Motion

Part of Business of the House - Motion on Standing Orders – in the House of Lords at 11:44 am on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Chair, Economic Affairs Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee 11:44 am, 4th April 2019

Indeed, and perhaps even at this late stage the noble Baroness might be prepared to reconsider her Motion. I would be perfectly happy if we had Second Reading today and took the Committee stage another day; there is no great issue here.

The noble Baroness suggested that the amendments had been tabled by people in favour of no deal; that is what she said. As I said at the beginning, this is not actually about the merits; we will get on to those later. As she sought to imply that one was coming from a biased position, I wonder if she would like to look at the pamphlet produced by Sir Stephen Laws and Professor Richard Ekins, entitled Endangering Constitutional Government: The Risks of the House of Commons Taking Control. They also picked up those words I quoted from Oliver Letwin, and this is what they say:

“By those words, Sir Oliver announced his intention to create a constitutional crisis, and invited MPs to join him in a flagrant and destructive attack on our current constitutional settlement. However, even if many MPs resile from the conclusion that the Commons must become the Cabinet, the course of action MPs have now set in motion, with help from the Speaker, is one which undercuts the Government’s capacity to govern and its freedom to set the agenda—to propose policy which Parliament might then choose to resist, adopt or adapt.

If the Commons continues down this path unopposed, the Government will end up in office but unable to govern. The Commons would nominally have confidence in the Government but would in practice not extend to the Government the freedom that such confidence would otherwise entail to carry out any policy initiative. Again, the constitution does not require that Parliament should accept the Government’s proposals. But unless the Government enjoys the initiative in formulating and proposing policy, the country cannot be effectively governed; and the relationship between the political authorities and the people will break down if MPs act in mutually inconsistent ways in performing their dual role both as an electoral college for government and in exercising oversight over the conduct of public affairs”.

What a mess we are in. Members opposite, in this House, of all places, where we have conducted the debate in a civilised manner—