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Kwasi Kwarteng: Thank you very much for your guidance, Mr Speaker. I would also like to stress that I was not making any assertions as to the hon. Gentleman’s moral character; I was just making a statement about my view of certain things that he said. On the hon. Gentleman’s question about the meaningful vote, it is the Government’s full intention to bring this meaningful vote to the House. We have to...
Kwasi Kwarteng: I am pleased that my right hon. Friend asked that question. Obviously, I cannot comment from the Dispatch Box as to what the Government will or will not do in the event of a European parliamentary election, because we are talking about hypotheticals, as my right hon. Friend always likes to do. I can only reiterate the words of the Prime Minister on this: it would be intolerable to have...
Kwasi Kwarteng: The right hon. Gentleman makes an assumption about when the meaningful vote may take place. At the moment, the Government’s focus is to make sure that we can potentially get a meaningful vote and secure the deal on the table. That is what I have always maintained, not only since I have been in office but before. We want to pass the meaningful vote and introduce the withdrawal Bill. If the...
Kwasi Kwarteng: Of course, that is absolutely the case. If my right hon. Friend is right and the meaningful vote comes to the House and is voted down, the European Council will not be able to impose, necessarily, any exit terms on this House. We would have to have some consent in this House on the way forward.
Kwasi Kwarteng: The hon. Lady suggests that the House has actually decided; the House has decided to say no many times, but it has not decided to have a course of action or a plan that will take us out of the EU. All I would ask for from Members of this House is a degree of patience. Let us see what happens in the meaningful vote, and we will then have to take forward the necessary actions. I do not want to...
Kwasi Kwarteng: As usual, my hon. Friend, with customary clarity, gets straight to the point. There are three choices facing the House. We sincerely hope, even at this stage, that we can get the deal through and leave in an orderly fashion. That is exactly what Her Majesty’s Government want to do.
Kwasi Kwarteng: The hon. Gentleman will know that Friday sittings are a matter for the House—[Interruption.] Absolutely, they are, in terms of procedure. We do not even know whether the meaningful vote will take place or get through. The hon. Gentleman will know that that is a matter of procedure.
Kwasi Kwarteng: Obviously, if the House is asked to decide a way forward, it would be surprising if those votes were not free votes. Again, though, my hon. Friend will understand that the ultimate decision is for the business managers and will be taken as and when the debate takes place. [Interruption.] I said it would be a matter of surprise to me.
Kwasi Kwarteng: With respect, the hon. Gentleman utterly misheard, or certainly misunderstood, what I said. I was not referring to the meaningful vote; I was referring to the indicative votes suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) in her question.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend strongly enough. The Prime Minister has set out her deal. I strongly believe it is the best way out of the EU and will continue to make that case, along with other members of the Government.
Kwasi Kwarteng: I can reassure the hon. Lady that I am not cross at all. [Interruption.] Well, I am not; I am perfectly happy to take questions and to engage with the House. If we lose the meaningful vote, we will proceed to face the question the EU has set out in terms of 12 April, as the Prime Minister and Donald Tusk made very clear yesterday.
Kwasi Kwarteng: As my right hon. Friend knows, the Government have always been committed to honouring the result of the referendum, and we fully intend to leave the EU in an orderly manner, which is why at this late stage I continue to urge Members to back the deal.
Kwasi Kwarteng: As the hon. Gentleman knows, that amendment—it is not clear whether it has even been accepted—has been rejected twice, and there is no reason the Government should back an amendment that has been rejected twice.
Kwasi Kwarteng: My hon. Friend puts it extremely well. These hypothetical discussions do not alleviate the uncertainty or address the problem. There is huge uncertainty, and the sooner we end it by backing a deal, the better it will be for this country.
Kwasi Kwarteng: As with my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), I am not getting into hypo- theticals. I have said that we hope to have a meaningful vote—let us see, Mr Speaker, if you decide that it is in order—and then we can test the will of the House.
Kwasi Kwarteng: My hon. Friend is quite right. The Government would have to lay a statutory instrument and the House would have to debate and vote on it.
Kwasi Kwarteng: And Labour Members are urging the Cooper-Boles amendment. It has been rejected twice, yet they still seek to bring it back to the House. That is how the House of Commons is operating these days.
Kwasi Kwarteng: My right hon. Friend will know that the Department has been engaged in no-deal preparation for about two years now, although it has been ramped up in the last few months, and we fully expect to be absolutely ready if this country leaves the EU without a deal.
Kwasi Kwarteng: We all have a responsibility. As I and other members of the Government have been saying for many months, the most orderly way to leave is by backing the deal, but other Members have taken a different view. The Government fully intend to have a meaningful vote next week, and, as a consequence of a vote either way, I am sure that a statutory instrument will be introduced to the House early next...
Kwasi Kwarteng: I am not going to say today—Friday—the exact hour and time the meaningful vote will take place or the SI will be tabled. I have set out the path and the process very clearly. My hon. Friend should refer to my earlier remarks.