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Business of the House

Volume 666: debated on Monday 21 October 2019

Following the decision of the House on Saturday 19 October, I should like to make an announcement regarding the business for the remainder of this week:

Tuesday 22 October—Second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, followed by commencement of Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

Wednesday 23 October—Continuation of proceedings on the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

Thursday 24 October—Conclusion of proceedings on the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill.

Friday 25 October—The House will not be sitting.

In a moment, I will call the shadow Leader of the House, who doubtless will have a prepared contribution. However, I emphasise to the House that I regard this as a relatively narrow business statement, and I gently discourage colleagues from expatiating on a vast miscellany of matters, which they could happily do on Thursday. Let us keep it narrow, because that is what it should be.

This is the first opportunity that I have had on behalf of the Opposition to thank the Clerk of the House, as the senior accounting officer responsible for the House, and all the House staff, Doorkeepers and security officers for looking after us and enabling the House to get together on Saturday to do our work. I also thank the police and security services who escorted right hon. and hon. Members and their families on their way home for keeping us safe.

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement. Obviously, I was disappointed that he did not give me notice on Saturday that he was going to make a point of order. He will know that a point of order is not the way to alter business. It is a procedural motion of the House on which Mr Speaker can rule, so it would have been helpful if the Leader of the House could have done so. He will know that on that historic day, 24 points of order were made on his point of order. Why did he leave the Chamber when that meant that he could not hear the rest of the points of order? He will need to know that he is the voice of the House in Government.

The Leader of the House has not mentioned when we will have the important debates on the Queen’s Speech that were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. I know that the Government do not appear to care about the NHS or the economy, but we Labour Members think that they are very important topics. This could all have been done in an orderly manner, so will the Leader of the House please say when the remainder of the Queen’s Speech debate will be scheduled?

The withdrawal agreement Bill is crucial. It is vital that it receives the proper scrutiny of the House, so will the Leader of the House say when exactly the Bill will be published? It is not right that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union says that it has anything to do with an urgent question. The Bill should be published in a timely manner so that it receives the proper scrutiny of the House. When will the programme motion be put forward? Will the Leader of the House also confirm that the Government have no plans to pull the withdrawal agreement Bill and that it will be voted on, if and as amended?

This whole process could have been conducted in an orderly manner. The Leader of the House will know that there is an appropriate way, through the usual channels, to fix the business of the House. At every stage, the Government have been running scared of this House and democracy, and they are now attempting to force through a flawed Brexit deal that sells out people’s jobs, rights and our communities.

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to thank the Clerk and the staff of the House, who were all absolutely magnificent. I reiterate what I said before: every member of my private office volunteered to come in on Saturday, and I think that is simply an example of the commitment to the House of Commons that we see from all our staff. It is really rather wonderful that so many people who work here appreciate and value the Houses of Parliament and have the historic understanding of what a privilege it is to be here.

I join the right hon. Lady in thanking the police for the escorts home they provided, including to me. I have had many kind inquiries about my son. He is a 12-year-old boy. He found nothing more exciting than being escorted home by the police—I am not sure he should have found it so exciting, but he did. On a really serious point, it is very important that right hon. and hon. Members should be able to come and go from the precincts of Parliament feeling safe. We must think about whether we need to do more and whether sessional orders might be helpful in that regard. All right hon. and hon. Members are representing 70,000—sometimes more—constituents and must be able to come and go without feeling under any pressure from any group outside Parliament.

The right hon. Lady refers to my point of order on Saturday. As she will know, there is a long-standing precedent for this, including one example by my late godfather, Norman St John-Stevas, in 1980. More recently, there was one by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) and one only in September by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I am sure she is aware, as are you, Mr Speaker, of page 408 of “Erskine May”, which gives the Speaker the discretion to turn a substantive point of order into a statement if he so wishes. Mr Speaker did not so wish and therefore I made two points of order to help the House to understand what the business would be today, with of course the promise of a full statement today, which is exactly what is happening. There will be occasions when business changes in response to votes. That is a perfectly normal system within the House.

Yes, of course we will come back to the Queen’s Speech, but we do have a deadline of 31 October, which is set in law, for dealing with our departure from the EU, and we need to have the legislation in place by then. The alternative is that we leave without a deal.

The right hon. Lady asked about the Bill. [Interruption.] I am sorry; speak up.

Oh, the right hon. Lady asked why I left the Chamber. That is extremely straightforward: points of order are for the Chair, not the Leader of the House. It would be an impertinence of me to think I could possibly know more than Mr Speaker about the proceedings of the House, and I would not like to give the impression of having knowledge that I could not pretend to have. It is for Mr Speaker to rule on points of order, not other hon. Members. I had made my point of order and listened to several others, but there were no further opportunities for me to speak, because it was a matter for the Chair.

The Bill will be published very shortly. The presentation of Bill will be the first item of public business when we come to the business of the day. At that point, simultaneously, as if by magic, the Bill will appear in the Vote Office for right hon. and hon. Members to peruse. I am sure they will enjoy that. The programme motion will be down tonight in an orderly way—well, I hope it will be orderly, but Mr Speaker will rule on that if it is not—for debate tomorrow. And of course the Bill will not be pulled.

The right hon. Lady is one of the most charming Members of this House, and has enormous grace and thoughtfulness, but when she said we were running scared of democracy, she must have been trying to pull our collective legs. It is this Government who have offered a general election not just once, but twice. How frightened is that of democracy? We are so terrified of the voters that we want them to have the chance to vote. We are so scared that we think they should be allowed to go to the ballot box. No, if there is any scaredness, any frightenedness, if anybody is frit, it is the Opposition.

Let me endorse what the Leader of the House said in all solemnity about the absolute and precious right of Members and staff to go about their business safely and unimpeded. That has to be an absolute and non-negotiable right. Where that right has been threatened, that threat is to be unequivocally condemned. Sometimes I fear that people think that one form of hollering or protest is acceptable and another is not. The truth is that no behaviour that could be intimidating, threatening or worse can be justified in our democracy.

I note what the Leader of the House said more widely about points of order. Points of order are matters for a response by the Chair. Nevertheless, there was no obligation on him to beetle out of the Chamber during the said points of order, given that most of them were proxies for commentaries upon his own. Nevertheless, I note what he said. There was no disinclination on my part for there to be an emergency business statement. I had rather thought that that was what the Leader of the House was going to proffer, and therefore there was just a genuine misunderstanding between us on that point. I ascribe no ulterior motive to the Leader of the House, and I know that he would not ascribe one to me.

May I press the Leader of the House on when the debate on the Queen’s Speech will conclude? We always knew that 31 October was a date, and we always knew when the Queen’s Speech would be. Presumably, the timing was agreed between the Government and the Palace.

The fact is that Parliament has spent the best part of three years discussing what it does not want, and it is now time for us to move on. I welcome the business statement, but will we have an opportunity to vote directly on what the Prime Minister has brought back to the House, which is not the Prime Minister’s deal but a deal between the European Union and the British Government?

My right hon. Friend has made an excellent point. We have indeed spent the best part of three years debating these matters at inordinate length, and it is amazing that anyone thinks there is anything to be said on the subject that has not already been said.

Subject to your ruling earlier today, Mr Speaker, the first opportunity for us to vote on the content of the agreement between Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union will be on Second Reading of the Bill tomorrow.

I thank the Leader of the House for his short business statement.

May I endorse what was said by you, Mr Speaker, by the Leader of the House and by the shadow Leader of the House about the efficient way in which the House was organised on Saturday? It was a credit to everyone who works in this place. Let me also say that I was appalled at the scenes of the Leader of the House and his son being harangued. There is no excuse for that sort of behaviour in and around the House.

It was entirely right, Mr Speaker, that the Leader of the House was refused the right to bring the motion back today. The Government had an opportunity to engage meaningfully with the meaningful vote, but they chose not to do so, and they cannot simply bring it back on terms that they choose and dictate. The House operates on the basis of motions and amendments to motions, and democracy requires that process to be observed. No one messes with “Erskine May”.

What the Leader of the House has proposed in relation to the withdrawal agreement Bill is totally unacceptable. We shall be debating its Second Reading on the same day as the beginning of its Committee stage in the House. I have been in the House for 18 years, and I cannot remember a Bill being presented and debated in such terms, particularly a Bill that will become a full treaty of this country. We shall have three days in which to consider a Bill which, it has been suggested, will contain 100 pages. How on earth will we have a chance to assess it properly? There will be no economic impact assessments. What about the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which requires any treaty to be laid before the House for 21 days before it can be ratified? What about the devolved institutions and Administrations whose legislative consent is required before any Bill can be passed? The arrangements for this Bill are simply not good enough.

At least a change in Government business has been announced by the conventional means of a business statement. I hope that the Leader of the House will never again change significant Government business by way of a point of order. He mentioned leaving the Chamber. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) was addressing the House when the Leader of the House breezed past him. That is no way for a Leader of the House to behave.

Only last week we asked Her Majesty to put on her best crown, get into the State Coach, and come to Parliament to read out the Conservatives’ next election manifesto. When is the Queen’s Speech debate coming back? Was all that just a supreme waste of time?

The Prime Minister may have died in that ditch as the white flag was raised in the so-called surrender Bill, but we will not give up. We will ensure that this Bill is given the proper scrutiny that it requires.

As always, it was a pleasure to listen to the hon. Gentleman. He made a number of points. First, I would quibble with his claim that Her Majesty came here wearing her best crown. Her best crown is probably the Crown of King Edward the Confessor, which is used only at the Coronation. At the state opening of Parliament, the Imperial State Crown is probably Her Majesty’s second best crown; but far be it from me to be pedantic about such matters.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act. That Act will be taken care of in the Bill. The point of it is to ensure that non-legislative treaties can be voted on in the House. Legislative treaties inevitably fall into a different category.

The hon. Gentleman must have a remarkably short memory, because he said that he could not recall any Bill being introduced at such short notice. There have been two such Bills in the last year, one colloquially known as the Benn Act, and the other known as the Cooper-Boles Act. I also remind Members that the abdication was dealt with in 24 hours. A king-emperor left within 24 hours, and we are removing an imperial yoke in over a week.

With regard to what happened on Saturday, I simply make the point that, as in the case of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and his son, and that of a Secretary of State as well, I, too, was subjected to an attempt to “take me out”, I suppose we would say. However, there was a remarkable response—not that I was the slightest bit fazed—

Order. I do not wish to be unkind or discourteous to the hon. Gentleman, but what I am looking for are single-sentence questions. I am very sorry if the hon. Gentleman was unhappily interrupted, but I want a single-sentence question and not an explanation of his experience on Saturday.

The police were very brave. In respect of this Bill, however, I entirely endorse what my right hon. Friend has said about the Benn Act, which was pushed through in a completely unacceptable manner involving the tearing up of Standing Order No. 14, whereas this Bill is in accordance with all the proper procedures, and will deal with the constitutional freedom of this country so that we can regain our self-government.

The hon. Gentleman has expressed his views with great force, but I am sorry to say that he is in violation of the convention relating to the business statement in the way that the Leader of the House said was true of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) the other day, as a consequence of which no response to the question is required.

Can the Leader of the House confirm that the withdrawal agreement Bill that is about to be published will disapply the requirement under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act that any treaty must be laid before the House for 21 days before it can be ratified?

Given that we still have not seen the Bill, may I ask what the deadline is for the tabling of amendments, and until what hour the Government would propose that we sit on these three days?

A motion has been tabled in my name to be dealt with later today, allowing for amendments to be submitted prior to the Second Reading. If that motion is approved by the House, it will be possible to submit them later today, by which time the Bill will have been approved. The programme motion will be set out tonight before the rise of the House.

It would be churlish of me, in the current context, to ask for additional time for Back-Bench business. I was mindful of, and very much regret, the harassment of the Leader of the House when he departed from the House on Saturday. With that in mind, I understand that the Government may suggest that over the next three days we might sit until any hour, and if that is the case I hope that they will be mindful of the welfare of all Members, including Back Benchers, on all occasions as they arrive at and leave the House.

Let me say, by the way, in case the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) thought that I was being churlish—which was certainly not my intention—that as far as I am concerned, and long may it remain so, the hon. Gentleman is indestructible. He is indestructible.

I might add, Mr Speaker, that the Attorney General, who is sitting next to me, pointed out that the treatment of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone was particularly unpleasant. That gives me another opportunity to thank the police for their sterling work. They are very brave in doing this, because they are heavily outnumbered.

May I begin my congratulating the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) on being re-elected unanimously to his post on the Backbench Business Committee? It is rare in the House to be so highly esteemed by right hon. and hon. Members that no one dares even enter the contest.

The point that the hon. Gentleman has made is a serious one, and I hope that it will be communicated to the Serjeant at Arms so that appropriate measures can be taken.

May I thank the Leader of the House for confirming what I suspect the rest of the country has long thought: that the Queen’s Speech does not really matter to this Government and is a sham, which is why it has now been postponed? May I ask him, as he is someone who clearly believes in historical precedent in this case: is he serious that we are going to try and ram through this Bill dealing with an international treaty in three days, when Lisbon was debated for 11 days, I believe, Maastricht for 23, and the treaty of Rome for 22? Is he serious about this?

The hon. Gentleman’s appetite for debate is touching, but we have been debating these matters for three years. We have had endless debates; we have had endless statements by both this Prime Minister and his predecessor; we have had endless reports from the Brexit Select Committee. It is hard to think of any matter that has been more carefully looked at—and, rather splendidly, not just by this House but by the country at large who have engaged with politics. One of the great virtues of Brexit has been the way it has encouraged our constituents to be interested in our activities.

Having noted the careful crafting of your statement today, Mr Speaker, and your response to my point of order about change of circumstances, will my right hon. Friend tell the House when the Government think there will be a potential case for change of circumstances in order that we can actually get what the country needs: a straightforward vote on the withdrawal agreement?

Mr Speaker, earlier you were kind enough to quote what I said on 18 March, but not, I fear, in full. I went on to make another sentence, which was:

“Dare I say that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repented than over the 99 who are not in need of repentance”,

because, I, like my hon. Friend, am greatly in favour of continuing to follow precedents and using them as a guide. And they are a guide, and the guide in this case may be what you yourself, Mr Speaker, said on that day:

“It depends on the particular circumstance. For example, it depends whether one is facilitating the House and allowing the expression of an opinion that might otherwise be denied”.—[Official Report, 18 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 778-79.]

I think this has been a very important guide to the decisions that you have made both recently and historically in your term as Speaker, so no doubt these things will be in your mind as you deliberate and consider further what my hon Friend has said.

Yes, and in relation to column 778 of Hansard on 18 March of this year, I do not want to be anything but fully generous to the Leader of the House, but there was a further segment—a very delicious and juicy segment—in his question to me, and that was, if memory serves me correctly, whether there would be an opportunity for decision via the Second Reading of the withdrawal Bill, and I confirmed in my reply to him that his thinking on that matter was correct. So I completely accept the sinner and repenteth bit, and it was only in the name of time that I did not quote that, but I am quoting another part, so we have now got the full smorgasbord of the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman before he became a right hon. Gentleman.

The requirement to lay treaties for 21 days before ratification is contained in section 20 of CRAG 2010. Can the Leader of the House point out to me where in section 20 of that Act the distinction is drawn between treaties that are legislative and non-legislative in their effect?

I think the point is extremely obvious. If Parliament is legislating for something it is voting on it; under CRAG there is no need to have a vote on a treaty that is laid in front of this House.

I listened carefully to what the Leader said. He set out in his business statement the Government’s intentions for how long the Bill should take to pass through the House. That will happen only if the House agrees by voting for the programme motion. On Saturday, when the House failed to take a decision in principle following the amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) being successfully carried, many who voted for his amendment were clear that they wanted the House to be able to vote on this deal and get it through. I think even the shadow Chancellor suggested that it could get through by 31 October. It is only going to do so if that programme motion is carried. Can my right hon. Friend confirm to the House that if any Member votes against that programme motion, it will be fairly clear that what they were doing on Saturday and what they will be doing tomorrow is not trying to give the House more opportunity to consider this matter, but trying to frustrate the decision being taken?

My right hon. Friend’s grasp of detail is so great that it explains why Baroness Hale thought he was the Chief Whip; he is clearly completely on top of the subject, and that was an entirely understandable error to have made. He is of course absolutely right, and there is a very serious point in this: people who do not vote for the programme motion will be voting not to have Brexit on 31 October. They will need to understand that clearly, and they will not be able to persuade one set of people that they voted for Second Reading and therefore were in favour and another set that they voted against the timetable and were against; that won’t work.

This Government proposal is, frankly, outrageous given the length and complexity of the Bill. I understand the Leader of the House to have indicated that we would have to table amendments for Committee stage before we have even finished Second Reading, and the complexity of the Bill seems to have confused the Prime Minister himself, who on Saturday for example said there would be no tariffs on goods going between Northern Ireland and Great Britain when in actual fact article 5 of the new Northern Ireland protocol shows that goods at risk of entering the EU could indeed face tariffs. Is that not precisely the sort of detail we expect the Government to get right, and does that not provide more evidence that we need the time to scrutinise this Bill properly?

There will not be tariffs on goods that are ending up in Northern Ireland; if they are going into the European Union there may be, but there will not be on goods that are destined for Northern Ireland and not for onward transmission. So what the Prime Minister said was correct. Those who voted for the Benn Act and the Cooper-Boles Act are on pretty thin ice when they complain about rushing Acts through—and, Mr Speaker, goose and gander, sauce.

Mr Speaker, I accepted your earlier statement, and I agreed entirely with you on substance, but I do not entirely agree with you on circumstances. Because the House passed the amendment put forward by my right hon. and very old Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin)—who put it forward, I am sure, with the very best intentions—that has driven 17.4 million people into a state of utter exasperation. They are convinced—[Interruption.] Opposition Members laugh, but people are convinced that this remain Parliament is determined to frustrate them at every turn. So what the Leader of the House has brought forward today is welcome, and my question is simple: when does he think this House may have a chance to debate amendments coming back from the Lords, and when does he see Royal Assent being given, so that we can deliver what the 17.4 million wanted—to leave on the 31st?

Those great words “La Reyne le veult” are what we are all looking forward to in relation to the Bill that will be published shortly. I will set out the timetable for the further stages on Thursday in the normal way, but it is all contingent on the Second Reading tomorrow and indeed on the programme motion. But I absolutely share my right hon. Friend’s concern that this matter has dragged on for too long: the British people want us to crack on, get it delivered and deal with Brexit. And it is not just the 17.4 million people; up and down this country, people voted for parties that said they would deliver on the referendum result, and one party is trying to do that while one party is trying to frustrate it.

We did not vote for the Benn Act; we want Brexit done, but we want to safeguard Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom. When Unionists in Northern Ireland voted for Brexit, they also voted to sustain the United Kingdom. Therefore, in the absence of the kind of assurances we need from Ministers, I have to say to the Leader of the House quite frankly that what he is proposing for the scrutiny of this Bill does not do justice to what the constituents I represent need.

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Let me say quite clearly that there is nothing more important to me than the United Kingdom, and that is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. I have said many times, and am more than happy to reiterate at this Dispatch Box, that Northern Ireland is as much a part of the United Kingdom as Somerset, and that as long as the people of Northern Ireland want to remain part of the United Kingdom they should be supported, encouraged and helped in that. It is our country; it is the United Kingdom. I therefore hope that such assurances as our friends in the DUP want, and our other Unionist friends need, can be made to encourage them to believe that this deal will in fact be good for the whole of the United Kingdom, which I genuinely think is the case. I hope that we will come to find that we share that view, rather than being in contradistinction one from another, which is a matter of sadness to me and, I think, to them.

In my right hon. Friend’s approach to the withdrawal agreement Bill, is he mindful that many of the same Members who insisted on statutory meaningful votes are the same Members who then voted for the surrender Act and the same Members who voted on Saturday to make a meaningful vote meaningless and now seem to be opposed to Brexit altogether?

My successor—and predecessor—as chairman of the European Research Group, as so often, hits the nail on the head. There are many people who do not like Brexit at all and who have opposed it from the beginning. They use this great mantra when they say, “We don’t like this. We don’t want to leave with no deal,” when actually what they mean is they do not like Brexit, they did not like the referendum and they want to stop it. That is not true of them all, and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) is a notable exception to this, but many of them use this terminology and use procedure to try to thwart the will of the British people. They will be exposed.

This House is normally afforded adequate time when Bills of major constitutional significance land on the Floor of the House. The Scotland Act 2016, which enabled the biggest ever transfer of powers from this place to Scotland, was afforded nine full days on the Floor of the main Chamber. Can the Leader of the House tell me how he will ensure that Back Benchers such as myself can represent our constituents adequately when so little time is being given to such a major constitutional Bill?

Will the Leader of the House say a little bit more about the programme motion? The hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) has just asked for more time for the debate, so would it not be reasonable to expect that the House should sit until any time on these days? Can the Leader of the House also tell us why we are not sitting on Friday? If the programme motion is defeated, will the Government continue with the Bill?

The answer on Friday is very straightforward. If we have finished on Thursday, the Bill will pass to their lordships in the other place on Friday. The question whether we should sit through the night is always a balanced one about the desire for debate and the enthusiasm that people have for this. The hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) mentioned the pressure on Back Benchers, who needed to be treated in a reasonable way. Is it reasonable to ask right hon. and hon. Members to sit through the night for three nights? Is it a reasonable thing to ask of the staff of the House? I—like you, Mr Speaker—quite like the sound of my own voice, and therefore I am always happy for this Chamber to be sitting, because it gives us the opportunity to do what we both so enjoy, but it may be unreasonable on others, so it is purely a question of balance.

Can the Leader of the House let us know if an economic impact assessment of the deal has been carried out yet? If it has, will it be published tomorrow, in time for us to look at it before the Second Reading debate?

Further to the very valid point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), I do not usually like to dwell on my status as a veteran of long standing in this House, but the fact is that I was here for the Maastricht treaty Bill and for the European Communities Bill when we first joined the European Economic Community. They were both debated for weeks on end, with many all-night sittings. On the Maastricht Bill, we had 20-odd days of sittings to satisfy the Eurosceptic Conservative Members who wanted a full discussion on it. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that the Government are not simply trying to confine debate by narrowing the time and that they will be content, if the House wishes, to facilitate as much time as we need to consider this matter carefully? I see no reason at all why we should all rise in the evening just so that everybody can go to dinner and not sit on Friday for the convenience of the House of Lords. If the Government are for some reason insistent on dashing for this completely silly and irrelevant date on which they keep staking their fate, they should give us some proper time for debate. Two and a bit days of ordinary parliamentary hours are plainly quite insufficient.

My right hon. and learned Friend is somebody who has always wanted us to remain in the European Union and who disapproves of referendums. He has always made that absolutely clear—[Interruption.] No, that is relevant because that position deserves admiration because he has not tried to use procedural methods to hide his view. His view has been clear to the House and the country throughout, and I happen to think that that is extraordinarily impressive and straightforward. I bow to his position as the Father of the House, which is one of great distinction and gives him a sense of history for what goes on in this place. I would say to him that using accelerated procedures has come about because of the deadline that we have of 31 October, and here I disagree with him: this is not a phoney deadline. That deadline was set because of the workings of article 50. The point is that this should have ended in March. We have already had one extension and there is other business that this country needs to move on to. The second deadline is 31 October, and we have managed to get a new agreement with the European Union, which everybody said was impossible. That is a significant achievement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but because of that we now have this deadline to meet. Yes, of course I would be happy to sit overnight if that is what the House wishes. I am not entirely convinced that it is what the House wishes, but we need to get this legislation through, to deliver on what 17.4 million people voted for.

For the benefit of those observing our proceedings who are uninitiated on this matter, I should emphasise that it is now 49 years, four months and three days since the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) was elected to this House, and he has remained a Member of this House throughout that period. It is a quite remarkable state of affairs.

Mr Speaker, are you prepared to indulge me with a second question—a follow-up question—to the Leader of the House? My long-standing preference for Britain to be a member of the European Union has nothing to do with my question. I propose to vote for the Bill on Second Reading, and I will vote for Third Reading when we get there. The question is why are the accelerated procedures so accelerated? To have just two and a half days and not sitting on Friday is not a way to accelerate the procedures; it is a way to abbreviate them. Unless we are prepared to contemplate a more expansive debate, there is not the slightest possibility of considering the deal that has been obtained within the time available.

I think that is what is called the privilege of being the Father of the House; it is otherwise utterly disorderly!

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I said that you and I both enjoyed the sound of our own voice, but we are mere amateurs compared with my right hon. and learned Friend.

The Leader of the House did not want to answer the important question asked by the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman), but when the Brexit Secretary was asked on television over the weekend whether economic impact analyses of the deal had been done, he did not deny the premise of the question. He said that they had not yet been done, not that they would not be done. So will the Leader of the House tell us when we should expect to receive these very important analyses?

I have a low opinion of these analyses. You can get any economist to say what you have asked them to say in the first place. I spent my professional career looking at these analyses, and not one of them was ever right.

Does the Leader of the House not think it would be a little strange if some of those Members and parties who had dismissed this deal before it had even been published were now to complain that there was insufficient time to scrutinise it?

My hon. Friend wins the prize for the best question of the day. There is nothing more I can add to that.

Can the Leader of the House confirm today that if the Bill is successfully amended at various stages—perhaps involving a customs union provision or passing the deal subject to a public confirmatory referendum—the Government will respect those decisions by Members of this House and that we will see the Bill through to its conclusion, as amended?

As with the European Communities Act 1972, the withdrawal agreement Bill will have to ratify the treaty to be an effective ratification and for it to come into effect.

Does the Leader of the House agree that it is a bit rich for Members of this House who voted for the emergency procedure to be used for the surrender Bill to pass it in a day to now say, “Oh, but we need more time to discuss this deal.”? They like it when it suits them, and they do not like it when it does not. They are trying to subvert democracy and the democratic will of the British people.

On 3 September, the Leader of the House suggested that Opposition MPs were risking subverting Parliament’s scrutiny role. Exactly how many minutes of scrutiny will we be getting for each page of this Bill?

We have had three years, so the right hon. Gentleman can do the calculation. Three times 365 times 24 will give him the answer.

The Leader of the House will know that the Prime Minister’s new Brexit deal has far-reaching consequences for the people of Northern Ireland. I would very much like the Prime Minister or, indeed, the Leader of the House to come to Northern Ireland to explain in detail to the people why the major changes in this Bill that will affect their futures deserve only three days of consideration. It would be the decent and honourable thing to do.

I thank the hon. Lady for all that she does to be a voice for the people of Northern Ireland in this House. It is of fundamental importance to remember always that we are United Kingdom, and the effects on Northern Ireland are important within this proposed legislation. In principle, I would be delighted to accept her invitation, but I am unsure whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would want me to, because it is his bailiwick. However, I would be absolutely honoured to visit Northern Ireland, and it would be a pleasure to return there.

I am glad that the Leader of the House has been able to contain himself on the Front Bench right the way through all these questions. Unlike the Father of the House, I fully intend to vote against the Bill on Second Reading and, for that matter, on Third Reading. Having not had the courtesy of sight of a draft programme motion through the usual channels, I wonder whether the Leader of the House can tell us whether the Third Reading debate will have protected time, so that those of us who do want to make every effort to stop Brexit on behalf of our constituents who voted against it will have that opportunity?

Time will be made for Third Reading in the normal way according to the programme motion, which the House will have a chance to vote on tomorrow.