This week saw the latest stage in an important battle raging in Westminster. It is between the Government led by a Prime Minister with a cavalier attitude towards accountability and a Parliament puritanically keen to defend its rights. It emerged earlier this week when Parliament debated the Trade Bill.
The Bill allows the UK to manage future trade deals as we leave the EU. The Bill matters because at stake are issues like maintaining food and farming standards, preventing outside access to NHS services and keeping employee and environmental protections. In other countries Parliaments have a role in checking whether trade deals measure up but this Bill does not allow that. There is no parliamentary oversight, no commitment on transparency and no way to put right mistakes in future trade deals. There’s a pattern developing here. The previous week the Government attempted to put their placeman in as Chair of the influential Intelligence and Security Committee. When they failed they showed both their anger and contempt for an independent Chairman by withdrawing the Whip from the successful candidate even though he was better qualified and a longstanding Conservative MP. And all this to prevent publication of a report on Russian interference in UK elections and referendums which is embarrassing for the Government. We were told that Brexit was about taking back control – the question is who’s it coming back to? An Executive and a Prime Minister who tolerate no opposition or a Parliament which is not only a guarantor of its own freedoms but those of the people we serve.