I beg to move,
That there shall be an early parliamentary general election.
Before I begin, Mr Speaker, I join others hon. Members in thanking you for your long and distinguished service to the House. We may not have always agreed on everything, but I believe you have always acted in what you judge to be the national interest.
I move the motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Last Wednesday, the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) became the first Leader of the Opposition in the history of our country to show his confidence in Her Majesty’s Government by declining the opportunity to have an election with a view to removing the Government. When he spoke last week, it seemed that he might recover his nerve tonight, and I wait to see how he responds. Referring to his surrender Bill, he said last week:
“Let this Bill pass and gain Royal Assent, and then we will back an election”.—[Official Report, 4 September 2019; Vol. 664, c. 292.]
The surrender Bill—the surrender Act—has now passed. It has gained Royal Assent. He has done his level best to wreck this country’s chances of a successful negotiation. By his own logic, he must now back an election, so I am re-tabling the motion for an early general election. I do not want one, and I hoped this step would be unnecessary, yet I have accepted the reality that an election is the only way to break the deadlock in the House and to serve the national interest by giving whoever is Prime Minister the strongest possible mandate to negotiate for our country at next month’s European Council.
Labour, too, has accepted this reality. In its own leaflets this weekend, it says:
“We need a General Election now”.
That is what it says, yet throughout the weekend, the right hon. Gentleman’s cronies, together with those of other Opposition parties, have been trying to disguise their preposterous cowardice by coming up with ever more outrageous excuses for delaying an election until the end of October, or perhaps November, or when hell freezes over, in the dither, delay and procrastination that has become the hallmark of the Opposition. Why are they conniving to delay Brexit, in defiance of the referendum, costing the country an extra £250 million a week for the privilege of delay—enough to upgrade more than five hospitals and train 4,000 new nurses? The only possible explanation is that they fear that we will win it, and I will win it, and secure a renewed mandate to take this country out of the EU, a policy they now oppose. That is the sorry tale of this Opposition and this Parliament. For the last three years, they have schemed to overturn the verdict of the British people, delivered in a referendum which, in a crowning irony, almost all of them voted to hold. In fact, they did not just vote to hold it; some of them even—
I will give way with pleasure to the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova).
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way; I am really pleased that he has chosen to give me an intervention. He is reeling off the fact that the amount of money that is being spent on Europe could pay for nurses and upgrade our hospitals, but nine years of austerity has led to our NHS being fragmented. Nine years of austerity has led to our education services being failed. Nine years of austerity has led to 4 million children living in poverty, so all you need to do, Prime Minister, is move forward, because we will call an election when it is time.
If that is what the hon. Lady thinks, why does she not have a word with her right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and tell him to reverse his absurd policy of spending an extra £1 billion a month to keep us in the EU, when we are spending £1 billion on 20,000 more police officers on the streets of this country?
The Liberal Democrats also called for a referendum on our membership of the EU, and once they got it—by the way, they lost that referendum, of course—they did nothing but try to overturn the result, arrogating to themselves the authority to decide which democratic elections they respect and which they reject. Now—where are they, the Liberal Democrats? There they are—they want a second referendum, but they are already planning to campaign against the result. When asked whether she would implement Brexit if the people voted for it a second time, the party’s new leader, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), replied no. Every time the Liberal Democrats lose a referendum, they just call for a new one over and over again. It turns out she is the new leader of the referendum party, the Jimmy Goldsmith of our times.
But the Liberal Democrats are models of coherence by comparison with the Leader of the Opposition. His strategy, mysterious as it is, is that by some process he becomes Prime Minister—but without an election, because he is against elections. He then goes to Brussels and negotiates a new deal, presumably keeping us in the customs union and the single market. He then comes back and passes that deal through the House and takes it to the country in a second referendum, whereupon he campaigns against his own deal. [Interruption.] That’s the plan, isn’t it? Perhaps he can clarify. He would urge the nation to reject his own handiwork.
We know the real reason Labour does not want a general election under his leadership. Most of them do not want one because they fear that their party will lose, but there is a small terrified minority of Labour MPs who do not want an election because they actually think the Leader of the Opposition might win, ladies and gentlemen.
As for the Scottish National party, last week the First Minister for Scotland correctly said:
“It’s starting to feel like Labour doesn’t want an election at all”.
She then issued a clarion call to her assembled armies in Westminster to “force an election”. What are they doing? How do those brave stalwarts of Scottish separatism propose to force that election? By heroically abstaining!
The common thread joining all these parties is their extraordinary belief that the national interest requires them pre-emptively to protect the British people from the consequences of their own democratic decisions. The truth is they believe in democracy only when it delivers the results they want. Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have a constitutional duty—[Interruption.]
Order. There is far too much noise in the Chamber. The decibel level needs to reduce. The Prime Minister should not have to shout to make himself heard, and the same will apply when the Leader of the Opposition gets to his feet.
I am grateful, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] They say they can’t hear. [Laughter.] How’s that? [Hon. Members: “Yeah!”] Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition have a constitutional duty to oppose the Government and to seek to replace them. For this task, they are handsomely paid to the tune of almost £10 million of taxpayers’ money. They are! That is what they are paid to do by the taxpayer.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unfortunately, the microphone being placed so close to the Prime Minister means that he cannot hear that some of us over here are trying to intervene and have something that he and his Back Benchers do not want—a debate. We all want to know whether he will abide by the law that this Parliament has passed.
I say as much for the benefit of the watching public as for anybody else that that is an example of what I call the norm: superficially a point of order but entirely bogus. The right hon. Lady has made her point in her own way with suitable alacrity and it is on the record.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your characteristically impartial judgment.
The Leader of the Opposition: there he sits. His party is paid £10 million by the taxpayer and he himself is entitled to more than £140,000 of taxpayers’ money, yet today we see the extraordinary spectacle of the entire Opposition collectively deciding to abrogate their most fundamental responsibility. They have their job. They know what they should be doing. In this era of creative litigation, are there not grounds for legal challenge to compel them to do it? [Interruption.] Hon. Members can have their say in a minute. I am concluding my remarks.
Sometimes the Leader of the Opposition says that we should leave the EU; sometimes he says that we should have another referendum; sometimes he says that we should negotiate a new deal; sometimes he says that he would accept whatever Brussels offers. Over the past few days, the Labour party has said that it wants to delay Brexit, then negotiate a new deal, then have another referendum, then campaign against its own deal in that referendum. Perhaps its next policy will be to have a referendum on whether to have a referendum.
The Leader of the Opposition cannot lead. He cannot make a decision. He cannot work out whether he is for Brexit or against it—for a referendum or against it. The only options that he likes are dither and delay. I say to Opposition Members—[Interruption.]
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Order. I am immensely grateful to the Prime Minister for his ready compliance with the procedures of the House. I will take a point of order from Mr David Linden, which I have—[Interruption.] Order. Mr Swire, I do not require any assistance from you. You would not have the foggiest idea where to start. What I am seeking to establish is whether this is a point of order. When I have heard it, I will know, but until I have, I cannot.
People observing tonight’s proceedings, Mr Speaker, will see that the annunciator shows that this is the second occasion on which the House has been asked to approve the motion. Given that the Prime Minister is displaying something of a contradiction by saying that he wants to ask the House this question again but will not allow the people of Scotland an independence referendum, can you outline, Mr Speaker, whether this is hypocrisy on the Prime Minister’s part?
That was an ingenious effort, but let me say to the hon. Gentleman that the motion would not be on the Order Paper unless it was orderly. I am happy to conduct a seminar for his benefit outside the Chamber at a later date, but it is, at this time, given the context, orderly. The hon. Gentleman has made his own point, but it is a different one, and it does not meet the needs of the case.
I say again to everyone on the Opposition Benches: if you really want to delay Brexit beyond 31 October, which is what you seem to want to do, then vote for an election and let the people decide whether they want to delay or not. If you refuse to do that tonight, I will go to Brussels—our Government will go to Brussels—on 17 October and negotiate our departure on 31 October, hopefully with a deal, but without one if necessary. I will not ask for another delay.
Order. I apologise for having to interrupt the Prime Minister. I will take these points of order, but I hope that they are genuine. The Prime Minister will then proceed with his speech.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am keen to have your guidance. Given that we are supposed to be debating whether to have an early general election, I wonder if the Prime Minister, in that context, is willing to share with the House whether he is willing to obey the law of the land.
That is a political observation, and not a matter for procedural adjudication by the Chair.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Liaison Committee. The Prime Minister gave an undertaking that he would appear before the Committee this Wednesday at 3.30 pm. The Committee met today, and we have written to the Prime Minister asking whether he will still appear, because—
Order. I recognise the hon. Lady’s sincerity and the strength of her conviction. If she wishes to contribute to the debate in an orderly way, on her feet, in a speech, because she has caught my eye, she can do so, but she should not use the device of a bogus point of order.
Mr Speaker, I repeat my point—[Interruption.]
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has just informed the House that on 31 October he will go to Brussels and ensure that we leave with or without a deal, in contravention of a motion we have just passed that we will obey the law in compliance with that law that has just been passed. Is that out of order?
I would be immensely grateful if the hon. Gentleman did not feel it necessary to keep pointing at me. I know he feels strongly, but that is not a point of order. [Interruption.] Order. And I would say in terms of the seemliness of these proceedings, come on, let’s have fair play: the Prime Minister is entitled to make a speech and be heard, as will be the Leader of the Opposition.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you for allowing me to repeat my salient point: I will not ask for another delay. The people of this country have had enough of the delectable—[Interruption.] The people of this country have had enough of the delectable disputations—[Interruption.]
Order. This is profoundly disorderly. Members must not be shouted down in the Chamber. There are standards to be upheld, and they must be upheld.
It is plain from the turbulent reaction of those on the Benches opposite that they simply want another delay, and I will not have that. The public have had enough of the delectable disputations of this House, and I must warn Members that their behaviour in thwarting the will of the people is undermining respect for this House in the country.
If hon. Members want another delay, the only proper way to do it is to ask permission from our masters, the people—from our masters, the voters—and I commend this motion to the House.
The only point of any importance that the Prime Minister has just included in his speech is his clear indication that he does not intend to follow the law that has just been passed that requires him to ask for an extension in certain circumstances. He also gave no answer on the two decisions this House has already made today concerning the publication of Yellowhammer documents and his own behaviour as Prime Minister in respect of laws agreed by this House. He seems to have failed to grasp that those on the Opposition Benches have actually been very clear and that the House has expressed its will: until the Act has been complied with and no deal has been taken off the table, we will not vote to support the Dissolution of this House and a general election.
I want an election, as the Prime Minister pointed out, and the Conservative party has very generously broadcast footage of me and my friends saying that we want an election. I do not retreat from that at all; we are eager for an election, but as keen as we are, we are not prepared to risk inflicting the disaster of no deal on our communities, our jobs, our services, or indeed our rights. [Interruption.]
No deal would not be a clean break. It would not mean just getting on with it. It would start a whole new period of confusion and delay, but this time set against a backdrop of rising unemployment, further de-industrialisation and deepening poverty all across this country. [Interruption.]
Order. I said a moment ago that the Prime Minister should not be shouted down. Let me say to those who are shouting their heads off that it will be readily obvious to people observing our proceedings that that is exactly what they are trying to do, including some extraordinarily stupid and noisy yelling from people secreting themselves behind the Chair and thinking they are being clever. It is very low grade, it is very downmarket, it is very substandard, it is very boring, it is very predictable, and if the Whips operated any sort of discipline, they would tell those people to try to get a life.
The point I was making was that this will be against a backdrop of unemployment, increasing deindustrialisation and deepening poverty within our society, so it is not surprising that the Government were so keen to hide the Yellowhammer documents—their own documents—which would demonstrate that to be the case. We have no faith that the Government are seeking a deal in good faith. Indeed, the former Work and Pensions Secretary said in her resignation letter:
“I no longer believe leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective.”
EU leaders have received no proposals. Government Ministers have offered no explanation of the deal they are seeking—even if there is such a deal—let alone any worked-out proposals to be presented to Parliament for scrutiny. It is no wonder they are so keen to prorogue so early, to avoid any scrutiny of what they are doing.
The only conclusion that can be reached—and it is backed up by all the leaked reports in the press—is that the Government’s pretensions to negotiate are nothing but a sham. The Prime Minister knows full well that there is no mandate for no deal, no majority support for it in the country and no majority support for it in this House, but he refuses to rule it out and refuses to set out any proposals to avoid it. This is a very serious issue: the Prime Minister is running away from scrutiny with his blather and his shouting. Many people, including the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), are increasingly coming to the conclusion that no deal is his only answer, but he has no mandate for that. The last general election gave no mandate for no deal, and the 2016 referendum gives no mandate for it. The co-convenor of the Vote Leave campaign said in March this year that
“we didn’t vote to leave without a deal.”
He is now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. No deal is opposed by every business group, every industry group and every trade union, and it has been opposed in votes in this House.
I want to turf out this reckless Government—[Interruption.] This Government that are driving up poverty, deepening inequality, scapegoating migrants, whipping up divisions and failing this country. A general election is not something for the Prime Minister to play about with for propaganda points, or even his very poor quality posts on social media, so perhaps he can, possibly for the last time in this Session of Parliament, answer some questions. First—[Interruption.]
Order. [Interruption.] Order. Order. Mr Philp, you are very loud and rancorous. Calm down, young man! You are getting very over-excited—very, very over-excited—and you can do a lot better than that. You must try to do so.
First, where are the Prime Minister’s proposals for the renegotiations? Where are they? When were they published? What is their content?
Secondly, if the Prime Minister seeks no deal, why does he not argue for it and seek the mandate for it that the Government do not so far possess? There is no mandate for no deal. [Interruption.] No, I am not giving way. Thirdly, if, as he claims, the Prime Minister is making progress—
If the right hon. Gentleman really wishes to avoid a no-deal Brexit, will he explain why he is unwilling to call an election, go to Brussels and seek—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Docherty-Hughes, calm yourself. Is the Prime Minister satisfied that he has made his intervention, or does he wish to complete it?
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to avoid a no-deal Brexit, why does he not call an election, get a mandate, go to Brussels and negotiate a deal himself? What is his objection to that?
We are the responsible party in this room, and we do not want to crash out with no deal. There is also the issue of trust in a Prime Minister who is unable to answer any questions and is desperate to suspend Parliament to avoid any scrutiny.
Thirdly, if the Prime Minister is making progress, as he told the House last week, why did the Taoiseach tell him only this morning that he was yet to receive realistic, legally binding and workable plans. That was only this morning, so the Prime Minister must be able to remember it. Perhaps he could explain why the Taoiseach felt the need to say that. [Interruption.] I realise the desperation of the Tory party when all it can do is rearrange the mics on the Titanic.
Finally, since the Prime Minister did not bother to turn up—[Interruption.] With great respect, I inform Conservative Members that I have no intention of giving way to any of them, okay? Since the Prime Minister did not bother to turn up for the previous debate, will he respect the law and implement the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 if he has negotiated an agreement that is backed by this House on 19 October?
This Parliament is not a platform for the Prime Minister’s games. It is a Chamber in which the elected representatives of the people hold the Executive to account. That is what parliamentary democracy is about. The Prime Minister has been asked four simple questions—[Interruption.] I am not giving way.
The Prime Minister is talking up no deal to one wing of his party and talking up getting a deal to another. The sad reality is that he is not preparing adequately for the first and not negotiating at all for the other. Sunday 15 September is International Day of Democracy, when the UN celebrates Governments being held accountable to their national Parliaments in a democracy. This Government are only interested in shutting down Parliament to avoid any scrutiny. The Prime Minister’s obfuscations and evasions are being rumbled both at home and abroad, and that is why he does not answer questions and is so keen to avoid any scrutiny.
Tonight the Prime Minister will be attempting to prorogue Parliament for one of the longest Prorogations there has ever been—shutting down Parliament, shutting down democracy, avoiding questions, and taking this country over the cliff of a no-deal exit, with all the damage that will do to many of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our society and all the damage it will do to trade and jobs, and all because he wants to take this country in the direction of a trade deal solely with the USA rather than anybody else. We are not walking into traps laid by this Prime Minister.
I will be extremely brief and simply ask one or two questions of the Minister. If we do vote for a general election tonight, it will mean that we enter into new types of rules. There will be purdah and other rules on the civil servants. I have heard from the Prime Minister’s lips his strong contention that he is in favour of a deal and is negotiating hard for a deal, and I absolutely believe him. I would like to hear from the Government how this can be pursued and prosecuted in the course of a general election, in which I believe the Opposition would, to some extent, also have to be kept informed.
That is all I want to ask, because I think it is a very important point. During a general election, when everybody is rightly consumed with campaigning, how will we be able to prosecute these negotiations and keep everybody, including the Leader of the Opposition, informed?
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), and I commend him for behaving with dignity in his speech tonight.
This is a crucial time for all of us, and it is a crucial time for all our constituents. Of course there are strong opinions, and there should be. Of course we should have robust debate. Frankly, I am utterly appalled and ashamed of what we have witnessed in the House this evening. [Interruption.] I can see Members laughing. We all have a sense of responsibility, and remember this: we had the death of an MP a few short years ago. Too many Members of this House are receiving death threats. Too many Members of this House are getting verbal abuse outside this place.
The leadership we show, how we all conduct ourselves in this place, is very important, and I appeal to everybody to show restraint, to act in a dignified manner and to show respect to each other. We owe that to all our constituents.
I believe the right hon. Gentleman says what he says with total sincerity. In that spirit, is he ashamed that, when the Prime Minister was on his feet, a Member from the SNP Benches shouted, “You’re a liar” and a Member from the Labour Benches shouted, “You’re a thug”? Does he agree those things bring the House into disrepute?
I am appealing to all Members to behave in a way that is respectful to colleagues and respectful to our constituents.
I listened very carefully to what the Prime Minister said: “I will not ask for another extension.” Dwell on those words, because the Prime Minister is saying with those words that he is going to ignore an Act of Parliament, that he is going to ignore the law. I simply say to the Prime Minister: be careful. You occupy the highest office in the land and what you are demonstrating to the people of the United Kingdom is that the law does not matter. That is a very serious situation to be in. I ask the Prime Minister to think again—to think very carefully or be prepared to pay the consequences of ignoring the law of this land.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if this was the Head of Government in a country such as Georgia or Moldova, or a country in Latin America, Tory MPs would be lining up to pontificate about that country being a failed state, but because a Union flag has been wrapped around this, with the usual Tory jingoism, they think it is all A-okay?
I am deeply concerned about what is happening, about the proroguing of Parliament and about the fact that the Government have pushed it through on the votes of three members of the Privy Council, against the express wishes of the majority of Members of this House. That concerns me and, as democrats, it should concern us all.
I said this last week and I will say it again: the SNP wants a general election. We want the opportunity to bring this Government down, and we are going to take it. We want the opportunity for the people of Scotland to have their voices heard, to make their choice over their futures. We want the opportunity to stop this Prime Minister from ripping us out of the European Union against our will. [Interruption.] May I say to the—
Order . The right hon. Gentleman should not have to do so. You are a most statuesque figure, Mr Kawczynski, and therefore you are very readily visible and sometimes audible. I gently say to you, because you are generally a very good-natured fellow, that it is quite inappropriate when standing at the Bar of the House also to be bellowing. Stand and look impressive, rather than yell, man. That would be my advice.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. We want the opportunity to stop this Prime Minister from ripping us out of the European Union against our will. Members can jeer all they want, but this Prime Minister has lost Scotland. He has lost the support of the old Scottish Tory leader. Writing in tonight’s Evening Standard, Ruth Davidson has landed a blow on the Prime Minister. Things are really that bad for the Prime Minister and for this shambolic, failing Tory Government. The matter is simple: we want an election but we do not want it on the Prime Minister’s terms. This is a Prime Minister obsessed with running down the clock, a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted and a Prime Minister who is seeking to shut Parliament tonight so that he can drive us off the cliff edge. We are not falling for it.
The Prime Minister thinks he can treat Parliament however he wants. He thinks he can ignore the people of Scotland and treat our Scottish Parliament, our Government and our citizens as second-class citizens. Scotland will not be ignored. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. Scotland voted overwhelmingly for the SNP, to oppose the Tory Government here in Westminster. And Scotland will have the chance to vote to say that this Prime Minister and this Government do not represent the people of Scotland and our wishes. Since the referendum, we have been treated with contempt, shouted down, with our voices silenced and our interests sidelined. Let me put the Prime Minister on notice: the election is coming.
The right hon. Gentleman fails to tell the House something. I have said this before, but more people in Scotland voted in 2016 to leave the EU than voted for the SNP in the 2017 election. [Hon. Members: “ More!”]
Members can shout for more, and I see the Prime Minister laughing, but let me tell the hon. Gentleman what happened in 2016: we had an election to the Scottish Parliament and the SNP won its third election on the trot, and we did so with a manifesto commitment that if there was a material change in circumstances, the Scottish people had the right to have a referendum on our future. My message to the hon. Gentleman and to the Prime Minister is this: respect the will of the people of Scotland.
Once the threat of a no-deal Brexit is removed from the table, the SNP will act—and we urge others to act—to bring down the Tories, oust this Prime Minister and let the people have their say. Once we are safe in the knowledge that we are not leaving the European Union at Halloween, the days of this Government will be over. When we return in October, we expect the Opposition parties to work together to bring this Government to an end. We have had enough of this dictatorship; enough of the deceit, the fake news, the sham fighting, the games and the stunts. We have had enough. I say to Members, and to people at home across these islands who are feeling lost, forgotten, anxious and worried about the future, that our time is coming. We will keep fighting for you. Where we can, we will work in the interests of the people across Scotland and the UK, to protect our economy from the Brexit catastrophe. We will create the circumstances and find a way to strip this Government of power, end the democratic deficit and give the people back control. [Interruption.] I say to the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) that if he wishes to speak in the debate, he might try catching your eye, Mr Speaker, but shouting out like this—shouting down Scottish voices—is not the way to go.
An election is coming, and the SNP will ensure that post the suspension period, when a no-deal Brexit is off the table, the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose their future; to choose to be citizens who want to be part of Europe; to choose to live in a country that is outward looking and welcoming; to choose to live in an independent Scotland focused on opportunity and fairness, free of broken Brexit Britain. The Prime Minister is warned: his days in office are numbered.
I had no intention a few moments ago of speaking in this debate, but I would like to say three things that I hope the House will take on board. The first is to appreciate the catastrophic constitutional significance of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. I tried to repeal it in a ten-minute rule Bill in 2015. We all understand why it came into being—it was to be the glue in the coalition Government after the 2010 election—but it should have had a sunset clause. Its effect is now to trammel this Government and our Prime Minister in a very Kafkaesque trap: he is finding it very difficult to govern but is unable to call a general election. I very much hope that the first act of the new Parliament will be to abolish the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
The second point is just to issue a word of caution about the danger that comes with mixing up the difficult, complicated and unresolved issue of Brexit with a potential general election. A general election is, by its very nature, general; we are all up for grabs, and all policies in a manifesto are also there for debate. But Brexit has been the most divisive, poisonous and difficult issue of our life. If we go into a general election with an unresolved Brexit, there is no way that a clear answer on Brexit can be said to emerge from that process. Quite possibly, because of the nature of Brexit and the way that it is pushing our entire post-Victorian party system into near collapse—we may have four-way competitions in almost every constituency—we may find that it does not actually resolve the problem of Government either. I ask this House to appreciate that we are in a dreadful bind and that the binary politics of largely Labour and the Conservatives may be behind us, if not forever, at least for a very, very long time.
My third point is this: I have told my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that, despite some of our past differences, although we worked together very closely in the Foreign Office, I will stick by the Government, but I very much regret, and it is very painful, that 21 of the most decent Members of Parliament whom I very much regard as kindred spirits have lost the Whip. I ask the House to imagine the scene: there is a slightly grotty Victorian building that passes as the headquarters of the local Conservative Association. There are portraits of Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher on the wall, and perhaps a couple of blank spaces. The chairman is there and the phone rings. Someone says, “Look, I’m a bloke from No. 10. You have never heard of me, but I am afraid your MP has been sacked. You must strike him or her off all the records. You cannot talk to them now and we are going to re-select someone straight away.” The only response that a self-respecting chair can give is, “May I thank you very much for your call, young man? Now bugger off.”
We must appreciate that the constituency is still an essential unit of our democracy. It is the building block that makes this House what it is. There may, of course, be party rules, but we should be very careful about letting party rules be superseded by the control at the centre. I very much hope that, although many of the 21 will be standing down and it matters less to them—it is not the case for some whose career should rightfully be ahead of them—my right hon. Friend and our party system through our Chairman can appreciate that a route should be found back for those who wish to stand again and that all immediate selections for an alternative candidate should be suspended so that it can be known that they have a chance.
No, I will not give way to anybody.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
Those are the three points that I simply want to make. I hope that, as this House goes through what is a very difficult and painful process as we approach the election, when it is recomposed after that election, we can appreciate the importance of legislation in this House and pay it proper attention so that Members of Parliament can see that making law is probably their most important role as Members of Parliament and that political combat should take a second place. If we do that, we then, I hope, will never again have the folly of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I fear that my right hon. Friend may have inadvertently misled the House given the fact that every single Member of this party who has lost the Whip is still a member of the Conservative party unless they have chosen to cross the Floor. Therefore, the situation that he has described is not actually the case. It is important to realise that the discussion that we are having is that we need to be in the place—
Order. I do not wish to be unkind to the hon. Gentleman, because I recognise that he feels that he has a serious point, but it is not a matter for the Chair. The right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) has, if I may say so, made a speech whose meaning is perfectly clear. If the hon. Gentleman wants to disagree with him, he can do so elsewhere, but it is not a matter that requires my adjudication. I was absolutely clear what the right hon. Gentleman was saying and I do not think that the House feels misled, if I may very politely say so.
It is a delight to follow the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), who made a thoughtful contribution to this debate in this important time for Parliament, by stark contrast to the beginning of this debate, which I am afraid was not a very edifying spectacle for our constituents who are watching this, many of whom are worried about what is happening in our country right now. The braying, the bluster—Britain deserves better.
I commend the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) for the brave decision that she took at the weekend. We are in exceptional times, and in the face of a Prime Minister who is prepared not only to shut out of his party more than 20 individuals who have given it great service, but to shut down Parliament, potentially to flout the rule of law and to inflict on the British public the consequences of no deal as outlined in the Yellowhammer report, I think it is time that others in the Conservative party examine their consciences about what they can do and the role that they are playing in all this.
In his speech, the Prime Minister goaded those of us on the Opposition Benches who disagree with his dash for an election and said that it is because we are afraid that he will win. Well, I say to the Prime Minister that people in this country are afraid. They are afraid of a no-deal Brexit: a no-deal Brexit that—according to his own Government’s analysis, which he is trying to keep secret even in the face of this House voting for it to be published—will mean shortages of fresh food, rising prices, delays and disruption to fuel supplies in the south-east, and severe, extended delays for medical supplies. So it is no wonder that people are afraid, and the Prime Minister should treat this matter with more seriousness.
Does the hon. Lady agree that, instead of the Government spending £100 million of taxpayers’ money on propaganda, they should disclose Yellowhammer and spend £100 million promulgating that to educate the public about the horror that faces us if we have no deal?
It is very clear that the Government should release that report, and they have been instructed to do so by this House.
I want to scotch the myth that the Prime Minister is putting about that a no-deal Brexit is in some way an end to this whole Brexit issue. As Leo Varadkar made clear today, it would be a case of getting back to the negotiating table, as a no-deal Brexit is just the beginning of many further years of negotiations. If people really want an end to this Brexit mire, the way to do it is to stop Brexit.
The Guardian, of which I am an avid reader, says that the Liberal Democrats are poised to back the revocation of article 50 entirely. Is that correct?
The hon. Gentleman cannot be surprised that the Liberal Democrats are a party that wishes to stop Brexit. In a general election, where we will stand to secure a Liberal Democrat majority, such a Liberal Democrat majority Government would indeed revoke article 50. He should not be surprised by that position; perhaps he should pay more attention.
This Government and this Prime Minister have no mandate for a no-deal Brexit that they are trying to force on the British people. It is clear from the resignations of the right hon. Members for Orpington (Joseph Johnson) and for Hastings and Rye that he has no plans for securing a Brexit deal. He is not entering into this in any spirit of seriousness. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) made that point exceptionally well. How does the Prime Minister seriously think that with the previous occupant of that role having tried to negotiate a deal over the course of three years, he and he alone can achieve in four weeks what she failed to do and fight a general election at the same time—what arrogance. If he were serious about getting a deal, he would be negotiating hard in Brussels, not running away from the responsibility of the job that he now holds and said that he wanted for such a long time.
The right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton made the excellent point that a general election cannot be guaranteed to resolve this issue one way or the other. The best way to do that is to hold a people’s vote on the Brexit deal. That is the best way to resolve this crisis—to give people the choice of the Brexit deal that has been negotiated or remaining in the European Union. I do not believe that there is a majority for any specific type of Brexit in this country, and we could determine whether that were the case in a people’s vote. The Liberal Democrats are crystal clear: we want to stop Brexit.
The hon. Lady says that she wants a second referendum, but the problem for the British people will be that if the answer she gets is one that she does not agree with, the stated position of the Liberal Democrats is simply to ignore it.
The hon. Gentleman might do well to pay rather more attention to his constituents in Cheltenham and what they would like to see happen. In answer to his point, of course Liberal Democrats want us to stay in the European Union, and we want people to have the ability to choose that option in a people’s vote. We have argued for—[Interruption.]
Order. There were points of order earlier in our proceedings about conduct that was very intimidating for Members and, in some cases, Members’ families. I know that there are inflamed passions, but I just ask Members to consider this: the hon. Lady is trying to deliver a speech and doing so with her customary eloquence and fluency; she should not be shouted down and she will not be—stop it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that others in the House would like the Liberal Democrats to be silenced, but that will not happen on my watch, because we are crystal clear on Brexit. We want to stop Brexit, and that is why thousands of people across the country are joining the Liberal Democrats, including MPs from both the Labour and the Conservative parties.
Whether it is votes in this House or ministerial colleagues, the Prime Minister is making a habit of losing. Although I believe that a people’s vote is the best route to resolve this, I say to the Prime Minister that he can have his general election as soon as he secures an extension. Otherwise, we risk the scenario of a general election where we might crash out of the European Union without a deal either during or in the immediate aftermath of such an election and with Parliament not sitting at those crucial moments. It would be the height of irresponsibility to dissolve Parliament at that time. Any general election must be undertaken in a period of calm, with an orderly approach, not in a period of national crisis.
The Prime Minister is playing at this. In his speech tonight, he made it sound like this was sport—like this was a game. This is not a student debating society. This is about the national interest and being sure that we avoid the risk of a no-deal Brexit, and that is why we will vote down his motion tonight.
In normal circumstances, parliamentary democracy serves our country well, but in the past two and a bit years, I have been ashamed of the behaviour of this Parliament—a Parliament in which, as academic analysis by the Library points out, 409 out of the 650 constituencies had leave majorities. That was on an 80% turnout—far higher than any turnout we are elected on at a general election.
Over the past two and a bit years, we have a Parliament that thinks it knows better than the public who this Parliament explicitly gave the decision to. We have a Parliament that thinks it is acceptable to use representative democracy to defeat direct democracy—a direct democracy explicitly agreed and voted for by this Parliament. We have a Parliament that has totally failed to work across party lines to find an acceptable way forward, and we have a Parliament that is very good at saying no but is bereft of ideas to come up with anything better. We also have a Parliament where an increasing number of MPs who were elected for one party, often with significant majorities, then declare for another without any agreement from their constituents.
If we value our democracy and everyone who took part in the referendum, we must honour the result and everyone who voted, all of whom were told that the result would be respected. Democracy requires that the losers accept the result. We should honour the referendum by returning powers over our money, laws, borders and trade in a way that is orderly and supports jobs. I want to see our negotiations turbo-charged. We need a Government with a mandate and a new Parliament that will actually vote for something for a change—a new Parliament that will work in the national interest for a good deal that respects the referendum result.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), although I find it a little strange that he criticises the House for not working on a cross-party basis—that is why we are here tonight and that is why so many of the parties in the House of Commons will oppose the Government’s motion. I think that he means that he wants cross-party working so long as the parties work with him, rather than between themselves.
In my time in this House, I have seen seven Prime Ministers come and go. We are now on the eighth. I had enormous differences with many of them, but in every case up until now, I have always accepted that they acted in good faith and what they perceived to be the national interest.
Before I go any further, I should point out that what I am about to say breaks two rules that I have set myself during my time in the House. The first is to try to play the ball, rather than the man or woman, and the second is never to take issue with the Chair. I am not about to break the second one, Mr Speaker, but I will comment on it. All the Speakers I have served under—I think that you are the fourth—have always upheld the rights and privileges of Members of this House, which you have done, and they have always upheld the constitution of our country and the rules of this House, and they have all done it in their own distinctive way. I want to pay tribute to the way you have conducted yourself. You have stood up for the rights of this House and—often in the face of criticism, usually from Government Members—you have shown great courage in carrying out your responsibilities, and I pay tribute to you.
The other rule, which I am about to break, brings me to the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson). He is, as everybody would agree, often entertaining. He does, as I know from some experience with him, have an enormous amount of stamina. However, political leaders need to have three additional qualities: first, it is essential that they exercise good judgment; secondly, they need to be trusted to follow a course of action that they genuinely believe is in the best interests of our country, even in circumstances when it might not be universally popular to do so; and thirdly—I find this the most troubling part of the Prime Minister’s speech tonight—they need to be absolutely clear that on no occasion would they contemplate breaking the law of the land. As, sadly, has been demonstrated in his short time as Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman has shown neither good judgment or any sense that he is willing to put what is best for our country ahead of his own personal ambition.
In normal times, the logic of the case I have just made would be that I supported the motion before us, but these are not normal times. The Prime Minister cannot be trusted to use the vacuum created by a general election to thwart the will of this House. If he is serious about coming up with a deal that will suit all the concerns we have, why are we in this House at this time of night debating whether to hold a general election? Why is he not in Brussels trying to get a deal? Why is he not putting the interests of this country above his own political ambitions?
Let me be as clear as I can. I desperately want a general election because the people of Knowsley deserve better than this squalid, mean and incompetent Government, but to shut down Parliament for a general election at this critical point in our history would require us to trust that the Prime Minister would behave honourably. I cannot take that on trust. I will conclude with some words with which the House will be familiar. Those words are:
“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.”
Well, the hour has come, but certainly not the man.
I am pleased to be called in this debate and to follow the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Sir George Howarth).
I have lost count of the number of times in my travels through the beautiful constituency of Thirsk and Malton when I have been approached by people saying, “What on earth are you lot doing down there? Why can’t you simply sort it out together?” The reality is that there are three reasons why we cannot do so.
The first is, of course, that there are an awful lot of remain MPs in this Parliament, and I speak as a remain Member of Parliament. I voted to remain and if there was another referendum I would vote to remain again, but I do not advocate a referendum. I have had my fill of referendums. I also voted in this place to give the people a vote to decide whether we stay or we leave. Nevertheless, if people are straightforward, when push comes to shove, a number of MPs in this place do want a second referendum, whatever they might say.
The second reason is party politics, and the Leader of the Opposition is of course the worst culprit. He claims now that to leave the European Union with the wrong deal would be catastrophic, despite the fact that for decades he campaigned to leave the European Union on any terms possible. The reality is that when the previous Prime Minister’s deal came back before the House—a fair deal, in my view—90% of my colleagues on the Government side of the House voted to pass that deal, while only 2% of Labour Members voted for it—five Members of Parliament. Too much party politics got in the way of a sensible deal.
Finally, on Brexit perfection, 10% of my colleagues on this side of the House, for whatever reason—the deal was either too hot or too cold—did not vote for that deal. It was not seen as the Goldilocks deal. Some people said that it was not Brexit. Some said that the people had voted for a completely clean break. The reality is that the Vote Leave campaign said clearly in its manifesto that there is a European free trade zone that stretches from Iceland to the borders of Russia, and when we left we would be part of it.
It is quite reasonable for people to expect a deal when we leave, which was why the previous Prime Minister set out her red lines and brought back a deal, which respected the promises that were made before the referendum. To settle the issue, Opposition Members often ask for a people’s vote. Now is the right time for a people’s vote.
As always, my hon. Friend is making a brilliant point. The only sadness about proroguing is that we will not have the Treasury Committee chairmanship elections. Many members of the public are opening their front door and finding on the doormat a Labour leaflet that says, “We want a general election, and we want it now.” Is that not confusing for them?
It is very confusing. I, too, regret that we will not be here on Wednesday to complete the final election process for the Treasury Committee.
Nevertheless, now is the perfect time for a general election. If Opposition Members are right and the public do not want deal or no deal, the public will vote in their favour. They will return a coalition Government or another Government who can take their choice forward. If they feel that they want to move down the track of deal or no deal, they will vote for the Conservatives and their policy of delivering Brexit on 31 October this year. Now is the right time to trust the people to make that choice. Is it simply political advantage that is getting in the way of that? There are two imperatives in keeping the deadline of 31 October. The first is getting a deal with the European Union with that deadline of 31 October, and the second is that when the deal returns to the House—I believe the Prime Minister can deliver that—Members across the House will have a choice either to vote for a deal or to vote for no deal. Surely they will choose a deal and we will leave on 31 October.
First, I am sorry to see you go, Mr Speaker, because you have stood up for Back Benchers in the past 10 years, and you have been a great respecter of the Chamber. I wish you and your family all the best for the future.
I do not intend to speak for long, but suffice it to say that I agree with the Prime Minister. He uses the same language as me when he says, “Put it to the people”. He considers that the people should be engaged in the final say, so let them have it in a confirmatory ballot on the issue of Brexit in a people’s vote. It is wrong to conflate Brexit, which is a decision for a generation, with a general election campaign, which is meant to decide a programme of government for a maximum of five years. I think the Prime Minister knows that.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I am not going to speak for long.
The Prime Minister has been found out. It is about eight weeks to 31 October, but he wants to take up the next four or five weeks with electioneering, rather than going to look for a deal. I have some words of advice for him: go to Brussels, and begin to negotiate. Bring back the deal that you have promised the country, and put it to the House. I will help to facilitate its passage through Parliament, as long as it is put to the British people so that they can decide whether they want to go ahead with it or stay in the EU in a confirmatory ballot.
The Prime Minister has lost the Father of the House, Winston Churchill’s grandson and his own brother. I understand that in the past few days the Duke of Wellington has left the Conservative party. The Prime Minister has met his Waterloo. The Conservative party can change its mind on no deal, but it refuses to allow the British people to do the same on Brexit. They need to have a final say on Brexit. After three and a half years, on the will of the people and the generational decision of Brexit, they have the right to be asked again in the light of the fact that this Government are hellbent on moving towards the EU exit door without a deal. The Government will say it would be a betrayal of Brexit and the British people if we do not deliver on Brexit. I will tell you what is a betrayal of trust: leaving the EU without a deal and not telling the British people that it is not a clean break. Like any Brexit deal, but even more so in the event of no deal, it will lead to years of uncertainty and economic woes for the majority of the people in this country, including unemployment. But of course the main pursuers of Brexit are not the ones who will be losing their jobs.
We need to resolve Brexit with the confirmation of the British people. That is how it began in 2016, and that is how it should be brought to a conclusion. The people have the right to compare the facts today with what was promised to them three and a half years ago. Brexit started with the people and it should end with the people. Prime Minister, resolve Brexit first and then let us have a general election. I will not be supporting the motion tonight.
The fundamental question that faces us today about whether or not we should have an early parliamentary election is really the same question we have been debating now for many, many years, and in particular in the past three years in relation to the referendum result. The key question is: who governs this country? That is the issue before us tonight. I have to say, with the greatest concern, that the Labour party has taken the view that it should run away from the very question that it knows it will not be able to answer unless it wins the general election. It also knows that it will not win that general election on all the present estimates. That is the real reason why Labour Members will not answer the question of who governs this country and why they will not, apparently, vote tonight to answer the question and give us a general election.
The Leader of the Opposition kept on saying that he would allow a general election only if the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill, which has been given Royal Assent today, was passed. The Bill has been passed, but ironically it still has not answered the question I posed at the beginning about the law of the land and who governs this country. There is nothing in that Act to repeal section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which says, as the law of the land, that 31 October is exit day as we speak in this debate. Section 1 also says that the European Communities Act 1972 is repealed. Furthermore, the commencement order has already been made. There is nothing in the Bill by which anybody can properly accuse the Prime Minister of not complying with the rule of law, because the rule of law sets out 31 October. That is the law of the land and there is nothing in the new Act that says otherwise.
I simply say this: this is a dereliction of duty by the Labour party. It is refusing to allow the British people to decide who governs this country, and it is running away from the fact that under the European Communities Act 1972 and the European Union we are governed by majority vote by the other countries of the European Union. That is how Labour is letting down the very people it represents.
In the leave constituencies of Labour Members, there are people who know very well what is happening, and increasingly, according to the opinion polls, they are not interested in supporting the Labour party, because it is running away from the one central question—who governs Britain?—and the democracy that lies behind it. Give the people the freedom to enable them to decide, instead of the rabble on the other side of the House.
In its handling of Brexit, this House has lost the respect of the country and made us a laughing stock around the world. Prolonged uncertainty, as much as no deal, can tip us into recession, with disastrous consequences for jobs and living standards. I hear high-minded speeches about protecting the constitution and the propriety expected of Government, and I accept that a small number of Members are vehemently opposed to no deal but would support Brexit with a fair deal. I also regret the fact that the Government decided to prorogue this House, which was as unnecessary as it was undesirable.
The vast majority on the Opposition Benches, when they claim support for an affirmative referendum and/or opposition to no deal, are determined to overturn the result of the referendum. They have displayed an increasing contempt for our duty as democrats to respect and implement the result. They lecture others about democracy, accountability and our national interest, yet they are hell-bent on frustrating the will of the majority of the people, as expressed in that referendum. They should be honest: it is their objective to thwart Brexit in whatever the circumstances. Whatever deal is put to this House, there are many, many people who will vote against it because they want to thwart the will of the people, in terms of that referendum result.
Many of the so-called progressives in this House are fuelling right-wing extremism by showing contempt for the result and the majority who voted to leave. We asked the people and they gave us their decision—to leave the European Union. I say that as a remainer. One cannot be a selective democrat who respects democracy only when it delivers their preferred result. This goes to the root of the Leader of the Opposition’s position tonight. He demands an election time and again, but now, given the opportunity, he vetoes an election, not because of the national interest or stopping no deal, but because he knows he would lose that election—not because of the vast majority of the values of decent Labour MPs and many Labour party members, but because, as a lifelong Eurosceptic leading a party of remainers, he has been caught out trying to have it both ways on Brexit time and again. He does not have the leadership skills required at a time of so many challenges facing our country, and his leadership has led to the party of anti-racism and equality becoming the party of institutionalised anti- semitism—so much so that a majority of Jews in this country feel that they would not be safe in the event of his becoming Prime Minister.
This House could not stand up for the public interest or break its stalemate for over three years. Therefore, the national interest demands a general election; then, maybe, a new House will be able to show the leadership that this country needs and deserves to begin the process of rebuilding trust in this place and healing the scars of division in our society. [Interruption.] I hear some of my hon. Friends saying, “What about a by-election?” That is what the Momentum-types in my constituency keep saying—that I am running away from the electorate by not having a by-election now I am an Independent. I am voting for a general election tonight. I am willing to face the people in my constituency, unlike too many of the people on these Benches.
Finally, Mr Speaker, many tributes have been paid to you, quite rightly, for the way you have presided over this House. I would like to add to that the work you did for children with speech and language difficulties, which changed the lives of many families.
When I heard the speeches earlier, in which people talked about how proud they were of this House of Commons, I thought, “They’re not living in the real world”. My voters, my constituents, are not proud of this House of Commons; they think we’ve entirely lost the plot.
The time has come for people to be honest with the British people, and that means we need to respect the result of the referendum. The alternative would be to fuel right-wing populism like we have never seen in the history of this country.
Nobody can argue that tonight we are not facing an impasse that affects not just our relationship with Europe, but the very constitution of our country. Sadly, I find that a people’s vote is not an answer, because this question is not just one question; it is every question. The only way to answer it is to ask the British people who they want as their advocates in this House, who they want speaking for them not just on one issue but on every issue. The question is: who will stand up for the British people. Let us call an election and ask them who governs Britain. [Interruption.]
Order. I have never known a situation in which Mr Gapes cannot be heard. If there is some private spat taking place, it should take place outside the Chamber, not in it. It is very unsatisfactory.
First, may I pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, for what you have done standing up for representative parliamentary democracy against an arrogant and overbearing Executive?
I do not have long. I want to make two points. First, there is an old adage: neither Washington nor Moscow. I say: neither Uxbridge nor Islington. In this time of national crisis, this country is in a very dangerous place, and it is time that all moderate social democrats, one nation Conservatives and Liberals came together to stop the extremism, which is going to damage our country for decades to come. We have to stop this process, and the best way is to recognise a general election will not resolve it, as the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) made clear. We have to put the issue back to the people, as others have said. We need a people’s vote, which would be an informed choice. We should pause this process, stop the no-deal Brexit, defend the people in Ireland and in Gibraltar—
One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the motion, the Speaker put the Question (Standing Order No. 16(1)).
9 September 2019
The House divided:
Question accordingly agreed to, without the majority required under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.View Details
I say by way of explanation for those who observe our proceedings—the nods suggest they are well ahead of me, which I would expect—that the majority does not satisfy the requirements of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 for the purpose of engendering the election that some seek—[Hon. Members: “Shame!”] I am simply the messenger, and I have reported the facts. I am glad that the matter is of interest to those who are looking upstairs. Thank you very much indeed.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I earlier urged the House to trust the people, but once again the Opposition think they know better. They want the British Prime Minister to go to a vital negotiation without the power to walk away. They want to delay Brexit yet again, without further reference to those who voted for it, handing over to Brussels an extra £250 million a week for no purpose—enough to upgrade more than five hospitals or train 5,000 new nurses. And most egregiously of all, not only have they refused to choose the way ahead; they have now twice denied the British people their say in an election. The House cannot choose; it will not let anyone else choose. It resolves only to be irresolute and decides only to be undecided, determined to dither, adamant for drift, so now the House will move to adjourn and resume with the state opening and the Queen’s Speech on 14 October. I hope the Opposition will use that time to reflect. Meanwhile, the Government will press on with negotiating a deal, while preparing to leave without one. I will go to that crucial summit in Brussels on 17 October, and no matter how many devices this Parliament invents to tie my hands, I will strive to get an agreement in the national interest.
This Government will not delay Brexit any further. We will not allow the emphatic verdict of the referendum to be slowly suffocated by further calculated drift and paralysis. While the Opposition run from their duty to answer to those who put us here, they cannot hide forever. The moment will come when the people will finally get the chance to deliver their verdict on how faithfully this House executed their wishes, and I am determined that they will see that it was this Government who were on their side.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] I think we have had quite enough playground politics from the Conservative party this evening. The one thing the Prime Minister did not say was that he was going to obey the law of this country. He did not say that he acknowledged or accepted three votes that have taken place in this Parliament. At his request, the House is now apparently due to be prorogued this evening for one of the longest prorogations in history simply in order to avoid any questioning of what he is doing or not doing, simply to avoid discussion about Yellowhammer, and particularly to avoid any discussion about the proposals that have been put to the European Union that he has or does not have or that do or do not exist. This Government are a disgrace, and the way the Prime Minister operates is a disgrace—[Interruption.]
Order. Be quiet.
I hope that the Prime Minister will reflect on proroguing and shutting down Parliament to avoid a Government being held to account, because that is exactly what is doing today and proposes to do to this country.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I should perhaps congratulate the Prime Minister, because at least he has been consistent. He has lost every vote he has brought to this House since he became Prime Minister. Perhaps that is why he is trying to shut down democracy this evening. The message that must go to the Prime Minister is that he can run for the next few weeks, but we will be back here in the middle of October. He is the Prime Minister of a minority Government, and he has been given an instruction that he has to go to Brussels and get an extension. Once that extension has been delivered, we will have an election, and Boris will be swept from Government. The people of Scotland will get their say, and I look forward to our securing our future as an independent Scottish Government away from the clutches of a Tory Brexit Britain—an isolationist Britain that is taking us away from our partners and friends in the European Union.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a sad day for our democracy. We are seeing this Parliament shut down because the Prime Minister is running away from accountability and scrutiny. A Prime Minister who said that he is not prepared to abide by the rule of law is running away from this Parliament. The Liberal Democrats offer the Prime Minister way out: put it to the people in a people’s vote.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you advise me on how I can put the views of my constituents on the record this evening? I was due to present to the House a petition from thousands of my constituents who wish Parliament not to be prorogued. Due to the procedures, the voices of my constituents will be silenced this evening and the petition will not be heard. Can you advise me on the actions I can now take?
There are two actions that can be taken. One is to speak on the Floor of the House, which is what the hon. Lady has just done, and to that extent she has found her own salvation. The second course of action open to her is to deposit the petition in the Bag. I have a feeling that, with a fleetness of foot that will be admired in all parts of the House, that is the action she will now take. It may be a second best so far as she is concerned but, as I say, she has found a means by which to give expression to the concerns of her constituents.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We now face 34 days during which all the checks, balances and gears of parliamentary democracy have been deliberately stalled while the Government teeter between avoiding and evading the law. This is neither normal nor honourable.
We desperately need a new politics of citizens’ conventions in every nation and of truth and conciliation in an informed referendum, with article 50 revoked, if necessary, to allow that to happen. In all honesty I know I cannot ask you to resolve this, but I think the time is fast approaching when you will have to do exactly that.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The events of tonight have clearly shown that our political system is broken. It is wrong that a Prime Minister can suspend Parliament as a mere inconvenience simply to avoid scrutiny. It is wrong that he can cynically try to use the proposal of a general election as a way of getting us to crash out of the EU while we are in the middle of a general election campaign.
We cannot continue with this uncodified constitution that depends on people playing by the rules, when we have a feral Government who are not only not playing by the rules but are not even going to abide by the law. We urgently need a written constitution and a citizens’ convention to inform it. No one voted for less democracy. We should design our constitutional settlement so that such a cynical power grab can never be allowed to happen again.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance, because I think many of our constituents will be confused tonight. They will be confused because a Labour party that has asked for a general election for two years has turned one down, because the Liberal Democrats are acting anything but democratically and because the SNP is so arrogant that it says it speaks for all of Scotland, when no one party speaks for all of Scotland.
Tonight a lot of people in this House have put our faith—[Interruption.] You talk about shouting people down, but you are happy to shout me down. I think not. You will not shout me or my constituents down.
A lot of people have put faith in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to come back with a new deal, and there are concerns about time. In the time that you have left, Mr Speaker, can you assure the House that additional time will be made available for debate when we come back? If that means late-night sittings or weekend sittings, we shall have it. We need to debate a new rule, and hopefully you will help facilitate that.
The House is in charge of its own procedures. I note the opinion that the hon. Gentleman holds, and it will be shared by many of his colleagues, I am sure, but not by others. As I say, the House is in command of its own procedures. We do not have Executive control of the House. The House can do as it wishes in these matters, and his opinion on this subject will have been heard.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have not served in this House for as long as you, but I do recall that about a decade ago the Lisbon treaty was rammed through this House, without a referendum. That caused such ill feeling among the people of the United Kingdom that, in a way that no one could have predicted at the time, within seven years the people of this country voted to leave the EU. My point is that the people who rammed the treaty through at the time thought they were being very clever, but history proved them wrong. The people on the other side of the House who think they have been very clever tonight by resisting a general election cannot hide forever from the judgment of the people. They should ask not for whom the bell tolls, because eventually it tolls for them.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you advise me how I register my anger and deep frustration at the outrageous and profoundly undemocratic suspension of this Parliament this evening? With barely seven weeks before the UK is due to leave the European Union, my constituents are deeply worried, understandably so, that, as the right hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) said at the weekend, this Government have no interest in securing a deal and are hellbent on pursuing a catastrophic policy of no deal. Along with every other part of Scotland, my constituency voted overwhelmingly to remain. We are facing profound and devastating effects on our tourism, farming and fishing industries, and surely the least that my constituents could expect is that their Member of Parliament is able to represent them in this Chamber at this most critical moment.
The hon. Gentleman began his attempted point of order by inquiring how he could register his anger, and he has of course now done so. It is on the record and it will be reproduced in the Official Report. Something tells me that his observations in the Official Report will shortly be winging their way towards the local media in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. I seek your guidance because tonight not only have they been ignored, but their views have been dismissed with utter contempt. I ask you what outlet the people of Scotland can have until they can express their about their constitutional future as to being part of this moribund and corrupt Union, which has been exemplified tonight.
The time when the hon. Lady’s constituents, and, more widely, the electorate of Scotland, might be in a position to register their views in the way she suggests could well be not long from now.
No set of points of order would be complete without the product of the lucubrations of the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes).
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could advise me on process for what is supposed to be the mother of Parliaments. [Interruption.] Non-sober Members on the Government Benches should maybe wheesht a wee bit, especially those who cannae haud their drink. If the Government do not meet the obligations of a vote of the House in the next few weeks, what is open not only to Members—who have overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s position not only on a general election at this time but, more importantly, on implementing the decisions of the majority of Members in relation to a no-deal Brexit— but to you, as Chair of this House, to assure not only me but my constituents that a Government who do not listen to the so-called sovereign Parliament are therefore undermining fundamentally—[Interruption.] The hon. Member should maybe wheesht a wee minute. I have told him once; I will not tell him again. The fact that he is not even able to take a chair—he is sitting on the flair—says mair about him than any other Member in this House. If the Government will not implement the law of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, what is open to you, Mr Speaker, and the House to ensure that they do?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. At this stage it is a hypothetical question, because one would need to look at the specifics, but what I would say to him is that if there is a dispute as to what a law means, or what compliance with it looks like, that is ultimately justiciable, and therefore it is to be expected that it would be the subject of a court ruling. These are not uncommon matters, so it would be a very high-profile situation in the circumstances with which we are dealing, but it does seem to me that Members should reflect upon these matters, and think about their options and the attitude of their colleagues, in the cool light of day. That is not necessarily best achieved by a furious focus at 12.51 in the morning.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the course of this process, the European Statutory Instruments Committee was set up in order to sift those statutory instruments that would be required in the event of Brexit happening. In advance of 29 March, the Government brought forward a number of these no-deal SIs so that, as they said, the UK would be prepared for a no-deal Brexit. The Committee has sifted 240 of these SI that have come forward as negative instruments—there will be 580 in total.
I have discovered today that the Government intend to bring forward 10 of these statutory instruments as made affirmative statutory instrument, in order to ensure that we are prepared for a no-deal exit. I am a bit confused as to why the Government did not bring these forward in advance of 29 March, if a no-deal Brexit was supposed to happen on that date, or the second date on which a no-deal Brexit was supposed to happen, or in fact at any time before Prorogation happened so that the Committee could sift them, as appropriate, and the House would have the opportunity to have its say on whether or not these were appropriate statutory instruments to go through. Is there any recourse that we can have, given that Prorogation is about to happen and these instruments will be made without the say-so of the House?
I am not privy to the Government’s thoughts on these matters. It would be perfectly open for a member of the Executive branch to respond to the hon. Lady if he or she so wished, but I do not detect a notable enthusiasm. I am not aware, looking at him now and at his body language, that the Leader of the House is about to uncoil. If he were to do so, doubtless he would give a response, but he is not doing so. Although it is a matter of very considerable importance to the hon. Lady, it is not something in relation to which I can offer her help now. I suggest that she takes it up, in view of the important position that she holds in her party, with the Leader of the House, whom I must say I have always found to be, in every dealing, a most courteous and agreeable individual. I am sure that he would be more than content to discuss the matter with her, over either a cup of English breakfast tea or, conceivably, something stronger.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier this week, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would vote for a general election tonight if Royal Assent was passed, but today he said that he would not, because he wants to prevent no deal. Can you confirm that, if an election had been held on 15 October, there would have been plenty of time, had he won the election, to have prevented no deal, so, in actual fact, there must be another reason for him running scared?
I cannot confirm anything of the sort. The expression “plenty of time” is an evaluative statement and it is obviously a view that the hon. Lady holds and she is entitled to it, but I certainly cannot confirm anything of the sort. I think that, essentially, she is accusing the Leader of the Opposition of tergiversation. [Interruption.] Yes, tergiversation. It is not a new charge. It is a charge that has been levelled many times over the centuries.
No, no. I do not need anything further.
No, no. Nothing further is required. That is the charge that the hon. Lady is levelling, but it is not a fatal charge. It has to be said that not only is it not a fatal charge, but it is not a novel concept, or without precedent in the history of our politics. We will leave it there.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has previously intimated that there may be a number of solutions and new negotiations ahead of the next European Council. Members on the Government Benches might say that he is being disingenuous, but if we are prorogued, what opportunity does this House have to consider them before the next European Council?
The House is scheduled to return on 14 October and the hon. Gentleman knows for what purpose we will resume—for the Gracious Address and the opening of the new Session—but the House and its Members are legendarily ingenious in ensuring that that which they wish to be attended to in the House is attended to in the House.
Order. The sitting is now suspended until 1.10 am. Shortly before the sitting resumes, I shall cause the Division bells to be sounded.
Sitting suspended (Order, this day).