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Brexit REVEAL: Key law to END freedom of movement may not be in place for EU exit  | Politics | News


border brexit

New immigration laws must be in place if freedom of movement is to end (Image: Getty Images)

Other legislation considered vital if Britain leaves without a deal may also not be ready, according to Lord Speaker Norman Fowler. The House of Lords has inflicted a string of defeats on the Government as it tries to take the country out of the European Union and is now gearing up for a fresh battle on immigration.  But the former Tory Cabinet minister insisted the upper chamber is not to blame for any delays and denied claims that peers were “saboteurs” or “traitors”.

In an interview with the Daily Express, he said the Immigration Bill was still stuck in the Commons and would not be ready to begin its passage through the Lords until days before Brexit.

“That’s leaving it pretty darn late as far as this House is concerned,” he said.

Lord Fowler insisted peers would need to spend time closely examining the Bill.

“Particularly on something like immigration … people feel very strongly on that,” he said.

Lord Speaker Norman Fowler

Lord Speaker Norman Fowler (Image: John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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Lord Speaker Norman Fowler said the Immigration Bill was still stuck in the Commons (Image: Getty Images)

“If we are running out of time this cannot be put at the door of the House of the Lords.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid introduced the Bill in the Commons last month by telling MPs it was “fundamental to our future immigration system”.

“It will end freedom of movement.”

If Britain leaves with a deal there will be a transition period but without that the new immigration laws must be in place if freedom of movement is to end.

Lord Fowler said he did not know if the Bill would complete its final stages in the upper chamber by the time Britain leaves on March 29.

sajid javid

Home Secretary Sajid Javid introduced the Bill in the Commons last month (Image: Getty Images)

“It depends how controversial, it depends entirely upon the issues that are settled in the House of Commons,” he added.

“I don’t know what those are going to be and what the result of that is going to be.

“But obviously we are running out of time.”

Other legislation covering agriculture and fisheries has “not come anywhere near us”.

“Both of those, it’s said, need to be through by March 29,” the peer added.

He insisted peers must have plenty of time to scrutinise the Bills otherwise farmers fishermen would suffer from having to work under bad laws.

But he claimed the Lords cannot be blamed for the hold up, adding: “This House is not in the business of sabotaging Brexit.”

Peers inflicted 15 defeats on the government’s flagship Brexit Bill. They have also halted progress of new trade laws that Cabinet minister Liam Fox said would be crucial if Britain leaves without a deal.

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Lord Fowler said legislation covering agriculture and fisheries has “not come anywhere near us” (Image: Getty Images)

But Lord Fowler denied the upper chamber was overly-stuffed with Remainers.

He said “fierce” Tory peers Norman Tebbit, Norman Lamont and Peter Lilley put up a staunch defence of Brexit, he said. 

“They get a fair whack when it come to the debates,” he said. “It’s a fair debate.”

Lord Fowler had been pushing for major reforms to curb the size of the upper chamber but admitted there was a “bit of persuasion to be done” to secure a cap on numbers.

A voluntary system for cutting peers means there has been a fall of around 55 compared to a year ago.

The total is about 785 at the moment and Lord Fowler wants it limited to 600.

“What we want is one final push and that final push is to get a cap on the numbers,” he said.

“I would be disappointed if we weren’t able to make some process in the next two or three years.”

Nearly 100 members of the landed-gentry are exempt from having their numbers cut as hereditary peers unless there is a change in law.

Some 26 bishops are also protected but they “would be perfectly content” to have a small reduction in numbers, according to Lord Fowler.

Although Theresa May has shown restraint in her appointments “any Prime Minister could come in and create as many peers as they want,” he admitted.

He called for party whips to tackle lazy peers who turn up to register their presence so they can collect a daily £305 tax-free allowance before immediately disappearing.

He said: “The parties themselves know who is making a contribution, who is turning up, who can always be relied upon and those who can’t.”

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The House of Lords has inflicted a string of defeats on the Government (Image: Getty Images)

Lord Fowler also said he was looking into other ways of allowing prime ministers to reward people for their achievements or public service, including a system of non-parliamentary peers. 

They would be given the title but without the right to vote or attend debates. 

It would give premiers “extra options” without adding to the numbers of sitting peers and allow those selected to continue working in their field of expertise.

Lord Fowler said: “As far as I can see, there may be some controversy about this, we don’t require legislation to do that.

“But we are right at the beginning of that process.”

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UK Border Force officers work in the watch room overlooking immigration control at London Heathrow (Image: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty Images)

No 10 last month announced that Nicola Blackwood, a Tory MP who was kicked out by voters in Oxford West and Abingdon in 2017, was being given a peerage and a ministerial role. 

But Lord Fowler dismissed criticism about the so-called revolving door between the Commons and Lords.

“I don’t think the fact that she has lost her seat as a member of the Commons matters, he said.

“We are full of people who’ve lost their seats in the House of Commons. It tends to be what happens in politics.”



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