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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:10 pm on 21st October 2019.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 8:10 pm, 21st October 2019

I rise to make a couple of observations on the debate so far on the business of the House raised by the Leader of the House. I am afraid that I do not share the views of Mr Leslie, with whom I have had many friendly exchanges over the past 10 years, because the vast majority of what will be discussed until midnight tomorrow, midnight on Wednesday and for as long as it takes on Thursday has been discussed in this House for three and a half years in huge detail. The idea that at this stage, there is not enough time to come up with a reasoned amendment could be true only in one small and particular way, which I will come to. However, the bulk of the issues that we will discuss on Second Reading—money, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland—have been discussed and laid out in vast detail for a very long time. To suggest otherwise is frankly disingenuous and close to showing disrespect for our constituents, who feel that this has been going on for a large slice of their lives.

There is one way in which the Bill that will be presented tomorrow has changed relatively recently, and that is therefore relevant. I daresay that my hon. Friend Jim Shannon will have similar views on this. The provisions of the Northern Ireland protocol have been significantly revised. There are some 100 pages to the Northern Ireland protocol in the original agreement and the changes that have been made affect only a relatively small number of pages. None the less, they have a considerable impact on those in the United Kingdom who either live in Northern Ireland or have significant business across the Irish sea.

I therefore seek the thoughts of the Leader of the House on how the House, and particularly those of us who represent the Conservative and Unionist party, can best be reassured about the impact of business trading arrangements between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, because I am quite sure that just as the Government’s clear intention is to ensure minimal change to the existing arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, they surely also intend to ensure that there is minimum change in the arrangements between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. If the Leader of the House can reassure us on those points and on how the Government will be able to provide further information for us all before tomorrow evening’s debate, that would be extremely welcome.

In other respects, much of what is in the documents that have been laid in the Vote Office will be extremely familiar to Members, and I am sure that we will cover them in more detail tomorrow evening.