Labour Whips take 'highly unusual' step of writing to Government over Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill

22 October 2019, 19:13

The letter the Labour Whips sent was described as 'highly unusual'
The letter the Labour Whips sent was described as 'highly unusual'. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Labour's chief whip has written to Government chief whip Mark Spencer in a "highly unusual step" to claim MPs have not been given enough time to scrutinise the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

The Government announced on Monday they would attempt to pass key Brexit legislation through Parliament over a three day period this week, which some MPs have complained is not enough time to scrutinise the Bill.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill 110 pages and is accompanied by 124 pages of explanatory notes.

Some politicians have said that the speed of the Government time table means the bill may not be able to receive the proper level of attention which it deserves.

In a letter shared on Twitter by the Labour whips office, opposition chief whip Nicholas Brown wrote: "Given the huge public interest in the arrangements for the scrutiny of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill before the House today, I am taking the highly unusual step of writing to you and placing this letter in the public domain."

Former Tory MP Rory Stewart said he agreed with the European (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill but suggested it needed more than the three days of debate the Government has allocated.

"If we are going to deliver Brexit, we need to deliver it in a way that Brexiteers and Remainers believe was taken through Parliament fairly," he said.

"That doesn't mean extending until the end of the year but it does mean we need a few days to do it properly. If we don't do it properly, we are going to undermine the thing from the beginning."

While Green MP Caroline Lucas pointed out the Wild Animals in Circuses Act had more time to be debated.

The letter from Mr Brown said:

From the Opposition Chief Whip

22 October 2019

Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, Government Chief Whip

Given the huge public interest in the arrangements for the scrutiny of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill before the House today, I am taking the highly unusual step of writing to you and placing this letter in the public domain.

I was disappointed that despite common practice. there was no negotiation or attempt through the usual channels by the Government to seek an agreement for an appropriate timetable to scrutinise this vitally important piece of legislation. The current timetable does not provide for sufficient scrutiny of the legal text of your deal.

As you know the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was only introduced at 7.30pm last night. This was the first time that any Withdrawal Agreement Bill has been published. The bill along with the supporting documentation runs to 435 pages. The Independent Regulatory Policy Committee says that it cannot provide a firm conclusion on the bill because of insufficient and rushed evidence from the Government.

No parliamentarian seeking to properly scrutinise and improve such a vital piece of legislation could agree to support the Government's proposed programme motion.

I remain available at any point to seek a consensus with you on a programme motion that would command the support of all sides of the House.

Rt Hon Nicholas Brown MP, Opposition Chief Whip

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