Eu: Future Relationship White Paper

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:11 am on 12th July 2018.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 1:11 am, 12th July 2018

I welcome the new Secretary of State to his place. I am sure he does not need me to tell him the size of the task he faces, negotiating with not just the Conservative party but eventually the EU as well. Whatever our differences—and there are many—I genuinely wish him well.

I gently say that the Secretary of State has not got off to a very good start. The utter shambles of the last 20 minutes, which led to the suspension of the House during a statement, is clear evidence of why the Government are in such a mess. [Interruption.] Those on the Government Front Bench are commenting from a sedentary position. Normally I would thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of the White Paper, but on this occasion, my first question to him is: why did the Government think it appropriate to share the White Paper in full with journalists at 9 am today—I think they were given 15 minutes to read it before questions could be asked, unlike the five minutes that we adjourned for—and give them hard copies, and only to provide the Opposition with a copy three hours later? As he will know, my office has been on to his office all morning asking for this White Paper. It was delivered at 11.55 am, and we saw the shambles that followed. Why was it appropriate on this occasion, on this issue, to give it to the press at 9 am and to the Opposition three hours later?

That is not the only breach of protocol. I was handed the Secretary of State’s statement as we finished business questions. But for the point of order, it would have been as he stood up. That is in breach of the ministerial code, which suggests giving 45 minutes. It is deeply discourteous, and it is unacceptable. I have to say, having heard the statement, that I did not miss much, but the serious point is this: the point of these statements is to allow questions to be asked of the Secretary of State, and by proceeding in this way, with this utter shambles, we are denied proper scrutiny of this White Paper. I am sure the House would like to know—