This week in Parliament we debated the Queen’s Speech, the government’s programme for the next two years.
On Wednesday the government failed to support Labour’s amendment to end the freeze on public sector pay. Nurses, teachers and social care workers have spent too long without a pay rise, while the cost of living has gone up.
On Thursday, the Labour Party put down an amendment (Amendment L) which included the following:
- regretting that the Queen’s Speech does not include a promised commitment to a cap on energy prices – and asking them to bring this cap in as soon as possible;
- regretting that the Queen’s Speech does not end austerity or reverse falling living standards – and asking the government to bring in an industrial strategy to invest in infrastructure across every nation and region of the UK;
- pointing out that, contrary to what the government says, no deal on Brexit is the very worst sort of deal possible – and calling on them to deliver a deal which, as the government has promised to do, delivers the exact same benefits the UK currently has as a member of the Single Market and the Customs Union, and prioritises jobs and trade;
- also asking that the deal ensures no weakening of cooperation in security and policing;
- calling on the government to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU;
- asking that the richest individuals and large corporations contribute more in tax, clamp down on tax avoidance and evasion and invest the increased funding in public services to expand childcare, scrap student tuition fees and restore the Education Maintenance Allowance and nurses’ bursaries; and
- calling on the government to end the public sector pay cap and increase the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020.
This amendment covered everything, and more, of another amendment (Amendment G), on which I therefore abstained.
I voted for Amendment L but, sadly, it was narrowly defeated. In order to defeat the Tory government we still need moderate Tories to back up their fine words with actions.
In short, we demanded what the people who voted Labour in the General Election expect of us. This Tory government is letting down our NHS, our schools, our young people and our environment. This is not good enough.
Some people have asked me to clarify my position on the UK’s relationship with the EU.
I am absolutely clear now, as I was last year when I campaigned for it, that the best possible relationship for the UK to have with the EU is to remain a full member of the EU.
This is because full membership of the EU is best for jobs, for workers’ rights, for environmental protection, for consumer protection, for security, for collaboration between our universities, for the future of our young people and for the UK’s position in the world.
That is why, in March, I voted on behalf of the people of Bristol West against the government triggering Article 50 to start the process of leaving the EU.
I was one of the signatories last week to an open letter from Labour MPs asking for membership of the Single European Market to remain on the table. I also want the government to keep the option of remaining in the Customs Union on the negotiating table as well.
It is the Tory government that has ruled these out.
This referendum result is a mess of the Tory government’s making and it should be for them to clear it up – I place the responsibility for that on them. Our job as the Opposition is to hold them to account. Which we are doing.
If, as looks very likely, the government is not able to fulfil their commitment to negotiating ‘the exact same benefits’ as being members of the Single Market and the Customs Union, we will vote against the deal.
So, at every opportunity in the legal process, I have and will continue to vote against the UK leaving the EU because it is my firm belief that the best interests of the people and organisations of Bristol West, and of the UK, are best served by remaining within the EU. If that full option is not available, I will, when there is a clear legal opportunity, vote to keep us within the Single Market and the Customs Union.
I want the government to keep the Single Market and the Customs Union on the negotiating table – so does Labour’s Brexit spokesperson, as I have shown above. It is the government who is ruling them out – and it is the government who is to blame for this.
I will continue to hold regular meetings about the UK’s relationship with the EU – open to anyone who lives in Bristol West.
If anyone would like a conversation with me about my position, please email me.
My commitment to representing the people of Bristol West remains the same – I will do everything I can to stop the UK from leaving the EU.