Brexit bill will not have 'untroubled passage' through Lords, Ken Clarke says

PUBLISHED: 16:01 16 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:01 16 January 2018

Ken Clarke

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It is an "illusion" to think key Brexit legislation will have an "untroubled passage" through the House of Lords, a Tory former chancellor has said.

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Ken Clarke said he hoped the Lords would make an "enormous" number of changes to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill when it goes to the other chamber.

He criticised the so-called Henry VIII powers, a term reserved for measures which allow reforms with little parliamentary scrutiny, contained within the Bill, and hit out at the government's approach to issues raised about the legislation's content.

Speaking as MPs debated the Bill at report stage in the Commons, he said: "I hope that the other place will make an enormous number of changes to this Bill.

"The idea that the Bill with all these Henry VIII clauses is going to have an untroubled passage through the House of Lords is an illusion."

Mr Clarke continued: "The House of Lords, I hope, will throw back some of the bizarre extensions of the Henry VIII principle in this Bill but also some of the European things."

He described the Lords as "particularly full of highly distinguished lawyers", adding: "I think some of the lawyers there will not put up with some of this nonsense."

Mr Clarke went on: "This is a pathetic Parliament so far in the way in which it's handled this extraordinary measure before it."

He also questioned why the government was "singling out the Charter of Fundamental Rights to be the only piece of EU legislation which it is to repeal".

He said the government's approach throughout the "unsatisfactory proceedings so far has been not to debate the main issues".

Instead he told MPs that ministers had raised "all kinds of technical, drafting or slightly irrelevant reasons why the proposals that are coming from the front benches on all sides can't be accepted".

Mr Clarke said the Government had uniquely singled out the Charter because their "tidiness of mind" makes them "wish to remove something which is perfectly adequately reflected in other areas".

"I have to say that is not good enough."

He added: "I think the Government today at report stage has the last chance in this House to say why is it repealing the charter, what evil has the charter done, what danger does it think we're being protected from by repealing the charter and so on."

Mr Clarke's fellow Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg warned today that the Lords could face the prospect of fundamental reform if peers attempted to hamper Brexit.

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