We learnt this week that the Government is looking for new spending cuts of up to 6% (to save £3.5 billion by 2020). The NHS and core schools budgets will not be included, but other departments will now be told to find further savings of between 2% and 6% by 2019-2020, with up to £1 billion to be reinvested in priority areas. The Government will continue to spend 2% of GDP on defence, and it remains legally obliged to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid. We will hear more of the Government’s plans in the Budget next Wednesday.
Theresa May has visited Scotland and addressed the Scottish Conservative Conference in Glasgow. She has confirmed that she is committed to strengthening the Union, is concerned about neglect of education in Scotland and has criticised the Scottish Government’s “obsession” with independence.
Former Tory PM John Major has warned that Britons are being offered an “unreal and over-optimistic” vision of what Brexit will look like. He also attacked the Government calling for “more charm and a lot less cheap rhetoric”. Keeping on the Brexit page, new figures show the EU budget being set to increase by over 3% in 2018 amid fears of cuts following Brexit.
It has also been reported that Labour has lost nearly 26,000 members since last summer. Labour also lost “safe” Kersal (in Salford) Council seat to the Conservatives this week.
Trump: The First 100 Days: snubs the White House Correspondents’ Dinner continuing his attack of the media, failed to recognise any of the winners of the Oscars, proposed increase of $54 billion on military spending (rise of 9%), awards himself an A+ for effort (and a C+ for explaining issues…), addresses Congress for the first time with a ‘softer’ tone, Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing calls to resign after his confirmation hearing about his contact with the Russians during the Presidential campaign
EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill: Committee Stage House of Lords
The House of Lords had the opportunity once again to debate the EU Bill, and numerous Amendments were discussed.
Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment 1: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert “while retaining membership of the European Economic Area (EEA)”
Responding, Lord Keen of Elie stated:
“being a member of the EEA would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations that implement the four freedoms – in respect of capital, goods, services and people – without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. It would mean accepting a role for the European Court of Justice that would see it still having direct legal authority in our country. It would mean not having control over immigration. At the end of the day, we cannot embrace membership of the EEA any more than membership of the EU without freedom of movement in Europe. In these circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment on the understanding that we cannot retain membership of the EEA for the reasons I have sought to set out.”
Amendment 1 was subsequently withdrawn.
Lord Hain moved Amendment 2: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) Before a notification can be given under subsection (1), the Prime Minister must give an undertaking to negotiate under the process set out in Article 50 to support the maintenance of the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as set out under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and subsequent relevant agreements.”
Responding, Lord Dunlop reminded the House:
“The Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech and the White Paper set out the 12 principles that will guide our approach to the negotiations. Two of these refer explicitly to the needs of Northern Ireland. The first makes clear that the Government remain fully committed to the Belfast agreement and its successors as part of securing a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom and strengthens the union. The second highlights the importance of protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the common travel area. Nobody wants to see a return to the borders of the past. The border is clearly a vital economic and trade issue. We recognise that the Northern Ireland economy is deeply integrated with that of Ireland, as well as with that of the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Amendment 2 was subsequently withdrawn.
Lord Newby moved Amendment 3: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) No agreement with the European Union consequent on the use of the power under subsection (1) may be ratified unless—(a) it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament;(b) the Prime Minister has obtained authority to put it to a national referendum; and(c) it has been approved by such a referendum.”
Responding, Lord Bridges stated:
“The majority voted to leave, not to have a second referendum and not to think again. The people have spoken and this Bill delivers on their wish… We are absolutely going to stand by the instruction given to us by the British people to leave the European Union. That was the decision and that is the Government’s policy, and that is what it will remain.”
After some back and forth, Amendment 3 was subsequently withdrawn.
Lord Hain moved Amendment 4: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) Before a notification can be given under subsection (1), the Prime Minister must give an undertaking to negotiate under the process set out in Article 50 on the basis of the United Kingdom retaining membership of the European Single Market.”
Responding, Lord Bridges advised the Chamber:
“Yes, I know that the Conservative Government said that they would protect our role in the single market in the manifesto. But as my noble friend Lord Blencathra pointed out, the manifesto also promised to respect the result of the referendum—a promise which this Parliament endorsed by passing the European Union Referendum Act.”
and that trade issues would be discussed during negotiations. Amendment 4 was put to a vote: 136 Content; 299 Not Content.
Baroness Quin moved Amendment 6: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) Subsection (1) does not come into force until Her Majesty’s Government has laid before each House of Parliament an assessment of the impact of—(a) withdrawing from the European Union, and(b) Her Majesty’s Government’s negotiating strategy for withdrawal, on the economy of the North East of England.”
Responding, Lord Bridges stated:
“…the challenge that we—that is, Government and Parliament—face is to get the balance right between providing enough information to enable scrutiny and ensuring that our negotiating position is not revealed. I would argue that some of the amendments fail that test, as they would expose the Government’s negotiating position.”
Amendment 6 was subsequently withdrawn.
Lord Warner moved Amendment 8: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) Within a period between 9 and 12 months from the date of a notification under section 1, the Prime Minister must lay before each House of Parliament for their approval a report on progress on withdrawal negotiations with the EU that covers progress on—(a) future trading relationships with the EU, and an assessment of the implications of likely changes in those relationships for the major United Kingdom industries and sectors;(b) future arrangements for the movement of citizens of the EU and the United Kingdom between each other’s territories;(c) the cost and make-up of the exit charge to be paid by the United Kingdom to the EU;(d) the likely implications of these negotiations for the devolved administrations, especially the border between Ireland and the United Kingdom; and(e) such other matters the Prime Minister considers should be included.”
Lord Bridges responded:
“My Lords, restoring parliamentary sovereignty lay at the core of what the British public were seeking to achieve when they voted to withdraw from the EU, so it is right that Parliament must and shall play a key role in scrutinising and shaping our withdrawal. As I said in my remarks on the previous amendment, the issue is one of balance. Parliamentary scrutiny must not come at the price of exposing our negotiating position and jeopardising what is in the national interest… The Government entirely accept the need for parliamentary scrutiny, but these amendments are unnecessary or detrimental and have nothing to do with the purpose of the Bill, which is to deliver on the referendum result and to allow the Government to trigger Article 50. I therefore ask that noble Lords do not press them.”
Amendment 8 was subsequently withdrawn
Baroness Hayter moved Amendment 9B: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) Within three months of exercising the power under section 1(1), Ministers of the Crown must bring forward proposals to ensure that citizens of another European Union or European Economic Area country and their family members, who are legally resident in the United Kingdom on the day on which this Act is passed, continue to be treated in the same way with regards to their EU derived-rights and, in the case of residency, their potential to acquire such rights in the future.”
Responding, Lord Bridges stated that the issue of ‘fairness’ should be remembered in relation to our 900,000 UK nationals living in European countries and for the 3 million+ European citizens residing in the UK. He explained that the basis on which the Amendment was made is a priority for the negotiations once Article 50 has been triggered, and that as soon as this ‘simple’ Bill is passed, the more quickly the agreement on EU migrants can be made. Amendment 9B was put to a vote: 358 Content; 256 Not content (note: the Government has already stated that it will ‘resist’ any changes to the Brexit Bill and will seek to overturn this defeat. However, there are reports that 20 Tory MPs are expected to vote in support of the Lords’ Amendment)
Lord Teverson moved Amendment 11: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert— “( ) Section 3(2) of the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 does not apply to subsection (1), and in subsection (1) the term “EU” does not include the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).”
Responding, Lord Keen of Elie explained that
“If nothing else, the amendments give me the opportunity to offer some reassurance—indeed, complete reassurance—that the Government are committed to maintaining the highest standards of nuclear safety and safeguards and to make clear that our aim is to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear co-operation with Euratom… it shares a common institutional framework with the European Union. This makes the European Union and Euratom uniquely legally joined. For example, the Euratom Community relies on a common set of institutions provided for under the EU treaties, including the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the Court of Justice.”
Amendment 11 was subsequently withdrawn.
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb moved Amendment 12: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“( ) A notification may only be given under subsection (1) once—(a) Her Majesty’s Government has laid before each House of Parliament a White Paper setting out its approach to any transitional arrangements with the European Union following the expiry of the two-year period specified in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union; and(b) the approach set out in the White Paper has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
Lord Bridges responded stating that numerous issues that were being debated in relation to transitional arrangements have no place in the Bill and that will be subject for the negotiations. Amendment 12 was subsequently withdrawn
Lord Pannick moved Amendment 17: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the European Union (1) No Minister of the Crown may agree to arrangements for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union until—(a) Her Majesty’s Government has laid a copy of the final draft of the proposed arrangements before each House of Parliament, and(b) each House of Parliament has passed a resolution approving the final draft of the proposed arrangements.(2) The requirements under subsection (1)(a) and (b) must also be met where a Minister of the Crown proposes any separate arrangements pertaining to the future political and economic relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.(3) In the case of a proposed agreement with the European Union setting out the arrangements for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, any resolution under subsection (1) must have been passed by each House of Parliament before the proposed terms are agreed with the European Council, with a view to their approval by the European Parliament.(4) No Minister of the Crown may agree to the termination, or terminate unilaterally, the negotiations regarding the arrangements for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union without the prior approval of each House of Parliament by resolution.”
Responding, Lord Bridges confirmed that
“as we committed to on the Floor of the other place, there will be a vote in both Houses of Parliament on the final agreement before it is concluded—a vote we fully expect and intend to be before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.”
And reminded the House that there is no question on whether we leave the EU as that decision has already been made. Amendment 17 was subsequently withdrawn
Baroness Hayter moved Amendment 21: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Involvement of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (1) Within six months of 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) the 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 under the process set out in Article 50 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.”
Responding, Lord Keen of Elie confirmed:
“As the Prime Minister has said, it is more important than ever that we face the future together, united by what makes us strong: the bonds that unite us. The Government are determined to ensure that the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom are fully taken into account in our negotiations with the European Union”
Amendment 21 was subsequently withdrawn.
Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment 24: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on co-operation with European technical agencies (1) Before exercising the power under section 1(1), the Prime Minister must publish a report detailing the United Kingdom’s intended approach, during negotiations under the process set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, to ensuring the United Kingdom’s continued co-operation and participation with the work of the European technical agencies listed in subsection (2).(2) The agencies are—(a) Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER),(b) Office of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC Office),(c) Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO),(d) European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex),(e) European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-LISA),(f) European Asylum Support Office (EASO),(g) European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA),(h) European Banking Authority (EBA),(i) European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC),(j) European Chemicals Agency (ECHA),(k) European Environment Agency (EEA),(l) European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA),(m) European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA),(n) European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA),(o) European Medicines Agency (EMA),(p) European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA),(q) European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA),(r) European Police Office (Europol),(s) European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), (t) European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA),(u) European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), and(v) the (European Atomic Energy Community Treaty) EURATOM agencies.”
Responding, Lord Bridges explained
“these agencies are important and I was not wishing in any shape or form to be derogatory about any agency.”
And confirmed that he did not want to enter into a debate about the importance of each individual agency. Amendment 24 was subsequently withdrawn.
Backbench Business Debate: Importance of Intellectual Property to the British Economy
On Tuesday, we watched the Westminster Hall debate led by Nigel Adams MP on the importance of intellectual property, giving us all an opportunity to hear Jo Johnson’s response on a variety of IP issues.
Those MPs who contributed during the debate were:
• Nigel Adams (Digital Economy Bill, Industrial Strategy, APPG Enforcement Inquiry, Voluntary Code of Practice, Value Gap, Get it Right campaign, Safe Harbour, IPTV, enforcement with Trading Standards and PIPCU, Artist’s Resale Right, industry content with current copyright framework)
• Chris White (transposition of legislation, inclusion of IP in industrial strategy)
• Kevin Brennan (Voluntary Code of Practice, IPTV)
• Jessica Morden (reflected on the important work undertaken by the IPO, they need ongoing support by Government)
• Patrick Grady (covered economic prosperity of science, tech, universities, open access research and also patents in developing countries around the world, echoed Value Gap concerns)
• Ian Paisley (piracy being the normalisation of theft, 40% petrol/diesel sales in N Ireland illicit, transparency of music contracts )
• Pete Wishart (mentioned how IP has been shunted around departments in the past, APPG Enforcement Inquiry, Digital Single Market, harmonising laws across the EU for the publishing industry, ensure IP is at the forefront of trade deals, parasitic packaging, 3D printing, Voluntary Code of Practice, Value Gap)
• Bill Esterson (responding for the Opposition) (IP catalyst for growth, Voluntary Code needs proper enforcement, IPTV, asks about Govt investment in R&D)
• Jo Johnson (responding for the Government)
The Minister responded confirming the Government’s recognition of the importance of IP, and that he was proud of our cultural heritage reflecting on the success of our TV, film, music industries and name-checked Skepta and Stormzy). He also discussed the UK’s cutting edge research base, and in responding to Esterson, reflected on the Government’s announcement in the Autumn Budget of an increase in spending on R&D (the biggest increase in 40 years). He also discussed the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper which clearly states that we must unlock the potential of our IP and to spread economic success across the country. The Minister mentioned that we have one of the best enforcement frameworks in the world, and that the Government also wants to see Trading Standards perform well. Specifically addressing IPTV that was brought up by various Members during the debate, the Minister stated that the Government is committed to “vigorously combat the normalisation” of this copyright infringement. However, he declined to comment any further due to the open Call for Views and wanted to avoid pre-empting the outcome. The Minister also mentioned that there will be a statement in the coming weeks about PIPCU funding, and confirmed that the Government will also look at the Contract Adjustment Mechanism.
As you will note, the Minister didn’t really outline any new positions from what we have heard previously. The debate was cut short before he could address the Digital Single Market, but this will be an issue that both the All Party Group and the Alliance will continue to stress to Government that we need a position on. We will be writing to the Minister separately following on from the debate reiterating concerns on these issues.
It is worth noting that although he didn’t have the opportunity to speak, Ed Vaizey was also present at the debate.
Lord Tim Clement-Jones question on PIPCU funding
On Tuesday, Lord Clement-Jones asked the Minister (Lord Prior of Brampton) in the House of Lords about continued funding of PIPCU.
The Minister confirmed that the Government recognises the important role that IP plays in creativity of all kinds, and acknowledged the vital role played by PIPCU in fighting IP crime. He also reiterated what the Minister for IP said in this morning’s Westminster Hall debate; that the Government is looking at current funding arrangements and will make a statement in due course.
However, Lord Clement-Jones pushed the Minister again, and explained how disappointing it is that we are waiting so long for assurances, saying that IP protection and enforcement are not being taken seriously. Responding, the Minister confirmed that the Government is “full committed to funding PIPCU”. When pressed again on this ‘commitment’:
Lord Clement-Jones: “is it the full budget asked by PIPCU? Is the Minister committed to a level of funding no less than the previous level of funding, is that what he’s really saying?”
Minister: “we have spent since PIPCU was set up £5.6 million on supporting the unit and I believe that supports 20 full time policemen, detectives and others and we are certainly committed to PIPCU at that level of funding”
Industrial Strategy: First Review – report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee has published a rather scathing report of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper. The Committee has said that the Government’s approach ‘appears to be evolutionary and reflects a continuation of policy approaches introduced from May 2015′. The report goes on to suggest that the Government hasn’t thought about how regional rebalancing and sectoral deals will work in practice. The recommendation to Government is to ‘reconsider giving sectoral strategies priority and instead focus on horizontal policies and specific ‘missions’ to meet UK-wide and local public policy challenges’.
The report also mentioned “A number of witnesses argued that innovation occurs at the boundaries between sectors, and noted that many businesses, particularly in supply chains, do not neatly fit in to specific sectoral categories. It is not clear how spill-over effects can be maximised if a stricter sector-based vertical approach was adopted. Our nation’s strength in creative industries, particularly design, for example, will undoubtedly have a positive impact upon producing new products and processes in manufacturing”
This week, the new MPs for Copeland and Stoke Central started work in Westminster.
As a result of Sir Gerald’s passing, there will be a by-election in the coming weeks for Manchester Gorton. However, with a whopping majority of 24,000, the seat is likely to remain Labour. The Green candidate came second in the 2015 General Election with 4,108 votes, followed closely behind by the Conservatives.
Dates for your diary:
7th March – EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Report Stage and Third Reading HoL
8th March – The Chancellor will deliver his Budget in the House of Commons following Prime Minister’s Questions
9th and 10th March – Theresa May meeting with EU leaders at the European Council, possibly notifying them of Britain’s intention to trigger Article 50
13th, 14th, 15th March – EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill Amendments passed in the Lords considered in the Commons
20th March – Digital Economy Bill Report Stage HoL