John BercowMP Main Page: John Bercow (Speaker - Buckingham)
Department Debates - View all John Bercow's debates with the Leader of the House
(4 months ago)Commons Chamber
With regard to thin ice, supporters of the Cooper-Boles and Benn Acts know that it is the thinnest of thin ice for people to complain, having abused the constitution, in my view, to push those Bills through. The Benn Act, in particular, was a fundamental change of approach to our understanding of how the constitution works between the Executive and the legislature, so I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to reiterate my comments: people should be consistent in the way they look at our constitutional processes, and not find that one thing suits them one day and the next day it does not.
The question of the Conservative party website probably falls outside my formal remit, but the deal has passed its Second Reading. That is a passage through Parliament and an indication of Parliament’s assent; it is not, however, an indication of the complete legislative programme. I do not think that is an unduly difficult concept, but if people reading and paying attention are now aware of that and wish to make donations, they will of course be very welcome. I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for raising that point so that I can give further publicity to the marvellous work that the Conservative party is doing. The point of it is that the deadline is the 31st, which we are all working towards. That deadline was set by the European Union, not by the British Government; the British Government accepted the European Union’s offer.
The right hon. Lady again raises the question of the CRAG Act. The issue with that Act is that it allows a treaty to be laid on the Table for 21 days, but it is then subject to no vote or legislative procedure. The agreement with the EU is being brought into legislation, which provides much more scrutiny than the minimum provided by the CRAG Act—really and truly. Under the CRAG Act, the Government do not have to provide any time for debating a treaty; they just have to lay it on the Table. Under this procedure, there would have been time, had the programme motion been carried, for debate on the issue.
The right hon. Lady questions the economic analysis that it is self-evidently in our interests to leave the European Union. This is a matter of routine economic debate. I think it is enormously in our interests to have the opportunity to be in charge of our own future—to allow the wisdom of this House to decide economic policy, rather than delegating it to tiresome bureaucrats, seems to me self-evidently to be in our interest. That is sufficient economic analysis. If Members think that poking through economic models to come out with gloomy forecasts will convince anybody, they have another think coming.
The right hon. Lady then went on to Monday’s business, the Environment Bill, which is indeed a very ambitious statement of environmental improvement. I should point out that the reason why the target is not in the Bill is that the target has already been brought into law—that was one of the last acts of the previous Government.
The right hon. Lady was concerned about Brexit uncertainty; we would not have any Brexit uncertainty if the Labour party had voted for the programme motion. Brexit uncertainty would have vanished—it would have disappeared and gone into the ether—as the Bill would have become an Act, we would have left on 31 October, and we would have gone on to the broad, sunlit uplands that await us. Even as we enter November, there will be broad, sunlit uplands. If only the right hon. Lady had led her troops in favour of the programme motion. But now, because of the Opposition, there may be some uncertainty.
I am much looking forward to making tributes to the Speaker’s Chaplain. I will not pre-empt them now, but your Chaplain, Mr Speaker, has been an absolute model of public service. I agree with the right hon. Lady that the ecumenism we have in the House is extraordinarily welcome. As a Catholic, I much enjoy the fact that we are allowed to use St Mary Undercroft for our services, as well as it being used for the services of the established Church. It is an enormous generosity on the part of the established Church to allow us to do that.
The reason why we are not having tributes to you, Mr Speaker, is that the matter was discussed and Mr Speaker modestly said that he felt that the tributes made on points of order were sufficient. However, I can give the House notice that in my statement next week I shall begin by making a tribute to Mr Speaker, so that we may do it in that context. I notice that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are looking thoughtful and thinking about how they will incorporate into their questions a suitable tribute to Mr Speaker.
Finally, on Mr Verhofstadt—well, Mr Speaker, you are the lucky one.
On Tuesday, the vast majority of the Labour party, the Lib Dems and the SNP all voted against the Bill and therefore against sovereignty and the clause to protect UK vital national interests, on which the Prime Minister rightly insisted. Those clauses would protect the whole of the United Kingdom and their voters from every political party from destructive European legislation, such as that on taxation and state aid, undermining UK enterprises, businesses, jobs and global trading. Will the Leader of the House join me in urging the entire House to support not only the Bill, but clauses 29 and 36, which will protect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and voters from all political parties?
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It is a bit rich being lectured about abuse of the constitution by the Leader of the House, who was found to have illegally prorogued Parliament. Given that we have a Prime Minister who has a tortuous and difficult relationship with veracity, can we have a debate about standards in public life, one of which demands that the Prime Minister tell the truth?
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My right hon. Friend has probably been the leading politician in raising awareness of autism in this country. I must confess that as a Back-Bench MP, as I became more aware of it and the effect it had on my constituents, the more grateful I became for the work she has done. I will certainly take up her suggestion with the House’s diversity and inclusion team, and indeed the restoration and renewal project, to see whether there is more that we can do to make autistic visitors feel more welcome. Orderly matters are for you, Mr Speaker, but I think that the feeling that clapping is not welcome is widely shared—although it may simply be, on my part, the sadness that nobody has ever bothered to clap me. [Laughter.]
The Leader of the House talks of sunny uplands. He may not know this, but I came into politics hoping to bring sunny uplands to the people of this country and the people of my constituency. Actually, that did not include a Government and a country run by old Etonians, but that is just my personal prejudice.
In terms of next week’s business, could the Leader of the House leverage in something that really does concern my constituents and constituents up and down the country—the safety of town centres? There is something wrong when people are now afraid to go into town centres at night. Could we look at how, through the police, more co-ordination or the revival of youth services, something could be done to make sure that ordinary people in this country going about their business enjoying themselves on a Friday or Saturday night do not go in fear?
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In far off times, in far away places, young men were sent to islands in the sun to witness the first nuclear tests. A former Defence Secretary promised me— I take him at his word—that the Government would look again at the health condition and wellbeing of those nuclear test veterans, as well as a medal to celebrate and thank them for their service. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be brought to the House saying how the veterans agency that the Government have established will deal with those matters? Perhaps at the same time, we might hear whether that agency will be able to commission services from the NHS and elsewhere. It is time we gave to those who gave so much.
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Will the Home Secretary make a statement on immigration policy, specifically in relation to scientists, and particularly the case of Furaha Asani, a young academic who came to this country with a full scholarship to do a PhD on infection and immunity and who has since done cardio- vascular research at Leicester University? She is now being told that she will be deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she has never even visited, let alone lived. This is surely scandalous, outrageous and inhumane, and is the last thing we should do if we are to invite and encourage scientists to this country.
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I have a feeling I supported my right hon. Friend in bringing that Act forward, so I will most certainly take this up with the relevant Secretary of State to find out why on earth there is any foot dragging, which is most uncharacteristic of this Government.
The Government expect and want to leave the EU at 11 o’clock next Thursday. Is the Leader of the House making provision for the House to sit on the Friday to deal with the inevitable disastrous consequences?
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Stoke-on-Trent City Council signed a 25-year deal with Solarplicity for a community energy scheme and thousands signed up, but in August Solarplicity went into administration. The customers were transferred to Toto Energy, but Toto went into administration last night. May we have a debate in Government time on community energy schemes because, good as they are, local authorities have obligations to carry out due diligence before they sign up?
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