Parliament returned at the start of September and after six months of contributing virtually, I returned to London. While parliament has offered some aspects of virtual participation, this has been limited. You can ask questions but not take part in debates. This is something I’ve raised a number of times at Business Questions, along with the need for us to have remote voting – including at a specific debate on proxy voting which you can watch here. There is no reason that MPs cannot work fully from home and I’ll keep pushing for it.
Over three million people across the UK have not been eligible for either the job retention or self-employment schemes. I raised three specific constituents who missed out on self-employment support during a debate earlier in the month and you can watch it below. At the end of October, the furlough scheme comes to an end. The SNP and other opposition parties have been pressing for it to continue to save thousands of jobs. Last week Rishi Sunak finally relented and announced a follow-up. Initially I thought this might be good news but it wasn’t to be. I wrote to the Chancellor urging him to think again and have written a blog piece outlining my concerns.
There can be no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic, and the restrictions caused by it, are having a significant impact on the city’s tourism sector – and the hospitality industry that also relies on tourism. There was a back bench debate this month on tourism and Covid-19 during which I called for more specific support for the sector. I was clear that businesses who are having their operations restricted by public policy need to be supported by the public purse. Watch here.
The Internal Market Bill has been making its way through the House of Commons during September. There are a number of aspects of the Bill that are deeply troubling. The fact that we have a government explicitly saying it will break international law should worry us all. And not only is this about breaking international law – there can be no doubt that this Bill marks the biggest assault on devolution since the Scottish Parliament reconvened. As I said in my recent Edinburgh Evening News column, “Government ministers claim no specific powers are being removed from Holyrood but that misses the point. You don’t need to take away a power if you can neuter it by qualifying or overturning the decisions the Scottish Parliament might use that power to make.”
And Clause 46 of the Bill specifically gives Westminster the power to make financial provision in a whole range of devolved areas such as health, education and transport. I spoke in the Committee Stage debate raising my concerns and you can watch it below. My colleagues and I have opposed this Bill at every stage but it passed its third reading and is now in the Lords. My colleagues in the Scottish Parliament have made it clear that they will refuse consent to this Bill and if it is executed it will be against the will of the elected parliament of Scotland. As each day passes, it becomes ever clearer that the people of Scotland deserve better than this; they deserve the right to choose a better direction and ultimately, to determine their own future as they see fit.
This month I introduced my first Private Members’ Bill in the form of a Ten Minute Rule Motion on Problem Drug Use. While such motions have little chance of becoming law unless the government decide to give them time, they help to bring attention to an issue. Those of you who’ve been reading my newsletter for a while will know that I have been campaigning for a change in our drug laws for a long time. The Bill I introduced last week sought immediate, practical changes designed to help problem drug users. The measures the Bill would introduce are based on the recommendations of the Scottish Affairs Inquiry I was part of last year and that the UK government rejected earlier in the month.
You can watch my speech below and read a short article I wrote following the Bill’s introduction here. I was pleased to have cross-party support for the Bill and will continue to pursue this in the months ahead.
I finished the month with a question at PMQs. I table to ask a Prime Minister’s Question almost every week but it’s rare to have your name pulled out of the hat – I reckon I get about one question a year. But I’m afraid even when I get a question it’s rare I get an answer. This time it was vacuous evasion from the bumbler-in-chief as he avoided my straightforward yes or no question. Watch it below.