In this speech Lord Bilimoria states his support for the amendments and highlights his own experiences in business to aid his argument. He notes the importance of the role of the House of Lords in scrutinising legislation and that the current Bill will deprive the House of the ability to scrutinise a lot of important areas. He highlights that statutory instruments can be challenged by the judiciary, overriding Parliament, when Parliament should supposedly have the ability to take back control. He concludes that it is too dangerous to give the Government such power, hence the importance of such amendments.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill DAY 7

14 March 2018

Lord Bilimoria:

My Lords, I support both these amendments. I appreciate what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, with all his experience, has said to us to try to explain why these particular clauses exist and the intention behind them. But from my experience in business, whenever I have had any problems with a contract it is because there have been grey areas or clauses have not been clearly drafted, leaving scope for different interpretations. Here we are beyond grey areas or a badly drafted clause in a contract—this Bill gives unfettered powers to the Government. We have to realise that the Prime Minister using these powers may not be Theresa May—it could be Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg.

How many thousands of statutory instruments are the Government expecting to implement as a result of this Bill? It is important to note that it is very difficult for the House of Lords to challenge statutory instruments. With primary legislation, we have the role of challenging what the Commons has done—as we are doing now. Quite often what the Commons does is nowhere near good enough. That is why this House has hundreds of amendments to this Bill and had over 500 amendments to the higher education Bill. That is our job. But when it comes to statutory instruments, we were warned very clearly in 2015, “Don’t go too far. It’s not your job to challenge them too much”. The noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, in his excellent introduction to his amendment, spoke of the three “S”s, one of which is scrutiny, but we will be deprived of that scrutiny by these unlimited powers.

Going one step further, this issue goes back to the constitution and the delicate balance between not only the Executive and the legislature but the Executive and the judiciary. Will the Minister acknowledge that statutory instruments can be challenged by the judiciary? Do we want to have non-stop challenge by the judiciary, overriding Parliament, when we should have the power and take back control? Do we want that to happen? It is much better that things are absolutely clear. Therefore, these amendments are crucial, because it is too dangerous and, quite frankly, irresponsible to give any Government such unfettered powers.

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