A Week in Parliament

Oh Crumbs

At Christmas I received a hamper that consisted of Fox’s Biscuits. It was anonymous, but we managed to establish that Fox’s is owned by the Two Sisters Food Group. And very co-incidentally, I am a member of the DEFRA Committee that is conducting an enquiry into the Two Sisters Food Group. It transpired that most members of the Committee also received a parcel. As it was way below the limit for declarations on my register of interests I could have kept it and not needed to do anything. However, it did not sit right, so I chose to donate to a local Foodbank. All the committee members felt similar, so we have all recorded this for full transparency and the Chief Executive has been sent a strong letter telling him never to repeat the exercise. Their excuse was that they do this for a number of external clients. However, I am not a client. I am troubled by the thought that this was deemed a good idea by the company and worse that someone thought sending boxes of biscuits will sway my opinion! I realise some people think MPs are “out for what they can” but biscuits?!

EU Bill

So, the EU Bill delivered another broken Tory promise. Given that the Scottish Tories agreed the clause on devolution was flawed, and Tory MSPs said likewise; the Secretary of State for Scotland committed to bringing forward an amendment to rectify matters. Paul Masterton MP had stated he could not vote for the Bill in its current format. Yet, no amendment came from the Government and they voted down a cross party amendment that was proposed instead. Now the commitment is that an amendment will be made in the House of Lords. How can it be credible to argue that “we know it is not fit for purpose” and that “we are disappointed at the UK Government missing deadlines” but also that you are satisfied it will all come together in the House of Lords?

Church and State

I believe in everyone’s freedom to practice religion. However, I raised a point in the Commons that at a UK level, with Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords, then this is the only parliament in the world apart from Iran that has religious clerics as part of their legislature. I also pointed out that time is allocated in the House of Commons for Questions on the Church of England. One MP is appointed to be the Commissioner for the Church of England and so answers the questions on their behalf. Bizarrely in a typical Westminster fashion, she circulates questions “that we might want to ask” to submit to her for answering. Hardly likely to put her on the spot! My request was to have a debate about the merits of moving away from a medieval set up and separate church and UK state at Parliament level. Apparently I raised an “extremely controversial idea, which would have significant constitutional implications”. That sounds interesting to me!

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.