Legislation

What’s all the fuss about Henry VIII powers? The detail is procedural, but the issue it raises – the balance of power between the Government (Whitehall) and Parliament (Westminster) – is of first importance to everyone.

Far from restoring power to Westminster, as Brexiters demanded, the Government plans a worrying transfer of power from Westminster to Whitehall. This is because much of the business of shifting all the EU-related laws of the last 44 years into post-Brexit law will be done by regulations, rather than Acts of Parliament.

Doing it by regulations means that MPs will have minimal oversight or influence over what survives and what gets changed. This is because arrangements in the House of Commons for oversight of regulations haven’t been fit for purpose for years. Unless they’re beefed up, there will be little to stop this or successor Governments from unravelling EU-derived rights, protections and obligations we’ve taken for granted over decades.

What can you do about it? Write to your MP, members of the House of Lords, local and national newspapers, tweet about it, get your friends to write, along these lines:

“No one voted in the referendum to shift power from Westminster to Whitehall. But that’s what’s threatened under the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.

I recognise that, to avoid chaos on Brexit day, much of the shifting of EU-derived law into post-Brexit UK law needs to be done by regulations rather than set out in the Bill itself (or the other forthcoming Brexit bills). But arrangements for MPs to scrutinise regulations have been scandalously inadequate for years. It means there’s a real risk of rights, protections and obligations we’ve taken for granted for decades being dismantled before we know it.

The need has never been more pressing to beef up MPs’ powers of scrutiny over regulations. The Hansard Society’s proposals, ‘Taking Back Control for Brexit and Beyond’, would meet the challenge. I urge you to do all you can to get them adopted.”