MOTION 22A (AS AN AMENDMENT TO THE MOTION ON AMMENDMENT 22)

12th November 2020: Lord Faulkner of Worcester:

My contribution to the Motion 22A (as an amendment to the Motion on Amendment 22)

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)

My Lords, it a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and, like him, I declare a Channel Island interest in that I chair the Alderney Gambling Control Commission and am a vice-chair of the Channel Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group. To say that the inclusion of the permissive extent clause in Clause 52 has upset the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey is an under- statement. They are affronted by it, and for very good reason. The clause is neither necessary nor appropriate; it respects neither the bailiwicks’ legislative autonomy nor their centuries-old constitutional relationship with the Crown. This is almost exactly the view taken by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, to which the noble Lord, Lord Beith, referred.

I shall quote another section of that report, which states:

“The long-standing practice of the United Kingdom when it ratifies an international agreement has been to do so on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and any of the Crown Dependencies that wish the international instrument to apply to them. Where legislation has been required, it has been enacted by the Crown Dependencies’ own legislatures, subject to the usual requirements for Royal Assent, and any potential differences of view have been dealt with in bilateral discussion rather than by the imposition of legislation from Westminster.”

The report goes on to state:

“We recommend that the Bill be amended so that consent of the governments of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (as appropriate) is required prior to the use of these powers.”

The crucial word here is “consent”.

Reading the Hansard report of the Bill’s Report stage in the House of Commons, I commend the speech of Sir Robert Neill MP, the chairman of the Justice Committee:

“There is a long-standing constitutional convention … that the normal process is that we legislate for the Crown dependencies only with their consent. They are not former colonies or British territories, and they are not part of the United Kingdom in the strict sense. They are possessions of Her Majesty the Queen, by right of her position as successor to the Duchy of Normandy. That is why they do not have representation here. Where necessary, their legislative dealings with the UK Government are dealt with historically through the Privy Council, and are now safeguarded by the Ministry of Justice via the person of the Lord Chancellor. So their constitutional position is different.

The Government have recognised that in the past, for example in tax transparency legislation, where this House accepted that although we have the power to legislate for overseas territories, we do not constitutionally have the power to legislate for the Crown dependencies in a like manner.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/10/20; cols. 307-08.]

It is almost exactly one month since this government amendment was first considered. The Bill started in your Lordships’ House on 29 January. It received our normal thorough scrutiny, with four days in Committee in March and two on Report in June. Throughout all those stages, and indeed during the Commons consideration at Second Reading and in Committee, there was no reference to this new clause.

The Minister said that the Government would have preferred to introduce the new clause earlier with the consent of the Crown dependencies, and indeed there were discussions between Defra officials and the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey in July, after the Bill had left your Lordships’ House, about the inclusion of a PEC. The island Governments, however, made it clear, verbally and in writing, that they did not want a PEC included; in other words, they denied their consent to it, pointing out that the bailiwicks are responsible for ensuring that they fulfil all the international obligations to which they have agreed to be bound, including by making legislation themselves in their respective jurisdictions.

The islands meet these international obligations by implementing appropriate policies and making and enforcing relevant legislation. The Channel Islands can legislate very quickly, if needed, to comply with international obligations and to resolve any international situations, as they have in the past. Any issues that arose could be dealt with effectively by the islands themselves, and the PEC is therefore unnecessary, and, from a constitutional point of view, wholly undesirable.

At this stage, I draw the House’s attention to the views of my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, who is the only Guernsey-born Member of your Lordships’ House. She cannot take part in this debate but she has sent me this note:

“I was planning to focus on the issue of trust. Trust which has always existed … between the Channel Islands and what is affectionately known as ‘The Mainland’ or ‘The Other Side’. Every islander has relatives, friends, connections ‘over the other side’ and it is almost taken for granted that the interests of the two jurisdictions coincide, even while recognising and being proud of their own distinctions. It will be a source of great distress that this trust should be undermined as this legislation threatens to do and is surely not in the long term interests of either my home island or those of the government. The relationship between Guernsey and the UK government is based on mutual respect and an understanding of different perspectives and for the government to make these changes without any communication, let alone consultation, shows a gross lack of respect for the constitutional relationships which have worked well for decades. This is a constitutional issue, not one confined to fishing and would set a most unhelpful precedent for future relationships between the ‘dear Channel Islands’ and the UK.”

As I am sure your Lordships will be aware, “our dear Channel Islands” was how Winston Churchill described them in his liberation broadcast on 8 May 1945.

I do not want to be unfair to the Minister, or indeed to the Fisheries Minister, Victoria Prentis, as in recent days they have attempted to persuade Ministers in Guernsey and Jersey that what they are attempting to do is fair and reasonable. I should express my own appreciation that they took the trouble to talk to me last Tuesday.

I heard from Victoria Prentis’s office on Tuesday this week that Defra will “establish a committee to discuss the Crown dependencies’ international obligations”.

We heard a similar commitment from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, this afternoon. That would be a tiny step forward, but it does not alleviate the Channel Islands’ concerns and would not justify the inclusion of the PEC in the Bill. In his letter to the Constitution Committee on 2 November, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, gave his “absolute assurance that it is still government policy that legislation should not be extended to the Crown dependencies without first consulting their Governments and seeking their consent.”

When he replies to this debate, can he clarify that absolute assurance: that, in consulting the bailiwicks, the Government would act only once they had not just sought but received their consent, and that that is not just government policy but long-standing, established constitutional principle and practice? If he accepted that, he would at least be following the recommendation of our own Constitution Committee. If he does not do that, I really cannot see any alternative other than to agree to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beith.

“External involvement in the form of a regulator supported by statutory powers is required to reform the way our national game is governed”?

A link to the complete debate here