The EU Withdrawal Bill passes Second Reading

Following a lengthy session of Parliament and a late night vote, the EU Withdrawal Bill passed it’s second reading by a vote of 326 to 290. The events of Parliament last night are useful for a wide range of topics in the new A Level (2017). The best examples are ones that can be used for a wide range of topics – this links closely with the ‘synoptic’ skill, where you are expected to draw on your knowledge from across the whole of your A Level, not just each topic by itself. This is certainly an example that could help you achieve this.

The midnight vote was almost entirely down party lines. Only seven Labour MPs defied Corbyn’s order to oppose the bill, and no Conservatives opposed the bill. This would be useful when considering the strength of parties and backbenchers during times of minority government. Often, smaller majorities are associated with a reduction in the whip power and increase in backbench power, yet on this landmark legislation Theresa May has managed to keep her party together to get the bill through. However, this is not the end, and a number of Tories have suggested numerous amendments that should be added as the bill progresses; party factions within both Labour and Conservatives remain divided over many parts of this bill and it remains to be seen whether such unity can be demonstrated over the longer term. This is useful when debating the power of the PM (2.3), the unity of parties (1.2), the effectiveness of Parliament (2.2) and the extent of democracy in the UK (1.1).

As the bill moves on to the committee stage, it is also a very public example of parliamentary scrutiny of the legislative process and of government which will help you to illustrate a topic (the legislative process) which can often be quite detailed and confusing.

Finally, the bill moving forward represents an excellent point for consideration in essays on the sovereignty of Parliament (2.1 and 2.2). Theoretically, this represents a step towards Parliament gaining greater sovereignty over the UK with EU law being transferred into UK law, which Parliament can control. However, if you are aiming for the top marks you might wish to discuss whether, in reality, it is Parliament or government which is sovereign, and whether therefore such a move would make an elective dictatorship more or less likely. This is especially important with the proposed changes to public bill committees that Conservatives have put forward which could increase the power of the government still further and reduce their accountability to Parliament (see this link for more information on proposed public bill committee reforms –