Theresa May has been ticked off by an influential peer for wrongly claiming a Lords committee “endorsed” her Brexit approach when in fact it raised “profound concerns”.
Baroness Taylor, chair of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, said not only had the Prime Minister “misquoted” the group’s report in the House of Commons, but key recommendations to limit the so-called Henry VIII powers were “ignored”.
The committee’s interim report on the EU Withdrawal Bill urged the Government to allow “meaningful scrutiny” by MPs on “significant policy decisions” as the Bill will see an “extraordinary” amount of EU law transferred into the UK statute book.
The Henry VIII powers allow ministers to amend the Bill via secondary legislation but, the Committee said, should only be used for “necessary technical changes”.
But responding during Prime Minister’s Questions to pro-remain Tory Anna Soubry, May claimed the committee had given the Bill carte blanche support.
She said: “I know that, like me, [Anna Soubry] wants to see an orderly exit from the European Union and will be supporting this Bill which enables us not just to leave the EU but to do so in an orderly manner with a functioning statute book.
“Now, as we do that, of course, we will require certain powers to make corrections to the statute book after the bill becomes law because the negotiations are ongoing and will do that via secondary legislation, which will receive parliamentary scrutiny, an approach which has been endorsed by the House of Lords Constitution Committee.”
Baroness Taylor said: “The EU (Withdrawal) Bill represents an extraordinary transfer of legal powers from Parliament to the Government, without the additional oversight we recommended.
“We believe this will create very real difficulties for Parliament in fulfilling its constitutional role to scrutinise this Bill.
“We acknowledge that the Government needs significant powers in order to deliver legal certainty after Brexit. However, we warned the Government that such powers must come with tougher parliamentary scrutiny mechanisms and we are disappointed that we have not only been misquoted by the Government, but that our key recommendations have been ignored.
“The Committee will launch a full inquiry on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill shortly.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the Government had listened to the committee, adding:“The House of Lords report in March said that in order to carry out this process that there would be a need to take unusually wide powers.
“The Government looked at that report and has reflected it in the appeal bill.”