Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:55 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Conservative, West Dorset 1:55 pm, 3rd April 2019

That is an instructive example. The last time around, when as my hon. Friend rightly says the Prime Minister sought an extension, in point of fact, she sought a double extension in a sense, because she then brought before the House a statutory instrument which, although not much considered, provided both for 12 April and a later date to be included in the adjusted domestic law, in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. There was, however, no direct discussion in this House of the validity or otherwise of the period for which she sought the extension. I do not complain about that because, as things then stood and as they stand today before the passage of this business of the House motion and the Bill, if they do pass this House, the Prime Minister has an absolute right to seek those extensions—without consulting anyone, actually. There is absolutely no need for her to do so, because it is a prerogative power. She might feel it necessary to mention something to Her Majesty, but otherwise there is no reason for the Prime Minister to tell anyone.

The Bill will provide for a transparent process not for consultation but for approval by the House of the application that the Prime Minister makes to the EU. I believe, as do others who support the Bill, that that is appropriate. Of course, one can have an argument about that—my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke might well disagree—but that is the purpose of the Bill, so I do not think one can deny that, from my point of view or that of someone who shares it, the Bill is therefore necessary.