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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill requires amendment to reconcile ‘wide-ranging and interlocking' concerns

Date:8 SEP 2017
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The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is drafted in such a way that it makes parliamentary scrutiny very difficult and will therefore require amendment, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution has  concluded. In an interim report on the Bill, the Select Committee highlights a number of ‘wide-ranging and interlocking constitutional concerns’, including for the rule of law and the existing devolution settlement and recommends in addition to amendment that powers granted to Ministers under the Bill be used only to make necessary technical changes rather than policy decisions.

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The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution has issued a report on the Bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Commons, the ‘political, legal and constitutional significance’ of which it says is unparalleled.

Lack of parliamentary scrutiny raises ‘wide-ranging and interlocking constitutional concerns’

The report concludes that the executive powers contained in the Bill are unprecedented and raise ‘wide-ranging and interlocking constitutional concerns’, particularly around the separation of powers between Parliament and the government.

As such the report makes a number of recommendations for amending the Bill:

  • ensure legal certainty – the Bill has fundamental implications from a Rule of Law perspective and should be reconstructed in a way that is clear so that individuals and organisations know exactly what the law is post-Brexit;

  • refrain from using the Bill to implement policy decisions – powers granted to Ministers by the Bill should only be used to implement technical change, not policy decisions; and

  • delegated powers should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny – Parliamentary procedures must ensure delegated legislation which contains significant policy decisions is subject to scrutiny.

Bill has ‘profound consequences’ for devolution

In the interim report, the Committee points out that while the legislative consent of the devolved institutions may not be legally required, carrying on with the Bill without it would be potentially damaging and has ‘profound consequences’ for the devolution settlement.

The Committee will review the constitutional implications of the Bill for the devolution settlement as a whole in a forthcoming inquiry.