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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:39 pm on 21st October 2019.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Independent, Nottingham East 7:39 pm, 21st October 2019

I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. I may not have been in the Chamber at that moment in time, but I am still quite shocked at the idea of having the Second Reading take place and then moving straight on to the Committee stage on Tuesday—tomorrow. The reason this is relevant to this motion today is that the House is expecting Members to frame and draft amendments to a Bill that we have not yet had the opportunity to see. It has just this preceding moment received its First Reading. The time is now 7.41 pm, and we are expected to table amendments for a Committee stage that will take place tomorrow—I think on clauses 1 to 4 of the proposed Bill.

While this motion is, I think, absolutely the minimum required, it is worth reflecting on the appalling notion that this Bill is going to be rammed through in this way and in this particular fashion. I say this for a very good reason. Many hon. Members will remember—the Leader of the House is too young, possibly, to remember many of these things—that the practice when considering legislation that amends aspects of European treaties has quite a long pedigree. The House of Commons Library has rather helpfully produced a briefing paper about the parliamentary process of Bills in respect of EU treaties. We know that the Commons Committee stage on the treaty of Rome was not three days or two days, but 22 days; for the Maastricht treaty, 23 days; for the treaty of Lisbon, 11 days; for the treaty of Amsterdam, five days; for the Single European Act, four days; and for the smallest of them all, the treaty of Nice, three days. In total, there were five days of Commons consideration for the treaty of Nice reform.

This is an unprecedentedly short period of time to dedicate to a massive and momentous piece of legislation. Personally, I am very worried that the motion we are now debating is the first in a series of attempts by the Government to presage what is essentially the ramming through of a piece of legislation in what I regard as a disorderly way. Order in this place is a matter for you, Mr Speaker, but from my perspective, in terms of good law making, this has all the hallmarks of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and all those other bad pieces of legislation. We know that legislation that has not had a chance to be properly scrutinised tends to end up with ill effects or unforeseen consequences for our constituents.

At a quarter to eight in the evening, what are hon. Members really supposed to do? Presumably, by now, the Bill has been published and is hot off the press and available for us to scurry to the Vote Office and look at. Perhaps the Leader of the House—I have not had the opportunity to see it—can tell me how many pages there are in that legislation. He is asking in this motion for us to go and write amendments to that piece of legislation and table those this evening for them to be in order for a Committee stage that is taking place tomorrow. I do not know whether the Leader of the House can cite on how many occasions a Bill of such magnitude and importance has had a Second Reading and Committee stage on the same day. Perhaps he can give me some examples, but I do not see that that was the case in any other preceding piece of European Union legislation going back to the early 1970s, before I was even born. I am really worried about this motion being the first of many such motions. I think it is necessary as an absolute minimum, but everybody needs to be alert to the fact that it is not just an unfair way to treat the House of Commons, but quite a dangerous approach to take.