Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:57 pm on 3rd April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 4:57 pm, 3rd April 2019

I am conscious that you will, of course, bring this debate to a close at 5 o’clock, Mr Speaker.

I will be voting against the business of the House motion. We hear that we are in a great emergency that means we need to use these procedures; those who strongly oppose a no-deal Brexit say it is such an emergency that we have to use procedures that we normally use only in cases where we are having to legislate because of the absence of a devolved Assembly in Northern Ireland or because of a major national crisis. If they felt that strongly about this prospect, there was an opportunity for them to avoid it on Friday by voting for the withdrawal agreement, which would have removed the prospect of a no-deal Brexit completely.

I am concerned about the precedent that would be set this afternoon by our using this type of mechanism to push through a Back-Bench Bill on a major piece of public policy. I share the concerns of my hon. Friend Sir Robert Syms that it could well be used to try to constantly kick the can down the road, with lengthy extensions, because of Members not actually wanting to revoke article 50 but wanting in effect to keep us in the EU via the back door.

I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, who as always showed his constitutional expertise and again outlined why this is such a big change and should not be dealt with in this manner. To be candid, while this is not the longest Bill, it is a significant one, which means we should be having longer to debate it and particularly some time to at least reasonably consider amendments to it, rather than what is being proposed in this business of the House motion.

As other Members have said, using this procedure sets a precedent, whether those behind it like it or not. It will be interesting to see whether we get complaints from some of those who have been so keen to argue for this business of the House motion today if a similar process is used to push through a withdrawal agreement Bill. I suspect that the very same people would complain and demand more time.

It is ironic that Members on the Government Benches should be arguing for more time to debate, whereas Opposition Members seem to want to close down the debate. Mr Speaker, I can see you moving forward ready to put the Question. I will certainly vote against the motion, as it sets a worrying precedent. It takes us to a place where we normally go only when there is genuine consensus, which there clearly is not in this debate. It sets a precedent that I certainly do not wish to set.

The Speaker put the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Order, 1 April).

Amendment proposed: (a), at end, to add—

“(20) At the sitting on Monday 8 April

(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order) shall not apply;

(b) precedence shall be given to motions relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from and future relationship with the European Union other than any motion under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018;

(c) 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;

(d) the Speaker shall interrupt proceedings on any business before those motions at 5.00 pm and shall announce his decision on which motions have been selected for decision by recorded vote before calling a Member to move a motion having precedence;

(e) the Speaker may not propose the question on any amendment to any motion subject to decision by recorded vote or on the previous question, and may not put any question under Standing Order No. 36 (Closure of debate) or Standing Order No. 163 (Motion to sit in private);

(f) debate on the motions having precedence may continue until 8.00 pm at which time the House shall proceed as if the question had been put on each motion selected by the Speaker for decision by recorded vote and the opinion of the Speaker as to the decision on each such question had been challenged;

(g) in respect of those questions –

(i) Members may record their votes on each question under arrangements made by the Speaker;

(ii) votes may be recorded for half an hour after the Speaker declares the period open and the Speaker shall suspend the House for that period;

(iii) the Speaker shall announce the results in the course of the sitting;

(h) during the period between 8.00 pm and the announcement of the results on the questions subject to recorded vote–

(i) no motion for the adjournment may be made;

(ii) the Speaker may suspend the sitting if any other business, including proceedings provided for in sub-paragraph (i) of this paragraph, has been concluded.

(i) any proceedings interrupted or superseded by this order may be resumed or (as the case may be) entered upon and proceeded with after the moment of interruption.”—(Hilary Benn.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House proceeded to a Division.