A week in review (29th October - 1st November)
The parliamentary review of the week
Monday 29th October:
The principal topic of discussion this week was, as expected, the much anticipated Autumn Budget – the final one before Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. To begin Monday, however, a session of oral questions to the Home Office took place. The first question to feature in this session was that posed by Virendra Sharma, asking if Sajid Javid will “extend Government support for English for Speakers of Other Languages classes to include newly arrived asylum seekers.” To this, Sajid answered that it is only to those recognised as refugees that this service can be delivered.
Upon being asked about the steps taken by the government to tackle modern slavery, parliamentary under-secretary Victoria Atkins responded that the Conservative government has strengthened legislation in this area and prompted businesses to check their supply lines for this “abhorrent crime.” SNP members of the House then asked what assessment has been made on the impact that ceasing freedom of movement will have on Scotland. To address this, Caroline Nokes, the minister for immigration, cited the Independent Migration Advisory Committee: “In a recent report, the Independent Migration Advisory Committee concluded that the economic impacts of EU migration had been “relatively small”, with “limited regional variation”
- Philip Hammond announces Autumn Budget
- Corbyn and May clash over claims of "end of austerity" and over the Budget
- Strong concerns raised over Britain's friendship with Saudi Arabia
- Delay in implementation of FOBT causes anger
Then came the Budget announcement by Philip Hammond. He sought to remind the House of Conservative achievements since 2010, adding that the austerity measures implemented since that period were a matter of necessity, and not of ideology. He then reassured the House that, because of the success of the Conservative government’s fiscal approach, austerity will now come to an end. The Budget itself contained many changes that will reduce the amount of tax paid for tens of millions of working people, and detailed other alterations to the current tax system. A closer look at what happened in this session can be found on our website.
He then reassured the House that, because of the success of the Conservative government’s fiscal approach, austerity will now come to an end."
Tuesday 30th October:
Aside from a continuation of the Budget debate later in the day, the main event in the House of Commons today was oral questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Standing out this time were two main questions, the first being on sexual violence throughout the world. Dr Caroline Johnson asked what steps are being taken to combat this issue. Minister of state Harriet Baldwin answered: “The UK Government continue to lead global efforts to end the horror of sexual violence in conflict. We have developed tools to improve the chances of justice for survivors and in June secured sanctions against seven Burmese military officials. We will host an international conference in 2019 to galvanise the world into further action.”
Jeremy Hunt was then probed on the status of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Gill Furniss firstly asked Jeremy to comment on recent suggestions that the British intelligence services had prior knowledge of Jamal Khashoggi’s planned abduction. His response to this was that he cannot comment on matters relating to intelligence, but that – on his own behalf – he had no knowledge of this kind. In citing an instance where 17 Filipino women were held in custody for attending a Halloween party, Peter Grant suggested that the government ought to remove Saudi Arabia’s status as an esteemed friend of the UK. Jeremy emphasised that it’s only by having a relationship with the Saudi government that issues like this can be raised with them.
Wednesday 31st October:
As expected, Prime Minister’s Questions this week focused on the Budget statement. The principal contention from Corbyn here was that the alleged “end of austerity” was not in fact so. Rather, Corbyn claimed, it would mean that “councils, schools, police, prisons, public sector workers and those reliant on social workers will face years of austerity.” Theresa May fought back by claiming that Corbyn’s claims did not make sufficient recognition of the extent to which the Conservative government has funded public services, not least in terms of the NHS.
It was also made clear that this would be the last session of Prime Minster’s Questions before Armistice Day, and for this reason a considerable degree of tribute was paid to the occasion. Recognition was also made of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, at which the entire House voiced their disgust. The summary of this event can be viewed on our website.
To see the questions that followed in this session, see our live Twitter thread.
Thursday 1st November:
To end the parliamentary week, three sessions of note took place in the Commons. First of all came a series of questions on digital, culture, media and sport. David Crausby, for instance, asked Jeremy Wright to update the House on what is being to support grassroots football. Jeremy attempted to assure Crausby that £100 million from the government, and a further £100 million from the Premier League, will go toward funding this cause. Crausby, however, believes that this is not enough and asked the secretary of state to push for yet more funding from professional football.
A couple of Conservative MPs then asked Margot James, minister of state, to give an assessment of the contribution that the digital sector has made to the UK economy. She responded: “The UK’s digital sector is a global powerhouse, and the most recent official statistics show that the sector has contributed over £116 billion to the UK economy and is growing faster than the average for the rest of the economy by two and a half times. From 2015 to 2016, the digital sector’s contribution increased by 5.8%”
Councils, schools, police, prisons, public sector workers and those reliant on social workers will face years of austerity." - Jeremy Corbyn
The second major event of the day was oral questions to the Attorney General. Three SNP MPs asked the Attorney-General, Geoffrey Cox, “whether he has provided the Prime Minister with legal advice on the rights of EU citizens after the UK has left the EU.” This, Geoffrey said, he could not divulge as per the Law Officers convention. He nonetheless attempted to assuage such concerns by adding that “the prime minister has indeed guaranteed the rights of those living here who are citizens of the EU. Those guarantees will be fair, generous and comprehensive.”
James Cleverly addressed the Solicitor-General, Robert Buckland, by asking what assessment has been made on the effectiveness of the CPS in prosecuting crimes related to the exploitation of vulnerable people. Robert stated that, in terms of trafficking and slavery, prosecution rates are rising year on year, with 340 prosecutions last year.
George Freeman then asked what recent discussions Geoffrey Cox has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding the implementation of the CPS 2020 strategy. While congratulating the new Director of Public Prosecutions, he reassured the House that the objectives of the CPS strategy are reviewed in such meetings, and that recent appraisals show good progress.
Finally, Tom Watson raised an Urgent Question relating to the implementation of the government’s new approach to fixed odds betting terminals. Jeremy Wright said the slight delay in implementation is as a result of yet unagreed transitional arrangements, such as those of employment and substitute public funding. Tom seemed unhappy with this response, and suggested – as in fact later happened – that Tracey Crouch should resign as a result of her broken promise on this matter.