Away from the major headline news stories there are all kinds of debates and activities happening in Parliament every day. My schedule last week contained quite a few noteworthy activities, so I thought I’d give you some insight into what’s been going on.
You may not know that I am a member of The Panel of Chairs, a group of MPs selected by the Speaker to chair debates and committees.
Chairing the Scotland Bill Committee of the whole House
Last week I was asked to Chair the Scotland Bill, which was debated in the House of Commons chamber as a committee of the whole House. The Bill proposes additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, following promises made by the Government during the Independence Referendum campaign. It is a privilege to be asked to Chair such an important piece of legislation while it is being debated and amended by the full House. I’ll be back in the chamber later this month to lead further committee discussions.
The Westminster Hall debate on Ultra-Rare Diseases
I was also asked to Chair a debate in Westminster Hall on the subject of Ultra-Rare Diseases. This was unusual in that it was the first time that the public were invited to take part in the discussion using social media. People could take part in a pre-debate on twitter using #Rddebate. MPs used the feedback and stories from the public as part of the debate and, for the first time, visitors in the public gallery were allowed to use hand-held electronic devices.
Chairing the discussion
During Treasury Questions I challenged George Osborne to give us a referendum on Greater Manchester Devolution -; I blogged about that in detail here.
During a debate on the EU Referendum Bill I was pleased to support Labour’s amendment which would have allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote. I am in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 for all elections, but it is particularly important for the EU referendum. This is a once in a generation chance to express your view on something that will shape the future of our country and its place in the world, there won’t be another vote in four or five years’ time. I am disappointed that the Government decided to vote against Labour’s amendment, they have provided no substantive reason as to why we should continue to leave young people out of this discussion.
Speaking at Treasury Questions
Outside the main debating chambers there are always more events and discussions to take part in. I have always been a supporter of animal rights so I was keen to meet with the RSPCA when they held their annual reception, to discuss their priorities for the next few years.
My key interest here is the banning of wild animals in circuses. I have been lobbying the Government on this issue for many years and it has been extremely frustrating to see them repeatedly break their promises to put legislation before Parliament.
We also discussed legislation around pet dealing, which covers problems such as illegal puppy trading and the mis-selling of exotic pets, and their campaign for wider use of CCTV in abattoirs to ensure animals are slaughtered humanely, to the highest standards of animal welfare.
Meeting RSPCA inspectors
I also visited the Friends of the Earth and 38 Degrees joint reception to highlight the threat to British bees. This is something that I am familiar with from the last Parliament when I lobbied the Government to stop blocking attempts by the EU to ban dangerous pesticides known as neonicotinoids.
The ban has now been in place since 2013 and there is clear evidence that neonicotinoids were extremely harmful to our bee populations, despite that there have been reports that the Government is planning to allow their use again this autumn.
I am committed to doing all I can as an MP to protect bees in the UK. It’s not just an environmental issue, the loss of British bees would be a major detriment to our economy and our agriculture. The Government needs to keep the ban in place.
Supporting British Bees