Business Questions 10 May 2018

Posted on May 10th, 2018

I asked the Leader of the House when the so-called customs Bill—the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill—and the Trade Bill have their Report stage and Third Reading, and, more importantly, ​when will the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill be introduced? I called on the Leader of the House to confirm that the Government are not being cynical and parking the Trade Bill, the customs Bill and the EU (Withdrawal Bill), and introducing the legislation to enact EU law under the withdrawal and implementation Bill after the negotiations are complete so as to avoid any rebellions? This is unprecedented, and the Government are effectively subverting democracy.

 

You can read my speech below:

 

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business. I am not going to ask her for a money resolution for the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan), because we have had that debate, but is it too much to hope that the amendments coming back from the Lords next week will have anything to do with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill? The Bill has been given such thoughtful consideration by the other place, so will the Leader of the House confirm that the House will be able to debate the amendments soon? If not, will she confirm whether the reports in the press that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will not come before the House again until after negotiations are complete in the autumn are accurate?

 

When will the so-called customs Bill—the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill—and the Trade Bill have their Report stage and Third Reading, and, more importantly, ​when will the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill be introduced? Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government are not being cynical and parking the Trade Bill, the customs Bill and the EU (Withdrawal Bill), and introducing the legislation to enact EU law under the withdrawal and implementation Bill after the negotiations are complete so as to avoid any rebellions? She will know that all this legislation can return at any time before the end of the Session, which is now May 2019. This is unprecedented, and the Government are effectively subverting democracy. They said that they wanted to extend the Session of Parliament owing to a heavy burden of legislation, and yet they are not tabling any important legislation.

 

The subversion of democracy continued, and showed its true colours, in the local elections. The pilot areas trialling controversial voter ID checks have been a shambles. Early estimates show that nearly 4,000 people were turned away from voting in the local elections. In one case that I know of, someone was actually told that his polling station had moved and he could not vote at all. Analysis by the Electoral Reform Society said that millions of people could be disenfranchised if the scheme is rolled out across the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), the shadow Minister for voter engagement, warned of this before the pilot was rolled out. She would like to see the report come back before she goes on maternity leave.

 

You were in the Chamber, Mr Speaker, when the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) raised a point of order, again on the subversion of democracy, about a dysfunctional Government and their malfunctioning email address for a consultation that closes on 25 May. Will the Leader of the House look into this to see whether the email address now works and to ensure that the people of Buckinghamshire have a say? It is nothing personal, Mr Speaker, but the Government do not seem to want to hear from you or your constituents.

 

As there is hardly any Government business, or rather the Government do not wish to table any legislation relating to the EU, will the Leader of the House find time to debate the statutory instrument prayed against by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan)? It relates to the treatment of victims of torture and other vulnerable people in immigration detention centres and is the subject of early-day motion 1200, which was signed by 110 Members. In addition, EDM 1202 was signed by 107 Members.

 

May we have a debate on racism in the Tory party? I have to read this out, Mr Speaker, because it is so obnoxious. A councillor posted this:​ “I took my dog to the dole office to see what he was entitled to. The bloke behind the counter said ‘you idiot, we don’t give benefits to dogs’. I argued ‘why not? He’s brown, he stinks, he’s never worked” an F “day in his life & he can’t speak” an F “word of English’. The man replied: ‘His first payment will be Monday’.” That councillor has been allowed back on to the council so that the Tory party can retain its power in Pendle. What is the position on Pendle council? Is the councillor a full member of the council and the Tory group? Where are the Government voices of condemnation, and when can we have that debate on racism?

 

On restoration and renewal, last week the Leader of the House said that the Commission decided on governance arrangements. She actually misses the point. It is not about us on the Commission; it is about Members knowing what is going on. Members are not aware of these agreed arrangements. The Leader of the House said during the debate on 31 January: “This is a matter for Parliament”. All the Commission published online was a simple sentence saying that it has “agreed the proposed governance arrangements for the R&R Programme”,
but the details are not given. A written statement published on 28 February does not give the full details of what was announced in the article in The House magazine. When will she make a statement to the House on the proposals for restoration and renewal?

 

I join you, Mr Speaker, in wishing the Leader of the House a very happy birthday. She mentioned that it was Europe Day yesterday, but there was no mention of that by the Prime Minister. We know that Europe stands for peace, co-operation, opportunity, and respect for the human rights of everyone. In or out, that is how we in the Opposition mark Europe Day. I wish everyone a belated happy Europe Day, and the Leader of the House a very happy birthday on Sunday.