Amendment 2

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee 4:15 pm, 17th July 2019

My Lords, I admitted at the outset that I am unlikely to take this House with me. However, there are certain things that someone who has the privilege, right and duty to be in Parliament and come to this place has the right and duty to say. While I may be saying things that are not congenial to many in this House, they are not disagreed with by some people in this country.

It is germane to point out certain facts about the Labour Party—a party that will campaign to remain in any election or referendum provoked by a Conservative Government, but which will campaign to leave in the unlikely event that it ever forms a Government. Brexit on Monday, remain on Tuesday, Brexit on Wednesday, will not say on Thursday, does not have a clue on Friday—that is the official policy of that apology of an Opposition on this great question of our times.

The third strand of my argument against this amendment is that by floating claims that only use of the royal prerogative could secure Brexit and that Mr Johnson wants to do that, it is not him but the peddlers of that canard who risk dragging the monarchy into political controversy. Prorogation is perfectly normal after a Session so long, a new gracious Speech is normal, with the formation of a new ministry, and, heaven knows, we can surely do better than the ragbag of legislation and off home before dinner that has been the staple of both Houses lately. At some point, a new Prime Minister must be able to seek a Prorogation and a gracious Speech. That is the right and proper routine of our parliamentary life, and why should Mr Johnson be asked to deny himself that right? It does no service to that incontestable fact to besmirch the act of Prorogation as if it was some kind of shabby and little-known political manoeuvre. All of us, on every side of the argument, have a duty to show restraint in relation to the role of the Crown. As I said in Committee, I cannot conceive how the courts could, or wisely should, construe the motive for the advice given by a Prime Minister to a Sovereign in a private audience. I would rather we did not go there. We have the right to do many things in life, but we have the duty to ask ourselves sometimes, “Is it wise?”.

Here is the fourth and final strand of why I object to these amendments—the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, put his finger on it on Monday. What on earth are we doing here, discussing all this on a Bill that relates narrowly to the future of the Northern Ireland Executive? Only last week Your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, to which I have the honour to belong, restated our concern—we all assented to the report, including the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, who is not in his place—about the persistent fast-tracking of legislation on Northern Ireland. Yet here we are, not only fast-tracking a Northern Ireland Bill but trying to festoon it like a Christmas tree with barely related measures which have never properly been considered. That is a bad way to treat Parliament—