17th of October Science and Technology Select Committee Highlights

Today I attended the Science and Technology committee, where we interviewed Government Science advisers. We also interviewed Jo Johnson MP with regards to his role as Minister for Science. Highlights of what I said are available below:

 

Darren votes against Conservative control of all Select Committees

Despite not gaining a Parliamentary majority at the last election, the Conservative Party have taken majority control of all Select Committees through a House of Commons motion which only passed due to DUP votes. Ordinarily, Select Committee make up reflects that of the house.

Darren voted against this motion.

Darren raises post-Brexit education in Parliament

Brexit could have a devastating effect on public services, because they are funded by taxes and Brexit will cripple our tax receipts to the tune of up to £100 billion for 50 years (Berenberg Bank and OBR).

And as well as a possible tax receipt hit of £100 billion over the next 50 years, up to £100 billion of taxes will have to instead be spent on the EU ‘divorce bill’.

Education is a vital public service and so Darren raised it with the relevant minister, writing

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the effect on forecasted funding for her Department in the event that the UK leaves the EU and only operates as a member of the WTO in its trading relationship with the EU.

Robert Goodwill, a Minister of State for the Department of Education, replied

As part of our preparations for exiting the European Union, the Government is in the process of carrying out a programme of rigorous and extensive analytical work across departments. This programme will contribute to our exit negotiations with the European Union and inform our understanding of how EU exit will affect the United Kingdom’s domestic policies and frameworks. This Department’s interests will be fully considered as part of this process and we are planning for a range of scenarios, working alongside HM Treasury and the Department for Exiting the European Union.

It is perhaps disappointing that the government cannot deliver an answer on this forecasted funding.

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Darren challenges the government on Brexit’s effect on public services

With Brexit looming, so is a potential ‘no-deal’ arrangement with the EU could have. This would be devastating for the economy, with trade tariffs implemented overnight on UK exports. And what is bad for the economy is bad for public services, because there is less tax money.

Darren wrote to Treasury and said the following:

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential effect on forecasted funding for public services in the UK in the event that the UK leaves the EU and operates as a member of the WTO in its trading relationship with the EU.

Elizabeth truss MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, responded:

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) produces forecasts independently of Ministers, doing so objectively, transparently and impartially, as required by law.

It is worth noting that the latest set of OBR forecasts, available here, do not include forecasts specific to different EU negotiation outcomes.

 

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Darren Jones MP asks the government about post-Brexit trade arrangments

Darren asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the potential effect of the UK operating only as a member of the WTO on the UK’s preparations for complying with the General Data Protection Regulation; and what key differences exist between the (a) WTO rules in respect of the digital sector and (b) those rules that exist by being a member of the EU.

Matthew Hancock, a minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, replied:

The Government is committed to ensuring the highest level of data protection for UK citizens now and in the future. To that end, the Data Protection Bill, as announced in the Queen’s Speech, will be introduced to Parliament in due course.

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Darren Jones MP asks the Government about Brexit’s effect on health funding

Darren asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the potential effect on forecasted funding for his Department in the event that the UK leaves the EU and only operates as a member of the WTO in its trading relationship with the EU.

Philip Dunne, a Minister of State for the Department of Health, replied:

The Government has already said that it is in the process of carrying out a programme of rigorous and extensive analytical work across departments. This programme will contribute to our exit negotiations with the European Union and inform our understanding of how EU exit will affect the United Kingdoms’s domestic policies and frameworks. This Department’s interests will fully be considered as part of this process.

In the negotiations with the EU, the Government will prioritise securing the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods and services between the UK and the EU. We want to see zero tariffs on trade in goods and to minimise the regulatory and market access barriers for both goods and services.

The Government is committed to ensuring leaving the EU is a success for the health and social care sector as well as the UK as a whole.

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Darren Jones MP calls for more time for Parliament

The government has doubled the amount of time the house will be sitting for. Darren spoke in Parliament to call for doubling the amount of time each piece of law will be debated for. He did this because the amount of parliamentary time overall has been doubled.

WATCH HERE:

 

Read what Darren said here:

With the greatest of respect to right hon. and hon. colleagues, I have sometimes been a bit disappointed by my experiences as a new Member of Parliament. The first disappointment I commented on was the lack of answers to questions and our inability to hear either during Prime Minister’s questions. Indeed, a tweet I made on the subject was viewed more than half a million times and retweeted 10,000 times by the public, who no doubt share that concern. The fact that I have to take part in this debate today as a new Member without the ability to do anything substantive as an Opposition Member until, allegedly, October, is adding to my disappointment.

I, like many others, have looked towards politics since childhood as the route to achieving change in this country. I, like many other Members, have worked hard for years, election after election, to be elected to this House to try to achieve that change. Like in the children’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, I always assumed that if I made it to the end of the yellow brick road to this place I might find the wonderful wizard of government. Instead, much like Dorothy and her obviously disappointed dog, Toto, I have failed to find a Government of mandates, leadership or stature and instead, behind the curtain, I have found a group of middle-aged men protecting their egos in a bid to take over from a lame duck Prime Minister.

Of course I would not class the Leader of the House in that group of middle-aged men—but I am sure that she knows each and every one of them as they vie for the leadership of her party and, perhaps, try to take her position.

When Britain faces arguably her most challenging time since the second world war, with decisions taken here in this Parliament deciding what type of country Britain will be for the next generation, it seems to me that the Government need to step up to allow for accountability and opposition. As my hon. colleagues have said, this debate is about the lack of time being given to us, with Opposition day and Back-Bench business debates seemingly in short supply on the basis of simple parliamentary mathematics.

Many Government Members who campaigned to take back control and argued for parliamentary sovereignty for this place will no doubt share my concern. A. V. Dicey, the father of parliamentary constitutional theory, would be turning in his grave; the theories on which he built from Montesquieu on the separation of powers and the trias politica, which mean that power should be balanced between the Executive and the legislature, are not being followed because the Opposition are not being allowed to hold the Government to account. The balance is not as it should be. The taking back of control to this Parliament, as opposed to the Executive, is failing. With a Government entirely consumed by their chaotic management of Brexit, seemingly more interested in self-preservation than the national interest, it must be left to the Opposition to act as a party of government with a mandate for government in our manifesto to ensure proper debate on the issues about which my constituents are concerned.

Dare I say that it is no longer acceptable for Ministers to stand up and say, “Everything will be fine; we are a great nation”? Blind patriotism detached from the real world will only show us as a country out of touch and out of control. That is why we must be allowed proper time for debate in this House, to help the Government understand the reality of their inaction. My frustration at the news yesterday was a prime example, as Ministers decided to waste their time by briefing against each other instead of getting on with the job in hand. That frustration might have been calmed by the knowledge that I would have the opportunity to debate the issues of the day in a grown-up, professional and respectful fashion in this House, in the way my constituents expect of us and for the reasons they elected me to this House in the first place. But it seems that that most normal of asks is being thwarted by the Government, so it is with great disappointment that I find myself having to make this speech in support of the motion from my hon. Friend Valerie Vaz, arguing for what should be normal debate in this Parliament.

Although you might not be able to resolve my disappointment, Mr Speaker, at what I found behind the curtain of power, I hope that this House will put the national interest above power games and party political concerns and allow proper time for debate and scrutiny.

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