Prorogation of Parliament — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West 5:17 pm, 9th September 2019

This is a really important debate, not least because 1.7 million people signed the petition. We have had demonstrations up and down the country, including in Leeds both this and last Saturday. The previous Saturday saw the largest demonstration in Leeds since the protests against the Iraq war, with 5,000 people turning out to hear some of the city’s and the region’s MPs, who are all from the Labour party.

Those demonstrations happened because people think that we need to be in Parliament to scrutinise the Executive at this crucial time, rather than spending five weeks in our constituencies and at party conference. Nor, as my hon. Friend Justin Madders said, should the Prime Minister be electioneering using public money in that time, before general election spending rules apply.

It is vital that we are here because the country is in no way prepared for crashing out of the EU on 31 October as the Prime Minister seems intent on doing. Today, I read in The Times that our EU negotiating team is composed of just four people. How will four people negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with the European Union in the time that we have left before the European Council? That does not seem credible and does not stand up to scrutiny. That is why Parliament is being prorogued: so that scrutiny does not exist.

What else do we need in that period? A number of Bills that have started to go through the House have not completed the process, and they need to before we reach any watershed moment with the European Union. If they have not been completed, it will be absolutely chaotic—we will live in a chaotic country in which international law has not been properly legislated for; not enacted by our legislature.

The Trade Bill, for example, has not been finished. Why not, because it should have? We were on track to pass the Trade Bill in May—I do not mind if the Minister corrects me on that, but I think we should have completed the Bill then. We have not done so because of the attempts—which I would have supported—to insert a customs union into the provisions of the Trade Bill, and the Government, under both this Prime Minister and the previous one, Mrs May, did not want a customs union. Progress on the Bill was therefore slowed down, so we will not complete it in time for 31 October.

An immigration Bill would have provided some surety for EU citizens in this country—though perhaps not, depending on what happened with it—and regulated immigration post Brexit. What now happens to those EU citizens if the Prime Minister does not negotiate a withdrawal agreement and we leave with no deal on 31 October? I hope that the Minister has a good answer, because 3 million people in this country are interested to know what their status will be without the completion of such an immigration Bill. They do not believe the promises that have come from Ministers and the Executive.

What about the Fisheries Bill? Central to the leave campaign in 2016 was that the UK would take back control of fisheries and fishing rights, but how will that be possible without a Fisheries Bill? Without that legislation, will not other countries with which we share our territorial waters contest us in international courts? What a laughing stock we will be if we leave on 31 October without the legislation. The Agriculture Bill, too, is meant to frame what we will have post the common agricultural policy.

I am sure the Minister will say, “Oh, but these Bills will be in the Queen’s Speech”—obviously, he cannot give us a decisive answer on what will and will not be in the Queen’s Speech, but he will try to reassure us. However, I want to know how we will legislate for all those Bills by 31 October.