I am on the rota for today which means I am there to potentially cover urgent questions and statements or any other business that is brought forward on the day. Therefore, I caught an earlier flight than is sometimes required. There was an Urgent Question from Jeremy Corbyn MP around the EU withdrawal process. I took part in an extremely lively E-petition debate in Westminster Hall. These debates are born out of citizens signing petitions and if a sufficient number is reached then they will be debated. Although the debate was lively it didn’t stop a Conservative and Unionist MP attempting to lecture me on the cowardice of the people Scotland for voting no in the referendum of 2014. I must admit I reacted by banging my head on the table. I had to leave early to attend a delegated legislation (DL) committee for ‘draft licensing of operators and international road haulage’. This is yet another DL committee set up to transfer EU law to UK law in haste before we crash out on the 29th of March.
The Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs took evidence from academics on ‘authorising the use of military force’. The first two witnesses were legal experts and the second were more political. Historically it would have been the King or Queen who declared war or instigated military action. That was passed by the royal prerogative to the Prime Minister. The UK has taken part in over 60 military interventions since World War Two. The process that has been followed has varied wildly from the decision to intervene in the Suez Crisis to military action in Northern Ireland. I raised my concern over the lack of visibility when it comes to deploying armed forces on UK soil. For more information on that you may wish to attend the Beacon Theatre tonight to see ‘The Battle of George Square’. The Attorney General made a statement in the House on the legal advice around the EU withdrawal bill. I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on online gambling protection. I raised my on-going concerns regarding ‘loot boxes’. I attended the Kidney Research UK launch of their report ‘Kidney health inequalities’. In the evening we debated the proposed deal for leaving Europe and the UK government lost by 149 votes.
My day started with the Select Committee for Transport. We took evidence from the chairman of HS2 and I took the opportunity to raise the issue of subcontractors not being paid after contracts were cancelled with no prior notice. This matter was brought to me by a constituent. Prime Ministers Question’s saw the PM and Leader of the Opposition go through the motions. The real battle was scheduled for later in the day and would take place in the voting lobbies. The chancellor made his spring statement. It is effectively a mini budget to tweak a few things and was not surprisingly unremarkable. What can a Chancellor do when the U.K. is crashing out of the E.U. in 17 days’ time and potentially crashing the economy? Today was the second day of EU withdrawal vote and we were debating leaving with no deal. After all was said we had three votes. Amendment A was the most contentious. It was in the name of Caroline Spelman (Conservative and Unionist MP) but she tried to withdraw it. She can’t do that. What she really meant was she wouldn’t move it. But what she didn’t seem to realise is that other people with their name on the amendment could move it and they were lining up to do so. It got moved so we voted to rule out a no deal Brexit. The U.K. Government lost the vote by 312 to 308. It was a particularly galling defeat for the government as four cabinet ministers abstained. They had victory in their grasp and as often happens the Conservative and Unionists turned on themselves. The second amendment was to make various provisions for a ‘managed no-deal’ scenario. It was roundly defeated. Another bad day at the office for the U.K. Government.
I started my day at International Trade questions as I had a question on the order papers. A number of people stood and asked questions around international trade deals post Brexit that could harm the NHS. I asked for greater transparency of the trading mechanisms. If we learn anything from Brexit is that the U.K. government needs help negotiating. The major debate of the day was to extend article 50. A rash of amendments were put down and six were selected by the speaker, in the end there were five votes and despite having the opportunity to defeat the government and guarantee a people’s vote many Labour MPs abstained and handed victory to the government. A very quick smash to the airport ensued and I caught the 19:30 home.
A welcome break from the groundhog days of Westminster and I joined a local postman on his rounds. I am used to delivering leaflets for campaigning purposes but the shift the posties put in is on another scale entirely. I was pleased that my next stop was Belville Gardens for soup and a blether. My plum tree is in rude health and I am glad to say is being well looked after. In the afternoon I had street surgeries along with Councillor Jim McEleny.