REPEAL BILL ALLIANCE 3RD BULLETIN

New school term

So it’s the first day back after parliamentary recess. While some MPs may be bright eyed and bushy tailed, that’s not the case for all. Indeed, anyone involved with a lead on Brexit negotiations or the  Committee stage of the Exiting the EU bill is going to have their work cut out. Late nights and strong coffee may be in order.

Obviously given the dominance of Brexit, it is not surprising that the next few weeks in Parliament are dominated by Brexit. Indeed with the notable exception of John Grogans Yorkshire Devolution debate (a subject dear to me) this week's parliamentary schedule is Brexit heavy.

Parliament may have been in recess but it hasn't stopped MPs from submitting amendments to the bill. During recesses, signed amendments may be sent in although they are not printed until the end of the recess.

That meant on Friday we were met with a flurry of new amendments emerging - there are now 100 pages of amendments - and more will appear over the course of this week.

Read the latest set of amendments here and you can keep your eyes peeled for forthcoming amendments here.

What we now need to know is exactly WHEN the Committee stage will start. Parliamentary business is announced on Thursday morning but is sorted out by the Whips on Wednesday afternoon, so if we're lucky we should be able to find out informally late Wednesday afternoon. We will provide updates on developments as and when they arise.

Smart money is that the Committee stage will start on the 23rd October although there appears nothing other than protocol for it to start next Monday 16th October. What then will also be determined is if Committee stage will be scheduled for two days a week or just one (and also which days).

Malene Bratlie, our new intern is working with Jane on alliance events, research, social media and alliance website. If anyone would like to contribute with blogs or any other resources to the Repeal Bill website, please email malene.bratlie@unlockdemocracy.org.uk

Meeting of the EU Council

Thrown into this heady mix is the Meeting of the Council of the European Union on the 19th and 20th October. This is where the EU leaders will determine how much progress has been made by the UK government on Brexit and look at a number of the most pressing issues, including migration, defence, foreign affairs and digitalisation.

The Council is the institution that defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union. It consists of the heads of state or government of member states, together with its President and the President of the Commission.

Theresa May will no doubt be considering whether she wants to start Committee stage AFTER this meeting, particularly if the UK has just been advised that not enough progress has been made on withdrawal negotiations. But at the moment, the view taken by the European Parliament at least is that the UK has not made enough progress on these talks.

Read more analysis by the FT in the article, EU highly unlikely to unlock next Brexit stage in October — Juncker (behind a paywall).

Amendments: what’s coming up

The fact that Committee stage is going to be a seat-of-the-pants affair is an understatement. As mentioned in the last bulletin, the timings are so down to the wire that it is hard to mobilise around a specific sets of amendments. The procedure is complicated and leaves little room for marshalling support for specific amendments.

The latest amendments can be read here.

The deadline for amendments for Committees of the whole House and for bills at report stage is two sitting days before the bill is to be considered. For example, by the rise of the House on Monday if the debate is to take place on a Wednesday.  

The day before the start of the Committee stage a blue marshalled amendment paper, is produced, in which the amendments are set out in the order in which they relate to the bill.  A white marshalled amendment paper is published on each day the committee sits. On the day before a committee meeting, the Chair makes the selection of amendments.

Amendments might be considered to be out of order, or might not be selected, because:

  • They were not tabled within the deadline do not make sense as currently drafted
  • They would ‘wreck’ all or part of the bill

  • They have been tabled to the wrong part of the bill

  • They are very vague are outside the ‘scope’ of the bill

  • The clause or schedule they are seeking to amend would involve expenditure not authorised by a money resolution

Selection is wholly at the discretion of the Chair and should not be questioned in debate. To ensure that debate in committee is focused and does not repeat itself, related amendments will be grouped together. The Member who tabled the first amendment in each group will be called to move their amendment, but Members who tabled ones grouped with it can speak in the subsequent debate. 

Alliance briefings in the House of Commons

The Alliance will be holding briefing sessions for MPs next Monday 16th October and Monday October 23rd in the House of Commons to advise on amendments and explain our support for a suite of amendments. A separate briefing on this will follow.

The bill, as it stands, strikes at three key components of constitutional protection for vital rights:

  • Parliamentary scrutiny - ensures that laws passed are subject to robust debate by MPs, the elected representatives of the people.
  • The courts – ensure that the government does not apply the law in a way which infringes on individual rights.

  • Institutions and agencies – ensure that individual rights and protections are realised on a day to day basis.

These constitutional protections are co-essential, so if anyone is to be effectively preserved, they must all be preserved.  The Alliance’s Bill Group has formulated a proposed strategy to back a suite of amendments that together, would ensure the Alliance’s key principles were being upheld by the bill. A separate briefing on this will follow.

Brexit and the Rule of Law

An expert working group on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the Rule of Law launched today, which is being coordinated by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and UCL’s Constitution Unit. The group has been convened to explore the implications of the bill for the rule of law. More information about the aims of the group can be read here.

A number of alliance members have representation on this group so expect feedback.

Reading list

Key highlights in Parliament this week

Highlights in the House of Commons this week can be found here

 

Malene Bratlie