Retained EU Law

On Wednesday 24 May 2023 the House of Commons considered Lords amendments to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

The Government continued to argue that this Bill would “reform our economy and to support growth”. The Solicitor General said in his closing speech that “We must ask ourselves which regulations have worked, which further regulations can be scrapped, and which could be reformed”. My concern, however, remains that the Government is seeking to give itself the power to amend swathes of regulations without parliamentary oversight.

The Opposition therefore supported the Lords amendments to the Bill on the basis that they improved a piece of legislation which we regard as ill-thought out.

In his contribution, the Shadow Business Secretary stressed that “from the outset the Opposition have made it clear that we believe this Bill to be unnecessary, unrealistic and undesirable, and everything that has happened in the other place since we last saw it here has only reaffirmed what was painfully obvious. This is an inherently flawed piece of legislation, from a fatally wounded Government unable to deal in reality.”

He went on: “This is about the good governance of the UK, and whether it is Parliament or Government that should have the power to control significant changes to the law. On the Opposition Benches, we recognise that there are undoubtedly areas where we as a country will choose to take a different regulatory approach now that we are no longer pooling some of those decisions across the other member states of the European Union. However, where we choose to do that, the correct approach is to bring to this place a set of positive proposals and have them accepted or rejected in the usual fashion.” I agree with the Shadow Business Secretary. 

As you know, this Bill aimed at allowing Ministers to amend or repeal all legislation carried over from our membership of the EU with nearly no parliamentary scrutiny. I am concerned that this would put at risk hard-fought rights and protections for British workers, consumers and the environment while diminishing democratic scrutiny and accountability in key areas of British law. On 10 May, the Government announced it was abandoning its plan to cause most retained EU law (REUL) to expire at the end of the year. I consider this reflects the damage that this approach would do to the economy, at a time when businesses and families are already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Indeed, that is why I supported efforts to force the Government to abandon this approach several months ago when the Bill was before the House of Commons. It is disappointing that it took so long for the Government to reverse its course. It was always completely unacceptable that it wanted the power to potentially allow thousands of pieces of legislation to be removed from our statute book at the end of this year, with no idea of the exact legislation it would apply to.

More broadly, despite the Government’s new amendments, I remain completely opposed to the enormous powers Ministers are seeking to give themselves through the Bill, and I share concerns that the Government is seeking to use it to embark on a process of mass deregulation. The laws at risk are not cumbersome red tape but rights and protections British people rightly expect. It is worrying, for example, that the Government has announced plans to water down working time rights, as well as protections for employees when their business changes owner. We do need to establish the future status of laws carried over from our time in the EU, but I fundamentally disagree with the Government’s approach to doing this. I therefore welcome amendments made to the Bill in the House of Lords that seek to enable Parliament to have a say in deciding what happens to these laws that affect our lives. I can assure you I will continue to support efforts to ensure this legislation does not water down hard-won workers’ rights, undermine business confidence, or give Ministers unaccountable powers they cannot be trusted with.

The results for debates on 24 May 2023:
Motion to disagree with Lords Amendment Lords Amendment 6 – Ayes: 296 Noes 215
Amendment (a) to Lords Amendment 1 – Ayes: 298  Noes: 216
Motion to disagree with Lords Amendment 15 – Ayes: 294  Noes: 217
Motion to disagree with Lords Amendment 42 – Ayes: 294  Noes: 217

The Bill now returns to the Lords for further debate th