The focus in parliament this week was on the Government's bill to give Theresa May the power to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of taking the UK out of the EU. Over three days MPs tried to get the Government to accept amendments that would give a sense of structure to our exit from the European Union. Amendments tabled included ones which would have made it compulsory for the Government to give regular updates on the progress of negotiations to Parliament, measures to protect the rights of EU nationals living in this country and plans to give MPs a proper vote on the final deal with the EU before it was formally signed into law.
Sadly, all of these were defeated by the Conservative party’s disciplined three-line whip and a majority of Labour MPs voting with the Government.
The one amendment that did pass gives the House of Commons a vote on Theresa May's final deal with the EU - but this comes with absolutely no power to force her to go back and negotiate a new one if these terms fall short. If the Prime Minister is as serious as she claims to be about being willing to walk away from the EU with no deal at all, then this vote could leave parliamentarians with a truly terrible Hobson's choice – leaving us to choose between two options which will guarantee economic damage for the UK either way. In essence, this amendment is meaningless.
I was also disheartened that the rights of EU nationals in this country continue to be unprotected. Even if our European counterparts choose to expel all the British citizens living in their countries (which is highly unlikely), it still does not mean we should do the same to all the people who have made their homes here and contribute so much to our society. An early agreement on the rights of EU citizens in this country would also create a considerable amount of goodwill as we start negotiations with the EU. Sadly this Government seems committed to treating the countries on the other side of this negotiation with a distinct lack of respect, and this does not bode well for future negotiations.
This week the BEIS Committee's evidence session heard from a range of stakeholders in the UK energy market, from companies such as E.ON to Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust. They gave evidence as part of our inquiry examining the implications of the UK's departure from the EU on the energy sector and the UK's climate change commitments.
You can watch the evidence session by using the link at the top of this page.
Shockingly this week, the Government tried to sneak out an announcement that it was prematurely ending the scheme to bring unaccompanied child refugees to the UK under the Dubs amendment having brought in only 350 children. This is completely against the spirit of the agreement that was voted on by MPs who had expected between 1,000 and 3,000 children to be allowed into the country. Many of my colleagues visited the Calais migrant camps where children lived in filth and squalor, at constant risk of being kidnapped for trafficking or abused, and parliament was united in its belief that more had to be done to help them.
In the summer the Government announced an arbitrary list of restrictions on the children they were willing to re-settle here from the Calais migrant camps and in retrospect this perhaps should have served as an indicator of what was to come. I think it is shameful that a country as prosperous as the UK cannot find room for child refugees and I will do what I can to try and make the Government reverse this decision over the weeks and months ahead.
Recess and surgeries