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Westlake Legal Group > House of Commons (general)

The 17 Conservative MPs who rebelled against the Government on prorogation – and the ministers who failed to vote

In this afternoon’s defeat on the amendment intended to prevent prorogation of Parliament, 17 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government, while several ministers did not vote. One minister – Margot James – resigned after rebelling. The Government lost by 315-274.

Here are the 17 rebels:

Guto Bebb

Steve Brine

Alistair Burt

Jonathan Djanogly

Justine Greening

Dominic Grieve

Sam Gyimah

Richard Harrington

Margot James

Phillip Lee

Jeremy Lefroy

Oliver Letwin

Paul Masterton

Sarah Newton

Antoinette Sandbach

Keith Simpson

Ed Vaizey

James’s resignation adds one to the tally of the ‘awkward squad’ a new Prime Minister will have to tackle – and it is that factor, and how it erodes the Government’s majority, which raises the chances of a General Election, more than an obstacle to prorogation in itself.

One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, rebelled to vote with the Government. Ian Austin, a former Labour MP sitting as an independent, voted the same way.

As ever, we must be careful in how we report on those who do not vote. Not voting is not necessarily a deliberate abstention. Sometimes MPs are ill or absent with family crises, ministers in particular often have aspects of their jobs that take them away from Westminster or out of the country without permission, and so on.

There are at least two such examples today. Karen Bradley didn’t vote, but she is in Northern Ireland on a planned trip. Jeremy Hunt didn’t vote either, but he has official permission from the Whips due to the leadership contest (Boris Johnson has this permission too, but he did vote with the Government nonetheless).

However, we do know that some Cabinet ministers are willing to deliberately defy the whip, and openly snub collective responsibility. I warned when they first did so back in March that allowing it to pass without consequence would simply lead to further breaches, and it seems almost certain that this is what has happened.

Of those who defied the whip in March, David Mundell and Amber Rudd fell into line and obeyed it today, while Greg Clark and David Gauke repeated their stand and did not vote. They were joined in their absence by Alan Duncan, Rory Stewart, and, most outrageously of all, Philip Hammond.

It’s hard to imagine a starker illustration of the utter dysfunction the May era has wrought than a Chancellor of the Exchequer junking collective responsibility while hanging onto office for as long as possible. Strangely the Prime Minister’s ‘final speech’ yesterday on the topic of “the state of politics” did not reflect on her own contribution to the problem.

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Nicky Morgan: Our report on Alternative Arrangements holds the key to leaving the EU at last – and avoiding a general election

Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.

Last Thursday, members of the Prosperity UK Alternative Arrangements Commission, which I am co-chairing with Greg Hands, visited Brussels. We were there to present our interim report on how alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland can be found, and to listen to comments on our report.

Later this week, we will present our final report and draft protocols, again to demonstrate how, with pragmatism and goodwill on all sides, a solution can be found. Without one, it appears that it will not be possible to have a withdrawal deal passed by a majority in the Commons and, if the UK is to leave the EU, then it will do so without any deal or formal understanding about the future relationship between the UK and EU being in place.

Meanwhile, last week, a number of MPs backed amendments to the legislation on Northern Ireland that we were debating in the Commons that aimed to stop Parliament being prorogued – and, therefore, to stop a No Deal Brexit taking place. One such amendment was passed and two were not.

We have reached a quite extraordinary state of affairs when the thought of proroguing Parliament to stop MPs having a say on a major shift in the UK’s foreign and trade policy is even a possibility.

I understand why colleagues want to put down a marker now that prorogation won’t work. And I understand why so many are so keen to take on the undesired outcome (for most people) of a No Deal outcome to Brexit.

On those issues it is worth reading the replies both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have sent to the One Nation Caucus on these issues.

From Boris Johnson:

“With regards to your question on ‘No Deal’, I want to again emphasise that this is not an outcome I am aiming for and is not an outcome that I want. As I have set out before, I believe that the very act of preparing for ‘No Deal’ will make that scenario less likely…I would also like to make it absolutely clear that I am not attracted to arcane procedures such as the prorogation of Parliament. As someone who aspires to be the Prime Minister of a democratic nation, I believe in finding consensus in the House of Commons.”

And from Jeremy Hunt:

“I would reassure your colleagues that I still believe that the quickest way, the safest way, and the most secure way to leave the EU is with a good deal….In no circumstances would I prorogue Parliament as a means of securing a No Deal outcome.”

So it seems to me that rather than poring over our Erskine May and Commons standing orders, we would be better to recognise the reality of parliamentary arithmetic, and the need for a positive way through the current Brexit impasse.

Now more than ever the public (and the EU) need to see what MPs are in favour of – not what we are against. If anything, we need to crystallise the Brady amendment into something tangible and practical.

And the tangible and practical proposal on offer will be the Alternative Arrangements report and protocols produced by the Prosperity UK Commission.

On these proposals and in reply to our letter, Johnson said this:

“Key to this new deal will be avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland, a prospect no serious candidate would ever dream of entertaining. To that end, I have read the Alternative Arrangements with great interest and I will continue to use it as a consultation document moving forward. The EU has also recently announced that it will be looking into the Alternative Arrangements, a clear sign that our joint goal to ensure there is never a no hard border in Northern Ireland is already underway.”

Hunt said this:

“The negotiating team would be tasked with producing an alternative exit deal, based on the Alternative Arrangements proposals, that can command a majority in the House of Commons and address, seriously and forensically, legitimate EU and Irish concerns about the Irish border and the integrity of the Single Market.”

I would therefore hope that all those working on plans to stop No Deal will find the time to add, to their summer reading lists, our final report. It is clear that it will be influential with whoever is the next Prime Minister. And it has always been the case that the best way to avoid No Deal is to have a deal, which is what we have been working on since April.

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James Gray: Prorogue the Commons – for our own good

James Gray is MP for North Wiltshire.

In all of the hubbub about Brexit, leadership (of both parties), and a virtually hung Parliament, we seem to have lost sight of what the Commons and Lords are actually for. We have two primary functions (alongside a host of subsidiary ones). We are elected by the people to make laws, and to hold Her Majesty’s Government to account for what they are doing. The latter trundles along with Oral Questions every day, and especially through the work of Select Committees. But the former – the making, improvement, or repeal of our laws – has virtually seized up.

For on all but a handful occasions since 1900, the Parliamentary session has lasted for as close as possible to 12 months. It starts with the Queen’s Speech, where amongst all of the pageantry Her Majesty reads out a turgid speech produced for her by the party in Government. The speech lays out what the Government will do for the next year, and we then amble back to the Commons to get on with it.

If we don’t complete the work on time (and time is one of the few real weapons which Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and the House of Lords have at their disposal), then we either let the Bill in question drop; or more usually a ‘deal’ is done with the Opposition to allow a few things through in return for dropping others. We then have the ceremony of Prorogation, where men in tricorn hats sit on the Woolsack in the Lords, one clerk reads out the titles of the Bills agreed to, and the other shouts out “La Reine le veult”, which, of course, is the mediaeval French for “The Queen wishes it.” And that is the moment at which a new law becomes law.

But the last Queen’s Speech (and the only one since the General Election) was on 21st June 2017 – now more than two years ago. The idea was to allow two years to get a mass of reforming legislation through both Houses. That happens occasionally. But not since the notorious ‘Long Parliament’ of 1640-1660 has any Parliamentary session exceeded two years, as this one now has. It is quite wrong. By extending the Session indefinitely at whim, the Government is removing an important element of scrutiny; they are preventing Private Members Bills which have now run out; and they are fundamentally changing a key element of the British constitution.

The net result is that we are twiddling our thumbs in Parliament, with backbench debates, Westminster Hall debates and unimportant government business. I suppose that its inevitable until we get a new Prime Minister (on 22nd July), and government (shortly thereafter). But it strikes me as being crucial from a constitutional standpoint that we should end the session (prorogue it) as soon after the summer as we can, and then schedule a Queen’s speech perhaps for October.

Prorogation is not some kind of devilish plot to allow Brexit through (or scupper it.) It is an essential part of the Parliamentary drum-beat, without which we who are sent to Westminster to carry out our important job of scrutinising legislation simply cannot do it, not least because there isn’t any.

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Maria Caulfield: Damaging, opportunistic, anti-democratic. Why the Commons should reject these abortion amendments to today’s Northern Ireland Bill.

As my Parliamentary colleagues will have now realised, the Government has been ambushed with abortion amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.

Here are ten reasons why MPs should oppose these damaging, anti-democratic and opportunistic proposals.

1. Northern Ireland considered change in 2016 and clearly rejected it.

The Northern Ireland Assembly was the most recent UK Parliament to consider abortion. It voted against any change by a margin of voted 59 to 40. This represented rejection on Northern Ireland’s own democratic terms, not as a part of a proposal from Westminster, with all the added controversy that brings.

2. The old law = bad law argument is a ridiculous fallacy.

The core argument made in favour of these amendments is that the law governing abortion is old, and should therefore be changed. This is self-evidently preposterous. The same Act of Parliament that criminalises abortion also criminalises murder and manslaughter. Should we repeal those, too? Magna Carta is pretty old. Shall we do away with that? Let’s have a proper debate about what these changes would mean, not rely on deception, transparent sloganeering, and fallacious rhetoric.

3. If anything is old and obsolete, it is the 1967 Abortion Act.

The Abortion Act permits abortion up to 24 weeks – double the EU 12 week average. This law was formed when we knew comparatively little about fetal development. It allows abortion for almost any reason beyond the point at which babies can survive independently outside of the womb. It is a law which flies in the face of reason and contradicts everything we now know about the humanity of the unborn child. There is a reason why socially liberal countries such as Denmark impose a 12 week limit, and a reason why Jeremy Hunt supports such a limit. Our law is brutal as it stands, and if there is to be any reform, it should be focused on bringing our upper time limit in line with the EU average.

4. It would impose an extreme abortion law upon NI – likely the most extreme in Europe.

The 24 week time-limit comes from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. For abortion, this doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland. So, if these proposals succeed, abortion would be allowed for any reason up to 28 weeks and possibly beyond – and let it be remembered here that at 38 weeks pregnant women are at term. Unlike England and Wales, there would be no requirement for doctor’s approval. I cannot think of anything more retrograde, more “medieval” than a law which allows for the taking of human life more than two thirds into pregnancy.

5. Disabled people would be particularly exposed by this change…

As research consistently demonstrates, the majority of late-term abortions are performed on disabled children. These changes would remove any scrutiny around the motivations for the abortion, giving carte blanche to disability-selective abortion.  Already in England and Wales only ten per cent of babies with Down Syndrome diagnosed in the womb make it to term. 90 per cent are selectively aborted. Northern Ireland has a very different approach to disability. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than eliminating them.

6. …As figures for Northern Ireland confirm.

This is reflected directly in figures available from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland showing that there were 52 children with Down’s syndrome born, in the same year only one child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales. Does Northern Ireland want a law which permits the eradication of disability?

7. These opportunistic proposals show contempt for the devolution settlement and due process.

These proposals are using Northern Ireland as a pretext to liberalise the law across England and Wales. Leaving aside the question whether or not these amendments should be considered in scope for this Bill (which is highly debatable), it is indisputably the case that such serious social change deserves appropriate consideration and appropriate debate. This is especially the case when the change envisaged is of such a significant and dramatic nature. In the Irish Republic, a referendum took place. In England, the Abortion Act debates ran all night on a number of occasions. This Bill will complete all of its Commons stages in two days. This is clearly and obviously wrong. It is an arrogant abuse of the legislative process, dreamed up by people who want to avoid the usual safeguards, presumably knowing that this change would expose that 100,000 people are live today in Northern Ireland who would not be if it had the same laws as the rest of the UK.

8. These changes would permit sex-selective abortion.

As explained above, decriminalising abortion would remove any requirement for the person seeking the abortion to give reasons for seeking it. So those wanting boys rather than girls are free to go ahead and terminate their female pregnancy. Anyone who has been through the 12 week scan (which includes the driving force behind these proposals, who is currently pregnant) knows that the gender can be revealed early on through chromosomal tests. At the 12 week scan they see that what is growing inside them is not an alien or merely an ancillary part of their body. As the midwife says during the scan: “here is your baby”.

9. This move would set the devolution settlement back.

There has been no consultation with those who live in the part of the UK that these changes would affect. The people of Northern Ireland have been left out of this entirely, except via some polling commissioned by pro-abortion organisations with a largely unknown pollster that is not a British Polling Council member, and which has not released the data tables from the survey or revealed the questions asked in the poll. This is a project of the Westminster elite backed by the well-funded pro-abortion community.

10. Even if Northern Ireland wanted abortion reform, these proposals go too far.

Even if it were the case that Northern Ireland would tolerate some abortion reform imposed from Westminster – which this ComRes poll contradicts – they would be going from the most pro-life country in the EU to the most liberal abortion law in the EU overnight on the basis of rushed legislation. Most people in Northern Ireland do not understand what is about to be done to them. This is not only offensive to the constitutional settlement, but to the principles of democracy.

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Mark Harper: We need a date for Britain to leave the EU. But here’s why it can’t be October 31st – much as I’d like it to be.

Mark Harper is a former Chief Whip, and MP for the Forest of Dean.

We now have two candidates left in the Conservative Party leadership contest, and I am sorry to disappoint – but I will not be disclosing which I am going to back, although whoever wins will have my full support to make their leadership of the Party I love as successful as it can be. I think the next Prime Minister, whoever it is, needs a realistic plan to keep our promises and deliver Brexit.

Like most Conservatives, I’d love to leave the EU as soon as possible, and I voted to leave on the March 29th and April 12th. The current extension to Article 50 runs to October 31st – which is the EU’s date, not ours. As a former Chief Whip, it’s my judgement that it isn’t credible to say either that the present deal can be negotiated, or that a new can, and be got through both Houses of Parliament by the end of October.

But I don’t think we should carry on kicking the can down the road, either. After our disastrous showing in both the local and European Parliament elections, I want to make sure that Britain has left the European Union before we have any more elections. We must leave between October 31 this year and March next year. We can’t go into the 2020 elections for important Mayoral positions and Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales without having delivered our promise to leave the European Union.

If the Government is faced with the choice of leaving without a deal or never leaving at all, I believe we should leave without a deal. My view is that the Commons will allow this to happen if Conservative colleagues are persuaded that the Government has done everything it can to secure a deal, but it simply isn’t possible to do so. I don’t believe that colleagues will be persuaded of that by October 31st, so leaving without a deal on that date isn’t credible.

From the moment the new Prime Minister assumes office, he should take every step required to ensure that we are in a position to leave without a deal if that proves necessary.

So how are we going to get a new deal? The key is to build strong relationships, both across the Conservative Parliamentary Party, with our DUP allies, and with our European partners.

First, the new Prime Minister needs to properly engage and listen to the views of our Conservative MPs. The Conservative Parliamentary Party, having been heard and properly consulted, can then unite around the new strategy.

We can only get Brexit delivered, as I argued last October on this site, with the votes of Conservatives, our DUP allies and a handful of backbench Labour MPs. We cannot trust the Labour front bench: its job is to oppose us, and Jeremy Corbyn wants to destroy us.

We must also face up to the reality that the current unamended ‘deal’ is dead. The only thing for which Parliament has signalled approval is the present ‘deal’ without the backstop.

So must go back to Brussels and open real and transparent discussions to change the backstop. After the Brady amendment’s approval in January and credible work on alternatives, I haven’t seen any evidence that the Prime Minister or Cabinet seriously pursued this course of action when it had the chance to earlier this year.

The second element of a credible Brexit plan must involve setting the right relationship with our EU partners – both the Commission and the heads of government of the member states.

The new Prime Minister and Cabinet must use their diplomatic and communication skills – both bilaterally and collectively – to get the tone of these relationships right. We need to show the EU what a positive post-Brexit relationship could look like – covering trade and the economy, security and defence – and clearly articulate how it’s best for both sides to get this right.

Then we can put forward a proper plan to change the backstop and protect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

The third part of this Brexit plan should involve building strong relationships both with the Republic of Ireland, and with both communities and all Parties in Northern Ireland.

This final element of the plan is crucial. The EU will only move on the backstop with reassurance about both the integrity of the Belfast Agreement and the Single Market. We need a serious and credible figure to lead the Northern Ireland Office and tackle these issues head on.

It is vital to rebuild a proper relationship with the Republic of Ireland. We work very closely with Irish officials on everything from the operation of the Common Travel Area, to our efforts to crack down on smuggling at the present currency, VAT and excise border and regularly share intelligence and security resources to ensure both countries are kept safe. This was something I saw first-hand when serving as Immigration Minister under David Cameron.

Our relationship with the Republic of Ireland should not only be with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, but also with the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil. As a general election in Ireland becomes a less distant prospect, we need to avoid the backstop becoming a partisan electoral issue in that contest.

In Northern Ireland, we need to make swift progress in re-establishing the Executive at Stormont, driven by a renewed effort from the new Prime Minister and Secretary of State. As the Conservative and Unionist Party, we owe it to everyone in Northern Ireland to restore a functioning devolved government.

This task will be difficult, but the role of Northern Ireland in achieving a successful exit from the European Union for the whole United Kingdom together will be critical.

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Who’s supporting whom: David Jeffrey’s calculations. 1) Ministers and backbenchers

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-17-at-06.46.49 Who’s supporting whom: David Jeffrey’s calculations. 1) Ministers and backbenchers Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Next Tory leader MPs ETC Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Harper MP Jeremy Hunt MP House of Commons (general) Government Esther McVey MP Dominic Raab MP Conservative leadership election 2019 Boris Johnson MP Andrea Leadsom MP

Conservative Leadership election: who Ministers and backbenchers are supporting.

Source: David Jeffrey’s Blog.

David Jeffrey of Liverpool University has been undertaking some fascinating study in depth of the contest on his blog – which we have quoted several times in the course of our coverage.

So we will run this week a selection of some of his most interesting findings.  They can all be seen on his blog, which we link to above.

Jeffrey declares at the start that “this information in this is correct as of 17:00, 13/06/2018”.

His study is of declared supporters from before the first ballot – so Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Matt Hancock are all included in his calculation.

The chart above shows the percentage figures.  Obviously, it must be remembered that some candidates won more declared supporters (and votes) than others, and the percentages must be seen in that light.

To us, the most interesting findings relate to candidates with a relatively large number of declared backers, and a small percentage of either backbench or Ministerial supporters.

So, for example, the relatively small proportion of Ministers backing Dominic Raab, and the relatively large one supporting Sajid Javid, both of whom got similar votes in the first round, stand out.

David Jeffrey is on Twitter as @DavidJeffery_.

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Opposition Day Brexit motion. The ten Tory MPs who voted with Labour. The eight Labour MPs who voted with the Tories.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-12-at-18.13.25 Opposition Day Brexit motion. The ten Tory MPs who voted with Labour. The eight Labour MPs who voted with the Tories. Stephen Hepburn MP Sir Oliver Letwin MP Sir Kevin Barron MP Sam Gyimah MP Ronnie Campbell MP MPs ETC Kenneth Clarke MP Ken Clarke MP Kate Hoey MP Justine Greening MP Jonathan Djanogly MP John Mann MP Jim Fitzpatrick MP Jeremy Corbyn MP House of Commons (general) Guto Bebb MP Graham Stringer MP Europe EU Dominic Grieve MP Caroline Spelman MP Caroline Flint MP Brexit Antoinette Sandbach MP

The ten Conservative MPs who voted with Labour were:

  • Guto Bebb.
  • Ken Clarke.
  • Jonathan Djanogly.
  • Justine Greening.
  • Dominic Grieve.
  • Sam Gyimah.
  • Oliver Letwin.
  • Antoinette Sandbach.
  • Caroline Spelman.

– – –

  • Kevin Barron.
  • Ronnie Campbell.
  • Jim Fitzpatrick.
  • Caroline Flint.
  • Stephen Hepburn.
  • Kate Hoey.
  • John Mann.
  • Graham Stringer.

– – –

Early days, but Dominic Walsh’s take looks on the money.

Additionally, one of the questions posed by the European election results is: what effect will they have on Labour MPs in seats that voted for Brexit in 2016?

If large numbers of Labour abstentions on this motion are identified, we may began to have an answer.

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WATCH: Barclay goes to bat for the Government against Labour’s anti-No Deal motion

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