Business of the House (Saturday 19 October) Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Leader of the House

Business of the House (Saturday 19 October)
John Bercow Excerpts
Thursday 17th October 2019

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Leader of the House
Mr Speaker Hansard

Before I call the Leader of the House to move the motion, I should inform the House that I have selected amendment (a) in the name of Sir Oliver Letwin.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees- Mogg) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Oct 2019, 11:09 a.m.

I beg to move,

That this House shall sit at 9.30am on Saturday 19 October and at that sitting:

(1) the first business shall be any statements to be made by Ministers; and

(2) the provisions of Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings), with the exception of paragraph (4), shall apply as if that day were a Friday.

The good news is that I do not intend to detain the House for long. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) seems delighted that I will be brief.

As Members will be aware, 19 October is a day of jubilee and song, because it is the anniversary of the birth of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), who, on a very rare occasion, is not in his place. Other than wishing him a happy birthday, we have to deal with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019, in which Parliament has given the day additional meaning. It has set down a series of requirements that, if we are to leave the EU on 31 October, need to be fulfilled by this House and can only be fulfilled on Saturday, because the European Council will not have finished until the day before. I am sure that many Members can think of other things to be doing on a Saturday rather than coming here, but I admire their diligence in accepting that the basic principle is right. As I have said before, to meet three times in 70 years on a Saturday is not unduly onerous.

Break in Debate

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker Hansard
17 Oct 2019, 1:10 p.m.

Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), perhaps I should just say this for the elucidation of the House. The House will take its own view of the Government’s motion and indeed of the amendment from the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), but it is important that colleagues do so with open eyes. The only point I want to make—it is a very simple procedural point—is that although theoretically, as the Leader of the House quite rightly said, the debate could end up being shorter if the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset were passed because a lengthy exchange on a prime ministerial statement could truncate such a debate, that would be the result of a decision from the Chair, because the Chair has discretion. There is no way on earth that I would allow that to happen, manifestly because I am looking to serve the interests of the House. The debate would not be shorter—absolutely would not be shorter. Whether people want to support that amendment or not is another matter, but it is important that people are clear about what the implications are. I am best placed to say what the implications are and I have just said it.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP) - Hansard
17 Oct 2019, 1:11 p.m.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I think that the whole House is grateful for that ruling clarifying the issues relating to Saturday morning. I think that benefits us all and we now have a better idea of how events will transpire.

The Scottish National party has no issue with the motion and we will not be opposing it. It is worth noting that this will be the first time the House will have sat on a Saturday since 1982, when this House was recalled at the height of the Falklands crisis. I had a look at what other auspicious events have happened on 19 October. As an aficionado of political history, the Leader of the House may like to note that on 19 October, British forces under General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington, ending the US revolutionary wars. The Leader of the House has a penchant for retreats, surrender and capitulation, so I know he will find that of great interest. He may find this interesting, too: it was also the day on which Napoleon’s forces began their retreat from Moscow. Perhaps we will hear his views on those two issues, as he always entertains the House on these little notes of history.

The key issue—I think we are all grateful that the Leader of the House touched on it—relates to the arrangements that have to be put in place for staff who give up their weekend to come here to work. It should also be noted—the Leader of the House glibly accepted this—that the arrangements present a number of difficulties for Members from Scotland. I do not know how we are expected to get here for 9.30 in the morning. It seems like we will have to be here for the whole week to ensure we are in our place for that 9.30 am start.

On the specific arrangements, and I am glad that you clarified this, Mr Speaker, a 90-minute debate is clearly insufficient, given the issue and the whole range of matters we will have to consider—at least we have a deal to debate. We will support fully the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). It is right that we have the opportunity to debate all the issues relating to this matter and that we have an amendable motion. The SNP will table an amendment, and we will encourage right hon. and hon. Members to support us.

We will need to have all the relevant documents, and the Leader of the House has given us his commitment on that. I listened very carefully to his response regarding economic impacts and consequences. I think that the House would like to see them in advance, but I do not think the Government will be in a position where that will be considered. Scottish Members would like to see what the impact on Scotland will be, but again we have no commitment on whether that will be delivered.

As we come to consider this matter on Saturday, it is worth noting that Scotland wanted absolutely nothing to do with this chaotic Brexit project. We returned one Member of Parliament with a mandate to deliver on the EU referendum—one Member of Parliament. Every single one of Scotland’s Members of Parliament bar one voted against the EU referendum Bill. Every single Member of Parliament from Scotland bar one voted against triggering article 50. When we tried to get a special arrangement for Scotland to meet Scotland’s interests, it was totally ignored and rejected before the ink was even dry. Throughout this whole process, the SNP and the vast majority of Members of Parliament have opposed this arrangement and the whole project. We are not going to start supporting it with the deal that will be presented today. The deal is, in fact, worse than the May deal that was rejected three times. It will leave Scotland at a particular disadvantage in relation to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland will have access to the single market and the benefits of the arrangements that will be put in place. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain, so why can we not be included in those arrangements? On that basis, we will oppose the deal again on Saturday.

Scotland is being taken out of the European Union against its national collective will. Scotland will lose access to the customs union, the single market and freedom of movement, which is so important to the growth of our economy and to the many sectors in it. Scotland will never accept this Brexit deal. We refuse to accept that the Brexit Britain concocted by this deal is the best that Scotland could be or could aspire to be. We will oppose it on Saturday. We look forward to having the opportunity to express and explain Scotland’s view.