Exposed: Brexiteers now shunning scrutiny in Parliament – Tom Richmond

THE word ‘‘sovereignty’’ became critical to the Brexit debate – and vote – as Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others persuaded the country to leave the European Union.

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions this week.

Yet, while this is now the reality and most accepted this on the morning after the referendum vote in June 2016, Johnson and Rees-Mogg forget that Parliamentary sovereignty counts for little if there’s not proper scrutiny.

This came to mind this week when it emerged the select committee tasked with overseeing the UK’s future relationship with the European Union – effectively the Brexit Select Committee – now no longer exists from today.

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All attempts by its chair Hilary Benn, the Leeds Central MP, to have its remit extended beyond this week to enable a thorough examination of the trade deal signed by Britain and the EU on Christmas Eve have been rebuffed by Rees-Mogg, who says the fish are happy now, and his cronies.

What is happening to Parliamentary scrutiny? Tom Richmond poses the question.

Even Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Speaker, appeared to share the “consternation” of Benn, though she pointed out that she was powerless to intervene.

Furthermore the outgoing committee’s attempts to question Cabinet minister Michael Gove and Lord David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiation, were rebuffed. Evidently both were too busy.

This isn’t about rewriting the referendum or Brexit history. It’s about proper oversight of a treaty that will shape Britain’s economy and outlook for a generation to come.

If it is as good as the Prime Minister and other Brexiteers contend, why are they afraid of such a critique when the Parliamentary debate and vote on December 30 was so perfunctory because of the pressure of time?

Leeds Central mP Hilary Benn has been heading Parliamentary oversight of Brexit.

IT was only after reading Sir Michael Parkinson’s new family memoir, Like Father, Like Son, that the horrors of life as a miner became so searingly clear to me.

This most poignant of books makes it clear Sir Michael did not appreciate the sacrifices made by his father, John William, and others working down Yorkshire’s pits until it was too late.

In a book that is also an evocative social history, there’s a stark warning to those in public life who think the poorest are best served by “pointless schemes and condescending articles and speeches by people far removed form their life and experiences”.

“The last thing the working class need, as the 2019 election so resoundingly proved, is patronising sympathy,” concludes ‘Parky’.

“The real opium of the people is the provision of conditions that offer equality of opportunity. Give them that and they’ll replace their terraces with palaces. It was my mother who created these conditions at home.”

Perhaps ‘Parky’ should take Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps, the Northern Powerhouse, on a tour of Cudworth and Barnsley where this broadcasting legend began life.

THERE’S a glimmer of light in the battle for social care reform, a regular refrain on these pages. It comes after Parliament’s Liaison Committee asked Boris Johnson if the promise still stands that he made on the steps of 10 Downing Street when he became Prime Minister. “Yes it does,” he said without hesitation.

The PM was then asked if he supported a 10-year plan for social care to operate in parallel to the comparable strategy for the NHS. “Yes it should,” he replied authoritatively. “It should have a long term plan.”

Though it was galling that the PM’s inquisitor was Jeremy Hunt, the politician who failed to advance this issue when Health Secretary from 2012-18, it is important to place Johnson’s responses on the record in case he backtracks – again.

MARCUS Rashford didn’t just wrongfoot Boris Johnson this week over free school meal arrangements – he showed up Sir Keir Starmer who had been even slower off the mark.

Even worse was the conduct of the exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions when both men were rebuked by the Speaker for intemperate language.

Perhaps they should both take a lesson from the footballer who has an uncanny ability of exposing the neglect of starving children, and forcing action, with no political fuss.

It’s just a shame that Health Secretary Matt Hancock couldn’t acknowledge this in his TV interview with Piers Morgan – his failure to do so, or eat any humble pie, explains why Rashford is held in such high regard and so many politicians are not.

A WORD of advice to Chancellor Rishi Sunak after it was reported that long-awaited plans to set up a Treasury 
branch in the North, potentially Leeds, will form the centrepiece of his Budget in March.

Stop the leaks until there’s something definitive to say – it undermines the Budget – and pledge to ensure that staff here are fully representative of the North rather than the London Government. If not, the levelling up agenda has no chance of becoming a reality.

LET’S hope Sir Keir Starmer can explain these double standards. He complains about rising indebtedness. Yet he now advocates the freezing of council tax. What expenditure will he cut to pay for this? Do tell, Sir, in order to avoid new charges of opportunism.

FINALLY I’m getting tired of MPs being prevented from asking questions in Parliament because others are too verbose – and then speeches in major debates, like Brexit and Covid, being limited to two minutes due to pressure of time. It’s no way to run a Parliament.

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