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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:33 am on 17th December 2015.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 10:33 am, 17th December 2015

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next year’s business, and I would like to wish you and your staff, Mr Speaker, all the best for a peaceful and merry Christmas. I extend my good wishes to the Deputy Leader of the House, who I hope has a very enjoyable time. I know that my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party would like to wish all members of staff a merry and peaceful Christmas. We all signed early-day motion 895.

[That this House respects the unrivalled professionalism, skill and commitment of all support staff employed on the House of Commons estate; acknowledges that all hon. Members receive invaluable help from the entire workforce, from doorkeepers and police officers to the library team and postal service, from catering staff to staff of the Department of Chamber and Committee Services; thanks them in particular for the generous support and warmth shown to newly-elected hon. Members in 2015; and wishes each of them a restful and peaceful Christmas and the best of everything in 2016.]

We wanted to congratulate the staff on all the work they have done to make sure that new Members here are accommodated and looked after. A merry Christmas once again to all the staff.

I am quite surprised to see so many of my hon. Friends in their places here today, because last night it was the SNP’s Christmas party. There were fine renditions of “500 Miles” and “Loch Lomond”, so I am indeed impressed to see so many of SNP colleagues at business questions today. In Perth concert hall, “Beauty and the Beast” is our annual pantomime. Looking at the Labour Benches, however, I thought “Sleeping Beauty” might have been more appropriate for them. I always like a good pantomime horse, so what about a pantomime stalking-horse from Labour colleagues as they go forward into next year?

There is growing concern in Scotland about what is happening in the debate over Europe, with UK opinion polls now showing a majority of people throughout the United Kingdom favouring a Brexit and leaving the European Union. Yet we see the Prime Minister flirting with our exit, as John Major has said, trying to renegotiate our membership terms with European leaders who could not care less. He is appearing there like Chewbacca without the fur, trying to renegotiate our membership of the European Union to European leaders who could not care less and want to see the back of him.

All recent opinion polls show that the Scottish people remain determined to stay within Europe, yet there is a real growing fear that our nation might be taken out of Europe against our will. That is totally unacceptable to us, and it would be the first time ever that a nation in Europe had been taken out of Europe against its will. During the referendum, we were told that a no vote would secure our place in Europe, and that if we dared to vote yes, it would see us dragged out. So I offer the Leader of the House a solution. I am asking for a debate on a quadruple lock. If we are indeed a family of nations within the United Kingdom, one nation of this Union cannot determine the membership rights of every other nation within the UK. We have an opportunity to resolve this to make sure that no nation is taken out of Europe against its will. I ask the Leader of House to agree to that debate next year.

Yesterday’s events on fracking were simply appalling. There is an apt and appropriate Scots word for it— “sleekit”. It was a sleekit debate—there was no debate at all but a vote on fracking to desecrate the national parks of this country with the frackers. Thank goodness we have the necessary powers to ensure that our country will not be desecrated by the Tories’ fracker friends—and that is a very difficult thing to say after a good night out, Mr Speaker.

We are going into the new year and there is still no agreement about the fiscal framework, the engine that will allow the fiscal arrangements in the Scotland Bill to operate and progress properly. We need that agreement, and we need to know how the Government are approaching the matter. I assume that the Leader of the House will not consent to any sort of debate about it, but will he ensure that Treasury Ministers agree to appear before the Scottish Affairs Committee as we look into the whole issue of the fiscal framework? All that he needs to do is go to the Treasury and ensure that the necessary Ministers appear, so that we can put our points to them.

This has been some year, Mr Speaker. The real news of the year has been the emergence of my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party, which won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. We now have just one Conservative Member of Parliament, who barely won his seat. Let me say to you, Mr Speaker, that what you will have here is a determined, united opposition—the real opposition to the Tories. The Tories will get away with nothing for as long as SNP Members are sitting here providing that real opposition. We can no longer rely on this disunited, dispirited, forlorn Labour party; it is the Members on these Benches who will provide the opposition.