Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 1st April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset 4:20 pm, 1st April 2019

I am sorry not to be quite as brief as Frank Field, but I want to speak to the specifics of the motion. I agree with my hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin that this constitutional innovation is deeply unsatisfactory. Tom Brake rightly said that it is an indication that the House no longer has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government. The whole point of the Government having control of the timetable is that that is an expression of confidence. I am even quite sympathetic to the point made by Chris Bryant. It is the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 that has created an element of constitutional muddle, where we have a Government who obviously do not command official confidence but none the less carry on as if they did.

We need to get to a situation where the business of the House and the Government go together once more. This approach is deeply unsatisfactory because there is no means of holding anybody to account for it. The motions can be passed one way or another, and they then go off to Europe to be discussed—if they are to be discussed—by people who do not believe in or support them. Those people may come back having failed, and they may have done things in a way that the House might not have liked, but the people who proposed the motions do not go out to discuss them with Brussels because they are not the Government. Therefore, this approach leads ultimately to chaotic relationships between the legislature and the Executive.

This business of the House motion is itself unsatisfactory. Paragraph (1)(c) states that

“notwithstanding the practice of the House, any motion on matters that have been the subject of a prior decision of the House in the current Session may be the subject of a decision”.

Mr Speaker, as you pointed out to us, that goes against the most ancient practice of the House dating back to 1604, but it is also a considerable discourtesy to you personally. On Thursday, you ruled that the Government could not bring forward a paving motion to allow them to bring forward their motion again—a decision that everybody in the House accepted and thought was reasonable. Therefore, to have slipped through under your nose in this motion something that allows a paving motion for motions that have already been determined is a discourtesy. If I had been as discourteous as that to you, I would not have the gall to move the motion standing in my name. Indeed, I would feel it necessary to make a public apology for such a shaming state of affairs.