Motion A

Part of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Bill - Commons Amendment – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 22nd July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 3:30 pm, 22nd July 2019

My Lords, this is not about a no-deal Brexit; it is about the Prorogation of Parliament and importance of the issues before us in relation to Northern Ireland. The only issues before us in the amendment proposed by the Minister are constitutional. Despite my disagreement with him today, it is appropriate from the outset to say that he has been a great asset to the House and the Government in how he has dealt with this legislation, which has been complex and difficult at times.

Your Lordships’ House is always concerned with constitutional issues. Two arose in last week’s legislation. It is to his eternal shame and my horror that I often find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on constitutional matters. On this issue, I partly agree with him but also part company with him. We are in extraordinary times. It should be quite unnecessary to have in any Bill something that says that a Prime Minister should not prorogue Parliament to get legislation through or to stop something happening. It should be a matter of course that we had sufficient trust in any Prime Minister that such an amendment would not be necessary.

Last week, this House agreed by 272 votes to 169 a cross-party amendment that there should be a clause in this Bill that required Parliament to be sitting to receive and debate the report on Northern Ireland that we had agreed to. We acknowledged also that the secondary purpose behind that amendment was related to the strong opposition that we believe exists in both Houses to the Prorogation of Parliament to force through or enable a no-deal Brexit, or any kind of Brexit, without Parliament sitting. Why was that so important?