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European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:21 pm on 25th March 2019.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 8:21 pm, 25th March 2019

As a member of the Procedure Committee, I have been thinking for about six months about the voting system. In autumn, the then Brexit Secretary came with proposals to change how we were going to run the meaningful vote. Since Christmas, however, it has been evident that we need a new system. The simple binary yes-no choice does not work very well in a situation like Brexit, where there are multiple options. We ran into problems on House of Lords reform, and the Prime Minister has found similar difficulties in the past six months. Partly, that is due to the way she has handled the situation, but it is also partly because it is very easy, with a yes-no approach, to build coalitions against things and quite a lot harder to build consensus and coalitions for options.

A month ago, the Father of the House, Mr Clarke, and I proposed using preference votes as we do for Select Committee Chairs. We were probably a bit premature with that idea, and I am extremely pleased to be able to support Sir Oliver Letwin tonight. It is clear that the Prime Minister’s brinkmanship has brought us to this self-inflicted crisis. It is now essential that Parliament takes control and uses a new process. I am also pleased that the right hon. Member for West Dorset has agreed that we should be moving to paper ballots, voting on all the options in parallel. That will reduce considerably the scope for the gamesmanship that is bedevilling this process.