Leaving the European Union — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:12 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 7:12 pm, 1st April 2019

I think that is a completely honourable position for the hon. Gentleman to take. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North, who has been straightforward throughout this process, is similarly honourable. As she said, she did not vote to activate article 50, and she has sometimes been quite outspoken, in a very polite way, about the process we have gone through in the House.

I hear the hon. Lady has had many conversations with people in her constituency, and many Members who contributed to the debate mentioned the many conversations they have had with leave voters. There are lots of reasons why people voted to leave, so we cannot say that everybody came behind one reason. Actually, there are lots of different reasons to vote to remain as well. People might have voted to leave because they wanted us to set our own laws—to have them set by this place, not by the European Commission—or to make our own choices about how to spend our money, or because they wanted to end freedom of movement. A number of people might vote for the Common Market 2.0 option today, knowing full well that means continuing freedom of movement, which their voters might well have been quite strongly opposed to. A number of people have said over the past couple of years that they voted to leave because they were concerned about how their wages had deflated against overall wage growth. People voted in the way they did for a huge number of reasons, and they are all legitimate. We must not debase the legitimacy of people’s actions.

I am very pleased that the hon. Lady was proud of the people who demonstrated last week, and I am quite sure she was proud to have the full and uncompromising support of her party leader at the front of the march. Oh, he wasn’t there, was he? I think he was in Morecambe. Perhaps she was nearly led from the front by her party leader.

Nineteen Members intervened in the debate, which I think is the most interventions I have experienced. The hon. Member for Darlington talked about the many petitions debates we have had in the Chamber. It is nice to have a full house of people—even on one side—talking about the petition, because these are very important decisions that we are making on people’s behalf.

I thank Mr Leslie for his contribution. As long as he is on the other side from me, I feel—no, he is a very good gentleman, and I entirely understand his view on this subject. He said this debate should have taken place in the main Chamber. I have no disagreement with that whatsoever. Perhaps when so many people—more than a million, or whatever it might be—sign a petition, the Petitions Committee could consider whether the Floor of the House might be the best place for the debate. I am in agreement with him on that, but obviously it is a House matter, so it is up to the Petitions Committee how it goes about that.