DUMBARTON REPORTER COLUMN: TUESDAY 17 JULY 2018

PICTURE: Martin alongside the family of his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal.

In a remarkable week in parliament we’ve seen Theresa May’s shambles of a UK government in chaos as the Tory party continues to tear itself apart over Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s Chequers proposal was two years in the making, but took just two days to unravel following the dramatic Cabinet resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson.

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POST COLUMN: BETTER SUPPORT FOR OUR ARMED FORCES

Coming from an Armed Forces family – where three generations, including my father, brother and now nephew have served – I recognise the importance of paying tribute to the contribution and sacrifice of our forces personnel past and present.

It’s always a privilege to attend local events as the Member of Parliament for West Dunbartonshire, and I was delighted to be part of this year’s Armed Forces Day parade in Clydebank.

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PRAISE FOR SCOTTISH SPCA ON VISIT TO DUMBARTON ANIMAL RESCUE & REHOMING CENTRE

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has praised the work of the Scottish SPCA after a visit to the animal welfare charity’s rehoming centre in Milton, Dumbarton.

The MP for West Dunbartonshire was given a behind the scenes tour of the local animal rescue and rehoming centre by the Scottish SPCA’s Chief Executive Kirsteen Campbell.

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RUTH DAVIDSON TOLD TO COME CLEAN OVER TRAIL OF MURKY DONATIONS

SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has set out three key questions that Ruth Davidson must answer over the trail of murky donations leading “straight to her door.”

In a letter to the Scottish Tory leader, the SNP MP urged Ruth Davidson “to be honest with the electorate about who funds her party, and why it chooses to obscure donations.”

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PIP LIFETIME AWARDS

Both the UK Government’s PIP and ESA process is inherently flawed, and the whole system of disability assessments needs a complete overhaul.

As we saw in response to the DWP Committee’s inquiry on PIP and ESA assessments, people are being put through gruelling and psychologically damaging assessments which are nothing more than tick-box exercises.

The SNP Scottish government has committed to introducing long-term awards for PIP, and has also committed to looking at lifetime awards. It is positive that the UK government has followed the Scottish government’s excellent example and also recently announced they will introduce long-term awards.

Like with other disability benefits, the Tories are forcing disabled people to bear the brunt of the impact of austerity by slowly eroding the value of benefits.

The introduction of PIP to replace DLA has amounted to a cut in the welfare budget, with tighter eligibility criteria for PIP meaning that many claimants who transfer are losing out.

The SNP is committed to creating a social security system based on dignity and respect, and will continue working to do so at both Holyrood and Westminster.

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UK ARMS EXPORTS TO ISRAEL – EDM 1305

A number of constituents have contacted me about the UK’s arms exports to Israel and Early Day Motion (EDM) 1305.

I share concerns about the recent surge of violence in Gaza and UK arms exports to Israel. The SNP do support a suspension of UK arms sales to Israel unless it can be demonstrated that weapons and components imported from the UK are used solely in accordance with the consolidated criteria. The SNP also holds this position on arms sales to Saudi Arabia where we want to see a suspension of arms in order for an investigation into their use in Yemen. We are clear that international law must be upheld and independent investigations into any breaches must be carried out.

The UK government has approved export licences for millions of pounds worth of arms and arms components to Israel in the past year alone. According to the UK government’s own guidelines, where there is a risk that items are being used for internal repression or in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, arms exports should be suspended.

The SNP takes any threats against Israel with serious concern and is clear that any violence against the Jewish community must never be tolerated. We remain committed to efforts in finding a two-state solution and sincerely hope that talks to that end can be reconvened in the interests of all those living in the region.

I have now added my name in support of Early Day Motion 1305.

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IVORY TRADE

The recent increases in poaching are deplorable and are fuelled by the trade in ivory.

The SNP welcomes this Bill and the UK government’s progress on tackling the illegal ivory trade.

The SNP hopes to see the UK government fulfil their manifesto commitment of “a total ban on ivory sales” through this Bill.

The SNP will also push to ensure there will not be routes around the ‘commercial use’ definition and that the Bill remains robust enough to achieve the ban it aims for.

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COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC & TRADE AGREEMENT (CETA)

The UK Government is expected to bring forward a motion to ratify the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Tuesday 26th June, having postponed an earlier vote scheduled for Monday 18th June.

MPs being side-lined with regards to the CETA process is nothing new and the SNP cannot support this motion given the totally inadequate provision of scrutiny procedures in both the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

Indeed, the UK Trade Secretary had to apologise after going back on a pledge to provide sufficient time for a House of Commons debate on the issue. The UK Government has completely side-lined Scotland’s Parliament and Government despite the impact CETA would have on our economy. Having seemingly torn up the Sewel Convention that UK Government’s do not overrule the Scottish Parliament on devolved matters, the contempt shown towards scrutiny by Theresa May’s Tories is nothing short of a disgrace.

Scotland is a proud trading nation and supporting Scottish business to export and attract direct foreign investment is good for businesses, our economy, and most importantly, the people of Scotland. We have expertise in areas including financial and professional services; life sciences, higher education and research; tourism and hospitality; and the oil and gas as well as renewable energy industries. Our exports are growing faster than anywhere else in the UK and well-crafted trade deals helped underpin global sales of almost £30bn last year.

However, the SNP has concerns with certain provisions in CETA and the UK Government has worryingly gone from providing an absolute assurance that the deal does not endanger public services to merely having confidence that it won’t.

Whilst the CETA text includes protections for specified public services, there are concerns that privatisation may be forced upon governments delivering services not explicitly included. Many of my constituents are worried that companies may be able to sue governments in special tribunals outside the court system if they have been adversely affected by changes in public policy and that the so called “ratchet clause” may prevent governments providing services which they or prior administrations had previously privatised.

Instead of providing appropriate mechanisms through which the Scottish and UK Parliaments could have considered these issues amongst others, the UK Government is playing true to form by railroading this motion through the Commons without adequate scrutiny. That is a disgrace and the SNP will not stand by as the Tories continue their campaign against our institutions.

Of course, this debate takes place in the context of Brexit whereby the UK Government intends to remove Scotland from our largest single export market into which we sold goods and services worth £12.7 billion in 2016. The independent Fraser of Allander estimates 134,000 Scottish jobs are supported by EU trade and that a hard Brexit could cost as many as 80,000 jobs between 2020 and 2030.

The UK Government’s disastrous trade policy presents enormous danger to our economy and, in the face of the unprecedented and simultaneous attack on our institutions, the SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland, our jobs and economy.

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