In this first contribution on the 4th day of the Report Stage, Lord Bilimoria first asks if take it or leave it is a meaningful vote? He notes the Government’s stance during the Committee stage and queries whether “Leave, whatever the terms” was what people had asked for or if it is in the national interest. He notes that at the time of the referendum two-thirds of MPs were for remain but many of their constituencies voted to leave which left them conflicted. He questions whether they are managers or leaders and whether they have the “guts” to do the right thing. He notes that during the Committee stage on issues such as borders, education or movement of people the Government offered no argument, instead citing the will of the people. He states the amendment would give MPs the power to do what is right for the country and stresses that Parliament should be supreme and with it “would have the ability to stop the train crash that is Brexit”.

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 

30 April 2018

Lord Bilimoria:

My Lords, as an answer to what the noble Lord, Lord Howard, has just said, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said in moving the amendment that this was all about “Take it or leave it”. Is “Take it or leave it” a meaningful vote? Throughout Committee, the main answer given by the Government was, “We are implementing and executing the will of the people”, while every single day the press says, “Implement the will of those 17.4 million people”. But, as the noble Viscount said, “Leave, whatever the terms”—is that what the people actually said? Is that what is in the national interest?

At the heart of this issue is the fact that in the other place at the time of the referendum two-thirds of MPs, on all estimates, thought that the best thing for this country would be to remain, and right here in this House about 75% thought the same. Yet when the referendum took place, hundreds of those MPs’ constituencies voted to leave, so the MPs are caught in a trap. The confusion is whether they see themselves as delegates or representatives of their constituencies. Are they making these decisions in the best interests of their constituents and country or of their party? Are they managers or leaders? The difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager does things right but a leader does the right thing. Do they have the guts—the guts of the so-called mutineers such as Nicky Morgan, Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Jonathan Djanogly and Tom Tugendhat, and I could go on—to stand up when the time comes to do the right thing?

We discovered in Committee that whether we were discussing borders, education or movement of people, no argument was made. The Government were like a stuck record, simply saying: “The will of the people”. The amendment would give MPs in the other place and this House the power to stand up to do the right thing for the country. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, talked about a constitutional crisis. What constitution do we have where a Government bully Parliament and say, “Take it or leave it”? It is Parliament that should be supreme, in the best interests of the people and the country. Thanks to this amendment, Parliament would have the ability to stop the train crash that is Brexit.

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