Business Questions 28 February 2019

The Government’s “Implications for business and trade of a no deal exit on 29 March 2019” published on 26 February 2019 states that a no-deal Brexit could mean that the UK economy would be 9% smaller in the long term, the flow of goods through Dover would be “significantly reduced for months” and the Government are behind on contingency planning for a third of their critical projects.

You can read my speech in full below:

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week, but I am surprised that she did so for only one week. The Prime Minister practically told us what will happen in the following week, and I cannot see why the Government did not put that business through. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union actually announced the business and said when the vote will take place.

Last week, I asked the Leader of the House to confirm that all fire and safety works that were due to take place in the February recess had been carried out. Is she satisfied that that will be done in time? Again, I ask about Opposition days and the Easter and May recesses. I know what she will say—in a robotic way she will say that a business of the House motion will be tabled—but I ask her to help the House and its staff a bit more, so that they can plan.

Let me help the Leader of the House with a figure for the costs of the Government cancelling recess. In response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), put the figure at between £300,000 and £400,000. It was the Government who decided to cancel recess and waste those costs.

Is the Leader of the House still confident that there is enough time to put in place all the necessary secondary legislation by the time we leave the EU? During the Government-cancelled recess last week, just eight Brexit statutory instruments were laid before Parliament—the lowest total number out of the past six weeks. Only 59% of affirmative Brexit SIs have now been debated, which leaves more than 100 in this place and the other place. When will they be debated, because we need that scrutiny?

The Labour party has prayed against the Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2019, which is statutory instrument No. 62. Under the serious shortage protocol for medicine, that appalling piece of secondary legislation enables pharmacists to override GPs when deciding what medication to give people. Some people need specific, rather than generic, medication, and pharmacists would be able to lower the dosage. That is absolutely appalling, to such an extent that the Good Law Project has started judicial review proceedings against the Government. When will we have that debate, and when can that SI be annulled? Labour Members also prayed against the Amendments Relating to the Provision of Integrated Care Regulations 2019, which is statutory instrument No. 248. May we have a debate on that?

In her statement on Monday, the Prime Minister made no mention of the proposed European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. If the Government manage to get the withdrawal agreement through, they must bring forward that Bill. What is the timeframe for that, and in the meantime, could the draft Bill be published? The Government—not anybody else—have postponed the meaningful vote, and that has led to the possibility of a no-deal scenario. It is the Government who have been appalling and disloyal to this country and the British people, not those who have had to point out what will happen if there is no deal.

I do not know whether the Leader of the House has read the Government’s “Implications for business and trade of a no deal exit on 29 March 2019”, which was published on 26 February. A no-deal Brexit could mean that the UK economy would be 9% smaller in the long term, and the flow of goods through Dover would be “significantly reduced for months”. The Government are behind on contingency planning for a third of their critical projects. Banks will gain access to £300 billion to help them to deal with the financial shock, but what about the rest of us? What about the people of this country who will also face that financial shock? The UK trade and drinks industry has warned that one in eight companies could go out of business if the UK leaves without a deal, and around 70% of the UK’s food imports come from the EU.

On Tuesday, the Government held emergency talks after discovering that we have the wrong kind of pallets for a no-deal scenario. Will the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs come to the House and explain what happened at those emergency meetings? May we have a debate or statement on what will happen regarding our food security? That situation is what is appalling and disloyal to this country.

There is some good news. The former chair and current president of the Chagos Islands (British Indian Ocean Territory) all-party group, the Leader of the Opposition, has been an advocate for the rights of the Chagossians for some time. The International Court of Justice said that Britain’s acquisition of the Chagos archipelago in the 1960s was “wrongful”, and that Britain must

“bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

About 2,000 people were evicted, and they want to go home. That was in our manifesto—that is another point fulfilled—and we want the Chagos islanders to return to their homelands. Given that the Government seem to want to cling on to their colonial powers, may we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary? Will the Government abide by the Court’s decision, or are they going to appeal?

Finally, it does not really matter how big your daffodil is; it’s the wishes that count, and I want to wish everybody a happy St David’s Day. I, too, thank David Lionel Natzler, and Eve, for all their work. It is David’s last day today. It is lovely to see him at the Table; I was sorry he could not be there when we all wished him well. I shall miss seeing him in his Lycra as he gets on his bike. I want to wish everybody—those who are obvious, those who are behind the scenes, the admin assistants and unsung heroes who keep this House going—who are also retiring. We wish them well. Thank you for your years of service to the House, good bye and good luck.