Image Credit: Petr Kratochvil
With British politics no longer experiencing a gridlocked parliament, now more than ever it is of paramount importance that the flurry of legislation that is passed by Johnson’s government and amendments made by opposition MPs are examined and scrutinised rather than being lost in the noise of the mainstream media.As part of Nouse’s politics section, each week there will be a brief roundup of the most important affairs that have taken place in parliament. Whether these are points of order, rousing speeches or simply a highlight from Prime Minister’s Questions, Nouse will now be providing you with a daily lowdown and snapshot of the life of our Parliament and how its dealings will impact you.
This week in Westminster began with a rare day of almost total agreeance across all benches. Raab’s use of the Magnitsky amendment meant that, on Monday, the UK imposed the first solely British-made sanctions for decades against 49 individuals and organisations across the world to limit their ability to hide and invest their ‘blood money’ in British property and banks. Opposition parties, including Labour, the Liberals and the SNP, welcomed this move, even in some cases urging the further use of the sanctions, as suggested by Labour’s Chris Bryant and the Lib Dem’s Carmichael, on those involved in cases of what they described as the ‘subversion of democracy’ overseas.
The ‘non-partisan’ spirit continued in the Commons with the return of the Domestic Abuse Bill, widely touted as May’s lasting legacy. An especially passionate and powerful contribution came from Shadow Minister Jess Phillips paying tribute to a victim of the abuse this bill aims to end. Addition of the new Clause 15 to the bill, which labels children who hear or see abuse in their households though may not experience it directly as victims, drew particular cross-party support - as did the clarification that the so-called ‘rough sex defence’, often used by male perpetrators of domestic abuse, does not exist.
The agreement in the House, however, ended there. Government’s response to the current pandemic unsurprisingly came up throughout the week. In the Lords, Labour peer Baroness Jones used the Government’s favourite ‘world-beating’ phrase against them, describing their response as of ‘world-beating incompetence’. Many Tories focused their efforts on demanding from government harsher consequences for those who break social distancing rules – perhaps something which my find its way to the other place in the coming weeks?
Later came PMQs, Starmer directly blamed the government for COVID-19 deaths in care homes in a week where the PM appeared to suggest it was the fault of care staff. Johnson aimed to explain his remarks by adding that it was the unknown ability for the virus to be transmitted asymptomatically that was to blame and that, through use of another ‘Borisism’, if ‘Captain Hindsight’ Starmer had known this when the Government did not, he should’ve spoken up.
A notable backbench contribution came from the member for Cardiff North, Anna McMorrin, on Government’s extremely quiet response to the Boohoo Leicester wage scandal. Boris Johnson replied by stating that the Conservatives introduced the Modern Slavery Act and, more recently, a higher minimum wage.
Afterwards, the Chancellor had another chance to shine this week as he came to the Commons for the rather jolly sounding ‘Summer Economic Update’. Though the headline figures of contraction and unemployment provided unpretty reading, new schemes such as grant incentives for employers to hire young people and to keep staff returning from furlough until at least January proved popular, even if not extensive enough for many on both the Opposition and Government benches. Another novel scheme announced was ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, where the State will pay for half of an August mealout between Monday and Wednesday (up to a limit of £10). Whilst the benefit to the hospitality industry has been questioned by the Institute for Economic Affairs, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson suggested the policy may prove beneficial for clothing retailers once the British public outgrow their current wardrobes due to the temptation of halfprice meals!
At the end of the parliamentary week, representatives from controversial Chinese technology firm Huawei were called to give evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee, chaired by former Tory minister Greg Clark. Huawei aimed to persuade the crossparty committee that they are separate in all aspects from the Chinese Government, defending their ability to resist requests from any government, including that of China. Coming under pressure from both Labour and the Conservatives on the panel, it was Clark who, in challenging their statement, then proceeded to question the representatives on their personal opinions on the Hong Kong situation. They, unsurprisingly, refused to answer.
Despite a busy week with the inclusion of a surprise miniature budget, one thing stood out more than anything. MPs of all parties clearly utilised their first professional haircut in months – even the Prime Minister lost some of his famous blonde locks. Though the renowned hair of Michael Fabricant remained, thankfully, unchanged.