Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:20 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 3:20 pm, 3rd April 2019

The hon. Gentleman is in for a pleasant surprise. I have been talking about reform of the House of Lords, on and off, for the last 20 years, and I believe that it is necessary. However, I will leave that aside, because I do not think it is directly relevant to the point that I am making.

We have had the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018, the War Crimes Act 1991, and the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999. We have also had the Hunting Act, but, as I said earlier, I do not think that it is strictly relevant. In the case of the War Crimes Act and the European Parliamentary Elections Act, the Parliament Act 1911 became involved, which I think is very interesting. The 1911 Act applies a great deal of delay to a Bill, and that is very relevant to this particular case. I think I am right in saying that the reason for adopting this procedure was to speed up the Bill’s progress in order to avoid any delay that would take us beyond 12 April, for example, as a result of which there would not be the opportunities of which the Members concerned wish to avail themselves.

There are some further examples. There is the Parliament Act 1949, and there is the Defence of the Realm Act 1914. The context of the 1914 Act was completely different as well. That Bill was dealt with very rapidly because it was so urgent in the context of fighting the first world war. This is another kind of war—this is a war fought on pieces of paper—and I think that that is part of our biggest problem. We are fighting a battle about who governs the country, and who will be able to determine the outcome. Let us consider, for example, the question of how the laws will be made under the rubric of the European treaties. As I said the other day, if we remain in the transition period for some years—the number varies from two to four—the House will be politically castrated. As things stand, it will not be able to do anything to influence any law in any field or any competence within the EU treaties, and we will effectively be governed by the majority vote in the Council of Ministers.

This Bill is indicative of the problems that we are up against. It is not an expedited Bill; it is not an accelerated Bill; it is a Bill of constitutional execution. It means that, as a result of the procedures followed, and the procedures that will follow from the fact that the withdrawal agreement—if it goes through—will end up allowing 27 other countries to legislate for us, we will have no right to veto any of those laws. That is, to me, the greatest reason for objecting to the proposal. Furthermore, the Northern Ireland backstop is part of that situation with the control of laws.

So I think this is a grave moment in our constitutional history. I think the Bill is reprehensible; I do not think it should pass. I think it is a disgrace that it was brought in, and I have to say that 30 Members of my own party are responsible for this, because otherwise it would never have got through as a result of the combination of votes with those on the other side of the House. I regard the Bill as a grave constitutional indictment of those who have been responsible for bringing it in.