EU Exit Preparations: Ferry Contracts

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:28 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 3:28 pm, 5th March 2019

I am grateful for the chance to speak in this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Alan Brown on securing it, and I thank you for approving it, Mr Speaker.

My hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry could have conducted this debate on her own, because in the space of what I am reliably informed was about 10 minutes, she utterly dismantled any shred of credibility that the Secretary of State and the Government had left. She has made a succession of attempts to get a simple answer—I can vouch for that, because I was often either behind or beside her when she did so—but one has not been forthcoming. The charitable explanation of that is, as she suggested, that the Government made up the answer just a few days earlier. The less charitable, but, I fear, correct, answer is that they responded to every single question with a deliberate attempt to place obstacles in the way of Members of Parliament and prevent them from doing their job. This Parliament is supposed to be getting back sovereignty as a result of Brexit, but the Government’s first, and often only, response to proper parliamentary inquiry is to stonewall, swat away questions and often to insult the motivations of those asking the questions.

It was a bit rich for the Secretary of State to talk about how many times he has answered these questions. He has not answered them at all. He has responded to them, but has not yet given an answer. Although my right hon. Friend could not, within the terms of parliamentary order, say that he has not been telling the truth, it is fair to say that he has not been telling the whole truth. Although not telling the whole truth is not unparliamentary, it can sometimes have the same effect as telling a complete untruth. Although the explanation that the contract is about securing emergency medical supplies has apparently been talked about in Government circles since August or September last year, it has been used as an explanation for Members of Parliament only for the past few days. It simply does not wash.