A Week in Parliament

Private Members Bill

In another busy Westminster Week I brought forward another private members bill. This is to try and help plumbing companies who have paid into a plumbing pension company for the benefit of their employees. Changes in Government legislation meant the way the fund is valued suggests it is underfunded and there are massive debts that require to be paid by the employers, up to several hundred thousand each. Yet the reality is the fund is able to pay its pension liabilities so it is a ridiculous position. I pointed out to the Government in my speech, Carillion has gotten away with a massive pension black hole while still paying their top staff handsomely, yet the Government is doing nothing to help these plumbers which include many local companies in Ayrshire. Indeed this so called debt contributed to a firm in Kilmarnock closing down before Christmas.

It is really difficult to get a private members bill through parliament as I have outlined previously. However, I have cross party support with my 11 co-sponsors coming from six political parties in total.  The Government are also due to publish a White Paper on possible changes sometime during Spring so I have said I will happily include any recommendations from the UK Government White paper to be able to take the matter forward.

Jeremy Corbyn and Tory Cuts

For the second time in a few weeks, at Prime Ministers’ Questions, the Prime Minister challenged Jeremy Corbyn about the poor performance of the Welsh NHS, under Labour. His response both times has been to highlight that the Welsh Budget is under pressure due to Tory cuts. Isn’t it amazing how he can see how Tory budget cuts impacts the operation of the Welsh Government but neither he or his colleagues admit the pressures the Scottish Government are under due to Tory budget cuts?!

Trade Bill Committee

I am serving on the bill committee for the Trade Bill. This is a bill supposedly to allow existing EU trade deals that the UK can access to be brought into UK law. Sounds simple, but the reality is that any EU deal might not be able to be applied directly and forms of renegotiation will be required. We had three evidence sessions from witnesses who have expressed these concerns. Many witnesses have also said that there is insufficient input in the legislation for the devolved Governments. Both the Welsh and Scottish Governments have said they will not give a Legislative Consent motion unless there are changes to the Bill. Indeed they co-drafted amendments which we have now submitted for debate. Bizarrely the Labour MPs have refused to back the amendments co-drafted by their Assembly Colleagues! One Welsh Labour MP on the Committee gave a great speech effectively supporting the amendments, talking about the need to protect the powers of the devolved Governments and then abstained when we pushed to a vote. It sums up the whole Brexit policy or lack of within the Labour Party at present and makes it harder to have full cross party co-operation.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.