POLITICS

Tory MP Shown Red Card At PMQs After Skipping Universal Credit Debate To Referee Football Match

'What signal does the PM thinks this sends to hard-working members of the public, who are expected to turn up for their day jobs or face sanctions?'

18/10/2017 13:37 BST | Updated 18/10/2017 14:01 BST

Tory MP Douglas Ross was shown a red card at PMQs after it emerged he is skipping a vote on Universal Credit to referee a Champions League match in Barcelona. 

Holding aloft the card, John McNally, SNP MP Falkirk, asked the Prime Minister what message Ross had sent fleeing Westminster “today of all days”, when opposition MPs were bidding to delay the hated welfare reforms. 

A No.10 spokesman defended Ross’s absence, however, suggesting that the Government would not strongly whip the vote and may not even oppose the Labour motion calling for the rollout to be halted.

Ross has been listed as assistant referee at the Camp Nou stadium for Wednesday night’s match against Greek side Olympiacos.

The game kicks off at 7.45pm UK time – 45 minutes after MPs at Westminster are expected to vote on the Labour motion calling for the rollout of Universal Credit to be postponed.

It isn’t the first time Douglas Ross, who ousted the SNP’s deputy leader Angus Robertson in June, has been caught off-side. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Douglas Ross during a Scottish Premiership match at Celtic Park, Glasgow.

Last year, the-then MSP missed a parliamentary committee to assist in a Champions League game in Portugal.  

He was also recently forced to apologise after saying he would bring in “tougher enforcement against gypsy travellers” if he were Prime Minister.

McNally asked Theresa May: “Does the Prime Minister notice I am wearing a red card in my pocket today? She will be aware that the honourable member for Moray is not in his place. Indeed, he is in Barcelona doing his other job, today of all days. 

“What signal does she thinks this sends to hard-working members of the public, who are expected to turn up for their day jobs or face sanctions?”

John McNally at PMQs
SNP MP for Falkirk John McNally at PMQs

May had little to reply with, other than to highlight that Ross had ousted the SNP’s deputy leader Angus Robertson at the election in June. 

She said: “I have to say to the honourable gentleman that I think the constituents of Moray will be very pleased that they have a Conservative Member of Parliament who is seeing their interest in this House and I can say to the Honourable gent that the sc members are doing more for the interests of Scotland than the Scottish Nationalists have ever done.” 

The No 10 spokesman said: “We don’t necessarily discuss whipping in public but we have made some comments previously about what we plan to do going forward in terms of non-binding votes on Opposition Days.

“I would point you to comments of the Member in question who has said this does not interfere with his Parliamentary duties and he wouldn’t do anything that would do so.

“I have said previously that on some of these debates we may say to MPs ‘if you feel your time is better spent elsewhere then [do so]’.

“You will see Tory MPs who take an interest in this speaking in the debate and participating and of course you will have ministers speaking from the despatch box.”

Asked if that meant Ross was not interested in Universal Credit as an issue, the spokesman directed reporters to the MP’s comments about his hobby not affecting his Parliamentary duties.

Questioned whether the PM would be in the House to vote against the Labour motion, the spokesman replied: “You’ll see at 7 o’clock”.