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My Lords, I think we should all say “Amen” to that, in our hearts as well as with our lips, as we do every day.
I strongly agree with those who have already said that the Bill, having been passed in another place by a huge majority, should go very quickly through this place with no attempt to amend it. We are the unelected House and the elected House has expressed itself emphatically in favour; we should go along with that.
Having said that, I agree most strongly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, in what he said about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. We had quinquennial Parliaments before the Act came about, but we were able to shorten them in a number of circumstances, such as a defeat on the Queen’s Speech or the passing of a Motion of no confidence. We should go back to that condition. I hope that, whoever are in government after
Like my noble friend the Leader of the House, I wish we were not here at the moment. I was one who supported the Theresa May deal from the word go, and I would have supported the Boris Johnson deal, even though, in some respects, I do not think it quite as good. I wish that, after the Second Reading vote and the majority of 30 last week, we could have allocated more time. We could have then gone to the country after Brexit had been done—some time towards the end of November, I suspect—and had an early spring election. Things would have been much smoother. On a party point, I say to colleagues on this side of the House that we would have also put our party in a much stronger position had we done so. But we have not, and we have this Bill.
There is one thing I really hope we will do, and it builds on the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. Our country has been torn apart; families and communities have been divided. We have to seek to come together and it would be no bad thing if the Conservative Party took a lead in this. Some of the servants of our party, who have collectively given decades of service, have had the Whip restored—they should all have had the Whip restored. I felt very sorry this morning when I learned that Amber Rudd, who announced that she would not seek re-election, had requested the Whip and had her request turned down. That is not acting in the spirit of generosity or magnanimity and I urge my noble and right honourable friends in the Government to think again. These are people who have given long and distinguished service. We owe them a great deal.
I fought my first election in 1964 in the neighbouring constituency to the Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke. He has rendered long, loyal, conspicuous service and that should be properly recognised. It is deeply unfortunate that it has not yet been so recognised. I very much hope that it will be.
I end with another plea to the Government. The last time that we had a general election, in 2017, we had the longest, most turgid manifesto in our party’s history. I think it was worse than the longest suicide note in history, which the party on the other side produced. Can we please all have, as a collective Christmas present, a short, emphatic manifesto, preferably on two sides of A4, but certainly not running to more than a couple of thousand words? That would also help the healing process. May it now begin.