Labour unveils new plan to end Holyrood ‘power grab’ deadlock

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, left, speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC1 current affairs programme The Andrew Marr Show yesterday when he said there was potentially the chance of a change of prime minister. Picture: PA
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown, left, speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC1 current affairs programme The Andrew Marr Show yesterday when he said there was potentially the chance of a change of prime minister. Picture: PA
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An attempt to break the constitutional deadlock over a Brexit “power grab” on the Scottish Parliament has been unveiled by Labour with proposed changes to the UK’s EU Withdrawal Bill.

A three-year sunset clause is among the proposals which have been unveiled by Scottish Deputy leader Lesley Laird, instead of the five year period agreed with the Welsh government. Labour also propose consent from the Scottish Parliament must be sought unless the UK government has to legislate in an area which involves an international obligation.

These proposals are a serious attempt to stop the UK heading towards a constitutional crisis over devolution

LESLEY LAIRD

Ms Laird is now calling on all Scottish MPs to “speak with one voice” and back the proposal.

It comes amid anger that key powers in areas like farming and fishing returning from Brussels after Brexit are being held by Westminster when they should go to Holyrood in line with the Scotland Act which brought about devolution.

The SNP has branded the move an attack on the devolution settlement and previous efforts to reach a solution have ended in deadlock.

Labour says its approach is consistent with the 1998 Scotland Act and so respects Scotland’s devolution settlement.

The amendment has been tabled by the UK party’s front bench, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and Ms Laird.

She said: “Scotland’s MPs should speak with one voice and back Labour’s bid to protect the devolution settlement.

“Labour is the party of devolution and we will always defend it. We have tried to find solutions throughout this process that delivers a result for the people of Scotland.

“Labour has been the only party making a serious attempt to break the Brexit deadlock, and these proposals are a serious attempt to stop the UK heading towards a constitutional crisis over devolution.

“The people of Scotland just want this mess fixed. It’s time to do that, and Labour has outlined a path.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote to Commons Speaker John Bercow yesterday urging him to allow a vote on the issue of Holyrood refusing to grant a legislative consent motion for the Bill.

She attached amendments drafted by the Scottish Government which include removing the ability of the controversial clause 11 to make regulations restricting the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

Constitutional convention and practice dictates the Bill cannot complete parliamentary process at Westminster, Ms Sturgeon said, without the Scottish Parliament’s consent.

She added: “I believe we now face an unprecedented constitutional position, which puts at risk 19 years of constitutional convention and practice, on which devolution relies.

“I therefore hope you will feel able to use your offices to ensure that, prior to taking this unprecedented step, the House of Commons will have the opportunity to debate these amendments and the fundamental constitutional issues involved in their consideration of the Bill.”

The legislative process of Brexit faces a critical week as the Bill comes back to the Commons with senior Tories urging backbenchers to back the government amid fears that splits in the party could see the government defeated and leave Prime Minister Theresa May floundering.

Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, a leading Remain supporter, and ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith, a long-standing Brexiteer, warned defeat could lead to the fall of the government.

In a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph, they said that voting to overturn or water down a series of amendments inserted by the Lords into the EU (Withdrawal) Bill should be a “no brainer”.

They said Labour would be quick to exploit any setback for the government for their own purposes.

“Jeremy Corbyn will do everything he can to stop us,” they warned. “That includes cynically trying to frustrate the Brexit process for his own political ends, as he will try to do next week when the Commons votes again on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. So it behoves us all to demonstrate discipline and unity of purpose in support of the Prime Minister.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become divided and risk losing the precious chance to go on implementing policies that transform lives.”