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Early Parliamentary General Election Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 5:35 pm, 29th October 2019

The problem with the argument advanced by the hon. Gentleman is that when we had the opportunity to get Brexit done and to get it done by 31 October, he and Opposition Members chose to vote against the programme motion that would have enabled that. The challenge facing us is that every time this House has had the opportunity to deliver on Brexit, it instead chooses further delay.

The deal that the Prime Minister has reached has confounded critics in this House and elsewhere. People said that we would never be able to reopen the withdrawal agreement, but we reopened it. He has nailed the naysayers who said that the EU would never let go of the Northern Ireland backstop by getting rid of the backstop. When people said that we could not ensure that the whole United Kingdom could leave as a single customs territory, he refused to accept it. This Government have made sure that the UK can leave the customs union as one entire United Kingdom that is free to chart its own course.

The Government’s position for some time has been that if Parliament cannot back the Prime Minister’s deal, we must surely have a general election. Up until today, however, that has not been the position of the Labour party. We have had the extraordinary spectacle of a Leader of the Opposition who spends every day castigating the Government’s failures—indeed, his party busily puts out leaflets demanding a general election—but when that golden moment arrives finally to have that general election, what happens? The Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly spurned it. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has finally faced up to the inevitable, ensuring that we will make some progress with this Bill. I am confident that we can make that progress, and that we can get on and have that general election.

When the general election happens, we will have two contrasting visions for 2020. The choice in front of the British people is clear. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has a deal that ensures that we deliver on the promises we made in the 2017 manifesto. We can finally deliver on Brexit and get the job done. Once we have got the job done, we can finally turn to the priorities that matter to the British people. The great one nation agenda being advanced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will allow us to deliver for our hospitals and for our schools.