We have the Liberal Democrats arguing for yet another referendum on the European Union and now we have the Scottish National Party pushing yet again for another referendum on independence for Scotland. Less than three years ago they held a referendum on exactly that proposition and we were told it would settle the issue for a generation. Constantly pushing for independence for Scotland is of course the whole reason for the existence of the Scottish National Party. I think the Prime Minister was quite right yesterday to make it clear that until we have left the European Union there will be no second referendum.
The Chancellor changed course on the plan announced in the budget to increase Class 4 National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed. The manifesto did not differentiate between the different classes of contribution. The fact that the Act of Parliament that was passed in order to apparently enshrine this manifesto commitment into law only referred to Class 1 contributions does not change the impression self-employed people quite rightly had in my view that an increase would break the clear manifesto pledge. It is very encouraging the Chancellor as so quickly recognised this and reversed the plan. There is a long-term problem about the tax base but the self employed do take risks and have a different level of protection to those who are employed and this has quite rightly been reflected in lower contributions. It should also be remembered that Class 2 National Insurance Contributions which are paid at a fixed rate are still being abolished so rather than being faced with an increase the self employed will see their contributions reduced thanks to the Conservatives. They will also pay less income tax as the personal allowance is increased.
The Prime Minister made a statement to Parliament yesterday on the European Council she attended last week. I was able to ask a question and I asked about free access to the European Single Market. I pointed out that we do not have to pay to sell our goods and services to any other country around the World.
In the morning I chaired the first session of the Committee Stage of the Bus Services Bill. In the afternoon I attended the Backbench Business Committee where we heard bids for debates on the operation of the Child Maintenance Service, the future of Local and Regional news provision and the position of the claim for compensation from the German government for the victims of the Thalidomide drug.
The budget debate was completed and the government will now bring forward a Finance Bill to implement the various measures announced in the Budget.
Today after questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and then the Prime Minister the main business is consideration of amendments made by the House of Lords to the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill and the remaining stages of the National Citizens Service Bill
Yesterday the Commons reversed the amendments inserted into the Brexit Bill relating to the rights of European Union citizens and having a ‘meaningful vote’ before any final deal is concluded by majorities of 48 and 45 respectively. Larger than when these matters where considered the first time around and much larger than the government’s notional majority. The Bill was then taken straight back to the Lords where by very large majorities they failed to impose any new amendments to the Bill and so the Bill was passed by the House of Lords in exactly the same form as it was passed by the Commons which is what is required before a Bill can go for Royal Assent. Royal Assent is likely to be given very shortly possibly as early as today. This will then clear the way for the Prime Minister to give the two year notice to the European Union under Article 50 of decision to leave before her self imposed deadline of 31st March. We are on track.
Today we reach the final stages of the legislative process on the crucial bill required for the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 and give the European Union two years notice of the fact that we will be leaving. The two amendments which have been made to the Bill by the House of Lords are scheduled to be voted on by the Commons and if they are overturned then the Bill goes back to the Lords to see if they will accept it as we originally sent it. This is often referred to as ‘ping-pong’ as Bills can pass backwards and forwards until one House gives way. As the democratically elected House – and in this case with the backing of the referendum result too – I doubt the Commons, in reality the government, will back down. It will be an interesting and momentous week.
Officially the main business in the Commons today is the third day of debate and the budget but I rather suspect the votes on the Brexit bill will receive somewhat more coverage.
Bury Council are starting the development of a new local planning plan for the Borough? Once it is finished it will take the place of the existing Unitary Development Plan. The plan will form the basis for making future decisions on planning applications so it is very important it reflects your views.
The Council say ‘The Local Plan will form part of Bury’s wider Development Plan alongside the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) and the Greater Manchester Joint Minerals and Waste Plans.’
It is very important therefore that as many Bury residents as possible give their views before the consultation period ends at 5pm on Monday 17th April. If you would like to comment on the proposed plan please send your comments to the Council by email to:
Alternatively, comments can be sent by post to:
Strategic Planning and Economic Development,
3 Knowsley Place,
Many thanks to all those who took time out yesterday to chat with me during my walkabout on the Chesham estate. It is always valuable to hear from residents and see their problems at first hand. Following the walkabout and surgery I held a thank you event for local charities with a presentation from The Big Lottery.