Top peer suggests Lords could block Theresa May's EU repeal bill

Posted On: 
17th October 2016

Peers could block Theresa May’s flagship Brexit bill to repeal the legislation enacting EU laws in the UK, the new speaker of the House of Lords has suggested.

New House of Lords speaker Lord Fowler has been outlining peers' role in Brexit legislation
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Lord Fowler said the so-called Great Repeal Bill, which seeks to reassert the primacy of UK law, would be treated by the House “just like any other piece of legislation”.

He added that peers can “at times…vote down something that has come from the Commons,” and warned of the bill: “Where we end up I think is anyone’s guess.”

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The former Tory Cabinet minister also revealed that he voted Remain in the referendum.

His comments are likely to stoke the ire of Brexit supporters who want the Lords to deliver the will of the British people.

Although the Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons, they are regularly out-voted in the Lords.

Lord Fowler said the Great Repeal Bill, which did not form part of the Conservative manifesto, could be subject to the whim of the Lords.

“It will be just like any other piece of legislation,” he told the BBC’s Daily Politics.

“We’ll go through it and there will be proposals and then the Lords and the Commons can look at it and make amendments if amendments are necessary.

“I’m sure there will be debates on that but where we end up I think is anyone’s guess.”

Asked whether he agreed with Baroness Patience Wheatcroft that peers should be able to “frustrate” the process, Lord Fowler said: “Frustrate’ is putting it in a rather emotive way. The Lords can make amendments to the bill - we are not talking about Article 50 here - in the same way as they make amendments to any other bill.”

He refused to be drawn on whether the Lords could block Brexit legislation, but added: “As a general principle certainly I think the Lords at times can vote down something that has come from the Commons.”

'OPPORTUNITY TO THINK AGAIN'

Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft said in August that she would support peers delaying Brexit legislation, adding: “I would hope, while we delayed things, that there would be sufficient movement in the EU to justify putting it to the electorate, either through a general election or a second referendum.

“There is an argument that at some stage people ought to be given an opportunity to think again.”

She added: “If you look at the make-up of the Lords, the party whip on the Conservative side, even if it was applied, would certainly not guarantee getting anything through.

“I think on this people feel sufficiently strongly that they’d defy the whip anyhow. I would.”