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The business for next week will be as follows:
[The details are as follows: 2nd Report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 692; Investor Confidence in the UK Energy Sector, 3rd report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 542; Home Energy Efficiency and Demand Reduction, 4th report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 552.]
At 10 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.
The provisional business for the week commencing
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
You may be a tad surprised to see me in this position, Mr Speaker, because for the past 26 years I have been a Back Bencher by choice—not just my choice, but the choice of the past five leaders of my party. Today, however, I am here for very positive reasons, as part of a diversity project in my party at which we have done splendidly. There are now far more women on the Front Bench and in Parliament than ever before—although not enough—and far more ethnic minorities, but there is currently a total absence of octogenarians. I believe that my appointment to this post will be a trailblazer which will lead to an all-octogenarian shortlist in the party, and will make the wealth of experience and wisdom among my fellow octogenarians available to the House. It is important for us to have people here who can remember life before there was a health service.
I note that the Wales Bill will be back in the House on Tuesday, and I hope that the Leader of the House has abandoned his curmudgeonly attitude to it. He has dismissed the idea of allowing both the beautiful languages of the House to be spoken here. Speaking Welsh has the same status as spitting on the carpet: it constitutes disorderly behaviour. However, Welsh has been used in Committees of the House when they have been held in Wales, and, at nugatory cost, it could be used here. There is no reason to obstruct the will of most Welsh Labour Members, and Conservative Members as well. A number of Conservative and Labour Front Benchers are now Welsh-speaking. It is a sign of the great health of the language. It is marvellous to recall that Welsh was an ancient sophisticated language centuries before English existed. In fact it was spoken, as was Gaelic, at the time when the ancestors of those who created English were pagan barbarians who painted themselves blue with woad and howled at the moon from the top of mountains. This really must be taken seriously.
There are also lessons from the football field about leaving Europe that the Government would do well to heed. The English team Brexited swiftly and ignominiously; Wales remain, with honour. I appeal to the Leader of the House for his party not to dismiss the very sensible idea of having a second referendum, which is supported by one of the candidates in his party’s leadership election. There are good precedents for this in the EU, which has a splendid tradition of keeping voting until you reach the right decision. It happened in Denmark and two other countries where they held a referendum and a year later reversed the decision. The reason is that people voted on false agendas. Where is the £365 million for the health service? Where is the emergency Budget?
The public are rightly outraged by the mistruths they were told by the propagandists on both sides. It is not a surprise that we have a petition of historic dimensions—as big as the petitions of the Chartists and suffragettes—put before this House. There are 4 million signatures and counting, of people who say they were deceived by the vote—by the propaganda—and which was largely determined by the proprietors of the daily newspapers, rather than by a sensible realisation of the horrors to come. So it is quite reasonable that, after the issue has settled down and when a new alternative comes along—we have been told it will take five years—the public should have the right to have their views considered.
It is timely now to look at the role of the independent adviser on ministerial interests. This man is virtually unemployed. He has looked at only one case in the past five years, and that involved a baroness who confessed to a minor misdemeanour. There have been six other cases since that have not been reported to the adviser because the only person who can report them is the Prime Minister. Two of them occurred a year ago and involved the Cabinet Office Ministers who gave £3 million to Kids Company in spite of the published advice of civil servants not to do it. Kids Company went bankrupt three days later. That is surely a matter to be considered by the adviser.
Another far more serious matter is of current concern. Some five years ago a Secretary of State for Defence stood down and the then adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Philip Mawer, recommended that the case should be heard by him. The Prime Minister decided it should not be, and the Minister involved achieved absolution by resignation. He left the job and nobody knows what he did—what was so serious that he had to leave office. The problem is that that person is now offering himself not only as leader of the Conservative party, but as Prime Minister, and it is a matter of concern to all of us that we know what happened and why he left that job. The first question one would ask anyone applying for a new job, particularly one as Prime Minister, is “Why did you leave your last job?” and we do not know.
Next week is going to be dominated by one event: the publication of the Chilcot report. The Prime Minister gave no information about that yesterday in his answer to Alex Salmond. We must remember, as the report comes out, that Parliament is on trial. It was not just one man; it was hundreds of MPs, three Select Committees of this House, the military and the press who were in favour of joining a war in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Those who saw the very moving programme on BBC2 featuring Reg Keys will understand the true cost of war. For the last seven years, he has not been able to—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is an immensely experienced parliamentarian, and I know that he is just beginning his apprenticeship in this role. I always enjoy listening to him because he speaks with great experience and huge passion, but let me gently say to him that he has exceeded his time. It is his first time at the Box, and I do not wish to cut him off, but he must now bring his remarks to a conclusion, maybe with a couple of pithy questions. Then we will have had our dose for today.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker.
My question is: what is the programme that will allow the loved ones of the 179 soldiers who died to have an opportunity to present their case? We know that those who are likely to be accused by the Chilcot report have already employed lawyers to go over their defences. We want to ensure that Parliament takes responsibility for a decision taken in this place in 2003 that resulted in the deaths of 179 of our brave soldiers, probably in vain, and the deaths of an uncounted number of other people. Chilcot must be debated fairly. What are the arrangements for doing that?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place on the Opposition Front Bench and congratulate him on an extraordinary comeback. Mr Speaker, you might not know that it is 26 years since he last sat on that Front Bench, or that what he has in common with his immediate predecessor—and quite a lot of people on the Opposition Benches—is that when he last sat on that seat, he also resigned from his position. Since then, he has become a distinguished Back Bencher—so much so that he has written a book on how to be a Back Bencher. It contains many words of wisdom. For example, his advice to Ministers in waiting is:
“Cultivate the virtues of dullness and safety.”
There is also some advice for a Speaker in waiting, which might be entirely appropriate for Chris Bryant, who now has plenty of time to concentrate on preparing his campaign. Although we want to see him in his place for many years to come, we know that he is already getting his campaign team together.
I absolutely agree with Paul Flynn on one point. This week we are all Welsh. I suspect that that even includes our good friends on the Scottish nationalist Benches. There is regret among the English over the result last week, and perhaps on the Scottish side over the qualification period, but we are all gunning for Wales to get to the final and do us all proud as a nation. We wish the team well, and we are all keeping our fingers crossed. We are all absolutely behind them.
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point about the history and traditions of the Welsh language, although I cannot quite imagine him and his colleagues dancing around covered in woad. I have to say to him that it has been decided many times over the years that the language of this place is English and, as I have already indicated, I do not propose to make any changes to that.
The hon. Gentleman asked about a second referendum. I am afraid that it just does not work like that, just as I am not going to ask for a rematch between Iceland and England. The people have spoken. We have had a referendum and we have the result. That is democracy. If we have a general election and our side loses, we do not get another go a month later. We had a four-month debate, with arguments from both sides and huge amounts of information being set before the nations of this country to enable them to decide one way or the other. They have reached their decision, and it is now our job to follow that decision and to deliver the will of our people. I have to say that, after four months of hedging my bets and not always speaking for the Government on this matter, it is nice to be back and to be able to speak clearly for the whole Government in saying that we now need to get on with the job that the British people have given us.
As for the independent adviser on ministerial interests, the hon. Gentleman wants more investigations, but it could just be that there has been no basis for such investigations. If Members have concerns about the conduct of other Members, there are ways and means available to them within the procedures of this House. If the hon. Gentleman has concerns about what has happened, he can use those channels, but they should be used only when there is a genuine matter to investigate. It is for the Prime Minister and the adviser to decide what should happen. If they choose not to act, it is possible to pursue issues in the House.
Lastly, the Chilcot report is of course a matter of great seriousness. We of course recognise how important it is that we understand what happened and why it went wrong, but no one can say at this stage that the process has not been exhaustive. I wish that the report had been published years ago. I have agreed with Alex Salmond on many occasions that I wanted to see the report published and that is now happening—thank goodness—and not before time. There is not a single person on these Benches who does not wish that it had happened a long time ago, but it is going to come out next week. We will shortly set out plans for how it will be debated in this House. It is right and proper that lessons should be learned, what happened should be considered and issues should be fully debated.
I am of course proud to have written the preface and to have hosted the launch of the most recent publication by Paul Flynn. It was a very happy occasion indeed.
The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee is unfortunately unable to be here, so he has asked me to convey to the Leader of the House that, as a result of our great queue of Back-Bench business, we now how sufficient debates, including those announced by the Leader of the House, for six full days before we rise for the recess. I therefore trust that the Leader of the House will allocate some more time to the Backbench Business Committee so that we can honour all the applications.
This weekend sees the annual Al Quds Day demonstration. It ends in London and has increasingly become anti-Semitic, with some absolutely disgraceful slogans and flags of terrorist organisations being flown on the streets of Britain. It is paramount that the Government ensure that if anyone is guilty of committing a hate crime in that way, those people should be arrested and should face the full force of the law. I want the Leader of the House to ensure that that happens this weekend.
We will do our best for the Backbench Business Committee. It sounds like it is being quite ambitious, but we will see what we can do.
It is important to say that I clearly echo the words of my hon. Friend about hate crime in this country. I campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, but I did not campaign for Britain to become an intolerant, racist nation. Racist or intolerant comments are utterly unacceptable. I deplore them, and they should be dealt with by the full force of the law.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. We saw him in front of the cameras just over an hour ago when the whole nation was hoping and praying that he was going to throw his hat into the ring. Instead, he just became a cheerleader for the Home Secretary, who had a friend-winning message about “divisive nationalists”. I presume that she was referring to me and my hon. Friends.
I obviously also congratulate Paul Flynn on assuming his new position. I am very fond of him and there should be more octogenarians on the Front Bench, but may I say ever so charitably that he was not exactly the first choice for this post? Labour has been scrambling around all week to fill it. However, regardless of what happens in the awful, raging civil war—a parliamentary party versus its membership—I hope that we will still find him in his place when it has all been concluded.
To the Leader of the House, I say well done. This is as much his wee victory as it is that of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and the rest of those UKIP acolytes. “To the victor, the spoils,” and what spoils he has: a divided country, a tanking economy, ugly racist attacks on the streets, a nation baffled and confused by the result, and a Government without an idea or a plan. The nation has every right to feel eternally grateful to Chris Grayling for his stunning victory last week.
When will we get all the debates? When will we get the debate that clarifies when this £350 million a week will come back to the NHS, as promised by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends?When do we get the debate about the control of our borders—again, about immigration—that was promised by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends? When do we get even the start of a debate that suggests that the Government have a clue about how to take this whole thing forward? We desperately need a debate about the nations of the United Kingdom and how this will all work out. Scotland will not be taken out of the European Union against our national, collective will. We were forced to choose in a referendum that we did not want. We were forced to make a decision. We have given that decision and it is abundantly clear what Scotland wants, so when will the right hon. Gentleman respect the decision of the Scottish people?
I see that the hon. Gentleman is back on form. We did not, unfortunately, have the opportunity of forming the dream ticket to lead this country, since he is so determined not to be part of it. Look, Scotland voted to be part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. That, I am afraid, is democracy and we, as a Government, are democrats. We will listen to the will of our collective people across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as supported in that Scottish referendum. I simply say that we will carry on governing for the whole United Kingdom. We will listen to the people of the whole United Kingdom. We will do the right thing for the whole United Kingdom, and Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom.
May we have a debate on the status of the referendum result so that we can find out who in this House is a true democrat and who is not? Before the referendum a Government document stated:
“The result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union will be final. The Government would have a democratic duty to give effect to the electorate’s decision.”
Will the Leader of the House confirm once and for all for everybody in the country, and particularly for the benefit of the BBC, whose hysterical coverage since the referendum has been nothing short of a disgrace, that we have had the result, that there is no need for any more campaigning, and that everyone must now get together to implement the will of the public? Does he accept that every single member of the Government must accept the result of the referendum and implement the will of the electorate?
It is very simple: we are a democracy; we vote; the result stands. If we have a general election and we are not successful—we Conservatives have experienced a few of them over the years—we sit on the Opposition Benches and do our best to oppose for the country; we do not sit there demanding another general election a month later. That is the way democracy works. The people have spoken; the Government will act.
May I tell the Leader of the House that the contribution of my somewhat younger parliamentary colleague, my hon. Friend Paul Flynn, is an illustration of how the “Dad’s Army” here is always willing to give whatever assistance is necessary when firm leadership is lacking on both sides, as it is at present? On a more serious note that arises from various exchanges about the referendum result since Monday, would it not be useful for us to have an early debate on the alienation and resentment that are felt in so many parts of the country—certainly in the black country boroughs—which led, to a large extent, to the slight majority for leaving the EU? In the past few months and perhaps longer, the House of Commons has not understood sufficiently that feeling of resentment and alienation.
I ought to congratulate the hon. Gentleman, somewhat belatedly, on his recent birthday. Off the top of my head—if I am wrong, he will tell me—I think his birthday was last Sunday.
The hon. Gentleman is perhaps being a bit too pessimistic about his prospects. It does look as if there might be a Labour leadership contest shortly. Judging by the commitment coming from the octogenarians on the Labour Benches, one of them should perhaps put their hat into the ring.
On the impact of all the changes in recent years on the economy and on communities up and down the country, one of the Government’s achievements that I am proudest of is the huge fall—more than half a million—in the number of children growing up in workless households. That will transform the lives of those children, with their parents getting up in the morning and going to work with a sense of purpose and direction. I am really proud that my party has contributed to achieving that in government.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing that we will have a debate on online abuse next week. Does he agree that we all need to accept the result of the EU referendum with respect and good grace? We all need to work together to get the best result for Britain, and we must all stand up against racism, extremism and abuse from all sides of the political divide and the referendum divide.
My hon. Friend’s words speak for themselves. I reiterate that I absolutely, unequivocally condemn any racist attacks, racist abuse and xenophobic abuse in this country. It is not acceptable, it should not be permitted, it is illegal, and it should be dealt with accordingly.
I did not refer in my remarks to the issue of security for Members, but I should do so briefly. I would simply say two things. The first is that, since the tragic loss of Jo Cox, a considerable amount of work has been taking place on this important issue. I and the Chairman of Ways and Means will bring back further thoughts to the House shortly, but I want to reassure Members that this is very much a matter of concern for us and something that we are giving our attention.
Given the comments that my hon. Friend makes, I should say that it is also a matter of concern that Members of the House continue to be subject to some pretty unpleasant abuse on social media. That is being discussed by the police and it is something on which I want firm action. It is not acceptable in any way, shape or form that female colleagues, in particular, get the kind of abuse they have been receiving. It must stop, and we must deal with it appropriately.
Another aspect of the leave campaign, which the Leader of the House was part of, was that it wrongly stated that EU decisions are taken by unelected bureaucrats. Given that attitude to unelected bureaucrats, when will the Leader of the House commit to getting rid of the more than 800 life peers next door who are unelected bureaucrats?
As the only Welsh Member in his place this morning—[Interruption.] On this side of the House. May I— [Interruption.] Members evidently missed the last election.
May I offer my congratulations to Paul Flynn on his great elevation? I wish him many long hours—I am sure they will be long for Government Members—and happy years in his role.
High VAT rates have blighted the tourism industry in our country for too long. Areas such as mine, which recently welcomed large numbers of tourists to the Hay literary festival, and is now looking forward to the world-renowned Royal Welsh show, are hotbeds for that industry, but it is being held back by high VAT rates. Can we therefore have a debate on what could be done to lower VAT rates for the British tourism industry so that it is among the most competitive in the world?
Regardless of what one’s views about the referendum might have been, we will, after the Government fulfil the wishes of the people, be able to make modifications to VAT rates in a way that would not previously have been permissible. The Government then will be able to focus on issues such as the future of the tourism industry to a greater degree than has been the case in the past.
A constituent of mine cares for his severely disabled mother and also works 16 hours a week. Due to the increase in the minimum wage and the freeze on the earnings threshold for carer’s allowance, he is now more than £3,200 a year worse off. He is not alone—many thousands are in the same position. The Government claim to care for the most vulnerable in our society, and they always say that they want to make work pay, but it clearly does not. May we have an urgent debate on this issue?
That is precisely the purpose of universal credit. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that there have been some extraordinary cliff edges in our welfare system. We are now implementing universal credit around the country. It is being rolled out in geographic areas and among different categories of claimants. When it is finished, it will make a transformational difference to precisely the kind of circumstances she has described.
In a week that has seen the start of the Henley regatta, will my right hon. Friend agree to a debate on the important role that rowing plays in our national life, and, contrary to the image that has been created, the contribution that it makes to young people’s sporting activities?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I commend everybody in his constituency for the work they put into making the Henley regatta such a successful international event. Rowing is a sport we should be proud of, and a sport we have excelled at in Olympic games. When the Rio games start, I hope that we will again be immensely successful, win lots of medals, and be proud of the athletes who make a difference to our country in that sport. I commend those in Henley for the work that they do, because the regatta is a part of the success that the sport has enjoyed on behalf of our country in recent years.
It was with regret that we learned of yet another deferral of the decision about runway capacity in the south-east of England. I understand the context in which this is happening, but surely decisions about the security and defence of the country cannot be deferred. Will the Leader of the House indicate when we are likely to get a vote on the renewal of Trident?
We are considering that at the moment, and I intend to come back to the House to provide more information in due course. However, I understand the concern of many Members and that they want to have that vote. It is certainly on the Government’s mind.
May we have a debate about fair health funding for Enfield? The crisis facing North Middlesex hospital is aggravated by a tale of two health cities within London. Boroughs such as Camden and Islington are receiving the lion’s share, while the gap between the funding and needs of poorer Enfield continues to grow. We in Enfield need fair funding, and we need it now.
May I follow up the unanswered question from Pete Wishart and ask for an urgent debate or statement on when Scotland will get the Barnett consequential in relation to the £350 million that was promised to the English NHS? If that is not coming to Scotland, although it was promised on the side of the leave bus, would the Leader of the House, who I know is an honourable man, like to apologise to the country now?
First, I express my good wishes to the hon. Gentleman after his change of role this week. I am sure that in due course he will return to his position as shadow Scottish Secretary. I pay tribute to him for the bravery he has shown. The Government’s position is that we have to negotiate carefully a way out of the European Union. Of course, until we have done so—until we have left the European Union—we carry on making contributions as normal.
May we have a debate in Government time on the involvement of celebrities in politics? On referendum night a week ago, the pro-remain American actress, Lindsay Lohan, in a series of bizarre tweets, slagged off areas of this country that voted to leave the European Union. At one point she directed a fierce and offensive tweet at Kettering, claiming that she had never heard of it and implying that no one knew where it was. Apart from the fact that it might be the most average town in the country, everyone knows where Kettering is. It is famous as the home of Weetabix breakfast cereal, and Cheaney and Loake shoes, and Kettering Town football club has scored more goals in the history of the FA cup than any other football team in the country. Will my right hon. Friend support my invitation to Lindsay Lohan to come and switch on the Christmas lights in Kettering this Christmas, thus redeeming her political reputation and raising money for good causes?
In my mind, Kettering is principally famous for the hon. Gentleman.
As those of us who have children will know, Lindsay Lohan, a star of child and teen movies, who was a very entertaining actress at the time, has not necessarily fulfilled her professional potential over the years, and perhaps now we know why, because had she visited Kettering, she might have seen her career turn around. She should accept my hon. Friend’s invitation, visit the fine town of Kettering and find herself returned to stardom.
May we have a week-long debate on the subject of political back-stabbing? We will need a week, because all the parliamentary Labour party will want to take part, but they are rank amateurs compared with Michael Gove—the Lord Macbeth of this Chamber—who, having dispatched the Prime Minister, is today dispatching the Prime Minister’s greatest rival. What makes the Leader of the House think that Lord Macbeth’s dagger will not soon be turned towards him and the Home Secretary?
My right hon. Friend Michael Gove was an excellent Education Secretary and Chief Whip, and he is now doing an excellent job in his role as Lord Chancellor, which I used to perform. He has friends on, and the confidence of, this side of the House, and he is a formidable adversary of the Scottish National party.
Will the Leader of the House assure us that two strands that are of particular interest to our business community will be discussed at some length? The first—this has been brought up—is confirmation that we will carry on with our commitment to large-scale infrastructure projects up and down the country to ensure that stability, calmness and jobs continue. The second is that the special Cabinet unit for the EU makes full use of industry experts and leaders in key areas outside the Government to ensure that our negotiators will be fully briefed, will have clear objectives and will be good to go when required.
Let us be absolutely clear that we may be electing a new leader, and hence a new Prime Minister, but this Government’s strategy has not changed and will not change. As well as continuing to pursue a one nation agenda, we will continue the modernisation of our infrastructure, where we have made a real difference. When I was shadow Transport Secretary a decade ago, I remember going around the country and campaigning with colleagues for infrastructure improvements that they said were desperately needed. Now, when I drive around the country, I see that those projects have either been finished or are being built. I am proud of what we are doing for our infrastructure.
On the team negotiating our future relationship with the European Union, it is my and the Government’s view that we should draw from the broadest possible expertise to make sure that our strategy is the right one for this country.
“The EU costs us £350 million per week—we could spend that on the NHS instead.”
Is it not the truth that a huge amount of misinformation was placed before the country? When can we debate when we are going to get that £350 million?
Let us be clear: the Government have this week set out in this House the first steps that we are taking towards negotiating our exit from the European Union. The hon. Gentleman will know that, while we remain members of the European Union—as we are today—our normal contributions will continue. When we leave, we will no longer make a contribution to the European Union in the way that we do now.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns and I will make sure that they are passed on to the Business Secretary today. It would be most helpful for him and other MPs who represent steel-producing areas to get an update from the Department as quickly as possible, and I will see if that can be done.
Chilcot should provide closure for families of armed forces personnel on a sad and murky chapter of our recent history, as well as further vindication of the stance adopted by my then leader, Charles Kennedy. I am convinced that hundreds of Members will want an extended debate on the report. Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure that two consecutive days are made available to debate Chilcot before the summer recess?
I understand the desire to debate Chilcot in the House. We are discussing that at the moment and we will set out plans shortly. I have announced business until only Monday week and I am aware of the issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman.
Last weekend, upwards of 150,000 people visited Cleethorpes for events connected to national Armed Forces Day. That clearly demonstrates our local communities’ commitment to and support for those who have served in the military past and present. Could we have a debate to consider further developments relating to the military covenant and how we support the welfare of those who have served?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I pay tribute to the people of Cleethorpes for organising such an important event last week, and to all those who are celebrating and commemorating, with poignancy, the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. We should always value the people who serve this country in our armed forces. I hope that the weather brightens up and that the flow of people into Cleethorpes this summer grows rather than diminishes.
Now we know that, according to what he has just said, the national health service will get more money, will the Leader of the House make a statement and tell the Secretary of State for Health that the Hardwick commissioning group in Derbyshire, which proposes to close the Bolsover and Bakewell hospitals, should keep those hospitals open because we have got the money?
Knowing what a formidable campaigner the hon. Gentleman is, I think it would be a bold person who tried to make changes in his constituency. I do not know about the local circumstances, but regardless of the process for the negotiation of our exit from the European Union, we are spending, and will continue to spend, more money on the national health service.
May we have a debate on what we can do to improve the understanding—including, it seems, even among some Members of this House—of how democracy works? It really is quite simple. In a referendum, when one side gets more than a million votes more than the other, that side has won.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The important thing now is not to pursue an illusion that one can simply rewrite democracy because one does not like the result. We must get on with the job of doing the right thing for the country, and negotiating and planning our exit in the best way for this country. We must also take real advantage of the opportunity that this brings to our country of forging new trade partnerships around the world. I am very encouraged that only this week the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, said clearly that he wants the United States to take an early step towards agreeing a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. That is the kind of opportunity now available to us.
The Care Quality Commission has ordered North Middlesex University Hospital Trust significantly to improve the treatment of patients attending the emergency department. We face the possible closure of the emergency department on safety grounds; we have a shortage of consultants and senior doctors; and, in an unprecedented move, the General Medical Council and Health Education England are threatening to withdraw junior doctors from the hospital because of inadequate support. This is a disaster for the hospital and for everybody who uses it. The emergency department is one of the busiest in London, and probably nationally. Its closure would have a domino effect on all the surrounding hospitals. This is a national situation, because it is due to Government policy and a shortage of doctors. May we have an urgent debate on this crisis?
I absolutely understand the concerns of the right hon. Lady’s constituents, although she will agree that the care that her constituents receive is of paramount importance. The reality is that there are hospitals in the NHS and in London that are doing very well. If there are hospitals that are not doing well, it is not necessarily a national policy issue; it is about sorting out why some are doing well and some are not, and ensuring that best practice is spread across the whole health service.
Even though the right hon. Gentleman and I are on different sides of the referendum debate, I am sure that we both want to move forward in the right way, and to get the detail right. Once the Government have agreed the terms of negotiation, will the Leader of the House at that point give Members enough time to debate those terms in the Chamber, compare them with the promises made by the leave campaign and make sure that what the public voted on was the right thing?
I am absolutely certain that over the next few months, as we prepare our strategy for negotiation and as we begin the negotiations, the Government will wish to provide ample occasion for what is being done to be discussed and debated in this House.
That is why we need an urgent statement on the unit that has been set up following the referendum. We need to know whether there are sufficient numbers of civil servants and sufficient expertise, and what their work programme is. After all, treaties are going to be unravelled.
We will keep the House informed, clearly, but that work has only just started. We are assembling the team at the moment. We have appointed the man who is going to lead it, and the Government will keep this House informed as we move forward. The Prime Minister made a very full statement on Monday—only three days ago—and he will be back in this House next week. Obviously, we will want to make sure that Members have every opportunity to question us about what we are doing.
In all seriousness, may we have a lengthy debate in this Chamber about the many concerns of our constituents? Mine voted overwhelmingly to leave—I respect them for that, even though it was not my view—and I will work very hard to make sure that we leave in good order and that it is done properly. May we have a debate about those concerns, such as those of the ceramics industry? We need to air all those concerns and get them out in the open before the unit starts its work.
We also had a debate yesterday about this important matter. We will make sure that there plenty of such opportunities, and more to the point, that we consult extensively. It is really important that we get this right, and yes, that we listen to industries, such as the ceramics industry, so that we can understand how best to look after their interests in the negotiations that lie ahead. I give the House an absolute assurance that every member of the Government and, indeed, the many people outside Government whom we will want to take part in this process will work absolutely assiduously to make sure we do the right thing for Britain.
I note the Leader of the House’s inadvertent honesty in telling the Chamber that we now have “carry-on Government”. He is obviously proud of his role in the referendum and he is also proud of his role in giving us English votes for English laws, but can he marry those two with English votes for English exits?
I know that the hon. Gentleman takes such a view. My view is very straightforward: we are one United Kingdom, we remain one United Kingdom and, given the opportunities in the world, we must absolutely plan our future as one United Kingdom. As we forge new trade deals around the world and businesses take advantage of new opportunities with the countries now telling us that when we leave the European Union they will want to forge new trade ties with us, I have to say that I would be deeply saddened and would hate it if any part of our current United Kingdom lost out on those opportunities.
After the momentous and tragic decision that the British people made last Thursday, are we in a position efficiently to hold to account the people who championed Brexit? The livelihoods of people in my constituency—those who work in the university, the textiles industry or manufacturing—are seriously threatened. In view of its present make-up, is the House of Commons able to assess what the damage is and how we can put it right, and can we hold to account those who made false promises?
I really do not think anyone can say, after the past four months, that inadequate arguments were made to the United Kingdom. People had the opportunity to set out their views, analyses, statistics and reports exhaustively. The British public were not short of information on which to base their decision. They have decided, and it is now our job to make sure that the decision they have taken for our country is implemented in the best possible way for the future of all of us.
May we have a debate in Government time on the impact of leaving the EU on important infrastructure investment in the north, particularly in relation to the northern powerhouse and the devolution agenda? A lot of Labour Members are very concerned that our northern constituencies, which voted to come out of the EU, will now face large gaps in the funding we had hoping for, particularly for rail electrification in the north.
The Government remain committed to the northern powerhouse and to investing in it. That is an immensely important part of the strategy for us politically, for the country and for the communities that the hon. Lady and others represent in the north.
Today is the deadline for bids to host the Great Exhibition of the North in 2018. My home city of Bradford has already submitted a bid, which I believe, with an excellent vision and venue, is a strong contender. The Great Exhibition of the North will celebrate the huge cultural and economic contributions, past and present, that the north of England has made and is making to the rest of the UK. I urge the Leader of the House to allocate time for a debate on this very important subject.
I wish everyone in Bradford well with that bid. Bradford is a city that feels transformed. The centre has changed and things are happening there to really take the city forward. I am sure that everyone in Bradford is pleased about and proud of that. I hope that the bid does not simply celebrate the past and present, but sets a path for the future, given the contribution that the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and other communities in Yorkshire can make to our country.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent statement on significant changes introduced by the Department for Work and Pensions to how it deals with MPs’ queries on universal credit? My constituency of East Lothian is one of the first to have the full service roll-out, and there are lots of transitional problems. Unfortunately, the DWP MP hotline no longer takes queries on the full service roll-out, and I am being redirected to a DWP office in Bolton that will handle queries only by mail. That is insufficient.
I was not aware of that. I will have a word with the Secretary of State and see whether we can get a proper response to the hon. Gentleman.
Yesterday the Prime Minister claimed yet again that The Smiths were his favourite band—I am sure he will be hearing from Johnny Marr soon, if he has not already—but his mismanagement of the EU referendum has been less “This Charming Man” and much more “Bigmouth Strikes Again”. May we have an urgent debate on the effect of the referendum result on 16 to 18-year-olds in the UK, who were denied any say in their future and on their place in Europe?
I am afraid that I cannot comment on Smiths lyrics, as I am a Pink Floyd fan—indeed, 30 years on I still spend many happy hours listening to “The Dark Side of the Moon”. I know that the debate on the subject of votes for 16 and 17-year-olds has been a lively one, but it remains Government policy that the right age to begin voting is 18. It will continue to be a matter for debate, and Opposition Members who wish to bring it before the British people will be able to put it in their next manifesto, if indeed they are organised enough to have one.
May we have a debate on palliative care? I recently had the great privilege of visiting the newly opened Kilbryde hospice in my constituency to support its great work. It is extremely important that those in the last stages of their life are able to have their cases heard in Parliament and that we take forward debate on that swiftly.
I welcome the opening of the new hospice in the hon. Lady’s constituency. We all owe a huge amount to those who work in palliative care. It is an enormously challenging but enormously compassionate, kind and caring area of our society. I am sure we all pay tribute to all those who work to make the last days of those suffering from serious illness happy rather than difficult.
Owing to the Government’s misunderstanding of supported accommodation, they have had to launch a review of their own policy on it. The review is being led by a Minister in the other House. While it is underway, councils, housing associations and thousands of my constituents are left in limbo, unable to plan for the future. When will Members of this House get the chance to debate that review in Government time, and when does the Leader of the House expect it to report?
I do not know when the review will report. It is right and proper—all Members would expect it—that the Government listen if the House believes that we have got something wrong. The case the hon. Gentleman raises is clearly one where we have listened, and have looked in more detail at what is being done. We will bring the report back to this House in due course and there will be an opportunity to question Ministers about it.
So as to ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny, will the Leader of the House use his best offices to ensure that there is no invocation of article 50 of the Lisbon treaty unless and until the full proposals that the Government intend to submit to the Commission to activate the process of withdrawal from the EU have been debated in full and voted on by Parliament?
We will have plenty of opportunities throughout the autumn to discuss and debate what is planned. That is something for the new Government and new Prime Minister to decide in September.
I congratulate Wales on getting through in the European championship, and wish them the best of luck. Will the Leader of the House congratulate the Northern Ireland fans and Irish fans, who are being given an award by the Paris Mayor for their behaviour and humour? I hesitate to mention that humour, but when the fans start singing “Away in a Manger”, we might wonder where it is going until they get to the words
“looked down where he lay” and instead they all chant “Healy”, although David Healy is not even playing; we then realise there is a terrific humour in that. Will he congratulate those fans, and all the other fans from everywhere else who have behaved themselves?
The Northern Ireland team and the Republic of Ireland team both played with great fortitude. Although we are all Welsh now, I have to say, as I believe Chris Coleman said at the end of the match, that Wales did not really deserve the result they got. Wales have played brilliantly in some of their games and made it through to the quarter finals, and we hope they will go much further, but Northern Ireland did the whole of the United Kingdom proud, too.
Much of the anti-immigration rhetoric in the Brexit debate was driven by the lack of availability of housing, in particular secure social housing tenancies that give families security and stability. May we expect a Government statement on their joining the Welsh Assembly Government in removing the right to buy and the right to acquire? Will we have a statement on ensuring an appropriate level of new investment in social housing for the United Kingdom?
There are two separate points here. We believe in home ownership; we believe people should have the right to own their homes. One reason it has for a long time been Government policy to reduce levels of immigration is that it puts pressure on public services, pressure on infrastructure and pressure on housing. First and foremost, we have to make sure we can make the provision we need for the next generation here.
A constituent of mine, who was one of my earliest cases just over a year ago, was despite my best efforts due to be deported on Tuesday morning, after I met her at Colebrook community centre on Monday. The removal did not go ahead as she is now back at Yarl’s Wood recovering from injuries allegedly inflicted by the five guards who travelled with her to the plane. Indeed, this alleged brutality was so severe that passengers on the plane tried to intervene and she was bundled back into the van. In the light of this, will the Leader of the House ensure we have a debate to discuss the treatment of those who claim asylum in this country?
Clearly, I cannot comment on the detail of such a case. I simply say it is obviously right and appropriate that anyone in our asylum system is treated with decency, but it is also the case that if people do not have the legal right to be here it is appropriate that we take them and deport them.
Do the Government really believe that the current private Members’ Bill system is perfect? The right hon. Gentleman has slapped down the Procedure Committee’s recommendations, but will he at least make Government time on the Floor of the House so that the whole House can have its say and have a vote on the recommendations?
My response said precisely that. It is right and proper that it should be a Back-Bench debate, because this is a debate about private Members’ Bills, which are a Back-Bench activity. Of course, the Backbench Business Committee can organise such a debate any time it wishes. My recommendation was that the debate take place before we assess how broadly the proposals are supported.
Between this place, the other place and the European Parliament, about 52.5% of our lawmakers are currently unelected. When the UK leaves the EU, that will rise to 55%. After the boundary review, it will rise again to 57%. May we have a debate on potential reform of our democratic process and reopen discussions on plans for a reduction in constituencies before we slide further into this severe democratic deficit?