Last night, Stephen Kerr, the Conservative MP for Stirling, spoke and answered questions posed by students at an event organised by the University’s Conservative society.
Kerr, who was elected at the 2017 general election with a majority of 148 votes, is the first Conservative MP to represent Stirling since 1997. Kerr sits on the Business, Energy and Industrial strategy committee.
Kerr described the opportunity to speak at the event as a “pleasure,” Kerr then spoke briefly about the current atmosphere at Westminister which he described as “a difficult time” and “intense”.
Reflecting on his time in office since 2017, Kerr described the Stirling City Region deal as “very significant” and that parliamentary committee work which involves MP’s from different parties coming together on a certain topic area was “some of the best things” Kerr has done in his working career.
A significant portion of the evening was filled with questions from students around the issue of Brexit.
One student asked Kerr about the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal and why he supports it.
Kerr responded by referring to the referendum result and the large voter turnout, arguing that referendum result must be respected. Kerr also mentioned his view that the deal is “sensible.” He argues that it underpins the UK’s commitment to the Good Friday agreement, whilst also delivering on the rights of EU nationals in the UK, the payment to the EU and the transition period which he feels is valuable to both constituents and local business. These three key areas of the deal are the reasons why he supports it.
Kerr also said the payment to the EU was important for the UK’s international reputation stating “you don’t leave and not pay what we owe”.
On the issue of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, Kerr said “no deal brexit is not in any one’s interests” and that “leaving without a deal is not sensible” because the modern day world is highly “interdependent” and has “changed” in recent times. Kerr added that a no deal Brexit would cause disturbance to trade arguing that he feels “there would be a significant level of disruption”.
A student asked about the possibility of the Conservative party fielding candidates at the European Elections, the student also mentioned Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party.
Kerr responded that the vast majority of MP’s stood on manifestos that said they would accept the referendum result. On the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage, Kerr said he “can’t get excited about Nigel Farage” and that a failure to respect the result could lead to the “danger” of far right politics increasing in the UK, which Kerr argued has no place in British politics.
Another student asked Kerr a hypothetical question about if Theresa May’s deal is unable to pass through the commons again, what his preferred alternative would be.
Kerr responded that the option with the most parliamentary support is not his preferred option saying the “one with cross party support is Norway Plus” which has “every chance” of gaining a majority across the House of Commons. However, he had doubts about this option and added “why the heavens are we leaving if that’s where we end up,” stating that’s why he “would not advocate it”. Kerr reflected that the European Union had various policies that the UK had opted out of over the years and it is “amazing they did not put us out.”
When asked about the possibility of the queen proroguing parliament, Kerr described the idea as “ridiculous” and encouraged MP’s to work together more to find common ground.
In a move away from the Brexit topic, a student asked Kerr about work capability assessments and their effectiveness.
Kerr mentioned the importance of assessments in allocating help and resources but also recognised the need for “more support” for claimants. He spoke about how he has previously met with claimants and “worried about what will happen next” after leaving the meeting.
Another question that departed from the topic of Brexit was on the subject of gender recognition act and gender self identification.
Stephen Kerr said he was open to “learning from other people’s experiences” and listening to constituents on the issue. Although, he admitted to concerns about the implications of self identification particularly around safe spaces saying, “I have concerns about self identifying gender.”
Let us know what you think about these responses.