Security gates at Houses of Parliament. Photo © Anthony Brown
Stopping the Government tinkering with workers’ rights after Brexit
We’ve welcomed the Prime Minister’s promise to protect and enhance the rights of working people that the EU has underpinned over the last forty years, but we’ve stressed the need for a cast-iron mechanism to guarantee those rights aren’t watered down, and ensure the rights of working people in Britain don’t fall behind the rights of our neighbours around the rest of Europe. Today a House of Lords Committee has issued a report that might help, demanding that the Government’s Great Repeal Bill doesn’t tinker with European rights as they are transferred into UK law, and doesn’t open up the opportunity for Ministers in the future to water them down without proper parliamentary scrutiny.
The TUC believes that the best way to ensure working people, consumers and the environment continue to be protected and don’t fall behind the rest of Europe is to require a level playing field in those areas in whatever future EU-UK relationship is negotiated, as well as requiring continued compliance with EU minimum rights during the transitional period that will be required (Remember, those minimum standards have never stopped British governments going further and improving on EU rights – and that should continue to be the case).
But we also need to prevent politicians watering down those rights by using powers like secondary legislation, without proper Parliamentary scrutiny, proper votes and public debate. And that’s what the Lords Constitution Committee has called for today.
Lord Lang, Chairman of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, said:
“The intention should be to convert the existing body of EU law into UK law with as few changes as possible. The Government may need to be granted wide-ranging powers to accomplish that task. Those powers should not, however, be used to pick and choose which elements of EU law to keep or replace—that should be done only through primary legislation that is subject to proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
“Scrutiny must not be side-lined. There must be: a clear limit on what the delegated powers in the Bill can be used to achieve; a requirement for Ministers to provide Parliament with certain information when using those powers; and enhanced Parliamentary scrutiny of the exercise of those powers. Use may need to be made of sunset clauses to ensure that after Brexit the laws brought over from the EU are reviewed and, if necessary, amended without undue delay rather than being left to drift into permanence.”
And Open Britain supporter and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said:
“Theresa May promised the British people that she would protect and advance our rights at work, and the EU rules that protect consumers and the environment. But this report shows how Ministers could scrap these rights and protections without even passing an Act of Parliament.
“The Government must immediately rule out any reduction whatsoever of workers’ rights as a result of changes to the Great Repeal Bill. To do so through the back door would be a betrayal of working people.”
We will keep demanding that the Prime Minister guarantee working people keep the rights they’ve currently got, and keep up with the new rights that are introduced across Europe so we don’t become second class citizens.