EXPLAINED: How the Dominic Grieve plan to control parliamentary business on Brexit actually works

Posted On: 
20th January 2019

Dominic Grieve has laid out his plan to take control of parliamentary business on Brexit for a day.

Tory MP Dominic Grieve
Credit: 
PA Images

UPDATE: Since this article was written, Dominic Grieve has tabled his amendment and has left out the element that would allow just 300 MPs to table Commons business. See our explainer on all the key amendments here

A new plan by Dominic Grieve to allow MPs to take control of parliamentary business for a day was revealed by BuzzFeed yesterday and has dominated the news agenda this morning. But how would it actually work? Here is a step by step process, which Mr Grieve has confirmed to PoliticsHome is correct. See below for an explanation by the Tory MP in his own words.

  1. Theresa May will table a motion tomorrow setting out her Brexit plan B.
  2. Dominic Grieve plans to table an amendment to that motion that would allow MPs to control parliamentary business for one day.
  3. To pass that motion would need support from a majority in the Commons, when the PM's plan comes back for a vote on 29 January.
  4. If passed, 300 MPs from across five parties - including 10 Tory MPs - would be able to table a motion (or motions) to be debated and voted on by the Commons for one day.
  5. That motion could be support for a delay to Article 50 or for various other Brexit plans. It would be automatically selected for a debate and vote and could also be amended.
  6. But for that motion(s) or any further amendments to pass it would need a majority of MPs. MPs could also agree to have further days where parliament gets control over the business.
  7. And if the motion(s) passes it have no legal weight - it would just indicate to the Government what MPs want.
  8. (The MPs would also be able to table primary legislation - but any legislation would also need a Commons majority to pass and would also have to pass the Lords).

A Downing Street spokesman told PoliticsHome: "The British public voted to leave the European Union and it is vital that elected politicians deliver upon that verdict. Any attempt to remove the Government’s power to meet the legal conditions of an orderly exit at this moment of historic significance is extremely concerning.

"The Prime Minister has been clear on the principles guiding negotiations on Brexit. We want a smooth and orderly Brexit with a deal that protects our union, gives us control of our borders, laws and money and means we have an independent trade policy.

"This news should serve as a reminder to those MPs who want to deliver Brexit that they need to vote for it - otherwise there is a danger that Parliament could stop Brexit."

THE GRIEVE PLAN IN THE WORDS OF DOMINIC GRIEVE

Dominic Grieve on BBC Radio 4: "The position is that the House of Commons has indicated - I think fairly clearly - that it would like to have a say in what happens. [The] Government controls the order paper. You can’t do that ordinarily. And the Government has certainly been trying very hard to prevent the House of Commons having a say on future options.

"[...] Nick Boles and I, as far as I’m aware, are working along exactly the same lines, which is that we would like to take this opportunity, if the Government won’t cooperate, to enable the House of Commons to have control over the order paper on one day of the week, during which it can debate motions - that is pass resolutions giving an indication to the Government what it wants to see happen.

"And it is technically possible that the House of Commons could also on those days introduce and try to pass legislation -  although it’s important to understand, because of the way our constitution works, the House of Commons doesn’t control legislation. It has to go to the House of Lords as well and we don’t have any control there. So it’s a much more complex thing.

"The easy thing to do - or the easier thing to do; nothing in life is easy here - is for the House to be able to control its own business over Brexit in order to pass motions which give indications to the Government of what it wants...

"Just to be quite clear: [300 MPs from five parties, including 10 Tory MPs is] the numbers needed to put a motion on the order paper - not the numbers needed to pass that motion. No business of the House can be decided without a majority. But at the moment it’s worth bearing in mind that all sorts of people can move motions. The Speaker can prompt a debate, the backbench committee can do it… so we are talking about the numbers you need to get a motion actually in front of the House, not to pass it."