MPs to go ahead with their February break - just weeks before Brexit
PUBLISHED: 14:36 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:37 18 October 2018
MPs are to go ahead with their week-long break in February despite it coming just weeks before Brexit.
There had been speculation that the annual break would be dropped in order to allow time to push through vital Brexit legislation.
But Commons leader Andrea Leadsom today told MPs that Parliament would rise on February 14 and return on February 25 - depending on "the progress of business".
Labour's shadow leader of the Commons Valerie Vaz welcomed the announcement but pressed the government to give further detail on the progress of the statutory instruments, a complex parliamentary tool otherwise known as secondary or delegated legislation, associated with Brexit.
The government has to get around 800 statutory instruments (SIs) passed in order to prepare the UK for leaving the EU.
Vaz said: "Only 33 have been laid and only 46 proposed statutory instruments are currently going through the European Union statutory instrument committee.
"Last week in a delegated legislation committee, sadly it took an hour and the minister didn't even have the necessary information about the impact of the SI nor whether the government had conducted an equalities assessment."
Leadsom said she had "a very good informal meeting" with the European Union statutory instrument committee, otherwise known as the sifting committee, on the issue and said she was confident all SIs would be "brought forward in good time for exit day".
Vaz also hit out over Parliament's final say on the government's Brexit deal and whether MPs would be given a "meaningful" or "meaningless" vote.
She said: "This is not a minority dictatorship, parliamentary democracy and Parliament is sovereign. This is the most outrageous power-grab that's ever been seen by the government."
Leadsom said any vote would be in the hands of the House itself" which has "the power to amend, approve or reject such a motion".
She added: "It's also important that to recognise the need for the House to consider the question that will in reality be before the United Kingdom and that is whether or not to accept the deal that the government has negotiated with the European Union."
The SNP's shadow Commons leader Pete Wishart later said he was "grateful" that the meaningful vote "will be an amendable motion", but cautioned against any suggestion that it would be a "binary choice between a disastrous Brexit and the horrors of a no deal".
He said: "It must be up to this House to decide and determine the biggest decision that this House will be making in the course of the last few decades, so we must be reassured here and today that this will not be a binary choice."
Tory former minister Sir Edward Leigh sought to clarify the situation, saying: "If there is no deal, the government must lay a motion in neutral terms, under section 13(4) of the Act. This is unamendable and attempts to politicise the office of the Speaker are completely outwith our rules and procedures.
"If there is a deal, under 13(1) there is a vote, it is amendable, but if the government is defeated on the deal it defeats the deal.
"So in either case, Brexit proceeds under our procedure - it is now unstoppable and nobody in Parliament under the existing act can stop it except the government."
Labour MP Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) asked for "a meaningful debate on the meaning of the word meaningful".
Leadsom responded: "Anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal would lead to great uncertainty for businesses and citizens because any changes might mean that the government is not in a position to ratify the deal."