Charles Walker opposes using an emergency procedure to bring in a Bill to prevent a 'no-deal' Brexit

Charles Walker MP speaking in the House of Commons, April 2019

Charles Walker opposes a motion to use an emergency procedure to introduce a Bill to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal; raising specific concerns about the precedent being set.


Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

I will be extremely brief.

First of all, I want to say to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), who introduced the motion, that what we are debating is not a constitutional outrage, and nor is it an abomination. I want him to be assured of that. I accept fully that Standing Orders belong to the House of Commons. I say to the shadow Leader of the House that she is entirely right to say that the Government are wrong not to divide on Opposition motions. I have said that before as Chairman of the Procedure Committee and I am happy to say it again now as Chairman of the Procedure Committee. I would also say, however, that the Government are entirely right in their construct of Select Committees and Standing Committees. They did not rig the system and I accept that what the Government did was the right decision to make. I said that at the time, as well.

I am, however, concerned about what we are doing today. I am concerned about precedent. I have been involved in such a Bill—I think I sat through all its stages in 2012—which became the Mental Health (Approval Functions) Act 2012. It was a public safety Bill and I understood then why it needed to go through the House very quickly. I wish it had not needed to go through the ​House so quickly. That was not an ideal situation, but we were trying to prevent people harming themselves and, potentially, others.

I do think that the texture—I say this as Chairman of the Procedure Committee, although I am not speaking on behalf of the Procedure Committee—of what we are doing today feels wrong. I cannot put my finger on it, but I think that we, as a House, will regret what we are doing today if the business motion is passed.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)

I had the great pleasure of serving with the hon. Gentleman on the Procedure Committee in the previous Parliament. I think it will be for the Procedure Committee to consider this situation, once all of this is finished—if it is ever finished—in more detail and see what lessons can be learned. I hope that when the Committee does that it will look to other Parliaments on these islands, such as the Parliament at Holyrood, which has a Business of the House Committee and allows programming decisions of this kind to be made by consensus across the parties. I hope the Procedure Committee will consider that as a way forward.

Mr Walker

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent intervention and we shall no doubt ask him to come to the Committee and give evidence to explain himself further.

Mr Speaker, I said I would be brief and I will conclude with this. I think we will regret what we are doing today. It does worry me and I will be voting against the motion. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset is a decent, lovely and wonderful man, but there are people in this place who are not decent, wonderful and lovely. I fear that one day soon—I hope it will not be the case—we will be debating an expropriation of assets Bill in six hours. We would regret that bitterly.