(12 months ago)Public Bill Committees
I beg to move,
That, notwithstanding the Order of the Committee of Wednesday 4 July 2018, during further proceedings on the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill the Committee do next meet at 10.00 am on Wednesday 10 July and thereafter at 10.00 am on Wednesday 16 October.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. Thanks to everyone for coming.
The Government are in meltdown, but as ever our Committee meets like clockwork. Soon the Conservative party will have a new leader, and our country will have a new Prime Minister. It would be a democratic outrage if that person did not call a general election to let the British people decide whether they want them as Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the Government’s foot-dragging on boundary changes and on my Bill will most likely mean that we end up fighting another election with antiquated boundaries.
Who the next leader of the Conservative party is may well determine, more than any other factor, what happens with boundaries. There are at least two leadership contenders who, based on the 2017 general election results, would either find their seat abolished or lose their seat. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) is seen as the front-runner, but his seat is set to be too close to call if the boundary changes go ahead; I wonder whether he would be willing to come to some sensible compromise with the Opposition, if only for his own sake. The right hon. Member for Tatton (Ms McVey) is also running for the leadership, but her seat is set to be abolished under the new boundaries. Of course, a member of our Committee—
Order. May I ask the hon. Gentleman to pause for a second? We are actually considering the sittings motion, which sets out the new dates for our meetings. We will then come on to the motion to adjourn, which will give him a greater opportunity to elaborate on what he has to say.
Will you be making only one speech? That would be helpful to know.
I am grateful.
A member of our Committee, the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean, has thrown his hat in the ring. He is not in his place, but I wish him well; I hope at least that he will understand the issues, because he has been an active contributor to our meetings. I wonder whether the Minister can shed any light on the matter.
Question put and agreed to.
We now come to the motion to adjourn, as the Committee cannot consider the clauses of the Bill until the House has agreed a money resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee do now adjourn.—(Afzal Khan.)
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Owen. I am grateful for your permission to remove our jackets, because it is very hot.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton is absolutely right that the Government are completely in meltdown. In many respects, it is good to attend this Committee, because it is the one thing that can be guaranteed to run like clockwork. At a time when many bizarre things are happening in this country—whether it is that complete and utter moron President Trump coming to visit and having the red carpet rolled out for him, or the fact that almost half the Conservative party seems to be running for leader—it is just fantastic to be here to focus on what I think is called getting on with the day job. But of course we cannot get on with the day job, because a money resolution has not been provided for the Bill.
As the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton said, a member of our Committee is running for leader of the Conservative party. The hon. Gentleman is right that whenever this circus leaves town and we finally have a new Prime Minister, it will be interesting to see what they will do about parliamentary boundaries. Will they push ahead with the democratically unjust proposal to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600, or will they recognise—as the Procedure Committee has done—that Parliament has a lot more legislation coming forward? The Procedure Committee, which is probably the weightiest in this Parliament, is looking at whether there should be a budgetary Committee, given how much pressure and scrutiny is on us.
On the one hand, Ministers are saying, “There is so much for MPs to do at the moment,” and on the other hand I suspect that the Minister will tell us, “It is very important to cut the cost of politics and reduce the number of seats to 600.” Someone is wrong somewhere along the line. I think the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton is right to try to protect the number of seats at 650.
We shall see what happens over the next few weeks, and whether we face the prospect of people backing Boris and having Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. We would then have two blonde-haired eejits running a country, one here and one on the other side of the pond.
Order. We do not refer to our colleagues by their first name in Committee and it is unparliamentary to call anybody an idiot.
I used the word eejit. They are very different in terms of their interpretation. However, I apologise—I should of course have referred to the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Before I get myself into any more trouble I will sit down. I wish the Minister well. I suspect that he will tell us that while work continues apace, the Government are frightfully busy, when we all know that that is not the case, given that the Secretary of State is spending most of his day walking around the park filming selfie videos.
It is a great pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow East and for Manchester, Gorton raised an intriguing prospect. As with so much else in the country at the moment, the fate of this Bill may well depend on the outcome of the Conservative leadership contest. However, as we have said previously, the question of how our democracy is founded and operates should not be a matter for party politics or internal party politics. Its credibility and honesty are corroded when the main driver behind the boundary proposals is anything other than what is best for the United Kingdom.
This week is of course the 75th anniversary of D-day, when we celebrate the heroism of the many thousands of men and women who launched the liberation of western Europe, and eventually freed it from the yoke of fascism, leading to the end of hostilities in Europe in the second world war. I make that point to remind the Committee that one year ago almost to the week—the Minister was not the Minister then, but he was present in the Committee—I made exactly the same point.
I make no apology for paying tribute at the start of June every year to the men and women who fought and in many cases died for our freedom. However, the relevant point to this Committee is that I made the same point a year ago, yet here we are one year later, and there has been no progress. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East talked about proceedings continuing apace, but they are not. If they had been continuing apace, we would not be here now. One year later I am making a similar speech and we are no further forward.
I therefore say with great respect to the Minister, suggestions that work is continuing no longer have any credibility. It is time to put up or shut up, if I may be so blunt with the Government. Bring these proposals forward, let the House make a decision and then we can move forward, one way or the other. There is no logical reason why the orders should not have been drafted, and the Government have run out of excuses.
Does the Minister wish to respond?
Mr Khan, do you wish to wind up the debate?