Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 25 September 2019.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving me an advance copy of his statement. Unfortunately, it was like his illegal shutting down of Parliament—“null” and
“of no effect and should be quashed”,
in the words of the Supreme Court. This was 10 minutes of bluster from a dangerous Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law, but in truth he is not fit for the office he holds. I am glad to see so many colleagues back here doing what they were elected to do: holding the Government to account for their failings. Whether it is their attempt to shut down democracy, their sham Brexit negotiations, their chaotic and inadequate no-deal preparations, the allegations of corruption, their failure on climate change or their failure to step in to save Thomas Cook, this Government are failing the people of Britain, and the people of Britain know it—[Interruption.]
Order. I said that the Prime Minister should not be shouted down. The same goes for the Leader of the Opposition. Let me say to people bellowing from a sedentary position: stop it—you will exhaust your vocal cords, you will get nowhere, it will not work, and these proceedings will continue for as long as is necessary for the Chair to be satisfied that proper scrutiny has taken place. It is as simple and incontrovertible as that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict represents an extraordinary and, I believe, precarious moment in this country’s history. The highest court in this land has found that the Prime Minister broke the law when he tried to shut down our democratic accountability at a crucial moment in our public life. The judges concluded that there was no reason,
“let alone a good reason”,
for the Prime Minister to have shut down Parliament. After yesterday’s ruling, the Prime Minister should have done the honourable thing and resigned, yet here he is—forced back to this House to rightfully face the scrutiny he tried to avoid—with no shred of remorse or humility and, of course, no substance whatsoever.
Let us see if he will answer some questions. Does the Prime Minister agree with his Attorney General that the Government “got it wrong”, or with the Leader of the House that the Supreme Court committed a “constitutional coup”? This is a vital question about whether the Government respect the judiciary or not.
The Attorney General was categorical that the Government would comply with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Can the Prime Minister confirm that?
I pay tribute to those MPs from all parties across the House, to the Lords and to those in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly who have not only fought so hard to stop a disastrous no deal, but continued to take the case against Prorogation through the courts. The Government have failed to silence our democracy.
During the period of unlawful Prorogation, the Government were forced to release their Yellowhammer no-deal analysis and plans. No wonder the Prime Minister has been so eager to avoid scrutiny and hide the dangers of his Brexit plan. The release of those documents leads to many questions that the Government must answer now that our Parliament is back in operation.
I would like to start by asking the Prime Minister why the Government in August described leaked Yellowhammer documents as out of date. When the documents were later produced in September, they were word for word the same. It is clear that they have tried to hide from the people the truth—the real truth—of a no-deal Brexit and the fact that their policy would heap misery on the people of this country.
Let us take a look at the analysis: chaos at Britain’s ports, with months of disruption; people going short of fuel and fresh foods—[Interruption.] It is your paper, you wrote it and you tried to hide it. [Interruption.] I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker—I do not hold you responsible for writing the document. There would be disruption of people’s vital medical supplies, rises in energy prices for every household in the country, and a hard border for the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Most damning of all is the passage that simply says:
“Low income groups will be disproportionately affected”.
There we have it, Mr Speaker: a simple warning, a simple truth, that a Tory Government are continuing to follow a policy they know will hit the poorest people in our country the hardest. They simply do not care.
The damning document we have seen is only six pages long. It is only right that this House should expect more transparency from the Government.
The Government say that they are doing all they can to get a deal before 31 October, but the truth is that the Prime Minister has put hardly any effort into negotiations. Any progress looks, at the most generous, to be minimal. Only yesterday, the European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that there was
“no reason today for optimism”.
Why does the Prime Minister believe Mr Barnier has that view? This House is still yet to hear any detail of any deal the Government seek to negotiate. We are told the Government have distributed papers to Brussels outlining proposals for a change to the backstop. Will the Prime Minister publish these papers and allow them to be debated in this House of Parliament? For this Government to have any credibility with our people, they need to show they have an actual plan.
The Prime Minister also has questions to answer about his conduct in public office and, in particular, about allegations that he failed to declare an interest in the allocation of public money to a close friend while he was Mayor of London. It was announced today that, in light of the Sunday Times report, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is reviewing the funds allocated. Did the Prime Minister initiate that review? Will he fully co-operate with the DCMS review and that of the London Assembly? Will he refer himself to the Cabinet Secretary for investigation? No Prime Minister is above the law.
No one can trust the Prime Minister, not on Iran, not on Thomas Cook, not on climate change and not on Brexit. For the good of this country—[Interruption.]
Order. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to be heard in this Parliament, and he will be heard. [Interruption.] Order. I do not mind how long it takes, these exchanges will take place in an orderly manner. Be in no doubt about that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Quite simply, for the good of this country, the Prime Minister should go. He says he wants a general election. I want a general election. It is very simple: if he wants an election, get an extension and let us have an election.