The government’s controversial Brexit legislation could override the wishes of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland on fracking, MPs have warned.
The Internal Market Bill, which cleared its first parliamentary hurdle this week, proposes an Office of the Internal Market to monitor trade arrangements.
The UK government said say the bill has vital safeguards to protect Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, if negotiations on a future trade deal break down.
But Neale Hanvey, SNP MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said the Office of the Internal Market would take decision-making powers away from the Scottish parliament.
Speaking during a debate on the bill, he called it an ‘office of inquisition’:
“This office of inquisition will have the power to pass judgement on devolved laws and could quickly become the target of rich corporate lobbyists determined to see activities such as fracking go ahead against the will of the Scottish people.
“There are wide-ranging powers that cut to the very heart of the devolution settlement across every policy area—powers that the Government claim they will never use; they are there just in case.
“Well, Scotland is not buying it, and we are not having any of it. Devolution is the settled and robustly expressed will of the Scottish people, and it must be for the Scottish people alone to decide whether it should ever be restricted or changed in any way.”
In another session, the SNP’s treasury spokesperson, Alison Thewlis, said UK ministers must obtain the agreement of the relevant minister in the devolved administration before dealing with issues that were devolved responsibilities.
“The Scottish Government [has] to use planning permission to stop the UK Government bringing in fracking in our country by issuing licences that we did not want to have. We are having to use planning permission to block fracking—this is something that is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our country.”
Colum Eastwood, SDLP MP for Foyle, also raised concerns about Northern Ireland:
“This Bill would allow a Whitehall Minister to override the wishes and very strong views of people in Northern Ireland on issues such as fracking and water charges. Who wants to see that happen in our devolved areas?”