On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I have advised you, I should be grateful if you would allow me to make a personal statement.
I do not feel that I have misled the House, but I do feel that I have not been true to myself. Although doing what I believed to be in the country’s best interest at that moment in time, I quickly realised that I should not have voted with the Government on Friday afternoon. We have to weigh up the balance of risk and make an almost impossible choice: it seemed to be either the Prime Minister’s deal or a long delay, European elections, a softer Brexit and more political uncertainty. What I should have done, and did not do, was to trust my instincts and those of the British people. I made the wrong call on Friday, and let me very briefly explain why. First—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. First, I have consistently voted against the withdrawal agreement because it is flawed. Secondly, I believe I have let down good friends here in the House, and my friends and colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party. I served on three operational tours in Northern Ireland, playing a small part in protecting the innocent and combating terrorism, so I say sorry to DUP Members and the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) for voting for a deal that could risk the integrity of our country. For that reason, and for that reason alone, the withdrawal agreement, as it stands, must never ever see the light of day again.
Finally, if the Prime Minister cannot commit to taking us out of the EU on 12 April, she must resign immediately. This is no longer about leave or remain—that was decided in 2016—but about the future of our great country, and about faith and trust in our democracy. Spring is here: time for a new start for us all. Let us take our country back in 11 days’ time, and fulfil our honourable duty. [Interruption.]
Order. I do not need any advice from the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp). I have the highest regard for the hon. Gentleman, who is a very keen, committed and assiduous new Member, but I hope he will accept it when I say, on the strength of nearly 22 years in the House and nine and three quarter years as the occupant of the Chair, that I do not feel in immediate need of assistance from someone who entered the House in May 2015. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his views, but it might be prudent if he had the good courtesy to keep them to himself on this occasion.
I thank the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) for his point of order. I did not know what its content was to be, and I had not seen the text. The hon. Gentleman speaks for himself. I know him well enough to know that he speaks not merely from the head, but from the heart. He is a person of integrity and a man of principle. I respect what he said, and I think it stands for others to judge, but I appreciate his saying so candidly what he wanted to say.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not Brexit-related, but it is important to my constituents. On 31 January, I wrote to the Minister for Employment about an urgent matter involving a severely disabled constituent of mine who, through natural migration on to universal credit, has been made £98 a week worse off than when on working tax credit, after she was mis-advised by officials. I did receive a response—shockingly, eight weeks later—not with a solution, but asking for more information. My constituent has been in severe hardship the whole time. Given that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said earlier this month that people in this situation would be fully compensated and given the huge loss to this woman—this is no criticism of the workforce—what can we do in the face of such a dysfunctional Department and a Minister lackadaisical in the face of such distress?
It is clearly important, colleagues, that Members receive timely responses from Ministers on important constituency matters. This is an observation I have had many times to make from the Chair. It should not be necessary to do so again, but, sadly, it has been. The hon. Lady has made her concern clear. It will have been noted by those on the Treasury Bench, including the Leader of the House, who I am sure, in common with her predecessors, takes very seriously the responsibility to chase Ministers to serve the House efficiently and in a timely fashion. We will leave it there for now.
Are there no further points of order? The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) was thirsting a moment ago, but he appears to have lost his appetite.
I do not think that “mundane” and the right hon. Gentleman ordinarily go together, so it would have been an exceptional state of affairs. Nevertheless, if he wishes to apply a self-denying ordinance on this occasion, who am I to prevent him?
Prime Minister (Confidence)
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Tom Brake, supported by Jo Swinson, Sir Edward Davey, Layla Moran, Tim Farron, Wera Hobhouse and Christine Jardine, presented a Bill to require a Prime Minister to tender their resignation to Her Majesty if the House of Commons passes a motion of no confidence in them; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 April, and to be printed (Bill 370)