I started the week with a very long and hectic day in the House of Commons sitting into the early hours as Boris Johnson attempted to force through a pre-October 31st General Election before he suspended Parliament for 5 weeks. We stopped it, with the support of other opposition parties and now no election is possible before the no-deal date of October 31st. Johnson cannot now sneak through a no deal Brexit during Parliament’s suspension. Conservative MPs refused to shake the Speaker’s hand, as is customary at the end of a Parliamentary session. Earlier in the day, the Speaker announced that he would stand down at the end of business on the 31st October.
The Prime Minister will now go to the European Council in October and we await the outcome of the negotiations he says he has already made “good progress” on despite the fact he has not put any proposals forward for negotiation. He is a compulsive liar and we cannot trust anything he says.
Another vote on Monday mandated the Government to publish the controversial ‘Yellowhammer’ documents on what the Government has said can be expected in a no-deal Brexit scenario. These were finally published late on Wednesday evening, containing serious concerns of food and medicine shortages, risk of civil unrest, and confirmation of what we have known all along, that the least well off in the country will directly suffer the most from the disaster of a no-deal Brexit.
We also voted to require the Government to release various internal communications relating to Johnson’s decision and reason for the suspension of Parliament because there is very reliable evidence available that confirms it was not because 5 weeks were needed to write a Queen’s Speech for the new Parliamentary session, but to prevent Parliament stopping a no deal Brexit on 31st October. The Government has refused to comply and is now in contempt of Parliament.
We then had the news that the most senior Scottish Court had found (unanimously) that the suspension of Parliament was unlawful after judgment was given in the case to which I am party to. This now goes to an appeal hearing at the UK Supreme Court on Monday to be heard with a case being brought in the England and Wales legal jurisdiction on the same issue. I am also a party to this legal action.
In light of the Scottish ruling, we have called for the immediate re-call of Parliament, but the Government have refused this. We will now wait for the Supreme Court ruling.
Away from Brexit, I was pleased on Wednesday to chair the International Parliamentary Media Freedom Conference in the UK Parliament. MPs from all over the world came together to discuss the threats to media freedom from restrictive laws, punitive legal sanctions and physical violence. Every year journalists are murdered, imprisoned and threatened. You can tell the health of a democratic country by the way it treats its journalists.
We had a fascinating discussion about using domestic legislation to protect journalists. The speakers were a television journalist, media law professor, director of a global human rights advocacy organisation and the former President of the UK Supreme Court.
As well as international parliamentarians, it was good to see friends from the National Union of Journalists there.
On Thursday I went on the Victoria Derbyshire show to speak about the publication of our Digital Culture Media and Sport Select Committee report into Addictive and Immersive Technologies. I was on the programme with two parents who shared their harrowing stories about how their children, addicted to video games, had racked up huge debts with in-game purchases. You can watch my segment of the show by clicking here.
Our report has called for Loot boxes to be regulated under the Gambling Act, and the sale of them banned to children altogether, amongst a raft of other recommendations. You can read more about the report by clicking here.
Parliament is now being silenced until October 14th, with the Government not just avoiding scrutiny on Brexit, but on all aspects of our lives – the NHS, the disaster of universal credit, the falling value of the pound, knife crime and serious violence and the U.K. foreign policy. I cannot ask Ministers any questions, either orally or in writing and Prime Minister’s Questions are cancelled.
On foreign policy issues, I have written to the Prime Minister today alongside over a hundred colleagues demanding that the U.K. Government reinforces the requirements of international law and condemns the Israeli Prime Minister’s illegal efforts to annex Occupied Palestinian territory. You can read the letter here.
Parliament may not be sitting but I continue to work on your behalf in Cardiff Central with my team at Albany Road. My advice surgeries continue. Constituents are welcome to drop in the office during the week and I will be out again over the weekend knocking doors and listening to your concerns and helping with whatever I can.