Easter Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 29th March 2018.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 4:18 pm, 29th March 2018

After nine months in the House, clearly there is still a learning curve.

I pay tribute to you, Mr Speaker, to your colleagues in the Chair, and to all Members—Whips and others—who have been so generous in offering their insight and advice. As a new Member, I am having to adapt to a very unfamiliar environment and to some rather esoteric practices. The most rewarding aspect of being a new Member is having the opportunity to bring to the attention of this House, and of the wider public, affairs that I hope will improve the lot and lives of my constituents, and also improve national policy. That is why it is so important to have such debates in which we can reflect on what we have discussed in this House over the last term and consider what important matters to raise in the coming term.

The key issues I want to raise as we move towards the next term relate to the green deal. At least 167 of my constituents have had work on their homes carried out under the Government-backed green deal, but a number of them have faced significant problems following that work. One of my constituents is now unable to sell her house due to the reckless, unregulated actions of a rogue green deal installer. Many of my constituents have found themselves in tens of thousands of pounds in debt, their retirements ruined for the rest of their lives. This has played out appallingly, and we need a debate in this House on how the Government will compensate and protect those people, who entered into these green deal arrangements in good faith, under a Government kitemark, especially now that the Government have supported new iterations of the scheme without significantly changing the regulatory framework for green deal suppliers. This is a matter of immediate urgency.

It is also important that this House discusses the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba. Many Members will have noted the recent case of this doctor, who was struck off by the General Medical Council after being convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, despite the matter being an evident case of institutional failure across the NHS that could have an impact on any junior doctor in the field. This has led to an unprecedented loss of confidence among the medical profession and across the UK in the GMC’s governance. The case highlights the need for an urgent debate to consider the GMC’s capacity to effectively regulate in the interests of patients’ safety and so that we can restore public and practitioner confidence in it. That is a matter of immediate urgency.

I come to another matter that I have been discussing with colleagues, including in my role as a member of the all-party group on shipbuilding and ship repair. I note that Chris Stephens is in the Chamber. He is another of the group’s members and represents Govan shipyard. We have a common interest in the matter of Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship procurement and, in particular, in the issue of unfair state aid practices that may distort the competitive procurement of these vessels. Of particular note here is Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, which is currently building the Tide class tankers for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and has benefited from unfair state aid assistance from the South Korean Government. We need an urgent debate to discuss the procurement of new Royal Fleet Auxiliary fleet solid support ships. Such a debate should consider whether any shipyard worldwide that is benefiting from unfair state aid will be excluded from the competition and the potential merits of holding a UK-only competition to design and construct the new fleet solid support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

In addition, it is important that the House considers the continuity Bills in relation to the devolved Administrations. Given the lack of agreement between the devolved powers and UK Government on common frameworks following our exit from the European Union, we urgently need a debate in this House on the implications of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill for the Scottish devolution settlement and the settlement for other devolved Administrations in the UK.

I welcome the scheduled debate on industrial strategy in our first week back in this House, but I emphasise that it is important that we raise the issue of public procurement as part of that debate and, in particular, the Government’s lack of willingness to ensure that Government contracts and sub-contractors of Government projects abide by fair work practices. We must also discuss the need to ensure we have efficient financing practices for public procurement. That is of particular note in defence contracts, where we have seen the absurdity of in-year budget spend profiles prejudicing against efficient procurement over the longer term, which is driving longer-term costs into major public procurement programmes. That has to be grasped and sorted out as a matter of urgency. That is in the long-term industrial interest of the UK, particularly today, as we have seen the sad demise of GKN as an independent industrial company—it is a major player in Britain’s defence and aerospace sector.

I finish by saying that it has been a great pleasure to have served in the House during my nine months as a Member of Parliament. I wish everyone a very happy Easter.