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by Jenni Davidson
29 September 2020
Michael Gove to face MSPs over UK Internal Market Bill

Michael Gove - Image credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images

Michael Gove to face MSPs over UK Internal Market Bill

Michael Gove will face MSPs today to answer questions on the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill.

Gove stepped in to appear before the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee after UK Government business secretary Alok Sharma declined an invite to do so.

Sharma said had said the “tight legislative deadline” prevented him from making time.

The meeting comes a day after the Scottish Government recommended that Holyrood withhold consent for the bill.

A legislative consent memorandum (LCM) lodged with the Scottish Parliament by constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell says the bill undermines devolution and breaches international law, which means to recommend consent would be incompatible with the ministerial code.

The LCM warns that the bill undermines both the devolution settlement and agreed ways of working across the UK following EU exit, giving UK ministers new powers in currently devolved areas of economic support and allowing for breaches of international law.

It also says the bill risks causing more uncertainty and confusion for business and consumers and encourages harmful deregulation without democratic accountability or proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Russell said: “This is a defining moment that will determine both the future of the Scottish Parliament and whether or not the UK can be described as a partnership of equal nations.

“UK Government ministers have accepted the bill will break international law.

“It would be equally outrageous if they decided also to break the constitutional convention that the Westminster parliament does not legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

“The UK’s established constitutional rules mean that the consent of the Scottish Parliament is required for the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill to proceed. 

“If the parliament refuses to grant consent then that should kill the bill stone dead.

“It will demonstrate beyond all doubt that the UK Government does not believe the UK to be a partnership of equals.

“This bill opens the door to a post-Brexit race to the bottom and will mean democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament on public health, environmental standards, food standards and a range of other key areas can be overridden.

“The Scottish Government will ask the parliament to make a decision on whether to grant consent next month and the memorandum we have published today sets out in detail why we could never recommend the parliament agrees that its powers should be eroded so fundamentally.”

Responding to the Scottish Government statement, a UK Government spokesperson said: “The recommendation from the devolved administration in Scotland is disappointing.

“This bill will protect Scottish businesses and jobs by ensuring trade can continue between different parts of the UK.

“More than 60 per cent of Scottish exports go to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“It is also a hugely significant act of devolution as when the transition period ends, vast powers will return from Brussels back to Holyrood.

“We urge the Scottish Parliament to support this vital bill.”

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