We’ve heard a lot of protests lately from Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs about the Government’s timetable for triggering Article 50. There have been claims that insufficient Parliamentary time was scheduled by the Government for debating the current Bill, with the implication that MPs are being denied the opportunity to fully scrutinise the historic decision before them.
One measure to address those concerns was the extension of the debate yesterday by five hours, so that the Commons debated the Bill until midnight. Labour and the Lib Dems wanted more time and they had got some.
It was therefore quite odd to see the benches of those two parties almost empty during the extra hours of debate that they had demanded – an absence noted by Conservative and SNP MPs, some of whom had been in the Chamber for ten or eleven hours.
Thin turnout from Labour for this momentous debate on leaving the EU pic.twitter.com/oblYyFJm4b
— Julian Brazier MP (@julian_brazier) 31 January 2017
There have been no @LibDems for at least 4 hours
— Tom Tugendhat MP (@TomTugendhat) 31 January 2017
Looking at Hansard, it seems that not a single Liberal Democrat MP contributed to the debate during the extra five hours of debate.
As for Labour, there were a number of speeches in the evening, but the low attendance can be seen in these images of almost empty Opposition benches. On the left are the Government benches, the near right is the SNP (who, to their credit, turned up and took part in numbers), and the almost empty space further away on the right hand side is where the Labour Party is meant to be:
Not only does Labour still not have a unified response to Article 50, its MPs aren’t even fully participating in this historic debate – despite complaining about the lack of opportunities to do so. What is the point of the modern Labour Party?