Theresa May forced to accept a new Brexit scrutiny committee

House of Commons Chamber: Speaker's table

Theresa May has been forced to accept the creation of a new committee to stop EU law being changed by ministers without proper scrutiny after Brexit, as she seeks to head off a parliamentary rebellion.

The prime minister is to accept amendments to the EU withdrawal bill tabled by the House of Commons procedure committee, after a widespread backbench revolt among both remain- and leave-supporting MPs.

Under the amendments, she will agree to the establishment of a committee of MPs to help weed out too much use of “Henry VIII powers”, which allow ministers to make changes to secondary legislation as it is transposed.

The government had argued that ministers would only make use of the powers to make minor tweaks, such as changing the names of regulatory bodies to refer to British rather than EU institutions.

However, senior MPs across the Commons expressed worries that the powers could be misused. Dominic Grieve, a Conservative former attorney general, had told the procedure committee that the bill represented the “most extraordinary arrogation of powers” by the executive that he had seen during 20 years in parliament.

The concession is likely to defuse the rebellion when the EU withdrawal bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday and Wednesday for debate.

There is still a threatened rebellion on Wednesday over whether No 10 will allow MPs a meaningful vote on May’s final deal.

The procedure committee’s amendments would create a new process to ensure statutory instruments cannot be waved through the Commons without scrutiny under the “negative procedure”, whereby legislation is accepted if there is no objection after a certain period of time.

The job of the new “sifting committee” will be to look at each of these instruments and recommend which ones require the “affirmative procedure” instead, whereby there is a Commons debate and vote before they become law. The committee would have10 sitting days to make this recommendation.

May’s official spokesman said No 10 would be accepting the proposals in full.

“We recognise the role of parliament in scrutinising the bill, and we have been clear throughout that we’re taking a pragmatic approach to what we’ve always said is a vital piece of legislation. Where MPs and peers can improve the bill, we will work with them,” he said.

The spokesman added that the cabinet had discussed Brexit on Monday, with May thanking David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and government officials for helping to clinch last week’s “significant milestone” agreement with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

He said May relayed to cabinet ministers that voters had told her at events in her Maidenhead constituency over the weekend that they believed “we’re on our way”. This was the headline on the Daily Mail’s front-page Brexit story on Saturday.

The prime minister’s spokesman also confirmed that the cabinet would discuss the post-Brexit “end state” at their final weekly meeting before Christmas next week.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason and Heather Stewart, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th December 2017 15.03 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010