Prorogation of Parliament — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Chair, International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact 4:30 pm, 9th September 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered e-petitions 269157 and 237487 relating to the prorogation of Parliament.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I will read the wording of both petitions into the official record. The first petition is titled, “Do not prorogue Parliament”, and states:

“Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.”

That petition received 1,721,119 signatures within a very short space of time. The second petition, which has already closed, is titled, “The Prime Minister should advise Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament”, and says:

“The Prime Minister should advise Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament suspending the current parliamentary session until 2nd April 2019”— that is clearly out of date now—

“to prevent any attempts by parliamentarians to thwart Brexit on 29th March 2019. Preparations for no-deal/WTO will continue. The Prime Minister’s deal has been rejected. No further deal is available from the EU. Remaining in the EU is not an option. Extension or revocation of Article 50 is not an option. I believe the British people voted to leave with no mention of a deal and that WTO rules, to which Britain will default on 29th March 2019, are in Britain’s best interests. We may get a better deal after, but not until, we have left.”

As I said, the second petition is out of date; events were moving so quickly at the time that it was difficult to schedule a debate on it and to keep it topical. Naturally, with the Prorogation of Parliament upon us tonight, as I believe has been declared, it was deemed suitable to bring the two petitions together.

It is important that the Petitions Committee should always try to allow people to have their views aired. There is a reason why debates on petitions in Westminster Hall are some of the most read and watched debates: it is because we are talking about what people want us to talk about, rather than what we want to talk about. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the two coincide in this case. I have noticed that over the last three years we have wanted to talk about Brexit quite a lot; and because of the topicality of the issue, and because the Prime Minister has been clear that we will leave the EU by 31 October, come what may, people want to express their opinion, whether they want to stop no deal or stop Brexit in its entirety. It is important that we discuss that in the House of Commons.

There is a clear reason why Prorogation is a sensible idea. The Prime Minister was elected by members of the Conservative party, and people have asked what his domestic agenda will be. It is therefore right that we debate the wider domestic agenda, as well as Brexit, in this place. That can be done through a Queen’s Speech, in which the Prime Minister can set out clearly what he wants to do in the coming year, in a new Session of Parliament, to move the debate on, move Parliament on, and move the bandwidth of the media away from Brexit as we leave on 31 October.