The EU Withdrawal Bill – top 5 things you should know



European Union (Withdrawal Bill) Amendments

Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) are requesting that Welsh and Scottish MPs give their backing to the cross-party tabling of amendments from the Welsh and Scottish Governments'.

Download the briefing - European Union (Withdrawal Bill) Amendments - A Welsh and Scottish Third Sector Response.

On the 26th October the Repeal Bill Alliance, in partnership with WCVA, hosted a roundtable to discuss the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the potential scope and implications for the third sector in Wales. Lots was discussed and Jane Thomas, Repeal Bill Alliance Co-ordinator, put together the top 5 things Welsh organisations should know about the Bill.

1. Action on amending the bill is urgent - whether your organisation is big or small, and no matter what sector you work in, from higher education through to womens' rights, if the bill goes through unamended it will affect you, your members, or service users, in some way. 

2. For people in Wales the bill, as currently drafted, places a new and significant constraint on the devolution settlement, undermining hard fought for rights and responsibilities and shifts power firmly back to Westminster.

3. It is a complex bill and the swirl of politics around it is not helping to make anything any more understandable. What organisations and individuals need is an understandable and accessible guide to the bill - and some sort of route map of direction.

4. Lobbying has been effective but the pace of political developments means it is hard to keep up for nearly everyone. Timing is everything, knowledge is power - the more we can use our networks to keep people informed and engaged the better. 

5. BUT, it's not too late to act - and if civil society comes together we can make our voices heard. That's what the Alliance is here to do - provide information, networks and resources. Step number one: sign up to the Alliance's mailing list for regular E:Bulletins on the bill, and resources for your organisation (a campaign toolkit is coming soon!) 

Download the briefing - Repeal Bill in Wales.

The EU Withdrawal Bill - Committee stage

So finally we now have some dates for the start of the Committee stage and where the bones of this bill will be picked over. This rather lengthy Q and A bulletin is an attempt to explain what now happens and what procedures and processes are in place. It is, rather like the bill itself, a little complicated but hopefully it will help. However, if it throws up more questions please feel free to contact Jane Thomas
When does the Committee Stage start?
Day 1 in Committee (relating Clauses 1 and 6) on Tuesday 14 November.
Day 2 in Committee (relating to Clauses 2, 3 and 4) on Wednesday 15 November.

As yet the other 6 days in Committee or the 2 later days on Report/Third Reading have not been timetabled.
How do I find the amendments that have been laid so far?

You can check every other day, or every day if you are keen or want to have your mind boggled, to see what's new. There is however a sense that the majority have now been laid.
What's new?

New Clauses NC64 to NC67 tabled by the Opposition and Amendments 335 to 350, highlighted in yellow.
Geraint Davies has tabled new Clause NC68 on approval by Parliament of terms of withdrawal (see also the Opposition New Clause NC66 on page 81, "Parliamentary approval for the outcome of negotiations with the European Union").
Nearer to the start of the  Committee Stage, there are also expected to be a large number of amendments from the Government, taking on board some of the criticisms made by Tory rebels and proposing compromises in order to avoid defeats in Committee.

Who and how are amendments selected?
The number of amendments or new clauses now stands at over 400. You dont have to have a maths degree to work out that debating all of these in just 8 days is impossible. Plus MPs face the prospect of long days (and nights) in the Chamber so the Whips will have to make sure no one "pops out" and just does a runner. With no pairing the Whips job is going to be unenviable, especially with the cross party collusion that is now evident over certain key amendments. Plus just the physical act of voting is in itself time consuming (using the technology enabling voting at your seat has escaped this mother of all parliaments).
So amendments will have to be pruned.They will either get dropped, withdrawn or in some cases taken together. This task is for the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr Lindsay Hoyle) who no doubt will be assisted by the clerks.
It is Standing Order No 32(2) that lays out procedure

Chairman of Ways and Means will select New Clauses and Amendments for debate. The decision of the Chairman of Ways and Means is final on:
• Selection of New Clauses and Amendments for debate;
• Grouping of New Clauses and Amendments for debate ― groups might include Clause or Schedule stand part;
• Selection for separate decision (vote) on Amendments and New Clauses which have been grouped for discussion with a lead Amendment or New Clause.
•  The duty of presiding over proceedings in Committee of the whole House will be shared with the two Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means (Mrs Eleanor Laing and Dame Rosie Winterton) and two senior Members from each side of the House drawn from the Panel of Chairs: Sir David Amess, Sir David Crausby, David Hanson and Mr Gary Streeter.
How do we get to know which amendments have been selected?
Sadly it seems you wont know final selection until just before commencement of that days debate. There is a rolling deadline for Amendments of two clear days before (normally) they are considered for selection. (If any of the deadlines fell in a recess, the deadline would be the same day of the week as if the House was sitting, but with a cut-off time of 4.30pm).
However a provisional selection and grouping will be published each day before the Committee starts (see an example from the Notification of Withdrawal Bill ). Most recent notification to MPs suggests that subject to the timing of selection decisions by the Chair, it may sometimes be possible to circulate a more provisional/tentative draft selection and grouping for debate a day or two in advance.
Note the Chair does not normally announce before each debate ends which if any of the New Clauses or Amendments not in the lead of a group will be called for a separate decision
The Committee of the whole House must take a decision on each Clause or Schedule standing part of the Bill.
In each case, there is a motion for the clause or schedule to stand part of the Bill. Therefore there are no amendments taken to delete whole clauses - if MPs want to do that, they vote against "clause stand part".
Each day in Committee of the whole House can last up to 8 hours from when proceedings start on the Bill, plus the time needed for any votes called at the end of the 8-hour period. Some days are in two parts (labelled, for example, 8A and 8B) with the first part given up to 4 or 6 hours from the commencement of proceedings on the bill, with the second part allowed to take up the rest of that day's 8-hour period from the time when debate started that day on the Bill.  There is no injury time for votes called within the 8-hour period.
Only the lead (first) New Clause or Amendment in each group of selected New Clauses and Amendments has to be disposed of, by being:
• withdrawn, with unanimous leave of the Committee, or
• negatived/agreed either
o on the voices ("Aye"/"No") or
o by a recorded Division.

Whether any of the other selected New Clauses and Amendments which have been grouped with a lead New Clause or Amendment  is called to be moved formally and (if necessary) voted upon is matter for the discretion of the Chair. By long established practice, anything in the name of the Member in charge of the Bill (the Government, in this case) will be called for decision.
When will it all be over?
The government has to factor in quite possibly 3 days for the Budget, Wednesday 22nd November. It means that that week may well be lost to related debates. The fact that there is no schedule for the other 6 days  suggests that the government may still be factoring in some flexi time to enable deals to be struck or sort out rebellious backbenchers. It is still possible to have this finished , including Report stage, by Christmas and ready for a New Year of fun and games in the Lords.
And that's when the fun begins........

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