Perhaps not surprisingly, since the referendum result last year the number one topic which has dominated debates in Parliament has been the effect of the result and what our future relationship with the European Union will be.However, all these debates have been general in nature, today we have the first day of debate on the Bill which will give the Prime Minister formal authority from Parliament to invoke Article 50 of the European Treaty and give notice that in two years we will be leaving the European Union. One might think that given the clear result of the referendum all MP’s would be voting to respect the wishes of the British people. Sadly not. Many MP’s it appears will be taking the view that they know better than the people. I can see why some who represent constituencies who voted overwhelmingly to remain may feel they should oppose the Bill but to do so is a denial of democracy to the majority of the Country who voted to Leave. Unusually for a Second Reading debate it is scheduled to last not one but two days and today is really the equivalent of two days itself as the House will continue sitting until midnight providing another five hours of debate broadly the equivalent of a further days debate.
This week (indeed the next two weeks) will inevitably be dominated with the Bill which will authorise the giving of our Notice to leave the European Union. However, today it is the Second Reading of the Pension Schemes Bill a technical bill designed to improve the regulation of pension schemes. The Bill has already passed through the Lords and is now due to be given a Second Reading in the Commons today.
On Friday the Homelessness Reduction Bill passed its final Commons stages. It is a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman who came second in the ballot for the right to bring in a new piece of legislation. The bill has government support and the government have backed it with an announcement it is putting in £61 million of taxpayers money to improve services for those facing homelessness. Inevitably the problem of homelessness is linked to the need to build more homes. I agree if there is demand we need to build more homes and we need low cost homes for those who are dependent on the state. For whatever reason for shelter. I see no contradiction between accepting this fundamental truth and arguing we should not be building on the green belt. I doubt many of the homeless in towns like Bury and big cities like Manchester will be able to afford the type of property I envisage developers might have in mind for the green fields if ever they were allowed to build on our green belt.
I thought the meeting between our Prime Minister and President Trump went as well as could be expected yesterday. He seemed pleased the Queen had extended an invitation for him to pay an official State Visit to the UK later in the year.
In addition to surgery I visited Bury Hospice yesterday to get the latest news from there. Obviously, as everyone knows there have been some difficulties at the Hospice in recent times but things are definitely improving and we all need to continue to support the brilliant work all the staff and volunteers do at the Hospice.
It is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch weekend today and tomorrow and I am planning to take part again.
At the end of this post is the full text of my he Bill which was given its formal First Reading yesterday. As readers can see it about as straightforward as it could be. Indeed, it is difficult to think how it could be more straightforward. The result of the referendum was clear. Over one and a quarter million more people voted for Leave than Remain. This was despite the whole of Government, the Prime Minister, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, nearly all of the Trade Union movement, nearly all of Big Business, the European Union (naturally), the Big Banks the then President of the United States of America trying to persuade people to vote to Remain and warning of the most dire consequences should people dare to vote to Leave.
Interestingly, the latest figures released yesterday show the economy continues to grow. In the fourth quarter of 2016 it grew by 0.6%. So despite over six months having passed since the referendum our economy continues to grow at the fastest rate of the most advanced G7 countries.
Anyway, back to Brexit. This Bill is simply about ensuring there is Parliamentary approval to confirm the result of the referendum. This is in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court announced on Tuesday. It is bizarre that those who were criticising the government for creating uncertainty are now seeking to frustrate the result of the referendum.
The Bill will be debated for two days on Second Reading. Most bills including those which are many times the complexity of this Bill only have one day. The following week we will spend another three days considering the Bill in Committee of the Whole House. Usually bills are only considered in a Committee of around 16 MP’s at the Committee Stage.
If the Bill is passed by the House of Commons it will then go to the House of Lords where it will go through all the legislative processes again. I find it difficult to accept this does not constitute sufficient Parliamentary scrutiny of a Bill which only seeks to carry out the wishes of the British people as expressed in the referendum.
This is the text of the Bill:
A BILL TO
Confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty
on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the
Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and
consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present
Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—
1. Power to notify withdrawal from the EU
(1)The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European
Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
(2)This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European
Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.
2. Short title
Act may be cited as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.
As I anticipated it has not taken long for the consequences of the Supreme Court judgment announced on Tuesday to start to be noticed. On the Order Paper today is the following under the heading of Presentation of Bill:
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal)
Secretary David Davis
Bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
This is what is referred to as the First Reading and the Leader will announce the next stages of the Parliamentary proceedings for this Bill at the Business Statement today.
Whilst all the focus has been on the Supreme Court case over the procedure for triggering Article 50 meanwhile the House of Commons has been pursuing all the usual business. On Monday the Local Government Finance Bill received a Second reading. This Bill paves the way for local Councils to be able to retain all the business rates collected in their area. Yesterday, after a Statement and lots of questions on the result of the Supreme Court case the House dealt with amendments made by the House of Lords to the Wales Bill. Today it is another Opposition day with debates on prisons and education concentrating on the proposals for a new school funding formula.
As anticipated the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court on the issue of Article 50 so now a new Bill will be introduced giving power to the government to trigger Article 50. We should find out the proposed timetable for the new Bill quite soon.