Bob Neill’s amendment which seeks to reserve the official determination of genocide for parliament to determine is to be voted on in the Commons today. It is backed by the government, unlike the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China backed amendment which leaves it to the Courts to define genocide. Guido has got his hands on an unusually stark response to Sir Bob’s new amendment, signed by 335 Uyghur survivors. They say that his amendment amounts to having been betrayed:
“we hold such high hopes for the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill… We placed great hope in this. But then we heard of your amendment.
Then we knew, Mr Neill, we had been betrayed. For your amendment, in preventing a vote on the Genocide Amendment would deny the House of Commons the right to offer us our day in court.”
Strong stuff. Read the letter in full below:
The short lived and not entirely successful rebellion over the UK Internal Market Bill has ended with a conciliatory compromise – to set in law the ability of MPs to hold a vote before ministers could deploy the provisions in it that, if enacted, arguably would breach international law. The deal was struck yesterday evening between Downing Street, rebel commander Bob Neill, and Damian Green. To Guido it doesn’t seem like much of a climbdown, given that Boris said as much in Monday’s debate…
“The passing of this Bill does not constitute the exercising of these powers… If the powers were ever needed, Ministers would return to this House with a statutory instrument on which a vote—perhaps this is the question to which the hon. Gentleman is awaiting an answer—would be held.“
The Government will table two amendments to its own Bill on Tuesday, firstly a redrafted version of the Neill Amendment – setting in stone the need for a parliamentary vote beyond the requirements of ordinary statutory instruments, and secondly a clause to prevent significant litigation of the enactment of the controversial provisions. Tightening up the ability to deploy with the consent of the House.
Of course, the Government insists it still does not want to have to use these powers of last resort. But now it will have them in case the EU don’t offer concessions…
On the Kay Burley Show this morning, Priti Patel appeared to contradict Brandon Lewis’ famous admission that the Internal Market Bill “does break international law in a specific and limited way”. The Home Secretary instead claimed that “we are absolutely not doing that”. To compound matters, the Internal Market Bill rebel Bob Neill, who originally asked Brandon the question, that started this mess, yesterday himself intervened on Ed Miliband to argue the Bill itself does not break international law until the provisions “come into force”. Got that?
Yesterday Boris insisted that “the passing of this Bill does not constitute the exercise of these powers”, emphasising that the powers that if exercised could breach international law would only be used as a very last resort. So it appears the Government is now saying Brandon Lewis mis-spoke last week…
To add yet more confusion into the mix, Advocate General for Scotland Lord Keen advanced what Guido revealed was the ERG analysis of the situation, telling the Lords’ EU committee that in the event the powers were exercised, the UK would “not be acting in breach of the treaties” if they followed what the UK perceived to be a breach of good faith by the EU. One thing’s for certain – the Government does not agree with last week’s viral line “this does break international law”.
UPDATE: Government spokesman gets in touch:
“Last week the Attorney General wrote to Select Committee chairs to set out the government’s legal position on the Withdrawal Agreement and the provisions in the UKIM Bill. This position has not changed. This is about creating a legal safety net and taking the powers in reserve whereby Minister can act to guarantee the integrity of the UK and protect the peace process.”
Guido can’t get anyone to tell me if Brandon or Priti are right. Logically they can’t both be right.
Former minister Bob Neil has tabled an amendment to the government’s Internal Market Bill which would give Parliament a veto on overriding the Withdrawal Agreement. Damien Green and Oliver Heald are known to be backing the move, however The Times reckons 30 MPs could rebel. Boris can’t afford to lose more than 40 MPs rebel before his majority is wiped out…
It appears the rebels haven’t been very clever however. Sky’s Sam Coates reports legal sources suggesting the amendment might be a “Trojan horse”, including flaws and loopholes Boris would be able to exploit
The problem is apparently the veto is voted on after the point when the government has annulled the law so potentially after the ministers have already achieved their goal— Sam Coates Sky (@SamCoatesSky) September 10, 2020
Some believe only way to defeat the gvt plan is to vote down this bit of the bill. But there isn’t support
A government source tells The Times that unlike the Brexiteer rebels in 2019, those who back Bob’s bill won’t lose the whip, saying “we’re not in the same place”. Could the amendment see both former Tory leaders Theresa May and a Michael Howard turn against the government?
Brandon Lewis, responding to a question from Bob Neill in Northern Ireland questions admitted that tomorrow’s legislation does breach international law in “a certain, very tightly-defined circumstance”. He went on to say that this does happen when a country has competing commitments. The last time a comparable piece of legislation breached international law was in the Coalition Government’s relatively uncontroversial Finance Act 2013. Guido suspects this time there will be more of a fuss…
“Yes this does break international law in a very specific and limited way. We are taking the power to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect required by Article 4 in a certain, very tightly-defined circumstance.
There are clear precedents for the UK and other countries needing to consider their international obligations as circumstances change. I would say to honourable members here, many of whom would have been in this house when we passed the Finance Act 2013, which contained an example of treaty override, it contains provisions that expressly disapply international tax treaties to the extent that these conflict with the general anti-abuse rule.
We are determined to ensure we are delivering on the agreement we have in the protocol and our leading priority is to do that through the negotiations and through the joint committee work. The clauses that will be in the bill tomorrow are specifically there for should that fail, ensuring we’re able to deliver on our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.”
That first sentence is a bold way to phrase it…
The chair of the Parole Board Nick Hardwick has been summoned before the Justice select committee to explain himself over the decision to release rapist John Worboys. Justice committee chair Bob Neill says the Parole system must be made more transparent, condemning the inability of the Parole Board to give any details about the Worboys decision as “ridiculous“.
Bob Neill says:
“What has happened here is very disturbing. The Parole Board is, rightly, independent of government, and, of course, can only deal with cases for which a prisoner has actually been convicted, rather than where there may be suspicion. There are separate questions for the CPS to answer about their charging decisions in this case.
It is vital that the public has confidence in Parole Board decisions. For that reason, I shall be recommending to the Committee that we ask the Chair of the Board, Professor Nick Hardwick, to give evidence to the Justice Committee about what has happened, in particular the failure to inform victims of Worboys’ release, for which he has rightly apologised. We must be reassured that victims are fully involved in the whole of the process.
We will also want to ask about how the Parole system can be made much more transparent, something Nick Hardwick himself has rightly called for. In my view it is ridiculous that the current rules prevent the Board making public the reasons for their decisions. Professor Hardwick has called for MP5 to back “opening the process up” and we will give him the opportunity to make precisely that case.”
Looks like they have questions for Keir Starmer too…