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Jonathan Djanogly backs Parliament setting its own business for a two day period


27th March 2019

Jonathan Djanogly backs proposals for Parliament to set its own business agenda for two days to hold indicative votes on the way forward for the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)

As I see it, the Government position has two clear tracks: the first is that this business of the House process is somehow unconstitutional, and the second is that even if it is constitutional, it is somehow hijacking the agenda.

Let me take the first element. From the perspective of historical precedent, I suggest that the Government are simply wrong. Early in the last century, it would have been absolutely normal and acceptable procedure for legislators to bring forward Bills. Indeed, in the United States legislators constantly introduce Bills in both Houses of Congress. The reason they do that, by the way, is that they got it from us.

Let me move forward to today. There is also clear constitutional precedent for Parliament setting the agenda: they are called private Members’ Bills days. We also have Backbench Business days, which are essentially Back-Bench initiatives to take over the agenda. If we can allow it for such business, how much more should we be prepared to allow it when the House is deadlocked and the Government are not setting out plan B on the most important issue to face this country since the second world war?

As for the second element—that we are somehow hijacking the agenda—I refute that absolutely. Nothing is stopping the Government using all days except these two sitting days to set out their own agenda and put forward their own proposals. To claim that taking two days is somehow hijacking the agenda is simply a weak excuse, in my book. This motion represents a parallel process, aimed at breaking the deadlock that exists. I sincerely congratulate all Members who have been involved in setting today’s business and promoting an attempt to try to find a way forward.

George Freeman

Although it may be a few years before the House thanks him, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) is doing ​this House, democracy, the Government—although I do not think they see it yet—and Brexit a favour, by helping us to reach a resolution. Does my hon. Friend agree that there are three dangerous canards in the House this afternoon: first, that this sets a dangerous precedent, but the House has always controlled its own time; secondly, that this is a remainer conspiracy, but all of us who signed up to this support the Government’s Bill and want to get it through; and thirdly, that we are tying the Government’s hands, but these are merely indicative votes to give those on the Front Bench some help to see where there might be consensus on a plan B if, heaven forbid, we need it?

Mr Djanogly

My hon. Friend has read my mind. I was going to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) on his remarkable achievement in getting us here today. I, too, supported the Government on both material votes, and if the Government bring the deal back, I will support them again, but I will not stand back and watch our country fall off a cliff into the abyss.

Hansard



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