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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Committee (7th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 14th March 2018.

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Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 4:00 pm, 14th March 2018

That is a hypothetical question because I still do not take it as a foregone conclusion that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. We are engaging in a protracted democratic debate in the country. It is a debate centred on Parliament and which engages the people, and it still has at least a year to go. I think it may end up taking longer than that. I am a profound believer in the wisdom of our democracy if given the time for a proper and full debate, and, as is our duty, we are seeking to ensure that the nation has that full opportunity.

Coming back to the earlier brilliant speeches that we heard from my noble friend Lord Reid, the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Patten, the reason we need to pay such attention to these issues is that Parliament has so far not covered itself in glory. The decision to have a parliamentary process for the invoking of Article 50 had to be dragged out of the Government by the Supreme Court, with Parliament not exerting itself until the Supreme Court had opined. The debates on the Bill in the other House were grossly inadequate. This is the most important Bill that Parliament will discuss until the withdrawal treaty but large chunks of it were entirely undebated in the House of Commons.

The noble Viscount’s father talked very powerfully and movingly about the elective dictatorship. We have seen the elective dictatorship in full operation in the conduct of the negotiations and the procedures over leaving the European Union. I do not think that this House has covered itself in glory so far either. Speeches on the most important issue facing this country in a generation were guillotined at six or seven minutes at Second Reading, and the Government have had to have additional time dragged out of them day by day for the consideration of the Bill in Committee.

We sat until 2.37 am on Monday because the Government would not provide an additional day. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said that I was not here. He is correct. The reason I was not here was that, after eight continuous hours of debate, to be frank, I did not think I should be an agent to prolonging the debate, which I tend to do when I am present, from 2.37 am to what might well have been well after three o’clock in the morning. We were debating the whole of the future of the financial services industry of this country, air traffic control and aviation, and the European Chemicals Agency at 1 am on Monday. That is no way for this House to conduct the business of the nation.