Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 11:12 am on 24 March 2016.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The business is as follows.

Monday 11 AprilSecond Reading of the Finance Bill.

Tuesday 12 April—Debate on a motion on reform of support arrangements for people with contaminated blood. The subject of this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee. The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

Wednesday 13 AprilOpposition day (unallotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 14 April—Debate on a motion on national security checking of the Iraq inquiry report, followed by debate on a motion on diversity in the BBC. The subjects of these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 15 April—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 18 April will include:

Monday 18 April—Debate on a motion on the introduction of the national living wage and related changes to employee contracts, followed by debate on a motion on educational attainment in Yorkshire and the Humber. The subjects of these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 14 and 18 April will be:

Thursday 14 April—General debate on the pubs code and the adjudicator.

Monday 18 April—Debate on an e-petition relating to funding for research into brain tumours.

Photo of Melanie Onn Melanie Onn Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

This week we remember those who died in the terrorist attacks in Brussels. It happened so close to home, which is an immediate reminder of how fragile our peace is, and of how important it is for nations to stand together against extremism in all its forms. I thank the House authorities for taking threats to this place seriously, and for the security guide that they have issued. I recommend that all Members note that document and share it with their staff.

I welcome the fact that today we have three women speaking for their parties in business questions. I shall be doing my best to avoid being hostile. When I found out that I would be standing in, I feared that I might have nothing to talk about, but I need not have worried. In fact, so much has happened that I have made my own list.

It has been a truly dismal week for the Government. Ever since the Ozzyshambles Budget, they have been in complete confusion and chaos. This must be a record for the number of Government U-turns in seven short days. First the disgraceful personal independence payment cuts were dropped on a Friday, with the pre-election promise of £12 billion in welfare cuts disowned altogether by Monday; then, yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the Government would fulfil their manifesto commitment on overall welfare cuts.

Can the Deputy Leader of the House explain to me—in simple terms, please—how the £4.4 billion black hole in the budget will be filled? As my hon. Friend Mr Anderson asked on Tuesday, if it was so easy to absorb the £l billion a year U-turn,

“why on earth did the Chancellor introduce it in the first place and frighten the life out of…disabled people…?”—[Hansard, 22 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 1394.]

Nearly 3,000 people in Great Grimsby on disability living allowance will be transferred to the personal independence payment, and they will have had sleepless nights wondering how they were going to manage. Will the Deputy Leader of the House now do what both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister failed to do, and offer her apologies for the stress and anxiety that have been caused to the hundreds of thousands of disabled people by this needless upset?

I welcome the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to his post, although I am not sure how grateful he is to have been to be dropped into such hot water. It seems that the claws are out already; and let us hope that he does not have a soft shell. Almost immediately after his appointment, he faced calls for him to step down as patron of his local Mencap branch because of his support for the Government’s disability benefit cuts. He is also taking his own constituents to court to force them to pay the bedroom tax. He may be a new face, but it seems that it is just more of the same from the nasty party.

There were more U-turns as the Government changed course on Tuesday to allow the VAT hike on solar panels and the tampon tax to be defeated. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff on that major achievement on the tampon tax. She is a feisty campaigner, having become the first ever Opposition Back Bencher to secure an amendment to a Budget, and all that in her first year. We wait with bated breath for her next target.

On the same day, the Home Office quietly announced that it would no longer be banning poppers—so Crispin Blunt can relax now. [Laughter.] Ah, the laughter is coming. I can hear it now.

According to the Education Secretary, all Government announcements are really just “consultations”, and not concrete policy, so may I suggest one more U-turn? Following the vote in the House of Lords on Monday, will the Government allow 3,000 children to take refuge in Britain, and when will this House debate the issue? There are 26,000 refugee children in mainland Europe who are travelling without a parent, relative or guardian. It is time for Britain to act in accordance with its best traditions, and to give those children a home and a childhood.

May we also have a statement on the country’s energy security? EDF Energy, the company behind the Hinkley project, told the Energy and Climate Change Committee yesterday that the decision on the nuclear site’s future has been delayed until May, and rests in the hands of the French Government. If the Hinkley project does not go ahead, there will be serious questions about whether the Government can keep the lights on and meet our climate change commitments. Will the Energy Secretary come to the House and make a statement on what she is doing to ensure that this crucial project goes ahead, and what is her plan B if Point C does not proceed?

Many responded to the resignation of the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mr Duncan Smith, by warning “Beware the IDS of March”, but there is really no comparison between the two events. In fact, they could not be more different. The Ides of March marks the brutal end of the career of someone who was in favour of closer European integration, had filled the legislature with his followers, and was feared to be setting himself up as the unfettered leader of his country. That is not quite the record of the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I echo the comments of Melanie Onn about what happened in Brussels. She is right to point out that the sentiments of the British people are with the victims there. It is important that we should be alert but not alarmed, and we recognise the ongoing work of the police and the domestic services to ensure that we are all safe.

I should like to pay tribute to Milburn Talbot, who retires as Deputy Principal Doorkeeper today. I know that he will be much missed, including from his role in the parliamentary choir: his dulcet tones have echoed out across the chapel and many concert halls. I first met Milburn, and his lovely wife Christine, back in 2003 at a garden party. His wife is a senior county councillor in Lincolnshire, and he was, rightly, supporting her. After his service in the armed forces and to this House and his dedication to democracy, I really wish Milburn well in the next stage of his life. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

I welcome the hon. Members for Great Grimsby and for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh) to their places. My constituency and that of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby have similar attributes in that we are on the coast, where fishing is important and green energy offers a vibrant future. She has not yet knocked Chris Bryant off his perch, but she has shown that she is a dab hand at the Dispatch Box. That said, as she is in the “hostile” gang, and it seems that the hon. Member for Rhondda has been neutered, she will have to put her skates on if she wants to get back into the good books of Captain BirdsEye.

What a week it has been. It has been far from dismal. We have had a turbo-charged Budget, backing businesses of all sizes—the frontline of the economy—and providing work to millions more people. I am sure that the hon. Lady will welcome the fact that more than 600,000 businesses, more than 70,000 of which are in Yorkshire and the Humber, will no longer pay business rates from 2017. Meanwhile the Labour party is between a rock and a hard place, floundering to get off the hook of the fact that it left office with the largest deficit ever. After six years of progress, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have navigated through choppy waters with a steady hand on the tiller. We have the weathered the storms and, while there are still storm clouds ahead, our long-term economic plan means that we are ship-shape to reach a safe harbour of economic security, living within our means and working towards tackling the deficit that was at risk of dragging down the country.

The hon. Lady asked several questions, and she can of course use Labour’s Opposition day to debate some of those matters. On the question of personal independence payments and disabilities, I want to stress that we are a one nation Government who want to support everyone to achieve their full potential and live an independent life. In the last 12 months alone, 152,000 more disabled people have moved into work. That represents real lives being transformed as we help people with disabilities and health conditions to move into work and to benefit from all the advantages that that brings.

Dare I say that, even though Labour had the largest peacetime deficit ever, spending on those with disabilities or health conditions will be higher in every year to 2020 than it was in 2010. However, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on Monday, the Government will not be going ahead with the changes to PIP and we have no plans for further welfare savings over and above those we have already announced. We have legislated to deliver the £12 billion of savings promised in our manifesto, including those made a fortnight ago in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. We are committed to ensuring that disabled people live their lives free from discrimination, and that is why we have also strengthened the Equality Act 2010 to create a level playing field and to ensure that the law properly protects them.

The hon. Lady referred to the tampon tax, and I want to pay due tribute to Paula Sherriff in that regard. I will let you into a secret, Mr Speaker. The hon. Member for Dewsbury and I had a bit of a back-and-forth on Twitter, but I am pleased to say that the Government have successfully negotiated—with prompting; I am not denying that—to ensure that we have a zero rate, and I am hoping that that will be introduced in legislation in due course.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby talked about immigration and the refugee children. Everybody is moved by that situation, but I strongly support this Government’s policy of taking the most vulnerable people directly from the camps in the countries surrounding Syria. I think that that is the right approach. She will be aware that, since the decisions were made late last year, the United Kingdom has welcomed more than 1,000 Syrian refugees, and I am pleased that the communities have done their best to ensure that those vulnerable people are made to feel welcome in the United Kingdom.

On energy security, we have just had Energy and Climate Change questions and the hon. Lady referred to EDF and Hinkley Point. Sizewell happens to be in my constituency, and I hope that Sizewell C will follow Hinkley Point C. I assure her that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Energy Ministers continue to have discussions with people at the highest levels of French Government.

It has been quite a week, Mr Speaker, and many MPs found some pre-recess fun at the British kebab awards last night. I might put in a plug here for the Tiffin Cup, which is being promoted by Keith Vaz. The people who found fun at the awards included the Leader of the Opposition, who, after being—dare I say it?—skewered at PMQs yesterday, may be looking for some donors, but instead found plenty of doners.

I hope that all hon. Members enjoy the Easter recess. They are welcome to visit the villages and towns of Suffolk Coastal, spending lots of money if they do—I know that some members of the Labour party do that. Members will need to recharge their batteries, because we have a full agenda of legislation when we come back, including the Finance Bill, further cementing this Government’s long-term economic plan.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Eastleigh

Today is national Wear A Hat Day, about which many MPs have been contacted by their constituents. It highlights brain tumours, which kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet only 1% of the national cancer spend goes on brain tumour research. I pay tribute to Philippa Barber from Hamble and her family, who lost her precious husband Nigel in 2013. May we please have a debate on extra funding to support important research into tackling this devastating disease?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to raise this important issue, into which the Petitions Committee conducted an inquiry. I am pleased to say that, luckily, there will be such a debate in Westminster Hall on 18 April. I commend my hon. Friend and other colleagues who do so much and perhaps wear stylish hats—not in the Chamber—to support this particular issue.

Photo of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Trade and Investment)

Given the appalling events in Brussels on Tuesday, will the Government find time in forthcoming business for a debate on how to address the underlying causes of terrorism? If we are to make our communities safer for us all, we need to tackle extremism at its root, not adopt the reactionary, often racist approach advocated by some figures home and abroad.

May we please also have a full debate on the “new” Budget? It would give Ministers a chance to apologise properly to the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who were left in limbo thanks to the Chancellor’s callous miscalculations. They have been given ample chance to do so this week, but they have not taken the opportunity.

How about a debate on the importance of unity in political parties? The SNP could lead it and others could learn how to inspire confidence in the electorate. The people of Scotland know that we are a party that puts people, not personal ambition, first, which is why they are backing us in record numbers.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 was enacted three decades ago, but pay inequality remains. We need a full debate to agree a programme and a specific timetable for achieving equality for women. In my time in this Parliament, real progress has been made when women work together, bridging party and political divides, and unite in pursuit of a common cause. I pay tribute to colleagues, including my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss, for the repeal of the tampon tax. Let us find more ways for the women of this House to join forces for the benefit of all. Today is an historic day. Here’s to the Deputy Leader of the House and the shadow Deputy Leader of the House; may they soon become leaders.

I was proud to be one of the 1,617,989 people in Scotland who voted yes in Scotland’s referendum in 2014. Even though it was not the result for which I had hoped, I respect the decision made by the people of Scotland 18 months ago. Today was the proposed first day of an independent Scotland, so may we have a full debate on how Scotland has fared from being in the Union, including on the risks we face at the hands of this reckless and careless Chancellor and the fact that our vital EU membership is under threat? The majority of people in Scotland now believe that independence would have a positive effect on Scotland’s economy. We will certainly not be taking lessons on fiscal competence from a Chancellor who has seen the deficit grow by £555 billion under his watch. They agree with me that Scotland’s underlying fiscal position is weakened because we are not independent. We can discuss how Scotland will benefit from another 50 years of oil production and how, when the worldwide price recovers, we should find ways to save the proceeds for future generations, as other countries have. We can address the adverse impact on Scotland’s finance of our current commitments to renewing Trident, building at Hinkley Point and constructing a high-speed rail link from London to Manchester. Finally, we can debate why every recent poll shows that as well as placing their trust in the SNP, the people of Scotland are increasingly placing trust in themselves by supporting Scottish independence in record numbers.

Today, is the last day of work for Milburn, the Deputy Principal Doorkeeper. May I, as a new Member, thank him for the advice, friendship and help he has given to all new Members, and, indeed, to all Members from across this House? We are truly grateful to him and very much wish him well in his future endeavours. May we also thank all House staff, along with you, Mr Speaker, and all the Deputy Speakers, for the help and support given in this Session? We wish you all a very happy recess?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I want to echo the hon. Lady’s comments about there being no room for racism in our society, here or anywhere, and we, as political leaders, need to send out that message strongly and repeatedly. On the middle east, we have taken a multi-pronged approach to tackling extremism; our military action, which I appreciate she did not support, goes alongside providing more than £1 billion of aid, making us the second highest donor. We are, thus, showing with our actions how we are trying to help tackle some of the issues at source. On radicalisation, we are undertaking our counter-extremism strategy in a variety of ways, and I know that issue is always under review by the Government.

The hon. Lady refers to the Budget. I am sure she will welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor delivered for Scotland in the Budget exactly what was requested: a freeze in fuel duty; a freeze in whisky duty; and support for the oil and gas industry. I am sure she will also welcome the fact that people are being taken out of paying income tax. That positive action enables people who work hard to keep more of their money in their pocket, to do as they wish with it. That is certainly a Conservative value, which she probably used to espouse at one point.

The hon. Lady is right to pay tribute to the Equal Pay Act, and she will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is very focused on the issue of gender pay. I have seen the report from the Women and Equalities Committee, and the Government will respond to it in due course. I should remind her that it was the Conservative Government who established that Committee in this Parliament. The gender pay gap is an important issue. It seems largely to have been eliminated for women under the age of 40, and that is to be welcomed, but there is still considerably more to do. I may even send her a copy of my report about the executive pipeline of talent and trying to improve the prospects of women going up the corporate ladder. Other work was undertaken in the review by Jayne-Anne Gadhia and the outcome of that is a charter, which we are encouraging financial firms to sign up to, whereby remuneration via bonuses is linked to progress on this matter—that is a welcome step.

I am surprised that SNP Members are not in black today, because I thought they would be in mourning as it is not Scottish independence day. As the hon. Lady pointed out, fortunately two years ago a clear majority voted to remain in the United Kingdom and are now breathing a collective sigh of relief, as the SNP’s fiscal plans would likely now be in turmoil, given the oil price. I expect she wrote her contribution before seeing the independent report today which points out that Scots would have started life today each £2,000 worse off and would be bearing the largest deficit in the developed world. Meanwhile, last night, the Scotland Bill was passed—I think the SNP did welcome that—and we have fulfilled the vow made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister such that the Scottish Parliament that returns in May will be a powerhouse Parliament. As such, I can say that I know other hon. Friends want to christen this “unity day” and long may that continue.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

This morning, the British Horse Society released statistics on accidents involving horses on roads over the past five years revealing that 36 riders have died and 181 horses have been killed. There have also been many other injuries to riders, drivers and horses, and much damage to vehicles on the island and the mainland. The British Horse Society’s “Dead Slow” campaign seeks to educate drivers about slowing down to 15 mph, being patient, and allowing at least a car’s width when passing horses and driving away slowly. Will the Deputy Leader of the House find time for a debate to promote this important road safety issue?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to raise that important issue. I am sure that he agrees that it is perfectly possible to adopt the common-sense approach that a road should be wide enough for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and cars, and that people just need to be reminded of their responsibilities towards more vulnerable road users. For example, the Highway Code advises that motorists pass horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles wide and slowly, giving them as much room as they would if they were overtaking a car. I suggest that this might be an ideal case to take to the Backbench Business Committee, as I am sure that many Members would join a request for such a debate.

Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Last night, two women were brutally murdered on the Lakes estate in Redcar. A 34-year-old man has been arrested. I am sure that the whole House will join me in expressing its horror and sadness at these terrible murders and in sending our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families, especially the children, and to the local community at this terrible time.

A woman is killed every three days in this country. We have fantastic agencies and support organisations working with women at risk of violence, but they are stretched to breaking point as funding has been cut. Will the Deputy Leader of the House and the Home Secretary work together on the following: first, ensuring that Cleveland police have all the resources they need to pursue justice in this particular case and to support the victims’ families; secondly, reviewing the impact of cuts to the police, local agencies, refuges and local authority services on domestic violence rates; and, thirdly, giving the House an update on when the strategy on violence against women and girls will be implemented, and what funding will come with it for local services?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The case that the hon. Lady describes is clearly very distressing, and I am sure that the whole House shares her sentiments with regard to the families of the victims. She will be aware that, in the autumn statement, a decision was made not to cut the police budget. None the less, she raises an important point, and we have an opportune moment, dare I say it, with police and crime commissioner elections coming up, to ensure that every candidate puts domestic violence at the heart of their manifestos. I am not aware of what further action the Home Secretary is due to take, but I will bring the hon. Lady’s comments to her attention.

Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

May I take this opportunity to add my support to the calls from Ms Ahmed-Sheikh for a debate on the United Kingdom? Mr Speaker, I am sure that you will agree that we represent the greatest country on earth—it is a privilege to do so—and in that debate, we could thank the 55% of the people of Scotland who had the good sense to stay with the United Kingdom, and to reject budget cuts and penury. May we celebrate that occasion by having a national public holiday? Let us call it unity day.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I feel a campaign for unity day coming on from my hon. Friend. I endorse what he says about the important decision that was taken by the people of Scotland. Now that we have acted on the vow and fulfilled the Smith commission, I really hope that, instead of arguing about process, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government, who are up for re-election in the next few months, will now be debating the future of Scotland with these enhanced powers.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

The case of Dr Chris Day v. Health Education England has exposed a serious lacuna in the whistleblowing legislation. If a junior doctor blows the whistle to HEE, his training can be cut short by the HEE as a punishment, with legal impunity. This situation is not remedied under the new junior doctors contract, but I hope the hon. Lady will agree that it is something that deserves the attention of this House.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for making me aware of that case. Health Ministers are not due to appear in the House in the next short while, but he raises an important point about the issue of whistleblowing. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently gave a speech about patient safety, which included this idea of a safe space. I am not sure how this case would relate to that but, again, I will ensure that he is made aware of the hon. Gentleman’s comments.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

May we have a debate on Gypsies, particularly in relation to animal welfare? Despite numerous complaints from me, local residents and other campaigners about the appalling treatment of animals, especially horses, at Esholt Gypsy encampment in my constituency, Bradford council and the RSPCA have refused to take any enforcement action. There is no doubt in my mind that if those animals were the responsibility of anyone else, enforcement action would have been taken, but authorities appear to pussyfoot around and run scared when it comes to Gypsies. May we have a debate on this issue so that we can make it clear in this House that animal welfare should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness when it comes to Gypsies?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I was under the impression that the legislation successfully steered through the House in the previous Parliament by my hon. Friend Julian Sturdy could have dealt with the issue that my hon. Friend Philip Davies raises. It is concerning if councils are not prepared to use that legislation, but I would suggest that we do not need to single out any group of people as regards animal welfare. If there are specific issues, I encourage my hon. Friend to apply for an Adjournment debate to consider this more carefully.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Opposition Whip (Commons)

Before I ask my question, I ask the House to send its sympathies regarding Adrian Ismay, the prison officer from Northern Ireland who died last week as a result of an attack from dissidents, and to say clearly to dissidents that we are never going to let them win, no matter what they do.

As we meet today, the leaders of councils in the north-east of England are discussing whether to sign up to a devolution deal that will give them a paltry £900 million over 30 years to spend between Berwick and Barnard Castle. That is happening on the same day that we have learned that Waterloo station will get £800 million to redevelop within three years. May we have a debate in Government time about the inequality and unfairness of how resources in this country are shared out?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman raises the issue of the prison officer, and I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition appropriately paid tribute yesterday.

Devolution is an opportunity for different parts of the country to grab the powers, not just the cash, that can make a real difference to local communities. I am not aware of the situation with the devolution deal that the hon. Gentleman describes, but I assure him that the Government have continued to invest around the country, not just in London. I am sure that he will welcome the announcements that have been made about enhancing the A1 and all the contributions made by the Government, alongside Phil Wilson, to bring Hitachi to the region.

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

One sixth of all accidental deaths of children under the age of four are drowning-related, nearly twice the number for children of the same age who die as a result of fire. May we have a debate to commend the efforts of the Royal Life Saving Society UK and its work to prevent drowning, and also to ask the Government how they can support quality water safety education being delivered in all schools throughout the United Kingdom?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is vice-chair of the all-party group on water safety and drowning prevention, and I commend him for his work. Swimming and water safety are part of the national curriculum for physical education at a primary level and the Government’s sport strategy, which was published in December, included a commitment to establish a working group to advise on how to ensure that no child leaves school unable to meet a minimum standard of capability and competence in swimming. I expect the working group to be established in the near future and to report by the end of this year.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Education), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Shadow PC Spokesperson (Energy & Natural Resources), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Local Government), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice)

The Macur review into historical child abuse in Wales was published last week. Survivors are angered that the unredacted version has so far been seen only by Government Ministers and senior establishment lawyers, and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales believes that more transparency should be afforded to survivors. Macur was discussed in an hour-long Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, but Members strongly expressed the need for a full debate in Government time. Could this be arranged?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady heard from the Minister yesterday the view of the Department on that matter. I also point out that the Secretary of State will be before the House answering Wales questions on the Wednesday we get back, when I suggest that she takes that opportunity to press this matter further.

Photo of Chris White Chris White Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls, Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls, Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls, Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls, Chair, Committees on Arms Export Controls

The Committees on Arms Export Controls have recently been reinstated and yesterday saw the first evidence session on the Yemen inquiry. May we have a debate on the importance of scrutiny of arms exports and the role of the Committees in that scrutiny?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is being modest, because he was elected Chairman of those Committees last month. I noted that the inquiry had been launched and that the deadline for written submissions was tomorrow. The issue is important, and I think people across the House want to ensure that arms export controls are undertaken diligently. When the report is completed, my hon. Friend may wish to seek from the Liaison Committee or the Backbench Business Committee appropriate time in which to debate it.

Photo of Paula Sherriff Paula Sherriff Labour, Dewsbury

This week I have been contacted by the parent of a nine-year-old child who has Asperger’s syndrome and is threatening to commit suicide daily. The parent has been unable to access child and adolescent mental health services, largely due to underfunding and long waiting lists. May we have an urgent debate in Government time to discuss the ongoing crisis in mental health provision, particularly for our children and young people?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an important case on behalf of her constituent and I am sorry to hear about those issues. The Government have put an extra £450 million specifically into children’s mental health, so I am concerned if that is not reaching the frontline. I will, of course, raise this with the Health Secretary on her behalf.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley

A high school in my constituency had an inspirational visit by a holocaust survivor in the past week, but this comes at a time when a West Yorkshire Labour councillor has been suspended for anti-Semitic comments on social media. May we have a debate on how we can all unite in this House in driving out the evil of anti-Semitism, which seems to be creeping back into our politics at the moment?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. There is no room for racism or anti-Semitism at all, and it is important that people in public and private life stamp this out whenever they encounter it. He is right to call for a debate and I think it would be a popular topic for the Backbench Business Committee.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans)

This week, on the 10-year anniversary of smoke-free legislation in Scotland, the World Health Organisation has commended the people of Scotland and the leadership shown by Members of the Scottish Parliament. Would the Deputy Leader of the House agree that we should commend this leadership and the bold vision of the Scottish Parliament, and may we have a statement on the importance of this work, and of doing everything that we can to stamp out smoking?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady will recognise that it is, of course, for Scottish Ministers to reply to the Scottish Parliament. However, I notice that, after raising the issue of medals, she was successful in procuring a debate, which will take place next week. I suggest that she applies for a debate because then we could have a full response from our Public Health Minister on the importance of trying to reduce smoking in our population.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee

In the light of the sad closure of the print edition of TheIndependent, may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on a future policy for the preservation of photographic archives? I know that the National Archives has done a great deal of work on preserving Government documentation in the digital age, but when a great newspaper closes, it would be a terrible shame to lose for the nation the photographic record that it has built up, and in the digital age, this raises serious practical problems for the long term.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My right hon. Friend raises an interesting point. My expectation is that ownership of the photographs lies either with the proprietors of that newspaper or the original photographers, so I am not sure that it is for Government to try and automatically ensure that what my right hon. Friend suggests happens. However, it might be possible to facilitate that discussion with our national museums. The Secretary of State will be back at the Dispatch Box a fortnight after we get back, and I recommend that my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis asks the question then.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

The leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, Mr Andrew R.T. Davies, receives £97,000 a year in farming subsidy. When can we debate the campaign launched yesterday under the heading “Farmers will be better off” with Brexit, so that Members of this House can tell us how much they receive in their own farming subsidies, and how much more they expect from the taxpayer after Brexit?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am not aware of the rules of the House on the declaration of receipts of farming payments, but clearly the hon. Gentleman has been able to find that information because it is on the public record. It is really important, I think, for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union. The common agricultural policy is not perfect; far from it, but it has led to—how can I put it?—certainty of income for certain farmers.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

May I congratulate my fellow north-east Lincolnshire Member, Melanie Onn, on her role on the Front Bench? I thank her for sparing us the jokes of the shadow Leader of the House.

My Cleethorpes constituency is located in the Yorkshire and Humber region. A recent joint report from Transport for the North and the Department for Transport completely ignores northern Lincolnshire, even obliterating it from the rail network map. In view of the greater Lincolnshire devolution deal, may we have a statement on the possibility of realigning the regions so that the whole of Lincolnshire is looked at together as part of the east midlands?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I am not sure if he wants to be included in the transport strategy for the northern powerhouse or to move to the midlands—it sounds like the latter. Surely what would be of benefit in improving transport in the north, specifically going across to Hull, would also benefit Cleethorpes and, indeed, Great Grimsby, including the magnificent Humber bridge, whose tolls were halved four years ago.

Photo of Roger Mullin Roger Mullin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

May we have an urgent statement on the effect on employee share ownership schemes of HMRC’s abandonment of its valuation checks service because of Government cuts?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am not aware of this matter. If the hon. Gentleman writes to a Treasury Minister, he may get an answer more quickly, although Treasury Ministers will be in the Chamber on 19 April.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

For those of us who believe that our four nations are greater together than the sum of their parts, today could have been the sad day of separation. May I therefore join the calls from Mark Menzies and Ms Ahmed-Sheikh for a debate on the merits of the Union and on how all four countries are stronger within that Union than they would be apart?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend may be joining the campaign alongside my hon. Friend Mark Menzies. We spent quite a lot of time debating such matters during the passage of the Scotland Bill. If my hon. Friend Kevin Foster were to apply to the Backbench Business Committee for a debate, I am sure he would look upon his own recommendation favourably.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

The Palace of Westminster is hosting a large additional workforce over the next few years. With reference to standards of behaviour towards young female members of staff, may we have confirmation that name-calling and off-tune whistling—that is the best way I can describe it—remains inappropriate on the Estate, no matter from whom?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is referring to the restoration and renewal of this place and therefore the presence of a larger construction workforce. I expect that when the Commission—or whichever authority we create to undertake those repairs—proceeds to the next stage, standards of behaviour will be included in the contracts.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

This week sees the Jewish festival of Purim, which commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman, the vizier of the Persian king. We have also seen the festival of Naw-Ruz and, of course, we celebrate Easter shortly. Today we celebrate the second day of Holi, which commemorates the festival of colours and the deliverance of great Hindu gods. These all have one great element in common: they are festivals of renewal, celebrating spring. May we have a debate celebrating the wonderful renewal of the country under this Conservative Government to ensure that we deliver for everyone as one nation?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work he does for the diverse communities that he serves in his constituency. I understand that he is known affectionately as “Bob bai” by many of his Hindu constituents. He is right to stress the importance of celebrating the many festivals that make up the rich tapestry of our country. I am certainly looking forward to Easter Sunday so that I can break my chocolate fast and have a delicious Easter egg.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I welcome the announcement in the Budget of the sugar tax, and also the fact that the money raised will be spent on school sports. May we have a debate in Government time on the reinstatement of the school sports partnership, an extremely successful scheme that was scrapped by the coalition Government?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady is right to point out the importance of school sports. Part of the sports strategy published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is about encouraging everybody to be active. I agree with her that getting children to be active at a young age and keeping that activity going matters. I am sure the Backbench Business Committee would look favourably on such a popular subject.

Photo of Alberto Costa Alberto Costa Conservative, South Leicestershire

May I echo the calls of my hon. Friends the Members for Fylde (Mark Menzies) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster) for a serious debate on respecting and thanking the 55% of the Scottish electorate—on a high turnout—who thoroughly rejected separatism? Mr Speaker, that is a serious matter: had the SNP won the argument, your position would have disappeared today, and you would no longer be the Speaker of the British Parliament—there would not be a British Parliament. May I therefore ask the Deputy Leader of the House to give serious consideration to holding a debate about having a national British holiday to celebrate unity day and to thank the Scottish people who said “No thanks” to the SNP?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The campaign is gathering momentum as my hon. Friend joins my hon. Friends the Members for Fylde and for Torbay. Most people in the House welcomed the result in 2014 and are glad that Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom, and that is something we can cherish. As to whether we need a special holiday, I look forward to the results of my hon. Friend’s campaign.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

If my memory serves me right, Select Committees were an innovation from a previous Conservative Leader of the HouseNorman St John-Stevas. Does the Deputy Leader of the House agree that that was a brilliant innovation? Is it not time that we had a debate on how we further empower the Select Committee system? Anyone who wants to be convinced of the power of Select Committees need only listen to a recording of yesterday’s Treasury Committee session with Boris Johnson—if there was ever a Select Committee where a witness was fileted, that was it. May we have an early debate on this issue, including on important questions such as whether we have the right to make people come here? The head of Kraft refused to come in the past, and we now have another person refusing to come.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman, of course, was the Chairman of a Select Committee, and he will recognise the value of Select Committees. It was the Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher who introduced them, and that really strengthened the House. When I served on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, we were able to make sure that the Murdoch family attended, even after an initial expectation that they would not. There are therefore procedures in place, and as Mr Wright showed in the House the other day, there are channels open with the Speaker to progress such matters.

Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon

As we are on the eve of the Easter holiday, may I say that North Devon would be a fantastic place to visit over this long weekend? There is a long list of fantastic attractions. May we debate the importance of the tourism industry to the economy of North Devon and the wider south-west?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend takes me back to my childhood, when I enjoyed holidays in Combe Martin. I never made it to Westward Ho!—the only town in the country with an exclamation mark officially in its name—but I recognise that the Royal North Devon is the oldest golf course in the country. I should, however, flag up that I visited Salcombe, in south Devon, last year. One of the wonderful things about being part of the United Kingdom is that there are so many gorgeous places around the country—including Suffolk Coastal—where we can truly enjoy a restful break.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Scottish National Party, Glenrothes

With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, may I first express my thanks to outgoing MSP Tricia Marwick for 17 years’ service as an MSP and four years’ exceptional service as Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament?

On 2 December, the Prime Minister promised to come back to the House within three months to give us an update on the war in Syria. He expressed an expectation that, within six months, we would have a transnational Government in Syria. He also pleaded with us to support military action because of what he described as an urgent need for ultra-precision bombing against specific Daesh-occupied buildings in Raqqa. By the time we return from the recess, we will be more than a month past the deadline set by the Prime Minister, and we will be only seven weeks from his target for the transnational Government. Furthermore, according to the MOD website, precisely one missile has been fired at a Daesh-occupied command-and-control building in Raqqa.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

A recent urgent question provided the opportunity to ask a Cabinet Minister about that matter. My understanding is that we will return to quarterly updates and I anticipate a statement in May, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister is here every week and he can ask him a question then.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

I have called several times for a debate on gangs and serious youth violence. We managed to secure one through the Backbench Business Committee and the House agreed and voted on the need to set up a cross-party commission to look into the root causes of serious youth violence. What are the Government going to do about implementing it?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I did not follow the hon. Lady’s debate, but I am aware of the seriousness of the issue, and she will be aware of previous legislation we have introduced to enhance criminal penalties. It is, of course, open to her and Members from across the House to progress that commission and present its findings to the Government. I may well commend to her doing that and seeking another Back-Bench business debate once the commission reports.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Scottish National Party, Glasgow South West

With a new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, do the Government intend to hold a debate in Government time or make a statement on DWP sanctions guidance, so that Members can discuss issues such as failing to attend or take part in a work-focused interview without good reason? If so, will the Deputy Leader of the House also answer the question that has been asked by many members of the public: is the Chancellor going to be sanctioned for his absence on Monday afternoon?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb is the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Of course, he has only just been appointed, so I am not aware of whether he plans to change the things to which the hon. Gentleman refers. He has expressed the view that he wants to ensure that the Department implements properly the welfare reforms for which we have legislated, and I am sure he will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said today.