Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:41 am on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:41 am, 14th February 2019

I think the hon. Gentleman means the UK, according to the people of Scotland—but that does not rhyme; I grant him that. I am grateful to him for his contribution today; there were no surprises there. I say to him, in the immortal words of Shakespeare, that

“his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love.”

I remain very fond of the hon. Gentleman. I will seek to answer one very important question that I think he asked: why is the motion for today’s debate not a neutral motion? I want to be very clear that today’s motion is amendable. Members will be aware that neutral motions are not usually amendable under the rules of this House, specifically under Standing Order No. 24B. The current exception to that is neutral motions tabled under the terms of section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Such neutral motions are amendable, but under the Order of the House of 4 December. Today’s debate is not a motion under section 13, but a debate that the Government committed to outside the statutory framework of the 2018 Act, and they note that

“discussions between the UK and the EU on the Northern Ireland backstop are ongoing.”

For the motion to be amendable, it needed not to be a neutral motion. I hope that that clarifies the matter for all hon. Members, and I do hope that they will take this in the spirit in which it is intended—as an opportunity to give the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster more time to negotiate an answer on the backstop, which is what this House requested of us in the last debate.