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Amendment Seven to the EU Withdrawal Bill - Why it Matters

Amendment seven to the European Withdrawal Bill was passed by Parliament last week. The government was defeated by 309 votes to 305. The importance of this amendment cannot be overstated.


Amendment seven requires any Brexit deal to be approved by Parliament in a separate Act. It was tabled by Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP for Beaconsfield and former attorney general. 


If Amendment seven had not been passed the Government would have been able to use the so-called Henry VIII powers to put Brexit into effect without our MPs having any say in the matter. Whatever views anyone may hold on the desirability of Brexit, we should all be extremely concerned about any legislation that concentrates power into the hands of the Executive and diminishes the role of Parliament. 


To understand the importance of Parliament it may be helpful to go back to basics. Under British Parliamentary Democracy the electorate elects an MP for each constituency. The party members elect their party leader. Following a General Election the party with the most MPs forms the Government and the party leader becomes Prime Minister. The Prime Minister chooses her (or his) Cabinet from the elected MPs. The members of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister constitute the Government (also known as the Executive). The role of Parliament is to legislate (make the law) and to hold the Government to account. That means that the United Kingdom is governed by the rule of law and not by the decisions of members of the Government. A society in which the government is above the rule of law is either an autocracy, a dictatorship or an oligarchy. 


It is hard to comprehend how anyone who understands British Parliamentary Democracy would vote to take away or to diminish the rights of Parliament to hold the Government to account. Yet this is precisely what John Glen, our Member of Parliament, has done in voting against Amendment seven to the European Withdrawal Bill. And for this reason, I am extremely disappointed by John Glen’s vote. On his website Mr Glen describes himself as ‘People’s Defender’. Defending the people begins with an absolute commitment to Parliament upholding and defending the rule of law.


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