Mr Dominic Grieve debates with Cabinet Office

There have been 25 exchanges between Mr Dominic Grieve and Cabinet Office

Tue 22nd October 2019 European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 21 interactions (1,486 words)
Mon 14th October 2019 Debate on the Address 3 interactions (74 words)
Wed 25th September 2019 Brexit Readiness: Operation Yellowhammer 3 interactions (161 words)
Wed 25th September 2019 Prime Minister's Update 5 interactions (126 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Points of Order 3 interactions (217 words)
Mon 9th September 2019 Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications) 68 interactions (4,163 words)
Wed 4th September 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (85 words)
Tue 12th March 2019 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 11 interactions (1,180 words)
Tue 26th February 2019 Leaving the European Union 3 interactions (176 words)
Tue 12th February 2019 Leaving the EU 3 interactions (118 words)
Tue 29th January 2019 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 11 interactions (1,580 words)
Mon 10th December 2018 Exiting the European Union 3 interactions (144 words)
Tue 4th December 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 3 interactions (1,176 words)
Mon 26th November 2018 Leaving the EU 3 interactions (205 words)
Thu 22nd November 2018 Progress on EU Negotiations 3 interactions (177 words)
Mon 15th October 2018 EU Exit Negotiations 3 interactions (124 words)
Wed 5th September 2018 Salisbury Update 3 interactions (188 words)
Tue 17th April 2018 Military Action Overseas: Parliamentary Approval 9 interactions (86 words)
Mon 16th April 2018 Syria 3 interactions (110 words)
Mon 26th March 2018 National Security and Russia 13 interactions (166 words)
Wed 14th March 2018 Salisbury Incident 3 interactions (132 words)
Mon 12th March 2018 Salisbury Incident 3 interactions (155 words)
Fri 23rd February 2018 Overseas Electors Bill 3 interactions (111 words)
Mon 4th December 2017 European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 7 interactions (296 words)
Wed 21st June 2017 Debate on the Address 5 interactions (1,857 words)

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd October 2019

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 1:30 p.m.

If I may, I say to the hon. Lady that I understand the point she makes, but she has had an answer, I believe, from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor yesterday. I think it will be clear to everybody that the best way to avoid any disruption from a no-deal Brexit is to vote for this deal today—to vote for this deal to get it done. I think that will unleash a great tide of investment into this country and be a demonstration of confidence in the UK economy. By voting for this deal tonight, we will deliver a powerful, positive shot in the arm for the UK economy, and I hope very much that she will do so.

Once more, under this agreement, British people will be able to live under laws made by representatives whom they alone elect and can remove—laws enforced by British judges in British courts.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 1:30 p.m.

The Prime Minister must recognise that the arrangements that he has come to for Northern Ireland precisely do not deliver that for the people of Northern Ireland. Of course, opinion may be divided in Northern Ireland as to whether they want that or not, but the reality is that the vassalage clauses—as they have been described by the Leader of the House in the past—will continue to apply to Northern Ireland after the transition has ended for the rest of Great Britain. How does the Prime Minister square that with the recovery of sovereignty promised to the entirety of the British people?

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 1:31 p.m.

We can square that very simply by pointing out that, yes, of course, there are transitory arrangements for some aspects of the Northern Ireland economy, but they automatically dissolve and are terminated after four years unless it is the majority decision of the Assembly of Northern Ireland to remain in alignment with those arrangements either in whole or in part. The principle of consent is therefore at the heart of the arrangements.

Under the Bill, British farmers will escape the frequently perverse effects of the common agricultural policy; British fishermen, liberated from arcane quotas, will be free to fish in a way that is both more sensible and sustainable; and this House will be free to legislate for the highest possible standards.

Break in Debate

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 3 p.m.

With due respect to the hon. Gentleman, he does intervene a lot. The reality is that we have also spent a lot—[Interruption.] I do not mean that rudely, I just genuinely mean that he does intervene a lot.

There is a very good video doing the rounds. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) has not seen it, but it would be good if he had. It is not about him; it is about many others who have argued here for one case, but who now, since the referendum, seem to have managed to change their views massively. The streets of Westminster are marked by the skid marks of politicians who have done U-turns on the position they took directly after the referendum. We had pledges to implement the referendum. I note that, when the result first came out, the shadow Secretary of State for Brexit said on two occasions that the referendum would have to be implemented, and that freedom of movement would end when we left. Now, of course, the Opposition are shifting their position around and they want to delay. More than that, the Leader of the Opposition has said that he now wants to make certain that the Bill cannot possibly go through.

That brings me very briefly to two points that have been made. One is on a second referendum, which some Members want to include in an amendment to this Bill. They want more time to do that. I have a simple point to make: those who want a second referendum argue very carefully that it should not contain a question about leaving, which strikes me as bizarre. More importantly, why should any member of the public, or any one of our constituents, who voted in the first referendum—

Mr Grieve Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 3 p.m.

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 3:16 p.m.

One second. May I just finish my point?

Why should any of our constituents believe any one of us now? We promised them at the time of the previous referendum in 2016 that we would implement it. We then came into this House and voted to implement it and voted to implement article 50. Why, when we go back to them, should we be able to say, “Don’t worry. Trust us. Despite what we said to you last time, and although we have now reneged on that, we’re going to give you another chance, because we think that, somehow, you might change your decision, and if you do not, you need to trust us that we will stand by the decision that you have not changed, even though you gave us that decision earlier”? That, frankly, is utterly absurd.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 3:17 p.m.

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. It may have been inadvertent, but he did suggest that those advocating a people’s vote or second referendum did not want to put the option of leaving in it. That is, I have to say to him, entirely inaccurate. Perhaps he would like to consider this: he believes that this debate should be curtailed. One thing that I have learned is that, if we want to get public acceptance of a decision that people do not like, the process of debate is absolutely key. Therefore, he will maximise the resentments when, in fact, an opportunity exists for him to go back to the people and ask them to confirm that the deal is what a majority want.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 3:18 p.m.

I am always grateful to receive an intervention from my right hon. and learned Friend, but I have to tell him that I disagree with him. The British people voted to leave the European Union, so they clearly like it and they like the idea that we are going to get on with it. I do not know who he is talking to in his constituency, but I have to tell him that most of those in my constituency—even those who voted remain—keep on saying, “Whatever else we do, let us get this done and get it done now.” My right hon. and learned Friend will know full well, because he has played a very significant part in all these debates under two Prime Ministers, that he has not missed a single opportunity to lay amendments and to debate almost every single part of this agreement that now sits in front of us. I have no problem with that, and I respect him entirely. He remains a friend. Despite the fact that we disagree, I refuse to be rude or antagonistic. I simply say that he knows he has played his full part.

Break in Debate

Mr John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:13 p.m.

I have heard the hon. Lady express those concerns, I have heard them expressed by our friends in the Democratic Unionist party and I take them seriously. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that these measures were transitory, and that they would be self-dissolving after a certain period. I hope that he will continue to talk to the hon. Lady and to colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party, and will assure them that that is the case. Obviously I hear what she says about the Bill, and I hope that she can receive an assurance on that point.

Mr Grieve Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:13 p.m.

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:13 p.m.

If my right hon. and learned Friend will forgive me, I feel that I must press on.

As I was saying, I believe that this is an improvement on what we were offered before, but there are still elements that I do not like. I am not happy with the idea that, for 15 months we will be, in the words of the Leader of the House, essentially a vassal state, taking orders from the European Union without being able to vote on them, and continuing to pay in. I am willing to pay that price as long as there is a clearly defined end point after which we will be free to set our own rules and to reach the trading agreements that I want to see, and no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Break in Debate

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:20 p.m.

The direct answer to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I also have the pleasure of serving on the Exiting the European Union Committee, is that to attempt to say to Members that the choice has to be between a bad deal—this is worse than the previous Prime Minister’s deal—and no deal is not a very attractive proposition. During the passage of this Bill—if it gets its Second Reading—I hope that we will attempt to improve some elements of it.

Clause 30 goes to the heart of the point about no deal, because the withdrawal agreement makes provision for the possibility of an extension to the transition period which, at present, will end in 14 months’ time. Clause 30 says that the House can agree to a further extension, but it requires a Minister of the Crown to move the motion in the first place. The situation I am worried about is what if the Minister of the Crown fails to come to the House, does not move a motion proposing that the Government should request to the joint committee that the transitional period be extended, and the answer is that we would fall out without a deal in 14 months’ time if an agreement had not been reached. The House has voted on several occasions to make it clear that it is opposed to leaving with no deal, and there are arguments on either side as to whether people think that is a good thing or a bad thing, so I flag this up at this stage, because we will need to deal with that point—I gather that an amendment is on its way if it has not already been tabled—and to safeguard against it.

There is a second related problem to clause 30. What happens if a deal has not been negotiated by the end of December 2022 when the two-year extension has been applied for and secured? Now we would be facing exactly the same difficulty: the possibility of exiting without an agreement at the end of the transition period. In those circumstances, there is no way under the agreement that the British Government can get a further extension, so we have to find a way of ensuring that a deal is concluded by that time.

Ministers claim that, because of the high degree of alignment, it will all be done really quickly. I would just observe that took three and a quarter years to get to this point, and it took Canada six to seven years to get an agreement. Michel Barnier said this morning that he thought it would take around three years to negotiate such a deal, so we will be looking for assurance from the Minister in Committee that under no circumstances will the United Kingdom leave the European Union at the end of the transition period without a deal—I think another amendment may be on its way about that. The same point is relevant to citizens’ rights, which have not been raised much in the debate so far. We could do with clarification from Ministers, because if the transition is extended, will they also change the deadline by which EU citizens have to apply for settled status?

As I said on Saturday, I will not be voting for the Bill, above all because of the political declaration—I do not have a problem with the withdrawal agreement—which is not the right approach to take, because it is not good for business. I am very surprised, like other hon. Members, that the Government have just blithely said, “We are not going to undertake an economic assessment,” and I assume that the reason for that is simple. They did one before which showed that a free trade agreement is the second-worst outcome up for the economy after no deal, and they do not really want to have to point that out again.

My final point is about clause 31, and it links to the economic impact of the political declaration. The clause deals with the oversight of negotiations on the future relationship, and it appears to give Members some oversight, some say, over the nature of the negotiations on the future relationship, but proposed new section 13C(3) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 says:

“A statement on objectives for the future relationship…must be consistent with the political declaration of 17 October 2019”.

I simply point out that if, in one, two or three years’ time, the House realises that the objectives of such a free trade agreement are not in our economic interests, because we finally realise the damage it will do to the economy—we have seen what businesses have said and the concerns they have expressed—the current wording of the clause gives no opportunity for Parliament to get a Government to change those objectives. I do not think we should accept the Bill on that issue, as it is currently worded.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:25 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).

I am conscious that we are at the end of a long process and that we are all very tired and very weary. We have also said some quite hard things about each other, including within our own political parties, so I would not want this evening to pass without acknowledging that those who come forward to argue that we should leave on these terms have a perfectly valid point. Indeed, in trying to honour the 2016 referendum result, they have a powerful argument.

My difficulty in considering this Bill is that I have tried to cast my mind a little forward to what this Bill can and cannot do. Although this Bill is undoubtedly needed if we are going, I think there is a slight tendency to lose sight of some of its realities. For example, I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero), who said that she will vote for the Bill but that she wants to change it. We have to understand that, as this is an international treaty, the scope for changing the treaty is out of the question.

Of course we can provide some safeguards. We can put in a referendum lock and, indeed, I will vote for that in due course, but I do not want to burden the House with that this evening. We can try to change some of our domestic law, but that is a little like a letter of wishes to one’s children—there is no guarantee that the children will decide to carry it out.

If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wishes to follow the passage of this legislation with a general election, which I can understand—I, for one, will no longer be in this House—the new Parliament, over the next year, will have to reconsider the issues raised by this withdrawal agreement and this Bill, and nothing we do can fetter the rights of this House to change completely the expression of intentions that we may decide to enact.

What is clear is that this Bill reveals a number of things that can be described as truths. First, the intention of the Government, both in the treaty and in the drafting of the Bill, is to take us towards a free trade agreement that, in reality, is likely to be very hard to negotiate, and it will have to be negotiated in the next year.

As a consequence, the risk of our crashing out at the end of 2020 is very great, because otherwise we will have to lengthen the transition, which has been described, of course, as “vassalage.” Indeed, it is a form of vassalage, which is a rather emotive word, but the reality is that we will be bound by rules that we cannot influence.

I see a very great risk that, far from the argument that the Bill will bring our problems to an end, we are just postponing the issues in a way that will continue to divide us, even though I would very much like us not to be divided.

Lady Hermon Parliament Live - Hansard

I am enormously grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. He has been a great friend to Northern Ireland for a long time, and he has been a great defender of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement since it was signed 21 years ago. I would be enormously grateful to him if he would explain to the House his concerns, if any, about how this new Brexit deal, brought back in triumph by the Prime Minister, has caused such anxiety in Northern Ireland that it actually undermines the great achievement of the Good Friday agreement.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:30 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that, and I was coming on to the issue as my next point, because the other big impact of this legislation is on Northern Ireland. Of course, there is a lock mechanism, and I listened to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who said that it could “melt away” if there was a double majority—of both communities—to remove it in four years’ time, although that does mean that for four years Northern Ireland is locked into arrangements that the Government have decided are not desirable for the rest of the United Kingdom. But what was glossed over is that article 13.8 of the Northern Ireland protocol makes it clear that any future arrangements thereafter are a matter for negotiation. So the suggestion that we can get a satisfactory free trade agreement for ourselves and then insist that Northern Ireland be included within it is simply wrong.

I have to say that as someone who has always seen himself as a modern Unionist, wanting to recreate or help to develop the Union of the United Kingdom in slightly different ways from those traditionally stated in relation to both Scotland and Northern Ireland—I have family coming from both—this matters to me a lot. It seems to me that this is an extraordinary move for a Unionist party to make, because the reality is that the more we detach ourselves, through our own free trade or whatever other routes we take, or if we crash out, the greater the difference we are going to emphasise, and the stronger and harder the border down the Irish sea will be. There may be some in Northern Ireland who welcome that, for perfectly valid reasons of their own, but for Unionism this is a very odd thing to do. In the Scottish context, it raises a perfectly clear grievance, whereby Scotland would say, “If Northern Ireland can have these arrangements, why cannot we?”

Luke Graham (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:32 p.m.

I have listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s speeches for a great deal of time and have a lot of respect for him, but on this issue I disagree with him. I ask him to reflect on the parallel he has just drawn between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is a war-torn Province that has been subject to a civil war, and it is completely irresponsible for any politician to draw a parallel between Scotland and Northern Ireland in this context. Northern Ireland has a very specific history; it is subject to treaties to maintain peace on the island of Ireland. That is why it is having special treatment, and it is why Unionists support that and are trying to work so hard to have a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, but it is not equivalent to Scotland.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard

I value my hon. Friend and neighbour—in terms of our rooms—far too much to ignore what he has to say, but I have to say to him that my Unionism extends to Scotland in a very big way, and I think he knows that. Admittedly one can make powerful arguments to the contrary on this, as indeed he and his colleagues have done—it is such a pleasure to have them here as dotted Conservative representatives from north of the border. That has given me such pleasure, but we cannot ignore the arguments are going to be made by those who disagree with us. I simply make the point that I think I know enough about the situation to see that that argument is going to be made in a context where, on the evidence of the 2016 referendum, a majority in Scotland wanted to remain.

It is not that Scotland is the same as Northern Ireland—I wish to reassure him on that point. There are exceptional features to Northern Ireland, but I simply say that we, as a Unionist party, are creating an extra layer of difficulty for ourselves, which we will have to argue our way through. Of course, that may be an inherent consequence of Brexit; it is one reason why I regret so much the 2016 result, although I acknowledge that we cannot ignore it. However, I have suggested repeatedly—I will not go over this now—that there is a better way of trying to address this issue: by going back and getting confirmation that this is what people really want, because of the nature and consequences of what we are about to do.

My final point is about why I will vote against this Bill on Second Reading. I might have abstained otherwise, but I very much regret the programme motion, which is treating the House in an insulting way. It also says something about this Government, which worries me. I am a Conservative—even though I have lost the Whip I remain a Conservative—and to see a Government, on a constitutional measure, playing bully-boy tactics with this House can only be counterproductive to the very aims they would like to achieve. This is not the quiet government I came here to try to deliver, and I therefore regret very much that I will vote against the programme motion and against the Government on Second Reading.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Oct 2019, 4:34 p.m.

I would love to vote today for a Bill that would take us out of the EU, but unfortunately we find ourselves in a position where we cannot support this Bill. I want to make something clear: allegations have been made that the agenda of those who oppose the Bill today is to keep us in the EU, but neither I nor my party has any desire to stay in the EU, nor does the record of my party indicate that. What we demand is that, as we are part of the United Kingdom and took part in a United Kingdom-wide referendum, as part of the United Kingdom we leave on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom. That is not the case with this Bill, nor with this agreement.

The Prime Minister has said that if we do not agree to this Bill, we will not get another chance—that if we do not agree this deal, the agreement will not be reopened. I have heard those arguments made before; in fact, the Prime Minister just ignored them when they were made previously, because he knew that they were untrue. Given the enormity of the issues involved, I do not believe that we should vote for the Bill tonight.

A number of arguments have been made. The first is that this is our chance to take back sovereignty. It is not a chance to take back sovereignty in Northern Ireland; indeed, Northern Ireland will be left out of that move towards taking back sovereignty. Let us just look at the facts about Northern Ireland: we will be left in an arrangement whereby EU law on all trade, goods and so on will be applied to Northern Ireland. We will be in a situation where, despite what the Prime Minister says, we will be subject to the full implementation of EU customs regulations. That means that goods moving from GB into Northern Ireland will be subject to declarations, checks and the imposition of tariffs. We found out yesterday that, despite the promise of unfettered access to the UK market, checks will occur in the opposite direction for the thousands of firms in Northern Ireland that currently export to GB. At the moment they do not face any impediments or costs, but they will face them now.

Debate on the Address

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 14th October 2019

(10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan - Parliament Live - Hansard
14 Oct 2019, 7:55 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I understand exactly what he is saying, but I am trying to give voice to opinions that are being expressed to me right now in my emails. The Government need to think very carefully about these provisions, so that if they do bring them in, they introduce them in such a way that does not damage those least able to speak for themselves in our community.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
14 Oct 2019, 7:55 p.m.

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend, particularly as I came in halfway through her speech, but I heard what she was saying and I wanted to come in. I personally believe that identity is absolutely essential, because there are problems of personation, but I agree that simply imagining that people can produce photographic identity is wrong. Special provisions will have to be introduced in order to enable that not to happen.

Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan - Hansard

It is good to know—

Brexit Readiness: Operation Yellowhammer

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 25th September 2019

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 3:59 p.m.

The hon. Lady raises three important points. The first is whether the food or agrifood sector, in the event of a no-deal scenario, is likely to be the worst affected. It is certainly the case that our agrifood exporters will face the highest tariffs if we leave without a deal, and in this job and my previous job, when at the Dispatch Box, I have not shied away from the consequences. There are risks and challenges; that is why DEFRA has taken steps in order to be able to mitigate those risks and challenges.

The hon. Lady asks about the impact on the vulnerable of a rise in prices. It may well be that some food commodity prices rise; others are likely to fall overall. She makes the point about food banks. It is vital that we support those who work with food banks, but I have seen no evidence or indication so far—I am very happy to talk to the hon. Lady—that the supply of food to food banks would be affected in any scenario, deal or no deal.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard

I always enjoy listening to my right hon. Friend, but I am always slightly conscious when he moves from answering questions to displacement activity. Can we go back to the issue of base case and worst case? Quite specifically, when were the words “base case” changed to “worst case”—the precise date, please, and who authorised the change? When was it done? That is the first question, because I think the House needs to be able to understand why that decision was made.

The second issue concerns the Schengen database. I am fascinated to hear about these measures of mitigation; I am familiar with the database in my role as Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. This is undoubtedly a key piece of data for the security of the United Kingdom. What exactly are the mitigations that my right hon. Friend is talking about that will be an adequate substitute for the loss of access to this database on a no-deal Brexit?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 4:04 p.m.

It is always a pleasure to hear from my right hon. and learned Friend. In my statement, I drew a distinction between the base scenario, which involves those unarguable facts that we can all agree in this House will be the consequence of a no deal-exit, and a reasonable worst-case scenario. Operation Yellowhammer uses those base facts to draw up what a reasonable worst-case scenario might be. That is the distinction between them.

With respect to the Schengen information system, I would say, in fairness to my right hon. and learned Friend, that that is not the only law enforcement or national security tool that we will lose access to in a no-deal Brexit. There are others as well, but I have had an opportunity to talk to people who are involved in the provision of our national security, and I recognise that there are appropriate steps that we can take.

Prime Minister's Update

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 25th September 2019

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 7:32 p.m.

As the right hon. Lady can imagine, I will not comment on my conversations with Her Majesty. I am afraid she is sadly in error in her history. To my memory, John Major prorogued Parliament for 18 days before he even had an election, and all we were going to lose was four or five sitting days over the party conference period. She will have ample opportunity, after the European Union summit on 17 and 18 October, to debate Brexit again, as is her privilege, her prerogative and indeed her pleasure, and it was always intended that she should.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard

Whatever policy differences the Prime Minister may have with others, he may agree that he has an absolute duty to observe and uphold the rule of law. Whatever self-justifications he may have advanced today, he may also have to accept that in the matter of proroguing this House, he failed to do that. In those circumstances, would he now like to take the opportunity, rather than condemning the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Bill as a surrender Bill, to assure the House—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 7:33 p.m.

Order. Let it be said with crystal clarity including to occupants of the Treasury Bench—[Interruption.] Yes, here we go. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be heard. He will not be shouted down by people from his own Benches. That sort of behaviour is intolerable and it is obviously so to most remotely reasonable people.

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
25 Sep 2019, 7:33 p.m.

Will the Prime Minister therefore take this opportunity to give an assurance to the House that should the terms of the Bill apply to him, rather than trying to die in ditches, he will observe those terms as he is duty bound to do?

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard

I repeat the confirmation I have made many times that this Government observe, and will observe, the law. If I may say so to my right hon. and learned Friend, our view of the matter that was before the Supreme Court had the support of the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice, who, at the risk of embarrassing my right hon. and learned Friend, are perhaps even more distinguished in the law than he is.

Points of Order

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 9th September 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
Mr Speaker Hansard

Bless you, Barry, for what you have said. [Interruption.] Will hon. Members will forgive me? I call Mr Dominic Grieve.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Hansard

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As another Buckinghamshire MP, I could not fail to rise to say words of thanks to you for what you have done.

You may recall—it is perhaps worth recalling—that when you were first elected Speaker I think I was the only person in the Chamber who did not stand to applaud you. That was for two reasons. First, I rather disapprove of these displays and, secondly, my preferences lay elsewhere. I think I also indicated to you subsequently that I would do my very best to support you. As the years have gone by, I have come to appreciate that in the extraordinary times in which we live, your leadership of this House has been, in my judgment, exemplary in standing up for the rights of Back Benchers. You will undoubtedly go down as such, setting a benchmark that , built on by future Speakers, will enable the House to operate very much better.

As for Buckinghamshire, Mr Speaker, you will undoubtedly be missed. I sometimes think in the troubled times in which we live, it is time to return to those 17th-century practices of setting up county associations and deciding to keep the rest of the world out, because we would then find that we agree with each other 100%.

Mr Speaker Hansard

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for what he said. I regard him as a quite exceptional parliamentarian, so to receive a tribute from him means a great deal to me, and I think he knows that.

Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 9th September 2019

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
Mr Speaker Hansard

We now come to the motion in the name of Mr Dominic Grieve and others, to be moved under Standing Order No. 24. I remind the House that a paper with the terms of the motion has been distributed.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:15 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of prorogation with the imminence of an exit from the European Union and accordingly resolves—

That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to direct Ministers to lay before this House, not later than 11.00pm Wednesday 11 September, all correspondence and other communications (whether formal or informal, in both written and electronic form, including but not limited to messaging services including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook messenger, private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted, text messaging and iMessage and the use of both official and personal mobile phones) to, from or within the present administration, since 23 July 2019 relating to the prorogation of Parliament sent or received by one or more of the following individuals: Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cummings, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christopher James, Lee Cain or Beatrice Timpson; and that Ministers be further directed to lay before this House no later than 11.00pm Wednesday 11 September all the documents prepared within Her Majesty's Government since 23 July 2019 relating to operation Yellowhammer and submitted to the Cabinet or a Cabinet Committee.

I am sorry to have to move this motion, because it ought not to be necessary to do so.

When I was Attorney General, a lot of the work I had to do involved advising on law, but from time to time quite a lot of it was to do with propriety in government. We are very blessed in this country that, as well as obeying the rule of law, there is within government a deep understanding that if our constitution, which is largely unwritten, is to function, there has to be a high level of trust between different parts of government—whether it be Parliament or the Administration—in how our affairs are conducted. I am glad to say that, in my experience, if and when I ever had to step in as Attorney General to point out that I thought propriety might be in danger of being infringed, I always had a positive response from my colleagues in government about the necessity at all times to be seen to be acting with clean hands.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:15 p.m.

On that point, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is successful and the Government are obliged to supply these papers, is he confident that the current Prime Minister and the Executive will do so?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:16 p.m.

Seeing that this would be a Humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen for the documents, I very much hope that there could be no question other than that they will be provided, because it is the custom and practice and the convention that such Humble Addresses are responded to positively by the Government.

The reason why we have these rules is to manage difference. They provide a framework for our debates that—because, as I say, there is a high level of trust— enables us to manage sometimes serious difference, such as we undoubtedly have at the moment, in a moderate fashion. We are able sometimes to say strong words to each other, but to come together afterwards with a high level of appreciation of the other’s point of view and an absolute certainty that one side is not trying to trick the other. My concern is that there is now increasing and compelling evidence that this trust is breaking down and, indeed, that there is cause to be concerned that the conventions are not being maintained.

This of course arises particularly because of the decision to prorogue this House. I do not think I need to go into too much history to point out that, in recent years, the power of Prorogation has been used for only two reasons. The first is to have the short interval, usually of no more than seven or eight days, between one Session and the next, so that a Queen’s Speech may take place. It has also been used at times to extend time for a general election in order to maintain a power by which this House could be recalled in an emergency before it is finally dissolved. The use being made of it by the Government in proroguing this House until 14 October is, in current times, unprecedented. It is a long period, and all the more startling because it takes place against the background of what is without doubt—it is a bit difficult to gainsay it—a growing national crisis.

Sir Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Ind) Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:18 p.m.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that what makes this particularly important is that it was open to the Government to move a periodic Adjournment—or, as we normally call it, a sittings motion—which could have been approved by the House to achieve the same effect? However, the Government chose to use the prerogative power, which in effect enables the Prime Minister to advise the Queen to remove Parliament from the scene of action. It is therefore obviously of the greatest possible importance what the Government’s motive in so doing was, and the papers he describes will reveal that motive in a way nothing else can.

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:19 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is right on both points, and I shall move on in a moment to develop in a bit more detail the issue of the documents.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:19 p.m.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:19 p.m.

I will if the hon. Lady will wait just one moment.

The justification that the Government have given for this length of Prorogation is that we were due to adjourn for the purposes of party conferences and to return shortly before the date the Government have chosen, but everybody in this House knows that the nature of the crisis that has been engulfing us in the last two months meant that it was clear the House would not consent to be adjourned because it regarded its continuing sitting as being absolutely essential. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knew this very well. Furthermore, it appeared—certainly at the time when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative party and was about to become Prime Minister—that although suggestions had been made about proroguing the House to facilitate achieving a no-deal Brexit, he apparently did not approve of them. Indeed, he said publicly during his leadership bid:

“I’m not attracted to archaic devices like proroguing.”

That is where the trust comes in. As news emerged of the decision to prorogue, it rapidly became clear that the Government did not appear to be giving a consistent account of their reasons. As the act of proroguing has led to litigation, it has then followed that some, but not all, of the motives for Prorogation began to emerge. We have seen that although on 23 August this year No. 10 Downing Street and the Prime Minister denied considering the idea of proroguing at all, in fact, internal Government documents reveal that this matter was under consideration some 10 days before. Indeed, there is a rather remarkable memorandum from the Prime Minister himself in which he expresses total contentment with this because he finds the September sitting to be an unnecessary and rather contemptible activity. It is perhaps rather typical of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he gets something wrong—as we now know, he suggests that the September sitting is the product of the work of one of his predecessors, Mr David Cameron, whereas it was Mr Tony Blair who introduced it. It is rather noteworthy that when we found what was under the redaction, it turned out he had condemned Mr David Cameron, for his belief in having a September sitting, as a “girly swot”, which I supposed was meant to be contrasted with his manly idleness. That seems to be his established practice when it comes to confronting the crisis that threatens to engulf us on 31 October if he cannot get the deal that he promises he is going to achieve, but which it now appears from the resignation statement of the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that he has done absolutely no work even to commence negotiating.

Ms Angela Eagle Portrait Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab) - Hansard

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way to this girly swot. Does he agree that democracy requires a certain commitment to the truth; that to date there has been a reasonable expectation that when asked questions the Government will not actively lie and will tell the truth; and that the loosening of the current Administration’s moorings from a commitment to tell the truth is a direct threat to democracy?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:24 p.m.

The hon. Lady is right. That is what concerns me so much, and I think the House collectively ought to pause and consider it this evening. She will be aware that the next thing that emerged—I shall come back to the issue of it being just rumour—in the litigation that was brought against the Government was a desire to set out the reasons why Prorogation was being pursued. When the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, as it would properly do in conducting litigation, sought to find a public official willing to depose in affidavit as to why the Government had decided to prorogue—and I might add, asked Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament, one must assume—no such official willing to swear the affidavit could be found. As a consequence, a number of documents were simply exhibited by the Treasury Solicitor for the Government’s case.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:25 p.m.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall any instance, when he was Attorney General, of being unable to find public officials willing to swear affidavits about the Government’s case?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:25 p.m.

No, I can think of no such event. Indeed, it is the Treasury Solicitor’s Department and the Law Officers’ job to make sure that anything the Government say in litigation fulfils their duty of candour and is not misleading.

Then a most remarkable thing happened, Mr Speaker, and this is where it becomes more difficult for me. In the course of the days that followed I started to be given information from public officials informing me that they believed the handling of this matter smacked of scandal—there is no other way to describe it. Of course, that places me in a difficulty, because it is simply the information that I have been given. I want to make absolutely clear that I am not in a position—any more, I think, than any Member of this House—to be able to ascertain whether that information is mistaken. I can only say that I believe those sources to be reliable. Also, in my experience it is extraordinarily unusual that I should get such approaches, with individuals expressing their disquiet about the handling of a matter and some of the underlying issues to which it could give rise.

It is as a consequence of that that I have drafted, along with right hon. and hon. Friends and other Members, the Humble Address concerning the Prorogation documents. I want to emphasise at the outset that in doing so and identifying named individuals, whether they be special advisers, who make up the vast majority, or one in case a civil servant, I am making absolutely no imputation against any single one of them whatever. It would be disgraceful to do so, because I do not have the evidence on which to do it.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:28 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend and I have worked together, originally as master and pupil and then as Attorney General and civil servant. We have a great deal of history in this matter. Does he agree that there are civil service mechanisms and systems for guiding the behaviour of civil servants, and that these matters are ideally best not discussed in the manner in which we are discussing them this afternoon?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:29 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right about our long association. She is also right, of course, having worked in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, where I am quite sure she maintained at all times the highest standards of integrity. The difficulty, however, is this: 31 October is looming. We are, as a House, about to be prorogued and rendered entirely ineffective until 14 October. This is the choice of the Government. The routes I might have wished to have taken to see this matter properly investigated simply do not match the time available for us to take them. As trust has progressively broken down, I am afraid I have become increasingly concerned that if one were simply to ask polite questions, the Government may not respond in the manner they should.

Mr Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) - Hansard

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House whether he intends to put on the record any of the details of the information he says he received? The worry is that if he does not and the Government simply ignore his Humble Address, we will never know its contents. The implication of what he is saying is really very serious—that the Queen was misled by the Prime Minister as to his reasons for wanting a Prorogation.

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:29 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman raises some very difficult points. The best thing I can do is simply to state openly the generality of it. He is, I think, correct in what he says: far from this Prorogation being a desire to reset the Government for the purposes of holding a Queen’s Speech, and nothing else, there is available plenty of evidence that what actually happened was a concerted get-together within Government to try to ensure that this House would be prevented from taking action to stop a no-deal Brexit, and that the origins of that long predated the first time the Government mentioned Prorogation. That is, in a nutshell, what we are talking about.

Mr Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:30 p.m.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I have been in this House for 40 years. I have never heard of a more serious allegation against a Government: misleading this House and stopping it functioning. Would he agree?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:30 p.m.

I would, but I also emphasise—and that is why I emphasise it—that these are allegations, and in an ideal world, I would have preferred not to make allegations, even within the context of the privilege that this House provides. However, in the circumstances, and with the time available before 31 October and the fact that we are proroguing, there really is no alternative.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:31 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard

No, I will make a bit of progress.

What I have attempted to do, distilling the information that has been made available, is to identify people where I think the information may be available. I repeat what I said: I make no imputation whatsoever against individuals. We could have tried to be much broader, but had we been much broader, it might have looked a bit like a fishing expedition throughout Government. It seems only right to ask the questions where we have been directed —by the information that I and others have received—that the answers may be found, hence the list of individuals I have named. I say again that there is not a single imputation against any of them. What is necessary is to establish the information that they possess.

Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:32 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for giving way; we have been friends for his entire time in this House. Having been a Minister himself, is he not worried about the collateral damage that this Humble Address is creating? It is important that civil servants have space—a safe space—to speak truth to power, and I think that by his actions today, he is damaging the civil service’s ability to communicate and discuss matters freely with Ministers. Does he not see the damage that he is doing?

Mr Grieve Hansard

I understand my right hon. Friend’s point. That was a matter that exercised me very much before I decided to table this motion, but against that, we have to face up to another fact: those necessary protections for civil servants cannot and must not be used as a device to hoodwink this House and the public as to the way the Government conduct their business. The Government have a duty. They can sometimes have a duty not to say something, but they certainly do not have a right to mislead, and this is such a fundamental matter that I think we are right to pursue the issue. Of course, if it turns out that the information I was given was mistaken, well, in those circumstances, I shall be the happiest person of the lot, but I have to say that I think it is sufficiently serious in its nature and content that I would be failing in my duty as a Member of Parliament if we were not to seek to ascertain whether it was correct.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:34 p.m.

Surely all that matters is what was in the Prime Minister’s mind—his reasons for making the decision—and we cannot work that out from the personal testimonies of lots of officials, some of whom met the Prime Minister about this and some of whom did not. The question is what was in the Prime Minister’s mind, and the House has had ample opportunity, which it has already used, to cross-examine him and to satisfy itself as to his true motive. I do not see how knowing what some officials thought helps at all.

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:35 p.m.

If I may say to my right hon. Friend, last week, at Prime Minister’s questions, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke) and I asked questions of the Prime Minister seeking to elicit an answer about his motive and state of knowledge, and I was rather struck by the fact that he avoided answering both questions completely. He made not a single attempt—my right hon. Friend should look at Hansard—to answer the question. I am afraid I do not have much confidence that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has the capacity—frankly—to answer questions of this kind, because he does not appear to understand how serious they are and appears to treat them with a high level of flippancy.

David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab) Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:36 p.m.

Prorogation this evening will deny the Liaison Committee a three-hour session with the Prime Minister this Wednesday—a session the Prime Minister agreed to on 14 August.

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:36 p.m.

Yes, indeed, and of course that might have provided another opportunity to ask questions.

I appreciate that this House can sometimes be difficult and irksome to Prime Ministers and Governments, but that is our job. We are here precisely to provide scrutiny and to hold to account. For those reasons, I do not think it would be unreasonable of us to proceed to ask for these documents. I believe and hope that this has been drafted in a way that is sufficiently focused that we can come swiftly to a conclusion by Wednesday as to whether there is anything that should be causing the public disquiet.

Mr Owen Paterson Portrait Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:37 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend has named nine individuals. He could have asked for the Cabinet Secretary and permanent secretaries, but these names appear very arbitrary. I know one of them and I think she was appointed only a week or 10 days ago. What were his criteria for choosing these nine individuals?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:38 p.m.

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. There was a time at the end of last week when the list was rather long and included—I will say this openly—senior civil servants, but I was reticent about that and felt as a result of inquiries I made that the list could best be narrowed. It was made quite clear from the information I gleaned that the origins of the story of how Prorogation came about lay not with public officials but with the special advisers to Ministers. For that reason, the list is as well directed as I believe it can be.

That is the issue surrounding Prorogation. In addition, we have the papers surrounding Yellowhammer. The House will remember that the Government sought to suggest when the Yellowhammer papers first started to emerge—some of them—that this was material prepared for a previous Administration, but that turns out to be incorrect and to be another of those little inaccuracies that now seem to creep out of No. 10 Downing Street. It was material prepared for the current Administration and Cabinet committees so that they could understand the risks involved in a no-deal Brexit.

We will be prevented over the coming weeks from debating those issues, and when we return we will have almost no time. I fear very much that by the time the Queen’s Speech debate is over we will be mired in a great crisis that I would much rather see avoided. It seems entirely reasonable, therefore, to ask the Government to disclose these documents, both so the House can understand the risks involved and so that these can in due course be communicated more widely to the public. Of course, if the documents suggest that no risks are involved, that too will be in need of communication.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:40 p.m.

There are few in the House who have the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s knowledge of its conventions and protocols, except, perhaps, you, Mr Speaker. Certainly, my constituents do not follow the differences between Prorogation, recess, Queen’s Speech requirements and so forth. However, they do know that my title is “Member of Parliament”, which implies where I should be—in Parliament. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that at this time of constitutional crisis my constituents expect us to be sitting in Parliament, and expect it not to be shut down? Does he agree that the question of why we are being prorogued goes to the heart of the credibility of me as a Member of Parliament and the credibility of the House in its entirety, and does he agree that, for that reason, the public interest is absolutely involved?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:41 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly, and I do worry, because this prorogation is, to my mind, a most regrettable event. It will prevent the House from giving proper scrutiny to what is, as I have said, an evolving situation that has critical importance to the future of our country.

Michael Gove Portrait The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Michael Gove) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:41 p.m.

I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend has had a chance to look at the transcript of the evidence that I supplied to the Exiting the European Union Committee last week. In my evidence I gave some undertakings about publications related to Yellowhammer. If carried out, would those assurances be sufficient for my right hon. and learned Friend?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:41 p.m.

I rather hope that the assurances and the terms of the motion would prove to be entirely identical. I see no reason why not, and such documents that have been revealed so far do not suggest to me that they contain any material that touches on essential issues of national security. It is entirely about the day-to-day life of this country in the immediate aftermath of departure. Of course, if there were national security implications, I am sure that my right hon. Friend would be able to raise them and they could be dealt with.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:42 p.m.

I hope that before this debate concludes my right hon. and learned Friend will have an opportunity to look at the evidence submitted to the Select Committee, and I hope that, on that basis, he will be able to take those assurances as appropriate. I should be very grateful for his indication that he would do so.

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:42 p.m.

If I may say this to my right hon. Friend, I think not. I think that the terms of the motion cannot be abandoned unless the House wishes to abandon them. I cannot believe, on the basis of what he so graciously said to the House a moment ago, that the terms of the motion will be significantly dissimilar. In those circumstances, I very much hope that we will get the documentation relating to Yellowhammer, in the way in which it was presented to him and his colleagues, on the basis of which they are taking the decisions that they are taking, which are of great importance to the future of our country, its wellbeing, and the wellbeing of every citizen.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:43 p.m.

May I pursue the point about the evidence presented by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Select Committee last Thursday? I did indeed ask him whether he would publish the report on Operation Yellowhammer. For the benefit of the House, this is what he said in response:

“What I hope to do is more than that. What I would like to do is to make sure that we have Yellowhammer, once we have done the proper revision and the kicking of the tyres, alongside a publication that details the actions that the Government has taken to inform people of the consequences and allows people to see the mitigations that we have put in place, so people can make a proper judgment about the changes they need to make”.

That, I think, is a full quotation. On that basis, it would seem to me that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would have no difficulty whatsoever with that part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s Standing Order 24 motion.

Mr Grieve Hansard

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If I may say so, had the House more time I would not have tabled that part of the motion. We could have waited, sensibly, to see that the House will be gone by midnight tonight—or shortly thereafter, depending on how long our proceedings continue—and we will not be back until 14 October. At that stage, because of the way in which the House starts a new Session, the opportunities will not necessarily be there in quite the same way, and I suggest to the House that 14 October is far too close to 31 October for us to be able to accept that. Of course, if we do not vote for this motion in this form we will have no leverage over the Government should, for example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) suddenly find that he is overridden by No. 10 advisers and the Prime Minister, who decide that they want to delay a little bit and that these papers might come later on. As I have said, the great difficulty that we now have in this House—and, I must say with great regret, that I have—is this terrible, compelling sense that trust is eroding.

That brings me to my final remark—

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:45 p.m.

I wish to conclude. Unless a Member has something very special to say, I would like to get this done.

Mr Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (IGC) Hansard

rose—

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:45 p.m.

I give way.

Mr Leslie Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:45 p.m.

I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He has had all sorts of emollient assurances from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but the Daily Mail is reporting right now that:

“Downing Street not in any mood to bow to Grieve’s demands…No. 10 source: ‘Under no circumstances will No. 10 staff comply with Grieve’s demands regardless of any votes in Parliament.’”

If the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster intervenes on the right hon. and learned Gentleman again he can be pressed to assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he will not see Parliament treated with such contempt.

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

I am afraid this classically illustrates the problem that we now have: these extraordinary utterances —pronouncements—from No. 10 Downing Street that bear absolutely no relationship with the operation and conventions of our constitution. It is impossible to know whether they are froth, whether they are Mr Cummings’s thoughts, or whether in fact they represent some settled policy view of Government, in which case this country is facing, frankly, a revolutionary situation in which this House has to exercise the utmost vigilance to ensure that our rights and privileges are not simply trampled upon.

I am very mindful of the fact that in this current crisis we are a divided country and a divided House, which pains me very much. I would like to work, even with those with whom I disagree such as some of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, to try to get this matter resolved in a way that is compatible with healing some of the divisions in our country, but that simply is not going to happen if the atmosphere of confrontation keeps being ratcheted up, slowly undermining the institutions that are the only props of legitimacy—that is the truth, for all of us—and in which everybody is happy to go into greenhouses and chuck bricks all over the place but expect the structure to provide some shelter afterwards.

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General (Mr Geoffrey Cox) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:48 p.m.

I have been listening with great care to my right hon. and learned Friend’s observations and part of his draft Humble Address troubles me. What legal right do the Government have to require their employees to give up private email accounts and personal mobile numbers? If there is no legal right—I imagine he would contend that there is not—how on earth would the Government enforce the Humble Address if they desired to do so?

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

These are Government employees. In the course of their work it is their duty to observe the civil service code and to comply with its requirements, including, I respectfully suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, not using private means of communication to carry out official business.

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:49 p.m.

rose—

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:48 p.m.

And beyond that—

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:48 p.m.

rose—

Mr Grieve Hansard

No, I will continue. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. We must conduct this debate in a seemly manner.

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

I will give way to my right hon. and learned Friend in a moment.

In addition, it is a question about what this House requests. I am perfectly aware that sometimes I may say that the Government may be acting abusively, so I am the first to understand that there is a capacity for this House to act abusively. However, what is being asked for, and ought to be respected by any self-respecting Government employee, is that if they are asked to look and see whether they have carried out a communication, within the relevant request, that goes to their official work, they ought to be willing to provide it. It should not be a question of coercion; it should be a question of willingness. If we move from that, that will be the destruction of another convention under which this country has been run, and it will be greatly to our detriment.

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:50 p.m.

rose—

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:51 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman has made his own point in his own way, and he may wish to expatiate further on that matter if he catches my eye in the course of the debate. Meanwhile, it is on the record and will be widely observed.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I give way to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General.

Mr Geoffrey Cox Portrait The Attorney General - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:51 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend has just refined the Humble Address to confine the request for personal mobile information and personal private accounts only to communications that ought to have been carried out as official business on official accounts. The difficulty with the Humble Address that I invite him to consider is that it is a blunt instrument and that, in truth, what this Humble Address requires is careful refinement so that it complies with legal rules. This Humble Address has no binding legal effect on individuals. It potentially has a binding effect on the Government, if they observe it, but not on individuals. There seems to be a risk that it will trespass upon the fundamental rights of individuals, as it is currently drafted.

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

I am afraid I have to disagree politely with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. The issue is clearly defined: it relates to the Prorogation of Parliament. That is what it concerns. If I may say so, picking up on the earlier point that he made, I was just a little bit surprised. Of course he may argue that the Government cannot get this information, but No. 10 Downing Street is saying is that it will not even seek or try to provide it. This again is absolutely illustrative of the slide we are experiencing towards a Government that will not respect the conventions, without which orderly government in this country cannot take place.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:52 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:52 p.m.

No, I want to finish.

For all those reasons, I believe that, while I am the first to recognise that any attempt at a motion of this kind will have a degree of bluntness that is unavoidable—

Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:53 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way, on a serious point?

Mr Grieve Hansard

I give way to my right hon. Friend, whose points will always be serious.

Dame Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:53 p.m.

I am very worried, because I have been looking at the special advisers code of conduct, and it says:

“Special advisers should not disclose official information which has been communicated in confidence in government or received in confidence from others.”

Does my right hon. and learned Friend not realise that his motion today sets all special advisers in conflict with the code that they have signed up to?

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:53 p.m.

Not at all! Absolutely not at all! They are entitled, correctly, to say, “I have been asked by the House of Commons in a motion under a Humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen to provide that information”, and they should do so, if I may say so, with a public spirit and, indeed, a degree of pride—that is what I would do—because that request has been made of them.

Mr Speaker, I do not want to detain the House any further. As I said, I am the first to accept that this is a difficult matter, and I am the first to accept that finding a uniquely perfectly tailored instrument to meet the gravity of the situation that has arisen will always be difficult and might be open to some reasonable criticism. However, for all those things, I think the nature of what has happened, the immediacy of the crisis and the fact that we are proroguing require this motion, and I commend it to the House.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab) - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:54 p.m.

Mr Speaker, may I first associate myself with the many comments about your role as Speaker in this House and the way in which you have performed it, certainly since I have been here? I did not have the chance to speak earlier, but I want to associate myself with those comments.

I rise to support this application in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve). At the heart of the application is the simple principle that the Executive should be honest and open with Parliament so as to enable this House properly to scrutinise the Government’s policies and decisions. That should be a given, but it is not, and I am afraid that that speaks volumes. Two important decisions underpin this application. The first is the decision to prorogue the House for five weeks, at what should be the most important and intensive part of the Brexit negotiations. The second is the decision to deny the House the assessment of the preparations for a no-deal Brexit—the Yellowhammer analysis.

Break in Debate

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 7:09 p.m.

In his speech, the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) answered his own question. He explained that I had said to Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News exactly when I knew about these payments. He can ask as many times as he likes for me to repeat the answer, but I gave the answer months ago.

Talking of politicians who cannot see what is in front of them, we come to Yellowhammer. The point has been made that it is critical that we share with this House as much as we can, and I am absolutely committed to that. In the evidence that I gave to the Exiting the European Union Committee last Thursday—

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 7:10 p.m.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 7:10 p.m.

No. In the evidence that I gave, I made it clear—I am grateful to the Chairman of that Committee for allowing me to do so—that we wanted to publish and would publish a revised Yellowhammer document. It is also important to recognise that the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), described Yellowhammer as both an “impact assessment” and a “likely scenario”. I was clear in the evidence, which was accepted by the Chairman in that Committee, that it was neither an impact assessment nor a likely scenario. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that he wants scrutiny of our no-deal assumptions, but when that scrutiny is given and when the facts are in front, he seems not to be interested, not to read it or not to know what has been said. He says he wants scrutiny, but when he gets scrutiny, he cannot be bothered to take account of it.

Mr Grieve Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:11 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I am sorry to take him back to the issue about Prorogation and its origins. Would he like to explain at the Dispatch Box why that no affidavit was filed by any official relating to the circumstances in which Prorogation was decided upon? He will understand that the suggestion is that, in fact, the explanation given by the Government is inaccurate, that the decisions and work on proroguing this House to prevent us from scrutinising the Brexit process were taken earlier and that there is evidence of it in the interchange of communications between special advisers and others in government.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Hansard
9 Sep 2019, 5:11 p.m.

I know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman suspects, and he has been fair in laying it out clearly, but the question that this House has to ask is, are we prepared—[Interruption.] The question before the House is this—[Hon. Members: “Answer the question!”] I am answering the question. The question before the House is this. We know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is concerned about, and we know what his concerns are, but are we willing, in order to satisfy his curiosity on this point, to make sure that data protection legislation, the EHRC and the standard practices of government are overturned? I should say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we have published in unprecedented detail, in conformity with the duty of candour, all the information required—

Oral Answers to Questions

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 4th September 2019

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 12:36 p.m.

May I tell the hon. Gentleman that what the people of this country want to see is us come together to come out of the EU on 31 October with a deal? We are making great progress with our friends and partners in Brussels and Dublin, and even in Paris, but I am afraid those talks are currently being undermined by the absurd Bill before the House today. I urge him to reject it. If he must pass it, will he have a word with his right hon. Friend and ensure that that Bill is put to the people, in the form of a general election?

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 12:37 p.m.

In the light of the Prime Minister’s answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke), could the Prime Minister please explain why it has proved impossible to find any official or Minister prepared to state that the reasons for Prorogation were to pave the way for a Queen’s Speech, in the course of the current legal proceedings in which the Government are involved? Would the Prime Minister like to reconsider the answer he has just given to the House?

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard

I hesitate to advise my right hon. and learned Friend about legal proceedings but, if he looks at what happened in Scotland this morning, he will discover that that case was thrown out.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. A six-minute limit now applies with immediate effect.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 4:22 p.m.

It is painful for me to find myself in a position where I cannot agree with my own Front Bench and with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on approving this agreement and supporting the Government tonight, but I cannot. I just want to briefly explain why.

We find ourselves in a very unusual circumstance. Unless a country is defeated in war and the Parliament has to meet so that MPs have to surrender provinces that are being annexed by a neighbouring power, it is very unusual for Members of Parliament to be asked, on a fundamental issue, to vote against their own opinion. Yet the evidence has been overwhelming, in the past two and a half years since the Brexit referendum took place, that there is a very substantial majority in this House who consider that there is no form of Brexit that is better than remaining in the European Union. That includes many colleagues on this side of the House who have, for reasons of judgment or loyalty—it does not really matter which—decided that they will support the Government this evening. I talk to them and they tell me that they accept that that is the case.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister makes a powerful case when she says that this is necessary because of the decision in the referendum in 2016. She tells us that if we were not to do it, it would diminish faith in the democratic process. I am certainly mindful, as I am the recipient of many emails from angry people, that there are many people who voted in that referendum who did not otherwise normally participate in the electoral processes of this country at all—probably about 10% of the electorate. So one has to recognise their strength of feeling.

If I felt that, by voting for and supporting a deal and a future that I think is going to be completely third rate compared with remaining in the European Union, we could bring closure to this debate because there was some unanimity of purpose—either across the House or even within my party, of which I have been a member now for about 43 years—I would have to seriously consider doing it, despite my own strong judgment that we are about to make a serious and historic mistake.

The problem, however, is that that is simply not the case. There is no unanimity. Take one example from today. In my view, the backstop is a red herring. The point is: what are we going to do with Brexit when we have it? Do we intend to stay aligned roughly within the sort of European regulatory and tariff framework, or do we intend, as some of my right hon. and hon. Friends wish, to strike out for broad horizons? If we do, it does not matter if we do not have the backstop, because actually, the Good Friday agreement precludes us from doing that for Northern Ireland, unless we intend to carve it out and leave it effectively in a European economic area. Such is the price of folly in having allowed a referendum to take place where those advocating leave dealt with it in purely abstract terms. No one—I plead guilty to this as well—was willing to think through, even when we prepared and passed the European Union Referendum Bill, the consequences of what a vote to leave would actually mean and how we could possibly implement it.

Far from bringing closure, we will simply initiate yet another round of very sterile debate against a background where our economy will be damaged, our national security will be impaired and we will find ourselves consistently at a disadvantage. I realise that some of my hon. Friends do not agree with that. They see a bright future ahead if they can just carry out their plans, but I do not see those plans coming to fruition. Indeed, I do not even see at the moment how the withdrawal agreement Bill that will have to follow this approval is likely to get through the House when some of my colleagues, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), start to look at the details. So, with reluctance and sadness, I cannot allow this further ratchet in the destruction of our country to take place.

We are also failing to assess the realities of devolution and the fact that with four nations making up the United Kingdom, there are now four identities that we have essentially disrespected. Even if we were entitled to—[Interruption.] Yes, we have. We have essentially disrespected them in terms of working out the consequences of what the referendum was likely to do. As a Unionist, I worry about the future of my country, because I see the Union as fundamental to our prosperity and collective existence.

I am afraid that I cannot vote for the deal, and we will have to take the consequences of the further difficulties that will follow. I do not look on those with any sense of cheerfulness at all, but I would be utterly, utterly going against my instincts and my judgments if I were to facilitate a process of further self-mutilation for our country, which is what I believe we are currently embarked upon. We should pause, reflect, and above all, I repeat it again—

Conor Burns Portrait Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con) - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 4:28 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard

Yes, I will.

Conor Burns Portrait Conor Burns - Hansard
12 Mar 2019, 4:28 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend speaks of consequences. He also speaks of those who had hitherto not participated in our democratic process but who participated in the referendum. What does he think the consequences will be outside this House if it tells those people that their voice did not matter and that we will not deliver what they voted for?

Mr Grieve Hansard

I think that we have a duty to say to them that it is perfectly apparent that what we are going to get bears no relation to what was being debated in 2016. I further think that the proper thing to do is to go back to them, point that out honestly, and say that if they wish to leave on these terms, we will, of course, implement it—but that means consulting them. I worry that we appear to be obsessed with avoiding the electorate at every conceivable turn now, because we are fearful that they might come up with an answer that we do not like. Of course it might be to leave. If that is the case, I will keep quiet about the matter forever more, but there is a compelling—[Interruption.] Oh yes I would. If I may say so, I have better things to do. But they may say that they have changed their mind. In a democracy, people are entitled to change their mind. To deny them that choice when we are faced with the current crisis is, in my view, an unacceptable way to proceed. Until we start seeing sense on this, I cannot support the Government.

Sir Vince Cable (Twickenham) (LD) Parliament Live - Hansard

It is a privilege to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve). I very much agree with what he had to say. Like him, we have no objections to the Irish backstop. It is one of the redeeming features of the Government’s agreement—their having foolishly and unnecessarily drawn red lines around the customs union and the single market, it was an inevitable and necessary measure to protect Ireland from a new, disruptive frontier. Our concern is much more fundamental—the fact that Brexit, as currently devised, will make this country poorer, weaker and less secure.

We have all heard a lot of general rhetoric about this issue, so I want to home in one particular aspect of the economics of it—the nature of the single market and how it originated. Thirty-five years ago, there was an insight in this country around the Prime Minister of the time, Mrs Thatcher. I do not know whether it was her or her advisers who saw that the future of business and trade rested on two s’s—standards and services—and that the traditional preoccupation with tariffs and quotas was of course very relevant, particularly for agriculture and manufacturing, but the future lay in another area.

For three decades, successive Governments—Conservative, coalition and Labour—have beavered away trying to create this structure of a single market, recognising the importance of those key drivers. That has been done on two levels. It was attempted at a global level through the World Trade Organisation, which is often called in aid by Government Members. That achieved virtually nothing, because the World Trade Organisation is essentially a weak organisation that brings together countries with massively divergent standards. It was also pursued through the European Union, with very great success.

One of the central problems of Brexit is that it potentially unravels much of the regulatory framework that has been put in place over those three decades. I have a very simple example, which gives us an indication of what is coming down the track. It actually relates to one of the Government’s success stories. The Government have been trying to roll over the 30 or 40 association agreements we have with the European Union. It would be disastrous if they were not rolled over. Quite a few important countries, including Japan and Korea, are making it very clear that they are not willing to get a move on, as the Foreign Secretary instructed them to, but one of the countries that did is Switzerland.

Switzerland is an interesting case. It is a British success story, with rapid growth in exports of 40% over five years. Britain has a big trade surplus with Switzerland. That is all under the existing arrangements. The Secretary of State for International Trade presented the roll-over agreement as a great success, and indeed it was. It is one of the few things that has actually worked for the Government in this area. But when some of the trade federations affected by the agreement started unpicking it, they noticed that it is not the same agreement that the European Union had.

Central to the European Union agreement was that it brought together about 19 key technical standards across the European Union and Switzerland, which enabled European countries to trade on a common basis. In the revised agreement, there are only five such standards. The companies in the UK that will have to deal with Switzerland in the future will do so at a competitive disadvantage. I have no way of knowing how important that is or how many jobs are at stake, but that small experience will be reproduced on a massive scale as Brexit proceeds, and we should take note of it.

Break in Debate

Steve Barclay Portrait Stephen Barclay - Hansard

Of course I will reflect the will of the House and give way, but what is interesting is that what we see on the Opposition Benches is a desire not to get into the substance but just to play politics with what is one of the most crucial decisions in our country’s history.

Mr Grieve Hansard

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I just want to understand the implications of article 62, because it seems that what he is actually saying is that that would be a ground for voiding the entire treaty. That is a rather different thing from being able to pull out of the backstop. Doubtless, some Members of this House would be only too delighted to see the entire treaty voided, but it is a rather apocalyptic scenario, or have I misunderstood something?

Steve Barclay Portrait Stephen Barclay - Hansard

Rather like economists, lawyers can always find issues on which to disagree. As I said, the issue here is that we are dealing with unlikely circumstances. What came through in the Attorney General’s statement is the fact that, ultimately, this is a political judgment, not a legal judgment. It is for Members of this House to assess the political risk. Indeed, as the Attorney General himself said—

Leaving the European Union

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 26th February 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Feb 2019, 1:19 p.m.

The discussions I have had in the European Union with EU leaders and, indeed, with the European Commission are very clear: they are entering into those talks with us with the intention of finding a resolution to the issue that this House has raised and that the right hon. Gentleman has just referenced again—that is, to ensure we have that legally binding change that ensures that people can have the confidence that the issue that the House raised about the potential indefinite nature of the backstop has been addressed and resolved. That is what we are working on. I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman has always been consistent in his references to the need for the right legal status for that change, and that is what we are working for.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

I am pleased to hear from my right hon. Friend a willingness to consider the possibility of an extension of article 50 to prevent a catastrophic no-deal Brexit. She also said, rightly, that across this House there are widely divergent views on why the deal that she has negotiated in good faith has been rejected. My concern is simply this: I see no reason to think that that situation will change, because despite what she has done in good faith, it is a second-rate outcome for our country. If this is to continue, how are we indeed to break the logjam? And here I have to say to her that her browbeating of the House, which she did today—indicating that unless we simply go along with a deal that is considered to be inadequate, there is no solution but a no-deal Brexit or a unilateral revocation—is simply inaccurate, because surely it is perfectly possible and utterly democratic for us to go back and ask the public whether the deal she has negotiated is acceptable or not.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard

My right hon. and learned Friend says that there are diverse views around this House and that there has been no indication, therefore, why the withdrawal agreement was rejected. Indeed, the House did indicate why the withdrawal agreement was rejected. It did so in a majority vote on 29 January that indicated that it was an issue around the backstop, that changes to the backstop were required and that the House would support the withdrawal agreement with the necessary changes to the backstop. It is not right to say that this House has not indicated the result that it wishes to see. He also aims slightly to chastise me on the options that I have put before the House today, but I say to him that a second referendum does not change the fact that ultimately, the three options open to us are to leave the European Union with a deal, to leave it with no deal, or to have no Brexit. Those will remain the options.

Leaving the EU

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 1:26 p.m.

We are well aware of the timetables that businesses are working to. That is why we have been pressing and working hard to get the deal agreed by the House and the European Union. It is also the case that we are working on those trade agreements. A number of continuity agreements have been signed with trading nations around the world to ensure that we can continue to trade on the current arrangements.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 1:27 p.m.

I welcome the categorical assurance that my right hon. Friend has given the House in respect of the House’s ability to debate a neutral motion on Wednesday 27 February, but time is very short. Can she explain to the House how we will comply with the provisions of section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 if there is a deal? How will we implement the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill and still leave on 29 March? Is it not the case that looked at realistically, there will have to be an application to extend the article 50 process, even if my right hon. Friend is successful in getting some kind of agreement through the House?

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 1:28 p.m.

As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 makes clear that the provisions of the 2010 Act apply to the withdrawal agreement and require it to be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days. In most circumstances, that period may be important for the House to have an opportunity to study a piece of legislation, but in this instance, MPs will already have debated and approved the agreement as part of the meaningful vote. While we will follow normal procedure if we can, where there is insufficient time remaining following a successful meaningful vote, we will make provision in the withdrawal agreement Bill, with Parliament’s consent, to ensure that we are able to ratify on time to guarantee our exit in an orderly way.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 29th January 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 2:08 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman has an opportunity today to agree the negotiating mandate for going back to Brussels by supporting the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady).

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 2:09 p.m.

My right hon. Friend will have seen that the amendment that I tabled goes solely to process, not to outcome. But is it not the case that the House has never had a proper opportunity to debate options, and to do it in a reasoned way? What the Prime Minister is asking the House to do again today is to suddenly adopt a measure that the Government have signed up to at the last moment, and to say that that should be the route we should take. Surely that illustrates the precise problem that the House has had throughout. Let me make it clear to my right hon. Friend that the purpose of my amendment is to give the House the space in which to find where the majority lies, and I commend it to her.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 2:09 p.m.

Let me say first that we have that opportunity today. I, and others, have been listening and talking to Members on both sides of the House about the issues that they have raised—apart from the Leader of the Opposition, who did not want to come and talk to me. I shall mention a number of those issues later in my speech, but one of them, which has been raised consistently by Members, is the backstop. We have an opportunity to give a clear message to the European Union on this matter today, and I also say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I am sure he has thought through very carefully the longer-term implications of the moves proposed tonight in the amendments that he and the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford have put forward and the implications they have for the relationship between the Executive and Parliament in the future.

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard

Order. An eight-minute limit applies with immediate effect.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 4:29 p.m.

I cannot deny that I have found the process of Brexit one of the most wearisome and unpleasant periods of my time in this House, but the cloud has a little bit of a silver lining. I find this afternoon that an amendment I first proposed last summer, which was vehemently denounced by some of my hon. and right hon. Friends as being about to break the party apart, and that I brought back just before Christmas, and passed with the help of many hon. and right hon. Members, now appears to have something to commend it to the very people who denounced it then. I note with pleasure that amendment (n) appears to command some support among Conservative Members, and from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but it could not even have been brought up for consideration if the system that had been devised for this House, simply to have motions in neutral terms be unamendable, had been followed. I derive some slight satisfaction from that.

I now tempt the House to accept another amendment, amendment (g), and I will briefly explain why. We are mired in complete paralysis. The deal that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister brought back, which I suspect is probably the best deal available, does not commend itself to many of my hon. and right hon. Friends. If they voted to leave, it does not meet their dreams at all. What about somebody like myself? When I look at the deal objectively, from the point of view of an ex-remainer, I simply cannot understand how we are going to be better off leaving on such terms than remaining in the European Union.

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 4:29 p.m.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr Grieve Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 4:29 p.m.

No, I am going to make some progress, if I may.

In those circumstances, we have to find a way forward. Throughout the times that I have tabled amendments for this House to consider, I have tried to avoid objectives and look at process. Frankly, we could do with more days of debate of this sort unless or until we reach agreement. Of course, if we do reach agreement, with this amendment we can have another business of the House motion and we will just drop the remaining sitting days. It is rather sensible to set aside six days between now and the end of March when this House can debate, free of the interference of government, which I have to say I am afraid has sought consistently to restrict debate into an absolute straitjacket of what it wanted to hear and nothing else. If we have those days, it will help us, just as we are actually starting to tease out this afternoon, to make a little bit of progress towards compromise.

Of course my views are well known about the desirability of a further referendum, and I will come back to them right at the end, but I am perfectly aware that many Members in this House do not agree with that, even if they also share my regret at what we are doing in leaving the EU. But that in no way diminishes for me the value of these days, and I agree entirely with the Father of the House and with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) that the idea that this is some constitutional abomination simply does not bear scrutiny; we are in control of our Standing Orders and changing them in this way to get the debates we need is entirely in keeping with the traditions of this House and the fact that the Government, in this area, simply do not enjoy the majority that some Governments have normally used to suppress it.

Sir William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 4:32 p.m.

Somebody who refers to national suicide, as my right hon. and learned Friend did the other day, is now moving towards a proposition that involves constitutional homicide, but let me put it another way. Does he agree that he voted for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which states unequivocally that the European Communities Act 1972 will be expressly repealed? Therefore, is what he is now saying going to contradict that, because he does not want the 1972 Act to be expressly repealed—yes or no?

Mr Grieve Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 4:34 p.m.

I say to my hon. Friend that he is familiar enough with the constitutions of this country and this House to know that this House can propose, debate, pass and revoke laws—we do it quite often sometimes, including laws that have never actually been implemented. So this House can do what it thinks is right at any given moment, and that is the flexibility we need. I tabled my amendment in the spirit of trying to reach some sort of understanding of where the majority might lie to bring this unhappy episode to a conclusion. I have also made it clear that in doing that one has to keep in mind and respect the decision of the earlier referendum, but that does not mean—I will come back to this in a moment as well—that one simply says that one is going to drag the country out on terms that nobody very much seems to support and towards a future that on the face of it looks pretty bad. To do that would be an abdication of our responsibility.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has also said that this House should say what it wants and what it does not want. May I say to her that knowing what one does not want can be quite a good starting place to understanding where compromise is reached over what one is prepared to accept? There are amendments down this evening on no deal that I shall support, because it is quite clear to me that this House utterly rejects no deal. Therefore, I will vote for those as well and I ask the House to vote for my amendment, which is neutral in objective but which will give us the opportunity we need to continue developing the debate we have to have if we are to resolve this matter sensibly.

There is then amendment (n), which I have to say is quite tempting in some ways. Our party has deep divisions over Brexit, and we know the pleasure we get when, because of the respect and affection we have for each other, we can all vote together. We did it when we supported my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the motion of confidence. For that reason, it is very tempting to be told that we should just vote for amendment (n) and send some message that we might just be close to resolving our disagreements with the EU, and doing it collectively. I have some slight anxiety about this, however.

The backstop is indeed a rather humiliating thing, which is why Democratic Unionist party Members do not like it. As a Unionist, I can understand that, to the bottom of my heart, because it highlights the fact that when we leave the EU, the EU is going to continue to have a hold constitutionally over some of the things that we do. But the truth is that the backstop is just the outward sign of a much more profound truth: that ever since we signed up to the Good Friday agreement to resolve, on a permanent basis, an outstanding constitutional issue of identity on the island of Ireland, we have bound ourselves to keep an open border. The unpleasant truth is that that is incompatible with the aim of some hon. and right hon. Friends, who want to take us to a future in which we diverge on tariffs and regulation, and which inevitably therefore leads to a hard border having to be introduced.

I fear that our being asked to support amendment (n) this evening is a piece of displacement activity—something in which I am afraid the House has specialised in the past two and a half years, and which one often sees young children doing when they are asked to face up to something they do not like. That seems to me to be what the amendment is about because, first, it is quite clear that the EU will not negotiate on it—although I do accept that if you do not ask, you do not get—and secondly, even if we were to get the backstop removed, the trouble is that what some of my hon. and right hon. Friends are asking for is inevitably going to bring this conflict into the open once we are gone. If I may gently say so to them, this is one of the issues that we need to debate in those six days that I hope I may have set aside for the House. There is a lack of trust about future intention that makes 29 March completely irrelevant, because the truth is that the disputes about the nature of our state and how we relate to those around us will resume immediately afterwards.

For those reasons, I am afraid I cannot support amendment (n), but I am delighted to have provided—if only by my previous amendment, at least—an opportunity to this House to start having a dialogue. I very much hope we can pursue that.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
29 Jan 2019, 4:38 p.m.

I think we all realise that today’s debate is predominantly about process, but that cannot hide one essential truth: we are facing a crisis; our country is in a state of suspended animation because of that crisis; and the intemperate nature of the debate—partly here today and certainly outside the Chamber—is a consequence of that crisis, because in truth every single one of us present is anxious about what is going to happen to our country.

Following the defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement and political declaration, she said that she would reach out, and I welcomed that, although it would have been much better had it been done two years ago. We now know that she is not for turning on the political declaration but seeks somehow to change the backstop. I am all for optimism, but I somehow doubt that the EU is for turning on this issue either. Unless the Prime Minister knows something that we do not, I do not see how it is going to be changed.

Exiting the European Union

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 10th December 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 4:10 p.m.

The issue on which we were very clear with the European Union in relation to the Northern Ireland border was that there could not be a customs border down the Irish sea. In February, the EU’s proposals were that exactly that should happen. By October, we had persuaded it to enable a UK-wide customs territory to be in the protocol rather than a Northern Ireland-wide customs territory. That was the key issue in relation to the border that we had set as something that was unacceptable to the United Kingdom and we negotiated that out of the proposal.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 4:11 p.m.

I entirely share my right hon. Friend’s concern about the maintenance of the Belfast agreement, the peace process in Northern Ireland and an open border, but is not the reality of what has happened, which this Brexit that is being negotiated highlights with total starkness, that, far from recovering sovereignty as has been proclaimed, we are in fact about to part with it, replacing a bilateral agreement with the Irish Government, sustained by referendums on both sides of the border, with an arrangement on which no one has been consulted and that ruthlessly undermines our sovereign rights? In those circumstances, and mindful of the fact that she faces many difficulties here that are not of her making, surely we should go back to the public and ask them whether that is what they want, and offer them the alternative of remaining in the EU.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 4:12 p.m.

Every Member of this House who has raised this issue of going back to the public on this matter needs to consider very carefully the impact that that would have. I believe that it would lead to a significant loss of faith in our democracy, and to many people questioning the role of this House and the role of Members within this House. We gave people the decision. The people have made that decision; we should deliver on it.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 4th December 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
Sir Vince Cable Hansard
4 Dec 2018, 9:37 p.m.

That is absolutely right, and none of us should be under any illusion that this issue is going to die in March next year. As my hon. Friend points out, we will have five or 10 years of continued negotiation about what type of trade relationship we have, and there will be bitter divisions around that. We will have a great deal of disillusionment with the costs that Brexit will inevitably entail and continued demands to return to the issue. Let us agree to have another vote on Brexit now that we know what it is. That is the least damaging and least hurtful way that we can proceed as a country.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Dec 2018, 9:40 p.m.

I am conscious that one should pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the selfless devotion that she has shown over the past two and a half years in trying to carry out Brexit. I say that particularly because of the view that I have taken that I cannot support the deal that she is bringing before this House, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge the appalling hand that she was dealt at the start of the negotiation or, indeed, her good intentions in trying to carry it out.

I want to explain briefly to the House why I cannot lend the Government my support on this matter. The reality is not so much the Prime Minister’s red lines, but the rather harsher truth that the decision that underpinned Brexit was built upon a fantasy. It was a fantasy about the nature of the United Kingdom, about its apparent lack of interdependence with other states, and about our ability to get a deal from the EU, which seemed to presuppose that we were separating ourselves from a sovereign entity not, as we are in reality, trying to detach ourselves from an international treaty organisation organised by a complicated rulebook and with limited scope for movement.

A consequence of that can be seen in the way in which, over a period of time, the ambitions that my right hon. Friend set out had progressively to be narrowed, particularly when she was also being attacked from her own side by some of my colleagues, who wanted to restrict her and imposed on her the red lines that underpinned much of her negotiation. The consequence of that is where we are now. Quite frankly, we might have been led by archangels to get a better outcome, because all negotiations move towards the mean centre, and it is where the power lies that you end up getting the agreement.

The consequence is that, far from detaching ourselves from a complicated international treaty, we only have to look at the 585-plus pages of the document that has been brought back, plus the 26 pages of the political declaration, to see that we are in the process of enmeshing ourselves in another very complex international treaty, but one that is much more disadvantageous to this country than the one we are leaving.

One only has to look at this, perhaps with a lawyer’s eye, to see the arbitration mechanisms, the continuing role of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and the complex issues underpinning Northern Ireland, where what we are effectively doing is substituting a bilateral treaty with the Irish Government, which was underpinned for its legitimacy by a referendum north and south of the border, and replacing it with an international treaty that makes the EU the guarantor of certain aspects of it. Where is the recovery of sovereignty in that?

Far from it giving us greater freedom of action, the entirety of this document restricts it. Of course I understand that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes that, in the political negotiations to follow, some of those problems may be overcome. I cannot make a prediction, but it is possible that they may be overcome, because I acknowledge that the EU may wish it, too. But the reality is that there is enough of a challenge that it ought to give this House real pause for thought.

Of course if there were total consensus, I might be reassured that, despite the fact I see this as a second-rate outcome, it may be worthy of support, but I only have to listen to so many of my hon. and right hon. Friends to realise, and I agree with what has been said, that in reality, far from bringing this debate to an end, we are only just embarking on it. And it will destroy this country over years of sterile debate about a future relationship, with the very real possibility that, at the end of it, we are still left in a relationship of dependency, because that comes from our geography, without any of the advantages of full participation. I do not consider that I can look my sons in the eye and say that I am simply prepared to sign this off.

The point has been made that we are living at a time when the will of the people should be respected and that we cannot ignore the result of the 2016 referendum, and I certainly acknowledge that it cannot be ignored. Many people voted for a multiplicity of reasons and the majority of them voted to leave, but when one ends up with a deal that is so markedly different from the things that were discussed in the referendum, it does not seem undemocratic to say that if the Prime Minister wishes to have this deal, the proper course of action is to go back to the people of this country and ask them whether it is what they really want.

There is an alternative, which is remaining in the EU, and I acknowledge there might even be one or two other alternatives beyond that, although renegotiating this package looks to be a pretty fantastic idea. As for no deal, a moment’s look at the economic projections shows that it would plunge this country into chaos for the sake of satisfying the ideological fixations of a tiny minority of this House, and that I will not let happen.

I do not know what will happen if the Government lose the motion. I have no desire to hurt the Government, and I want my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to continue leading this country, but at least it would provide an opportunity for this House to rise to the occasion, to put party political considerations to one side and to start to work together to see if we can achieve a better outcome. The opportunity is there. I am pleased that hon. Members supported my amendment this afternoon and I am grateful to them, as it provides a foundation, at least by means of process, for taking that forward. I will vote for the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) in due course, because it also takes matters a further step forward. I am certainly prepared to engage with any right hon. and hon. Member in this House as to what other options than my own ideas might be available, although I come back to a basic point: we cannot be seen to be cheating the electorate of the 2016 outcome, and we have to recognise and acknowledge the consequences of that in the way in which we consult them. Subject to that, with reluctance, because it is certainly not an easy matter for me to find myself diverging from my own party, I have to say that this is a matter on which the national interest must come first. I am absolutely firm in my conviction that this deal is not good for the future of our country.

Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP) Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Dec 2018, 9:46 p.m.

This House has, fundamentally, a duty to respect the clear will of the people of the United Kingdom as delivered in the referendum and to deliver our exit from the EU as one United Kingdom. I regret to say that the withdrawal agreement put forward by the Prime Minister and a majority but not all of the Cabinet falls short of that objective. To enter into this arrangement, first through the transition period, as proposed, and then the backstop provisions, means we enter a twilight world where the EU is given unprecedented powers over the UK, certainly in the transition period, and massive leverage in the negotiations on the future trade relationship. And we would have to rely on the good will of others to let us ever leave these arrangements. Under these terms, the UK’s future as a strong and independent global trading nation, standing together, is in real and imminent jeopardy; this is an outcome that does not honour the result of the referendum or take back control of our laws, money and borders.

Leaving the EU

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 26th November 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Nov 2018, 4:42 p.m.

That is not the case. I think the right hon. Gentleman was quoting the minute of the Council meeting of the 27, which has in it a number of issues that actually show—[Interruption.] Yes, other member states do have concerns in relation to a number of these issues. They have those concerns partly because they were not able to arrive at the position that they would have preferred to have in the political declaration that we have agreed with the European Union, because we have resolutely stood up for our fishermen.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
26 Nov 2018, 4:43 p.m.

I know that my right hon. Friend has been working hard in what she sees as the best interests of the country, and it has been a pretty thankless task, but I must say to her that I did worry when I read at the weekend her letter to the British people, which sets out a picture of the future that seems to me to be at clear variance with any rational analysis of the text in relation to the political declaration. How can we seriously say to people that the Northern Ireland backstop will not act as a fetter on our future freedom of action? How can we say that we will lose the jurisdiction of the ECJ, when it is in fact going to continue to play a major part in our lives for the foreseeable future? If we are to have an informed debate, would it not be better that we are completely transparent about the sorts of problems that we will have to face when, if the Prime Minister succeeds with her motion in two weeks’ time, we get through the stage of leaving the EU on 29 March? The truth of the matter is that our problems have hardly begun.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard

Of course it is the case—I explained the reason why earlier—that we have to negotiate the full legal text of the future economic partnership and the future security partnership, and I know that my right hon. and learned Friend will understand the reason for that. What is important is that we have in the political declaration the set of instructions to the negotiators in respect of the basis on which the future relationship will be set, which is one that in trade terms is ambitious and unlike any other given to any other third country and that in security terms is also unlike any other given to any third country, because it is more ambitious, closer and a better partnership than any other country has.

Progress on EU Negotiations

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Thursday 22nd November 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Nov 2018, 3:48 p.m.

I responded on the issue of the second referendum when I responded to my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening). On the question of the economy, this is a deal that protects jobs and livelihoods across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

Is not the lesson of this long negotiation that, when you try to unravel yourself from an international rules-based system because you do not like the rules, unless you want chaos, you start creating a completely new set of rules, many of which are in fact as binding and onerous on this country as any that we had before? In that context, the backstop—I have to say this to my right hon. Friend—is a constitutional anomaly of the first order because it makes the EU the guarantor of a bilateral treaty between ourselves and Ireland on which the people have never been consulted. I urge her in those circumstances, if she wants to go ahead with this, to put her deal to the people of this country and to offer them the alternative of remaining, because the one big eye-opener that one sees from all this is that, however hard she has tried, at the end of the day, we will be in an international rules-based system because that in fact is where our national interest lies.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Nov 2018, 3:45 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend has heard my response about asking the people in a second referendum what their views are. What we have negotiated is an arrangement with the European Union that continues a close partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU. I believe that that is the right thing for us to do and that coming out of the EU will enable us to develop even closer partnerships with other countries around the world through our trade deals and, indeed, through other means of support and the work we will be able to do with them on security and defence. It is also important, given our geographical position and given that the EU is our nearest trading neighbour, that we continue to have that good relationship with the EU, and that is what this delivers.

EU Exit Negotiations

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 15th October 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Hansard
15 Oct 2018, 4:22 p.m.

We continue to work for a good deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard

I wish my right hon. Friend every good thing in this negotiation, but I do point out to her that we are heading towards a conclusion where we are going to be in an at least two-year relationship with the EU—which is a condition of vassalage, because we have absolutely no say in the rule making, but we are tied to it—and we are going to be bound by a common rulebook afterwards, even if she is successful. I have to say to her that, in those circumstances, I will not be able to support the Government in this, unless this matter is put to the British people again. It is entirely different from what was discussed and negotiated during the referendum in 2016.

The Prime Minister - Hansard
15 Oct 2018, 4:23 p.m.

I say gently to my right hon. and learned Friend that I think I recall the time when he was in favour of the Government negotiating an implementation period for our withdrawal from the European Union, to bridge the point between our leaving on 29 March 2019 and the point at which the future relationship would come into place. We have set out the reasons why it is important for us to ensure that at the heart of our future relationship is a free trade deal that has frictionless trade at its heart—that is a good trade deal for the United Kingdom, but also enables us to undertake good trade deals with others around the world.

Salisbury Update

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 5th September 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2018, 1:18 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the tone of his response and his support for the Government’s work. He mentioned the emergency services. As I said, and he also said, we send our immense thanks to all those in the emergency services, the police, our security and intelligence agencies and the national health service who responded to these incidents, and for the work of the police and the intelligence agencies that has enabled us to identify these two individuals and to issue the Interpol red notice and the European arrest warrant. The armed forces were also present in the clean-up and made their expertise available. We are grateful to them, too.

The right hon. Gentleman asks about Scottish limited partnerships. The Home Office has been looking at this issue with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We intend to introduce legislation to cover a range of abuses, and I am sure that the Security Minister would be happy to speak to him about that.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his understanding and acceptance of what I said in my statement about the role of the GRU and the culpability of the Russian state. I also thank him for his clear condemnation of the Russian state. I only wish that such a clear condemnation might be possible from the leaders of all parties in the House.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2018, 1:19 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in her identification of the Russian state. What we are is the victim of state terrorism by a state that is run as a gangster organisation, that threatens us all and has done so repeatedly on the international stage, and that is wholly outside the international rules-based system. I greatly agree with her in commending the work of our police and security services in elucidating the surrounding circumstances around this appalling act.

On behalf of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I look forward to further details relating to the background. In the meantime, does my right hon. Friend agree that we will have to look carefully at the ease with which Russian nationals on Russian passports can come in and out of this country? Obviously, as a free country, we wish to facilitate the exchange of people, but that will clearly become a pertinent issue when it becomes so apparent that the system is being abused by the Russian state for the purpose of sending hoods and murderers into our country to kill our citizens and those who are protected by us.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2018, 1:21 p.m.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his comments. As I said in my statement, we will indeed ensure that further detail is available for the Intelligence and Security Committee. As I understand it, the individuals came into the United Kingdom under valid passports that were issued by the Russian Government. We have already stepped up our powers by introducing an ability to stop people at ports to consider and investigate whether they are involved in hostile state activity. Of course, we look continually to ensure that we have all the powers necessary to deal with these issues, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will continue to do that.

Military Action Overseas: Parliamentary Approval

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Tuesday 17th April 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 2:06 p.m.

None. How do we— [Interruption.] Well, look. I am trying to be— [Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) waving her arms. I have already made the point, as the hon. Member for Wells (James Heappey) would know if he had been listening to what I have been saying, that I do not expect the Government to have to share intelligence information with Members of Parliament. Let me also be clear, for the absence of doubt: I accept the case that has been put that the Syrian regime is responsible for the chemical weapons attack. I am happy with the explanation that has been given, and, in my case, I have been made aware of some of the intelligence information.

Let us not say that Parliament cannot take action on the basis of being told what it can be told. But it does not need to be told what is sensitive intelligence information. That is the way Parliament has worked, and we are asking that parliamentary democracy continues to take place.

Taking military action is not easy; we accept that. Finding a way through the morass in Syria and offering hope to the people is more difficult, but that is an issue that, as part of any plan for military action, has to be discussed.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 2:07 p.m.

rose—

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 2:07 p.m.

I happily give way to my learned friend.

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 2:07 p.m.

Is there not this difficulty? If we in the House seek to debate, in anticipation, a military action that is of a high level of specificity, in reality, where the Government cannot explain the specifics, we will be in considerable difficulty having a sensible debate on that subject. Let us look at this realistically. That is in fact one of the issues that has to be addressed. I hope I may have a chance to speak about that later.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard

I am grateful for that intervention, but no one is asking for the Government to be specific to that degree about the action being proposed.

Break in Debate

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 3:38 p.m.

I have just said that these Christian leaders are under great pressure from the Assad regime to toe the party line, as it were, but the fact is that their responsibility is to protect their own communities, which are under unprecedented pressure. We have to take some account of the pressure on Christian communities.

Last week, when the Vatican all-party group was in Rome, we had a meeting on persecuted Christians in Syria. We met every single expert from the refugee services and from all around the world who look into this issue, and they all told us that bombing was a dangerous thing to do with regard to opinion in the middle east and pressure from Muslims on the remaining Christian communities. I was struck when the representative of the Catholic Church in Pakistan said that the Catholic communities there would get it in the neck even more because, unfairly, so many Muslims do not differentiate between Russian bombs, American bombs, French bombs and British bombs. They say that the misery in Syria has been caused by foreign Christian powers raining bombs on their communities. That might be an unfair point of view, but it is generally held in the middle east.

This point has not been made by anybody else in the debate so far: I accept that the Government were right to act, and that they have powers under the royal prerogative to act, but I do not believe that we should pursue any more our objective of trying to change the Assad regime. If we then do act for humanitarian reasons—if we intervene to deter a possible chemical attack—we will have much more credibility in the middle east, because we would not be seen to be taking sides. That is the way forward.

Mr Grieve Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 3:39 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh - Hansard
17 Apr 2018, 3:37 p.m.

Unfortunately I cannot give way because I am running out of time.

I have agreed with my right hon. and learned Friend, but I hope that when we debate these matters in future, we will remember this and avoid all hypocrisy. The fact is that as much as we detest Assad and as much as he is a dictator, none of us, as Christians, would want to live in an area of Syria that was outside Assad’s control, because he would protect us. That is a difficult thing to say in Parliament and not everybody will agree with it, but I have to say what I have to say.

Syria

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 16th April 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Hansard
16 Apr 2018, 5:12 p.m.

I set out in my statement the basis on which we took this decision. I recognise the importance and significance of Parliament and of Parliament being able to make its views known on these issues, but it is also important that the Government are able to act. There will always be circumstances in which it is important for the Government to be able to act and, for the operational security of our armed forces, to be able to do so without a debate having taken place in Parliament. There will be circumstances where that is the case, and the Government have consistently set that out. If those are the circumstances, as I have said, it is right that the Prime Minister comes to Parliament at the earliest opportunity.

In relation to potential future action, as I said in response to the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable), this was a targeted attack. It was targeted at degrading the chemical weapons capability of the Syrian regime. We now look, alongside that, to undertake international work through diplomatic and political channels to ensure that we reinforce the international norm of not using chemical weapons. Nobody should be in any doubt about our resolve to ensure that we do not see a situation developing in which the use of chemical weapons is normalised.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Apr 2018, 5:13 p.m.

If the Leader of the Opposition persists in changing the Labour party’s previous adherence to the rule that international law justifies taking unilateral action in the event of humanitarian necessity, does my right hon. Friend agree that the consequence will be that any tyrant, megalomaniac or other person intent on carrying out genocide, if they have the support of an amoral state on the Security Council will be able to conduct that genocide with total impunity, even if it were within our power to act to prevent it? Does she agree that in those circumstances, far from upholding the international rules-based system, the reality is that it would be dead?

The Prime Minister - Hansard

I absolutely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. If we were to say that we are prepared to act only when we have the support of the United Nations—given that, as we have seen in this circumstance, a member of the UN Security Council is willing repeatedly to veto the ability to investigate these issues—any tyrant could determine that they can act and use these weapons with impunity. We must not allow that. The use of these chemical weapons must be stopped.

National Security and Russia

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 26th March 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 6:04 p.m.

We have asked Foreign Ministers to look at what steps they think it is important for us to take. We, as the UK, have already been at the forefront of the economic sanctions that have been put in place in relation to Russia following the illegal annexation of Crimea, and of course the European Council will want to be looking at those sanctions for the future.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 6:04 p.m.

I agree entirely with the approach that my right hon. Friend has adopted. She highlighted the absolute need for our response to be lawful. Does she agree that that is why the collective response that she has achieved across our allies will be so important—because otherwise the temptation will always be that we cannot resist this kind of unlawful assault without resorting to methods of our own that would be unacceptable—and why the alliance that she has forged on this is of the greatest possible importance for us?

The Prime Minister - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 6:05 p.m.

My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right about the importance of the alliance, both in the strength of the signal that it sends but also in the very clear message that we are not resorting to any sort of, as he says, unlawful methods. We are actually acting in full sight of and in accordance with the law.

As I have made clear before, we have no disagreement with the Russian people who have achieved so much through their country’s great history. Indeed, our thoughts are with them today, especially the friends and families of those who died in the awful shopping centre fire in Kemerovo in Siberia. Neither should we wish to be in a permanent state of perpetual confrontation with Russia. Many of us, as I said in answer to an intervention, looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope. We would much rather have in Russia a constructive partner ready to play by the rules. But while we should continue to keep open this possibility, we must also face the facts. President Putin’s regime is carrying out acts of aggression against our values and interests within Europe and beyond.

The challenge of Russia is one that will endure for years to come. As a European democracy, the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the European Union and NATO to face down these threats together. We will defend our infrastructure, our institutions and our values against attempts to undermine them, and we will act to protect our national security and to keep our people safe. I commend this motion to the House.

Break in Debate

Mr Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:03 p.m.

May I start my remarks by repeating the welcome I gave to the Prime Minister earlier for the efforts the Government have undertaken to secure this impressive level of solidarity and support from our European friends and others? I welcome any personal role the Foreign Secretary played in that. This shows that they certainly have no doubt of Kremlin culpability, and I am sure they would have been given access to information that most Members have not had access to, which has helped them arrive at that conclusion, along with the clear evidence from Porton Down and elsewhere.

I warmly welcome the clear statement by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he accepts Russian culpability. I deprecate the barracking he received from some Government Members, most of whom are no longer here, having just popped in to barrack him. They have never been here for debates on Russia before and they did not even listen to what he had to say. That was deplorable behaviour, and I want to put that on the record.

I have been raising my concerns about Russia for many, many years. Indeed, when I first started raising concerns about 18 months ago about Russian interference in our democracy, I was treated as a bit of an eccentric, a crank and a conspiracy theorist. I started raising those concerns because of the evidence of what had happened in the United States presidential election. Having expressed those concerns, I found myself to be the recipient of a great deal of very interesting information, some of which has since come out. I have to tell hon. Members that a great deal more that is very serious is still to come out. I shall confine my remarks to my concerns about Russia’s propaganda and interference in democracy as part of its hybrid war against the west. This is not just about the direct interference in elections or electoral systems; I want the Government to take seriously the attention paid by the Kremlin to political parties, think tanks and our educational establishment.

First, on elections, we know from the US about the extent of Kremlin interference in its presidential election and there is growing evidence here. I have to commend the Chair of the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for the work he and his Committee are doing to look into what happened here in terms of social media. I hope that when the Intelligence and Security Committee commences its work, it will look into that in even greater detail. I first raised this issue in a question to the Prime Minister in December 2016, and I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary could tell the House what action the Government took in response to my raising those concerns. Did they just leave the matter to the ongoing investigations of the Electoral Commission, or did they make their own inquiries and take up their own responsibilities for ensuring that our electoral systems are safe and secure?

Mr Dominic Grieve Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:06 p.m.

I just want to give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that it was the Committee’s intention to look at the full spectrum of Russian activity.

Mr Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Bradshaw - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:06 p.m.

That is extremely good news, and I very much welcome the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s Committee is doing that.

I would also like the Foreign Secretary to comment, if he can, on what the Government and their agencies are doing to take down Kremlin operations that seek to influence and infiltrate our political parties. He has a particular responsibility in this area, for example, to have satisfied himself that all those who have donated to his political party and to individual Conservative MPs, including some wealthy Russians here who give the impression of being Putin opponents, are in fact as stated. I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the agencies that serve under him are working very hard to make sure that he can feel confident on that.

I invite the Foreign Secretary to task the agencies to investigate the United Kingdom Independence party—this is much more serious. We already know that there are close political ties here involving Farage, who has been named as a person of interest in the Mueller investigation; that Aaron Banks is also under investigation by the Electoral Commission; and that of course Jim Mellon, the co-founder of Leave.EU, has extensive business background and current investment interests in Russia. So I would be grateful if the Foreign Secretary confirmed that as part of their investigations to counter criminal activities in this country, the Government are looking at some of the allegations that have been made around UKIP. Again, I first raised these concerns months and months ago.

Also, about 10 months ago, I highlighted concerns I had picked up about collusion between the leave campaign and these others bits of the leave campaign, such as BeLeave, to get around our strict electoral spending laws. At the same time, I also raised concerns about the role of Cambridge Analytica, and we have now seen the most extraordinary and shocking revelations this week from The Guardian, The New York Times, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “Channel 4 News” and others. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us whether the Government took the concerns I raised back then seriously and what they did about them.

Of course the other concerns that many of us have expressed was about the huge donation to the Democratic Unionist party for the leave campaign, whose source we are not allowed to know because, shockingly, the Government did not make the transparency of political donations in Northern Ireland retrospective. I hope that they will think again on that .The Electoral Commission has asked them to make that decision retrospective. It is always open to them to bring another motion to this House, so that we can do that and so that we can know and have confidence in the source of that huge donation. Again, a lot of that was spent on this digital advertising and digital work.

The United States has a powerful judicial investigation into Russian interference, under special counsel Mueller. Compare that with the farce this week of the Information Commissioner trying to get a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica’s office, which she finally managed to do late on Friday evening, having been trying all week. That clearly shows that our Electoral Commission, independent Information Commissioner and Select Committees do not have the powers they need to tackle this problem adequately. I hope that special counsel Mueller’s investigation will come up with more evidence and that the Foreign Secretary can reassure the House that all the various investigations into Russian interference in Britain are getting the full co-operation and support of all the Government’s agencies, because I have been told in the months past that that was not the case. I have since been reassured by Ministers that it is happening now, and would be grateful if the Foreign Secretary assured the House that he, the intelligence services and our other agencies are helping the Electoral Commission, the Information Commissioner and the Select Committees and providing them with anything that they ask for.

I could say a lot more on this subject, and I wanted to say more about the role of educational institutions, so I hope that the Foreign Secretary takes that on board. I have had a frustrating time trying to get some sense out of our universities—for example, those that employed Professor Mifsud, who has disappeared since being exposed in a Mueller indictment.

Let me say one more thing. On the issue of money, Bill Browder gave 12 other countries the dossiers that he has given to the British authorities. Those 12 other countries have prosecuted the people responsible; will the Secretary of State find out why that has not happened here and have a word with his fellow Ministers, to make sure that they act on the evidence with which they are provided?

Break in Debate

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:14 p.m.

No, they cannot imagine that because Kiev is the source of the Rus’ people and the thousand-year-old history of the Russian Orthodox Church, to which Kiev is as much an integral part as Canterbury is to the Anglican communion. They cannot understand Ukraine as an independent entity.

None of this is to condone or in any way defend Russia. What are we going to do about this situation? First, as I said to the Prime Minister, we need to create a coalition of peace through security. Russia would not have been too concerned about the expulsion of 23 diplomats —that is tit for tat—but it would have been very concerned about the fact that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have made alliances throughout Europe, that we have been listened to and that these expulsions have been going on today. Russia will be extremely concerned about that.

Secondly, we should not seek to copy Russia’s methods or attack it in the way that it attacks. We should be careful. I know that some Members want to close down RT. I do not defend RT in any shape or form, but we should leave it to Ofcom. We should leave it to due process, not political interference from this place. We should also be careful about what we do in respect of the City of London. It has a reputation throughout the world for fair dealing. We act on evidence. If there is evidence of criminality and dirty money, we must act on it, but we cannot attack Russians who invest in our country and in the City of London simply because they are Russian. That would be a mistake.

What do we do? We make alliances, which we have done, and we expel the diplomats. The point I have been making again and again, with the Chair of the Defence Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who went way back and quoted Palmerston, is that Russians historically respect strength. We currently have just 800 men in the Baltic states. We have 150 in Poland. It is simply not enough. Surely, history proves to us that in dealing with Russia, words are not enough. Russians want to see action on the ground.

Why did we defeat the USSR in the cold war? It was not with words, but with solid determination to spend what needed to be spent on defence. We have heard the former Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon), and we know the stresses on the defence budget. The Foreign Secretary should echo the words of the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who said in the estimates debate not three weeks ago that spending 2% on defence was not enough. We should make a solid and real commitment to the Baltic states. That is what will concern Mr Putin: the determination to put troops on the ground. I know about all the pressures on the Government that are arising from health and many other things, but unless we are prepared to make that commitment—to do what Mrs Thatcher and President Reagan were prepared to do to bring down the Soviet Union—we will never counter the Russian threat.

Russia is not a natural enemy of our country. It is sometimes difficult to say that in this Chamber. We have had speech after speech condemning Russia. We are two powers at either end of Europe. From the days of Queen Elizabeth I, we have traded together. Russia is not and should not be an existential threat to this country. There has been a lot of talk about cyber-warfare. I have no doubt that Russia is attempting and engaging in cyber-warfare, but I do not believe that it could seriously affect our democracy. We should be proud of our democracy and determined that it is resilient. We must not indulge in Russophobia. We must be proportionate and determined, and we must be prepared to spend on defence what we need to spend.

Mr Grieve Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:18 p.m.

rose—

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:17 p.m.

I was going to conclude, but I shall take my right hon. and learned Friend’s intervention before I sit down.

Mr Grieve Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:18 p.m.

I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend and think I share many of his sentiments, but the evidence of Russia’s behaviour in cyber-space is of the most extreme recklessness. It is totally outside the international rule of law and raises some very difficult challenges about how we deal with it.

Sir Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh - Hansard
26 Mar 2018, 8:18 p.m.

Of course, I would not want for a moment to disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. He knows what is going on and I echo what he says: the Russians are indulging in some attempt to destabilise our values. I make no defence of what they are doing; I just think that we are a sufficiently robust economy and democracy that we can weather it and that they will not change things fundamentally in our country. We should be aware of it, but we should have confidence in our self-reliance.

It is terribly important that we are serious about this subject. There is absolutely no point in our having this debate and attacking President Putin, only for all our attacks to completely wash off the Russian people, who do not want to be an extension of western Europe in their values, economy or anything else. What will have an effect on them? Is it words in this Chamber, or actions on the ground? Are actions on the ground enough? There may be no absolute real and present danger to our country, but there is to the Baltic states, not least because of their very sizable Russian minority.

Salisbury Incident

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 14th March 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard
14 Mar 2018, 1:17 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for the Democratic Unionist party’s support for the Government’s action. On actions to be taken by international allies, they were, of course, waiting for us to announce the various actions that we will take following the decision taken by the National Security Council this morning. We will hold further discussions with our allies about how they can support what we are doing through taking actions themselves.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
14 Mar 2018, 1:18 p.m.

I entirely agree with the approach adopted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her response to this outrageous attack. Does she agree that the difficulty we face lies not so much in getting the concurrence of our allies in agreeing the nature of the outrage, but in how we craft a sustained strategy, so that those of us who believe in the rules-based international system can apply the necessary leverage and persuasion on Russia to conform to it? The very serious risk that we run is that if we do not succeed in doing that, the level of violence that Russia will exercise with impunity against other states and us will simply increase. Our allies in particular must have regard to that if we are to make any progress.

The Prime Minister - Parliament Live - Hansard

My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely correct that we need to address this issue in that wider sense, because it is about the way in which the Russian state is acting—it believes, with impunity—in a whole variety of ways, and the way in which it is flouting the international rules-based order. We must come together as allies to ensure that we support that international rules-based order and that we have not just a collective agreement, but a collective approach that ensures that we can challenge what Russia is doing. He is also right that one of the points we should be making to our allies is that while this may have happened in the United Kingdom, it could be happening in any of those states.

Salisbury Incident

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 12th March 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
The Prime Minister - Hansard
12 Mar 2018, 4:14 p.m.

Of course, we are aware of the need in the United Kingdom to ensure that our financial system cannot be used for illicit money flows, that appropriate action is taken by law enforcement and other bodies to ensure that we identify such flows and that we make the appropriate response to them. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, we are already putting in place a number of measures to improve the information that is available in a transparent way in relation to the holding of certain assets here by those from overseas, and that is something we will continue to work on.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
12 Mar 2018, 4:14 p.m.

I entirely agree with the Prime Minister’s approach to this murderous attack. She will be aware, as she has stated, that it is part of a pattern of behaviour by which a state uses covert means in breach of both international law and the rule of law to attack with impunity whoever it wishes. In those circumstances, does she agree that we face a very particular challenge that is not likely to go away any time soon? In that context, in trying to inform the public of the risks and of the appropriate way of responding for a parliamentary democracy, can I encourage her to make use of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which chose to carry out an inquiry into Russia’s threat last autumn, so that we can take that forward and provide as much information as we can publicly about the nature of the threat and the best means of responding to it?

The Prime Minister - Hansard
12 Mar 2018, 4:14 p.m.

It was very good that the ISC had already announced that it would be considering issues around Russian activity against the UK that requires investigation. I look forward to the work that my right hon. and learned Friend’s Committee will be doing on that, and the Government will work with the ISC to share relevant information that is within its remit.

Overseas Electors Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Friday 23rd February 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Cabinet Office
Glyn Davies Hansard
23 Feb 2018, 12:32 p.m.

A lot of detail will be involved in this Bill. That matter will probably be dealt with in Committee —I just hope that it will go through to Committee so that we can deal with that then. The Minister who is responding later will have picked up on that point.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
23 Feb 2018, 12:33 p.m.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I wholly support this measure. Does he agree that, actually, many people were very hurt when this Parliament reduced the period from 20 to 15 years, quite gratuitously, giving overseas voters the impression that they were not valued? There is a marked contrast between the way we deal with this matter in this country and how it is dealt with in many other countries, such as France, which embraces its overseas voters, wishes them to maintain the link, sees them as valued, and makes every effort to ensure that they can participate in the national political life of the country.

Glyn Davies Hansard
23 Feb 2018, 12:33 p.m.

That is another intervention that I greatly welcome and that accords totally with my thinking. It is damaging, yes. We have moved away from the principle of having any restriction at all, which is sensible. I want to come on to that point, but, first, I will take another intervention.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

(Committee: 4th sitting: House of Commons)
Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Monday 4th December 2017

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Cabinet Office
Jenny Chapman Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 4:33 p.m.

I sincerely hope that that will not be the outcome, but I have to admire the hon. and learned Lady’s ability to spot an opportunity and take it.

The Government have never argued that these powers need to be in London or that they intend to hold on to them permanently. Rather, it seems that they feel that tackling the undoubted complexities of considering how to make new arrangements with the devolved Administrations post Brexit belongs in the “too difficult” pile—something to be put off until there is more time and there are fewer distractions. However, there are no time limits on when the Government will cease to hoard the powers. While the hard-line Brexiteers on the Back Benches are promised a time and date—to the very nanosecond—for when they will see powers returned from Brussels, the nations of our Union are told to wait indefinitely. The people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland deserve better from the Government.

The Government agree with Labour and the devolved Administrations that frameworks are needed—I think—and new clause 64 assists them by outlining how that can be achieved. The presumption should be that powers remain devolved as is the case now, and that UK frameworks are created to co-ordinate policy in some areas through negotiation with the devolved Administrations. To do anything else would turn back the clock on devolution—impossible—and cause untold damage to important relationships between Parliaments.

As well as having the motivation and attention to address this issue, the Government need to trust the devolved Administrations. That is why our proposal makes explicit the obligations on each Government and the nature of the frameworks needed. So far, the Government have not exactly shone in their endeavour to develop a UK-wide approach to Brexit, so new clause 65 helps by putting the Joint Ministerial Committee on a statutory footing.

It is important to reflect on the absence of representation from Northern Ireland on the JMC. The suspension of the Executive is deeply regrettable, and permits the neglect of the needs, concerns, ambitions and hopes of the people of Northern Ireland. Their voices must not go unheard at this most critical of moments, but need to be amplified, as it is they who have the most to lose from a chaotic departure from the EU.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 4:39 p.m.

I am following the hon. Lady’s speech carefully. I am also looking very carefully at her new clause, but I do not see how it would resolve the question of what would happen if we set up joint structures and there was disagreement about how they will work. It can, of course, be argued that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is ultimately sovereign, so I think that it is a matter of law that if there is a disagreement, the logjam would ultimately be resolved by this Parliament and the Government in Whitehall having primacy. The question the hon. Lady has to answer is whether the structure she is putting forward would be workable in practice, or if it would just lead to conflict.

Jenny Chapman Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 4:38 p.m.

The new clause is not intended to cause conflict—we already have a certain degree of conflict between the Administrations—but, rather, to remove that conflict, and to provide a mechanism by which issues can be resolved. Hearteningly, the JMC seems to have started to function rather better than it did when we last went around this particular issue. It has issued statements that explain how it wants these frameworks to be established, so it does not seem to be too much of a leap to write that into the Bill.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will probably remember our attempt to put the JMC on a statutory footing when we considered the article 50 Bill, but this time the Brexit negotiations are upon us. The Government have lost their majority since our last attempt, so I encourage Ministers to take a more conciliatory approach this time. New clauses 64 and 65 would force the Government to respect both the devolution of decisions, and those who are responsible for taking the decisions.

Break in Debate

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 5:17 p.m.

I am surprised at that intervention from the hon. Gentleman. I expressed right at the outset of my speech that we recognise that progress was made, but that progress has not been sufficient to justify the SNP supporting this Bill tonight. The whole point about our position is that we want to see frameworks in place, but we can move forward on that only when the UK Government are prepared to negotiate. Why was there a six-month period when the Joint Ministerial Committee did not meet? If there is any blame in this matter, it lies with those on the Government Benches.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is not a fag paper between the position of the SNP on these Benches and that of our colleagues up the road in Holyrood. We are united, which is more than can be said of the Conservative party, because Ruth Davidson is delivering a very different message from the one that is being delivered by the Conservatives down here. Ruth Davidson recognises the threat to Scotland of being out of the single market and the customs union. The Scottish Conservatives would serve the interests of the people of Scotland if they recognised that there is an economic threat from being outwith the single market and the customs union.

Mr Grieve Hansard

If I may say so, I have sympathy with the point that is being put across—that the way in which the Bill is drafted seems to be excessively stark and to fail to take account of the sensitivities of the devolution settlements. However, I am afraid I cannot join the right hon. Gentleman on the rhetoric, because, ultimately, as a United Kingdom, which is what we are, there has to be flexibility in reaching a sensible way forward in the light of a change in circumstance. If I may gently say so to him, because I participated actively in the debates on the devolution legislation of 1997, it was always acknowledged then that devolution was not just a one-way street; for it to work, we required that flexibility of dialogue between Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast and London to reach solutions and not just to get anchored on principles. While I am respectful of the point he is trying to make, I suggest to him that that might be a sensible way forward.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford - Hansard

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend, if I may call him that, for that intervention. I always listen carefully to what he has to say, and I think that, in some respects, he makes my point. Way back last December, the Scottish Government published a paper about achieving compromise, and that is the position we have always taken. We fully recognise that we have to get to a situation where we can compromise and where we need to have joint frameworks. The nub of this argument is where the powers should lie when they come back from the EU. It would be far better if they came back to the Scottish Parliament, so that we could agree a framework; as it is, the UK has grabbed the powers and is failing to discuss these matters adequately—not just with the Government in Edinburgh, but with the Government in Wales.

The Bill returns powers solely to the UK Government and Parliament, imposing new restrictions on devolved legislatures. Scotland is getting used to Labour and Tory politicians promising all sorts of things during referendums but never delivering them. It is astonishing that just three years ago the Conservative and Labour parties were telling the people of Scotland that the biggest threat to the economy and EU citizenship was an independent Scotland—“Vote no to protect the UK’s EU membership!” Let us think about that for a minute. Now we are losing our EU membership. The economy is already seeing the effects, inflation is up and the fall in the pound and living standards has been the consequence.

The reality is that Brexit is making us poorer before it even takes hold. Our prosperity is under threat. Meanwhile, the UK Government are attempting the biggest power grab since 1999.

Debate on the Address

Mr Dominic Grieve Excerpts
Wednesday 21st June 2017

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate
Cabinet Office
Mr Speaker Hansard
21 Jun 2017, 5:58 p.m.

The opening speeches—although they were, of course, of undiluted magnificence—have taken a little longer than I might reasonably have expected, and therefore it might become necessary before long to impose a formal time limit. There are, I ask the House to accept, good reasons why I do not wish to impose a formal time limit at this point, but I would ask for a degree of self-restraint and for Members to consider the merit of a speech not exceeding 10 minutes. I feel sure that that exacting test can be met with ease by someone of the consummate intellectual brilliance of the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve).

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con) Hansard
21 Jun 2017, 5:58 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to participate in this debate. As somebody who was accused during the election campaign of being a red Tory—I think my late father would have found that a strange and vile epithet to be hurled at me—I must say that I was greatly reassured by listening to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). As he touched on many of the subjects that I wanted to talk about, I immediately tried to identify areas of disagreement that I might have with him, and I rather failed to do so. In contrast, I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), but notwithstanding the fact that I rather hoped I would find myself in agreement with him, much of the tone that he adopted—it was of a rather carping and sanctimonious kind—emphasised to me why I am in the Conservative party and not somewhere else.

There is much to welcome in the Queen’s Speech. It has rightly been pointed out that it was the speech of a liberal Conservative; it encompasses liberal Conservative values. Among the key issues that we will be addressing are counter-extremism, dealing with personal data, trying to improve community cohesion by introducing special advocates and public advocates to act in cases of disasters, and working to improve general community relations and the way in which our communities operate. Those are all matters that I greatly welcome and in which I hope to participate. Recently, I have been chairing a commission for Citizens UK on Muslim participation in public life in this country and the report is due to be published on 3 July. I hope that that will make a sensible contribution to a key issue for our wellbeing and our future.

The Government were absolutely right to highlight at the start of the Queen’s Speech that the priority has to be the careful management of Brexit because, contrary to the views expressed by a few of my colleagues to whom I have spoken since the election, it seems to me that Brexit was, without the slightest doubt, the single key issue in how the election was conducted, the reasons behind it and, indeed, the inconclusive outcome, which was in one sense unsatisfactory. It is the elephant in the room; it is the man on the stair who wasn’t there. Even when people sought to discuss other issues, in truth it all came back to the anxieties and concerns, whether in the business community or for individuals, about our collective future precipitated by this single revolutionary act.

I appreciate that revolutionary acts can be conducted by people who believe profoundly that they are acting in the name of traditional values, but revolutionary it undoubtedly is. One only has to look at the Queen’s Speech and see that by the third paragraph we are into the lawyerly detail that will have to be crunched through to achieve even the legal formalities of departure to appreciate the mammoth task we have taken on. Lurking behind it is the key issue of whether our economic wellbeing survives the process and whether the promises that have been made by some in this House of a better tomorrow because of the liberation it will give us are capable of being delivered. Nearly 12 months since Brexit was voted on, I am afraid that I have no greater confidence that we will achieve such a satisfactory outcome than I had at the time the referendum took place. Indeed, on the economic indicators that are developing, which are the direct result of Brexit, it seems to me, speaking bluntly, that the omens are not particularly good.

All of us in this House have a responsibility—it is one of the reasons I was elected—to provide quiet government. Obviously, quiet government does not mean rolling over and doing nothing in the face of c