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A week of government Budget backtracks and Brexit

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Last week the Chancellor delivered his budget statement. This week, he was back in parliament to reverse it, before the ink had time to dry.

 

His plans to hike national insurance contributions for self-employed people, without giving them all the benefits those in employment receive, unravelled before our eyes. You can read my contribution to the debate on the budget (in which I also highlighted cuts to schools funding, the lack of measures to improve air quality, and the impact of Brexit), here.

The Department for Work and Pensions were also forced to backtrack on their plans, this time to stop MPs getting information to help constituents with their universal credit claims. I'd complained about this in the chamber a couple of weeks ago, so it was good to get a victory - helped by the fact that what the government had been proposing actually turned out to be against the law.

That was the good news, but there wasn't much else to celebrate in parliament this week. The legislation to activate the process of exiting the European Union received Royal Assent and passed into law. We now await the prime minister's announcement of when and how she will start the process. Labour MPs will be scrutinising every decision the government takes.

The SNP reactivated their threat of another independence referendum. As a Scot who has lived and worked in England for 35 years, it's my home, but with my family still back in Scotland, I can't describe how upset this makes me feel. Like me, I know many of my constituents have family on both sides of the border, and they will be as distressed as I am - it won't be good for people in Scotland, or elsewhere in the UK.

And our old friends at DWP have introduced new regulations that will make it harder for some disabled people to get personal independence payments, and will leave some existing claimants seeing their benefit reduced. You can read my question to the Secretary of State about this here.

I've also been asking questions about zero hours contracts, asylum arrangements post Brexit, a European court ruling that allows employers to prevent staff from dressing as required by their faith (something all MPs who spoke were utterly opposed to), and subtitling and sign language for on-demand media. But I was totally upstaged by a truly beautiful and impressive question by my colleague Dawn Butler, who actually asked her question in sign language - watch her do so here.

It's been a good few days for interesting visits, in the constituency and in London. I was very pleased to attend the official opening of Carrington power station, a fabulous piece of engineering that I've been supporting since it was a hole in the ground. Along with colleagues on the Justice select committee, I made a fascinating visit to the Serious Fraud Office, to see the work they do in investigating and prosecuting multi million pound frauds. And I was delighted to round off Fair Trade Fortnight at All Saints in Ashton on Mersey, where we heard about some wonderful projects to support Fairtrade farmers, in India and in Palestine.

 

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And on the subject of Fairtrade Fortnight, a big thank you to everyone who came, baked, and donated to my coffee morning last Friday. Thanks to your generosity, we've been able to donate £130 to Action Aid.

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