Skip to main content

Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Volume 651: debated on Monday 10 December 2018

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

In a moment, I will call the Leader of the Opposition 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. He has up to three minutes in which to make such an application. I call Mr Jeremy Corbyn.

I wish to apply for an emergency debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration: the Prime Minister’s unprecedented decision not to proceed with the final two days of debate and the meaningful vote, despite the House’s order of Tuesday 4 December 2018; her failure to allow this House to express its view on the Government’s deal or her proposed negotiating objectives; and her doing so without the agreement of this House.

I recognise that, under Standing Order 24, this should be a specific and important matter, and I will very briefly set out my reasons for this debate. On Tuesday 4 December, the House unanimously agreed a business motion that sets out the rules and timetable governing the meaningful vote debate. The Prime Minister has today unilaterally announced that she will

“defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow, and will not proceed to divide the House at this time.”

Neither the Prime Minister nor the Leader of the House has confirmed the date for the conclusion of the debate or the votes. This shows a disregard for Parliament and the rights of the House, as well as of the 164 Members who have spoken in the debate and those who are planning to do so. Once again, the decisions of Parliament are being ignored. It is clear, as the Prime Minister admitted in her statement, that she has decided to avoid a heavy defeat on her deal in the House of Commons tomorrow. Again, Parliament is being given no opportunity to express its view on her negotiation.

As you set out from the Chair, there are two options available to the Government to alter the business. The first and infinitely preferable option is for a Minister to propose moving the Adjournment so that the House has an opportunity to vote on this proposition. The second is that the Government Whips do not move the meaningful vote debate for today. It cannot be right that the Government can unilaterally alter the arrangements once this House has agreed on a timetable without the House being given the opportunity to express its will.

The public will look at the behaviour of this Government and how they treat their democratically elected representatives with despair. Our constitution works on the basis that Governments control the business of the House because they have a majority in the House. The Government appear to be avoiding a vote on a change of business because they fear that they do not command a majority. We have no indication when the debate will be resumed or completed; neither does it seem reasonable that the Government will wait until Thursday before confirming the business of the final sitting week before Christmas. The Government have failed to confirm whether they will bring forward the implementation Bill next week.

Finally, it is vital that the Government treat Parliament with—[Interruption.]

Order. Members can shout as much as they like. I will be the judge of when the speech is completed and I will put the application to the House. This is being done at short notice, and it does not serve the interests of the House for Members to shout their heads off from a sedentary position. If they want to do so, so be it, but it will not make the slightest difference to the procedure that we follow.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was actually just coming to a conclusion.

The Government’s incompetence cannot be used as an excuse to threaten the country with no deal. It is vital that the Government treat Parliament with respect, honour the terms of the original business of the House motion as agreed and therefore seek the approval of the House, not act by Prime Ministerial fiat, to defer the meaningful vote. I would therefore be grateful, Mr Speaker, if you gave this application your most urgent consideration.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I have listened carefully to the application from him. I am satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed —[Interruption]—it is absolutely proper—under Standing Order No. 24. The assumption must be that the right hon. Gentleman is supported by Members, but if Members wish to stand in their place to indicate such, it is up to them to do so.

Application agreed to.

The right hon. Gentleman has obtained the leave of the House. Members should now resume their seats. Strictly speaking, there is no requirement for Members to stand. It is up to somebody to object, and nobody did object, so the right hon. Gentleman had secured his debate anyway, but the display of support makes it very clear that it is a widely held view in the House.

The right hon. Gentleman has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will be held tomorrow as the first item of public business. The debate will last for up to three hours and it will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the right hon. Gentleman’s application.