Theresa May – 2019 Brexit Statement in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 14 January 2019.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the further assurances and clarifications we have received from the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

As a proud Unionist, I share the concerns of Members who want to ensure that in leaving the European Union we do not undermine the strength of our own union in the UK.

That is why when the EU tried to insist on a Protocol that would carve out Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK’s customs territory, I said no.

And I secured instead a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement – avoiding both a hard border on the island of Ireland and a customs border down the Irish Sea.

I also negotiated substantial commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration to do everything possible to prevent the backstop ever being needed – and to ensure that if it were, it would be a temporary arrangement.

But listening to the debate before Christmas it was clear that we needed to go further.

So I returned to Brussels to faithfully and firmly reflect the concerns of this House.

The conclusions of December’s Council went further in addressing our concerns.

They included reaffirming the EU’s determination to work speedily to establish by 31st December 2020 alternative arrangements so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.

They underlined that if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered it would indeed apply temporarily.

They committed that in such an event, the EU would use their best endeavours to continue to negotiate and conclude as soon as possible a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop.

And they gave a new assurance that negotiations on the Future Relationship could start immediately after the UK’s withdrawal.

Since the Council and throughout the Christmas and New Year period I have spoken to a number of European leaders and there have been further discussions with the EU to seek further assurances alongside the Council conclusions.

And today I have published the outcome of these further discussions with an exchange of letters between the UK Government and the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council.

The letter from President Tusk confirms what I said in the House before Christmas – namely that the assurances in the European Council conclusions have legal standing in the EU.

Mr Speaker, my Rt Hon Friend the Attorney General has also written to me today confirming that in the light of the joint response from the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission, these conclusions “would have legal force in international law”, and setting out his opinion – “reinforced” by today’s letter – “that the balance of risks favours the conclusion that it is unlikely that the EU will wish to rely on the implementation of the backstop provisions.”

And further, that it is therefore his judgement that “the current draft Withdrawal Agreement now represents the only politically practicable and available means of securing our exit from the European Union.”

Mr Speaker, I know that some Members would ideally like a unilateral exit mechanism or a hard time limit to the backstop.

I have explained this to the EU and tested these points in negotiations.

But the EU would not agree to this, because they fear that such a provision could allow the UK to leave the backstop at any time without any other arrangements in place and require a hard border to be erected between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I have been very clear with them that this is not something we would ever countenance – that the UK is steadfast in its commitment to the Belfast Agreement and would never allow a return to a hard border.

But it is not enough simply to say this. Both sides also need to take steps to avoid a hard border when the UK is outside of the EU.

Failing to do so would place businesses on the island of Ireland in an impossible position having to choose between costly new checks and procedures that would disrupt their supply chains or breaking the law.

So we have the backstop as a last resort.

But both the Taoiseach and I have said consistently that the best way to avoid a hard border is through the future relationship – that is the sustainable solution. And that neither of us want to use the backstop.

So since the Council we have been looking at commitments that would ensure we get our future relationship or alternative arrangements in place by the end of the Implementation Period, so that there will be no need to enter the backstop and no need for any fear that there will be a hard border.

And that is why in the first of the further assurances they have provided today, the EU has committed to begin exploratory talks on the detailed legal provisions of the future relationship as soon as this Parliament has approved the deal and the Withdrawal Agreement has been signed. And they have been explicit that this can happen immediately after this House votes through the agreement.

If this House approved the deal tomorrow, it would give us almost two years to complete the next phase of the negotiations. And, of course, we will have the option to extend the Implementation Period if further time were needed for either one or two years. It is my absolute conviction that we can turn the Political Declaration into legal text in that time, avoiding the need for the backstop altogether.

The letters also make clear that these talks should give “particular urgency to discussion of ideas, including the use of all available facilitative arrangements and technologies, for replacing the backstop with permanent arrangements.”

And further that those arrangements “are not required to replicate the backstop provisions in any respect.” So contrary to the fears of some Hon. Members, the EU will not simply insist that the backstop is the only way to avoid a hard border. They have agreed to discuss technological solutions and any alternative means of delivering on this objective – and to get on with this as a priority in the next phase of negotiations.

Second, the EU has now committed to a fast track process to bring our future trade deal into force once it has been agreed. If there is any delay in ratification, the Commission has now said they will recommend provisionally applying the relevant parts of the agreement so that we would not need to enter the backstop.

Such a provisional application process saved four years on the EU-Korea deal and it would prevent any delays in ratification by other EU Member State parliaments from delaying our deal coming into force.

Third, the EU has provided absolute clarity on the explicit linkage between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, and made that link clear in the way the documents are presented.

I know some colleagues are worried about an imbalance between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration because the EU cannot reach a legal agreement with us on the future relationship until we are a third country.

But the link between them means the commitments of one cannot be banked without the commitments of the other – and the EU have been clear that they come as a package.

Bad faith by either side in negotiating the legal instruments that will deliver the future relationship laid out in the Political Declaration would be a breach of their legal obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Fourth, the exchange of letters confirms that the UK can unilaterally deliver all of the commitments we made last week to safeguard the interests of the people and businesses of Northern Ireland and their position in our precious union.

For it gives clear answers to address some questions that have been raised since the deal was reached…

…that the deal means no change to the arrangements which underpin north-south cooperation in the Belfast Agreement…

…that Stormont will have a lock on any new laws the EU proposes should be added to the backstop…

…and that the UK can give a restored Northern Ireland Executive a seat at the table on the joint committee overseeing the deal.

Mr Speaker, President Juncker says explicitly in his letter that the backstop “would represent a suboptimal trading relationship for both sides.”

We have spoken at length about why we want to avoid the backstop. But it is not in the EU’s interests either.

For this backstop gives the UK tariff-free access to the EU’s market.

And it does so with no free movement of people, no financial contribution, no requirement to follow most of the level playing field rules and no need to allow EU boats any access to our waters for fishing.

Furthermore, under these arrangements, UK authorities in Northern Ireland would clear goods for release into the EU Single Market with no further checks or controls.

This is unprecedented and means the EU relying on the UK for the functioning of its own market.

So the EU will not want this backstop to come into force – and the exchange of letters today makes clear that if it did, they would do all they could to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, Mr Speaker, I fully understand that these new assurances still will not go as far as some would like.

I recognise that some Members wanted to see changes to the Withdrawal Agreement: a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop, an end date or rejecting the backstop altogether – although it should be said that this would have risked other EU Member States attempting to row back on the significant wins we have already achieved such as on control over our waters or the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

But the simple truth is this: the EU was not prepared to agree to this.

And rejecting the backstop altogether means no deal.

Whatever version of the Future Relationship you might want to see – from Norway to Canada to any number of variations – all of them require a Withdrawal Agreement and any Withdrawal Agreement will contain the backstop.

And that is not going to change however the House votes tomorrow.

And to those who think we should reject this deal in favour of no deal, because we cannot get every assurance we want…

…I ask what would a no deal Brexit do to strengthen the hand of those campaigning for Scottish independence – or indeed those demanding a border poll in Northern Ireland?

Surely this is the real threat to our Union.

Mr Speaker, with just 74 days until the 29th March the consequences of voting against this deal tomorrow are becoming ever clearer.

With no deal we would have: no Implementation Period, no security partnership, no guarantees for UK citizens overseas, and no certainty for businesses and workers like those I met in Stoke this morning. And we would see changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of our Union at risk.

And if, rather than leaving with no deal, this House blocked Brexit, that would be a subversion of our democracy, saying to the people we were elected to serve that we were unwilling to do what they had instructed.

So I say to Members on all sides of this House – whatever you may have previously concluded – over these next 24 hours, give this deal a second look.

No it is not perfect. And yes it is a compromise.

But when the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask:

Did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union?

Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union? Or did we let the British people down?

I say we should deliver for the British people and get on with building a brighter future for our country by backing this deal tomorrow.

And I commend this Statement to the House.

Lord Purvis – 2019 Speech in the House of Lords on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Lord Purvis of Tweed in the House of Lords on 10 January 2019.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, and to hear the contributions from other colleagues in the House.

Between the previous debate and this one, I visited the Middle East and north Africa, and a political friend of mine there told me that the world is both laughing and crying at us. They are laughing because of the farce of the Government’s ineptitude but crying because they love our country, as I and we all do, they need us to succeed in the world, and they see the canny British pragmatism of being independent but trading freely as part of the EU, with our openness and liberalism, being set aside in an uncertain world. To make the case further, the British Business Secretary—clearly going through trauma, as anyone listening to the “Today” programme this morning would have heard, but staying in the Cabinet, half-heartedly but on full pay—wrote this week that global confidence in the UK is seeping away because of the actions of the Government. They and he were of course right; it is a combination of farce and foreboding.

We have had the worst trading Christmas since the crash. Up to 5,000 jobs are going at JLR. Some £800 billion of assets in services, jobs and those managing them have moved and are moving to the EU. There are ​job shortages in key sectors, and on 21 December HMRC advised pharmaceutical companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of stock over March and April. These are all now fact, and the permanently devalued pound compounds them all. They are the consequences of the prospect of leaving our biggest trading market, with no combined customs system.

Sir Walter Scott wrote what would be an apt description of the Brexit campaign:

“Faces that have charmed us the most escape us the soonest”.

Now the problem is that there is finally the crashing reality of what leaving means, and it does not match the rhetoric in a campaign that appealed to many people’s lesser angels. Realisation is never as good as anticipation, but the promises made, which could never have been kept, should never have been accepted by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech. Lines in the sand have been washed away with every government retreat, and red lines suffer from greater and greater anaemia. Just yesterday, in a desperate attempt to appease the DUP, the Government committed to giving the non-sitting Stormont a veto on entering the backstop, which is utterly meaningless. We heard of course about a ferry contract being given to a company with no boats, but now we have a vote being given to an Assembly with no sitting Members.

There are only 43 sitting days left if there is no February Recess, and we are still promised more than 40 trade deals to ratify, as well as up to another 600 statutory instruments on delivering exit. We now simply cannot achieve a sensible, orderly exit, nor are the Government likely to be capable of delivering one at all.

We all know, mostly from speeches from the opposite side in these debates, that the party of incrementalism and resistance to radicalism struggled with being in a political union with the continent, because it never faced down its English nationalist edge. Instead of taking on UKIP, it sought to subsume it. It was the same when it struggled with the free trade arguments a century ago and land reform a century before that. Why it has been a surprise to some that it has been incapable of agreeing an exit when it could never agree what membership meant has been the surprise to me.

The difference now is that, in previous times, there was a clear opposition with a philosophical basis for their opposition: the Liberal Party, an alternative official opposition with an alternative proposition. But Labour now cannot even agree that the UK should stay in the single market, which guarantees the best economic and social future for our country. The Labour leadership, trying to inch the party to a general election in which the party will have a manifesto commitment to leave the EU, is not offering any meaningful opposition, so it is no surprise that it is not clear what it seeks in the meaningful vote. We heard from the cri de coeur of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, yesterday that he wants an election to unite his party, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, wants an election to unite hers. With both supporting Brexit, however, it cannot be a realistic way forward, nor will it adequately address the clear divisions in society, which were present long before the Scottish referendum, never mind the EU referendum, which nearly broke our union apart.​

The divisions are deep in society, in the nations of the union and in the parties. The majority of Conservative Members do not want the Prime Minister’s deal, but she is persisting with it, and the majority of Labour Members want a referendum and Jeremy Corbyn is turning a deaf ear to them. We cannot easily get out of these divisions, but we need to accept that decisions of these magnitude need to go beyond a particular binary poll with undeliverable promises.

A higher proportion of registered voters voted yes in the Scottish independence referendum than voted leave in the EU referendum, but one side lost and one side won. But we surely cannot be in a position in which a 37.4% vote of registered voters on the winning side in the EU referendum has all the moral weight of democracy behind it, but the 37.8% of registered voters on the losing side in Scotland are cast aside as losers in perpetuity.

We cannot get out of the minority complex easily, but digging ourselves deeper into it over the last two years has not helped. However, least we can start. I hear the argument that another referendum will compound the divisions, but they were present before and will remain after. At least those who have to live with the consequences of this, young people in particular, need to have a say. Those who voted leave will decide whether this is what they actually voted for and whether it is worth it. This is a better start to addressing the deep social and economic divisions that allowed nationalism to breed than to limp on a journey into even more damage and division that this course takes us into. Perhaps then we can release government to focus on why this nationalism in Scotland and some parts of England has grown in recent years, while it is beneficial for our whole union to do so. We can at least have the rest of the world no longer crying with us or laughing at us.

Baroness Thornton – 2019 Speech in the House of Lords on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Baroness Thornton in the House of Lords on 10 January 2019.

My Lords, I make no apology for the fact that I will continue to press the Minister, and the Government, about the effects of the political agreement on our health services.

I start by thanking the Minister for addressing some of the questions that I raised in my speech in December, particularly those concerning medical research. It saves me from repeating the whole speech, which, as good as it was, would be tedious for me and for the House. However, I will return to some of the unresolved and serious matters that the NHS, the research community, pharma and medicine face, post Brexit—and to how very serious the issues of safety and availability will become if we should be so foolish as to crash out of the EU in a couple of months. I make no apology for continuing to speak about health and social care issues. I did it during the passage of the Brexit Act. I have been doing it during the extensive and somewhat bizarre debates about the “in case we crash out” statutory instruments. We tackled those concerning the regulation of human tissues, embryology, organs and blood yesterday. I will continue to raise these serious matters today and will do so during the passage of the Trade Bill.​

At every stage I have sought reassurance from the Government over matters of reciprocal healthcare, the free movement of medical and nursing staff, the regulation and supply of medicines, clinical trials and research, the conduct and regulation of which is so important in the UK. Access to the portal is vital to patients across the UK and Europe.

The response of the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, in his opening remarks yesterday, was welcome, after a fashion. However, I want to raise two issues. What the noble Lord said was in many ways too aspirational and not concrete enough. It was about wanting to explore new relationships, not to continue the ones that work already and are beginning to fall apart. Secondly, it was about the future. The noble Lord said:

“We have been clear that we want to explore association with EU research and innovation programmes”.—[Official Report, 9/1/19; col. 2224.]

While research programmes are protected to 2020, this completely ignores the fact that most research programmes take years to design, negotiate and fund. Brexit is already having a chilling effect on future research. What do the Government intend to do about this? How can they ensure that our universities and research organisations are not severely disadvantaged by being excluded from the funding and regulatory regimes of which they need to be part?

I shall return to the issue of the portal, which the noble Lord failed to address in his opening remarks; I hope he will do so at the end of this debate.

Agreement must be reached in the negotiations on UK participation in the single assessment procedure and access to the portal and database, which underpin the cross-national clinical trials regulation and come into operation in the next year. No access to the portal will severely reduce the ease of UK-EU trials set up and hurt our thriving life sciences environment. Clinical trials take years to plan and run. As things stand, UK researchers will enter the implementation period unsure what regulatory conditions they will face when they exit it. What is the Minister doing to resolve this issue with the necessary urgency? Is he aware of the cost of failing to do so? The deal as it is expressed does not achieve access to the portal. The political declaration makes no reference to how UK-EU clinical trials will operate after Brexit and this is of significant concern. As every day passes, uncertainty continues to increase in the research community over what the regulatory framework will be after 29 March and whether UK institutions will continue to be able to lead on UK-EU trials.

A further aspect is the mobility of researchers. The publication of the immigration White Paper in December has not clarified how changes to the rules will affect medical research; perhaps the Minister would care to do so. The current Migration Advisory Committee recommendation is for a salary threshold of £30,000 per annum, a figure that would penalise many research technicians—skilled workers who form the backbone of the research workforce but are often not highly paid. EEA nationals will now be subject to the immigration health surcharge and immigration skills charge. Students from the EEA will be required to have a visa to study, as current non-EEA students do.​

On UK-EU mobility, it is good that the importance of the international movement of researchers is recognised in the political declaration, but there is not enough detail on the extent to which this will continue, either for researchers moving across borders to live and work, or for short-term travel for shared projects such as clinical trials. Could the Minister clarify that?

It is absolutely essential for our world-leading medical research environment, and for the breakthroughs that benefit patients, that we continue to attract, recruit and retain global scientific talent at all levels. At present, neither the political declaration nor the immigration White Paper offer this certainty. Yesterday, the Minister made no mention of medicines, which is an issue I will continue to raise because of the supply of medicines in the short term.

Finally, I raise the issue of the European reference networks following Brexit. The ERNs are virtual networks of medical specialists across Europe. They facilitate discussions on complex or rare diseases and conditions that require highly specialised treatment. As such, they are an essential resource for the 30 million rare disease patients in Europe. I agree with the Specialised Healthcare Alliance that continued UK involvement in European reference networks is vital to driving forward improvements in rare disease care in both the UK and the European Union. However, at present, the ERNs are open only to EU member states and EEA members, which means that there is a clear risk that the UK will no longer be able to participate. Can the Minister ensure that the Government work with the European Commission to ensure that the UK is able to contribute to ERNs following Brexit, in the interests of patients with rare diseases? I hope the Minister will be able to answer these questions at the end of this debate.

Layla Moran – 2019 Speech on the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

Below is the text of the speech made by Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, in the House of Commons on 11 January 2019.

I am grateful to the House for allowing me to raise the important issue of the Oxford to Cambridge expressway, which is of grave concern to my constituents. I would like to start by giving my sincere thanks to the Minister for his commitment to engage both with me and my constituents. He very graciously accepted my invitation to visit Botley to see for himself how our community would be affected. I am very grateful, and so are they. I hope he sees today as an extension of that visit by putting what was said in our private meeting on the record and into the public domain.

In September, the Government announced their preferred corridor for the Oxford to Cambridge expressway. That corridor covers many different potential routes, every one of which would have a significant impact on my constituents. The level and tone of the responses I have received highlights the importance of meaningful consultation at every stage. Failure to do so, I am sorry to say, has already raised people’s suspicions and elicited some strong opposition to the proposals. For example, Lucy, who lives in Botley, sums up the feelings of many when she says:

“I am concerned that there has so far been no”

official

“public consultation. I feel residents only have part of the story so far, and this is very worrying.”

Residents have had no say on this proposal overall, as to whether they agree with the stated objectives of the scheme, whether they believe it is an effective way to achieve those objectives, or whether there are more effective ways to spend taxpayers’ money. Many have told me that the case for this scheme is simply not strong enough, and that there are other objectives that should be met. Indeed, many have pointed out that there are different objectives within different parts of Government that are contradictory. The scheme, which is proposed by Highways England, is based on the need for a more rapid route for freight lorries to travel between southern and western ports and eastern and northern destinations. At the same time, the National Infrastructure Commission argues that the road is there to help build a million more homes. Yet several residents point out that surely the massive level of commuter traffic that would also be coming on to the road would get in the way of the freight lorry movements, and vice versa. How these aspects are being joined up is, as yet, unclear. Roland and Jackie express the common feeling that the last thing Oxfordshire needs is more traffic when they say:

“This expressway is not needed. Oxford is full. It cannot take any more traffic. Long traffic jams are a regular way of life for us all. The prospect of beautiful South Oxfordshire being massacred by this vanity project is heart breaking.”

It is very unclear what the knock-on effect of the traffic generated by the expressway will be. Every single one of these routes will, in turn, affect different parts of the community. I would now like to focus on that.

​John Howell (Henley) (Con)

I hear what the hon. Lady is saying on this matter. I would like to pay some tribute to the Liberal Democrats, because this project started life in 2015 in a Department for Transport paper that was signed off by Baroness Kramer and Norman Baker, as well as Conservative Ministers. But does she accept the point of view of the Labour council in Oxford that this is a way of reducing the traffic that goes round Oxford?

Layla Moran

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. I will deal with that point later, but no, I do not.

If the expressway is routed round the north of Oxford, there is likely to be a negative effect on the already heavily congested road network around Kidlington, Yarnton and Begbroke. Some investment is already planned to try to improve congestion on the A40, as was mentioned earlier this week, but probably not enough to cope with the existing problem, let alone the additional housing developments already planned. As far as I am aware, the potential impact of the expressway has not yet been looked at in relation to that.

The route will also run close to several important ecological sites. My constituent Judy, who lives in Kidlington and is an ecological consultant and wildlife expert, says:

“I have studied and loved the wildlife areas in the path of the Expressway, especially Cothill Fen, Wytham Woods and Oxford Meadows for many years. All these wildlife areas of national and international importance are potentially at risk of damage from the Expressway. Either by direct damage”—

which is obvious—

“or by damaging effects of air pollution from increased traffic or things like hydrology change, noise or light pollution. These areas are our irreplaceable natural heritage and need to be preserved intact for future generations.”

It is worth noting that Wytham Woods is one of the most studied woodland areas in the world.

If the expressway utilises the A34 west of Oxford, that is likely to lead to homes being demolished, a worsening of the already poor air quality around Botley, and impact on the Commonwealth war graves that are close to local schools—the Minister knows that well, because we had a walkabout and he saw it for himself. The expressway will also—indeed, it already does—impact on house prices. While shopping at the butchers recently, I met a gentleman who was concerned that the spectre of the expressway was having a negative effect on his ability to sell his house, and he desperately wanted to move. In our meeting, the Minister and Highways England seemed sympathetic to those arguments, not least because demolishing so many houses in an area that needs more houses, not fewer, seems nonsensical, and would be extremely expensive.

Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)

The hon. Lady mentions environmental factors, which I agree are important. Does she agree that the impact on the environment could be minimised and mitigated if we use existing roads, and upgrade and utilise existing sections, rather than routes that involve virgin grassland?

Layla Moran

I do not rule out the use of existing roads, but where the proposed route would impact on a community as directly as it would in Botley, it should be ruled out. Again I ask the Minister to do that today, ​because that particular section is horrific, and if we do not rule it out, the wider impacts felt not only there but in other nearby communities could be massive. Sophie from Abingdon contacted me on that point. She strongly opposes the plan because of air pollution in the Wootton area. Jane from Botley repeats concerns about what will happen to schools and says:

“I regularly walk on Westminster Way which runs parallel to the A34 and frequently find the fumes so strong that I have to cover my face and change my route.”

As an asthmatic she sometimes finds that she cannot even walk near the A34 as it is now.

Villages, including South Hinksey and Wytham, currently have direct access to the A34, and residents in those communities are worried about what will happen to that access. South Hinksey is already dealing with the start of the Oxford flood alleviation scheme, which will cause chaos to access to the village. The expressway could be an even bigger scheme, and I wonder whether that has been taken into account.

On the final option, if the expressway is routed to the south of Oxford it will have to go through the green belt, bringing a large amount of additional traffic to an already congested Oxford ring road and the A34 south of Oxford. That stretch of the A34 is already at capacity and has regular gridlocks. Any incident on the A34, however minor, leads to a rapid build-up of traffic, and long tailbacks result in commuters using local towns and villages as rat runs just to get out. We should not make that problem worse in the long run by including an expressway.

I would love the Department to focus on delivering the long-awaited A34 safety review, and I would be extraordinarily grateful for an update on that project, which has been promised for months. I also believe that long-promised and overdue investment in upgrading the Lodge Hill junction must be finished before we can assess how to handle extra traffic on the A34. Will the Minister keep pushing the county council to press on with that project, because there have been yet more delays?

It is not clear whether dealing with the many potential impacts of the expressway has been fully costed, or whether those impacts will be left as problems for local communities to sort out after it has been completed. Many of my constituents argue that the value-for-money and environmental impact of the expressway scheme as a whole should be tested actively against other options. Sophie, again, said:

“I would like to see a plan to reduce congestion in the area, as I feel it is at an all-time high. I would like to see this plan focus on public transport improvements, particularly rail transport and cycle infrastructure.”

We know that that is happening to an extent, but it could be so much more if we reinvested that money.

As we know, the expressway follows a route similar to east-west rail. However, as plans for the expressway have been worked up, the plans for east-west rail have been downgraded. In particular, plans for electrification have been dropped. A growing list of other rail schemes in and linking to Oxfordshire have been delayed or not delivered—the electrification of the line between Didcot and Oxford has been delayed; Oxford commuters look with envy at the quieter, more comfortable trains serving ​Didcot and Reading; and plans for the expansion of the very overcrowded Oxford station have taken years to make progress.

With the right approach, not only could the capacity and quality of rail travel be improved, but much better facilities could be provided for cyclists, as has already happened in Cambridge. Other rail projects, which would cost much less than the expressway, include reopening the station at Grove, on which there is cross-party endeavour; introducing passenger trains through to Cowley; and upgrading facilities at Radley and Culham. All those projects could tie in better with the local cycling network. I am grateful to the Minister for debating with me in the House on a previous occasion the recent report by Andrew Gilligan, which sets out a clear and coherent strategy for investment that could transform Oxford and surrounding communities by making them cycle-friendly. All those things together would cost a tiny fraction of the expressway.

Crucially, there is a huge amount of peer-reviewed evidence showing that when Governments choose to invest money in additional road capacity, although in the short term there may well be an alleviation effect, the long-term impact is more traffic, more pollution and higher carbon dioxide emissions, at a time when we should be bearing down on all those things. However, when Governments choose to invest in public transport, the result is the opposite. At the very least, the Government should have given equal consideration to all the other approaches first before making this decision. If they are looking to achieve the best long-term value for taxpayers’ money and are committed to switching from the car to other forms of transport, this is their chance.

In conclusion, I share my residents’ deep concern that this Conservative Government are forcing an expressway on our area without fully consulting people about their premise. I am sorry to say that, to add insult to injury, Conservative MPs in Oxfordshire have lobbied the Minister to use the existing road, and I am concerned that that includes Botley. I would love clarification that that was not part of the lobbying effort and that Members did not ask for Botley to be bulldozed. If that were the case, I would let the Minister know, and, as I am sure he is aware, I will not let that or any other part of the scheme drop.

Matt Hancock – 2019 Speech on Air Pollution

Below is the text of the speech made by Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, on 14 January 2019.

I’m here, as Health Secretary, because air pollution is a health emergency.

When it comes to our health, there’s lots of things we can take personal responsibility for: what we eat, how we exercise and whether we smoke, for instance.

And I’m no nanny state politician. I believe personal responsibility is important.

But around a third of what determines the length of our healthy life is the environment we live in – the things we can’t, alone, do anything about.

And of those environmental causes of healthy life expectancy, the biggest factor is the air we breathe.

The biggest single environmental cause of death is air pollution. Air pollution causes chronic conditions, and shortens lives.

In short: air pollution kills. Clean air saves lives.

And it’s worse than that – because the impact of air pollution is even bigger on children, as their lungs are growing.

I know this. I know more about air pollution than most people.

For a decade, almost, I lived next to a very busy main road.

I’d constantly have to clean the dirt – these horribly black specs that became a carpet – off my window sill.

And to this day I feel guilty that I brought my children into the world living next to the A40.

I’m delighted that I was able to move my family away, but I know not everyone is in a position to do that.

And contrast that with my constituency in West Suffolk where you’re much likelier to breathe fresh, clean air blown in from the sea – it might as well be 2 different worlds.

We are the fifth richest country in the world. We’ve just put an extra £20.5 billion into the NHS. Its budget will be £148 billion a year – £3,000 for every man, woman and child in this country.

Yet air pollution causes around 36,000 deaths each year, and puts extra, preventable strain on the NHS through increased incidents of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and child asthma.

Surely we can afford to stop killing ourselves with entirely preventable filth, and give every child clean air, no matter where they live, so we can give every child the best possible start in life.

Much of the technology exists, and where it doesn’t, let’s invent it.

Every new development and new technology should be clean by design – like the NHS is leading the way on.

We all have a part to play. Cycling or walking short journeys instead of driving not only helps our own health, it reduces the health risk to others by helping cut air pollution.

But this isn’t something we can each do alone. It takes concerted, far-sighted government action, like the visionary action being proposed today by my brilliant friend Michael Gove.

That’s why we are working so closely together. It’s why I feel so strongly about these plans. For your children and for mine.

I’m very proud to do my bit, proud of this Conservative government demonstrating bold, progressive, energetic, popular action this day to improve the lives of millions, to deliver for our citizens, and make Britain fit for the future.

Theresa May – 2019 Speech in Stoke-on-Trent on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Stoke-On-Trent on 14 January 2019.

Tomorrow, Members of Parliament will cast their votes on the Withdrawal Agreement on the terms of our departure from the European Union and the Political Declaration on our future relationship.

That vote in Westminster is a direct consequence of the votes that were cast by people here in Stoke, and in cities, towns and villages in every corner of the United Kingdom.

In June 2016, the British people were asked by MPs to take a decision: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or should we leave?

In that campaign, both sides disagreed on many things, but on one thing they were united: what the British people decided, the politicians would implement.

In the run-up to the vote, the government sent a leaflet to every household making the case for remain. It stated very clearly: ‘This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.’

Those were the terms on which people cast their votes.

If a majority had backed remain, the UK would have continued as an EU member state.

No doubt the disagreements would have continued too, but the vast majority of people would have had no truck with an argument that we should leave the EU in spite of a vote to remain or that we should return to the question in another referendum.

On the rare occasions when Parliament puts a question to the British people directly we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance.

When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by Parliament.

Indeed we have never had a referendum in the United Kingdom that we have not honoured the result of.

Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50.

And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum.

Yet, as we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so.

I ask them to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.

The House of Commons did not say to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a remain vote?

People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.

We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.

Ever since I reached an agreement with the EU on a Withdrawal Agreement and declaration on our future relationship I have argued that the consequences of Parliament rejecting it would be grave uncertainty – potentially leading to one of two outcomes.

Either a ‘no deal’ Brexit, that would cause turbulence for our economy, create barriers to security cooperation and disrupt people’s daily lives.

Or the risk of no Brexit at all – for the first time in our history failing to implement the outcome of a statutory referendum and letting the British people down.

These alternatives both remain in play if the deal is rejected.

There are differing views on the threat that a no deal exit poses.

I have always believed that while we could ultimately make a success of no deal, it would cause significant disruption in the short term and it would be far better to leave with a good deal.

Others in the House of Commons take a different view and regard no deal as the ultimate threat to be avoided at all costs.

To those people I say this: the only ways to guarantee we do not leave without a deal are: to abandon Brexit, betraying the vote of the British people; or to leave with a deal, and the only deal on the table is the one MPs will vote on tomorrow night.

You can take no deal off the table by voting for that deal. And if no deal is a bad as you believe it is, it would be the height of recklessness to do anything else.

But while no deal remains a serious risk, having observed events at Westminster over the last seven days, it is now my judgment that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in Parliament that risks there‪‪ being no Brexit.

That makes it even more important that MPs consider very carefully how they will vote ‪‪tomorrow night.

As I have said many times – the deal we have agreed is worthy of support for what it achieves for the British people.

Immigration policy back in the hands of people you elect – so we can build a system based around the skills people have to offer this country, not where they come from, and bring the overall numbers down. Sovereign control of our borders.

Decisions about how to spend the money you pay in taxes back under the control of people you elect – so we can spend the vast annual sums we send to Brussels as we chose, on priorities like our long-term plan for the NHS. Sovereign control of our money.

UK laws, not EU laws, governing this country – so the people you elect decide what the law of the land in our country is. Sovereign control of our laws.

Out of the Common Agricultural Policy – with our farmers supported by schemes we design to suit our own needs.

Out of the Common Fisheries Policy – so we decide who fishes in our waters and we can rebuild our fishing fleets for the future.

Retaking our seat at the World Trade Organisation, so we can strike trade deals around the world that work for British businesses and consumers.

The rights of valued EU citizens here guaranteed and reciprocal guarantees for UK citizens across Europe.

The partnerships between our police forces and security services, that protect us every day from threats that know no borders, sustained.

An implementation period that ensures our departure from the EU is smooth and orderly, protecting your jobs.

And yes a guarantee that the people of Northern Ireland can carry on living their lives just as they do now, whatever the future holds.

These are valuable prizes.

The deal honours the vote in the referendum by translating the people’s instruction into a detailed and practical plan for a better future.

No one else has put forward an alternative which does this.

Compare that outcome to the alternatives of no deal or no Brexit.

With no deal we would have: no implementation period, no security co-operation, no guarantees for UK citizens overseas, no certainty for businesses and workers here in Stoke and across the UK, and changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of our Union at risk.

And with no Brexit, as I have said, we would risk a subversion of the democratic process.

We would be sending a message from Westminster to communities like Stoke that your voices do not count.

The way to close-off both of these potential avenues of uncertainty is clear: it is for MPs to back the deal the government has negotiated and move our country forward into the bright future that awaits us.

I have always believed that there is a majority in the House of Commons for a smooth and orderly exit delivered by means of a withdrawal agreement.

That is why the government tabled the motion for the meaningful vote last month.

But it became clear that MPs’ concerns about one particular aspect of the deal – the backstop preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in the event that we cannot reach agreement on our new relationship before the end of the implementation period – meant that there was no prospect of winning the vote.

So I suspended the debate to allow time for further discussions with the EU to address those concerns.

Today I have published the outcome of those discussions in the form of letters between the UK government and the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council.

I listened very carefully to the concerns that MPs from all sides expressed, particularly the concerns of my fellow Unionists from Northern Ireland.

In my discussions with the EU we explored a number of the suggestions made by MPs, both about how the backstop would operate and for how long.

The EU have said throughout that they would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement or reopen its text for alteration, and that remained the case throughout my discussions at the December European Council and since.

I also pursued in these discussions a proposal for a fixed date – with legal force – guaranteeing the point at which the future partnership would come into force. Because that is the way to bring an end to the backstop – by agreeing our new relationship.

The EU’s position was that – while they never want or expect the backstop to come into force – a legal time limit was not possible.

But while we did not achieve that, we have secured valuable new clarifications and assurances to put before the House of Commons, including on getting our future relationship in place rapidly, so that the backstop should never need to be used.

We now have a commitment from the EU that work on our new relationship can begin as soon as possible after the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement – in advance of the 29 March – and we have an explicit commitment that this new relationship does not need to replicate the backstop in any respect whatsoever.

We have agreement on a fast-track process to bring the free trade deal we will negotiate into force if there are any delays in member states ratifying it, making it even more likely that the backstop will never need to be used.

We now have absolute clarity on the explicit linkage between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, putting beyond doubt that these come as a package.

And finally the EU have confirmed their acceptance that the UK can unilaterally deliver on all the commitments made in our Northern Ireland paper last week, including a Stormont lock on new EU laws being added to the backstop, and a seat at the table for a restored Northern Ireland Executive.

The legal standing of the significant conclusions of the December Council have been confirmed. If the backstop were ever triggered it would only be temporary and both sides would do all they could to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

The letters published today have legal force and must be used to interpret the meaning of the Withdrawal Agreement, including in any future arbitration.

They make absolutely clear the backstop is not a threat or a trap.

I fully understand that the new legal and political assurances which are contained in the letters from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker do not go as far as some MPs would like.

But I am convinced that MPs now have the clearest assurances that this is the best deal possible and that it is worthy of their support.

Two other areas of concern raised and reflected in amendments tabled to the meaningful vote were on the protection of workers’ rights and on environmental standards.

I could not have been clearer that far from wanting to see a reduction in our standards in these areas, the UK will instead continue to be a world leader.

We have committed to addressing these concerns and will work with MPs from across the House on how best to implement them, looking at legislation where necessary, to deliver the best possible results for workers across the UK.

This afternoon I will set out in greater detail to MPs what is contained in the correspondence I have published today and what it means for our withdrawal.

And tomorrow I will close the debate.

But as we start this crucial week in our country’s history let’s take a step back and remember both what is at stake and what we stand to gain by coming together behind this agreement.

Settle the question of our withdrawal and we can move on to forging our new relationship.

Back the deal tomorrow, and that work can ‪‪start on Wednesday.

Fail and we face the risk of leaving without a deal, or the even bigger risk of not leaving at all.

I think the British people are ready for us to move on.

To move beyond division and come together.

To move beyond uncertainty into a brighter future.

That is the chance that MPs of all parties will have ‪‪tomorrow night.

And for our country’s sake, I urge them to take it.

Thank you.

King Edward VII – 1907 King’s Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by King Edward VII in the House of Lords on 12 February 1907.

My Lords, and Gentlemen:

I am happy to say that my relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly, and I have no occasion to add to the full statement which was laid before you in December reciting a number of satisfactory Agreements recently concluded.

The earthquake at Kingston adds one more to the series of calamities which Jamaica and my other Colonies in the West Indies have experienced. I regret the deplorable loss of life and destruction of property in an important city, and I have seen with satisfaction that the emergency has been met by the Governor and his officers with courage and devotion, and by the people with self-control.

The occasion has called forth many proofs of practical goodwill from all parts of my Empire; and I recognise with sincere gratitude the sympathy shown by the people of the United States of America, and the assistance promptly offered by their naval authorities.

The first visit of an Amir of Afghanistan to my Indian dominions for more than twenty years, and his active survey of leading features in Indian life, have been to me, and, as I understand, to the Amir himself, a source of much gratification, as tending to promote that right feeling which is even more important than formal compacts.

In India, while firmly guarding the strength and unity of executive power unimpaired, I look forward to a steadfast effort to provide means of widening the base of peace, order, and good government among the vast populations committed to my charge.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons:

Estimates of the National Expenditure for the forthcoming financial year will in due course be laid before you. They have been framed with the object of effecting economies consistent with the efficient maintenance of the public service.

My Lords, and Gentlemen:

Serious questions affecting the working of our Parliamentary system have arisen from unfortunate differences between the two Houses. My Ministers have this important subject under consideration with a view to a solution of the difficulty

A measure of licensing reform will be introduced, with the object of effectively diminishing the evils which result from the sale and use of intoxicating liquors under present conditions.

Proposals will be laid before you for more clearly defining the functions of the military forces of the Crown, both regular and auxiliary, and for the improvement of their organisation.

Bills will be introduced dealing with the Holding and Valuation of land in Scotland.

Your attention will be called to measures for further associating the people of Ireland with the management of their domestic affairs, and for otherwise improving the system of government in its administrative and financial aspects. Proposals will also be submitted for effecting a reform of University education in Ireland, whereby I trust that the difficulties which have so long retarded the development of higher education in that country may be removed.

You will also be invited to consider proposals for the establishment of a Court of Criminal Appeal, for Regulating the Hours of Labour in Mines, for the Amendment of the Patent Laws, for improving the Law relating to the Valuation of Property in England and Wales, for enabling Women to serve on Local Bodies, for amending the Law affecting Small Holdings in England and Wales, and for the better Housing of the People.

I commend all your arduous labours to the continued blessing of Almighty God.

King Edward VII – 1906 King’s Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by King Edward VII in the House of Lords on 19 February 1906.

My Lords and Gentlemen,

The lamented death of the King of Denmark, to whom I was united by the closest ties of family and affection, has caused Me much sorrow, and I feel convinced that the sympathy of the country will be extended to Queen Alexandra, who, in consequence of Her severe bereavement, is prevented from accompany Me on the important occasion of the opening of the new Parliament.

The Prince and Princess of Wales left last autumn for India, and are visiting as many portions of My vast Empire as time will admit of. The reception they have met with from all classes has been most gratifying to Me, and I trust that their visit will tend to strengthen, among My subjects in India, the feeling of loyalty to the Crown and attachment to this country.

It was with real satisfaction that I received the King of the Hellenes, who is so closely related to Me, as My guest during the autumn. His Majesty’s visit will, I am confident, confirm the friendly ties which have so long governed the relations existing between the two countries.

My relations with Foreign Powers continue to be friendly.

I rejoice that the war between Russia and Japan has been brought to an end by the satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations commenced last August, and due to the initiative of the President of the United States, which resulted in an honourable peace.

An Agreement has been concluded with the Government of the Emperor of Japan prolonging and extending that which was made between the two Governments in January 1902. Its text has already been made public.

The Conference summoned by the Sultan of Morocco to consider the introduction of reforms into his Kingdom has assembled at Algeciras, and Delegates from the Powers Signatories of the Madrid Convention of 1880 are engaged in deliberations, which still continue. It is earnestly to be hoped that the result of these negotiations may be conducive to the maintenance of peace among all nations.

The dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway has been peacefully accomplished, and, in accordance with the declared desire of the Norwegian people, My Son-in-law and Daughter, the Prince and Princess Charles of Denmark, have ascended the Throne of Norway as King and Queen.

The insurrectionary movement in Crete has subsided, and the four Protecting Powers have appointed Commissioners with a view to the introduction of reforms in the island.

The condition of the Macedonian vilayets, though in some respects improved, continues to give cause for anxiety. The Sultan has agreed to the appointment of an International Financial Commission to supervise the financial administration of these provinces, and I trust that this may lead to the introduction of salutary reforms and the improvement of the condition of the population.

Papers will be laid before you respecting Army administration in India.

In order to establish responsible government in the Transvaal Colony, I have decided to recall the Letters Patent which provided for the intermediate stage of representative government, and to direct that the new Constitution be drawn up with as much expedition as is consistent with due care and deliberation in all particulars. The elections to the first Legislative Assembly, which had been expected in July, must accordingly be postponed, but it is not anticipated that the additional delay need extend beyond a few months.

The directions which have been given that no further licences should be issued for the importation of Chinese coolies will continue in force during that period.

A Constitution granting responsible government will also be framed for the Orange River Colony.

It is my earnest hope that in these Colonies, as elsewhere throughout My dominions, the grant of free institutions will be followed by an increase of prosperity and of loyalty to the Empire.

The Colonial Conference, which, in existing circumstances, cannot be held this year, has been postponed until the early part of next year, with the concurrence of the Colonial Governments concerned.

Henry Campbell-Bannerman – 1901 Speech Following the Death of Queen Victoria

Below is the text of the speech made by Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the House of Commons on 25 January 1901.

Sir, the gracious Message which we have received from His Majesty the King and the Address by which the First Lord of the Treasury proposes that we should make reply to that Message concern themselves with a subject on which, happily for us, the House of Commons forgets all differences of party and of political opinion. If I were to borrow a, phrase from the stately Proclamation which yesterday resounded through these islands, I should say that it is “with one voice and consent of tongue and heart” that on these occasions we are accustomed in this country to act. If this is so, if we are all of one mind to-day, it is not merely in giving formal expression to constitutional and traditional loyalty; there is a deeper and stronger chord, a more intimate chord, that has been struck by the events of this week. The ties that bind the people of this country to the Throne and the Royal House have not been created, they are not such as could be created, by the wit or theory of philosopher or statesman; they have been knit by the character and the life of Queen Victoria and the members of Her Royal Family. I am not going to attempt to add—because if I attempted to add to it I should spoil it—to the eloquent panegyric which the right hon. Gentleman has passed upon the great Sovereign whose loss we deplore to-day. One might, of course, enlarge upon many points that were most prominent in her character and conduct, on her ungrudging devotion to duty, on her scrupulous observance of constitutional rules, on the soundness of her judgement, on her unfailing discretion, on the unsullied goodness of her life, and on her singularly quick and watchful sympathy with everything that could bring joy or sorrow to any of her subjects.

But there is one thing which strikes me as having, above, all, from the earliest days of Her Majesty’s reign, won for her the hearts of her people, and which has increased her hold upon them as the revolving years succeeded each other, and this is a certain homely sincerity of character and life and purpose which, amid all the pomp and dignity of her august position, seemed to make the whole world kin. If we were to attempt to appreciate the light in which Queen Victoria has been regarded, and in which her memory will continue to be regarded by her people at home, and by her subjects within the vast bounds of her Empire—if we were to attempt it—we should search in vain down the long list of epithets expressive of pride and affection—admired, beloved, revered, even adored—to find one which accurately or adequately conveyed the real sentiment of her people towards her. I believe that this is because there was between them a friendly, tender, almost familiar, mutual understanding which it is impossible to put into words. Who can measure the strength which the existence of a relation such as this between the Sovereign and her people must have given through all these, years to this kingdom and this Empire? We have been so habituated to it that we hardly realise it; and it is now, when the relentless hand of death has taken Her Majesty from us, that we see how much we owed to her. Let me ask how often it must have happened during her long reign that some policy or action on the part of this country, either by fault of ours or not, may have failed to secure the goodwill of other States and nations among our neighbours, and how often may the evil effects of such a state of things have been averted by the knowledge, which was universal in the world, of the Queen’s personal and sincere devotion to the cause of peace and freedom and uprightness. It is, therefore, with a deep sense of gratitude for all the happiness and the strength which Her Majesty, by her own personal qualities, has given to her faithful people that we bow the head before the decree of Divine Providence which has put a close to a reign the most beneficent that has been seen in any nation and in any age of the world.

Happily, the grief with which we suffer this irreparable loss is in some degree assuaged by our well-founded confidence that the Monarch who succeeds to the Throne will follow the same line of public conduct and will adhere to the same principles of life as have wrought so much good in the past. It often happens when a new occupant comes to the Throne of a country, that he is an untried Prince, unversed in public affairs; it may be even that he is little know personally to those over whom he is called upon to reign. It is not so with King Edward. For the greater part of his life it has fallen to him not only to discharge a large part of the ceremonial public duty which would naturally fall to be performed by the head of the State, but also to take a leading part in almost every scheme established for the benefit, material or moral, of the people of this country. Religion and charity, the public health, science, literature, and art, education, commerce, agriculture,—not one of these objects appealed in vain to His Majesty, while he was Prince of Wales, for strong sympathy and even for personal effort and influence. We know how unselfish he has been in the assiduous discharge of all his public duties, we know with what tact and geniality he has been able to lend his aid to the furtherance of these great objects.

Therefore it is, not only that we hope, but that, from our past experience, we know, that His Majesty understands and enters into and appreciates and sympathises with the desires and needs of his people, and that he will devote himself even to a greater degree than he has been able to do in the past to the promotion of their welfare. And in this, perhaps, it may be light to say that it is an additional satisfaction to us to know that His Majesty will have by his side his august Consort, who has reigned in the hearts of the British people ever since she first set foot on our soil. Sir, there will be no discordant voice in this House to-day. If there were, we should not fittingly represent those who have sent us here. There will be but one universal feeling of sorrow for the lamentable calamity that has befallen the nation, and of hopeful confidence for a happy and prosperous future. I beg to second the motion.

Arthur Balfour – 1901 Speech on Death of Queen Victoria

Below is the text of the speech made by Arthur Balfour, the then First Lord of the Treasury (he wasn’t Prime Minister until 1902, this was a rare period when the First Lord of the Treasury wasn’t also the Prime Minister), in the House of Commons on 25 January 1901.

The history of this House is not a brief or an uneventful one, but I think it has never met in sadder circumstances than to-day or had the melancholy duty laid more clearly upon it of expressing a universal sorrow—a sorrow extending from one end of the Empire to the other, a sorrow which fills every heart and which every citizen feels, not merely as a national, but also as a personal loss. I do not know how it may seem to others, hut, for my own part, I can hardly yet realise the magnitude of the blow which has fallen upon the country—a blow, indeed, sorrowfully expected, but not, on that account, less heavy when it falls.

I suppose that, in all the history of the British Monarchy, there never has been a case in which the feeling of national grief was so deep-seated as it is at present, so universal, so spontaneous. And that grief affects us not merely because we have lost a great personality, but because we feel that the end of a great epoch has come upon us—an epoch the beginning of which stretches beyond the memory, I suppose, of any individual whom I am now addressing, and which embraces within its compass sixty-three years, more important, more crowded with epoch-making change, than almost any other period of like length that could be selected in the history of the world. It is wonderful to reflect that, before these great changes, now familiar and almost vulgarised by constant discussion, were thought of or developed—great industrial inventions, great economic changes, great discoveries in science which are now in all men’s mouths-—Queen Victoria reigned over this Empire.

Yet, Sir, it is not this reflection, striking though it be, which now moves us most deeply. It is not simply the length of the reign, it is not simply the magnitude of the events with which that reign is filled, which have produced the deep and abiding emotion which stirs every heart throughout this kingdom. The reign of Queen Victoria is no mere chronological landmark. It is no mere convenient division of time, useful to the historian or the chronicler. No, Sir, we feel as we do feel for our great loss because we intimately associate the personality of Queen Victoria with the great succession of events which have filled her reign, with the growth, moral and material, of the Empire over which she ruled. And, in so doing, surely we do well. In my judgement, the importance of the Crown in our Constitution is not a diminishing, but an increasing factor. It increases, and must increase with the development of those free, self-governing communities, those new commonwealths beyond the sea, who are constitutionally linked to us through the person of the Sovereign, the living symbol of Imperial unity. Hut, Sir, it is not given, it cannot, in ordinary course, be given, to a constitutional Monarch to signalise his reign by any great isolated action. His influence, great as it may be, can only be produced by the slow, constant, and cumulative results of a great ideal and a great example; and in presenting effectively that great ideal and that great example to her people Queen Victoria surely was the first of all constitutional Monarchs whom the world has vet seen. Where shall we find any ideal so lofty in itself, so constantly and consistently maintained, through two generations, through more than two generations, of her subjects, through many generations of her Ministers and public men?

Sir, it would be almost impertinent for me were I to attempt to express to the House in words the effect which the character of our late Sovereign produced upon all who were in any degree, however remote, brought in contact with her. In the simple dignity, befitting a Monarch of this realm, she could never fail, because it arose from her inherent sense of the fitness of things. And because it was no artificial ornament of office, because it was natural and inevitable, this queenly dignity only served to throw into a stronger relief, into a brighter light those admirable virtues of the wife, the mother, and the woman with which she was so richly endowed. Those kindly graces, those admirable qualities, have endeared her to every class in the community, and are known to all. Perhaps less known was the life of continuous labour which her position as Queen threw upon her. Short as was the interval between the last trembling signature affixed to a public document and the final and perfect rest, it was yet long enough to clog and hamper the wheels of administration; and when I saw the accumulating mass of untouched documents which awaited the attention of the Sovereign, I marvelled at the unostentatious patience which for sixty-three years, through sorrow, through suffering, in moments of weariness, in moments of despondency, had enabled her to carry on without break or pause her share in the government of this great Empire. For her there was no holiday, to her there was no intermission of toil. Domestic sorrow, domestic sickness, made no difference in her labours, and they were continued from the hour at which she became our Sovereign to within a few days—I had almost said a few hours—of her death. It is easy to chronicle the growth of Empire, the course of discovery, the progress of trade, the triumphs of war, all the events that make history interesting or exciting; but who is there that will dare to weigh in the balance the effect which such an example, continued over sixty-three years, has produced on the highest life of her people?

It was a great life, and surely it had a, happy ending. She found her reward in the undying affection and the passionate devotion of all her subjects, where so ever their lot might be cast. This has not always been the fate of her ancestors. It has not been the fate of some of the greatest among them. It has been their less happy destiny to outlive contemporary fame, to see their people’s love grow cold, to find new generations growing up who know them not, and burdens to be lifted too heavy for their aged arms. Their sun, once so bright, has set amid darkening clouds and the muttering of threatening-tempests. Such was not the lot of Queen Victoria. She passed away with her children and her children’s children, to the third generation, around her, beloved and cherished of all. She passed away without, I well believe, a single enemy in the world—for even those who loved not England loved her; and she, passed away not only knowing that she was—I had almost said adored by her people, but that their feelings towards her had grown in depth and intensity with every year in which she was spared to rule over them. No such reign, no such ending, can the history of this country show us.

Mr. Speaker, the Message from the King which you have read from the Chair calls forth, according to the immemorial usage of this House, a double response. We condole with His Majesty upon the irreparable loss which he and the country have sustained. We congratulate him upon his accession to the ancient dignities of his House. I suppose at this moment there is no sadder heart in this kingdom than that of its Sovereign; and it may seem therefore to savour of bitter irony that we should offer him on such a melancholy occasion the congratulations of his people. Yet, Sir, it is not so. Each generation must bear its own burdens; and in the course of nature it is right that the burden of Monarchy should fall upon the heir to the Throne. He is, therefore, to be congratulated, as every man is to be congratulated who, in obedience to plain duty, takes upon himself the weight of great responsibilities, filled with the earnest hope of worthily fulfilling his task to the end, or, in his own words, “while life shall last.” It. is for us on this occasion, so momentous in the history of the Monarchy, so momentous in the history of the King, to express to him our unfailing confidence that the great interests committed to his charge are safe in his keeping, to assure him of the ungrudging-support which his loyal subjects are ever prepared to give, him, to wish him honour, to wish him long life, to wish him the greatest of all blessings, the blessing of reigning over a happy and a contented people, and to wish, above all, that his reign may, in the eyes of an envious posterity, fitly compare with that great epoch which has just drawn to a close. Mr. Speaker, I now beg to read the, Address which I shall ask you to put from the Chair and to which I shall ask the House to assent. I move—

“That a humble Address be presented to His Majesty, to assure His Majesty that this House deeply sympathises in the great sorrow which His Majesty has sustained by the death of our beloved Sovereign, the late Queen, whose unfailing devotion to the duties of Her high estate and to the welfare of Her people will ever cause Her reign to be remembered with reverence and affection: to submit to His Majesty our respectful congratulations on His Accession to the Throne, to assure His Majesty of our loyal attachment to His person, and further to assure Him of our earnest conviction that His reign will be distinguished under the blessing of Providence by an anxious desire to maintain the Laws of the Kingdom, and to promote the happiness and liberty of His subjects.”