My Lords, I beg to move that this House resolves itself into a Committee on the Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, pursuant to Standing Order 62.
This has nothing to do with Brexit. It has to do with the procedures of this House and of our constitution. I am very disappointed. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, is held in very high regard in this House, and we have—I will not say “enjoyed” but we have had good-humoured discussion over and over again on issues arising from Brexit. But this is about how the House operates and how our constitution is carried out.
As I listened to the noble Baroness, I had a look at her CV. I see that she contributed to a book entitled Prime Minister Portillo and Other Things That Never Happened. Obviously she is doing one on Brexit at the moment, judging by the contribution she has just made. I am very surprised indeed that she of all people, and the Opposition, should be joining the insurgents in the House of Commons who have sought to undermine the process and procedures of the House of Commons.
If that sounds an exaggerated point, I will quote from what the putative Prime Minister in the House of Commons, my friend and former colleague Oliver Letwin, had to say—I do not know whether he had a word with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. He said in response to a colleague in the other place:
“My hon. Friend can rest assured—although this may not be of any comfort to him—that those of us who are promoting this course of action have taken the trouble to identify Members of the House of Lords who are well able to carry the Bill forward in the House of Lords.
My hon. Friend may also wish to know, although I fear that it will also be of no comfort to him, that there is overwhelming support in the House of Lords for this measure, and that we therefore anticipate that it will, in all probability … pass through the House of Lords very rapidly. To that end, the House of Lords has in fact already passed a motion that provides for the expeditious consideration of exactly this form of Bill … My sense, for what it is worth, is that although the House of Lords procedures are arcane and it is impossible to determine from the outside the time that will be taken, there is very substantial support for the Bill there, and it is therefore very unlikely that anything other than technical amendments, which might be wholly welcome, would come back, and they would therefore be accepted. I do not think that is an issue we … face”.—[Official Report, Commons, 3/4/19; cols. 1067-71.]
To describe our role as a House in protecting the constitution and reforming our legislation as “arcane procedures” shows an extraordinary arrogance, which is matched only by the way in which he and others have sought to turn the House of Commons into the Executive and to prevent the House of Commons and indeed the Government carrying out their proper duties.