Early General Election — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:51 pm on 17th October 2022.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee 5:51 pm, 17th October 2022

Thank you, Mr Mundell, and thanks to the hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. As we know, the debate took place at the same time as some important business in the Chamber—an urgent question from the Leader of the Opposition and a statement from the Chancellor—so I am grateful to hon. Members for being here, and for their contributions. I thank my hon. Friends Alex Davies-Jones, for Newport West (Ruth Jones), for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) and for Putney (Fleur Anderson), who spoke from the Front Bench, as well as Owen Thompson, who spoke for the SNP. They clearly put how untenable this situation is for our country.

I thank the Minister for his reply. He is clearly on a difficult ticket today. I was struck by how powerfully his response made the case for a general election. Indeed, we are in unprecedented times, and he gave us an interesting lesson in history, but all that history will tell him and us that a general election is the only way to get out of this crisis. Nothing he said today will have persuaded anybody watching this debate otherwise. It is disappointing that, despite the Minister being present, not a single member of the governing party came to speak either for or against a general election. Nobody was here to represent the petitioners from those constituencies who wanted this matter discussed. I will leave it to the 632,000 people, and that number is growing, from every part of the UK who signed the petition to speculate why that might be.

We are hearing reports that the events we are missing in the Chamber very much underline the current shambles at the heart of Government. The fact that the Leader of the House had to reassure the Chamber that the Prime Minister was not hiding under a desk shows how low the bar now is, and I guess we should be grateful that she is not hiding in a fridge. The fact that the Prime Minister turned up just in time to not answer any questions, and left before questions started again to the Chancellor, shows how weak and undermined her position is. As the shadow Chancellor clearly said, she is in office but not in power, and that is unforgivable for the people of this country, who need strong leadership and Government—whoever provides it—at this time.

The petition calls for an end to the chaos, because the situation is not sustainable. The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, was unable to say how a Government without a mandate, and without authority, will be able to get any of their agenda through Parliament. The Minister made great play of the importance of the Government having the confidence of MPs in Parliament. Whether they have that confidence has not been properly tested, but from what we can see, confidence in the governing party is lacking. That is degrading for our democracy, and unacceptable for the people we are here to serve. Our country faces serious crises. We are living through a cost of living crisis, an energy crisis, a climate crisis and, now, an economic crisis that is entirely of the Government’s making—no matter what they say. Households are already paying the price for that.

The situation is untenable. The Prime Minister’s authority has disappeared. This country cannot function to its greatest potential without a functioning Government. Whatever the governing agenda might be, none of it reflects what was promised in the summer. We will have to wait and see whether it can be delivered through Parliament. The fact that we are even wondering shows how unsustainable the situation has become. A lack of confidence will already be impacting people’s investment decisions and our ability to grow. The only anti-growth coalition at the moment is a Government who are unwilling to ask the public for a mandate to deliver a programme that they believe in.

The time has come. Government Members need to recognise that we are here to serve the public. The public can decide; they can vote to put this Government back in power, or they can choose something different, but that should be a choice for the people in this country, and not for us in this room.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered e-petition 619781, relating to an early general election.

Sitting adjourned.