Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Lord Lilley:

    My Lords, I respectfully follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. The simple truth is that almost everyone who has spoken, with the exception of her, has said that this is purely about constitutional aspects and not about Brexit. I agree with her that it is about both. I am a new boy, so I shall deal briefly with the constitutional aspects of this procedure. As a new boy, I knew one thing about this House: it has the power to make the other House think again. I have enormous respect for that power, and it is a power exercised only after due consideration.

    As Secretary of State for Social Security for five years, I used to introduce a lot of legislation. Almost invariably, it would get through the lower House with very little amendment or change. It would come to this House and the next day, my officials would come to me to say, “Very sorry, Secretary of State, the Lords have gone and amended your legislation”. Initially, I tended to be shocked, horrified and angry, until I looked at the changes which this House had made. I cannot recall a single occasion when I did not, on inspecting those changes, accept them either in whole or in part, in spirit or in letter. This House does a good job in making that House think again, but it can do that only if it takes time to consider things and brings all the available expertise it can provide itself and acquire from outside.

    It seems that the one reason we should not take this all in one day—the reason we have not taken Bills all in one day in the past—is that, by taking it over two or three days, we give time for outside experts to make representations to us. I know this House brings to bear enormous expertise, but it also has enormous contacts outside, which it draws on in that interlude between Second Reading and Committee and between Committee and Report. If we deny ourselves those interludes, we deny ourselves access to that expertise and the ability to make the high-quality changes, reforms and suggestions to the other House to make it think again, which I certainly found enormously valuable when I was down there. That is the central issue that I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, as acting Prime Minister for the day, will respond to in due course.

    By way of exculpation, I will also explain why I endeavoured to raise a point of order with our Lord Speaker. I was referring to paragraph 29 of the Standing Orders of this House, which says:

    “No speaking after Question put … When at the end of a debate the Question has been put, no Lord is to speak save on a point of order”.

    I have since discussed it with the clerks and the Lord Speaker, and they are inclined to think that that needs rectifying, since elsewhere it says that no points of order are allowed. Perhaps in ancient times, when this was first written, “point of order” had a different meaning. I have not been here long enough—I was certainly not here in 1674, when this rule was first adumbrated—to know why. Of course, the whole rule that there should be no debate after a Question has been put was adumbrated back in 1674, so it may be that in rectifying this we will find that there can be a little debate, discussion or explanation as to why a noble Lord should want to truncate and prevent debate in this House, the whole purpose of which is debate. I put that forward to explain that I was not endeavouring to be out of order but to follow the rules of the House, as they had been drawn to my attention.

    But this is not about just constitutional issues; it is about Brexit itself, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, pointed out. She said that the only justification for doing what we are doing—for not abiding by our normal procedures, allowing proper discussion or allowing expertise from outside to be drawn into it—was that prolonging it increases the risk that we leave in what she calls a no-deal Brexit: on WTO terms, with all the mini-deals that have been agreed between us and the EU. She considers that a disaster. I consider that a far greater disaster would be to set aside the will of the people, as solemnly requested in a referendum, with a promise repeated by all the leaders of all the parties and all our former Prime Ministers that, whatever the decision, they would implement it.

    Lord Hughes of Woodside:

    How many people who voted in that referendum are still alive? How many new people are on the register? What would the noble Lord say is the relationship between those who voted and those now on the register? How long does he believe we should continue—five years, 10 years? Should a referendum taken 10 years ago be binding on us for ever? It is absolute nonsense.

    Lord Lilley:

    I entirely agree. It is quite reasonable to have a referendum every 45 years, which is the time we had to wait before this second referendum. People’s opinions change over time. Back in 1975, I campaigned for us to remain in the EU. I was young and inexperienced. I was recruited for the campaign to keep Britain in Europe by a particularly beautiful girl, who is now my wife, so I plead that one’s opinions can change—as hers and mine have—with experience. We all have more experience now than we had three years ago of the sort of organisation we are dealing with in the European Union. As the noble Lord, Lord King of Lothbury, the former Governor of the Bank of England, has said, that is what we should be thinking about far more than the niceties of a withdrawal agreement.

    One thing is certain. During the referendum campaign no one asked, “Would you like to vote to ask permission to leave?” That is like a primary school child putting up their hand in the classroom and saying, “Please, miss, may I leave the European Union?” That is a nonsense. We voted to leave. The Prime Minister of the day said that if we left, we would leave on WTO terms. I want to argue that that is not too frightening. On the contrary, although it is not the best thing—

    Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town:

    Is the noble Lord addressing himself to the words of the amendment?

    Lord Lilley:

    I am—just as she did. Initially she said that she was addressing all the amendments with the argument that if we did not leave now, there would be a problem. I am arguing that if we—

    Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town:

    I said that we should deal with this Bill in time for it to have effect. That was the point I made—that if we did not deal with the Bill before we ran out of time, there was no point in having it. I did not go into the issue of Brexit.

    Lord Lilley:

    On the contrary, the noble Baroness is rather forgetful, because I noted down the five points she made about what would happen if we did leave with no deal. They were about citizens’ rights, tariffs and industry; I have forgotten the other two.

    Lord Strasburger:

    I wonder whether the noble Lord has completed his remarks on the amendment. If so, will he please sit down?

    Lord Lilley:

    No, but when I have I certainly shall. I am trying to get on because I want to deal with the central argument that was put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter: namely, that it would be a disaster if we do not get this legislation through because of the amendments that we are now considering and if we leave with no deal on WTO terms. I maintain that it would not be a disaster. What would be a disaster would be denying democracy—

    Lord Waner:

    My Lords—

    Lord Lilley:

    I am sorry but I will not give way.

    Let me get to the point. There are three advantages if we leave without a deal. No doubt it would be best to have a free trade agreement—

    Baroness Vere of Norbiton:

    My Lords, I have to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. It is the convention that we address the words in the amendment and I am not entirely convinced that the noble Lord is doing that at the moment.

    Lord Lilley:

    Let me therefore do so. The amendment,

    “notes that more than day is required for this House to have sufficient time to scrutinise the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill”.

    I submit that several days are required and that it is worth taking those days, even if it means leaving on WTO terms—because they are quite acceptable. First, we would keep £39 billion. That was the opinion of this House. I trust the committee which concluded that and I would be quite happy to submit to international arbitration, because I certainly would not want to not meet any legal obligations that we have. So £39 billion is a positive.

    Secondly, we would end uncertainty.

    Lord Hannay of Chiswick:

    My Lords—

    Lord Lilley:

    I am sorry, I will not give way.

    Noble Lords:

    Order! The noble Lord should give way.

    Lord Lilley:

    As I say, the second advantage is that it would truncate uncertainty. That will unleash the investment that has been held up. We all agree that uncertainty is bad for business. That is the one negative thing that this long process has had, but ending it means that people will start investing either to take advantage of the opportunities or to cope with the difficulties.

    The third advantage is that it will force Ireland, the European Union and the British Government to implement—

    Noble Lords:

    Order!

    Lord Lilley:

    I am sorry, if the House is reluctant to listen to the facts, as I have noticed that sometimes it is, that is a shame, because it is important that we take into account the advantages of what is before us. We should take note in particular of what the Irish Government have said. Leo Varadkar said that, in the event of no deal:

    “I have made it very clear to my counterpart in the UK and also to all other EU prime ministers that under no circumstances will there be a border. Full stop”.

    Mr Juncker gave an assurance to the Irish Parliament that if negotiations fail—

    Noble Lords:

    Order!

    Lord Lilley:

    I am sorry: people want me to finish so I am getting on as rapidly as I can. He said that if negotiations fail with the Tory Government on the exit agreement, he would give a clear commitment that the European Union would not need to impose border customs posts or any other kind of infrastructure on the frontier in order to protect European borders. We have said that in no circumstances will the British Government do so. As we have seen recently, that will force the creation of an invisible border in Ireland which will resolve that problem. I think that those are big advantages.

    I will happily go on if the House wishes me to do so.

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