Three major pieces of news dominated proceedings in parliament this week. The first of these was the announcement by Nicola Sturgeon of plans for a new referendum on Scottish independence. This announcement on Monday morning caught most of parliament by surprise and it is something that I welcome. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union yet the Prime Minister has refused to even consider any compromise deal that would keep it in the EU. I fully accept that the people of England and Wales have chosen to leave the European Union and that this must be respected, however, there must also be a consideration of the needs and demands of the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Yesterday the Prime Minister said vaguely that now is not the time for a second independence referendum. However, if the Scottish Parliament votes next week to request an independence referendum, Theresa May must listen to the will of the Scottish people. You can watch my interview with France 24 from Monday on the subject of an independence referendum by following the link at the top of the page.
Article 50 votes
After the shock announcement of plans for a second independence referendum, parliament went to work voting on the Lord's amendments to legislation empowering the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50. Sadly, despite the best efforts of many members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, amendments which would have guaranteed EU citizens the right to stay in the UK and parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal, were removed from the bill by a majority of MPs. It is bizarre to think that some MPs would vote to give away their power yet that is the situation we find ourselves in. Perhaps it is because, as David Davis demonstrated at his appearance before the Brexit Select Committee this week, those who support Brexit in the House of Commons have no plan and are worried that when the gravity of leaving the EU starts to weigh down the economy, the public pressure to reconsider Brexit may become irresistible. Regardless, I will continue to campaign for the rights of EU citizens to be secured as soon as possible in negotiations and I will oppose any attempts to force EU citizens to leave the country.
The third and final major piece of news this week concerned the announcement that the Government will no longer go forward with their plans to increase the National Insurance contributions of the unemployed. While this is not entirely surprising, it is a shock to see the tension between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor play out in such a transparent manner. Theresa May has collapsed at the first sign of upheaval from her backbench MPs. This is not a promising sign for the future. With Brexit negotiations likely to be tricky, the Prime Minister will need to show more backbone to ensure a good deal and resist the demands from hardliners for a leap off the EU cliff edge.
This week I held productive meetings with representatives from EDF Energy, TSB, SeaJacks, Oak North Bank and consumer groups.These meetings provided me with plenty of information to use in my work as a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. They also allow me to discuss the important political issues of the day and find out what business groups think about Brexit, Scottish Independence and a whole host of other issues.
I held another surgery today in the office. If you wish to make an appointment to see me next week I will be in Ratho, Kirkliston and South Queensferry. Contact my office on 0131 516 2402 to book an appointment.