Cherry Bites Back!

cherry

If the Westminster establishment and the Torys thought that they were going to get off lightly for denying Joanna Cherry voice the other night, they soon realised today that Joanna is not at all as sweet and soft as the fruit she shares her name with.

Tonight, unless something remarkable happens will see the Exit Bill  passed through this committee stage, with the Torys having prevented all amendments from being accepted, and having stifled debate as much as possible.
However today Joanna managed to remind them and the public of the paper presented by the Scottish governement for negotiation with the Tory government.
What follows is Hansards account of that portion of events. Including Joanna getting right into them for attempting to put her down, and telling them in no uncertain terms of the opposition the Scots parliament, the Scottish Government, MPs and MSPs to a hard Brexit without proper consultation, and the reported rise in those in favour of Independence…  We might call this little lot a Cherry Bomb on Westminster.

  • This group of amendments is about the UK’s priorities for the negotiations on withdrawal from the European Union. I will talk about Scotland’s priorities. The Scottish National party has tabled amendment 54 and new clause 141 on the situation of Gibraltar, in which we deal with the fact that the Bill has omitted to include Gibraltar in its remit, which is rather curious given the great love and affection that Government Members have for Gibraltar.

    Those of us who are members of the Exiting the European Union Committee were very impressed by the evidence given to us a couple of weeks ago by the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo. He emphasised that Gibraltar’s main concern is to preserve its sovereignty and connection with the United Kingdom. Unlike some of us, he is very happy to be part of the red, white and blue Brexit that the Prime Minister talks about. It is important to take Gibraltar’s concerns into account.

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • The hon. Gentleman, to whom I will give way in a moment, has a long and admirable commitment to the people of Gibraltar and their interests. He has also tabled amendments on the matter, including amendment 29, which I am sure he will tell us about in detail in due course. It would put upon the British Government a requirement to consult Gibraltar before triggering article 50.

  • I will not make a speech now, as I hope to be called later. I just want to emphasise that there is an important need to protect the interests of Gibraltar. As the hon. and learned Lady said, the Bill does not refer to Gibraltar, but it was specifically mentioned in an amendment when the legislation to hold the referendum was agreed. The people of Gibraltar voted in the referendum. Surely the Bill should be amended to reflect the need for Gibraltar’s interests also to be considered.

  • Absolutely. I have with me a letter from the Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar, who says that he

    “can confirm that the clause on the application of the Article 50 Bill to Gibraltar would be politically useful to us here. It would also follow on logically from the original consent that we already gave to the extension of the actual UK referendum Act to Gibraltar.”

    I will come back to that in more detail in a moment.

  • Before my hon. and learned Friend moves on, I think it is important to back up the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes). Gibraltar’s connection to the United Kingdom and being British should be reflected in this House. I have visited Gibraltar, and hon. Members should think seriously about supporting his amendment because it would send a signal to Gibraltar that it is respected here, and by Members on both sides of the House. Please listen to the hon. Gentleman.

1.45 pm

  • Indeed. I totally agree with my hon. Friend. The Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar also said in his letter:

    “I understand that this amendment mirrors a number of others which have also been tabled seeking to make clear its application”—

    that is the application of the Act—

    “to Gibraltar in the same way. This would strengthen Gibraltar’s case to be mentioned in the Article 50 letter.”

    Of course, Scotland shares with Gibraltar a desire to be mentioned in the article 50 letter.

    The big priority for Scotland is that the British Government take into account the Scottish Government’s request for a differentiated deal for Scotland. We tabled new clause 145, which would require the British Government to commit to such a differentiated deal before triggering article 50. That amendment has been held over until today, but we will not push it to a vote because we are prepared to give the UK Government one last chance to respond to the document, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, which was laid before the British Government before Christmas, some seven weeks ago.

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • I will when I have finished my point. No formal response to “Scotland’s Place in Europe” has yet been received. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Karl MᶜCartney) is a member of the Exiting the European Union Committee, as I am. We heard detailed evidence about the document this morning from the Scottish Government Minister responsible for negotiations with the United Kingdom. It is a far more detailed document in its proposals than anything the British Government have been prepared to produce so far.

  • I thank my hon. and learned Friend for giving way; as a fellow member of the Brexit Select Committee, I hope that she would treat me as a friend, rather than as just an hon. Member sitting on the opposite side of the House. I do not disagree with her when it comes to Gibraltar and maybe even Scotland, but we are acting on behalf of the whole UK. If there were to be a list in the article 50 letter, are there any other places, such as the Isle of Man or Jersey, that she would like to see included on it? Would she like to see a long list of places?

  • The hon. Gentleman is obviously not aware that the arrangements that apply to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are rather different than those that apply to Scotland, because they are not in the European Union. Perhaps he would like to read “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, which would explain that to him. Some differentiated agreements do, in fact, exist within the wider UK and Crown dependencies. Gibraltar is in the European Union, but not in the customs union. I will return to the matter of Gibraltar in due course.

  • My hon. and learned Friend will remember this direct quotation from The Daily Telegraph:

    “Theresa May has indicated that…she said she will not trigger the formal process for leaving the EU until there is an agreed ‘UK approach’ backed by Scotland.”

    Surely Government Members do not intend for the Prime Minister to break her word of 15 July last year.

  • I am sure that Government Members would be loth to encourage the Prime Minister to break her word—[Interruption.] Conservative Members are shouting, “No veto.” We are not asking for a veto. This document is a compromise whereby Scotland could remain in the single market while the rest of the UK exits it. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches who are shaking their heads and mumbling about vetoes would like to get their iPads out and look up the difference between a veto and a compromise; it is rather a radical difference.

  • Several hon. Members rose—
  • I will make some progress and then I will take some more interventions, perhaps from people who have not yet spoken.

    The Scottish Government have made a proposal, and we are waiting for it to be taken seriously. The signs that the compromise put forward by Scotland will be taken seriously by the Government and, indeed, by this House have not been promising so far this week. Not a single amendment to the Bill has been accepted, despite the numerous amendments tabled by all sorts of different groups of Members, many with significant cross-party support. Even yesterday, when the Government were forced into announcing a significant concession, they were extraordinarily reluctant to commit that concession to writing. We all know that it is because they do not want to amend the Act: they have fought tooth and nail through the courts and in this House to avoid the sort of scrutiny that those of them who seek to leave the European Union have been trumpeting for years. They tell us how fantastic this wonderful, sovereign mother of Parliaments is, but we are berated for having the effrontery to attempt to amend a Bill. It is preposterous.

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • No, I will not give way. We heard ample from the right hon. Gentleman the other day.

    This Bill is being railroaded through this House with scant regard for democratic process. Here is an example: on Monday, when we were debating the proposals that concerned the devolved Administrations, including Scotland, only one of my hon. Friends got to speak. When I attempted to double that tally, I was told to sit down, shut up and know my place. I do not mind being insulted and affronted in this House, but what people need to remember is that it is not just me; it is the people who elected me who are being insulted and affronted when I am prevented from speaking about proposals on which my name appears.

    Government Members are extraordinarily relaxed about the effect this sort of thing has on Scottish public opinion. I do not know whether they take the Herald newspaper—it is rather difficult to get hold of in the House of Commons—but if they do, they will see that today’s headline is “Support for independence surges on hard Brexit vow” .

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • No, I will not.

    Backing for a yes vote in another independence referendum has risen to 49% on the back of the hard Brexit vow, and that is when no referendum is even on the table and we are still seeking our reasonable compromise. Hon. Members should make no mistake—it gives me great pleasure to say this—that the barracking by Government Members and the preventing of SNP MPs from speaking in this House play right into our hands and result in headlines saying that support for independence is surging.

  • On a point of order, Mrs Laing. On Monday, I spoke about the amendments on devolution arrangements. I seem to remember that I took many interventions, including from the hon. and learned Lady. She was not, therefore, prevented from speaking; indeed, I seem to remember that the person in the Chair at the time—[Interruption.]

  • Order.

  • Opposition Members should let me finish making my point of order to the Chair. The person who was in the Chair made great efforts to facilitate the hon. and learned Lady’s speech, but there was then a kerfuffle when she objected to the amount of time she got. How can we put the record straight about the fact that she had a fair opportunity on Monday?

  • The right hon. Gentleman does not need to put the record straight, because it is a matter of record. I have myself looked in Hansard, and by the simple use of my arithmetical powers, I have worked out how many people managed to speak, for how long they spoke and what contributions they made. Now, the hon. and learned Lady is asserting that she was prevented from speaking. Because there was a time limit on the debate and the hon. and learned Lady came quite late in the debate, there was not an awful lot of time left in which she could speak. But I think that, in saying that she was prevented from speaking, the hon. and learned Lady is making a rhetorical point rather than an arithmetical point, because her contribution to the debate has been considerable. She will note that she has been given the opportunity very early in today’s proceedings to speak, and I look forward to hearing her speak to the amendments to which she has put her name, and that is what we should stick to.

  • I am very grateful, Mrs Laing, for your clarification. Indeed, I am speaking early today, because I am leading for the third party in this House, and it is my right to speak early in the debate.

  • The right hon. Gentleman is terribly anxious to make an intervention. In order to put him out of his misery, I would very much like to hear what he has to say now.

  • I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Lady. She was waxing lyrical about the importance her party places on Gibraltar, but when I was listening to the evidence from the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, he was rather more committed to the continuance of the United Kingdom than the Scottish National party, which does not seem to be committed to it.

  • That is called democracy. The people of Gibraltar vote for parties that wish to remain part of the United Kingdom; the people of Scotland vote for parties that wish to be independent—that is a statement of fact. I am very happy to endorse Gibraltar’s right to self-determination—just as I am happy to endorse Scotland’s, or indeed any nation’s, right to self-determination.

  • Just on a point of clarity, it should be understood by both sides that Gibraltar is not in the United Kingdom. Gibraltar does not want to be in the United Kingdom. It wants an association with Britain, which is very different. The United Kingdom dates only from December 1922. Britain is little bitty older than that. Gibraltar does not have a Member in this Parliament because it is not in the United Kingdom. It has an association with the United Kingdom. It is independent of the United Kingdom. That is something I would quite like for Scotland: British, but not in the UK.

  • I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, who, like the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), has a long association with Gibraltar, for clarifying the situation for those who appeared not to be aware of it.

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • I will not at the moment, thank you.

    I will come back to Gibraltar in a moment, but I want to continue on the subject of Scotland’s priority in these negotiations. The document I am holding—“Scotland’s Place in Europe”—puts forward a highly considered and detailed case to the British Government. As I said, we are still waiting for any kind of considered or detailed response. This morning, the Exiting the European Union Committee heard evidence from a number of Scottish legal experts, in addition to the Minister, Mike Russell. We were told by Professor Nicola McEwen that the proposals in this document are credible and merit examination.

    What the Scottish Government are asking for from the British Government is no more than the British Government are asking for from the other 27 member states of the European Union, and that is for there to be consideration in negotiations of our position, and our position is somewhat less substantial than the position the British Government want to put forward in Europe.

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • I am going to make a little progress, and then I will give way.

    The Scottish Government are looking for a response to this document, and that is why we are not going to push new clause 145, which has been held over to today for a vote. A meeting is taking place this afternoon of the Joint Ministerial Committee, and we are still prepared for the time being to put faith in the promise the Prime Minister made, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) has just reminded us of, about Scotland’s wishes being taken into account. However, Members of this House should make no mistake: we will expect the Prime Minister to deliver on that promise. We will expect—just as Gibraltar does—to have our position put forward in the article 50 letter. If that does not happen, and the Prime Minister breaks her promise, we will hold another independence referendum, and on the back of the Herald headline, things are looking pretty good for that at the moment—we are at nearly 50%, and not a single word has been uttered yet in the campaign for a second independence referendum.

  • I will not give way to the right hon. Gentleman for the time being, but the hon. Lady was going to raise a point.

  • The hon. and learned Lady referenced the evidence session we had this morning with her colleague from the Scottish Parliament. Does she agree, however, that there were a number of unanswered questions in the Committee, including on what regulations Scotland may be subject to if it were in the European economic area; what the impact might be on the trade relationship with the rest of the UK; what the controls at the border might be, and what they might need to look like if Scotland had free movement but the rest of the UK did not; and what payment might need to be made by Scotland, including how much that would be and where it would come from? There was some confusion over those points.

  • I do not agree with the hon. Lady. The transcript will be available shortly, and when hon. Members read it they will see that my colleague who is a Minister in the Scottish Government repeatedly told Members that the answers to the questions they were asking were in this document. It was rather surprising that one member of the Committee admitted that he had not read the document but berated the Scottish Minister for not having answered questions that are answered in the document he has not read. I hope that the British Government are studying this document, as there is perhaps quite a lot to learn from it.

2.00 pm

  • The hon. and learned Lady very touchingly says that her document is a compromise document. Do not she and her party understand that a compromise document is one on which she and I agree, and I do not agree with it?

  • I have got some news for the right hon. Gentleman: when the United Kingdom Government go to negotiate with EU’s 27 member states about exiting the EU, they will be looking for a compromise. At the moment, the UK Government are looking for things that the EU member states are not willing to give, but that is not preventing them from going into a negotiation—that is how negotiations work.

    I urge the right hon. Gentleman to read this document. If he had read it, he would know—I had to correct him on this earlier—that although Norway is in the single market, it is not in the common fisheries policy. What Scotland is looking for in this compromise document is an arrangement similar to that of Norway. I visited Oslo recently. The Norwegians seem to be doing pretty well on the back of that arrangement—it looks as though they have a prosperous and successful economy.

  • If the right hon. Gentleman had made the same pledge as the Prime Minister made, I would expect him, as a right hon. Member, to have kept to it. I saw the evidence this morning, and I heard the Scottish Parliament Minister, Mr Russell, give the example of Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Liechtenstein is in the European economic area; Switzerland is not. They have a frictionless border—let us put it that way—just like the border the Prime Minister promises for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

  • Indeed.

    Many of the questions that hon. Members in this House raise with the Scottish Government and with the Scottish National party about how these matters might be managed are answered in this document, which is the product of research and consultation that has been going on in the many months since the Brexit vote. While the British Government have been going round in circles trying to decide whether they want to be in the single market or in the customs union, the Scottish Government have been looking at a considered compromise and answer to the dilemma in which we find ourselves whereby the majority of the people of Scotland wish to remain part of the EU but the rest of the UK wishes to exit.

  • A few minutes ago, my hon. and learned Friend made a really important point about Norway and the benefits that could accrue particularly to my constituency from a Norwegian-style deal that would help our fishing interests, but also protect the interests of our fish processors and all the people who depend on export markets, most of which are in the EU at the present time.

  • Indeed. It is no secret that of the minority of people in Scotland who voted to leave the EU, a significant proportion was made up of people working in the fishing industry, including fishermen, because, as we heard earlier, they have received such a bad deal over the years as a result of inept negotiations by the British Government on the common fisheries policy—negotiations that Scottish Government Ministers have been kept out of. The great advantage of this compromise proposal for fishermen is that, while coming out of the common fisheries policy, they would still have access to the single market. When I was in Norway, I saw a presentation about how the Norwegian fishing industry is progressing on the back of such an arrangement, and, believe you me, it is doing significantly better than the Scottish fishing industry.

  • Several hon. Members rose—
  • I give way to the Chairman of the Committee on Exiting the European Union.

  • Is not the fundamental difficulty with the document’s proposal about the possibility of Scotland remaining in the single market the fact that there is absolutely no evidence that I have seen thus far—perhaps the hon. and learned Lady has—that any one of the other 27 member states, never mind the British Government’s view, has indicated that it would consent to such an arrangement, given that all the other parallels, the Faroes aside, relate to countries, which is not the case in relation to this proposal?

  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising this issue, because it highlights the reason I am belabouring this point. For Scotland to get the compromise deal that we are proposing, the United Kingdom Government first need to accept it as something they would then put forward to the other 27 member states. The other 27 member states are waiting for the United Kingdom to put its money where its mouth is and come to the table and negotiate. They need us to put our own house in order before we do that. [Interruption.] Government Members may not like it, but the Prime Minister made a promise to involve Scotland in the negotiations and to look at all the options for Scotland. We are withholding our right to force our amendment to a vote today in the hope that the Prime Minister will be as good as her word. People in Scotland are watching and waiting.

    This document has widespread support. It has the merit of uniting leavers and remainers because it has a compromise that appeals to both sides.

  • Does the hon. and learned Lady agree that in the event that Scotland was in the single market and England, Wales and Northern Ireland were not, industry would move from England and Wales to Scotland to have tariff-free access to the single market? Similarly, industry would move from Northern Ireland to southern Ireland, ripping open the peace process, which, although it was denied earlier, will indeed be ripped open.

  • The SNP’s position on the peace process has been made very clear in this House: we would wish to do everything to support it.

    Moreover, we do not wish the rest of the UK to suffer as a result of coming out of the single market. That is why the principal suggestion in this document is that the whole United Kingdom should remain in the single market. I am terribly sorry on behalf of Members representing English and Welsh constituencies that the Prime Minister has now ruled that off the table, but I am sure those Members will understand why we, representing Scotland, must try to see whether we can get a compromise deal for Scotland.

  • Does the hon. and learned Lady recognise that if the Government did accept that they could negotiate a separate place for Scotland within the single market, that could equally read across in respect of Northern Ireland, and would be particularly compatible in terms of the strand 2 arrangements and upholding the Good Friday agreement? In many important ways, it would go to the heart of upholding the peace, not upsetting any basis for it.

  • Indeed. As usual, the hon. Gentleman makes his point with great force and great clarity. The difficulty is that in the Committee on Exiting the European Union this morning we heard from experts who have been observing the process of so-called negotiations between the British Government and the devolved nations in the Joint Ministerial Committee that these negotiations lack transparency and have not really made any significant progress. That is a matter of regret not just for Scotland, but for Northern Ireland and for Wales.

  • Is my hon. and learned Friend as surprised as I am, given the apparent suggestion that it would be to Scotland’s economic advantage to be in the single market, that we are debating leaving the EU in the first place? Surely what is good for Scotland would be good for the whole UK in this respect.

  • Indeed. We made it clear in this document that we felt it would be to the advantage of the whole United Kingdom to remain in the single market. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister, in what my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) has described as a very foolish negotiating tactic, has ruled that out from the outset.

  • I am going to make a bit of progress because I am conscious that a lot of other people are wishing to speak, and, as I said, I want to move on to deal with our amendments on the topic of Gibraltar.

    As the hon. Member for Ilford South pointed out, Gibraltar was covered by the European Union Referendum Act 2015. Section 12(1) of the Act extended to the United Kingdom and Gibraltar. There was an overwhelming vote in Gibraltar to remain. When Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, gave evidence to the Committee on Exiting the European Union, he explained that Gibraltar already has a differential agreement whereby it is in the EU but not in the customs union. This has been working well for the people of Gibraltar. They would like to be involved in a Brexit deal that guaranteed continued access to the single market. They do not want to be forgotten. In the letter I quoted from earlier, the Gibraltarian Government support these amendments to get Gibraltar brought within the ambit of the Bill so that Gibraltar’s interests can be taken into account in the triggering of article 50.

    Will the Minister tell us why Gibraltar was omitted from the Bill? Was it, God forbid, an oversight—if so, the Government now have the opportunity to correct that, with the assistance of the SNP—or was it a deliberate omission of Gibraltar from the ambit of the Bill? If it was a deliberate omission, how does that sit with assurances that the British Government have been giving to Gibraltar that its interests will be protected?

    The hon. Member for Ilford South will speak with greater knowledge than I can about Gibraltar. The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that Gibraltar is not forgotten. We feel that there may have been an oversight, so we are attempting to provide assistance. However, if there has not been an oversight and the omission is deliberate, we need to know why and hon. Members need to consider whether it is appropriate to rectify the situation.

    A number of other amendments would ameliorate the Bill. The hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) spoke ably from the Front Bench about new clause 2 and other amendments. I find new clause 2 to be slightly disappointing, because it does not enumerate the interests of Scotland as a particular consideration to be taken into account. We are not going to push new clause 145 to a vote, because we are hopeful that today’s Joint Ministerial Committee might have a fruitful outcome.

  • I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for taking Scotland into account. I hope that the promise made by the Prime Minister on 15 July will have greater gravity than that made by the previous Prime Minister on 10 September 2014, when David Cameron said on “Channel 4 News” that if Scotland voted to remain in the UK, all forms of devolution were there and all were possible. Yet when it came to the Scotland Bill—by this time, my hon. and learned Friend was a Member of Parliament—none of the amendments were taken, showing that none of the forms of devolution were there and none were possible. We have had one broken promise by the previous Prime Minister; let us hope that this Prime Minister can keep her word.

  • Order. I give the hon. Gentleman a lot of leeway, but it is this Bill that we are discussing right now. We cannot go on to previous Prime Ministers and previous Bills. I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), whose legal expertise is among the best in the House, will find a way of saying what she wants to say.

  • I am bringing my remarks to a conclusion, Mrs Laing, because I am conscious that others wish to speak. I want to make it clear that the SNP broadly welcomes many of the amendments, including new clause 100, which would secure women’s rights and equality. We believe that the EU is about more than just a single trading market; it is also about the social ties that bind us and the social protections that it guarantees.

  • On equality and protection, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that what we have seen since we were elected to this place does not fill us with any hope that this Government, when they have their great power grab, will uphold the protections that the EU has brought? We will fight for our citizens’ rights.

  • I agree with my hon. Friend. That concern is shared by Members of many parties in this House. We support any amendments that would underline the social aspects of the EU. For example, new clause 166 centres on the rights of young people, who benefit so much from the important ability to live, work, travel and study across Europe. Of course, the SNP fought for 16 and 17-year-olds to get the vote in the referendum, but that was not to be. Perhaps the result would have been different if it had been allowed.

    Later today, we will vote on amendments carried over from earlier in the week, including the SNP’s new clause 27, which would protect the rights of EU nationals. I think that the widely shared view in the House is that we ought not to trigger article 50 until we have given EU nationals living in the United Kingdom some assurance on their rights. Furthermore, the Exiting the European Union Committee has received evidence from representatives not only of EU nationals in the UK, but, perhaps more importantly for some Members, of UK nationals living abroad. The witnesses felt that a unilateral declaration of good will from the British Government—who, after all, caused the problem by holding the referendum and allowing the leave vote to happen—to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the United Kingdom would be met by a reciprocal undertaking from other member states, as opposed to using individual human beings as bargaining chips. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) wants to intervene I will be happy to take that intervention, but he obviously does not; he just wants to shout at me from a sedentary position.

    Finally, before Second Reading, I raised a point of order about the Secretary of State’s statement on section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. He said that, in his view,

    “the provisions of the… Bill are compatible with the Convention rights”.

    I am not usually in the habit of giving out free legal advice, but I am happy to do so on this occasion. If the Bill proceeds and we trigger article 50 without taking any steps to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, the British Government could find themselves facing a challenge—and possibly claims—under the Human Rights Act on the Bill’s compatibility with articles 8 and 14 of the European convention on human rights. I know that many Government Members do not hold any great affection for the ECHR, but when we exit the EU we will still be signatories to the convention and the British courts will still be bound by it. I offer the Government a helpful word of warning: if they want to save taxpayers’ money, they might want to think carefully about addressing that issue before they are met with a slew of legal claims.

2.15 pm

  • EU-national workers in science and research are key to research and industry in our society. We should be begging those world-class researchers to stay. We should be bending over backwards instead of using them as bargaining chips, because we are damaging good will and how they feel valued in our society.

  • Indeed. My hon. Friend takes great interest in teaching, research and science, which was her own field before she came to Parliament. Many Scottish universities, including Herriot-Watt and Napier in my constituency, are extremely concerned about the brain drain that could occur as a result of the failure to reassure EU nationals living in the UK about their rights. With that, I repeat my support for the SNP’s amendment 54 and new clause 141 in relation to Gibraltar

     

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Respect? Scotland Eu have had it!

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Last July Theresa May hot footed it up to Scotland to meet with Nicola Sturgeon

Mrs May said her message was that the UK government was on the side of Scots.

Speaking before her visit, the PM vowed to fully engage with the Scottish government on Brexit negotiations.

‘Special union’

She said: “This visit to Scotland is my first as prime minister and I’m coming here to show my commitment to preserving this special union that has endured for centuries.

“And I want to say something else to the people of Scotland too: the government I lead will always be on your side.

“Every decision we take, every policy we take forward, we will stand up for you and your family – not the rich, the mighty or the powerful.

“That’s because I believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens.”

Today at Westminster we had the following exchange during PMQs

:

  • Last night, parliamentarians from across the Chamber and across the parties voted overwhelmingly against the UK Government’s Brexit plans—in the Scottish Parliament. If the United Kingdom is a partnership of equals, will the Prime Minister compromise like the Scottish Government and reach a negotiated agreement before invoking article 50, or will she just carry on regardless?

  • As the right hon. Gentleman knows, when the UK Government negotiate, we will negotiate as the Government for the whole United Kingdom. We have put in place the Joint Ministerial Committee arrangements through various committees, which enable us to work closely with the devolved Administrations to identify the particular issues they want represented as we put our views together. We have said that we will intensify the discussions within that JMC arrangement, and that is exactly what we will be doing.

  • When the Prime Minister was in Edinburgh on 15 July last year, she pledged that she would not trigger article 50 until she had an agreed UK-wide approach. Given that the Scottish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly against her approach, and that all bar one MP representing a Scottish constituency in the House of Commons has voted against her approach, she does not have an agreed UK-wide approach. As the Prime Minister knows, a lot of people in Scotland watch Prime Minister’s questions. Will she tell those viewers in Scotland whether she intends to keep her word to Scotland or not?

  • We are ensuring that we are working closely with the Scottish Government, and indeed with the other devolved Administrations, as we take this matter forward. I would just remind the right hon. Gentleman of two things. First, the Supreme Court was very clear that the Scottish Parliament does not have a veto on the triggering of article 50—the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which is going through the House, obviously gives the power to the Government to trigger article 50. I would also remind him of this point, because he constantly refers to the interests of Scotland inside the European Union: an independent Scotland would not be in the European Union.

    So much for respect and consultation then? Know your place Scotland and you will do as we tell you, whether you like it or not, Is Theresa Mays idea of partnership.
    Well seen her husband does the shopping for her, I hope he knows to itemise his small change.

    The Supreme Court did not rule on Sewel convention as it noted that while it was not a legal matter, it was a political convention. But being a convention does not mean it should now be completely disregarded as Theresa May seems to consider.
    Indeed by her total disregard for it, and indeed Scotland now it seems, she is leading the breakup of not one Union but 2 Unions. So be it!
    The big lie which she seems to enjoy coming out with now is that an Independent Scotland could not be in the EU. Recently she said that the SNP were arguing to leave the EU during the Independence referendum debates. Talk of driving truth through a barn door!

    Perhaps the reason for Theresa Mays disdain is because she knows that no agreement will be be reached and so doesn’t have any reason to want to compromise or consult.

    Indeed there seems to be leaking going on to suggest that she and the Torys are already on a war footing?

    From the Courier:

    “Theresa May’s team is “war gaming” with the Scotland Office and Ruth Davidson as speculation intensifies that the First Minister will announce her intention to return to the polls at next month’s SNP conference.

    The Conservatives say they want to be “calm and collected” if the First Minister declares her intention to stage a rerun of the September 2014 vote.

    Multiple sources close to Downing Street have confirmed “contingency” talks are ongoing amid speculation an announcement could be made at the SNP conference next month.”

    One thing for sure….she is totally oblivious to Scottish micky taking… the following exchange happened with Patrick Grady occurred today, with Patrick mischievously referring to his own 58minute session in debate last night.

  • Q3. Does the Prime Minister agree that in a 21st-century Parliament the rules should not enable any Member to speak for 58 minutes in a three-hour debate? Does she agree that the rules of the House should be changed to prevent filibustering and ensure that Members on both sides of the House get a fair share of the time available? [908648]

  • I find that a rather curious question from the hon. Gentleman. As it happens, last night I was out of the House between the two votes. I switched on the BBC parliamentary channel and I saw the hon. Gentleman speaking. I turned over to something else. I switched back to the parliamentary channel and he was still speaking. I switched over to something else. I switched back and he was still speaking. He is the last person to complain about filibustering in this House. [Interruption.]

WHOOOSH!!!

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Posted in Brexit, politics, scotland, Theresa May | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

We will Not Sit Down. We will not shut Up. We Will Be Heard

After the despicable attempts of the Tory government to shove through the European Exit bill in the committee stage, giving as little time as possible to debate amendments ,and Torys filibustering to prevent discussion, with 2 Torys speaking for half an hour each yesterday on devolved administrations amendments for Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The events of day 1 culminated after 7 hours with every Tory and every Labour MP allowed to speak, but only 2 representatives from the SNP on their amendment and 1 each from Northern Ireland and wales speaking for their amendments. The deliberate sidelining. by the Speakers of those from the other home countries ended up with a farce and uproar as the deputy speaker wrongly cut short Joanna Cherry and ensured a rammy between Alex Salmond and the deputy speaker.

Today being the second day of amendments, the SNP had another chance to speak up and this time they sure did. When Patrick Grady got up to speak, he turned the tables on Westminsters antics by doing to them what had been done to the SNP yesterday, much to the howls from the Tory and Labour benches and the same deputy speaker as yesterday. He spoke eloquently for over an hour, ensuring intervention after intervention from his SNP colleagues. He absolutely ensured this time that Scotlands voice could be heard loud and clear!

The following is from Hansard. …….Enjoy!!! ……But pick and choose an hours worth is a long long time

  • I, on behalf of the Scottish National party, would like to speak to new clause 143, on which I hope we will test the will of the Committee later on, to amendment 58, which I tabled, which relates to the European development fund, and the 27 other amendments in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) and other hon. Friends. The SNP tabled a total of 50 new clauses and amendments to this Bill, and I hope that we get a chance to debate as many of those in this group as possible—amendments 47 to 53, 57 to 62, 64 to 77, 79, 80 and 82, as well as new clause 138.

    Government Members who have spoken were quite exercised about the possibility of the amendments causing some delay to the triggering of article 50, but I am not entirely sure what that delay might be. I have read the Bill—all 137 words of it—and nowhere in it is there a date for the triggering of article 50. The Bill gives the power to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister alone—as I said last week, it is a very presidential power, not a parliamentary power—to choose the date on which article 50 is triggered.

  • My hon. Friend makes a very good point about the new clauses we are arguing for this evening. Is he aware that the Scottish Parliament this evening voted by three to one against triggering article 50, which comes on top of the two to one of Scots who voted against triggering article 50 as well?

  • I am fully aware of that. It reflects the consensus across Scottish society that Scotland should retain its membership of the single market and the fact that it did not vote to leave the EU. The Scottish Conservatives have run a mile from that.

  • Several hon. Members rose—
  • No, I will not give way yet; we are just getting started.

    I might add that in the time that the Scottish Parliament took that vote, as well as votes on several amendments, barely one Member had spoken in this debate. Voting in the Scottish Parliament is far quicker than here; its Members can vote on far more amendments than we ever can, because they do not have the archaic procedures that we have to put up with down here.

    Yesterday’s amendment paper had more pages—142—than there are words in the Bill, but today we are down to just 121 pages. The number of amendments that have been tabled highlights the dreadful inadequacies of both the Bill and this scrutiny process. There is nowhere near enough time to consider the massive implications of what Brexit will actually mean and how the Government intend to achieve it, and of course there is still no kind of meaningful information on what they think those implications might be.

  • A theme is emerging of what Brexit might mean: a plea—I noticed this in the speech of the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove)—for the EU not to punish the UK. Yet from the same lips all the time comes the threat of a punishment to Scotland if we become independent. These acts and words will not be missed in the 27 member states of the EU—the hypocrisy, the double-edged sword and the brass neck and bare-faced cheek in the UK.

  • My hon. Friend makes a good point—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I have not responded to my hon. Friend yet.

    The Scottish National party—for the record, that is its name, as I think Hansard is probably fed up of hearing—has always understood that our kind of independence is defined by our interdependence and by the role that we want to play in the world, whereas it is increasingly clear that the hard right, Tory Brexit that is being foisted upon us against our will is an isolationist independence—[Interruption.] It is Trumpist, triumphant and narrow nationalism, as I hear my colleagues saying from the Back Benches.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No, I still have not even begun to talk about our new clauses and amendments, and I am sure that Members want to hear why it is so important that the Government should publish impact assessments on the machinery of government, which will be profoundly affected by our leaving the European Union.

    The Government must give us a benchmark. They must give us their own assessment against which we can measure and test these things so that we can hold them to account. The Chair of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), under whom I am proud to serve but who is not in the Chamber, has said that we are accountable to our voters—that is absolutely correct. However, the Government are accountable to us, and they have to provide us with the necessary information so that we can hold them to account.

  • It seems to have taken the Scottish nationalist party six months to realise that a third of those who voted yes in 2014 actually wanted to leave the EU. SNP Members seem completely oblivious to that fact, but I would like to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say about it.

  • I think that that counts as a minority.

    The First Minister herself said on 24 June that we would respect, listen to and understand the people in Scotland who voted to leave the European Union. We never heard anything like that from the Prime Minister about those on the other side. The First Minister’s words were reflected in the compromise position that was published by the Scottish Government. They have moved heaven and earth to try to reach a compromise arrangement with this Government, but their words are still falling on deaf ears.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No.

    I want to address some of the new clauses and amendments that have been tabled by various factions on the Labour Benches, and I shall focus particularly on the ones relating to Euratom. The exchanges on this subject on Second Reading demonstrated the utter chaos that has gripped this Administration and their predecessor. Euratom’s role is to provide a framework for nuclear energy safety and development. I would have thought that, no matter how much some of the Brexiteers hate the European Union institutions, this one would have been among the least controversial. Surely there must be consensus on protecting us from nuclear meltdowns. Do they not think that that is a good idea? No.

    The Command Paper that the UK Government published in February last year on the impact of Brexit made no mention of coming out of Euratom. Nevertheless, we are being taken out of it without any warning and, if the Government will not accept the Labour new clause on this matter, there will be no further discussion about it. I do not remember the subject featuring on the side of buses or in showpiece debates, yet here we are with another ill-thought-out unintended consequence of a Brexit vote that started as an internal ideological battle among Conservative Members and that is going to leave decades of uncertainty in its wake for us all. That is just one example. Each new clause and amendment, from whatever party, that calls for an impact assessment shows the Government’s lack of preparation across the whole suite of policy.

  • I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a small question, if I may. Has he given his constituents an impact assessment of any change that might take place at the next election? Has he prepared them fully and properly for the impact that a change of Member of Parliament might have on them? Or does he trust them to make their own impact assessment—does he trust the people to decide?

  • I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was here for my Second Reading speech last week, so he will know that 78% of my constituents voted to remain in the European Union. I am therefore reasonably confident that their voice is at last being heard. They will make their judgment at the next election, whenever it comes, and I will be happy to live with their decision.

    We want to test the will of the House on new clause 143. It tests the Government not only on the practical costs of Brexit but on the hard money, because we know that the financial costs will be high. It is simply not in the interests of the remaining member states for the UK to be better off as a result of Brexit. We have already seen the shocks to the currency market described by my hon. Friend the Member for Badenoch and so on—[Laughter.] I am not quite as good at this as the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). We have seen the shocks to the currency market and the revisions that have already happened in the economic forecasts. Withdrawing from the European Union and exiting the single market will lead to an enormous hit on our economy, and new clause 143 calls on the Chancellor to bring forward further revised forecasts and an assessment of the UK’s financial liability to the EU on the completion of the triggering of article 50.

  • We are talking about financial considerations, but this is about the impact on people and we have to think about UK citizens who are living in Europe. At the moment, they are entitled to healthcare cover and to a UK state pension that will be uprated, but there is no certainty that that will continue post-Brexit—the UK does not pay pension increases in countries with which it does not have a reciprocal arrangement. This is also about the EU citizens who may return to France, Germany, Spain or wherever and be caught up in the same trap, because while they paid national insurance here, the UK might not have a commitment to uprating pensions. Those are the sorts of issues that the Government must provide certainty on.

  • Indeed. That is covered in amendment 72, in which we ask the Department for Work and Pensions to provide an assessment. I hope that there will be time for the House to discuss that measure in more detail later on.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No, I want to make a little progress.

    We have seen the leaked reports of the Government’s assessment that a hard Brexit could cost the UK economy up to £66 billion a year—9.5% of GDP—if we revert to WTO terms. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), with whom I serve on the Procedure Committee, said earlier that analysis in the Financial Times shows that the cost of simply leaving is up to €20 billion due to the shared assets that we are a part of, and that there are up to €300 billion of payment liabilities that need to be settled in the negotiations. Even after all that, there will be ongoing costs, as well as funds that we might wish to continue to contribute to. That is covered in amendment 58, which is about the European development fund. The European development fund is the main method for providing European community aid for development co-operation in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the overseas countries and territories of EU member states.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend, who sits on the International Development Committee.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that the European development fund is crucial not only to achieving our commitment to the sustainable development goals, but to providing long-term sustainable funding for projects, rather than letting them fall at the first hurdle?

  • Absolutely. The European development fund saves and changes lives in developing countries. I would have thought that there would be a little consensus—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) wants to talk to me about the EDF, I am happy to take an intervention.

  • Would the hon. Gentleman’s constituents rather that development aid from this country was spent by the UK and overseen by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, or spent by the EDF, which has none of that oversight?

  • The EDF is highly respected around the world for its effective use of international development aid. Indeed, I have pursued that with Ministers. I have received equivocal answers, but they have recognised from time to time that the EDF is actually quite an important part of the suite of European institutions and that we do make important contributions. If those contributions were ripped away, that would have a devastating effect on the EDF, so we must explore this area and understand it.

    Over the years, the UK has contributed around £10 billion to the EDF, which has been a crucial component, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) says, of our meeting the 0.7% aid commitment. According to the Government’s timetable, Brexit will happen before the end of the current 2020 commitment period, so what will happen after Brexit? The other important thing about the EDF is that it is one of the main instruments for providing development capacity to British overseas territories, so how will they be affected? What plans are being made for them? We are trying to test such things through the amendments.

    The Government have indicated from time to time that they ought to continue funding the EDF, so perhaps there are European institutions that they will have to continue to fund and support, and to have some kind of retained membership of. That makes me wonder. We hear about hard Brexit and soft Brexit, but perhaps this is some sort of hokey-cokey Brexit whereby we leave everything and then have to start joining things again: “You put your left wing in; Your right wing out; In, out, in, out”—I do not want to think about anything being shaken all about.

    Amendment 49 calls for a report from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the level of agricultural maintenance support grants beyond 2020.

  • Scotland is already losing out on more than £230 million of EU funding that was supposed to go to Scottish farmers. The UK Government promised a review in 2016, but they have not carried it out. It is critical that we have an impact assessment that tells Scottish farmers what will happen so that they can plan for their future.

8.15 pm

  • There is absolutely no certainty for Scotland’s farmers, or indeed for farmers across the whole United Kingdom. During the EU referendum campaign, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), made it clear that there would be a guarantee of capital and funding beyond 2020. Then, at the Oxford farming conference last month, the current Secretary of State completely changed her tune. Such confusing and contradictory comments about the long-term future show precisely why we need the Government to spell it out in far more detail than they have in the White Paper. Of course, we particularly want to know whether the agriculture powers currently exercised by the European Union will come to the Scottish Parliament. The principle is clear in the Scotland Act 1998: if something is not reserved, it is devolved. Therefore, everything that the EU is currently doing on this should go to the Scottish Parliament.

  • If the hon. Lady agrees with that, I am happy to hear from her.

  • I will make my own point, thanks very much. Can the hon. Gentleman give the Committee some idea of how long all these impact assessments will take? How much time does he expect the House to devote to debating them and the statements? What other business will not happen because we are debating all the spurious impact assessments that he thinks should occupy the House 100%?

  • With the greatest of respect, we voted against the referendum Bill. We did not think the referendum should happen. When it became clear that the referendum would happen, we said that the debate should last longer. In Scotland we had two full years to debate the consequences of independence, and the voters heard both sides of the debate and made up their mind. We had less than six short months between the announcement of the date and the referendum—[Interruption.] I am hearing that the Secretary of State for Brexit backed a longer debate. There should have been time before the referendum. As I said at the start of my speech, the White Paper says that article 50 will be invoked at the end of March, but the Bill does not say that. It is entirely in the gift of the Prime Minister, and she might change her mind. There is no mechanism to hold her to account for that.

  • My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The SNP obviously backed a longer debate, and I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union did, too. A little more scrutiny might not have gone amiss.

  • Precisely. The Brexiteers’ whole point was about parliamentary sovereignty and how this House would take back for itself the opportunity to make decisions, so why are they now afraid of our having those opportunities?

  • May I provide an answer to the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main)? The impact assessment would take slightly longer than jumping off a cliff.

  • That is a good point, well made. As I said at the start of my speech, we need the facts in front of us.

  • I will make a little progress because, as I said, we have a number of important amendments to discuss, but my hon. Friend can try to intervene later.

    Amendment 51 calls for a report on the impact of UK withdrawal on Scottish seaports. The problems caused by Brexit that are facing Scottish seaports are expensive and complex. Concerns for the maritime industry surround general policy areas such as employment law, immigration, border controls and contract law, as well as transport-specific areas such as freedom to trade, safety, the environment, tonnage tax and security. The White Paper offers only more uncertainty.

    The UK Government’s stated approach to immigration post-Brexit may create an increased need for border activity at Scottish seaports, and the Government’s preferred arrangements for trading post-Brexit—out of the EU customs arrangements—will necessitate additional customs checks on exports and imports at seaports, and will affect trade volume at seaports, so the Government have to mitigate that uncertainty by publishing a full impact assessment of those complex issues for Scottish seaports before triggering article 50.

    Amendment 52 calls for an assessment of financial implications for charities, on which I have a certain amount of experience from my international development portfolio. International development charities across the United Kingdom are already feeling the impact of Brexit and the currency fluctuations. Money that they had raised—money that the UK public had voluntarily donated—is now worth less as a direct result of the Brexit decision, which is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of people in developing countries to whom charities had pledged money that is now not worth what it was when the pledges were made. I hear nothing from the UK Government saying that they want to make up the difference or give the charities any kind of support. UK charities generally receive some £200 million a year from the social fund, through EU structural funds and from the regional development fund.

  • Is it not extremely concerning that the chief executive of the UK-based international charity World Child Cancer stated that the fall in the pound had resulted in a 9% to 13% cut in its programme funding?

  • I agree entirely. All of us who deal with stakeholders in the third sector will hear stories such as that time and time again. It probably explains why research published by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which represents more than 3,000 employees and 15,000 volunteers, revealed that its charity chief executives were increasingly worried about the future. Half of those surveyed receive funding from the EU and 30% confirmed that indirect funding was at risk. As I have said, in the immediate case we have seen the devaluation of currency being spent by those charities.

    Amendment 53 calls for a report on the relationship between the Channel Islands and the EU. The Channel Islands are not a member of the EU, but they have access to the single market and now face being denied that by a hard Tory Brexit. That is why our amendment seeks a report that sets out the full implication of the relationship between the Channel Islands and the EU, and the impact that Brexit will have. That is vital because there will be a serious impact on many key Channel Islands industries, including finance and fisheries. Again, that is an example of why we need these impact assessments.

    Amendment 57 calls for a revised strategic defence and security review. The last SDSR was based on the 2015 national security risk assessment, which took place before the European referendum and did not consider any post-Brexit scenarios. As such, it is no longer fit for purpose. The SDSR makes no mention of the EU’s common security and defence policy, whereas the White Paper outlines existing UK participation in the CSDP and expresses the intention to continue that co-operation post-Brexit. Again, we see the in and out of the Tories’ Brexit.

  • My hon. Friend is giving a damning indictment of the UK Government’s lack of preparedness for Brexit, but this is also about what will change. We have heard about agriculture and fisheries, but the fact remains that Europe has delivered for Scottish crofters and Scottish farmers, and one institution that we have not been able to depend on is the UK. The EU has given the UK €233 million of convergence uplift funding, which was primarily to go to Scottish crofters and farmers, yet we have only got 16% of it. Who should we be trusting? Should we be trusting Europe or should we be trusting the UK Government to deliver for our crofters and farmers

  • That is a fair point. We hear Government Members saying, “Where did that money come from? It came from UK taxpayers”, but my hon. Friend is exactly right in what he says. The road I cycled up to school every day, in Inverness and in the country—this was when I was slightly younger than I am now—was built and paid for with EU money. There is no way on God’s earth that Thatcher’s Government would have spent that money on that road, which shows why people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

  • My hon. Friend is highlighting some issues, but I wish to get back to the SDSR. The National Audit Office has identified that a key risk to the strategic plan is fluctuations in the pound because of pricing against the dollar. If the NAO is highlighting that as an issue, should the Government not be looking at it, rather than having a Secretary of State who stands at the Dispatch Box and tells us, “Everything is okay; we made contingency plans”? We need to know what the contingency plans are and what the impact will be.

  • Of course we do, which is why we tabled all these amendments. We were asked why we were doing that and what we were trying to achieve, but my hon. Friend is making the case on that very clearly.

    I have already spoken about amendment 58, so I shall move on to amendment 59, which calls for a report on the medium-term economic forecast in the event of the UK leaving the single market. Again, Scottish National party Members have made points about the dangerous long-term and medium-term economic realities of a hard Tory Brexit. We know that the OBR forecast said:

    “we asked the Government in September for ‘a formal statement of Government policy as regards its desired trade regime and system of migration control, as a basis for our projections’. The Government directed us to two public statements by the Prime Minister that it stated were relevant”.

    Given the far-reaching and devastating consequences that leaving the single market would have on the economy, teamed with the lack of detail given to the OBR, it has to be the Treasury’s responsibility to publish a medium-term forecast.

  • It is clear that even in the short term the fall in the value of the pound is triggering significant inflationary pressure across the British economy, which will hurt ordinary people in their wage packets, with an impact on industrial costs, in a way that was wholly avoidable.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We see no action from the Government whatsoever, other than to pretend that everything is bright and breezy. We are witnessing a bit of a false dawn.

  • In the longer term we have other issues, because many of the key shortages in science, technology, engineering and maths skills are filled by EU nationals, who simply are not getting the guarantees they need either to stay in the UK or to come here in the first place.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She and I share a boundary with the University of Glasgow and we know the vital contribution it makes, not only to the city but to Scotland’s economy as a whole. Higher education institutes throughout the country are expressing those concerns.

  • My hon. Friend is making a fantastic speech, exposing the real difficulties at the heart of this bad Tory Brexit. I am trying to figure out exactly what is going on with Conservative Members. Perhaps they are opposing the economic impact assessments because they know the true nature of Brexit and the damage it will deliver. Does he agree that that seems to be the underlying reason why they are so opposed to having just a short glimpse of what Brexit will do to this country?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have every right to continue to question them; after all, as I said earlier, this is what they wanted. They wanted Parliament to regain its sovereign status.

  • Let us hear from him.

  • As ever, the hon. Gentleman is making an impressive speech, but I should say one thing—

  • No, you should not! Sit down!

  • I should, actually—just the one. Why is it that Scotland now has to import scientists and engineers when in the 19th and early 20th century we used to export them? Is it anything to do with the drop in international league table rankings for science and mathematics that has occurred under the Scottish National party’s stewardship of the education system?

  • First, I am not convinced that the words “import” and “export” are the right ones to use when we are talking about human beings—some of the most capable and talented human beings in the world. [Interruption.] Secondly, I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), who is on the Education Committee, saying, “So is the rest of the United Kingdom.” Finally, we want to welcome people to Scotland. If the Government want to devolve immigration policy to us as part of the Brexit process, they should feel free to. As has been pointed out many times in these debates, the right hon. Gentleman himself has said that immigration policy should come to Scotland so that we can attract the brightest and the best, and we are not afraid to do so.

  • Having grown up in Inverness, my hon. Friend will remember the Kessock bridge well. When people come over it now, they can see the shining example of the new University of the Highlands and Islands campus there. Thanks to £200 million-worth of EU structural funds over the past 20 years, we have been growing our own scientists and academics in the area. Does he agree that it is absolutely scandalous that up to 2022 an estimated £19 million will be lost, with no impact assessment?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is exactly what we are trying to achieve.

  • In response to the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), I would say that it was because of the failure of UK economic policy that after my brother graduated as a scientist he was forced to emigrate to Canada. He eventually became the chairman of the OECD science and technology committee and helped to write the science and technology policy for the free South Africa, yet the failure over here forced him to emigrate.

  • My hon. Friend makes an absolutely valid point.

    Amendment 61 calls for a revised national security strategy. The existing national security strategy is based on a 2015 assessment that took no account of Brexit—[Interruption.] I am not sure what Government Members are so concerned about. It is completely legitimate for Opposition Members to table amendments to the Bill and it is perfectly right and proper that we have the opportunity to debate them.

  • My hon. Friend has mentioned a long list of issues that are not being properly scrutinised in this rush to Brexit. The Government’s White Paper was hastily prepared, and in haste, we make mistakes, as conceded by the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). Does my hon. and most European Friend know how to spell Liechtenstein?

  • Yes.

  • I will give way to the hon. Lady in just one second. [Interruption.] Right, okay.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman think that perhaps the Procedure Committee should have a look at the practice of filibustering, as there are many hon. Members who want to make important speeches?

8.30 pm

  • Order. The hon. Gentleman is speaking. I know that there has been some latitude, but I also know that he wants to get back on the subject of impacts, and that is where we are going now. Let me just say that there are seven other speakers.

  • The short answer to the hon. Lady regarding the Procedure Committee is, yes, I do believe that this House should introduce rules against filibustering, and, as soon as that happens, we will be happy to abide by them.

    On the point about Liechtenstein, I do know how to spell it, but I will not find it by looking at page 54, chart 9.3 of the Brexit White Paper. Amendment 62 calls on the Chancellor to publish an assessment of future payments to the European Union. It is similar to new clause 143, which we want to push to a vote later on this evening, so some of the points should have been covered already.

    Amendment 64 calls on the Secretary of State for Education to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibility in this area. We have already heard from some Members about the serious implications regarding the ability of our universities to attract talented researchers and students in the event of the UK leaving the European Union. Figures for 2014-15 show that there were 13,450 full-time equivalent EU students studying for undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities. Frankly, almost every single one of them will have been shocked and saddened by the result on 23 June. None the less, they have appreciated the warm welcome and reassurances that have been provided to them by academic institutions up and down Scotland, by the Scottish Government and by the friends, neighbours and families who live in their cities.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for giving way once again. One of the uncertainties faced by EU nationals wanting to come and study in the UK post- Brexit is what fee structure will be imposed on them, and absolutely no answers have been given on that.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Again, we will continue to push the Government on that. I hope that the Minister will have some time to respond to some of these important points. I have spent a lot of time in exchanges with him in Westminster Hall, which perhaps should be renamed “Brexit Minister Hall” in due course once the Brexit process has been completed.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten us? Has any impact assessment ever been undertaken by the Scottish Government of the impact of their education policies on participation in higher education, particularly given that the most recent statistics demonstrate that the Scottish Government’s policies—

  • Order. The problem might have come from somewhere else in the Chamber, but I do not want it to be from the right hon. Gentleman. You have been around this Chamber for far too long and you know that you are way outside scope. I think that I preferred you on the Front Bench than on the Back Bench.

  • I think the Prime Minister might disagree with you on that, Mr Hoyle.

    I want to talk more about education and health before I start to wind up. There are elements of education that are shared with the European Union. Will they also be devolved fully to the Scottish Parliament? That also applies to some aspects of health. Leaving the EU will have serious implications for the workforce of our health service. According to the Trade Union Congress, just under 50,000 citizens from the European economic area work in the NHS—9,000 doctors, 18,000 nurses, and the list goes on. Those people are a vital source of skills and experience, plugging gaps left by the underfunding of training places, especially in England and Wales, in recent years. This again is where the failure of the UK Government to guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain and to live and work in the UK after we leave the EU is causing uncertainty and disappointment.

    The UK Government have also yet to set out how they will deal with cross-border health issues after leaving the European Union.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for giving way on that point. Many people have received medical treatment abroad under the European health insurance card. That includes me, and I have the scars to prove it. Does he share my concern that we may no longer have access to the card after Brexit?

  • My hon. Friend makes a crucial point, which he was right to raise eloquently in the House in the run-up to the European Union referendum—[Interruption.] I hear dissent from Labour Members, but the reality is that these are the uncertainties and confusions. Nobody seems to know exactly the right answer, which is why we continue to press our amendments.

  • One impact assessment that has been researched is by End Child Poverty. Its report “Feeling the Pinch” has assessed that prices are due to rise by 35% between 2010 and 2020, which will have a massive impact on the exponential rise in child poverty. Does my hon. Friend agree that impact assessments like that—of the impact on families and children—are so important, and that is why we table our amendments?

  • Absolutely. As I said at the beginning of my speech on these important amendments that we want the Committee to debate in full, the Brexit debate was for too long an ideological debating society game being played on the Government Benches. As the reality hits home, we are now beginning to realise the kind of consequences my hon. Friend mentions. It is important that as many of the powers and as much of the budget that are relevant and appropriate come to the Scottish Parliament as part of the Brexit process so that we can protect and defend the rights that people have enjoyed under the European Union and that are now at risk. That is why we continue to press for impact assessments.

    Amendment 66 is important because it calls for the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibilities, which, of course, include the common fisheries policy.

  • Expendable.

  • Yes. It was decided in 1972 that the policy was somehow expendable, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) is saying.

  • I will give way to my hon. Friend, who has a lot of experience.

  • I represent probably the only constituency to reach 200 miles of the exclusive economic zone. Is there not a case not just for putting Scotland in control of fisheries, but for giving the Hebrides and island groups some power over them? We should certainly not leave them in charge of the guys in Westminster who sold them down the river once and, given this White Paper, are looking to sell them down the river yet again?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the fishermen and women of Scotland will be particularly concerned when the Government talk about a UK-wide approach. When the Prime Minister makes passing references to Spanish fishermen, everyone knows what she is signalling. Fishermen should not be on the table as some kind of bargaining chip. The UK Government must not sell out our fishermen as they did in 1972. They must tell us now what access arrangements they will seek to negotiate, and conduct a full impact assessment for our fishing sector.

    Leaving the EU will create significant uncertainty within the agricultural sector, and the UK Government have to produce an assessment of that. It is particularly true in the case of the food and drink industry, as I am sure that hon. Members who were at the briefing from people in the food and drink industry earlier today would want to know. Some 69% of Scotland’s overseas food exports go to the European Union.

  • I share my hon. Friend’s passion for the rural economy. Would he be surprised to learn that when an audience of 800 mainly English farmers at the Oxford farming conference were asked how many had confidence that DEFRA could deliver in the Brexit environment, the only hand that went up was that of the Farming Minister?

  • Well, there we are; I think that says it all.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. Is an intervention not usually made by the person who wishes to intervene, rather than by the person on the Front Bench trying to invite support from his Back Benchers?

  • If we kept that rule going, nobody would speak on either side.

  • The reality is that my hon. Friends have a very important role in representing the interests of their constituents. There is a reason we tabled this many amendments and why we want to partake in the procedures of this House. We have been sent down here to do a job: to scrutinise this Government and hold them to account, as the official Opposition have been almost singularly unable to do so.

  • Is it not the case that when the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) was on his feet, he was begging for interventions? He did it at least five times, and his hon. Friends were all laughing at the time.

  • Order. We are not getting into a debate about that. I think Mr Grady wants to come to the end of his speech, because he recognises that seven other people are waiting.

  • You are absolutely right, Mr Hoyle. As we know, six of my hon. Friends were waiting to be called last night, and they were unable to be called, because some people chose to vote for the programme motion and not to allow sufficient time. So I think it is important that I remain within order and that I speak to the SNP provisions in my name and those of my—

  • Order. If I was keeping everybody in order, your speech would have finished 15 minutes ago. We have latitude for all sides here tonight, so let us see how we go, but I do hope that you will recognise that others are waiting.

.

  • Thank you, Mr Hoyle. I do recognise that.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that an impact assessment on the justice system is crucial because our membership of Europol, Eurojust, the European arrest warrant and other key areas of co-operation on security matters remains at risk following a hard Tory Brexit?

  • That is exactly what amendment 67 calls for. Members can see that my hon. Friend has read all our amendments and is prepared to debate them on the Floor of the House. Justice issues are particularly important. Where will the Government be on the European convention on human rights? Where will their Bill of Rights be? How will all of that interact with the instruments of justice in the European Union that my hon. Friend speaks of?

    Amendment 68 calls for the Home Secretary to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibilities. We heard about immigration earlier. Is that responsibility going to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, as the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath called for during the campaign? Our membership of Europol, our participation in the European arrest warrant and other key areas of co-operation on security remain at serious risk following Brexit, and that is why we need an impact assessment on the role of the Home Office.

    Likewise, amendment 69 calls for the Secretary of State for Defence to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. As I said on Second Reading, we are at risk of being left with Trump, Trident and a transatlantic tax treaty. At this rate, Trump and Trident will be the beginning and end of the UK’s security policy.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman have a timetable for how long it would take to conduct all these impact assessments?

  • I am absolutely certain that these impact assessments can run in parallel, but the hon. and learned Lady touches on an important point, which goes to the heart of all these points about impact assessments and the capacity of the UK Government to deal with all of this. There is an impact on the whole machinery of government—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • If the hon. Lady wants to talk to me about the machinery of government, I will be happy to take her intervention.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman know exactly how much these impact assessments would cost the taxpayer?

  • That is exactly the point. The whole machinery of government is going to be tied up for years and years—this was supposed to be about taking back control. The reality is that, if the Government do not accept these amendments and do not do these things before article 50 is triggered, they will have to do them afterwards. They are simply going to have to figure out how Brexit impacts on every single Government Department. The whole machinery of government will have to be reformed—it stands to reason. So they can do what we propose before triggering article 50 and have some kind of certainty, or they can do it afterwards and the complete chaos can continue.

  • Will my hon. Friend give way?

  • I think we need to continue looking at the various proposals.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • I think we have heard enough from the former Justice Secretary for now.

    The point the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) is exactly what amendment 70 touches on. It calls on the Chancellor to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. The responsibility of the Treasury will change quite significantly. As we heard from the Brexiteers throughout the campaign, the Treasury currently channels all this money into the European Union. It is going to have to reabsorb that money and have the structures to apportion it back out to lots of different Government Departments.

  • My hon. Friend is doing a fantastic job of outlining a series of important areas that are likely to be greatly impacted on financially by the UK leaving the EU. Does he agree that the assessments we are calling for are the very least one should expect from any responsible Chancellor of the Exchequer?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. An impact assessment, by definition, is more than simply something printed on the side of a bus.

  • The argument put forward by the hon. Lady from England somewhere—the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries)—is quite strange. It is akin to the person who says, “Given the cost of buying a map, isn’t it far better that we stumble around in the dark?” That is the argument against impact assessments: do not buy a map, stumble in the dark.

8.45 pm

  • Exactly.

    Talking of maps, my hon. Friend brings me to amendment 71, which calls for the Foreign Secretary to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. We need clarity on the working relationships and the division of labour between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union, especially as regards the UK’s permanent representation at the European Union, which we have to assume will continue in some form.

  • It will be bigger.

  • Indeed—

  • Does the hon. Gentleman welcome the fact that UKRep will probably have to get bigger? Does he welcome more UK bureaucrats in Brussels?

  • I hope that UKRep will be very slim. The hon. Gentleman is surely now suggesting the most pointless of all his impact assessments, because the Department for Exiting the European Union will cease to exist at the end of the process, and therefore having an impact assessment on what it might do before the process has ended is otiose beyond measure.

  • I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has clearly not read the amendment. The amendment calls for the Foreign Secretary to publish an impact assessment that will include, but not exclusively, his relationships with the Department for Exiting the European Union.

    Amendment 72—perhaps the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) will want to intervene on this—calls on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to publish an impact assessment on his responsibilities. The Scottish Government are seeking to give people in Scotland reassurances that they are allowed live and work here.

  • No, I am not giving way.

    One of the key agreements of the UK’s renegotiation in earlier years was that the UK would be able to establish a four-year period before non-UK EU nationals have access to in-work benefits such as tax credits, child benefit and housing benefit. It is unclear whether the new deal that is done with the EU will enable the UK to impose such restrictions. The Scottish Government did not approve of the proposal and would want to seek different arrangements if they could. Again, there is a question about whether these powers will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. There were only two pages—

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No, I am not giving way to the right hon. Gentleman.

    The token total of two pages on securing rights for EU nationals is telling about the UK Government’s real priorities.

    Amendment 73 calls for the Secretary of State for International Trade to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. Trade policy is currently under EU competence, and leaving the EU single market and customs union would mean that it fell under the responsibility of the UK Government. The Secretary of State therefore needs to outline how his Department is going to make use of its new competence over trade policy.

  • If the hon. Gentleman can tell me that, I will be happy to hear from him.

  • The hon. Gentleman is certainly giving a speech that is great in length. On amendment 73, would he suggest that the assessment by the Department for International Trade should include the potential impact of having to deal with Scotland outside the UK single market as an international trade partner?

  • Conveniently, we have heard from the Prime Minister in recent days about her support for friction-free travel and friction-free trade across the islands of the United Kingdom, so I have every confidence that when Scotland becomes an independent country—

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. I wonder whether you can advise me. There are seven other hon. Members waiting to speak in this debate, including me, as a Select Committee Chair wanting to share with Members the scrutiny of our cross-party Committee. Does the time limit for this debate not indicate that important assessments on areas such as the environment and agriculture will not be heard by the Committee tonight? Can you send a message to the Lords to make sure that they do the job that this House is incapable of doing?

  • We can enter into an argument about it, but the House decided on a programme motion, and unfortunately some people are a victim of that.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle.

  • Are we serious?

  • Yes. I seek your guidance, Mr Hoyle. Is it in order for Members who abstained on the programme motion to complain about the programme, when they have taken no part in it?

  • I knew that my instinct was correct, and that that was not a point of order.

  • I take the point that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) is making, and I believe she is indicating that she joined us in the Lobby to vote against the programme motion. I agreed with the point made by my friend from the Procedure Committee. We are all in favour of reform of this House. As it is, we will use the procedures of the House to hold the Government to account.

    Amendment 74 calls for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. The vote to leave the European Union has plunged our business and energy sector into further uncertainty.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. The Scottish National party has now been here for almost two years. That is sufficient time to have learned some of the manners and the protocol of the Chamber, which includes referring to Members by their—

  • Order. As a member of the Panel of Chairs, you know that you are not making a point of order.

  • That is an interesting point. The hon. Lady is sitting where a couple of other Members are accustomed to sit on Friday afternoons, and we have watched them rise and talk out private Member’s Bill after private Member’s Bill. So I will not hear Members of the Conservative party complaining about the legitimate use of the procedures of the House. We have tabled amendments. We went up to the Table Office and lodged amendments in precise accordance with the rules of the House, and we have every right to stand here and explain to the House the importance of our amendments.

  • If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to me about my amendments, I will be happy to listen to him.

  • I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is completely right to use the procedures of the House as they allow, and, if he carries on like this, he will reach the heights attained by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). [Interruption.]

  • I hope I am not hearing applause from Conservative Members, because that would be a breach of order.

    It is important that we consider our amendment about BEIS, because the vote to leave the EU has plunged the business and energy sectors into further uncertainty.

  • I reiterate that we are speaking to the amendments that we have tabled. One of the better productions from the UK Government is the Green Paper “Building our Industrial Strategy”, published by BEIS. The Green Paper highlights the challenges in skills gaps, in productivity and in research and development. It does not mention the challenge of leaving Europe, and it does not mention that leaving Europe is even an opportunity. That proves the need for an impact assessment from BEIS—

  • Order. Let us be a little bit fair. We understand what is going on. In the end, interventions have got to be shorter for Mr Grady to get towards the end of his speech.

  • I outlined at the start of my speech the amendments that we tabled. My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have spoken about the uncertainty caused by Euratom, which was, I accept, covered in important detail by Labour Members.

  • Is not amendment 74 the most important one, because it includes workers’ rights? Many of us view the Government’s attitude to workers’ rights with great suspicion.

  • Absolutely; indeed, an entire new schedule on workers’ rights has been tabled.

    Amendment 75 calls on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to publish an impact assessment on his Department’s responsibilities. Local government throughout the UK receives a host of funding from the European Union, not least the structural funds that we have heard about many times.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that with so many regulations being implemented by local government in areas such as food protection and waste disposal, local government needs to know what form those will take once we leave the EU?

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have tabled amendments calling for impact assessments.

    Amendment 76 calls on the Secretary of State for International Development to publish an impact assessment on her Department’s responsibilities. Again, we need clarity and a full commitment to 0.7% of gross national income going to overseas development. That is similar to the amendment in my name, amendment 58, which I have already spoken about.

    Amendment 77 calls on the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to publish an impact assessment.

  • Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

  • No—which is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said to me on Second Reading.

    The UK Government need to clarify what involvement the EU’s digital single market, which is vital for supporting highly paid jobs in an exciting growth sector, will have. They have been completely silent on the digital single market, which will be one of the most important sectors of our economy—like tourism, which also comes under the remit of the DCMS. Approximately 20,000 EU nationals work in Scotland’s hospitality sector—12% of the total. What will be the impact on them?

    Amendment 79 calls for the Chancellor to publish a report on matters relating to the pensions of UK nationals living and working in the European Union. Again, that is an area of great uncertainty, and I have heard about it from my own constituents. Some 400,000 UK nationals living in the EU receive a pension from the United Kingdom Government, and they are incredibly concerned about the impact of Brexit. The Government have done nothing to reassure them.

    Amendment 80, one of the most important, calls on the Government to publish an equality impact assessment. We heard earlier from the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) about the whole range of minority and interest groups in our society—faith groups, LGBT groups and so on—that are completely absent from the UK Government’s White Paper. That is why it is important that we hear about them in an impact assessment.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government’s failure to include an equality impact assessment is very distressing? It is completely contrary to their words of support for equality, which are so often let down by their actions.

  • Of course. Equalities are at the heart of the European project, which the Brexiteers have wanted to rip us away from.

    Amendment 82 calls for a regional and national economic impact assessment.

  • Why do we need an impact assessment? Well, right now chemical manufacturers and importers from non-EU countries are using the UK as a base from which they can guide chemicals through the REACH programme through the appointment of a UK-based only representative. When the UK leaves the EU, only representatives will no longer be able to be based here. Does my hon. Friend agree that that will incentivise—

  • Order. We wanted short interventions.

  • It will not surprise the House to hear that I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The single market has allowed Scotland’s economy to flourish over all these years, and that is now at stake in a hard Tory Brexit.

    Finally, new clause 138 addresses trade agreements. We have heard the FCO and the Department for International Trade boasting in public about new trade agreements that the UK will sign after it leaves the EU. Of course, it cannot sign them until it has left. That is why the Government have to be transparent and report on which trade agreements they are working on and give details on the nature and terms of those deals. It is crucial that the UK Government inform and consult Parliament in their ongoing trade talks and allow scrutiny throughout the process.

  • Of nearly 200 members of the United Nations, only six states are outwith a regional trade agreement. The UK is to become the seventh, joining the likes of Mauritania and East Timor. Does my hon. Friend share my concerns and those of the chemical industry about where that leaves us and everybody else involved? The UK is going headlong towards a cliff in joining countries as small as those.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I hope that by examining in detail these vital new clauses and amendments tabled by Scottish National party Members, the Government will begin to understand how seriously we are taking this issue.

  • My hon. Friend has made excellent points about the amendments and about how many there are. Does that not underline the woeful lack of time given to this entire process in respect of article 50?

  • Absolutely. As has been pointed out, we had more time to discuss the Scotland Bill. That will now probably not be the last legislation on Scotland; I see that the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken his place. He will probably have to steer through another Scotland Bill during this Parliament as a result of Brexit, to give us all the powers he promised he would.

    This is only the beginning. The Government want to bring forward the great repeal Bill, increasingly known as “the great power grab”. They must be willing to stand up to the scrutiny of the House. We have been sent here to do a job, and that is what we have done this evening with our amendments. That is what we will continue to do during the passage of this Bill and all the future legislation that comes with Brexit. [Interruption.]

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Posted in Brexit, Europe, independence | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Time to Get Out of Dodge

Yesterday was the day when every Scot, regardless of political leaning should have been conclusively made aware the disrespect that the majority of the Westminster parliament and in particular the current British government hold them in.
I can only call much of the governments disdain towards not just the SNP but the wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard as being despicable.
If anyone was in any doubt of the vacuity of the statements made previously by Westminster, of Scotland being a valued equal partner in the Union, yesterdays debate at the committee stage of the European (Notice of Withdrawal) Bill  should have shown them up for being the utter dross that they were.

The events which followed in the 7 hours of debate, finishing at midnight, would have left those few that watched them threatening to destroy their television sets in anger.

3 major amendments from those of the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, asking that they be consulted properly by the Westminster government with respect to matters which directly impacted on each of these Countries be respected, were each dismissed out of hand by Westminster. On the 2 of the amendments with regards to Northern Ireland and Wales Labour voted in favour of the amendments so their loss was not by all that much of a majority. The Scottish amendment was utterly trounced because Labour abstained.

However the manner in which the SNP were dealt with, and the manner in which they were denied voice was incredible. In the whole 7 hours, they were afforded a mere 4 speakers. While 2 Torys took up a third of the time available filibustering for half an hour each in order to deny debate, the scenes involving Joanna Cherry MP as she sought to speak was beyond belief.

  • I rise to speak in support of amendment 46, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friends, but before that I would like to take the opportunity to thank Conservative Members who have spoken this evening for their quite extraordinary display of hubris and contempt towards amendments, laid by several different parties, that simply seek to make sure that the reality of the modern British constitution and devolved settlement is respected. Those of us who believe that Scotland would be better off managing its own affairs as an independent member of the EU will have received a huge boost this evening from their behaviour. It was a pleasure to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). I am sure he will forgive me if I say that I suspect that the cause of a united Ireland has also received a boost this evening. I very much hope so.

    I will be brief so that others from my party might have a chance to speak. The purpose of amendment 46 is to require the Prime Minister to obtain the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Assembly before she triggers article 50. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to correct the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara) and his woeful misunderstanding of what the Supreme Court did, and did not say, in relation to legislative consent motions. It said that, as currently framed in the Scotland Act, it is not legally enforceable. It did not say that it had no meaning whatsoever. The hon. Member for Foyle quoted paragraph 151 of the judgment, and I very much suggest that Conservative Members read the judgment, rather than simply taking from it what they want. It said:

    “The Sewel Convention has an important role in facilitating harmonious relationships between the UK parliament and the devolved legislatures. But the policing of its scope and the manner of its operation does not lie within the constitutional remit of the judiciary”.

  • rose

 

 

 

11.45 pm

 

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. It is clear that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) had not resumed her seat, Sir. Being in the Chair accords you many privileges, but you cannot reinterpret the wishes of an hon. Member who is on her feet.

  • As the occupant of the Chair, I have the right to make decisions in this Committee. [Interruption.] Just a moment. I rightly wanted to bring in the hon. and learned Lady, which I did. When the SNP Whip comes and asks me to give a couple of minutes to ensure that the SNP has another voice, which I did, I certainly do not expect advantages to be taken of the Chair on the agreement that I met. That is the issue. Sit down.

  • Thank you for your chairing of this debate, Mr Hoyle. [Interruption.]

  • Calm down, Mr Wishart. This is a very serious matter. It is so serious that I want to hear what the Minister has to say in response to where we are. It is very serious and I want to hear it.

  • This is a hugely important debate. [Interruption.]

  • Order. Mr Salmond, will you clarify something for me?

 

 

  • Other Members have been making their contributions without any admonition from the Chair.

  • Order. Tempers are running quite high. We need to calm it down. In fairness, I have been very generous in coming into the Chair—[Interruption.] Mr Wishart, we do not need any extra help for the moment. Let me say that I want to hear, and Mr Salmond would expect to hear, what the Minister has to say in response to the opening speeches. I believe Mr Salmond would have wanted answers. The fact is that this Committee wants to hear what the Minister has to say. The last thing I wanted to do was to take up time dealing with points of order. In the end, if we do that, we will not hear from the Minister. I understand that you, Mr Salmond, may have used some unparliamentary language to me, but I am sure that you are not that kind of person and I am sure you did not do so.

  • I did not.

  • I am saying that I am sure that was not the case. I did not accuse you; far from it. Let us now get the Minister on his feet.

  • Thank you, Mr Hoyle.

    We have heard from all four corners of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Everyone who has spoken in the debate agrees on the importance of engaging closely with the devolved Administrations and legislatures as we embark on the forthcoming negotiations.

  • On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. I have to say that I have great respect for you as the Chairman, but I hope you can understand the frustration that we all feel that only two SNP Members have been called to speak in this debate, which is important for the future of Scotland and our position within Europe. I am asking what you can do, Mr Hoyle, to make sure that the voice of the people of Scotland is heard correctly in this debate. It has not been heard this evening.

  • I assumed my place in the Chair, and I have tried to ensure that a second SNP voice was heard, and we were listening to that. That is what I agreed to, and that is what I have done. In fairness, I think the SNP has done better than it was going to otherwise, in which case, let us hear what the Minister has to say.

    That all was just the lid coming off the teapot

    Here is the link to the whole debate in Hansard
    I would draw your attention to exchanges in columns 140… Letwin/MacDonald/Harper

    142 Blackford

    145 Deputy Chair

    148 Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik

    154 Redwood

    165 Edwards

    167 Paterson/Salmond

    177 Elphick/Blackford/Salmond

    EU Withrawal Bill Debate

 

And Finally….at the end of the evening…..the reaction of Anne McLaughlin MP

So that was a long night in the House of Commons. It was 1.15am before I was on my way home after an eventful day.

In 8 hours of debate, 4 MPs representing Scottish constituencies got to speak. At the end of the first debate every Tory and Labour MP who wanted to speak, got to do so. 1 Lib Dem was refused as were 7 SNP MPs.

One of the 4 was Joanna Cherry. After 2 minutes (when many others had spoken for around 20 mins each) the Deputy Speaker saiid he expected her to finish up, that he had been kind enough to let the SNP speak and she should not abuse it.

Joanna rightly carried on. So he told her she was done. Unbelievable. Alex Salmond raised a point of order and about 12 of us walked out in disgust.

Incidentally, when the deputy speaker was telling us to get back in our box, Labour folk were cheering. Angela Eagle’s “hear hear”s were very loud and animated.

It’s not about the SNP being treated badly particularly and it’s certainly not about us individually. But you elected us to represent you and If we are not allowed to speak we are not allowed to represent you.

It’s ridiculous. I am glad I walked out. Joanna was right to stand her ground. We shouldn’t have to fight for the right to fight for you.

Right it’s 2am and I’ve to be back there at 8.30am so I am off to bed. Thanks for all the emails.

 

Posted in Brexit, EU, independence, politics, scotland | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

EU shouldn’t bank on it

The SNP do not have a mandate to call another Independence referendum, and should not even consider doing so! The reason that they don’t have a mandate to call one is quite simply because they have lost their majority in the Scottish parliament.
Even if they wanted to call one, they will not be allowed to do so!

Such are the sort of arguments that the Torys are trying make now.
Although Michael Fallon said that the SNP would not be allowed to call another referendum, as they would absolutely be refused permission by the Westminster government, he was very quick to do a smart u turn on that the following day.
I suspect the reason for the sharp volte face was because he probably got a roasting from No.10 and the Scottish Torys. Theresa May has always been extremely careful to say that she believes the SNP should not call another referendum, not that they could not call one. Both she and the Scottish Torys know fine well that to attempt to deny Scots sovereignty in that manner is a sure fire way of ensuring Independence.
The question being though is whether or not that was a deliberate blunder by Michael Fallon, in order to test the reaction it would receive, or as a means of leaving the idea hanging with those Scots less politically aware that Westminster did not have the authority to deny a Scots referendum?
As for their weak assertion that the SNP do not have a mandate because they no longer have the majority in the Scottish parliament….that roundly fails on 2 counts. The parliament was set up in such a way as to supposedly make it impossible for any party to have an overall majority . The fact that the SNP fell just short of repeating the remarkable feat they last achieved is neither here nor there. Also there is a mandate because jointly the SNP and the Scottish Green Party are both for independence and jointly they do have a majority.

What all of this means is that the unionist partys are running scared!
They know fine well that Indyref2 is almost certainly going to happen. It is not a matter of If it will happen, but rather When it will happen.

The example given of a material breach in the SNP Holyrood manifesto was that of Scotland being taken out of the EU against the explicit will of the Scottish people.
Given that we were all told categorically by the NO campaign that only by voting against Independence would we be guaranteed to stay in the EU.

So that material breach will be the trigger once Article 50 is implemented by Westminster.
However it can be argued that the removal from the EU is not the only material breach given the Vow and nearly every other promise made by Better Together has been broken.

It is at this point that I would urge the SNP and all YES campaigners to be extremely cautious.
While the trigger may be the EU, and while Westminster, the Press and the BBC will most certainly focus on a sort of rerunning of Brexit arguments and old rehashed scare stories and impossible questions. We cannot simply sit back and let them run the agenda like we did before. Nor can we center the argument ourselves solely around the question of the EU. If we allow ourselves like the old official YES campaign did, in merely responding ever so politely on the back foot to make our case, we shall assuredly lose again….and that we cannot allow ourselves to do.

The EU is merely one issue, but it is not such an issue that will excite the majority of Scots. It has a prominence for the moment because of Brexit, but it is not a main reason in itself for Independence. Given that the EU elections have been by far the poorest turn outs of all our elections,and given that most Scots were until recently blissfully unaware of whatever MEPs were supposed to do, and I  suspect many still do not know. While it may be the trigger, it cannot be allowed to be the sole focus of the argument to come.

We can see that even at this early stage, in the media and on social media the constant bombardment and belittling and fault finding of everything Scotland and Scottish, and this will only be ramped up once the phony war is over. We cannot allow rhe BBC to tell us what the big agenda is in political debating programmes… we have to turn that around, and unless we have proper equal representation on these programmes and be allowed to put our own questions, then we should refuse to take part!

We have to be absolutely clear why we want Independence, and what we hope to achieve by it, and not have it be some watered down version of the British state
Instead of us answering and rebutting a multitude of questions…. We should be taking it to the them…and asking them to justify clearly what benefit the Union is to us now, and why they think subjugation is better than Independence?

Time to get off the back foot, and bring Independence home.

Posted in EU, Europe, independence, politics, scotland, YES2 | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Lentils and Watermelons

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that Lentils and Watermelons are utterly dreadful if they watched the meltdown in the Scottish parliament yesterday by ace Tory troll Murdo Fraser MSP.
Murdo was fair doing his dinger at Patrick Harvey and the Scottish Green party because they did a deal with the SNP to allow the budget to progress.
“lentil-munching sandal-wearing watermelons” he called them.
Well poor Murdo who has been a list MP since 2001 and who has failed to ever win an election in his life can only be pitied for his grandious sense of self importance. If ever there was a Minister for Twaddle role created he must surely be a main contender for it.
As it is, Murdo seems to spend most of his life trolling on twitter.
However today he is venting his ire on the Greens in the Daily Mail again, by saying “punished for working in Scotland by flat earth minnows”
I have no idea whether Murdo had a really bad experience as a boy with being forced to eat his greens, or whether as a fully paid up member of the Queens 11 he just has an aversion to anything with the colour green. Whichever it is, the poor man needs counseling urgently, he is just not right in the head.

Mind you, Murdo was not alone in his Ire…Labour were doing their nuts about the Greens too….how very dare they do a deal with SNP BAD…..That is just totally unacceptable in their books….never mind public services, never mind social justice and all that Green claptrap….Everything that is wrong with Scotland is all the SNPs fault, and nobody should be doing deals with these Devils.

Willie Rennie and the Lib Dems just sulked and said that Green wasn’t green at all, but was grey. It seems that Willie needs to go and get his eyes testing, he has gone colour blind.

The Torys were outraged. Scotland is now the highest taxed part of the UK they claimed, when it actually is the opposite when all forms of taxation are taken into consideration.
Oh sure…the Greens pressurised the SNP into keeping the 40% tax band threshold the same as it has been, when in England and Wales the threshold on earnings to take people into that tax band is being raised to £45k before they have to start paying the 40% band. So the lie that by the earnings level of remaining at £43K in Scotland is somehow a rise in what people pay in tax is utter bunkum. Remaining the same does not in any perspective amount to people paying more tax.
Even those who earn over £43k only pay the higher rate on anything earned over £43k. So if they earn £45k for instance, they only pay the higher rate on £2k of these earnings not the whole £45k
What the Torys are really moaning about is that the better off are not getting more tax breaks, and even worse the Greens persuading the SNP to use the current level of taxation are now using it to put £160 million extra into local services… How very dare they give the plebs more at the expense of the rich!

Labour on the other hand are howling about SNP cuts!  The SNP should be forcing people to pay much more in tax to pay for all these cuts the SNP are responsible for.
Of course they completely have amnesia when it comes to who is really responsible for all these cuts. Oh no it wasn’t a Labour government that totally messed up and started this austerity lark.. Oh no..it wasn’t Labour MPs abstaining that allowed the Tory government to punish the poor even more… Oh no….it wasn’t them, never them.
If any cuts are happening it is solely down to scotlands block grant being shredded year on year…and yet somehow managing to prevent the worst happening is the SNPs fault?

What the Greens did teach all these Unionist parties is that considered negotiation and a willingness to reasonably compromise, rather than attacking and being totally unrealistic just for the sake of opposition achieves results.
Now that really gets up Labour and Tory noses, the wee Greens showing them up for being the totally ineffective numpties that they are.

Posted in politics, scotland | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Article 50 and time to leave

Today the British government finally got round to issuing their white paper on leaving the EU. Having wasted a half hour of my life reading its 77 pages, I discovered that it told us absolutely nothing new whatsoever what their plans are. It may just as well have said Brexit means Brexit and we want to have our cake and eat it.
Next up it goes through the House of Commons committee stage before popping up to the House of Lords and then coming back to the Commons.
To cut to the chase, all this will mean at the end of the day is that Theresa May will eventually action Article 50 to start the process to take us out of the EU at the end of March.
In the meantime the leaders of the devolved administrations will meet with Theresa May once a month without any progress whatsoever made in the supposed consultation exercise. The 650 page Scottish government paper which has been given to the UK government will be roundly ignored.
What that will leave us with come the end of March when Theresa May makes her Article 50 proclamation to Westminster will in effect mean that all avenues for a separate deal to take into account Scottish wishes will have been exhausted, and Nicola Sturgeon will be left with no option but to declare Indyref2.

Wouldn’t it be a sight to behold if when Theresa May stands up in front of a packed house of commons to issue Article 50, if all the Scottish Independence MPs got up as one and smartly filed out of the place leaving behind rows of empty green benches.
No clearer constitutional statement could be made.

Posted in Brexit, EU, independence, Nicola Sturgeon, politics, scotland, Theresa May, YES2 | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments