Progress reports

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:30 pm on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening Conservative, Putney 12:30 pm, 18th July 2019

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill is all about making sure that democracy works for the people of our country whom it serves. That is why I very much support it. However, it goes wider than that in practice. This country finds itself in a time of crisis—we all know that. Many people listening to this debate will be wondering why we are even having a summer recess and going away on holiday when there are so many unresolved issues in relation to Brexit. The simple act of passing the amendment to make sure that we do indeed sit as normal during September and October is, therefore, common sense and the House should get behind it. In no way does it try to curtail decisions that a Government or a Parliament might want to make—quite the reverse: it seeks to ensure that our parliamentary democracy can simply function as normal.

We should all reflect on the fact that this debate is even necessary in our country. What has Britain come to when we have to table amendments to ensure that Parliament can still operate? To those who say that shutting down Parliament is somehow a viable approach, I simply say: you do not win a debate by closing down the main Chamber in which the views of the people of this country are aired, and you do not unite a country by muzzling the people whom those communities have democratically elected to come here to represent them.

There are other practical reasons why we should support this common-sense amendment. We all know that this is a time of global political and economic instability. Are we really saying that this House would not be there to debate issues that might arise, just in case it had its say on the hugely important issue of Brexit or spoke with one voice about the Government’s proposed course of action? It is entirely untenable—indeed, it is dangerous and extremely short-sighted—to shut down this Parliament at a time of so much uncertainty.

I will finish by saying that the amendment has to pass. If it does not, I fear that we will inadvertently cross the Rubicon for our parliamentary democracy. That would mean that if a Government ran up against an issue and were worried that the elected House of MPs might decide to stand up against them, they would just close it down. That is not in Britain’s DNA. The rest of the world looks on and admires our democracy because it is such a fundamental part of how this country has developed. For that reason alone, we should get behind this amendment, which is about protecting the right of ordinary people up and down this country to have their MP come here and do their job of representing them, for good or for bad.