There was no pre-Christmas slowdown for the Shadow Treasury Team, as the last few weeks before the break held some important legislative debates before Parliament rose for the festive season. The Public Bill Committee for the Finance Bill reached its conclusion in mid-December (as I said earlier, the Bill later went on grab headlines with the Government defeated at its final reading last week). However, beyond the headlines, we had as a team, put forward 120 amendments to the Bill in committee stage and tackled Ministers on their lack of Brexit planning and generous cuts to corporation tax.
I paid a visit to HM Treasury to ask for greater transparency over no deal Brexit planning in financial services. I am extremely concerned about some of the new powers that would be given to the regulator and the Treasury without proper accountability in the event that we crash out, and that the Tories expect us to simply rubber stamp these in committee sessions. Therefore, I pushed for a debate in the Chamber and a vote in Committee. The government unsurprisingly refused to allow time for the debate, but we did manage to secure a division in the committee session, on which we were defeated by a single vote.
There was also a final session of Treasury Questions before Christmas. I took the Chancellor to task over the weakness of their deal for financial services, which is no better than how any third country round the world is currently treated. That is a very worrying prospect for a sector which supports so many jobs in the UK.
Earlier this month, the Government was defeated in a vote on its inadequate Finance Bill, the first time this has happened in the late stages of a Finance Bill since 1978. Labour joined forces with MPs from other parties to support an amendment by Yvette Cooper aiming to prevent a “No Deal” Brexit which would be a disaster for UK jobs. As Shadow Economic Secretary I worked hard on opposing this messy Bill which did nothing to end austerity, and spoke twice in the debate, first on the tax implications of No Deal, and also to close the debate. The Government had egg on their faces but are still not listening. They simply must stop playing with the livelihoods of our people and rule out a “No Deal” Brexit.