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What to expect from this week’s debate on the Henry VIII powers

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Chosen amendments for day 6 (12 December) originally published here. 

Chosen amendments for day 7A here (13th December, first 4 hours of debate) 

Chosen amendments for day 7B here (13th December, last 4 hours of debate)

Today and tomorrow MPs will debate amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that cover the following:

Today: powers to address deficiencies in UK law arising from withdrawal (Clause 7)

Tomorrow: Implementing the withdrawal agreement (Clause 9); Scrutiny and scope of delegated powers (Clause 16, Schedule 7);Powers to amend other legislation as a consequence of the Act and to make transitional arrangements in preparation for exit day (Clause 17); Powers to amend UK law to ensure compliance with international obligations (Clause 8)

As ever the politics continue to swirl around Brexit with negotiations going to the wire on Phase One of the Treaty of European Union. Last Friday Prime Minister Theresa May finally got an agreement with the EU to move onto talks on trade and Britain’s future relationship with Europe.

Yesterday, however, the government was seen to be making concessions to the EU Withdrawal Bill by accepting amendments laid by Charles Walker MP, the Chair of the Procedure Committee- indicating the Government’s worries of a possible defeat on the Henry VIII powers. (these amendments will be debated on today and voted on tomorrow). The amendments address the so-called Henry 8th powers and call for a sifting committee to determine which pieces of delegated legislation need detailed scrutiny by MPs as EU law is transferred into UK law

But for key members of the Alliance, such as Unlock Democracy, the committee’s recommendations are not as robust as they could be – for example, the committee is proposing only a temporary committee to be established  failing to deal adequately with Statutory Instruments which currently receive no meaningful scrutiny.

The alternative proposition, tabled by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, has received cross-party support. This would implement a robust new scrutiny system based on a model devised by Hansard Society.

The supposed power grab caused by the EU (Withdrawal) Bill currently making its way through parliament had represented a major hurdle for the government, with many MPs saying they would block the bill if it were not removed.

According to City A.M., the government has not shut the door to the government accepting further amendments to the bill, which is being debated today and Wednesday this week, but the government appears still committed to putting an exit date on the face of the bill. The latter proves equally contentious with former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who told City A.M. there was “widespread” concern about the insertion of a date, which he described as “mistaken, foolish and counterproductive”.

Attention will be on the following amendments as they have gathered cross-party support;

  • Amendment 1 (tabled by Dominic Grieve) : to restrict power of Ministers to make regulations to amend retained EU law to cases where there is a deficiency
  • Amendment 2 (tabled by Dominic Grieve): to narrow the down the circumstances in which this power can be used
  • Amendment 5 (tabled by Dominic Grieve): to prevent the abolition of Statutory Instruments of a function currently carried out by an EU entity, as opposed to its replacement or modification.

But there are many amendments being debated today that seek to restrict and regulate Minister from embarking on a power grab. These include:

  • Amendment 48 and 49 from Yvette Cooper set out to prevent regulation making powers being used to remove necessary protections; general provision reducing delegated powers only as far as necessary.
  • Chris Leslie’s amendment 65 is aims to reduce the wide discretion for using delegated legislation and limits it to those aspects that are unavoidable.

The Alliance has as one of its core aims that as EU law is transposed into domestic law, rights and standards for all sectors are maintained. Therefore of interest to the Alliance members are amendments such as these:

  • NC37 (tabled by Stephen Kinnock): ensures that the institutions and agencies that protect EU rights and protections are replaced to a sufficient standard so those rights and protections will still be enjoyed in practice.
  • Amendment 342 (tabled by Jeremy Corbyn): standards, rights and protections currently maintained by EU entities and public authorities in member states will continue to be maintained in practice.
  • NC 27 (tabled by Caroline Lucas) to establish new governance proposals to ensure statutory and institutional basis for environmental protection

Today’s debate will provide an interesting and challenging day for the government. And there will be many organisations and sectors who will be watching this with interest, including environmental, equalities and human rights organisations.

The amendments that will be of particular interest include:

  • Amendment 131 (tabled by Tom Brake, Lib Dem): Rights of EU Citizens in UK after exit day
  • Amendment 144 (tabled by Tom Brake, Lib Dem):  Belfast Good Friday Agreement
  • Amendment 52 (tabled by Yvette Cooper, Labour): prevent regulations under Bill being used to amend Equality Act
  • NC53 (tabled by Tim Loughton, Conservative): refugee family re-union and unaccompanied minors. 

Follow @@fixrepealbill for updates today and tomorrow. 

Check out Liberty’s video on how the Withdrawal Bill needs to be amended to protect our rights.

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