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Leaving the Eu: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:05 pm on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 4:05 pm, 22nd October 2018

While I have every sympathy with procedural problems that the Government may encounter and any honest attempt at finding a solution to them, I have to say that I find the Government’s position as stated in the memorandum they sent to the Procedure Committee entirely unsatisfactory. It departs from the plain assurances given repeatedly to the House that we would be enabled to express a desire for alternatives when voting to reject or accept any deal.

To remind my right hon. Friend, when his predecessor, our right hon. Friend Mr Davis, appeared in front of the Exiting the European Union Committee on 25 April, to Question 1383 from the Chair:

“Can you give an assurance that the Government’s motion on the withdrawal agreement will be amendable? Yes or no?”,

our right hon. Friend replied:

“Mr Chairman, if you can tell me how to write an unamendable motion in the House of Commons, I will take a tutorial.”

Actually, one way of reading the memorandum is that that is exactly what the Government are planning to do. I might add that the promises were repeated by my hon. Friend Mr Baker on 18 April in front of the Select Committee on the Constitution, and that throughout debates on the Floor of the House in June, when we were looking at unamendable motions, no one on the Treasury Bench demurred from the oft-repeated statements that the motion on the substance of the deal would be amendable.

Could my right hon. Friend please tell the House how he can reconcile those statements with the Government’s plain submission to the Procedure Committee recommending that a vote is first taken on the Government motion and before amendments are considered? What happens if Parliament approves the Government motion, but then amends it afterwards? Are the Government suggesting that they have what they need to ratify or not? Surely the issue will be no clearer if the Government adopt their method rather than the one they are criticising in the memorandum. Why, if there is a genuine problem over uncertainty, which I do understand, have the Government not suggested allowing different motions and choices to be put to the House for a view to be expressed prior to the Government motion being put? Why does that not feature in the Government’s submission at all?

My right hon. Friend knows that a lot in this House depends on trust. If I may say to him, the difficulty with the memorandum is that on one reading of it—I am glad to hear what he said at the Dispatch Box—it tends to undermine trust in the Government’s intention to honour the commitments they gave to the House.