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Britain's Place in the World

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 3:13 pm, 15th October 2019

Mr Speaker, I start by warmly welcoming the announcement you have just made and offering our congratulations on behalf, I am sure, of the whole House.

This could be the most important week in Parliament for decades: a first Saturday sitting since 1982, only the fifth since the second world war, and obviously huge decisions to be made. What a shame it is that we start the week with a Queen’s Speech that is so manifestly not fit for purpose—a political stunt, not a credible programme for government. It is the first time that I can remember a Queen’s Speech being introduced by a Government who have no means to implement it, and frankly little intention of doing so.

The Queen’s Speech includes seven Brexit Bills. The Prime Minister made a great deal of that yesterday, pretending that they are the centrepiece of the Queen’s Speech, but close examination tells a very different story. The 2017 Queen’s Speech said that

“my Government’s priority is to secure the best possible deal as the country leaves the European Union.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 June 2017;
Vol. 783, c. 5.]

This year’s Queen’s Speech says that the Government’s priority is

“to secure the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 October 2019;
Vol. 800, c. 2.]

Abject failure of Government for two and a half years.

What are those seven Brexit Bills? On analysis, five of them are identical to those introduced in the last Session. Five of the seven are exactly the same Bills: the agriculture Bill, the fisheries Bill, the trade Bill, the immigration and social security co-ordination (EU withdrawal) Bill and the financial services Bill. All five started life in the last parliamentary Session. All five were then dropped when it became clear that there was no chance that they would get a majority. This Queen’s Speech indicates that they will all start again on the same track. We cannot dress up a step back as a step forward.

Then we have the WAB—the European Union (withdrawal agreement) Bill—the implementation Bill, which was floated in the last Parliament but never introduced. Again, it was not introduced, because the numbers were never there for it, and that was before the Government had a minority of minus 45.