John BercowMP Main Page: John Bercow (Speaker - Buckingham)
Department Debates - View all John Bercow's debates with the Leader of the House
(10 months, 4 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I beg to move,
(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(e) any proceedings interrupted or superseded by this order may be resumed or (as the case may be) entered upon and proceeded with after the moment of interruption.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.
(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.
(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.
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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?
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.
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?
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.”
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
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.
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.
I will respond, and then I shall resume my seat, in deference to—
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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
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.
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
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you could inform the House of what is happening.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker —[Interruption.]
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?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. If it turns out to be a tie, and I have no idea if it is—
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.
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.
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.]
If we discover subsequently that there has been an inaccuracy, will we be able to revisit this exact motion in future?
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?