As I write this, the House of Commons is debating the Lords' eminently sensible amendments to the Brexit Bill, specifically guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and ensuring that Parliament has a meaningful vote on the final deal. More importantly, the Lords inserted an amendment that would mean that Parliament would have a vote if the Government comes back with no deal whatsoever. Disappointingly, it appears that the Government will reject these amendments and the Bill will pass in its original, unamended form. Effectively, Theresa May will be able to do what she wants in the forthcoming negotiations, and I am becoming more and more concerned that the prospect of exiting the EU with no deal seems to be increasing by the day. This would be a catastrophic outcome for our country in countless ways - from certifying our aircraft to fly to getting isotopes for life saving radiotherapy treatments.
In an eventful period in our politics, last week saw the Chancellor present his Spring Budget. Given the dangers that leaving the EU presents to jobs and our tax base it is that it is truly remarkable that he did not mention Brexit once in the hour he was stood at the despatch box. The Chancellor's Budget - as well as penalising the self-employed - is merely tinkering around the edges before we encounter one of the greatest economic challenges of our time in Brexit.
FEMM Committee and International Women’s Day
The Labour Party believes in empowering women to make their own choices so I was proud to join Labour colleagues this week in support of She Decides, a new global initiative on sexual health and family planning. The initiative was established in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, or the global gag rule as it is often known, which bans financial support to foreign organisations providing abortion counselling and access to safe abortion. It is of upmost importance that this gap in funding is plugged immediately to protect the lives of women and children worldwide.
On Wednesday, we celebrated International Women’s Day with a host of events in Brussels. International Women’s Day is an important day to focus all minds on what we still have to achieve and help us to move closer to gender parity, including the reduction of the gender pay and pension gap. This week I also made the finishing touches to my report on EU Funds for Gender Equality which will be voted on next week during the plenary session in Strasbourg.
Women’s EU Rights Campaign Workshop
It was fabulous to spend Saturday in Exeter with so many inspirational women to talk about how precious the rights that we have gained from our membership of the EU are and how we need to campaign to keep them. It is always interesting to hear of others experiences but I was particularly concerned that so many women are still experiencing harassment, discrimination and bullying in the workplace.
The EU is proposing to fund a new scheme to deliver free, open access WiFi to towns and communities across the UK and Europe. This scheme is called WiFi4EU, and over the next five years it will deliver WiFi hotspots funding to local authorities to install whereever they see fit in towns and communities to provide a free service for citizens. It is a first come first serve bidding process, and South West towns could stand to gain significantly from this scheme in our remaining two years in the EU. I am working closely to ensure the delivery of this legislation, and I am excited to see it enacted in the South West over the coming months.
It was a pleasure to meet representatives from PATH, an international non-profit organisation working on innovative technologies in the field of global health. We discussed the role of Horizon 2020, the EU's science funding programme, in supporting innovation for sustainable development, and in particular for global health, climate change and food security. It was very interesting to hear about PATH's experience using technological innovations in developing countries, especially their knowledge of developing health products tackling poverty-related and neglected diseases.