Welsh debate cancelled amid snowy weather so MPs 'can travel home safely'

A traditional St David's Day debate fell victim to the weather to allow Welsh MPs to travel safely back to their constituencies before conditions worsened.

The general debate on Welsh affairs, to mark the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, was due to be held in the Commons on Thursday afternoon.

But Labour's Ian Mearns (Gateshead) said as the "Beast from the East" was meeting "Stormageddon Emma" then the debate had been postponed, with heavy snow predicted to lead to public transport cancellations.

The Met Office escalated a heavy snow weather warning for South Wales to red - its highest level - meaning "widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life is likely" from 3pm.

MPs also wrapped up warm for the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill committee debate, with the SNP's Alison Thewliss saying her bobble hat and thick coat combination was due to the room temperature being comparable to a "fridge".

SNP MP Alison Thewliss tries to keep warm in a committee debate in Parliament
SNP MP Alison Thewliss tries to keep warm in a committee debate in Parliament (PA)

Fellow SNP MP Hannah Bardell said the pair could "see our breath" in the committee room.

During business questions, Mr Mearns said of the St David's Day debate: "I'm afraid to say that the Beast from the East has taken a number of victims and there are no trains currently crossing the border on either the East Coast or the West Coast Main Line to Scotland.

"But I'm afraid to say that when the Beast from the East meets Stormageddon Emma it then takes further victims and in fact one of those victims is the business of this House.

"At the request of Welsh members, the scheduled debate on St David's Day and Welsh affairs for this afternoon has been cancelled so that they can travel home safely."

A statement from Labour MP Albert Owen, Plaid Cymru's  Liz Saville Roberts, Conservative David Davies on the postponement of the St David's Day debate
A statement from Labour MP Albert Owen, Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts and Conservative David Davies on the postponement of the St David's Day debate (PA)

SNP shadow leader of the Commons Pete Wishart joked about similarities between the Beast from the East and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

He said: "I suppose there are only two real items of business this week and that's the Beast from the East and the Foreign Secretary.

"One is a white-out delivering havoc and chaos wherever it goes and whatever it touches, and the other is of course the Beast from the East."

Labour MP Clive Efford (Eltham) called for a statement from the Government on how Britain responds to wintry weather.

He said the UK seems to "fall over quite easily" when there is severe weather during winter, adding: "Can we have a statement on our resilience at this time, to learn lessons from what's happened this year in the hope that we keep things like our trains running a little bit better so that people aren't left waiting at cold stations with no information about what's going on."

@alisonthewliss and I about to start the next stage of the Sanctions and anti money laundering bill, we can see our breath in the committee room we're in!! Alison is the most appropriately dressed MP in the room! #handmeahotwaterbottle#beastfromtheeastpic.twitter.com/QlaH7kprAj

-- Hannah Bardell (@HannahB4LiviMP) March 1, 2018

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said the Government wanted to minimise disruption and it was frustrating when things like trains were cancelled or schools were closed, adding that lessons are always learned from each event.

Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing later pressed MPs to make shorter speeches during a debate on seasonal migrant workers, adding: "I have in mind the hundreds of employees in this building who will have great difficulty getting home to their families today, and every extra minute that is taken in speeches in here is stopping somebody getting a train that might now be cancelled."

Mr Wishart then raised a point of order asking if business in the Commons should be abandoned so MPs and staff could get home.

Ms Laing said she did not have "the power nor the inclination" to abandon proceedings, but reiterated her call for shorter speeches.

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