David Davis tells MPs bill transposing aspects of EU legislation into UK law will create new power to ‘correct the statute book’
The government will create sweeping temporary powers to allow ministers to tweak laws that would otherwise not “work appropriately” after Brexit, David Davis has announced.
Unveiling the government’s white paper on the so-called great repeal bill, the Brexit secretary told MPs that as well as transposing aspects of EU legislation into UK law, the bill would create a new power to “correct the statute book”.
“Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses – as will the devolved legislatures, where they have power to do so,” he said.
“However, further steps will be needed to provide a smooth and orderly exit. This is because a large number of laws – both existing domestic laws and those we convert into UK law – will not work properly if we leave the EU without taking further action. Some laws, for example, grant functions to an EU institution with which the UK might no longer have a relationship.
“To overcome this, the great repeal bill will provide a power to correct the statute book where necessary to resolve the problems which will occur as a consequence of leaving the EU.”
Davis pledged that the new powers would be temporary; and aimed at ensuring a smooth and orderly transition as the UK leaves the EU.
“I can confirm this power will be time-limited. And parliament will need to be satisfied that the procedures in the bill for making and approving the secondary legislation are appropriate.”
“Given the scale of the changes that will be necessary and the finite amount of time available to make them, there is a balance to be struck between the importance of scrutiny and correcting the statute book in time.
“As the constitution committee in the other place recently put it, ‘…the challenge parliament will face is in balancing the need for speed, and thus for governmental discretion, with the need for proper parliamentary control of the content of the UK’s statute book.”
However, the plan was condemned by Labour as a power-grab, allowing changes to be made with less parliamentary scrutiny.
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said the proposed bill “gives sweeping powers to the executive” to change regulations.