European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:29 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour 5:29 pm, 5th September 2019

My Lords, I am very grateful to everybody who has contributed. I am merely the messenger for the elected House because we are dealing with unique legislation from the elected Commons to try to deal with the uncertainties. I appreciate that my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith and the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, are probably the only two Members who have spelled out that while the purpose of the Bill is to stop us crashing out without a deal, it contains a mechanism for any Prime Minister who can pack the Commons to take us out without a deal. That is in the conditions in Clause 1. I have no doubt that that will be raised in Committee.

I have two brief points. I have picked up from the debate that it would be a very high level of political immaturity for leaders in the other place to buy an election before 1 November. It is quite clear that trust has broken down. It would be absolutely barmy.

My final point—and I am sorry that it is a bit of a domestic policy issue—is that this is a Private Member’s Bill. It is bit like the Cooper-Letwin Bill in April. At that time, because the Bill was a Private Member’s Bill, the Government Front Bench, who basically regulate the Chamber when things break down, went on strike. They removed themselves and it caused a degree of chaos in our administration. Today, we have had a Second Reading without a speaker’s list, and it has gone great because everyone could see that there was enough time to get in to speak. We have a day on this tomorrow. After the events of April, as the Member in charge of the Bill, I complained to the Procedure Committee that when a Private Member’s Bill that the Government do not agree with is in the House and the Front Bench go on strike, the power to regulate should be given to the chair so that the chair could say “That is wrong” or “This is wrong”. I have had no acknowledgement or reply from the Procedure Committee. My complaint has just been dismissed.

We are going into Committee and Report tomorrow and I have no idea about any amendments being tabled. I do not want any chaos deliberately caused by the Front Bench abdicating their responsibilities if help with regulation is needed. It is quite clear. Earlier today there were three hours when there was hardly anybody on the Front Bench. Nobody took any notice of any breaches of procedure, and there were quite a few—only one was picked up, by my noble friend. I hope that, tomorrow, the Government will live up to their responsibilities. Irrespective of whether they agree with the policy or the legislation, the Government Front Bench have the power to regulate the House. If they are not prepared to exercise it, they should give it to the chair for the day. I beg to move.