Hope prevails as peers rebel against government over Internal Market Bill
The UK government regards devolution as an “inconvenience”, which can “simply be ignored” when deemed appropriate, Lord Hope of Craighead has said.
His comments came before the government suffered a defeat over the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill when peers in the House of Lords voted 367 to 209 in favour of his amendment.
A number of Conservative members rebelled, including Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the eminent former Lord Advocate and Lord Chancellor.
Speaking yesterday, Lord Hope, a former Lord President and Supreme Court justice, said that underlying the bill was an issue that goes to the heart of the relationship between the four nations of the UK – the two ways in which the market can be created.
“Is this to be a market created by all four nations working together, as they are doing through the common frameworks process, or is it to be created by imposition from Westminster, as this bill seeks to do?
“If it is the latter do the government really support devolution, as the Prime Minister is now asking us to believe? Actions speak louder than words. How the government responds to these amendments will tell us where the truth lies.”
He later expressed further worry about the UK government’s attitude to devolution: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this government regard devolution as an inconvenience that can simply be ignored when they want to.”
He warned that the approach of the government was dividing the UK “into pieces”.
“I regret that very much indeed. I am a unionist and I believe in the union and all that it stands for, and all the values that I hope it will continue to give us in future. But I am afraid we see here an uncompromising, careless and centralist style of government, which divides our United Kingdom into pieces at a time when harmony is most needed. That has no place in our democracy.”
Lord Mackay of Clashfern said: “I am very much in favour of the amendment, and of the union. All my life I have been concerned with Scotland and I am very anxious that it should remain in the warmth and success of the United Kingdom, which it has done already for a long time.”