We will fight them on the benches

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:25 13 November 2017

Peers take part in a debate in the House of Lords in London after the Lord Speaker warned that the size of the House of Lords will hit 1,000 if political parties fail to back their plans to cut numbers

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As the Brexit Bill continues its chaotic progress through the Commons, pro-European peer HUGH DYKES warns that the Lords are ready to take up the fight when it reaches them

For the UK – a country with a proud tradition of proper governance alongside lively party politics – the progress, or otherwise, of the infamous EU Withdrawal Bill is a sad indictment.

This lethargic piece of legislation perfectly illustrates the mess we find ourselves in, with a maladroit prime minister and her colleagues simply unable to grasp the complexities they have unleashed.

Fortunately in the House of Lords there are many experienced senior officials and ex-ministers who will be ready when the time comes to give them some robust advice.

We await first however the responses and actions of the Commons where repeated holdups to this vast bill suggest a Committee Stage now going into the new year.

So it is impossible to see what form it will be in after the expert attentions of MPs like Dominic Grieve and Keir Starmer. The skilled SNP EU specialists will also be invaluable.

I predict that it will be shredded to eliminate the Henry VIII powers and other obnoxious attempts to give ministers excessive say in the final text on secondary legislation. It will then face a new dose of shredding as high-ranking constitutional experts amongst the peers pull it apart.

Until then, though, there is much else relating to Brexit to command the attention of a large number of active peers in all parts of the House, especially crossbench members and the solidly pro-EU Liberal Democrat group.

The pace has already quickened on the regular weekly question time exchanges on Brexit and the equally relentless tide of debates every week. For the Lords has a much easier regime, allowing peers greater freedom to launch such discussions than in the more whip-dominated Commons.

Our actions in the Lords are not about rejecting out of hand the result of last year’s referendum. Most people would surely agree that the outcome did not endorse a ruinous and defiant Hard Brexit, destroying jobs and employment and, above all, the future of our precious younger members of society. Theresa May’s snap election put paid to any suggestion that she possessed any such mandate from the British people.

So the Lords will not be silenced on this matter. We will be playing a full role in these agonising events, whilst always deferring to the people’s elected MPs, who we want to be the final authority, with a sovereign vote in a sovereign parliament on the actual outcome of the negotiations.

Hugh Dykes is a crossbench peer. He served as a Conservative MP for Harrow East from 1970 to 1997. He was also the chairman of the European Movement from 1990 to 1996 and later worked as an adviser to Paddy Ashdown on EU affairs

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