Following the Prime Minister’s first attendance at the European Council last week I anticipate there will be a statement from the Prime Minister in the House today. The main story the media have reported seems to have been that the PM told the other EU leaders that whilst the UK remained a member of the EU she expected that we would play a full part in the EU. Quite right too. A majority of UK voters may have voted to leave but whilst ever we continue to pay into the EU budget we have every right to continue to exercise the rights that all the others member have.
I am delighted that after years of campaigning on the menace of nuisance calls the government are today announcing another measure to clampdown on the firms who are responsible.
Company directors and firms could face fines of up to £1 million under new Government plans aimed at tackling the scourge of nuisance calls.
From Spring 2017, directors can each be fined up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office, if they are found to be in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Up to now only businesses have been liable for fines, many of which try to escape paying nuisance call penalties by going into liquidation only to open up again under a different name. Now in a move to tackle this issue, Government is providing the ICO with powers to hold company directors personally responsible.
There have been many aspects of our history that we look back on and ask ‘why did we do that?’ The criminalising of men for what they did in private is surely one of those things. The offences were removed from the statute book decades ago and those affected can apply for the cautions or convictions to be removed from their record.
Yesterday, a Scottish Nationalist MP brought forward a Bill which if passed would result in all those convicted of such offences being pardoned. It was an extensive and interesting debate. Those in favour of the Bill put their case eloquently and with great passion and at times great humour. There was little time for alternative views to be put. I take the view that we should not try and re-write history and as I pointed out in the debate not everyone who was affected wants a pardon. They do not believe they did anything wrong in the first place.
The debate was still continuing when time ran out and it stands little chance of becoming law. The government intend to introduce a clause to the Policing and Crime Bill which will pardon all those who were cautioned or convicted and who have now died. The living can apply for their record to be expunged under the existing law and where they do so successfully they will also be pardoned.
Both the Conservatives and Labour gained a new MP in yesterday’s two by-elections. Neither was a surprise. In Batley and Spen no one expected anything other than a Labour win given that only independent and fringe candidates were opposing the Labour Candidate following the tragic murder of Jo Cox. In Witney, the Conservatives held on to the seat previously held by David Cameron. The Liberal democrats apparently through everything at the seat and although they came second instead of third relegating Labour they can not put that amount of effort and resource into every seat at a general election
Business in the Commons today starts with Questions to the new Department on Exiting the European Union. This is then scheduled to be followed by a Question to discover the business of the House for next week.
The main motion on the BHS is
That this House notes the recent joint Report by the Business, Innovation and Skills and the Work and Pensions Committees on BHS; endorses that Report’s criticisms of the governance of the company and of the holding company, Taveta Investments Limited; believes that the sale of the company to Retail Acquisitions Limited for £1 was clearly not in the interests of British Home Stores’ employees and pensioners; notes the failure of Sir Philip Green over many years to resolve the deficit in the BHS pension fund; and calls on him to fulfil his promise to do so forthwith.
The second debate is on Industrial Strategy and we scheduled both these debates from the Backbench Business debate.
One of my oft repeated mantras is ‘remember there is always someone worse off than you’. Whether that be financially or in terms of their health or any other measure. People suffering from ill health are a particularly sobering reminder of this truth. it is why I try as much as I can not to make an issue about when I am not feeling 100% I always tell myself I should be grateful as there are always people worse off. This was particularly true when my brother was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo a long operation and months of treatment. Today I attended a Parliamentary Reception organised by the Motor Neurone Disease. It is a terrible disease which progressively takes hold and robs a person of their independence.
Other activities included me chairing the morning debates in Westminster Hall on Concentrix and their handling of tax credit claims and a debate on cancer outcomes. I then asked a follow up question about the situation in Kashmir during Foreign Office questions. I also attended the Backbench Business Committee and a briefing about Health and Social Care in Greater Manchester. We had our first vote since the conference recess on a SNP amendment to the BBC Charter motion. Finally, at the end of the day I presented a petition relating to the equalisation of the state pension age.
In the Budget this year the Chancellor announced plans to help people to save. Two new savings accounts would be introduced. Firstly. a new Lifetime ISA (LISA), which can be opened by people aged between 18 and 40 from April next year. Individuals will be able to save up to £4,000 each year and receive a government bonus of 25%. The money could be used to buy a first home worth up to £450,000 or withdrawn after age 60. Funds withdrawn for other purposes would attract a 5% charge and lose the government bonus.
Secondly, anew Help-to-Save account for people in receipt of Universal Credit with minimum weekly household earnings equivalent to 16 hours at the National Living Wage, or those in receipt of Working Tax Credit. This would work by providing a government bonus on up to £50 of monthly savings. The bonus would be paid after two years, with an option to save for a further two years. There would be no restrictions on how the funds were used.
This Bill had its Second reading in the Commons yesterday and was passed without any opposition.
The main business in the Commons today is a debate on the proposed new Charter for the BBC.