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UK MPs To Scrutinise Controversial UK Internal Market Bill

Thu, 10th Sep 2020 13:12

(Alliance News) - UK lawmakers will scrutinise the government's controversial UK Internal Market Bill for five days over the next two weeks, it has been confirmed.

Deputy chief whip Stuart Andrew told MPs that they will have the chance to debate the Bill, which which modifies the Brexit deal Boris Johnson signed with the EU in January, on Monday to Wednesday next week, and on the Monday and Tuesday of the following week.

On Wednesday, the prime minister said the UK Internal Market Bill would "ensure the integrity of the UK internal market" and protect the Northern Ireland peace process.

But critics have argued that the move will damage the UK's international standing after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the plans break international law.

The Bill proposes giving ministers powers to modify or "disapply" rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from January 2021 if a trade deal is not reached between the UK and EU and powers to override previously agreed obligations on state aid.

The Internal Market Bill has been criticised for explicitly stating that these powers should apply even if they are incompatible with international law.

Speaking in the Commons, Andrew said: "The business for next week will include, on Monday 14 September, second reading of the UK Internal Market Bill; Tuesday 15 September, consideration in committee of the UK Internal Market Bill day one; Wednesday 16 September, consideration in committee of the UK Internal Market Bill day two.

"The provisional business for the week commencing 21 September will include, on Monday 21 September, continuation of consideration in committee of the UK Internal Market Bill day three; on Tuesday 22 September, conclusion in committee of the UK Internal Market Bill day four."

But shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz expressed concerns about the Bill ahead of the forthcoming debate.

She told MPs: "All I asked last week was for a debate on the border in the Irish Sea and then we get the Internal Market Bill.

"It is so controversial that the most senior government lawyer has resigned, possibly because a minister said in the House yesterday that it would be a breach of internal law."

Vaz added that the Treasury Solicitor has "a duty to the court to uphold the rule of law" and that "now everyone who breaks the law made here in Parliament can say 'Sorry, your honour, I only broke it in a small but specific way'."

She continued: "So, can the deputy chief whip ensure that the legal advice of the Treasury Solicitor is published or a statement made to the House on the legal implications?

"This is clearly not the government of law and order, because this time last year there was an unlawful prorogation, this year they are breaking the law and I dread to think what is going to happen next year."

Andrew replied: "She will know that government doesn't publish legal advice and she says you can in some circumstances – I'd be interested to know how many times they did when she was in the office.

"But there is five days of debate so all of these issues can be debated extensively, these questions can be put, and I'm glad that the House will have the opportunity to do that."

SNP Commons Leader Tommy Sheppard criticised the Bill, accusing the government of "insulting the concept of devolution".

He said: "We should be explicitly clear that this Bill represents the most concerted and full-frontal assault on the devolution settlement in the UK that there has ever been.

"Under the guise of securing common standards, there will in effect be a race to the bottom and a lowest common denominator approach to consumer and environmental protection. It is completely unacceptable."

Sheppard continued: "Clause 46 of that Bill actually makes provision for this Chamber, not the Scottish Parliament, to determine spending priorities on matters which are devolved, which means that the pet projects of the UK Cabinet could trump the wishes of the Scottish people when it comes to spending.

"So I want to ask whether it is the government's intention to proceed with this legislation without the consent of the devolved administrations and, if it is, then what is the point of those devolved administrations in the first place because the government is insulting the concept of devolution and this will be a better recruiting sergeant for the cause of political independence for Scotland than anybody on these benches could ever be."

Andrew responded: "Again, they (the SNP) cannot help themselves but peddle the myth that we are about having a race to the bottom; nothing could be further from the truth."

He added: "This is not a power grab, if anything this is a power surge for those devolved administrations. And I would like to just confirm that of course we will be seeking legislative consent from the devolved legislatures and we'll continue to work closely with them."

Former Tory minister Edward Leigh called for the government to confirm it has "no intention of returning to the failed policies of the 1970s, we've no intention of propping up failed companies and picking winners".

Meanwhile, Labour MP Chris Bryant said he was "completely perplexed" that the government said it would go against aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement treaty and questioned how the UK could chastise other countries like China or Russia for breaking international law in the future.

Andrew replied: "I'm afraid I don't accept that's what we're saying. We are deactivating a certain EU law restriction in a specific and limited way to make sure that the government always has the ability to protect the peace process and to ensure we can support our economic recovery."

By Sophie Morris, Lewis McKenzie and George Ryan, PA Political Staff

source: PA

Copyright 2020 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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