Nice picture of Steve Double MP for St Austell and Newquay showing his ‘support’ for food and farming businesses in the UK. Shame he didn’t vote for fellow Conservative Neil Parish’s amendment to enshrine our food and animal welfare standards in law, but hey! That’s not what we are writing about here.
West Country Bylines has heard that this paragon of integrity has taken to mansplaining rather than answering constituents’ questions.
One of those constituents, Dr Janet Harvey, a resident of St Austell, asked him by email to explain why the government is planning to act illegally to change the Brexit Withdrawal Bill. He responded by accusing her of lacking democracy! She was understandably unhappy about this and has allowed us to print in full her subsequent response.
Dear Mr Double
Thank you for responding to my recent email. You will recall I had asked you to explain why the government apparently intends to act illegally in order to change the Prime Minister’s “oven-ready deal” for Brexit, which you helped to vote into law earlier this year.
Upon reading your response I was astonished to find that you interpreted my question as being a challenge to democracy. You say “I know that even now there are those unable or unwilling to accept we voted to leave the EU and I fear from your missives that you are such. This is regrettable, undemocratic and serves no useful purpose.”
Please explain to me why it is undemocratic for a citizen to ask her duly elected MP to explain government policy. And please explain also how wondering what was wrong with the original Withdrawal Agreement is somehow undemocratic or lacking in support for Brexit?
The only answer you provided to my question was to copy word for word a briefing from the Prime Minister, which included a brief outline of the UK Internal Market Bill now before Parliament. This was not helpful. If the Prime Minister were clear and coherent I would not need to be consulting you. I have read the UK Internal Market Bill. I have also read the original Withdrawal Agreement. I did not ask you to tell me what is going on, I asked you to explain the reasons why the government wishes to breach the terms of an international treaty which you helped to sign into law only a few months again.
Your message was helpful in one way: it implies very strongly that you support the government in wishing to breach the terms of the treaty which the UK has already agreed with the EU. So far as I understand it, as an ordinary MP you are not bound to observe international law, but all Ministers are. As evidence I refer you to Lord Faulks’ statement to the House of Lords (see House of Lords Hansard 3rd November 2015, Column 1522). It is not unreasonable, and I suggest it is actually entirely democratic, for a constituent to request clarification from the constituency MP about why he considers it acceptable to support Ministers who declare their intentions to break the law.
I remind you also that voting in this country is anonymous and you have no way of knowing how I voted in the 2016 referendum. Since last December, I have asked you about the security of post-transition supplies of medication which are imported, about the delayed publication of the Russia Report, about the factual basis of your claims that the EU in some way influenced the demise of Flybe, about the reasons for transferring all citizen data into the control of the Cabinet Office, and how you would have responded if Dominic Cummings had travelled to Cornwall instead of to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight. Apart from the question about medical supplies, which is still only tangential, what has any of this to do with Brexit? We have left the EU. You voted the Withdrawal Agreement into law. The government you supported is backtracking on its own legislation. You seem to be the one unhappy with Brexit!
Finally, I draw to your attention the words of a previous Prime Minister on the importance of the rule of law:
“You cannot have freedom without a rule of law… And if you don’t have it, what you tend to get is corruption and that is death to freedom, it’s death to truth, it’s death to honour, it’s death to democracy” (Margaret Thatcher, Britannia Hotel London, 1st October 1996).
If you continue to support a government behaving illegally, it would appear you are far less democratic than I am. Moreover, I noticed the irony that at the bottom of your emails there’s the strapline: “All legal disclaimers apply.” Not without the rule of law, Mr Double, not without the rule of law!
Dr J A Harvey
We asked Dr Harvey to explain why she is so concerned about proposals that the UK should renege on an international treaty. She responded that, as a consultant still working part-time, and sometimes internationally, she is very concerned about the possible reactions from other EU countries, and indeed around the world.
“I am afraid that the UK will no longer be trusted, which might reduce international confidence in me personally. I suppose I could retire completely, but I enjoy what I do and I have some skills which are still in demand. And given how much Covid19 has cost the UK already, I can carry on contributing a bit more in tax while I am working. I would have thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer might like that!”
What say you, Mr Double?