Business of the House Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Business of the House
John Bercow Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd April 2019

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Leader of the House
Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 1:55 p.m.

I must inform the House that I have selected amendment (a) in the name of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), and that he will be called to move that amendment at the end of the debate.

Sir Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con) Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 11:30 a.m.

I beg to move,

That—

(1) At today’s sitting-

(a) the order of the House of 1 April (Business of the House) shall apply as if, at the end of paragraph (2)(a), there were inserted “and then to proceedings on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill”;

(b) any proceedings governed by that order as amended or this order may be proceeded with until any hour, though opposed, and shall not be interrupted;

(c) immediately upon the conclusion of proceedings under the order of 1 April, the Speaker shall call a Member to move the motion that the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.5) Bill be now read a second time;

(d) the Speaker may not propose the question on the previous question, and may not put any question under Standing Order No. 36 (Closure of debate) or Standing Order No. 163 (Motion to sit in private);

(e) any proceedings interrupted or superseded by this order may be resumed or (as the case may be) entered upon and proceeded with after the moment of interruption.

(2) In respect of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.

(3) The provisions of this order shall apply to and in connection with the proceedings on the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill.

Timetable for the Bill today

(4) (a) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings up to and including Third Reading shall be taken at the sitting today in accordance with this Order.

(b) Proceedings on Second Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at 7.00 pm.

(c) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings up to and including Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at 10.00 pm.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put today

(5) When the Bill has been read a second time:

(a) it shall, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

(6) (a) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(b) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

(7) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (4), the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply–

(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment, new clause or new schedule selected by the Chair or Speaker for separate decision;

(d) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a designated Member;

(e) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and shall not put any other Questions, other than the Question on any motion described in paragraph (16) of this Order.

(8) On a Motion made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments and Messages on a subsequent day

(9) If any message on the Bill (other than a message that the House of Lords agrees with the Bill without amendment or agrees with any message from this House) is expected from the House of Lords on any future sitting day, the House shall not adjourn until that message has been received and any proceedings under paragraph (10) have been concluded.

(10) On any day on which such a message is received, if a designated Member indicates to the Speaker an intention to proceed to consider that message—

(a) notwithstanding Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order), any Lords Amendments to the Bill or any further Message from the Lords on the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly;

(b) proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under subparagraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed;

(c) the Speaker may not propose the question on the previous question, and may not put any question under Standing Order No. 36 (Closure of debate) or Standing Order No. 163 (Motion to sit in private).

(11) Paragraphs (2) to (7) of Standing Order No. 83F (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords amendments) apply for the purposes of bringing any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to a conclusion as if:

(a) any reference to a Minister of the Crown were a reference to a designated Member;

(b) after paragraph (4)(a) there is inserted –

“(aa) the question on any amendment or motion selected by the Speaker for separate decision;”.

(12) Paragraphs (2) to (5) of Standing Order No. 83G (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords) apply for the purposes of bringing any proceedings on consideration of a Lords Message to a conclusion as if:

(a) any reference to a Minister of the Crown were a reference to a designated Member;

(b) in paragraph (5), the words “subject to paragraphs (6) and (7)” were omitted.

Reasons Committee

(13) Paragraphs (2) to (6) of Standing Order No. 83H (Programme orders: reasons committee) apply in relation to any committee to be appointed to draw up reasons after proceedings have been brought to a conclusion in accordance with this Order as if any reference to a Minister of the Crown were a reference to a designated Member.

Miscellaneous

(14) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings on the Bill to which this Order applies.

(15) No Motion shall be made, except by a designated Member, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken, to recommit the Bill or to vary or supplement the provisions of this Order.

(16) (a) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings on the Bill to which this Order applies except by a designated Member.

(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(17) Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(18) No private business may be considered at any sitting to which the provisions of this order apply.

(19) In this Order, “a designated Member” means –

(a) the Member in charge of the Bill; and

(b) any other Member backing the Bill and acting on behalf of that Member.

For the avoidance of doubt, I should begin by saying that it is the feeling of both the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and me that we should accept amendment (a), which provides for the possibility of indicative votes on Monday, should that be necessary in the light of discussions between those on the Front Benches between now and then, which I strongly welcome.

This House has debated a number of measures in the past few weeks about the Order Paper and Standing Orders, and who controls them. I am sure that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, some of whom have made learned and important speeches about the subject already, will wish to raise those issues again. Of course, I am happy to respond to any points made in the course of my remarks about that matter, but I do not intend to dwell on it all over again, because I have more or less said what I had to say about that subject. I just want to refer to the substance of the business of the House motion.

The first question that needs to be addressed is: why bother with this business of the House motion and, therefore, why bother at this point to consider the Bill that stands in the name of the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, of which I and others are backers, given that the Government have already said they are going to seek an extension, which, again, is an enormously welcome development? I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that it is not that I have any doubt that the Government will now wish to seek an extension and avoid the cliff edge of a no-deal exit on 12 April, but rather that there is concern that there should be a transparent and orderly statutory process or framework within which the House has an opportunity to consider the length of the extension that is asked for and to provide the Prime Minister with backing for her request to the EU in an unequivocal and transparent way. That is the purpose of ensuring that we consider the Bill that follows this business of this House motion, and therefore the main purpose of the business of the House motion is simply to provide for the proceedings on that Bill.

The second question I wish to address is that of the speed with which we are considering the Bill. I would much prefer to have had considerably longer set out in the business of the House motion for consideration of the implications of the Bill, because, as right hon. and hon. Members will see when it is debated, although the Bill is short, it is nevertheless significant and there are significant details associated with it. It would have been nice to have a considerable time in which to debate and consider it over a number of days, as is normal. Unfortunately, there is no point in legislating if that which we are legislating about has occurred before the time when the legislation would be relevant.

Break in Debate

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con) - Hansard

I think that my right hon. Friend said earlier that the British people were against a WTO arrangement, but the latest opinion polls that I have seen—certainly in my constituency—say that more British people are actually in favour of a WTO exit. What is his message to those millions of Britons who do believe in a WTO Brexit?

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:21 p.m.

Order. That is an extraordinarily interesting point from the hon. Gentleman, but it suffers from the disadvantage that it does not in any way relate to the business of the House motion on which we are now focusing.

Sir Oliver Letwin Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:21 p.m.

I therefore will not dilate on the subject, but let me just say that I did not say anything about a WTO exit. There could well be circumstances under which people were in favour of a WTO exit. What we are discussing is the question whether it would be appropriate for the UK to leave the EU next Thursday without a deal, which is a wholly different matter.

Paragraphs (14) to (18) of the motion simply prevent the mischief of the Bill being hijacked by anyone other than its promoter. Again, these paragraphs are standard fare in any business of the House motion of this kind, except that they add further provisions against dilatory motions. Some of my hon. Friends—in particular, one right at the end of the Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg)—are great experts at dilatory motions and are really quite brilliant at them. I hope and expect that, notwithstanding their brilliance, they have in this case been prevented from exercising it.

Sir Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire Dales) (Con) Hansard

I am intrigued by the word that my right hon. Friend used. Will he be a little more honest with the House? When he says “hijacked”, does he mean that other colleagues might seek to use the same parliamentary practice that he has done today?

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:22 p.m.

The right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) is never anything but completely honest. I know that the right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) used the words loosely and I am sure that he would not for one moment suggest otherwise, because that would be quite wrong. He said, “a little more honest”. The right hon. Member for West Dorset is always impeccably 100% honest, as is every right hon. and hon. Member in the Chamber.

Sir Patrick McLoughlin Hansard

One of the things of which I am absolutely certain is that my right hon. Friend will be able to answer my question. Let me use the word “straightforward”, rather than “honest.”

Hon. Members

Withdraw!

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:23 p.m.

The right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales has clarified his thinking and has used slightly more felicitous language, and I think that the right hon. Member for West Dorset—I do not mean this unkindly—is more than able to cope.

Sir Oliver Letwin Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:23 p.m.

I would never take offence from my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin), who is a very old friend and colleague. We have been through many things together in Cabinets and shadow Cabinets over many years, and although we disagree about this particular constitutional issue, we agree about much else.

It is of course the case that the Standing Orders of the House of Commons are the possession of the House of Commons. It is therefore the case that, as in all other matters pertaining to the House of Commons, a majority may alter them. If my right hon. Friend is asking me the only question that he can logically ask me under those circumstances—that is, whether a majority of Members of the House of Commons can alter the Standing Orders of the House of Commons at any given time should they wish to do so—the only answer I can give him is the only answer that he could give me as a former Chief Whip, which is yes.

Normally, the Government Chief Whip commands a majority sufficient at all times to ensure that the Executive are able, in effect, to change the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, but this is a very unusual provision of our Parliament. In the United States Congress and many other legislatures, it would be regarded as quite intolerable for the Executive to be able to change the procedures of the House using that kind of whipping, to which we are entirely accustomed. However, it is our method, and if the Government of the day have a sufficient majority to be able to do so, they will be able to exercise that method. On this occasion—not in general, but in relation to this particular set of issues—the Government do not command a majority in all cases, as has been frequently remarked by Members on both sides of the House. They may do tonight or they may not; they have not on some other occasions. Where they do not command a majority, it is open to Members of the House of Commons in the majority to alter the Standing Orders.

Break in Debate

Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:29 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the phrase “slight whiff of hypocrisy”, when it is implied that it is coming from the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), in order? I am sure that you will be able to advise me.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:29 p.m.

I was diverted by a former Deputy Leader of the House, who was perfectly legitimately whispering into my ear, as colleagues often do when there is a matter of great moment in their minds, and therefore I did not hear it. I am not disputing what the hon. Gentleman has said—

Ms Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries - Hansard

I am happy to repeat it.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

No, there is no requirement for repetition by the hon. Lady. I think that she was making what I would call a political charge. I find it unimaginable that she would make an accusation of personal dishonour against the right hon. Member for West Dorset. If she were to make such a charge, I feel sure that she would be in a minority of one.

Ms Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries - Hansard

indicated dissent.

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

The hon. Lady shakes her head, and that satisfies me. I think that we will leave it there.

Sir Charles Walker Portrait Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The order of the day is brevity. I say that very gently to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), who has now been speaking for 35 minutes.

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

That is true, although, in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, he has been solicitous at every turn in taking interventions from colleagues, the effect of which, as they know, has been to lengthen his oration. I call the right hon. Gentleman to respond to the intervention from the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries).

Sir Oliver Letwin Parliament Live - Hansard

I will respond, and then I shall resume my seat, in deference to—

Break in Debate

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. I should inform the House that if the business of the House motion passes, amendments and new clauses may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a Second time. This must be done in the Chamber only, not in any of the Clerks’ offices. However, it would be helpful if Members intending to table such amendments and new clauses shared them electronically with the Public Bill Office. In order to produce an amendment paper as soon as possible after amendments and new clauses are tabled, the Chairman of Ways and Means has decided that only the first six names for each amendment or new clause will be published. However, a full list of all names will be produced as soon as possible and made available in the Vote Office.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:34 p.m.

May I start by thanking the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) for moving the Business of the House motion to enable the Bill to be considered? I thank him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) for enabling the Bill to be debated.

It is this Government who have created the Brexit deadlock, and the Bill seeks to get things moving. The people and their democratically elected representatives in Parliament want to make progress. When someone such as the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who was an outstanding Minister and played a leading role in ensuring the introduction of equal marriage, decides to sit as an independent, we are in interesting and difficult times.

It is this Government who have put us in this position. Their red lines were drawn right at the beginning and formed the boundaries for the negotiations. In her Lancaster House speech on 17 January 2017, the Prime Minister set out the Government’s plan for Britain and the 12 priorities that they would use to negotiate Brexit, but there was a lack of information and Parliament was bypassed and ignored until we in the Opposition ensured that there was a meaningful vote.

As hon. Members have said, 17 million people voted to leave the EU. The Government have failed to represent them and they have failed to represent the nearly 16 million people who voted to remain. More importantly, there are many young people—we do this not for us but for the next generation—who did not have a chance to have their voices heard in 2016 but who are now able to vote.

It is right that Parliament has tried a new process of indicative votes as a means of testing the will of the House of Commons on different options relating to one issue. The Bill seeks to run in parallel with that process and create a legal mechanism whereby the House can instruct the Prime Minister to ask the European Council for an extension to article 50. We know that these are unusual times and that we are in a hung Parliament, and that the Government are governing on the basis of confidence and supply and nothing else. Back Benchers from across the House want the Bill to be debated.

In her statement from No. 10 yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that she intends to seek a further extension to article 50, but there are no details about how the decision will be made, including on the length of the extension or what will happen if the European Council puts forward an alternative. The Prime Minister did not explicitly rule out leaving the EU with no deal yesterday, so it is right that the House can have a say on an extension to article 50, which would avoid the UK crashing out without a deal.

Break in Debate

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 3:24 p.m.

Just one moment—if I may, I will finish my initial response. I have to say that there are some difficulties arising on that question. Actually, the Government’s business taking precedence under Standing Order No. 14 gives this right to the British people, in line with a majority that does exist.

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 3:27 p.m.

For the avoidance of doubt, I think I am right in stating to the House that Sandbach is a place and indeed, that it is not all that far from where the hon. Lady represents, but she is of course Antoinette Sandbach, the hon. Member for Eddisbury.

Antoinette Sandbach Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 3:27 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) for allowing the intervention, because I had always thought that it was a principle that Parliament has ultimate sovereignty in the UK.

Break in Debate

Sir Patrick McLoughlin Parliament Live - Hansard

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you could inform the House of what is happening.

Mr Speaker Hansard

I have never accused the right hon. Gentleman of being impatient. I was minded to do that very soon, and I completely understand why he, and everyone else, wants resolution. There was a degree of uncertainty; that explains the delay. In the circumstances, I thought it courteous and proper to ask that the two Chief Whips confer, but I did indicate that the exchange between them should be brief, so I hope to be able to announce the situation to the House extremely soon. I quite understand why the right hon. Gentleman wants to get on with matters; so do I, but I want to do so in a way that is proper.

Mr Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 4:58 p.m.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker —[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker Hansard

No, no; it is fair enough and perfectly proper. I call Mr Mark Francois on a point of order.

Mr Mark Francois Portrait Mr Francois - Hansard

Mr Speaker, there are rumours that it is a tie, in which case could we have a people’s vote and do the Division twice?

Mr Speaker Hansard

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I will not comment on rumours. He has had his fun. I hope he has enjoyed himself, and I am glad that he has preserved his sense of humour. A resolution will be achieved very soon; patience is rewarded.

Mr Speaker Hansard

Meanwhile, the epitome of solemnity, Sir William Cash.

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Hansard

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. If it turns out to be a tie, and I have no idea if it is—

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. May I very politely suggest to the hon. Gentleman, whom I always treat with the utmost courtesy and respect, that rather than asking me what will be, he just waits for a very short time? I know exactly what the situation is in the as yet hypothetical scenario that he describes, and I will give a very clear ruling to the House. If he is still unclear or dissatisfied after that, he can come back at me.

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5 p.m.

Order. In accordance with precedent, and on the principle that important decisions should not be taken except by a majority, I cast my vote with the Noes, so the Noes have it. By casting vote, it is 311 to 310. That is the proper way in which to proceed.

Question accordingly negatived.

Sir Patrick McLoughlin Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5:29 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot recall when this situation last happened. I am sure that you have been told of the precedent, so perhaps you would like to inform the House.

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5:31 p.m.

In my recollection—I have been saying this to audiences across the country for years, so I hope it is right—the last occasion on which the Speaker had to exercise a casting vote was in 1993. I will be corrected by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) if I am wrong, but I believe that it was appertaining to the Maastricht treaty Bill. I say to the right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) that I am probably pushing my luck here in the face of such an established authority as the hon. Member for Stone, but I think that it was on an amendment in the name of the then Leader of the Opposition relating to the social chapter. Speaker Boothroyd cast her vote in the way that she did, against that amendment.

The rationale—I say this as much for the benefit of new Member as of others—for the exercise of the casting vote is, as I have said, that it is not for the Chair to create a majority that does not otherwise exist. The way in which the casting vote is exercised also depends on the stage at which a matter is being aired. For example, it could be, and probably would be, exercised differently on Second Reading of a Bill, because there is an important principle of encouraging further debate. It might then be used to send a Bill into Committee when it is not going to get on to the statute book straight away. If it was the final stage of the Bill, the casting vote would be against. In a situation in which a decision would be made that a day would be allocated for particular business, I judge that it is not right for me to make that decision if the House has not done so by a clear majority. I hope that that is clear and generally acceptable.

Hon. Members

More!

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5:33 p.m.

No more required; I am being teased mercilessly by the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and possibly by others—[Interruption.] I thought it was he, but anyway, people were saying, “More!” They do not want more, although I think that the hon. Member for Stone usually does.

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Parliament Live - Hansard

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Let me simply say that I quite understand the way in which that decision was arrived at. I did refer briefly to Speaker Denison’s rule. Of course, it so happens that this particular Bill should be about the European issue, on which the Maastricht treaty was also extremely important.

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5:34 p.m.

I do not want to tease the hon. Gentleman, but I think that Hugo Young’s book has a whole chapter about him. The hon. Gentleman is not only an historical figure; some people might think that he is a world historical figure.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Those of us who took part in that vote in 1993 will recall that Speaker Boothroyd cast her vote in favour of the Government because there was thought to be a tie. It was discovered the next day that the Government had in fact won the vote by a majority of one, and that therefore the Speaker had complied with what would have happened anyway. Can we be certain that this tie is accurate? [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5:35 p.m.

Order. I understand that Members want to move on, but we must hear the rest of the point of order.

Mike Gapes Parliament Live - Hansard

If we discover subsequently that there has been an inaccuracy, will we be able to revisit this exact motion in future?

Mr Speaker Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 5:36 p.m.

None of us—myself included—has Kantian perfect information on the subject, and I witnessed that there was some uncertainty. What I can vouchsafe to the hon. Gentleman, without causing any offence, is that in so far as there was some uncertainty about the vote, it was about whether it was 310 each or whether, as in the view of one Government Whip—it was not advanced with great certainty—the Government might have secured 311 votes. I do not think that there is any suggestion that the decision has worked against the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). In the event that there was an error, I think that I will resort to the Willie Whitelaw defence at this stage: let us cross that bridge if we come to it. I am not anticipating that we will do so. I thought it prudent to ask the Government and Opposition Chief Whips to confirm, and they did so amicably, as far as I know, and appeared to reach an agreed conclusion. There is no need to create a row, on top of all other rows, where there is none.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. That is also my understanding of what happened in 1993, but can you clarify, just for the House’s information, whether the result of the vote that has just been announced is based on the Whips’ count or on the Clerks’ count?

Mr Speaker Hansard

The answer is that it is based on the Whips’ count, but the Clerks’ count is the same. I am not inviting the hon. Gentleman to put that in his pipe and smoke it, because I am sure that he does not have a pipe and, as far as I know, he does not smoke. Nevertheless, I have given him an answer, which I hope sates his appetite for further inquiry.

Main Question put.