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Business of the House (Today)

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2019

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, at this day’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion in the name of the Prime Minister tabled under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 not later than 7.00pm; such questions shall include the questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; the questions may be put after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union documents) and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Iain Stewart.)

I notice that this motion is debatable until any hour, subject to a business of the House motion at 7 o’clock. I can assure the House that it is not my intention to speak at that length, but this is very important. We are discussing this afternoon a motion that could determine the nation’s future for a generation or more, and we are expected to do it in just under five hours. I accept that every moment I speak reduces that time, but it is none the less relevant to do so.

This matter is of overwhelming importance to our future. It will determine the basis of our relationship with the European Union, and it may potentially have an effect on the whole basis of the United Kingdom. It seems to me that five hours is not only not enough, but it is not wise. The whole process with which today’s motion has been brought forth is not wise. There is an element of bounce and of theatre. We heard yesterday that a plane was waiting in the airport, fuelled for the Prime Minister. That is very dramatic and exciting, but it is not necessarily right for good government.

What we want is the ability to discuss things judiciously and debate them thoroughly, and squeezing a quart into a pint pot is fundamentally unwise. It also does not help the Government to achieve what they wish to achieve, which is a majority in the vote at the end of today’s proceedings, because if people feel that they have been bounced, hurried and harried, their natural instinct is not necessarily to cave in, but to stiffen their resolve and see how the cards fall.

The Government would be wise, even at this late stage, to allow an extra day for the debate, to ensure that Members are not limited to three-minute time limits at the end of the day but can discuss this matter as fully as it deserves and—dare I say?—as the nation expects, because the nation expects us to consider its future carefully. Although I will not seek to divide the House, I think that this allocation of time motion is misguided, and more time should be provided for debating something of such fundamental importance.

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I note what he says about having no intention to divide the House. At least as importantly, I note, for the benefit of the House, that no amendment to the motion has been tabled, including by the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.