I want to explain the reason why I voted against the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill at its Second Reading on 11 September 2017.
It is not because I want to derail Brexit, but because it is a deeply flawed piece of legislation.
Although I campaigned for, and voted to remain during the referendum campaign, I recognise that the majority of those who voted nationally, and, more importantly, the majority of those who voted in Bolton South East, voted to leave the EU.
As an MP, you constantly have to take into account your views, the views of your constituents, the views of the country and the views of your party. With all of this considered, I did not feel that I could override the result in Bolton South East, and therefore I voted in favour of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, triggering Article 50, in accordance with my constituents’ wishes.
We are now going through the process of leaving the EU, which includes the Government negotiating our exit with the EU, and the UK transferring the EU’s laws onto our own books, so that we can change them after we leave.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill should have been a formality, but the Government decided to corrupt it with power grabs from day one.
Back in March, when the Bill was first being proposed, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer, pointed out the fundamental flaws in the Bill – the main flaw being the Government power grabs, which would transfer power from the EU to UK government ministers, by-passing Parliament and scrutiny.
The Opposition said then, and has continued to say, that we will not support the Bill as long as these power grabs were included in it.
We believe in Parliamentary democracy, with MPs legislating on behalf of the citizens who elected them. We do not believe that power should be hoarded in the hands of Ministers or just the Prime Minister.
I am sure that some people would quite like that idea, not least Theresa May. However, I would ask those people whether they would feel the same way if Jeremy Corbyn or Vince Cable had that level of unchecked power.
I will be consistent on this, no Prime Minister, regardless of party, should have the powers that Theresa May wants to take for herself. This important matter should be debated and decided by Parliament, not by one person, or by a very small group of Ministers.
Anyone who voted to leave because they wanted Britain to take back control of its legislation should be appalled by the government’s actions, and its disregard for Britain’s democratic institutions.
Therefore, I believe that supporting the Bill, in its current state, would have meant putting my name to a deeply flawed affront to democracy.
As for the idea of voting it through in the hopes that it will be reformed later down the line, I have no confidence in the government’s willingness to take on board criticism and reform the Bill.
Back in May, the Opposition made a formal representation to the Government to remove the power grabs from the Bill. We made it clear that, unless they were removed, we would not be able to support it. However, when the White Paper was published, no reforms had been made.
The Government has had bad intentions from the start and shows no signs of changing course.
This is why I voted against the Bill, because it was an affront to democracy and because I wanted the Government to come back to Parliament with a Bill which transferred powers from the EU to the UK without the unnecessary power grab.
Article 50 has already been triggered and we are now on an unstoppable course towards leaving the EU, however, I do not want the country to be mugged by Theresa May, or the EU, on its way out. We are only going to do this once, so we need to ensure that we do it correctly and in a way that does not permanently cripple this country’s democracy, society or economy.
The majority of my constituents voted to leave the EU, but I am certain that they would wish the process to be democratic and debated by Parliament as a whole, not by a few selected Ministers. Therefore, I will continue to oppose the Bill in its current form and fight for the removal of the government’s power grabs, but I will continue to support my constituents’ wishes to leave the EU.