Business of the House: 26th January 2017

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me, as somebody who campaigned fiercely for us to remain in the European Union, that the most important decision was made when the House decided—whether we were wrong or right, given the result—to have a referendum and to be true to the result, whatever it was?

Peter Grant
My recollection of the Act, apart from the fact that it was deeply flawed and that that is why we are now in this mess, is that it did not say that Parliament had to abide by the decision. It did not say that the decision was binding. It did not say anything about it. It just said that there would be a referendum. Perhaps the Government need time to draft an amendment to the Bill to make the European Union Referendum Act retrospectively binding.

If the Government intend the Bill to be binding, will they use the additional time that they have given themselves to correct what appear to me to be mistakes in the drafting? The Bill is being rushed through because there is a political—not a legal—imperative for article 50 to be triggered by 31 March, yet it does not require the ​Prime Minister to do anything by 31 March. It does not require her to do anything—it permits her to do something. Is one of the amendments being cued up now and is it a Government amendment to correct that mistake?

Five days is not enough, although it is more than many Bills get, but the advice in the Government’s summary, which is 15 times longer than the Bill, is that its impact will be both clear and limited. Limited? It is the most important Bill that this House has ever considered. Given that it is so limited, why do the Government need to allow so much additional time for all the amendments—