John Bercow rejects People's Vote amendment to Queen's Speech

24 October 2019, 15:10

John Bercow did not choose Jo Swinson's amendment
John Bercow did not choose Jo Swinson's amendment. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Commons Speaker John Bercow selected two amendments to the Queen's Speech but overlooks the Liberal Democrats' bid for a second referendum.

Labour's "Amendment G" which criticises the government's legislative programme and urges action to address the "climate emergency" was selected along with the SNP's "Amendment H".

This also criticises parts of the Queen's Speech and demands that Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement Bill "must not become law" without receiving consent from the Scottish and Welsh legislatures.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson wrote to Jeremy Corbyn earlier on Thursday asking him to support her amendment to the Queen's Speech.

She said: "This week may present our last meaningful chance to get a People's Vote in this Parliament, and I would ask that you support the calls of thousands of people who marched this weekend to demand a final say and back a People's Vote in Parliament today."

However, the Labour Party's official position on a second referendum falls somewhat short of the Lib Dems' who would immediately overturn the Brexit decision.

The new Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna tweeted his disappointment that his former Labour colleagues did not back Ms Swinson's modification to the Queen's Speech.

He said: Big shame UK Labour failed to back this. Had Jeremy Corbyn done so, we may have been able to have a #PeoplesVote vote. If not now, when? Understand the challenge, though, when at least 19 Labour MPs won’t back it."

Labour's selected amendment (G) says the Speech "fails to rebuild the UK economy, tackle the housing crisis, further pushes public services into crisis and contains no visions to bring this divided country back together."

It also demands a "green industrial revolution to decarbonise the economy and boost economic growth."

Chancellor Sajid Javid was deeply critical of Labour's proposed modification of the Queen's Speech.

He said: "There are no mainstream parties in the developed world with an economic agenda as extreme as the one now proposed by Labour. There's no tax that they wouldn't hike, there's no business that they wouldn't nationalise, and there is no strike that they wouldn't support.

"We will raise wages, they will raise taxes, we will back business, they will smash business, we will get Brexit done, they will dither and delay."

The SNP Amendment (H) expresses disappointment in the government's plan to bring an end to "freedom of movement within Europe" saying it "has brought immeasurable social, cultural and economic benefits to the people of Scotland, England Wales and Northern Ireland."

However, Mr Javid urged MPs not to back the SNP Amendment because freedom of movement could not continue if the UK wanted to "regain control of [its] borders."

"Let's be clear on one thing: Britain will always be an open, global and outward-looking country," he said.

"I would urge all honourable members to vote against this amendment today, because it is important that we end free movement as we regain control of our borders."

SNP economy spokeswoman Kirsty Blackman threw "down the gauntlet" to MPs representing Scottish and Welsh constituencies.

She said: "They should all walk through the lobby with us supporting amendment H.

"Because if they do not support the rights and the desires of the people of Scotland and of the people of Wales, they will be doing a disservice to their constituents, to their constituencies, and to their countries."