One of the drawbacks of me spending so many days away in London is that I am often away from home on birthdays/ anniversaries and the like. Well, at least this year I would be at home for Valentines Day. I explained the good news to Mrs N we could do a nice trip to the Lake District. To be more precise the Copeland constituency on the Cumbrian coast where there just happens to be a by-election taking place a week on Thursday!
I see our prisons are in the news again. I have long been a supporter of the ‘Prison Works’ policy of Michael Howard fame. The reality is that most crimes are committed by a small minority of the population. It logically follows that if you were to remove the whole of what might be called the criminal fraternity then crime would be drastically reduced. There is one way I would advocate reducing the prison population and that is by returning to their own Country the thousands of foreign prisoners in our jails. Jails are obviously costly to run and that we should as a nation be paying millions to lock up individuals who are not even British nationals is something which I believe much further progress could be made on.
As regulars readers will know I always caution against putting too much store by any single poll. What matters is the long term trend. It is also important to ensure any comparisons are done so as to ensure apples are being compared to apples and not pears!
So, what do we know from the recent polls? Clearly it seems the Conservatives appear to be a few points ahead. The increase in their rating has come from UKIP who have slipped back since the referendum. Equally, Labour seem to have slipped back a little since the referendum and the Liberal Democrats have been the main beneficiaries. Of course, on reality the churn will be far more complex, some Conservative supporters will have switched to Liberal Democrat, some Liberal Democrats to Labour and so on but overall that seems to be the position. As ever remember all polls are a snapshot of opinion not a prediction!
I know from the many letters I have had that the government’s decision to end the enquiries of the costly Iraq Historical Allegations Team will be widely welcomed. Our Armed Forces deserve our support and whilst of course individual allegations of misconduct will and indeed always have been investigated it is good that what has been described as a ‘witch hunt’ is now to be concluded.
Yesterday I had a typically varied day. With Parliament have risen for a half term recess I was back in the constituency. In addition to the usual casework emails and the like I gave an interview to someone who is undertaking the daunting task of trying to interview all MP’s. Then I attended a funeral of a friend who passed away at the end of January. Then, I finished the day by speaking at a dinner at the Asia Lounge marking Kashmir Martyrs Day.
The first question yesterday at Questions to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was about the future of Channel 4. Now I do not doubt that they broadcast some interesting programmes and programmes which some people enjoy watching but my concern is with their ownership. Channel 4 is a relic of a bygone era it is a nationalised company. It is owned by the government. The same government of course which also owns the BBC the biggest of all broadcasters with a guaranteed source of income, still enforceable by the criminal law. The question I posed was that if it was a private company which owned a broadcaster which was the size of the BBC and had the reach and dominance of the BBC and that private company wanted to takeover another broadcaster the size of Channel 4 what would the view of the Competitions and Markets Authority be? I think we all know it would not be allowed and yet the government is clinging on to ownership of both BBC and Channel 4.
We had no less than 17 votes in the House of Commons yesterday. Whilst I do not keep records I can not recall ever having had that many votes in a single day before. 7 of the votes were deferred divisions included 6 on Statutory Instruments which had been debated in Committee and one was on the Canada EU Trade agreement. the other ten were all votes on the Brexit Bill. The government defeated all the amendments which were put forward by the opponents to the Bill. Considering the government only has a majority of 12 the smallest majority last night was 39. On every single vote last night the government secured a vote higher than 325 ( ie half the total size of the House of Commons which is 650). On the crucial final vote on the Third Reading the majority was 372. The Bill now passes to the House of Lords. I hope they reflect on the fact that we have now had a referendum where a majority of voters voted to leave the EU by a margin of over one million votes and now after five long days of debate and dozens of votes the House of commons has approved the Bill to give Notice of our intention to leave the EU. It would be bizarre in the extreme if the House of Lords now tried to stand in the way of the will of the people and the will of the elected House of Commons.
Today sees the third and final day of the three days of debate set aside for the remaining stages of the Bill to trigger Article 50 of the treaty on the European Union. SO far the government has managed to defeat all the amendments which have been proposed to a vote and today sees further crucial votes. After the debate in Committee of the Whole House has concluded the Bill will have a final debate which is known as the Third Reading and then the Bill will pass to the House of Lords for consideration. Before the Commons starts on the Brexit Bill debate there will be the weekly session of questions to the Prime Minister.