Points of Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 12:40 pm, 11th April 2019

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that I have had no intimation from the Government that they plan to bring this Session to a close. I have had no indication at all of an early—well, not early, but imminent—Prorogation. What he says is true. The situation that faces us at the moment is, in that respect but also in many others, unusual. What he says about the under-supply of Opposition days is really a statement of fact. I well understand that there is much irritation about it, and I have myself commented on it. It is a most unusual way in which to proceed, but that is the situation at present, and I am not aware of any imminent plan to change it. Of course if it does not change and this Session runs on, and there is a continued under-supply of Opposition days, I suspect that that will be the subject of coruscating criticism, not least and not only from the hon. Gentleman.

Let me just give a further response to the hon. Member for Stone, because I think it is important to be accurate about this and to try to render—I keep trying to do this—our proceedings intelligible to people who are interested in them but are not parliamentarians or parliamentary anoraks. I am genuinely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 passed earlier this week makes regulations changing exit day, subject to the negative procedure. Under that procedure, Ministers make the regulations, which are then subject to annulment by a resolution in either House in the form of a Humble Address praying that the regulations be annulled. Such a prayer can be tabled as an early-day motion in the Table Office. As a matter of fact, of course, not many prayers are debated, but the Government do find time for some to be debated either in a Delegated Legislation Committee or on the Floor of the House.

As far as I know, the regulations changing exit day to match the unanimous decision of the EU Council agreed with the United Kingdom last night have not yet been laid. If the regulations changing exit day are made and laid today, the hon. Gentleman may table a prayer, today, as an early-day motion. Regulations subject to the negative procedure can be laid on any day during the existence of a Parliament, as provided for by Standing Order No. 159. So it is perfectly in order for the regulations changing exit day to be laid tomorrow, in which case he could not table his early-day motion until the day the House returns, Tuesday 23 April—a fact of which I think he is aware and which he deplores.

Given the urgency with exit day in domestic law still fixed as 11 pm tomorrow—Friday 12 April—the hon. Gentleman asks if the Government will move motion 3 on today’s Order Paper so that the regulations can be debated tomorrow. I think I have already responded to that point by saying that the Government clearly intend to move motion 1, and it would be preposterous to move both 1 and 3. The Leader of the House has made clear the Government’s intention that the House should, at its rising today, adjourn until Tuesday 23 April.

I think that is the best explanation that I can offer to colleagues at this time. However, I am very seized of the procedural issues involved, and I am by no means insensitive to the rights of Members of the House, who should have their opportunity, by one means or t’other—and preferably by more means than just one—to register their objections. For now, we must proceed. I remind you, colleagues, that we are at an early stage in our proceedings. We are not even halfway through the parliamentary day yet, so we need to retain a glint in our eyes and a spring in our step.