SUSPENDED MP Drew Hendry has said that his “spontaneous” protest in the House of Commons on Wednesday was necessary to ensure the Tories’ Internal Market Bill “didn’t go through without being marked”.
The SNP member of parliament told The National that he had not planned the protest which led to his suspension, but when he heard parliamentary under-secretary Paul Scully make it “absolutely clear that what we’d been warning about was going to happen at the whim of the UK Government” he felt compelled to protest.
Hendry could be heard shouting in the Commons that the bill was a “democratic disgrace”, before he took up the ceremonial mace and tried to exit the House.
He was stopped by doorkeepers and handed the mace, which the Commons cannot legally sit without, back.
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The MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey said he wanted to show that his party had “done absolutely everything that we possibly could to prevent this assault on Scotland’s democracy and elected parliament”.
Asked how he felt after his suspension, Hendry said: “Honestly it didn’t really affect me one way or the other, I just felt like I’d been doing my job.
“The important thing was that people were made more aware of what was happening with the bill and what it means for Scotland, our parliament, and the powers that are devolved.
“Almost every aspect of Scottish life is affected by it. The bill allows UK ministers to control spending in devolved areas of economic development, infrastructure, cultural activities, regional development, education, water, power, gas, telecoms, railways, health, housing, and justice, amongst other things.
“Nobody in Scotland voted to have a Tory Government making these decisions, they haven’t done that since the early 1950s.”
In the wake of Hendry’s suspension, Conservative representatives from both Holyrood and Westminster echoed each other in calling the SNP MP’s protest “childish”.
MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said it had been “embarrassing and childish behaviour” and that Hendry should “apologise immediately”.
At Westminster, Jacob Rees-Mogg dodged a question on remote participation from SNP chief whip Patrick Grady to instead label Hendry’s protest a “silly, childish, babyish display”.
Responding, Hendry told the National that it had been “the right thing to do to expose what is happening with this bill”.
“[Those Tories] might feel in their own immaturity that they don’t want to have to face the music or be exposed on these things, but I certainly wasn’t going to stand by and not make the point that this is an assault on devolution.
“The only point in the bill that was left was to take powers from the devolved parliaments.”
Hendry also stressed that one of the most dangerous aspects of the bill would allow private companies to take Scottish public bodies to court over competition rules.
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“For example,” he explained, “Scottish Water is a publicly owned company and if one of the private water companies wanted to take them to court the avenue is now there, open for stealth privatisation.”
Asked if those concerns were realistic in light of the reassurances from Westminster that this would not happen, Hendry said: “People have to ask themselves if they trust the words of the Tory Government.
“Time and time again they’ve facilitated contracts for their chums and donors. I think it’s an absolutely clear danger that the Internal Market Bill now opens up more opportunities for private companies to challenge the publicly owned public sector companies in Scotland.”
Asked if the SNP group might consider following him out of the House, as they did Ian Blackford in 2018, or even a full boycott of Westminster, Hendry said it was “not something that is practical at this particular time”.
He went on: “We had to be there in order to make sure that the Internal Market Bill was exposed for what it was, and I think that was the right thing to do.”