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Peers to hear evidence on the constitutional implications of the UK Internal Market Bill

Tuesday 22 September 2020

The House of Lords Constitution Committee will be hearing evidence on the UK Internal Market Bill from three witness panels this week.

The sessions will include questions on international law, ministerial duties and the rule of law. Peers will also explore the implications of the Bill for the devolved legislatures and the responsibilities of the Law Officers and the Lord Chancellor when advising the Government.

First session

The first session will take place on Wednesday 23 September 2020 at 10.30am. Giving evidence will be:

  • Sir Franklin Berman QC, barrister, Essex Court
  • Professor Mark Elliott, Professor of Public Law, University of Cambridge
  • Sir Stephen Laws QC, former First Parliamentary Counsel

Questions the Committee is likely to ask include:

  • Is there any precedent for introducing legislation that grants ministerial power to breach international law, or otherwise expressly legislates for non-compliance with international law?
  • Does the Bill confer ministerial powers at odds with the duties set out in the Ministerial Code and the Cabinet Manual?
  • Does the rule of law, properly understood, prohibit the preparation, introduction or enactment of a Bill which anticipates actual or potential conflict with international law?

Second session

The second session will take place on Wednesday 23 September 2020 at 11.30am. Giving evidence will be:

  • Lord Butler of Brockwell
  • Lord O’Donnell
  • Lord Wilson of Culworth (former Cabinet Secretaries)

Questions the Committee is likely to ask include:

  • What is the role of the Cabinet Secretary in advising the Prime Minister about the requirements of the Ministerial Code and the Cabinet Manual?
     
  • The Civil Service Code says that civil servants should act within the law. What should they do if they believe they are being asked to do something unlawful?
     
  • Is it appropriate for Parliament to be asked to pass a bill that breaks international law?

Third session

The third session will take place on Thursday 24 September 2020 at 10.30am. Giving evidence will be:

  • Professor Katy Hayward, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Professor Nicola McEwen, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Joanne Hunt, Cardiff University

Questions the Committee is likely to ask include:

  • How does the UK Internal Market Bill affect devolved legislative and executive competence, and the functions of the devolved administrations?
  • What amendments to the UK Internal Market Bill are necessary to protect the integrity of existing devolution arrangements in the UK?
  • What additional steps or safeguards ought to be prioritised to protect the integrity of existing devolution arrangements in the context of the UK’s departure from the European Union?

The sessions will take place virtually and can be followed on Parliament TV.

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