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Arrangement of Business

Volume 799: debated on Wednesday 24 July 2019


My Lords, your Lordships’ House may recall that on 3 July, this House passed a resolution that there should be a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament to look into the issues around a no-deal Brexit occurring on 31 October. The idea was that with a new, incoming Prime Minister—as it turns out, one who is quite enthusiastic about no deal—there should be information available to that Prime Minister before any decision is taken; and that the committee should report to both Houses, and publicly, by 30 September. Val Vaz, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, has raised this several times and the then leader of that House—he might not be leader at this moment—was quite optimistic and encouraging in his response. Are the Government able to say today what progress has been made? We have the names ready to submit to the Government because it seems that August is when that committee should meet and do the work that needs to be undertaken.

My Lords, the Leader of the Opposition is quite right: on 3 July and following a Division, this House agreed a Motion to appoint such a Joint Committee. I believe that the message that this House sent to the Commons has not yet been considered in the other place. The noble Baroness will readily understand that it is now a matter for the usual channels in the House of Commons. Like the noble Baroness, we stand ready to react to whatever response they may send us.

I am grateful to the Chief Whip for that response—probably. I can tell him that I had a letter from one of the candidates in the Conservative Party leadership election who was not very happy about the idea of a Joint Committee, but that was Jeremy Hunt and he lost, so I was rather hoping that the new Prime Minister might be a little more sympathetic. In his final hours as Chief Whip, might the noble Lord find the opportunity to take the new Prime Minister to task on this issue?

While I raise that, perhaps I may thank him on behalf of the whole House for his service as Chief Whip and in other ministries.

My Lords, I echo the probing question asked by the noble Baroness in respect of the Joint Committee. I also echo her comments about the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, with whom I have worked in both government and opposition. Views differ across the House about the achievements or faults of the coalition, but they were a strong and stable Government. In this House, that was possible in no small measure because of the efforts of the noble Lord and the collaborative spirit in which he worked with me and my colleagues. In opposition, he was always extremely affable—almost always—and, more importantly, absolutely straight to deal with. Far removed from the stereotype of the scheming, unreliable Chief Whip, he would certainly not form a model character for one of his noble friend Lord Dobbs’ novels. With those positive sentiments, could I also say: could he just have a word with his colleagues in the Commons and ask them to get a move on?

My Lords, I am a latecomer to these engagements, but I want on behalf of these Benches to pay my own tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for his time working with me as Chief Whip. We have had a very straightforward relationship and a position of mutual trust which has been of great benefit to me. As a newcomer to the political scene in this House, it has been of enormous encouragement to me to deal with him and I am most grateful.

I simply add on behalf of the deputies and myself that we are very sad to see the Chief Whip go. He has been an impeccable Chief Whip, who I have worked with over the years for longer than both of us care to remember. I thank him so much for everything that he has done.