Mr Dominic Grieve contributions to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019


Thu 18th July 2019 Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill (Commons Chamber)
Ping Pong: House of Commons
7 interactions (557 words)
Tue 9th July 2019 Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
19 interactions (2,125 words)

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill

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Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Thursday 18th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jul 2019, 12:56 p.m.

He has. We are deeply grateful to him.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jul 2019, 12:56 p.m.

I have considerable sympathy with the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds) and, indeed, with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who both expressed their concern that the House is legislating on Northern Ireland matters. As we have set up a devolved Assembly and Executive, many of the matters with which we are concerned today now are, or should be, the province of that Assembly and that Executive, but good governance cannot exist in the condition of paralysis. Indeed, what we have seen with the passage of this Bill is that this House—very properly, because it is our duty—is paying some attention to the vacuum that exists in the Northern Ireland context, not only in wanting to see an Executive set up but in looking in the meantime at areas where there are concerns about, for example, the law as it currently exists. It is an imperfect way of doing it, but it is not an illegitimate one now.

Sir Jeffrey M Donaldson Portrait Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP) - Hansard
18 Jul 2019, 12:57 p.m.

rose—

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jul 2019, 12:57 p.m.

Before I give way, let me just add that the House should be perfectly aware that I abstained on the amendments concerning abortion and same-sex marriage precisely for that reason, but I do not think that it is illegitimate of Members of this House to feel that the time has come to express a view in the absence of an Administration.

Let me turn to the issues relating to Lords amendment 1, which I support, and the amendment to it proposed by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). We face an extraordinary situation. To do its business, the House has to sit. It is perfectly normal for the House to assert that it wants, at various times, to be able to consider issues, particularly in the Northern Ireland context, in which the situation changes rapidly. Yet we have been confronted with a most unusual situation: there is a suggestion that there would be periods when, for other reasons, we would be prevented from sitting. We are responsible for ensuring, or trying to ensure, good governance. I think that is why we have the portcullis as our symbol: we are supposed to be the protectors of the nation.

Sir Oliver Letwin Hansard
18 Jul 2019, 12:59 p.m.

I hope my right hon. and learned Friend might be willing, particularly as he is a former Attorney General, to join me in stating specifically, for Pepper v. Hart purposes, that the intention of those who have been involved in the preparation of the amendment is uniformly to ensure that it absolutely and explicitly blocks the use of the prerogative power to prorogue our Parliament.

Mr Grieve Hansard

Yes, I am entirely happy to make that assertion, because when I realised that it was an issue, I also realised that it was a threat to the good governance of this country and, indeed, to the good governance of Northern Ireland in the run-up to setting up the Executive, which I very much hope will come into being very quickly. That is precisely why we have endeavoured to do it in a manner that is wholly compatible with the Meeting of Parliament Act 1797, as was pointed out, while making it clear that, in the particular context of this legislation, this House wishes to emphasise that Prorogation is not a reason why it should not be meeting to consider these matters on the day appointed.

For those reasons, I commend this amendment to the House, and I shall be supporting it. I also agree with what has been said by others that, if we do not make such an assertion in the light of the extraordinary statements that have been made about how our business might be conducted, our role as that protector of our democracy will be seen to be shot to pieces.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jul 2019, 1 p.m.

This Bill is an outrage. It is an outrage to common decency in Northern Ireland; it is an outrage because, so far today, with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds) and the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), no one has actually debated its clauses with regard to Northern Ireland. Instead, the Bill has been hijacked and used as a vehicle for every other subject under the sun, and every other fancy that Members have with regard to their own pet subjects, important though they are. It is wrong that Northern Ireland will now be subjected to serious and perverse changes to its laws without proper scrutiny, without proper negotiation and without proper regulation.

Some 66% of the people of Northern Ireland have rejected the fact that Parliament should have a say on the matters that are under discussion in clause 9. In fact, they have said that they should be left to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The fact of the matter is that the Bill makes it less likely that a Northern Ireland Assembly will actually be put in place to negotiate, to debate and to legislate on these matters. As has already been said, 17,000 people have signed a letter opposing what is being done today. If we read that across to the British mainland, that is the equivalent of 500,000 signing a petition in a matter of four days.

Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill

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(Report stage: House of Commons)
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Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 9th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Northern Ireland Office
Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 12:58 p.m.

With this it will be convenient to discuss:

Clause 2 stand part.

Amendment 14, in clause 3, page 2, line 13, leave out “21 October” and insert “4 September”.

This amendment would bring forward the date for a progress report to 4 September 2019.

Amendment 8, page 2, line 13, after “report” insert

“and make an oral statement to Parliament”.

Amendment 6, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The report under subsection (1) must include a report on progress made towards protecting veterans of the Armed Forces and other security personnel from repeated investigation for Troubles-related incidents by introducing a presumption of non-prosecution, in the absence of compelling new evidence, whether in the form of a Qualified Statute of Limitations or by some other legal mechanism.”

The subsection would include placing a duty on the Secretary of State to report on the options available to ensure that veterans of the Troubles would be able to assist in a truth recovery process, for the benefit of bereaved families, without fear of prosecution.

Amendment 7, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The report under subsection (1) must include a report on progress made towards developing new prosecution guidance for legacy cases of Troubles-related incidents by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland to take into account whether or not the person who allegedly committed an offence had the means to do so because that person had been lawfully supplied with a deadly weapon, with a presumption in favour of prosecuting in cases where a person who has allegedly committed an offence had the means to do so because that person had been unlawfully supplied with a deadly weapon.”

The subsection would place a duty on the Secretary to State to report on progress made towards a new prosecution guidance taking into account whether or not the person who allegedly committed an offence had been lawfully armed.

Amendment 15, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State shall make a further report under subsection 1 on or before 9 October 2019 at least every fourteen calendar days thereafter until either an Executive is formed or until 18 December 2019, whichever is the sooner.”

This amendment would require fortnightly reports to be made after the conference recess until an Executive was formed, or until the December recess.

Amendment 18, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) Before making a report under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must publish a report on or before 4 September 2019 on progress made towards preparing legislation confirming the application of the Armed Forces Covenant in the provision of public services in Northern Ireland.”

The subsection would include placing a duty on the Secretary of State to report on the preparation of legislation confirming the application of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.

Amendment 19, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) Before making a report under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must publish a report on or before 4 September 2019 on whether the definition of “victim” in Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (Order No. 2953 (N.I. 17)) should be revised to apply only to a person who is injured or affected wholly through the actions of another person.”

The subsection would include placing a duty on the Secretary of State to report on the definition of “victim” in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

Amendment 21, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The report under subsection (1) must include a report to be published on or before 4 September 2019 on progress made in Northern Ireland on—

(a) the law on gaming machines;

(b) the law on online gambling;

(c) the number of people who are seeking treatment for problem gambling;

(d) the services available to people seeking problem gambling; and

(e) the level of support from the gambling industry for problem gambling.”

The subsection would include placing a duty on the Secretary of State to report on various matters related to the law on gambling in Northern Ireland and support for those experiencing problem gambling.

Amendment 22, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The report under subsection (1) must include a report to be published on or before 4 September 2019 on progress on the use of discretionary powers to provide assistance and support under section 18(9) of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015. The report must cover—

(a) how many times the Department has decided it is necessary to provide assistance and support for victims of human trafficking for whom there has been a conclusive determination that the person is a victim of trafficking in human beings;

(b) the reasons the Department has decided it is necessary to provide assistance and support for victims of human trafficking for whom there has been a conclusive determination that the person is a victim of trafficking in human beings; and

(c) the immigration status of those victims of human trafficking for whom there has been a conclusive determination that the person is a victim of trafficking in human beings who are receiving assistance and support beyond the relevant period.”

The subsection would include placing a duty on the Secretary of State to report on the assistance and support offered to victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland from receiving a conclusive grounds decision.

Amendment 23, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The report under subsection (1) must include a report on progress made in preparing legislation to extend the reporting requirements of donations to political parties in Northern Ireland to all donations made after 1 January 2014”.

Amendment 24, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

“(1A) The report under subsection (1) must include a report on progress made in preparing legislation to make provision to recognise coercive control and stalking in Northern Ireland”.

Amendment 16, page 2, line 16, leave out “the report” and insert

“any report under this section”.

This is a consequential amendment.

Amendment 17, page 2, line 16, at end insert—

“(2A) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of two sitting days beginning with the day on which a report under this section is published, make arrangements for—

(a) a motion to the effect that the House of Commons has approved that report to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of three Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the report under this section is published, and

(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the report mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of three Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published.

(2B) In this section—

“Commons sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Commons is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);

“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day).”

This amendment would require progress reports to be debated.

Clause 3 stand part.

Clause 4 stand part.

New clause 11—International obligations: oral statement—

“In the absence of Northern Ireland Ministers to address the matters identified by the Report of the inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must make an oral statement to the House of Commons on progress on implementing recommendations in accordance with section 26(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”

New clause 12—Requirement on Secretary of State—

“If an Executive is not formed by 21 October 2019, nothing in this Act shall remove the requirement on the Secretary of State set out in section 26(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to direct action in the absence of ministers to ensure that all Northern Ireland departments comply with international obligations, and in particular the recommendations made by the Report of the Inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”

New clause 15—Northern Ireland: Armed Forces Covenant—

“(1) The Secretary of State must make regulations to confirm the application of the Armed Forces Covenant in the provision of public services in Northern Ireland.

(2) Regulations under this section must be in force no later than 21 October 2019, subject to subsections (3) and (4).

(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1)—

(a) must be laid before both Houses of Parliament;

(b) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(4) If a Northern Ireland Executive is formed before the regulations under this section come into force, any regulations made under this section and any extant obligations arising under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect.”

This new clause would require UK secondary legislation to confirm the application of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.

New clause 16—Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland: debate—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of two sitting days beginning with the first sitting day on or after the day on which the report on progress made towards preparing legislation confirming the application of the Armed Forces Covenant in the provision of public services in Northern Ireland is published, make arrangements for—

(a) a motion to the effect that the House of Commons has approved that report to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published, and

(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the report mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published.

(2) In this section—

“Commons sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Commons is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);

“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day).”

This new clause is linked to amendment 18 on a report on progress made towards preparing legislation to confirm the application of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland.

New clause 17—Northern Ireland: Definition of victim—

“(1) The Secretary of State must make regulations to amend the definition of “victim” in Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (Order No. 2953 (N.I. 17)) so that the definition applies only to a person who is injured or affected wholly through the actions of another person.

(2) Regulations under this section must be in force no later than 21 October 2019, subject to subsections (3) and (4).

(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1)—

(a) must be laid before both Houses of Parliament;

(b) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(4) If a Northern Ireland Executive is formed before the regulations under this section come into force, any regulations made under this section and any extant obligations arising under subsection (1) shall cease to have effect.”

This new clause would require UK secondary legislation to amend the definition of “victim” in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

New clause 18—Definition of victim: debate—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of two sitting days beginning with the first sitting day on or after the day on which the report on whether the definition of “victim” in Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (Order No. 2953 (N.I. 17)) should be revised to apply only to a person who is injured or affected wholly through the actions of another person is published, make arrangements for—

(a) a motion to the effect that the House of Commons has approved that report to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published, and

(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the report mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published.

(2) In this section—

“Commons sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Commons is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);

“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day).”

This new clause is linked to amendment 19 on a report on whether the definition of “victim” in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 should be amended by UK secondary legislation.

New clause 20—Law on gambling and support for those experiencing problem gambling in Northern Ireland: debate—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of two sitting days beginning with the first sitting day on or after the day on which the report on gambling in Northern Ireland mentioned in section 3 is published, make arrangements for—

(a) a motion to the effect that the House of Commons has approved that report to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published, and

(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the report mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published.

(2) In this section—

“Commons sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Commons is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);

“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day).”

This new clause is linked to the amendment 21 on a report on progress made on the law on gambling in Northern Ireland and support for problem gambling, and provides for the report to be debated in Parliament.

New clause 21—Assistance and support for victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland: debate—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown must, within the period of two sitting days beginning with the first sitting day on or after the day on which the report on assistance and support for victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland mentioned in section 3 is published, make arrangements for—

(a) a motion to the effect that the House of Commons has approved that report to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Commons sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published, and

(b) a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the report mentioned in paragraph (a) to be moved in that House by a Minister of the Crown within the period of seven Lords sitting days beginning with the day on which the relevant report mentioned in section 3 is published.

(2) In this section—

“Commons sitting day” means a day on which the House of Commons is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Commons is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);

“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day).”

This new clause is linked to the amendment 22 on a report on progress made on the law on gambling in Northern Ireland and support for problem gambling, and provides for the report to be debated in Parliament.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:44 p.m.

Thank you, Dame Rosie; it is a pleasure to participate in this debate and to raise with the House, at this stage, potential amendments to the legislation that I think are capable of improving it for Northern Ireland, as well as for our country as a whole.

I was a little bit startled when I read a tweet by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) in which she, first, described the amendments as “Shameful”, which is of course a matter of her opinion, and secondly, went on to say that I had no interest in Northern Ireland. All I can say is that, having been in the House for 22 years, I have acted as a spokesman on Northern Ireland matters when we were in opposition; I served for six years, I think, on the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body; I was chair of the Conservative Back-Bench committee on Northern Ireland in my early years in the House; I participate actively in the British-Irish Association annual conference; and I try to make myself as frequent a visitor to Northern Ireland as I can, sometimes to give talks and lectures, or, indeed, to visit people, and on a number of occasions I have been there on holiday. Whatever my views may be and however much my hon. Friend may think that they are erroneous, I can absolutely assure her that I have Northern Ireland at heart. I am a Unionist and it matters to me very much indeed.

The position on the amendments is fairly straightforward. There is provision in the Bill for a report to be made to the House on how progress is being made on setting up the Executive. I greatly welcome this measure. I apologise to my hon. Friend for the fact that I was not able to be present for the debate yesterday, but it was a debate on a principle that I entirely supported. However, the measure on the report does not go far enough. Quite apart from anything else, we are at the eleventh hour when it comes to the possibility of setting up an Executive, which I believe is massively desirable for the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. It therefore seems to me to be extremely desirable for Members to provide some further impetus and scrutiny for that process, which is why I chose in amendments 14, 15, 16 and 17, along with my right hon. and hon. Friends who support the amendments, to try to move and accelerate the process forward.

For example, amendment 14 would mean that, rather than the report coming back on 21 October, it would come back on 4 September. In addition, I chose to try to make provision for the close monitoring of the process thereafter by the House, by ensuring with amendment 15 that the Secretary of State would make

“a further report under subsection 1 on or before 9 October 2019”,

which is when we come back from the conference recess, and

“at least every fourteen calendar days thereafter until either an Executive is formed or until 18 December 2019, whichever is the sooner.”

Amendment 16 is consequential to that.

Amendment 17 would provide that, in addition to what I have outlined, and so that the House may have an opportunity to indicate how it feels the direction of travel should go and to encourage the Government in their endeavours, there are opportunities within

“two sitting days beginning with the day on which a report under this section is published”

for

“a motion to the effect that the House of Commons has approved that report to be moved”.

There is a similar provision for the House of Lords, which their lordships will of course wish to consider in due course. I believe the amendments provide a sensible package that can help to facilitate the setting up of a Northern Ireland Executive, which I dearly want to see.

It has been raised with me, and I entirely accept, that Brexit also features in this matter, and so it should. Brexit threatens Northern Ireland more than almost any other part of the United Kingdom. It threatens it economically; it threatens it in terms of its security; and it threatens it in terms of its cohesion. For all those reasons, we should as a House—particularly, I might add, those of us who consider ourselves to be Unionists—be exceptionally troubled by the current direction of travel. In particular, I cannot escape the fact that I have listened with astonishment to a number of references from people who may be holding high office in the near future, one of whom appears to think that proroguing Parliament to achieve Brexit is an acceptable form of activity for the leader of the Executive, when in fact it is a constitutional enormity and a gross undermining of democracy.

I freely admit that one of the purposes of these amendments is to try to ensure that this extraordinary threat of really an unprecedented character made against this House that we should be prorogued can be banged on the head. Furthermore, the fact that we should be sitting in October to consider these grave matters in relation to Northern Ireland is, in my view, a good reason why these amendments should be supported. I am mindful of the fact that a further amendment, new clause 14, has, for perfectly understandable reasons, not been selected at this stage of the proceedings because of the nature of its scope. It would have effectively provided—I want to make this point very briefly—that Prorogation could not take place, because when these statements and motions should be made and passed, the House would have to be sitting. That is desirable, because as we approach the crisis that is impending on 31 October, if this House wishes to approve a no-deal Brexit, then so be it, but it should be here to do just that, and not pushed into the margins, as some have suggested in this entirely unconstitutional fashion.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:41 p.m.

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I pay tribute to him for bringing forward these amendments, but is there not a sense of irony here? This Bill is meant to bring back the ability to debate laws in Northern Ireland, yet at the same time this place faces being shut down by whoever becomes Prime Minister. There is a huge irony here. If nothing else, this place should be safeguarding democracy, and I thank him for his amendments, because that is what they will do.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:42 p.m.

I agree with the hon. Lady. The process of debate is the process by which we continuously moderate each other’s opinions, and by listening to each other, we grow in understanding of the points of view of the other and come to sensible decisions. Heaven knows, if I have tried to do anything during this Brexit process it is to try to encourage a sound process, to prevent catastrophic cliff-edge moments and to enable this House to make reasoned decisions. What this House then decides to do is a matter for the House, but the idea that we can or should be excluded from the process, as some seem to be willing to threaten, is an enormity. Our democracy will not survive such an assault, and it is incumbent on every single one of us to take action to ensure that that does not happen.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con) - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:42 p.m.

I understand why my right hon. and learned Friend is speaking to amendments 15, 16 and 17, and I presume moving them formally when he gets asked, but obviously new clause 14, to which he has referred, was not selected. Do amendments 15, 16 and 17 work without new clause 14 being selected?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:43 p.m.

Yes, and I will tell my hon. Friend exactly why. First, the amendments work in their own right, so if we agree to them, they will provide a structured mechanism, which, short of Prorogation, will ensure that we have those opportunities to consider. If we enact these amendments, I have no doubt that, when the Bill goes to the other place, which is very familiar with the difficulties of our procedures, the Lords will include new clause 14, if they think it pertinent and right, and send it back to this House so that we can then consider it, which is exactly how our parliamentary processes work.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:43 p.m.

I am sorry; let me phrase it in another way. Do these amendments, if moved and if passed, prevent the House from being prorogued?

Mr Grieve Hansard

If all the amendments, including new clause 14, were to be passed, yes, it would prevent this House being prorogued, which is why I put them together as a package. I would like to emphasise that, even if we do not have new clause 14, my judgment is that it is worth having the other amendments in their own right. They send a clear signal about this House’s priorities. They lay down a perfectly clear timetable, which is relevant to Northern Ireland in itself. That is why I disagree so much with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, who, as I say, rather startled me with her vehemence and her belief that I had some dreadful motives. My motives are twofold: first, they are in the interests of Northern Ireland and trying to get the Executive formed and, secondly, I freely admit that they are in the interests of trying to ensure that the worst dangers of Brexit are mitigated.

Mr Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:45 p.m.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right that the consequences for Northern Ireland of a no-deal Brexit are very serious. I am sure that he will be as astonished as I was that a survey of members of the Conservative and Unionist party found that a majority of his party members were actually willing to see the break-up of the Union and to see what could happen to Northern Ireland if that issue would stop Brexit. If he does not recognise his own party, in some ways he might not be alone. Can he give us any insight into how the Conservative and Unionist party has got to this place?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:44 p.m.

I find it very difficult to answer that question. I accept that, because of priorities in this House, it is often the case that insufficient attention is paid to Northern Ireland. During my career, I have had the inestimable benefit of having the views of large numbers of people in Northern Ireland imparted to me. I have been able to go, for example, to the annual conference of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, and anybody who has gone to look at cross-border issues will realise just how catastrophic a no-deal Brexit would be. I would simply say to my hon. Friends that I appreciate that there are doubtless areas on which they are expert and I am most certainly not, and I do not claim to have the greatest expertise on Northern Ireland— I do not represent that place, although I love it very much—but it is a thing that matters to me very much and that should matter to every hon. Member in this House.

Sir Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

May I just take my right hon. and learned Friend back to the question he was asked a moment or two ago about whether these amendments, in the absence of new clause 14, will prevent Prorogation? Would he agree that there is at least a perfectly serious argument that might run in the Supreme Court—that is, that statute law trumps prerogative even where it does not directly take the prerogative on, and that if that were argued successfully, these amendments would be sufficient to prevent Prorogation?

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:46 p.m.

Yes, I agree. It is perhaps, as lawyers would say, a moot point, but my view is that because it specifies in statute particular days on which things should be happening in this House, it is arguable that it therefore replaces the prerogative because the Queen in Parliament has decreed that certain things should happen by law, and that, of course, replaces the royal prerogative as exercised by Ministers.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, I have a great deal of sympathy with his position, but I am very concerned that we are giving problems to the judiciary that really should be resolved in this House. Does he agree?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:47 p.m.

Yes, I do. I agree entirely, and we should try to avoid doing that, but for the reasons that I have just given—before we start worrying about court challenges—the amendments that I have tabled, taken together, are worth having. After all, even if it does not go to court, it is a pretty clear signal to whoever is Prime Minister that this is what the House wants to be doing in October. I think that is worth having. Of course, we do at times hear that the rumours about Prorogation are completely misplaced and that nobody in their right mind would do it; in my judgment, nobody in their right mind should, so I very much hope that it will not happen, but these days one has cause at times to worry. For that reason, I think this is a very good series of amendments.

Of course, if the other place in its wisdom decides to look at the totality of our amendments, decides that new clause 14 would add value and places it in the Bill, this House would have an opportunity to consider that decision before the Bill goes through, and either to accept it or reject it.

Sir Oliver Letwin Parliament Live - Hansard

I am very sorry for intervening again, but I think that it may be important later in the other place that this debate be brought out into the open here. Would my right hon. and learned Friend first agree that the reason that Mr Speaker quite rightly did not select new clause 14 is that it would not have been within the scope of the Bill as unamended, but that, if amended by my right hon. and learned Friend’s amendments, new clause 14 would probably be brought into scope? Secondly, does he agree that their lordships in the other place take a rather wider view of scope than is typically taken here, and therefore there is ample reason to suppose that, given the majorities we know to exist in the House of Lords, new clause 14 in some form is actually likely to be added to the package and therefore to be operative?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:49 p.m.

Yes, I do agree. That is certainly one of the reasons this should go to the other place. I slightly hesitate over the issue of scope, particularly because we have a ruling from Madam Deputy Speaker that I would not seek in any way to impugn. It is perfectly clear ruling with a perfectly understandable base. I say no more about it than that.

Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con) - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:50 p.m.

Amendment 17 suggests that a motion be debated in this House and approved. We have seen in the past what we might describe as daisy-chain motions taking root in this place, many under his name and some under the names of others. Is it his intention that we should have a similar daisy-chain amendable motion if such a motion comes back to the House in future under his amendment?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:51 p.m.

If we are seeking ways to find daisy chains, I can assure my hon. Friend that there are probably other ways in which they might be found. If the House wants do something by resolution, a motion must be tabled. Therefore, either we will get to the point where we never, ever table a motion again—meaning, effectively, that our operation is completely brought to a standstill, which would be a total absurdity—or, I am afraid, he, like everybody else in this House, will have to live with the possibility that people may use a motion to raise matters that they want to raise. Of course, the question of the amendability of a motion, and all that, is not in our hands but those of Mr Speaker.

My hon. Friend brings me back to what worries me, because in what he said there is that little echo of the suggestion that it would all be so much better if this House could just disappear—vaporise—for the next three months so that whatever he thinks should happen is what ought to happen. As I was trying to point out, if we do not meet and debate and moderate each other’s views, we are not a working democracy, and that is what we should at all times strive to be. I commend the amendments to the House.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Jul 2019, 5:49 p.m.

I rise to offer the SNP’s support for amendments 14 to 17, which stand in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve). I commend him for tabling these amendments and ensuring that there is a chance to debate this issue.

It is incredible that it has come to this—that this Parliament requires an amendment to legislation on the governance of Northern Ireland to stop the Executive riding roughshod over the democratically elected Chamber. More and more, the UK Government are like a Marx Brothers film, but without the laughs—a parade of wannabe comedians trying their best to recreate Freedonia in their own image, with the biggest joke of all reserved for when the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) enters No. 10, perhaps by zipslide. But at least Freedonia was fictitious.

Of course it would be easy for those on the Treasury Bench, now or at some point after the right hon. Gentleman takes his place, to finagle the use of the royal prerogative to prorogue Parliament—that is the benefit of the uncodified, antiquated constitution we have—but there can be no shortcuts to democracy. There can be no running away from the mess the Government have created for themselves and for the country, and no attempt to silence democratically elected Members, no matter how much the Government of the day wish to do so. I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, who said:

“If you decide that parliament is an inconvenience, when in fact it is the place where democratic legitimacy lies in our constitution, and therefore it’s acceptable to get rid of it for a period because it might otherwise”

stop

“you from doing something that parliament would prevent, then it’s the end of democracy.”