2ND READING OF THE REPEAL BILL
11th September was the final day of debate for second reading of the bill. The debate saw a wide range of MPs from many parties raising concerns. It was encouraging to see the main themes the alliance is focusing on highlighted frequently, that is: concerns about the lack of accountable lawmaking and parliamentary scrutiny (and implications for parliamentary sovereignty); the potential impacts on rights and standards; and impact on devolution.
A selection of choice quotes:
Vicky Ford (Conservative, Chelmsford):
“We cannot just cut and paste… policy decisions are needed, and they could affect real jobs. The companies concerned want to be consulted, as will regulators in other countries, and such decisions deserve proper scrutiny.”
Heidi Alexander (Labour, Lewisham East)
“I am definitely not prepared to legislate to exclude myself and, for that matter, every other Member of the House from having our say on behalf of our constituents.”
Antoinette Sandbach (Conservative, Eddisbury):
“The crux of the leave vote was about taking back control, but I agree with many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House that it was about taking back control into this House and this Parliament, not transferring extensive powers to Ministers. The Bill in its current form, particularly clause 7, is an unacceptable attempt by the Government to demean the role of Parliament.”
Hansard Society's sift and scrutiny model got a lot of mentions, and it looks like Dominic Grieve may be proposing this is implemented via amendments - see amendment 34 on page 36 in the collated list of amendments that have been submitted so far. Hansard Society recently published ‘Taking Back Control for Brexit and Beyond’ which contains their full recommendations for a redesign of the scrutiny system of delegated legislation.
The impact of the bill on the unique devolution settlements of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was also a key point of discussion. The Alliance Coordinator Jane Thomas blogged about the impact of the bill on Northern Ireland with some thoughts following my trip to Belfast to meet with civil society organisations to discuss the alliance.
If you haven’t already seen it, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published an interim report on the bill. Professor Mark Elliott and Stephen Tierney of Public Law for Everyone wrote an analysis of the report which is an insightful read.
The vote breakdown
The bill moved forward with a majority of 36 - so 326 votes to 290 - with seven Labour MPs defying the whip to vote with the government and a further six abstaining. The rebels were Ronnie Campbell, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner, and Graham Stringer. No Conservative ‘Remain’ MPs rebelled against the government.
Despite rebelling, Caroline Flint speaking after the vote called on the government to be open to sensible amendments: “The Henry VIII powers, protecting rights and redress; guaranteeing parliamentary oversight – these issues can all be resolved. The government has to avoid a bunker mentality and seek cross-party agreement. I see no other viable way forward.” In an oped for the Yorkshire Post published today Flint struck a similar tone, suggesting a few areas where the government could make concessions.
It was notable that many Conservative MPs who voted with the government did raise concerns about the bill, and pegged their support for the bill at second reading on the condition it would be amended at committee stage.