This week was the House of Commons last sitting week before the Christmas Recess, and there was no shortage of business to get through.
On Monday, the House considered Lords Amendments to the Armed Forces Bill. This is an extremely important bit of legislation, which hopes to give our Armed Forces the tools they need to combat threats to our domestic and international security. For the first time, the Government sought to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant into law. This is important as it stops veterans and armed forces personnel from being disadvantaged when accessing essential services like healthcare, education and housing. The Bill also made some changes to the justice system within the Armed Forces. Now, the House has already considered the Armed Forces Bill before, but as the House of Lords sought to amend the legislation- it had to come back to the House of Commons for approval. So we were really at the closing stages of the Bill, trying to hammer out the final details. After the House of Commons considered the Lords Amendments, it was passed into law later in the week, making it the Armed Forces Act 2021.
On Tuesday, the House heard from the Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dominic Rabb on changes that the Government is seeking to make to the Human Rights Act, whilst supporting our commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights. The changes that the Deputy Prime Minister announced would make Parliament the ultimate decision maker on UK laws again. It will also restore a common-sense approach in vital areas such the UK’s ability to deport foreign criminals who too often exploit human rights laws to avoid deportation.
This was followed by a debate and vote on the UK Government's response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The growing threat presented by the Omicron variant has meant that the Government has sought to take decisive and quick action. Including changes to self isolation policy, and mask wearing. The Prime Minister, the Health Secretary and the Vaccines Minister have been working around the clock to ensure that every adult can book their Coronavirus Booster jab by the end of the month. This has been a mammoth task, but hopefully the vaccine booster alongside the limited measures announced by the Government will reduce the spread of the Omicron variant and reduce pressure on our health service. These were not easy decisions, but they are necessary to ensure the health of the nation.
On Wednesday, the House of Commons considered the Professional Qualifications [LORDS] Bill. This is a Bill that will help to recognise international qualifications here in the UK. As we look to level up our economy and ensure that those who come to the UK contribute to our economy this is an extremely important step. The Government wants to ensure that the UK is the best place to work and find a job. As we have left the EU, we have had to create our own infrastructure for the recognition of foreign qualifications. The Government's Bill will ensure that skilled professionals can have their qualifications recognised in the UK where they meet UK standards. This will help individual sectors and industries to have access to the best qualified staff either from the UK or abroad.
Finally, on Thursday, the House of Commons met to consider "matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment". This debate allows Backbench MP's the opportunity to raise any issues that they would like to be heard before the House rises for Recess. Whilst this is usually an upbeat debate, this year it was one tinged with sadness, as it was the first such debate not to be attended by our colleague Sir David Amess, who was killed earlier this year. Sir David would use this debate to raise issues close to his heart such as Animal Welfare and his campaign to make Southend a City. His contribution was greatly missed, and these debates will not be the same without him.
My Week in Westminster will return when the House next sits, week commencing 2nd January.