Benefit Sanctions

The issue of welfare benefits sanctions returns to the front today. for the Second time this week the Scottish National Party are setting the Agenda. By coincidence and some good fortune in the ballot in the week that it was their turn to choose the Opposition day debates on Wednesday today the youngest member of the House Scottish National MP Mhairi Black is bringing forward a Bill to change the law relating to the sanctions applied to those who fail to comply with their claimant commitments when they are looking for work.

There is already a huge amount of guidance given to those who have to decide whether someone has a genuine reason for non-compliance. These decision makers have to consider every case on its merits and then within the guidance they use their common sense and discretion. In my view the Bill would make the system so complicated and drawn out that the system would become almost worthless as a means of ensuring compliance with the rules and I will be opposing it.

Annual Fisheries Debate

Business in the Commons starts with questions to the new Department for Exiting the European Union – Brexit Questions. I have been luck in the ballot and drawn a slot to ask a topical question. This is where there is no printed question on the order paper but I can ask a question on anything relevant to the work of the department. Topical questions are only scheduled for 15 minutes at the end of the session. There will then be the announcement of the Business for the next couple of weeks and any urgent business. The main business in the main chamber are two debates scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee. One on transgender rights and the second a debate on the UK fishing industry. In the past the government always held an annual debate on fishing but the time allocated for these types of debate was given over to the Backbench Business Committee so it is up to the Committee to decide whether to hold these general debates.

Iraq Blair and Chilcot

The Scottish National Party have their turn to choose what to debate today and in a move no doubt specifically designed to cause maximum discomfort to Labour who they still regard as their principal opponent North of the border they have tabled a motion based around the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry and the claims the Tony Blair misled Parliament. Personally, I think for most people this issue has long since passed its political ‘sell-by’ date.

Before the main business there will be questions to the Secretary of State for Wales followed by the weekly session of questions to the Prime Minister.

Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill

I should have included the link to the Digital Economy Bill yesterday so here it is:

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/digitaleconomy.html

The brief summary of the Bill is:

A Bill To make provision about electronic communications infrastructure and services; to provide for restricting access to online pornography; to make provision about protection of intellectual property in connection with electronic communications; to make provision about data-sharing; to make provision about functions of OFCOM in relation to the BBC; to provide for determination by the BBC of age-related TV licence fee concessions; to make provision about the regulation of direct marketing; to make other provision about OFCOM and its functions; and for connected purposes.

The Bill passed through its final stages in the House of Commons yesterday and now passes to the House of Lords for consideration.

Today after questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the main Bill to be considered is one which I have seen described as a micro-measure – the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill.  The Bill will raise the limit on government financial assistance that can be provided to CDC Group plc (formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation) (the “CDC”) and its associated companies by amending Section 15 of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 (the “1999 Act”). The new limit will be £6,000 million. The Bill will also introduce a power to allow the Secretary of State to further increase the financial limit up to £12,000 million by regulations.

Digital Economy Bill Remaining Stages

After Communities and Local Government questions the main business in the Commons today is the remaining stages of the Digital Economy Bill. This Bill has already been considered at Second Reading and in Committee. Today the Bill is considered again and it is at this stage that amendments can be tabled to the detail of the Bill. There will then be the final stage which is the Third Reading. As always on a Monday there is the possibility that urgent business may also be considered.

Baerlocher UK

I wonder how many people realise that a vital ingredient in the pvc windows most people have in their homes is made right here on the outskirts of Bury.  I was pleased to be able to visit Baerlocher UK this week and my thanks to the directors and all the staff for their hospitality during the visit. Basically what Baerlocher do is produce one of the ingredients of pvc which helps for example to keep it white ( if that is its colour!) and give it other physical properties.

You can find more about Baerlocher at their website here http://www.baerlocher.com/baerlocher-uk/

Voice Box at Old Hall Primary School


I was delighted to be able to start yesterday by visiting Old Hall Primary School in Brandlesholme to take part in the final of their Voice Box competition. This is a annual national joke competition designed to raise awareness of the importance of communication in a light hearted way, it is a joint initiative of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and The Communication Trust. Each pupil had entered a joke and the best three or four from each class were put through to the final. All the teachers entered into the spirit by going on stage and telling their own joke. I then said a few words and had my own attempt at telling a joke. The highlight of the final was when each pupil whose joke had made it through to the final came up and read out their own joke. I then announced Kaycie-Leigh Olive a budding comedienne as the overall winner.