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UK Internal Market Bill: key amendments

The government introduced the UK Internal Market Bill to the House of Commons on 9 September.

The government introduced the UK Internal Market Bill to the House of Commons on 9 September. The bill enshrines two ‘market access principles’ into law: mutual recognition, which means that goods or services acceptable in one part of the UK are automatically acceptable in other parts; and non-discrimination, which prevents governments from making laws that favour local goods.

The bill has proved controversial – both the provisions giving ministers powers to unilaterally implement parts of the Northern Ireland protocol contrary to the Withdrawal Agreement, as well as the approach it has taken to guarantee businesses market access and its implications for devolution. MPs and peers across all parties tabled a number of amendments to reflect this.

The bill had four days of committee stage in the House of Commons between 15 and 22 September (which took place on the floor of the House) and passed the Commons on 29 September. An amendment (4) proposed by Conservative MP Bob Neill – which would have required MPs’ approval before the parts of the bill that would give ministers powers to make regulations contrary to international law came into force – attracted the support of Conservative backbenchers. To avoid the risk of defeat, the government tabled its own amendment (66) which had the same effect, and which passed without division.

The bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on 19 and 20 October and had five days of committee stage between 26 October and 9 November. Despite the House of Lords not normally voting on amendments until report stage, peers removed part five of the bill on the Northern Ireland protocol at committee stage.

Further amendments were made on the devolution aspects of the bill at report stage, which is expected return to the House of Commons or ping-pong in December.

The bill received Royal Assent on 17 December 2020. 



What does it mean?

Prospects in the Commons

Northern Ireland protocol

(Amendments 42–47)

At committee stage, peers voted to remove part five of the bill on the Northern Ireland protocol. This included clauses 44, 45 and 47 which gave ministers the power to break international law by implementing aspects of the protocol contrary to the Withdrawal Agreement. The other clauses relate to the UK government’s commitment unfettered access. The government has said that it will reinsert the clauses in the bill when it returns to the House of Commons. However, if the UK reaches agreement with the EU on the issues to which the powers relate, it could decide to remove these specific clauses from a revised version of part five.

Common frameworks (Amendment 1)

Lord Hope of Craighead (Crossbench)

The amendment would disapply the market access principles where the four governments agreed that divergence between the different parts of the UK  was acceptable through the common frameworks process. It would also prevent the UK government from making secondary legislation in areas where common frameworks were still under discussion.

The government opposed the amendment, although during the debate Lord True, a government minister, said he did “acknowledge that there may be an appropriate way to put frameworks into the Bill”.[1]

While it’s unlikely the Commons will accept the amendment in its current form, the government may table an alternative amendment (an ‘amendment in lieu’).

Regulation-making powers

(Amendments 8, 13, 17, 30)

Baroness Andrews (Labour)

These amendments would remove the ability of minister to make certain changes to the act by secondary legislation.

This follows a recommendation from the House of Lords Delegated Legislation and Regulatory Reform Committee that these powers “are inappropriate and should be removed from the Bill”.[2]

Amendments 2 and 12 were supported by the government and passed without division so are likely to be agreed to at the Commons stages.

Amendment 7 was made following a government defeat so it is less likely to pass.

The government has tabled other amendments which place certain requirements on the use of some powers – including a duty to review the use of these powers - which may pass instead.

Requirement to consult the devolved administrations

(Amendments 10, 18, 31)

Lord Callanan (Government)

These amendments require the government to consult the devolved administrations before using regulation-making powers in the bill. Likely to pass as this is a government amendment.

Requirements to obtain consent of devolved administrations

(Amendments 11, 15, 32)

Baroness Hayter (Labour)
These amendments require the government to obtain the consent to the devolve administrations before using regulation-making powers in the bill. If consent is not given with in a month the government may proceed but must publish a statement explaining why. MPs likely to favour the government’s version of these amendments.

Exclusions from market access principles

(Amendment 12)

Lord Stevenson (Labour)

This amendment adds new exclusions to the market access principles so that they do not apply if a government is pursuing a legitimate aim, which include environmental, animal welfare, employment rights reasons. The amendment passed without division, reportedly by accident because government peers forgot to oppose it.[3] Should the government oppose it in the Commons it would be unlikely to pass.

Office for the Internal Market

(Amendments 38, 58, 59)

Lord Callanan (Government)

Amendment 38 requires the CMA to take into account the interests of all parts of the UK when carrying out its functions. 58 and 56 require the government to ensure there is an appropriate balance between members with different skills and knowledge of different parts of the UK when appointing the OIM panel, and to seek the consent of the devolved administrations. Likely to pass as this is a government amendment.

CMA board

(Amendment 57)

Lord Thomas (Crossbench)

Would provide the devolved administrations to appoint one member each to the board of the CMA. Amendment is opposed by the government and so is unlikely to be accepted by the Commons.

Financial assistance powers

(Amendment 48, 49)

Lord Thomas (Crossbench)

Removes the financial assistances powers for UK ministers, which would allow them to spend money on economic development in any part of the UK, including directly in areas of devolved competence. Unlikely to pass. The UK government intends to use these powers to distribute the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU funding after the end of the transition, so is likely to reinsert this clause at the Commons stage.

State aid and Office for the Internal Market

(Amendment 50)

Baroness Bowles (Liberal Democrat)

Requires the UK government to establish the Office for the Internal Market as separate from the CMA, and give it a role in investigating harmful and distortive subsidies and making recommendations to the UK government and devolved administrations. Unlikely to pass as the amendment is opposed by the government.

State aid

(Amendment 51)

Lord Thomas (Crossbench)

Removes the clause that would amend the devolution statutes to state that subsidy control or state aid powers are reserved and are a matter exclusively for the UK government. Unlikely to pass. The UK government argues that state aid is already a reserved matter – although this is contested by the devolved administrations.

[1] House of Lords Hansard, United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, 18 November 2020,

[2] House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, 24th Report of Session 2019–21, 17 September 2020,

[3] Labour Lords UK, Twitter, 23 November 2020,

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