European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 7:16 pm, 3rd September 2019

No. We are going to have to wait for this informing and educating. We are all bating our breath for it, but I like to keep people on tenterhooks for the time being, because I wish to talk about our old friend “Erskine May”, which sets out your role, Mr Speaker. The chief characteristics attached the office of Speaker in the House of Commons are authority and impartiality. It would be disorderly, wrong and not my intention to question your impartiality, Mr Speaker, but, as with the umpires at Edgbaston who saw eight of their decisions sent for review and overturned, accepting somebody’s impartiality is not the same as accepting their infallibility.

It is worth noting what a wise and scholarly Speaker once said—indeed, this wise and scholarly Speaker said as recently as last year that a debate held under Standing Order No. 24 could be held on a substantive and amendable motion only if the Standing Order is itself amended. In April 2018, in the light of two emergency debates on the UK’s decision to take military action in Syria, you yourself, Mr Speaker, said that

“it is perfectly open to the House to amend Standing Order No. 24, of which there is some uncertainty and often incomprehension. It could be amended to allow for the tabling of substantive motions in circumstances of emergency, which could also be amendable and on which the House could vote. If there are Members who are interested in that line of inquiry, they could usefully raise it with the Chair of the Procedure Committee”.—[Official Report, 19 April 2018;
Vol. 639, c. 475.]

As far as I am aware, no change has been made to Standing Order No. 24, yet the decision has changed—varius et mutabilis semper dictor.