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SNP trying to mislead

I read with interest Owen Thompson’s Letter from Westminster on August 6. He asserts that “the Welfare Bill passed due to Labour Members refusing to vote” and that “had all the Labour Members decided to vote the same way as the SNP.... we would have defeated the Government on this legislation”. I leave it to others to decide whether Mr Thompson is trying for narrow partisan reasons to mislead readers or whether his comments indicate a complete ignorance of the legislative procedure but he really must be taken to task on his assertions. The Welfare Bill will “pass” only when it has undergone full scrutiny during subsequent House of Commons stages including detailed consideration by Committee and Report Stage, consideration in the House of Lords and final approval of the Commons sending the Bill for Royal Assent as an Act. There are a further eight stages to be completed. The Second Reading debate is where the Bill is approved “in principle” and it is the convention that Governments secure this reading – the last time any Government failed to do so was in 1986. The present Government has an overall majority in the Commons and was sure to secure the passage of the Bill at its Second Reading. At the vote only 308 of the total 330 Conservatives went into the Aye lobby because the Party Whips knew that the Labour Party intended to abstain. There was never any possibility of the Government being defeated on this vote and it is disappointing that Mr Thompson peddles this line. It is clearly a matter of interest how Labour Party policy will develop as the Bill goes forward to its substantive stages of consideration. I understand from various comments of Labour politicians that the party will seek in Committee Stage to make amendments to detailed aspects of the Bill so as to reduce its impact on the most vulnerable. Whatever they may do, the Government has the majority to push through the legislation it wants. No amount of SNP crowing by Mr Thompson over his party’s token and utterly ineffectual voting at the Bill’s Second Reading should be allowed to disguise that truth. I believe that Mr Thompson actually understands this but that in common with all his other colleagues at Westminster his main concern lies elsewhere. It is not effectively to oppose the Government but to inflict as much damage as possible on the Labour Party. Mr Thompson peddles the SNP line that it is the “true opposition” and that only they “are standing up” to the Government. Opposition parties can oppose all they like and stand up against everything but they lack the power to act. All the opposition can do is to engage in the hard task of detailed scrutiny of legislation and seek amendments. I look forward to hearing from Mr Thompson what amendments he and his colleagues may seek as the legislation progresses but I fear all we will get are the usual blasts of hot air.

David Dalgetty

George Drive, Loanhead

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