Business of the House Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Business of the House

Richard Benyon Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Leader of the House
Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:54 p.m.

That sounds like some sort of admission that the Conservatives are on their way out and they are expecting to change places. God help us if what the hon. Gentleman says was ever actually the case. There are in fact lots of deficiencies in the Bill—I am quite happy to concede that—but what he presented is not one of them. The Bill explicitly mandates the Prime Minister to come back to ensure that there is a statement about any conversations she has with the EU. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should perhaps read the Bill before he intervenes again.

This is a day for precedent, isn’t it? As another part of the breakthrough in the Brexit process, we now have the Prime Minister sitting down exclusively with the Leader of the Opposition. This idea to try to share Brexit with the Opposition is a huge elephant trap that has been set for the Leader of the Opposition, and he has gone wandering into it with his size 12 shoes, like some sort of hairy mammoth. That is exactly what the Opposition are doing today, and it will be fascinating. Today, remainer meets leaver across the table to discuss Brexit—a remainer whose party is a bunch of leavers and a leaver whose party is a bunch of remainers—so this will be fascinating. We are looking forward to the outcome of this particular meeting, and I think the whole House will be thoroughly entertained by the outcome. For Scottish National party Members, this looks a bit like Better Together 2.0: the sequel. Here are Labour and the Conservatives sitting down to conspire to take Scotland out of Europe against its will. That is exactly what will be done, or it looks very much like that to us on these Benches.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:55 p.m.

Is it possible to know the hon. Gentleman’s views on the programme motion, which is what we are debating now?

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 2:55 p.m.

If I may gently correct the right hon. Gentleman, it is actually a business motion, not a programme motion, and I am speaking to the business motion. I do not know who informs the Tories, but I think they need the Whip’s note to be passed around to ensure they are actually asking the right questions, because a few of them have come up very short today. However, I always enjoy the entertainment with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

We will support this business motion today. We know the Government are going to oppose it. What is intriguing is what they are going to do beyond that, because they may very well be supporting the Boles motion—

Break in Debate

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 3:43 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Many promises were made by David Cameron, Ruth Davidson and others during the Scottish independence referendum that have not been kept.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 3:43 p.m.

The business motion?

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 3:43 p.m.

I will return to the business motion, which in fairness I have addressed so far—[Interruption.] I know that people sometimes do not want to hear the SNP voices in this House, and that has not gone unnoticed in Scotland. Judging by my mailbox, it certainly has not gone unnoticed by many of my constituents who are not natural SNP voters but who still do not like the sight of SNP MPs being howled down. Conservative Members might like to bear that in mind. I am sure that Ruth Davidson will be on the phone to them, because she seems to think that she is going to beat me in my constituency at the next general election—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I wouldn’t get too excited, because the person they sent last time did not succeed, and that was before this fiasco unfolded.

I shall get back to my main point, which is the legitimate concern of Conservative Members that what is happening today might set an unfortunate precedent. I say to them that we are in extremis today because of the Government’s failure to govern properly. Nothing in this sorry, chaotic fiasco of Brexit should set a precedent for anything we do in the future. What we are doing today, we are doing only because we are in extremis.

Break in Debate

Mr Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 4:33 p.m.

Indeed, but given that a number of Members of this House have made it quite clear that they do not want to deliver the result of the last referendum, I am not sure that a fair choice would be presented to the public or that they would be given the full range of options.

Let me conclude with a message for those on my Front Bench. I do not know where the discussions with the Leader of the Opposition are going to go, but all I would say is this. Having looked carefully at the indicative votes, I would issue a word of caution. If the Government end up trying to deliver a withdrawal agreement and political declaration that tries to deliver something that has been opposed by a significant majority of their own Members of Parliament—75% of Conservative MPs voted against a customs union and common market 2.0—it is not going to end well. I urge the Government, even at this stage, to reflect on that and perhaps change course.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 4:34 p.m.

I have agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) on almost everything. He and I were on the same side in the referendum. In the Government and on the Back Benches, I have been awed by his intellect and his understanding of procedure. I supported him in the Lobby, to the concern of my Front Bench, on a number of occasions recently, not least on indicative votes. I agree with him, and with many Members on both sides of the House, about the utter horror that could be delivered on our constituents by a no-deal Brexit. I agree with my right hon. Friend that of the 17.4 million people who voted undeniably to leave the European Union, not all of them were voting to leave with no deal—they certainly were not—and that we need to make sure we leave in an ordered way. It therefore grieves me that I will not be joining my right hon. Friend in the Lobby tonight. I just want to take a few moments to explain to the House why.

I believe what my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) said earlier about legislating in haste and repenting at leisure. Actually, I would amend it: if we legislate in haste, we repent in opposition. We need to be very careful about how we use the procedures of the House. I am entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and others—many Members on both sides of the House, with whom I have worked with on these issues in recent months, are absolutely genuine—on using the procedures of the House to stop bad things, such as no deal, happening to our constituents, but my right hon. and hon. Friends must understand that their efforts are being played by people who want other things. We therefore have to be very careful about how we use them.

I came to the decision before I arrived at the House not to support the motion. I had no conversations with Ministers, Whips or anybody else. I am just uncomfortable about it. I believe that what happened yesterday is an issue in our debate on procedures. The Prime Minister made a clear commitment. In a Parliament where trust has become a much rarer commodity than at any time in my 14 years in this House, and where trust in this House is much limited from people outside it looking in, I do trust the Prime Minister. If that trust is not upheld, I am sure that the schadenfreude from all sides of the House will be heaped upon me. But this is a very difficult time for the country. This is a moment to show support for what she did last night and for the country as it leaves the European Union. We must respect the result of the referendum in a way that ensures we leave in an ordered fashion.

My commitment to the group of Members on all sides of the House with whom I have been working remains the same. My commitment to making sure we leave in an ordered way and respect the result of the referendum remains the same. However, I will be supporting the Government in the Lobby tonight.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con) Hansard
3 Apr 2019, 4:38 p.m.

I rise to oppose the business motion. I want to draw out some of the points I made to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) as the key reasons for my opposing it.

The first issue is that the Bill is so obviously entirely unnecessary, because of the commitment of the Prime Minister, given on TV last night to the entire nation, to the effect that she was minded to seek an article 50 extension in any event as one of the possibilities, and that she did not want us to leave without a deal. In those circumstances, it is entirely obvious to me that this Bill is completely otiose.

I would go further. When I pressed my right hon. Friend, he said that this was a matter of transparency and that the House should have a say. I suspect, however, that he would not be able to cite one example of transparency that the Prime Minister has not already provided to the House. In response to my intervention, my right hon. Friend could not provide a realistic and respectable reason that the Bill was needed. I put it to the House that that is because he tabled the motion and the Bill before the Prime Minister made her statement. The Prime Minister having made her statement, I would hope that my right hon. Friend has the grace to do the honourable thing and withdraw them.