Submission to the Constitution Committee: The Withdrawal Bill
The Constitution Committee's report was published on the 29 January 2018 and quoted extensively from the evidence submitted by Unlock Democracy. Read the report here.
Executive summary of our submission
Despite there being the necessity for both delegated legislation and Henry VIII powers to carry out the government’s intended purpose, the powers as drafted are exceptionally broad. Many other areas of the bill lack definitional and legal imprecision that leaves the possibility open of wide interpretation that could negatively impact the UK’s democracy.
Concerns about delegated legislation and its scrutiny are not new, and standards around the acceptable use of delegated legislation have already been established by parliament. There is well evidenced political pressure to use the powers in the bill to make policy changes that would usually be reserved for primary legislation, and powers in the bill must be constrained to ensure that this does not happen.
Parliament needs new procedures for scrutinising delegated legislation. Even if the powers in the bill are constrained, parliament must have a meaningful role in scrutinising the most important constitutional change this country has faced in quite some time, and this can only be done by putting new procedures in place. This is an opportunity to radically reform an area that parliament has been discussing for many years. Workable models have been proposed that the government should urgently adopt.
The bill threatens to undermine hard won devolution settlements and negatively impact the culture of devolution. Without a statutory inter-governmental joint decision making mechanisms, engagement with the devolved nations and regions of the UK is left to the whims of Westminster, compounding concerns that the devolved legislatures are not being given a voice in this significant constitutional process.