(1 year, 4 months ago)Read Full debate Bill Main Page
I will leave it to hon. Members to listen to what Mr Speaker said and make their own interpretation, as there are clearly multiple interpretations in the Committee. What is clear is that money resolutions have been brought forward for Bills that received their Second Reading later than this one, which strikes me as entirely unfair.
The Government have argued that their response to the Bill is about timing and that they intend to wait until the Boundary Commission produces its report for Parliament before progressing. They have taken a leisurely approach to considering the Bill, as it has already been five months since it received its Second Reading. I did not expect to have to leave the Committee to have a baby in the time that is has taken the Bill to progress through Parliament—in December I reasonably expected it to have passed by the time I needed to take some time away from the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton raised the issue of granting a money resolution with the Leader of the House in three consecutive business questions, on 3, 10 and 17 May. Numerous points of order have been raised too. In February, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee concluded that the House,
“should be given an early opportunity to debate the options for reform and to decide whether or not to continue the current boundary review”,
and that the Bill provided the opportunity to do so. However, the Government chose to ignore the views and expertise of Back Benchers.
It is also completely disingenuous of the Government to claim that they are blocking the Bill for financial reasons. On Monday the Leader of the House told us that the Bill would,
“place a potential financial burden of £8 million on taxpayers.”—[Official Report, 21 May 2018; Vol. 641, c. 600.]
However, waiting for the Boundary Commission to publish its report in the autumn will waste even more money. I am more than confident that the Prime Minister did not consider the “potential financial burden” when she appointed a series of new peers last weekend, which will cost taxpayers more than £1 million a year. Ministers have referred on numerous occasions to the fact that continuing with the boundary review is a Conservative manifesto pledge. The manifesto also included commitments to repeal the fox hunting ban and to address the size of the House of Lords. Where did those commitments go?
The Conservative party seems to have completely forgotten that it is in a minority Government. A lot has changed since 2011, when the original Boundary Commission process started. We have had two general elections and the Brexit referendum and its consequences. This is a hung Parliament and the Government’s mandate is completely different. For a minority Government to defy the will of the House in this way is deeply undemocratic.
The Government’s motives are clear: this is not about principles, but electoral maths. This is not the first time the Conservative party has tried to rig our democratic process in its favour. There is the ongoing scandal of the Government refusing to vote and then refusing to act on Opposition day motions. They have stuffed the Standing Committees of this House with a majority of their Members, even though they are a minority Government. There is also the £1 billion that they gave to the Democratic Unionist party in order to get their legislation through. At the local government elections on 3 May, the Government piloted discriminatory ID requirements that denied hundreds of legitimate voters their democratic right to vote.
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman takes a look at the impact the Bill would have on the way our Parliament is made up. It strikes me that what the Government are doing is unquestionably about rigging the electoral system in favour of one party, instead of something that is balanced and reflects the view of the majority of the parties in this country.