Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Changes to Brexit Bill 'may be necessary' say senior Tories

MPs are debating the government's controversial repeal bill which aims to transpose EU rules and regulations into the domestic law books ahead of Brexit.

Maria Miller, Bob Neill and Bernard Jenkin, as well as Labour's Frank Field, all of whom chair select committees that support the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, said they expect amendments will be necessary if the bill is to become law.

Ms Miller, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said an amendment was needed to "explicitly commit to maintaining current levels of equality protection".

Nonetheless, she backed the bill at its second reading, saying it would allow the government to "get on with the job" of exiting the EU.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on all Labour MPs to follow him in voting down the bill, but Ms Miller warned Labour's plan to vote against it could be seen as a "blatant attempt to frustrate" the Brexit process.

"There are strong arguments that this bill needs amending, but none that say this bill is unnecessary," she said.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill ends the supremacy of EU law in the UK and converts all existing EU law into domestic legislation.

But ministers believe between 800 and 1,000 such statutory instruments will be required as Brexit legislation makes its way through parliament.

Mr Field, who is chairman of the work and pensions committee, warned the government was "storing up no end of trouble" by having such a "mega bill".

Opposition stems from the so-called 'Henry VIII powers' contained in the bill Credit: PA

Opposition to the bill stems from the so-called "Henry VIII powers" the bill gives to ministers to alter laws without full parliamentary scrutiny, with some labeling it a "power grab" by the government.

Those in favour say the powers are necessary. Defending the bill during the debate, Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh delighted in noting: "Henry VIII is a b*****d, but he's my kind of b*****d."

But despite hours of debate - a vote is not expected until the early hours of Tuesday - Prime Minister Theresa May is confident the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will pass its second reading.

The bill aims to transpose EU rules and regulations into the domestic law books Credit: PA

Labour's Margaret Beckett came out against the bill, warning it set "the most dangerous precedents" and saying her party was "right to vote against it".

Chris Bryant, a former Labour minister, also came out strongly against the Henry VIII clauses in the bill, saying they were clauses "that Erdogan, Maduro and Putin would be proud of", a reference to the presidents of Turkey, Venezuela and Russia respectively.

He dubbed it "the biggest peace time power grab" by government over parliament in 100 years.

Also opposing the bill was Labour's Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, who noted that refusing to back the bill should not be seen as a vote against leaving the EU.

"If I do vote against second reading tonight, it's not because I'm voting against Brexit," she told the Commons.

Caroline Flint said she would defy the Labour whips and abstain from the vote

But Labour is far from united on the issue.

Caroline Flint, a Labour former minister who campaigned to remain in the EU but whose constituents voted to leave, confirmed she would defy her party whips and abstain, saying opponents of the legislation wanted to "thwart the result of the EU referendum and prevent or delay the UK leaving the EU".

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas described the Bill as "deeply dangerous and undemocratic" as she warned that Britain would be left with "zombie legislation".

Ms Lucas said the Bill was a "constitutional outrage" regardless of people's views on Brexit, and lambasted the "governance gap" on environmental protection.

Ahead of the debate, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis made a last minute plea, warning that voting against the bill would result in a "disorderly and chaotic" departure from the bloc in March 2019.