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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:33 am on 17th December 2015.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:33 am, 17th December 2015

This has been raised as a concern by many Members, and it is important for us to recognise those concerns.

Many colleagues will already have adequate security arrangements, but the standardised package will provide a consistent approach and accelerate the procurement of security items. The Chairman of Ways and Means, as Chair of the Consultative Panel on Parliamentary Security, will write to colleagues today, and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority will be in touch with Members in the new year with details of how to access the package. I hope this will serve to allay Members’ concerns and create a system that is fair, appropriate and flexible.

This has been an eventful year. The Conservatives won the general election. Labour lost the general election. The Liberal Democrats shrank in number and I think have put on invisibility cloaks since then. There has been a slight change in the numbers on the Scottish National Benches. Then, of course, we all came back to Westminster, and you will remember, Mr Speaker, those happy early-morning sprints, as the Labour left and the SNP rushed for the best seats. But of course they do not need to do that any more, because the Labour left has moved from those seats to the Front Bench and the leadership of the Labour party. We will see in the new year whether the shadow Leader of the House, who has a proud record on these things, decides to do anything about it.

The shadow Leader of the House asked about food waste. Some 1.4 million sausages were sent to landfill in his constituency alone, so if he is talking about food waste and the need to provide extra resources for food banks, I suggest he considers starting slightly closer to home. I think the produce of Welsh farmers is first rate. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to send it to food banks at all, so perhaps he should start closer to home.

I said that the Prime Minister would be here to make a statement, and he will of course address EU issues, but it is also important that Members get to question him about, for example, progress on the Syrian peace talks, which he will be able to update people on after Christmas as well. Of course, he will answer questions about Europe, but he will also be available to address other issues, if necessary.

The shadow Leader of the House talked about jobs. At the end of the year, one of the things the Conservative party can be proudest of is the unemployment figures we saw yesterday. When I was employment Minister, more than 1.5 million people were claiming unemployment benefit and jobseeker’s allowance. That number has almost halved in the past four years. More and more people are in work and finding opportunities in this country. The legacy of unemployment we inherited from Labour has been well and truly turned around, and when it comes to Europe, I will take no lessons from the man who, a decade ago, expressed deep distress that Britain was not joining the euro.

The hon. Gentleman talked about leave dates, and I am glad to be able to announce the recess dates. Further recess dates will, of course, be subject to the progress of business, because we as a party believe that it is more important to ensure that the essential business on the basis of which we were elected last May gets through Parliament and can be enacted to make a difference to this country.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned hunting. Let me say yet again—we get this every week—that he must stop believing everything he reads in the papers. When and if this Government have a new measure, we will announce it. He talks about written ministerial statements. I have stood in this Chamber over the last few weeks and received numerous requests for updates before Christmas. I thus make no apology for the fact that today we are providing the House with plenty of updates before Christmas.

Lastly, the hon. Gentleman made a serious point about lonely people this Christmas, which was also made by one of my hon. Friends last week. I hope everyone in this country will think, “Do I have a lonely person next door who I can invite round for a drink over Christmas and bring a bit of light into what would otherwise be a lonely life?” I hope everyone in this country has a very happy and joyful family Christmas.