'Henry VIII' powers to alter EU laws not acting 'like a dictator'

"Henry VIII" powers that would change EU laws as they are repatriated to Britain without full parliamentary scrutiny will not allow the Government to act like a dictator, a Cabinet minister has argued.

Commons Leader David Lidington defended the controversial plans, which will be outlined on Thursday in a white paper on the Great Repeal Bill converting EU regulations into domestic law.

Time-limited clauses would allow ministers to use secondary legislation to alter or remove EU laws as they become UK laws - with any changes not subject to full debates and votes by MPs.

The Government has argued it needs the power as a significant proportion of existing EU law will not work properly without changes being made and ministers must be given the ability to make "technical" changes quickly.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the party will oppose the "essentially dictatorial powers", but Mr Lidington insisted they would be "limited and defined".

He told the BBC: "Because a lot of those EU regulations will, for example, refer to the Commission or another European body, a regulator, you need to substitute a UK authority in place.

"So we need to have a power under secondary legislation to tweak the acquis, the European regulations so that it's actually coherent.

"It will be a limited and defined power, not to act like a dictator, but by secondary legislation.

"And the scope, the definition of those powers, and when they can be used, in what circumstances, is something Parliament will have to approve in voting through the Bill itself."

Mr Corbyn insisted there needs to be "total accountability" at every stage of the Brexit negotiations.

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He told ITV: "I don't think the record of Henry VIII on promoting democracy, inclusion and participation was a very good one.

"He was all about essentially dictatorial powers to bypass what was then a very limited parliamentary power."

The Labour leader added: "We are not going to sit there and hand over powers to this Government to override Parliament, override democracy and just set down a series of diktats of what's going to happen in the future."

Major policy changes, including immigration or customs controls, would be brought forward under normal parliamentary bills and would be subject to full scrutiny.

The Henry VIII powers will end at a time spelled out in the legislation by a "sunset clause", and would also be handed to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so they alter laws under devolved administration rules.

The white paper will be released a day after Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 to formally begin Britain's exit from the EU.

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