MSPs delegation attends Brexit talks at House of Lords

18 January 2018, 05:29

Brexit Big Ben

A delegation of MSPs is due to raise concerns over key Brexit legislation in talks at the House of Lords.

Senior parliamentarians representing three Holyrood committees will set out cross-party concerns over the EU Withdrawal Bill on a visit to London.

They will attend the inter-parliamentary forum on Brexit, which brings together the relevant committees from both Houses of Parliament and the devolved legislatures.

The MSPs will criticise the lack of progress the UK Government has made on amending the Bill during its Commons passage.

Both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have branded the legislation a "power grab", saying they cannot recommend it be granted consent in its current form, which would see EU responsibilities in devolved areas initially transferred to Westminster.

A promise to introduce changes to address concerns about the problematic clause 11 during report stage in the Commons slipped, with the amendments now expected to emerge in the Lords.

Holyrood's cross-party finance and constitution committee has unanimously agreed that the clause is "incompatible" with the devolution settlement.

SNP convener Bruce Crawford MSP said: "It is hard to overstate our concern, indeed dismay, that the UK Government did not amend the Bill during its Commons passage, despite a clear commitment to do so from UK ministers towards the end of 2017.

"If a constitutional crisis is to be averted, it is vital that the UK Government brings forward changes to the Bill that properly respect the devolution settlement.

"All three of our committees welcome this chance to share our concerns with the Lords and appreciate their willingness to engage on issues that potentially endanger the devolution settlement."

He will be joined by Tory MSP Graham Simpson, convener of the delegated powers and law reform committee, who said: "My committee is strongly of the view that the Withdrawal Bill should be amended so that UK ministers can only legislate in devolved areas with the consent of devolved governments.

"At the same time, there needs to be a process for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise Scottish ministers' decisions before that consent is given.

"Ministers will have extraordinary powers to make laws under this Bill, so it is vital that each of the UK's legislatures have the opportunity to scrutinise effectively regulations made under these highly unusual ministerial powers."

Also attending the talks will be the SNP convener of the Europe committee, Joan McAlpine, who added: "As the Bill approaches its passage through the Lords, this is a timely opportunity for us to raise again the concerns that my committee has highlighted on the implications of EU withdrawal for Scotland.

"As the House of Lords committees identified many similar concerns to us in their extensive work on Brexit, I hope that these joint discussions will feed into the consideration and scrutiny of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill by the Lords."

The three will be joined by deputy conveners Tory Adam Tomkins, the SNP's Stuart McMillan and Labour's Claire Baker.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "Every part of the United Kingdom needs a functioning statute book, and that applies as much to Scotland as elsewhere.

"We have made good progress in our discussions with the Scottish Government on common frameworks and we look forward to making significant further progress over the coming weeks.

"We have made clear that we will bring forward an amendment to Clause 11 of the Bill in the Lords, and are confident we can get to a position which has the support of all sides."