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Moved by Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
Further to the resolution of the House of
(1) Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to allow the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill to be taken through all its stages this day; and
My Lords, unconventional times call for unconventional measures. What are these times? The country faces the possibility of an exit from the EU without a deal; a disorderly exit that nobody wants. The Prime Minister does not want it, business and the CBI do not want it, the TUC does not want it, the House of Commons does not want it, and your Lordships’ House voted against a no-deal exit by a majority of 169. But the eventuality remains a risk, as we are constantly reminded, because that is the default legal outcome unless something else happens. That legal default—a crash-out no deal—would mean no transition period, the immediate introduction of tariffs, complete uncertainty for British citizens living in the EU 27, no European arrest warrants, security concerns and dire consequences for industry, to say nothing of the implications for Gibraltar or the island of Ireland.
We have received a Bill from the House of Commons that makes something else happen, and we are about to give it a First Reading. It would ensure that there is a legal requirement on the Prime Minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 period to prevent that default legal outcome coming to pass. However, the Bill, passed by the elected House, can have effect only if we deal with it today, so that it can receive Royal Assent in time for the EU Council to consider the application for an extension. To fulfil our duty to deal with a Bill sent by the Commons, we have to handle it today.
This is in compliance with the view of your Lordships’ House on
The Commons has passed this Bill. It has expressed a clear view that no deal is unacceptable and that the situation is urgent. Regrettably, the Government failed to honour that Motion published by your Lordships. They should have tabled the Motion I am about to move, to facilitate and expedite the will of the elected House. Today, the Government still will not listen to the Commons—or to this House, which has voted to facilitate any Bill from the Commons. That is not leadership. The Government have lost the support of the Commons, and now refuse to follow your Lordships’ Motion.
I believe the conventions of the House, to which the noble Lord used to adhere, mean that it is my decision whether to give way. I have decided not to.
We, rather than the Government, had to table this Motion, which would allow us to take all stages of the Bill today and add it to today’s agenda. However, it is not just the Government who are failing to respond to the decision of the elected House. We see on the Order Paper seven amendments to my Motion—all, it must be said, from Peers who have been very open and honest about their desire for, or at least their acceptance of, a no-deal departure. However, rather than just voting against my Motion, which is the correct way to halt proceedings if they have support across the House, they have chosen to try to delay the Bill so long that it can have no effect, and so thwart the decision of the elected House.
Some of those Peers have even, at the very last moment, found themselves in absolute need to speak on a really interesting Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on the report Making Tax Digital for VAT: Treating Small Businesses Fairly—the very small businesses, presumably, that wrote to me saying, “Whatever we want, it is not no deal”. But just before 6 pm last night, once they knew this Motion would be here today, they found themselves suddenly seized of the need to add their names to the speakers’ list. I have a list of those who added their names at the very last moment.
What we are seeing today, in addition to those seven amendments and to more people wanting to speak later to put off the Bill, is a small group of unelected Peers in an unelected House trying first to stop us considering the Bill today, and then trying to talk it out. No doubt they are seeking to go through the night to halt the Commons’ desire to prevent no deal. They cannot win this by the strength of their arguments or through support, but only by those tactics.
I and my friends will be here all night. I have discovered that breakfast starts at 7.30 am, and am taking orders now. If that is what it takes to do what the elected House of Commons has asked us, that is what we will do. For the moment, I urge the House to respond to the cross-party Bill which has arrived here, having been passed with urgency in another place, and, in this time of national uncertainty, do what we are appointed here to do—to consider in a timely fashion any legislation sent to us. We should agree to pass it in time for it to have an effect. I beg to move.