15 June 2018

On Monday the House of Lords will consider the Commons’ verdict on the amendments it made to the EU Withdrawal Bill. Maddy Thimont Jack says that this will inevitably lead to a second showdown on a ‘meaningful vote’ in the Commons later in the week.

The Commons has now considered amendments made to the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords. Of the 15 government defeats in the Lords, the Government accepted one, and managed to get the Commons to reverse eight and accept six substitute amendments. In the next stage of ‘ping pong’ on Monday, the ball will be back in the Lords’ court for them to consider whether to accept the verdict of the Commons.

Last week may have looked like success for the Government, but the Lords are likely to dig their heels in, and with good reason. The focus of the ‘drama’ in the Commons was the Government’s promise to give Parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal.

Attention will focus on how the Lords react to Thursday’s behind-the-scenes negotiations on the ‘meaningful vote’

We now have the text of the revised government amendment on the ‘meaningful vote’ tabled for consideration by the Lords. It says that, if no agreement with the EU is reached by January 2019, the Commons will be able to vote on an unamendable motion to say it has considered the fact that no agreement has been reached.

It is clear that many of the MPs who gave the Government the benefit of the doubt on Monday are not satisfied by this formula. And the Lords have an alternative.

Viscount Hailsham has tabled the amendment Dominic Grieve put forward in the Commons last Tuesday. This gives Parliament a vote to approve the Government’s next steps if no deal is reached by November 2018, and allows Parliament to direct the Government in February 2019. It is odds-on that the Lords will accept this amendment rather than the Government offering – and that is what will be sent back to the Commons for consideration on Wednesday.

The amount of time scheduled for ping pong in the Commons was insufficient for thorough debate of other amendments

But that may not be the Government’s only problem. The Lords sees its role as asking the Commons to reflect again – but Tuesday’s scheduling did not give much time for reflection. The Government scheduled 12 hours in total for the consideration of all the amendments made in the Lords, including the 180 or so made by the Government itself. On the first day of debate, seven of the Lords’ amendments were due to be discussed but the first half of the debate was dominated by discussions on the ‘meaningful vote’.

The second half of the debate was eaten up with voting on the amendments discussed in the first half. In total, three hours and ten minutes of a six-hour session was spent voting rather than talking.

The Lords would be justified in sending back their amendments for proper consideration in the Commons

That means the Lords will feel justified in asking the Commons to think again, especially on the procedural amendments rejected by the Commons.

For example, on Tuesday the Commons was set to debate an amendment which would limit the so-called Henry VIII powers given to ministers in the bill from being used where ‘appropriate’ to where ‘necessary’. The limited extent of debate on this amendment is demonstrated by the fact that the word ‘appropriate’ was only used eight times in the whole debate.

Lord Lisvane’s amendment to beef up the sifting committee for statutory instruments introduced by the bill got even less of a look-in. The word ‘sifting’ was only mentioned seven times in the House and five of those were by Brexit Secretary David Davis in his opening speech.

Under these circumstances, the Lords will almost certainly insist on these amendments returning to the Commons to give them an opportunity for proper debate.

The Government may have scraped through the Commons without a defeat this time around, but ‘ping pong’ is far from over. The way the Government has treated Parliament over this bill, including the behind-the-scenes shenanigans over a ‘meaningful vote’, has only increased frustrations.


This is so REMAIN biased that it is worthless . The IfG is putting our long term democracy at threat with this slanted view. The Lords are not justified in doing anything of the sort and the amendments are attempts to Stop Brexit and go against hundreds of years of democracy in this country.

Dear commenter - Why can't you just put your own biases to one side for one moment and just listen to a thoughtful piece by an intelligent, informed person? We are not going to get anywhere if people like you try endlessly to close down not only debate but careful reflection on where we are.

Your biases are showing. Whether you are for or against brexit (or just don't care) you should support making sure it is done properly - which includes proper oversight from all branches of the government not handing all the power with no questions asked to one man who has repeatedly proven himself incompetent.

The referendum, as badly informed as it was, has probably indicated that at that moment the electorate wanted a degree of separation from the EU. It was not stated, and probably couldn’t be, what degree of separation was required. This is what Parliament is attempting to do at the moment and such decisions are not helped by rushed or non-existant debate. The Lords may have been crying out for reform for ages but firstly the House of Commons haven’t done it and secondly the Lords are fulfilling their constitutional role in asking the Commons to think again. In the case of Dominic Grieve’s ammendment I suspect the Commons will make full use of its ability to think again. As prolonged as the system may be Parliament is preventing a small group from taking the country where it doesn’t want to go.

Ah yes, British democracy and sovereignty as determined by the current government: "We shall allocate just over one minute per MP to debate the most important change for the country since WW2."

As a result, only 4 minutes allocated to the Northern Irish/RoI border problem, one of the most difficult and contentious of the many, many things required from BRexit. Four minutes only! How much time is going to be given to changes to the 759 multi-lateral treaties the EU has with other countries, the 1000+ changes to be made to UK law - ah, that last will just be handed to the government under Henry VIII legislation. No sifting committees either. So much for sovereignty eh?

An excellent analysis and from the generation who will feel the full and long term effects of Brexit. Brexiteers want to bring back control - but it should to Parliament - to the people- not the Executive.