Bishop of Leeds supports Brexit Bill amendment on children’s rights, speaks on parliamentary approval of outcome of negotiations

Leeds160620On 30th April the EU (Withdrawal) Bill entered its fourth day of Report Stage. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, spoke on Baroness Massey’s amendment to support children, and Viscount Hailsham’s amendment to give MPs and Peers a meaningful say in the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. His speeches are below:

Amendment 55A moved by Baroness Massey of Darwen:

55A: Clause 9, page 7, line 17, at end insert—

“(e) make any provision without giving consideration to Part I of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by the United Kingdom.(3A) The condition in subsection 2(e) is fulfilled if, and only if, a Minister of the Crown lays before both Houses of Parliament—(a) a Ministerial Statement committing to give due consideration to Part I of UNCRC ratified by the United Kingdom when carrying out duties and functions that were within the competence of the EU before exit day, or when exercising powers under this section or powers under section 7 to prevent, remedy or mitigate deficiencies; and(b) a comprehensive audit setting out how children’s rights will continue to be protected across the United Kingdom after exit day, particularly in areas where children’s rights are not currently protected under domestic law but were, before exit day, in EU law.”

The Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I briefly add my support for this amendment. It seems that much of the debate about EU withdrawal has been about economics, deals and trade, and we cannot speak of children in terms of deals or trade. Some of the most vulnerable people on our continent are children. Perhaps the most important thing is that they are the future as well as the present, and they will not forget how they have been seen and how they are regarded. So I strongly endorse the statement made by the noble Baroness earlier that children are people, not a project. I support the amendment.

Amendment 49 moved by Viscount Hailsham:

49: Before Clause 9, insert the following new Clause—

​“Parliamentary approval of the outcome of negotiations with the European Union

(1) Without prejudice to any other statutory provision relating to the withdrawal agreement, Her Majesty’s Government may conclude such an agreement only if a draft has been—(a) approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and(b) subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords.(2) So far as practicable, a Minister of the Crown must make arrangements for the resolution provided for in subsection (1)(a) to be debated and voted on before the European Parliament has debated and voted on the draft withdrawal agreement.(3) Her Majesty’s Government may implement a withdrawal agreement only if Parliament has approved the withdrawal agreement and any transitional measures agreed within or alongside it by an Act of Parliament.(4) Subsection (5) applies in each case that any of the conditions in subsections (6) to (8) is met.(5) Her Majesty’s Government must follow any direction in relation to the negotiations under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which has been—(a) approved by a resolution of the House of Commons, and(b) subject to the consideration of a motion in the House of Lords.(6) The condition in this subsection is that the House of Commons has not approved the resolution required under subsection (1)(a) by 30 November 2018.(7) The condition in this subsection is that the Act of Parliament required under subsection (3) has not received Royal Assent by 31 January 2019.(8) The condition in this subsection is that no withdrawal agreement has been reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union by 28 February 2019.(9) In this section, “withdrawal agreement” means an agreement (whether or not ratified) between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and the framework for the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union.”

The Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I find myself torn between pragmatism and principle—the principle of parliamentary democracy and upholding and preserving the constitution; and on pragmatic terms, the ability the Government need to manage the process we are in. But I keep hearing in this debate the language of “telling the House of Commons what to do”. Call me ignorant, but I did not think that that was what we were doing. I thought the role of the House of Lords was to scrutinise, improve and ask the Government to think again. That is what we are called to do and that is where the principle applies. Then it is up to the House of Commons and the Government to decide what they do with the arguments put forward from this place. Not to do that is to deny the appropriate role of this House in doing its job.