Given the recent conversation around ‘Opposition Days’ in Parliament and whether they have any impact, I though it would be useful to set out what they and my position on recent votes.
Firstly, what exactly are ‘Opposition day’ debates? Opposition days are days allocated in the House of Commons for the discussion of subjects chosen by the opposition (non-government) parties.
Fundamentally, opposition day motions have absolute no real legislative purpose as they are not binding on the Government. This is why Governments of all colours over a number of years, have usually simply ignored opposition days and abstained (not voted) on the motion.
In summary, Opposition Day motions are a good way for the Opposition parties to make it look like the Government are ‘voting against’ a particularly topical issue but the reality is that the Government won’t have voted at all and the vote doesn’t actually achieve anything meaningful.
As I said when it came to the Universal Credit vote last week, it clear that there is more than enough evidence to support continuing the UC uplift past April. I appreciate that these announcements are normally made at the Budget (scheduled for 3rd March) but it would be a real help to many if the Government could commit to extending the uplift for a further period of time. This isn’t necessarily the right move permanently, there is clearly a need for further debate on welfare reform further down the road. But that conversation must take place post-pandemic, not in the middle of it. That’s why I voted for the Opposition motion on that occasion.
When it comes to the votes this week, on Council Tax and workers’ rights, I will not be voting with the opposition.
The first motion “calls” on the Prime Minister to “drop the Government’s plans to force local councils to increase council tax in the middle of a pandemic by providing councils with funding to meet the Government’s promise to do whatever is necessary to support councils in the fight against Covid-19.” There are two linked but also separate issues at play here.
Firstly, the Government is not ‘forcing’ councils to increase council tax. In reality, the Local Government Finance Settlement offers councils the ability to increase council tax by 2% (with an additional 3% social care precept) if they choose to and also gives them the flexibility to defer this increase for a year. It is entirely up to the council if they choose to make increases. Those who need the most help are unlikely to be paying council tax under the current rules and Teignbridge also has discretionary support available for those who are unable to pay.
An unprecedented level of funding has been provided to councils over the last year during the pandemic and this has been very much welcome. What is needed now is continued support to enable our local councils to be able to provide, at the very least, the services which they are required to provide by law. I recently met with the Secretary of State to raise a number of issues on behalf of Teignbridge District Council and I look forward to that dialogue continuing.
When it comes to workers’ rights, the Business Secretary has made it abundantly clear that we are not going to lower the standards of workers’ rights. In reality, we have one of the best workers’ rights records in the world – our high standards were never dependent on our membership of the EU, and it is well known that in many areas of workers’ rights the UK goes much further than the EU.
As an independent country, it is up to the UK Government and elected MPs to now decide what rules should apply that work best for the UK, including on policies which strengthen protections for workers. That is why in our 2019 manifesto we committed to raise workers’ rights standards, including new protections for workers, while preserving the dynamism and job creation that drive our shared prosperity.
Whilst it will always be the case that we can’t all always agree on everything, I very much approach each vote with the best interests of constituents in mind.
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