Thursday kicked off in the usual way, with questions to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministerial team for their regular Orals session.
I noted that Free Trade Agreements like the newly agreed one with New Zealand has put pressure on farmers across the UK to improve productivity. I asked what discussions Ministers had had with their counterparts at the Department for International Trade to ensure the agricultural sector is properly represented in negotiations.
Next the Leader of the House delivered his weekly Business Statement, followed by questions from MPs. For my question, I spoke to the ‘naming and shaming’ document put out by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that morning, which names 208 businesses across the UK that failed to pay their staff the National Minimum Wage. While I was pleased to see none were in South Lanarkshire, I asked whether a debate could be held on the effectiveness of the strategy, and how smaller businesses could avoid accounting pitfalls that might lead to inadvertent mistakes.
Later the Defence Select Committee came to the House to give an update on the Government’s response to their report on women in the armed forces. The Committee have dedicated a lot of time to a deep dive on the topic, looking at servicewomen from recruitment through to civilian life. The Government’s response, while promising in lots of areas, still left some questions to be answered. I asked the Committee Chair two questions:
First, noting the Government’s response asserts that most women in the forces do not face harassment, but that they were concerned for the 11% that made formal reports of sexual harassment last year. I asked whether the committee had considered the difficulty women face reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, and whether this figure was an accurate reflection.
I then noted that the Government’s response highlighted a lot of work undertaken by the RAF in making it a more welcoming workplace for women, and asked whether the Committee had considered how this could be built upon across the forces.
Lastly, I was pleased to participate in a Backbench Business Committee debate on the contribution of the finance sector to the UK economy. In my speech I focused on Scotland’s rich history as a financial services hub, stretching back over 300 years. I also spoke to some of the difficulties presented by the UK’s exit from the EU and asked how the Government would approach future regulation of the market.