Internal Market Bill: statement by the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs

The Internal Market Bill is expected to be passed into law in the House of Commons on 16 December 2020. The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs, Michael Russell has issued the following statement in response.

Mr Russell said:

"The UK Government’s determination to impose this damaging Bill can only be viewed as a deliberate act of constitutional sabotage.  It is proceeding despite the refusal of consent by the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament and the opposition of the Northern Ireland Assembly in direct contravention of the Sewel Convention, which is supposed to prevent the devolved parliaments having their powers altered – in this case fundamentally changed - without their agreement.

"The UK Government has also ignored widespread opposition from business, trade unions, environmental and consumer groups and academics.  

"The efforts by many members of the House of Lords to get the Bill changed in a way that recognised devolution and the need to seek agreement rather than impose decisions was appreciated, but in the end the small concessions made by the UK Government do not go nearly far enough to mitigate the damage the Bill will do to devolution, and Scottish interests. 

"The Bill still gives unprecedented new spending powers to UK Ministers that will bypass the rightful decision-making powers of Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament. It will also give UK Ministers wide ranging powers to undermine decisions made by the Scottish Parliament in many areas including food safety, environmental standards and public health for Scotland. 

"It is now clear that people in Scotland face a fundamental choice over their future: between accepting a diminished Scottish Parliament, in which democratic decisions will be over-ridden at will by the UK Government, or becoming an independent country.   

"The Scottish Government will, however, in all circumstances continue to do everything possible to defend devolution and this issue is far from concluded.

"We therefore welcome and fully support the steps taken by the Welsh Government to notify the UK Government of its intention to seek a judicial review, as announced to the Welsh Parliament today, as an important test of the principles and legality of the Bill. We stand firmly alongside the Welsh Government with a shared determination to continue to challenge the bill. 

"Consequently we can confirm that when the UK Government replies to the legal letter from the Welsh Government we will work with Wales to consider next legal and constitutional steps."

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