Devolution amendments defeated as EU Withdrawal bill set to pass through Commons

Written by Tom Freeman on 17 January 2018 in News

Scottish Conservatives accused of 'rolling over' in devolution row

House of Commons bench -  Parliament

The UK Government's EU Withdrawal Bill is set to clear the House of Commons today and move to the House of Lords.

Ministers have called for Conservative unity in an attempt to see off backbench rebellions as hundreds of amendments have been defeated in some highly charged debate.

The bill outlines what happens to laws repatriated from Brussels after Britain leaves the EU.

Some of those laws cover portfolios normally devolved to the Scottish and Welsh governments, which ministers have said should be brought under Westminster competency first.

Scottish Conservative MPs yesterday opted to back their government on the issue, despite having called for amendments which would have protected devolution.

Stirling MP Stephen Kerr said ministers had "let this chamber down" by not delivering a promise to amend clause 11 - which deals with 111 powers in devolved areas -  in the Commons.

It will now be reviewed by the Lords.

“It sticks in my craw," said Kerr. "It’s not really good enough, and as a member of the House of Commons I hang my head to think that we have somehow dropped the ball.”

However, all 13 Scottish Conservative MPs voted to reject a Labour amendment to give the devolved parliaments power to legislate over areas currently devolved.

“There is no point creating an amendment which then itself has to be amended,” said Kerr.

Labour and the SNP accused the Scottish MPs of a "betrayal".

Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird said: "Tonight in the Chamber the Scottish Tories rolled over to protect their party instead of protecting the devolution settlement.

“They gave excuses, but could offer no substantial reasons why they would not support Labour’s amendment to Clause 11. 

“They acknowledged the fact that they have dropped the ball - but to add insult to injury they then decided to move the goal posts as well.

“Now peers such as Michelle Mone and Alan Sugar are to have more of a say on the future of the Scottish Parliament than elected MPs.

“The Scottish Tory bloc has bragged since the general election about the influence it has on Theresa May’s government. This sorry episode has exposed that boast as being as hollow as the promise from the Secretary of State for Scotland.”

The SNP has now brought forward a wrecking amendment which would prevent the EU Withdrawal Bill proceeding.

Europe spokesperson, Stephen Gethins MP said: “Despite all the rhetoric from the Scottish Tories, tonight their votes did not follow their voices.

“Instead, what we witnessed was a shameful abdication of duty as thirteen Scottish Tory MPs marched into the lobby behind their Westminster masters to deny any safeguards to be put in place to protect devolved powers.

“We have heard time and time again from Scottish Tory MPs they are standing up for Scotland. This evening, they were presented with an opportunity to put party politics aside and join with SNP and Labour MPs to form a majority to hold the UK government to account - they did not just fail to take that opportunity, they actively undermined the foundations of devolution."

Although ministers are expected to win tonight's vote, there have been warnings the bill could face delays in the House of Lords, where the government does not hold a majority.

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