- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
Today’s motion is substantially the same as the previous two, so the House is being asked to vote on the deal once again. It is the Government who have put us in this position. Their red lines were drawn right at the beginning and formed the boundaries for the negotiations. There are ongoing investigations into how the vote was conducted. There was secrecy and a lack of information, and Parliament was bypassed and ignored. That is pernicious to democracy.
My full speech is below:
I do not know what to say to that, other than that it feels like a wash-up and that we should be getting ready for a general election. I was going to ask for an Opposition day. With the Government losing votes, it feels like we have already had them, but we have not. When my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) asked the Leader of the House when the next Opposition day debate would be, she said they were announced every Thursday, so, today being Thursday, I invite her to give us an Opposition day. The last one was on 13 November.
I was going to ask for statutory instrument debates, but I see they have already been tabled for next week. Following what has been an absolutely astonishing week this week, we have a series of SIs. More importantly, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who recently resigned, said that a few SIs had been deprioritised and would not be passed by the end of March, which was confirmed by a No. 10 spokeswoman. Will the Leader of the House ensure that a list is published of the prioritised and deprioritised SIs? What criteria are the Government using to deprioritise some of them?
Several Bills have to be passed before exit day. The Trade Bill had its Report Stage in the House of Lords yesterday, but other essential Bills—the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill and the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill—are yet to have theirs. When are they likely to be debated? I raised the financial services Bill and the cross-party amendment last week after the debate was pulled. The Leader of the House said that she wanted
“time to look properly at the proposed amendments and consider their impact with the Crown dependencies, which are separate jurisdictions with their own democratically elected Governments.”
That is right, but the UK Government are responsible for the good government of the Crown dependencies, and it is already Government policy, passed in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) have said that offshore secrecy represents a threat to UK national security. Could the Leader of the House say whether there are any conflicts of interest in the Cabinet that are preventing the amendments from being debated?
Today we will debate another motion on section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It is about the negotiated withdrawal agreement, which was laid before the House and voted upon on 15 January and 12 March. Today’s motion is substantially the same as the previous two, so the House is being asked to vote on the deal once again. “Erskine May” states—I have looked it up, Mr Speaker—that that is a matter for the Chair to decide, because this is the same motion. I do not want to trivialise the matter, but it sounds rather like that line from Morecambe and Wise: the same words, but not necessary in the same order. The motion is effectively the same, with a few other words added. The footnotes in “Erskine May” state that the last time this provision was used was in 1920, and the reason it was put into “Erskine May” was to prevent MPs and the Government from putting motions again and again.
It is the Government who have put us in this position. Their red lines were drawn right at the beginning and formed the boundaries for the negotiations. There are ongoing investigations into how the vote was conducted. There was secrecy and a lack of information, and Parliament was bypassed and ignored. That is pernicious to democracy.
One of the biggest announcements on Wednesday, apparently, was the Chancellor’s spring statement. He used it to set out a “deal dividend”—if Parliament votes to leave the EU with a deal, we can have the money. That is effectively blackmailing us. He also said that austerity is coming to an end. Yes, and the people have said that they want authenticity, not austerity. But the latest figures show that the Office for Budget Responsibility has cut its growth forecast for 2019 to 1.2%, which is the weakest growth rate since 2009. That is a significant cut from its predicted 1.6% expansion, and that is from the Government’s own economic watchdog. Who is right: the Chancellor or the OBR?
It is no good the Leader of the House telling us that there are more people in work. Yes, there are, but they are self-employed, on zero-hours contracts and in insecure work. There was absolutely nothing in the spring statement about local authorities or social care. The Health for Care coalition has said that the Government’s failure to protect social care is “a national disgrace”. When will the social care Green Paper be published? It was expected last summer. The Women’s Budget Group said that there have been cuts to youth services of 65%, cuts to Sure Start of 50%, and cuts to subsided buses of 48%. All of that has to be addressed. When will we have a debate on the spring statement, or do I have to make an application to the Backbench Business Committee?
Next Thursday is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination—importantly, it is also the day when the European Council meets. It is important that we are careful with our language in areas surrounding race and accept that there is unconscious bias. More importantly, tomorrow our young people are being explicit; they are taking action to protect the very thing that gives us life. We must listen to them. I also want to send the House’s good wishes to James Shaw, New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, who has sadly been attacked.
Finally, on a slightly happier note, I want to wish a very happy birthday—today is a triple birthday—to my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Gill Furniss), for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood) and for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali).