Scheduling of Parliamentary Business

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 8:17 pm on 17th July 2017.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:17 pm, 17th July 2017

It is a pleasure to follow Darren Jones. I, like other hon. Members, am a bit disappointed that the debate has eaten into time that we might otherwise have used for the debate on abuse and intimidation of candidates and the public during the general election campaign, particularly as at the weekend, when I was trying to enjoy some quiet time with my family, a member of the public went to the considerable extent of getting my private number to phone me up and tell me that she disliked me and what I stood for so much that she was not surprised I got death threats. That was a charming start to the weekend with my family. But this is also an important debate, and it is important that we consider the scheduling—or rather, the lack of scheduling—of parliamentary business before the recess.

We have heard two excellent maiden speeches. Kirstene Hair made an accomplished speech and I thank her for the gracious comments she made about our friend and colleague, Mike Weir, our previous Chief Whip. I respect her Unionist views and I hope that she will respect my wishes for my country to become independent in due course. She is very keen for the SNP to take independence off the table according to what she says were the wishes of her constituents in 2014, but I remind her that last year her constituents voted by a significant majority to remain part of the European Union. She might also like to ask the Government to take Brexit off the table if she is so keen on her constituents’ wishes.

We also had a fantastic maiden speech from Marsha De Cordova. She is not in her place, but I found it a fascinating history of her admirably diverse constituency and a very moving tribute to her mother in assisting her in the battle with her disability. I am sure that she will be a fantastic advocate in this House for those of our constituents who have to deal with disability in their lives.

As hon. Members have said, there can be no doubt that this Government seem to be running scared of scrutiny. The very reason we had an unnecessary general election four or five weeks ago was that the Prime Minister wanted to avoid scrutiny by getting herself such an enormous majority that this House would not scrutinise her effectively, but she did not get her wishes, and now we have a hung Parliament in which there is the possibility of true scrutiny. But she need not despair; she need only look north to Holyrood for an example of a minority Government who have managed to bring forward a full legislative programme in their first year that includes groundbreaking legislation on child poverty, and the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, which will put fairness, dignity and respect at the heart of Scotland’s social security system; that is not what happens in the system under which the rest of the UK labours.

It seems that the Prime Minister is running rather short of ideas. Those of us in Scotland who fought Tory candidates in the general election, as I did—successfully, I am glad to say—will be aware that the Tories in Scotland had only one policy. People are beginning to wonder what the Tory party stands for. What is it here to do? What do the Government exist to do, other than take Britain out of the European Union in the most inane and hapless fashion possible?

What will the new Scottish Conservative Members of Parliament do in this Parliament to scrutinise the Government? What will they do with their time here? Clearly the Prime Minister’s estimation of their abilities is such that she has had to ennoble one of their colleagues who was defeated by my hon. Friend Pete Wishart and shove him into the House of Lords to be a Minister, because she does not think that the Tory MPs are up to it. I wonder if she is right, as they have shown a remarkable ignorance, since they got here, of the difference between devolved and reserved powers—rather like the drafters of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, it seems. I would like to make a generous offer: I would be happy to recommend an undergraduate law student from my alma mater to give the Conservatives a little tutorial on the difference between reserved and devolved powers, so that they can cope with this Parliament.