Amendment 2

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 1:57 pm on 6th September 2019.

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Lord True:

Moved by Lord True

2: Clause 5, page 3, line 39, leave out subsection (5) and insert—“(5) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed.(5A) All other provisions of this Act come into force on such date as the Secretary of State may appoint by regulations made by statutory instrument, following the first general election to take place in 2019.”

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, I start by saying that when an agreement is reached by the usual channels, in my view that is an agreement which must hold. Not only was an agreement made in the usual channels but, in the course of that, I gave personal assurances that no effort would be made to delay the progress of this Bill. I stand by that assurance. I did not take any part yesterday. I hope this will not be made an occasion for prolonged debate; the debate we just had took no more than three-quarters of an hour. It is up to Members of the House whether they are interested in the remarks I am about to make, but I hope that this will not be the occasion of a very prolonged debate. Without being discourteous to any Member of your Lordships’ House, if it appears that it is tending in that direction, I will rise—or support the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, if he rises—to attempt to bring the debate to a close without any need for the repugnant nonsense of the closure Motions used on Wednesday.

I wish to bring one point of principle to this House and ask the House to determine the matter publicly. I shall be pressing this amendment to a Division in which each and every Member of this House will have to declare publicly their position on the simple proposition that I put before them, which is that the Bill, which will be an Act when it passes from this House and goes to the other place, should not come into force until the British people have had a chance to decide the matter in a general election.

Yesterday there was talk that the Labour Party might accept a general election and now there is not. I am not particularly concerned about who said what when. I agree with all those who say that somehow we need to bring a conclusion to this matter. In the history of our great democracy, in the times of greatest crisis and doubt, that has been done, is done and—please God—always will be done by recourse to the people of this country to ask them to decide the matter in a general election—yes, in a general election, not in some second referendum, a first referendum or a third or a fourth cooked up by a majority of the time with the power to decide the question.

Let the people decide who governs. There is plenty of time if the parties stick to the opinions we heard and as the leader of the Opposition has been saying all around the country, and as the leader of the Scottish nationalists and the leader of my party have been saying: we want an election. As we all know, there is plenty of time to have an election in October to allow the British people to choose parties that will either pursue the course set out in this Act—which would lie on the statute book and could be implemented by a new Secretary of State one minute after the formation of a Government—or a Government who wish to take this country out of the European Union, as the public have been promised, on 31 October. A general election will enable the people of this country to make that choice, not some cabal in the House of Commons.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 2:00 pm, 6th September 2019

Over the years that the noble Lord has been a Member of the House, he has regularly lectured it about its role in relation to the other place. Does he really think that this amendment, at this time, is at all appropriate for a revising Chamber?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, I absolutely do. There is no purpose in this House if it is not to enable at some point the rights of the people to be sustained. Indeed, the one deliberate and absolute power of this House is that it can prevent the House of Commons extending itself indefinitely. We can require a general election after five years; we cannot in this case. That is an absolute power of this House under legislation. I am making a submission to and through this House to all the parties, and to people on both sides who support them, that this matter should be decided by a general election, not by House of Cards shenanigans on one side or the other—if you ask me, both sides are as bad as each other—as they try to do chess moves one against the other. I totally agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jones: it is doing nothing to advance the credibility of politics.

Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, because I am examining his amendment, the last phrase of which is,

“following the first general election to take place in 2019”.

If no such general election takes place, what is the effect of his amendment?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

The effect of the amendment is that the Act will not come into place until a general election has taken place. I have been advised by—

Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

Forgive me if I did not make myself sufficiently clear. If there is no general election in 2019, how can the amendment have any statutory effect?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

The noble Lord has just voted for an amendment that we have been told has no statutory effect, so now he can vote against one that he says has no statutory effect. He can have it both ways.

Photo of Viscount Hailsham Viscount Hailsham Conservative

But surely what it means is that if there is no general election in 2019, the Bill will never come into effect.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

I would cheerfully welcome that outcome, my Lords.

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

But the matter is much simpler, and those outside this House will understand where we are.

Photo of Lord Hayward Lord Hayward Conservative

I thank my noble friend for giving way, and in asking this question I remind him of the last time that a Government went to “let the people decide”. It was in 1974—which is an interesting parallel that he might not wish to follow. I will ask about the wording, in the opposite direction to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. The amendment refers to the “first general election” of 2019. Are we expecting to have more than one in 2019?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, the words are as tabled and the House has any opportunity—it can use whatever excuse and whatever thing it wants to say—to vote down this amendment. I was advised by the clerks on the wording of the amendment and its purpose—

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

Notwithstanding what my noble friend and others have said about the amendment not making sense, the noble Lord’s argument is all based on the supposition that a general election can be held before 17 October, when there is a European Council. I am always interested to hear what the noble Lord says, because he has great expertise in these areas, but the Independent today reports that, if the Prime Minister loses the vote on Monday and does not achieve a general election on 15 October, he is going to resign his position. Would the noble Lord give us his expertise on how the provision in the Bill telling the Prime Minister to write a letter will apply if we no longer have a Prime Minister?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

Like my noble friend Lord Forsyth on a previous amendment, I am not going to pursue the ifs, buts, whys and whats that we have in every newspaper of this country. I return to the fundamental point of principle. Noble Lords can say that they are voting against the amendment because it is defective for one reason or another, but the purpose of this debate, and of trying to put this amendment down, is crystal clear. It is so that under the Bill the decision to foreclose the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on 31 October should not be taken without the sanction of the people.

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative

Perhaps it would assist the House if one could point out that there has been a general election since the referendum. The Bill is about rejecting no deal, and at the general election in 2017, 53.2% voted for parties that opposed no deal—17.1 million people—and only 14.4 million people, 45.1% of the electorate, voted for the Conservatives, the DUP or UKIP, which would sanction no deal. So the people spoke then, and in the 2019 EU election 44.4% voted for the Brexit or Conservative parties while 54.4% voted for parties that were opposed to no deal, which is what the Bill is about.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

Then the noble Baroness should be very confident about supporting my amendment and voting for a general election.

When I spoke after the disgraceful closure of debate on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, I said that we were now in a situation—the public and the world know this—where the Government were not in control of matters relating to Brexit. Power on those matters rests with a majority in the House of Commons. That majority is served—perhaps driven—by a group of people, some of whose names appeared on the back of the Commons print of the Bill, who are taking decisions, thinking up clever wheezes and have now put forward legislation designed to frustrate the will of the people and an Act passed by this very Parliament that states that we should leave on 31 October.

Who are these people? We know who the members of the Cabinet are. We know who the Cabinet Secretary is. We know who gives the legal advice to the Cabinet. We know the civil servants involved. But who are the people who meet and seek to decide the destiny of this country in relation to legislation on Brexit? Who are those behind this Bill and behind the strategy of the remainer group in this country? Where are their names? They must be accountable in the same way as the Cabinet.

I return to the fundamental point—

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Labour

How much more accountable can you be than putting your name to a Bill?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

If the noble Baroness is telling me that those six people are now the new governing group driving remainer policy, that is very interesting—but I rather suspect that others are involved. There may be one or two of them in this House, and I think we should know their names.

Photo of Lord Patten of Barnes Lord Patten of Barnes Conservative

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend one simple question. Why did he leave out of the list of those who run the country Mr Dominic Cummings?

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, yet again, my noble friend, despite his distinguished Oxford degree, clearly was not listening. I was referring to those driving the policy of the remainer faction—and the public outside know this to be true—and seizing control of the conduct of our affairs without a general election.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

Will my noble friend stop using the term “remainer faction”? He can use “no-deal faction” if he wishes, but the vast majority of people who voted in the House of Commons the other day, all of whose names are publicly listed, did so because they wanted to save this country from going over a precipice. Why should he take it upon himself—this was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—to urge this House, which has no validity in these matters, to seek to effectively bring to an end a Parliament that still has almost three years to run? If the Prime Minister is able to persuade the House of Commons to have a general election, I would personally welcome it, but it is really no business of this House to interfere in that.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, when I see a political faction, I see a political faction and I will name it—and I name it the remainer faction. I will conclude by saying this—

Noble Lords:

Hurrah!

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

I would have liked to conclude some time ago, but I have courteously tried to take many interventions. How many more times are the long-suffering people of this country going to be asked to take another delay to what they voted for? Whatever may have happened then or since, on 29 March, they were told that there must be a delay. Now, with this Bill, they are told that 31 October is not enough time and there must be another delay to 31 January 2020. When it comes up to 31 January, how many times will we be told that there has to be another delay? How many times are the long-suffering people of this country going to be asked for delay after delay by those who quite patently want only one thing?

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, I will not give way. I have given way many times. There is a custom creeping into this House, which is becoming more and more like the House of Commons, of constant interruptions and interventions. I have courteously taken a large number of interventions and I wish to conclude my remarks.

I repeat what I said: how many more times must the British people be asked to take a delay? How many more times must they tolerate those who wish to change the policy which Parliament has agreed and the vote that Parliament made, enacted on the statute book, that this country should leave the European Union on 31 October? How much more must they take from those who want this country to remain and want this to stop? There will be a limit to the tolerance of many in this country and I beseech those involved to allow the cleansing balm of a general election so that everyone, whatever their views, can put their case to the people. It is the only way in which this matter will be resolved. I would accept the result of any general election wholeheartedly, as I have all through my political career. I have had to accept general election results that were repugnant to me; that is the essence of our democracy.

Even if this idea is defective—I do not accept that it is—I beg noble Lords to give it some houseroom. Whatever arguments may be made about this amendment, I will press it. All those in this House who do not want to allow the British people what they voted for, and who agree with those in the House of Commons who wish to resist a general election, should march through the Lobby and let their names be counted in the face of history.

Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 2:15 pm, 6th September 2019

My Lords, it may help the House if we are able to curtail this fairly quickly. The noble Lord said at the beginning of the debate that he was going to press the amendment, so we cannot persuade him to withdraw it, which is what we usually try to do. I will make a few comments, then my noble friend Lord Rooker can respond and we can move on.

On the will of the people, there are two ways of doing it: a general election and a second referendum, which the noble Lord has not supported. I will say two things about the amendment, which is close to being a wrecking amendment. In the first minute of his speech, the noble Lord said that it gives an incoming Government the ability to scrap the Act by statutory instrument—which this House, by tradition, never opposes—allowing a Secretary of State to tear it up without the permission of Parliament. This cannot be the right way to treat an Act. The second issue is even more serious and has already been raised. If there is no general election, the whole Bill does not come into force. This seems to be a completely wrecking amendment and I urge noble Lords to oppose it.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

My Lords, I spent 27 years in the other place, so I know a little bit about the problems that Members have with the Table Office there. I can absolutely guarantee that this amendment would not be allowed in the House of Commons, because it is a textbook wrecking amendment. I do not propose to say anything else.

Photo of Lord True Lord True Chair, Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee

My Lords, I have stated my case clearly and I now put it to the House. I beg to move.

Ayes 28, Noes 283.

Division number 2 European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Report — Amendment 2

Aye: 26 Members of the House of Lords

No: 281 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Amendment 2 disagreed.

Photo of Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, the House will now adjourn to allow amendments to be tabled for Third Reading. The Public Bill Office will be open to receive amendments for the next 30 minutes. The House will then resume as soon after that as possible and timings will be displayed on the annunciator.

Sitting suspended.