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Before I do so, may I echo Mr Speaker’s words of congratulations to all those elected as Select Committee Chairs, offer my commiserations to those who were unsuccessful, and echo Mr Speaker’s words of thanks to all those, particularly the Officers of the House, who were involved in conducting the election process?
The business for next week is as follows:
The provisional business for the week commencing
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, which includes, in particular, the Adjournment debate we will have next Monday on stone theft. After the events of the past few months, we on the Labour Benches have been wondering where our election stone has got to.
I, too, offer my congratulations to all those colleagues who have just been elected to chair Select Committees. They do an extremely important job in this House. I add my commiserations to those who were unsuccessful. Given that my own nomination process is over now as well, I can safely say that MPs are now free to roam the Corridors completely undisturbed.
Later today the report on options for the restoration and renewal of Parliament will be published, and I understand that the recommendations will all have significant and expensive implications. Will the Leader of the House tell us how he will ensure that the whole House has a chance to discuss and debate the way forward?
I note that once again there is no reference to English votes for English laws in the future business, but rumours continue to abound that we will be discussing Government plans as early as next week, so can the Leader of the House assure me that we will have adequate time to discuss and debate these important proposals, and will he tell us when that is likely to be?
The Greek debt crisis poses a serious threat to Europe’s economy, including that of the UK. With the Greek central bank now warning of a “painful” road ahead and no sign of a solution, what contingency plans exist to protect the UK economy from the effects of a Greek exit from the eurozone? Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Chancellor to come to the House and report on the outcome of the meeting of EU Finance Ministers in Luxembourg today?
After last week’s breathtaking U-turn in the Bavarian Alps , the Prime Minister is now in full retreat on the European Union Referendum Bill. We have had complete confusion over the referendum date. First, the Prime Minister said it could coincide with next year’s elections, but this week he was forced to back down at the last minute because he knew he had lost his majority. We still do not know whether Eurosceptic Cabinet Ministers will be able to campaign for an out vote—something I believe the Leader of the House will want an answer to, at least some time soon.
Finally, on Tuesday, after frantic whipping and a desperate letter from the Minister for Europe begging them not to rebel, no fewer than 27 Back Benchers, including five former Cabinet Ministers, voted against the Government. After that sorry spectacle, will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government have already conceded our amendments on today’s amendment paper? May we have a debate on the complete chaos that has characterised the Government’s flagship Bill? I was thinking about watching the new film “Jurassic World”, but if I want to see a bunch of dinosaurs tear each other apart I might as well stay and watch his Back Benchers.
This week we marked 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta and the origin of the rights we enjoy today. Although some of its clauses, such as those on the return of Welsh hostages and the removal of fishing weirs from England, have been somewhat overtaken by events, this country’s commitment to basic rights and freedoms remains a proud part of our heritage and crucial to our future. As the nation celebrated at Runnymede, will the Leader of the House tell us why the Prime Minister chose to mark the anniversary by reaffirming his intention to scrap the Human Rights Act? Will he tell us why the Prime Minister has rejected the advice of his previous Attorney General, Mr Grieve, who said that scrapping the Act will undermine human rights across Europe?
I know that the Prime Minister could not tell us what Magna Carta actually meant when he appeared on “Letterman” three years ago, but he would be wise to pay attention to the lessons of history now. Magna Carta came about because the King fell foul of pushy, rebellious barons who would not accept his authority. After it was signed, the King ignored it and kept going back on his word. It took his death from a surfeit of peaches and the accession of a new young King to finally quieten the rebels. After the Chancellor’s impressive debut at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, if I was the Prime Minister I would be worried, and I would certainly stay well away from any peaches.
The hon. Lady mentioned stone theft. It is a matter of great concern to all of us when parts of our national heritage are endangered, and I was particularly concerned by the idea that the Labour party might take an object of great symbolic importance, break it into tiny pieces and sell them, as happened to the Berlin wall. Perhaps she can give us an assurance that that will not happen.
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments on the Select Committee Chairs. Of course, she is wrong to say that the election process is over, because we will now have Members campaigning to join the Committees. It has certainly been a great exercise in democracy across the House. The Tea Room will probably be much quieter for at least the next 48 hours.
On the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, hon. Members will be aware that today we will see the independently commissioned report on the nature of this building and the challenges that await us in ensuring that it has a strong future. Officials will brief Members of Parliament later today. We will then approach the issue immensely carefully. We will set up a Joint Committee of both Houses to consider the report and the options it lays out. We will then decide on the best approach, but that provisional decision will be subject to extensive discussions over the months ahead and to a vote in both Houses. My clear view, as I said last week, is that this building is an important part of our national heritage and our democracy and must remain as such. I am not warm to the idea that we should look to move elsewhere. None the less, we have to face the challenges of ensuring that the building is fit for the 21st century, and that discussion will involve all Members of the House.
The hon. Lady asked about English votes for English laws. I know that she is eager to see our proposals, but she will have to wait a few days longer. I have given a commitment that the proposals will shortly be laid before this House, discussed and then voted upon.
The hon. Lady asked about the situation in Greece. It is an immensely important matter, and the Government are thinking very carefully about how we would respond if the situation deteriorates. If there are developments, clearly the Chancellor will feel a duty to inform the House. Let us hope that the situation can be resolved without the kind of economic turmoil that it could lead to in Greece and elsewhere in Europe.
The hon. Lady mentioned party unity. I have been impressed this week by the breakout of unity on the Labour Benches as Members from all sides of their party united behind the great hope for the future of their leadership—Jeremy Corbyn. As I looked at the hon. Lady’s background and the nature of the people who have been supporting her campaign—I congratulate her on having made the next round of the contest—I wondered whether she and the hon. Gentleman might make a dream ticket together.
The hon. Lady mentioned anniversaries occurring this week. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that you are aware that this week also marks the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, with the re-enactment of that great battle taking place today. What you might not have known is that Napoleon’s armies marched to Waterloo under the banner of an eagle. The eagle was defeated, it was captured, and it is now in the hands of the Scots.
I welcome my hon. Friend to his place in this House. He has already made a great start in representing the interests of his constituency on an immensely serious issue that we as a Government take very seriously. He will be aware that the Department for Transport is already funding a study on how it can improve safety on that stretch of road. It will look very carefully at the conclusions of that study and will, I hope, make necessary improvements.
I too thank the Leader of the House for the business for next week. I add my congratulations to the winners of the Select Committee Chairs—not because I have a personal interest—and give my commiserations to the losers. I felt that it was like a bad Oscars or “Britain’s Got Some Sort Of Talent” when the announcements were being made, but congratulations to everybody involved.
I am sure that the Leader of the House has heard this morning the absolute fury from Scotland about the early ending of the renewables obligation for onshore wind and the very real threat from the Scottish Government to have this judicially reviewed, such is the threat to the 70% of the industry that is based in Scotland. Some 100 applications will now be under threat because of this Conservative Government’s almost ideological contempt for onshore wind and other renewables.
This seems to fit into a pattern. We have the return of the Scotland Bill in a couple of weeks, but this week not one amendment was accepted by a Government who said they would listen to the Scottish Government on the Bill. Amendments that were agreed cross-party even by the Conservative party in the Scottish Parliament have been rejected by the Government. It is almost as if they want us to go, given the way they are dealing with Scottish issues in the House of Commons.
I want to talk about English votes for English laws as well. My hon. Friend Kirsty Blackman asked some very basic and reasonable questions about the Leader of the House’s proposals and plans for English votes for English laws, and what did we get? “I intend to bring the proposals to the House.” We know that is what he intends to do, but as well as having no debate, no scrutiny and no consultation, we are not even supposed to ask him basic questions about English votes for English laws. When are we going to see these proposals and have them brought before the House?
I thought I was going to take part in business questions today after the first Government defeat. What a gift was given to the Labour party this week with the Tory rebellion—an open goal, only for it to put the ball in its own net. The Leader of the House likes to go on about seating arrangements in this House. I suggest that what we might want to do is to have us on the Labour
Benches as the real Opposition to this Government, because that compliant lot, sitting on their hands again and again, are letting the Tories off the hook. They will not be let off the hook by the Scottish National party—that’s for sure.
May I start by congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his elevation to the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee? He is going to be busy, because he wears another hat when participating in business questions.
On onshore wind, this Government are committed to renewable energy, but I am afraid that my idea of renewable energy does not involve covering some of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom and the highlands of Scotland with wind farms. I support offshore wind, but I also support the beautiful countryside of the United Kingdom and I want to preserve it. I am proud to be part of a Government who believe that is important.
The Scotland Bill implements the recommendations of the Smith commission—a commitment that was made by the previous Government and which has been continued by this Government—in the wake of the decision by the Scottish people to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
On the issue of English votes, as I have said, I will, when we are ready, inform the whole House. I say to the Scottish nationalists, with apologies, that I do not intend to inform them of our plans before I tell the whole House.
Finally, on the seating question, I gather that the morning race continues and it looks like the SNP won this morning. Opposition seating arrangements are a matter for the two parties involved to sort out and for us to watch with amusement.
I have recently been contacted by the directors of the last remaining traditional Nottingham lace makers, Cluny Lace, which operates in my constituency. It has recently been informed by Historic England that both its business and its business premises are about to be listed. That would seriously impact on the way in which this historic company operates and may put it in jeopardy. Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate on the way in which Historic England operates its listing process, given the fact that Cluny Lace is a going concern, not a museum?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Regulation to protect our heritage should not destroy it. She is absolutely right to draw the matter to the attention of the House. I encourage her to draw it to the attention of the Department concerned through both a written question and, possibly, an Adjournment debate. She has made an important point and I am sure Ministers will have noted it.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 143 on Careermakers Recruitment, standing in my name?
[That this House condemns in the most severe terms the employment practices of Careermakers Recruitment, 86 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, M4 4EX, and in particular their maltreatment of a constituent of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to overlong working-hours and failure to observe health and safety legislation; calls on the Secretary of State for
Work and Pensions to investigate their activities and, if he regards it as appropriate, to refer their violation of employment laws to the police; and warns all potential contacts to have nothing to do with these swindlers.
Will the right hon. Gentleman turn his attention to it, in order to get the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and, if need be, the police to deal with these rogue people who exploit employees and harm and damage their lives? This is an essential matter and I look to the right hon. Gentleman to follow it up.
May I commend the Father of the House for his continuing diligence on behalf of people in Manchester who have to deal—not often, but from time to time—with unacceptable employment practices of the kind that this House would always condemn? I cannot comment specifically on the case he has raised, but I will make the Department for Work and Pensions aware of his concerns and I hope he will take the opportunity to raise them directly with the Secretary of State as well.
First, may I say that my Adjournment debate on stone theft is on Monday evening?
My local Kirklees Council does not have a local plan in place, resulting in a developers’ free-for-all, and I am encouraging local residents to submit their objections to the Grimescar Valley development. Could we have an urgent debate on such situations and on planning as a whole?
I wish my hon. Friend well with his debate on stone theft. We wait with interest to see whether the precedent set in the general election campaign will be followed by any of the Labour leadership candidates producing their own stone commitments.
The serious issue of planning affects many constituencies. The changes this Government have put in place are specifically designed to give greater power and authority to the local plan. I urge every council to move ahead as quickly as possible with the planning process, and I urge my hon. Friend to bring the matter to the attention of Ministers during Communities and Local Government questions in 10 days’ time.
Is it still the Government’s intention to hold a debate in Government time on the renewal of the Trident platform, and is the right hon. Gentleman able to say something about the timing of such a debate?
I cannot give an indication yet about the timing of such a debate, but there will be, at an appropriate moment, a chance for this House to decide on the future of Trident. That is only right and proper, and this party and this Government are absolutely committed to it. I know there are some divisions of opinion in this House, but I hope that, on the two Front Benches at least, there is an absolute commitment to preserving our nuclear deterrent.
May I return the Leader of the House to the independent options appraisal on the future of this building? I know that there will be a vote next year, that a Committee will be appointed and all the rest of it. However, the report has been widely trailed and we are told that it will be incredibly expensive for us to stay here. It would be useful to have an early debate, so that the views of Members can be discussed. There is no point in saying that this is an iconic building; what is important is what goes on inside this building.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course we have to ensure that this building is fit for the work that is done in it today to continue for generations to come. There will be a briefing on the report in the Boothroyd Room at 12 o’clock. I will work as hard as I can to ensure that all Members have an opportunity to contribute their views, not only in this Chamber but in discussions with those who are involved in the project.
I am extremely worried for my constituents in Ashton-under-Lyne, Droylsden and Failsworth, and for people across the country. This week, a report was published in the media regarding the crisis that is unfolding in home care services. We all have a vested interest in this matter as we are all getting older. I would like an urgent debate about how we can ensure that older people are treated with dignity and respect, and how we can deal with the unfolding crisis.
The hon. Lady has taken advantage of the Adjournment debates system to bring that and related issues to the House next week, when I am sure she will make her representations to Ministers. Of course we are all concerned to ensure that proper care is provided to the elderly. That is why the last Government established the better care fund, which will integrate social care and health care funding in a way that will improve the quality of care for the elderly, which is very necessary.
Sir John Chilcot’s failure to publish his report in a timely fashion is a betrayal of the military covenant, a betrayal of those who served in Iraq and, in particular, a betrayal of those who have suffered as a result of the Iraq war. May we have an urgent debate in Government time on why Sir John has failed to bring forward his report?
You will be aware, Mr Speaker, that there is increasing concern across the House about the amount of time it is taking for Sir John’s report to be published. The Prime Minister himself has expressed concern about this matter. It is, of course, an independent study, but I very much hope that those who are involved in putting the report together are listening carefully to the strength of the views being expressed in this House. The current delay is not what anyone envisaged, nor is it the right way to treat an issue of this importance.
Is the Leader of the House as alarmed as I am at the collapse of a number of trials of notable republicans in Northern Ireland, including Padraic Wilson, Rosa McLaughlin and a host of others, and at other cases where people have been arrested, such as Gerry Adams, with no trial pertaining thereto, and at the fact that these trials have all collapsed because of serious sex cases that the people have allegedly been involved in? The fact that none of those historic trials can be brought to a proper, full and complete hearing is damaging public confidence. Does the Leader of the House feel that there is an opportunity for a proper inquiry into those matters?
The hon. Gentleman makes a series of important points. In my previous role, I had regular contact with the judiciary in Northern Ireland. I regard them to be of very high quality and to be very committed citizens of Northern Ireland. I do not wish to say anything that in any way denigrates the work that they do. I am sure that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will take note of the questions that he has raised in the House today. They are matters that need to be dealt with sensitively, given the independence of the judicial process. I will make sure that she is aware of his concerns.
With the resurfacing of the M6 diverting much of the night-time traffic through Penkridge, Gailey and Dunston in my constituency for up to 70 nights over the coming months, may we have a debate on how Highways England can operate resurfacing and other major works more efficiently and effectively, so that they do not cause such disturbance to residents?
Having had to divert off the M6 a couple of times recently myself because of the roadworks, I share my hon. Friend’s concern about the impact on the surrounding communities. That is not always avoidable, given the need for improvements. As the improvements take root and the road is reopened, there will probably be a positive impact on the communities that he represents. I will ensure that his comments are drawn to the attention of the Department for Transport, and he should use all the channels available to him to ensure that Ministers are aware of the need to speed things up as much as is humanly possible.
While we are waiting for the briefing on the parliamentary building, is it not clear that previous reports have shown the crumbling state of the building and how costly it would be if the essential work to be undertaken were done with Members, staff and everyone else in place? I heard what the Leader of the House said about the Committee and the rest of it, but is it not important that a decision is reached, so that the necessary work can begin in 2020? The longer we delay it, the more costly it will be.
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. We need to get on with this, because there is no benefit in inappropriate delays. Of course, there is other work to be done on the parliamentary estate before that work can happen, but I am clear that we need to move ahead with it expeditiously.
May we have a debate on vehicle excise duty, which most people call car tax or road tax? That would give Members the opportunity to consider the rules governing that tax, particularly the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s practice of collecting tax twice for the same month when a vehicle changes hands from one owner to another.
I hear my hon. Friend’s point. Of course, the DVLA is working hard to improve the vehicle tax system. The removal of the tax disc, for example, has both saved money and created a system that we hope and believe will be more efficient. I am sure that Ministers will have noted his comments.
We will wait to receive the report along with everybody else. It is an independent report, and independent reports are submitted to Government when they are submitted to Government. As soon as we are able to give further information about it we will, but we are waiting in the same way that the hon. Gentleman is.
Further to the answer that my right hon. Friend gave last week to the question by my hon. Friend Bob Blackman about legislation on caste discrimination, does my right hon. Friend agree that the issue is not so much whether discrimination legislation is unwanted as whether it is necessary? If we are to have a statement by the Minister for Women and Equalities, will she acknowledge in it the meetings that she has had with those affected by caste discrimination in this country and the representations that she has had from them?
These are of course sensitive issues. We are a society in which every individual should be treated equally and fairly, and the law should apply to all parts of our society in the same way. There will of course be opportunities to address Ministers the week after next, when we will have Women and Equalities questions and Communities and Local Government questions. Both colleagues who have raised the issue in the past week and a half should feel free to raise it with Ministers again on those occasions.
Why is everybody assuming that if we have to move out of Parliament while it is repaired, we will automatically move somewhere else in London? Why cannot we move to the midlands—preferably the black country? It would be much easier for most Members to get to, and it would enable Ministers and the metropolitan elite running the civil service to find out what life is like for the rest of us. As you will know from your celebrated visit to Dudley just a few years ago, Mr Speaker, and as Mike Wood, who is in his place, will know, the Edwardian masterpiece that is Dudley town hall is at least twice the size of this Chamber and would provide adequate accommodation for every Member.
I commend the hon. Gentleman for his diligence in promoting the great town of Dudley and the black country, which is a fine part of this country with a great heritage, some great businesses and some great communities. However, I suspect that if we ended up having a debate about alternative venues for the House, we would probably find 650 different arguments being made.
Southampton airport is in my constituency. Aircrew on planes from all airports are rightly suitably trained for any emergency, but recently a 47-year-old woman died on a plane heading to Europe. Will my right hon. Friend allow time for a debate on the availability of suitable equipment on aeroplanes, particularly defibrillators, for use in times of need and to prevent diversions?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I pay tribute to Southampton airport. Many years ago, long before I was a Member of this place, I was involved in organising the launch event for the terminal building, so I know it well and it is a fine asset to the area around her constituency. I am sure that Transport Ministers will have noted what she said, but it is important that she uses the platform that she has as a Member of Parliament to make the point to the airlines. Influencing outside organisations to change the way they operate is one of the things that MPs can do.
For seven years, public sector workers have borne the brunt of the austerity agenda imposed on them by the Conservatives—800,000 people have lost their jobs, and others have had cuts in pay and pensions and attacks on terms and conditions. May we have a debate in Government time on when we will start respecting and rewarding our public sector workers, and in particular how we will recruit nurses, firefighters and care workers in the future? If we keep treating them with disrespect, no one will want to do the job.
We have some magnificent people in our public sector who do a fine job for this country, but that fact does not remove the need for us to balance the budget or the need for this country to live within its means. That was the big division and argument between us at the general election, and the reality is that we won.
After Chad, the UK charges the most passenger duty of anywhere in the world. Indeed, many of our European competitors do not charge any such tax. A recent PwC report highlighted the fact that if the tax were abolished, the economy would benefit by up to £2 billion. May we have a debate on the future of air passenger duty?
Air passenger duty is one of the taxes that was introduced by the Labour Government and that I wish was lower. I am pleased that in government we have been able to freeze it and remove it for children. I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will continue to keep it under review and, after the Budget in early July, we will have extensive chances to debate air passenger duty and other taxes. I hope that my hon. Friend will take advantage of the opportunity.
The Leader of the House may be aware that following the recent takeover of Friends Life, Aviva plans to slash £225 million from its annual budget. As part of the proposals, it intends to close its offices in Salford, Stretford and Salisbury, creating devastating job uncertainty for more than 780 employees. It has further proposals to close offices in Dorking, Exeter and central Manchester. Given the national scale of this terrible issue, is the Leader of the House amenable to diarising an urgent debate in this Chamber?
It is always difficult when major corporations reorganise—they cut jobs in one part of the country and create jobs in another to rationalise their operations. I commend the hon. Lady for what she is doing to raise the issues and challenges faced by her constituents. I suggest that she uses the opportunities that exist in this Chamber and Westminster Hall to bring a Minister along, so that she can raise her concerns directly. I give her an assurance that if her constituents end up losing out, the facilities available through the Department for Work and Pensions to help those who have lost their jobs will be deployed as effectively and as quickly as possible.
Can the Leader of House give us an early statement on the future of onshore wind farms, following the welcome announcement today of an ending of the subsidy and the change to planning law? Perhaps in that debate we could remind Pete Wishart that more than double the current number of SNP MPs wrote to the Prime Minister demanding that change four years ago, and nearly six times as many MPs had it in their manifesto this time.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done in that area. To those colleagues who are new to the House, I say that one of the things that they can all do is to change the way this country works by making a consistent and effective argument. My hon. Friend did that on wind farms and, in my view, has made a big difference to the way in which the Government operate.
I agree with my hon. Friend and I am still befuddled by the way in which the SNP appears to want more wind farms in some of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom, which I want to cherish and protect for future generations.
If the Leader of the House is unwilling or unable to confirm how many versions of the Chilcot report he has seen, can he definitively confirm that the Government have seen some? A simple yes or no would suffice.
May we have a debate on the continued crossings of illegal immigrants across the Mediterranean? While it is perfectly understandable that people want to see people who are at risk of dying rescued, many of my constituents are concerned that the Royal Navy is picking these people up and continuing their journey into the EU, rather than picking them up, turning them round and taking them back to where they came from. Is it now the Government’s policy to give safe passage to any illegal immigrant seeking to enter the EU or the UK, provided they can prove that their journey is dangerous and life-threatening?
Order. Before the Leader of the House replies, can I very gently remind the House—this is not with specific reference to what we have just heard, but more generally—that questions should relate to next week’s business and include a request for a statement or a debate?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have a twin duty. One part is to ensure that the right humanitarian support is in place to prevent people from drowning in the Mediterranean—I commend the work being done by members of our armed forces to ensure that that does not happen—but alongside that we need a long-term solution to the problem. We are not opted in to the arrangements that could lead to some of those arriving in Italy being moved to this country. It is our view that we need to put in place arrangements that will deter more people from setting off across the Mediterranean. The Home Secretary has been in discussions about that this week in Brussels. The Government will continue to seek to encourage EU partners to find a solution to the problem, but I am absolutely of the view that the solution is not about a large number of additional people coming to the UK.
The Leader of the House will be aware of the serious cases in the press this week involving the constituency of my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff, as well as the historic cases involving my constituency, of individuals travelling to Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to fight. Can he find time for an urgent statement from the Home Secretary on the progress being made on tightening up exit checks and engaging with airlines, border posts and transit countries, so that we are doing everything we can to prevent young people from travelling to fight in these horrendous conflicts?
First, let me be clear that I am as disturbed as I suspect every Member of this House is by the events of the last few days. My heart goes out to the two fathers whose families have apparently travelled to Syria; none of us can truly understand why they would have taken that decision. We have already put in place much more stringent exit checks, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the two families appear to have been previously stopped upon attempted exit from the country. I know that the Home Secretary will be looking carefully at what has happened and whether additional measures can or should be taken, and will update the House accordingly.
I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s concern. A youth football structure in this country is vital. We cannot simply buy all the players we need in this country from overseas. We need a strong youth development structure. We need to bring forward the stars of tomorrow at all levels. What I would say is that the one thing that football as a whole is not short of is money. I would like to see the different football authorities doing the right things to ensure that youth development in this country is done properly, and I know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, shares that view.
May I remind the Leader of the House that we need an urgent debate on the cost to individuals, families and our country of autism? Is he aware that, up and down the country, if we do not diagnose autism early and give the recommended treatment and support, that cost to individuals, families and the country becomes greater and greater? May we have that urgent debate?
I absolutely understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. There are some fantastic people working in the field of autism who are making a real difference to young people’s lives. I pay tribute to Linden Bridge school in my constituency, which I have seen turn the lives of young people around, helping them to deal with autism. He makes an important point; I know he will continue to use the opportunities in this House to make that point. This is an issue that very many of us share his concerns about, and I know that the Secretary of State for Health does too.
And, of course, the excellent Dr Gillian Baird, who is a specialist in this subject, is also one of the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents—something I think he knows very well.
The Sunday Times suggested that during the renovation of this wonderful Palace, we should all decamp to Dunsop Bridge in my constituency. Welcome as that might be, it could add a few billion pounds to the costs—costs varying between £1 billion and £6 billion. I know we are in uncharted territory when we start renovating this wonderful iconic building, but can the Leader of the House assure us that during all the processes that are followed and the clinical monitoring that will be necessary, he can ensure a tight grip on the costs? We want it done right, but my goodness, can we make certain that the taxpayers are not fleeced?
As I said a moment ago, 650 different arguments might be made, including one for the Duchess’s stand at Epsom Downs racecourse. In reality, I am very committed to the future of this building. We have got to do this right. It has got to be done carefully and in consultation with Members in both Houses of Parliament, as it affects both Houses. My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the financial side, and I do not think there is any danger of the Treasury leaving that untouched. The important thing is to do the right job for future generations. We are custodians of a great part of our national life in this building—of what takes place within it and of the building within which it takes place: we should protect them both.
The case of the Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, is well known in this House. I have had a look back at some statements made by Government Ministers since 2010, and in response to the questions and statements, no Minister of this Government or the previous one has ever said without equivocation that Mr Badawi should be set free. We should be joining Sweden in calling for just that. May we have a statement from the Government on this urgent issue?
As a Government, we have deplored the sentence passed in Saudi Arabia on Raif Badawi. I will make sure that the Foreign Secretary is aware of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I do not see any justification for that sentence, and floggings in public should, I think, belong to the past, not the present or the future. I will make sure that the Foreign Secretary is aware of what the hon. Gentleman said.
Potholes in my constituency continue to be expensive for drivers and dangerous for cyclists. The last Government increased local highways maintenance funding by around £1 billion compared with the previous five years, but it is right to say that the results are not always feeding through into improvements on the ground. Will the Government hold a debate on how we can help councils make taxpayers’ money go further?
If my hon. Friend has this problem in his area, I would advise him of my experience in my constituency and the county of Surrey, which is that the patch-and-mend approach that many councils adopt does not work. When it comes to repairs like this, it is better to replace sections of road rather than simply put some material in the hole. I encourage my hon. Friend to talk to his local authority and ask it to look at where it has been done better elsewhere. The money there at the moment can be made to work better.
The Leader of the House will be aware of deep concern that the recent Independent Police Complaints Commission report into events at Orgreave recommended no further action, despite finding evidence of serious criminality during and after those demonstrations. Can he ensure that the Home Secretary comes to the House to make a statement, because these events have ensured a denial of justice to those people involved at Orgreave while also calling into question whether the IPCC is fit for purpose?
This, of course, has been the week in which the Philae lander came back to life again after many months of silence. It has also been the week when the Labour party of the 1980s came back to life again. The IPCC has looked at these issues, reached its conclusions —and there, I am afraid, I believe the matter should rest.
The Department for Education entered into a funding agreement to establish Watling Park free school in my constituency. The school has already offered 40 places to children in an area of high demand, and they were due to start in a temporary class this September. Barnet council played its part when its assets regeneration and growth committee agreed, through a majority decision, to sell the school a parcel of land. Unfortunately, a minority of members of the Labour group decided to refer the decision back to the full council, thus putting the 40 places in jeopardy. As I was unfortunately not called during Education questions—
Order. This is very long. A single short sentence will suffice.
Order. I am not disputing its importance. In a kindly way, I am telling the hon. Gentleman—I am not debating the issue with him; I am telling him—that the question was too long. A short sentence, and that will deal with the matter.
This is another example of the Labour party’s inability to move away from the ideologies of the past. The fact is that free schools are making a real difference to the education of young people—they are helping to raise standards in a way that is necessary for the future of those children, and for the future of everyone in the country—but the Labour party is blocking that process at a local level.
I am sure that my colleagues in the Department for Education will have noted my hon. Friend’s remarks. I just hope that the Labour party will take account of the need for change, and the need to allow improvements to happen.
Reference has rightly been made to the Greek crisis, which is indeed reaching a climax. It is possible that the Greeks will have re-established their own national currency within a few days. As well as engaging in a full debate on all the implications of that event for Britain, Europe and the world, may we hear some suggestions from the Government of ways in which we might extend the hand of friendship to the Greeks, who have suffered so terribly as members of the eurozone?
I can give the hon. Gentleman two assurances. First, if matters develop in a way that leads to the problems in Greece becoming more pronounced, Ministers will certainly want to address those matters in the House. Secondly, we regard the Greeks as friends—as long-standing allies—and we certainly wish to do all that we can to help them in difficult times.
May I pursue the question asked earlier by my hon. Friend Chris Heaton-Harris? This morning’s written statement from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on subsidies for new wind farms is very welcome. It will certainly be welcomed in Lincolnshire, where we have seen far too many attempts to carpet our beautiful countryside in wind farms. [Interruption.] Will my right hon. Friend try to persuade the Secretary of State to come to the House so that we can ask whether individual applications which are still in the pipeline will or will not be permitted, and can that happen next week?
Fortunately, I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that the Secretary of State will be in the House for Question Time next week, and I urge him to take advantage of that opportunity to raise the points that he wishes to raise with her. He is, of course, one of the Members who have made a real impact on the Government’s policy, and he has rightly sought to protect the character of Lincolnshire.
It amazes me that we still hear sedentary complaints from SNP Members about this decision, which will actually will help to protect the character and beauty of Scotland.
I believe that, as we speak, the Vatican is publishing a new encyclical letter from Pope Francis, which will contain a radical message about social justice and protection of the environment. When might the Government respond to that, and will the House have an opportunity to consider what the Holy Father has to say?
We would not normally make a direct governmental response to a statement from the Vatican, but in the next few days Members will have opportunities to raise those matters with both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Of course, the Pope is making important points. I remind the House that only this week the Secretary of State gave consent to an important new project in Swansea bay that will generate renewable electricity. A smart approach to renewables is the right approach, and it is what this Government stand for.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is well aware of the long-running scandal surrounding the way in which the Post Office has dealt with issues involving its Horizon software system. A large number of postmasters and postmistresses may have been wrongly prosecuted. May we have an urgent debate about that system, and about the potential injustices, both past and current?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on being such a persistent advocate of those who have been affected by that issue. It is of course a commercial matter between the sub-postmasters and the Post Office; they are independent contractors to it. None the less, he has played an important role in ensuring that the issue is firmly on the Post Office’s agenda, and I know he is doing so again next week. The issue was addressed by the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills in the previous Parliament, and it will only be through the persistence of Members such as he that any wrongs end up being righted.
When we consider what we do about the refurbishment of this place, will we have an opportunity to discuss what happened between June 1941 and October 1950, when the House of Commons met in the House of Lords Chamber, a period when we won the war and also had the greatest Government ever—the 1945 Labour Government? Would that be one option we could consider?
I remind the hon. Gentleman that those decisions need to be taken by both Houses of Parliament, with great sensitivity and after extensive discussion. Trying to identify individual solutions now might be slightly premature.
In Colchester we have seen an unfortunate number of high-profile cases involving knives over the past few years. Will my right hon. Friend allow time for a debate about the importance that education institutions and charities can play in tackling the scourge of knife crime?
I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend. Members may not be aware that notwithstanding his fantastic victory in Colchester at the election, the coalition is still alive and kicking there, because last week he and a Liberal Democrat councillor made a citizen’s arrest on a burglar. I congratulate my hon. Friend on doing that; he brings a new dimension to justice enforcement in this House. Knife crime is an issue that the Government take very seriously, and I encourage him to bring forward questions or an Adjournment debate to make his points about Colchester.
Before we embark on the essential inquiry into the terrible mistake of sending troops into Helmand in 2006 in the vain hope that not a shot would be fired, could we debate the need to replace the cumbersome Chilcot arrangement with the form of parliamentary inquiry commended by a Select Committee in 2009, which would ensure that truth was speedily delivered, not endlessly delayed?
When the Chilcot process is finally completed, there will be some serious lessons to be learned from it. I personally believe that we should make greater use of the skills that exist in this House. I cannot prejudge any post-mortem of the process, except to say that I have no doubt at all that it will take place.
Over the past few weeks we have seen Caffé Nero blackmailed by a bunch of people—only 200 of them—into not taking milk from my constituents. Could we please find time to debate in the House the point that these organisations feel that they can get away with it and do what they want, and that there is no recourse to law or any other way of stopping it?
My hon. Friend has made and put on the record an important point. It is not acceptable, in my mind, for companies to give in to pressure from a very small number of activists in a way that can damage the livelihood of people who may in reality have no connection at all to the issues being raised. What took place was utterly unacceptable, and I am glad that Caffé Nero has changed its mind, but I wish it had not taken that decision in the first place.
The NSPCC’s very disturbing report this week showed that there were an additional 8,500 recorded sexual offences against children to April 2014, yet prosecutions are actually falling. Following that, may we please have a debate in Government time to find out what is happening in this very important area?
This is an enormously important issue. I suspect that a significant part of the increase is because—in an entirely welcome way—more victims feel able to come forward to report crimes that would otherwise go unnoticed and unreported. That is good. It is of course of enormous importance that all authorities involved do everything they can to bring to justice the perpetrators of those crimes. Justice questions is on Tuesday next week, and I hope that the hon. Lady will raise the matter directly with my colleague the Secretary of State.
Yesterday, Prime Minister’s questions were a revelation. I thought that Hilary Benn, who stood in as Leader of the Opposition, did an extremely good job, but I am sure that all parts of the House will have been wowed by how the Chancellor of the Exchequer handled himself at the Dispatch Box as acting Prime Minister. He has been made First Secretary of State, but in next week’s business could the Leader of the House arrange for a short written statement confirming that if the Prime Minister were incapacitated the Chancellor would take over?
Mr Bone is well known for his preoccupation with the health of others.
The Leader of the House may well be aware of the series of crises that have afflicted Barts Health NHS Trust in east London. It is the biggest trust in the country, serving 2.5 million people, and has been the subject of a series of damning Care Quality Commission reports. The situation is not sustainable—it simply cannot go on. May we have a statement on the Floor of the House from the Secretary of State for Health, or perhaps a debate, on that issue?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. A number of trusts have faced pressures and a number are doing an excellent job. Of course the Secretary of State and those who lead NHS England will always take careful cognisance of where problems and issues arise. I will make sure the hon. Gentleman’s concerns are drawn to the Secretary of State’s attention, and I will invite my right hon. Friend to respond to him accordingly.
May we have a debate about looked-after children going missing from care? A concerning report from the London Assembly this week highlighted the fact that in Enfield 199 children have gone missing from care in the past five years, 109 of them for more than 24 hours. That puts those vulnerable children at risk of abuse, exploitation and radicalisation.
My hon. Friend makes an important point, which links very much to the one made a moment ago by Diana Johnson. The disappearance of children from care can lead to all kinds of adverse consequences. I have talked to some of the victims of the sex abuse gangs, and one of the most striking things was the way in which in many parts of this country young people were able to walk into and out of care easily, without proper monitoring and without supervision. That simply should not happen, and every local authority has a duty of care to young people to ensure that they are not wandering the streets at night and cannot be preyed upon by gangs.
As colleagues will know, I am almost invariably keen to get everyone in at business questions, but we do now need to speed up a bit. If account of that could be taken, it would be helpful.
I shall be incredibly brief, Mr Speaker. We have touched on the ending of the subsidy for renewable onshore wind. With a stroke of the pen, a written statement and a press release, £3 billion-worth of investment in Scotland is at risk. When will the Secretary of State come to this House to explain that disastrous decision?
The Secretary of State will be here next week, but we will continue to have a substantial wind sector in this country and we continue to support offshore wind. I do think there are limits to the amount our countryside can be covered by wind farms. That may be a point of difference between me and the hon. Gentleman, but I am happy to have that argument with the residents of Scotland, as well as the residents of England.
The Davies commission on the future of airport expansion is due to report at the end of this month. Clearly, the Government will want to reflect on its recommendations. Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a statement to be made on the day the report is issued, followed by a full day’s debate, so that Members from across the Chamber can give their views and inform the thinking of the Government?
First, I can assure the House that the Secretary of State will, of course, be addressing these issues in this Chamber. I will take note of my hon. Friend’s request for a debate. This report will affect a number of colleagues. It will need to be considered carefully by Government and by this House, and I will do everything I can to make sure that happens.
One week after the events at Harwich, in an unreported and undocumented incident, 55 people, mainly Albanian nationals, were trafficked into Killingholme docks in Lincolnshire. That received no coverage and was hushed up. Border Force is losing staff on the Humber and in Lincolnshire, and the entire enforcement office at Hull. Teesport officers were sent down to deal with the situation but have now found themselves with 90 days’ notice of redundancy. What exactly is the Government’s policy on border controls on the east coast of England?
And may we have a statement or debate on the matter?
Our policy is to do everything we can to make sure our borders are tight and secure. We face a constant battle to do that, but I will draw my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary’s attention to the concerns the hon. Gentleman has raised and ask her to respond to him.
The Leader of the House will be aware that, earlier this week, many RBS customers failed to receive funds into their accounts as a result of a computer failure. I was surprised to hear an RBS spokesman say on Radio 4 yesterday that it was inappropriate for customers to receive compensation. Banks are compensated in reverse by charging their customers. Will he find time very soon for a debate on that issue?
If a bank has a failure of that kind and it ends up costing its customers money, it has a duty to its customers; it is as simple as that. Those customers are buying a service from the bank. If the bank ceases to be able to deliver it for a period of time and customers suffer financially as a result, the bank should respond accordingly, and I very much hope that it does.
Although my friends in the Scottish National party may wish for hard-pressed electricity consumers to continue to pour money into the wind energy gravy train, communities across the United Kingdom will welcome the Government’s announcement today. However, given the consequences of the high cost of electricity, may we have a debate on why the Government still insist on electricity consumers subsidising expensive offshore wind energy when there are cheaper alternatives from oil and gas generation?
Two weeks ago, a fire took place in Clowance Street in my constituency. Members will be relieved to know that there were no fatalities. However, it was the second serious fire in my constituency in the past six months. May we have a debate on how we improve safety, and on what measures we can take to avoid house fires?
I am pleased that there were no fatalities, but house fires are always alarming when they happen, jeopardising life. It would be beneficial for fire safety generally if we in this House did what we could to raise awareness of the issue. May I suggest that my hon. Friend takes advantage of one of the 90-minute slots in Westminster Hall to requisition such a debate? That would help build awareness of the challenge to which he rightly draws attention.
During the general election campaign, the Prime Minister told my constituents that the A&E in Halifax would not close. Last week, the clinical commissioning group said that the Prime Minister’s pledge should be taken up with the Prime Minister and not with it. May I ask for a statement from the Prime Minister, or, alternatively, a meeting with him to clarify just how and when he intends to keep his promise to my constituents to keep the A&E open?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her election. The whole point of the reforms that we put in place in the previous Parliament is that, ultimately, the decisions rest with GPs. In my own constituency, where there was a similar situation, I consulted all the local
GPs. It became clear that they did not want change, so change did not happen. I suggest that she does the same.
This morning, the Government issued two written statements about the future of onshore wind. They are important policy changes, especially when linked with the Prime Minister’s clear assurance two weeks ago that any wind farm without planning permission currently will not receive any subsidy whatsoever. May I add my request for a written statement so that we can explore the implications of those changes, particularly on my constituency of Montgomeryshire, which is threatened with desecration?
I very much hope that the changes we have announced today will prevent any such desecration. My comments about beautiful areas apply equally to the beautiful areas of his constituency. It is one of the loveliest parts of Wales, and I hope that the changes will protect his constituency for the future. I also hope that he will take advantage of next week’s Department of Energy and Climate Change questions to ensure that the Secretary of State gives him that further information that he is looking for.
May we have a debate on the ability or otherwise of Highways England correctly to manage infrastructure projects, particularly in the light of its failure to manage the A483/A55 Posthouse roundabout project in my constituency? Might that debate also include the possibility of the private sector contractors, which have contributed to that failure, being precluded from further public sector work until they can demonstrate competence? Such a debate would be timely, because, in the next two weeks, we are coming up to the third deadline for the completion of the work.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House. He rightly raises an important issue that affects the Chester area, so I suggest that he looks to take advantage of the system of Adjournment debates to bring a Minister to this House so that he can raise the issue directly.
May we have a debate on the future of consistent forms of renewable energy, such as wave and tidal, and of energy storage to future-proof our energy network? I wholeheartedly welcome this morning’s written statement on the ending of lucrative taxpayer subsidies to onshore wind farms, which threaten to encircle the city of York.
I am glad that my hon. Friend is happy with today’s announcement. I share his views about renewable energy and am very pleased that the scheme in south Wales has been given the go-ahead for tidal power generation. He will of course have the opportunity to raise these issues next Thursday with the Secretary of State and I hope that he will do so.
May I add my voice to those from both sides of the House who want an urgent debate or statement on further delays to the Chilcot inquiry? I impress on the Leader of the House the anger and frustration about the issues of Maxwellisation and impress on him the views of my constituent Mrs Rose Gentle, whose son, Gordon, was killed on active duty in Iraq. There is concern that these people have waited for answers for far too long.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman and share that frustration. I understand the frustration felt by his constituents. This is an independent process and I have no doubt that after it has been completed lessons will need to be learned, but the messages going out from both sides of the House are appropriate and will, I hope, speed things towards a proper conclusion.
To mark national care home open day tomorrow, I will visit three care homes across Pendle. The debate on care homes often focuses on bad care, so may we have a debate on national care home open day, which would allow hon. Members across the House to pay tribute to the many excellent local care workers in our constituencies and to celebrate the many examples of great care that we see?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the important point he is making. Bad examples of care often hit the headlines whereas the good examples in all our constituencies and the devoted and diligent work done by the people who work in those homes often goes utterly unmentioned. It is right and proper that that should be championed and I commend him for what he is doing. The Minister for Community and Social Care will visit a care home in Cheshire tomorrow and I hope that all Members will take advantage of the opportunity in the next few days to say thank you to those people in their constituencies who do this important work.
The whole House will be aware of the recent decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute Lord Janner for alleged child abuse owing to his apparent ill health. May we have a debate on this decision, and will the Leader of the House offer any advice on why Lord Janner can retain his seat in the other place, writing laws, when he is apparently unable to face the law himself?
This immensely sensitive issue is part of a much broader sensitive issue. I commend the hon. Gentleman for his work in this regard; he has done as much as anyone to bring this matter of great national concern to the fore. There has been a lot of debate and controversy about the decision that has been taken, and there will be an Adjournment debate next week in which Members will have the chance to raise concerns and issues about the Crown Prosecution Service. I am sure that the messages from that debate will be listened to very carefully.
I very much agree with what Andrew Stephenson asked the Leader of the House. The Care Quality Commission has just inspected Admiral Court care home in my constituency, saying that it showed a blatant disregard for humanity. Residents were virtually imprisoned and were denied food and water, and wheelchair users were not allowed to wash. It is an absolute disgrace that this sort of thing happens in our country in 2015.
On the back of that, may we have an urgent debate on the quality of social care to ensure that those who are often the most vulnerable people in our society do not have to suffer in this way again?
The hon. Gentleman’s point is the flipside of what we heard a moment ago. Although there is great care in this country, there is sometimes awful care. What I find encouraging at the moment is the willingness of the Care Quality Commission simply to close bad homes. It is not acceptable to leave people in that condition and anyone who is running a care home that is substandard in looking after our elderly should expect a knock on the door and should know that their livelihood is in danger. I commend the CQC for ensuring that that happens in enough cases to send out a message.
In the past 12 months, the eight NHS hospital trusts in Greater Manchester have spent more than £100 million on employing agency staff. May we please have a statement from the Health Secretary about the training, recruitment and retention of nurses in the NHS so that our health service can be both financially and medically sustainable in the future?
This subject is debated regularly in this House and will continue to be so. I know that health service managers and Ministers in the Department of Health are focused on the unnecessarily high level of cost. Personally, I am strongly in favour of creating banks within the NHS rather than externally generated ones, and some trusts are now doing that—certainly, that is beginning to happen in my area. It is right and proper that we try to bring down costs in the health service where we can, and this is an important way of doing so.
The Leader of the House will be aware that a few days ago the UK Government rejected a freedom of information request on the grounds that compliance would involve the release of information that could damage our relationship with France. Given that the request was about the circumstances in which a then Minister of the Crown authorised the deliberate leaking of a confidential, but probably inaccurate, record of a private conversation between another Minister of the Crown and a senior representative of the French Government, may we have an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland to reassure the House that the Government’s attitude to secrecy and open government is based on what is in the interests of the public and not on what is politically expedient for individual politicians?
Given the recent changes, the Government have no particular reason to have a vested interest in this matter, but I would say two things to the hon. Gentleman. It is important that Government can operate in a way that is in the interests of the country, and I know that those who look at ways to respond to such inquiries will always seek to do that; but if he and others are concerned, the point of having an Information Commissioner and an Information Tribunal is to enable decisions to be challenged, to establish whether they were right or wrong.