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Committee warns against taking advantage of EU legislation

8th Mar 2017

The House of Lords’ constitutional committee has warned the government against taking advantage of legislation that enables the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Government officials must not use the changes to introduce radical new domestic laws without permission from parliament by hiding them in secondary legislation, they have said.

The bill is set to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972, converting the ‘acquis’ body of EU law into domestic legislation. This will commence in two phases, the first of which being a conversion of EU law into UK law in order to preserve it, including any amendments required to fit it into a UK setting. The second phase is a long-term ‘discretionary process’ where parliament and the government decide to what extent EU laws will remain a part of ours.

The committee has predicted that the Brexit deadline will result in the bill including a large amount of delegated powers. “These will permit the government to make a broad range of changes via secondary legislation to the body of EU law in preparation for its conversion,” they have commented. During this period of increased power, the government should not be tempted to take shortcuts to push through new domestic laws via the creation of secondary legislation.

The group argues in favour of parliament limiting the powers delegated in the bill, and that it should only be used as much as necessary to complete the conversion depending on the result.

A scrutiny process has also been recommended for creating secondary legislation in the name of the bill, which would require a declaration signed by a minister that it does no more than is necessary to translate the old laws into new ones.