Business Questions 7 June 2018

I raised with the Leader of the House, the Government’s handling of the economy. GDP figures show that UK growth in the first three months of the year has hit a five-year low of 0.1%. Household spending rose by only 0.2%— the weakest in more than three years. I called for a debate on the effect of Brexit on economy.

You can read my speech below:

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

I just cannot believe what I have heard. What a mess; what a shambles! The Government were briefing before Whitsun that there would be three days of debate on the withdrawal Bill. They then briefed this week that there would be one day—only 12 hours on Tuesday—and now the Leader of the House announces two days. Could we see the programme motion through the usual channels so that we will know how long we have on each of the two days?

This Government cannot handle democracy. The Leader of the House was one of those who said that we should bring back sovereignty to Parliament, but there is no say for Parliament. The Government tell us to be grateful for 12 hours and then to be grateful for two days, but the Opposition asked for four days. This is the most important piece of legislation that will affect our country and, most importantly, future generations—those young people who voted overwhelmingly to remain. There are 196 amendments from the other place, including 14 important amendments defeating the Government’s intransigent position. Giving even two days of debate is no way to treat a parliamentary democracy; it hardly gives a chance for all Members to take part in the debate. The Government are still working out their position; oh no, 12.30—that is when they decide their position. We are two years on from the referendum, with two Council meetings to go. Yes, we voted to leave, but it is our duty to negotiate what is in the best interests of the country, based on evidence.

I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware of the written parliamentary questions on Vote Leave that have been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson), the deputy Leader of the Opposition. Does she know when the Electoral Commission report on electoral fraud in the Vote Leave campaign will be published?

The Brexit Secretary said that he may resign—not. The Prime Minister said
“we want to publish a White Paper”. But she cannot or will not say when, and she refused to answer the Leader of the Opposition’s question. Perhaps the Leader of the House can tell us when the White Paper will be published. The Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Brexit Secretary and the shadow Northern Ireland Secretary have all visited the border. When will the Prime Minister visit the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic?

The Government cannot even handle running the economy. GDP figures show that UK growth in the first three months of the year has hit a five-year low of 0.1%. Household spending rose by only 0.2%—the weakest in more than three years. Where is the Chancellor? May we have a debate on the effects of Brexit on the economy? Why is the economy shrinking?

The Government are not even fiscally competent. Let us take the sale of Royal Bank of Scotland. Tell me if this is fiscally competent: the Government bought the shares for 502p each and sold them for 271p. That is £2.1 billion lost to the taxpayer, added to £1.9 billion lost in 2015—£4 billion in total. Is that fiscally competent?

Prem Sikka of Essex University said: “Why sell? Taxpayers bailed out the bank and when there is a glimpse of recovery and profits, the government sells it at a loss to ensure that profits are collected by its friends in the City.” Those are the words of someone who works at Essex University—or is it waffle? Now the Government intend to open the National Fund, a charity fund established 90 years ago on the condition that it stays untouched until it is large enough to pay off the entire national debt. May we have a statement on what the Government are going to do to the National Fund?

The Government cannot handle democracy, the economy or the rule of law. The courts have decided that the confidence and supply agreement must be voted on by Parliament. If the Leader of the House really believes in the sovereignty of Parliament, will she give time for that debate on the Floor of the House?

On Saturday, we celebrate our gracious sovereign’s official birthday with the trooping of the colour parade. I think that people will have recognised that, at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the Queen was wearing suffragette colours.

Of course, today we remember Lady Wilson, the extraordinary wife of a great Labour Prime Minister, who died this week. Our condolences go to her family and to the wider Labour family.

The Lord Speaker was a gracious host to the 42nd Richard Dimbleby lecture given by Professor Jeanette Winterson—it is well worth watching on BBC iPlayer. I attended that brilliant lecture. She was thought provoking, funny and inspiring in equal measure, but she also reminded us that there is much to be done to get true equality.