A Week in Parliament

Contempt Motion

So in absolutely unprecedented times, this is the first UK Government found to be in contempt of Parliament. This is because they did not comply with a binding parliamentary motion to publish legal advice on the Brexit withdrawal proposals.

Apart from the historic vote, I can claim to have played a part in the whole saga – once all the opposition parties submitted a letter and suggested motion for consideration, a ruling had to be made by the Speaker. On Monday evening the main business of the house finished early so next up was an adjournment debate led by Stephen Gethins MP. We knew the Speaker was considering his options. However, in order for him to be able to report back to the House on his decision, we had to keep the debate running as long as possible.

After Stephen spoke for twice as long as he would otherwise have, taking loads of interventions, three additional speakers bobbed, including myself. I was the last speaker taken, and so I had the task of keeping the debate going until the Speaker returned to the chamber, without having any idea how long that would be. So this was a debate I was not due to speak in, hadn’t planned anything and had only the briefest period to scribble ideas. It ended up good fun, as colleagues helped with interventions. The debate was about Scotland’s foreign policy footprint. I made it my aim to get in as many local references as possible as well. So, as William Wallace had been mentioned, I took the opportunity to get back on record he was born in Ellerslie. I mentioned the Newmilns Anti-Slavery Society and the fact that Abraham Lincoln awarded the town a US flag in gratitude of their support. In briefly discussing the Scottish Enlightenment, I mentioned the biographer, James Boswell of Auchinleck. I mentioned the lace factories of Newmilns and that Johnston Shields set up factories in Gothenburg, founding football in Sweden and a factory in Barcelona where there was also an impact on football there. Alexander Fleming of Darvel got a mention as did Andrew Fisher of Crosshouse, who went on to become a Prime Minister of Australia.

I was almost disappointed when the Speaker returned to his chair as I had to wind up to let him speak! Had I not kept the debate going then the Minster would have spoken briefly and when finished the House would “rise” and a motion could not have been formally lodged for the next day’s business. What it did do was pave the way for the drama of the next day….except firstly, we then went into the bizarre position where the Government Minister then had to drag out the debate and Tory MPs were sent to the chamber to help him out with interventions. This was to give them time to craft and lodge an amendment with the Table Office. So what would normally have been a 30 minute debate turned into something like 2 hours! Such is the craziness of the current times, which I suspect will continue for quite a bit.

These views were first expressed in the Kilmarnock Standard.