22 Drew Hendry debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

Wed 16th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments
Tue 15th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments
Thu 10th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments
Mon 7th Dec 2020
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments & Ping Pong & Ping Pong: House of Commons

Oral Answers to Questions

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Monday 27th March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I absolutely will and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the work he has done to ensure that our antisocial behaviour action plan hits criminals where it hurts. I should add that apparently the Leader of the Opposition was in Stoke-on-Trent North the other week. He gave a speech on crime, taking over 30 minutes, without any new policies. He should be arrested for wasting police time!

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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T4. Does the Secretary of State believe that the concept of levelling up across struggling communities with hard-pressed families is undermined by footage of MPs in his own party grubbing around for £10,000-a-day contracts on top of their MP salary and other earnings? If so, will he condemn his Tory MP colleagues’ behaviour?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Obviously, the capacity of people who are Members of this House to do work to supplement the role they perform here is one that is properly—if there is anything improper about it—a matter for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Privileges Committee. I should say, however, that the hon. Gentleman was happy to serve under the leadership of Alex Salmond when he was, at one point, a racing columnist for the Glasgow Herald and, at another, a paid—

Management of the Economy and Ministerial Severance Payments

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Linden Portrait David Linden
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That is very helpful, and over the course of that drink I will explain to the hon. Gentleman that the behaviour of his colleagues in the Scottish Conservative party during Opposition day debates is quite something. It reminds me of that biblical verse about removing the log from your eye before removing the speck from your neighbour’s.

There are two parts to the motion before the House. The first aspect of it is how interest rates are rising. A theme has been developed throughout the course of the debate that that is to do with what has happened in Ukraine and the covid pandemic. I would not dispute for a minute that what has happened in Ukraine has had an impact on the economy and that the global pandemic has had an impact on the economy. However, as I said to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell), there is a third aspect that has also had an impact on the economy, and that is the nature of the Brexit that we took. I think most people and most respected economists would argue that Brexit has had an impact on the economy, and the cherry-picking—to use the Minister’s term—that the hon. Member for Sedgefield was indulging himself in, to try to ignore the fact that Brexit has had an impact on the economy, does a disservice to the debate.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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My hon. Friend is making a very important point. People are struggling to make ends meet just now because of a number of factors. A key one is food price inflation, which has rocketed due to the costs of Brexit. We have seen prices double, and the price of basic foodstuffs has gone up 60%. It is a price that people cannot afford to pay and should not have been forced into paying, especially in Scotland, where we voted resolutely against Brexit.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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Absolutely. I do not intend to rehash the debate on Brexit, though I am tempted to do so and feel that I would be on pretty strong political ground, but my hon. Friend is right to talk about the impact on food prices. In his constituency in particular, it is not just food prices that are crippling people; it is the fact that many of his constituents are off the gas grid. The paltry £100 that has been offered by the UK Government is not acceptable, as I think my hon. Friend is about to explain.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way once again; he is being very generous with his time. This is another vital point. The energy price guarantee does nothing for those people who are already paying an average bill of £4,000, which might rise to £6,000 a year, and for those off the gas grid, the £100 put forward by the UK Government has been described as “derisory” by Energy Action Scotland. These costs are crippling for people in constituencies like mine, where many people are off the gas grid.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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Absolutely. I am conscious that the motion focuses specifically on mortgages, so I will move away from energy and deal with the issue of mortgage interest rates.

The general theme that Government Back Benchers are developing today is that Ukraine is to blame, and covid is to blame, and that is why interest rates have risen. I would not want to indulge in a whole lecture on the Phillips curve—[Interruption.] The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office tempts me. A number of people, including me, would question whether the Bank of England holding interest rates at the historic low levels they have been at relative to unemployment is something that merits a debate. Whether today’s Opposition day debate is that, I am not sure.

There has been a rewriting of history in the course of the debate. A number of Members seem to be suggesting that this is the fault of covid and Ukraine, and the mini-Budget had nothing to do with it. The reality is that the mini-Budget did spook the markets. The UK was put on a watch list by the IMF. Members have been falling over themselves with excitement to say, “What would have happened if the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) had become Prime Minister?” I am not sure that even they would have imagined that under the right hon. Gentleman’s leadership the UK would have been put on an IMF watch list, as it was after the antics of the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng).

Over the course of the debate, Members have said that this is to do with covid and Ukraine, but the Scottish housing market review for quarter 3 of 2022—which we must bear in mind is written not by politicians but by economists and civil servants—says:

“There was a substantial increase in the number of high LTV products offered by mortgage lenders after the Covid-19 pandemic, with the number of 95% LTV mortgages products increasing from 14 in September 2020 to 274 in September 2022. However, after the UKG Plan for Growth/mini-budget on 23 September 2022, the residential mortgage market saw a dramatic fall in the number of deals available to new borrowers over the month. The total number of residential mortgage products dropped to 2,258 in October.”

I am not going to do a “woe is me”, as a highly paid politician, but I am one of the people whose house was on the market at the time of the mini-Budget. We had an offer in, and then the mortgage product was pulled, so the sale of the house has fallen through. I am also one of the people who took sound financial advice and was told to fix my mortgage rate for two years, because most of us expected—quite rightly—that, given relative levels of unemployment, mortgage rates would start to rise. That is why a number of people fixed for two years. As I say, I am not saying “woe is me”, because I am a politician, and I am very highly paid; I am far too overpaid, in my view. However, as a result of the changes to mortgages that happened in an accelerated fashion as a result of the mini-Budget, the vast majority of my constituents will now have to go back to the position of many of my constituents in the 1980s—the people who live in the Mount Vernon area—who saw interest rates of 14% and 15%. We are not there yet, but I would not be surprised if we ended up in that place, because this is not going to be fixed overnight. The harsh reality for the Government is that, yes, interest rates have been rising and should have been rising, but everybody in the Chamber knows that the mini-Budget spooked the markets, and there was a run on the pound and a run on pensions. That was a direct result of the actions of Government Ministers.

As for the second part of the motion, most of us would accept that if somebody started working at, for example, Tesco on a Monday, and they were in charge of the frozen foods aisle, and in the three days that they were in work, they did not turn on the freezers and all of that supermarket’s stock was lost, the chances are that they would be given their jotters—they would be sent home from work, and they would be fired. The Government have conducted some sort of economic experiment based on the Thatcherite economics of the gruesome twosome of the right hon. Members for Spelthorne and for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss). They have crashed the economy—the equivalent of ruining all the frozen goods—and they have got off scot free. The thing that really sticks in the craw of Members of this House and, most importantly, of people outside the House is the fact that not only have they walked away and left absolute economic carnage behind them but they have been given a severance payment.

Far too often, watching Conservative Members and Opposition Members fighting with each other is like watching two bald men fight over a comb. Conservative Members say, “Oh well, in 2010, you took this much by way of ministerial several payments,” but we are not living in normal times: it has been calculated that a Minister resigned every four days over the last year. The Conservative party has the audacity to lecture people about sound money and sound government when, at one point, Ministers were resigning on average every four days as a result of complete incompetence. Some of the people we saw at the Dispatch Box, particularly over the summer, are folk I never dreamed would have a red box—people who I would not put in charge of tying shoelaces—but they are all walking away with ministerial bungs.

As far as I am concerned, there is a legitimate debate to be had by the Government and His Majesty’s Opposition about severance payments. As luck would have it, last month, I introduced a private Member’s Bill, the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries (Amendment) Bill, which seeks only to bring Ministers into line with mere mortals outside of this House. If someone has not been with their employer for two years, they are not subject to a statutory redundancy payment.

We are in a ridiculous situation. Granted, the right hon. Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), who was Education Secretary for, I think, a day, did the right thing and said, “I’m not taking my severance payment,” but under the current legislation, Ministers and Secretaries of State who are in post for literally hours or a couple of days are entitled to vast severance payments. That needs to change. We can have the what-aboutery in the Chamber about Labour or Conservative Ministers taking payments, but for goodness’ sake, let us fix the legislation to ensure that Government Ministers are subject to the exact same regulations as those we in this place seek to represent.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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rose—

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. Before the hon. Gentleman makes his intervention, I want to say that the advisory time limit is eight minutes.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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I will be brief. My hon. Friend is making a powerful point. Earlier, he reflected on the cost for people and their households. How does he think that the vast payments that Ministers are walking away with after a matter of days resonate with people who are struggling to pay their bills?

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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I am always keen to use the local Glasgow vernacular, but I am mindful that if I used it to explain how angry my constituents are, I would probably get chucked out of the House for unparliamentary language. That gives my hon. Friend a flavour of how my constituents feel about the grotesque sight of failed Government Ministers coming into the Chamber, playing with their little Tufton Street economic strategies and using my constituents, who are incredibly economically vulnerable, as lab rats, then walking away with thousands of pounds in a pay-off. That is absolutely outrageous and most of my constituents would not stand for it.

The motion before the House talks about severance payments. In reality, I would like to amend the legislation. Given the disgusting behaviour that we have seen from Conservative Governments, however, I would be keener to see Scotland severed from this Union altogether.

Levelling Up

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. High Peak contains some of the most beautiful and important parts of Derbyshire, but it is also part of the greater economic area around Greater Manchester. I therefore want to ensure, with him, Derbyshire leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester, that we are working together in the interests of my hon. Friend’s constituents.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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With this scheme, the highlands are set to lose out on tens of millions of pounds compared with EU funding. The highlands have been placed in category 3—the lowest of all the categories—and face significant financial challenges in accessing the cash. This is the largest local authority area in the UK. Why are the highlands so low on this Government’s agenda?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The highlands are at the top of the Government’s agenda. The UK shared prosperity funding that we are guaranteeing will ensure that highland communities get the investment that they need, but more than that, the roll-out of 4G and 5G will also help highland communities. It is the case that the Scottish Government have not necessarily rolled out broadband as quickly as those communities would want, as colleagues such as Donald Cameron in the Scottish Parliament have pointed out. I want to work with him and the Scottish Government to serve the people whom he represents.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Drew Hendry Excerpts
William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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I am glad to hear that. I am not sure—we cannot be sure—whether these provisions might eventually be declared void for uncertainty, and I am not clear about what they will do in practice. At least, however, we have got to the end of the Bill. I am in favour of the Bill in principle, and that is about all I need to say for the moment. As far as I am concerned, the future lies ahead with uncertainty built into these provisions.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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Any improvement to the Bill would be welcomed, but the proposed amendment does nothing to protect the devolution settlement—the Minister said as much in his opening remarks—and the provisions will simply allow this Parliament to overrule Scottish Parliament and Welsh Parliament decisions. It is incredible to hear Labour Front Benchers trying to take credit. They say that they led the way, but they have actually paved the way for this Bill to do that to the Scottish Parliament. They talk about the guile they have shown, but it is gall that they have when they talk about this. You can understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, why Labour has only one MP in Scotland.

Instead of taking this Bill apart, as they should have done, those on the Labour Front Bench spend more of their time talking about the democratically elected Members of Parliament that they have here, who, as I pointed out, are in vastly greater numbers than the one Labour MP from Scotland. They are not listening to Scotland—they never do—and Labour has allowed this aberration to come forward in this way by abstaining in the House of Lords.

The amendment does not protect devolution, as I said: the Minister has laid that out clearly today for everybody to hear. Westminster Ministers will still have the right to impose lower food, environmental and other devolved standards on Scotland, regardless of the view of Holyrood. This Bill is the biggest assault on devolution in the history of the Scottish Parliament. It undermines devolved policy making, grabs spending powers, and removes state aid from being a devolved responsibility. The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly refused to give this Bill consent, and it is outrageous that the UK Government are once again ignoring the wishes of the people of Scotland as well as Wales.

In welcoming the amendment, Professor Aileen McHarg warned:

“There are still significant problems with this Bill: it changes the scope of devolved decision-making; it reserves additional powers to Westminster; it empowers the UK Government to spend in devolved areas that have nothing to do with markets (eg prisons, sport, international student exchanges); and above all—unlike EU law—it has an inherently asymmetrical effect on decision-making for England and for the devolved territories.

This is a Bill which squarely falls within the scope of the Sewel Convention, and the necessity of which is deeply questionable.”

But of course the Government have not listened to that, and Labour has capitulated on it.

The only reason for this Bill as it now stands is to demolish devolution. If the Government take this Bill forward today, as they obviously will, that is what they will be doing. Any pretence thereafter by the Scottish Tory MPs that they respect the democratic rights of the people of Scotland will be blown apart if they support this today. In fact, they have already supported it, because it seems that it will go through. They have done nothing to protect the democratic rights of the Scottish people.

People in Scotland are watching. People in Scotland, when they see the effects of this Bill, will be angry about the fact that their rights are being taken away by these Tory Ministers, aided by their Labour bedfellows. They will be furious about the fact that their rights are being stripped from them. They are listening, they are watching, and they are seeing developments in this place. They are understanding, now, that the only way to protect their Parliament, their rights and their democracy in Scotland is to go forward as an independent nation—and they will be voting for that, I am sure, in due course.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
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Yesterday I said that there was still time for compromise, so I am glad that the Government have finally gone for some degree of a consensus approach, and there is no doubt that what will be on the statute book is an improvement on the legislation that was initially introduced back in the autumn. I would like to acknowledge the Minister’s engagement over the Bill. I also thank my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Lords, who have played an important role, and our staff teams across both Houses.

However, I do still have concerns about the Bill, one of which is about the Office for the Internal Market. The Government need to be transparent about what role that office will play in future trade deals. Can foreign investors in a US trade deal use it to undermine the devolved nations? I have asked that question repeatedly. I am also conscious that the legislative value of this Bill might, in practice, be limited, or indeed pretty much non-existent, especially if we reach a trade deal and a standards agreement with the EU. We obviously need more clarity on this, as the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) said.

Unfortunately, as I pointed out yesterday, these changes, while positive, are too late, because the damage has already been done. The Minister heard the speeches of SNP Members yesterday, but I wonder whether he listened. With this Bill, the Government have been pouring fuel on a fire, as alluded to by the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell). I ask the Minister: what has this all been worth? If the Government are committed to the future of the United Kingdom, they need to start acting like it.

I cannot count the number of newspaper articles I have read over the past year reporting a reset in the Government’s approach to the Union, that a new Cabinet Committee has been set up to finally solve the Government’s problem as regards relations with the devolved nations, or that the Prime Minister is going to love-bomb Scotland. I urge the Government: this is not about Committees, or grand new offices in Edinburgh, or bridges or tunnels over or under the Irish sea. Those of my constituents who are uncertain about where they want Scotland’s future to lie will not be convinced by Union Jacks on UK Government infrastructure projects: cack-handed stuff, as the passage of this Bill clearly indicates. What they will be convinced by is a UK Government who treat the devolved nations with respect, maturity and honesty, and who work together with the devolved nations to find consensus, because I do believe that we have too much in common for borders to divide us. Are we in this place capable of that? I like to believe we are, but for too many of my constituents, it has not felt like that over the last few months with this Bill.

So I do urge the Government: compromise and consensus were the reluctant final steps they took with regard to this Bill. Noting the comments of the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) in relation to the Welsh Government’s statement, let the first steps the Government take in their future relationship with the devolved nations be that compromise and consensus.

--- Later in debate ---
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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In establishing the Office for the Internal Market through this Bill, I wanted to make sure that it was not the Office for the Internal Market itself that it would be able to work through, so that is within the purview of this particular part of the Bill.

The hon. Member for North East Fife talked about about the fact that when we talk about devolution it is not about Committees, and I totally agree: it is about dialogue, consensus and giving business certainty. This is in stark contrast to what we have seen from the Scottish National party, which walked away from discussions about the internal market in 2019. That is no way to build consensus and to have that dialogue. If the SNP and the Scottish Government want to talk about ending the right to buy and to go with that to the council house-owning residents in their electorate, that is up to them. We are not talking about devolved parts of housing; when we talk about spending or any of these other issues, it is complementary to what the Scottish Government, or indeed the Welsh Senedd or the Northern Ireland Assembly, are doing within their devolved rights.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Once again, the Minister has talked about the Scottish Government walking away from the internal market discussions; of course, the internal market discussions led on to this Bill—we knew it was going to be a bad move forward. The Scottish Government engaged constructively, and continue to be willing to do so, in the common frameworks discussions. The Minister should make that clear when he makes that point about the internal market discussions. On the matter of housing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) pointed out, the Government can now interfere in and overrule legislation in Scotland.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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No, this is about spreading. I readily accept that the discussions on common frameworks continue, and I very much welcome that. As I say, common frameworks go wider than just trade and the measures covered in the Bill. None the less, to walk away from discussions on the internal market a full year or 18 months before we reached this position is really to walk away from the responsibility to help to shape the discussions, as we have seen in the more fruitful conversations with the Welsh Senedd, including in recent days.

We heard the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) talk about pre-written barbs, but time and again when we have come back to this place it has just been a rehearsal of the arguments not about the devolution settlement or the Bill itself, but about independence. It has been the same debate time and again, instead of Members involving themselves in the detail of the Bill and giving certainty to business.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I will not give way.

I finish by thanking everyone who spoke in the debate, and by once again thanking all hon. and right hon. Members and noble Lords who have engaged with the Bill over the last few weeks. I thank the Public Bill Office for its support to all Members and officials across Government. I pay tribute to the entire ministerial team across both Houses and all Departments, who have worked jointly to deliver the Bill—in particular, Lord Callanan, Lord True and the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), and the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker). I also pay tribute to Yasmin Kalhori and the team of the Leader of the House of Lords.

I welcome the contributions and the constructive discussions that we have had in recent days with Opposition Members in both Houses that have got us to this place. We have had some passionate debates on the Bill, because of the importance of the issues. However, the Bill will ensure that UK businesses can trade across the four parts of the UK in a way that helps them to invest and create jobs, just as they have for hundreds of years. I am therefore delighted to ask the House to agree to the amendments, and to complete our scrutiny and consideration of the Bill.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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This is an outrage to Scotland. It is not acceptable.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat, and he knows that. [Interruption.] This is just showing off. He should resume his seat, otherwise I will name him and order him to leave. [Interruption.] Does he want to be named? Is that what is happening? [Interruption.] If that is what is happening, we can do it. [Interruption.] Okay—I will name him. I know what he is doing. [Interruption.] Oh, for goodness’ sake! Very childish.

Drew Hendry, Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was named by the Deputy Speaker for disregarding the authority of the Chair (Standing Order No. 44).

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 44),

That Drew Hendry be suspended from the service of the House.—(David T. C. Davies.)

Question agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker directed Drew Hendry to withdraw from the House, and the Member withdrew accordingly.

Main Question again proposed.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House agrees with Lords amendments 8P, 8Q, 8R, 8S, 8T and 8U.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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This is what is going to happen. This debate has to finish at 3.10. I want to bring in the Minister at 3.06 to wind up. A lot of hon. and right hon. Members have been sitting in the Chamber from the beginning of the debate. If others come in and intervene, it does take time from those who have been trying to participate and have put their names down to participate. Before I bring in the SNP spokesperson, I have to say that I will now have to reduce the time limit to three minutes and, with that, I still may not get everybody in, so if colleagues want to take fewer than three minutes, I am sure that it would be appreciated by others.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will do my utmost to whizz through what I can here.

We welcome the Lords amendments seeking to protect both the devolved settlements and the policy divergence across the nations of the UK, but we also know that the Prime Minister and his Tory Government simply detest devolution. All pretence otherwise has been swept away by this Bill, as it puts into action the casual contempt that they have.

The Prime Minister, as we know, believes that devolution is a disaster. Well, we think the same about him. Last night, however, in the Lords, Labour opened the door for the Tories, as they hollowed out devolution, withdrawing support for Lord Thomas’s amendments that challenged the UK Government’s clauses on direct spending in devolved areas. Equally disappointing was Labour’s abstention on the vote for the amendment of Baroness Llandaff to halt the brazen power grab on re-reserving state aid. This is not currently reserved. It is not listed in the reserved powers under schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998. It is a devolved power being grabbed back, along with the measures in this Bill in place to overrule decisions taken in Scotland.

I have been quoting absolutely committed Unionists in the other place throughout this debate, and I am grateful to be able to quote them again today. Lord Thomas said:

“The power to control state aid is not reserved. If it were, these amendments would be unnecessary…I ask why the UK Government would not work together with them, consult them before the Bill was produced and try to find a common solution…I fear it is an example of Westminster saying that it knows best, rather than working with the devolved Administrations.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1486.]

But once again, the Labour Front-Bench team took weak words from the Government as assurances and chose to abstain on that important measure.

Lord Stevenson’s amendment alters schedule 1 so that environmental standards and public health are exempt from market access principles. He warned the UK Government not to make

“the market access principles, which operate automatically, too narrow and too prescriptive. That would fatally undermine the opportunities for devolved Administrations to diverge”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1457.]

Baroness Bennett highlighted that much leadership on climate change has actually originated from the devolved Governments. Lord Hope explained that his amendments seek to ensure that the UK Government’s commitment to market access principles do not undermine the UK Government’s commitment on the common frameworks. On policy divergence, he warns:

“As the Bill stands, a measure that gives effect to an agreed decision to diverge can be ignored by traders bringing goods in from other areas. This undermines the opportunity to diverge, rendering it worthless and ineffective.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1446.]

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town provided this summary:

“When the case for Brexit was all about ‘taking back control’, we failed to understand that the Government meant taking control to themselves, even over issues that were fully devolved.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1447.]

Time and again, across all the nations of the UK, across all parties and none, and across all the affected industries, trade bodies, academia and the legal profession, this Tory Government have been told that the Bill grabs power from devolution and places it here in Westminster. The Bill allows UK Ministers to control spending in devolved areas of economic development, infrastructure, cultural activities, regional development, education, water, power, gas, telecoms, railways, health, housing and justice. The people of Scotland did not vote for the Tories to make these decisions at Westminster. Madam Deputy Speaker, you are far too young to remember the last time the people of Scotland did that, although your grandparents might just have—but only just!

This Bill was born bad to the bone, setting to break international law and break devolution. The Government have been forced to drop some of it, but it remains an aberration and continues its assault on devolution, Scottish public services and public life. The Scottish public, unlike this Government, are listening and watching. They will choose their own path to protect their Parliament and democracy in the near future.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
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So here we are again. I am glad that the Lords have continued to press their points on the common frameworks and the impact of the Bill on the devolved Administrations. The Lords seem to understand that the Bill poses a great threat to the devolution settlement, so I cannot understand why the Government do not even accept the damage that this Bill has caused in the devolved nations. We are told by the Minister that it is not a political Bill. It is almost laughable. I wish the Government would just be honest with us. If they want to have a debate about the merits of devolution, many Members, not just on this side of the House, would be willing to argue in its favour. The Minister would also do well to remember that it was not the Scottish National party that brought about devolution in Scotland in the first place.

A case in point of the Government’s failure to own up to the impact of this Bill on devolution can be seen with the amendments that have been brought by the Lords on the common frameworks. Last week, I raised the question of what the Bill was for, in situations where common frameworks were already in place. I again ask the Minister to address that question. There is a huge hole in the Government’s argument, and they have left that question unanswered. There is also a real question about the interaction of the Bill with any potential EU trade deal, and I urge the Minister to address this. If we reach agreement with the EU on regulatory standards, which I hope we do, what will become of those clauses of the Bill on standards and frameworks? Will they ever come into effect, or will they become obsolete, with future standards being the subject of regulatory alignment with the EU? If the answer is the latter, I hope the Government will reflect on what this has all been for, and whether it has been worth it.

The Bill had two main aspects. The first was the part that broke international law, which was removed last week. That part of the Bill has resulted in huge damage to our international standing. It was reported this weekend that the serious mistrust sown as a result of those clauses has been a significant barrier to getting the trade deal that the Government claim they want. It has caused huge disquiet among our allies, including President-elect Biden. All that, for clauses that will never even reach the statute book.

Then we have the parts of the Bill that impact the devolution settlement. Those clauses will reach the statute book, but if there is a deal, it is likely that they will have no practical effect. However, the damage has already been done. This has caused deep dismay to the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and given those SNP Members sitting around me grist to their mill. Congratulations! This is what you might call a PR nightmare for the United Kingdom and for the Union. Although in many respects it is already too late, I urge the Minister to accept the Lords amendments and finally deliver some form of limited consensus on this Bill.

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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I am not sure which amendment the hon. Gentleman is speaking to, but I note that the last poll was 52:48, which I am sure he will talk about; it seems to be a figure that keeps coming up.

Why do we need to give businesses certainty? This is not just about Northern Ireland, Wales and England; it is about Scottish business too. Some 60% of Scotland’s trade—more than £50 billion—is with the rest of the UK. Up to half a million jobs are dependent on that internal trade.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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On that statistic about Scotland’s exports, will the Minister concede that 62% of manufactured exports from Scotland go outwith the UK, to the EU and the rest of the world?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That refers to the 144,000 jobs, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman would say, which were considered by the same institute that came up with the half a million jobs dependent on internal trade. He talks about the manufacturing trade; that is why we are better together as a United Kingdom. We have the whole gamut of skills, whether it is in manufacturing, services, culture, financial services or legal services—all those areas that we can provide as the UK which will make us a force to be reckoned with as we come out as one global Britain, with the opportunities that we will afford ourselves, in 17 days’ time.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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This shabby, shambolic, pernicious Bill should never have seen the light of day. It has already been delivered a historic defeat in the Lords—they rightly tore it apart—yet this Government overturned all their amendments and sent the Bill back. No sooner had they done that than there came the press release—as ever, bypassing this House—to say that the Government would be retreating from breaking international law with clauses that should never have been in the Bill in the first place, and that have only served further to diminish this Government and the UK’s already tattered international reputation. They are now reinstating these amendments.

Of course, it is not just the other place that this Tory Government ignore; it is almost everybody. When it comes to devolution and the nations of the UK, they are still determined to ignore the democratically elected Parliaments. As we have already heard, both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd have voted to withhold legislative consent on this Bill, yet this Government say that it is about working with the devolved Governments. It is not.

Lords amendments 48B and 48C pretty much deal with the shared prosperity fund that we have heard about. Under these amendments, the Government would have to agree with the devolved Governments on the way in which and where funds would be spent for matters within the devolved competences—roads, health and education, for example. The Government have said that the devolved nations will be represented, but Lord Thomas did not fall for that smoke and mirrors approach from the UK Government. He noted that,

“the clause without my amendments would enable the UK Government to spend in devolved fields and bypass the devolved Governments and Parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who have been elected to be responsible for those fields. It would, in effect, hollow out the devolution settlements.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1293.]

It is disgraceful that we still do not have details of the shared prosperity fund, just weeks before we leave the EU. I was asking about this in 2017, and we have still not had anything from the Government.

Lords amendments 50B and 50C set out an attempt to agree a common framework, which is a regime that can govern the control of subsidies. Lord Thomas warned that, without this,

“Having changed the settlement for a policy that they have not yet devised, the Government then wish simply to consult…and then announce their decision. That is what I would call ‘way one’—the UK Government way.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1309.]

The SNP will not accept this brazen power grab. State aid must remain a devolved competence.

We welcome the changes through motion C1 in the Lords. The amendment removes the law-breaking clauses from part 5 of the Bill. Lord Judge said:

“They were constitutionally improper and a constitutional aberration. They subverted the rule of law.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1277.]

They have even been knocked down by former Tory leader, Lord Howard.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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I am not going to take interventions. We are very short on time, so I am going to press on; sorry.

Lords amendments 8B to 8L, 13A and 56A require the Secretary of State to seek the consent of the devolved Administrations before exercising the powers, setting a time limit for that and a process if consent is withheld. Lord Stevenson said:

“The purpose of our amendment is to preserve the potential for managed policy divergence that is central to the devolution settlement.”

Again, the UK Government just ignore that. Lord Stevenson also noted:

“The Government have failed to explain properly why their list of exceptions is so much more restrictive than that of the EU—well, we can probably work that one out”. —[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1268-69.]

Let us not forget that this covers a huge range of effects for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

“environmental standards and protection…animal welfare…consumer standards, including digital and artificial intelligence privacy rights…employment rights and protections…health and life of humans, animals or plants…protection of public health…equality entitlements, rights and protections.”

It has a massive impact on Scottish public society.

Lords amendments 1B, 1C and 1D seek to protect the role of the common frameworks in the Bill. The Minister thanked Lord Hope, but he was the one who pointed out that

“if there really is a will on the Government’s part to make this system work, a solution can be found.”

He also said:

“Traders from other parts of the UK who had no regard for the higher standard could simply ignore it, irrespective of how simple and easy it was to comply with. That is not where we should be going.”

He concluded:

“A balance needs to be struck here, if devolution is to be respected.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1249-50.]

Time after time after time, Members of the Lords pointed out the massive disrespect and contempt the Government have for the devolution settlement. Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town warned the Government

“to be very careful about clawing back decisions from our now quite long-established devolved settlements.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 December 2020; Vol. 808, c. 1256.]

The Scottish Government, by the way, remain fully committed to the common frameworks process, as this Minister knows. I cannot use the language I would like to use in this House about what the Minister repeated, but he knows that the Scottish Government have remained 100% committed to the agreement that was set up to take the process through, and he should correct the record.

This Bill is unwanted and unwarranted and unashamedly undermines devolution. It is an attack on the democratically elected Scottish Parliament and the vast majority of the Scottish public who value it. Since 2014, promises to them have been routinely broken in this place. Their votes and their views have been ignored over Brexit. Now, Scotland will be the only country not to get what it voted for in that referendum. They will in the next one. They know that. The only way to protect their rights and their Parliament is for them to take the next logical step and for Scotland to become an independent nation.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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I welcome the fact that the Government have accepted that it was unwise, if I can put it charitably, to have certain clauses in this Bill that might have impugned our international reputation for supporting the rule of law. I welcome the Minister’s approach and that of his colleague Lord True in the other place. The Bill is better off without those clauses. I had sought at the very least to ensure there was a parliamentary lock should such clauses ever be needed, but I hope that through the agreement achieved in the Joint Committee, thanks to the work of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, they are not needed at all. It is better, therefore, to leave the Bill clean in that way to serve the other important purposes that it does have to achieve.

That is why, with all due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), I trust that the Minister and colleagues will firmly resist any temptation to try to reinstate such clauses, which would be unnecessary, provocative in more ways than one, and unhelpful to the purpose we all seek to achieve.

I read with care the speeches of two former Lord Chief Justices and the former leader of my party, my noble Friend Lord Howard of Lympne, who himself was a distinguished Queen’s counsel with many years in practice before he came into this place. They certainly were not talking nonsense; they were making legitimate and fair points about areas of concern, even though I perhaps was more content to go with the view of David Wolfson QC, who was quoted by Lord Naseby, that the taking of such clauses into the Bill was not of itself a breach of international law until such time as they were brought into force. We are none the less better off not going down that route, so I hope the Minister will resist any temptation to put anything of that kind back into this Bill or into the Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill, because that would muddy the waters needlessly, legally and politically.

We are going to require political goodwill on all sides to make the coming days and weeks work. Were it ever to be necessary to take such extreme measures in such extreme circumstances that might occur, immediate primary legislation on an emergency basis could of course be done, and that would give the parliamentary lock that I was concerned should exist, but through another form. It is not necessary for us to go down that route now, because, frankly, to try to reinstate the clauses would be fatal to the progress of the Bill, and that would not be in the interests of the Government or anyone else. I thank the Minister for the way in which he and his colleagues have approached this matter.

The Future of the High Street

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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Let me take a moment to praise those of my constituents and elsewhere who are in the frontline of retail and our high streets; it is a rewarding job but it can be tough. I spent many years as a retail employee on the shop floor, but I cannot imagine the difficulties they have had to face this year.

Without doubt it has been an incredibly difficult time for those working on the high street, and for businesses there. In the highlands, some 90% of registered businesses are small businesses. They are not just places we go to shop, be entertained and enjoy ourselves; they are absolutely part of the fabric of what we have in our high streets, towns and villages, and in the city they are much loved institutions. We are talking about innovative people who develop businesses that always give us a warm welcome. Obviously, they are joined by national retailers on the high streets, but with the recent demise of some of the big players they lose the opportunity for additional footfall. So we need in future to concentrate heavily on what we do to provide support. This has now become an urgent issue for us all to pay attention to.

We have heard time and again in the Chamber that the demise of the high street is not new and that it is something that we have seen coming, but it has been accelerated to the nth degree. I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson), who spoke about the Scottish Government having done everything they can to provide necessary support. There is a madness in cancelling the duty free allowances from the UK Government, and they must take more measures so that we can take more action ourselves, especially over simple changes to the borrowing rules to help those who need it.

The high street is not dead. It simply needs to evolve. In my constituency, independent retailers are some of the best examples of innovation, and they are reaching out to their customers—many through their own websites now. I urge us all to do what we can. I hope that the light at the end of the tunnel will be us becoming more conscious consumers. We want to support the right businesses doing the right thing. Ethical and local purchasing, and an increased awareness of our own carbon footprint, should naturally drive us to our own independent retailers. There is lots that the UK Government can do. The Scottish Government must do more. Local authorities must work together with business communities, developers and residents to redesign our high streets, and businesses themselves should be recommending each other to other businesses.

There is much more I could say, but three minutes is not enough to cover this subject in detail. We must all do more to support the high street and retailers in our local communities.

United Kingdom Internal Market Bill

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Consideration of Lords amendments & Ping Pong & Ping Pong: House of Commons
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 View all United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Commons Consideration of Lords Amendments as at 7 December 2020 - (7 Dec 2020)
William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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More or less the same took place in my exchanges with my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), who said very much the same. There is a threshold beyond which it would be necessary for us to take such action. Without going into the detail, I just wanted to put those two things on the record.

The issue is, and basically always has been, about parliamentary sovereignty. In the UK context, this is an internal law of fundamental importance, as expressed in article 46 of the Vienna Convention. It is by virtue of parliamentary sovereignty that we have taken the line that we have. I certainly have taken that line on many occasions, including in my proposal for section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, which I referred to earlier, and which has the whole concept of “notwithstanding” built into it. Section 7A of that Act also deals with direct effect. Given that the Act was passed with a large majority in the House of Commons, and then passed again in the House of Lords without any dissent of any description, I find it quite extraordinary that this has been turned into a matter of such fundamental anxiety, without any supporting argument that I have ever seen.

When I read the debates, I found there was a great deal of posturing going on. I understand the emotional concern of some people who are quite incapable of accepting that we have lawfully left the European Union; that a series of enactments were passed by both Houses; and that, on top of that, we had a general election—not to mention that under the Salisbury-Addison convention, it would be inconceivable, in the context of a general election manifesto, for the Lords to take a stand against these clauses if the House of Commons passed them again tonight, and perhaps again on another occasion.

Why do I say all this about constitutional and international law? I will deal with that very briefly. First, in my judgment, the European Union has breached article 184 of the withdrawal agreement, which is about negotiating in good faith. It has manifestly multiplied that fault over the past few days by refusing to accept the manner in which the negotiations have been conducted so far. There is also the question of its demand to retain power over crucial aspects of our sovereignty—both economic and relating to our national interest—as a precondition to concessions on trade.

The EU has also, in my judgment, breached article 184 on the basis of the recognition, as it puts it, of our internal market. I believe in the basic principle that one party to a treaty cannot obtain from the other the execution of its obligations if it does not respect its own commitments. If the EU continues to act as it has done in the negotiations, particularly over the past few days, the United Kingdom would be entitled to terminate the withdrawal agreement on the basis of the EU’s breach of article 184.

Lastly, as I said in Committee and on Report, there is a long list of occasions when Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems, as part of the coalition, have agreed to override treaties. There are not just one or two quite explicit examples, but hosts of them. In infinite Finance Bills and Independence Acts, and in relation to prisoner voting and various other things, there have been quite clear and deliberate overrides of treaties. The EU, as well as the EU member states, frequently violates international law; the Western Sahara case, the defiance of security council rulings, and breaking the Lisbon treaty are a few examples.

Indeed, in conclusion, the EU grants supremacy to its own constitutional principles when they are in conflict with international law. In the Kadi case, the European Court stated:

“The obligations imposed by an international agreement cannot have the effect of prejudicing the constitutional principles of the…Treaty”.

So there it is. I say again that I strongly support the Government’s position, and reject the amendments by the House of Lords.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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In. Out. Reinstate? As the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) has pointed out, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have dropped this, and it is left to the Minister to hold Dominic Cummings’s baby, and to front this up in Parliament. I almost feel sorry for him, but then I remember that both the Treasury solicitor and the Advocate General for Scotland have already resigned over this, because it is such a terrible move by the Government.

The House of Lords, as we have heard, has rightly carved up this disastrous, petty, grubby, law-breaking, power-grabbing Tory Bill—and after the announcement made just an hour before we came in here tonight, we can add “shambolic” to that as well. We welcome the Lords’ removing a number of threats to devolution from the Bill. We already know that the Tories hate devolution, as the Prime Minister has made clear.

Clause 42 authorises the UK Government to spend on devolved areas. The UK Government intend to use clause 42 for the purpose of a shared prosperity fund. However, as we have heard, we have yet to see details of that. I personally have been asking about it since 2017, yet we have heard nothing on it. As we have heard, we have also yet to see any sign of the long-promised consultation. It has been repeated over and over that there will be a consultation, but we have not seen it. Lord Thomas confirmed in the other place:

“It is therefore plain that the purpose of Clause 42 is to cut across the powers of the devolved Governments to provide financial assistance in areas such as economic development and commercial activities”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 276.]

That takes away a power from the Scottish Parliament. Baroness Finlay said that

“Clause 42 would enable the Government to work around, rather than work with, the devolved Governments”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 280.]

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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. The hon. Gentleman is not misleading the House.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I could have come back with a different response, but I appreciate you intervening.

The hon. Gentleman tries to say that this is not a power grab—not taking back powers from the Scottish Parliament. What I am quoting is not SNP folks saying this, and not even the Scottish Government—it is other people, as we have heard from around the different parties, including his own, right across the nations of the UK, and across the world. What he says really does not hold any water.

On clause 49, the Lords amendment removes the UK’s Government’s attempt to re-reserve state aid. Lord Thomas noted that

“unashamedly, the Government want to use this legislation to alter the devolution settlements…They are trying to make state aid a reserved matter by the device of expanding or extending the competition policy reservation.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 317.]

Lord German confirmed:

“Blunting and reducing the power of the devolved authorities is deemed to be a price worth paying so that the UK Government alone can determine the route they wish to follow in directing the new regime. Yet we do not know what this regime will look like.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 319.]

Leading for the Government in the Lords, Lord Callanan confessed that

“Clause 44 reserves to the UK Parliament the exclusive ability to legislate for a UK-wide subsidy control regime.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 325.]

I can tell the House that the SNP will not accept this brazen power grab. State aid must remain a devolved competence.

Lords Amendment 11 means that devolved Governments must either give their consent to regulations within a month, or the Government could continue but would have to explain to Parliament why they were proceeding without agreement. Lord Bruce noted that it

“takes the need for consultation but adds to it by saying that there must be a requirement to secure consent.”

That is absolutely what is required. He went on to say:

“That draws on the common frameworks principles, which suggest that every sinew should be bent to secure consent.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 50.]

I stress: not consultation but consent.

On Lords amendment 57, Lord Thomas noted that

“the composition of the CMA should now reflect its different position and role under this Bill...it is critical that it commands the confidence of all the people of all the nations of the United Kingdom and therefore that it has representations from them.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 23 November 2020; Vol. 808, c. 103.]

Lords amendment 1 seeks to protect the role of the common frameworks from the Bill. When moving his amendment on Report, Lord Hope summarised:

“Not only does the Bill ignore the common frameworks process but it destroys one of the key elements in that process that brought the devolved Administrations into it in the first place: it destroys policy divergence. It destroys those Administrations’ ability through that process to serve the interests of their own people, and to innovate.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 November 2020; Vol. 807, c. 1432.]

Baroness Finlay warned that the Bill

“is not based on warm support for devolution but rather on hot resentment of the fact that the devolved Governments and legislatures can innovate at speed and take their populations with them.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 18 November 2020; Vol. 807, c. 1434.]

That is something that this Government cannot do.

Lords amendment 8 removes sweeping Henry VIII powers that allow the Minister to alter the definition of key requirements for the Bill and in each case rewrite those principles substantially in secondary legislation. In the Lords proceedings, the Government accepted the argument and removed the Henry VIII powers from clause 3, but refused to remove them from clause 6. Under clause 6, the Secretary of State can act without the need to introduce new primary legislation or to obtain the consent of the devolved Governments, taking power away from them. As I have said before, the UK Government’s offer to consult is meaningless. “Consult” is not the same as consent, which is what is required.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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The truth is that the Bill is an absolute abomination and drives a Trojan horse through the devolution settlement, but my hon. Friend is right to put his finger on that very issue. Brexit was supposed to be about Parliament taking back control. How does he reconcile the idea that Parliament is taking back control with granting these sweeping Henry VIII powers to the United Kingdom Government?

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Indeed, it is the UK Government who are seeking to take back control from Scotland, and from Wales, with the Bill, which is a clear and utter power grab.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Member for his forensic analysis of the British Government’s tactics in relation to the Bill. Essentially, the British Government are hollowing out devolution as the middle ground in the constitutional debate in Wales and Scotland. For the people of Wales and Scotland, the choice becomes independence or direct Westminster rule.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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The hon. Member is absolutely right. It is no surprise that in Scotland we have now had 15 opinion polls in a row that show that a majority of people support independence. That has not happened overnight; that has happened because they have been watching what has been happening here, and have seen the contempt with which Scotland and Wales’s Parliaments have been treated. The result is the growing demand for us to protect our Parliament in that way.

When it comes to devolution, the Tories used to wear a mask to hide their contempt, but the Bill, and recent comments from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House, have ripped it away once and for all. The Prime Minister recently told his MPs that devolution was a disaster and Tony Blair’s biggest mistake—the latest in a long line of statements that he has made to show his distaste. We all remember him saying that

“a pound spent in Croydon is far more of value to the country…than a pound spent in Strathclyde.”

The Leader of the House has called devolution a failure and is arrogantly dismissing it, while the Scottish social attitudes survey shows that only 7% of the Scottish people do not support devolution. As I have said, the Bill is an orchestrated attempt by this Tory Government to re-centralise powers.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for giving way to me for a second time. I simply cannot sit here and listen to him describe this party and this Government’s position on devolution in the way that he is. Under the Calman commission and the Scotland Act 2016, we have devolved more powers to Scotland than any Government in the history of devolution. We have created police and crime commissioners across England and Wales. We have devolved power to our greater cities and regions across England and Wales. Next year we will publish our devolution White Paper. To stand there and say that the Government do not respect or believe in devolution is simply baloney.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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This is the man who said:

“The UK Government is back in Scotland. Get used to it.”

We have seen the Tories for an awful long time. In Scotland, we have not voted Tory since 1959, I think. [Interruption.] Sorry, 1951. That is how long the Scottish people have seen what the Tories are at. We do not want a Tory Government making decisions for people in Scotland. That is why the vast majority of Scottish people voted, with a settled will, to have their own Parliament, and all polls and the social attitudes survey show that, more and more, they support not only devolution but independence.

The Government want to drive a wrecking ball through the devolved settlements. That is reflected by the fact that this Bill, as we have heard, has been ripped apart in the House of Lords. On the shared prosperity fund, it said:

“The Government should explain why such a broad power for the UK Government to spend money in devolved territories has been included in this Bill.”

It also said that the delegated powers in the Bill are “extraordinary” and “unprecedented”,

“and many of them are constitutionally unacceptable.”

Of course, we know from experience what happens when UK Ministers have control of spending. The former Tory Prime Minister John Major took much-needed cash from the highlands and redirected it to Tory marginal seats that were under pressure in the south-east of England. Decades on, nothing has changed. As we know from the pork barrel scandal whereby the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government directed funding to 61 towns that were key to the Tories gaining or retaining seats in the general election, priorities for Scotland will mean little or nothing to the Tories—probably the latter—unless they see some political advantage. Their naked intention to break devolution and break the law has been condemned across the world and even from their own Benches.

This Bill is not worthy of this or any other Parliament. Outside of Tory Government circles, it has been rightly and absolutely panned. Catherine Barnard, professor of European law at Cambridge University, said

“This is a remarkable piece of legislation and it expressly contravenes our international legal obligations to a point that the legislation itself says this is the intention”.

Imagine that. Steve Peers, a professor at the University of Essex, said:

“It is an obvious breach of international law.”

David Anderson, QC, tweeted:

“The Ministerial Code still mandates compliance with international law, despite a change to its wording, as the Court of Appeal confirmed in 2018”.

Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said:

“The rule of law is not negotiable.”

Perhaps most tellingly, George Peretz, QC, tweeted:

“But it is hard to think of a better argument for Scottish independence than a UK government that is prepared to use Westminster’s unconstrained sovereignty to override a binding treaty commitment it entered into less than 12 months ago.”

Former Tory Prime Ministers, including a Member still sitting in this House, have savaged this shoddy piece of legislation. From their own Benches, the Government have been told that

“a willingness to break international law sits ill for a country that has always prided itself on upholding the rule of law.”

They have also been told by their own Members that it is an act of bad faith and that the rule of law is not negotiable.

The Bill has also been condemned in the United States. This is a Government who are really good at negotiating no deals, and it looks like they are about to negotiate another one with the US. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, said:

“The U.K. must respect the Northern Ireland Protocol as signed with the EU to ensure the free flow of goods across the border.

“If the U.K. violates that international treaty and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress.”

We have also heard comments from the Taoiseach and others across the European Union. In America, Antony Blinken, the chief foreign policy adviser to Joe Biden, said that Joe Biden

“is committed to preserving the hard-earned peace & stability in Northern Ireland. As the UK and EU work out their relationship, any arrangements must protect the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the return of a hard border.”

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am glad that the hon. Member is so supportive of the Belfast agreement, but would he accept that the Belfast agreement was all about ensuring that Northern Ireland stays within the United Kingdom as long as the people of Northern Ireland wish that to be the case, and a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, as is in this protocol, certainly does not protect the Belfast agreement and therefore does not even meet the criteria he has set himself?

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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Indeed, it should be the right of people living in any country to determine their own future, and he is right: if the people of Northern Ireland choose a different path, they should be respected, as should be the case for those in Wales and Scotland as well.

I will start to wind up my comments now, Madam Deputy Speaker. I could go on for much more time, but I know that you have packed Benches of Members waiting to come in. I was just about to talk about Joe Biden. He said:

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit. Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

That is what he said.

This Bill continues to facilitate a race to the bottom on standards, threatens our quality food and drink, opens the door to genetically-modified beef and chlorinated chicken, among other products, and opens the door to privatisation of our water and our NHS. As I have pointed out, the House of Lords has rightly carved up this disastrous, petty, grubby, law-breaking, power-grabbing, messy Tory Bill. Its amendments must be respected and agreed. The Scottish Government have always engaged willingly to take forward the common frameworks progress this devolution-wrecking—

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
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The hon. Member says “Rubbish”, but he knows that is not the case. We understand that the Tories have a very casual relationship with the truth, but we expect them to at least have a one-night stand with it.

This Bill confirms the contempt that the Prime Minister and his Government have for devolution. People in Scotland see this clearly. As I have said, 15 polls in a row are showing that independence is the only way to save our Parliament’s powers and the voice of the Scottish people, and as the Defence Secretary confirmed earlier, we can have that discussion in the referendum that is coming.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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There is a five-minute limit on speeches.

Arcadia and Debenhams: Business Support and Job Retention

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know her constituents will be concerned about this. We are prepared to step up concentration within Jobcentre Plus. We will make sure there is support for people in finding jobs and for retaining as many jobs as possible on our high streets.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP) [V]
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I am sure the Minister agrees that there is a great deal of public affection for the Arcadia brands and in particular for Debenhams. While we must hope that redundancies can be avoided wherever possible, this is a sad day for our embattled high streets. All our thoughts are with the thousands of workers, including those in my constituency, many of whom have given years, or even decades, of service in retail, who will be devastated by this news. They must be given all the help they can get to ensure that all their pension rights are retained. Will the Minister ensure that Sir Philip Green’s obligations to pensions are met, and will his Department work with trade unions to make sure that the workers are treated fairly and adequately supported through the process?

Like others, many of the workers will face difficulty in putting food on the table and finding a new job or retraining in a crowded market. They will need the safety net of universal credit to make ends meet. I urge the Minister to use his best efforts and to work with colleagues to retain the £20 a week uplift and to scrap the planned benefit cap that will cost an average of £250 a month. Universal credit is already not enough; taking away the uplift is taking food from people’s tables.

We need to remember that many small businesses in local supply chains will be affected by the news. Some of them will not survive without support, while the owners of others will be joining the 3 million people who have been excluded from support. The Government cannot continue to ignore them. I urge the Minister again to finally get support to this group, who are becoming increasingly desperate.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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The existing commitments made to the Pensions Regulator do indeed need to be kept—it is important to say that.

The hon. Gentleman talks about support for employees. If people need financial support quickly, they may be able to claim universal credit and/or employment and support allowance. Our plan for jobs includes a series of measures to protect, support and create jobs, because it is important to get the people affected back into work as soon as possible. We have our £238 million job entry targeted support programme to support that.

The hon. Gentleman also talks about the possibility of suppliers losing out. Administrators will take over the company and seek to establish the position regarding suppliers. The trade credit reinsurance scheme is designed to support businesses coping with the economic impacts of covid-19 and to ensure that there is adequate confidence and credit in supply chains.

Live Events and Weddings: Covid-19 Support

Drew Hendry Excerpts
Monday 9th November 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I pass on my congratulations to the petitioners, and double congratulations to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), on securing the debate and on his recent nuptials.

We have heard from Members around the Chamber with some similar issues. The hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) talked about the plight of the excluded, which is something I want to return to shortly, and about a rich musical and artistic heritage—something we have in common across many constituencies, not least my own. The hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) talked about the incompatibility of tackling covid with the operation of the venues, and the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) talked correctly about the loss of character that went with the loss of some of the businesses.

We also heard from the right hon. Member for Tatton (Esther McVey)—and, again, my congratulations on her recent wedding—and others, such as the right hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) who talked about the enormous effort made to keep staff on when they did not qualify for support. The hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) talked about the supply chain impact, and the direct impact on the local economy. That, again, is something my constituency has in common with hers. The hon. Members for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), for Eddisbury (Edward Timpson) and for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) talked about the need for more business support and targeted support, and the difficulties for businesses getting access to that support. There were many common themes for us to talk about today.

It is indeed a tough time for the wedding industry and industries in the night-time economy. There are arguments for exceptions, which we have heard, but most people understand that the restriction measures are sensible and necessary. The majority of people understand the need for them. That does not make it any easier for couples who have spent months, or even years, often, planning their perfect day. They have been dealt a really tough blow by covid-19 and by the uncertainty that has meant taking the heart-wrenching decision either to cancel or to go ahead with their marriages without many of their loved ones being present to share the day. A wedding is an important milestone in people’s lives, and it is with that in mind that the Scottish Government are trying to strike the right balance between a policy that empathises, and putting the safety of communities first. In Scotland, the current rules are that in levels 1, 2 or 3 no more than 20 people should attend, and in level 4 it should be no more than 15. If we get to level 0—and I hope that some regions will get to level 0 in future—a more recognisable number of 50 will be allowed in the venue. However, we know that mixing at weddings, as at any large-scale party, creates a risk of further transmission of the disease, and it must be carefully monitored to make sure that that does not happen.

The impact is not just emotional, but financial, as we have heard. In Scotland the average cost of a wedding is £20,000 and therefore the knock-on impact on suppliers serving the industry is dramatic and is heightened by the fact that Scotland is a popular wedding destination, with an average of 29,000 wedding ceremonies a year since 2001 and more than 130,000 couples who live elsewhere having chosen Scotland as the destination for their wedding. We are grateful to them for sharing it with us. Behind those numbers are tens of thousands of wedding supply businesses that are now struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic. The hospitality and wedding venue sector is worth £963 million for freelance or self-employed photographers, DJs, musicians, wedding planners and suppliers of wedding-themed products. That is a big, big deal. Many of those freelancers are self-employed people and are part of the 3 million who have been excluded from support in spite of countless calls from me, my colleagues in the Scottish National party and colleagues across the Chamber asking for them to be remembered by the Chancellor, and asking him to act. Unfortunately, they continue to be ignored.

The Minister must, today, answer and say what he is going to do about it. All businesses in the sector deserve to be allowed to keep afloat during the crisis, so that completely viable businesses that would in normal times be thriving can move on and be there for us to support the economy once we emerge from the emergency. The coming months are critical, so I once again ask the Minister to urge the Chancellor to give these businesses a fighting chance. Topping up bounce back loans is not the answer; leading companies into crippling toxic debt will not get them out of this. The Government should now convert those loans into grants for those businesses.

As I said, there is widespread recognition that restrictions are required to help fight this pernicious virus, but we need to ensure that these businesses and jobs are still there when we emerge. Wedding venues, nightclubs and music venues have seen their businesses decimated. In Scotland, despite having one hand tied behind our backs, we have gone beyond the Barnett consequentials: the Scottish Government have spent nearly £4 billion on tackling covid-19, including £2.3 billion on business support, with almost £900 million of non-domestic rate relief; a £1.3 billion business grant scheme; a £30 million creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises hardship fund; and a £185 million package of targeted support for small and medium-sized enterprises and the self-employed, which dominate the night-time business sector.

The UK Government must now live up to the £350 billion promise. Loans are not working for firms that are struggling, especially this winter. They should ramp up support for businesses in England, which is the right thing to do, and allow us to use the Barnett consequentials to support businesses in Scotland. Once again, the Chancellor must act to make things right for the excluded, who have been battered, bruised and brushed off. They are even worried that the £20 a week universal credit uplift will be removed shortly, so we need a guarantee on that too.

There should be provision for furlough beyond March in this sector. It is clear that the big talk of “whatever it takes” from the Chancellor is not being delivered; it is not what people are seeing. Financial powers should be devolved. Simple changes to borrowing rules should be made, to allow the Scottish Government to step in where the UK Government are not. We have been begging for this for months and months. The failure of the Tory UK Government to listen to the needs of the Scottish people is not new, but boy is it being recognised in Scotland just now, amplified throughout the Brexit debacle and now this crisis. It is no wonder that polls now show that people in Scotland want a new referendum, with a majority of people in 11 consecutive polls now saying that independence is the way for us to make the right choices for our future.