I noticed I hadn’t published the text of my speech on 26 October at Second Reading of the internal Market Bill, so here goes. The speech at Committee (published earlier today) makes more sense if read after this one.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and look forward to her future contributions to this House. I fully endorse the arguments set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I concur with the concerns set out in the report cited by other noble Lords earlier. I even welcome the commitments articulated by the Minister, but I question how they can be trusted, given the underlying ethic of the Bill—and it is absolutely right for archbishops to ask questions of such matters.

Relations with potential partners usually depend on integrity. Trade, security, migration and so on all rest on fundamental trust. Trust cannot be one-sided, or it is not trust at all. Respecting one’s interlocutors is essential. This is inevitably evidenced in language. The Bill before us assumes that our interlocutors cannot be trusted and will behave in bad faith, and that we need to be protected from them. If they do not give us what we demand, we are free to do our own thing, including breaking the law and reneging on agreements made less than a year ago that were said at the time to be “oven ready”—a good arrangement that required “no more negotiations”. What the Bill does not ask is why our word should be trusted by others.

Integrity and morality matter at the level of international relations and agreements—unless, of course, we are now agreeing to reduce all our relations and transactions to some sort of utilitarian pragmatism. Morality also applies to how we remember history and establish what will shape the national mythologies that future generations will inherit. What story will be celebrated or commemorated next year, the centenary of partition on the island of Ireland: one that chose to end violence and respect difference, including different perspectives on identity, justice and unity, or one of a conscious abrogation of agreements built from bloodshed and courageous willingness to stem the wounds of grievance? Ireland, both the Province and the Republic, needs some certainty and shape in the future narrative, but what sort of certainty is built on a broken word, the negation of trust or the arrogance of exceptionalism?

Irish church leaders are surely right to be concerned about what the Bill implies for relations between the devolved institutions and with the UK Government. These leaders are not talking into fresh air; they straddle the border in Ireland and their deep concerns about a breach of the Good Friday agreement need to be listened to, not simply dismissed with a wave of boosterish optimism from Westminster.

Others will speak about the implications of closing an illegal route to challenge the Government’s implementation of the protocol, but let us be clear: parliamentary sovereignty does not translate easily into executive sovereignty. A decision to prefer short-term pragmatism over long-term ethics will lead to a future ​in which a question mark will hang over any statement by those whose word and adherence to the rule of law cannot be trusted. More is at stake here than economics.

This is the text of a speech I made in the Internal Market Bill (Committee stage) debate in the House of Lords last night. Hansard made sense of some of my mumblings, for which I am grateful. The government lost heavily in votes to remove clauses that allow ministers too much executive power, threaten the Northern Ireland Protocol and permit ministers to break international agreements. At Second Reading I had left the politics to others, but focussed on the moral/ethical question involved; this was dismissed by the minister as “We will not listen to strictures on morality” – which suggests that there is no place in politics for ethics.

The government has said it will simply re-instate the clauses before bringing it back for Report in the House of Lords. It is a mystery why they have chosen such an unnecessary hill on which to die – one which undermines the UK’s reputation vis-a-vis the rule of law and reduces the possibility of trade agreements (with the US, for example) which demand good faith.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie. I endorse completely the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, at the outset of this debate. I hope the Government will listen carefully to the advice from the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on the alternatives to what is before us. This is not an either/or situation.​

I have read every word of the Second Reading and Committee debates and the reports—especially from the Constitution Committee. I have even reread Tom Bingham’s book on the rule of law. I ask myself whether I am missing something, but I still come back to the point of principle. I accept the Government’s intention in this Bill, but not the means. We were given pragmatic answers to questions of principle, particularly in the responses to the Second Reading debate. These will not work. At Second Reading, the Minister dismissed the ethical argument which I tried to set out succinctly in my speech. Yet even in today’s debate, we have heard moral language used. To speak of suspected bad faith by others is to speak of ethics. Ethics must form the basis of political principle. Objections to other countries breaching international law have to be set in moral considerations.

 In the last couple of decades, during the Mugabe years, I have had a lot to do with Zimbabwe and latterly with Sudan, including meeting former President Omar al-Bashir. How can we say to people like them that the rule of law is paramount and that one’s word has to be taken in good faith?

This is an ethical and a constitutional issue. How can the Government ask Her Majesty the Queen effectively to give Royal Assent to the acceptability of breaking laws to which we have agreed? Mischievously, I suggest that we might refer to it as King John’s revenge.

There are other parts of this Bill with which I am not happy—what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, referred to as Executive sovereignty trumping parliamentary sovereignty; the impact on the devolved authorities, and the concerns raised about the Northern Ireland protocol. Fundamentally, I keep coming back to the issue of ethical principle.

I will vote against the various clauses in Part 5 not standing part of the Bill. I hope that the Government will listen and look at alternatives which can carry the support of the Committee.

This is the script of my speech in the House of Lords today in the Second Reading debate on the Internal Market Bill. I was the 21st speaker out of 115. Others addressed detail – I chose to address ethics. A four-minute speech limit was in force. There were some powerful speeches on both sides of the argument; most were impassioned and courteous.

My Lords, I fully endorse the arguments set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I concur with the concerns set out in reports cited by other noble Lords earlier. I welcome the commitments articulated by the Minister, but question how they can be trusted, given the underlying ethic of this bill. (And it is absolutely right that Archbishops ask such questions.)

Relations with potential partners usually depend on integrity. Trade, security, migration, and so on, all rest on the matter of fundamental trust. Trust cannot be one-sided or it is not trust at all. Respecting one’s interlocutors is essential, and this is inevitably evidenced in language. The Bill before us assumes that our interlocutors cannot be trusted, will behave in bad faith, and that we need to be protected from them. If they don’t give us what we demand, we are free to do our own thing … including breaking the law and reneging on agreements we made less than a year ago which were said to be “oven-ready”and “a good arrangement” that required “no more negotiations”. What it doesn’t ask is why our word should be trusted by others?

My Lords, integrity and morality matter at the level of international relations and agreements. Unless, of course, we are now agreeing to reduce all our relations and transactions to some sort of utilitarian pragmatism?

Morality also applies to how we both remember history and establish what will shape the national mythologies that future generations will inherit. My Lords, what story will be either celebrated or commemorated next year – the centenary of Partition on the island of Ireland? One that chose to end violence and respect difference – including different perspectives on identity, justice and unity? Or one of a conscious abrogation of agreements that were built from bloodshed and a courageous willingness to stem the wounds of grievance? Ireland – both the Province and the Republic – need some certainty in shaping a future narrative; but, what sort of certainty is built on a broken word, the negation of trust or the arrogance of exceptionalism?

Irish Church leaders are surely right to be concerned about what this Bill implies for relations between the devolved institutions themselves and with the UK government. These leaders straddle the border in Ireland and their deep concerns about a breach of the Good Friday Agreement need to be listened to and not simply dismissed with a wave of boosterish optimism from Westminster.

Others will speak about the implications of closing any legal route to challenge the government’s implementation of the Protocol. But, let’s be clear: parliamentary sovereignty does not translate easily into executive sovereignty.

A decision to prefer short-term pragmatism over longer-term ethics will lead to a future in which a question mark will hang over any statement by those whose word and adherence to the rule of law cannot be trusted. More is at stake here than economics.