It would be inappropriate not to directly address the issue currently dominating the headlines. I have had a lot of discussions with my constituents on the decision taken on prorogation and I do recognise that there are strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
Let me state my view plainly and clearly. The Prime Minister is not seeking to take us out of the European Union without a deal – extensive efforts are being made to secure one as we speak. In trying to secure the best deal possible with the European Union, the Prime Minister is quite right to say the only way to do so is to prepare to leave without a deal. The ability to leave without a deal is our strongest negotiating card, and at last it is being played in the right way. In addition to this, every measure possible is being put into place at every level of Government to ensure the country is as ready as possible should we need to leave in such circumstances.
The prorogation of Parliament is not an underhand or undemocratic mechanism. Parliament is traditionally prorogued every year. Prorogation is the formal signal of the end of each session of Parliament and it allows for the preparation of the Queen’s Speech, which will set out the legislative agenda for the new Parliamentary session. Parliament was already due to be in recess for the annual Party Conferences anyway, as it is every year. The prorogation of Parliament on this occasion extends this only very slightly.
The current Parliamentary session has been running for two years, notably the longest period since the English Civil War. The current session was set as such to give Members of Parliament the time to fully consider the laws required to allow us to prepare for exiting the European Union. Given the length of the current session and the introduction of a new Prime Minister, it is entirely understandable and routine to prorogue this session so that the new Government can bring forward its own legislative agenda.
I do understand that there is a view that this move is designed deliberately to prevent those opposed to leaving the European Union without a deal from having their say. This simply is not the case.
Between the referendum and 31 March 2019, when we were due to leave the European Union, Parliament spent 501 hours debating how we should do this. The former Prime Minister lost her premiership trying to convince Members of Parliament to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, which was made clear by the European Union, at the time, to be the only offer on the table. In Parliament, this Agreement was rejected three times, twelve alternatives were suggested and rejected, and a second referendum was also rejected three times – facts which are difficult to reconcile with the view that the Prime Minister is using Parliamentary procedures to undemocratically supress the voice of a Parliament that has been debating this for three years.
The Prime Minister has also made it clear that Parliament will have adequate time to debate the agenda in the Queen’s Speech and the outcome of the European Council meeting on the 17th and 18th October once all the facts are clear and the European Union has had a chance to consider whether they are willing to make changes to the backstop, which brought down the previous Withdrawal Agreement.
On the subject of the Withdrawal Agreement, I consistently voted in favour of the former Prime Minister's Agreement as it is not my preference to leave the European Union without a deal. I understood this was the only credible option on the table and I did encourage my colleagues across the house to understand this and to not frustrate the result of the referendum.
More recently, I have met with and spoken to many businesses and residents in my constituency who have made it clear that what they are finding difficult is the ongoing lack of certainty. They want us to make this decision and simply get on with it. The ongoing uncertainty and further endless delay that many are pushing for is the very last things that individuals and businesses need.
There has been a great deal of discussion on prorogation amounting to a betrayal of democracy. The greatest betrayal of democracy would be to ignore the outcome of the referendum and to remain in the European Union. In 1998, I campaigned hard as a passionate Welshman for a “No” vote in the Welsh Devolution Referendum. Even though we lost by a tiny margin of 50.3% to 49.7% we immediately accepted the result. Democracy is one of the great cornerstones of British society, and for democracy to survive, it relies upon those in power to do as they are instructed by the electorate and for those on the losing side to accept defeat.
As a Government and as a Parliament we have been accused of allowing Brexit to crowd out all the other important issues that matter to the country. The Queen’s Speech will allow us to set a new legislative agenda, so that we can begin tackling these crucial issues such as supporting the NHS, tackling violent crime and the biggest threat to our planet, climate change. The Queen’s speech will allow us to do this and so should be welcomed.