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Lords votes on changes UK Internal Market Bill

24 November 2020

EU and UK flags

The House of Lords continued report stage of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill on Monday 23 November.

Report stage is a further chance to examine the bill and make changes.

The House of Lords voted 319 in favour, 242 against, amendment 15. This change requires the government to seek the consent of the devolved administrations over the use of powers in the bill. If consent is not given within a month, the government can press ahead but this change requires it to publish a statement explaining why its made the regulations. 

Members also voted for amendment 54, by 285 to 224. This change ensures representation for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations on the Competition and Markets Authority board. 

Day three of report stage is on Wednesday 25 November. 

Report stage day one - Wednesday 18 November

Members voted in favour of two amendments to the bill on the devolved administrations and ministerial powers.

Common frameworks process

The Lords voted 367 for, 209 against, amendment one to strenghten the common frameworks process. Members argued the bill would undermine the process, an agreement for the four UK nations to work together on powers returning to the UK after Brexit.

Ministerial powers

The second vote was on amendment seven, to take out subsections that would allow ministers to re-write elements of the bill after it becomes law (secondary legislation). Members voted 327 in favour, 223 against. 

Revising chamber

As the second chamber of the UK Parliament, the House of Lords is a revising chamber: members make arguments for changes to persuade the government to think again. Some of the amendments moved were accepted by the government. For example, the government agreed to amendment two which removed some ministerial powers.

The minister Lord Callanan (Conservative) said the government listened to what members had said. To address the concerns the House raised, it agreed to remove powers that, after reflection, it now considered non-essential.

The House of Lords Library briefing provides background information about the bill.

Committee stage

Day five - Monday 9 November 

Members voted by 433 to 165 to remove clause 42 which included provisions on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The House of Lords also voted to remove clause 44 which would override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement relating to Northern Ireland, by 407 to 148.

Day four - Monday 4 November

Members discussed the responsibilities of the Competition and Markets Authority and promoting research and development and innovation in UK industries.

Day three - Monday 2 November

On day three of committee stage, members discussed the powers of devolved administrations and a future Office for the Internal Market.

Day two - Wednesday 28 October

On the second day of committee stage, members continued to debate these proposed amendments to the bill, with consultation of devolved administrations and the powers of ministers to vary aspects of the bill on the agenda.

Day one - Monday 26 October

On day one of committee stage, members discussed consumer and environmental protection, the Northern Ireland protocol and Good Friday Agreement, and common frameworks between the devolved UK governments.

Main debate on the bill

Rule of law

The rule of law dominated the second reading debate on Monday 19 October. Many members argued that the principle of upholding the law is fundamental.

Vote on Lord Judge's amendment

Lord Judge, Convenor of the Crossbench Peers, put forward a change to amend the wording of the debate motion to state the bill would undermine the rule of law and damage the UK’s reputation. He highlighted that Parliament – responsible for making the law and a body which expects people to obey the laws it makes – would be knowingly granting power to the government to break the law.

The House of Lords voted 395 for and 169 against Lord Judge's amendment, so the change to the debate motion was made. 

UK Union

Members from across the UK expressed concern about the future of the Union and the way the bill would restrict the existing powers of the devolved administrations.

Members

Nearly 70 members took part, including a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The collective experience of the speakers covers major public offices: 16 former secretaries of state and ministers, three former law lords and supreme court justices and a former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, four former civil service permanent secretaries, two former Lord Chancellors, two former leaders of the main political parties and two former Speakers of the Commons and the Lords.

Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Labour) and Lord Sarfraz (Conservative) made their maiden speeches.

Lords committee reports

The Constitution Committee, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Commitee and EU Committee reports on the bill call for the government to remove provisions breaching the UK’s international law obligations and the Withdrawal Agreement.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

The UK Internal Market Bill makes provision for the UK’s single market and seeks to provide access for Northern Ireland goods to the market in Great Britain. It contains ministerial powers to change the Northern Ireland Protocol.