– in the House of Commons at 11:01 am on 26th May 2016.
Will the Deputy Leader of the House please give us the future business of the House?
The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for
I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in wishing many happy returns of the day to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and to my hon. Friend Nick Thomas-Symonds. Happy birthday!
Today is the last of six days of debate on the Gracious Speech, and I think we have all reached the same conclusion: this Government are completely hamstrung by Europe.
“The government has nothing to do, nothing to say and thinks nothing.”
Those are not my words; they are the words of the sad man on a train, Michael Portillo. It is the British public who are paying the price for the Government’s paralysis. Will the Deputy Leader tell us why the Government dropped plans for a Bill to include the names of the bride’s mother on marriage certificates? The current system is a patriarchal throwback; society has moved on. We support the move in principle, so what is stopping them? May we have a statement on how the Government plan to meet their manifesto commitment to halve the disability employment gap, given that there was no mention of that in last week’s speech?
The Government could not even bring forward a ban on wild animals in circuses. The Prime Minister said he would do that in the previous Parliament, but did not. The Conservatives promised it in their 2015 manifesto, but so far, nothing. Only two travelling circuses in Britain still use this cruel practice; it really cannot be that difficult to introduce a ban. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that the company that trains the animals for the circuses is based in Witney?
May we have a statement on NHS recruitment in the light of the study from the National Union of Students and Unison published yesterday showing that scrapping bursaries for student nurses will deter 2,000 people from training for careers in the NHS? The health service already has a recruitment problem, and nursing remains on the occupational shortfall list, so why do the Government insist on making it worse?
There has been much debate about debates this week, specifically the TV debates for the EU referendum. What should the format be? Who should the speakers be? For the sake of the viewers, I think we should pick the most entertaining advocate for each side. For Brexit, I suggest Boris Johnson, and remain could be represented by the former Conservative Mayor of London.
For those who complain that it would not be a fair and balanced debate, let us imagine how it would play out. On the unlikely prospect of Turkey’s ascension to the EU, pro-EU Boris might again say:
“I believe our generation has a historic chance…to build a bridge between the Islamic and the Christian worlds”, and:
“What are we saying if we perpetually keep Turkey out of the European Union just because it’s Muslim?”
Brexit Boris, on the other hand, could recite his poem in which he insultingly found a rhyme with Ankara and suggested that the Turkish Prime Minister had an inappropriate relationship with a goat. [Interruption.] I’ll get there.
On America, pro-EU Boris could point to his joint US-British citizenship and once again stress the importance of our special relationship, while Brexit Boris could suggest that we should not pay attention to President Obama because he is “part-Kenyan”. Brexit Boris might bemoan the European regulations that ban bunches of more than two bananas—a claim that pro-EU Boris might call “demented”.
For their closing statements, Brexit Boris could read from his column in The Daily Telegraph in which he announced he would be backing the leave campaign, while pro-EU Boris could read from the same column in the same edition, which he wrote in case he decided to back the in campaign.
The serious point is that the next Prime Minister will not be chosen by the public; it is Conservative party members who will have the final say on our country’s leader. All I will say to them is that they should look across the Atlantic, where their sister party is trying to put into office a two-faced populist who is completely without principle, who incites violence against journalists and who is willing to say anything, no matter how offensive or plainly false, as long as it takes him a step closer to power. They should ask themselves whether they really want to do the same here.
I thank Melanie Onn for her questions about the business. I also extend my birthday wishes to Nick Thomas-Symonds and the Leader of the Opposition, and to my hon. Friends the Members for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish).
I congratulate the 20 Members who won today’s ballot, particularly John Nicolson. I feel somewhat sorry for their staff, because they are probably already fielding hundreds of emails and phone calls. Nevertheless, we look forward to their proposed legislation, which we will debate in due course.
The hon. Member for Great Grimsby talked about Europe. She and I are united on the matter: we both believe that Britain will be better off staying in a reformed EU. However, she overestimates the issue with regard to the Conservative party. We are absolutely united and are a one nation Government. The Scottish National party voted against the British people having their say, and the Labour party used to vote against it, but at least we agree that this important issue will be settled for a generation on
Today we will conclude the debate on the Gracious Speech, which the House and the nation have welcomed as the next step in delivering security for working people, increasing life chances for the most disadvantaged and strengthening our national security. We have important Bills to finish—we will conclude our deliberations on the Investigatory Powers Bill next week—before we start our programme of 21 new Bills in our one nation Queen’s Speech, which will enable us to make further progress.
In the past six years, 31 million people have received a tax cut. Millions of young people are starting apprenticeships and getting into skilled work. The national living wage is benefiting 3 million workers, and more people are being given the chance to own their home. The Queen’s Speech builds on those measures and uses the opportunity of a strengthening economy to go further.
We will have a chance to debate measures including giving every household a legal right to a fast broadband connection, if they request it; reforming and speeding up the planning process to help build more homes; introducing a lifetime individual savings account to help young people save for their future; speeding up adoptions and giving children in care more support; making prisons places of education; and preventing radicalisation and tackling extremism. [Interruption.] Somebody said that we discussed that last week. Of course, we are still debating the Gracious Speech and we will discuss 21 Bills during this Session.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is in the USA this week as part of a cross-party parliamentary delegation, further cementing the special relationship between our two countries, although I do not know whether he has met either presidential contender. I was also with an all-party parliamentary group this week on a visit to the Chelsea flower show, which is another marvellous institution. I visited a garden called “A Suffolk Retreat”, designed by Frederic Whyte in partnership with the Pro Corda Trust, which provides world-class ensemble training to exceptional musicians. I particularly want to mention it because it is based in my constituency. I really hope that we can bring the garden back to Suffolk.
While I was at the Chelsea flower show, I noticed the melinis flower and the melliodendron, which is lightly fragrant with pale pink fleshy flowers—very apt for the hon. Member for Great Grimsby. I do not know whether the shadow Leader of the House is also into gardening, but I suggest that he might like to christen a new variety of rhododendron the “Rhonddadendron”.
The hon. Member for Great Grimsby referred to several important pieces of legislation, and I suggest that she should be patient. We won the election last year and there are still four years of this Government to go. I am sure that, in due course, the Government will fulfil their commitment to some of the measures that she mentions.
It really matters to me that we try to achieve some cross-party consensus on the fact that we need more nurses. The Labour party led an important debate on the matter the other week. I thought that the approach was interesting, because we have a shared view on the outcome but have proposed different solutions for achieving it. The bursary route has limited the number of people who can become nurses. We are proposing a way in which more people can become nurses, and that will be good for our NHS. I am conscious of the fact that many people want to speak, so I will finish on that, and I look forward to further business questions.
Order. As the House will know, my normal practice is to seek to accommodate everyone who is interested in coming in on the business question. That is, of course, much more challenging today, given that there is a statement to follow and no fewer than 49 hon. and right hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye in the main debate. Therefore, there is a premium on single, short supplementary questions without preamble, the seminar on which will be led by Rebecca Pow.
I am deeply honoured, Mr Speaker. Thank you. May we have a debate on microplastics? Evidence suggests that microplastics found in cosmetics and personal care products that we all use, such as shower gel, shampoo and even toothpaste, are getting into the watercourse and damaging marine life, and they are potentially a hazard to human health.
My hon. Friend raises a really important matter, and I know that the Government are looking at it carefully. The vitality of our oceans and our rivers is important for nature and for our country. Businesses are trying to eradicate these things from their products, and the Government are working on that with them and encouraging them to do so. Some people might say that this is a good example of something on which we can work with our European neighbours to ensure that action goes across many more markets so that we can eradicate these potential dangers. I am sure that the Government are leading on that matter.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. I wish I could thank the Office of the Leader of the House for sending me a note to tell me that the Leader of the House would not be here this morning; if they had done so, my hon. Friend Ms Ahmed-Sheikh would certainly have done business questions. That is another obvious failure by the Leader of the House.
We need an urgent debate on the Representation of the People Acts. The Prime Minister effectively admitted at the weekend that the Conservative party had broken electoral law. To be fair, according to him it was just a “misdeclaration”—an honest mistake—as though our electoral laws were some sort of optional extra. Our electoral laws are in place to secure the integrity of our democracy, and any transgression must be viewed as a very serious matter. That is why this week I have reported the Conservative party to the Metropolitan police to ensure that this is properly investigated. Now is the time for the Government to start to take these issues seriously. We need a debate on the Floor of the House so that we can properly consider the matter.
Even though he is not here, I am sure that the Leader of the House will be thrilled to learn that the Scottish Parliament will today formally back EU membership. Only a couple of Tories will vote against it; all other MSPs will support the motion. May we have a debate about the impact on our devolved legislatures and the consequences of a leave vote, particularly given that the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday conceded to the Scottish Affairs Committee that no contingency plans are in place if Scotland is dragged out of the European Union against our national collective will? We need to know what the consequences will be for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland if we are dragged out, particularly if we do not vote to be taken out of the European Union.
Lastly, I do not know when the Leader of the House intends to bring forward his legislation to reform the House of Lords in response to the Strathclyde report, but we must have an opportunity to table an amendment so that this House can vote on the abolition of the House of Lords, with Labour reformers and Conservative Members who are very unhappy with the other place joining us to rid this nation of that circus of donors and cronies once and for all.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman was not listening because the Leader of the House announced today’s arrangements last week. I am very sorry that we will not hear from his hon. Friend Ms Ahmed-Sheikh. When I was at the Chelsea flower show, I spotted the tansy flower, also known as the golden button, which I thought would be very appropriate for SNP Members with their yellow rosettes.
The hon. gentleman talked about election expenses and similar issues. Frankly, I know that SNP Members are very happy to get their choppers out and about around the country, but they should really think about whether they want to continue that particular debate. It is not a matter for the Government, and in relation to what the hon. Gentleman mentioned, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made no particular assertion.
I recognise SNP Members’ opposition to the House of Lords. I respect them for the view they hold and I appreciate that it is included in their amendment on which we will vote later today, but I am sure there will continue to be other opportunities in the future. Indeed, SNP Members, none of whom had a private Member’s Bill during the last Session, now have three of the top seven slots for private Members’ Bills, so—who knows?—they may have a chance to bring forward legislation of their own.
At the heart of the European Union referendum is the question of democracy and the democratic deficit. May I draw attention to the European Scrutiny Committee report that has come out this morning on the lack of a democratic system in the Council of Ministers? Voters are clamouring for facts in the referendum. Some 55% of our laws come from the European Union, the bulk of which are made by officials and nodded through by Ministers, while there is no information about how the 50% of decisions made behind closed doors are reached, according to this unanimous report by the European Scrutiny Committee. How are such decisions arrived at and at what price? Will the Deputy Leader of the House give us a debate on this matter?
There was a debate on this matter in February, shortly after the Prime Minister announced the EU referendum, and a national debate is going on right now. It is important that people participate in that debate and use this opportunity to vote. Frankly, UK Ministers work very hard to further the interests of the UK within the European Union, and long may that continue. Nevertheless, on the kind of information being given out, may I recommend the House of Commons Library website—www.parliament.uk/business/publications/ research/eu-referendum? The Library is putting out briefings that any member of the public can read and perhaps use to inform themselves in making their decision on
I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for the business statement. The House will have noted that she announced that on
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his re-election. I am sure he will have another good year of showing leadership in providing many interesting debates. I echo his words, and I look forward to the Backbench Business Committee being back in business so that many of the requests made to me today can be queued up and, in time, debated.
In Potters Bar, there are proposals for more than 750 new houses to be built on the edge of town, but in a neighbouring local authority. Will the Deputy Leader of the House find time for us to debate the importance of the duty to co-operate in local planning processes so that planning decisions properly take into account the needs of residents in places such as Potters Bar?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. It is important to deliver housing. There is already a duty of co-operation between councils, but I am sure he will be able to refer to that further when we discuss the neighbourhood planning and infrastructure Bill in due course.
May we have a statement on why the Government will not adopt my nifty, ready-made private Member’s Bill on adding mothers’ names to marriage certificates? The Queen’s Speech was a bit light, so there is plenty for room for it. The Deputy Leader of the House has just said that there are 21 new Bills; please make it 22.
The hon. Lady has been campaigning on this issue for some time, and is not alone in doing so. She will have heard the Prime Minister acknowledge its importance in the past. There are several years of this Parliament still to go, so she should continue to be patient.
May we have a statement by the Business Secretary on the yesterday’s demise of Courtaulds, the last hosiery manufacturer in the country? It has thrown 320 people—mainly women—out of work, so may we have a statement on what the Government can do to help such a company?
My hon. Friend is right to bring that up. I am sure that it has been a devastating blow to the local economy in Belper, and I hope that administrators will be able to help keep at least some of the jobs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills will be here shortly to give another statement; I will make sure that he is aware of her request.
Two of my constituents, Mr Matthews and Mrs Southward, have been in touch with me about the care of their family members during recent stays in hospital. Breakdowns in communication between staff seem to have contributed to very poor standards of patient care, leaving the patients and their families very distressed. May we have a debate on how we can ensure that we have the best standards of care in our hospitals?
The hon. Lady is right to speak on behalf of patients—ultimately we have to be patients’ champions in our constituencies. There are no Health questions for some time, so this would be a subject for the Backbench Business Committee to consider for a topical debate. I put on the record my thanks to the Care Quality Commission, which has been leading the way with inspections. It has been trying to highlight such issues and to make hospital boards come together to ensure that the patient always comes first.
Many people benefit from lower airfares and lower mobile roaming charges as a result of our being in the EU. Research published this week has shown that the average cost of holidays could increase if we leave. May we have a debate on the impact on tourism—domestic, inbound and outbound—should we leave the EU?
The Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch, who has responsibility for tourism, will be here to answer questions in the first week back after the recess. My hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston is absolutely right to highlight the potential increase in costs connected to leaving the EU. Of course, I wish to encourage domestic tourism as well. I am sure that a lot of people will be coming to Aldeburgh and Southwold, including Liz Kendall, who is coming on Saturday to campaign with me for Britain to stay in the European Union. My hon. Friend has raised an important issue, which I hope the country will take notice of.
May we have an urgent debate on the Land Registry? Many people are opposed to its privatisation, so may I have an assurance from the Deputy Leader of the House that that will not be sneaked into the planning and infrastructure Bill and the Land Registry therefore sneaked out of the ownership of the British public?
It is not a case of the Government sneaking things in, as the hon. Lady suggests. We have a very transparent process. We have set out our agenda for the next year, and she will have the time to debate that issue as and when it arises.
Will the Deputy Leader of the House tell us whether there are any plans for the House to sit on Saturday
I am not aware of any plans for that. The country has a really important decision to make on
May we have a statement on the responsibilities of local councils to protect green open spaces in their ownership—such as that on the ex-Brumby hospital site in Scunthorpe—when they develop their own landholdings?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and it is important that guidelines in the national planning policy framework are enforced. Ministers from the Department for Communities and Local Government will be answering questions on the first day back after the recess, and he may wish to raise the issue with them.
The closure of Rugeley B power station was confirmed last week and will mean that leisure facilities will also close. Will the Deputy Leader of the House join me in calling for other local facilities and groups to come forward to support those who are affected and need to be rehomed, and may we have debate about local community and leisure facilities?
I know my hon. Friend has worked hard on that matter for her constituents, and the decision will obviously be disappointing for those affected. She is right to try to engage the community to provide facilities for the activities that were ongoing. Has she considered the asset of community value process, to try to protect some of those important facilities?
This is Children’s Hospice week. Charlie House, a fabulous charity in my constituency that supports families with children who have life-limiting conditions, is fundraising to create a purpose-built facility in Aberdeen, bringing support closer to those who need it. Will the Deputy Leader of the House make time for a debate on charities such as Charlie House that provide vital support for children with complex disabilities and their families?
I am delighted to hear of progress in fundraising for Charlie House, and raising the issue in this House is an important way to advertise it—many hon. Members across the Chamber will be doing similar things. The hon. Lady raises an important matter, and I hope that she will be able to secure an Adjournment debate on that subject, which I am sure would be well attended.
This weekend Plymouth, and the rest of the country, will commemorate the battle of Jutland, and last night my hon. Friend Mrs Drummond secured a debate on that important event. Will the Deputy Leader of the House join me in paying tribute to all those who participated in Jutland, including my grandfather, and the contribution that they made to European and world peace?
I echo what my hon. Friend has said. When he listened to the debate he will have heard our hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, (Mr Evennett) saying that he will attend the ceremony and that his own grandfather was also involved in that battle. We must pay tribute to those who fought to keep peace, and being part of the European Union is a way to try to ensure that we have trade and prosperity, rather than destructive war.
Given that we are now just a few weeks away from commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle of the Somme, what plans do the Government have to hold a debate in this Chamber, so that Members from across the House and every corner of the country can reflect on that most traumatic but momentous time in our country’s history?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that important centenary. I am not aware that the Government have planned to set aside time to debate that issue—indeed, when the reforms went through, such matters were put in the hands of the Backbench Business Committee, but I am sure that many people would co-sponsor such a debate, which will probably be one of Parliament’s finest this Session.
Yesterday, the other place appointed a Select Committee to consider long-term NHS sustainability. Given pressures on our national health service, can we consider whether such a Committee might be established in the elected House?
That is the first time that I have heard a request for a new Select Committee. It would perhaps be more appropriate for the Health Committee to investigate that issue further, so I will pass the matter on to its Chair, our hon. Friend Dr Wollaston.
I apologise for labouring this point with the Deputy Leader of the House, but following the difficulties that some MPs seem to have landed themselves in over election expenses, will the Government invite the Electoral Commission to produce updated regulations covering local and national election expenses? That would help to clear up some of the uncertainties about accounting for election expenses, so will she make Government time available to debate that issue?
The Electoral Commission is, rightly, independent of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. I am sure the Electoral Commission will not be shy in coming forward with potential for discussion, but it is important that the Government do not interfere in any investigation.
May we have an urgent debate to assess whether legislation is needed to stop management companies taking advantage of freeholders? I represent retired constituents from Woodland Mews in Heathfield, who, despite being freeholders, are being taken advantage of by a property company over their communal areas. The list is so long, Mr Speaker, that it would cause you distress if I read it out.
I understand entirely what my hon. Friend is referring to. It is an interesting part of the law. The people better placed to answer his specific queries will be at the Dispatch Box on Monday
Constituents of mine who work for, or who have experienced trying to get in touch with, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will not at all have been surprised this week by a National Audit Office report highlighting how job losses have led to the loss of up to £97 million last year and the tripling of call times. May we have time for a debate on this matter, not least for those who have spent many frustrating hours trying to get through to HMRC hotlines?
I recognise what the hon. Lady says. It is frustrating to have to wait a considerable time. HMRC civil servants are dedicated and focused on ensuring people pay the correct tax in the first place, which is important in preventing frustration later. I note her point, however, and will make sure the Treasury is aware of it.
Yesterday, over 100 guide dog owners visited Westminster Hall to highlight discrimination. Their access all areas campaign raised awareness of discrimination against the partially sighted because of their dogs. May we have a debate on disability equality training to ensure that that important issue is addressed?
It was wonderful to see so many assistance dogs in Westminster Hall yesterday and to see how beautiful animals can help people to lead fulfilling lives. My hon. Friend is right to point out the terrible frustrations when people, who do not seem to have been adequately trained, frustrate the fulfilment of lives. I will ensure that this issue is referred to the Department for Work and Pensions. I also want to thank Simon and Jo, who came up from my constituency to see me. I intend to take up further local action myself.
May we have a debate on cyberbullying, and in particular its impact on young people? There are instances of cyberbullying perpetrated by those outside the UK who are using jurisdictional issues to evade the law.
I am sure we both agree that cyberbullying is completely unacceptable. It may be worth the hon. Lady pursuing this matter with the Minister responsible. If loopholes in the law are preventing positive action, we can try to close them if at all possible. I will refer her question to the relevant Minister.
Does my hon. Friend consider, as we see yet another misplaced, misjudged and costly consultation from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and its thankfully departing chairman, that now is the right time to discuss, in a cross-party debate in a grown-up way, the lessons of the past six years at least, particularly as it is noted by many non-establishment colleagues that the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has no representatives from the 2010 and 2015 intakes? That is a shocking oversight, Mr Speaker. You and colleagues from across the House will be relieved to hear that I am very happy to volunteer to help to remedy that.
My hon. Friend has had a long interest in IPSA—as do we all. A consultation is under way and it is important that Members respond to it. We know the reasons why IPSA was set up, but that does not mean we cannot put across our views on how we need a regime that best helps us to help the people we represent and does not curtail our efforts in that aim.
As the Deputy Leader of the House will be aware, I have been asking since November for a meeting with the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Andrea Leadsom. I have an open cast coalmine in my constituency that desperately needs proper restoration. Owing to the financial shenanigans of the company that owns it, a large body of water will be left unrestored. I have now received a letter from the Minister saying that her diary is too busy and too full for her to meet me. May we have a debate on how much time Ministers are spending campaigning for Brexit, rather than doing their parliamentary work?
I think the hon. Lady raised this issue in last summer’s pre-recess Adjournment debate. I replied then and thought I had been helpful, but I will encourage the Minister responsible to see what she can do. I will not make promises prior to
Ceramics, bricks, tiles and pipes are important industries providing valuable jobs across the UK, including in my constituency, where clay from local quarries is used in brick manufacturing. May we have a debate in Government time on the strategic importance of bricks and ceramics, especially on how best to support these industries so that they are well placed to meet ongoing and future demand for bricks and house building?
My hon. Friend raises a serious point about an industry that is hugely important to ensuring that UK plc keeps motoring and that people have homes to live in. I would encourage her to apply to the Backbench Business Committee, when it meets shortly, because I am sure that many people would be interested in such a debate.
It was announced on Tuesday that Polestar, a printing works in my constituency, would close with a loss of 650 jobs. That followed the loss of 600 jobs at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and 700 jobs at HSBC. This has all come in a short period. As well as immediate help for the Polestar workers, could we have a debate on what the Government can do to assist areas where a multiplicity of significant redundancies are announced across different sectors in a short period?
I recognise that job losses such as those at Polestar will be a blow to the local economy, but the Government are committed to the northern powerhouse and to Sheffield. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been working closely with the local council and the local enterprise partnership to produce an enhanced devolution deal. That landmark deal includes £328 million in growth deal resources for the next five years. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can work with the council and the LEP, as BIS has done, to ensure that we create new jobs for the future.
In view of the ludicrous claims that the price of holidays will increase if we exit the EU, will the Government find time for a debate on how to boost tourism to English seaside resorts in order to replace the lost holidays abroad? Also, if my hon. Friend Mr Bone wishes to make representations to the Prime Minister, he might like to know that he will be in Cleethorpes on
That is just another reason to visit Cleethorpes—en route I am sure people will drop into Great Grimsby, the constituency of the shadow Deputy Leader of the House. We want to encourage people to relax and enjoy themselves, but if people are to enjoy domestic, as well as foreign, tourism, we need a strong economy and increasing wages, so it bears repeating that if the British people choose to leave the EU—it will be their choice, if they make it—they should be aware of the possible consequences for the economy and jobs. I hope they choose to remain.
I draw the attention of the Deputy Leader of the House to early-day motion 47 on blacklisting compensation payments.
That this House welcomes the recent public apology and admission of wrongdoing made by eight major construction firms in the High Court, and the settlement reached between the construction workers, Unite the Union, GMB and UCATT trade unions, the Blacklist Support Group and their legal teams with those construction firms that will mean that 771 blacklisted workers will share an estimated £50 million in compensation; praises the work of the Blacklist Support Group, the justice campaign and support network for those caught up in the UK construction industry blacklisting scandal; notes that trade unionists, safety campaigners, journalists, academics and environmental activists were all blacklisted by big business; further notes that blacklisting was exposed in 2009 after a raid on the offices of the Consulting Association that operated the blacklist on behalf of the major companies, and that trade union members were denied work over many years due to their trade union activity on previous building sites, raising concerns over asbestos, poor working conditions and unpaid wages; notes the investigation on this subject carried out by the Scottish Affairs Committee in the last Parliament; notes with concern media reports that senior police officers attended meetings of the blacklisting organisation; and calls on the Government to conduct a full public inquiry into the scandal of blacklisting.
Eight multinational companies have settled cases with hundreds of blacklisted workers in the construction industry. Will the Government make a statement or hold a debate in Government time on this scandal and allow hon. Members to demand a full public inquiry into blacklisting?
The hon. Gentleman will know that blacklisting is illegal and that appropriate things can be pursued where it is shown to have happened. I suggest that he try to secure a debate in order to raise these matters in more detail, and I am sure that a Minister will respond in due course.
The Prime Minister once said that immigration had
“placed real pressures on communities up and down the country. Not just pressures on schools, housing and healthcare—though those have been serious—but social pressures too.”
Can we have a debate on how the Government’s approach to reducing immigration to the tens of thousands is going? In such a debate, we would realise that the only way to control immigration, which he wanted to do, is to leave the EU. The clue is in the title: free movement of people.
The Prime Minister and the Government are still committed to reducing net migration to tens of thousands. We have strengthened measures through the Immigration Act 2014. The United Kingdom has created more jobs than the rest of the European Union put together in six years, so I do not think people should be surprised if some of those jobs have attracted people in the EU to come and work here. Nevertheless, the pledge still stands, and I am sure my hon. Friend will work alongside us to make it happen.
The Times published the headline: “Imam beaten to death in sex grooming town” on
I can understand why the hon. Gentleman is distressed by that headline. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will be here on the first Thursday after our return, so the hon. Gentleman might want to pose that question directly to him.
May we have debate about the Avon and Somerset Police? We are now on our sixth chief or acting chief constable, and we have a police and crime commissioner who is completely out of control. The current chief constable is under investigation for historical sex allegations. He has been investigated once already, and can be read about in Private Eye. May we have a debate, because we need to know whether we have the Keystone Cops or the Avon and Somerset police force—and nothing in between?
My hon. Friend is right to point to the importance of people having confidence in the local police. I expect that the police and crime commissioner has just been re-elected with a new manifesto, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to hold this person to account in fulfilling the strategies that were outlined.
Will the Deputy Leader of the House join me in congratulating FC Halifax Town on its outstanding victory in the FA trophy at Wembley on Sunday? Will she allow a debate to discuss how best to encourage people to participate in sports at all levels?
I certainly want to congratulate FC Halifax Town; it must be fantastic to lift a trophy at Wembley. The hon. Lady is hopefully aware of the sport strategy launched by the Government, which is specifically focused on how to increase participation in all sports. Ministers will be in their places on the Front Bench on the first Thursday after our return, so the hon. Lady can raise her question again.
May we have a statement from the Government confirming that their “works of fiction” Department, which has been busy producing pro-EU propaganda over the last few months, is going to be closed down? What measures are being put in place to ensure that the purdah rules are properly enforced in the last four weeks of the referendum campaign?
The Government have fulfilled what was set out in the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which was to provide information and analysis. The Government are doing this online through documents, but also through the booklet that was sent to households across the country. Purdah starts tomorrow. The Cabinet Secretary is, I think, writing to permanent secretaries to ensure that appropriate steps are taken. I am sure that the civil service will act appropriately.
In Pakistan, another Ahmadi Muslim was murdered in a target killing in Karachi on Monday night. To date, 30 Ahmadis have been murdered there on grounds of faith—but not a single attacker has been brought to justice. In Indonesia on Sunday, an Ahmadi mosque was attacked and destroyed in central Java. Will the Deputy Leader of the House agree to a statement on what the Government are doing to tackle intolerance and extremism against Ahmadis and to call on countries to make adequate provision for that?
I am not aware of the details of that particular situation. The best I can do is to ensure that the appropriate Minister replies directly to the hon. Gentleman.
I wonder whether the Deputy Leader of the House noticed that the UK representative in Lonely Planet’s top six places for travellers to visit in Europe this summer is not London or the Lake district, but Warwickshire, with its main attractions being Warwick castle, Stratford-on-Avon and the recently announced “world rugby hall of fame” being created in the birthplace of the game. This will be important to my constituency, so may we have a debate to consider how investment in tourism can stimulate local economies?
Culture Ministers will be here answering questions on
May we debate why the Government want 50 fewer elected Members of Parliament but keep on creating more unelected Tory peers? The hon. Lady’s party received 36.8% of the votes at the general election, but 43.7% of the House of Lords already consists of party political Tory peers. Will her party stop creating peers, and drop its plans to gerrymander the House of Commons?
The purpose of the Act that was passed during the last Parliament was to ensure that constituencies were of equal size, and I thought that very fair. I find it extraordinary that there are 40 MPs in Wales, representing considerably smaller constituencies than the average in England and Scotland. Someone who says that he believes in fairness should accept that that is what the electorate deserves.
I welcomed this week’s news that the west of England, including Bath, had received £2.2 million of Government funds to increase access to walking and cycling. Does my hon. Friend agree not only that that will benefit health, but that the subject of walking and cycling should be raised during debates on the infrastructure Bill?
That is an interesting suggestion. We already have walking and cycling strategies, and transport questions may provide opportunities to debate their effectiveness further. I am sure that cycling around Bath is a very pleasurable experience, as well as being particularly good for the thighs because there are so many hills.
This week the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has been grilling the Government on whether or not they are meeting their obligations under the convention on the rights of the child. May we have a debate, in Government time, on whether the Government are meeting those obligations, with particular reference to the two-child policy and the rape clause?
I know that the hon. Lady has been pursuing a specific issue in relation to this matter. I think that the Government can be confident that they are supporting children. New measures in the Queen’s Speech will do even more to help children in care, and I hope that that is something on which the hon. Lady and I can agree.
The performance of Southern Rail is increasingly shocking. There were 156 cancellations on Monday and 208 on Sunday, which affected not just my constituents but passengers across Surrey, Sussex and London. May we have an urgent statement from the rail Minister to establish how we can deal with that shocking situation?
No commuters like to be late for work because of errors over which they have no control, and I understand why my hon. Friend’s constituents are particularly frustrated. No transport questions are due for a while, so I will bring the matter to the attention of the rail Minister.
Two years ago the two Newport Members of Parliament, the local trade union and the workforce said with one voice that privatising the then profitable shared services in the town would be a terrible mistake. Last week the National Audit Office announced that privatising those services and handing them over to the failing French company Steria has cost the country £504 million. When can we debate the cost to the nation of Ministers’ following their own canard—their own political, doctrinaire belief—that everything public is bad and everything private is good?
The Government do not share that view, which is why we are ensuring that the NHS is in public hands and will continue to be so. I am not aware of the specific case to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, but he knows that Ministers appear at the Dispatch Box daily to answer questions.
Today marks the start of the world-renowned Hay literary festival in my constituency. Over the years, many Members have attended the festival to sell their books, whether they are books about crime or fiction, or their autobiographies, or perhaps even a combination of all three. Will my hon. Friend allow time for a debate supporting the literary industry in this country?
I am sure that that would be a very popular debate. No doubt my hon. Friend will gather support for it through the Backbench Business Committee. The Hay literary festival is an important international festival, at which we welcome people from around the world. I know that the Daily Mail sketch writer lives nearby and is pushing his book, so I expect my hon. Friend will see him there as well.
I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House will join me in welcoming the launch of Kilombero rice from Malawi by Just Trading Scotland. It will now be stocked in branches of the Co-op across Scotland.
Our opportunities to discuss issues of food security and fair trade are limited, given that there are only two sessions of questions to the Secretary of State for International Development between now and the end of September. Will the Deputy Leader of the House look into the rotation of questions as a matter of urgency, to ensure that Members have a chance to give all Departments a fair crack of the whip?
The rota is fairly well established, and it is important that every Government Department is brought to the House to answer questions, so this is just one of those timing things. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to find time through Westminster Hall or other debates to hold the Government to account on that matter.
Last week the Government won a High Court case against big tobacco, which has paved the way for the introduction of standardised packaging for tobacco products, and this week AXA insurance has announced its withdrawal of £1.2 billion of investment in the tobacco industry. May we have a debate in Government time on the new tobacco control strategy, so that Members across the House can have an input into it before the Government publish it?
I know that this issue always generates a lot of interest, and I am sure that the appropriate Health Minister would be willing to respond to a debate on it. My hon. Friend has made his case so eloquently that I am sure that neither you, Mr Speaker, nor the Backbench Business Committee would deny him the time to hold such a debate.
Order. Time is becoming very constrained and it is almost certain that some people will not get in, but brevity will help.
May we have a statement or debate on the rationale and details of the UK-Sudan strategic dialogue and the Khartoum process—the EU horn of Africa migration route initiative—both of which pretend that Sudan is simply a transit route for refugees, when it is in fact a significant source country of refugees fleeing the predations of a regime that has been indicted by the International Criminal Court but is now being indulged by those two processes?
I am sure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s comments, but as of now there are no plans for such a statement or debate.
The River Hamble games are fast approaching, as is the summer of sport. May we have a debate highlighting the activities of the many brilliant volunteers who keep our community supports clubs alive and keep our after-school activities happening? We need to discuss how we can help them maintain a work-life balance in the light of their contribution to the development of future athletes.
My hon. Friend makes an important case. I think she should join up with Holly Lynch and my hon. Friend Ben Howlett to secure a debate on the benefits of sport.
Within the last hour, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills—ignoring the concerns expressed by the Public Accounts Committee, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and this House—has announced that it is pressing ahead with its plans to close the BIS policy office in Sheffield. Will Ministers come to the House to explain why they have signed off on a decision that adds to the Department’s operational costs, flies in the face of the Government’s policy of moving civil servants out of London and fatally undermines claims about the northern powerhouse?
I understand that the Department has issued a written ministerial statement today—[Interruption.] Or it is due to issue one. The decision was reached after consultation with staff and trade unions. It has been a difficult decision, but the Department has chosen to base all policy roles in London by 2018. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is sitting on the Front Bench, and I am sure that he will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.
Residents in Brigstock are fighting an unwelcome and unwanted speculative planning application from the developer Gladman. Many villages in my constituency have been targeted by such applications in recent years, but East Northamptonshire Council has stood up for the residents and thrown the development plans out. May we have a debate on how to ensure that developers get the message?
The Government have put forward the national planning policy framework, and a local plan has to take account of appropriate future development. Also, Department for Communities and Local Government Ministers will be here on the first day we are back after the recess.
The Deputy Leader of the House will be aware of the ropey employment practices that have emerged out of the implementation of the so-called national living wage, from cutting holiday time to abolishing paid breaks. May we have an urgent debate to ensure that employers are complying with the spirit, and not just the letter, of the law?
The hon. Lady is right to raise this point; it matters that employers play their part. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is sitting on the Front Bench and will have heard her comments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has also supported those views, and he will be here to answer questions on the Tuesday after we get back.
In my constituency, the only international aid agency in Glasgow—Glasgow the Caring City—will close its doors this week because of a decision by a shambolic arm’s length external organisation controlled by the Labour party to hike its rent by 400,000%. May we have a debate on the unaccountability of ALEOs across the UK and on how they treat charities across the UK?
I am unsure whether that is a matter for the Government, as it sounds like a local issue, but the hon. Gentleman is of course right to use the House in order to make his point.
Also in the last hour, the Government—in this case it was the Justice Secretary—have announced the closure of HMP Kennet in my constituency. Will the Deputy Leader of the House tell me why that was done by written ministerial statement and not by oral statement? Why was it rushed out on the last day before a recess? The Justice Secretary should have been here so that Members on both sides of the House could have scrutinised the decision and its impact on staff and the community, coming as it does at a time of an overcrowding crisis in our prisons.
It is no secret that the Government are seeking a programme of prison reform. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the plan is to close certain prisons and build new prisons that are effective and fit for the 21st century. I am unaware of the precise details, but it is fairly standard practice to issue such things through written statements.
We might consider today my amendment to the Loyal Address on the threat that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership poses to our NHS, but the Government show no sign of genuinely listening. Having seen at first hand the damage done to the NHS by big businesses such as Virgin Care, I want a clear, unambiguous statement that the Government will reject any treaty that gives such companies a private court system that puts their interests over ours. Will the Deputy Leader of the House provide time for a Minister to give that assurance?
The hon. Lady is right that we are concluding the debate on the Queen’s Speech today. The Government are confident that the TTIP treaty poses no threat to the NHS. I recognise that her view may differ from mine, but there is no need to be concerned. The European Commission is also well aware of the matter in its negotiations.
It costs more than £3,000 to train to be a HGV driver, leading to a shortage of 45,000 drivers in the industry. For every training package that the Government paid for, there would be a payback of six to 12 months of welfare savings. Will the Deputy Leader of the House rattle together the heads of the Secretary of State for Transport, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Chancellor to seek common sense?
This issue affects my constituency as well, so I have been lobbying fellow Ministers. It is important to say that plans are due to be announced. It is clear that advanced career loans also apply to such courses, so I encourage people in my constituency to take advantage of them now.
It is approaching 12 years since Gary McCann was killed in road traffic accident in India. Since then, his brother, my constituent Paul McCann, has been seeking information, and eventually justice, following this tragic incident. Despite his best efforts, however, he has been given no updates about any criminal proceedings in the Indian legal system, and the Indian high commission has been frankly woeful in supplying information to Mr McCann. May we please have a debate on how people such as my constituent can get the information and support to which they should be entitled? Twelve years is far too long to have to wait for answers.
I can understand why the hon. Gentleman and the family are concerned about the matter, and I will share it with Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers.
I welcome the UK Government’s commitment to making access to broadband subject to a universal service obligation. Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware of the Scottish Government’s objective of delivering 100% access by 2021? May we have a statement on whether the UK Government will commit to matching that ambition and to ensuring equality of funding across the UK?
We are ahead of them, Mr Speaker—we already have universal access to 2 megabits per second for people who want broadband. Our universal service obligation is due to be in place by 2020, not 2021, and I hope that it will include all of Scotland.
NHS Protect is supposed to investigate fraud in the NHS, but it has been inspecting one senior manager for more than two years without reaching a conclusion. May we have a debate in Government time on whether the organisation, which was set up under the previous coalition Government, is not actually fit for purpose?
Understandably, I am not aware of the individual details of that case. It would probably not be appropriate to comment on it on the Floor of the House, but I will ask a Health Minister to follow up with the hon. Lady.
Balfron High School in my constituency was built using the private finance initiative scheme, which was invented by the Conservatives and pursued by the Labour party. It has a capital value of £16 million, but the Stirling taxpayer will pay £71.1 million for it. It has now been discovered to have structural defects and has been partially closed, meaning that the children have to be driven to schools in Stirling—a total distance of almost 40 miles. May we have a debate on the great PFI swindle?
PFI has been debated in the House before, and in the last Session the Government undertook to renegotiate some of the contracts. I am conscious of the disruption that is being caused to children’s education, but the suppliers should bear the risk of that and provide appropriate remedies.
May we have an urgent debate on the progress of the Greater Manchester further education area review? Theresa Grant, the chief executive of Trafford Council and chair of the steering group, has warned that it would lead to a fragmentation of colleges in Greater Manchester.
The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. Given that Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Ministers are not going to be here to answer questions for some time, I shall ask the Further Education Minister to look further into the matter.
Will the Deputy Leader of the House allow time for the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to bring forward a debate on the work and health programme? The White Paper has been scrapped and there is now a Green Paper. Such a debate will allow the whole House to consider help and support for disabled people to get into work.
I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman brought such a debate forward through the Backbench Business Committee, it would be very popular. It is important that the Government continue to press on with our reforms, which are helping more people into work. It is a record we are proud of, but we want to make sure that even more disabled people are working.
May we have a statement on the recommendations of the review on antimicrobial resistance as soon as possible?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this is a very high priority for the NHS. Work is being done to try to ensure that we have more appropriate prescriptions, in recognition of the fact that AMR is declining. We need to ensure that the matter is looked at carefully, and I will raise it with Health Ministers, given that this will not be dealt with in the House for the next fortnight.
Oil is trading at above $50 a barrel, which is welcome, but yesterday we had the sad announcement of 475 job losses at Shell, mostly in Aberdeen and from its offices in my constituency. The tax cuts and the establishment of the Oil and Gas Authority are welcome, but this announcement makes it clear that more needs to be done. May we have a statement from the relevant Secretary of State about what more can be done to support this great industry?
The hon. Gentleman should be aware of the extensive support that the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change have given to the industry. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be able to apply for a debate, when we can discuss those policies in much more detail.
Given reports of recent racist attacks against asylum seekers who live behind red doors on Teesside, may we have a debate about how the Home Office manages the COMPASS—commercial and operating managers procuring asylum support—contracts, and its monitoring of the services provided through G4S and its subcontractors?
We know that issue has already been debated in the House, but the Home Office Ministers will be back here to answer questions shortly, on
I attended the UK pipe band championships on Saturday, which were held very successfully in Paisley for the first time. The team behind the bid to the secure the title of UK city of culture 2021 indicated that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had delayed publishing the dates involved in the competition. Will the Deputy Leader of the House give the Culture Secretary a nudge to publish a written statement setting out the said dates, as Paisley is very much ready and eager to get on and win?
I am sure that Paisley would be a very fine city of culture in the UK—there will of course be other candidates. I will nudge the Secretary of State, but if he still has not done that by
I was grateful for the birthday wishes from the shadow Deputy Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House.
Tomorrow, I will be attending “Time to Talk”, an event in Pontypool in my constituency that is designed to look at combating feelings of loneliness, particularly among retired veterans and older people. May we have a debate in the House on the very important issue of people who feel isolation from our society?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue, especially on his birthday. Tackling isolation is important, as I am sure all parties will agree. DCLG Ministers will be before the House soon, when perhaps he will be able to ask a more detailed question on local strategies.
In the light of the severe criticisms directed against the Government in today’s European Scrutiny Committee report, may we have an early debate in Government time so that Members can hold the Government to account for their abject and wilful failure to co-operate with proper parliamentary scrutiny of important European legislation?
I think our Parliament has very robust procedures on scrutinising European matters. The biggest question will of course be decided by the British people on
May we have an urgent debate on how towns such as Huddersfield uniquely combine a strong manufacturing base with a thriving university? If we do not stay in the European Union, such towns will be devastated.
Even I would not go that far. I do know that the people of Huddersfield will be devastated as and when the hon. Gentleman announces his resignation—I am sure that that is many years away. Before then, he will continue to champion their interests, and I am sure that the whole House supports him in doing so.