UK Government refuses to give evidence to Scottish Parliament on UK Internal Market Bill
The UK Government has declined to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament on its UK Internal Market Bill.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma told MSPs he will not be able to appear before a Holyrood committee to discuss the bill because of its “tight legislative timeline” in Westminster.
Chair of the Finance and Constitution committee Bruce Crawford said he was “dismayed” by the decision.
The committee is currently scrutinising the bill, which the UK Government introduced to the House of Commons last week.
The bill will govern how goods and standards will be regulated after the UK leaves the EU Common Market.
Controversy surrounds the bill because of sections that have the potential to overwrite agreements previously committed to by the UK Government in relation to Northern Ireland and trade.
The UK Government has admitted it “breaks international law”.
Devolved governments have also criticised the bill, with both Welsh and Scottish government ministers describing is as a “power grab”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the bill as a “full frontal assault on devolution” and Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said that it had destroyed trust between governments.
UK Government ministers say the bill will in fact provide a “power surge” to Holyrood.
The committee has been taking evidence on the bill from politicians and constitutional, legal and tax experts.
Professor Michael Keating of the Centre on Constitutional Change told the committee on Wednesday that he does not see the justification for the bill in its current form.
He said: “I don't see the justification for this bill, given that we're having a process of negotiation about policy frameworks.”
He added: “It seems concerning that such broad powers are being taken without specifying the circumstances in which they might be needed”.
Declining an invitation to appear to give evidence, Sharma’s office told the committee: “Given the tight legislative timeline for the bill, it is with regret that the Secretary of State will be unable to attend this committee session.
“We look forward to the findings of the Committee’s engagement on the UK Internal Market Bill.”
Committee convener Bruce Crawford said: “The UK Internal Market Bill will affect many people’s lives and livelihoods in Scotland. It will also have a profound impact on the devolution settlement and on the powers of the Scottish Parliament.
“The UK Government already recognises and accepts that all aspects of this bill require the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament.
“I am genuinely dismayed, therefore, that the Secretary of State for Business will not make time to give evidence to our committee, as we consider whether or not to recommend that consent be given to this UK bill.
“Our report to the Scottish Parliament will not have the benefit of direct evidence from the UK Government and that is a matter of regret, as is the discourtesy that colleagues will infer from the UK Government’s response.”