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News From Westminster- By David Warburton MP

ONCE again I’m at a slight disadvantage. I’m writing this before the EU Withdrawal Bill goes into its Committee Stage in the House of Commons but, for you, it’s well under way.

After any Bill has its main debate – the Second Reading – it normally disappears into one of the innumerable committee rooms on the first and second floors of Parliament. There, a mini-parliament is assembled and the Bill is scrutinised, line by line. This is the Committee Stage.

New clauses are squeezed into shape, or beaten about before being elbowed out. Amendments are either prised into place or discarded with the paper cups. Then miraculously after a few days, the Bill emerges as from a chrysalis, now perfectly formed and blinking in the sunlight. It’s then onwards to the Third Reading (a bit of a formality) before being hauled down the corridor to the gilded Chamber where their noble Lordships start the operation again. From there, all being well, it’s a short jog to Buck House for the nod and the signature and onto the statute book.

But, for really big stuff, a ‘Committee of the Whole House’ is assembled in the Chamber itself. And so it is for the snappily-named European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. This week we are to begin a long committee process whereby the whole House will spend many days discussing our adolescent century’s most important Bill to date.

And there are a record 471 amendments to crawl over. Many of these are daft. Many are well-meaning. Many have been initiated by well-meaning MPs led by pressure groups with little grasp of the whole. Many are intended to knock the process off its feet. Many are genuinely valuable. All will be debated and discussed, both on the floor of the House and in the tea room, the smoking room (perhaps more accurately called the no-smoking room), in the dining rooms, corridors, bars, committee and meeting rooms.

It will be fascinating to see what kind of butterfly will emerge. This is a butterfly which needs the strength to carry us all on its back. We will shortly see whether it can fly.

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