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My Lords, for many of your Lordships there will be a “Brenda from Bristol” moment as we receive this Bill. However, I welcome it as a method of breaking the logjam. It gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to do what has until now been denied by Parliament both to him and to his predecessor, Theresa May, and to provide a means of delivering Brexit. Politics is a learning process, and recent history contains many useful lessons to us all, on whichever Benches we sit.
Despite Parliament’s best intentions, the referendum result pitted the people’s vote against many parliamentarians. Devised to unite Parliament and country, it ended up dividing them. It divided parties and it still does. This was the background against which I conducted my previous role in this House—a role in which I found myself trying to deal with the consequences of the Government’s rightful commitment to respect the leave vote in the referendum and deliver Brexit. Only to a degree was I successful but it became clear that, although this House learned to live with its differences of view, we failed to influence events in the other place. Regrettably, for a number of reasons, the House of Commons failed to provide the necessary forum where conflicts of views and interests are reconciled by debate and accommodation.
Some noble Lords may think me hopelessly idealistic about the parliamentary process, but we all come to this place driven by ideas and wish to get things done. I turn to the Spiritual Bench and am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has gone, because I too went into the Not-Content Lobby and read the prayer that we have every day. In addition to the quotation that he read, I add the part that asks that we,
“lay aside all private interests, prejudices and partial affections”.
The ethos of Parliament lies in those words. If Parliament, and the House of Commons in particular, is to achieve its commitment to honour the referendum, it is surely right to accept that in passing this Bill the electorate have a right to be represented by a Commons that can get Brexit done. This Bill is part of that process.
The uncertainty over Brexit has meant that millions of families and businesses cannot plan for the future. This paralysis and stagnation cannot continue. It is not in the national interest. If we do not have an election, this Parliament will continue to delay and we will not be able to concentrate on the other things that matter to people. An election will return to Parliament a fresh mandate and the ability to deliver on things like the NHS, police numbers and increased funding into schools.
Meanwhile, despite successfully hindering the Government’s agreements, never in the hours of discussion has the House of Commons as it stands been able to agree on what it wants on Brexit. Do we remember those indicative votes? Now, however, after last week’s abortive attempts to pass agreements under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, it has passed this short Bill without amendment. We should do likewise.