Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:12 pm on 27th November 2014.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons 12:12 pm, 27th November 2014

I think the hon. Lady is being a little audacious in talking about “Desert Island Discs” when the Labour party cannot even sing “Stand By Your Man” very well. When she talked about somebody being cut off from all his friends, I thought she must have been referring to the Leader of the Opposition.

The hon. Lady asked about last minute changes to business. Unusually, I have announced business three weeks ahead to 15 December. It is for the convenience of the House to have business announced as far ahead as possible, so I think that that is a good last minute change to make. She also asked about a particular item of business on Thursday next week. I can assure her that it will be very clear by next Thursday.

We have just had a statement on the Smith commission report. It is very important for the House to debate these matters further and to debate the consequences for the rest of the United Kingdom, a point made by many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members. As the Chair of the Cabinet Committee for Devolved Powers, I intend to ensure that the Government publish the options for England in a Command Paper before Christmas, following up the work of the Smith commission. I am sure the House will want to consider that, and I will make a statement at the time.

The hon. Lady asked about appropriate time to be given for the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. I have announced three days in Committee on the Floor of the House. There will be a clear gap between the Committee stage and Report. The Opposition wanted the Report stage to be after the Christmas recess and it will be. That will give the House time to reflect on all parts of the Bill, so I hope we have accommodated Opposition concerns on that. We have had productive discussions on this issue. The Bill is very important for our national security, but of course it needs to be properly scrutinised and considered in detail.

The hon. Lady asked about the autumn statement and poked fun at its being on 3 December. I have to remind her that autumn lasts until the winter solstice, which is normally on 21 December, or on 22 or 23 December in certain years. I can therefore assure the hon. Lady that 3 December is very much within autumn.

The hon. Lady asked about universal credit. The previous Government were left with a welfare system in which for every extra £10 some people earned, they lost £9 in additional taxes. Universal credit is being designed to ensure that it pays to work and it is likely to deliver benefits to millions of people. Yes, it is always possible to criticise the implementation of IT projects, but it was estimated that the previous Government wasted £26 billion on IT projects that did not succeed. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the

Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), made a statement to the House, so Members have had the opportunity to discuss that.

The hon. Lady asked about relative incomes. Relative poverty in the last year for which we have figures, 2012-13, was at its lowest since the 1980s. We have 600,000 fewer people in relative poverty than there were at the general election. The answer to poverty is to get people into work, and that is what the Government are achieving. She asked about a recovery for the many or the few. The previous Government left office with no recovery for anyone at all—neither many nor few. That is what the Opposition’s policies would bring about again.

The hon. Lady talked about comments within the Conservative party on various issues in the past week. It has not been a great week in the Labour party. She has made an exception of asking about the whereabouts of the Chief Whip this week. As I explained last week, he spent much time in Rochester. Really, the Opposition Chief Whip should have been there to tell members of the shadow Cabinet not to photograph people’s houses. She would have been well deployed—[Interruption.] Oh, she was there! Well, she obviously did not get to all the members of the shadow Cabinet.

After the stealth reshuffle that I think took place in September on the Opposition Front Bench, and the anti-climax reshuffle in October, we have now had the Rochester reshuffle in November. But we are pleased that Ms Eagle is still in place and we are absolutely delighted that the Leader of the Opposition is in place all the way to the general election.