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Labour resist determined Conservative attempts to grab power from parliament

Parliament resumed two weeks ago after the summer break. Business has been dominated by the process of withdrawing from the European Union.

Whether you voted to leave the EU or to remain, the situation is pretty alarming. The government have now frittered away 15 months since last year's referendum. We need to have wrapped up the exit arrangements by the end of next year, to allow time for the UK and EU parliaments to vote on the final exit agreement. Yet we're no further forward in agreeing a deal with the other 27 EU countries about arrangements for our exit. 

No deal on how much money the UK might have to pay. No deal on what happens to UK citizens living in EU countries (or EU citizens in this country) after Brexit. No deal on trading arrangements, no deal on cross-border police and security, no deal on travelling between the UK and the EU, no deal on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Instead, Conservative ministers have taken the opportunity for a series of shocking power grabs from parliament. The EU Withdrawal Bill allows them to change any law without a vote in parliament if they think it's necessary to give effect to Brexit. In votes that went on until nearly 1am last Monday, Labour voted against this outrageous bill, and even some Tories are unhappy with it. 

Then, on Tuesday, we saw another blatant power grab, when the Tories forced through a vote giving them an inbuilt majority on so-called 'delegated legislation' committees - the committees that will scrutinise the detail of these law changes. And as a final insult to democracy, on Wednesday when the government realised it would lose votes to Labour on NHS pay and on student fees, the Tories simply refused to hold a vote at all.

This isn't the way democracy works, handing absolute power to the government. It isn't democracy when a party that doesn't win a majority in a general election fixes itself a majority on parliamentary committees. Democracy isn't just a talking shop - votes are a vital part of decision-making, representation and accountability. Airbrushing votes out of the parliamentary process is downright undemocratic. 

 I'm so angry about all this, and it's got nothing to do with Brexit. It is a fundamentally dangerous attack on British parliamentary democracy. I don't want any prime minister, any government, to be able to force through laws without proper scrutiny, but that's what the government has enabled. Labour will be fighting the EU Withdrawal Bill tooth and nail as it continues its passage through parliament.

Meantime, if you'd like to hear more about the Brexit process, I'm holding a public meeting from 6-7.30 pm on Monday evening at Stretford Public Hall - contact my office 0161 749 9120 for more details.

Finally, some good news, especially if you live in Partington, Carrington or Ashton on Mersey. I'm delighted to report the election last night of a new Labour Councillor, Aidan Williams, in a by-election to Trafford Council. That's another dent in the Tory majority on Trafford Council, and local people will have an excellent and very hardworking councillor in Aidan. After events in parliament over the past few days, it's nice to know at least that democracy remains alive and well locally.

 Best wishes



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