Whirlwind Week at Westminster
Following the party conferences, Westminster has been a veritable hive of activity; with numerous debates and votes in the chamber on a number of vitally important issues to the people of North Ayrshire & Arran.
On Tuesday, I spoke in the House of Commons debate on the Government's proposed cuts to Tax Credits.
This hugely regressive policy will impact – according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – on 7,500 households in North Ayrshire & Arran. Each will lose an average of £550 a year for every working person. As a result, many will now have to face very difficult choices as to how they manage their budgets. For those on the very margins of poverty, these cuts may mean the difference between eating properly and heating their homes. For some, it may even necessitate visiting a foodbank.
Despite claiming a desire to ‘make work pay’, this policy will have the opposite effect. Indeed, even the right-wing Adam Smith Institute stated that: “Working tax credits are the best form of welfare we have, and cutting them would be a huge mistake” adding “The government has long claimed to want to make work pay for everyone, but cutting tax credits would disincentivise work and hurt those at the bottom of society.”
As the youngest of eight children to a widowed mother, I am unfortunate enough to have experienced harsh poverty first hand and witnessed the unique way in which it can sap ambition, aspiration and motivation. Sadly, it would appear that few Tory MPs fully appreciate the impact their decisions will have on those already on the breadline.
On Wednesday, I raised the issue of redundancies at Hunterston Coal Terminal with David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions. With the closure of Longannet Power Station imminent, Clydeport has signalled their intention to lay off dozens of staff. However, with the terminal capable of handling the import and export of a range of bulk solids and liquid products – as well as offshore decommissioning – I am confident that other uses for the site can be found. Responding, the Prime Minister assured me he would discuss the matter with the owners, Peel Ports, and offer any assistance possible. I will, of course, hold him to his promise.
Thursday brought a debate on UK Government plans to introduce English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). Despite sitting on the House of Commons Procedures Committee – which produced a report on this very matter – I was not called to speak. Sadly, patience and organisation is no match for the antiquated workings of Westminster.
EVEL was ultimately passed by Tory MPs; a move which marks an unpr
ecedented landmark in UK constitutional arrangements. Essentially, Scottish MPs will now no longer be able to debate or vote on matters deemed to affect England only. However, due to the complex nature of funding devolved parliaments and assemblies, it is almost impossible to assess what is truly an ‘England only matter’.
The obvious answer to the quandary of Scottish MPs voting on England only matters would be an English Parliament. Using Westminster as a de facto English Parliament is a deeply concerning development with Scottish MPs now reduced to second class status. Indeed, during the debate, one Tory MP even went as far as to say that SNP MPs "need to be on their planes back [to Scotland]"!
Playing fast and loose with the UK constitution in this manner is incredibly irresponsible and remarkable behaviour from a Prime Minister supposedly with ‘The Union’ at heart. Of course, it is no secret that the SNP would far prefer such tinkering was unnecessary. But, whilst Scottish MPs continue to represent their constituents at Westminster we must have the same rights as others who are elected to serve.