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September 12, 2017

WELSH Labour AM Eluned Morgan said today that the House of Lords can’t wait to “get their teeeth” into the controversial EU Withdrawal Bill and the Welsh government will actively oppose it, despite a decisive vote among Welsh people to leave.

“Boy, can those lords talk,” she joked, intimating that the controversial bill to speed up Brexit would be blocked in the second chamber.

Baroness Morgan, who claimed expenses during her years as an MEP – she was elected for mid and west Wales in 1994 – and now also sits in both the Welsh Assembly and the House of Lords, astonishingly claimed that opinion polls in Wales say voters would not vote for Brexit if the referendum was held today.
But voters turned up in large numbers last year in Wales – 71.7 per cent, dwarfing the number which turned out for the devolution vote in 1997, at just over 50 per cent.
The majority to leave the EU was more decisive too, 854,572 votes (52.5 per cent) to leave the EU compared with just 559,419 votes (50.30 per cent) for devolution.

I asked if this meant that Wales, which is often artificially grouped together with Scotland and Northern Ireland in a devolution context, is in a different position democratically as both of the others voted to remain (Scots 62 per cent with a turnout of 67.2 per cent and Northern Irish 55.8 per cent with a turnout of 62.7 per cent) but I did not get an answer.
Instead, Baroness Morgan, who was pressed by another member of the audience to defend Welsh Labour’s stance on Brexit, said that the Welsh government “understands that people did vote for Brexit” and added that they had produced a “whole series of documents”.
She was sitting on a panel alongside veteran anti-EU Tory campaigner Sir Bill Cash, who voted to enter the EU in 1975, and Hilary Benn, Labour chair of the House of Commons committee on exiting the EU.
Labour Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer’s bid to block the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was defeated by 318 votes to 296 in the House of Commons earlier this week and a later vote to give it a second reading passed by a majority of 36 with the help of some Labour MPs, who defied their whips.
Theresa May said after the vote: “We can move on with negotiations with solid foundations and we continue to encourage MPs from all parts of the UK to work together in support of this vital piece of legislation.”
But there are widespread fears that it gives too much power to the Tory government and removes parliamentary powers at Westminster and the devolved governments, including the Welsh Assembly, and controversial Henry V111 clauses would allow ministers to “rule by decree”.
Professor Mark Elliott, Cambridge University legal adviser to the House of Lords constitution committee, said that UK judges could intervene. “It may be that the courts come in and, to some extent, provide a correction to some of these things. They could look askance at them,” he warned.
The Hansard Society – which co-hosted a debate about the bill funded by the ESRC UK in a Changing Europe initiative in London today – has called for a new pariamentary scrutiny system which they say would “give MPs a meaningful role and voice” in Brexit and help safeguard democracy.
“It will require amendment of the Bill and could also be applied to powers in other Brexit legislation that follows,” according to their summary.
They want:
1, Scrutiny to be in the control of MPs not whips.
2, Them to be supported by a set of sub-committees.
3, Have administrative, legal and research support via a committee secretariat.
4, Sift and scrutinise both negative and affirmative statutory instruments.
5, Any concerns would have to be debated and voted on.

Baroness  Morgan mentioned that the 2011 referendum in Wales delivered a decisive vote in favour of law making powers for the Welsh Assembly – nearly 64 per cent in favour and nearly 37 per cent against – but the turnout was even lower than in the 1997 referendum at nearly 36 per cent.

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