The Commons is at its best in lengthy and detailed discussions very often on the minutiae of great matters of state. Parliament - the word is derived from the Middle English ‘to speak’ and we still do plenty of that in the three debating chambers and the fifty or so committee rooms round this great Palace. 7500 people work here; some 17,000 pass through the building every day; and what most of them do is ‘parler.’
On Monday it was the Strikes (Minimum Service Bill) which is designed to maintain at least minimum emergency service in the event of a strike. Labour caricatured this perfectly sensible bill as some kind of an attack on the Trade Unions movement, and it was noticeable that virtually every speaker in the debate had to call attention to their sponsorship by a Union. Most of them were proud of it. It was a rather wonderful replay of the good old hard left union-driven days. I rather expected someone, preferably with a broad Glasgow accent, and if possible wearing a flat cap and a muffler to leap to his feat to declare “One out all out. You have nothing to lose but your chains."
By Tuesday, the Scottish Nationalists were feigning outrage because the Secretary of State for Scotland had used something called Section 35 to ensure that women and girls in Scotland and England had the same protections under the Sex Equality Act. Fair enough you’d have thought? But the Scot Nats’ law that children of 16 years of age have no need of medical proof to declare their gender to be something other than that on their birth certificate does indeed diminish safeguards for women and children everywhere. These are delicate and sensitive matters capable of mature debate; not the rabble-rousing Scot Nat declamation of an all-out attack by the hated English on their beloved Holyrood Parliament. They should not have allowed such an important matter to descend into party political bickering in the way they did.
Later that day we had the Remaining Stages of the Online Safety Bill, the main excitement about which was a group of Tory rebels demanding that senior executives of social media companies who fail to take down content causing harm to children should be imprisoned. That threat will certainly sharpen up their thinking. Good thing too, and the same might apply to other content- such as wicked sites explaining in detail how vulnerable teenagers might try to kill themselves. The other side of the argument was that this was all some kind of an attack on free speech which would have consequences for all kinds of things, including the promotion of religion. The rebels signed up enough of their fellows, the Government saw reason (or at least their vote counting abacus did) and they agreed to what was asked.
On Wednesday we had the Remaining Stages of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill which removes all of those EU laws which were transferred onto our Statute Book at Brexit but which we now deem to be worthless, or even damaging to our freedoms and interests. Good thing too; but inevitably almost every interest group you care to mention suddenly discovered obscure EU regulations which they argued safeguarded their particular area and so should not be repealed. Have no fear; the Government have your best interests at heart and will ensure that this tidying up process has none of the unforeseen consequences you are watching out for.
All of these matters arouse passions, are capable of detailed and lengthy and noisy debate. They are at the very heart of what Parliament is all about- MPs from all sides using their wisdom and experience to try to persuade others that what they are proposing will in the end be for the betterment of all of the people of the UK and the World.
Parliament- the place where people speak; and where good law and good administration is the end result of it.