report; Parliament would have a meaningful vote on any final deal; the Government was already bringing forward primary legislation in specific areas.
As the debate went on, the Lords got a little peeved. As Lord Cormack put it on Day 7:
On Day 9, the Lords considered clauses 10 and 11, which concern devolution.
The Bill currently provides, in clauses 10 and 11, that transposed EU law cannot be modified by the devolved legislatures, even if it concerns areas within the competency of the devolved administrations (eg agriculture). The Government has consistently defended this approach as necessary to protect the integrity of the UK single market, pending the development of new UK-wide frameworks. The Scottish and Welsh governments are opposed – they think such matters should be devolved, in accordance with the devolution settlements.
The Government had promised at Commons Committee stage to bring forward amendments to Clause 11 at Commons Report stage, but it failed to do so (as discussed here), as discussions with the Scottish and Welsh governments (and Northern Irish civil servants) were ongoing. The Lords had tabled a number of amendments to clauses 10 and 11.
However, the Government stole a little of their thunder by publishing on 9 March, its own Framework Analysis. That identified 153 areas of EU law which intersected with the devolved competence of the devolved administrations. Somewhat surprisingly, it concluded that, of those 153 areas, there were:
This enabled Lord Keen to say in debate that:
Based on this analysis, the Government tabled its own amendments to Clause 11 (amendment 302A etc) which, as Lord Keen explained:
Lord Keen believed that these amendments addressed the concerns of the Scottish and Welsh Governments, but acknowledged that final agreement had not yet been reached, with discussions ongoing through the Joint Ministerial Committee meetings.
As this is Committee stage, there was no vote on the Government’s amendment, and it may be further modified before being voted on at Report stage. While it may not be enough, in its current form, to satisfy all those in the devolved administrations, it does seem to us that the Government has made significant progress in this area, removing a fairly significant hurdle in the path of the Bill.
Debates on Days 10 and 11 focussed on more technical, but none the less important, matters, such as debating whether:
Report stage starts on 18 April, and the list of amendments grows daily. Even a cursory glance indicates that the long hours in Committee have not been sufficient to change the minds of many of their Lordships.
Written with Aaron Nelson