There have been 136 exchanges between John Bercow and Cabinet Office
|Wed 30th October 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||32 interactions (464 words)|
|Tue 29th October 2019||Early Parliamentary General Election Bill||74 interactions (1,509 words)|
|Mon 28th October 2019||Early Parliamentary General Election||39 interactions (345 words)|
|Wed 23rd October 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||21 interactions (204 words)|
|Tue 22nd October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill||121 interactions (2,205 words)|
|Mon 21st October 2019||Preparations for Leaving the European Union||9 interactions (56 words)|
|Sat 19th October 2019||Prime Minister’s Statement||44 interactions (324 words)|
|Mon 14th October 2019||Debate on the Address||16 interactions (230 words)|
|Tue 8th October 2019||Preparations for Leaving the EU||46 interactions (280 words)|
|Thu 3rd October 2019||Brexit Negotiations||18 interactions (203 words)|
|Thu 26th September 2019||Principles of Democracy and the Rights of the Electorate||2 interactions (56 words)|
|Wed 25th September 2019||Brexit Readiness: Operation Yellowhammer||26 interactions (567 words)|
|Wed 25th September 2019||Prime Minister's Update||115 interactions (3,550 words)|
|Mon 9th September 2019||Points of Order||70 interactions (3,778 words)|
|Mon 9th September 2019||Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)||52 interactions (646 words)|
|Mon 9th September 2019||Early Parliamentary General Election (No. 2)||79 interactions (1,863 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||41 interactions (438 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||Early Parliamentary General Election||18 interactions (311 words)|
|Tue 3rd September 2019||G7 Summit||27 interactions (373 words)|
|Tue 3rd September 2019||Points of Order||6 interactions (173 words)|
|Thu 25th July 2019||Priorities for Government||48 interactions (539 words)|
|Wed 24th July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||28 interactions (180 words)|
|Wed 17th July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||26 interactions (194 words)|
|Wed 10th July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (115 words)|
|Wed 3rd July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (262 words)|
|Wed 3rd July 2019||G20 and Leadership of EU Institutions||3 interactions (11 words)|
|Wed 26th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||21 interactions (158 words)|
|Wed 19th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||18 interactions (197 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||9 interactions (128 words)|
|Wed 5th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||18 interactions (397 words)|
|Wed 15th May 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (118 words)|
|Wed 24th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||23 interactions (221 words)|
|Thu 11th April 2019||European Council||15 interactions (180 words)|
|Wed 10th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (31 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (135 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||10 interactions (114 words)|
|Mon 25th March 2019||European Council||21 interactions (195 words)|
|Fri 22nd March 2019||Overseas Electors Bill||11 interactions (607 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||36 interactions (497 words)|
|Thu 14th March 2019||Points of Order||13 interactions (604 words)|
|Wed 13th March 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (186 words)|
|Tue 12th March 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Act||75 interactions (1,590 words)|
|Tue 26th February 2019||Leaving the European Union||38 interactions (342 words)|
|Wed 20th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||34 interactions (345 words)|
|Wed 13th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (663 words)|
|Tue 12th February 2019||Leaving the EU||39 interactions (837 words)|
|Wed 6th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||24 interactions (201 words)|
|Wed 30th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (224 words)|
|Tue 29th January 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018||121 interactions (2,244 words)|
|Mon 21st January 2019||Leaving the EU||23 interactions (211 words)|
|Wed 16th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (71 words)|
|Wed 16th January 2019||No Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government||106 interactions (1,278 words)|
|Mon 14th January 2019||Leaving the EU||7 interactions (43 words)|
|Wed 9th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (137 words)|
|Wed 19th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||40 interactions (376 words)|
|Mon 17th December 2018||European Council||18 interactions (187 words)|
|Wed 12th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||33 interactions (307 words)|
|Mon 10th December 2018||Exiting the European Union||29 interactions (741 words)|
|Wed 5th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||41 interactions (593 words)|
|Tue 4th December 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Act||71 interactions (1,118 words)|
|Mon 3rd December 2018||G20 Summit||7 interactions (121 words)|
|Wed 28th November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||36 interactions (403 words)|
|Mon 26th November 2018||Leaving the EU||17 interactions (217 words)|
|Thu 22nd November 2018||Progress on EU Negotiations||27 interactions (267 words)|
|Wed 21st November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||18 interactions (197 words)|
|Thu 15th November 2018||EU Exit Negotiations||32 interactions (543 words)|
|Wed 14th November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||33 interactions (308 words)|
|Wed 14th November 2018||70th Birthday of the Prince of Wales||6 interactions (90 words)|
|Wed 31st October 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||36 interactions (345 words)|
|Mon 22nd October 2018||October EU Council||21 interactions (230 words)|
|Wed 17th October 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||35 interactions (204 words)|
|Mon 15th October 2018||EU Exit Negotiations||30 interactions (313 words)|
|Wed 10th October 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||19 interactions (159 words)|
|Wed 12th September 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||16 interactions (151 words)|
|Wed 5th September 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (274 words)|
|Tue 17th July 2018||Electoral Commission Investigation: Vote Leave||22 interactions (362 words)|
|Mon 16th July 2018||NATO Summit||13 interactions (154 words)|
|Mon 9th July 2018||Leaving the EU||28 interactions (290 words)|
|Wed 4th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||42 interactions (318 words)|
|Mon 2nd July 2018||June European Council||11 interactions (114 words)|
|Wed 27th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||42 interactions (398 words)|
|Tue 19th June 2018||Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill: Committee Stage||3 interactions (25 words)|
|Mon 11th June 2018||G7||3 interactions (23 words)|
|Mon 11th June 2018||Cornish National Identity: 2021 Census||3 interactions (68 words)|
|Wed 6th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||30 interactions (292 words)|
|Wed 23rd May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (246 words)|
|Wed 16th May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||38 interactions (906 words)|
|Mon 14th May 2018||Tributes: Baroness Jowell||26 interactions (348 words)|
|Wed 2nd May 2018||Points of Order||12 interactions (893 words)|
|Wed 25th April 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||53 interactions (301 words)|
|Tue 24th April 2018||Capita||3 interactions (68 words)|
|Mon 23rd April 2018||Voter ID Pilots||7 interactions (100 words)|
|Wed 18th April 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||26 interactions (196 words)|
|Tue 17th April 2018||Military Action Overseas: Parliamentary Approval||69 interactions (1,034 words)|
|Mon 16th April 2018||Syria||32 interactions (453 words)|
|Mon 16th April 2018||Syria||27 interactions (266 words)|
|Wed 28th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||37 interactions (252 words)|
|Tue 27th March 2018||EU Referendum: Electoral Law||35 interactions (751 words)|
|Mon 26th March 2018||European Council||16 interactions (155 words)|
|Mon 26th March 2018||National Security and Russia||5 interactions (39 words)|
|Wed 14th March 2018||Salisbury Incident||26 interactions (256 words)|
|Mon 12th March 2018||Salisbury Incident||11 interactions (100 words)|
|Wed 7th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||67 interactions (634 words)|
|Mon 5th March 2018||UK/EU Future Economic Partnership||32 interactions (344 words)|
|Wed 28th February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||39 interactions (314 words)|
|Wed 21st February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||47 interactions (603 words)|
|Wed 7th February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||18 interactions (124 words)|
|Thu 1st February 2018||Capita||3 interactions (66 words)|
|Mon 29th January 2018||Contaminated Blood Inquiry||3 interactions (68 words)|
|Wed 17th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||28 interactions (149 words)|
|Wed 10th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||44 interactions (307 words)|
|Wed 20th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||61 interactions (410 words)|
|Mon 18th December 2017||European Council||23 interactions (207 words)|
|Wed 13th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||14 interactions (130 words)|
|Mon 11th December 2017||Brexit Negotiations||22 interactions (210 words)|
|Wed 6th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||23 interactions (276 words)|
|Wed 29th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||25 interactions (216 words)|
|Wed 22nd November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||23 interactions (218 words)|
|Wed 1st November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||25 interactions (213 words)|
|Wed 25th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||60 interactions (396 words)|
|Mon 23rd October 2017||European Council||45 interactions (272 words)|
|Wed 18th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||64 interactions (578 words)|
|Wed 11th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (201 words)|
|Tue 10th October 2017||Race Disparity Audit||9 interactions (97 words)|
|Mon 9th October 2017||UK Plans for Leaving the EU||31 interactions (382 words)|
|Wed 6th September 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||24 interactions (199 words)|
|Wed 19th July 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||40 interactions (279 words)|
|Wed 12th July 2017||Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry||4 interactions (191 words)|
|Wed 12th July 2017||Redundancy Modification Orders||5 interactions (97 words)|
|Mon 10th July 2017||G20||27 interactions (367 words)|
|Wed 5th July 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||31 interactions (212 words)|
|Mon 26th June 2017||European Council||27 interactions (185 words)|
|Mon 26th June 2017||Northern Ireland||14 interactions (116 words)|
|Thu 22nd June 2017||Grenfell Tower||46 interactions (329 words)|
|Wed 21st June 2017||Debate on the Address||49 interactions (781 words)|
|Tue 13th June 2017||Election of Speaker||8 interactions (482 words)|
Coming from a Prime Minister who withdrew his own Bill, that seems a bit odd. My question was about somebody whose mother had died and who believes that that is because of the shortage of staff within the NHS. I had hoped that the Prime Minister would have shown some empathy and answered that question, because GP numbers are falling, there is a 43,000-nurse shortage in the NHS, and the NHS has suffered the longest spending squeeze ever in its history. The choice at this election could not be clearer. People have a chance to vote for real change after years of Conservative and Lib Dem cuts, privatisation and tax handouts for the richest. This Government have put our NHS into crisis, and this election is a once-in-a-generation chance to end privatisation in our NHS, give it the funding it needs and give it the doctors, nurses, GPs and all the other staff it needs. Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, our NHS is up for grabs by US corporations in a Trump-style trade deal. Is it not the truth—[Interruption.]
Despite the Prime Minister’s denials, the NHS is up for grabs by US corporations in a Trump trade deal. Is it not the truth—the Government may not like this—that this Government are preparing to sell out our NHS? Our health service is in more danger than at any other time in its glorious history because of the Prime Minister’s Government, his attitudes and the trade deals that he wants to strike.
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Q6. For more than 30 years, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore was promised a rebuild. Under a Conservative Government, we have the first phase of those medical facilities, to match the world-class treatment provided by the medical team there. However, there are two problems. The first is that the next phase is caught up in NHS bureaucracy, and the second is that two eminent non-executive directors have sadly been dismissed from the board. Can my right hon. Friend sweep away this NHS bureaucracy so that we can provide the medical facilities required, and also order an investigation into why the non-executive directors have been removed from the board by NHS London? 
Break in Debate
You know, Mr Speaker, I thought it was Prime Minister’s questions, not a rant from the Prime Minister. I have to say—[Interruption.]
Well, I certainly wish Mr Grant all the best for his future, because he is not coming back, like so many of the Scottish Conservatives. We hear that the Prime Minister will be coming up to Scotland in the election campaign. He will be welcome, because each time he comes to Scotland he drives up SNP support.
Scotland did not vote for Brexit and we will not have it forced upon us. Is it not clear that the Scottish National party is the only party standing up for Scotland’s interests and respecting our democratic decision to remain in the European Union? This coming election will be one of the most important in Scotland’s history. Only a vote for the SNP can secure the escape route for Scotland away from this Brexit mess, from the chaos of Westminster and from the austerity of the Tories, and protect Scotland’s right to choose our own future as an independent country in Europe.
I am sorry if I seemed to rant at the right hon. Gentleman, but if I may say so, he does rant quite a lot about independence for Scotland—he bangs on about it endlessly. Why does he go on about Scottish independence so much? It is because he wants to conceal what the SNP Government are actually doing in Scotland. They are wrecking it. They are diabolical for the Scottish economy. They have the highest taxes in the UK. They are not running either health or education well. That is why they are so monomaniacal about independence and smashing the Union.
There are some wonderful things happening in Scotland, and it is very often thanks to Scottish Conservatives, who are delivering £200 million for Scottish farmers—that is all thanks to the intercessions of Scottish Conservatives —as part of the biggest ever block grant from London to Scotland. It is Scottish Conservatives who can be relied upon, unlike any other party in Scotland—unlike Labour or the SNP—to keep the Union together: the most successful political partnership in history.
Q7. Mr Speaker, as your former Deputy Speaker, I want to say that nobody who has sat in that Chair has done more to defend and promote the rights of LGBTI people in this country and throughout the world. When so many people live in fear of being born the way they are, I salute you. Thank you.The Guardian reported last week that the largest number of happy people live in the Ribble valley, and I believe that the Prime Minister has the capacity to make them happier. Will he ensure that Ribble Valley gets its fair share of the 153 extra police who are coming to Lancashire, that we get our fair share of rural funding for health services such as the Slaidburn health centre and that we get equal funding per pupil in our schools? Finally, for the 57% who voted Brexit and for the almost 100% who believe in democracy, will he ensure that after the general election, when he is Prime Minister, he will deliver the Brexit people voted for? 
Break in Debate
Q2. Mr Speaker, I have never known this place without you here, and it is going to be different. It is a delight to see your children here watching today, because I know that, while you have a responsibility to Parliament, you also take your responsibilities as a parent incredibly seriously. And now to the Prime Minister.[Interruption.] Today is my son Danny’s 11th birthday. Thanks to the years of cuts voted for by the Prime Minister, my son Danny and hundreds of children in Birmingham, Yardley are in super-sized classes and are only being educated four and a half days a week. I do not want to hear his fancy stock answers about Brexit or Russia that he has been giving from his little folder or about how he is going to give more—[Interruption.] 
I do not want to hear the Prime Minister’s campaign-ad answer, because my son will not be able to go to school on Friday, and his campaign-ad answer does nothing for me as a parent. [Interruption.] I am so glad that they think it is really funny that children cannot go to school five days a week. The Prime Minister is responsible for the children in this country, and while he might struggle with that personally, will he today give a commitment that there will be a maximum number of children in every class post the election and that every single child will be able to go to school for five days a week?
Break in Debate
Indeed. As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, the advantage of the partnership we will build is that not only—[Interruption.] I am sure the talks will go well. We will have a zero-tariff, zero-quota arrangement with our European friends and partners. Under the current deal, which is a fantastic deal, we will also be able to do free trade deals around the world. There will be many ways in which we will stay very close to our European friends partners, but there will also be important ways in which we may seek to do things differently and better.
I have already mentioned animal welfare; I might mention tax breaks for new technology, I might mention cutting VAT on sanitary products, I might mention free ports. There are all sorts of ways to do this. I might mention different regulation on biotechnology or in many of the areas in which this country now leads the world. That is the opportunity for our country: to do a great free trade deal with our European friends and partners of a kind of which I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend would thoroughly approve, while also being a champion of free trade around the world. That is what we are going to do.
Q11. Mr Speaker, I know that everyone on this side of the House would like to associate ourselves with those comments about the Father of the House.One of the most consistent things I have seen in all my parliamentary casework is, I am afraid, too many children with special educational needs not getting the support they need. I know that their cause is something you personally support a great deal, Mr Speaker. This year, councils in England alone will overspend on their SEN budgets by more than £400 million. Even then, there is simply not enough resource in the system. How could any Government like the Prime Minister’s justify going ahead with cutting corporation tax to 18% when children with the greatest needs in this country are simply not getting what they should? 
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There will never be, because there could never be, a more eloquent and articulate Speaker than you, Mr Speaker; we will miss your style and your remarkable, encyclopaedic grasp of detail—and I will miss the literary references by the way, Mr Speaker.
Marcel Proust said the only—[Interruption.]
Marcel Proust said:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.
Hard-working British patriots who voted to leave the European Union with fresh eyes have in their sights the bourgeois liberal elite who are trying to steal Brexit from them. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as he is broadcast on the wireless and elsewhere and actually meets people in real life too in the coming days and weeks, simply evangelise this plain and straightforward message: back Brexit, back Britain, back Boris?
Break in Debate
Yes. I thank my hon. Friend for everything he has done to campaign on this issue. As he knows, the consultation on the new legislation was concluded only a few days ago. I can certainly give him the reassurance that we will bring forward legislation to ensure that, when there is no new evidence being provided, there are no unfair prosecutions of people who served this country faithfully and well.
Mr Speaker, I have been in Parliament for 32 years. I have seen many Speakers in the Chair and I must say you have been the best. As we say in the north-east—it’s not quite the language of the Welsh—you’re a canny laddie.
The WASPI women were given a bad deal on their pensions. Does the Prime Minister have any plans to put that wrong right?
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I thank my right hon. Friend for all the service he has given to this Government and this country. I remember vividly campaigning with him on one occasion when we were interrupted by a dog show. He has done particularly important work on conserving oceans. He has helped to ensure that this country has global leadership in establishing marine conservation areas around the planet. As you know, Mr Speaker, this country protects a vast expanse of the oceans, more than any country on earth, and it is thanks to the work of my right hon. Friend that we have put that issue at the forefront of our politics, protecting marine life and protecting not just the fish but the penguins as well. As he will know, a third of the world’s Emperor penguins are British. He has done a signal job of protecting those penguins and I thank him for it.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is now a week since Parliament voted to delay Brexit yet again. It is a week since this Parliament voted yet again to force Brussels to keep this country in the European Union for at least another three months, at a cost of £1 billion a month. In the days since then, the Government have tried to be reasonable and to ascribe the best possible motives to our friends and colleagues around the House. [Interruption.] I have twice offered more time for debate. I offered more time last week and I made the same offer last night. I said that we were prepared to debate this Bill—[Interruption.] I said we were prepared to debate the withdrawal Bill around the clock to allow Parliament time to scrutinise it, to the point of intellectual exhaustion. We must bear in mind that not only has this House been considering this issue for three and a half years, but last week when this Bill was being debated there was not a single new idea and not a single new suggestion. All they wanted was more time, more weeks, more months, when they could not even provide the speakers to fill the time allotted.
Break in Debate
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I want to make the point that we want any election to involve as many people as possible. It is meant to be a big exercise in democracy, and I hope the amendments—
Break in Debate
I will not give way for a very simple reason, which is that both hon. Gentlemen have consistently tried to obstruct Brexit for the most specious and completely unacceptable reasons.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). I have to say that I think he has just written the SNP’s leaflets for our election campaign. He says that we have tried to obstruct Brexit. Well, I would say to the House: guilty as charged. Let me explain exactly why we have done so.
We are used to referendums in Scotland. We have had two: one in 2014 and another in 2016. Crucially, we were told in 2014 that, if Scotland stayed in the United Kingdom, we would be staying in Europe. But more than that—we were told that this was going to be a Union of equals and that Scotland was going to be respected. And what has happened? In the European referendum, Scotland voted to remain in Europe by 62%, and our Parliament and Government have sought to give voice to that. We have published document after document under the title “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, in which we have sought to compromise with the United Kingdom Government, but at every step of the way—whether it was the previous Prime Minister or this one— we have been ignored.
I have repeatedly made the point—I make no apology for making it again today—that SNP Members are simply not prepared to sit back and allow Scotland to be taken out of the European Union against its will. On that basis, I welcome the opportunity of an election. Make no mistake, the coming election will be for the right of Scotland to determine its own future. We will reflect on everything that has happened since 2017, when 13 Scottish Conservatives were temporarily elected to this House. I say “temporarily” because they have voted against Scotland’s interests every step of the way, and have given no consideration to the fact that every single local authority area in Scotland voted to remain.
Just think about what Brexit would do to Scotland. Just think about the challenge we face in growing our population—a challenge that we have had for decades, but one that we have risen to on the basis of the free movement of people. Our economy is growing and European citizens have made a contribution to that economy. We have collectively benefited from the right to live, work and travel in 28 EU member states. We voted to retain those rights, yet the Conservatives want to take us out, so I really look forward to the election, when we can reinforce the mandate that we already have from the Scottish election in 2016, when the people of Scotland yet again voted the SNP into power. We have a mandate for an independence referendum, and it ill behoves this House to frustrate the legitimate demands of our Parliament and our Government. If the people of Scotland back the SNP again in the coming election, it has to be the case that we have the right to determine our future.
I am grateful that the European Union has granted us an extension to the end of January, and we must use the time wisely. But I say to our friends in Europe: please remember to stand by Scotland in our hour of need; and, as our dear friend Alyn Smith said in the European Parliament, keep a light on for Scotland because we are coming back. And that is because we are ambitious for our country. We want to grow our economy, to continue to benefit from the single market and the customs union, to make Scotland a destination in Europe, and to complete the journey that Scotland embarked on with devolution 20 years ago. We have a Parliament that has delivered for the people of Scotland and that is pushing on with addressing the challenge of climate change. We have a Parliament that is doing its job and has delivered education free at the point of need, not based on people’s ability to pay. I could go on about the differences between the way in which the Scottish Government and the UK Government have delivered for our people, and about the growing self-confidence that we see in Scotland.
Break in Debate
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I listened closely to the comments made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford). She alluded to the Lib Dems not being present last night. That is not the case. Our spokesperson for the environment—my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Jane Dodds)—was here for the entirety of the debate, as I understand it from the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), so I would like that to be amended in the record.
I apologise if one Liberal Democrat Member was here last night, but as I see it, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion represents the Green party.
The question that we are grappling with in this House and, indeed, in the wider country is not just a narrow matter of our relationship with the European Union, although this debate on Brexit has exposed significant differences in how people feel about that. People’s identities of remain or leave run deep, because this is not only about whether we remain in the EU or leave; it is about who we are as a country. It is about our values. It is about whether we are open, inclusive and internationalist in our outlook, facing the future, or whether we are closed and insular, wanting to pull up the drawbridge and look to the past. That is the key question that we, as a country, need to resolve.
The Prime Minister talked about “one whole United Kingdom”. I thought he had a cheek, because he has not been acting in a way that protects our whole United Kingdom. He has sold out the people of Northern Ireland with the deal he has done with the EU. This is a man who said that no Conservative Prime Minister should ever accept a border in the Irish Sea, yet that is exactly what he has done. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I think that our United Kingdom is something precious that is worth protecting, and that Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are stronger together.
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I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. The question was not framed in pejorative terms: are you voting for Britain to be greater, Britain to be smaller, Britain to be richer, Britain to be poorer? The question was a simple one: do you want Britain to leave the European Union?
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I think I have been slightly thrown by taking so many interventions, so I am saying “you”. I know I should not and I apologise.
If I may continue with the points that I was making—
Break in Debate
Mr Speaker, I cannot work out whether you are eating popcorn as you watch this extraordinary spectacle of a great debate between two of our great parliamentarians play out across the Chamber.
Does my hon. Friend not agree with me that this election provides a fantastic opportunity for each of the main parties to set out in principle what they want to see from Brexit, and to finally address the point that the public voted to leave the European Union but are leaving it to parliamentarians to decide the best way of delivering Brexit? It is therefore incumbent on both main parties to set out their Brexit proposals. We can at least unite in this fractious Chamber by agreeing that no deal is not an option and that those who voted to stop no deal are the real heroes of Parliament.
I thank my right hon. Friend for what I think was a friendly intervention. I am certainly learning to appreciate the benefit of friendly interventions.
I have just been refuelled, Mr Speaker.
We were talking about the need for a new Parliament. There are many things that I would like a Parliament to spend much more time talking about instead of being so focused on Brexit. The rise of autocracies is a very serious issue. On Huawei, do we allow the use in this country of high tech from a communist party state, especially if its stated aim is to dominate global 5G in the years to come? I am wary of making the world safe for autocracies and one-party states. We need time to debate that.
Another issue is the ongoing disaster of Syria and the clear mistakes made by President Trump. There is also the need for integration of overseas foreign policy. We also have an exciting domestic agenda and I want us to talk more about that.
Finally, I want an Isle of Wight deal so that our public services are of the same standard as those on the mainland, or the north island, as we call it. Most parts of the United Kingdom that are isolated by water—in other words, islands—either have a fixed link, which we are never going to have because it would cost £3 billion, or more money through increased public expenditure, but the Island has neither, and that has been a structural flaw for many years.
The best way to deal with all of those problems is for us to agree to an election and to listen to our constituents, the folks in the places that we care for and love—
Break in Debate
To return to the Second Reading of this Bill, my hon. Friend faces a challenge from the Liberal Democrats in St Albans. Does she agree that, during the referendum, every household in the country received a letter saying
“The Government will implement what you decide”?
Does she remember the previous leader of the Liberal Democrats saying that, even if it were by one vote, the result should still stand? And did she hear the other day—
You are absolutely right, Mr Speaker. My inquiry was reaching its climax. I finish by asking my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) whether she also recalls the current leader of the Liberal Democrats saying that, if there were to be a people’s vote and the result were to go, in her view, the wrong way—in other words, if the people were to vote again to leave the European Union—she would not recognise it as valid. Is that not a most extraordinary position for any party of democrats to take?
I take your instruction, Mr Speaker, and I will not be diverted.
A general election allows us to ask which party is prepared to honour democracy, and I will be asking that question every day in St Albans. A general election also reminds people that a strong Government is needed, and I mean a strong Government with a majority.
The current situation is the worst of all governance. It is governance by horse-trading. The Conservative party did not quite have the majority it needed at the 2010 election, so the Liberal Democrats came into power with us. [Interruption.] It worked so well, as someone says from a sedentary position. The horse-trading began straightaway. Horse-trading is exactly what happens in weak Governments. The lack of numbers means people suddenly start putting forward different agendas.
In St Albans, many students and young people were seduced by the thought of free tuition fees. I heard that being promised time and again across the land, and young people, potentially facing large debts being wiped away, suddenly found they might want to nail their colours to tuition fees at a general election. Tuition fees were an issue that attracted many young people for obvious reasons, and young people nailed their colours to that mast in largish numbers.
However, when we got into government with the Liberal Democrats, tuition fees were the first thing to be horse-traded. Tuition fees were horse-traded for a vote on the alternative vote system. The Liberal Democrats felt that changing the voting system was more important than tuition fees. As a result, hundreds of thousands of young people found themselves being duped and the horse-trading continued.
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On Brenda of Bristol, I shall give way.
Mr Speaker, I rise as the unrecognised Liberal Democrat in this place and I apologise to the Chamber. Let me get back to the issue of the election itself. I represent the coldest and most northerly constituency in the British mainland. It is going to get dark a hell of a lot earlier where I come from than it does in St Albans, and the streets and roads are going to be an awful lot icier. This is perhaps an appeal for the Leader of the House, who is not with us at this precise moment, but may I ask the Government to co-ordinate as closely as possible with the Scottish Government to make sure that the streets and roads are safe for the people who want to come out to exercise their democratic right?
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I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already.
This is a question of trust. The British people trust us to deliver on our promises, and if we do not deliver on our promises we undermine the basis of democracy. The leaflet that came out during the European referendum said: “We will implement what you decide.” Many people, some of whom had never voted for the whole of their lives because they felt it did not make anything change, went and voted in the European referendum because they thought it would make a difference. It was the biggest democratic exercise in our country’s history and a majority voted to leave—and leave we must.
The Opposition are playing party politics, because their only determination is to try to make sure that Brexit cannot happen by the 31st. That is because they think the public are stupid. They think the public will say, “Ah—the Prime Minister did not deliver Brexit by the 31st, so we can go to the country and say that he did not keep his promise.” But actually the public are not stupid. They can see that the reason we have not delivered it by the 31st is that the Opposition voted to institute the European Union (Withdrawal) No. 2 Bill, which surrendered control of when we leave to the European Union.
I want to deal with the issues in the amendments. The first amendment would allow all EU voters living in this country to vote. Quite apart from the fact that this has not been properly debated, it is very difficult to add 3 million voters to the register at very short notice. It would also have—
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for that guidance. I did notice that many other speakers mentioned the amendments during their orations.
Absolutely, Mr Speaker
I would like to discuss the issue of European citizens, which has already been mentioned during the debate. It would be very difficult to add 3 million voters to the electoral register at short notice, and the relative size of constituencies would be affected. It is notable that some, like my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely), who was here earlier, have constituencies of more than 100,000 people, while others have constituencies of just 20,000 people. I know that there has been an effort by the Boundary Commission to introduce changes that would even those up, but suddenly adding European voters would have an impact on the relative value of an individual’s vote. It is also notable that none of the EU27 member states allows citizens not from their country to vote in a general election, and with free movement and elections at different times one can rather see why that might be.
Other speakers have discussed votes at 16. As a paediatrician, I have over time seen and treated a number of young people at 16. I have met some very, very mature 16-year-olds with great life experience who no doubt have the knowledge and maturity to vote, but I have also met 16-year-olds who do not. It is worth looking at the international—
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I am reminded of the fact that when people start to get personal towards the Prime Minister or others, it is because they do not have a political argument to make.
It is useful to look at international norms. The United Nations, which we are part of, sees 18-year-olds as adults. Internationally, refugees are seen as children if they are less than 18 years old. We are part of the Five Eyes group, along with Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada, all of which allow votes only from 18. All EU member states, apart from Austria, allow votes only from 18. As a children’s doctor—
Thank you, Mr Speaker; I appreciate your guidance on this matter. I hope you will not mind my responding to the comments made by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), who said that our children should have a vote because it matters to their future. This will affect my four, eight and 12-year-olds’ futures even more, but that is not a rational argument for them to vote.
I am concerned that the amendments that have been tabled are wrecking amendments, because they are trying to change the franchise just before an election. Were that to happen against the Electoral Commission’s advice, we would not be able to have an election in December.
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention; he is right.
We need to deliver Brexit and get on with the priorities of the British people. People in my constituency want more police, more money for schools, better broadband and a strong economy—all the things that were promised in the Queen’s Speech. This Parliament needs to be honest with the people. If Members do not want to deliver Brexit, they should be honest about that and say to voters that they do not want to deliver Brexit, then see whether they are returned. We are at an impasse where the only solution to get Brexit done, whether we want one or not, is to have a general election now.
I agree. I plan to say a number of things, but I want to follow up on some of the things that have been said during the debate. There has been a huge amount of talk about being honest with the public, political expediency and turning the referendum into a party political thing. The hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) seemed very concerned that the referendum and how we vote on Bills has been used for political expediency. I would like to gently remind everybody of the time that the Prime Minister got a camera crew to come and take a picture of him as he signed his little resignation letter to Theresa May—sorry, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). Some might say that it had been politically expedient and, lo and behold, he is now the Prime Minister. Gosh forbid that anybody should use things for political expediency or that Conservative Members have always voted for the Bill.
The trouble with the arguments we are having is that the Government have continued to behave like a Government who have a majority, regardless of the fact that they do not. The right hon. Member for Maidenhead suffered exactly the same problem after the referendum, which was not won decisively by one side—it was a marginal win—and after the 2017 election, when again the country was split, and the idea of bringing forward a Bill that we could all sit down and work on was literally never ever taken forward.
I have listened to Conservative Members saying today, “Well, you shouldn’t be allowed to amend the Bill”, or “You only want time to amend it”. Er, yes—that is absolutely right, because that is the job of this House. Different people come here from different backgrounds and make laws that are not just for one sort of person, but that represent this country. I seem to be in a twilight zone where the Government and the Executive seem to think that they just write a line and then go, “Er, well, it’s my way or the highway”. Welcome to parliamentary democracy!
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I am grateful to have been called when I was not able to be present for the whole debate. I will try to keep my remarks brief, because I know that other colleagues want to speak.
It is an example of the journey I have made in my 14 years in this House that my maiden speech was a Eurosceptic speech that followed a speech by a Labour Eurosceptic, the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins). I will now make a resolutely pro-remain, pro-European speech following the excellent speech by one of the Members whom I most admire in this House, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips).
I have to say, Mr Speaker, that the minute you rose I realised the error I had made in speaking injudiciously and inaccurately. From now on, I will take a forensic approach. The point I was going to make was that I support the call for an election. It is quite right that we try to break the deadlock that exists in Parliament by having an election as soon as possible. I am also mindful—I have listened to every word you have said in this Chamber, Mr Speaker—that I am not going to speak about any of the amendments. All I will say is that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley raised important points and the amendments, if they are called, will also raise important points.
There are important debates to be had in this Chamber about the shape and form of elections. I am open to the idea, for example, of 16-year-olds voting. I am open to the idea of our European friends who live here and contribute their taxes voting. In particular, I take on board the point the hon. Lady made about money and lies. We know that in a digital age the propaganda pumped out on tech platforms will be a huge issue in this election and in future elections. When this House returns after the election, I hope that that will be one of the issues that is addressed.
Many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), who made an excellent speech, have focused on the fact that people in the country are yearning for us to talk about something other than Brexit and about the issues that matter to them. I am extremely fortunate to represent the wonderful constituency of Wantage and Didcot, which contributes an enormous amount to the British economy. It is a centre for scientific research, space companies and life sciences, and it has a Formula 1 team, Williams Formula 1. Understandably, the constituency voted to remain because those companies rely on the expertise of a workforce who are spread throughout Europe and who are able to come to this country to work. It is clear, therefore, that when we have this election—and we must have it—Brexit and the issues that emerge from it will be an important factor in the debate.
It is also right that when we call this election—I am speaking in support of the Bill—people should have the chance to debate issues such as who provides the best stewardship of the economy, healthcare and education as well as the importance of culture and the creative industries in our society, a subject very close to my heart.
I echo what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley said—I hope this is in order, Mr Speaker—about the tone of any forthcoming general election campaign. You will be pleased to know that the insight I am about to deliver represents the conclusion of my remarks. When you quite rightly ruled me out of order for saying that I was going to make a pro-remain speech when in fact I am making a pro-election speech, the point I wanted to make was that, with a little bit of Brexit inside me—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for St Albans has perked up. Obviously, I do not want to be part of a European superstate. I often say to my remain friends that if at any point the European Union told us, “You can stay in the European Union only if you join the single currency,” I would be the first to man the barricades and call for Brexit—even, dare I say it, a no-deal Brexit.
What was left behind after the referendum, and what I hope we get back if we call an election, is an understanding of the role of this incredible institution of Parliament. We know that the people voted to leave the European Union, but the paranoid hard-right Brexiteers decided that any version of Brexit apart from their own would somehow snatch away their hard-won victory. However, you know, Mr Speaker, that the role of this place, as the Chamber of a representative democracy, is to take that instruction and to interpret it as best we can.
My rebellious streak emerged when a hard-line Brexit was proposed—the proposal to leave the customs union and the single market while maintaining an open border in Ireland is an impossible circle to square—and there were attacks on our judges, who were called “enemies of the people” for interpreting the law; attacks on business, which pays taxes and employs people; attacks on our civil servants, who worked day and night to deliver the instructions of their political masters; and, dare I say it, Mr Speaker, attacks on you for allowing us in this Chamber to have our say on important matters. What really drove me mad was the attempt by some people in this House to own the result of the referendum and say, to echo the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley, “My way or the highway,” trashing in the process every single institution that they purported to be campaigning for when they campaigned for Brexit. That is utterly shameful. I hope they realise that everyone in this House has done their best to deliver on the referendum result.
It is not our fault that there was a hung Parliament. We can blame various people for the reason that we came back with a hung Parliament—[Interruption.] No, I blame the politicians. I blame the person who was leading our party at the last election when we could have come back with a majority, and this party can perhaps reflect on how long it took to react. Nobody knows how this election will turn out. I have simply taken a consistent position—as I have watched the carnage and the wreckage, and the ratcheting up of the rhetoric to “traitor” and “treason”—and said, “We should respect the referendum result, but we should leave with a deal.”
I do not know whether you and I will ever meet again in our respective positions, Mr Speaker. I simply want to say to you, as one man of average height—to echo my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois)—but of substantial girth: thank you for everything that you have done to stand up for the rights of this Chamber. Thank you as well to all my colleagues, who I look forward to seeing on the election beat, reasonably exchanging sensible and intelligent views on the best way forward—
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I am very grateful; my hon. Friend has been a wonderful colleague to me over many years. This place at its best is one of the best places to be—and at its worst, it is absolutely awful.
I will not be supporting a general election because I do not think that a general election will resolve Brexit. The clue is partly in the name: a “general” election is about general issues. It is impossible to extrapolate from the result what people think about a very specific issue—in this case, Brexit. If we want a specific answer on Brexit, we have to ask a specific question, and the best way of doing that is through a people’s vote. That is even more the case with an electoral system that is as undemocratic and antiquated as ours, because first past the post regularly delivers majority Governments on a minority of votes.
A million people did not march through the streets of London a few weeks ago demanding a general election; they wanted a people’s vote because they know that that is the best way—indeed, the only way—to get to the bottom of this crisis and resolve it. All that a general election will do, frankly, is put Nigel Farage and the Prime Minister back in their comfort zones, giving them a stage—political insiders dressed up as rebels, whose agenda, frankly, is chaos—so that division will thrive.
I want to take on the idea that this Parliament has run its course. The Prime Minister has won votes on both his Queen’s Speech and the Second Reading of the withdrawal agreement Bill. The only person who is blocking progress in this Parliament is the Prime Minister. The reason for that is very clear: he has an agenda that is all about a general election—about installing an even harder Vote Leave contingent of MPs in Parliament—but let us not allow him to get away with telling us as Parliament that somehow we have not been doing a good job of holding him to account. This is not a zombie Parliament; it is a Parliament that has got its head around parliamentary procedures in a way that any new Parliament will take months to do. It is precisely because we have been able to keep the Prime Minister in his box that he is not very happy with the fact that we are trying to continue on our way forward.
One of the reasons I do not want a general election right now is that the thing that should be front and centre of it—the climate emergency, which is what we should be debating in a general election—will be overshadowed by yet more fights about Brexit, which it will not resolve. We know that the next 18 months will be crucial in terms of whether we have a chance of getting off the collision course we are on with the climate catastrophe. The Committee on Climate Change said in its report to Parliament a few months ago that the next Parliament will be absolutely vital, so it is crucial that the next general election is about the climate crisis. This existential crisis is facing all of us and if we fritter the time away with more debates about Brexit, which they are not even going to resolve, we will be responsible for the greatest irresponsibility—that does not quite make sense, but you know what I mean. We will be responsible for the greatest betrayal of young people and their futures, because this is a massive wasted opportunity, and I cannot bear the fact that we are going to spend it talking about Brexit in a way that is not going to resolve it.
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Many excellent speeches species were curtailed at three minutes this evening. Why is this awful, repetitious performance being allowed to go on for so long?
Thank you for that opportunity, Mr Speaker, but I think I will be able to do so in slightly shorter order, so I hope that I can bring pleasure to the hon. Gentleman.
In the election, we will deliver on a one nation agenda: delivering for our schools and our hospitals, safer communities, more police, massive investment in our infrastructure, keeping our streets safe and tackling the cost of living. The alternative will be the nightmare advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, who wants to make 2020 the year of two referendums: one on Brexit and another on Scottish independence—more energy-sapping, mind-numbing stagnation and more pointless delay, so I urge right hon. and hon. Members to back this Bill and back the general election. Let the Government get Brexit done and allow the country to move on.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Committee of the whole House (Order, this day).
This has been a fractious, challenging, controversial and difficult debate at times. Do you agree, Mr Speaker, that in the context of this debate, it is extraordinarily important that all Members agree that their behaviour, whether in this House or in the potential general election to come, should be exemplary, whatever others do?
This is a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted. Having illegally prorogued Parliament for five weeks for his Queen’s Speech, he now abandons that Queen’s Speech. He got his deal through on Second Reading, then abandoned it. He promised us a Budget on 6 November, and then he abandoned that too. He said he would never ask for an extension, and he said he would rather die in a ditch—another broken promise! Every promise this Prime Minister makes, he abandons. He said he would take us out of the European Union by 31 October—[Interruption.]
The Prime Minister said he would take us out of the European Union by 31 October, do or die.
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The Prime Minister spent £100 million—£100 million— on an advertising campaign to leave on 31 October, but failed to deliver. This is serious, Mr Speaker. The National Audit Office says that the campaign “failed to resonate”. I ask the Prime Minister, and I ask this House: with that £100 million, how many nurses could have been hired, how many parcels could have been funded at food banks, how many social care packages could have been funded for our elderly? The Prime Minister has failed because he has chosen to fail, and now he seeks to blame Parliament. That is £100 million of misspent public money.
At the weekend, we learned from the former Chancellor that the Prime Minister’s deal was offered to the former Prime Minister 18 months ago, but she rejected it as being not good enough for the United Kingdom. We have a rejected and recycled deal that has been misrepresented by Ministers in this House, no doubt inadvertently. The Prime Minister said, in terms, there would be no checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the Brexit Secretary himself has confirmed that there will be. The Prime Minister made promises to Labour Members about workers’ rights; I remember his saying, with all the concentration he could muster, that workers’ rights would be protected by him. The leak to the Financial Times on Saturday shows these promises simply cannot be trusted. He says the NHS is off the table for any trade deal, yet a majority of the British public do not trust him. And why should they? Thanks to a Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme—[Interruption.] This is actually quite an important point that the Prime Minister might care to listen to. [Interruption.] I will go through it again: thanks to—[Interruption.]
As I was saying, thanks to a Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme we learn that secret meetings—[Interruption.] Conservative Members might find this funny, but actually it is quite serious for our national health service.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that the annunciators may not have been working in the offices of Labour MPs, because most of them have not chosen to turn up today. Can that be investigated?
I think this section is very important, so I will go through it again. Thanks to a Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme we learn that secret meetings have taken place between UK Government officials and representatives of US pharmaceutical firms at which the price of national health service drugs has been discussed.
We have a Prime Minister who will say anything and do anything to get his way. He will avoid his responsibilities and break his promises to dodge scrutiny. And today he wants an election and his Bill. Well, not with our endorsement. He says he wants an election on 12 December. How can we trust him to stick to that date when we do not yet have legal confirmation of the extension? The Prime Minister has not formally accepted, and the other 27 have not confirmed following that acceptance. The reason I am so cautious is quite simply that I do not trust the Prime Minister.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition is mistaken. As I have always said, this Government obey the law. We have complied with the law, and that has taken its course. Parliament asked for this delay, and now it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to go to the country in a general election. That is what he should do.
I simply say this to the Prime Minister: if he always obeys the law, why was he found guilty by the Supreme Court?
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. On the issue of—[Interruption.]
On the issue of trust, which my right hon. Friend is rightly pointing out, is he aware of the interesting rumour that has reached my ears that the Prime Minister might be planning not to stand in his own constituency at an upcoming general election, and that he has apparently instead lined up Sevenoaks or East Yorkshire? Has my right hon. Friend heard that rumour?
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Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), I do not trust the Prime Minister, but there is a deeper issue about whether we can trust him with our safety. Let me briefly read this analysis from the Financial Times, which says—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister may shake his head, but perhaps he would care to listen. It states that when
“Johnson responded, ‘I have never heard such humbug’”—
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The analysis states that when
“Johnson responded: ‘I have never heard such humbug in all my life’, Labour MP Paula Sherriff began receiving toxic tweets at a rate of more than 100 an hour…One such tweet from that evening read: ‘Tough shit Mrs Shrek. A #SurrenderBill or #SurrenderAct is exactly what Benn’s treacherous act is.’ Another read: ‘Do what the people told you to effing do otherwise yes expect to be strung up metaphorically or physically.’”
The Prime Minister has never apologised for saying what he said that evening, so how can we trust him that we can be safe?
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The situation is very simple, and the bottom line is this. The Labour party is scared—[Interruption.]
The bottom line is this. I heard the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) talking about disrespect just now, and I heard the Leader of the Opposition talk about trust. What those who are abstaining or voting against the motion are doing is utterly disrespectful to their own constituents and utterly disrespectful to our democratic system. They are not trusting the people, they are not removing the uncertainty and they are not allowing the British people their democratic right to choose Members of Parliament whom they wish to elect in individual constituencies.
What the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber are doing is denying democracy. That is completely and totally unacceptable, whether people are remainers or leavers. The democratic right of the British people is to have a general election in the situation we are in now. Yes, certainly we should be supporting leaving the European Union, but remainers, too, have the right to vote, and that is being denied them by the Leader of the Opposition and every single Labour Member of Parliament and others who are either abstaining or voting against the motion today. That is a total denial of democracy. When it comes to the general election, I trust that the people who know why they have been denied it will vote against those Members of Parliament, to make sure that those Members themselves see the damage they have done to our democratic system.
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition literally and figuratively has run away from the judgment of the people. For the third time, he has turned down our offer to get Brexit done, in spite of the fact that he and every member of the Labour party stood on a promise to deliver Brexit in this Parliament. I think, frankly, that the electorate will find his behaviour utterly bewildering.
As I said when moving the motion, however, we will not allow the paralysis to continue, and one way or another we must proceed straight to an election. So, later this evening, the Government will give notice of presentation of a short Bill for an election on 12 December, so that we can finally get Brexit done.
There is no support in the House, as we heard earlier from those on the Opposition Benches, for the withdrawal agreement Bill to proceed, but this House cannot any longer keep this country hostage. Millions of families and businesses cannot plan for the future, and I do not believe that this paralysis and this stagnation should be allowed to continue. Now that no deal is off the table, we have a great new deal, and it is time for the voters to have a chance to pronounce on that deal and to replace this dysfunctional Parliament with a new Parliament that can get Brexit done so the country can move on.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It is clear that there is a desire on the Opposition Benches to bring forward a Bill that can give us an election, but we do not trust this Prime Minister—and we do not trust him for good reason. So if the Prime Minister is going to bring forward a Bill, he must give an absolute cast-iron assurance that, up until the passage of that Bill and the rising of Parliament, there will be no attempt to bring forward the withdrawal agreement Bill. Of course, the SNP will do its job and scrutinise any Bill that comes forward.
It is absolutely demonstrably the case that we want an election. We want the people of Scotland to be given the opportunity to have their say. We will fight that election on the right of the Scottish people to determine their own future. We will not, under any circumstances, consent to being taken out of the European Union against our will. That election campaign will make it clear that the right to determine our future will be in the hands of the Scottish people.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. We have just had an hour and a half of a slightly out-of-control student union debate, and it sounds as though we might have a rather similar farcical performance tomorrow. Is there any chance of you, as the Chair of the House, persuading the usual channels to resume their meetings and produce a sensible timetable for the Bill we have before us, so that this House can resume discussion of these serious matters in a grown-up fashion and come to a resolution on the deal, which—I repeat—I will vote for if it reaches Third Reading, as I think it will? It could well be that we get back to orderly government, which I think the general public are dearly wishing we would rapidly do.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to you and to the Prime Minister for not being here at the point when he raised his point of order. I was detained outside the Chamber; I am now back here.
I understand that a Bill will be tabled tomorrow. We will obviously look at and scrutinise that Bill. We look forward to a clear, definitive decision that no deal is absolutely off the table and there is no danger of this Prime Minister not sticking to his word—because he has some form on these matters—and taking this country out of the EU without any deal whatever, knowing the damage it will do to jobs and industries all across this country.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, I believe in correcting things when I get things wrong, and I want to apologise to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight)—a very honourable gentleman—for incorrectly referencing his seat in the point I made earlier. I understand that he has in fact been readopted by his association. I apologise to him for mistaking his seat for another. For that, I truly apologise.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept the very gracious comments just made.
As ever, I agree with my hon. Friend. I am pleased to see that his powers of oration have not dimmed. Ours is the most successful political and economic Union in history, and our four nations are safer, stronger and more prosperous together. We are deeply committed to keeping our family of nations together.
In a week in which we have seen a poll indicate that more voters support independence, threatening to split the Union, can my right hon. Friend tell me what work he is doing to build on the last Administration’s work to get UK Departments engaging with, and getting more of a presence in, the devolved nations?
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The right hon. Gentleman is showing complete ignoratio elenchi—a complete failure to study what we actually passed last night in that historic agreement. It is very clear that it is open to the House to do better, where it chooses, on animal welfare standards or social protections, as indeed this country very often does. We lead the way: we are a groundbreaker in this country. I am afraid to say that the right hon. Gentleman has no other purpose in seeking to frustrate Brexit than to cause a second referendum.
As for the NHS, this is the party whose sound management of the economy took this country back from the abyss and enabled us to spend another £34 billion on the NHS—a record investment—and, as I promised on the steps of Downing Street, to begin the upgrade of 20 hospitals, and as a result of the commitments this Government are making, 40 new hospitals will be built in the next 10 years. That is this party’s commitment to the NHS. [Interruption.]
Two questions and we are still waiting for an answer, although we could do with a translation of the first part of the Prime Minister’s response.
I hate to break it to the Prime Minister, but under his Government and that of his predecessor, privatisation has more than doubled to £10 billion in our NHS. There are currently 20 NHS contracts out to tender, and when he promised 40 hospitals, he then reduced that to 20, and then it turns out that reconfiguration is taking place in just six hospitals. So these numbers keep tumbling down for the unfunded spending commitments that he liberally makes around the country.
The Prime Minister continues to say that he will exclude our NHS from being up for grabs in future trade deals. Can he point to which clause in the withdrawal agreement Bill secures that?
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Q6. What plans he has to (a) encourage investment in and (b) improve the transport infrastructure of northern Lincolnshire. 
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I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. I can say to him that our policy remains unchanged: we should leave the EU on 31 October, at the end of this month. We will leave the EU on 31 October if Opposition Members will comply. That is what I will say to the EU, and I will report back to the House in due course. On his other two requests of a—
On a duchess and a city, may I undertake to report back to the House on the progress we are making, Mr Speaker?
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I must correct the hon. Gentleman, who just said this is our decision. It is the decision of the BBC. [Interruption.] No, come on, Opposition Members should be clear about what is happening. It is up to the BBC to fund these licences. The hon. Gentleman’s point about scamming is a reasonable one. We will ensure that we give people the protection and security they need—not least through another 20,000 police officers on the streets of our country.
Thank you, Mr Speaker; it gives me great pleasure to be called. As you have pointed out, this may unfortunately be my penultimate Prime Minister’s questions and will unfortunately be your penultimate Prime Minister’s questions, but I hope that it will not be my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s penultimate Prime Minister’s questions.
Is the Prime Minister aware that many Members who, like me, voted for his Bill last night but voted against the programme motion would be delighted to accept a reasonable compromise for the proper scrutiny of the Bill, and that this was not a vote for revocation in disguise?
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
We come together now, in the very best traditions of this House, to scrutinise this Bill and then take the decision that this country expects: to make the verdict of the British people the law of the land so that we can leave the European Union with our new deal on 31 October.
I of course wish that this decision on our national future had been taken through a meaningful vote on Saturday, but I respect perfectly the motives of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), although I disagree with the effects of his amendment.
I regret, too, that after Saturday’s vote the Government have been forced to act on the advice of the Cabinet Secretary and to take the only responsible course, which is to accelerate our preparations for a no-deal outcome.
Today, we have the opportunity to put all that right, because if this House backs this Bill and if we ratify this new deal, which I believe is profoundly in the interests of our whole United Kingdom and of our European friends, we can get Brexit done and move our country on—and we can de-escalate those no-deal preparations immediately and turn them off next week, and instead concentrate on the great enterprise of building a new relationship of the closest co-operation and friendship, as I said on Saturday, with our European neighbours and on addressing our people’s priorities at home.
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This new deal explicitly respects the territorial integrity of the UK. It takes the United Kingdom, whole and entire, out of the EU, and, of course, there is a set of special provisions applying to Northern Ireland—
Mr Speaker, I give way to the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson).
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The Prime Minister has claimed to the House today that the agreement does not rule out the interpretation that he has given to the House, but paragraph 8 of article 13 states quite clearly that any
“subsequent agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom shall indicate the parts of this Protocol which it supersedes”
and that the EU will have a say in that. How then can he claim to the House that we have total freedom of decision making?
I will respond by just repeating the point that those arrangements are automatically terminated after four years unless a majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly expressly decide to retain any or all of them, so those arrangements naturally and legally dissolve into full alignment with the whole of the UK. The default position is alignment with the UK unless, as I say, there is a majority vote in the Assembly against that alignment. In any event, those arrangements can be replaced by the future relationship based on the free trade agreement that we will conclude with the EU.
At the same time, the agreement ensures that Northern Ireland is part of the UK customs territory and benefits immediately from any UK trade deals. Clause 21 gives effect to those measures in the protocol. Apart from those special provisions, there are no level playing field provisions covering only Northern Ireland. Nothing in the new deal requires different treatment of Northern Irish services, which account for over 70% of the economy, and nothing in the revised political declaration would oblige Northern Ireland to be treated differently in the future relationship with the EU, which we will soon begin to negotiate.
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I can indeed give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. [Interruption.] There will be no race to the bottom. For hon. and right hon. Members who wish to be involved in the building of our future partnership, there will be every opportunity at every stage for the House to be involved, and quite properly so. [Interruption.]
I am delighted to repeat our unequivocal commitment to consumer standards and protections.
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It is indeed a genuine point of order concerning the programme motion. The BBC breaking news app is reporting that the Prime Minister has said that if he loses the programme motion he will withdraw the Bill. Given that the Prime Minister is talking about working with the House, has he given you any notice, Mr Speaker, that if the programme motion falls he will pull the Bill tonight?
Let me be very clear, to come to exactly the point the hon. Gentleman raises, that I will in no way allow months more of this. [Interruption.] No, I will not give way. If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead gets its way and decides to delay everything until January, or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the Government continue with this. And with great regret I must go directly to the point that the hon. Gentleman raises: with great regret I must say that the Bill will have to be pulled, and we will have to go forward, much as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition may not like it, to a general election. I will argue at that election—[Interruption.] No, I will not give way. At that election I will argue “Let’s get Brexit done,” and the Leader of the Opposition will make his case to spend 2020 having two referendums—one on Brexit and one on Scotland—and the people will decide.
There is another path. [Interruption.] No, I won’t give way. And that is to accept, as I have done, that this deal does not give us everything that we want, and all of us can find clauses and provisions to which we can object, as we can in any compromise, but it also gives us the opportunity to conclude that there is no dishonour in setting aside an entirely legitimate desire to deliver the perfect deal in the interests of seizing the great deal that is now within our grasp—of seizing the opportunity to begin healing the divisions, and to satisfy the aching desire of the British public that we would just get Brexit done and to move on to do what those who sent us here want us to do, which is to address their priorities.
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I think I have given way quite a lot during this speech and I wish to wind up because I know that hon. Members will wish to make their own contributions to the debate.
For three and a half years this Parliament has been caught in a deadlock of its own making, and the truth is that all of us bear a measure of responsibility for that outcome, yet by the same token we all have the same opportunity now. The escape route is visible. The prize is visible before us: a new beginning with our friends and partners; a new beginning for a global, self-confident, outward-looking country that can do free trade deals around the world as one whole entire United Kingdom. The deal is here on the table. The legislation to deliver it is here before us. A clear majority in the country is now imploring us to get Brexit done in this House of Commons. I say to the House: let us therefore do it and let us do it now and tonight. I commend this Bill to the House.
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My right hon. Friend’s constituency, which I know very well, was once a centre of manufacturing in Britain, but the Government of Margaret Thatcher put paid to that. He is right that, in the event of tariffs being introduced on manufactured goods and in the event of WTO conditions, the opportunities for sales in the European market, which are obviously huge at present, would be severely damaged. I ask colleagues to think carefully about what I see as the dangers behind the Prime Minister’s approach, because he does not offer a safety net—[Interruption.] There are so many people trying to intervene. Can I deal with one at a time, please? That would be kind. The Prime Minister does not offer a safety net—[Interruption.]
I do not think there is any process that allows an intervention on an intervention on an intervention. I think you would probably notice it, Mr Speaker.
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I will give way to my hon. Friend, with his quiet demeanour, but let me just say, on workers’ rights, that by removing any level playing field provision the Government are asking us to give them a blank cheque on rights at work.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for eventually giving way. I was incredibly concerned when I was reminded by my wife earlier today that we spent longer choosing a sofa than this House has to debate this incredibly important Bill. The important point is this: the Prime Minister’s own legislative adviser, Nikki da Costa, has said and advised him that she thinks this House needs at least four weeks to debate this important legislation in order for it to go through both Houses. We have just not got enough time to debate this—does my right hon. Friend agree?
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No, I will not give way.
That is not all—[Interruption.]
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The Prime Minister and I agree on very little, but we both give way a great deal. I am not going to give way for the moment.
Clause 30 makes it worryingly clear that if no trade deal with the EU is agreed by the very ambitious date of December next year, Ministers can just decide to crash the UK out on World Trade Organisation terms. That is not getting Brexit done; it is merely pushing back the serious threat of no deal to a later date. Let us be clear: as things stand the Bill spells out the deeply damaging deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated—and he knows it, which is why he is trying to push it through without scrutiny. Labour will seek more time to scrutinise. We will seek a clear commitment on a customs union, a strong single market relationship, a hard-wired commitment on workers’ rights, non-regression on environmental standards and the closure of loopholes to avoid the threat of a no-deal Brexit once and for all.
Lastly, the Prime Minister’s deal should go back to the people; we should give them, not just Members of this House, the final say. They always say that the devil is in the detail; I have seen some of the detail and it confirms everything we thought about this rotten deal. It is a charter for deregulation across the board, paving the way for a Trump-style trade deal that will—[Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Government Members do not like hearing this bit, so I will say it again: it will pave the way for a Trump-style trade deal that will attack jobs, rights and protections and open up our precious national health service and all the history and principles behind it, and other public services, to even more privatisation. That is exactly what the Prime Minister set out in his letter to the President of the EU Commission, when he said that alignment with EU standards
“is not the goal of the current UK Government.”
There we have it in his own words. That is a vision for the future of our country that my party, the Labour party, cannot sign up to and does not support. That is why we will be voting against Second Reading tonight and, if that vote is carried, we will vote against the programme motion, to ensure that this elected House of Commons has the opportunity to properly scrutinise this piece of legislation.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Home Affairs Committee was due to take evidence from the Home Secretary tomorrow afternoon. I have been trying to speak to the Home Secretary today, because she has now informed the Committee that she does not want to give evidence tomorrow. We have offered to change the timing of the sitting to tomorrow morning—
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I can see the Home Secretary nodding; I hope she can now agree to give evidence tomorrow morning, because we have been seeking to get this session in the diary since the beginning of August.