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Article 50 Extension

Part of Destitution Domestic Violence Concession (Eligibility) – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 4:15 pm, 20th March 2019

It might well be irresponsible, reckless and thoroughly irrational, but that does not mean that this Prime Minister will necessarily rule it out.

Within the last three or four days—Anna Soubry made this point very well earlier—we have received a clear message from the Government. They plainly intended the House to believe that we would be voting for a long extension if the agreement were not accepted.

The Prime Minister has whipped herself to vote against a motion that she herself tabled and presumably supported at the time when she tabled it. The Secretary of State—although he tried to say that this was not what he had done—has commended a motion and later voted against it. As two Members have pointed out, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on behalf of the Government, has said that asking for a short, one-off extension would be reckless, a few days before the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, went off and asked for a short, one-off, reckless extension.

The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Kwasi Kwarteng, who is present, told us that there had been many votes in the House against Scottish National party amendments for revocation. There have not; there have not been any. He told that the presidential rules for the Joint Committee under the withdrawal agreement did not provide for delegations. Rule 3 of annex VIII refers explicitly to delegations, so the Minister was wrong again. The same Minister told my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry that during the transition period we would still be in the European Union. That was a clear statement from the Dispatch Box, and it was absolute nonsense.

We have reached a point at which the House can no longer take at face value anything said by Ministers at that Dispatch Box. One of the most ancient and surely most sacred traditions of this House is that when a Minister speaks at the Dispatch Box, their word can be taken as being correct. That no longer applies, not through any ill will on behalf of individual Ministers but because far too often a Minister says something that was true today and different Ministers say something tomorrow that makes it cease to be true. This is no way to run a Government and no way to run a Parliament.