Labour’s leader in the House of Lords has pledged not to hold up or “frustrate” the triggering of Article 50 – as the Government’s bill moves to the House of Lords for scrutiny.
The Bill going through Parliament at the moment is required to give the Government the power to start Brexit negotiations, which Theresa May has said she wants to do by the end of March.
Baroness [Angela] Smith pledged no “extended ping-ping” between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but said peers would try to add “legitimate” amendments to the Bill. Labour’s peers have tabled a number of ideas they say could make the Brexit process run more efficiently, including the call for a meaningful vote on the final deal.
The Government has no majority in the House of Lords – a first for a Conservative government – meaning that it must rely on the support of peers from other parties and none to clear the way for its legislative programme.
Disagreements between the Lords and the Commons can sometimes lead to long delays in legislation being passed as the Bill is sent back and forth between the two houses. The Commons does, ultimately, have the ability to overrule the Lords, though this approach is only used as a last resort.
“We won’t frustrate, we’re not going to wreck, we’re not going to sabotage,” Baroness Smith told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme. “We are going to do what David Davis calls our patriotic duty.
“We’ll scrutinise the bill, we’ve got amendments down. We’ve got eight down from the Labour party. We’ll look at those – it depends on the Government response really, whether or not we vote on those and how many of those we vote on.
“But there could be amendments asking the Commons to look at thing again – that’s what we normally do, it’s not the wrong thing to do.”
She continued: “I don’t see any extended ping-pong at all. I think what would happen is asking the Commons to think again on things is perfectly legitimate. After all, if you look at the issues we’re not talking about the outcome of the negotiations, we’re talking about the process.”
Some Conservatives, including former Brexit taskforce chief Oliver Letwin, have suggested that the House of Lords should be abolished if it holds up the process of triggering Article 50 later than March.
Speaking on the same programme on Sunday morning, Mr Letwin said it would be wrong to try to amend a bill that was only two clauses long because there was “nothing to scrutinise” in it.
MPs rejected all amendments to the Bill and passed it in its original form, despite attempts from Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs.