New Parliament – New Era
Returning to Westminster since the election has been a strange experience. In the three previous parliaments that I have served, the legislature has been finely balanced. This parliament, one long standing Labour MP told me, feels like when he first got elected in 2001 following Blair’s second landslide victory. In other words, the government is all powerful over the House of Commons. Another member reminded me that it took 8 years before Blair lost a vote. During the last two parliaments it was quite an achievement for the government to win any votes – with every division a point of high drama.
To put things simply, Boris Johnson and the Tories know that they can do whatever they want for the next four years. As a taste of what’s to come look no further than the actions of the British Government in passing its Withdrawal Agreement Bill last week.
The Bill was amended to remove safeguards for the children of refugees who have legally settled. The so-called Dubs proposals, named after Lord Dubs who himself fled Nazi persecution in Czechoslovakia, would mean that unaccompanied children would be able to re-join their families in the UK. Some 200 children over the years have benefited from this European policy and it was an act of great spite by the British Government to turn its back on its provisions.
In the Bill the British Government also removed a Clause which mandated it to continue the Erasmus scheme post Brexit, a collaboration which has been of huge benefit to Welsh students and Welsh Higher Education institutions. It would be a huge mistake following the completion of EU Withdrawal to limit the life chances of our younger people as well as cutting a route to lucrative research funds for our Universities.
The British Government also defeated proposals to ensure that the final trade relationship following the second phase of Brexit be subject to parliamentary approval. The Tory voting fodder effectively turned the House of Commons into a talking shop over the major issue that will dominate the politics of the current parliament. Needless to say, our national parliament in Wales will have no say whatsoever over the future relationship with the European Union despite the huge ramifications for the Welsh economy.
After three Westminster elections in four years, parliamentarians and the public will be relieved that it is highly unlikely that there will be a general election for four years. There is little doubt that we are in a new era. I look forward to doing what I can over the next parliament to protect and further the interests of Carmarthenshire and Wales.