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European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill:

  • Overview of House of Lords stages of the Bill
  • Overview of Labour Lords frontbench amendments
  • Quotes from Baroness Smith of Basildon & Baroness Dianne Hayter
  • Appendix 1: amendments as tabled

Next stages for the ‘Article 50’ Bill in the House of Lords and beyond

Second Reading: Monday 20th February (from 3pm until late) and Tuesday 21st February (from 11am until late). As of today (9th February) the numbers of Peers signed up to speak is over 150, with an expectation that this will rise further. No vote expected, and such votes in the Lords – on a Bill’s principle - are highly unusual.

Committee stage – two days: Monday 27th February and Wednesday 1st March. As of today, the Lords Public Bill Office have begun to accept prospective Committee Stage amendments. These will be public from tomorrow (Friday 10th February). Votes at this stage of a Bill have become rare in the past few years, but remain possible.

Report stage and Third Reading – both taking place on Tuesday 7th March. Report stage is when votes in the Lords are most likely.

Commons consideration of Lords amendments – whether government concessions (including those taking place between Committee and Report stages), minor technical changes or voted defeats – would be debated in the days or week following Third Reading, with potential of course for parliamentary ping-pong.

 

Labour Lords frontbench amendments

Having monitored proceedings in the Commons, the Labour Lords frontbench will now seek changes to the Bill during its passage through the Lords. Our focus is on process rather than specifying outcomes of the Brexit negotiations. The Labour Lords frontbench has today submitted eight amendments. Below is a short explanatory note on each, with the full text of the amendments in Appendix 1:

‘A vote in the UK Parliament before any vote in the European Parliament’:

While pleased by the concession announced by Ministers in the Commons, we are disappointed that the government did not bring forward an amendment to confirm a parliamentary vote before the Article 50 deal is put to the European Parliament. We have therefore, tabled an amendment to put that concession on the face of the Bill, thereby providing greater certainty for parliamentarians and public alike.

‘Parliamentary oversight of the negotiations’:

Following the rejection of Labour’s New Clause 3 in the Commons, we have tabled a revised amendment that takes into account points raised during the preceding debate. The new amendment requires quarterly statements rather than bi-monthly reports and makes a clearer distinction between public and confidential documents. The Commons Minister reaffirmed that the government is “resolute that the House will not be at an information disadvantage compared with the European Parliament” and will make “arrangements for scrutiny of confidential documents”. This amendment asks the government to formalise its stated intentions.

‘Guaranteeing the rights of EU and EEA nationals resident in the UK’:

Labour has consistently called for the government to take unilateral action to guarantee the rights of EU and EEA nationals currently legally resident in the UK. Commons Ministers repeated that they cannot guarantee the rights of these nationals in the UK until the negotiations begin. This is not the case, and a recent Lords EU Committee report (Brexit: acquired rights) made it clear that the government has a moral obligation to offer this guarantee. We have therefore, tabled an amendment to this effect.

‘Conduct of the Article 50 negotiations’:

As the government acknowledges in its White Paper, there is a clear national interest in maintaining preferential trade relations with the EU and continuing cooperation with our European neighbours on a broad range of issues, including security, research and protection of the environment. While Ministers have made oral commitments, our amendment to the face of the Bill would require the government to have regard to these areas during the negotiations.

‘Involvement of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’:

There are many areas of EU competence – for example, agriculture and fisheries – directly relating to the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly. We welcome therefore, the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Committee for EU negotiations. Following the rejection however, of our attempt to place this structure on a statutory basis, this new amendment seeks additional assurances that the views of the devolved nations will be formally considered during the negotiations. 

‘Publication of impact assessments on potential future UK-EU trade models’: 

Following the referendum, it became clear that the government had not undertaken preparatory work for Brexit. The civil service has therefore, been playing catch-up as it seeks to understand potential trade options available to the UK and the economic impact of each one. The Commons rejected Labour calls to publish impact assessments, arguing that this would undermine the UK’s negotiating position. This new amendment however, makes provision to allow access to any documents completed since 23 June 2016 whilst keeping them out of the public domain. 

‘Nuclear collaboration with Euratom’:

The European Atomic Agency Community (Euratom) is the foundation of the UK’s nuclear power sector. This amendment will not prevent us leaving Euratom but require the government to treat this as a separate process from Brexit, allowing the industry time to create new regulatory and safety regimes.  

‘Respect for the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement’:

Brexit will have a major impact on the future relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, not least around the operation of the land border. This amendment would require the government to have regard to the constitutional, institutional and rights provisions of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. 

 

Quotes:

Labour’s leader in the Lords, Baroness (Angela) Smith of Basildon said:

The triggering of Article 50 and the huge negotiating and legislating task that will follow involve some of the biggest decisions the UK government and Parliament have had to take in generations. We have to get it right.

“As Labour’s Leader in Lords I have repeatedly said that we will not seek to block or sabotage the start of this process. The Lords, as always, will challenge and scrutinise legislation put before us and if necessary we will pass amendments on issues where we wish the Commons to take another look.

“That is our role as the unelected House, and we will not be cowed by threats of abolition or flooding the place with hundreds of new Tory Peers. The stakes are too high and we will do our duty.”

Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister in the Lords, Baroness (Dianne) Hayter said:

“With the Article 50 Bill having left the Commons, the Labour Lords frontbench will now seek a number of changes to Bill.

“Our amendments cover parliamentary reporting, the final ‘meaningful’ vote, EU nationals, the devolved parliaments and nuclear collaboration, but the focus is very much on process rather than specifying outcomes from the negotiations.

“While I remain disappointed with the outcome of the referendum, Brexit is happening and we need the best possible deal for our country to both move on and deal with the social and economic aftershocks.”

ends

 

Appendix 1: Labour Lords frontbench amendments

A vote in the UK Parliament before any vote in the European Parliament:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Parliamentary approval for agreements with the European Union

(1) No Minister of the Crown may conclude an agreement with any institution of the European Union regarding the withdrawal of the United Kingdom under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union until—

(a) the Government has laid a copy of the final draft of the agreement before each House of Parliament, and

(b) each House of Parliament has passed a resolution approving the final draft of the agreement.

(2) The requirements under paragraphs (a) and (b) must also be met where a Minister of the Crown proposes to conclude any separate agreement with the European Union pertaining to the future political and economic relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

(3) In the case of a proposed agreement setting out the arrangements for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the resolution under subsection (1) must have been passed by each House of Parliament before the proposed terms are agreed with the Commission, with a view to their approval by the European Parliament.”

 

Parliamentary oversight of the negotiations:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

Parliamentary oversight of negotiations

(1) Before exercising the power under section 1(1), the Prime Minister shall give an undertaking to—

(a) make a quarterly statement to both Houses which presents a report relating to the negotiations, with copies of this report made available to relevant committees of Parliament;

(b) lay before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable a copy of any public document relating to the negotiations provided to the European Parliament or its committees by the European Council, Council of the European Union or European Commission;

(c) make arrangements for Members of both Houses of Parliament to review any confidential document relating to the negotiations.”

(2) In this section—

“public document” includes any briefing, conclusions, report or statement issued by the European Council, Council of the European Union or European Commission, or considered at a formal committee meeting or plenary session of the European Parliament;

“confidential document” includes any document issued by the European Council, Council of the European Union, European Commission or European Parliament to the United Kingdom Government which Ministers of the Crown believe would adversely impact on the United Kingdom’s negotiations if it were made publicly available.”

 

Guaranteeing the rights of EU and EEA nationals resident in the UK:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

EU and EEA nationals resident in the United Kingdom

In negotiating and concluding an agreement in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, Ministers of the Crown must resolve to ensure that citizens of another European Union or European Economic Area country legally resident in the United Kingdom on the date on which this Act comes into force are not disadvantaged in relation to their right to reside and work in the United Kingdom or their potential to acquire such rights in the future.”

 

Conduct of the Article 50 negotiations:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Conduct of negotiations

Before exercising the power under section 1(1), the Prime Minister must give an undertaking to have regard to the public interest in—

(a) maintaining a stable and sustainable economy,

(b) preserving peace in Northern Ireland,

(c) having trading arrangements with the European Union for goods and services that are free of additional tariffs and non-tariff barriers,

(d) cooperating with the European Union in matters relating to education, health, research and science, environmental protection, the maintenance of domestic security, and the combating of organised crime and terrorist activity, and

(e) maintaining all existing social, economic, consumer and workers’ rights, during negotiations under Article 50(2).”

 

Involvement of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

Involvement of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

(1) Before exercising the power under section 1(1), the Prime Minister must publish a document setting out arrangements that have been agreed between the Prime Minister and the devolved administrations for the Secretary of State to—

(a) consult the devolved administrations on the matters referred to in subsection (2),

(b) specify how their views on those matters will be taken into account, and

(c) seek to reach a consensus on those matters.

(2) The matters are—

(a) terms proposed for withdrawal from the European Union (including the initial negotiating position), and

(b) the framework for the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union.

(3) The arrangements referred to subsection (1) must make provision for statements to be published setting out the extent to which consensus has been reached.

(4) The arrangements may make provision for functions to be exercised by Joint Ministerial Committees.

(5) Before concluding an agreement with any institution of the European Union, the Prime Minister must consult the devolved administrations on the terms of any proposed agreements, and specify how their views have been taken into account.

(6) For the purposes of this section, the devolved administrations are—

(a) the Scottish Ministers,

(b) the Welsh Ministers, and

(c) the Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

 

Publication of impact assessments on potential future UK-EU trade models:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

Impact assessments

(1) The Prime Minster may not give notice under section 1 until—

(a) Any existing impact assessments or economic forecasts relating to the United Kingdom’s future trading relationship with the European Union conducted by HM Treasury, the Department for Exiting the European Union, the Department for International Trade or the Office for Budget Responsibility completed since 23 June 2016 have been laid before Parliament, or

(b) Ministers of the Crown representing the departments in subsection (1)(a) has laid a statement before both Houses of Parliament declaring that no such assessments have been conducted since 23 June 2016.

(2) Where Ministers of the Crown believe publication of assessments in subsection (1)(a) would undermine the negotiating position of the Government in relation to negotiations carried out under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, suitable confidentiality arrangements shall be made which allow Members of both Houses of Parliament to view such documents.”

 

Nuclear collaboration with Euratom:

After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

Nuclear Collaboration

(1) Nothing in this Act shall affect the UK’s membership of the European Atomic Agency Community (Euratom).

(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other Act, Her Majesty’s Government shall treat the process of leaving Euratom as separate to that of leaving the European Union.”

 

Respect for the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement:

Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert—

“with the exception of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Section 2 of the Ireland Act 1949, and subject to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Ireland on 10 April 1998.”

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Article 50 Bill - Labour Lords frontbench amendments

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill: Overview of House of Lords stages of the Bill Overview of Labour Lords frontbench amendments Quotes from Baroness Smith of Basildon & Baroness Dianne...

MikeWatson.jpgMike Watson outlines our approach to the government’s new Colleges Bill, ahead of Lords second reading

This week sees the House of Lords second reading of the Technical and Further Education Bill. Legislation that aims to reform the sector, by expanding the role of the new Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) and introducing 15 new technical routes covering areas as broad as accounting, beauty and construction.

Labour is broadly supportive of the plans. We presided over a significant expansion of FE, allowing thousands of young people across the UK to develop new skills and gain valuable qualifications. We continue to believe in the value of apprenticeships and that students should be able to choose from a range of quality courses.

The Bill provides a much-needed move in the right direction but should be considered against a backdrop of sustained cuts to the sector, with around 40 colleges facing serious financial pressures. While we accept the ongoing programme of area reviews, it concerns us that the process could move beyond the mergers announced so far and lead to closures. The government must minimise any adverse effect on students.

The IfA will come into operation in April as an independent employer-led body but Ministers plan to widen its remit next year, rebranding it ‘the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’. As this Bill progresses, we will press Ministers over capacity, overlap and representation.

The IfA is currently an under-resourced body tasked with supervising apprenticeship training and ensuring high standards. Its expanded remit will introduce a significant additional workload, including redesigning qualifications and establishing an employer panel for each technical route. We want to ensure the IfA is supported in ways that enable it to deliver the modern qualifications that meet students' needs during the ambitious timeframe outlined.

A multitude of bodies keep schools and colleges functioning. The IfA will work alongside Ofsted, Ofqual, and the new Office for Students (OfS). But as it stands the OfS will have partial responsibility alongside the IfA for degree apprenticeships, while Ofsted will continue to monitor training quality and carry out inspections. This complexity need not be problematic, as long as Ministers are up front about the division of responsibiities.

While it is logical for the IfA to be employer-led, the board must include representatives of the FE sector, its staff and the student body. Colleges will, after all, deliver the new technical routes and shape students’ prospects along the way.

The Bill takes an important new step in outlining a college-specific insolvency regime, something that will bring greater certainty through a clear legal framework. The plan is to introduce a new type of administrator with responsibility for handling cases, and to work to protect the interests of students. During insolvency, colleges would either be kept going or students would be transferred to an alternative provider. But we want assurances that the proceedings do not disproportionately impact on students from low-income backgrounds, nor deprive teaching staff of a fair redundancy deal or access to their pensions.

We will also look to address the concerns of FE bodies that a special education administrator need not have any direct knowledge or experience of the sector. Ministers may believe it ‘implausible’ that an administrator wouldn’t consult with principals, governors and teaching staff, but the experience of academies makes us wary. We will seek guarantees that the administrator will not be able to pass public assets to the private sector unless a convincing argument is first made.

In presenting Labour's case for a stronger technical and FE sector, myself and our frontbench team in the Lords want to shape the Bill so it increases the options available to students and delivers the safeguards needed to allow colleges to deliver quality teaching.

Lord Mike Watson of Invergowrie is Shadow Education Minister in the House of Lords

Published 1st February 2017

Learning curve

Mike Watson outlines our approach to the government’s new Colleges Bill, ahead of Lords second reading

MaggieJones2014.JPGMaggie Jones on Labour’s plans to protect children from internet driven sexual abuse

The internet is transforming the way we learn, interact and organise our lives. It provides enormous benefits to young people – giving them access to ideas and information on a global scale. It is an essential part of their lives.

But the internet also presents new threats and dangers to children who can freely roam across content intended for an adult world, without the skills and experience to make sense of it. This is why the Digital Economy Bill currently being debated in the Lords contains specific proposals to stop children under 18 accessing pornographic sites. It is a principle which has received wide support on a cross-party basis.

The evidence underpinning the need to act is compelling. Recent research by the NSPCC has shown that 53% of 11 to 16 year olds have viewed pornography online and there is growing evidence that primary school children are also accessing these sites. Over half of the boys who have accessed pornography feel that it is a realistic depiction of sex. And research by the IPPR shows that girls are now feeling pressurised to copy the images they have seen.

Sadly, as a result of this trend, children are failing to develop strong and respectful relationships. The recent report of the Women and Equalities Committee highlighted growing levels of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. It found that abuse of girls had become an accepted part of everyday life in the classroom and playground; and more seriously, the number of sexual offences reported to the police has risen to 5,500, with over 1500 of these relating to under 13s.

So, Labour believes it is right to act now. Crucially, we have put an amendment to this Bill to improve sex and relationship education in schools. It is an outrage that the government has been dragging their feet on the issue for so long. In fact, when a similar amendment was debated in the Commons, the Minister Matt Hancock argued that it wasn’t necessary as e-safety was covered in the computing curriculum – rather missing the point.

The Bill however, also introduces a new concept of age verification filters on pornographic sites, requiring users to prove they were 18 or over. We support this initiative, provided the appropriate checks and balances are in place. On plans meanwhile, to introduce the concept of an age verification regulator, we have tabled amendments calling on the Secretary of State to consult more widely on the functions of the regulator or regulators; and to make recommendations to Parliament about who might be suitable to carry out this role.

The regulator also has extensive powers to fine those pornographic sites that do not install age filters and ultimately to instruct Internet Service Providers to block access. Again, we are keen to ensure these powers are carried out proportionately – with proper appeals processes.

Finally, we want to ensure that adults who want to access online pornography legitimately have their anonymity and privacy protected. We have therefore tabled amendments setting out the data protection and confidentiality measures that must be taken by those providing the age verification checks.

Ultimately, it is important that this section of the Bill stays focussed on its core aim of stopping commercial pornographic sites making their material available to under 18s. There are those who would also like to use this Bill to redefine what is and is not legal pornography. But we do not believe it is the right vehicle for that debate and any such moves should be subject to much wider public engagement and consensus.

Baroness Maggie Jones of Whitchurch is a member of Labour’s frontbench team in the House of Lords. She tweets @WhitchurchGirl

Published 31st January 2017

Blocking measures

Maggie Jones on Labour’s plans to protect children from internet driven sexual abuse

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