14 DEC 2017

Why Parliament Voted to Take Back Control

This week I voted for an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal Bill because it was necessary to guarantee that there can be Parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty as we return control of our laws from Brussels. There have been strong opinions on both sides of the argument about this, and even suggestions that by backing this amendment I have somehow blocked Brexit, or increased the likelihood of another election. This is not true. I respect the referendum result and voted to trigger Article 50. We are leaving the European Union but need to do so in a way that leads to as few unintended consequences as possible.

In returning powers from Brussels we must not exchange one system with poor democratic oversight for another. As we take back control of our laws, Parliament has an important role to play in scrutinising the government's work. Both in my role as Chair of the Health Committee and as a Constituency MP it is my duty to be look closely at both the pitfalls and opportunities of the various options for the type of Brexit ahead.

Clause 9, which I and colleagues voted to amend, had such far reaching consequences that I have copied it verbatim below:

A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day.

If left unamended, this clause would have been incompatible with the Prime Minister's pledge to give Parliament a 'meaningful vote' on the deal. In effect, it allowed Ministers to make changes to laws with no democratic check by Parliament. Its breadth even concerned Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who said during the debate, "clause 9 gives some powers that trouble even Eurosceptics. I have never felt comfortable with the self-amending part of the Bill."

I and my colleagues had made our concerns clear to government for many weeks ahead of the vote and we feel that this vote was entirely avoidable. The clause should have been removed and the government could easily have done so. This would have avoided the need for an amendment.

Far from obstructing Brexit, this vote strengthened its democratic underpinnings, preventing major constitutional change from potentially being pushed through purely by ministerial decree.

I have been dismayed with how irresponsibly my vote has been misrepresented in some parts of the press. I welcome robust debate and I am always willing to listen and to defend what I believe. Labelling MPs 'traitors' for defending a fundamental democratic principle or judges 'enemies of the people' for upholding the law, just fuels a hateful division. It also entirely misrepresents why I voted as I did and why I felt it was necessary.

As we build an independent Britain – we will need to work constructively with our European neighbours. The more I hear, during Select committee hearings, about the consequences that would arise from a disruptive and chaotic Brexit, the more I feel that we must try to achieve a soft landing. The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed.

38 comments

Thank you for having the courage and conviction to vote for this amendment. The brexiteers become more extreme in their views and actions and any who disagree are portrayed as disloyal or treacherous. They must be countered by sound, logical argument by people like you to ensure that when we leave the EU, we do so on a sound and reasonable basis and do not just crash out. Thank you.
- Kevin Gleeson

" The consequences of no deal and no transition would be very serious indeed." IN YOUR OPINION
- mike

What rubbish - thoroughly disenchanted with our elected 'Representative'. Again.
- Hugh Welbourn

It’s about getting us ‘out of the eu’ but actually sliding back in by the backdoor. Which is actually worse than leaving in the first place. Still in the customs union, still in the single market, still got free movement with no say. I’m afraid our representative and the majority of parliament think we’re all a bit thick and not capable of making the right choice. They hold us in contempt. It’s not just here, the political elite in Europe hold their citizens with contempt also, hence the rise of far right parties in Europe. I’m sure the vast majority wouldn’t vote this way, but hey!! If they won’t listen. What an awful choice we’re left with
- John

Thank you for supporting the amendment to the Withdrawal Bill. The British public voted for powers to be 'returned to Parliament' not tranferred to individual Ministers enabling them to pass laws without scrutiny
- Steph Crutchley

You are put in Parliament by the people to represent OUR views NOT yours. Nothing in the above shows any sign of listening to US the people you are meant to represent . You are ONLY there because WE elect you. You are also part of a party and should also remember that . What you have done is a possible back door into a Marxist government that would destroy this country possibly forever and you should have the intelligence to realise this . The people voted for Brexit and just want to get on with it . Businesses need to see clear water ahead , what you have done and your arrogant lot is set this back. We the people who you claim to represent have had enough.
- Anne Swabey

Parliament gave the people the right to decide on brexit. We did and with a larger % turnout than for the recent election, so which is therefore more democratic? If you support democracy then the people must be obeyed not some false idea of the less democratic members of parliament!
- adrian lewis

Directed here by my email to you where I spoke of understanding your concerns re Clause 9, I now fear, having read your explanation, my sympathy was misplaced. The people of the UK, who you (the collective you) represent, voted to leave... that has to be at the forefront as to what type of Brexit you feel is best going forward. In an age when the population have never been better informed through MSM and social media, I still find it gulling how politicians continue to act as if they know best. And simply quoting Jacob Rees-Mogg as being concerned, yet not adding why he still felt inclined to support the Bill is disingenuous to say the least.
- Stuart Price

2nd paragraph of your "Blog" quote "as a Constituency MP it is my duty to look at both the pitfalls and various options for the type of Bexit ahead" Surely therefore it was your duty to "look at pitfalls,facts options etc etc etc" before becoming a Leaver, and then changing to Remainer, why the change? People of the UK voted to leave in a Democratically held Referendum , including 54% of your constituents, we entrusted the Conservative Party to honour that and get on with it, Teresa May is doing just that ,despite various factions holding her to ransom at every turn, this will only get worse coming back to Parliament with the opposition, SNP DUP various gangs of 12 who really can't accept Democracy. Your action has only strengthened Corbyn and his Marxist party, Teresa May deserves better, I feel totally let down, by your actions.
- Peter Mulloy

However well intended, a very poor decision and one which will risk further undermining our negotiating position at potentially great cost to our country. The opposition will doubtless be pleased with your conduct but I am very disappointed although, regrettably, not surprised.
- Brian Kelly

Absolutely shocked and disgusted that our local MP should be so treacherous towards the Prime Minister and to the majority of her constituents. I believe that she should be de-selected and an honourable replacement be put forward. I personally will not support her in any shape or form in the future.
- Mary Bell

Cannot but help agreeing with the post above from Mary Bell.
- bryan boswall

Those Conservative MPs who voted against the government cannot duck the self indulgent disloyalty they have demonstrated. Disloyalty to the PM, their Party and the majority of the electorate who voted to leave. Even the leaders of the EU acknowledge that this defeat weakens the government's negotiating position and increase the chance of a "no deal" exit. This, coupled with the gift handed to those who seek a Marxist government, does not bode well for the future. What is done is done but let us all hope that this mistake will not be repeated in the coming weeks and months.
- Anthony Croke

Well done, it takes courage. Go and get yourself a glass of white wine!!
- David Lavender

my comments re the same as Mary Bell de-selected or better resignation after letting us down
- jim davis

You were a Leaver first and changed - not good, you can't be trusted with our vote. I agree with the above people, let PM get on with her job with help from her party. This is not good for other countries looking in on us. This is not a well done to you but maybe 'sheep' is more like it!!
- Penny Davis

David Lavender how flippant, and pathetic are your comments. It therefore means that except for 12 Conservative MPs, the rest of her colleagues have no courage, and according to Sarah's blog they are the only ones who see the real dangers, they cannot trust the Prime Minister, her Ministers and elected Conservative MP's to get the best deal possible for leaving the EU, how insulting to those people. Arrogance at its peak, maybe the medical term could be the Anna Soubry Complex.
- peter mulloy

Steph Crutchley's post shows that she and Sarah Woolaston doesn't see the simplicity of how a Gov should work. The electorate elect , this is a show our trust, if that trust is broken then we elect some other party . By removing powers from the Cabinet the Rebels are frustrating the will of the people. I am surprised at Moog's comments quoted, Govs need to be able to get stuff done with out too much fuss. The EU now are saying that the the Article 50 period of 2 years can be extended I am afraid that if this goes on into a Labour Gov's term then Brexit will not get done which would be a disaster . The 12 Rebels have no business experience or Trade understanding . Not one of them was seen in the Pre referendum Trade select committee meeting with Professor Mindford that you can watch on Youtube. Nadhim Zahawi was there , he was at that time a remainer after that meeting he changed to a Leaver. There are very few excellent MPs that serve as they should as a conduit for the peoples will. Remainers should respect the 1st past the post system we have , they may also like to study this site , we should never have been considered part of the EU ! http://www.vernoncoleman ( dot com ) /euillegally.html
- Bill Davies

Sorry but I totally agree with Bill Davies comments, the thorn in the side of the Tories, of which I an one, will rumble on forever until it is totally removed.
- David Jennings

You say you are proud to have voted the way you did. What have you got to be proud off, causing more division in the country than there alredy is humiliating us as a country and your leader. Proud is not a proper way to justify what you did. You are a flip flopper anyway and should apologise or even better resign for your inconsistent views. How are we supposed to vote for you when you change your mind regularly. we vote for what you tell us you stand for, not for you to change you views.I'm not proud to have you as my MP when you embarres us on a world stage and belittle our standing in the world. Shame on you and your hypocracy..
- John shields

My husband and I agree with the majority of the above. My husband is of Italian origin and his relatives in Italy are on a three day week with a crippled economy caused by membership of the EU. They would also like to leave the broken EU. Your post contains I think I feel - you are in Parliament only by the will of the people to carry out the will of the people. You have failed in your duty and you have failed Theresa May. We will not support you by voting for you in this constituency again.
- Sharon Carrino

"Et tu, Brute....Knifed in the back, by one who I thought I could trust. I feel your actions and those of your fellow rebels have put OUR Prime Minister in a very difficult position to be able to negotiate a fair Brexit. Do you realise that you have jeopardised the entire future of The United Kingdom, on what terms it leaves the EU and where it will stand in the world, in the future? You really should be ashamed of yourself. Robert Summers Chairman of Wellswood Conservatives Torbay
- Robert Summers

So you have humiliated your PM,weakened the UK’s negotiating position,given encouragement to Juncker and Barnier,made the prospect of a Brexit deal even more difficult ,emboldened the Marxists and betrayed the electorate.Yet you claim on Twitter that you are proud of your achievement.If you are,then you are occupying a seat on the wrong benches in the Commons.
- MichaelR

I would urge those commenting above to take the time to read the text of the EU withdrawal Bill as proposed by the government. We are all agreed that we will leave the EU, but the Bill gives the government powers to amend any current UK legislation which originates from the EU in any way it sees fit - without having to seek parliament's approval first. This could have far reaching consequences for our personal lives and businesses - it includes legislation that covers maternity rights, our rights to keep our personal information confidential, environmental regulations.... Normally the government has to seek parliament's approval to fundamental changes to UK legislation. Why should changes to our statutes as a result of Brexit be treated any differently? Thank you, Sarah for voting for proper parliamentary scrutiny. Had the government dealt with these issues properly in the first draft of the Bill, the Brexit process would not have been held up.
- Sara Chisholm

Most of the people here who attack you do not understand the function either of our representative democracy or of the European Union. I support your action, and hope that you will continue to follow your conscience in voting for the good of your country. Thank you!
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Despite your excuses, you are a remainer as are all the other so called rebels and you clearly do not trust our Prime Minister, your leader who promised you all a vote. we need to look for another candidate to represent us, someone who knows what they feel on these issues not a last minute mind changer or turncoat.
- John Butler

It means taking our powers back when we get out of europe, then out parliament can bring in any laws they wish. You ae educated but have no sense or understanding of the matter. Watch question time from last Thursday where a man in the audience told you remainers the truth. The referendum was of the whole UK not constituency. You should be ashamed and as for courage, that does not come into it The country voted OUT so lets get out. You are a traitor
- Ken Lakin

What nonsense people write in relation to the nature of this very sensible amendment. I applaud Sarah for backing the amendment and also for making the very good point she does over clause 9. It could easily have been taken out, had the Government done so, there would not have been the degree of unrest over the potential consequences. It is ridiculous how these amendments have been taken out of context, they are not a 'sabotage Brexit' mechanism, merely an entirely sensible airing of concerns from many sides aimed at ensuring the legislation is properly scrutinized, why on earth wouldn't we want this on something as important as the Brexit deal? The government created a great deal of suspicion by virtue of its refusal to take out clause 9. People voted for Brexit and 'taking back control'. That's still what you end up with, law in this Country is subject to Parliamentary approval and scrutiny, that is how our system operates; Brexit changes nothing as to how we implement our own laws. Clause 9 however allows a 'Minister of the Crown' to draw up regulations, that would mean no scrutiny whatsoever; that can never be right in the way we legislate. Regulations are not the same as an enactment, clause 9 allows a single minister to implement secondary non debated legislation; that can never be right for something as important as this. "A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement if the Minister considers that such provision should be in force on or before exit day. " Like it or not, Theresa May does not have a strong negotiating hand, she lost her majority at the last election; this places an even greater duty upon Parliament to scrutinize the laws she she is proposing. This was an entirely sensible call by a responsible constituent MP acting in the interests of those in her locality, that includes those who voted for leave or remain.
- Nick Dilworth

Sarah is one of the few MPs who shows she reads her brief. What is forgotten is the referendum in 2016 was advisory but to see the reaction of politicians afterward they had clearly forgotten this. Parliament needed to formally vote to accept the result and then put in place withdrawal. That would have been sensible and surely within the Ken of our representatives. But what we have seen for the last eighteen months is incoherent lurching through one badly-drafted proposal to another. This is government by the seat of the pants and it isn't working. So when one of our representatives actually reads her brief to understand it she should be applauded. Not condemned and threatened with deselection. There is too much at stake for ill tempered lobs across the barricades. Leave that to the press.
- Helen Darch

She is a Remainer and a Traitor, 1 of the other 11 Heidi Allen has been hauled to a party meeting in South Cambs to face a de-selection battle this should be happening in Torbay. I will not vote for Sarah Woolaston again if she is still standing at the next election. Come on Sarah be honest about your intentions, instead of all these excuses
- Pat Brodie

What a lot of nonsense posted here. The passing of this amendment has placed the power to decide whether the brexit deal is acceptable or not firmly where it belongs. Parliament is the sovereign body, not the cabinet, the government or a handful of ministers. One of the planks of the leave campaign was to return power to parliament. To talk of treachery or deselection is just ridiculous.
- Bob Bowling

I agree entirely with Bob Bowling. Sarah Wollaston has acted perfectly correctly, according to her conscience, and posters like Pat Brodie who use such inflammatory language as "Traitor" should remember where such language leads.
- Dr Robert Lawson-Peebles

Many of the people on this message board are not from Totnes and don't seem to understand our constituency, Sarah is our representative and has always voted on issues for what she thinks is right rather than always follow the party line. As she achieved more than half the entire vote for Totnes and has been re-elected twice with a larger vote each time I'd say she's pretty popular. So please stop all this name calling and let our representative represent us in the way she has always done. This is a democracy and if you don't like it then simply vote her out when the next election comes. Intimidation has no place in anything other than a dictatorship.
- Jon Merriott

…sorry but I’m struggling to follow the logic here. These sanctimonious rebel MP’s (who all voted to remain in the EU) are now talking in dewy eyed terms about the sanctity of the UK parliament and democratic process, yet they were only too happy at the referendum to undermine our parliament in favour of the much more undemocratic EU. It seems that they only see the benefits of our democracy when it suits their objectives which seems to be either to stop, frustrate or soften BREXIT
- Mark A

Clause 9 is badly phrased, as it implies that a single Minister may change whatever he/she wishes without reference to Parliament. But we all know that this is nonsense, and Parliament could force a debate, and hence refusal, or amendment to the Minister's wishes. What I am dismayed about the most is that many people refuse to accept the referendum result; they should stop moaning, and set out to achieve a successful Brexit. The greatest danger by 'the rebels' is that they are encouraging Corbyn and Co to believe that they will form the next Government. Heaven help us, should that be the case!
- Barry Day

I don't just disagree with our MP on this. I am amazed by her lack of judgement and wit. The highlight above was where she acknowledge that the EU membership she urged us to vote for "lacked democratic oversight". She refers to "building an independent Britain". Surely any Tory MP urging Remain as she did (eventually) would have argued that we were ALREADY independent. Otherwise wasn't she therefore arguing for the British people to vote against their own independence? She sits in Parliament with that group of the most ardent Europhiliacs, federalists and remainers. When she railed on Twitter for months against Juncker, Brussels and the whole EU kleptocracy. Really? Judgement? I am sure Sarah is a very good doctor, and in many ways an intelligent person. But politics and political argument just isn't her thing is it? The bottom line is that Sarah is simply out of her depth in Parliament. Her lack of judgement shown in the Referendum, her bizarre behaviour since, and her completely incoherent articulation of her reasons for voting for this amendment are proof that she simply does not belong in Parliament. She is the best argument against open primary selection of Tory candidates that I can think of. Everyone in the area should mobilise to remove Mrs Wollaston (as much for her own good as our's). I think a Conservative who could honour the manifesto upon which they stood would be a start. A MP who could frame a coherent argument would be an added bonus.
- George, Paignton

Thank you Sarah for supporting the sovereignty of Parliament and safeguarding our parliamentary democracy. Please continue to do so .
- LizK

The people are sovereign in a democracy and they delegate their sovereignty to Parliament by election of representatives. In the case of Brexit Parliament voted for a referendum to make a stay or leave the EU decision. SW is a remainer trying to frustrate the will of the people. She has lost my vote.
- David, Brixham

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