Jeremy Corbyn will let Theresa May fast-track her Article 50 Bill

Labour leader rejects backbench calls to fight a five-day timetable for the Commons condemned as 'contempt for Parliament'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 26 January 2017 17:12
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn sparked a second angry backlash in his own party after refusing to fight the fast-tracking of the Article 50 Bill through the Commons.

The Labour leader was urged by backbench MPs to oppose plans to allow just five days of debate on the most important legislation “for generations”.

Theresa May was accused of “contempt for Parliament” when the timetable was revealed, just before the Bill was published.

But The Independent was told that Mr Corbyn had decided not to oppose the so-called ‘programme motion’ – despite the anger of some backbenchers.

A source said the party would instead focus on ensuring enough time for Labour amendments to be debated line-by line at the committee stage.

Without an agreed programme motion, it was more difficult to prevent Tory ‘filibustering’, the source said.

But the decision was condemned by Ben Bradshaw, a senior backbencher, who said: “I can’t support that. I don’t know why we’re doing that.

“We’re supposed to be an opposition. An opposition’s job is to oppose and to scrutinise.”

The clash came at the same time as Mr Corbyn risked Shadow Cabinet resignations by ordering what he claimed was a three-line whip to vote for the Bill itself.

However, it appeared no one would be sacked for defying the leader – raising doubts about whether it really would be a strong whip.

The fast-tracking row blew up after Commons Leader David Lidington announced that the Article 50 Bill will reach the Commons next Tuesday, with a second reading vote the following day.

There will then be just three days of line-by-line scrutiny in a committee the following week, to ensure the Bill clears the Commons before MPs’ mid-February break.

It will then go to the House of Lords, with the intention it will receive Royal Assent in early March, ahead of the Prime Minister’s deadline to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

One backbencher, David Lammy, tweeted: “2 days to debate 2nd Reading of Brexit Bill shows contempt for Parliamentary sovereignty. Most important decision taken for generations.”

Labour today announced a fresh amendment it would seek to make the Bill, to compel Brexit Secretary David Davis to publish reports on the negotiations every two months.

It will also seek a commitment to a “meaningful” vote on the final deal, to allow Ms May more time to negotiate a better one if MPs reject it.

Labour also wants the legal status of EU citizens in the UK to be resolved “before negotiations begin”.

The source acknowledged that Mr Corbyn was also concerned to stand by his promise not to “obstruct” Brexit.

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