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Early Parliamentary General Election Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:48 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 2:48 pm, 29th October 2019

I very much applaud the Prime Minister for the stand that he has taken continuously over the past months. He is doing the right thing for the right reason. Furthermore, I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition talking about autocratic, undemocratic decision making. Time and again, we have witnessed undemocratic decisions—on the Benn Act and a series of other enactments and motions—continuously over the same period of months.

The Opposition are a disgrace. They have completely undermined the democracy in this House, and have undermined the referendum—or are trying to do so. At last, they have been dragged kicking and screaming to the Dispatch Box, and it sounds as if today they are effectively going to agree that we will have a general election in December. I therefore have absolutely no compunction whatever in condemning them for their shameless behaviour and for voting against motions for an early general election over the last few months.

I am glad to say that I voted against the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill back in 2010 and 2011 during its passage through the House, and I did so for precisely the reasons that we are now having to overcome. I said at the time—on Second Reading and while discussing various amendments—that the provisions of that Bill, which the Bill we are discussing today is at last putting straight, were

“in defiance of the democratic mandate. This is about Whips and patronage;
it has nothing to do with the people outside.”

I said that damage was being done to the people of this country and that there was no mandate

“of any kind for any party, in any manifesto, in any part of the political system.”

I also said that

“a motion can be passed by a simple majority of one, as has been the case from time immemorial—from the very inception of our parliamentary process in what is sometimes described as the ‘mother of Parliaments’. That is now being changed in a manner that will seriously alter the method whereby a Government may fall.”—[Official Report, 24 November 2010;
Vol. 519, c. 309-312.]

Furthermore, I added that what mattered was the constitutional principle that underpins the basis of having a simple majority in this House; this two-thirds majority has always been wrong.