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No Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 1:37 pm, 16th January 2019

Mr Bradshaw is encouraging me not to take so many interventions and to get on with my speech.

We are building a country that works for everyone, but there is much more to do, including: investing in our industrial strategy so that we are creating the jobs of the future in all parts of our country, not just London and the south-east; delivering our long-term plan for the NHS, to which my right hon. Friend Mr Dunne has just referred, so that our most precious institution is equipped for the future; tackling the lingering injustices that for too long have blighted the lives of too many people, including women being paid less than men, mental health not being treated with the same seriousness and resource as physical health, a criminal justice system that has poorer outcomes if you are black than if you are white, and an education system that has left white working-class boys as less likely to go to university than anyone else. These are issues that we need to tackle, and the mission of this Government will not stop.

This is a Government building a country that is more prosperous, a country that is fairer and a country that works for everyone. With the confidence of this House, we will go on delivering for Britain, driven by a passionate belief in doing what is right for our country and right for our people, acting not in self-interest but in the national interest. That is the simple mission that has underpinned our approach to the Brexit negotiations.

As we enter the next stage of that process, I have made it clear that I want to engage with colleagues across the House. The question now is whether the Labour leadership will rise to the occasion, but I fear the answer is no. As the Labour leader himself has indicated, Brexit is the biggest issue that the House and the country have faced for generations. It demands responsible leadership and pragmatic statesmanship from senior politicians. The Leader of the Opposition, as yet, has shown neither. His failure to set out a clear and consistent alternative solution to the Brexit question is the third reason that this House should comprehensively reject this motion.

The shadow Brexit Secretary has described Labour’s position on Brexit as one of “constructive ambiguity”. I think that the shadow Trade Secretary called it something slightly more succinct but definitely not parliamentary, and I therefore cannot repeat it. I call it not being straight with the British people. For more than two years, the Leader of the Opposition has been either unable or unwilling to share anything other than vague aspirations, empty slogans and ideas with no grounding in reality. When the President of the European Commission said that Labour’s Brexit ambitions would be impossible for the European Commission to agree to, the right hon. Gentleman simply shrugged and said, “That’s his view. I have a different view.”

Last night, just for a moment, I thought the Leader of the Opposition might surprise us all, because he told this House that it was not enough to vote against the withdrawal agreement and that

“we also have to be for something.”—[Official Report, 15 January 2019;
Vol. 652, c. 1109.]

Surely that was the moment. That was the point at which, after months of demanding that I stand aside and make way for him, he was going to reveal his alternative. We waited, but nothing came.

The Leader of the Opposition still faces both ways on whether Labour would keep freedom of movement, and he will not even be drawn on the most basic point of all. In PMQs, I referred to the fact that on Sunday, when challenged as to whether he would campaign to leave the European Union if there were a general election, he refused to answer that question five times, and he has refused to answer that question in response to Members of this House today. The Government have no doubts about our position. Under this Government, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and we will respect the decision of the people.