Motion to Approve
With the leave of the House—perhaps more in hope than expectation—I would like to move the three Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper en bloc.
My Lords, this is yet another one. I will take up the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and look forward to attendance at Grand Committee in future, where I will do as I did on the aviation statutory instrument yesterday and seek to have it negatived so that we can have a proper debate on the Floor of the House. The Government are sneaking through Grand Committee very important matters which affect this country and there is no proper debate on many of them, which is unfortunate. As my noble friend on the Front Bench said, if the House of Commons had had an opportunity to vote, we could have eliminated the possibility of no deal and freed up civil servants to get on with productive work, which is what they should be doing and what they would like to do.
Perhaps the noble Lord should consider attending some of these debates. We had a very good debate, attended by Front-Benchers of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party as well as Cross-Benchers, about these incredibly important regulations which are designed to provide continuity to people who rely on such things as blood and organs and the ability to exchange information for surrogacy purposes—which we want to encourage. While I respect the noble Lord’s right to do what he is doing, it is not a good use of time. It would have been better spent if he had engaged in our debate last week.
Would the frustration of both Ministers and the House not have been met had the Government responded to the point raised on the Statement last week by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asking the Government to set out clearly for the House what legislation is required between now and 28 March and in what order it will come in terms of both of primary legislation and SIs? We would then know what the sequence of events was and Ministers would not be faced with concern that the Government are trying to slip things through. I suggest that the Minister talks to his Chief Whip and that the usual channels produce such a schedule in time for us returning in January.
There is a schedule, which is set out in the Act, and we have good debates, as we did on these regulations. It is about making sure that we do everything that a responsible Government should do. If the noble Lord was in this position, would he be doing anything different? Of course he would not.
Many of us now doubt that it is possible to get through the mass of legislation, including subordinate legislation, required for an orderly Brexit between when we return in January and the end of March. We fear that the Government will attempt to push it through by one emergency procedure or another. This will not be an emergency; it will be the result of the constant postponement of decisions by Her Majesty’s Government. The only way out seems to be for the Government to ask for a postponement or extension of the Article 50 procedure.
The Minister referred a moment ago to a “responsible Government”. The idea that a responsible Government would be preparing for a no-deal Brexit is a contradiction in terms. No responsible Government would be preparing for this country to leave the European Union without a proper treaty arrangement next March. Let us be very clear: the Government are seeking to intimidate Parliament into voting for the Prime Minister’s deal by holding us hostage to the idea that there could be a no-deal exit next March. This is a phenomenal waste of the time of Parliament. It is also deeply disreputable in terms of the Government’s dealings with all those external partners, including the Minister’s partners in the NHS, whom he is winding up into thinking that there could be a no-deal exit for which they are preparing but which there is no chance whatever of this Parliament or this Government agreeing. The Minister should withdraw these regulations, say clearly that we are not doing a no-deal exit and prepare an orderly arrangement for us to hold a people’s vote next March so that we do not leave the European Union at all.
It was Parliament that agreed that the exit day should be 29 March: it was voted on. Yes, we may have to work harder than normal in order to be prepared for all eventualities; I am sure that that is something noble Lords would not shirk. There is no sense at all that Parliament is being leaned on or taken for granted. The noble Lord has not been in the debates that I have been in—very good, substantive debates about important issues. That is what matters, not this silly game-playing.