Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:08 am on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:08 am, 17th November 2016

I join the hon. Lady in welcoming and celebrating the sitting of the UK Youth Parliament in this Chamber last Friday. She and I, and the Minister with responsibility for civil society, my hon. Friend Mr Wilson, were present. We all came away feeling energised by the enthusiasm of those hundreds of young men and women for open, vigorous debate and for the process and the institutions of parliamentary democracy. I hope that following their experience here they will go and spread the word in all parts of the country about how important it is for young people, whichever political party they sympathise with, to become involved in helping to shape the future of their country.

Apropos of recess dates, I am keen, too, to bring an end to the suspense as soon as possible, and I recognise that colleagues in all parts of the House wish to have clarity on future recess dates. Equally, the hon. Lady will appreciate that any Government have to bear in mind the pressures that there will be on handling Government legislative business, but I hope to make an announcement as soon as possible. I can promise the hon. Lady that her appetite for additional legislation and other Government business will be more than satisfied in the months to come.

I was surprised that the hon. Lady made slightly disparaging comments about the Prime Minister’s efforts to build, from the start, a strong and robust relationship with the new President-elect of the United States of America. I had always thought it was common ground between the main political parties to accept that it is in the fundamental interests of the people of the UK for a British Government, whatever its political complexion, to seek to maintain a strong, intimate relationship with the US Administration, whether it is Democrat or Republican.

The hon. Lady asked about NHS plans. The STPs that she mentioned will all be made public. Indeed, the arrangements for STPs explicitly provide for local authority health oversight committees to challenge and check any proposal for significant service changes proposed by the NHS as a result of locally based reviews.

The hon. Lady asked me about EU exit. I am sorry if she was not listening during my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s response to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, because my right hon. Friend spelled out the fact that the Government have a very clear plan. It is to secure for British business the maximum access to, and the greatest possible freedom to operate within, the single European market. It is to continue our strong tradition of close co-operation with our European colleagues on police and judicial matters, fighting together against terrorism and organised crime. It is to continue the essential network of relationships on which our foreign and security co-operation is founded. It is certainly to bring an end to the freedom of movement of people as it currently exists. It is also about forging a role for the United Kingdom as a champion of freedom of trade and investment worldwide. I would once have hoped that the Labour party aspired to support those objectives as well.

Equally, I was sorry that the hon. Lady painted such a bleak and inaccurate picture of the Government’s record in office without acknowledging this week’s employment figures. The figures show that more people are in work in the United Kingdom than ever before, and they show that more people with disabilities have secured employment than ever before. The Resolution Foundation has hailed the past 12 months as the best year in history for low-paid employees because of this Government’s introduction of the national living wage.

The hon. Lady said that she was looking forward to following the tour of Dippy the dinosaur around the country. It is somehow appropriate that Opposition Members should pay such attention to that event. It probably brings back fond memories of their recent leadership campaign. Perhaps the fact that the Opposition is mired in Jurassic-era policies helps to explain why so many of the hon. Lady’s Labour colleagues now fear political extinction.