2018-01-18 European Union Withdrawal Bill

On Wednesday evening Parliament voted on the European Union Withdrawal Bill.  Conservative MPs, and Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs, voted for the Bill, and the other MPs voted against. I voted with Labour MPs against this Bill because it is a complete mess and fails to safeguard jobs and the environment.

During the afternoon we put forward amendments to protect your rights – such as the right to equal treatment at work, to have safe working conditions, to have maternity and paternity pay, to prevent the sale of unsafe or unhealthy goods, and to prevent our country from being ruined by pollution.  All of these things have protection through the European Union and we need to make sure that when we leave the EU we do not lose these rights.  The government voted down our amendments.

They also voted down our amendments to ensure that Parliament’s vote on the final deal is truly meaningful, and to prevent the government using Brexit to abolish important protections without the say-so of Parliament.  We were trying to take back control – not to give it to Theresa May and her ministers to do with as they wish, but to give it to the British People through the mechanism of the democratically elected Parliament.

And they voted down our amendment to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union during the 2-year transition, so it is very possible that in April 2019 we will have no workable trading agreement with the EU, and agriculture, manufacturing and financial services will all see massive losses in business and jobs.

Brexit is going ahead.  But I would be failing in my duty if I do not do everything in my power to try to protect the jobs, rights and environment of Ipswich residents and I will continue to do that.  If there is a rise in unemployment or a loss of earnings as a result of Brexit, the responsibility will lie squarely with the Conservative government that has refused to listen to what the Labour Party has been saying.

This week yet again the Orwell Bridge has had to close due to high winds, and yet again Ipswich has been plunged into chaos. Yesterday I publicly challenged the  Transport Minister to meet myself and other local MPs to speed up the plans for a North Ipswich bypass.  Some people are holding out for a dual carriageway which could take 20 years to build.  We need something NOW – if we can achieve a bypass like Saxmundham within 5 years, that is surely preferable.

Meanwhile the Ipswich roadworks saga grinds on.  It looks particularly foolish to close two parallel roads at the same time, and I have called the County Council to ask them what justification there is for the number of roads closed, and how they got into this mess.  I hope there is a reason – it will need to be a very good one!

Suffolk County Council are less able to plan any sensible programme of road maintenance, or limit the time that roadworks are in place, because the Tories have given away Suffolk Highways to the private sector.  In Suffolk’s case it is Kier, but it could so easily have been Carillion – and what is to say that Kier might not also have a catastrophic failure of management sometime in the future? Carillion hold 450 contracts with the government, employing 19,500 people.  The government has GOT to step in and take over these contracts, otherwise schools and hospitals will go uncleaned, army bases will fail to be maintained, prisons will not have their rubbish collected and transport construction projects will be left half-finished.  How much better it would have been if these services had never been privatised in the first place.  And how much better it would be for Suffolk if the County Council hadn’t got rid of Highways!

I have had several messages from residents concerned about bus service cuts in Ipswich.  The great news is – Ipswich Borough Council is stepping in to support our bus services. Some Ipswich Buses services have been “deregistered commercially” because they aren’t making enough money.  If this had happened in rural Suffolk the services might well have been lost, because the County Council has cut back its support for bus services to the bone.  But Ipswich Borough Council is determined to continue to support bus services in Ipswich – the deregistered bus services will continue, but they will be supported by our Labour Council.  Who says it makes no difference who runs the Council?