There have been 70 exchanges between John Bercow and Department for Exiting the European Union
|Thu 24th October 2019||Checks on Goods: Northern Ireland and Great Britain||22 interactions (166 words)|
|Mon 21st October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and Extension Letter||17 interactions (242 words)|
|Sat 19th October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Acts||169 interactions (6,140 words)|
|Mon 7th October 2019||Withdrawal Agreement: Proposed Changes||15 interactions (127 words)|
|Thu 26th September 2019||Compliance with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019||11 interactions (117 words)|
|Thu 5th September 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||11 interactions (61 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill||20 interactions (153 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill||2 interactions (24 words)|
|Thu 27th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (56 words)|
|Tue 18th June 2019||EU/British Citizens’ Rights||9 interactions (182 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Leaving the EU: Business of the House||23 interactions (382 words)|
|Thu 16th May 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||6 interactions (99 words)|
|Mon 8th April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||12 interactions (222 words)|
|Thu 4th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||14 interactions (86 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||49 interactions (1,555 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||19 interactions (503 words)|
|Mon 1st April 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||59 interactions (2,851 words)|
|Mon 1st April 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Votes)||41 interactions (1,118 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||48 interactions (2,739 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU Exit Day Amendment||35 interactions (491 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Votes)||71 interactions (3,536 words)|
|Mon 25th March 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Act||46 interactions (2,035 words)|
|Fri 22nd March 2019||European Council: Article 50 Extension||10 interactions (242 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||EU Withdrawal Joint Committee: Oversight||33 interactions (502 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||Article 50 Extension||26 interactions (738 words)|
|Mon 18th March 2019||Article 50 Extension Procedure||22 interactions (317 words)|
|Thu 14th March 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union||101 interactions (3,064 words)|
|Mon 11th March 2019||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Changes||16 interactions (492 words)|
|Thu 28th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (103 words)|
|Wed 27th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||49 interactions (795 words)|
|Thu 14th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||44 interactions (1,080 words)|
|Thu 24th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (218 words)|
|Mon 7th January 2019||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Changes||3 interactions (14 words)|
|Tue 11th December 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018: Statutory Obligations on Ministers||11 interactions (150 words)|
|Mon 10th December 2018||EU Exit: Article 50||23 interactions (357 words)|
|Mon 10th December 2018||Points of Order||49 interactions (2,565 words)|
|Thu 6th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||25 interactions (166 words)|
|Thu 25th October 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||32 interactions (456 words)|
|Mon 22nd October 2018||Leaving the EU: Meaningful Vote||14 interactions (124 words)|
|Tue 9th October 2018||EU Exit Negotiations||9 interactions (96 words)|
|Tue 4th September 2018||Brexit Negotiations and No Deal Contingency Planning||3 interactions (14 words)|
|Tue 24th July 2018||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legislation||7 interactions (85 words)|
|Thu 19th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (294 words)|
|Wed 18th July 2018||Future Relationship Between the UK and the EU||13 interactions (142 words)|
|Thu 12th July 2018||EU: Future Relationship White Paper||30 interactions (1,144 words)|
|Wed 20th June 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||45 interactions (497 words)|
|Thu 14th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (187 words)|
|Tue 12th June 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||83 interactions (1,483 words)|
|Thu 3rd May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||13 interactions (83 words)|
|Thu 15th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||16 interactions (113 words)|
|Mon 26th February 2018||Department for Exiting the European Union||5 interactions (77 words)|
|Thu 1st February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||19 interactions (145 words)|
|Wed 31st January 2018||Government’s EU Exit Analysis||6 interactions (245 words)|
|Tue 30th January 2018||Leaving the EU: Economic Analysis||22 interactions (695 words)|
|Mon 29th January 2018||Leaving the EU: Implementation||17 interactions (124 words)|
|Wed 17th January 2018||Points of Order||10 interactions (654 words)|
|Wed 17th January 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||65 interactions (7,915 words)|
|Thu 14th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||26 interactions (285 words)|
|Tue 5th December 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||34 interactions (355 words)|
|Tue 28th November 2017||Leaving the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments||9 interactions (177 words)|
|Mon 13th November 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||14 interactions (69 words)|
|Tue 7th November 2017||Exiting the EU: Sectoral Analysis||10 interactions (257 words)|
|Thu 2nd November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (160 words)|
|Wed 1st November 2017||Exiting the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments||32 interactions (1,554 words)|
|Thu 26th October 2017||Leaving the EU: Parliamentary Vote||22 interactions (428 words)|
|Tue 17th October 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||15 interactions (204 words)|
|Thu 7th September 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||28 interactions (213 words)|
|Thu 7th September 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||30 interactions (223 words)|
|Tue 5th September 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||7 interactions (59 words)|
|Mon 26th June 2017||Brexit and Foreign Affairs||6 interactions (71 words)|
(9 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
The why is very clear—why a deal is important for the island of Ireland, and for Northern Ireland specifically—but may I say to the Secretary of State that that is not the case with the how and the what? Given the lack of absolute clarity from Government Ministers and indeed from HMRC, if the Government are serious about trying to sell this proposal to the communities of Northern Ireland, they are doomed to failure. May I urge that the Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Secretary, the Prime Minister and the head of HMRC get together pretty quickly? In oral evidence yesterday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland referred to clauses of the Bill being brought forward. The communities need to see those in a timely fashion. We actually need to see draft documents about what these requirements would be. They are causing huge concern in Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State will not be able to sell the deal unless within the next few days we have the clarity that will assuage very legitimate concerns.
My hon. Friend, as the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, raises an important point about what reassurance can be given through the withdrawal agreement Bill to colleagues across the House to address some of these issues. I stand ready to discuss that with him, as I have offered to do with the shadow spokesman and others in the House, subject to the withdrawal agreement Bill proceeding, during its passage.
I remind the Chair of the Select Committee—of course he is very aware of this—that operationally these are issues that apply at the end of the implementation period, not when the withdrawal agreement is ratified, so there will be time for much more consultation with businesses in Northern Ireland to address the very legitimate questions that have been raised. Although it sometimes feels a bit longer, it was only last Thursday that the agreement was reached with the EU, and of course there are questions about what are often quite complex and technical arrangements pertaining to customs. Those are legitimate questions, and I stand ready to discuss them with businesses in Northern Ireland and also with my hon. Friend.
Break in Debate
The hon. Gentleman asks some legitimate questions, but I think he finished with an unfair suggestion. The Prime Minister was always told that he would not be able to renegotiate a deal or replace the backstop, and that he could not change a word of the withdrawal agreement, but he achieved those things and deserves to be commended for doing so.
The hon. Gentleman started by saying that the Prime Minister had one job, but when Members passed the Benn legislation, many of them were saying that the Prime Minister’s job was avoiding no deal. By voting against the withdrawal agreement and the programme motion, the hon. Gentleman has made no deal much more likely.
The clear message that I get from businesses in Scotland —certainly those that I speak to, alongside my hon. Friends—is that they want the clarity and certainty of a deal, and to move forward. They want one step of changes through the implementation period, not two. That is why so many businesses across Scotland want us to get on with this. Fishing communities in particular want us to take control of our independent coastal waters once again.
When the hon. Gentleman referred to eBay, I was not sure whether he was talking about my comments or those of another Secretary of State, but if he was asking whether I have commented on that issue, no, I have not. Another Cabinet member might have made such comments, and I will be happy to clarify that. The impact of no deal, and the ongoing uncertainty of not resolving this issue, is clearly having a negative impact on business. Even business leaders who supported the remain campaign, such as Sir Stuart Rose, are now saying, “Let’s get this done. Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s get on to the future trade agreement and move the country forward.” I hope that the hon. Gentleman will think again and enable the programme motion to go through.
What proportion of goods from non-EU countries are currently subject to physical checks on entering the UK and the Republic of Ireland?
Break in Debate
It will be for the Joint Committee to determine to what extent there is a material risk of any leakage to the integrity of the single market. I think the example the right hon. Gentleman raises is not the sort of size of trade that I would expect to be a risk to the integrity of the single market. The rules say that no VAT would apply if that catch from the vessel was for use by consumers in Northern Ireland. His question, quite rightly, related to some of that catch then going into the EU and going into the EU single market. As is the norm, if goods go into the EU single market then VAT would apply—[Interruption.] But not automatically. It would be for the Joint Committee to determine to what extent it is a significant issue. Perhaps another example would be where food goes to Northern Ireland but goes into ready meals. Then it would be within scope. If it goes to Northern Ireland and is consumed in a restaurant in Northern Ireland, it would not. That is the sort of issue the Joint Committee will get into.
In no way dispelling the fears of the Unionist community, of which I would consider myself one, may I quote what the House of Commons Library says on this matter:
“there are currently checks on animal products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain including physical checks on livestock”?
While there is the potential for those to increase under this agreement, the agreement is not establishing a principle in that respect—that principle is already established.
Break in Debate
My hon. Friend is right. In some ways I can go further and better than that, in that the text actually requires both sides to work to minimise the concern to which he has referred. So I would not see it so much as requiring to put leverage on the EU. I think there is a common interest in minimising this, because the text requires it and because, as I said in my response to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the EU is incentivised to minimise the impact to ensure that the arrangements gain the consent of the Assembly in Northern Ireland.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
“We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the Union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK, beyond what currently exists.”
Those are not my words, but the words of the former Secretary of State for Scotland and Ruth Davidson, the recently resigned leader of the Scottish Conservative party—an intervention that was described at the time by an unnamed Scottish Conservative spokesperson as “an article of faith” for the Scottish Conservatives. Can the Secretary of State tell the House: when did the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party lose its faith?
Break in Debate
My hon. Friend raises an important point. He will fully understand that as a Minister of the Crown it is not for me, on behalf of the Chancellor, to make fiscal commitments of that sort at this stage. However, my hon. Friend is opening up a wider discussion. As part of the new deal for Northern Ireland, as part of restoring the Executive, and as part of the Joint Committee looking at how we can reduce the impact of any administrative processes, it is important to understand what the concerns are and what the Government can do to mitigate them.
The raft of contradictory statements by senior members of the Government has caused nothing but confusion and anxiety for businesses over the past 24 hours. Given that the Prime Minister does not even seem to understand or be able to be straight about the impact of the Brexit proposals on the future of £18 billion- worth of trade within our own country, why on earth would anyone trust him to negotiate our future trading relationships with the EU or the rest of the world?
Break in Debate
I am happy to write to my hon. Friend to see what further clarity can be provided, but I refer to the answer I gave a moment ago. These issues will apply at the end of the implementation period, as opposed to when the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
(9 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I have recently returned to the House after two weeks’ paternity leave following the birth of my beautiful son—[Interruption.] Even better, I have returned to find that the Prime Minister secured a wonderful Brexit deal, which I look forward to voting for—
Arthur, Mr Speaker.
Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State reassure me that he will now crack on and get the legislation through so that we can get Brexit done and not still be talking about this when Arthur is old enough to drive?
There may have been delays in getting Brexit delivered, but I am delighted that Arthur has been delivered, and I am sure I speak for the whole House in offering our congratulations and wishing him every success for the future.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to suggest that there is huge frustration up and down the country, not only among our constituents but among the businesses that want an end to the uncertainty. They want to see a deal reached, and they recognise that it is in the country’s interests to leave in a smooth and orderly way. They see that the Prime Minister has agreed a deal that has been brought to the House, and it is now for the House to pass the legislation to enable us to move forward and get on to the other priorities that we want to do.
Break in Debate
I very much agree with my hon. Friend, and I am grateful to him for supporting the deal. This is Parliament’s letter, but as he says, the reality is that any extension would require the agreement of all 27 member states, which is outside Parliament’s control.
Break in Debate
I very much agree. I do not think the Prime Minister’s view will come as a surprise to colleagues in Europe, as he has been clear from day one that he wanted a deal, despite many voices in this House suggesting otherwise, and that it is in the country’s interests to leave on 31 October. That remains his commitment, and it is exactly what the Government are committed to doing.
As well as the unsigned letter that the Prime Minister refused even to grace with his name, he sent another letter, signed in his own name, saying, in effect, “Dear Donald, please ignore the first letter I’ve sent you. I sent it only to comply with an Act of Parliament.” If the purpose of that second letter was not to deliberately attempt to frustrate an Act of this Parliament, what on earth was the second letter for?
Break in Debate
I had not planned on speaking, but I just wanted to make a clear point that “Match of the Day” trumps anything else as far as I am concerned every time. Will my right hon. Friend explain something to me? It finally appears to be the Opposition’s position, although I am never clear whether that will change next week, that they want to have a second referendum. Will he explain what anybody could say to the British public when they say, “We didn’t trust you last time. Now you have to trust us that we will trust you again on a second referendum.” How could they possibly believe or trust British politicians again?
Perhaps we could have a similar tradition for the remaining duration of the rugby world cup, to which many Members from across the House would enjoy applying that maxim. My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct on the Opposition’s position. I appreciate that they have moved a lot and frequently, but if I take the position set out on Sunday by the shadow Brexit Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), it clearly was for a second referendum. That is odd, given that they do not trust the people with the first referendum. The question that the Leader of the Opposition is not answering and needs to answer is: how long does he expect the primary legislation to take? How long does he expect the question testing from the Electoral Commission to take? How long does he expect the operational preparations to take? How long does he expect the regulated campaign period to be for? If his position is to have a second referendum, we need answers to those questions, because he risks leaving this Parliament in paralysis because he is not answering how long he wants to delay Brexit for?
(9 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I beg to move,
That, in light of the new deal agreed with the European Union, which enables the United Kingdom to respect the result of the referendum on its membership of the European Union and to leave the European Union on 31 October with a deal, and for the purposes of section 1(1)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 and section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, this House approves the negotiated withdrawal agreement titled Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and the framework for the future relationship titled Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom that the United Kingdom has concluded with the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, as well as a Declaration by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning the operation of the Democratic consent in Northern Ireland provision of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, copies of these three documents which were laid before this House on Saturday 19 October.
Today is the time for this to come together and move forward. Someone who previously did that, and whom many Members of the House will still remember, was the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam. Her biography was called “Momentum” before it was a faction forcing out its own colleagues—[Interruption.]
That spirit of bringing people together was what I was seeking to pay tribute to. After 1,213 days and frequent debates in this Chamber, now is the time for this House to move forward. Another pivotal figure in bringing different views together was Lord Trimble, who won the Nobel peace prize for his contribution to the Good Friday agreement. He has made clear his support for this deal, confirming that it is fully in accordance with the spirit of that agreement, and the people of Northern Ireland will be granted consent over their future as a result of the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated. This deal also delivers on the referendum in a way that protects all parts of our Union against those who would seek to use division and delay to break it up, particularly those on the SNP Benches. As such, it is a vote that honours not one but two referendums by protecting both our democratic vote but also our United Kingdom.
This House called for a meaningful vote. Yet some who championed that now suggest that we should delay longer still. I respect the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) who, indeed, has supported a deal three times and has indicated his support today. However, his amendment would render today’s vote meaningless. It would cause further delay when our constituents and our businesses want an end to uncertainty and are calling for us to get this done. The public will be appalled by pointless further delay. We need to get Brexit done by 31 October so that the country can move forward and, in that spirit, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.
Break in Debate
I do not usually do this, but given that there was a very factual error in the comment just made by an Opposition Member, may I say, just for the record, that I have never been a member of the ERG and I am not a member of the ERG?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is entirely mistaken and cannot have been listening to what I said when I intervened on him. I am in entire agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who asked him the question, because that must be the position. The intention behind the Letwin amendment is to secure that insurance policy—nothing more, nothing less.
The problem with the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s argument is that it is at odds with what he says about section 13. Each time it is a different argument, but the purpose is always the same, and that is to delay any resolution, to stop this House moving forward and to stop us getting Brexit done.
There are many in this House who have said repeatedly in debates that their principal concern is avoiding a no-deal exit. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), on the Prime Minister’s statement, made that point. Today is the opportunity for all Members of this House to demonstrate that they want to avoid a no-deal exit, to support this deal and to get Brexit done. This is a deal that takes back control of our money, borders and laws. It gives the people of Northern Ireland the freedom to choose their future. It allows the whole United Kingdom to benefit from our trade deals, and it ensures that we move forward as one complete Union of the United Kingdom.
In securing the new deal, the Prime Minister observed with his EU colleagues that a failure by them to listen to this Parliament, and in particular its decision on the backstop, would indeed be a failure of statecraft. They have listened; they have acted; and they have reached a new deal with the Prime Minister. It would now be a failure of this Parliament not to approve this deal and to fail to respond to that flexibility from EU leaders as required.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would be grateful for your advice. I was shocked to hear the Secretary of State mention the name of Mo Mowlam in his introductory remarks. Mo Mowlam said that the EU contributed to the Northern Ireland peace process and that it was crucial in underpinning dialogue and cross-community contacts. She emphasised the precariousness of the process and the need for continued “substantial” support from the European Union. May I seek your advice, Mr Speaker, on how we can seek to defend her legacy when it is abused in such a way?
Today, we meet on a Saturday for the first time in 37 years, with huge decisions before us this afternoon. Those decisions are not just about whether this deal gets over the line, and getting Brexit done, but about what it means for our country. There has been a lot of attention on how the deal operates in Northern Ireland, and rightly so, but that should not be allowed to mask the political project that is driving this deal. That is why Labour has focused on the political declaration, and any examination of the detail of that political declaration reveals its true purpose and the intent of the deal.
No customs union—that strikes at the heart of our manufacturing sector. Once in the doldrums, decimated by Prime Minister Thatcher—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, my dad was a toolmaker. He worked in a factory all his life in manufacturing, and we lived through those doldrums. That is why when I go to a factory or plant I am proud, for myself and for my father, when I see manufacturing through the just-in-time process and the revival that has gone on in parts of manufacturing. Go to any of those manufacturing plants, and the management and unions speak with one voice: “Do not take us out of the customs union.” This deal does just that, and it will do huge damage to manufacturing.
What of services? Nothing in this deal is different from that of the previous Prime Minister—the weakest of weak deals for services, which make up 80% of our economy. What the deal does is clear: it rips up our close trading relationship with the EU, and the price will be paid in damage to our economy and in job losses. Anyone doubting that should look at the words that have been stripped out of the deal put forward by the previous Prime Minister. Put the text side by side and ask some difficult questions.
Paragraph 20 used to read:
“The Parties envisage having a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible, with a view to facilitating the ease of legitimate trade.”
The words “as close as possible” have been stripped out. Why?
Now it is said that we want “as close as possible”. Now it is said that there are all sorts of assurances, but between the text as it was under the previous Prime Minister and the text before us today, the words
“a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible”
have been taken out and that is not an accident.
Break in Debate
Because the Labour party and other Opposition parties would never countenance it, and I do not think the Government would either. [Interruption.]
The Conservatives have luxuriated in telling us that the Benn Act undermined their negotiations by forcing them into preventing no deal from being on the table if we left on 31 October, but the Prime Minister has said that he has negotiated a “great deal” with that restriction in place, so what possible argument can they have for not agreeing that we cannot leave at the end of the next phase of negotiations with no deal, at the end of 2020? Why would they not accept that restriction, given that they negotiated what the Prime Minister calls a great deal?
Break in Debate
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right with the quote, but he has been very selective and taken it out of context, because I continued to make the point that it is a commercial reality that leaving no deal on the table in any negotiations makes a good and fair trade deal more likely. That is something I, and the vast majority of colleagues in this place, actually want. We want a free trade agreement agreed with the EU by December 2020, and my firm belief—I am not alone here—is that by scrapping the previous backstop, we stand more chance of achieving it.
I am genuinely grateful for that intervention, which I wanted to take, but the fact remains that the hon. Gentleman is right when he says that if the trade deals
“are not successful… then we could leave on no-deal terms.”
Before we rush into the Lobbies, let us explore what that means.
The decision on extending transition, under this deal, needs to be taken by the end of July next year. That is eight months away. It is very hard to see how any Government could negotiate a completed future relationship within such a short timeframe, particularly a Government who want to diverge. The Prime Minister brushed this away earlier by saying, “Well, we’re aligned.” That is true, and if he wanted to stay aligned he could probably do a trade deal a lot more quickly, but this Prime Minister and this Government want to diverge. So, the idea that this does not lead to a no-deal Brexit is wrong, and nobody should vote for this deal on the basis that it is the way to ensure that we do not leave at the end of 2020 on WTO terms.
Break in Debate
I will make some progress and then give way again. [Interruption.] I have given way so much. I will give way again. I do need to make some progress so that others can get in.
I turn briefly to amendment (a) in the name of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). I thank him and colleagues across the House for the cross-party work they have done in recent months. The amendment, which is genuinely cross-party, is in that spirit. It makes it clear that this House will not be bounced into supporting what is a very bad deal without a proper chance to scrutinise it. It would allow the House to ensure that the legal text is acceptable and provide time to seek changes in the passage of implementing legislation. It would ensure that the Benn Act can be applied.
May I say this? The amendment does not cause delay, because that exercise will have to be gone through anyway. It is not a vote to delay; it is a vote to get on with looking at the next stage, which will have to be looked at. What it does provide is an insurance policy against signing up to a deal that is not what it seems, with the risk of a no-deal Brexit to boot.
The deal before the House is a thoroughly bad deal. It is a bad deal for jobs, rights and living standards. It is a bad deal for the future direction of the country. It will put us on a path to an entirely different economy and society: one of deregulation and divergence. It will end in either a bare bones free trade agreement or no deal in eight months. It stands against everything that the labour and trade movement stands for—[Interruption.]
If we pass this deal today, it will be a long way back for the communities we represent. I urge all Members to reject it.
Break in Debate
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for finally giving way. What he is not telling the House is that every major business group in Scotland is encouraging us to support the deal today. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation are all pleading with us to bring the uncertainty to an end by voting for this deal. Do not listen to SNP Members; they are not Scotland.
It is illuminating to hear such voices in the House, because I am afraid that the harsh reality is that many business and industry organisations in Scotland see the impact, and not just in Scotland but throughout the UK. The British Chambers of Commerce, the National Farmers Union, the food and beverage association and the Timber Trade Federation have all talked about the negative impact of the deal, but we never get the truth from the Scottish Conservatives.
Break in Debate
The dishonesty and lies of Vote Leave brought the country to vote for Brexit in the first place —[Interruption.]
Today, the House will be listening to our voices, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might catch your eye later on.
The dishonesty and lies of Vote Leave brought this country to vote for Brexit in the first place. The Prime Minister and many in his Cabinet should be ashamed of that. They have torn their country, their Parliament and their own party apart. This is the beginning of the end of their precious Union and their distorted Etonian vision for society. Scotland will not be ignored any more. The deal must be stopped and binned today.
Whether or not the deal passes today, the Government need an extension. The deal is devastating for Scotland. We will not vote for it, and we call for the extension period to be used for an election, so that we can get rid of this rotten Tory Government out of Downing Street. Scottish National party MPs are here to do our job—to stand stronger for Scotland. Those from all parties who ever want to lay claim to representing the voices and interests of the people of Scotland cannot support this deal. They cannot inflict economic and social harm on our society.
We have heard myth after myth from the Prime Minister and his cronies, but the facts are clear. The European Union accounts for 56% of the UK’s exports and 65% of imports, either through the EU directly or through other countries with which the EU has trade arrangements. The direct value of EU trade is more than triple the value of US trade. The Brexit Secretary even said that the EU was the UK’s most important partner.
There are 100,000 jobs in Scotland at risk. Our fishermen, farmers and crofters will all be disadvantaged by this deal. As the Scottish Seafood Association put it, this could “switch the lights off” for a small exporter:
“Five separate certificates all have to be done on October 31. For a small exporter that is possibly trying to sell 30 kilos of top quality langoustines to a restaurant in Paris, switch the lights off, that restaurant owner is going to go and buy his lovely langoustines somewhere else.”
Those are not my words; that is from the Scottish Seafood Association. I hope that people in Scotland can see that those on the Government Front Bench are laughing. People’s livelihoods are at risk and the Government Front Benchers think it is funny. They should be utterly, utterly ashamed of themselves.
The Scottish National party will not stand by and let this Government rip apart our economy and our country’s future. We are Europeans and Scotland is a European nation. Members from all parties should unite with the SNP and bring this Government down. A general election is now the best way to stop this Prime Minister and stop this dangerous Brexit.
Let me say that anyone, any single Member here, who backs the Tory Prime Minister and his cheating Vote Leave campaign this afternoon by shafting Scotland will never, not ever, be forgiven by the people of Scotland. Overnight, we saw the reports, the rumours and the whispers. Will the Labour party really allow its Members of Parliament to vote for this catastrophic Brexit deal? Let me remind the Labour party what the TUC said:
“This deal would be a disaster for working people. It would hammer the economy, cost jobs and sell workers’ rights down the river. Boris Johnson has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May. All MPs should vote against it.”
Those are the words of the TUC. Let me ask this: why has the Leader of the Opposition not yet guaranteed that all Labour MPs will vote with the Scottish National party this afternoon against this deal? It is a deal that would be devastating for Scotland, ripping us out of the EU against our will, terminating our rights of freedom of movement, and threatening jobs, living standards, our public services and the economy. Is the leader of the Labour party really willing to allow any members of his party to write a blank cheque for this Tory Prime Minister to deliver Brexit? Not a single member of the Labour party should be voting for a deal that delivers a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and on environmental standards and that paves the way for dismantling our precious NHS. It would be absolutely staggering that, with a no-deal threat on the table, any Labour MP could even think about voting for this toxic deal. Labour must not be the handmaidens of a Tory Brexit, which we know will cost thousands of jobs and harm people’s livelihoods.
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I thank the right hon. Lady. We were colleagues together in Committee, and, as she knows, I am fond of her—[Interruption].
I simply say to the right hon. Lady that I would trust the European Union with workers’ rights before I would trust this Conservative Government.
The Opposition must stop the excuses and finally act by backing the SNP tonight to reject this damaging deal, secure an extension and call an election, so that we can bring this Tory Government down and stop Brexit.
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory MPs are prepared to vote for a deal that they previously pledged they would not back. That is simple irresponsibility and moral cowardice. I say to the Scottish Tories: you are serving the death knell on the Union by voting for this deal. Independence is coming, and we will take our place as a proud European nation. What a shift in time, Mr Speaker, from what Ruth Davidson said in 2014, which was:
“No means we stay in, we are members of the European Union.”
The people of Scotland now know more than ever that they can never, not ever, trust a Tory. We already know that, despite promise after promise—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Perhaps if Members settled down, we could get through this and their voices might be heard.
Despite promise after promise made by the Scottish Tories to protect our fishermen, we already know that the backstop loophole in the deal threatens to be devastating for the Scottish fishing sector. Under the proposed deal—[Interruption.] It might help if the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson) listened, rather than trying to shout from the Bar of the House. This is about fishermen’s livelihoods, which the Scottish Tories falsely claim to protect. Under the proposed deal, Scottish fish exports to the European Union face being hit by damaging tariffs. Any move that could see Scottish vessels registered in Northern Ireland land their catch there and then have it moved to the Republic of Ireland for processing to escape those duties would pose a huge danger to Scotland’s fishing ports and wider processing industry. That is the reality of what the Tories are threatening to do to our fishing industry. This would directly threaten thousands of jobs, and could make the sector among the hardest hit by Brexit in the whole of Scotland—Scottish fishing sold out by the Conservatives yet again. That is the stark reality, as opposed to the bluster of a UK Tory Government who once again treat Scotland as an afterthought. Well, we in the SNP will not stand for it.
I warn Members who march through the Lobby with the Government this afternoon that selling Scotland out by backing this deal will be the final nail in the coffin for the Union. While the UK drags Scotland out of the EU against our will, and this Tory Government downgrade our devolution settlement and destroy our rights, in Scotland the SNP are looking proudly at our record. We are ambitious for our nation, and not this Prime Minister, not the Leader of the Opposition and not any leader of the Liberal Democrats—not anyone—will stand in our way. The Scottish people are sovereign and they should have the choice to determine their own future.
This year, Scotland is marking the 20th anniversary of devolution—the establishment of our Scottish Parliament. The first speech that was made in the new Scottish Parliament in May 1999 was by my good friend Winifred Ewing. At the time she made that speech, she was of course also the Mother of the European Parliament, having served there since 1979. Winnie expressed the hope that the Scottish Parliament would try to follow the more consensual style of the European Parliament and other European Parliaments, rather than the more confrontational approach that we have witnessed again here today in Westminster. In our actions today, we are trying to stay true to that advice.
Although there remains uncertainty over whether the proposed deal will pass, what is absolutely clear is that it would take us out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union against the overwhelming democratic will of the people of Scotland. Scotland did not vote for Brexit in any form and, unlike others, the SNP will not vote for Brexit in any form. Scotland has been shafted, sidelined, silenced and ignored by this UK Government, and it cannot be ignored today. I urge Members not to stand by and allow this Prime Minister to drag us into an economic abyss, because I warn the House that it is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is one as an equal, independent, European nation. That is a choice that the SNP is determined to ensure is given to the people of Scotland, and those who vote against Scotland’s interests this afternoon should be aware that they are ending the Union. Scotland is not for leaving Europe. We will become an independent nation. My message to Europe is: leave a light on for Scotland.
When I arrived at the House of Commons this morning, I saw the message, “Good day for May”. I thought that perhaps consensus had come across the whole House and that it had already been decided that this deal would be supported by the House tonight. Unfortunately, my view on that was premature—although I think only premature—because, happily for England, it was a reference to Jonny May having scored the first two tries in our victory against Australia.
I hope the whole House will forgive me if I say that, standing here, I have a distinct sense of déjà vu. But today’s vote is an important one—
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I hoped I would never be driven, in these long debates on Brexit, finally to deciding what my opinion is on the choice between a no deal and a bad deal. I regret to say that when my right hon. Friend the previous Prime Minister put forward the proposition before, I had considerable doubts about her belief that no deal was better than a bad deal. Those doubts have increased, because what we have before us now is undoubtedly a bad deal. I think it is a very bad deal. It is wholly inferior to the deal that was negotiated by my right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister, for which I, too, voted three times, like the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle). We cannot be accused of taking part in this debate seeking to block Brexit and repudiate the wishes of the British public, and all the rubbish that the more fanatic Brexiteers and their followers frequently hail at us. But now the choice is very real.
This is a very bad deal, for reasons that I will not dilate on, but others have. I actually have considerable sympathy with the Members from Northern Ireland: the independent Unionist, with whom I almost always agree, and the Democratic Unionists. This is a most peculiar constitutional position that they are being put in as Members of the United Kingdom. I would very much rather that we did not have this situation of a border down the Irish sea, because there is absolutely no doubt that there is quite a clear customs and regulatory border being envisaged down the Irish sea.
It has to be said that the effect is to save the all-Irish economy from the near calamity that a total no deal would have resulted in. I have no idea how anybody would have operated a no-deal situation across the border, and I thought these weird propositions of a customs border somewhere in Northern Ireland but not on the border had little or no chance of working. Although the Irish at least have the economic consolation that they will sail on through the transition period as they are now, I am extremely worried that the purpose of going to negotiate this convoluted arrangement over Ireland was so that the economy of Britain could be taken out of the customs union and the single market straightaway. If that holds after the transition period, I think it will have the most damaging effects on our economic future, for all the reasons that other people have given in the earlier and lengthy speeches we have heard.
Therefore, it is all to be played for in the transition period. I actually do not believe that a good free trade agreement, a good agreement on security and fighting international crime, and agreements on the licensing of medicines and the possible arrangements with the European Medicines Agency—all the things spelled out—are likely to be achieved by the end of next year. The Canada deal, which a lot of Brexiteers like to hold up as a model, took about nine years to put in place, and I wish that we were prepared to contemplate a more realistic timescale.
Meanwhile, the votes today, and the process of the next week or two, must get us through the necessary steps to put in place a withdrawal agreement, so that we have a transition period in which to hold full negotiations about our ultimate destination. All my votes in this House have been to ensure that the calamity of leaving with no deal on 31 October, or whenever, was never allowed to happen. For that reason, we should support this deal, but I cannot understand the Government’s resistance to saying that we should legislate before we abandon the protection of the Benn Act and decide that we do not need an extension.
The Government say that we can take for granted the details and getting the votes, but none of us are sure whether there is a majority for this Government and the present deal at all. If the Government can maintain a majority throughout all the legislation I shall be very reassured, but I would like to wait to see that they can—
The Democratic Unionist party has been supportive throughout the process of delivering on the result of the referendum of the British people, and we have defied and opposed the procedural chicanery and political machinations that have gone on in this place to try to undermine that result. The irony is that today, which should be a day of rejoicing for us because the Prime Minister has come back with a deal, we find that Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland alone, will be left within the clutches of the European Union, by being a de facto member of a customs union and tied to European regulations.
The Government have put forward two defences for their position. The first is that there will be no border down the Irish sea—there is no border down the Irish sea. But let us look at the facts. As a result of the customs arrangements, every good that is exported from GB to Northern Ireland will be subject to a customs declaration. Movements will be subject to checks. Unless it can be proved that the goods are not going outside Northern Ireland, duty will be paid. Only once it has been proved that the goods are not leaving Northern Ireland will that duty be paid back. On top of that, all the regulations of the European Union will be imposed on Northern Ireland. If anybody tells me that that does not represent an economic customs legal border—a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom—I do not know what a hard border looks like.
During debates in this House, I have heard it said that if an extra camera were to be placed on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, or if one additional piece of paper had to be signed, that would be a break in the Good Friday agreement because it would represent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. On the one hand we can have all those checks between Northern Ireland and GB, and that does not count as a hard border, yet on the other, one camera on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic does count as a hard border. That shows how false the argument put forward by the Government is that they have not accepted a hard border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What are the implications of that? First, it means that we are cut off from the country to which we belong and, secondly, that our economic relationship with our biggest market will be damaged.
The second argument put forward by the Minister today is that we can get out of this—we can vote against it. But in Northern Ireland there is a mechanism for dealing with sensitive issues. It is enshrined in an internationally binding agreement. That mechanism, because of the sensitive nature of politics in Northern Ireland, states that any controversial issue has to be decided by a cross-community vote. That part of the Belfast agreement, which is so sacrosanct in this House and to those who negotiated it, has now been torn out.
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That is the irony. We have to avoid having an Assembly because the voting mechanism of the Belfast agreement must be adhered to, but when it comes to getting out of this arrangement, which has severe consequences for Northern Ireland, the Belfast agreement mechanism does not have to be adhered to. Either we avoid a hard border or we have a hard border. Either we adhere to the Belfast agreement or we do not adhere to the Belfast agreement. The agreement the Government have signed turns all those things on their head, and that is why we will oppose it.
I am sure hon. Members across the House who have defended their constituency interests, whether the fishing industry in Scotland and Cornwall or the rights of workers in their own constituencies, will understand why we will not give in to this agreement. We believe it will cause damage to our part of the United Kingdom and lead to the focus of attention away from London towards Dublin. Let us not forget that we will be tied in to an arrangement where the laws for Northern Ireland will be made in Brussels. The British Government will have no input. The Stormont Government will have no input. So where will the focus of attention be for industry, lobby groups and politicians in Northern Ireland? Dublin. We will move towards a united Ireland.
I was asked what the DUP would do in relation to the Letwin amendment. All I can say is this: we would be failing in our duty if we do not use every strategy available to try to get guarantees, changes and alterations that will safeguard the interests of the United Kingdom, the interests of our constituents and the interests that we represent.
I was planning to be brief anyway, Mr Speaker. I campaigned to leave, but at every stage of the campaign, I argued that we should leave on good terms with our friends and neighbours and leave with a deal. I supported the previous Prime Minister in what she sought to achieve, and I pay tribute to this Prime Minister for what he has done in bringing forward a deal. After a year of turbulence in this place, when we have not really come near to finding anything a majority in this House can agree on, it is absolutely clear today that we are much closer than we have been to something that this Parliament is willing to give its support to. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for achieving that and strongly urge the House to unite behind this agreement.
I want to talk specifically about the amendment from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), and I want everyone on both sides of the House to think about this. I know him well—he has his reasons for tabling it—but the consequence of it is that this House, at a moment when the nation is watching us to see what decision we will take about the deal that has been brought back from Brussels, may decline to form an opinion. That is the consequence of passing the amendment—that we will not decide today whether we support the deal.
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I have always set out wanting to agree a deal with the EU that delivers the outcome of the referendum within the terms of the 2017 manifesto that I stood on. I have fought against an undemocratic no deal and always voted for a deal. In fact, I have voted for a deal more times than the Prime Minister. I have even voted for a deal more times than the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Transport Secretary and the Environment Secretary—combined. Despite this, I have had the Whip removed, and those who voted down deal after deal have been rewarded with jobs in the Cabinet.
I would like to support this deal as well, but the Government have been sending mixed messages. While Ministers at the Dispatch Box say they want a deal, anonymous No. 10 sources insist that they will break the law and deliver no deal. Owing to this and the Government’s Janus-like ability to face in both directions, I cannot support the Government without assurances. Those assurances come in the form of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). This would ensure that the Government and the members of my former party stuck to their promises. It would also ensure that there was enough time to scrutinise the withdrawal agreement Bill, which is likely to be a mammoth piece of legislation.
The House might notice that I am saying little about the content of the deal. I was always taught, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.” Suffice it to say that it is substantially worse than the deal negotiated by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). Perhaps this deal’s sole merit is to cast her redoubtable negotiating efforts in a more positive light. It is a great shame that Opposition Members did not vote for that deal.
The Foreign Secretary let the cat out of the bag yesterday when he said that it was a “cracking deal” for Northern Ireland because it will keep
“frictionless access to the single market.”
My residents and businesses in Cheshire would like that frictionless access to the single market. If it is such a great deal for Northern Ireland, why cannot my constituents have it, too?
I will back the deal, subject to the reassurance of the amendment, but I do not like the deal. Given the choice between a dodgy deal and remain, I suspect many constituents would opt for the latter. As such, if I get an opportunity to vote on an amendment in respect of a people’s vote, I will vote for that, too.
On 26 June 2016, we had a referendum, which in effect was a snapshot on a single day. A distorted photograph was obtained. It was distorted by false images. It was distorted by fibs on a bus and by fake promises of getting an easy, quick deal that would convey all the benefits of free trade that our country has enjoyed for so many years as a member of the European Union. It was created by preying on people’s fears and fuelling their prejudices at the same time.
Three and a half years later, we now at least have some clarity. On two occasions, the Government have negotiated a deal with the European Union. Like the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), I think this a bad deal for all the good reasons given by so many right hon. and hon. Members.
This place remains divided. The answer is not yet another general election. The last one did not help us by solving anything, because it could not. The only way to solve this matter is to get it back to where, in effect, it began: to the people. We should put the deal to a confirmatory referendum. People are entitled to change their minds as the evidence changes, and they now see with clarity what Brexit is all about. Surely our young people who were not able to vote in 2016 must have the right to play a part and determine their own futures, given that so many of them will be affected by Brexit.
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Please forgive me for not giving way; we are extremely pushed for time.
What does this deal mean for business? I will put it simply; for business, for our industries and for our manufacturing, it reduces access to the market of our biggest trading partner, threatening jobs up and down our country at a time when more investment is needed, not less. There is no economic impact assessment and no accompanying legal advice—funny that; I wonder why. According to The Guardian, Britain is on course to sacrifice as much as £130 billion in lost GDP growth over the next 15 years if the Brexit deal goes ahead.
Industry has been clear that it needs market access. It needs a customs union to keep vital supply chains flowing, but this deal sells them out. With no barrier-free access and no customs union, it puts the fantasy of chasing damaging trade deals with Donald Trump over the needs of our country. Again, the House does not have to take my word for it. Make UK, which represents British manufacturing, is clear that
“commitments to the closest possible trading relationship in goods have gone”
and that the deal
“will add cost and bureaucracy and our companies will face a lack of clarity inhibiting investment and planning.”
Even the CBI added that the
“deal remains inadequate on services”
and that it has
“serious concerns about the direction of the future UK-EU relationship.”
This is a bad deal for industry, a bad deal for manufacturing and, more importantly, a bad deal for jobs.
Let us look at what the deal will mean for the environment. Let us see what green groups are saying about it. Greener UK, for example, has raised—[Interruption.]
Greener UK has raised huge concerns, saying that
“environmental safeguards are absent from the new withdrawal agreement”
and that the Government’s toothless Environment Bill
“provides neither an enforcement body with independence… nor a commitment to non-regression in domestic law.”
All this is coming at a time when we face a climate crisis across the world, and it is simply unacceptable.
The Government are asking us to trust them on all these issues without, quite tellingly, setting out any detail or legislation today. The Prime Minister says that nobody in his Government wants to reduce rights or standards, but that is a remarkable statement, especially when looking at their track record. How can we trust them?—[Interruption.] Government Members can cheer all they like, but how can we trust a Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy who made it clear that, for small businesses, she envisages
“no regulation whatsoever—no minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, no pension rights”?—[Official Report, 10 May 2012; Vol. 545, c. 209.]
How can we trust a Foreign Secretary who wrote a pamphlet called “Escaping the Straitjacket” that outlined his plans to cut workers’ rights and regulations? How can we trust a Prime Minister who said the UK should scrap the social chapter and claimed that the current
“weight of employment regulation is… backbreaking”?
The answer is that we cannot trust them. If their intentions were to maintain current standards, why have they slashed every level playing field commitment in the withdrawal agreement?
We are about to make history and, in the final moments before we enter the Lobbies, MPs will consider the weight placed upon their shoulders. Is this deal right for their communities, industries and future generations? No, it is not. Agreeing this deal will not get Brexit done; instead, it will sell out our country and sell out our communities, leaving us open to an onslaught of deregulation and a reduction of rights that will put jobs at risk. That is something no Labour MP, nor any other MP worried about protecting their community, could ever support.
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I will not give way, but I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s persistence. [Interruption.]
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Every party and every voice in this House will have equal weight and equal value in the discussion on our future economic partnership, making sure that we can deliver a Brexit deal that delivers for the 52% and for the 48%. That is our intention.
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Our first duty to our constituents and our country is to keep our promises. This House said that we would honour that referendum mandate. The time has come. The question that all of us must answer when we return to our constituencies is: did you vote to end the deadlock? Did you vote to end the division of these days? Did you vote to bring the country together? I know that Members across the House will support the Government this afternoon, to do just that.
I beg to move that the Question now be put.
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am very grateful to you, the House of Commons staff, and everybody who has put themselves out and given up their time for the debate today. It has been a very important debate, and an exceptional moment for our country and our Parliament. Alas, the opportunity for a meaningful vote has effectively been passed up, because the meaningful vote has been voided of meaning, but I wish the House to know that I am not daunted or dismayed by this result. It became likely once it was obvious that the amendment from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) was going to remain on the Order Paper. I continue in the very strong belief that the best thing for the UK and the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this new deal on 31 October.
To anticipate the questions that will come from the Opposition, I will not negotiate a delay with the EU; neither does the law compel me to. I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone in the 88 days in which I have served as Prime Minister: further delay would be bad for this country, bad for our European Union, and bad for democracy. Next week, the Government will introduce the legislation needed for us to leave the EU with our new deal on 31 October, and I hope that our European Union colleagues and friends will not be attracted, as those on the Opposition Benches—or rather, I should say, the Opposition Front Bench—are, by delay; I do not think that they will be. Then, I hope that hon. Members, faced with a choice on our new deal for the UK and the European Union, will change their mind—because it was pretty close today—and support this deal in overwhelming numbers.
Since I became Prime Minister, I have said that we must get on, and get Brexit done on 31 October, so that this country can move on. That policy remains unchanged. No delays! I will continue to do all I can to get Brexit done on 31 October, and I continue to commend this excellent deal to the House.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome today’s vote. Parliament has clearly spoken. [Interruption.]
I welcome today’s vote. It is an emphatic decision by this House, which has declined to back the Prime Minister’s deal today and clearly voted to stop a no-deal crash-out from the European Union. The Prime Minister must now comply with the law. He can no longer use the threat of a no-deal crash-out to blackmail Members to support his sell-out deal. Labour is not prepared to sell out the communities that we represent. We are not prepared to sell out their future, and we believe that ultimately the people must have the final say on Brexit, which actually only the Labour party is offering.
Today is an historic day for Parliament, because it has said that it will not be blackmailed by a Prime Minister who is apparently prepared, once again, to defy a law passed by this Parliament. I invite him to think very carefully about the remarks he just made about refusing, apparently, to apply for the extension that the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act requires him to do.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I think all of us in this House are aware of the responsibilities that we have. This is a crisis that we are in. I am thankful that the House has voted the way it has done on the amendment this afternoon. There is a clear expression from this House that we cannot crash out on 31 October.
Mr Speaker, I want to ask you what we can do to make sure that the Prime Minister respects the law of the land, that the Prime Minister respects the Benn Act and sends a letter to the European Council seeking that extension. I wonder what we can do to make sure that the Government do not bring forward a Bill until that extension, as they have been instructed, is delivered on? If there is any failure on the part of a Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law, well, Prime Minister, you will find yourself in court.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister’s deal was a bad deal, and the public deserve to have the final say—not just the hundreds of thousands who are marching outside, but the millions of people across our country. [Interruption.]
And the people who are outside this building right now will be heard, and they deserve the final say, along with millions across the country. The most urgent thing right now is that the Prime Minister complies with the law, and I ask your guidance. Would it be possible to suspend the sitting for a short time to allow the Prime Minister to go and send his letter, and come back and make a statement to the House to confirm that he has done so?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. First, let me say to the Prime Minister that I agreed with what he said at the end of his remarks, and I am absolutely certain that he will comply with the law. I say to friends and colleagues across the House who helped us to achieve this amendment, which I believe to be profoundly in the national interest, that I am grateful for that co-operation, but that our ways are now going to part. Many Conservative Members who co-operated in preventing a no-deal exit by helping to put in place the Benn Act and keeping it in place as an insurance policy today, will, when the Prime Minister brings forward a Bill to implement our withdrawal from the European Union to the House of Commons, now be voting for it. We will continue to vote for it and seek to ensure that it becomes law before 31 October. If it does become law, this country will leave on 31 October—a hope that I share with the Prime Minister—but it will do so on the basis of knowing that should anything go wrong, we will not crash out without a deal on that date.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. This decision will give further time for detailed consideration of the Bill when it comes forward, as well as an opportunity to consider whatever amendments come forward in detail. It has the effect of not approving the deal today, and we will examine all the details of the Bill, and all amendments, in light of our overriding concern about the constitutional and economic integrity of the Union. That is our priority. It will remain our priority in the days ahead, and that is the basis on which we will now proceed in a timely and sensible manner.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. There is much talk about the law of the land, but the law of the land as it stands at this moment in time is quite simple. Section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 categorically states:
“The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.”
That is 31 October—just in case anyone cannot read.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.]
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank you for your indulgence. Viewers in Scotland are accustomed to the sight of the Tory Benches emptying when Members of Parliament who represent Scottish seats get up, and I very much look forward to seeing that in the SNP’s party political broadcasts in the soon-to-come general election.
My point is an important one. The Prime Minister has failed to secure approval of the withdrawal agreement today under the terms of the Benn Act. Under the law of the land he should be retreating to No.10 to pen a letter to the European Union, both under that Act and the undertakings—as so described by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union—that he gave to the Scottish Court. Fortunately, we are back in court on Monday morning. It will be possible then to secure the court’s assistance if the Prime Minister has flouted the law and the promises he gave to the court.
Mr Speaker, may I ask you this? Should Scotland’s supreme Court mandate you to sign the letter required by the Act on behalf of this Parliament, will you do so?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome the vote on the amendment, because it shows that a majority of Members have stood up for more democracy, not less. They have stood up for more scrutiny, not less. They have also voted to rule out a disastrous no deal. I believe it will also give us a chance to let the people have a final say. Over 1 million of them are, right now, demanding that right outside this place. The Prime Minister has changed his own mind more times than we can possibly count, most recently on the border in the Irish sea. It cannot be right that the British people are the only ones who are not allowed to change their minds. I look forward to the opportunity that this vote affords us to come back to put whatever deal is in front of us to that confirmatory ballot.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Is there any power that you have to enable this House and the public to properly understand what the Prime Minister has just said to us? According to the law passed by this House, if a deal or no deal is not agreed, the Prime Minister is required to send a letter under the Benn Act today, 19 October. It may be my misunderstanding, Mr Speaker, but I have no idea, from what the Prime Minister said, whether he is actually going to write and sign that letter, or whether he is not going to do that. If he is not going to do it, that means he is not complying with the law that has been passed by the House of Commons. Any of our constituents who do not comply with the law face the consequences. Is there anything we can do to properly understand whether the Prime Minister intends to comply with the legislation and send the letter, or whether he is simply going to ignore it?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of today’s decision, I should like to inform the House that Monday’s business will now be a debate on a motion relating to section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and I shall make a further business statement on Monday.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank the Leader of the House for making it, and in response I would like to ask him, through you, Mr Speaker, why we are having a rerun of the vote. If that is not the case, could the Bill be published and debated in an orderly way? And how discourteous this is to Her Majesty the Queen, when we are still debating the Queen’s Speech. When are we likely to have the remaining days of the Queen’s Speech debate?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I too am grateful to the Leader of the House for announcing that additional piece of business on Monday. I share deeply the concerns of the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) on these issues. What is happening to the Queen’s Speech? What will now happen to the debates and votes that were supposed to happen? We were supposed to conclude the Queen’s Speech debate by Wednesday.
This is a huge discourtesy to the House. If the Leader of the House wanted a vote on this Government’s deal, he could have had it 20 minutes ago. That was the right time to do it. We deserve some sort of explanation as to why this is being brought back on Monday so quickly without any conversation or discussions across the usual channels and no discussions or debate with other parties in this House. He has to get back to his feet and explain a bit more about what he is intending and why he never took advantage of the opportunity to have a vote on this 20 minutes ago.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Should the Leader of the House not have sought to make an emergency business statement, if that was what his intention was, so that we could do what the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) have just done and asked questions of the right hon. Gentleman about his intentions regarding what happens to the rest of the important business that we have before us?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In light of the Leader of the House’s very brief remarks, I wonder whether it has been made clear to you when the Second Reading of the Bill that the Prime Minister said would be introduced will take place, and which days next week we will have as the two days to complete our debates, and vote, on the Queen’s Speech.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a slightly odd situation. My question is really for the Leader of the House, but because he made a point of order rather than a business statement, I find myself having to put it to you—although of course he is very welcome to get to his feet and help us to clarify matters if he wants to. What a lot of us want to know about Monday is whether it is your understanding, as I have to phrase it, that the Government intend to bring back a motion to approve the agreement struck with the European Union under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, or whether your understanding is that they intend to bring back the legislation implementing that agreement.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As the Member who is meant to lead for the Scottish National party in the supposed Queen’s Speech debate on the NHS and trade deals, I simply need to know—like many hon. Members across the House—whether to prepare a speech. Work is planned for Monday and Tuesday, and I think it incredibly disrespectful that we simply do not know what we are doing on Monday.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the Government to put a motion before the House that is effectively defeated and then to re-table the exact same motion hoping for a different result, perhaps in anticipation of certain conversations happening over the weekend between the Prime Minister and people who voted one way, and perhaps on the basis of what appears in the Sunday papers? Is it in order to bring the same motion twice on consecutive days? Do we not have a duty to our constituents and to the country to let this matter rest?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am cognisant of your recent comments, but it seems to me that we had a business statement setting out what was going to happen next week in the normal way. That has now been altered on a point of order. I am not convinced that that was an appropriate point of order. If it was not, we have not received notice in this House of what will happen on Monday. Can the Government alter the business on Monday using a point of order, or should an invite not be made for an emergency motion that we could listen and respond to?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you clarify whether the Queen’s Speech amendments—I have one on free TV licences—will still be considered on Monday? Will there be space in the timetable to hear those amendments?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your clarification on a procedural point. Quite clearly, the Leader of the House is not going to bring forward a business statement, and it is clear from these proceedings that Members wish to question him. Is there provision in the Standing Orders to suspend the House or otherwise give you an opportunity to consider a request for an urgent question to the Leader of the House this afternoon in order that we might question him?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I have not been to the Table Office, but I understand that the Orders of the Day for Monday have been tabled and that they do not, in fact, include the Queen’s Speech debate for Monday. I am not sure whether the Leader of the House’s nod meant that we would be having a Queen’s Speech debate on Monday or that we would not be having a Queen’s Speech debate on Monday, because the Orders apparently include only debate on the withdrawal Act. Obviously, most of us have not had a chance to go to the Table Office and see the Order Paper. It would be very useful if you could somehow compel the Leader of the House to stand up and tell us whether that nod meant that we are having the Queen’s Speech debate on Monday or that we are not having the Queen’s Speech debate on Monday, because the details that have been placed in the Table Office appear to suggest that we are not.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that you worry unduly. There will be a full emergency business statement on Monday—that is part of what I was saying—so that people can have a full appreciation of what business there will be. I made my announcement on a point of order because the situation had arisen urgently, and it was important to make clear to the House straight away what would happen. However, as Members will know, statements are made very early in the day, and there will therefore be an opportunity for full understanding of how business will develop.
The Queen’s Speech debate will continue, but Monday will be as I set out in the point of order that I raised a few moments ago.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to what appeared to be a quasi-business statement from the Leader of the House, which was or was not about matters that the House may be discussing on Monday but of which we have not had proper notice—and there is no intervening day for a motion tabled today for discussion on Monday, which is the normal course of events—the suggestion that we should repeat the same debate on essentially the same matter, section 13(1)(b), is surely contrary to all our normal practices, whereby the Government of the day, if a matter has been disposed of, cannot repetitiously and vexatiously keep asking the same question until they receive the answer that they prefer.
I do not ask you to rule on this matter now, Mr Speaker, but I strongly urge you to take account of the fact that many of us would feel that it would be an abuse of the power of the Executive to come back on Monday and ask the same question again just because they did not get the answer that they wanted today.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to your response to the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) and your statement that you will make a ruling on Monday, I am anxious that, if a section 13(1)(b) motion were to be tabled for the House to consider on Monday—which seems to me to be what we have just chosen to amend today—there should be an opportunity for an amendment, or amendments, to be tabled to it. Depending on whether the Government may table such a motion, could you indicate whether you would be willing to accept a manuscript amendment once we know what your ruling is on Monday?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are two points that I want to put on record that may be worth considering when you are making your decision about whether this is an orderly proposal.
First, contrary to what one might assume, it is not the case—even if the Prime Minister has written his letter tonight, as I believe he now will and must—that this motion, which the Government have now put down, is in a substantially different context or would have a substantially different effect from the one which they tried today, but which the House rejected. The reason for that is that, in the Benn Act, we provided very specifically that if there is a validation by the House through an approval of the withdrawal agreement subsequent to the depositing of the letter with the EU, that letter can then automatically and immediately be withdrawn. So, what the Government are attempting in this motion to do is nothing more and nothing less than to repeat what would have been the effect of today, on Monday.
Secondly, I think it is important that the decision of the House today when it passed the amendment and subsequently passed the motion as amended was specifically that the House was withholding approval “unless and until” the legislative stages of implementation had occurred. This very clearly flies in the face of that, because it seeks the approval of the House without the legislative stages having been approved.
I understand entirely why the Government are trying to do this, because of course it would negate the whole effect of the amendment today, rather than moving us on to the Second Reading of the withdrawal implementation Bill, as I had hoped and expected, but I wanted to point those things out to you, Mr Speaker, because I think they are material when deciding whether it is orderly.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The orders in the Table Office—[Interruption.] I am now not really sure whether I have a point of order to make, Mr Speaker. The orders in the Table Office make no mention of the Queen’s Speech whatsoever, so I assume that the Leader of the House meant that the Queen’s Speech debate will take place on other days. However, they do provide for a motion under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for up to 90 minutes. Therefore, if there are no urgent questions or statements on Monday, we will all be going home at 5 o’clock. Is there any way in which the Government can provide more time for a debate, given how heavily subscribed and how much interest there was today, and, for understandable reasons, how many Members were not able to be called? What provision is there for the Government to make more time available than just the statutory 90 minutes, if we are to have a meaningful vote on Monday?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for not being in the Chamber earlier; I was watching on the television screens and heard what you said about the need to consider this matter carefully. I only became aware of it when I popped into the Table Office and saw that something had been thrown down by the Government, in a quite odd move. If the Government were in effect trying to put the same question again, is it not the case that they would be trying to avoid tabling the withdrawal Bill, which the Prime Minister indicated he would do? Of course, many Members of this House from all parts and with all views on Brexit wish to see that Bill so that they can adequately consider it, appropriate impact assessments can be undertaken, Committees such as the Exiting the European Union Committee, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), can consider it, and amendments to it can be tabled. Does it not strike you, Mr Speaker, that this is an odd way to be proceeding, given the clear will of the House expressed today on a very clear question?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that, hitherto, a motion to regret in relation to the Gracious Speech had been tabled in the name of Leader of the Opposition and me about the future of the national health service that sought to exempt the national health service from a trade deal with the United States. The motion has provoked considerable support in the country among NHS staff and patient groups, many of whom were going to go to a lot of trouble to come to the House on Monday to lobby Members of Parliament ahead of that debate. Out of courtesy, can you tell the House what we should be saying to NHS campaigners about whether they should come here on Monday, because it looks like the Government are running scared of a debate on the NHS?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you think that this issue should be referred to the Procedure Committee? It always used to be a convention that we had decent notice of business. That convention has been in a sense undermined by, for example, the recent practice of debates following applications under Standing Order No. 24 taking place immediately after the application has been granted, rather than on the following day, which gives people notice. We have some dangerous precedents for business being changed at short notice to the detriment of Members of this House and to members of the public who might want to attend our proceedings. If the matter was referred to the Procedure Committee, it may be able to recommend some tightening of Standing Orders so that this sort of situation did not arise again.
While I am on my feet, it looks as though, from what the Leader of the House said in his point of order, a motion has been put down for Monday under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, but it will not fall under section 1(1)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. The motions we debated today covered two different Acts and two different provisions, but I understand that the motion down for debate on Monday relates only to the 2018 Act, so it seems—I hope that you will be able to consider this over the weekend—that it cannot be regarded as the same issue that we dealt with today. I hope that you will be able to take such matters into account.
Yes. If you can put it that way, I am, and I can say that I first had the privilege of joining the Procedure Committee back in 1984, when it was graced with the presence of the right hon. Enoch Powell and many other distinguished Members of this place.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise if you have already made this clear, but is it your intention, perhaps as the first piece of business on Monday, to make a very clear statement on the process we have just heard, particularly if you consider it to be of a vexatious and repetitive nature? If it is appropriate, would you look kindly on an urgent question on this subject? Members have clearly expressed some very strong views about what the Government have just done.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I will be brief. Can you give me some guidance on how best I could register my disgust and disapproval of the behaviour of the Leader of the House in walking out as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) tried to respond to his point of order? This continues on from the behaviour of Conservative Members who, at every opportunity, barrack and shout down my group leader, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford). This should not be allowed to continue, and I would like to know what I can do to help it stop.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you clarify whether it would be in order for the Leader of the House to apologise to Back-Bench Members who were expecting some sort of explanation following today’s proceedings, and indeed to those who had been preparing to speak in Monday’s Queen’s Speech debate, and looking forward to it—they might be polishing their speeches as we speak—but who will now be unable to do so?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Leader of the House was not making his business statement earlier, we had no suggestion of the timings of anything that might happen in Monday’s sitting. We presume that our proceedings will commence at 2.30 pm, but we have no idea as we are sitting today on Saturday. We are having to presume a lot of things. We are being left in the dark by a Government whose Leader of the House, frankly, is not sufficiently courteous to make a business statement. Could you please clarify the expected timings for Monday?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to register my concern about, effectively, the debate that we are now having, when most Members felt that business would have already finished and who, on a Saturday, had arranged to get back to their families and to other commitments. It is very clear to me that the Government knew that today’s vote could have only two outcomes: it was either going to succeed or it was going to fail. There was therefore no reason for the Government not to be transparent about their intentions for the following sitting day and how they will proceed following the outcome of today’s debate.
I really do feel that we have now spent a year with the previous Government and now this Government, unfortunately, seeking to override votes here. Only today the Prime Minister said that
“Parliament should be at the heart of decision making… I acknowledge that in the past we have perhaps not always acted in that spirit.”
I simply want to reflect that this has got to stop. This House cannot do its job if we have plans and debates sprung on us at the last minute. All that we are seeking to do is to scrutinise on behalf of our constituents, represent their concerns and play our role in trying to help make any Brexit deal the best possible deal that it can become. This is simply not the way for the House to be run. I hope that you can reflect on Members’ concerns as you reach a ruling.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to the point I made in my earlier point of order, in respect of which you kindly ruled that this matter should have been dealt with through an emergency business statement, I think we all, if we have been in the House long enough, recognise low-rent jiggery-pokery from the Government, which is what this actually amounts to. I understand that that is not something you could say, Mr Speaker—I notice your head movements, but it is not my duty to comment on people’s head movements in the House.
If the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) were seeking to table what we might call an insurance amendment ahead of Monday’s proceedings, just in case a ruling should occur that allowed the Government to proceed as they suggested through the rather irregular point of order from the Leader of the House earlier, and that insurance amendment was not tabled by the time we finished these points of order, would you be minded overall to accept such an amendment as a manuscript amendment, prior to our proceedings on Monday?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you had any indication from the Government about whether or not they intend to undertake and publish an economic impact analysis on the Brexit deal, in advance of bringing it before us again on Monday?
The Brexit Secretary, this morning, confirmed that the Government have not undertaken an economic impact analysis on the Prime Minister’s deal and have therefore not published it. Have you had any notice, Mr Speaker, about whether they intend to undertake and publish that analysis in advance of Monday, as they now have a few extra days before they bring it back to us?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome the remarks that you have made already in response to the other points of order. Can you tell us how we will know whether or not the Government have sent the letter to the European Council to comply with the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 by 11 o’clock tonight? Have they indicated whether they will lay it in the Library or put a copy on the gov.uk website, because otherwise we could be in the dark until Monday on whether this has even happened, and given the jiggery pokery, as has been described, that is going on, no doubt they would seek to hide from us whether this letter has, in fact, been sent, as required by the law.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As there is just so much distrust of the Prime Minister and the signing of this letter, may I suggest, through your good offices, that this is done as publicly as possible? Now, the popular TV programme “Strictly Come Dancing” is on tonight, and I am pretty certain that Tess and Claudia would welcome the Prime Minister to the show and order that that letter be signed so that the whole nation could observe it.
(10 months ago)Commons Chamber
I must say that although I am reaching out across the Floor, I have given up on reaching out to the right hon. Lady. There are many Opposition Members and there is still hope for people who will support a plan, but I suspect that under no circumstances will she support a plan, regardless of what we produce and what it says.
Last week, the Leader of the Opposition said that no self-respecting Labour MP could vote for the proposals, yet we are now being pressed on a confidential document, the production of which would undermine yet again our negotiating position. Does the Minister agree that to reveal the documents would make no deal more likely?
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I thank my right hon. Friend, and confirm that nothing has changed since his birthday—I think that that was what he was referring to. Apologies for not congratulating him at the time. My language was not nuanced in any way. We will be leaving on 31 October with a deal or without a deal.
May I ask about the political declaration, which is of as much concern to many of us as other elements of the withdrawal agreement? The former Prime Minister was quite right to say that if there is no deal, there is no deal on security. All the elements of security are shunted forward into the political declaration. I wonder where we are with extradition, because since the original version of the political declaration was signed, four major European countries have said that they will not on any terms extradite their nationals to the UK if we are no longer members of the European Union. Will that not pose a significant problem for us if we want people to face justice in this country?
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I thank my hon. Friend for speaking up for Scotland. He raises a very important point about fund distribution, and while some of these things are in the purview of the Cabinet Office, I am happy to have a discussion with him about how we can improve the situation.
We are here on 7 October. The Government’s plan was for Parliament to be prorogued and not return until 14 October. Under the original plan, we would have had no scrutiny at all of the withdrawal agreement and very little time when we returned. Is that not the case, Minister?
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My right hon. Friend served in the Department for Transport and knows these issues incredibly well. I look forward to talking to him in more detail about East Midlands airport and UPS, particularly because Southend airport is doing a little bit of transit of goods with Amazon. He is right that these things can happen without intricate checks.
The Minister will be well aware that the withdrawal agreement we already have says that it protects the Belfast/Good Friday agreement “in all its dimensions”—those are the precise words. The withdrawal agreement also protects the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent. I would like the Minister to take a few moments to explain in detail to the people of Northern Ireland in particular how the Prime Minister’s new proposals guarantee those essential features of the withdrawal agreement.
(10 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
In the same tone, I would like to say to my hon. Friend—we have been on many delegations together—that we should treat one another with respect across the House. I would also like to say, in the same spirit as your opening remarks, Mr Speaker, that I stand in front of the shield of Jo Cox and I hope that today this Parliament could have a little bit more respect—not just for one another and Parliament, but for the public as well.
Mr Speaker, thank you for granting this urgent question. The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act was passed by the House and given Royal Assent by Her Majesty the Queen on Monday 9 September, brought in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) and the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt). That Act clearly says that the Prime Minister must seek an extension to article 50 to 31 January if the Prime Minister is unable to meet one of the two conditions of either having a withdrawal deal passed by this House, or having an affirmative vote by this House to back no deal.
The Minister said in his opening response that there was a range of options. That is the only range of options in that Bill—to pass a deal, to pass no deal, or subsequently to seek an extension. The Supreme Court decision this week, and the statement in this House followed by questioning of the Prime Minister yesterday, were a national embarrassment. Under any other political equilibrium, this Prime Minister would have seriously considered his position as Prime Minister, and potentially resigned from it. Many people have lost their jobs in government for a fraction of what this Prime Minister has done over the last two weeks.
Yesterday the Attorney General, at that Dispatch Box, during the urgent question tabled by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), said clearly, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), that he would abide by the law of the EU (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. He said that with uncharacteristic clarity when he said simply, “Yes” in response to that question. Last night, the hon. Members for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) and many others pressed the Prime Minister to make the same commitment. He did not give the same commitment in this House. And under questioning from myself, very late in the sitting last night, when I asked whether he would fully comply with the provisions of the Act, should he not get a deal through this House, or an affirmative vote for no deal, by 19 October, the Prime Minister answered with one word: he answered, “No.”
I have tabled this urgent question, first, to seek clarity; and secondly, to ask the Minister, in all good faith, to tell us, which he has not done yet, what the Prime Minister meant when he said “No”, because frankly, and with reference to my earlier remarks about respect across this House, I am sure that there are very few people in this House, and very few people in this country, given the events of the last few weeks, who trust the words of the Prime Minister, even when said from that Dispatch Box. The Prime Minister used—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister used, in a direct answer to my question, the word “no”, so I have several questions to ask the Minister, and with this new level of respect I hope he is able to answer them directly.
What does the Prime Minister intend to do if he does not get a deal through this House by 19 October or an affirmative vote for no deal? That is question No. 1.
Question No. 2: do we have to take the Prime Minister to court again to comply with the law? Question No. 3: what message does it send out when the Prime Minister says no to a straight question of whether he will comply with the law? Lastly, and most importantly, the Minister said, and the Attorney General said, that the Government will obey the law. What does that mean? Can the Minister just come to the Dispatch Box and say that obeying the law means that the Government will seek an extension to 31 January if the provisions of that Act are not met?
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The hon. Gentleman asks why the Prime Minister is not here today. He was here for three and a quarter hours, answering, I think, more than 125 questions—
Thank you for rescuing me, Mr Speaker. Your encyclopaedic memory is better than ours.
The Prime Minister does not want an extension. Every sinew of Government is focused on a deal. [Interruption.] Hon. Members say that that is not the case, but my day is filled with trying to find a deal. That is the right thing for the country, the right thing for Parliament and it is the right thing to do, and we will obey the law at every single point.
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I am grateful for that, Mr Speaker.
The Minister and I are both successors of the late Teddy Taylor. When Teddy was a Glasgow MP, he was known as the Tenement Tory who talked straight. Let me invite the Minister to find his inner Teddy this morning. Are there circumstances in which the Prime Minister will write to Brussels as outlined in the Benn Act?
(11 months ago)Commons Chamber
4. What recent assessment he has made of the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. 
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My right hon. Friend tempts me, with his knowledge of the relevant box sets, into dangerous territory. The Prime Minister does have clarity on what he is seeking in the negotiations. The framework was set out in the letter to President Tusk, where we narrowed down the negotiating objectives to the backstop in the withdrawal agreement and to a best-in-class free trade agreement in the political declaration. That is the plan. It is very clear.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Diolch yn fawr iawn. What would the Secretary of State say to the National Farmers Union, which says that a no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for farmers? The Farmers Union of Wales says it would have disastrous consequences for farmers. What would he say sitting opposite family farmers in places like Brecon and Radnorshire and across Wales who really fear for the livelihoods and their futures?
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I am very encouraged to hear my right hon. Friend begin to list some of his summer itinerary. I think that helps to build confidence in the fact that the Government are engaged in serious discussions with the European Commission and other counterparts. To that effect, would he be prepared to publish information on whom he has met and the discussions he has had when not in meetings, with whom and when?
I fear that I might get into trouble with the said unknown place, but I hope that a bit of latitude will be granted. My right hon. Friend raises a material point, because it goes to the crux of last night’s debate and the sincerity of the negotiations. The Prime Minister has also had extensive contact through the G7 and his visits to Berlin and Paris, among other places, and there has been the extensive work, to which I pay huge tribute, of the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser, who was in Brussels last week, this week and who has also travelled extensively. Significant work has been going on, and I am very happy to look at what further detail we can set out.
(11 months ago)Commons Chamber
I have read those reports and they are of concern to me, as I know they are to the right hon. Gentleman and many others in the House.
The aim of the clause is not, as I think the Leader of the House suggested yesterday, to create a “marionette Government” but, I would argue, to give the Government the time they need to do their job. I say that because it is not clear what is happening at the moment, as we discussed yesterday, and how much negotiation is taking place when no proposals have been made. It is very hard to understand that, because I would have thought that the Government had been working flat out since July. It is also important to make the point that even if agreement was reached, it is very hard to see how it would be possible to get the House’s approval and pass all the legislation between 18 October or so and 31 October.
My final point is this. What would happen if we left with no deal? The Prime Minister talks about getting it done and ending the uncertainty, but the truth is—the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) made this point powerfully—that no deal would not end anything. It would simply plunge us into greater uncertainty—uncertainty about the degree and length of disruption, uncertainty about the border arrangements in Northern Ireland, and uncertainty about our future trading relationship with our biggest, nearest and most important trading partners, the other members of the European Union.
Given that it has taken three years to get this far—in other words, not very far at all—and given that it took Canada seven years to negotiate a deal and the Prime Minister says he wants a super-Canada deal, it is going to take years to agree a new relationship. Every single EU member state, member state parliament and regional parliament will have to agree to any deal. No deal will not be the end of Brexit; it will only be the end of the beginning. In that time, faced with that degree of uncertainty, businesses will have countless decisions to make about where to invest, what to make and where, what to do about the sudden disappearance of all the arrangements that they have come to know and work within, and what to do about the sudden imposition of tariffs. It would be utterly irresponsible to allow that to happen. We have a duty to prevent it, and I hope the House will vote for this Bill tonight.
I rise to speak as the proud but slightly bemused independent Member for North East Bedfordshire. I commend my friend, the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), for his remarks and the way in which he went through the technicalities of the Bill. I have no wish to do the same and do not wish to detain the House on those matters. Let me make just three brief points in support of the Bill.
First, is the Bill a stumbling block to negotiations? No, it is not. The Bill does not prevent the Prime Minister or the Government from negotiating. The reason that we do not yet have a deal or might not get one is not this Bill. Ever since the referendum and the start of negotiations, a variety of reasons have been cited for not getting a deal. In no particular order, it has been: a remainer Parliament, a remainer Prime Minister, Olly Robbins, the EU, Michel Barnier, Martin Selmayr—always a different reason. We were told recently that all could be solved if only we elected a Prime Minister who was a Brexiteer with an absolute determination to leave, no questions asked, because the EU would then fold and we would have the deal that the UK always wanted. We have such a Prime Minister, whose determination is clear, and the EU has not folded, so this time we are being told that it is us—that it is me. That is nonsense.
There are two reasons why we have not had a deal. First, Members in this House have not voted for a deal. If they had looked at it hard two years ago, they would have bitten your hand off to accept all the provisions in the withdrawal agreement and the transition period, which a Brexiteer will now be in charge of. The second reason is that many in the UK have failed to grasp that it is we who are leaving the EU. That means that it is a negotiation between us. We have never really understood the EU or its arguments, believing that a negotiation was a series of demands from the United Kingdom, not a negotiation. That and the language that we have used—built on 20-odd years of the drip, drip of poison about the EU—has made sure that we did not get a deal.
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I have listened to the hon. Gentleman involuntarily for most of the years that I have been here—most, not all, because I went to campaign for him in his by-election of 1984. I have no wish to hear from him voluntarily. [Laughter.] Let me go on.
Thirdly, let me end where I began, as the Independent Member for North East Bedfordshire. I do not complain at the removal of the Whip—voting on an issue of confidence, I accept the rules—but I say to my colleagues: just think how this looks. Last week, the Conservative party lost Ruth Davidson and George Young in the House of Lords resigned the Whip. This morning, we lost my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) —who made the economy we were cheering just a few minutes ago. What are people going to think about what we have left and what we have lost? Some will have been very happy at the fact that some have been purged—purged. A few weeks ago, one of our colleagues retweeted an article in The Daily Telegraph that looked forward to the purging of remoaners in the Conservative party. That was disgraceful. I say to my colleagues, if we are being purged now, who is next? Watch a film called “Good Night, and Good Luck”, and you will take my point.
This may be the last substantive speech I make here as I am not standing again—and who knows when the election will come? I will leave with the best of memories of this place, friends and colleagues on all sides. The obsession that my party has developed may have sought to devalue my past as a friend of the EU, of our sister centre-right parties, and of many friends, and it may have curtailed my future, but it will not rob me of what I believe. I will walk out of here looking up at the sky, not down at my shoes. [Applause.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to be speaking in this particular debate.
May I start by paying tribute to my predecessor, Mr Chris Davies? He worked hard for our local communities, raising awareness of the very difficult issue of mental health and suicide in farmers. I thank him for his service. Chris followed hard on the heels of the highly respected Liberal Democrat MP, Roger Williams. Roger’s are large boots to fill and, if I can even partly match his passion, service and commitment, I shall be very pleased.
It is a huge privilege to represent Brecon and Radnorshire, one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country. It is also the largest constituency in England and Wales— something that I am sure some Members here will have discovered during the recent by-election when searching for another elusive farmhouse up yet another long and scenic track. Brecon and Radnorshire is home to strong and resilient communities, some of which are Welsh-speaking. Sadly, many of our libraries, banks and post offices in these communities have closed in recent years. Despite this, there is a real joy for life in the old counties of Radnorshire and Brecknockshire, as well as a healthy rivalry between them, that makes sure that the mid-Wales spirit—yr ysbryd—is alive and well.
Many Members here will have had the luxury of making their maiden speeches in the weeks and months following a general election, looking forward to the many years of a full parliamentary term. My maiden speech could not be made in more different circumstances. [Laughter.]
On the night of the by-election, I promised the people of Brecon and Radnorshire that I would tell the Prime Minister exactly why a no-deal Brexit would be damaging for my constituents. Well, I am delighted that last night my very first vote as the Member of Parliament for Brecon and Radnorshire was to help Parliament take back control of the agenda and to do everything possible to prevent us leaving the EU without a deal, including speaking in this debate today. When it comes to a no-deal Brexit, we need to stop talking in terms of the hypothetical and the theoretical and start talking with candour about the real and damaging consequences it would bring.
A no-deal Brexit would be damaging for everyone in my constituency, but particularly for the people who are the lifeblood of Brecon and Radnorshire—the farmers. Welsh farmers, as we heard this morning, export 40% of their lamb, and over 90% of that goes to the EU. Currently, if farmers in Brecon and Radnorshire export to the EU, export tariffs are—let me have a think—zero. A no-deal Brexit would mean 40% tariffs on Welsh lamb exports. That would risk putting farmers in my constituency and right across Wales out of business.
I will be using my votes today to ensure that a no-deal Brexit is avoided, as it would be catastrophic for the people of Brecon and Radnorshire. Whether people voted remain or leave, they did not vote for a no-deal Brexit that would make them poorer. They did not vote for long waits for life-saving medicines and they did not vote for a decline in our country’s environmental standards.
I am extremely privileged to be able to serve the wonderful people of Brecon and Radnorshire and I shall do my utmost to be an MP they are proud of. Diolch yn fawr iawn—thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want us to leave the European Union with a deal and I voted three times to leave the European Union with a deal. I regret the fact that it has become necessary for this Bill to be brought forward now, and it is necessary now for two reasons: first, because Parliament stands prorogued, so we will not have time potentially to bring Parliament back after my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has had the 30 days that he asked for, to see whether he has been successful in getting a deal; and, secondly, because members of the Government have speculated openly that the Government may not comply with legislation even if it is passed and we therefore need to allow time for not merely legislation but litigation as well.
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I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. On Yellowhammer, the Welsh Government have been provided with a copy of the original document. Will he call on his colleagues to publish it?
I will, but I am not sure that me calling for that is enough in itself to get it published. We will see what else we can do. Mr Speaker, I will press on, because I do know there are other speakers to come.
This is a very simple Bill. It is deliberately constrained. It does not answer the question, what else needs to happen? It gives the Prime Minister the chance to get a deal and to get it through. It gives the Prime Minister the chance to have the courage to come to the Dispatch Box and say, “My policy is to leave without a deal. Do I have a majority for it?” If he did that, we would not need to go down this route. He will not do that, however, because he knows what the result will be. Only if there is a no deal and only if there is no approval for leaving without a deal do the provisions in the Bill requiring an extension kick in.
Mr Speaker, this is an extraordinary route, but these are extraordinary times. We have to act. We have to act now. Today is the last chance to prevent no deal, and we must seize it.
Perhaps I can start by agreeing with something that others have said, which is that, regardless of one’s views on this subject, the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) and others who spoken in this debate are acting the national interest in bringing up these issues in the way that they do. They do not deserve to be name-called as a result. Having said that, however, I disagree with the Bill.
The Bill does three things: it sets out that the Government should get specific parliamentary authority for any deal they negotiate; it sets out that they should get specific authority for any exit from the EU without a deal; and it sets out that, failing either of those, they should enact a three-month further extension in our departure from the EU. I am afraid that my view is that the first two of those are unnecessary and the third is undesirable. In two and a half minutes, I will try to explain why.
On the first, it seems to me that our existing procedures allow for the Government to bring forward any deal that they negotiate, for us to approve it or not. It would be an international treaty, and the processes are already in place for us to do that.
Secondly, in relation to a no-deal outcome, what the right hon. Member for Leeds Central and colleagues have put forward is on the premise that there is no mandate for no deal. It is certainly true that the leave campaign in the 2016 referendum did not advocate no deal. That was not its preference and, as I understand it, that is still not the Government’s preference, but nor was it put to the electorate that we would leave only if there was a deal with the EU. That could never have been guaranteed. There was no pattern to follow and no example for us to look at, and it could never have been certain that the EU would put forward a proposal that we found acceptable. Indeed, some of us who argued for remain in the referendum campaign said, “If you decide to leave, you take a leap in the dark. You cannot know what the future will look like and you cannot know what, if any, deal we will be offered by the EU or by anyone else.” The electorate, as it was their absolute right to do, listened to those arguments, rejected them and decided to leave anyway. It was their decision to make and, in my view, they were perfectly entitled to make it.
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I absolutely agree. One of my greatest concerns in all this is that, following a referendum that saw such a massive record turnout, there are many people who will never vote again if we continue to thwart a conclusion, and that will damage our democracy for decades to come. I am saddened that some in this House think that our only obligation is to the 48% and that others think we only need to consider the 52%. We need to respect the British people, whether they voted leave or remain and whichever party they support. We must show them that we can move forward and not simply block progress at every stage.
I want to look my leave voters in the eye and say, “Yes, I respected, as a remain voter, the decision to leave. We have now left. We will regain control of our laws and borders.” To remain supporters, whom I stood alongside in 2016, I want to say, “Yes, we respected the decision to leave, but we have successfully protected the things that you and I value most: open trade with the EU, workers’ rights, high environmental standards, rights for Brits abroad, respect for EU citizens working here, student exchange programmes, joint research projects”—I could go on. All of that can be secured, but only with a deal.
No deal is a decision, but one that defers 100 decisions. I urge the Government to secure a deal before 31 October, and I am willing to work every day and every hour to make that happen. However, other colleagues must also show some compromise as well. We must link an extension to securing a deal, because an extension with no purpose is not the way forward.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), and I agree with virtually everything she says.
It is a pleasure to have listened to my right hon. Friends the Members for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) and for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), with whom I have served in this House for 36 years. I know they do not want to stand again, but if they were to stand, I would want to stand with them shoulder to shoulder as a Conservative candidate.
There are procedures for dealing with this sort of issue, but I very much hope that those like my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) who voted for their conscience—I do not agree with him, but he did vote for his conscience—can find a way to stand again for our party. The trouble with purges is that if one group of people is purged, another group of people might have to be purged when we try to push a deal through Parliament, so I think we need compromise.
Indeed, that is the whole point of what I want to say today. I am a Brexiteer and my constituency voted 62:38 for Brexit, but I am in a bit of a minority here because I voted for the deal three times. We hear so much about how terrible a no deal is, but so many people in this place voted against the deal three times. We could have had Brexit by now. This whole thing could have been resolved, and I still want to resolve it. I still believe it is perfectly possible to make progress in these negotiations in the coming weeks.
So much ink has been wasted on the backstop, and there has been so much debate about something that will never happen. I do not believe, and I do not think anybody believes for a moment, that the backstop will ever happen. Nobody intends to impose a hard border, and there are so many ways to resolve this. We are this close to resolving the issue, and there has been so much talk about how we do not trust the Prime Minister and how he wants a no deal. I genuinely believe that he and the Cabinet want to achieve an orderly Brexit, but the problem they face is that the present deal simply cannot get through Parliament, so they have to make progress.
We had the Brady amendment, so we can win a vote in this place. I do not want to make a bore of myself by going on about devices such as the Vienna convention, which I have mentioned many times, but they are all possible. The trouble with this Bill is that if it is passed—I know this has been said many times, but it is an unanswerable point—there will be absolutely no incentive for the EU to make any progress, and therefore it drives a coach and horses through our negotiating tactics.
I end with an argument that might appeal to the Labour party. At the October 1957 Labour party conference, Aneurin Bevan said:
“if you carry this resolution”—
the resolution was on unilateral disarmament—
“you will send a Foreign Secretary…naked into the conference chamber.”
That is what we will be doing if we pass this Bill, so let us compromise, let us draw together and let us get a deal.
(11 months ago)Commons Chamber
(1 year, 1 month ago)Commons Chamber
Only yesterday, I had a bilateral meeting with my counterpart Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and we discussed the advanced plans that that Department has made in this area. I have also had meetings with the Food and Drink Federation, which represents sectors in the industry, and the British Retail Consortium. The Government are making significant plans to ensure that key supplies, including food, are available in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
One of the major risks of leaving without a deal, which I very much hope will not happen, is cash-flow problems, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. I had understood that the Treasury and the whole Government were making plans to ensure that additional cash flow would be made available, particularly for SMEs, for delays in payments, customs dues and so on. But at the Exiting the European Union Committee yesterday, we heard from all witnesses that they were not aware of any such plans for their members. Can the Minister set out clearly what those plans are and when they will be made known?
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My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. As he appreciates, it will be for the Government to decide what new legislation is brought forward. It is already the case in law that EU citizens from all member states have the right to vote in our domestic local elections, and it would require a change in the law to alter that.
(1 year, 1 month ago)Commons Chamber
I find it hard to contain my anger at the charlatans and snake oil salesmen who will again tonight, on television, be claiming that no deal presents no difficulties; it might present no difficulties for them. I wish to ask the Minister a specific question. In response to a letter that I sent to him, the Minister for Europe and the Americas said:
“If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, and there is no agreement with Germany to continue reciprocal healthcare arrangements, UK Nationals would no longer receive coverage through the S1 form.”
The advice he gives is for them
“to take out German health insurance.”
Can the Minister here today give an assurance to me, and to all UK citizens who might be in that position in any EU country, that the UK Government will pay for their health insurance, rather than them?
I would like to make it clear that I am certainly not referring to any Member of the House present in the Chamber today as a charlatan or buffoon.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am happy to withdraw; I am not impugning their integrity, but I am certainly attacking their views, which I find outrageous.
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We absolutely respect the urgency of this issue. We took the House’s vote up with the European Union very shortly after that vote. We then had meetings with British in Europe and the3million to make sure that in taking the matter forward we would accurately represent their views. In the meantime, as I have explained, we have had the purdah period for the European elections. It is right that the Secretary of State has been at the General Affairs Council today to press the issue, and that he has sent the letter. We will absolutely continue to update the House as and when progress is made on the matter. The hon. Lady has to recognise that currently the broader negotiations are not necessarily moving forward until we have clarity on the issue of the next Government.
(1 year, 1 month ago)Commons Chamber
They always say that, don’t they? The fact is that I have no idea what the Secretary of State is talking about when he mentions a “blind motion”. Could you tell us what he is talking about, Mr Speaker?
I will happily respond. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) is right: he has been in the House a long time—so long that he was actually a Eurosceptic when he arrived.
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I and many others are concerned about the time. This matter has been listed for an hour of debate. So far, the Front-Bench contributions have taken up 40 of the allotted 60 minutes. Some of us wish to speak, but in any event, we all agree that this is an important motion, properly tabled by Her Majesty’s Opposition and worthy of debate. Can you assist us all, Mr Speaker, about the likely length of this important debate?
Of course, if I was not taking so many interventions, I would conclude my remarks with more alacrity. However, I accept the right hon. Lady’s request.
We were told last time that the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Act 2019 had to be passed in a day in an unprecedented manner to stop no deal. Yet, Lord Pannick, when debating the measure, said that
“the restrictions on the Prime Minister’s powers...may cause a no-deal exit”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 April 2019; Vol. 797, c. 405.]
That was the premise of the amendments tabled by Lord Pannick and others. The ultimate irony is that, first, we had a situation whereby emergency legislation passed in haste had the opposite effect to what was intended, and secondly, we were told that, to stop something unconstitutional, we needed to embrace parliamentary procedure that the constitutional experts said was unconstitutional.
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just been asked to nominate a day. Mr Speaker, you are always a friend of all the Back Benchers. It seems to me that there is a worry about a particular candidate that Opposition Members may or may not like the Order Paper to reflect. If there is a worry about having a choice of how we wish to leave the European Union, I am sure you, Mr Speaker, would find a way to ensure there was parliamentary time. At the moment, however, we do not know what it is we are voting to have a day for. It is a fear of one or two of the candidates. If their fears were to be recognised, I am absolutely certain you would facilitate a debate.
I say once again that it is not premature for the Opposition to have tabled the motion today. This is the last chance they have, and I, for one, am very grateful they have decided to take that chance. The reason that we need to give Parliament the chance, just once, to set the agenda is because the Government have shown no inclination whatever to do anything to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
Why would a no-deal Brexit be so bad? Let us look at what some of the key drivers of the UK economy have been saying recently. Sydney Nash, from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said:
“For the automotive sector, no deal is simply not an option. Hearing politicians promote a no deal does not fill any of our companies with confidence nor does it fill international investors with confidence. Our strong desire is that no deal be taken off the table.”
Seamus Nevin, at Make UK—many Members will know it better by its previous name, the Engineering Employers’ Federation—said:
“Our members are quite blunt, they say that a no deal scenario would be nothing short of an act of economic vandalism”.
Tim Rycroft, at the Food and Drink Federation said:
“No deal is something our members are most unanimous about. 45 % say no deal would lead to redundancies.”
Nick Van Westenholz, director of EU exit and international trade at the National Farmers Union, said:
“No Deal would be disastrous for some sectors…It is frankly worrying that that we see it being put forward as a plausible scenario to leave without a deal in October.”
Mr Speaker, those are not choice quotes from selected commentators that I have picked up over the last three or four years. All those things were said today, in this Parliament, in evidence to the Brexit Select Committee just over six hours ago. That is what these major economic drivers are saying right now. It is about time the Government and some of their Back Benchers were prepared to listen.
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Mr Speaker, I am sorry that I surprised you. I am not sure that I wrote in beforehand, but I shall endeavour to be brief. I intend to be brief because there are not many complicated issues here.
The first issue to which I want to respond is the procedural point that the Secretary of State wisely tried to retreat into, citing a few constitutional experts saying how outrageous it is for the House of Commons to try to take control of the Order Paper. Indeed, that very rarely happens but, with great respect to much more distinguished experts than me, such as Vernon Bogdanor, we have already demonstrated once that procedures already exist, which can be used—as they were by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)—in very exceptional circumstances, for the House as a whole to take command of a day’s business. Of course, the reason it did not happen for many years is that most Governments have had a comfortable majority on every conceivable subject, so there was not the faintest prospect of their losing control of the Order Paper and nobody challenged them. However, we are in exceptional times and the precedent we have already created is a perfectly valuable one.
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I am terribly sorry, but I will not.
That is why it is wrong to say that this proposal is premature. It may be right or wrong to vote for this motion this evening, but it is the only time we are ever going to get, and I hope that my hon. Friends and Opposition Members who are wavering about whether to support it recognise that they will have to look back if they do not support it now. If we fail, as we may well do this afternoon, they will have to look back on that as the direct cause of, in all likelihood, our leaving on 31 October without a deal. It is because I do not wish to have that on my conscience that I have taken the uncomfortable step of signing a motion that has at the head of it the name of the Leader of the Opposition, whose party I do not follow and with whose policies I generally profoundly and radically disagree. However, this is an issue so important that it transcends party politics, and I owe it to my fellow countrymen to ensure that we do not descend into a no-deal exit without Parliament having had a decisive vote.
Two groups of right hon. and hon. Members will be finding today’s vote especially difficult. Many friends on the Conservative Benches will feel torn between their loyalty to their party and their clear understanding of the national interest. I know as well as anyone the great strain that they may be feeling this afternoon. I, too, was an instinctive loyalist—someone who towed the party line, ambitious for high office. I did not see anything wrong in that and, on most questions, I still do not see anything wrong in it, and nor is there anything ignoble about the desire to stay on good terms with the members of one’s local party.
For each of us, however, there comes a moment and an issue that demands that we put such concerns to one side and do the uncomfortable thing, because we know that our constituents’ best interests demand it. I do not believe that any hon. Member with a concern for the welfare of sheep farmers or for people working in car factories will be able to look them in the eye after a no-deal Brexit has led to the decimation of Britain’s lamb exports and the destruction of thousands of highly skilled and well-paid manufacturing jobs. That is surely reason enough to support the motion today.
The other group for whom today’s vote is hard is Labour Members who represent constituencies that voted by a clear majority to leave the European Union. They feel that they are duty bound to ensure that the UK does leave the EU and are worried that a vote for today’s motion will be misrepresented as an attempt to block Brexit. My constituents voted the same way, and I feel the same obligation, but today’s motion does not block Brexit—not even close. Today’s motion would secure an opportunity to debate a Bill on 25 June, so that Parliament, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) said, can vote in September on the new Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit.
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The right hon. Member for West Dorset answered that question very adequately. The Bill simply provides Parliament with an opportunity in September to vote on the new Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit so that we do not leave with a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, as the law currently provides, without Parliament having had a chance to vote.
If my old friends on the Conservative Benches, the true champions of one nation, and my new friends on the Labour Benches, the representatives of thousands of decent leave voters in the midlands and the north, find a way to support today’s motion, much more than a day of the Order Paper will have been won: this House will have seized the chance to defend its rights and freedoms against an arrogant Executive hellbent on implementing an extreme policy; the British people will have been given the opportunity to slow their leaders’ lemming-like rush towards a no-deal Brexit; and the world will have been given reason to believe that the psychodrama of the Tory party’s leadership contest does not define us as a nation, that Britain has not taken leave of its senses and that the House of Commons is a place in which grown-ups come together to take responsibility for securing the future of our country.
Basically, I have already described this as a phantom motion for a phantom Bill. We do not know what the Bill will contain. We have had various suggestions that it may contain some elements of what has been proposed by some of the so-called leadership candidates. I do not know what they will propose by the end of the process.
What I can say, however, is that this is, as I said earlier, an open-door motion. It opens the door for any Bill, of any kind, to take precedence over Government business, which is inconceivable as a matter of constitutional convention. I put it to the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) that the reality is that there is not a single constitutional authority he could cite to disprove the proposition I have put not just once over the past six months to a year on this very question, which is that our constitution operates on the basis of parliamentary government and not government by Parliament.
(1 year, 2 months ago)Commons Chamber
My hon. Friend is right to say that we need a strong economy to have a strong NHS. The option set out in the economic analysis that was published by the Treasury in November makes it clear that the Prime Minister’s plan is the one that will deliver the strongest economy, and enable us to make that record, 10-year commitment of up to £20.5 billion more a year to our NHS. That is a sign of the Conservative party’s commitment to the NHS, and for the majority of years that the NHS has existed, it has been run by a Conservative Government.
I was going to say that both my parents were nurses, as was the shadow Secretary of State’s mum, but I obviously do not need to. I remember being accused of negativity, as the Secretary of State has done repeatedly today, when we warned of the dangers of privatising the probation service, and look how that worked out. It is our job to challenge the Government. They might not like it, but that is one reason we are here. Public health is potentially at risk from Brexit. Chlorinated chicken is a public health risk.
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The only myopic obsession is the Scottish National party’s obsession with an independence referendum. The hon. Gentleman says it is the Government’s obsession, but it is the Migration Advisory Council that said this is a UK-wide issue, which needs to be approached on a UK-wide basis. I remind the House of the answer I gave earlier: there are now 700 more doctors from EU27 countries working in the NHS than there were at the time of the referendum. The numbers are going up, yet the hon. Gentleman constantly talks our country down.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Commons Chamber
I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.
I should be clear at the beginning that I support all five amendments from the Lords, but I oppose the further Commons amendments that have been tabled. I thank the Lords for proceeding so swiftly in these unprecedented circumstances, with only four days to go until the country could end up leaving without a deal—with all the serious implications for manufacturing, small businesses, medicine supplies, food prices, farming and transport—and with only two days before the important European Council, which needs to consider an extension to article 50.
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So he will, Mr Speaker.
“Depart, I say…In the name of God, go!”
As far as I am concerned, that applies to many Members of Parliament who have reversed their votes and who have repudiated the vote of the British people and denied our democracy.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it really in order for a Member of this House to try to delegitimise other Members of this House, all of whom have our own mandates from our constituencies, simply because he does not agree with what we agree with?
One last remark, Mr Speaker. I trust that the hon. Member for Wallasey will reflect on the fact that, as far as I am aware, she voted for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 when this House passed it by 499 votes to about 120. That is a fact—[Interruption.] But perhaps she did not, so she can tell me about that.
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(1 year, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
My hon. Friend is exactly right. It is hugely irresponsible for people to stir up fear in the way that we have seen. EU citizens are highly valued members of their communities and play an integral part in the economic, cultural and social fabric of the UK. I enjoyed engaging with EU citizens from the Nordic countries on a recent visit to Edinburgh, where we made it very clear that we want them to stay. We have designed the settled status scheme to help them to stay.
Sorry, Mr Speaker—I leapt to my feet rather prematurely.
16. What recent assessment he has made of the effect on the UK manufacturing sector of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. 
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I have already addressed this point. Three years after the country voted by record numbers to leave, there is a strong desire to ensure that we get on with it and do so. The Prime Minister has compromised and reached out. We are endeavouring to deliver on the will of the British people as expressed in that referendum vote, and on the manifesto commitments of both main parties.
Can the Secretary of State just enlighten the House as to what he thinks has actually gone well during this first phase?
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My hon. Friend correctly identifies that commitment in our manifesto. He will also be aware that the manifesto gives a commitment to have a deep and special partnership with the EU. It is that balance that we are trying to seek. That is why the Prime Minister brought forward a deal that delivered on the referendum result—on things such as control of our borders, a skilled immigration system, control of our fisheries, control of our agriculture, and putting an end to sending vast sums of money to the EU—but also respected the fact that 48% of the population did not vote for leave. It is that compromise that has not been pure enough for some Members on the Government Benches to support it.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
(1 year, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order regarding the need for a money resolution under the Standing Orders in respect of the Bill. For example, if the Bill was to result in a very great extension, the cost could be £36 billion of taxpayers’ money. Fifty MPs have written to you, Mr Speaker, in my name and theirs, in the belief that a money resolution is required, particularly as the matter is apparently decided by the Clerks of the House of Commons. That raises a question for the Procedure Committee as to whether or not there should be a money resolution. I therefore ask you, Mr Speaker, first of all, what is your conclusion on that, as advised; and, secondly, whether the matter can be referred to the Procedure Committee, because in my judgment it is completely unacceptable for matters to be decided in this way?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The contention of the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) that the Bill could cost £36 billion is, of course, highly controversial. It could equally be argued that crashing out with no deal would cost as much, if not more. In that case, it seems to me that what has happened hitherto and the advice from the Clerks has been wholly proper.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to get into the argument about what the Bill is going to cost, but as a member of the Procedure Committee I do think it is an arguable contention that when we are indulging in such constitutional innovations the matter should go to the Procedure Committee first. Otherwise, what is the point of the Procedure Committee?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am also a member of the Procedure Committee and we did have some preliminary discussion about this matter, which Sir Edward, unfortunately, did not attend.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is on another matter.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought this matter would come at a later stage, because on private Members’ Bill Fridays we do not have money resolutions until Bills need to go into Committee. The money resolution is given at that stage. It is the case that a Bill cannot proceed out of Committee without a money resolution, not Second Reading, is it not?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice, because many of the people who wish to have the debate that we are about to have argue that the mandate—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, I am trying. They argue that the mandate given by a margin of a million people in a referendum was not sufficient. They also argue that a 4% margin was not sufficient, in percentage terms. Could you therefore advise me as to the appropriateness of carrying on a debate that has got through on one solitary vote?
For the record, Mr Speaker, I got better than unclassified in politics.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I start by welcoming some of the words of the Prime Minister from yesterday. She said as part of her announcement:
“This is a difficult time for everyone. Passions are running high on all sides of the argument”,
and that debate and division is
“putting Members of Parliament and everyone else under…pressure…and…doing damage to our politics.”
I think we all recognise the pressures that she is talking about and the efforts that Members on both sides of the House, and with all kinds of different views on Brexit, are making to do the right thing in the national interest, to do the right thing whatever their different views on Brexit, and to do the right thing for their constituents. I hope that the very respectful and thoughtful tone of the debate that we had on the programme motion will be continued in this debate as well.
We have put forward this cross-party Bill to avert no deal on 12 April. We have done so for fear of the damage that no deal would do to all our constituencies. We understand that the Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser to the Government, Sir Mark Sedwill, told the Cabinet yesterday that no deal would make our country “less safe”. The Cabinet has a responsibility to listen to that advice and I am extremely glad that it did. We understand, too, that the Cabinet was warned that food prices would go up by 10% in the event of no deal. Again, I am glad that it listened to that advice because that would have a huge impact on overstretched families across the country.
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Can the right hon. Lady tell the House how long the extension will be, because that is also a matter of principle? It is not just a matter of committing to it. What does she expect the words in square brackets in the Bill to be? Three months? Nine months? Two years? Secondly, does she agree that it is extraordinary that such an extended period would cost the British taxpayer billions and billions of pounds?
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The Bill deliberately does not specify that, because it should be for the Prime Minister to make a proposal. She has to go into the EU Council and do the negotiating. She also has to lead the process around indicative votes, so I think it is right that she should put this forward and that the House will then decide.
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I am conscious that those on the Front Benches need to speak, so I shall make my final point.
It is really important for people to come together, both as part of this process and in how we go forward, because the challenges that we face from the threat of no deal are very significant. Three years on from the referendum, the biggest problem for all of us is that so little has been done to heal the national Brexit divide or to bring people together. This is a major constitutional change, and, to be honest, if we do not make the effort to bring people together, whatever we conclude today, tomorrow or next week will not last because we will not have done the work to build consensus. We all know that there is no consensus on the best way forward at the moment—we hope we can reach it, but at the moment there is no agreement—but let us at least sustain our agreement on ruling out the worst way forward. I commend the Bill to the House.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I was only just beginning to write my speech, but I shall muddle along. Needless to say, as an almost lifelong Brexit supporter, I shall be speaking against the proposal. I recognise that there are Members across the House who quite genuinely did not want to leave the European Union and who believe that the best interests of our country are served by being a member of that Union. That is a perfectly honourable position. What I find objectionable, however, is that some are quite deliberately seeking to frustrate the will of the British people that was so clearly demonstrated in June 2016. In my constituency, there was a 70% vote to leave. I am pleased about that, because I was one of them. I have campaigned long and hard to achieve this. I know I do not look old enough, but I did actually vote in the 1975 referendum, and of course I voted to leave on that occasion.
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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.
They made that decision to leave, and they expected us to leave—they certainly expected us to be leaving in a lot less than three years. It has been suggested that if we go back and rerun the referendum, people will change their mind because of the economic arguments and so on. The reality is very different. We should recognise, as I recall the Attorney General saying on one of his outings in the House on this issue, that this has now come down to a political decision, and the political decision should follow the result of the referendum. There would be an enormous backlash against not just the party in power but the political classes if we are not seen to walk through the door before us marked “exit.”
I urge the House to vote against Second Reading and to continue the battle. If we end up with no deal, so be it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I lend my support to this important Bill, which is a vital safety net to ensure that we do not crash out with no deal next week and that we have enough time to find a constructive way forward.
Many others have already spoken passionately about the impact that a no deal would have on business and on the most vulnerable. Of course, a no deal would hit the poorest communities hardest. I want to say a few words about two things. First, I think we would put the Good Friday agreement at risk if we did not pass this Bill, and we would risk greater insecurity and tension in Northern Ireland, which would be a criminal thing to do. I am inordinately shocked, even knowing what I know, that 14 members of the Cabinet appear to be positively enthusiastic about leaving with no deal—I cannot think of anything more irresponsible.
Secondly, a no deal would be a disaster for our environment. It would lead to a huge governance gap. Not only would we not have the environmental policies that have been key to protecting our environment in this country and that have come from Brussels, but we would also lack the crucial enforcement agencies.
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I wish to say a few words about a conversation I had earlier today with business representatives from, among other places, Northern Ireland, who were worried—
Absolutely. This was specifically about the impact of no deal—this Bill is clearly about ruling out the possibility of no deal—and the concerns of these businesses about the impact of VAT being applied. They went much beyond that in terms of the impact of no deal on Northern Ireland, extending to, for example, security and the issue that I referred to earlier—the European arrest warrant. No deal would have an effect on labelling; there would be uncertainties as to whether a company that manufactures here but also has shops in other parts of Europe would need to change its labelling. Clearly, the impact of no deal goes far beyond some of the issues that have been raised today. I hope that this Bill will provide clarity on the extension. I am open about believing that the extension needs to be a lengthy one, of the sort businesses were talking to me about earlier today. That is one way of ruling out no deal.
Finally, I wish to mention something related to the point made by the spokesperson for the Greens, on the legitimacy of the vote of three years ago. Trade union legislation requires ballots to be rerun after six months to ensure that they are valid and that the views expressed in a ballot six months earlier remain valid six months on. Clearly, that could equally apply to a ballot that took place three years ago. I hope that we will allow this Bill to proceed through its Second Reading. I know that we have a number of amendments in Committee, one of which applies to a people’s vote. I hope that we will get to debate that shortly, too.
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I am sorry, my hon. Friend has spoken many times.
Distressed employers in my constituency who are responsible for thousands of employees want a resolution. The Bill will give Parliament a proper say, in the event that we cannot get a resolution in the timeframes currently set out. Far from being undemocratic, this is about putting a process in place that allows us to implement a decision and to have time to look at the best way in which to implement our future relationship with the Europe. That is why I shall be voting for the Bill.
It is a real pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), who has been one of the voices of sanity from the Government Benches throughout this debacle. Others, I am afraid, are living in cloud cuckoo land if they still believe that no deal will not be a disaster for the economy of these islands.
My constituency has the second biggest financial sector in the United Kingdom; two major universities, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Napier; and many businesses, small and large, which are concerned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit. And of course my constituents did not vote for Brexit at all: 72% of them voted to remain in the European Union.
I therefore support the general principle of the Bill. It has some serious shortcomings, but it is all that we have at the moment—our only insurance policy against a no-deal Brexit. I would have preferred to have seen something with far more teeth in it, such as my proposal on Monday, and I have a number of questions about the Bill that have yet to be answered.
I am worried that the Bill does not say when the Prime Minister has to ask for an extension of time. The European Council is next Wednesday, but the Bill does not state specifically whether she has to ask before then or on the day. What happens if the European Council gives us an extension with conditions attached, such as with a longer extension? Or what happens if the Prime Minister will not contemplate extending beyond 22 May when Parliament has forced her to ask for a longer extension? The Bill seems to imply that she could sit on her hands. The Bill is ripe for a bit of amendment, and the SNP will certainly table some if we get to that stage.
I shall be very brief indeed; I want to make a point to which I have referred before. As my European Scrutiny Committee report made clear back in March last year, this entire process is being driven by the guidelines and the Government and Prime Minister’s humiliating supplication to the European Union. That is true and clear. Furthermore, I point out the reversal of the position at Chequers, where the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which had been overtaken by events, was, on a pre-planned basis, turned into a new arrangement that became the withdrawal agreement.
My final point is this: there is profound humiliation for the British people in our being required to do what the EU says. The Bill will ensure that the EU dictates the terms. As Sir Paul Lever, I and others have made clear over the years, things will be decided by Germany in the Council of Ministers and the European Council. Sir Paul says, as do I, that this is a German Europe, run by Germany; that is the bottom line, and that will be the case in relation to this decision as well.
I will not support the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill, because it means delay without end. Business wants certainty above all. I do not believe all the scare stories; sadly, the Treasury has been proved wrong in most of its assessments of Brexit. This Bill will simply be the water torture of endless delay.
I base my decision on two points. First, we have to honour the referendum result. That means voting for Brexit. I do so because the country voted for it; because my Island, the Isle of Wight, voted for it; and because the best way of improving the reputation of politics is for politicians to do what we said we would. The problem is that we are not doing that. This chaos is self-induced by people who do not want Brexit.
Secondly, we have to live in the real world, and that means accepting that this Parliament has a remain majority. It has been obvious for months that we would not get no deal through, and while I respect my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and many other Brexiteer colleagues, I cannot think of a more perfect example of snatching defeat from the jaws of an acceptable victory. There has never been a chance of getting no deal through, as we are finding out.
We are not theologians. We need to cut a deal, not philosophise on the nature of Brexit perfection.
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I have just been to the Vote Office and, most unfortunately, for some reason that we cannot understand, the copy of the Bill we should be getting actually malfunctioned in some way or another, so, as I understand it, it cannot be obtained from the Vote Office.
(1 year, 4 months ago)Commons Chamber
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House of Commons is about to pass a major piece of legislation without a Report stage or a substantive Third Reading. If the Government did this, the House would rightly be deeply irritated with them, so the House should find no virtue in its actions this evening.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are our defender of the rights of this Parliament. Surely it is within your gift to make this farce stop and say there can be no Third Reading—no more votes!
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given the strong feelings that there are on this issue and the tightness of the vote, it is important to say how welcome it is that this has been a very considered and thoughtful debate throughout today. I am sure that that is the way that we want all the debates on this to take place.
The House has tonight voted again to make clear the real concern that there would be about a chaotic and damaging no deal and to support the Prime Minister’s commitment to ensure that we do not end up with no deal on 12 April. I am sure that we will be very keen to work with the Government to make sure that this legislation progresses in a way that is sensible and works in the national interest.
Finally, I thank the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and the hon. Member for Grantham and Sleaford for their work on this Bill and on previous Bills to make sure that we could get this far, and, I hope, to help the Prime Minister to persuade her Cabinet and others how important this is.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have heard what the right hon. Lady has said, but it is difficult to argue that we have had an extremely considered debate when the Bill has been rammed through the House of Commons in barely four hours. That is not a considered debate; that is a constitutional outrage. It went through in the end by one vote. That, to me, does not represent the long-term, settled will of the House of Commons. [Interruption.] Someone shouts from a sedentary position “52:48”. There is a difference between a majority of 1.4 million and one. All I would say to hon. Members opposite is that the public will not be impressed by this. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Of course this has been a quality debate, but an altogether too brief one. I know how their Lordships feel about ill-considered and briskly prepared legislation going up to their Lordships’ House in an inadequate state, as I am sure this Bill is, so I place on the record my fervent hope that their Lordships will examine this Bill line by line and explore every possibility for amendment of this legislation for as long as they think is necessary.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We started the process of voting at 9.54 pm, and it has taken us until nearly half-past 11 to complete it. I am, of course, making my usual point about electronic voting and how much more efficient the process could be, but there is also a serious aspect in that the catering staff, the Clerks and all the other staff of the House have been dragged here and have had to stay until half-past 11. Surely all Members who are present agree that we need to move into the 21st century and introduce electronic voting.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if I can invite the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) to correct what I believe that I just heard her say. She thanked those who had supported the passing of her Bill, mentioning my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and “the hon. Member for Grantham and Sleaford”. I am the hon. Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, and I do not support the Bill.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the hon. Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson). It is late.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether it would be in order to place on record the House’s thanks to, in particular, the Clerks and the staff of the Vote Office for the way in which they have received, marshalled, typed up, printed and distributed the papers that enabled us to consider the Bill this evening.