Speaker’S Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 4th September 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 2:55 pm, 4th September 2019

I am extremely obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I will attempt briefly to respond to each of the important points that he legitimately raises.

In terms of timing, it seems to me that there are two senses in which that concern can be aired and needs to be answered. The hon. Gentleman, if I understood the terms of his point of order correctly, focused in particular on the issue of time in the sense of the lack of it for Members to study the Bill and to table amendments. My response is as follows.

First, the hon. Gentleman is a quite remarkably experienced, skilled and dextrous parliamentarian. Now, admittedly not everybody has his level of experience, skill or dexterity, but I know he would not imagine that that of which he is capable is completely beyond everybody else. In other words, if everybody else has the opportunity to study the Bill and to come to a view about whether they wish to table amendments—the basic subject matter of the Bill was well known to them—they will be able to do so, probably at least close to his own level of acceptability and his own standard. That is the first point.

The second point on timing is that, of course, it is intended that the Bill will go through all stages today but, of course, there are several precedents for that. Those Bills have ordinarily been Government Bills, very often concerning Northern Ireland, but I accept it is unusual. What it is not, in any sense, is disorderly.

The hon. Gentleman has raised very important questions about a money resolution and Queen’s consent. Yes, this Bill is different, but I have, of course, consulted the Clerk of Legislation and other senior Clerks, on whose procedural expertise we regularly call. My ruling on Wednesday 3 April 2019, in respect of the earlier Bill that the hon. Gentleman referenced, was that

“the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill does not require either a Ways and Means motion or a money resolution…
extending the period under article 50 would continue the UK’s rights and obligations as a member state of the EU for the period of the extension, which would have substantial consequences for both spending and taxation.”—[Official Report, 3 April 2019;
Vol. 657, c. 1130-31.]

Clause 4(1) of the Bill before us today would require exit day to be moved to match any extension agreed with the European Council. The financial resolutions passed on Monday 11 September 2017 give fully adequate cover for the exercise by Ministers of their powers under sections 23 and 24 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to move exit day in order to keep in lockstep with the date for the expiry of the European treaties, which, of course, is determined by article 50 of the treaty on European Union.

So far as Queen’s consent is concerned, my ruling on Wednesday 3 April was that

“as no prerogative consent was required for the Bill in 2017 giving parliamentary authority to the Prime Minister to take action under article 50 of the treaty on European Union, there is no requirement for new and separate prerogative consent to be sought for legislation in 2019 on what further action the Prime Minister should take under the same article 50 of the treaty on European Union.”

The Bill before us today could require the Prime Minister to seek and accept an extension in certain circumstances, although it would still be up to the European Council to agree unanimously to an extension with the UK. In these circumstances, and I say this on the basis of professional advice, my ruling is that Queen’s consent is not needed for this Bill.

It will probably not satisfy or even humour the hon. Gentleman when I conclude my response with what I am about to say, but it is this: he will not be altogether surprised to know that we did consider these matters, not least in the expectation that they are legitimate issues that might be raised either by him or by others. I have been advised, I am satisfied with that advice and I would not rule unless I had asked the questions and got the answers, and I have done. I have asked the questions, I have received the answers and I have been satisfied that it is orderly to proceed and that the answers I have given in respect both of the money resolution and of Queen’s consent are correct.