Article 50

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:39 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 12:39 pm, 24th January 2017

The Prime Minister was aiming to carry out the will of the people—all 17.4 million of them—in the national interest. That was what she was doing. Let me pick up on the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman quite properly raised: the issue of our judges. I think that I mentioned at length three times in my statement that this is a nation of the rule of law, a nation to which the independence of the judiciary is important, and a nation that is watched by other countries as an example for themselves. Of all the people he could criticise, I do not think that I am at the front on this issue.

Similarly, on the parliamentary process, there has been an interesting litany through this whole process over the past six or seven months. Every time I get up, I say that I will give the House as much information as possible subject to not undermining the national interest or our negotiating position. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do—not just through this Bill, but through the great repeal Bill, subsequent primary and secondary legislation, and the final vote at the end, which we have promised.

The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned membership of the single market, putting to one side of course that that membership means giving up control of borders, laws and rules, on all of which the Labour party is singularly incapable of even making a decision let alone coming up with a policy. He also talked about a plan. Last week, the Prime Minister gave a 6,500-word, closely argued speech that has been recognised across the country and around Europe as the epitome of clarity with clear objectives, aims and ambitions for this country, so I do not take that point at all.

On scrutiny more generally, we have now had, I think, five statements, 10 debates, and some 30 different Select Committee inquiries. I hardly think that all that in six months represents an absence of scrutiny of a central Government policy. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not often surprise me, but for the ex-Director of Public Prosecutions to say that taking a matter to the Supreme Court is a waste of time strikes me as quite extraordinary. I have made this point several times over the past few months: once the process has started, a reason for taking it the full distance is to get the most authoritative and clearest possible guidance on a major part of our constitution. Yet again, the hon. and learned Gentleman has not advanced the knowledge of the House very much, but I look forward to the contributions of other Members.