Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee

Meeting date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Digital Connectivity, Petition, Subordinate Legislation, European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018


European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

European Rail Network for Competitive Freight and Trans-European Transport Network (Amendment and Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

The Convener

Item 5 is on a consent notification for a UK statutory instrument, as detailed on the agenda. Technically, the instrument, which relates to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, is meant to be laid in the UK Parliament on, I think, 17 December this year. It might be that the SI will no longer be laid on that date, so I am interested to hear members’ views on the matter.

Mike Rumbles

My point is about other similar statutory instruments that might come to the committee in the near future. We know, as of yesterday, that the people of the UK will decide on 12 December—five days before the instrument is due to be laid—whether Brexit will go ahead or is stopped in its tracks. Whatever we feel about that, people of the United Kingdom will make that decision on 12 December, so the instrument and others might be completely redundant by the time we examine them. Therefore, I propose that we do not agree to it, because there is the potential—more than potential—that the people of the United Kingdom will decide on 12 December to stop Brexit in its tracks.

Mike—you seem to have prompted a whole lot of members to want to comment.

Stewart Stevenson

I suspect that the political point that Mr Rumbles makes is one that I do not find myself wholly at odds with. However, we have to continue to deal with the world as it is, rather than the world that we wish to have.

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill will probably fall—although I do not know—which might affect the situation, but at the moment the law is the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I note that trans-European transport network, or TEN-T, support does not currently apply to anything in Scotland, so the practical effect, even disregarding the comments that have been made, would be nil.

I am slightly concerned that if we reject the SI, we will send to some people, who might misunderstand what we are doing, negative messages about our willingness to support freight on our transport network and, in particular, on our railways, where there has been some investment.

We should not second-guess what people will do on 12 December. I know what I will be working for—we will all work for our individual objectives—but this is the law of land. The SI might or might not go through, but we should smooth its path, because what it is trying to do is the proper thing to be done.

Richard Lyle

I can see the point that my illustrious colleague Mike Rumbles made—it is one of the few times that I have agreed with him. The UK Government has continually moved the date of the UK’s leaving the EU and, as of yesterday, we know that there will be an election on 12 December. The SI should be laid on 17 December in the UK Parliament, but that timescale will not be met, so I see no reason why we should agree to it.

Jamie Greene

Notwithstanding individual members’ views on the UK’s exit from the European Union and what might or might not happen, we are being asked to approve a statutory instrument. Withholding our approval would set a dangerous precedent to other committees and for future SIs that the committee is asked to review. To make a decision on approval based on future events is an improbable approach to take. We should treat things as they are, given the current state of the law.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I align my position with that of Mr Stevenson. Mr Rumbles and others have made the valid point that the SI is one of a series of such things that we will likely have to deal with. It would be helpful for future deliberations of the committee to get definitive advice on the issue, although I appreciate that there might be different interpretations.

Colin Smyth

I reiterate that we should seek advice, because it is clear that the plan to lay the SI in the UK Parliament on 17 December—whatever happens on 12 December—is unrealistic. We need to be clear about the consequences on the dates for all the SIs of the decision that has been taken this week by the UK Parliament. What does it actually mean? With the best will in the world, 17 December is now not a realistic target date.

On the previous two contributions, I am curious as to whether we could defer consideration for a week or two until we get advice.

I am happy with Angus MacDonald’s suggestion.

The Convener

It appears that there are two trains of thought among committee members. We need to be really careful that we do not create an immense backlog for ourselves through not knowing where we are going in the future.


My suggestion is that the committee should consider the SI and approve it and, at the same time, write to the minister for clarity on the situation and on what we should do in the future.

We should also ask the clerks to examine the parliamentary system to find out how such things will work in the future. The benefits of that would be that the members who are not keen to pass the instrument will have had a fair chance to make their point at committee, that we would not create a backlog for ourselves, and that we would know where we are before we have to consider another such SI. That seems to be a sensible procedure. Do members have any comments?

Mike Rumbles

I think that we should not move forward with the SI at all, but I am happy with Angus MacDonald’s suggestion that we defer the decision until we get advice. There is not just this SI to consider—there will others coming down the road. I would prefer that the committee act as one, and I do not want to be the cause of division in the committee. I do not want to approve the SI yet, because I think that that would be wrong, but I am happy to accept the compromise that Angus has put forward.

The Convener

I have been given some information by the clerks. We have to make a decision on the SI by 20 November, so there is time for us to defer. I, too, do not want to cause division in the committee on the issue, so I suggest that we defer the decision for the moment, that the clerks find out the legal position and that I make contact through representative channels to ensure that we know what our position is on SIs.

Jamie Greene

I completely disagree. Why are we deferring a decision on an SI that has been presented to us? There is no rationale or reasonable justification for our deferring a decision on the SI because of future political events that might or might not happen. That is not how the committee should deal with SIs.

The Convener

I hear your comment, Jamie, but my point is that I do not want to divide along political lines and would much rather find out what the Parliament’s legal position is. I am at a loss because I do not have such advice in front of me.

Can I abstain from the deferral decision?

I hear what you are saying, but we have until 20 November, so the matter could be brought back next week when I have clarity and have been able to brief the committee on the Parliament’s position.

It is nonsense.

The Convener

I note your disagreement, but I see a majority around the table nodding to my suggestion. Are members happy to deal with the SI according to that proposal?

Members indicated agreement.

Do you want your dissent to be recorded?

Yes, please.

Your dissent will be recorded in the minutes.

12:03 Meeting continued in private until 12:32.