I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.
We are witnessing a continuing deterioration of the situation in Syria: the latest estimates are that 93,000 people have been killed, and there is a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis on the border as millions flee. Will the Leader of the House undertake to keep the House informed of the Government’s intentions? Can he tell us now how he intends to ensure that the voice of this House is heard ahead of any change in Government policy?
I note that the High Speed 2 preparation Bill will be before the House next Wednesday, but there is still no sign of the Second Reading of the hybrid Bill, which is also necessary if HS2 is to proceed. The Government promised that that Bill would have Royal Assent by the end of this Parliament, but we all know that hybrid Bills take a very long time to get through Parliament. Is the Leader of the House convinced that there is enough time left for the Government to fulfil their promise? Can he guarantee that Second Reading of the hybrid Bill will take place in this Session?
Under this Government, top bankers have had a double bonanza, as figures from the Office for National Statistics show a 64% increase in bonuses, timed to coincide with the Government’s huge tax cut for millionaires. Is that because, as the figures show, half of all Tory party funding comes from the City?
Last night, the Chancellor made his speech at the Mansion House in the aftermath of the final report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, but he has had nothing to say to this House. When can we expect a statement on that from the Government? Perhaps the Chancellor is too embarrassed to turn up, as we learned that President Obama called him “Jeffrey” three times at the G8. There are plenty of names I could think of to call this Chancellor, but “Jeffrey” is not one of them.
Yesterday, James Wharton presented his Bill on an EU referendum to the House. I am afraid that the Bill is turning into a bit of a farce: last week, even the Leader of the House could not keep a straight face when trying to argue that the hon. Gentleman was running his own Bill, and this week the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary had to be advised that they could not sign a private Member’s Bill without it turning into a Government Bill. Has no one told the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that if they really want to sponsor a private Member’s Bill, they can easily do so—from the Back Benches?
May I take this opportunity to congratulate all those who featured in the Queen’s birthday honours earlier this week? Of course, the Leader of the House is a previous recipient, so he knows all about the thrill of being recognised by Her Majesty, but does he agree that the Government’s strategy of giving people gongs to keep them quiet is adding to the Queen’s work load with little obvious effect? On the day after his knighthood was announced, Sir Edward Leigh showed his gratitude on the Conservative Home website by describing his own Government’s legislative programme as
“the weakest…in recent memory”
Does the Leader of the House agree with him?
The recent birthday honours also brought good news for Sir Andrew Stunell, who was knighted, and Sir Menzies Campbell, who joined the Order of the Companions of Honour. I congratulate them both. Some 14% of Liberal Democrat Members have now been knighted, which means that there are more knights on the Liberal Democrat Benches than there are women. Does the Leader of the
House agree that at least in this important respect the Liberal Democrats are punching well above their weight in this Government? Any more of this and the Liberal Democrat Whips Office will be scouring eBay for a round table.
With all the disunity in the Government, it is reassuring to see that the Leader of the House and his deputy are working together, shoulder to shoulder, as a great team—at least, that is what I thought until the leaflet I am holding came to my attention. It was delivered this weekend through a door in the constituency of the Deputy Leader of the House, Tom Brake. In it, he campaigns passionately to save a hospital that his own Government are closing. He says:
“I am calling upon the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley to meet urgently with me and local councillors to discuss the fate of our hospital.”
That tells us he does not seem to know what job his boss does, he apparently cannot get a meeting with him, and he does not seem able to defend his own Government’s actions to his constituents. Mr Speaker, I feel a knighthood coming on.