Highlights of proceedings in Parliament on Thursday 30 March, presented by Kristiina Cooper.
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Hello and welcome to Thursday In Parliament.
The main news from Westminster...
Fears of a government power grab as Ministers set about disentangling
the UK from European Union law.
It has been suggested that the Government is looking
at Henry VIII clauses to take this through.
So much for Parliamentary sovereignty.
Scotland's aspirations for a voice also seem to be given the Henry VIII
treatment with a rough wooing clearly taking place right now.
Will security cooperation be used as a bargaining
chip in Brexit talks?
A former police chief thinks an "implied threat" has been issued.
That the UK will withhold security cooperation with the EU if it does
not get the trade deal that it wants was insensitive, reckless,
or an empty threat, or all three?
And calls to increase the jail sentences imposed, in England,
on people who are cruel to animals.
These individuals are practising cruelty, basically, on animals
which they will then transfer on to humans.
Now that Article 50 has been activated, work begins on what to do
with the vast body of regulations generated by the European Union and
enshrined in UK law over 45 years.
The Government will be introducing a Great Repeal Bill which,
among other things, will get rid of the European Communities
Act or ECA of 1972.
Repealing the ECA on the day we leave the EU enables
a return to this parliament of the sovereignty we ceded in 1972
and ends the supremacy of EU law in this country.
It is entirely necessary to deliver on the result of the referendum.
But repealing the ECA alone is not enough.
A simple repeal of the ECA would leave holes in our statute book.
The EU regulations that apply directly to the UK would no
longer have any effect and many of the domestic regulations
we have made to implement our EU obligations would fall away.
Therefore to provide the maximum possible certainty,
the Great Repeal Bill will convert EU law into domestic law
on the day we leave the EU.
This means, for example, that the workers' rights,
environmental protection and consumer rights enjoyed under EU
law in the UK will continue in UK law after we have left the EU.
And he said that, as far as possible, power taken back
from the EU would be devolved to Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales.
It is the expectation of the Government that outcome
of this process will be a significant increase
in the decision-making power of each devolved administration.
But we must also ensure that, as we leave the EU, no new barriers
to living and doing business within our own union are created.
Mr Speaker, nobody underestimates the task of converting EU law
into domestic law but the question is how is it done and what is done?
The White Paper on the question of how gives sweeping
powers to the executive.
Sweeping because it proposes a power to use delegated legislation
to correct and thus change primary legislation, and also
devolved legislation by delegated legislation.
Sweeping because of the sheer scale of the exercise.
On these benches, we think the triggering of Article 50
yesterday was a sad day for everybody in Europe, including
everybody in these islands, and an EU which for years has
brought us peace, stability, security and prosperity.
We are turning the clock back 40 years and I am
glad that the minister reminded his own front benches
devolution existed now in a way it didn't exist 40 years ago.
It has been suggested the Government is looking at Henry VIII clauses
to take this through.
So much for Parliamentary sovereignty.
Scotland's aspirations for a voice also seem to be given their Henry
VIII treatment with a rough wooing clearly taking place right now.
I'd like to commend the Secretary of State for ignoring some
of the more over excitable demands from parts of the Brexit press
and some of his backbenchers, and to confirm as he has today
that he will incorporate into British law some of the EU
jewels in the crown such as the Habitats Directive,
the Working Time Directive, the Green Renewable Energy
Directive, which we can all agree upon.
Although he will know there is a fork in the road.
The Government will either have to keep those provisions
in domestic legislations, in which case they will reasonably
say, "What on earth was the point of leaving the EU
in the first place?"
Or they will remove those provisions, in which case the EU
will need exacting safeguards to ensure we are not
undercutting EU standards.
The Government's aim that EU law, with all its rights and protections,
will remain in place is a pragmatic approach and we need to find a way
of making that happen but the Secretary of State will be
aware of concerns that others might try and use this process to get rid
of EU laws they have never liked or use these powers to make changes
beyond the minimum necessary.
This is really a Great Transfer Bill, that's what it really is.
Could the Secretary of State give an unequivocal undertaking
that workers' rights, environmental protections
and consumer protections will be in no way changed as a result
of this ill and indeed anything else that is taken...?
The Prime Minister has already given those undertakings.
I thank my right honourable friend for making it clear that two years
from today our sovereign parliament will indeed have the power to amend,
repeal or improve all this ghastly EU legislation.
I will pass on the assessment of the legislation but I will
of course reinforce the point I have already made, which is the aim
of this bill at the end of the day is to bring the decisions back
to this House.
There's speculation, generated by Theresa May's farewell
letter to the European Union, that security cooperation may be
used as a bargaining chip during Brexit negotiations.
Some peers are worried about the implications.
Less than a week after four people died as a result
of terrorism on our doorstep, does the noble lady,
the minister think that the implied threat made by the Prime Minister
in her Article 50 letter, backed up yesterday...
..backed up yesterday by the Home Secretary that the UK
will withhold security cooperation with the EU if it does not
get the trade deal that wants was insensitive,
reckless, or an empty threat, or all three?
My Lords, may I also paid tribute to the people who lost their lives
last week and who still lie in hospital injured?
But I do take exception to what the noble Lord says.
My Lords, the letter says both sides would cope but our
cooperation would be weakened.
We want and we believe that the EU wants security to be part
of a new partnership so that is why it is part of the negotiation.
The threat was not a threat at all, it was a matter of fact.
Would the minister, for the service of the House,
read the two sentences in the letter before the one that she
selectively read out?
Because those sentences make it absolutely clear
that the Government's intention and the implied threat is that
unless there is agreement on trade, a comprehensive agreement
as they call it, there will not be an agreement on security.
And by that means they would imperil not only our economic
capability but also, even more seriously,
our security capability.
The noble Lord is actually quite wrong in what he says.
The letter says both sides would cope but our
cooperation would be weakened.
That is what the letter says.
And we want and we believe the EU wants security to be part
of the new partnership and that is why it will be
part of the negotiation.
That is the right way forward.
My Lords, does my noble friend realise that the appropriate reply
to the noble Lord Kinnock lies in the Gospel according
to Saint Matthew?
Chapter six, verse 19.
Ask the Bishop.
Perhaps the Right Reverend Prelate would like to comment?
to the noble Lord Kinnock lies in the Gospel according
Would the noble Baroness, the minister not agree with me
the best way of answering Lord Paddick's question is to ensure
the Government arranges with our European partners to deal
with security issues first and foremost and separately
from trade to make sure there is no moment when we fall
off a security cliff?
The noble Lord is quite right in the sense that the Prime Minister
put these aspects of negotiation right at the forefront.
I have been in debates in the last few weeks talking
about how that cooperation...
We have been world leaders in those areas.
It is so important as we go forward.
But it is all part of the whole deal and that is bearing in mind
the context in which we operate.
With what the noble Lord just said, would my noble friend agree that
as we begin this long and difficult process, intemperate
remarks are hardly helpful?
Well, it pains which intemperate remarks my noble friend
-- Well, it depends which intemperate remarks my noble
friend is referring to that, yes, I think we all have to be very
careful about what we say.
Back in the Commons, the Transport Secretary was accused
of pursuing a "little Britain" strategy in his approach
to Brexit, which could damage the UK aviation industry.
The ramifications of leaving the EU-dominated
Transport Question Time from the off.
The Open Skies Agreement has provided great opportunities for EU
registered airlines, including UK companies such
as easyJet, who fly largely unrestricted between member states
and within member states as well as from the EU to the US,
but Brexit could change all that, so can the Secretary of State
reassure the industry and passengers that the UK will remain part
of Open Skies arrangements?
Mr Speaker, as I said a moment ago, we will of course be reaching that
agreement in due course.
It is our intention across the sectors,
whether it is haulage or aviation, to secure the best possible
agreement for the future that will benefit those who seek to do
business in the UK from elsewhere in the EU and those who seek to do
business elsewhere in the EU from the UK.
Sir Desmond Swayne.
How important is it to make arrangements for the worst-case
scenario just to show how serious our negotiating intent is?
Well, Mr Speaker, you will not be surprised to learn
that the Government of course takes steps to prepare for all
eventualities but we enter the negotiations with good faith
and intention to secure a deal because we believe very strongly
it is in everyone's interests both here in the UK and across the EU.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that the worst-case scenario
is no arrangement at all?
Can he also confirm that for airlines they have to schedule
12-18 months in advance and therefore can he confirm
that he has to resolve this within the next six months?
I never speculate on these things but what I would say is I have
detailed discussions with the aviation industry,
have had over the past few weeks, well aware of the challenges
they face around their business models and, of course,
the Government listens very carefully to them about how best
to approach this important sector in the context of the negotiations.
The Prime Minister told the House yesterday that she will, her words,
deliver certainty to UK businesses about the position they
will be in post-Brexit.
But without agreement on the principles behind cabotage,
trucking companies are already warning that new customs checks
will gridlock roads leading to the Channel ports.
UK-based airlines are already warning that they may need
to relocate their bases across the Channel if the UK falls
out of the Common Aviation Area.
So just how and when the minister is going to deliver the certainty
that those companies need now rather than a kind of ministerial
aspiration that everything is going to be all right
on the night?
Of course, Mr Speaker, this is not simply about UK
companies because the vast majority of haulage-based cabotage that takes
place in the United Kingdom is international hauliers operating
in the UK, so they themselves have a vested interest in ensuring
that their politicians work with us to ensure we have the best possible
arrangement for the future.
That is what we will do and I am confident other European governments
will want to do the same.
The Prime Minister flippantly said in her Article 50 speech
that we will be leaving EU institutions but not Europe,
as if that was a good thing.
The Aviation Safety Agency plays a crucial role in excluding any
aircraft or company that have poor safety records from European
airspace, safeguarding the security and well-being of people right
across the continent.
Now that negotiations are underway, this government has a duty
to passengers in the aviation sector to tell us if the UK will be
a participant or are they happy to compromise our economy
and passenger well-being to achieve their "little
Britain" hard Brexit?
In the friendliest possible spirit, there is no danger of her suffering
ill health as a result of excessive hurry.
Secretary of State.
Well, that may be, Mr Speaker, but the honourable lady
does speak an awful lot of nonsense.
We do not pursue, we do not and are not pursuing
a "little Britain" strategy.
We are looking to build our role in the world.
Aviation will be an important part of that which is why
we are expanding Heathrow Airport, seeking to expand Heathrow Airport,
subject to the consultation happening at the moment,
and we will, of course, bring forward to this House
and to this country our proposals in due course.
Many of these international bodies went beyond the EU, he added,
and the UK would continue to play a role in them.
Last year, the Speaker announced a new initiative called
the Speaker's Democracy Award.
It enables the Commons to recognise individuals who have championed
democracy in some way.
John Bercow has announced the first winner of the award.
I'm pleased to be able to tell the House that Marvi Memon MP
is the winner in this, the inaugural year of the award.
Ms Memon is a Pakistani politician who is the current
chairperson of the Government of Pakistan's Benazir Income Support
Programme, the BISP, and an elected member
of the National Assembly of Pakistan.
Ms Memon has prompted a substantial and impressive programme
of empowerment through her BISP work by giving over 5.3 million
of the poorest women a modest stipend for essentials such as food,
clothing, health care and education.
It's hoped that Marvi Memon will visit Parliament
to collect the award in person.
You're watching Thursday in Parliament,
with me, Kristiina Cooper.
There have been distressing stories of animal cruelty in the Commons
as MPs called for an increase in penalties
for offenders in England.
They want the maximum sentence for offences
to be increased to five years.
It's currently six months.
There were examples of what some people have done to animals -
and what punishment they received.
A young fox had a habit of going to the large supermarket
every night to hunt for food.
The fox was caught by a gang of boys from my own constituency.
They caught it by the tail, hurled it round and round,
smashed its head against the wall several times
and then stamped on its head.
The punishment for that, well, it was hardly punishment at all,
so I think it's absolutely necessary to increase the penalties
for people who impose that kind of cruelty on animals.
A small dog named Scamp was found buried alive in the woods
near Redcar on the 19th of October with a nail hammered into its head.
In February Michael Heathcock and Richard Finch pleaded
guilty to offences under the Animal Welfare Act
and they were sentenced to four months, meaning they will probably
serve just eight weeks in prison.
Not enough time for reflection, punishment or rehabilitation.
The people of my constituency have been horrified by these cases
and it's important for me to pay tribute to their response.
After hearing of the incident and others, they held vigils
with hundreds of people coming to light candles and send
their messages loudly and defiantly.
There are also plans for a dog park to be built in their memory.
The perpetrators do not represent our community.
People in Redcar are decent and kind.
I know passionate animal lovers and I meet many dog lovers
as I walk my own dog but my constituents are angry.
They feel the criminal justice system has let them down
and that is why I am standing here today.
The current penalties for animal welfare in England
are too low, far too low.
The maximum sentence of animal cruelty is six months in prison
and an unlimited fine.
Will he take an intervention from me?
I agree with him and his motion but part of the problem
is persuading courts even to impose those minimum sentences
that are far too low.
I thank him for his intervention.
He is right.
I feel if we had a larger sentence and there was more
flexibility in the courts when you have the worst of cases,
the magistrates would have that ability to make that sentence
but he's right, sometimes there is not enough sentencing,
a long enough sentence even in the amount at the moment.
I know from working in psychology that there is certainly a link
between cruelty to animals and psychopathy and cruelty
to humans, so this must be taken as cruelty in terms of animal
welfare but also in thinking of the impact on other victims
of cruelty because these individuals are practising cruelty on animals
which they will then transfer on to humans.
At present the maximum penalty for such offences is six months
in prison or an unlimited fine or both, and the unlimited
fine was only raised from ?20,000 in 2015.
In addition offenders can be disqualified from owning animals
or having influence over the way an animal is kept for as long
as the court sees fit and this is an important point and moves
on from owning an animal to things like transport.
Lord Gardner, I know, is in regular contact
with the Ministry of Justice to discuss maximum sentences.
Current sentencing for such offences does not suggest the courts
are finding sentencing powers inadequate, which is to say that
changing the maximum sentence will not make a difference if courts
consider a lower sentence appropriate, but I can inform
the House that the sentencing council has recently reviewed
the Magistrates' Court sentencing guidelines,
including those in relation to animal cruelty,
and the sentencing council's revised guidance, published
on their website, which will become effective from May, will allow
magistrates more flexibility as regards imposing penalties
towards the upper end of the scale.
To the Lords now, where the statement made earlier
by the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, on the Great Repeal
Bill was read out to peers.
One remark that's often made about the Great Repeal Bill
is that it doesn't do anything of the sort because it actually
turns all EU laws into British law.
The former diplomat Lord Hannay made the point - in his own way.
Would it not have been better to adopt the byline of the Prince
of Lampedusa's famous remark in The Leopard when he gave
a definition of revolution which was "everything must change
so that everything may stay the same"?
I think that is probably more the title and I think
the Daily Telegraph's regulatory bonfire may be a bit
short of dry kindling.
Labour thought that mixed messages were coming out
of the Government about EU law.
We've heard from the Secretary of State for International Development
arguing that to restore Britain's competitiveness we must begin
by deregulating the labour market whilst the Foreign Secretary wants
to use the opportunity to axe needless regulations that have
accreted since Britain joined the EU.
How do those comments chime with the Prime Minister's
introduction to the White Paper and indeed the Government's
long-standing promise that the same rules and laws will apply on the day
after exit as on the day before?
So will the Minister confirm that it is the Prime Minister
who is the boss and that despite the words of the others,
there is no intention to repeal those madcap ideas
within the repeal bill?
I know he'll be on his feet for hours on end in the complexities
of these and other bills.
The advantage this bill has is that although the detail may be
difficult, the objective couldn't possibly be simpler.
It is to ensure that this Parliament,
and we're all parliamentarians, makes the laws, changes the laws,
amends the laws which the people of this country expect this
Parliament to perform, and that's the duty that
in all my experience as an MP, they expect this Parliament
to be able to make the decisions on their behalf, so all of us
who are keen parliamentarians and value the priceless authority
we have in either house, but principally in the Commons,
should bear in mind that this is a wholly desirable
piece of legislation.
I'm delighted the noble Lord sees it this way and I agree that
although it is complex, the challenge ahead,
we need to proceed with some simple principles and a simple
and approach as possible.
My Lords, I confess to an irresistible urge to return
to full-time practice at the bar because this is a legal minefield.
It was the last sitting day for the Commons
before the Easter break.
Labour's Valerie Vaz, the shadow Commons leader,
put aside Brexit tensions and tried to introduce some
And so to R, Mr Speaker.
Rock and roll.
Recently we had the death of the creator of the genre,
Chuck Berry, and it is as though he had some songs just
for the Government, so we have Maybellene,
why can't you be true?
Reeling and Rocking - the Government has had some U-turns
on National Insurance contributions, disquiet about school funding,
special deals with Tory councils and, Mr Speaker, one for you -
Johnny B Goode.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all our civil servants
for all the work they have done when we were part of the EU
and all the ambassadors and all the ministers for Europe,
including the leader of the House, who was an outstanding
Minister for Europe and it's because he was so good that I hope
the goodwill will come back when we finish our negotiations.
And I also want to say goodbye and thank you to David Beamish,
the clerk of Parliament, who is sadly retiring
after 42 years.
He's done a fantastic job, is a great public servant and worked
closely with our own clerk, and also Russell Tatum,
one of the unsung heroes, a backroom person who's worked
for both sides, the Labour and Conservative opposition whips.
He's kept us all going.
We wish him well in his new post at the Department of Health and hope
he can sort them out too.
And finally can I repeat again, can I thank everyone for everything
they did in the last week, and for everyone connected
with the House, a very happy and peaceful Easter.
Goodbyes and gratitude from Valerie Vaz there,
bringing us to the end of Thursday in Parliament.
I'll be back at the same time tomorrow for a round-up
of the Week in Parliament.
Until then, from me, Kristiina Cooper, goodbye.