A Week in Parliament: The Not Brexit Insights

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the UK political system had effectively ground to a halt in recent weeks; and, mired in the political machinations surrounding the current Brexit impasse we find ourselves in, the bandwidth for debate on domestic issues has certainly reduced. However, beyond the meaningful vote and the slim survival of a no confidence motion, this week saw some significant developments across Government, opposition and the devolved nations. Here’s a roundup of what you may have missed while all the Brexit drama was unfolding.

Government bolsters its green credentials

Besides a barnstorming speech in defence of the Government (perceived by some as a thinly veiled leadership pitch), this week saw Michael Gove and his ever-active Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs publish its Clean Air Strategy for 2019. Bad news for owners of wood-burners and diesel-fanatics; and good news for those of us who enjoy oxygen, the plan has been welcomed by environmental groups. However, it has received criticism over the ‘relaxed’ deadlines, with 2040 planned for the phase out of the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans.

Labour drives plans for domestic agenda

A report commissioned by Labour and authored by Professor of Accounting, Prem Sikka, into the UK’s regulatory system was published earlier this week, setting out a series of reforms to what it deems a “failed corporate culture” in the UK. It proposes an overarching regulator, answerable to Parliament and ‘societal stakeholders’, that would oversee the work of individual regulators across different industries. Though Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell has spent recent months courting the corporate sector, the sweeping reforms proposed may cause concern among some of his new acquaintances. It remains to be seen to what extent Labour will adopt these as official party policy.

SNP struggles to maintain its characteristic unity

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has become further embroiled in the investigation into former First Minister, Alex Salmond over allegations of sexual harassment. This week she referred herself to two independent advisors on the ministerial code. Furthermore, MSPs have now launched a special inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the investigation. The situation has become politically precarious for Sturgeon and the SNP, with rifts emerging in the usually unified Party.

Though there has been significant speculation on when Sturgeon will seek to call a second independence referendum, she remains coy about potential timings. The dispute with Salmond and feelings among the Party membership that Sturgeon may not be as committed to the prospect of a referendum in the near future could serve to further delay any potential announcements. However, it has been reported that plans will emerge “in the coming weeks”.

Back pain: a thing of the past for posties and activists?

Amidst the drama of the no confidence vote on Wednesday, Conservative MP Vicky Ford, introduced a Bill to clamp down on letterboxes being positioned at the bottom of front doors on new buildings. Though it may not capture the attention of the wider public; postmen and women, and political activists, will welcome the development. It took political Twitter by storm, providing a brief respite from the terrifying prospect of a general election.

 

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Euan Ryan

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