I call the Prime Minister to make a statement.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Hon. Members: “Resign!” If they want a change of Government, let them have an election. [Interruption.]
Order. There will be ample opportunity for everybody who wants to question the Prime Minister, in conformity with usual practice, to do so, but the statement must and will be heard.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. With your permission, I shall make a statement on yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict and the way forward for this paralysed Parliament.
Three years ago, more people voted to leave the European Union than had ever voted for any party or proposition in our history. Politicians of all parties promised the public that they would honour the result. Sadly, many have since done all they can to abandon those promises and to overturn that democratic vote. After three years of dither and delay that have left this country at risk of being locked forever in the orbit of the EU, this Government that I lead have been trying truly to get us out. Most people, including most supporters of the Labour party, regardless of how they voted three years ago, think the referendum must be respected. They want Brexit done, I want Brexit done, and people want us out on
Some 64 days ago, I was told that Brussels would never reopen the withdrawal agreement; we are now discussing a reopened withdrawal agreement in the negotiations. I was told that Brussels would never consider alternatives to the backstop—the trap that keeps the UK effectively in the EU but with no say; we are now discussing those alternatives in the negotiations. I was told that Brussels would never consider arrangements that were not permanent; we are now discussing in the negotiations an arrangement that works on the principle of consent and is not permanent. I was told that there was no chance of a new deal, but we are discussing a new deal, in spite of the best efforts of the Labour party and this Parliament to wreck our negotiations by their attempts to take no deal off the table.
The truth is that a majority of Opposition Members are opposed not to the so-called no deal; this Parliament does not want Brexit to happen at all. Many of those who voted for the surrender Act a few weeks ago said then that their intention was to stop a no-deal Brexit. They have said every day since that Parliament must vote against any deal at all. The people of this country can see very clearly what is going on. People at home know—[Interruption.]
Order. People are gesticulating wildly. I can scarcely hear the Prime Minister myself, and I wish to hear the statement, as other colleagues should also wish to do.
The people of this country can see perfectly clearly what is going on. They know that Parliament does not want to honour its promises to respect the referendum. The people at home know that this Parliament will keep delaying, and it will keep sabotaging the negotiations, because Members do not want a deal.
The truth is that Opposition Members are living in a fantasy world. They really imagine that somehow they are going to cancel—[Interruption.] This is what they want to do. They are going to cancel the first referendum and legislate for a second referendum, and Parliament will promise—this is what the hon. Lady opposite said—that this time it really, really will respect that vote. They think that the public will therefore vote to remain, and everybody will forget the last few years.
I have to say, Mr Speaker, that that is an extraordinary delusion and a fantasy, a fantasy even greater than the communist fantasies peddled by the Leader of the Opposition. It will not happen. The public do not want another referendum. What they want, and what they demand, is that we honour the promise we made to the voters to respect the first referendum. They also want us to move on: to put Brexit behind us and to focus on the NHS, on violent crime, and on cutting the cost of living.
That is why I brought forward a Queen’s Speech. This Government intend to present a programme for life after Brexit, but some Members could not stand that either. Instead of facing the voters, the Opposition turned tail and fled from an election. Instead of deciding to let the voters decide, they ran to the courts. And despite the fact that I followed the exact same process as my predecessors in calling a Queen’s Speech, the Supreme Court was asked to intervene in that process for the first time ever. It is absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say that I think that the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question, at a time—[Interruption.]
Order. Whatever the strength and intensity of feeling and the passions to which these matters give rise, we must hear what is being said in the Chamber, and I wish to hear the Prime Minister.
I think that the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question, at a time of great national controversy.
So we have Opposition Members who block and delay everything, running to the courts to block and delay even more measures, including legislation to improve and invest in our NHS, and to keep violent criminals in jail. I think that the people outside this House understand what is happening. They know that nothing can disguise the truth.
It is not just that this Parliament is gridlocked, paralysed, and refusing to deliver on the priorities of the people. It is not just unable to move forward. It is worse than that, Mr Speaker. Out of sheer political selfishness and political cowardice, Opposition Members are unwilling to move aside and give the people a say. They see MPs demanding that the people be given a say one week, and then running away from the election that would provide the people with a say. Worst of all, they see ever more elaborate legal and political manoeuvres from the Labour party, which is determined, absolutely determined, to say “We know best”, and to thumb their noses at the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union.
The Leader of the Opposition and his party do not trust the people. The Leader of the Opposition and his party are determined to throw out the referendum result, whatever the cost. They do not care about the bill for hundreds of millions of pounds that will come with every week of delay. They do not care if another year or more is wasted in arguing about a referendum that happened three years ago. All that matters to them now is an obsessive desire to overrule the referendum result. While we want to take our country up a gear—to go forward with a fantastic programme, an accelerated programme of investment in infrastructure, health, education and technology, they are throwing on the hand brake.
We will not betray the people who sent us here; we will not. That is what the Opposition want to do. We will not abandon the priorities that matter to the public, and we will continue to challenge those Opposition parties to uphold democracy. If Opposition Members so disagreed with this Government’s commitment to leaving on
The Leader of the Opposition changes his mind so often, I wonder whether he supports an election today, or whether the shadow Chancellor, or the shadow Attorney General, have overruled him again because they know that the voters will judge their manifesto for what it is—more pointless delay. Perhaps he is going to demand an election and then vote against it—just as he says that he wants to negotiate a new Brexit deal and then vote against that, too. Is he actually going to vote no confidence in this Government? Is he going to dodge a vote of no confidence in me as Prime Minister, in order to escape the verdict of the voters? I wonder, does he in his heart even want to be Prime Minister any more? He says that I should go to Brussels on
Or is it perhaps that he wants a Conservative Government? It would be a curious state of affairs indeed if Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition had every faith in the Government of the day. So if in fact the party opposite does not have confidence in the Government, it will have a chance to prove it. It has until the House rises—[Interruption.] I think they should listen. It has until the House rises today to table a motion of no confidence in the Government—[Interruption.] Come on! Come on, then. And we can have that vote tomorrow. Or if any of the smaller parties fancy a go, they can table that motion and we will give them the time for a vote. Will they have the courage to act, or will they refuse to take responsibility and do nothing but dither and delay? Why wouldn’t they act? What are they scared of? If that is what you are scared of, then have the—
Order. I appeal to the House to have some regard to how our proceedings are viewed by people watching them in the country at large. [Interruption.] Order. Let the remainder of the statement be heard. I am grateful for the Prime Minister’s exhortation but I do not require it; I am perfectly content. What I want to hear is the rest of the statement and then questioning on it.
Mr Speaker, thank you. As I commend this statement to the House, I say it is time to get Brexit done. Get Brexit done, so we respect the referendum. Get Brexit done, so we can move on to deal with the people’s priorities—the NHS, the cost of living. Let’s get Brexit done so we can start to reunite this country after the divisions of the referendum, rather than having another one. It is time for this Parliament finally to take responsibility for its decisions. We decided to call that referendum. We promised time and again to respect it. I think the people of this country have had enough of it. This Parliament must either stand aside and let this Government get Brexit done, or bring a vote of confidence and finally face the day of reckoning with the voters.
I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of his statement. Unfortunately, it was like his illegal shutting down of Parliament—“null” and
“of no effect and should be quashed”,
in the words of the Supreme Court. This was 10 minutes of bluster from a dangerous Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law, but in truth he is not fit for the office he holds. I am glad to see so many colleagues back here doing what they were elected to do: holding the Government to account for their failings. Whether it is their attempt to shut down democracy, their sham Brexit negotiations, their chaotic and inadequate no-deal preparations, the allegations of corruption, their failure on climate change or their failure to step in to save Thomas Cook, this Government are failing the people of Britain, and the people of Britain know it—[Interruption.]
Order. I said that the Prime Minister should not be shouted down. The same goes for the Leader of the Opposition. Let me say to people bellowing from a sedentary position: stop it—you will exhaust your vocal cords, you will get nowhere, it will not work, and these proceedings will continue for as long as is necessary for the Chair to be satisfied that proper scrutiny has taken place. It is as simple and incontrovertible as that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict represents an extraordinary and, I believe, precarious moment in this country’s history. The highest court in this land has found that the Prime Minister broke the law when he tried to shut down our democratic accountability at a crucial moment in our public life. The judges concluded that there was no reason,
“let alone a good reason”,
for the Prime Minister to have shut down Parliament. After yesterday’s ruling, the Prime Minister should have done the honourable thing and resigned, yet here he is—forced back to this House to rightfully face the scrutiny he tried to avoid—with no shred of remorse or humility and, of course, no substance whatsoever.
Let us see if he will answer some questions. Does the Prime Minister agree with his Attorney General that the Government “got it wrong”, or with the Leader of the House that the Supreme Court committed a “constitutional coup”? This is a vital question about whether the Government respect the judiciary or not.
The Attorney General was categorical that the Government would comply with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Can the Prime Minister confirm that?
I pay tribute to those MPs from all parties across the House, to the Lords and to those in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly who have not only fought so hard to stop a disastrous no deal, but continued to take the case against Prorogation through the courts. The Government have failed to silence our democracy.
During the period of unlawful Prorogation, the Government were forced to release their Yellowhammer no-deal analysis and plans. No wonder the Prime Minister has been so eager to avoid scrutiny and hide the dangers of his Brexit plan. The release of those documents leads to many questions that the Government must answer now that our Parliament is back in operation.
I would like to start by asking the Prime Minister why the Government in August described leaked Yellowhammer documents as out of date. When the documents were later produced in September, they were word for word the same. It is clear that they have tried to hide from the people the truth—the real truth—of a no-deal Brexit and the fact that their policy would heap misery on the people of this country.
Let us take a look at the analysis: chaos at Britain’s ports, with months of disruption; people going short of fuel and fresh foods—[Interruption.] It is your paper, you wrote it and you tried to hide it. [Interruption.] I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker—I do not hold you responsible for writing the document. There would be disruption of people’s vital medical supplies, rises in energy prices for every household in the country, and a hard border for the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Most damning of all is the passage that simply says:
“Low income groups will be disproportionately affected”.
There we have it, Mr Speaker: a simple warning, a simple truth, that a Tory Government are continuing to follow a policy they know will hit the poorest people in our country the hardest. They simply do not care.
The damning document we have seen is only six pages long. It is only right that this House should expect more transparency from the Government.
The Government say that they are doing all they can to get a deal before
“no reason today for optimism”.
Why does the Prime Minister believe Mr Barnier has that view? This House is still yet to hear any detail of any deal the Government seek to negotiate. We are told the Government have distributed papers to Brussels outlining proposals for a change to the backstop. Will the Prime Minister publish these papers and allow them to be debated in this House of Parliament? For this Government to have any credibility with our people, they need to show they have an actual plan.
The Prime Minister also has questions to answer about his conduct in public office and, in particular, about allegations that he failed to declare an interest in the allocation of public money to a close friend while he was Mayor of London. It was announced today that, in light of the Sunday Times report, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is reviewing the funds allocated. Did the Prime Minister initiate that review? Will he fully co-operate with the DCMS review and that of the London Assembly? Will he refer himself to the Cabinet Secretary for investigation? No Prime Minister is above the law.
No one can trust the Prime Minister, not on Iran, not on Thomas Cook, not on climate change and not on Brexit. For the good of this country—[Interruption.]
Order. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to be heard in this Parliament, and he will be heard. [Interruption.] Order. I do not mind how long it takes, these exchanges will take place in an orderly manner. Be in no doubt about that.
The right hon. Gentleman asked several questions, and I will try to deal with them in order.
On the first point, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General made it absolutely clear that this is a judgment with which he disagrees, although of course he respects the judgment of the Supreme Court.
On the second point, about the Benn-Burt Act, I will say what I am sure the Leader of the Opposition understands. We will, of course, obey the law and we will come out of the EU on
On the point about preparations for a no-deal Brexit, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who just spoke for two hours on this matter. Our preparations are very far advanced, and I think this country can be entirely confident that we will be ready, deal or no deal.
On the point about whether or not we are on the verge of getting a deal, it is absolutely true that negotiations are difficult, but we are making progress. All I will say to the Leader of the Opposition and his friends is that the negotiations have not been made easier by the surrender Act he passed.
On the next point, I am very proud about everything I did as Mayor of London. I may say to the current Mayor that he would be better off spending less on press officers and more on police officers in London, because we were funding 20,000 more on our streets. As for being trusted on Iran, the Leader of the Opposition took the shilling of the mullahs from Press TV.
I was rather sad that the Labour conference was interrupted by the ruling, because I was awestruck by some of the things I heard, which doubtless were designed to obscure the inanity of the right hon. Gentleman’s policy on Brexit. He wants to abolish fee-paying schools, at a cost to the taxpayer of £7 billion. He wants a four-day working week, cutting the incomes of the lowest paid in this country. He wants to abolish Ofsted, and now we hear he wants to abolish all controls on immigration from the EU.
But it turns out a crucial passage was missing from the right hon. Gentleman’s speech. There is something slightly pitiful about him, because it seems that he actually did want to call an election now. There was a passage in his speech calling for an election now, but it was censored by the Stasi in the form of the shadow Chancellor—or perhaps the shadow Lord Chancellor. The right hon. Gentleman is being gagged, muzzled, held captive by his colleagues. They will not let him say what he wants to say. I say, “Free the Islington One!”
Why will the right hon. Gentleman’s colleagues not allow him to have an election? Why will they not allow him to unleash his charms on the electorate? It is because they are not only terrified that he would lose, but even more terrified by the remote possibility that he would win. He cannot control his own party. He cannot decide whether he is for leave or for remain. He is being held captive by his colleagues, the electorate are being held captive by this zombie Parliament and this zombie Opposition, and the right hon. Gentleman wants the entire country to be held captive in the EU after
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his very good put-down of the shallow Leader of the Opposition? I understand that his Government have changed the root origin of the term “yellowhammer” to describe the botched attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to dispatch his own deputy. I received and saw in my constituency, as others did recently, leaflets from the Labour party calling for a general election now. Can my right hon. Friend give me any reason why we are not having an election at this point? Does he think for a moment that it could be because the Leader of the Opposition fears his own party just as much as he fears us?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his acute question. I am afraid the answer is simple: the Opposition do not want an election because they are not sure that the public would trust them with the Government—and I think that they are right. I think they put the yellow into yellowhammer.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement. When I read the first paragraph, it talked about the Supreme Court verdict. It was not the Supreme Court verdict; it was the judgment of the Supreme Court. Perhaps the Prime Minister might start to show some respect for the judiciary. We are here today because the Prime Minister was utterly humiliated by the Supreme Court, by a count of 11 to zero. Members might have thought, in that diatribe that we had, that we would have some humility and that we might have been able to acknowledge that what we have had is the unlawful shutting-down of Parliament. Mr Speaker, sorry is indeed the hardest word for the Prime Minister.
It was said by a former Prime Minister that where law ends, tyranny begins. It pains me to say it, but the fact that the Prime Minister is still standing here today shows that he does in fact believe he is above the law. Well, he is not. Thank heavens for the action that was brought in the courts in Scotland and England, and I pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry. Thank goodness the courts have done their job and made sure that parliamentarians are back where they should be, in this House, holding the Government to account.
The ruling of the Supreme Court has made it absolutely crystal clear: the actions of this Government and this Prime Minister led to the unlawful prorogation of Parliament. Delivering the verdict, Lady Hale stated that prorogation was null and void. Have you no shame, Prime Minister? The Court concluded that the decision was unlawful because it had
“the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions”.
The Prime Minister talks about us running off to the courts. Well, we got the courts to do what he failed to do, which was to respect parliamentary sovereignty. The Court talked of
“frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions”
How devastating for a Prime Minister to have such a judgment. Where law ends, tyranny begins. Yet, the Prime Minister said he did not agree with the courts. He only agrees with his cronies in No. 10—his Brexit-obsessed fan club. He cannot pick and choose when it comes to the law; he must obey the law. That is not leadership; he quite simply is not fit for office.
I hear the Prime Minister talking about a surrender Act. How despicable that, when he refers to Members of this House who are doing their duty to protect our constituents, he uses language such as “surrender”. That language is not suitable for the Prime Minister of any country.
The Prime Minister’s position is no longer tenable. His failure to resign is an embarrassment. People have had enough of this shambles. We have reached a difficult and dangerous point—[Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman leads the third party in this House. He has a right to be heard. He will continue his contribution and he will be heard, however long it takes. If the message has to be repeated again and again and again ad infinitum, so be it. He will be heard—end of subject.
I am much obliged, Mr Speaker.
We have reached a difficult and dangerous point, not just in relation to the Brexit crisis, but for the constitutional future of these islands and, indeed, the future of our democracy. We have a Prime Minister standing here in a Parliament that he sought to silence. People across these countries will be reading today about how the Prime Minister fought the law, but the law won. The Prime Minister, the Head of Government, is responsible for the law and responsible for governance. What an example he is to the public! Let me be clear to the Prime Minister that he should resign, but if he fails to do so, yes, the Opposition must unite to trigger a vote of no confidence to bring this chaotic Government down. By triggering a vote of no confidence, we will ensure that the Benn Act is honoured to take no deal off the table by allowing the Opposition to install an interim leader to take back control and to protect our economy from the cliff edge. The Scottish National party fully supports stopping no deal—it is our priority.
Let me be clear to Members on these Benches: we are not powerless. Doing nothing is not an option. This is the time for leadership. Once we have removed the Prime Minister and removed the threat of no deal, the people must have their say, through a general election, as quickly as possible. We must unstick this mess and we must trust the people to make their choice. We cannot trust this Prime Minister; his time must be up. His days of lying, cheating and undermining the rule of law must be numbered—[Interruption.]
Order, order! Just for the avoidance of doubt, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not state in this House that the Prime Minister has lied in the House. He must not do so—[Interruption.] Order, order! That is the procedural position. He did not say that, but he did refer to lying. I know that he cannot be referring to it in the context of the exchanges in this House. A nod of the head to confirm that my interpretation is correct will suffice and he can then proceed with the rest of his questioning.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. On his substantive point, we do respect the Supreme Court. The reason that I want a Queen’s Speech, and wanted a Queen’s Speech, is quite frankly, of course, because we have to do what we can as a United Kingdom to remedy the waste and incompetence of the high-taxing, fish-abandoning Government of the SNP in Scotland. That is why we are investing in 20,000 more police officers, 20 new hospital upgrades, levelling up education spending, and funding gigabit broadband across the country. I hope—and I bet the people of Scotland hope—that in spite of all the uselessness of the Government of Scotland that those benefits will be passed on to the people, because that is the only obstacle in our way.
Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but he, too, must be heard. I want to hear his question and the answer to it.
The Supreme Court mentioned that the Prorogation had an extreme effect on the fundamentals of our democracy. Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is more than an extreme and undemocratic effect for Parliament itself to tear up its own
I thank my hon. Friend. He is, of course, quite right in the sense that the people of this country can see all kinds of forces in this country going to quite extraordinary lengths—whether judicial or parliamentarian—to prevent Brexit from being delivered on
The Prime Minister is not serious; he needs to understand that actions have consequences. Even my five-year-old knows that if you do something wrong, you have to say sorry. If my son can apologise for kicking a football indoors, surely the Prime Minister can have the humility to say sorry—for misleading the Queen, misleading the country and illegally shutting down our democracy.
Quite frankly, one of the actions for which the hon. Lady might wish to take responsibility is writing to the President of the European Commission to actively encourage him not to do a deal with this country.
As somebody who voted remain in the referendum, I am mindful of the fact that this House of Commons voted six to one in favour of having a referendum. On two occasions, the Prime Minister has attempted to call a general election that would have taken place on
My right hon. Friend speaks with great wisdom and experience of this place, but I cannot believe that in all his time here he has ever seen a Leader of the Opposition actively forgo and turn down, in full view of the British public, the opportunity to have a general election. But that is what has happened twice. There can only be one possible explanation—that he does not think he can win.
There will be many people, not least the families of senior judges who were murdered in Northern Ireland—many of them, including a Lord Justice of Appeal—who will wish that the Leader of the Opposition had really put his words today into action much, much earlier in his career, when he supported a terrorist organisation that murdered judges. We talk about respect for the rule of law; it should have been respect for the rule of law through the decades of the troubles in Northern Ireland as well.
On Brexit, the reality is that, despite everything, the fundamentals remain unchanged. We need to deliver on the Brexit referendum, but we must do so—ideally and if possible—with a deal, and we want to get that deal through this House. Does the Prime Minister agree that the way to do that is to deal with the anti-democratic backstop—the trap and the issue of consent that he talks about, which we will work with him on—but that all the shenanigans in this House undermining the leverage of the Prime Minister are actually in danger of bringing about the very result feared by those who do not want a no deal?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has just said. Of course, I agree profoundly with his condemnation of terrorism. I make no comment on the support of Leader of the Opposition for those organisations because I have made that point many times before.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great maturity on the negotiations. There is a chance to make progress. It will not be easy, but it clearly is not helped by the surrender Act. [Interruption.] That is what it is, because it would require us to take no deal off the table. But neither the right hon. Gentleman nor I are going to be daunted by that Act and I think our confidence is growing. We will work flat out to get a deal by
Can I congratulate my right hon. Friend on becoming Prime Minister? I hope he is enjoying doing the job as much as I am enjoying not doing the job. Does he agree that those who claim to defend parliamentary democracy are in fact putting it at grave risk by alienating a large proportion of the population who fear that this House is trying to block a democratic referendum result that we promised to honour?
It is a great pleasure to respond to my right hon. Friend because I am reminded of the many times that he and I shared a platform, and frankly we spoke absolutely as one on that issue. He was right then and he is right now.
Can I say to the Prime Minister that those of us who voted for the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act make no apology whatsoever for having legislated to prevent the Prime Minister from taking this country out of the European Union on
The right hon. Gentleman will, I think, agree that the surrender Act had a material—[Interruption.] The Benn-Burt—the Hilary Benn—surrender Act did indeed have a profound psychological impact on our friends and partners over the channel; and it has had an impact on the negotiations and it has made things more difficult. I think that, in all honesty, he would concede that.
On the detail of the negotiations at present, all I can say is that we have tabled proposals. As Nigel Dodds confirmed, progress is being made. It is not assisted by publishing our proposals today.
The Prime Minister is very keen to point out how to deliver commitments made during an election. He wrote to the One Nation group during his election to be party leader that he was not much attracted to Prorogation—something that he may reflect on now—and that he would seek to build consensus across the House. What undermines his negotiating position is that those watching from Europe cannot see how the Prime Minister is going to deliver a majority in this House for concessions that he will get. Can he update the House on the moves that he is taking to build consensus?
I thank the hon. Lady. Actually, she asks an extremely important question, because I do think, in all intellectual honesty, that Opposition Members who voted for the Benn-Burt Act—who wanted to take no deal off the table and who voted for the surrender Act—should vote for the deal that we produce, and I would like to hear from them that they will. We will, I am very confident, make progress towards getting a deal, and I hope it will command their support.
Earlier today, the Attorney General did not just say that he would respect the Supreme Court’s judgment; he also said, “We got it wrong.” The Prime Minister has today just said the opposite, and effectively said that he thinks it is okay for a Prime Minister to cancel Parliament for as long as he so chooses in order not to answer questions. Many of us had disagreements with his predecessors—Mrs May, David Cameron, John Major, Margaret Thatcher—but none of them would have done this. None of them would have been so chaotic. None of them would have shown such disregard for the rule of law or tried to concentrate power in their own hands by cancelling Parliament in this way. Why is he so entitled that he thinks it is one rule for one person—one rule for him—and a different one for everyone else?
I think the historical record will reflect that several Prime Ministers—I think all Prime Ministers—have had Prorogations. John Major, for instance, prorogued for several weeks in advance of an election. On the substantive question about the view of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General about the judgment yesterday, let us be clear that we are as one in respecting the Supreme Court, and we are as one in thinking that that judgment was wrong.
The people were told in the general election in 2015, during the passage of the European Union Referendum Bill through this House and during the referendum itself that we, the MPs, would give them the decision, that it would be a final decision and that whatever the result was, we, the MPs, would honour it. The crisis we have is that for the first time ever, the people have not obediently and politely gone along with what the establishment wanted. We have seen the political establishment in this House, the commercial establishment and now the judicial establishment go against the will of the people. They are angry. They feel thwarted by the establishment. [Interruption.] Does the Prime Minister agree that the only answer is to leave on—
Order. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman persisted, but he was entitled to be fully heard. I hope he is content.
I did my best to help the right hon. Gentleman—go on, blurt out the last sentence, man!
Mr Speaker, I am grateful to you for making sure that that last sentence was heard, because I agree with every word of it; that is exactly what we are going to do.
Earlier today, parents in Walthamstow contacted me because they are extremely concerned about the content of a presentation about the Prime Minister’s proposals and Brexit that had been broadcast on 3,000 digital noticeboards in primary schools around the country, without the prior consent of the schools. Given the amount of money that this Government are spending on Brexit adverts, can he at least reassure Walthamstow residents that in this instance, it was not his doing, and give his personal pledge that our primary schools will remain Brexit propaganda-free zones?
The hon. Lady brings me news about schools in her constituency. What I can tell her and what I think colleagues would like to hear is that we are investing more in every primary school in this country by levelling up across the UK.
One of the greatest acts of patriotism shown over the last few years was not by people like myself, who voted leave, but by those who voted remain and accepted the democratic result. The general public never doubted that we in this place would act on their wishes—that is the trust that they had and, I think, still have in all of us here and this Parliament. Does my right hon. Friend agree that when people trust you in this way, you do not let them down?
My right hon. Friend speaks movingly and entirely correctly about our duty to the people of this country. They are watching these proceedings. They want us to deliver Brexit on
Having read yesterday’s judgment by the learned judges in a unanimous verdict of the highest court in the land—and I congratulate all those who brought the action to defend this sovereign Parliament—I see that, on two important matters, the Government clearly did not defend or supply evidence. That is why the learned judges came to the conclusions they did. The evidence of Sir John Major was that, normally, a Government would prorogue for some five days. That evidence was not challenged by this Prime Minister and Government. They offered no evidence on why they sought a Prorogation of five weeks. That led the learned judges, at paragraph 56—I am pleased to see that the Prime Minister is making a note; I hope he will go and read the judgment and will not be honing his pole dancing skills instead—to write:
“This was not a normal prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s Speech. It prevented Parliament from carrying out its constitutional role for five out of…eight weeks”.
At paragraph 61—[Interruption.] They do not want to hear it, but they will hear it, because the learned judges unanimously concluded that there was not
“any reason—let alone a good reason—to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks”.
I came here today not just to represent my constituents but hoping that the Prime Minister would show humility in the face of the condemnation in this judgment. Will he apologise, if not to this place then to the country, and has he apologised to Her Majesty the Queen?
As the right hon. Lady can imagine, I will not comment on my conversations with Her Majesty. I am afraid she is sadly in error in her history. To my memory, John Major prorogued Parliament for 18 days before he even had an election, and all we were going to lose was four or five sitting days over the party conference period. She will have ample opportunity, after the European Union summit on 17 and
Whatever policy differences the Prime Minister may have with others, he may agree that he has an absolute duty to observe and uphold the rule of law. Whatever self-justifications he may have advanced today, he may also have to accept that in the matter of proroguing this House, he failed to do that. In those circumstances, would he now like to take the opportunity, rather than condemning the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Bill as a surrender Bill, to assure the House—[Interruption.]
Order. Let it be said with crystal clarity including to occupants of the Treasury Bench—[Interruption.] Yes, here we go. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be heard. He will not be shouted down by people from his own Benches. That sort of behaviour is intolerable and it is obviously so to most remotely reasonable people.
I repeat the confirmation I have made many times that this Government observe, and will observe, the law. If I may say so to my right hon. and learned Friend, our view of the matter that was before the Supreme Court had the support of the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice, who, at the risk of embarrassing my right hon. and learned Friend, are perhaps even more distinguished in the law than he is.
I have been a Member of this House for 27 years and I never thought I would be present to watch Government Members erupt in applause when a Prime Minister has had his political strategy torn to shreds by losing 11-0 in the Supreme Court of the land. The judgment found:
“It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason—let alone a good reason—to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks…It follows that the decision was unlawful.”
Why do we now find this Prime Minister leading a Conservative party that feels it is appropriate to applaud that?
If I may say so, I think that the involuntary commentary on the Benches of this House was directed more at the Leader of the Opposition than at anything I had to say. My strong view is that the opinion of the Supreme Court has, of course, to be respected and fulfilled. That is why I am pleased to say that we are all here today to listen to the hon. Lady.
In 1801 Horatio Nelson, perhaps our nation’s greatest hero, chose not to see advice to retreat. In that spirit, will the Prime Minister turn a blind eye to the antics of the liberal establishment, and turn a deaf ear to the shrill bleats of those who seek to foil Brexit and frustrate the will of the people? For he must know that the loud and clear cry of the working people of this country is as straightforward as this: “Back Brexit and back Boris.”
I thank my right hon. Friend. I will not only try to imitate Horatio Nelson; I will lash myself to the mast, figuratively speaking, like Odysseus and stop my ears to the siren cries of those opposite who would try to frustrate the will of the people and block Brexit. That is what they want to do, but we are not going to let them do it.
May I congratulate Opposition leaders on their resilience and resoluteness of intent in the face of the Prime Minister’s incontinent goading? This Government will abide by legislation to extend article 50 unless this House decides otherwise.
The Supreme Court decided that the Prime Minister did not prorogue this place in order to deliver a Queen’s Speech but to stymie parliamentary debate. I would not presume to impugn the honour of the Prime Minister, but the Supreme Court clearly does not believe his motives to be—how can I put this?—legitimate.
In 2004 the Prime Minister, who was then the Member of Parliament for Henley—
I am going to try to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, who is a most dedicated and assiduous Member of two years’ standing. We do not have points of order in the middle of exchanges. I will try to provide a tutorial to the hon. Gentleman on another occasion, but the right hon. Lady will not be prevented from asking her question. She is asking her question and it will be heard, and the hon. Gentleman will sit quietly and listen.
I think the House will find this relevant. In 2004 the Prime Minister, who was the MP for Henley at the time, wrote a column in The Daily Telegraph in which he argued that Tony Blair should be impeached, as he
“treated Parliament and the public with contempt” over the matter of disclosure of motives and legal advice relating to the Iraq war. The right hon. Gentleman even edited a copy of The Spectator that called for Blair to be impeached for lying. He also signed an impeachment motion—
Order. I have rightly protected the right hon. Lady from inappropriate attempts to cut her off, but she must ask a question. I very much hope that she is approaching the end of her question. She really needs to do so.
The Prime Minister signed a motion for the impeachment of Tony Blair, which was tabled by Adam Price, who is now leader of Plaid Cymru. The Prime Minister is surely not a man who likes to appear inconsistent. Does he still believe it to be right and proper to seek to impeach a Prime Minister who has been judged to mislead the public?
I have already explained once. Let me explain to the hon. Gentleman again, in terms that brook no misunderstanding, that now is not the time for points of order. That time will come, and if the hon. Gentleman is still interested, he will be heard, but he needs to learn the procedures for those matters.
I thank the right hon. Lady very much for her question. I am glad that she is such an assiduous reader of my column, but I must make clear two important points. First, the Supreme Court did not impugn the Government’s motives. Secondly, the right hon. Lady should bear in mind that Wales voted leave.
When it suits politicians, they promise elections and referendums. Indeed, in 2008, the Liberal Democrats promised a referendum on in or out of the European Union. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who shouted loudest for a referendum are now promising revoke, and that that is undemocratic, just as it is undemocratic to be bench-blocking and refusing the public the chance to decide to have a Government who can be in power, not just in office?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. The absurdity of the Liberal Democrat position is equalled only—if not surpassed—by the Labour position. The Labour party is after all committed to negotiating a new deal with the European Union and then campaigning against it.
I know that the Prime Minister wants to appear as a strong man, but the strongest thing he could do that would look the best to this country at the moment is to act with some humility and contrition. The difference between the Prime Minister and me—there are many differences—is that if the Labour party had done this, I would be ashamed. I would be sorry that the Labour party had been found to do this. I say to the Prime Minister that this looks horrendous to the public. He thinks he speaks for the people, but it will look much better if he rises to his feet now and says, “I am sorry. I got this wrong.” Let’s try honesty.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. As I have said many times this afternoon, I accept the judgment of the Supreme Court. However, I also say to the hon. Lady in all candour that the humblest and most responsible thing we could all do as parliamentarians is show that we respect the judgment of the people and take this country out on
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and, as I said to the House in my opening statement, we have moved a long way off the idea that the withdrawal agreement was the law of the Medes and the Persians—fixed, immutable, graven in tablets of stone. That has absolutely gone. We have moved a long way from the idea that the backstop had to be retained in all circumstances. My hon. Friend will have heard Jean-Claude Juncker himself say that he no longer had any—I think he said erotic—fixation with the backstop.
In concrete terms—this might be helpful to the House—there are three areas in which progress is being made. The first concerns the concept of the alternative arrangements, which I know has been discussed many times in this House—I know that many right hon. and hon Members have gone over it many times, but it is a fruitful area of discussion. The second idea, which is also extremely fruitful, is the concept of doing everything we can to maintain the unity of the island of Ireland for sanitary and phytosanitary purposes. As I am sure my hon. Friend, who has studied these matters closely, will acknowledge, that is a big concession by the UK Government and a big advance. It needs to be handled with care and we need to get the balance right, but we think that progress can be made in that area. The third concept, which I already mentioned in my opening remarks, is the idea of consent. Consent holds the key. There is a problem with the backstop, as hon. Members who sit on the Opposition Benches will recall—I heard some very good speeches against it from the Opposition Benches. The problem with the backstop is that it does not repose the locus of authority here in the UK, and we need to remedy that. I am sure that my hon. Friend understands that point, too.
I campaigned to remain, the Prime Minister campaigned to leave, but I have always respected the result of the referendum. To be honest, I do not want to work with him any more than he would want to work with me, but we both know that there are areas where both parties reached agreement in those cross-party talks. Will he publish the areas of agreement from those cross-party talks and use them as the basis for a new Bill so we can stop a no-deal Brexit and leave by
I certainly admire the way that the hon. Lady is trying to work in a cross-party way to try to bring this to a resolution. I will take up her proposal and do what I can to bring it forward over the next few days. I appreciate that time is marching and very tight.
Significant numbers of MPs from across the House are coming together to indicate that they are “MPs for a deal”. Will the Prime Minister confirm first that he is one of those, secondly that he is working hard for a deal, and thirdly that we will have the opportunity to vote on another deal?
I thank my hon. Friend for what she is doing, as well as my hon. Friend Alex Chalk, who is, I think, involved in the cross-party work for Members for a deal. I can absolutely agree that if and when we are able to bring back an agreement, one that I think will work for this House and for this country, following 17 and
In my naivety, Mr Speaker, I thought we were coming to hear a statement on the Supreme Court judgment, but instead we have been treated to the sort of populist rant one expects to hear from the leader of a tin-pot dictatorship or perhaps the current President of the States. Does the Prime Minister appreciate that his display is anathema to the democratic constitutional tradition of Scotland, which was upheld in the UK Supreme Court yesterday? I pray to God that he will not take his own country on to the rocks, but if he is intent on doing that, will he first of all recognise the democratic mandate of the Scottish Parliament? He spoke a moment ago about consent to be governed holding the key. If he must take England on to the rocks—and I hope he does not—will he recognise the democratic mandate of the Scottish Parliament and agree the means for a second independence referendum to be held in Scotland?
I do congratulate the hon. and learned Lady on bringing that action, because she did produce an astonishing result. Let us be in no doubt: it was a groundbreaking judgment, it was a novel judgment, and it had the effect that we can all see before us today. Here we are back in this House of Commons. On her second point, however, I must say that the people of Scotland voted decisively in 2014 to remain in the United Kingdom, the most successful union of nations in history, and they were told that it was a once-in-a-generation vote. It is absolutely wrong of her now to try to break that promise.
This afternoon has been a horrendous spectacle. We have a Prime Minister who has broken the law and uses dangerous language of betrayal and surrender, which sows division and worse in the communities we all serve, and then we have his MPs clapping him for doing so. This afternoon has taught us how important it is that Parliament is sitting in these crucial weeks, because it is only with Parliament sitting that we can hold this Government to account. That is why it is so important that Parliament is not dissolved for a general election or prorogued again—so that we can continue to hold this Government to account. If the Prime Minister has broken the law once, why should we trust him not to do the same again?
I must respectfully disagree with the hon. Lady’s characterisation of the surrender Act—[Interruption.] It has done damage and was intended to damage this country’s negotiating position. It is also right in this context to work hard together to get a deal done and to deliver on the mandate of the people, because that is what her constituents would want.
I commend my right hon. Friend for his firm stance. If he comes back with a deal, can I ask that it not mirror in any way, shape or form, the deal that has already been thrown out of this House? I for one—and, I believe, the people of this country—do not want to remain with vassalage status for years to come. Let us get this done and leave the EU.
My hon. Friend is valiant for truth in this matter and he is right. The problem with the previously existing withdrawal agreement is that it would have kept the UK locked in the EU in a state tantamount to vassalage. We will make sure that the deal we do bears no resemblance to that predicament, and it will be a deal that I believe he can fully support.
I want to raise with the Prime Minister a more serious point about our political culture. Those of us who constantly remember our friend Jo Cox need our political culture to change now. It is getting toxic. The Prime Minister’s language is violent and his Government are dysfunctional. Will he promise to change? Just for this Session, will he take responsibility for his action? Can he accept that he acted unlawfully, and bearing in mind that this is about advice to our monarch, will he tell us which of his Ministers will resign?
I agree with the hon. Lady that tempers have become very ragged across the country and people feel that the fever of Brexit has gone on for too long, but the best way to sort this out is to get Brexit done, and that is what we want. I hope that she will join us in getting a good deal for this country, and getting it through the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister has talked about bringing a deal back to the House. He has also talked about his respect for the law, and about agreeing to make sure that he complies with the law. So may I ask him to be absolutely explicit that if he does bring a deal back to the House and the House does what its right is, perhaps, and rejects it, he will respect that, but he will also respect the so-called Benn Bill that the House has passed, and then ask for an extension?
May I just say to the Prime Minister that continuing to call a Bill that the House has passed a “surrender Bill” is deeply disrespectful to this place? He has said that he must respect the Supreme Court’s ruling; I simply ask him to respect the decisions of this House too.
I must say to my right hon. Friend—my friend with whom I have worked happily over many years—that, actually, I do think that the surrender Act has done grave damage. What it would try to do—[Interruption.] I speak as somebody who has to sit in with—[Interruption.]
Order. I appeal to colleagues in all parts of the House to calm down. Let us have the exchanges. Everybody must speak in terms that he or she thinks fit, but I know we are all conscious of the premium that is placed by “Erskine May” on moderation and good humour in the use of parliamentary language.
I repeat that the experience of negotiating with our European friends and partners over the last few weeks has, I am afraid, confirmed me in my view that the surrender Act—[Interruption]—has made it more difficult for us to get a deal. That is the sad truth. What they hear is a Parliament that is not just determined to stop a no-deal Brexit. That is not its intention. Its intention is to stop any kind of deal at all. That is what it wants to do.
I can tell my right hon. Friend Justine Greening that we will come out of the European Union on
I genuinely do not seek to stifle robust debate, but this evening the Prime Minister has continually used pejorative language to describe an Act of Parliament that was passed by this House. I am sure you would agree, Mr Speaker, that we should not resort to the use of offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation that we do not like.
We stand here, Mr Speaker, under the shield of our departed friend. Many of us in this place are subject to death threats and abuse every single day. Let me tell the Prime Minister that they often quote his words—surrender Act, betrayal, traitor—and I, for one, am sick of it. We must moderate our language, and that has to come from the Prime Minister first, so I should be interested in hearing his opinion. He should be absolutely ashamed of himself. [Applause.]
I have to say that I have never heard such humbug in all my life. [Hon. Members: “ Shame!”] The reality is that this is a Bill—[Interruption.] This is a Bill—[Interruption.]
Order. [Interruption.] Order. [Interruption.] Order. I appeal to the House as a whole to debate these issues calmly. I can see the gesticulation from colleagues, and I am not—[Interruption.] Order. Mr Linden, please; allow me to respond. I am not unmindful of the purport of that gesticulation. I have reminded colleagues across the House of the very long-established precepts of “Erskine May” in relation to the conduct of debate. I must simply say that nothing disorderly—[Interruption.] No, nothing disorderly has been said. Everybody must make his own or her own judgment as to how to behave in this place, and all Members will operate at the level that they think appropriate. If I see that there is disorderly behaviour I will rule accordingly, and if I hear disorderly words I will rule them out of order. I wanted to hear—[Interruption.] Order. I wanted to hear Paula Sherriff, and did so in full, as she absolutely had to be heard. I have listened to the reply. Let’s try to respect—[Interruption.] Order. No assistance is required. Let’s try to respect each other.
Mr Speaker, let me just explain why I call it the surrender Act. That is because it would oblige us to stay in the EU for month after month, at a cost of a billion pounds per month. It would take away from this country the ability to decide how long that extension would be, and it would give that power to the EU. It would absolutely undermine our ability to continue to negotiate properly in Brussels; it takes away the fundamental ability of a country to walk away from the negotiations, and I am afraid that is exactly what it does. If I may say so respectfully to Opposition Members who are getting very agitated about this, the best way to get rid of the surrender Act is not to have voted for it in the first place, to repeal it, and to vote for the deal that we are going to do. That is the way forward.
Many of my constituents watch Parliament TV, and whilst we were away they watched catch-up, including an interesting episode where, most eloquently, Jo Swinson said that she wanted a referendum, that it should be an in/out referendum, and that people should decide. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree with me that if the Liberals were democrats, they should be working for ways to help deliver that referendum and heal the divisions, not create more?
My hon. Friend is entirely right, and the way forward for this House and for this country is to get Brexit done. I think there are people around this country, who are watching these proceedings, who will agree very profoundly with what I am saying: get Brexit done, and let’s take this country forward.
In these proceedings Members must say what they think—and they do, and that is right—on both sides of the House and on different sides of this argument, but I would emphasise that I am keenly conscious of the fact that there are Members on both sides of the House, and indeed on both sides of the Brexit argument, who have been personally threatened, and whose families have been threatened, and it is incredibly—[Interruption.] No, but Members on both sides of the House and on both sides of the argument have been threatened, and I have stated very publicly my revulsion at such behaviour, whether it has affected Members on one side or the other, people who are anti-Brexit or Members who are pro-Brexit, whose families have been wrongly threatened, or whose parents have been abused in their presence.
I would simply appeal to responsible colleagues in all parts of the House to weigh their words. That is all I am saying. I think that is a reasonable request of Members in all parts of the House. It is in our wider interest as a Parliament, and it is in the public interest, that we respect each other. That is a point which I think should not be difficult to understand.
Following the events of yesterday, I have had many constituents contact me. Some are confused and bewildered; some are frustrated and angry. The vast majority of my constituents do not have the funding, the influence or the contacts to pursue matters in the Supreme Court, but what they do have is a vote. In June 2016, they gave their vote, and 64% in my constituency voted to leave, believing that their vote would count and the result would be honoured. Will the Prime Minister reassure my constituents that the events of yesterday will in no way detract from his determination to honour the referendum and ensure that we leave the EU?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that absolute assurance. We are working for a deal on
I have never felt so embarrassed to be a Member of Parliament as I do here this evening. We know the impact that the Prime Minister’s language and behaviour are having on people out there in the country and on us as Members of Parliament. Just today, I have seen a huge escalation in the abuse on social media and in the language and the incitement that he is causing. This has got to stop. Why does he not listen to what the court said yesterday and say sorry? Then let us do the democratic thing and, yes, let us put this back to the people for a final say.
Mr Speaker, I am mindful of what you have said about the surrender Act—[Interruption.] I do appreciate that tensions on this matter are high, but I want to be very clear with the hon. Lady. There is only one way to end those tensions in this country, and that is to get Brexit done. If she really thinks that staying on in the EU month after month after
I am glad to hear of the Prime Minister’s continuing commitment to getting a deal, and it seems to me that that deal will inevitably be based around alternative arrangements. He mentioned the discussions in Brussels but, crucially, there will also be discussions in Belfast and Dublin. Could he give us an update on his meeting with Leo Varadkar on Monday in New York? Did they discuss alternative arrangements, and what is his view?
I really thank my right hon. Friend, because he has played a huge role in developing the whole concept of alternative arrangements, and yes, that played a large part in our conversation on Monday with the Taoiseach. I think it would be over-optimistic to say that that alone can solve the problem. There remain difficult issues about customs, as I am sure he understands, and we really must make progress on that issue.
The tone of the Prime Minister’s speech was truly shocking, and if he recognises that tensions are inflamed, it is up to him not to stoke them further by whipping up hatred, treating Parliament with contempt and dividing our country still further. This populist rhetoric is not only unfitting for a Prime Minister; it is genuinely and seriously dangerous, as our Friends across the Aisle have just said. So I ask him again a simple question: if he trusts the people as much as he says he does, why will he not allow them to have a final say on his deal? He says he wants this to be over quickly; that is the quickest way to get a resolution to this crisis.
Obviously, I would like Parliament to have a say on the deal that we do, but I think the best way to get the people to have a say is to have a general election, and I hope that the hon. Lady will support that.
One of the precedents quoted by the Supreme Court yesterday was a 1965 ruling that a Government cannot deprive individuals or companies of their assets without fair compensation. What implications does my right hon. Friend think that might have for a future Labour party manifesto?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend has mentioned that, with his characteristic acuity and his support of property and the rights of people across this country. Those would be despoiled if Jeremy Corbyn ever got anywhere near power. He has a Maduro-esque plan to take away private property from great, great schools across the country of the kind he attended himself once, in an ecstasy of hypocrisy, and thereby to incur the taxpayer with £7 billion of pointless extra cost to pay for the education of the children concerned.
Since we will definitely be sitting for at least a few more days, would it not make more sense for the Government to bring forward something that the whole House can agree on? Two women are killed, on average, by their domestic partners every week of the year in this country. The Government have a Domestic Abuse Bill that is ready to go. Why do we not do Second Reading on Monday or Tuesday? The whole House would agree, we would be able to send it off to Committee and if we were eventually to have another Queen’s Speech, we would be able to have carry-over for it. It is time we defended the women of this country.
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman; he is absolutely right. One of the reasons I wanted to have a Queen’s Speech was so that we could bring back the domestic violence Bill.
“The people voted to leave and this has to be respected. Pushing it back further would certainly cause damage to the local area. Please represent us in Parliament and speak of the massive impact this is having and how it will escalate quickly with further problems.”
I urge the Prime Minister to stick to his guns and deliver on
I thought that was coming, Mr Speaker. I am certainly grateful for my hon. Friend’s support for my ambition to get Brexit done by
I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I was shocked that he, as the Prime Minister, should take it upon himself, with his arrogance, to declare the judgment of the Supreme Court wrong. It was the Supreme Court—the highest court of the land—and the 11 judges were unanimous, but the Prime Minister has declared this evening that their decision was wrong. He has not explained the grounds, but he has declared them to be wrong. If the Prime Minister believes that, does he also believe that it is lawful for him to call another lengthy Prorogation of this Parliament? If he has that in his mind, when is he going to enlighten us as to when that Prorogation will begin?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, but I do think we need a Queen’s Speech and I do think we have a dynamic domestic agenda that we need to push forward. I will inform her, as well as the rest of the House, as soon as we have assessed the meaning of the judgment in its entirety and when it is appropriate to do so.
Like my right hon. Friend, I support a Brexit deal; indeed, I voted for it considerably more frequently than him. If this great party stands for anything, it stands for respect for parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law. I respectfully say that he is tiptoeing on to a dangerous path. He is pitting Brexit against remain, young against old, Scotland against England, and people against the Parliament. Will he please reflect on the fact that this Brexit deal is not a deal just for the next five years; it is the foundation of our relationship with Europe for the next 40? That requires us to speak with respect, with moderation and with compassion for our opponents in order to provide a foundation that appeals not just to a single narrow faction, but to every citizen and party in this great country.
I think the juxtaposition is actually between democracy and the will of the people, which we are sticking up for, and dither and delay, which the party opposite is standing for. That seems to me a very clear dividing line, and I know which side I am on.
Earlier on the Prime Minister referenced the Stasi, so he must rejoice with me in the fact that countries across eastern Europe believe that their independence and sovereignty is enhanced by their membership of the European Union, just as the rule of law is enhanced by that membership.
If all the criteria of the parliamentary sovereignty and rule of law Act, let us call it, are fulfilled and if he is still Prime Minister on
If the hon. Gentleman does not want to call it the surrender Act, what about the humiliation Act? Will that do any better? That is what the Act is intended to do.
On the hon. Gentleman’s substantive point about respecting the rule of law, I have made it clear to this House several times that we will of course respect the law.
The problem with the Act that the Prime Minister calls the surrender Act is that many of those who supported it are not so much against no deal as against leaving the European Union altogether, but there are many of us on both sides of the House who support the Prime Minister’s stated goal of coming back from the October Council with a deal and leaving the EU at the end of October. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend, first, to maximise the two-week negotiating opportunity and, secondly, to reach out across the House to all those on both sides who genuinely want to leave the EU but in the best possible way.
Of course my hon. Friend is completely right. We will reach out to Members on both sides of the House, and I hope that our overtures will be received in a kindly spirit.
I must say that I feel the Prime Minister’s goading of my colleagues from Yorkshire reveals that he has changed little since he was a student burning £50 notes in front of homeless people.
I do have a real question, and the problem is that this statement was billed as the Prime Minister’s update. Rather than just talking about vague concepts, could he tell the House what proposals he has tabled to the European Union?
The hon. Lady has made an allegation about my conduct as a student that I am afraid, if it were allowed to stand, would enter the record. She has no evidence for it whatever because it is completely untrue, Mr Speaker, and I would like you to ask her to withdraw it.
I am most grateful to the Prime Minister. The hon. Lady has said what she said, but the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Order. The Prime Minister, from the Dispatch Box and with the full authority of his office, and knowing his own background and recognising the duty of every Member to speak the truth in this Chamber, has exercised his freedom, and quite rightly so. I think the Prime Minister would readily acknowledge that, in light of all that, he does not require any additional protection from me. He has put the record straight and it is there. It is on the record.
What matters in this place is not just language, but tone. Earlier my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke of political cowardice; I wish to speak to him of political bravery. Politics is the art of the possible. I genuinely believe it is possible for him to get a new deal; further, I believe it is possible for it to pass this House. But it would be politically brave not simply to reach across the House, but to put his arms around the House.
I thank my right hon. Friend, and I will do my best—[Interruption.] Clearly, the invitation is not universally welcomed. I share her idealism. I think there is a chance for us now to do our duty to our constituents and to put this matter to rest in a way that will greatly alleviate the tensions now current in our country. It will be a great thing for our country if we do that, so I will follow my right hon. Friend’s urgings and do my best to show the spirit she asks for.
Thank you very much indeed, Mr. Speaker. It really is an absolute disgrace that, even though the Prime Minister has been dragged here by the most senior judges in the highest court in the land because the advice that the Leader of the House gave Her Majesty the Queen was held to be unlawful, he comes here laughing and joking, and using aggressive language when Opposition Members make salient and serious points. Why does he think he can treat the Queen and the country with utter contempt?
I have the utmost respect not just for the Court but, of course, for the hon. Gentleman. I think the way we could all show respect for our constituents—in particular his own, who voted heavily to leave the EU—would be to vote for the deal when we bring it back. I hope he will support us in the Lobby.
It is good to see my right hon. Friend back in his rightful place, perhaps a little sooner than he expected, and I hope he remains there for a long time. Can he give me some advice that I can share with my constituents when I try to explain why this Parliament refuses to approve a general election, refuses to vote to leave the EU, refuses to respect the wishes of 17.4 million people and refuses to honour the views of the 73% of my constituents who voted to leave? Can he give me some advice to help me on the doorstep?
My hon. Friend is completely right. The way to address the feelings of his constituents, my constituents and the constituents of us all, and frankly the way to puncture the great poisonous puffball of Brexit is just to get on and make sure that the very word “Brexit”—I know there is a lot of anxiety about language—is never heard in 2020. Would not that be a fantastic thing?
I am bitterly disappointed that Parliament did not have the chance to agree to forgo the nearly four weeks of the conference recess, so we could spend more time together. I have to tell the Prime Minister that in seeking to prorogue Parliament, he showed a serious lack of judgment. I only hope that his judgment and his tone improve from today.
Should the Prime Minister secure a deal with the EU27 at the EU summit in October, will he invite Parliament to hold a meaningful vote to ratify that deal on Saturday
I thank her very much for the sincerity with which she approaches this issue. Clearly, I do want to work together with all Members of the House of Commons to try to get this thing done. If we can get a deal at the summit, we will, of course, be putting it to Parliament.
I backed remain in the referendum, but my constituency and my country decided otherwise, so I thought it was my duty, as a Member of this House, to accept those instructions and that mandate and to execute them faithfully. After three years, my constituents say that this Parliament has achieved nothing—it is a rump Parliament. What representations has the Prime Minister had from the minor parties, as well as the Labour party, about a confidence vote or an election vote to bring forward a general election so that people can have their say and settle this question for good?
I am afraid my hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have yet to hear either from the main Opposition party or indeed any of the Opposition parties that they are willing to take up our democratic challenge. However, I want to thank him and congratulate him for what he has done for Dover, where I have been, and I have been very impressed with the level of preparations. Opposition Members who are anxious might educate themselves by going to see what has been done at Dover, and I congratulate my hon. Friend for the leadership that he has shown.
Tonight the Prime Minister has made calculatedly inflammatory comments against parliamentarians, and he will be accountable for the consequences of that language, but I want to ask him about the judiciary. In the last 36 hours, we have seen an unprecedented onslaught on the impartiality and integrity of our judges. Parliamentarians and particularly Ministers have a duty to uphold the independence and integrity of judges, so will the Prime Minister take the opportunity that he did not take earlier, when asked by the Leader of the Opposition, and distance himself specifically from the comment by the Leader of the House that yesterday’s judgment was a constitutional coup?
I am not going to comment on anything that was said by any member of the Cabinet during Cabinet; that would be totally wrong because, of course, there is a risk of serious distortion in the reporting. What I can say is that the Government have the utmost respect for the judiciary and, indeed, for the judgment, and that is why we are all here today. I think it has actually been to the advantage of the House to hear a little about the negotiations, but I think the House will also understand that some of the measures that have been passed by the House—or at least one of the measures that has been passed by the House—have not made negotiation any easier. I just say that in all candour and sincerity, and I think hon. Members know that.
Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] My voice is restored. My right hon. Friend has talked about a surrender Act, which is quite accurate. Does he recall, as I do, because I was in the House at the time, the 1989 Act introducing the community charge, which was persistently described as a poll tax by the Opposition deliberately to stoke up anger and opposition in the country?
I appreciate the good humour of the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that he was struggling with his throat, but it was suggested to me that he could usefully take a herbal remedy.
I thought that was coming, Mr Speaker. I thank my hon. Friend. He makes a very good point. All that I will say, at the risk of further inflaming my friends opposite, is that the legislation in question—the capitulation Act—has done material damage to this country’s ability to negotiate, and I think that they should reflect on that. In an international negotiation, it is very important that the UK is able to deploy every possible arsenal—every possible negotiating tool. I am afraid that an attempt has been made to weaken our hand—there is no question of it.
We are hearing from the Prime Minister words such as the “humiliation” Act, the “surrender” Act, and the “capitulation” Act. All of these words suggest that we, because we disagree with him, are traitors, that we are not patriots, but nothing could be further from the truth. Now this may be a strategy to set the people against the establishment, but I would like to gently suggest that he is the establishment and we are still people. As the woman who has taken over the seat that was left by our dear friend, Jo Cox, may I ask him, in all honesty, as a human being that, going forward, will he please, please moderate his language so that we will all feel secure when we are going about our jobs? [Applause.]
The surest fire way—[Interruption.] Well, no. Of course there will be an attempt to try to obfuscate the effect of this Act—the capitulation Act, the surrender Act or whatever you want to call it. It does—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but it greatly enfeebles this Government’s ability to negotiate. What I will say is that the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox, and indeed to bring this country together, would be, I think, to get Brexit done. I absolutely do. It is the continuing inability of this Parliament to get Brexit done that is causing the anxiety and the ill-feeling that is now rampant in our country. If we get it done, we will solve the problem.
Whatever one calls the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019, is it not a fact that it does not take no deal permanently off the table? It would delay it to the end of January. Does he agree that there are only two ways for those of us who are concerned about no deal to stop that outcome permanently, and that is either to revoke article 50, with all that that implies for democracy, or it is to do the right thing and to come together to pass a deal, which I have every confidence that the Prime Minister will obtain in the European Council?
I congratulate my hon. Friend, because that is exactly the right answer. I genuinely think that the best way forward for our country is to come together and to do a deal, and that is what I hope that colleagues will do.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Prime Minister and his Government tried unlawfully to prorogue this place. The Prime Minister has come here today without a shred of humility. He has been using divisive language and has failed to offer an apology. I will ask him once again, as many Members have tried to do: will he now apologise to the people in my constituency and the wider country for trying to shut down democracy, and will he also commit to ensuring that he will not attempt to try to prorogue this House again?
The best way to shut down democracy in this country and to erode trust in our political institutions is to fail to deliver on the will of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave, and that is what we are going to do.
Order. I have known Mr Seely for a long time. I am not surprised, but very pleased to see, that, notwithstanding some sedentary heckling, he still has a smile on his face and that is a good thing.
I am blocked in that ear, so I cannot hear it anyway.
There have been some challenges for the Prime Minister in recent weeks, but is he aware that the more that my folks on the Isle of Wight see the obstacles being put in his way—whether they are political from people in this House, or from European leaders or from others, including judges—the more that they are willing him on and the more that they want him to stick the course to deliver Brexit on
I thank my hon. Friend, who is a doughty and mighty campaigner for the Isle of Wight, as I have seen for myself. I thought that he was going to ask me about the island deal that we are going to do—I can assure him that we are, do not worry. He is totally right. There are obstacles being thrown in our path. The conversations are difficult, but I think that, with good will from the Opposition Benches, we can still do it.
The Prime Minister has proven that when you live behind a wall of armed police officers, you can be as irresponsible as you like with your language; he will never have to live with the consequences mentioned by the people who have been speaking up to him today, in all sincerity. When it comes to the Supreme Court case, which this statement is supposed to be about, will he explain something to me? Every other participant in the case provided witness statements that were sworn. Why didn’t he and why didn’t the Government?
The Government provided all the evidence that we were asked to provide. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that I was Mayor of London for eight years, during which I went around everywhere on a bicycle with no protection whatever and I was very proud of it. Believe me: the best way to ensure that every parliamentarian is properly safe and to dial down the current anxiety in this country is to get Brexit done. I hope that he will support us.
Whether the Bill is referred to as the Burt-Benn Bill, the humiliation Act, the capitulation Act or the surrender Bill, does my right hon. Friend agree that it still has the same effect of ceding, giving up or yielding control of when we leave the EU to the Europeans, weakening his hand in being able to get a deal in the first place?
I am afraid that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The best thing that all those who deprecate that description of the Bill could do is repeal it, get rid of its effect or—even better—support us in going for a better deal.
The right hon. Gentleman could easily test that proposition if he had the gumption to go for a general election or a vote of no confidence, which he is failing to do.
My hon. Friend has spoken for Cheltenham and he is completely right. The people of this country want to see us coming together, agreeing on a way forward, getting Brexit done and then getting on with a dynamic one nation Conservative agenda, and that is what we are going to do.
In the last two hours and seven minutes, the Prime Minister has mocked us, belittled us, told us that it is his way or nothing, and used language that he knows incites fear. He has patronised us, shown disregard for the law and has tried to make us feel that our views have no value when we are trying to represent our constituents. He has done all of this over the most important matter of our times, at a time of national crisis. I am not asking him to apologise to us, although I think he should. I am asking him to apologise to my constituents, who did not want us to be prorogued in the first place and who the Supreme Court yesterday said it agreed with. Will the Prime Minister apologise to the people of Bristol West and start taking this House seriously?
I certainly do take this House exceptionally seriously. Our constituents—all of them, across the whole country—actually feel that their opinions are being undervalued because they expressed an opinion three years ago and this House, in spite of countless promises, has failed to implement that opinion. I suggest that the best thing is to get on and do it.
As if by magic—I could almost have scripted that response. SNP Members are shouting out that they won in Scotland, but it was not a Scotland-wide vote; it was a vote by individuals, as is any referendum. It just shows that they have also ignored the 2014 referendum, in which the people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom, which is the member state of the EU that is leaving the EU. Will the Prime Minister confirm that only the Conservative party, in Scotland and across the United Kingdom, is committed to delivering on both those people’s votes?
I thank my hon. Friend because he is perfectly right. I have seen at first hand what a fantastic campaigner he is for his own constituents. There is a sharp distinction between him and the Scottish National party because he has a plan, once we take back control of Scotland’s extraordinary fisheries, to boost that industry whereas the SNP, of course, would hand it back to Brussels. I congratulate him on what he is doing.
The Times said today:
“The whole point of Conservative government is to provide an executive aware of its limitations and sensitive to the dangers of over-reaching them…A Tory believes that…the rule of law is always to be preferred to arbitrary power. Without these things, what is the point of Conservatives”?
The Prime Minister has just told my hon. Friend Tracy Brabin that the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox is to get Brexit done. He has broken the law and he has not apologised for it. Constituents of mine—good Conservative voters—are asking themselves what on earth the Prime Minister has done to his party, let alone our country. Will he now resign?
I have the utmost respect for the law and, indeed, for the judgment of the Supreme Court, but I think what the people of this country want us to do in this Parliament, as I have said several times already this evening, is to deliver on the mandate of the people, and that is what we are going to do.
A few weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister a question to which he responded that
“sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 664, c. 43.]
I understand what that phrase means, but I have yet to meet a single constituent who does, so can I try again on their behalf? In the event that the Prime Minister gets a deal, which I will fully support him with, will he ensure that any Member on the Conservative Benches who does not vote for that deal will lose the Whip and lose the right to stand as a Conservative candidate in the general election?
I have said what I have said to my hon. Friend in the past. I see no reason to go over the point again because I think what we all want to do is get on and get the best deal possible that can be supported across this House, and that is the best way forward. Opposition Members say they are not going to vote for it under any circumstances, and that is because they want to stop Brexit—it is perfectly clear from what they are saying.
The Prime Minister and the Government maintain that they did not seek the Prorogation in order to frustrate Parliament talking about Brexit. The Supreme Court ruled 11 to zero that that was not true, but the Prime Minister still maintains that the Court was wrong. So will he agree to take a public lie detector test?
I do not know, Mr Speaker, whether you think the hon. Gentleman’s question is in order, but I will answer him none the less by pointing out what he should know if he had read the judgment or listened to the judgment—that the Court did not impugn the motives of the Government at all.
The main constitutional functions of this House are to choose and sustain the Government and to legislate. Since this Parliament seems incapable of doing either, is not the correct constitutional way forward a general election so that voters can decide between a Conservative Government to deliver on the Brexit referendum or one of the Opposition parties to overturn it?
My hon. Friend is completely right. It is quite extraordinary that the so-called party of the people absolutely refuses to trust the people. I urge them once again, as I think there is still time: if they want to go for a no confidence vote, now is the moment.
The Prime Minister believes himself, by all reports, to be a great statesman, but this House, in passing the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019, simply changed the parameters of the discussions he needed to have with Europe. It did not prevent him having those discussions. If he is this great statesman, why can he not be sure that he can come back with a deal? All this House has ruled out is no deal. He has not answered the question from my hon. Friend Helen Goodman: what negotiations is he having? What has he put on the table for Europe? We have a month or so to go before he needs to come back to the House with that agreement.
I wonder whether the hon. Lady has ever conducted a negotiation in which she has agreed at the outset that it must in any event conclude in favour of the other side. I think she will understand what her side of the argument tried to do with the surrender, capitulation and humiliation Bill, or whatever we want to call it. We will not be bowed or daunted by this. We will get on and try to get the best deal possible none the less, as I think she is advocating.
More than 70 Opposition Members have brought us back to this House today, supposedly to talk about and scrutinise Brexit, when we have had three years to talk about Brexit in this House, and I have not heard a single original point made by any Opposition Member today. Has the Prime Minister heard any new arguments? Does he think that the people in this country are interested in what is being said by Opposition Members, or are they interested in the priorities he would want to put forward in a Queen’s Speech?
I thank my hon. Friend. What the people of this country want to hear is not just that we are going to get Brexit done on
The majority of my constituents did not vote for Brexit. Scotland did not vote for Brexit. This Government have no mandate in Scotland. This Prime Minister has no mandate in Scotland. The fact is that he has no respect for the constitution or rule of law, so why should Scotland not vote to leave this Union?
The Prime Minister has smirked and smeared his way through his statement this evening, dismissing the ruling by the Supreme Court as novel, when we all know, and the country knows, that it was a damning indictment of this Prime Minister and an abuse of his power to try to gag Parliament. If he had a shred of decency or integrity he would apologise to this House and to the country and he would resign. I have no doubt that he will do none of those things. He has also steadfastly refused to say that he will not do it again and prorogue this House once more, so I ask him again: will he guarantee that he will not try to pull this stunt again and seek Prorogation?
I think that the House and the country need a Queen’s Speech, and we will be examining the judgment to see exactly how that should be brought forward in this new context. All I can say is that if the hon. Gentleman wants to remove me from office, which is what he said he wants to do, he should encourage his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to screw his courage to the sticking place and have a general election.
I wish the Prime Minister and his team well in the negotiations as they continue, because I am convinced that there is a majority in this House—contrary to what some say—for leaving with a good deal, and I believe that he will bring that to this House. However, he will remember a discussion I had with him earlier this year about freedom of speech. With freedom of speech, on which we fully agree, comes responsibility, and sometimes that responsibility means not saying what one might like to say—words like “surrender”, “betrayal” and “treason”.
Both of us being classicists, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend remembers the fable of Aesop about the sun and the wind and who won. It was not the wind that won by blowing the person, because he wrapped his coat further around himself. It was the sun that, by coming out and banishing the clouds, made the man take his coat off. Perhaps he should be the sun king and not the king of wind.
I thank my hon. Friend. I am reminded of the other fable of Aesop about the man who had black hair and white hair, and who allowed two women, I think, to pluck out one hair after the other until he was totally bald. That is a tale that might be of use to the right hon. Leader of the Opposition, who cannot decide whether he is in favour of leave or remain. The way to take this country forward is to deliver on the wishes of the people and come out of the EU. That is the way to dial down all emotion and anxiety in this country. On the language he ascribes to me, I do not think I have used those words. I would be happy if he clarified that point.
“What is the use of Parliament if it is not the place where true statements can be brought before the people?”
He understood the role of parliamentarians as not simply delegates to this place but representatives; as servants of the people but also guardians of the national interest. There are certain pillars on which our democracy rests: Parliament, the judiciary, the free press, and the pillars of civil society. Does the Prime Minister not understand that given the way he has conducted himself, whether it is the unlawful Prorogation of Parliament, the language he has used the Chamber, or withdrawing the Whip from Members sitting behind him who seemingly have more regard for Conservative values than he does, he may be the problem and not the solution? If he really believes in consent, there are two ways to go back to the people. The first is to honour the law passed by the House to seek an extension to article 50, and we will gladly troop through the Lobby behind him. The other is to put a deal, or no deal, to the people in a confirmatory vote. Both those ways will unlock the parliamentary deadlock. The only question is whether he has the courage to do it.
But to what end? I do not understand why on earth the hon. Gentleman, who I normally admire as he normally speaks sense, would want to stay in the EU beyond
Order. May I ask Eddie Hughes, before calling him, whether he can confirm—if he can, that is fine—that he has been here since 6.30 without interruption and without going out of the Chamber at any stage?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was inspired to get to my feet by the excitement in the Chamber. I want to draw attention to the fact that on
I remember well that happy afternoon we spent in J.D. Wetherspoon’s. I noted the popularity of my hon. Friend with his constituents, and I also noted their determination to get Brexit done on
The Supreme Court judgment yesterday began:
“It is important to emphasise that the issue in these appeals is not when and on what terms the United Kingdom is to leave the European Union.”
Without reference to Brexit, will the Prime Minister now apologise to this House and to the people of this country for giving unlawful advice to the Queen when he tried to silence this Parliament?
I refer the hon. Lady to what I have already said. We respect the judiciary and we respect the Supreme Court, but I humbly disagree with what the justices have said.
The answer to Brexit should lie in this Chamber, but after more than three years of discussion people are beginning to despair of their politicians. Those, like me, who voted to remain have had to compromise. I have now voted three times to leave and I hope I get a fourth opportunity. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is not more time that this Chamber needs, but more compromise? There is no point in any extension without compromise, and if it cannot compromise, it must call a general election.
I really think that my hon. Friend puts her finger on the issue. This has been an opportunity, in this crucible of the nation, this intellectual forcing house, for hon. Members to suggest any solutions or ideas, if they had any, for how to take forward a deal between us and our much-valued European Union friends and partners. If they had a single notion about how to do it, or if they thought I was missing a trick or they had some idea, this would have been their moment, but we have not heard anything—nothing remotely positive, not a single idea, zilch—from Opposition Members, and I think that will have been noted by people watching.
In 2014, as has been pointed out, Scotland voted to remain in the UK, and it did so on the promise that the only way to ensure our EU membership was through voting no to independence. When 2016 came, we had another referendum and Scotland—including my constituency and every other constituency in Scotland—voted to remain in the EU. Since the Prime Minister has brought us towards this no-deal chaos, I was going to ask him if he had stocked up on enough Brasso for his neck, but it seems that he does not need it. So, what I will say is: just where does he even begin to justify the absolute hell he is about to put on my constituents; and, more so, just how gullible does he think they are?
Obviously, if the hon. Lady really disagrees with the course we are embarked on, she is at liberty to table a no-confidence motion or to go for an election. Curiously, she is desisting from that and refusing to do so. I remind her that what we are trying to achieve is a deal—she is smiling—and I hope that she supports that outcome and that we will be able to count on her presence in the Lobby if we are lucky enough to get one.
As the Prime Minister sought to close down Parliament, some in his Government sought to silence the voice of employers speaking out about their concerns on Brexit. That was revealed last week by the Financial Times report on four different employer organisations. Will the Prime Minister condemn such behaviour and say in unequivocal terms that there can be no question ever of that voice of dissent being muzzled, preventing truth from being told to power?
We know that when the Prime Minister was a student in the Bullingdon club, he used to go round smashing up restaurants and vandalising places, but he now seems intent on doing that to our institutions, whether it be the judiciary, the constitution or Parliament. When will he realise that he is no longer in the Bullingdon club, but that he is the Prime Minister of our country and start behaving like it?
The best thing we can all do for the institutions of our country and the respect in which they are held is to deliver on the mandate of the people and get Brexit done. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Islington North does not like the policy that I am embarked on, he is at liberty, even at this late hour, even at 9 o’clock, to go for a general election.
I thank the hon. Lady so much. I think I can explain exactly what I mean, because I believe that the continuing failure to deliver on the mandate of the people has greatly exacerbated feelings, and the best way to reduce that tension is to get it done and then the whole country can move on. That is where my constituents are and I bet that is where the majority of our constituents are.
As I have said several times, the Court did not impugn in any way the Government’s motives. It is open to test what the hon. Gentleman says in a general election, if he wants.
In the event that the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 are triggered because of a failure to bring a deal back to the House, will the Prime Minister commit to obeying not only the letter of that law, but its spirit as well?
I must confess that I am somewhat confused, so I am asking the Prime Minister for a bit of guidance here. Quite a large amount of legislation was lost—or would have been lost if Parliament had been prorogued. That included measures that I think could quite easily have got through, the most obvious example being the Domestic Abuse Bill. At the same time, we have a Prime Minister who does not have an overall majority and an Attorney General who says that this is a dead Parliament and we need a general election. I agree with the leader of my party that we need a general election and to get rid of the current Government, when it is safe to do so, but if we are to have a general election, a new Parliament and a new Government, what on earth is the point of a Queen’s Speech? Why would the Prime Minister prorogue Parliament and have a Queen’s Speech just before going to the country, except as a ploy to use the Queen to promote his manifesto?
As I have said many times to the House, I do not want an election. It is open to the hon. Gentleman to try to persuade his colleagues to vote for a Queen’s Speech and the progressive measures we will introduce, including on domestic abuse and domestic violence, but if he will not do that, the logical thing to do is to go the country in a general election. But there are hesitations about doing that on the Opposition Front Bench, for reasons that I obviously understand.
We have had a long, heated discussion in this Chamber, but I think we have all come to the conclusion that the best way to move forward is to find some form of consensus. It is difficult, because this House is divided and the country is divided. May I offer the Prime Minister a true compromise? I will vote for his deal—and that is difficult, because I truly believe that we should stay in the European Union and so do the people in Bath who voted for me—if he will vote to put it back to the people. I will guarantee him that he will get a majority in this House for this compromise and in the country, and after that Brexit will be done.
I am overcome by an immense sense of sadness from today. This afternoon’s debate has been absolutely appalling. Anybody watching this will wonder what on earth is going on, and the calibre of the leadership that has been offered, the language and the tone are not what should be representative of the leadership of this country. It is absolutely shocking. May I ask the Prime Minister why he thinks that getting Brexit done will actually solve anything, given that that is an absolute illusion unless we are absolutely intent that there will never be any relationship with our nearest neighbours? Why does he think that
I thank the hon. Lady and appreciate the sincerity with which she makes her point, but I must say that it is my strong belief that if we fail to get Brexit done the disappointment, the sense of rejection, and the sense that the public have been cheated of what they were promised will be very grave indeed. I am afraid that the only way to alleviate the current tensions in the country is to deliver on the mandate of the people in a positive, confident and optimistic spirit. That is what we need to bring to this, and I hope that she agrees.
May I say to the Prime Minister that something that really disturbs me about how he is conducting himself tonight and about how some of his colleagues have conducted themselves in recent days has been the sense of privileged entitlement that they have exuded throughout? That privileged entitlement led him, during this statement, to describe it as “humbug” when an hon. Member talked about the threats that she was receiving. That sense of privileged entitlement led the Leader of the House to describe the situation when 11 justices of the Supreme Court of this land decided on the basis of evidence that the Prime Minister had broken the law as a “constitutional coup”. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is a constitutional coup—yes or no?
I must say that I do not think there could be any clearer example of a sense of privileged entitlement than for a parliamentarian to decide that he is in a position to substitute his own discretion for the will of the people when he clearly promised the people that that will would be respected and upheld.
Since coming to office, the Prime Minister has lost six out of six votes in Parliament, lost a by-election, sacked his own majority, lost a case in the Supreme Court and advised Her Majesty the Queen to act unlawfully, so he has some brass neck to stand there at the Dispatch Box without a shred of humility and without apologising. Let me ask the Prime Minister: what would it take for him to apologise for his actions?
I have tried to show every possible humility today, to the House, to hon. Members and to the Court and its judgment, but the best way we can all collectively show humility as parliamentarians is to deliver on the will of the people, and that is what we will do. We could also show some humility by stopping talking exclusively about ourselves and Brexit, and getting on with delivering on the priorities of the British people. That is why we wanted a Queen’s Speech. I think they want to hear what we are going to do to support their healthcare services, bring down crime on their streets and improve their schools. Those are the priorities of this Government.
The judgment of the Supreme Court found that the Prime Minister had acted unlawfully and outside his powers in the advice he gave the monarch. He has just said again that he believes the Court was wrong. Will he confirm that he has read the judgment? If he has, could he point us to the errors of law or fact that he says the 11 justices made?
If the hon. Gentleman would study my statement, he will see exactly what I meant. My views are shared, by the way, by the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, who I think even he would accept are quite eminent legal authorities.
This Brexit debacle is certainly an agent for change. Following on from the point made by my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry, the SNP Scottish Government have a mandate to hold an independent referendum, which I hope the Prime Minister respects. The First Minister of Scotland has said that she intends before Christmas to ask for a section 30 order to facilitate the referendum in the next year. Can the Prime Minister give Scotland an update: will he agree to a section 30 order, when the Scottish Government ask for it, so that they can hold the mandated referendum—yes or no?
I want to make the following comparison because I think it is what the British public will see. The highest court in the land has said that the Prime Minister acted unlawfully, and the Prime Minister has refused to apologise. Across the country, many people, in courts both civil and criminal, are found guilty of various offences, and the first thing that the magistrates and judges in many of those cases expect is to see those people apologise and show some contrition, and yet people have seen their Prime Minister, this evening and through this Session, show no contrition and make no apology, but simply say, in a blustering, boisterous way, that he is just going to carry on. Can he not understand how that appears to people? I say again that it appears there is one law for him and one law for everybody else.
The real contrast is between the Conservative party, the democratic party, which wants to honour the will of the people, and the Labour party, which is trying to obstruct Brexit and will not have a general election.
This is not a party political matter. It undermines the Prime Minister’s attempts to call out extremism or ideology when he himself mines that seam of extremism and populism by using the language of surrender and betrayal when discussing an Act of Parliament signed by the Queen and passed by Members of Parliament who were elected in 2017—after the referendum—and who in all sincerity are doing it because they care about their constituents, their jobs and their livelihoods. Hon. Members of all parties want the rule of law and care about our parliamentary democracy and do not want to have their patriotism impugned in that way.
With your leave, Mr Speaker, I will keep my answers pretty staccato from now on, because I have answered these points quite a lot. If people care about their constituents—it is quite proper, of course, that they should in every possible way—they should honour the will of their constituents and respect our democratic proceedings.
Of course I completely understand that the Prime Minister will offer his own answers, short or long, as he thinks fit. I just innocently make the observation, en passant, that repetition is not a novel phenomenon in the House of Commons and never has been.
The hour is still quite early. I have been in the Chair since 11.30 am, but I feel that I am just getting started. We have a lot more energy left. I am not remotely perturbed, and I am sure that the Prime Minister is not running out of energy. I should be very worried if he were, but I am sure that he is not.
Oh, don’t worry about me. I can more than hack it. We are a bit longer here than the Prime Minister and I were on the tennis court, but never mind.
I am not going to trade insults with the Prime Minister tonight, because this is far too serious. Let me just advise him to read a book by Senator Fulbright called “The Arrogance of Power”.
More important, millions of jobs in the west midlands could become extinct if the Prime Minister cannot get a deal. The Prime Minister may say that we had a chance to vote for the previous deal. The only reason we could not vote for it was that there was no guarantee that funding for research and development, for the universities, and for companies such as Jaguar Land Rover would continue. Let me say to the Prime Minister, very seriously and in all sincerity, that he should go back and make every effort to secure a deal that we can all support.
I completely agree with what the hon. Gentleman has just said. He is right to say that we must protect supply chains in the west midlands, and we have of course done a huge amount of work to ensure that that is the case. However, the best thing we can do is get a deal that gives business certainty and continuity and then get behind it, and that is what I hope to do.
Given the mess that this Prime Minister has made, it seems blindingly obvious that it is time for him to resign. He can get on to the fast train to the history books as the biggest loser. However, this is what I am really interested to know. When the Prime Minister looks back on his short but catastrophic time in leadership, what will he be most proud of? Will it be dismantling democracy, will it be breaking the law, will it be lying to the Queen, or will it be being roundly beaten in court by a swathe of “girly swots”?
I think that when I look back on the 64 days that we have had in government so far, I will be proud of 20,000 police officers on the streets of this country, of 20 new hospital upgrades, of levelling up education funding throughout the country, and of providing gigabit broadband, even in Scotland. Let us hope that the incompetent, dissolute, reckless, high-taxing Government of Scotland actually implement that initiative and deliver it to the people—or make way for Conservatives in Scotland, who will do it themselves.
I was originally going to ask a question about Operation Yellowhammer, but I cannot ignore what was said by my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff, and the experience that she had in the Chamber. She spoke about the threats that she was experiencing as a woman, but also about the experiences of other female Members.
The Prime Minister will know about violence against women and girls. He will also know that the way in which he spoke, and the language that he used, are words that will linger, and words that will do more harm than good. I ask him to withdraw what he said, and I ask him to reflect on that. Will he do so?
I think that everyone has to reflect on their use of language. On the other hand, we must get Brexit done. I say in all candour that we must make sure that we end this national Brexchosis and national anxiety by delivering on the will of the people. [Interruption.] No amount of yammering from Ian Lavery will put us off doing that, and no amount of synthetic outrage or confected indignation will deter us either.
Opposition Members are very quick to talk about the economic vulnerability of their constituents. The truth is that this country is vulnerable economically, because of the uncertainty created by Brexit and the lack of the resolution of the Brexit issue. There is a mountain of money waiting to come to this country, and I believe that once Brexit is resolved, it will come and create better jobs—better paid jobs—for all our constituents. With that in mind, if Opposition Members really do care about the economic welfare of their constituents, they should get behind the Prime Minister in getting a deal.
My right hon. Friend speaks of what he knows, because he has done so much to attract investment to this country, and there is a huge amount to come if, as he rightly says, this House can come together and get a deal over the line. I hope very much that we can.
Prime Minister, you cannot tell us what proposals you have tabled to the EU, after several attempts by us tonight. Therefore, if your proposals fail, will you include an extension so that you can bring it on?
With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think I did set out in some detail the areas in which we are now making progress. But I must say, to repeat the point that I made earlier, that we have now had almost three hours of conversation in this Chamber about an issue that really affects our constituents, and I do not think I have heard a single original or helpful idea from the Labour party—not a single suggestion about how they think this country could leave the European Union and deliver on the mandate of the people. Absolutely nothing—zilch, nada.
That is not true, is it, because we have heard, and the Prime Minister has welcomed, the comments by my hon. Friend Gloria De Piero and my right hon. Friend Caroline Flint? So it would be really good if he could remain consistent with what he said a little bit earlier in what he says later; that would be a really positive thing. However, I was going to say that I agree with my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker that this Prime Minister believes that the normal rules do not apply to him. That must be the reason why we see no humility this evening in relation to his being judged by the Supreme Court of this land to have given unlawful advice to Her Majesty the Queen. A bit of humility would be very nice.
I think actually the Government as a whole have shown maximum humility in the face of the judgment and we respect the Court. Alas, it is not possible for us to agree with it without great intellectual inconsistency, but we respect what it has had to say. On the hon. Gentleman’s point about ideas, perhaps I should make a distinction. Some Members have certainly been very positive about the possibilities of doing a deal, and I much welcome that. What I was trying to say—forgive me—was that, in the face of the difficulties that this country has in bringing us together, I have not heard much by way of original thinking on some of the problems.
The tone of the Prime Minister this evening has been utterly shameful. I cannae help but feel that the architect of this approach, Dominic Cummings, is irresponsible and dangerous, and I think the Prime Minister should find some new advice as quickly as possible.
I do not think the Prime Minister was clear in his response to my hon. Friend Stephen Gethins, so I ask him again: will he deliver a request, without caveat, for an article 50 extension on
I think it would be fair to say that the Supreme Court is a relatively novel institution and this is a novel and groundbreaking judgment, even by the admission of the plaintiffs. We will study its implications with great care, and I think the House might like to reflect deeply on it, because I do think the judgment is of great constitutional interest and importance.
I opposed the Prime Minister’s unlawful Prorogation of Parliament because it shut down debate on Brexit and on other issues as well. In September I asked the Prime Minister to personally step in and prevent the release of Vanessa George, the child abuser that abused babies and toddlers in Plymouth. While Parliament was illegally shut down, she was released early. There have been lots and lots of things that are not good about today’s debate. Could the Prime Minister give one good thing, and agree to meet the families of the victims of Vanessa George, so that we can prevent that ever happening again and keep people like Vanessa George behind bars?
I am aware of the campaigns that have been run not just by the hon. Gentleman but by other Plymouth Members in respect of Vanessa George, and I will certainly undertake to meet the families.
The Prime Minister has broken the law in closing down Parliament, according to the Supreme Court judgment. Indeed, the Scottish Supreme Court went further and concluded that the Prime Minister had not been honest about his reasons for Prorogation. The Conservative party fancies itself as the party of law and order, so I would like to ask the Prime Minister: does he believe that all those who break the law should be punished, or does he believe that he is special and that that does not apply to him?
The Prime Minister congratulated those who sought to challenge the decision to prorogue Parliament in the court—bizarrely, given that he did not co-operate with that court case, particularly the one in the Court of Session. Further to the point made by my hon. Friend Peter Kyle, surely the Prime Minister did not co-operate because if he had done so and signed that written affidavit, he would be facing potential charges of perjury.
I must respectfully disagree with the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. As far as I am concerned, the Government have treated the Court with great respect and we intend to respect the judgment.
On the issue of ideas, if Parliament continues to resist the Prime Minister’s desperate pleas for an election in order to enable him to secure a deal, and if Parliament says it will agree that deal but only if it is subject to a public vote, would he prefer that or to inflict a no deal on Britain, with all the medicine shortages and other problems that would entail? Which would he prefer: his deal with a vote, or no deal?
Obviously I would prefer a deal, and I hope I could count on the hon. Gentleman’s support if we were to get one. As for my desperate pleas for an election, actually I am not desperate for an election at all. I rather thought it was the function of the Opposition to be desperate for an election. If he is desperate for an election, perhaps he could communicate with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
In his speech to the United Nations yesterday, the Prime Minister used his in-depth research into the tech sector to talk about artificial intelligence and the possibility of a dystopian future, yet last week it was reported that his chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, had instructed that all Government data held on UK systems should be brought together—an extremely dangerous suggestion. Can he tonight assure the House either that no such instruction was given or that it will be withdrawn?
All I can say is that what I think every Member of the House would like to see, and what our constituents would certainly like to see, is the maximum efficiency in government. The hon. Gentleman has mentioned something about which I am afraid I was hitherto unaware, and I cannot tell him whether he is accurate in what he says, but I certainly know what we should be doing as a country. As I said in the UN last night—at four o’clock in the morning—this is the country that leads in the tech sector in all sorts of ways, and we intend, as part of our Government programme, to turbocharge that. That was one of the reasons why we needed a Queen’s Speech, and still do.
I have been in this House for 35 years and I spent five years in the European Parliament, from 1979 to 1984, with the Prime Minister’s father, who I have to say was a very valuable member of a committee that I chaired. He was a keen environmentalist. All I can say after listening to this debate tonight is that your father talked a lot more sense than you do, Prime Minister.
I must humbly accept the criticism of the right hon. Lady, whom I have come to admire over many years, particularly for her campaigns on the Kurds, the environment and many other issues. She has done a huge amount of good. She is perfectly right to say that my father is a great environmentalist, and I hope that this Government will be allowed to fulfil some of his dreams, whether on animal welfare or conservation or the many other issues that he cares about. That is one of the reasons why I hope to have a Queen’s Speech in which we can deliver on some of those ideals.
First, can the Prime Minister stop stretching out his arms like the dirty centre-half who keeps committing fouls when he is cautioned, as he has been about his behaviour and his rhetoric this evening? I ask him: who in Government is responsible for Parliament being unlawfully prorogued? Who will be sacrificed to save his skin? When it comes to accountability and shouts of cowardice, does that not apply to him most of all?
We are all accountable to the people who send us here. If we want to verify whether we still have their confidence, of course the best way to do that is to have a general election.
I did not expect any humility from the Prime Minister today because he has a track record, but given that he was found to be acting unlawfully in the advice he gave to the Queen and to this House, I am stunned that the Conservative party opposite applauded him like a returning hero. It is absolutely shocking and the public will make their own minds up about it. [Interruption.] Yes, let us get to the general election, because what the Prime Minister has been doing consistently, and the reason he was found to be acting unlawfully, is to use every single device to try to take this country out with no deal. He can use words like “surrender Bill” and all the rest of it, but the fact is that taking this country out with no deal is the least patriotic thing he can do. I did not come here to do damage to my constituents and knowingly vote for it with no deal.
The Prime Minister has waved his finger, pointed over here and said, “If I get a deal, will you vote for it?” My question to him is, will the European Reform Group vote for it?
I think we will get a deal that commands the support of the whole House. I hope that it will command the support of the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he might indicate by nodding whether he will vote for it.
Let me be clear: I will not surrender the votes of my constituents who voted to remain, and I will be damned if I will surrender their vote for their country, Scotland, to be an independent sovereign nation. Given that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has surrendered his duty to sign the Benn Bill, will he advise the House whether the Cabinet Secretary will sign it on his behalf and take it to Brussels?
We will, of course, respect the law and we will leave on
Brexit may be a power game for the Prime Minister, but it will have a devastating impact on my constituents. Whether he tries to strongarm this Parliament into a no-deal situation or a bad deal, the reality is that our country is so divided. It is therefore his responsibility to bring the country together. His demonstration tonight shows that he does not have those skills, whereas my right hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn is reaching out to try to find that way. [Interruption.] This is no laughing matter. Our country is in a very precarious state, and it is about time the Government took it seriously. I therefore ask the Prime Minister that no matter which deal he comes back to, he does not disregard the country but puts that deal back to the people to have a final say.
The hon. Lady was going so well. I thought she was going to say that she would vote for a compromise deal, and I hope she will think of that, because that is what her constituents would want.
Three weeks ago, thousands of people up and down the country protested against the suspension of Parliament, including 600 good people in Warwick and Leamington incensed by that decision. Now we know, as a result of yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment, that we were deceived, the people were deceived and even the Queen was deceived.
One of my constituents has described the Prime Minister as the “Wizard of Uxbridge” such is his great illusion and deception. He wishes for a general election. Come the day, may I invite him to Warwick and Leamington to help me in my campaign to get re-elected?
I made use of the “no-rogation” to go and chap doors in my constituency, which has been quite interesting because I spoke to lots of people who voted no in 2014 and who, over the past five years, have seen the shambles of Brexit and this Prime Minister unlawfully shutting down Parliaments. Can he tell me what this tawdry, pathetic, shambolic and chaotic farce of a Parliament has to offer my constituents?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on the eloquence with which she has just made the point I tried to make earlier. She might direct her wrath at the Leader of the Opposition, because I think it is time we had an election.
I have been saddened by the tone of debate in this House tonight. With power should come great responsibility yet, sadly, that is not always the case. We have seen the Prime Minister treat this House and, indeed, the rule of law with a disturbing lack of respect. Does he have any shred of remorse for his behaviour?
I am afraid the straight answer is no. I must repeat the humility with which we approach the judgment of the Supreme Court and, indeed, the Supreme Court itself but, on the substance of the issue, we are only sharing an opinion that is also held by the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls—those are very high legal authorities.
Since Parliament was unlawfully prorogued, British businesses such as Nissan in my constituency have been putting their products—in this case cars—on ships to be exported across the world without any clarity about what the customs arrangement will be when they arrive at their destination up to six weeks later.
The right hon. Gentleman has been Prime Minister for 64 days, as he proudly tells us. As other colleagues have asked numerous times tonight, what has he been doing? Is he able to give any clarity tonight on what will be in the deal he seeks with Europe so that businesses such as Nissan, which have cars on ships now, know what will happen to them when they arrive in port?
Obviously I congratulate Nissan on what it is doing and on its stunning manufacturing performance, and we are working very hard to protect supply chains, not just for Nissan but for all our motor manufacturing companies. The best thing for those companies—
The Supreme Court judgment yesterday and the Prime Minister’s performance in the House this evening show that he is not only not fit to be Prime Minister but is embarrassing the entirety of that fine office. His response to my hon. Friend Anna McMorrin, after she appealed to him to tone down his language, that she has “another think coming” is, quite frankly, disgraceful. [Interruption.] He may screw up his face, but Hansard will show that that is what he said.
The problem that the Prime Minister has is that nobody in this House trusts him. He has been asked five times this evening if he would abide by all the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act, and he refuses to answer the question. So for the sixth and final time: if he does not get a deal or a no deal through this House by
The Prime Minister was a figurehead for the leave campaign— a campaign that told lies about £350 million a week; a campaign that broke the law on data protection; a campaign that broke the law on spending and funnelled the money to the Democratic Unionist party. Earlier this year, the Select Committee on Standards said that he demonstrated
“an over-casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the House”.
At roughly the same time, the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled that he wrote an inaccurate article about a no-deal Brexit. Previously, he was sacked as a newspaper columnist for making up facts. He has been a serial breaker of the rules and a serial breaker of the law, as the Supreme Court ruling yesterday shows. Is it not the case that he has never been fit to be in office, and it is high time he did the right thing and quit?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me occasion to remind him that this Government are massively increasing investment in the NHS—another £34 billion. The policy to which he and the Leader of the Opposition are committed would keep this country in the EU at the cost of another £1 billion a month, when we could spend £250 million a week building a new hospital. Is that really what they think is in the interest of this country or of their constituents? It is absolutely absurd.
Order. I thank the Prime Minister, and the Front-Bench spokespersons and 111 right hon. and hon. Members who have questioned him over the past three and a bit hours.
If the points of order, consistent with the earlier approach, arise specifically from and relate to the matters with which we have just been dealing, I will take them. [Interruption.] Prime Minister, I think it would be a courtesy to stay for the point of order—a point of order that relates to the matter with which we have just been dealing. [Interruption.] Go and sit down. [Interruption.] Well, I asked the Prime Minister if he would be willing to stay, but he does not wish to do so. So be it. The point of order from Mr John McDonnell will be heard.
Mr Speaker. I regret that the Prime Minister has left the Chamber. The penultimate question put to him, by my hon. Friend Ian Murray, was whether, in the fulfilment of all the conditions of legislation passed by this House, he would abide by that legislation. Now I might have heard wrong, but I believe the answer was a single word: no. We have passed legislation. If all the conditions of that legislation were fulfilled, would he then ensure that the action arising from an enacted piece of legislation would be taken? We are moving into new territory, where a Prime Minister who has already been found guilty of an unlawful act is now refusing to abide by the law as passed by this House. We are moving into an extremely dangerous position with regard to a Prime Minister’s accountability to this House and our democracy itself.
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister has left the Chamber, even though you indicated quite clearly to him that the point of order related to his behaviour. I ask you to express the view that we expect the Prime Minister to be back in this House, so we can ask that question again.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I did not say to the Prime Minister that the point of order related to his conduct or behaviour; I did not know what the point of order was going to be. I said to the Prime Minister that the point of order related to the matters with which we had just been dealing; in other words, in keeping with the approach that I adopted in respect of points of order following earlier statements—points of order that came from hon. or right hon. Members on both sides of the House—I was happy to take them after the statements to which they related. I suggested that the Prime Minister might wish to stay. He indicated initially that he was minded to do so, but he then decided that he wished to leave the Chamber. He has been here since 6.30; he was here for three hours and 11 minutes, and he has chosen to leave.
What I would like to say to the shadow Chancellor and to other colleagues is that I have been in the Chair since 11.30 and will remain for the remainder of the proceedings. Therefore, I have inevitably heard everything that has been said on this and other matters, and I think the fairest thing I can say is that I have heard the Prime Minister say explicitly that we will always obey the law, we will abide by the law and we will adhere to the law. He has said that. Equally, I did hear the answer that he gave earlier. I think his words related to the submission of a request for an extension, and he indicated that he would not be minded to do so. I heard the full question and I heard the full answer, and I think the right and proper thing to say, at this point, is that colleagues—hon. and right hon. Members—should study the record and form their own assessment of it. I have, of course, myself said, as anybody would expect any citizen to say, any parliamentarian to say or any Speaker to say, that adherence to the law must, of course, be non-negotiable.
I do not think that I need to add to that tonight. Let us reflect on these matters, let us remain calm and let us assess the record. Just as I said, good-naturedly, I think, to the Prime Minister some minutes ago in a slightly different context that repetition was not a novel phenomenon in the House of Commons—never has been, is not and will not be—there will be further opportunities for Members to raise these matters, including this very particular point, in subsequent days. This Chair will always facilitate the fullest and most unsparing scrutiny of the Executive branch, because that is the responsibility of the Speaker—not to be a craven lickspittle of the Executive branch, but to facilitate the fullest and most unsparing scrutiny of it. That is my job, and come hell or high water I will continue to discharge it. Non-negotiable—end of subject.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I, too, am very sad that the Prime Minister has left, because I had hoped to raise this point of order to give him the opportunity to perhaps correct the record and reflect on his language and conduct in this House tonight. It gives me no pleasure to say that I am 62, I have been around and I have seen quite a lot of stuff in my life. It takes a lot to reduce this hon. Member to tears. I am not alone tonight; there are others who I believe have left the estate, such has been their distress.
I merely say to everybody in this place, but most notably to those who hold the highest of offices in this the most peculiar and extraordinary of political times, that the language that is used is incredibly important. Whatever side of the debate people are on, we have evidence that when they use words such as “surrender” or “capitulation”, or others use the words “traitor” and “treason”, there is a direct consequence. It means my mother receives a threat to her safety. It means my partner receives a death threat. It means that people go to prison or receive suspended sentences—unreported by a media that have lost the plot—because of the death threats made to hon. Members whose only crime and offence is to say what they believe in, to be true to their principles and to try to serve this country and their constituents. The consequences are that many will not want to return to this place, and a younger generation will not want to serve this country in the future.
I have heard what the right hon. Lady has said, and I treat it with the greatest possible respect. I am well aware of, and personally familiar with, the fact of the abuse and threats to which she has been subject over a long period. I deprecate in the strongest and most uncompromising terms those threats to her and to other Members. I have received many myself as a matter of fact—I am not complaining about that; I am simply saying that I empathise with her because I have been on the receiving end of many such communications myself. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to weigh his or her words and to try to make the arguments in which we believe with care and, if possible, with eloquence, and even, from time to time, with humour, but in terms that demonstrate respect for those who hold a point of view that differs from our own. I have a feeling that this is a point to which Members will return in days to come.
I cannot overstate the frequency with which I have been informed over the past year or so by Members on both sides of the House, and on both sides of the Brexit argument, of the fact and persistence of threats that they have received. I have previously said very publicly that, in relation to media outlets which have prominently depicted Members as though they were public enemies for differing from the vantage point of those media outlets, that cannot be right. That cannot be right. I have no desire to escalate the tensions and every desire to try to use words that are pacifying rather than inflammatory.
In relation to the Leader of the House, let me say that I am well aware that offensive abuse has been directed at members of his family, and that has been intimidating, and that is wrong. It is not possibly wrong or conceivably wrong or in a certain situation wrong. That is wrong—end of subject—and so is the abuse and threats that other Members have received. The reality of the matter—and I say this with all the force and insistence at my command without fear of contradiction—is that female Members and Members of our ethnic minority communities have been disproportionately subject to that abuse and those threats. It requires nobody to seek to contradict it, because that is the fact. I know it, and the right hon. Lady knows it. We have to rise up against it and to resist it, and everybody has a part to play, including the holders of very high offices.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I fear that the public watching today will perhaps take the view that this House does not take sufficiently seriously threats of violence. Earlier today, we had the Attorney General joke about wife beating. When asked whether they would bring forward the Domestic Abuse Bill now that Parliament has resumed, we had the Government dismiss those requests, and we have had the comments that were made by Paula Sherriff recalling Jo Cox MP and the threats that MPs face on a daily basis—I may add that, today, I have reported to the police a threat against my child—and that was dismissed as humbug. This is a disgraceful state of affairs, and we must be able to find a way to conduct ourselves better.
I have known the hon. Lady since she entered the House in 2005, and we have worked together on a number of matters in the past. Rather than issue a lengthy reply now, I would like to reflect on what she said. I am also happy to meet Members—either individually or in groups if they wish—to consider further these matters. We certainly need to take very great care in the days and weeks ahead, and I am as sensitive to that matter as I think I can be. Let me reflect further on what the hon. Lady has said, and I will be happy to see her either for a Privy Counsellor-type conversation or in another form if she so wishes.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for what you have just said—and the sincerity with which you said it—about the threats made to Members of Parliament; the abuse, racism and violence happening in our communities; and the unfortunate messages that come from the language used, which is then repeated on the streets when people threaten public representatives and others with violence. May I ask you to use your excellent and very good offices to call together the leaders of all parties in this House to issue a joint declaration opposing any form of abusive language or threats? We should put the message out to our entire community that we have to treat each other with respect. If we do not, those on our streets who would do violence feel emboldened to do it and the most vulnerable people in our society suffer as a result. It happens in my constituency and in their constituencies of every other Member of this House. We are an elected Parliament, and we have a duty and responsibility to protect all our citizens from the kind of inflammatory language that has been used that is then meted out on the streets in a form of violence against individuals.
I will reflect carefully on the point of order just raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I am very open to convening a meeting of senior colleagues for the purpose of a House-wide public statement. I do not wish now to prolong these exchanges, but I take extremely seriously what has been said to me.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has clearly been a very intense day. As the chair of the all-party group on women in Parliament, I take very seriously the comments that have been made about respect and toning down everybody’s language. Can we please ensure that that happens on both sides of the House?
In all parts of the House, that seems to be an entirely uncontroversial observation with which I readily agree.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I thank those right hon. and hon. Friends who have raised points of order? We are at a very dangerous juncture and are facing a constitutional crisis. One can imagine that the heat is only going to rise over the course of the next few weeks. I commend the Leader of the Opposition for his point of order, because the leaders of the parties here in Westminster have a responsibility; we need to ensure that we can navigate through the next few weeks. All of us collectively have a responsibility to make sure that all our colleagues—all parliamentarians and their friends, families and staff—can go about their business in safety. We need to send a clear message from this House that we will not tolerate bad behaviour: sexism, racism or threats to anyone. It really is important at a time like this that we show leadership and make it crystal clear that bad behaviour will not be tolerated from anyone.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that some of these points have been made already, but I just wanted to remind the House that Jo’s murder did not happen in a vacuum. It happened in a context—a context that is not dissimilar to the context we find ourselves in today. I have heard from Jo’s family this evening, and they have been very distressed by watching this place today. I know others have said it, but it has come from one side of the House: the language of “surrender”, of “betrayal” and of “capitulation”. This is the kind of language and the context that led to the murder of an MP leaving her surgery of an evening in a small market town by somebody from the far right, and we cannot forget that context when we conduct ourselves. I just wanted to put that on the record.
That point is duly noted. It is a very serious point. I do not want to add to it, but suffice it to say that although I do not know the Cox family anything like as well as the hon. Lady or many other Members here present, I do know members of the family. I have a strong empathy with the objectives of the Jo Cox Foundation, and indeed I am in touch with the family from time to time, including currently in relation to upcoming events, so I am not unsighted on the issues. I do not think any of us in this Chamber will ever forget or entirely overcome our horror, revulsion and distress at what happened to a wonderful human being and the most dedicated of public servants. She was murdered for what she believed, for the values she held, and for her effectiveness in campaigning for them. We do not in any circumstances ever want to witness a repeat of that.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I ask your advice on how this could be extended to the responsibilities of our media and the Independent Press Standards Organisation? They do have a really important role to play in how this gets reported and the language they use. We think back months ago to the headlines, “Traitors”, “Enemies of the people” and so on towards our judiciary and towards people in this place. Is there a mechanism by which we can engage with IPSO to ensure that that language is not repeated?
I would rather not deal with that now on the Floor of the House. I am well aware of IPSO and well aware of complaints that have been made to it from time to time, and colleagues will have their own view about that. There are hugely important issues here. On the one hand, there is an enormous premium, and rightly so, on a free media—a vigorous, outspoken, sometimes extremely irreverent and, from individuals’ or parties’ vantage points, hostile media. It is much better to have that than to have a media that is state controlled. On the other hand, words do have consequences, and it is very important that people in positions of authority or capacity to influence opinion, frankly, operate at a level that reflects their influence and their responsibility. I think this is something that it is better to discuss further outside the Chamber and that Members can raise with the relevant Minister if they so wish. But I am not insensitive to what the hon. Gentleman has said.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the Chamber we have ways in which we conduct ourselves. We have rules, some written, some unwritten, about decency and the way in which we speak to each other—and, indeed, conduct ourselves in conversation with you, Mr Speaker. Could you advise me as to whether there is any capacity for a formal review about the limits of language that we may use about colleagues, because if we are to change this, experience has shown us that raising it again and again in the Chamber is not enough? Given that we have other rules about how we conduct ourselves, could you advise the House as to whether there is any capacity to review the language used so that we can create other ways in which calling a colleague a traitor could be ruled out of order?
I must say to the hon. Lady, and I hope she will forgive me, that having heard the last remark she made, I did not hear any such statement made in the Chamber today. If such a statement was made, I did not hear it, I must say to her. I am not aware of such a statement having been made. Would I regard it as unparliamentary for one Member to call another Member a traitor? I absolutely would regard that as unparliamentary. Just off the top of my head, that would be my instinctive view. It would be totally unacceptable and I would ask the Member to withdraw.
More widely, perhaps I can say two things. First, the Procedure Committee can look at any issue that is referred to it. Secondly, I am not trying to abdicate responsibility, but I am conscious that 16 days ago I announced to the House my own intentions. What the hon. Lady has raised is very important. I think it will fall to a successor of mine to come to a view about some of these matters. With that successor Members should work, and I wish them every success and progress in doing so, but as I approach the end of my tenure, I am reluctant to say more than the circumstances warrant. That is unusual for me, I know, but there you go. I thank the hon. Lady for what she said.