European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Seema MalhotraMain Page: Seema Malhotra (Labour (Co-op)) - Feltham and Heston)
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I thought it was available, and it should be available. If not, it is still being done. I think the problem we have got is that with the tight timescale, we are trying to play catch-up a little bit. That is why I am trying to help.
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Yes, but it does so through a Bill and it gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to make her case to Parliament, but without any constraint on that at all. Given that this is a very novel legal approach—a rushed piece of legislation, with a Bill being driven through the House in one day—we should be cautious about the scope we attach to that Bill. Attaching an ability to go for a very long extension of several years—potentially five years if Parliament decided that is what it wanted—is worthy of further deliberation.
I strongly disagree with the hon. Lady’s reading, as subsection (3) sets out the terms in which anything can be offered under subsection (2) and amendment 20 places a clear limit in subsection (3) of 30 June. Subsection (5) then says:
“If the motion in the form set out in subsection (2) for the purposes of subsection (1) is agreed to with an amendment to change the date”
and so on. The issue I have is that subsection (3) says that the date has a time limit, so it would not be legally possibly under subsection (2) to have a date that contradicted the requirements set out in subsection (3). That is my contention and I disagree with the hon. Lady. If she and the right hon. Member for Leeds Central were right, they would not have had subsection (3) at all.
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is why, given the rushed nature of the Bill—we all understand the reasons for that—it is necessary to place constraints on the scope of its operation, to limit precisely the kind of financial liabilities to which he alludes.
My contention is that any suggestion of a longer extension beyond 30 June, perhaps to 21 months, two years or even longer, should surely be the subject of another Bill. After all, we have demonstrated today that we can introduce Bills of this sort in short order. If the future of this House is to be that any decisions of this sort require a Bill, and that one can be delivered with a day’s debate on the Floor of the House, surely it is right to constrain and restrict the scope of this Bill to delivering us through this immediate crisis—without doubt, this is a crisis—but nevertheless to keep open the option for the House to consider a longer extension if it wished to do so.
Nothing in this Bill prevents the Prime Minister from still exercising royal prerogative powers outside the Bill. Were the Government to recommend to the House a decision to go for a longer extension, and they had a clear rationale for doing so, I still think that they would be able to do so outside the scope of the Bill. What the Bill does not do is say that the prerogative powers of the Executive are vanquished in all areas for all time. Instead, it seeks to establish an ability for the House, on this particular narrow issue, to table a motion. Nothing in the Bill constrains the Government’s ability still to exercise prerogative powers; it clearly requires them to exercise those prerogative powers in accordance with the Bill, if they are indeed exercised in response to motions passed by this House, so I do not accept the hon. Lady’s point.