Speech - EU Withdrawal Bill

This is the second day on which I have sat listening to many good speeches on this topic, but I cannot help but feel that during some of them, irony sits heavily in the air; we have heard about “scrutiny”, “democracy”, “democracy of the people” and “functioning democracy”, but where has democracy been for the past 44 years? Where has it gone over those 44 years? It has gone into the powers of a bunch of unelected Commissioners who tell us what to do.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that none of those who are criticising the points he is making have brought forward, in the years I have been in this House, a reform of the process they now so wish to cling to?

Richard Drax

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I will come to that very point.

Helen Goodman

Richard Drax

I will not give way again, because many other Members wish to speak. However, I shall address that point later, because I served on the European Scrutiny Committee in the last Parliament.

From listening to the speeches, one would think that this country, Great Britain, was incapable of passing laws. What on earth is wrong with this great place, which we are selected to represent—our country? We are talking about one of the biggest honours: becoming an MP and representing our constituents. We used to make all the rules and regulations that our constituents lived under. Hon. Members may recall that we joined the EU for free trade, which everyone said was a jolly good idea—and it was. Unfortunately, the bureaucrats have taken over the running of that good idea, and if we can go back to that idea by leaving the EU, as I hope we can, I believe our constituents will be forever grateful.

This Bill is not a power grab, as the Opposition claim. The way they are going to vote is a smokescreen; it is a politically cynical move to destabilise this Government—that is all it is. It is an opportunity for the Leader of the ​Opposition, God forbid, to become Prime Minister of this country. What we are doing here is repatriating thousands of regulations into our jurisdiction, thousands of which have been imposed on us over the past 40 years. We can review them; that is our job—we review legislation. If we do not like it, we will get rid of it. If we have a majority, we will vote it out. If we like it, we will keep it. If we are not sure, we will amend it. What might be right for a European country—for the French or the Germans—might not be right for us.

Because of the sheer number of regulations, some will have to be delegated. Everyone is making a noise about delegated legislation, but both main parties have used delegated legislation for years—it is part of how this place works. Some Government Members have suggested some sort of triage process to assess what should be dealt with through delegated legislation and what should be taken on the Floor of the House. If I recall correctly, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State listened to them and said that he would think about that. I am sure that those who want there to be a decision-making process for what should and should not be delegated will have a say in Committee.

The hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) made a point about the silence that has reigned for so many years. I served on the European Scrutiny Committee under the excellent chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who is sitting just in front of me. For years—for many more years than me and probably most people in this House—he has scrutinised EU legislation. In the short time for which I served on the Committee, we tried to get important issues—not least the future of our ports—debated on the Floor of the House, so that we could all listen to the sense, or lack thereof, of EU legislation and decide whether what was appropriate for Europe was appropriate for us. Those debates never happened.

Stephen Kerr

And we could not change it.

Richard Drax

As my hon. Friend says, even if those debates had happened, the legislation could not have been changed. Where were all these loud voices? Where were you all over the past 40 years? Why did you not question what was being imposed on our country and our constituents? Where were you?

Richard Drax

No, I will not give way—absolutely not! I do not have time and I am enjoying myself. I am representing my constituents and my country. I am speaking up, at last, for Great Britain, and not for a bureaucracy that is going horribly wrong. The great thing is that when the Bill returns to the House, we can scrutinise it—we can do our job. That is what we are here for.

The Scottish National party wants independence and to rejoin the EU. The EU would nail Scotland to the floor if ever it got the so-called independence that the SNP desires. SNP Members would rue the day, as they headed to economic ruin, trapped in the euro—if indeed the EU let Scotland have it.​

The Bill is good for our country. Ministers have not got it all right; I would be the first to concede that, and I am sure they would concede it, too. It can be debated and changed in Committee—of that I am certain—but a vote against the Bill tonight is a cynical ploy that our constituents, who sent us to the House, will not accept. I shall vote with the Government.