Business and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business and Industry) 6:15 pm, 29th June 2020

May I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate Katherine Fletcher on her fantastic maiden speech? The Business and Planning Bill was perhaps not the most auspicious starting point for a maiden speech, but she gave us an industrial, geological and historical tour de force of the constituency. She follows a distinguished predecessor in her constituency, and I am sure I will not be alone in saying that I look forward to hearing more from her throughout this Parliament.

I will keep my remarks comparatively brief, as the Bill only really affects Scotland in respect of three clauses: clauses 12, 13 and 14. However, it would be remiss of me to miss the opportunity to say, on some of the licensing aspects, that the picture painted by the Minister of pavement cafés opening up the length and breadth of England presented a very—what’s the word?—European picture of England, which my party certainly, and I am sure others too, very much looks forward to seeing.

I turn to clauses 12, 13 and 14. The changes in the Consumer Credit Act are welcome. I hope that they lead to more instances of loans being given to the businesses that require them. I must say, though, that I am somewhat sceptical that that will lead to the transfer of cash that we need in that respect. Edward Miliband was absolutely right that we are really only at the start of our response to this crisis, and we are going to have to revisit this.

It is extraordinary that we have not heard from the Chancellor about his coming back to deliver what should be an emergency Budget. Much more still needs to be done as the crisis and our response to it evolve. In that respect, I very much commend the 10-point plan announced earlier today by Scotland’s First Minister, who talked about a major fiscal stimulus for the economy, VAT reductions for hospitality, investment in low carbon and digital, and of course changes to increase flexibility in the Scottish fiscal framework.

I will now deal with the other clauses that affect legislation in Scotland. The changes to the Road Traffic Act 1988 regarding driving licences and vehicle certifications are reasonable, proportionate and risk based, and we support them. It would be sensible to keep those measures under regular review, along with other aspects of the Bill. However, I make this plea to the Minister: we must return to the status quo ante as soon as reasonably possible, once it is possible to clear the backlog of testing of drivers’ continued fitness to drive and of vehicles themselves.

The Bill is a narrow one and a necessary one, but what we should really be hearing about is the emergency Budget that we need as we plot our way out of this crisis economically.