Why on earth does Henry the Eighth keep getting mentioned in relation to us leaving the European Union you may well ask. Well, it is all to do with the fact that the Great Repeal Bill which will Transfer the body of EU law into UK law will contain clauses which will allow amendment of these laws by delegated legislation rather than using a full act of Parliament. This is an entirely normal Parliamentary procedure and is used all the time. Just to give one example changes to benefits are often done by Statutory Instrument.
Although they are described as Henry VIII clauses what he did was to try and govern by simple Royal Proclamation. I have heard it described several times that the government are planning to change legislation without a vote in Parliament. This is simply not the case. Depending on the exact procedure used and just to make it more complicated there is more than one) the delegated legislation is debated and voted on in Committee and then the House of Commons as a whole can vote on it if it wishes when it comes before the House for approval.
Very few are voted on. By their very nature they are invariably technical in nature and are not contentious. Considering the amount of EU legislation it is inconceivable that delegated legislation will not be used.
It is worth noting that those who are complaining about the use of these so called Henry VIII powers never seemed to mind when we were obliged to carry out EU directives and regulations which were sent to us by Brussels and there was nothing Parliament could do at all. Fortunately, in two years time we will once more be genuinely be in charge of all our laws.
After the historic triggering of Article 50 yesterday today sees the publication of the White Paper which is being published ahead of what is being referred to as the Great Repeal Bill. The great repeal will be of the European Communities Act 1972 which gives precedence to European Union laws and was passed by Parliament ahead of our joining what was then the European Economic Community. Apart from that the Bill will really be the Great Continuity Bill as its other purpose will be to ensure existing laws continue to have effect on the day we leave the European Union.
Yesterday the Prime Minister did a marathon stint at the despatch box answering question for over three and a quarter hours. We later dealt with the business on the Pensions Schemes bill which we had to abandon last week when the terrorist attack occurred.
For some achieving Brexit has been a life’s work for these and others for whom the battle has been just a few years today is a day they perhaps never thought would arrive. For some today is a day they will have hoped would never arrive. But is has. After over nine months since the referendum result the UK will today give notice we are going to leave the European Union. After years chairing the Better Off Out group until the referendum it goes without saying I am pleased we are finally triggering Article 50 and in two years time we will be free from the control of the European Union.
I am pleased but I am also very conscious of the huge task which lies ahead. There is much negotiation for the government to do. there are many deals to be done. I am confident our European neighbours will realise that a good deal for the UK will be a good deal for the EU. I want to see the EU succeed even without us. sometimes they might do better than us sometimes we might do better than the EU. What matters is that it is in our joint interest for both the EU and the UK to be successful. I hope our departure will finally convince the leadership of the EU of the need for real change and move towards a much looser grouping. Unfortunately the existence of the single currency makes this very difficult and I suspect that the more likely future development will be a coming together of all the Countries who use the Euro.
In the months and years ahead there will be inevitably be many twists and turns millions more words will be written about the Brexit process. Today, is a day for quiet resolve to make a success of our future as we plan to once more become an independent sovereign nation.
The United Kingdom Independence Party have had a difficult time of late. At the last general election they lost 50% of their Members of Parliament and failed to make a single gain anywhere – despite all the forecasts and speculation. The delivery of the Conservatives manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union and respect the result has somewhat dinted their ‘Unique Selling Point’. With the departure of the UK from the EU it is difficult for them to identify their USP now.
Then there is the problem of the leadership. Regardless of ones view of Nigel Farage few would doubt that he is a charismatic character and was the one person who the general public could be able to name as a UKIP politician. Since his most recent departure the leadership has been a problem. The election of Diane Evans lasted longer than her leadership. Her replacement Paul Nuttall (no relation) failed despite being leader in his bid to gain a seat in Parliament. One of their chief funders Aaron Banks has quit to form a new political party of his own and now a new loss. Their sole MP Douglas Carswell the MP for Clacton has resigned and has said he will sit as an independent. It is difficult to see how they are going to break out of this downward spiral.
Talk of an early general election has been swirling around Westminster for some weeks now but the PM’s spokesman appeared to rule one out yesterday To be fair the Prime Minister has always said she intends to continue with the mandate given to the Conservatives less than two years ago and carry out the remaining pledges which were in the manifesto. Whilst the delivery of the manifesto is the main object of every government the government of Theresa May has of course another task the delivery of Brexit – respecting the outcome of the referendum on our membership of the European Union. It was announced yesterday that the official notification under Article 50 will be given a week tomorrow on March 29th. Meeting the PM’s longstanding promised deadline of the end of March. B-day – Brexit day – March 29th.
Yesterday the Prisons and Courts Bill was given an unopposed Second Reading and will now proceed to be considered in detail in a Public Bill Committee. Today, the main business is the remaining stages of the Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill. I chaired the Committee stage of this Bill which reforms the law of unjustified or groundless threats as it applies to patents, trademarks and designs. Threats to sue for infringement are unjustified where they are made in respect of an invalid right or where there has been no infringement.
Yesterday the Commons reversed the amendments inserted into the Brexit Bill relating to the rights of European Union citizens and having a ‘meaningful vote’ before any final deal is concluded by majorities of 48 and 45 respectively. Larger than when these matters where considered the first time around and much larger than the government’s notional majority. The Bill was then taken straight back to the Lords where by very large majorities they failed to impose any new amendments to the Bill and so the Bill was passed by the House of Lords in exactly the same form as it was passed by the Commons which is what is required before a Bill can go for Royal Assent. Royal Assent is likely to be given very shortly possibly as early as today. This will then clear the way for the Prime Minister to give the two year notice to the European Union under Article 50 of decision to leave before her self imposed deadline of 31st March. We are on track.
Today we reach the final stages of the legislative process on the crucial bill required for the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 and give the European Union two years notice of the fact that we will be leaving. The two amendments which have been made to the Bill by the House of Lords are scheduled to be voted on by the Commons and if they are overturned then the Bill goes back to the Lords to see if they will accept it as we originally sent it. This is often referred to as ‘ping-pong’ as Bills can pass backwards and forwards until one House gives way. As the democratically elected House – and in this case with the backing of the referendum result too – I doubt the Commons, in reality the government, will back down. It will be an interesting and momentous week.
Officially the main business in the Commons today is the third day of debate and the budget but I rather suspect the votes on the Brexit bill will receive somewhat more coverage.