HOW I HAVE VOTED
To minimise the number of MPs who need to travel to Parliament they have introduced a “proxy” voting system. I’ve nominated my colleague Patrick Grady MP, the SNP’s Chief Whip, to vote on my behalf. Here’s a summary of everything the House of Commons voted on in this Parliamentary session.
Wed 6 January – vote on “Statutory Instruments” to put into law the revised Covid restrictions in England. In keeping with our long standing practice the SNP abstained as the legislation had no impact on Scotland.
Wed 13 January – votes on amendments to the Financial Services Bill. We supported an amendment from Labour MP Stella Creasy to give the Financial Conduct Authority more power to regulate “buy now pay later” lending schemes, and for an SNP amendment to require the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure that financial services providers are acting with a duty of care to act in the best interests of all their consumers. We supported a Labour amendment that would have meant targets to reduce carbon emissions were included in the rules applying to investment firms. The Tories whipped their MPs to vote against al of these amendments and they were all defeated.
Monday 18 January – we voted for a Labour motion calling on the Government not to end the £20 increase in Universal Credit payments. We voted for a Labour motion calling on the Government to increase provision for free school meals, including during school holidays. Although strictly speaking this wouldn’t apply in Scotland, it would require an increase in the Education budget in England and this would lead to an increase in funding for the Scottish Government through the Barnett Formula, so it was appropriate for the SNP to support it. As neither of these motions was binding on the Government they ordered their MPs to abstain (they were worried that if they ordered them to vote against, a lot of them would have rebelled and abstained anyway) so the motions were carried 278-0 and 272-0.
Tue 19 January – votes on whether to accept amendments the House of Lords had made to the Trade Bill. We voted to accept amendments that would require Parliamentary approval for any new trade agreements; to require any new trade agreement to comply with international agreements on human rights; to revoke any trade agreement with a country that the High Court found was responsible for crimes of genocide (thanks to everyone who emailed me on this absolutely fundamental moral principle); to prohibit any trade agreement that would allow the privatisation of public health services; to require all future trade agreements to protect certain standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards; to prohibit any trade deal that could expose children to online harms; and to avoid any discrimination in relation to goods being transported between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The Tories whipped their MPs to vote against these amendments and they were all overturned.
Wed 20 January – votes on amendments to the National Security & Investment Bill (this Bill is designed to stop a potentially hostile government or organisation from taking control of businesses that are sensitive in terms of security or the maintenance of essential services). We supported an amendment that had been agreed by the Foreign Affairs Committee and proposed by its Tory Chairman to require the Secretary of State to take account of factors such as the wider economic impact and concerns about modern slavery when deciding whether a takeover posed a threat to national security; a Labour amendment to set up a process to support “Small and Medium Sized Enterprises” to help them comply with the new law; and a Labour amendment to make sure that the Intelligence & Security Committee of Parliament received an Annual Security Report from the Government. Again, all these amendments were defeated on a whipped Tory vote.
Mon 25 January – We abstained on a non binding Labour motion to prevent the planned Council Tax increases in England, as this had no impact in Scotland. We supported a non binding Labour motion in favour of workers’ rights, including a ban on “fire and rehire”, something my SNP colleague Gavin Newlands has been pushing for a long time. As with other Labour non binding motions the Tories ordered their MPs to abstain and the motion was carried 263-0.
Tue 26 January – votes on the Environment Bill. We supported an amendment from Green MP Caroline Lucas, with cross party backing, to require public bodies to act in accordance with environmental principles; we abstained on several amendments that would have had no impact in Scotland - an amendment concerning the loss of biodiversity in England; air quality standards in England; on the use of plant protection products including neonicotinoids; and on controls over the use of potentially harmful chemicals. I had a lot of emails as part of an English based campaign asking me to support the amendment on neonicotinoids. These are already banned in Scotland under legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament.
Wed 27 January – votes on amendments by the House of Lords to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill. This Bill will allow some law enforcement and national security agencies to authorise their officers to commit acts that would usually be criminal offences. The SNP supported several amendments that would have placed reasonable controls on the proposed new powers; to require the person authorising criminal conduct to show that they had a reasonable belief that it was necessary; to prohibit the authorising of the most serious offences including murder and grievous bodily harm; to allow a person who was the victim of an “authorised” crime to claim compensation and have their claim heard in court; and to provide additional protection for “intelligence sources” who are young or who are vulnerable for other reasons. All of these amendments were overturned on a whipped Tory vote. We voted against a Government amendment to weaken the requirement for all authorisations of criminal conduct to be reported to independent Judicial Commissioners; the Government amendment was carried on a whipped Tory vote.
Mon 1 February – we supported a Labour motion calling on the Government to take action on unsafe cladding and to protect taxpayers and leaseholders from the costs of this action. The Government ordered their MPs to abstain and the motion was carried 263-0. We then supported a second Labour motion calling for a stricter quarantine regime at the UK border. Again the Tories abstained and the motion was carried 263-0. Neither of these decisions is binding on the Government.
Wed 3 February – The SNP forced a debate and a vote to reinstate the VAT Retail Export Scheme for visitors to the UK from outside the EU. Labour failed to provide a single backbench speaker and abstained in the vote. All bar one of the other opposition MPs voted with the SNP (an did one Tory rebel) but we lost the vote 74-353.
Tue 9 February – The SNP voted in favour of several amendments the House of Lords had made to the Trade Bill. I received a lot of emails asking me to support these. We supported an amendment to give greater parliamentary scrutiny of trade agreements but it was defeated 276-351. We supported the “genocide amendment” that would have allowed the courts to suspend a trade deal with a country that was guilty of genocide. 31 Tory MPs voted with us but the amendment was narrowly defeated 303-318. Finally we supported an amendment that would have protected the NHS in trade deals but this was defeated 267-363.
Wed 10 February – we abstained in a vote on Coronavirus regulations in England as the regulations don’t apply in Scotland.