Leaving the Eu: Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:01 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 4:01 pm, 12th June 2019

I have great respect for the hon. Lady—she sits on my Committee, and I am happy that that should be the case—and I understand what she says but, as I said earlier, the reality is that this is a phantom motion for a phantom Bill. The real objective is to unwind the provisions set out in article 50, which is supposed to operate according to our constitutional requirements and, subject only to an extension of exit day, provides for the repeal of the 1972 Act. That Act is a bundle of all the laws, all the treaties and all the provisions, including the Lisbon treaty Act, which is part of our domestic legislation and prescribes that when we get to the end of the two-year period, that is it—subject only to an extension of exit day.

For practical purposes, there is no other way to interpret what may be in the pipeline. We all know that, and I do not know why we need to be coy. It is perfectly clear that this is an attempt by the Labour party to make political capital during a leadership election, and I do not blame it for having a shot at that. However, it is utterly irresponsible to use this procedure in a way that would enable the unwinding of the law of the land, as expressed in an Act agreed on the basis of a referendum that was itself dependent on the authority of a sovereign Act of Parliament to give the people the right to decide whether they were to leave or to remain in the European Union. That was passed in this House by six to one. It was then followed by the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017, which was passed by some 499 to 120.

With great respect to my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, we now move on to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I very well remember what he said to me as we were coming to the Third Reading of that Bill, and I do not think he would disagree with this fair description of our conversation. He said, “You know, I’ve never actually voted against a provision of this kind before. I’ve never voted in a way that would be against the interests of what I perceive to be the European Union and its objectives.” I understand that, because he has been totally consistent, and I respect him for that. But the reality is that he did vote for that Bill on Third Reading and so did every other Member on the Conservative side.

The phantom Bill is all about attempting to unravel all that, although we have not yet seen the wording. We did see it before when we had Bill Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, which ended up with the one that was passed by a minuscule majority. This is an attempt to unravel the process. I understand why people might want to do that, but the question is one of legitimacy. I also add that the role of the House of Lords in this context is completely unacceptable, as it has no legitimacy whatsoever to deal with a matter of this importance, given its unrepresentative character; the House of Lords is not elected, and this is essentially an issue about the election of Members of Parliament and the wishes of the electorate. That is what the referendum Act was about and it was what the manifestos were about.