The business for next week will be as follows.
The provisional business for the week commencing
The House will be aware that the new arrangements involving the Petitions Committee and the allocation of time for matters raised in petitions begin from now. I therefore wish to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. May I first warmly add my voice to the tributes paid yesterday to Her Majesty the Queen for her exemplary 63 years and 216 days of service to this country, which is ongoing?
Following the Prime Minister’s revelation on Monday that he authorised a lethal drone strike against a British citizen and ISIL terrorist in Syria, we welcome the establishment of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which will now rightly be able to scrutinise the Government’s actions in this case. The Defence Secretary has stated that there may be similar drone strikes in future, and the media have speculated about the existence of a “hit list” of targets. It is clearly not possible or desirable to discuss individual cases across the Floor of the House, but can the Leader of the House assure me that the Government will publish the criteria that they are using to justify such operations, and will he set time aside so that Parliament can debate them?
Yesterday, in his evidence to the Procedure Committee, the Leader of the House confirmed that he would bring his plans for so-called English votes for English laws back to the House in October. These partisan and unworkable proposals have been criticised throughout the House and in the other place, which has passed a motion calling for a Joint Committee of both Houses to examine the issue. Will the Leader of the House tell us if and when the Government intend to respond to that motion? I welcome the work that the Procedure Committee is doing in considering the implications of the Government’s plans, and look forward to the publication of its report, but does the Leader of the House not recognise the widespread controversy that his divisive proposals have created? Instead of rushing ahead in a partisan manner, will he now reconsider, and agree to pilot them first?
Next Tuesday, for just 90 minutes, the House will debate a statutory instrument on working tax credits which will make 3 million families at least £1,000 a year worse off. Single parents in work will be hardest hit, and 5 million of Britain’s poorest children will be pushed further into poverty. Even the right hon. Gentleman’s own Back Benchers are waking up to the scale of this huge attack on working people, and Guto Bebb has described the cuts as “eye-wateringly painful”. Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that 90 minutes is just not long enough to debate a change which will have such a detrimental effect on so many working people, and will he grant more time for the debate? Given that increases in the minimum wage and a cynical rebranding exercise will not nearly compensate for the loss of working tax credit, can he explain how on earth these changes fulfil the Government’s promise to “make work pay”?
Next week’s business completely exposes the Tories’ ludicrous claim to be some kind of workers’ party. Their Trade Union Bill is designed to undermine basic rights at work and prevent effective collective action for better pay and conditions, while their fees for employment tribunals have made legal protections at work practically unenforceable. Meanwhile, Liberty and Amnesty International have condemned the Government’s plans to force trade unionists to register with the police and share social media comments in advance as
“a major attack on civil liberties”.
Can the Leader of the House confirm that there are now serious concerns that the Government’s proposals on workers’ rights violate this country’s legal obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation?
While the summer recess has been a calm and uneventful time for the Labour party, the Government are facing troubles of their own. We have had the ongoing farce of the Prime Minister’s renegotiations and negotiations over Europe—that is negotiations with his own MPs. He has also already given in on collective Cabinet responsibility during the referendum campaign—much to the Leader of the House’s relief, I am sure. He has also given in on the date, and on Monday no fewer than 37 of his MPs, including five former Cabinet Ministers, joined us in the Division Lobby because they just did not trust their own Government not to misbehave on purdah. It makes our leadership election process look orderly and smooth by comparison.
Despite my party’s sterling attempt to banish silly season entirely this summer, it seems that it still exists on the Conservative Benches. Mr Holloway has uncovered a new angle on the refugee crisis. He claimed he could not get his hair cut because his barber had gone home to Iraq. I can reveal to the House that his barber was actually on holiday in Great Yarmouth.
It has emerged through Labour’s extensive and unrivalled vetting process that Baroness Altmann has in fact been a member of the Labour party since 2014. Apparently, she renewed her membership just before the election, and was actually a member of all three major parties.
May I start with some words about the shadow Leader of the House? As she highlights, over the next three days some changes are afoot in the Labour party. We have followed quite closely the campaign for her party’s deputy leadership; I think she has fought a very decent campaign and I wish her all the very best for the outcome. If it transpires that this is her last day at the Dispatch Box for business questions, may I say that, although we have sparred with each other for only a few weeks, I have very much enjoyed working with her, and I hope that it is not the last time we work together? I wish her all the very best in the changes over the next few days.
I echo the hon. Lady’s remarks about Her Majesty the Queen. I have the honour of having served first as Lord Chancellor and now as Lord President of the Council. In those two roles I have had dealings directly with Her Majesty and that has been one of the greatest—if not the greatest—honours of my career. I continue to regard her as a fantastic monarch for this country and I think yesterday’s tributes from this House were absolutely right and proper and appropriate.
The hon. Lady made reference to the drone strike. The Prime Minister has been very clear that he will discuss how to bring the details to the scrutiny of the ISC when the new Chair of that Committee is appointed. No Prime Minister would ever take a decision such as that lightly. Ultimately, surely, the first job of the Prime Minister of this nation is to protect its safety and security and that of its citizens, and I am absolutely certain that that is at the front of our Prime Minister’s mind as he deals with these very difficult, sensitive and challenging issues.
The hon. Lady mentioned English votes for English laws. I listened to the evidence that she gave yesterday to the Procedure Committee, in which she described how our proposals departed massively from those of the McKay commission. That is nonsense. Our proposals are consistent with the recommendations and principles set out in the McKay commission report. They are measured and sensible, and they provide a balance to our devolution settlement. I think they are the right thing to do, and we will bring them back before the House shortly. The hon. Lady asked about a pilot. I have committed to reviewing the process after 12 months. Over that period, we can take input from the Procedure Committee and other Committees on how the process is working. I look forward to seeing the Procedure Committee’s recommendations shortly.
The hon. Lady referred to next week’s debate on tax credits. We have had to make some tough decisions in the interests of this country, both in this Parliament and in the last one, to get our economy back on the straight and narrow. I make no apology for that, and I remind her that one of the reasons we are sitting on the Government Benches and Labour Members are on the Opposition Benches is that the people of this country recognised that it was right and necessary to take those tough decisions to ensure that future generations can live in a country that is founded on strong economic foundations. She talked about the time allocated for that debate. This issue was extensively discussed in the days of debate that followed the summer Budget. Next week’s debate will provide an opportunity to confirm the statutory instrument necessary to bring the measures into effect, and I am confident that Members will give it their support.
I am also confident that the House will support the Trade Union Bill when it comes before the House next week. The hon. Lady talks about looking after the interests of working people. I would like to look after the interests of people who find their working lives disrupted on the days when our transport system is massively interrupted by a minority of workers. We are on their side, which is why the Bill is necessary.
The hon. Lady mentioned the issue of Labour membership. I suspect she will find that a number of people who have voted in the leadership contest reflect a broader membership than any of the parties represented in this House, and that that might have something to do with the likely outcome. Mr Speaker, you might not know that this week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of that great movie “Back to the Future”. You might think that we are about to see a new sequel to that film this weekend, but I think we are going to see a new version of the “Tom and Jerry” show.
My constituent, Sergeant Jay Baldwin, served with distinction in Afghanistan and during active service unfortunately lost both his legs. He has apparently been denied further NHS treatment because he sought alternative medical advice in Australia. We will not have Health or Defence questions during these two weeks, but I should like to raise this issue and bring it to the attention of the Government in the hope of reaching a swift resolution.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s constituent and to all those who have served our country with such distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom suffered dreadful injuries. It is right and proper, and the duty of this country, to make sure that we look after them. The circumstances that my hon. Friend has described are very difficult ones, because we have tight rules in the NHS on these matters. However, my colleagues in the Department of Health are well aware of the importance of this issue and they are giving it careful consideration.
I also thank the Leader of the House for providing the business for next week. I, too, am unsure whether to pay a premature tribute to the shadow Leader of the House, Ms Eagle. We do not yet know whether she is going to be leading her party, whether she will be sitting on the Front Bench or the Back Benches, or whether she will be in some kind of Social Democratic party mark II. I have very much enjoyed working with her, and I hope that she manages to retain her place on the Front Bench. As we watch the results of the Labour leadership contest this week, however, let us remember never to ask the Labour party to organise an over-indulgent evening on the premises of an alcohol beverage manufacturer.
It is good to see that the Leader of the House has regained his usual cheerful disposition, following his irritable and bad-tempered performance in the Procedure Committee yesterday, in which he shouted down individual Members and challenged others to bar-room brawls. His incredible behaviour included the ridiculous assertion that there was no such thing as Barnett consequentials, contrary to what everyone else says. It is pretty clear that the Leader of the House is not a unifying character, but somehow he has managed to unite every single party in the House—he has even managed to unite the House of Lords—against his mad plans for English votes for English laws. We are hearing expert witnesses telling him how absurd some of those plans are, but according to him everybody else is wrong, and he is right. In the light of what he has heard, will he now review those plans and ensure that they do not come back to this House in their current condition?
That brings us on to friends in the House of Lords. Over the recess, we acquired 41 brand new parliamentarians, who will now have a role in scrutinising and initiating our legislation, and what a motley crew they are too—former party donors, former apparatchiks, former MPs, and people who seem only to have qualified for a place because they can give significant sums of money to one of the major Westminster and UK parties. What an absolutely ridiculous thing. The only plan that this Government have for the House of Lords, which has become so discredited in the eyes of the people, is to increase that bloated place even further, with even more new Members. That is the only plan that this Conservative Government have for that absurd and ridiculous circus down the corridor.
The House has been at its best this week in discussing the refugee crisis. The way in which these debates have been conducted has been a credit to the House. The only issue that I have with the way in which things have transpired was the unfortunate statement from the Prime Minister on Monday. A common feature of this Government, especially with the Prime Minister’s statements, is this bundling together of a number of different issues. I do not know what counter-terrorism had to do with the refugee crisis. I think the British public expected us to focus exclusively on the refugee crisis, and they wanted to hear leadership from the Prime Minister, which they did not get. What they got was a counter-terrorist statement with a bit on refugees. Can we ensure that such a thing does not happen again? The British public expect better than that. Will the Leader of the House take a look at that and vow to come back on important and significant issues such as the refugee crisis and ensure that they are not bundled together with other matters? In that way, the British public will get what they deserve and require, which is a statement on issues that concern them.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the House with his usual understated performance. He tends to return to the same issue week after week. I know that the Scottish National party has come to this place wanting to whip up a great row between England and Scotland. There is no doubt that it will do that week after week. Once again I say to him that our proposals on English votes for English laws are measured and sensible. They provide fairness in our devolution settlement. It is not realistic to say that we will provide much more devolution to the people of Scotland, which we are doing, but that England will have no part of it. Our measures are balanced, sensible, proportionate and fair, and we will bring them before this House shortly and I am confident that the House will back them.
On the House of Lords—another issue that the hon. Gentleman returns to week after week—the reality is that the new appointments contain people whose views we wish to hear. I am talking about disability campaigners and senior business people. The House of Lords has a vast wealth of expertise. It contains people who bring to the law-making process in this building experience of all aspects of our national life. I know that the Scottish National party does not like it, but actually those people add a quality to debate that is immensely valuable to our law-making process.
The hon. Gentleman talked about Prime Minister’s statements. We have just had a recess. There were a number of important issues to discuss. The Prime Minister was in this House for two-and-a-quarter hours answering questions. In what world is that not sufficient? We have a Prime Minister who has come into this House to take questions on a variety of related issues. He is doing the job that we expect him to do. Although I absolutely respect and like the hon. Gentleman, who has a wonderful style in this Chamber, he was still talking a lot of nonsense.
Given the integrationist and dictatorial speech made by Mr Juncker yesterday, why has my right hon. Friend chosen not to announce a debate on the Floor of the House on the opt-in decision on the relocation of migrants, for which the European Scrutiny Committee, anticipating the present immigration crisis, called in July? The Committee unanimously agreed yesterday that the debate was imperative, irrespective of other debates this week. Will he arrange it for this week or next, as I called for in my letter earlier this week?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and I intend to sit down and talk to him about how we address it. I am well aware of his Committee’s concerns and of the importance of ensuring that these matters are properly heard. I also heard the speech yesterday, and to me it underlines the need for us to see radical change in our relationships with the European Union. That is why the referendum is so important. I do not believe that Britain needs the degree of more Europe that was on offer yesterday—in fact, I think we need just the opposite. We really must address this issue, and I am delighted that this Prime Minister has given this country the chance to vote on our future in the European Union.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 378, which stands in my name?
[That this House condemns Ellis David Ezair, owner of Flint Glassworks, Jersey Street, Manchester for failing over a period of several months to respond to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton regarding complaints from the right hon. Member's constituents whose homes are suffering serious damage because of the failure by Mr Ezair to rectify a situation for which he is entirely responsible; and calls on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to investigate and, if possible, rectify this unacceptable situation.]
It is in regard to serious antisocial activities being conducted in my constituency by Ellis David Ezair of Flint Glassworks. He does not live in my constituency, and for his own private profit he is wrecking the homes and environment of a considerable number of my constituents. Does the Leader of the House agree that that is unacceptable, and will he draw the matter to the attention of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government? Will he give time in the House for the matter to be discussed?
I commend the Father of the House for, notwithstanding his long years of service, having retained his zeal in representing his constituents on what are clearly serious matters. The issues he raises today are important, although I obviously cannot comment on the individual circumstance. I will ensure that my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government are aware of his comments and of his early-day motion. I am sure that a man of his experience will seek to bring these matters before the House in the variety of ways that are available to him.
May we have a debate on the way in which Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs deals with small businesses? When I speak to small businessmen in my constituency, such as those at Bur-Low Engineering, I frequently hear complaints about the way in which they are treated, which is often bureaucratic and high-handed.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is, of course, of paramount importance that in the interests of our national finances, HMRC secures payment of taxes that are due. It is equally important that it does not treat business people as guilty until proven innocent, rather than the other way round, and that it treats them fairly and with respect. I am sure that those working in HMRC will have heard my hon. Friend’s comments. He makes a valuable point and is, as ever, an effective champion of small business.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving notice that the first day back after the conference recess will be for Back-Bench business. However, there is a problem, given that the last meeting of the Backbench Business Committee before then is this Monday, so Members who want to put in bids have until the end of play tomorrow to get them in. On Monday, the Committee sat and was unaware that next Friday had been allocated to us as a Back-Bench business day, and we consequently informed Members that we did not anticipate any time to be allocated before the October return. Time is tight, so I ask Members to get their act together, and please to put in bids by the close of play tomorrow.
The House will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s comments, and I hope that Members will accede to his request. I am sorry that we had the confusion at the start of the week, but decisions about business are not normally taken before the end of Monday. I gather that he is looking to move the date of his meetings so that they coincide with the allocation of business for the following week. We will work with him carefully to ensure that we make the best use of the time that he and his Committee have at their disposal.
May we find time to recognise the accomplishments of Paula Radcliffe—not only her multiple accomplishments in athletics, but also the inspiration that her dedication to her sport has provided to generations of athletes, and her courage in standing up against the current trend of media innuendo, leading to presumptions of guilt? Her inspiration and courage are why I, as the Member for Bedford, am proud that we have a stadium in our town that proudly carries her name.
My hon. Friend’s comments say it all. Paula Radcliffe was and is one of our great athletes. I share his concern about the fact that in this and other areas we as a society believe that media innuendo is a sign of guilt. That is a step in the wrong direction and one that we should reverse.
Last night I chaired a meeting in the House on refugees. At the end of it a children’s rights lawyer who had spent two weeks on Lesbos handed me two things. The first was a child’s exercise book picked up from the sea, as Members can see, with English language words on one side and Arabic on the other. The second was a so-called life vest, which would not save anybody’s life. We are offering 4,000 places for refugees in one year. The Greeks receive 4,000 a day. May we have a statement next week on any further thoughts that the Government may have on increasing the number of refugees? We must do more.
We have debated the matter extensively this week, and the Government will of course continue to update the House as this matter develops. The point that the right hon. Lady makes is important, but everyone has to realise that we are dealing with a very large number of refugees in the countries around Syria and that those numbers of refugees cannot all be resettled elsewhere. That is why this Government are spending far more than any other European country on providing support for people close to home. The challenge for us is to find a long-term solution in Syria for us to help rebuild Syria and enable the people to return home.
It has always been understood that Members will not have their communications intercepted. That was established by the Wilson doctrine. Considering the answer that the Prime Minister gave yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions, may we have a written statement next week on how many Members’ communications have been intercepted over the past 10 years?
This is an important issue. Although there are legal questions involved, I am not aware that the approach has changed at all. I would not wish it to change, nor do I believe that this Government would condone such a change.
Clinical commissioning groups in Worcestershire are recommending that their GPs refer patients not to Worcester and Redditch but to Birmingham because the waiting lists in Worcestershire are reaching unacceptable levels. Out-of-area referrals other than for clinical reasons are unacceptable and distort the system. May we have a debate on how, post-Lansley, management of the NHS as a national service is becoming increasingly difficult?
There will be Health questions on
The Government recently announced a consultation on the closure of 90 courts across England and Wales. The inclusion of Bath magistrates court and county court is causing a lot of concern for my constituents, who are worried that they will not be able to access the justice system. Will my right hon. Friend set aside time to debate this later in the parliamentary Session?
I see that my hon. Friend is already proving an effective campaigner for his area. I regret the decisions that we have had to take in many areas to deal with the financial crisis that this country has faced in recent years. We have had to take difficult and tough decisions and changes have had to take place. I am acutely aware that there are concerns when institutions such as local courts are lined up to be closed. I know my hon. Friend will make strong representations to the Ministry of Justice and he can bring forward an Adjournment debate on the subject. This Government will do their best to do the right thing for this country and for individual constituencies, but there will have to be tough decisions in the months ahead.
The Leader of the House will know that, as a consequence of the House’s rightful discussion of Her Majesty’s reign yesterday, Welsh questions have been deferred until next Wednesday and Northern Ireland questions have been deferred until after the conference recess. Given the live prospect either that the Northern Ireland Assembly will today vote to adjourn, or that all my colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive will resign from their ministerial posts, what consideration has he given to allowing the House an opportunity to hear from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland either this week or next?
This is a matter of the utmost seriousness, and it is one of great concern to the Government. Indeed, I had discussions with ministerial colleagues about the matter this morning. I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that the Secretary of State will return to the House before the conference recess to provide an update on development in Northern Ireland, so there will be that opportunity for scrutiny.
May I echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend Ben Howlett in calling for a debate on the Government’s programme of court closures? As the Leader of the House said, it is right that we get value for money for the taxpayer in our justice system, but it is also right that these decisions are based on facts. The consultation claims that Burton court, which is threatened with closure, is a four-room court, but in fact it has three rooms. Today I have heard that in order to work out the court’s usage, the consultation used a period when it was closed because the cells were being refurbished. That is simply not good enough. May we please have a debate so that we can get the facts right?
I am sure that my hon. Friends in the Ministry of Justice will have noted my hon. Friend’s comments. I refer him to what the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee said a moment ago about seeking subjects for debate in the coming days. If my hon. Friend feels strongly about these matters, there is an opportunity to bring them to the House’s attention through that route.
Following previous comments, would it not be appropriate to have a statement, preferably as soon as possible, on how the Government can possibly justify trying to reduce the number of Members of the elected House of Commons by at least 50 while increasing the number of Members of the House of Lords, which is totally unelected, to 825? Is that the Tory conception of modern democracy? Talk about back to the future!
I simply remind the hon. Gentleman that the coalition Government brought forward plans for House of Lords reform in the previous Parliament, but they could not proceed because the Labour party obstructed the programme motion. If he wants to know why the House of Lords was not reformed, he should look to his own party.
My right hon. Friend will be concerned to hear that the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital is no longer offering to my constituents in Plymouth breast reconstructions following cancer treatment, despite the treatment offered there being far superior to that which is offered at Derriford hospital. May we have a debate on the postcode lottery for breast reconstruction in the south-west?
I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. There are often differences in services as a result of local decision making, but in my years as a Member of Parliament I have always found that people want decisions to be taken by local doctors and by those who work in the local health service, rather than by Whitehall, and that is what we delivered through our reforms. I suggest that he bring the matter to Health questions, which will be in the first week back after the conference recess. There will also be an opportunity to debate health matters next Monday, as I explained earlier.
Dewsbury hospital has recently introduced parking charges for blue badge holders and is hoping to recoup £98,000. Simultaneously, the same trust has spent about £12 million on external management consultants Ernst and Young in the past few years—one might question whether it has its priorities right. Will the Leader of the House agree to consider holding a debate on hospital parking charges?
I know that hospital parking charges are a concern for many Members across the House. Of course, it is a difficult balance for trusts to strike, because the money raised normally goes into patient care, although I understand the point the hon. Lady makes. There will be an opportunity to debate health service matters on Monday, and there will be Health questions in the first week after the conference recess. I encourage her to raise the issue with my colleagues in the Department of Health, who I am sure will have heard what she has said.
The A55 expressway in north Wales is an important part of the UK’s road network, linking the M56 in Cheshire to the port of Holyhead. Previous Conservative Governments have a proud record of constructing this road, which is used regularly by thousands of my constituents. However, it is increasingly congested, subject to increasing numbers of accidents, and has poor linkages to the urban coastal strip of my constituency. Unlike rail infrastructure, trunk roads are now a devolved matter in Wales. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate to discuss how very necessary improvements to the A55 and its linkages might be brought about?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. He highlights one of the frustrations that many representatives from north Wales feel about the fact that the Labour Administration in Cardiff neither understands north Wales nor pays very much attention to it. Only Conservatives in north Wales, fortunately in much larger numbers than in the past, really beat the drum for that important part of this country and make the case for proper improvements there. I hope that his comments will have been noted on both sides of the border. I encourage him to bring forward an Adjournment debate so that we continue to put pressure on the Labour party, which, where it is actually in office, proves pretty ineffective at it.
Will the Leader of the House make a statement on companies using number plate recognition technology and access to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency information that are levying excessive charges for short periods of overstaying in car parks? One of my constituents faces a £100 charge for leaving one about 10 minutes later than she should have done. Legal advisers to Citizens Advice Scotland suggest that this is contrary to Scots law, but that does not stop parking companies undermining the credit rating of vehicle owners. Is it not time that the industry was forced on to a sustainable legal footing instead of being allowed to behave like a modern-day Dick Turpin? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
The hon. Lady raises a concern that, as we can hear, is clearly shared across this House. Of course it is right and proper that people should have some degree of control over the land they operate and be able to penalise those who abuse their rights to park there, but there are cowboys who grossly abuse this. I will make sure that her comments are drawn to the attention of the Department for Transport. I am absolutely with her in saying that this matter should be treated properly and effectively. I am sure my colleagues will look at ways of making sure that we can stamp on the cowboys.
Despite suffering from Crohn’s disease since he was 18, my constituent Andy Powell has not only successfully completed a degree in engineering but spent the summer raising money for the team at King’s College London who are researching to find a cure for this condition. Might we find time for a debate on research into Crohn’s disease, which has such a negative impact on many people’s quality of life?
I commend my hon. Friend’s constituent. One of the great things about this country is that we hear stories of people who not only overcome adversity but use the circumstances in which they find themselves to positive effect. Clearly, his constituent is a fine example of that. He has already put this matter on the record, but I encourage him to use the opportunities available in this House through the Adjournment debate system and the Backbench Business Committee to make his point. It is a dreadful disease for which we all want to see improved treatments and cures. I really commend his constituent for what he is doing.
When will the Leader of the House allow us to have a debate on that vital area of our life, manufacturing and manufacturing productivity? Does he think it is enough that only 10% of people in this country make anything any longer, and does he agree with the way in which we are treating further education colleges, where most of our technicians and skilled people are trained? Is this good enough when business, industry and manufacturing desperately need highly trained people to crack the productivity challenge?
The Government take this issue very seriously. We have worked on a number of different ways to seek to boost manufacturing, whether it is protection of the science budget, investment in the regional growth fund, or investment in apprenticeships. We now have some great success stories in this country. Our automotive industry, in particular, has been a tremendous success in recent years. To make, I am afraid, a party political point, I remind Labour Members that while it is popular wisdom, often repeated by many of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues, that the manufacturing base of this country declined sharply in the years of Conservative government, the actual truth is that when the Conservative party was in government in the 1980s manufacturing as a share of our economy fell slightly, but under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown it almost halved.
The approach to the Dartford crossing on the M25 has become Britain’s worst stretch of motorway. The free-flow system introduced earlier this year has clearly failed to live up to expectations, leading to horrendous traffic jams in the area. May we have a debate on the issue and how the residents of Dartford are left at the mercy of any incident that takes place at the Dartford crossing?
I absolutely understand the knock-on effect on my hon. Friend’s constituents. It is frustrating that the free-flow has not worked better sooner, because it should be a dramatic improvement on what was there before and it is disappointing that that has not yet happened. The Highways Agency understands the problem, but it needs to get its skates on and deliver a better set-up, because we cannot leave both that important part of the M25 and the residents of Dartford in a position where things are not yet at their best.
In the light of the magnitude of the current refugee crisis, people will be making it clear this weekend that they want to provide a warm welcome for refugees, with rallies and vigils, including in my constituency of York Central. Will the Government make time for a weekly update and Question Time on the current crisis and continue to review the figures as part of that?
Of course, we will continue to update the House as we play our part in dealing with the issue, and as a nation we will provide a warm welcome to the 20,000 people we have said we will take from the camps. We will also continue—this is equally, and possibly more, important—to put nearly £1 billion a year into the camps themselves. The most vulnerable people are in those camps. They have not been able to make their way to Europe. They are the people who are most in need of help and they are the people on whom we are focusing our support.
Many areas of the country are enjoying the benefits of local TV services delivered over free-to-air digital terrestrial television and funded in part by the BBC TV licence. Due to technical issues, Leicester and Leicestershire were unable to bid for a local TV licence, so they are at a considerable disadvantage compared with our neighbours in Nottinghamshire, who have a thriving local TV channel. May we have a Government statement on what support can be given to help deliver a Leicestershire television station, perhaps by another method of communication?
I understand the disappointment in Leicestershire, and as always my hon. Friend makes an important point on behalf of the county he represents. I will make sure his concerns are drawn to the attention of my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and I wish him all the best in his endeavours. I am absolutely certain that, with him championing the cause of a Leicestershire TV station, its launch date can be only a short while away.
Over the summer the Government announced, without consultation, 27 blocks of land, including in my own constituency, on which fracking companies can begin exploratory drilling. Given that the Government have granted communities the right to oppose onshore wind farms, can we have an urgent debate on the Government’s energy policy and the rights of our constituents to oppose and have a say over what happens in their own backyard?
There is local decision making about planning applications for fracking, but, given that we have to provide future energy to warm our houses, particularly those of elderly people, it is in the strategic interests of this country to have good, effective sources of energy. In this Government’s view, fracking is an important resource and we should take advantage of it. It is not a new technique. It has existed in the oil and gas industry for many years. We are strongly of the view that it is an essential part of our future energy strategy. The hon. Lady will have a chance to raise those issues with the Secretary of State in Energy questions next Thursday, but this country must have a smart approach to ensuring that we have sources of energy for the future, and this is one of them.
You will be aware, Mr Speaker, that there is a popular misconception held by normal people outside this place that Members of Parliament on opposing sides cannot stand one another and barely share a civil word. By my estimation that is something that usually happens within political parties and it may be just about to get worse. Were it not for the conviviality between the parties, the normal channels that make the business of this House run smoothly could collapse or be damaged. Does the Leader of the House know of anything—perhaps something happening somewhere in London this weekend—that might put a spoke in the usual channels and prevent them from working smoothly?
My hon. Friend draws attention to a phenomenon that all Government Members have noticed this week not just through the usual channels, but across the whole Labour party. It is almost as though all Labour Members are like the characters—do you remember them, Mr Speaker, from our childhood days when we all read comic books?—who have little dark clouds above them and rain landing on their heads. I am not quite sure why, but perhaps something is going to happen that they are not very happy about. They certainly all seem pretty miserable, and I wish there was something we could do to cheer them up.
I commend and thank Business, Innovation and Skills Ministers for standing firm, despite the expected usual lobbying by the large pub companies and their trade association, and for making it clear that the statutory code for pubs, including the market rent only option, goes through. May we have a statement from a BIS Minister to lay out the timetable, because the code must be in place by May 2016?
I commend the hon. Gentleman on his work on this matter, on which he is an assiduous campaigner. There will be BIS questions next week, so I suggest he asks either a listed or a topical question to get Ministers to set out the timetable. I will make sure that they are aware of his interest in the matter.
It is generally accepted that for good government it is necessary to have an effective opposition. All political parties go through leadership traumas from time to time—there is no shame in that—but would it not be a good idea to give the Opposition a debate on the first day back in October? All the new shadow Cabinet members could come to the House to outline their thoughts about the policies they wish to pursue in a debate entitled, “Her Majesty’s
Opposition: an alternative programme for government”, and we can find out what the terms of trade will be over the lifetime of the next parliamentary Session.
Earlier, the Leader of the House said that he is on the side of working people, so let us test him. Rail fares have gone up by about 25% over the past five years, while wages have gone up by only 9%. Virgin has cancelled its pensioner users card. What is he going to do about that? May we have either an emergency statement or a debate on it?
Through the plans we put in our manifesto and what we have done since, we have put limits on fare rises. The truth is that we as a party in government have had to make some difficult decisions, which arose only because of the massive deficit we inherited in 2010. I regret those difficult decisions. We have tried to find the best possible balance, but they were necessary.
May I add my name to the requests already made during business questions by the hon. Members for Bath (Ben Howlett) and for Burton (Andrew Griffiths)? Some 23% of magistrates courtrooms are earmarked for closure, including Hartlepool magistrates court. With the single brief exception of Justice questions on Tuesday, the House has not had an opportunity to raise this matter, and the consultation period will close before the House returns in October. The Leader of the House, a former Justice Secretary, knows how many times this has been raised. Will he arrange an urgent debate so that we can discuss how local justice is being lost for millions of people, including my constituents?
This matter has been raised by Members from both sides of the House, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we still have such an opportunity next week. This could be debated on the Back-Bench business day on Thursday. We provide Back-Bench business days precisely to enable Members from both sides of the House to raise issues that are of concern to them. I encourage him to speak to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee to put such an item on the agenda.
Will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to come to the House next week to report back on his meetings this week with Prime Minister Netanyahu? When the Prime Minister does so, will he specifically address the questions he has asked Prime Minister Netanyahu and the responses he has received from him pursuant to recommendations 2 and 5 of the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution in June on the Gaza conflict? Both recommendations call for accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and for co-operation with the investigations of the International Criminal Court.
The Prime Minister will be here next week, as he is each week, for Prime Minister’s questions and Opposition Members will be able to raise that issue with him. All of us wish to see peace in the middle east and between Israel and Palestine. It is my view that the best strategy for this Government now and in the future is to be collaborative and constructive in discussions with both sides in order to play the best possible role in securing a peaceful future.
Many people across the country will have welcomed the announcement on Monday both about the additional refugees and about the decision on the air strike that the Prime Minister took over the summer. However, why can the Leader of the House not see that it was unacceptable to conflate those issues in a double-headed statement, particularly given that one was an issue of national security which, although it may be supported, should rightly be scrutinised by this House? Will he ensure that the Prime Minister and other members of the Government do not do that again?
I am afraid that I just do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Prime Minister making a statement for an hour on one subject and then making a statement for an hour on another is little different from the Prime Minister making a lengthy statement on matters of current interest and taking questions for two hours afterwards. I believe that it was right and proper for the Prime Minister to make himself available for such an extended length of time. We should be glad that we have a Prime Minister who is willing to do that.
I have been told in the short time that I have been here that repetition is not a vice, so it will come as no surprise to the Leader of the House that I am asking for a Government statement or a debate in Government time on the delays and conduct of the Chilcot inquiry. May I impress upon him the anger of military families such as that of my constituent Mrs Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Iraq? Chilcot’s recent public response to those who are looking for a timetable could politely be described as intemperate, but is perhaps better defined as bullying and threatening behaviour. Will the Government make a statement on those recent comments?
It would not be appropriate for us to start commenting on the comments of independent advisers. However, like the hon. Gentleman, I have put it on the record that I want to see the report published as soon as possible, and neither of us has changed our view. That view is shared across the Government. I absolutely understand the frustration of the families involved, and they have my every sympathy and concern, given what they have gone through. All of us on both sides of the House are simply saying that we want the report to be published as quickly as possible. I am absolutely sure that Sir John Chilcot has received that message.
I recently met Mark Foxley and Lorenzo O’Reilly from Rochdale town centre, who raised concerns about the lack of police in the town centre and the increase in shoplifting. That is obviously due to the loss of 1,500 police officers. I am concerned that the replacement of the police allocation formula will make matters even worse. May we have a debate on what effect the changes to the formula will have in Greater Manchester?
I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s concerns are raised with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Home Office questions are on the Monday we get back after the October recess and I am sure he will raise the issue then. I simply make two points to him. Since 2010, we have seen a stable reduction in crime levels, which is a good thing. Yes, we have had to take tough decisions about the budgets that are available to our police forces, but they have risen to the challenge effectively. Crime has fallen, notwithstanding the financial challenges that they have faced. We are seeing greater collaboration between forces, greater efficiencies and a greater use of technology. That has to be the way to ensure that we have good policing in the future, notwithstanding the financial constraints.
During the summer recess, I received a letter from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Ellwood, regarding the case of Raif Badawi. Following my call, he had asked the Saudi Arabian Government whether they would permit a visit from an international non-governmental organisation to his prison cell. I have heard nothing further from the Government since then. May we have a statement from the Government on what progress has been made on that visit request and on the wider context of the effort to free Mr Badawi from prison?
I recall the hon. Gentleman raising that issue before. It is obviously a matter of international concern. We all want improvements to human rights and the judicial systems in countries that still face accusations over human rights issues. I will refer his comments to my colleagues in the Foreign Office and ask them to reply to him with an update.
Next month, my hometown of Blaenavon in my constituency will host the UK UNESCO world heritage youth summit. Will the Leader of the House congratulate Blaenavon on that, and find time for a debate in this House on how best we can build on our use of all the wonderful world heritage sites across the UK?
I offer my congratulations to everyone in Blaenavon, both for hosting that event and for the other work they do. I commend the hon. Gentleman for raising this important issue. We are blessed in this country. We have a significant number of sites of international importance. That is a boon in bringing people to this country from elsewhere in the world, and for the people of this country in enjoying a rich cultural heritage. It is a heritage we should always seek to protect and look after.
Later today, the House will debate the sustainable development goals ahead of the global summit to adopt the goals in New York later this month. Will the Prime Minister make a statement on his attendance at that summit when we return from recess? Will the Prime Minister also be able to tell us whether he attended the global leaders’ meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which is taking place in New York at the same time?
I will certainly make sure the Prime Minister is aware of those questions. The Prime Minister is here every week, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to raise that issue. He talks about the sustainable development goals. What has come across loud and clear in the past few days, with the difficulties that have been highlighted in the middle east, is that we have done the right thing in making sure we are providing our committed share of our national income towards providing aid. When we look at the refugee camps around Syria, we can see why that is so important and the aid is so valuable. If we were not there—and one or two countries are not there in the volume that we are—those people would be in a much more difficult position. That is why it is the right thing to do.
I have discovered, via a parliamentary question, that the Department for Work and Pensions claims it does not collect information on the number of applicants for personal independence payments who are also students diagnosed with cancer. May we have a debate on this? We do not know the scale and that means we do not know how many young people are being forced to cope simultaneously with cancer and penury as a direct result of Government policy. Surely that cannot be right.
The purpose of the personal independence payment, and its predecessor the disability living allowance, is to provide support to pay for some of the extra costs people with disabilities face in living their daily lives. Support for those people who are suffering from cancer is provided through the employment and support allowance system. The purpose of the PIP is to support disability. Cancer is a dreadful disease. Students and young people with cancer are a matter of particular distress and concern, but I think the hon. Gentleman will find they are separate issues.
We are grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s sedentary chunter.