19th october 2020: Lord Faulkner of Worcester:

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, with many important issues raised with skill and eloquence in all parts of the Chamber, and enhanced by two excellent maiden speeches.

I am a member of the EU Select Committee. The views I express in this debate are of course my own, though I should make it clear that I agree with every conclusion contained in the report which we published last week on Part 5 of the internal market Bill. The report was agreed unanimously, and I pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who chaired our proceedings with skill, distinction and humour.

I also congratulate my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton and her colleagues on the Constitution Committee on their report which focuses on devolution arrangements in the UK and the rule of law. Other speakers have dealt with the devastating nature of those issues: the consequences for Britain’s reputation abroad if we appear prepared to ignore the rule of law, the threats to the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday agreement, and the aggravation of the risk that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom.

One concern which has not received much attention in this debate, except, I think, from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, is the threat posed to public health. Public health is a devolved responsibility, and the individual nations of the UK have different populations and different priorities. Scotland, for example, pioneered minimum unit pricing for alcohol and England led the way on prohibiting tobacco displays in shops. However, the narrow drafting of this Bill substantially undermines the ability of all parts of the UK to innovate and improve public health policy. This is because of the very limited exceptions for public health. Furthermore, the current exclusions, including the list of legitimate aims that override non-discrimination, can be removed or weakened by statutory regulation. In my view, the Bill must be amended to allow the Governments of the four UK nations to protect the health of their populations. Protecting human health must be included as a legitimate aim for overriding all market access rules. I shall be supporting amendments to this effect in Committee.

In my last few moments, I want to make a couple of other points. First, I want to emphasise that this is not a rerun of earlier Brexit debates. If anyone is in any doubt about that, one need listen only to the powerful speech by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne, earlier today. And this is despite the intemperate attack by some Conservative MPs on the most reverend Primate and his fellow archbishops for daring to have a letter published in the Financial Times today.

The second point concerns the role of your Lordships’ House. The work of our committees—the Constitution Committee, the European Union Select Committee and the Delegated Powers Committee—has been outstanding and has hugely informed today’s debate. If your Lordships believe that Part 5 should not be included in the Bill, we should not be afraid to say so when we vote on the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, tomorrow, and when we consider the Bill line by line in Committee. However, if Part 5 survives, I hope your Lordships will look closely at new Clause 56. It provides for the House of Commons to have to approve a resolution before Ministers can use the powers in Part 5 but it is silent about any role in your Lordships’ House. That is something I hope we can address as well.

A link to the rest of the debate here