Due to the very legislatively technical nature of this amendment to the Great Repeal Bill, I thought I should outline why I supported the Conservative ex Attorney General Dominic Grieve, by voting for it.
I have received literally hundreds and hundreds of supportive emails from constituents, but around 40 from those expressing concern. It is vitally important therefore that I explain why I voted as I did.
Firstly, let me be absolutely clear – this was not a vote to stop Brexit, hinder the withdrawal process or act against the best interests of our country or the Prime Minister. Whilst it is well known I voted ‘Remain,’ since the referendum, I have continuously stated that we must support the National view - the UK will be leaving the EU. I have stated this publicly on numerous occasions in the press and on my website. My vote to trigger Article 50 on 8 February earlier this year demonstrated this with total clarity.
However, as the Great Repeal Bill has begun its passage through both Houses, just as with all other Bills, it is time for Parliamentarians to scrutinise it. As with all legislation, but especially so with a Bill where we have no precedence, it must be constitutionally water-tight. We have already seen a successful legal challenge mounted by Gina Miller when this precision was lacking. As the Prime Minister now enters her second phase of negotiations and the clock ticks yet more loudly, we cannot afford for there to be stumbles of our own making along her way, due to poorly drafted legislation.
This is precisely why one of the finest legal minds in the UK, Dominic Grieve drafted amendment 7.
The Great Repeal Bill comprises a number of clauses and schedules, each relating to a part of the process to transfer all current EU law into domestic law. Amendment 7 relates specifically to Clause 9 of the Bill.
Clause 9 would seek to give the Government extraordinary powers to implement the Withdrawal Agreement, yet to be negotiated. The powers contained within the Clause would allow for the entire process of legal changes required before exit day, to be made through secondary legislation, or statutory instruments (SIs).
Earlier this year, the Government agreed Parliament should have a meaningful vote at the Second Reading of the Bill. They also acknowledged that a further statute to implement the withdrawal agreement (the "Implementation Bill") would be required. Because of this, the powers within Clause 9 are now superfluous.
As the SIs provided for under Clause 9 existed to implement an agreement that would now be approved in later legislation, i.e. the Implementation Bill, it is that Bill and not the Great Repeal Bill that should be the vehicle for the SIs.
The Conservative ex-Attorney General, Dominic Grieve’s amendment, sought to fix this flaw with Clause 9. Without it, the Bill could have been open to legal challenge further down the line, potentially derailing the whole Brexit process.
His amendment does not stop Brexit, neither does it change the date of Brexit. It does not provide a means by which MPs can reject any final deal and thereby force the Prime Minister to negotiate a new one.
Simply put, this amendment would prevent the Government utilising unclear SIs until after the future Implementation Bill has been passed i.e. until the final terms of our leaving have been agreed.
If you have not already done so, you might wish to listen to Dominic’s eloquent explanation during the debate here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/eedcd1e3-589e-47b5-91ba-281d0bebb48b?in=14:24:27
In the weeks following the tabling of his amendment, he and colleagues had hoped the Government would acknowledge the flaw he identified and either fix Clause 9 or accept his amendment.
Dominic met with the Chief Whip and the Bill team to discuss this possibility. He chased them repeatedly but sadly nothing was forthcoming and the deadline passed.
Literally two minutes from the end of the debate on Wednesday, the Minister stated that a commitment not to move the SIs in question until after the Implementation Bill was passed would be written onto the face of the Bill but as Dominic stated, this was “too little, too late” and again, did not provide the legal certainty required.
As many have pointed out, the issue of Brexit has been a divisive one since the referendum vote was announced. But claims made by some that our voting actions are ‘treacherous’ or will result in the UK’s negotiation position being ruined are personally insulting and totally wrong. This amendment unquestionably helps the Government by making the legislation water tight.
This vote is about detail and legislative security, not something the front page of the Daily Mail bothered to report. Hard working Parliamentarians, not traitors know it is absolutely critical that we get this legislation right - our country’s future depends on it.
It may come to pass that the Government tables their own version of Amendment 7 when the Bill returns to the House in the New Year at Report Stage. I wonder if the Daily Mail and others will bother to apologise then.