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Business without Debate

Volume 634: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2018

Welsh Grand Committee



(1) the matter of the Autumn Budget as it relates to Wales be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration;

(2) the Committee shall meet at Westminster on Wednesday 7 February at 9.30am and 2.00pm to consider the matter referred to it under paragraph (1) above; and

(3) the Chair shall interrupt proceedings at the afternoon sitting not later than two hours after their commencement at that sitting.—(David Rutley.)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are reports circulating in the Scottish press that the Government are not going to table any amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Could you advise me how the Government can be held to account regarding statements of intent that they made in Committee?

In general terms, we expect that if commitments are made to the House, they will be honoured. However, so far as the pragmatics of the matter are concerned, I would say to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues two things. First, there will be an opportunity on Report to question and probe Ministers on their intentions, including why they are doing something or, alternatively, not doing something. Secondly, I do not sniff at the concern that the hon. Gentleman has just aired, but it is open to other Members to table amendments on Report. For example, if the hon. Gentleman thinks that he was promised a particular amendment on Report and that it is not forthcoming, it is open to him and his colleagues to table such an amendment or something similar, and thereafter to debate the matter.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. During the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through Committee, Scottish Conservative MP after Scottish Conservative MP said that clause 11 was deficient, but took the assurances of those on the Treasury Bench that amendments would be tabled on Report. Subsequent to that, at Scottish questions, the Secretary of State for Scotland gave an undertaking that amendments to fix the deficiencies would come before the House on Report. I wonder whether you have had any indication from the Secretary of State for Scotland that he will come to the House to correct the record and put us straight about when amendments to the Bill, which everyone has admitted is deficient, will be tabled.

I have had no such indication from any Minister. I think that both hon. Gentlemen, and indeed the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), have been influenced in their thinking and their points of order by what they have seen in parts of the media today. In other words, this matter has been aired today, but it had not been aired to me today before now. Might it be? It might, but Ministers are not ordinarily in the habit of keeping me informed of their legislative intentions. I would therefore simply say that there are the opportunities to which I have just referred and, prior to that—the Report stage of the Bill in question will take place on 16 and 17 January which, in parliamentary terms, is a little way off—there may be other opportunities for Members who feel strongly about this matter to question Ministers, including perhaps in a particular Question Time, or indeed via the obvious mechanism of the business question on Thursday.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you had received any notice of a statement to be made by a Wales Office Minister—indeed, I understand that the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) has been appointed as a new Wales Minister. Similar assurances were given during our consideration of the Bill that led a number of us not pressing amendments to votes. As you will be aware, Mr Speaker, there was considerable competition for votes during those proceedings, and assurances were given in good faith that Government amendments would be forthcoming on Report to deal with the many, many serious constitutional questions that were before the House. Those do not appear to be forthcoming, so I wondered whether you had had a similar indication from Wales Office Ministers.

The short answer is that I have not, but I do take this opportunity, en passant if you will, to congratulate the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who I imagine will be enjoying his promotion, and whose promotion I am sure will be popular in the House, as he is a most congenial colleague. It is possibly a little early for him to have got on to this matter, but what I do say to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), on a very serious note—he refers to solemn undertakings—is that Ministers must always expect to be held to account for whatever they have previously said or committed to do. There will absolutely, definitely be opportunities to question Ministers on these matters. Ministers will expect that, and if they did not, they will now.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. There is great upset and annoyance in Scotland about this very issue. It seems to me that the Secretary of State for Scotland may have inadvertently misled the House on this matter. If he made a request, would there be an opportunity for him to come to the House to clarify his views and opinions, so that we could all be reassured and reach satisfaction on this issue?

It is always open to Ministers to offer to make statements, and it is always open to Members to seek to procure the attendance of a Minister in the Chamber to respond to questions that Members feel that they wish to put to the said Minister. Moreover, I think that it is reasonable gently to point out to the hon. Gentleman that there is a major Question Time session tomorrow, and he is always welcome to have a word with the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), the leader of his party, so that these matters can be explored—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman chunters from a sedentary position that he has a question himself tomorrow. It is up to him on what subject he wishes to focus. We have exhausted this matter for now. I hope that that is helpful to colleagues.