Prorogation of Parliament — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:55 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood 4:55 pm, 9th September 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I rise to speak on behalf of the 8,738 residents in Dulwich and West Norwood who signed the petition in opposition to Prorogation—the eighth-highest proportion of constituents in any constituency in the country—and on behalf of all my constituents, who will be denied their voice and democratic representation as a result of Prorogation today.

It has been argued that Prorogation is normal ahead of a Queen’s Speech, and that only three days of parliamentary time are being lost; we would normally break for conference recess anyway. However, we are not in ordinary times. Brexit has riven our country. We know that the Government’s own analysis shows that there is no version of Brexit that does not inflict damage on the UK economy, and that a no-deal Brexit will deliver a calamity for jobs, the supply of medicine and food, and peace in Northern Ireland. A no-deal Brexit poses a catastrophic threat to so many of the things that our constituents hold dear and on which they depend. To prorogue Parliament at such at time is not normal business; it is an outrage to our democracy.

My constituents voted overwhelmingly—77%—to remain in the European Union. I represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the country. We are internationalist and celebrate diversity. Our values are European values. The strength of feeling in my constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood has not diminished since 2016; it has strengthened and deepened. Since June 2016, however, 77% of my constituents and 48% of voters across the country have been told that we must be quiet, and that our views no longer matter. Even in the face of evidence that Vote Leave broke the law to an extent that might have been sufficient to influence the result of the referendum, we have been told that we must be quiet. We have been told that we must be silent in the face of evidence of the impact of Brexit, which was never discussed during the referendum campaign—most notably, the impact on the Good Friday agreement and peace in Northern Ireland. We have been told to be silent as the definition of Brexit, which was not discussed during the 2016 referendum, has become ever more reckless, right wing and extreme.

That is not how democracy works. It is never the case that, when we vote in a referendum or general election in this country, people who were on the losing side must simply change their views and acquiesce to those who won. It is never the case that, when we vote in an election in this country, everyone’s views are static from that point on for evermore. In our democracy, it is always the case that orderly discussion and debate continue in this Parliament—it is how we resolve our differences—and that we reflect on the result of a vote, on its consequences and impacts, and on what should happen next.

To shut down debate at this time—the House has not voted on the dates of conference recess, and extensive representations were made to the Prime Minister over the summer that Parliament should be recalled—is an insult to my constituents and an outrage to our democracy.

Paul Scully spoke of the times when business has finished early and we have not had matters to debate before us, but the Prime Minister has not brought any solutions to Brexit to this House for discussion and debate. He wants to close down debate in this place to force through a reckless no-deal Brexit that will inflict harm on constituents across the country. That is irresponsible and will drive even more division through our country.