Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:46 am on 30th March 2017.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:46 am, 30th March 2017

First, I join the hon. Lady in expressing thanks to your chaplain, Mr Speaker, and to the Roman Catholic chaplain for the work that they have done in the past week, which I am sure they will continue to do. I also join her in paying tribute to David Beamish, who has served the House of Lords, and Parliament as a whole, with great distinction throughout his career. I would add to that the name of Glenn McKee, one of our own Clerks, who is retiring after more than 30 years of service to this House. We put on record our thanks and appreciation to him for that record of service.

The date of the Queen’s Speech will be announced as soon as possible. As the hon. Lady knows, the exact date of Prorogation will depend, as it does every year and under every Government, on the progress of business.

I turn to some of the other issues that the hon. Lady raised. The Government have delivered on the convention, and slots have been provided for debates on the prayers against the statutory instruments concerning tuition fees and the personal independence payment. The Opposition will get their opportunity to debate those after the recess. The Government will act, as all Governments do, on the basis of what Parliament decides.

The hon. Lady made a broader point about secondary legislation in the context of forthcoming European legislation. I am sure that questions will be put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union later today, and there will be ample opportunity to debate the matter during proceedings on the repeal Bill in the next Session, but it is a fact that Ministers may exercise delegated legislative powers through secondary legislation only if those powers have been expressly conferred on them by an Act of Parliament. Authority for the use of delegated legislation will have to be approved, after a full parliamentary process in both Houses, before such legislation reaches the statute book.

The hon. Lady asked about international trade. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade has hardly been invisible. He is doing the job that the Prime Minister appointed him to do, which is to maximise the opportunities for jobs and investment in the United Kingdom by drumming up support for trade and investment all around the world. He has been in the Chamber regularly, in the slots allotted to the Department for International Trade, to answer questions from Members on both sides of the House. I would add that the hon. Lady’s description of what she wanted out of the EU negotiations sounded very much like a paraphrase of the Prime Minister’s letter to President Tusk yesterday, which I welcome. If there is an outbreak of common sense and the Opposition take a more consensual approach by supporting the Prime Minister as a response to her call for national unity at this time, I would very much welcome that.

I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could possibly have been clearer—either in her letter, or during the nearly three hours that she spent making her statement and answering questions at the Dispatch Box yesterday—that her objective is a comprehensive deal with our friends and allies in the European Union that makes possible a deep and special partnership between ourselves and the 27 countries of the EU after we have left, because it will remain an essential national interest of the United Kingdom that there is stability and prosperity right across Europe. While we will implement the decision that the British people took in the referendum last year, it is right that we should strive for a new form of co-operative agreement with countries that will continue to be our friends, allies and partners on so many different areas of policy.

The hon. Lady asked about the national health service and the capacity of staff to deal with what will be demanding reforms—I think that the chief executive has said that—but I would point her to the track record of NHS managers and clinicians in delivering effective reforms. One of the things I find so striking about the national health service is that there can be a severe disparity of performance between different trusts or hospitals in various parts of the country. One of the objectives that NHS England wants to secure is to make certain that best practice—the successes of the most innovative parts of the NHS—can be disseminated and put in place more widely.