John Bercow has mocked Philip Hammond after the Chancellor told Labour MPs to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal so “we can all move on”.
The Commons speaker pulled Hammond up in Treasury questions after he, in answer to a question from the Opposition benches, said “there is a deal on the table” and MPs should vote for it.
Bercow, in reference to the government’s decision to defer the debate on the prime minister’s deal, said: “I just very gently say to the chancellor, to whom I’ve been listening with great care, it’s quite difficult to vote for something if there isn’t a vote.”
MPs howled with laughter as Bercow added: “I’m trying to help him but it’s a point that’s so blindingly obvious I’m surprised that I have to state it.”
The speaker’s intervention came after Hammond had said in response to shadow chancellor John McDonnell: “What the prime minister is doing, I think absolutely rightly, is making a last attempt to see whether she can get further concessions from our partners in the European Union, which is clearly the desire of this House, and she will come back and she will report to the House when she’s done so.”
He added: “The remedy lies in his hands, there is a deal on the table that will end the uncertainty and allow this country to move on, and our polling shows that that is exactly what the British people want. All he has to do is get behind it, vote for the prime minister’s deal and we can all move on.”
McDonnell earlier quoted the Federation of Small Businesses – which had called for greater clarity over Brexit – and said the “economic warning signs are now flashing red” before urging Hammond to persuade May not to delay a decision on her deal any further.
Conservative MP Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) later made reference to the controversial Irish border backstop as he pushed for income tax to be abolished.
He said: “Income tax was supposed to be a temporary measure.
“Can the Chancellor update on his plans finally to get rid of this tax or will it, like the backstop, be with us for the next 200 years?”
Hammond said he had no plans to abolish income tax and said the Kingdom of Belgium was originally intended to be “a temporary construct – and yet it is still with us”.
He added: “The world has moved on since the Napoleonic Wars, as he may or may not celebrate, and I have to tell him the government has no plans to abolish income tax.”