The Withdrawal Bill: 'Parliament are being written out of the legislative process'

Yesterday marked the final day of debate for the second reading of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, more commonly known as the Repeal Bill. The full transcript for the debate can be read online here.

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said:

“Yesterday a wide range of MPs from both sides of the dispatch box raised substantial concerns about the broad and sweeping powers that would be handed to ministers by the Repeal Bill. Crucially, MPs from many parties recognised the bill’s potential to undermine parliamentary sovereignty, enable ministers to get around robust scrutiny, and negatively impact hard won devolution settlements.

“The delegated powers in the bill go far beyond the government’s intended purpose of facilitating a transposition of EU law into the UK statute book, and must be curbed. David Liddington plainly acknowledged that the government needs to “get the balance right”. While we welcome this admission, real changes to the bill are needed - not empty promises. That means only the most robust scrutiny of delegated legislation, definitive limitations on what the delegated powers can and can’t be used for on the face of the bill, no undermining of hard won devolution settlements, and a solution to the imminent governance gap.

“Since the bill was initially announced in October 2016 many organisations as well as committees in the House of Lords have proposed pragmatic solutions to the challenges arising from the unprecedented breadth and scope of the delegated powers proposed by the government. We are calling on the government to adopt Hansard Society’s sift and scrutiny committee, a model which would vastly improve the scrutiny of delegated legislation and take the decision about how Statutory Instruments are scrutinised out of the government's hands.

“MPs and the public shouldn’t have to rely on the government's word that our rights will be protected - this protection should be spelled out in black and white on the face of the bill. Without a written constitution to guarantee our rights and freedoms, with these powers the government would be free to reshape society in any way it sees fit, effectively writing Parliament out of the legislative process. “


Notes to editors:

Earlier this year Unlock Democracy won funding from a consortium of grant-making trusts  and foundations to coordinate civil society’s responses to the WithdrawalBill. The Repeal Bill Alliance now consists of over 70 organisations from across civil society. More information at

Samuel EllisComment