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Ministerial Code

Volume 645: debated on Monday 16 July 2018

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I now call Pete Wishart to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The hon. Gentleman has three minutes in which to make his application.

I rise to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter for urgent consideration, namely section 9.5 of the ministerial code.

I am grateful to you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is my third attempt to secure a Standing Order No. 24 debate. So far the result has been zero out of two, but I am hoping for better fortune with this application.

Last Thursday’s release of the Department for Exiting the European Union’s White Paper “The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union” was nothing less than a farce. Chaotic scenes of Members of Parliament throwing White Papers across the Chamber like frisbees did nothing for the reputation of this House or that of the document itself. At the point when the Secretary of State rose to give his statement neither our office, nor the Labour Whips Office, had received a copy of it. Section 9.5 of the ministerial code states:

“A copy of the text of an oral statement should usually be shown to the Opposition shortly before it is made. For this purpose, 15 copies of the statement and associated documents should be sent to the Chief Whip’s Office at least 45 minutes before the statement is to be made. At the same time, a copy of the final text of an oral statement should in all cases be sent in advance to the Speaker.”

I do not know whether Mr Speaker did receive a copy of the final text of the statement, but what I do know is that that same White Paper had been given to members of the press at 9 o’clock that morning, compounding the total disrespect to this House.

This was an important statement and an even more important document. The House has been waiting for two years for some kind of negotiating position from Her Majesty’s Government. Equally, the EU has been waiting two years, and people from across these isles had been waiting to hear what the Government were going to propose. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Scotland did not vote for this Brexit. We did not endorse it and we want nothing whatsoever to do with it. Shambles and crises are occurring right across Whitehall—these crises seem to be developing by the hour.

May I also take this opportunity to thank Mr Speaker for suspending that chaotic session to ensure that Members had at least a few minutes to skim some of the pages of the White Paper before attempting to hold the Secretary of State to account? What the public must have made of those proceedings is anyone’s guess, but it was not the first time that the Department for Exiting the European Union had done this. One instance might have been an accident, but we are starting to see a troubling trend from this Department and others. This is just about the worst possible example of a breach of the ministerial code, and the matter requires more attention from the House. I humbly request an emergency debate to get the answers that the House and the country need.

The hon. Gentleman has asked leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely section 9.5 of the ministerial code. I have listened carefully to the application, which the hon. Gentleman made in his usual excellent, rhetorical manner. I have to tell him that I am not persuaded that this matter is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. I thank him for his usual excellent and entertaining rhetoric.