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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Tugendhat Lord Tugendhat Conservative 6:45 pm, 8th May 2018

My Lords, it really is intolerable that my noble friend Lord Forsyth should give lectures about loyalty at a time when the Foreign Secretary is writing in the Daily Mail and the European Research Group is laying down ultimata. It is intolerable that he should cast doubts over the loyalty of my noble friend Lady Verma. Of course he is right to point out that we are considering the withdrawal Bill and to say that we are considering a number of matters that the House of Commons has already considered, but the role of the House of Lords is to give the House of Commons the opportunity to consider things a second time. In the end, its will will of course prevail, but we have a duty and a right to ask it to consider matters a second time.

Since the House of Commons last considered these matters, time has moved on and we have seen members of the Cabinet at each other’s throats. We have seen Ministers openly defy the Prime Minister in a way that I have never seen in the nearly 50 years since I was first elected to Parliament in 1970. We have seen Back-Benchers laying down ultimata in a way that has not been seen before. We have seen the most senior Ministers in the Government, as well as Back-Benchers, divided over the direction in which the country should go. If they are divided over the direction in which the country should go and if they are trying to hem in the Prime Minister, reduce her range of options and drive her down the road towards the hardest possible Brexit, we have a right to widen those options and to give her and other members of the Cabinet and the House of Commons a wider choice than they might otherwise have. It is not a question of thwarting the will of the people or of delaying the Bill; it is a question of trying to improve it in a way that will help the House of Commons reach sensible conclusions about the kind of relationship that this country should have with the European Union after our departure.