2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Labour, Derby South 4:59 pm, 11th September 2017

I have a slight advantage over the hon. Gentleman in that I was in the House before programme motions existed. All I can say is that I part company with him if he thinks that it is better for people to spend hours, indeed days—I mean literally days—discussing whether a Committee should sit on a Tuesday or a Thursday, or whether we should sit until half-past 5 on a Wednesday night, than to spend that time discussing the substance of legislation.

My third point to the Secretary of State is perhaps the most important—I say this also to the hon. Member for Chelmsford. It is not merely the prerogative of the Government to make proposals to this House to remedy the defects in the legislation, but the duty of the Government —particularly in this case—to do so because it is their legislation. My right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State advised the Government to withdraw this Bill and produce a more satisfactory set of proposals. I never imagined that I would find myself giving such advice to any Government, but I think that he is probably right.

That brings me to my final point. In essence, this Bill was drafted for a Parliament in which the Prime Minister had a massive mandate. I am talking about a Parliament in which she had been given the free hand for which she had asked the British people—a free hand to make and implement decisions without any serious let or hindrance. Everybody in this House, and those beyond it, know that she did not get that mandate. She did not get that free hand. This Bill is drafted for a reality that no longer exists, and yet the Government are continuing as if—to coin a phrase—nothing has changed. Well, as we saw during the general election, the Prime Minister may feel that nothing has changed, but hardly anyone else shares that view. This is a Bill of enormous consequence. It sets the most dangerous precedents of any Bill I can imagine for this House or any other. My party is right to vote against it. It is those who vote for it who are at risk of rejecting the view that the British people expressed in the general election.