This week government has faced a series of hurdles in the race towards Brexit as the EU Withdrawal Bill continues its journey through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. With the latest game of Brexit ping pong set to continue over the next few weeks, the government has had some success in pushing back opposition from both sides of the House, including the defeat of Dominic Grieve MP’s amendment on a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final deal. MPs will now get a vote, but with the Speaker of the House deciding whether amendments can be tabled.
Elsewhere, the government’s domestic policy agenda is also facing challenges, with a fresh wave of internal rebellion from Tory backbenchers.
Greg Hands leaves the front bench over Heathrow airport
Following weeks of contention within the Conservative Party over the future of Heathrow Airport, junior Trade Minister Greg Hands is the first to resign from the front benches over the issue, ahead of a vote on Monday afternoon. The expansion has always been a contentious issue in the party, with high profile opponents, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, kept away from any significant votes (though he is now rumoured to be making an appearance on Monday).
This latest dissent comes with Mr Hands remaining true to his campaign pledges during the 2017 election that he would oppose the expansion, with his resignation causing the Labour Party to call on the Prime Minister to allow her party a free vote on the issue.
Labour has, of course, already announced a free vote, having also faced internal disputes on the issue over the last few weeks. With the party so heavily reliant on trade unions who support the expansion, but high-profile party members, such as Shadow Chancellor John McDonald opposed to the plans, a free vote on Monday seems like a sensible solution.
Following 20 years of debate over whether a new runway should be built, the corridors of Westminster will be awash with MPs awaiting the crucial vote on Monday. With clear division on both sides of the House it’s sure to make for an interesting debate.
Blazing a trail: legalising medical marijuana
Another issue sure to set the Tory Party alight is Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement on Tuesday that a government review of medical marijuana is set to be launched, following the issuance of an exception to the ban for a 12-year-old boy with a pre-existing medical condition.
The decision to grant an exemption has caused some controversy, with some in the party criticising the ethics of only “breaking the rules” for one person, but it has also caused a shadow of doubt over the government’s current position; one that Mr Javid now looks set to change. His review will look at the benefits of a range of cannabis based medicines, and will be taken forward by Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer.
But the move is in direct opposition, it would seem, to the Prime Minister’s stance on the issue, as her spokesperson recently dismissed calls from former Tory leader William Hague for the products to be legalised. There are also rumours that she dismissed Mr Javid’s plea for the issue to be discussed in Cabinet.
As cracks appear to deepen within and without the walls of Cabinet, it could be that Mr Javid’s increasing divergence from Mrs May’s policy agenda is a sign of his intention to run in the next leadership contest – whenever that may be. There is no doubt, however, that as the last four weeks of this parliamentary term rumble on, the government faces an ever growing list of hurdles and challenges to overcome before it recovers over Summer Recess.
Natasha Egan-Sjodin, Account Manager, WA