Brexit Bill Heads Back To UK Commons After Bruising Ride In Lords

LONDON (Alliance News) - UK Prime Minister Theresa May is being urged to take "a pragmatic ...

Alliance News 17 May, 2018 | 6:42AM
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LONDON (Alliance News) - UK Prime Minister Theresa May is being urged to take "a pragmatic view" of a series of changes made by peers to flagship Brexit legislation as it returns to the elected House of Commons.

The government suffered a total 15 defeats to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill during its 20-day passage through the House of Lords, including in key areas of a customs union, the Irish border, a decisive say for Parliament on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and membership of the European Economic Area.

MPs will now consider the amendments made to the draft Bill, although no date has yet been set for this, leading to claims by critics that the prime minister is fearful of a backbench revolt and defeats in the Commons.

In a nod to the Bill's bruising ride through the Lords, Brexit Minister Lord Callanan admitted it was "with a tremendous sigh of relief" that he proposed the Bill be agreed to at third reading.

He told peers: "No one can be in any doubt that we have listened. We have brought forward significant amendments to all of the key aspects of the Bill... with almost 200 amendments having been made to the Bill in total."

He added: "The government has suffered defeats on 15 issues.

"Although I regret the number of defeats I am grateful to those many Lords who I think have worked constructively to improve the Bill.

"This House has done its duty as a revising chamber. The Bill has been scrutinised.

"It is now right that the Bill be sent back to the elected House of Commons so that Parliament can, as a responsible legislature, complete the job of ensuring a functioning statute book for the whole of the UK."

Speaking after the Bill cleared the upper house, Labour's leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith of Basildon, said: "The prime minister will have been carefully watching our debates and votes on this Bill.

"It now returns to the Commons in better shape, with both Government and cross-party amendments that provide MPs with an opportunity to consider these important issues.

"I hope May will take a pragmatic view of how best to proceed rather than follow a purely ideological route that rejects sensible amendments."

During the proceedings, Labour former cabinet minister Lord Adonis, who has been a vocal critic of Brexit, called for MPs to debate changes made by the Lords as soon as possible.

He said: "There are all kinds of rumours about the government delaying, perhaps for months, perhaps even forever, consideration by the Commons of the amendments because the prime minister fears a rebellion among Conservative MPs against extreme Brexit.

"To deny the House of Commons the right to express itself on our amendments in a timely manner is obviously undemocratic."

Lord Adonis also argued the Salisbury Convention, which protects the governing party's manifesto commitments, "clearly does not apply" as the Conservatives lost its majority at the last election and so had no mandate.

Tory former defence minister Lord Hamilton of Epsom, warned amendments passed by peers threatened the future of unelected house.

He said: "I believe through the progress of this Bill noble lords collectively have taken leave of their senses and in doing so they put the whole future of (the House of Lords) as an appointed chamber at stake."

Former Ukip leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch said that the EU was "a bad, pointless, corrupt and very expensive thing which the British, I'm glad to say, have seen through."

Waving off the Bill, Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords Lord Newby told peers "all we can do is send the Bill to (the House of Commons) and wait for the explosions".

Earlier during the third reading debate, peers had inflicted their 15th defeat against the government over the Bill, with peers voting by 294 to 244, majority 50, for the maintenance of EU environmental principles and standards post-Brexit.

After weeks of scrutiny of the legislation tensions between peers broke into the open with an extraordinary attack by Tory former deputy Commons Speaker Lord Framlingham, who accused colleagues of trying to wreck the Bill.

To cries of "shame" and "rubbish" from other peers, Lord Framlingham said scrutiny of the Bill had seen the Lords "at its worst" as peers "used and abused" the parliamentary system to try to "further their own ends and stop us leaving the EU".

But Tory colleague Lord Cormack told him: "If anybody is doing damage to the reputation of this House it is you."

By Nick Lester, Dan O'Donoghue and Trevor Mason, Press Association Political Staff

source: Press Association

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