Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon Conservative, Newbury 4:34 pm, 3rd April 2019

I have agreed with my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin on almost everything. He and I were on the same side in the referendum. In the Government and on the Back Benches, I have been awed by his intellect and his understanding of procedure. I supported him in the Lobby, to the concern of my Front Bench, on a number of occasions recently, not least on indicative votes. I agree with him, and with many Members on both sides of the House, about the utter horror that could be delivered on our constituents by a no-deal Brexit. I agree with my right hon. Friend that of the 17.4 million people who voted undeniably to leave the European Union, not all of them were voting to leave with no deal—they certainly were not—and that we need to make sure we leave in an ordered way. It therefore grieves me that I will not be joining my right hon. Friend in the Lobby tonight. I just want to take a few moments to explain to the House why.

I believe what my right hon. Friend Mr Duncan Smith said earlier about legislating in haste and repenting at leisure. Actually, I would amend it: if we legislate in haste, we repent in opposition. We need to be very careful about how we use the procedures of the House. I am entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and others—many Members on both sides of the House, with whom I have worked with on these issues in recent months, are absolutely genuine—on using the procedures of the House to stop bad things, such as no deal, happening to our constituents, but my right hon. and hon. Friends must understand that their efforts are being played by people who want other things. We therefore have to be very careful about how we use them.

I came to the decision before I arrived at the House not to support the motion. I had no conversations with Ministers, Whips or anybody else. I am just uncomfortable about it. I believe that what happened yesterday is an issue in our debate on procedures. The Prime Minister made a clear commitment. In a Parliament where trust has become a much rarer commodity than at any time in my 14 years in this House, and where trust in this House is much limited from people outside it looking in, I do trust the Prime Minister. If that trust is not upheld, I am sure that the schadenfreude from all sides of the House will be heaped upon me. But this is a very difficult time for the country. This is a moment to show support for what she did last night and for the country as it leaves the European Union. We must respect the result of the referendum in a way that ensures we leave in an ordered fashion.

My commitment to the group of Members on all sides of the House with whom I have been working remains the same. My commitment to making sure we leave in an ordered way and respect the result of the referendum remains the same. However, I will be supporting the Government in the Lobby tonight.