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Leaving the Eu: Customs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 16th May 2018.

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Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil 4:50 pm, 16th May 2018

The Minister for the Cabinet Office put very well the argument about why we need to keep Cabinet confidentiality. It is an essential part of what the Government of the UK should be doing whenever they are negotiating a treaty or any international matters of substance. Quite frankly, it is an absurd idea that this House should be making them look over their shoulder at every single step and unsure about how to proceed.

This Humble Address procedure is archaic and it is being abused here. It is actually quite a childish approach. Before its recent incarnation, it had not been used since the middle of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, there was absolutely no way that Parliament would seek to get the reasons, the tactics and the assessments of our military commanders at Waterloo or Trafalgar. It is quite absurd that this Parliament now should be trying to undermine the Government’s negotiating position.

Our constituents depend on our Government being able to negotiate well on our behalf. They rely on our Government, and confidentiality in these discussions is needed to allow the Government and civil servants the space to make arguments without fear or favour. That would certainly be at risk if this process continues to be abused.

The terms of the motion do not even stand up. I would like your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, on whether the motion in these terms is in fact valid. As I understand it, this type of Humble Address is designed for the Privy Council, or for a Secretary of State and departmental documents; it is not designed for the Cabinet.