Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 12:17 pm on 22nd June 2017.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 12:17 pm, 22nd June 2017

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week. The business is as follows:

Monday 26 June—Continuation of the debate on the Queen’s Speech on Brexit and foreign affairs.

Tuesday 27 June—Continuation of the debate on the Queen’s Speech on Education and Local Services.

Wednesday 28 June—Continuation of the debate on the Queen’s Speech on Health, Social Care and Security.

Thursday 29 June—Conclusion of the Debate on the Queen’s Speech on the Economy and Jobs.

Friday 30 JuneThe House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 3 July will include:

Monday 3 JulySecond Reading of the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill.

Colleagues will also wish to know that, subject to approval by the House today and the progress of business, the House will rise for the summer recess on Thursday 20 July and return on Tuesday 5 September. The House will then rise for the conference recess on Thursday 14 September and return on Monday 9 October.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

May I start by welcoming the Leader of the House to her new post and to her first business statement? I also wish to pay tribute to Mr Lidington. He was an excellent Leader of the House and will make a fine Lord Chancellor, protecting the independence of the judiciary as we uphold the rule of law.

One of the conventions in this place is that when a statutory instrument is prayed against, the Government will provide time for a debate. Because of the general election, the personal independence payment regulations, the tuition fee regulations and the rape clause were not debated, although they were scheduled for debate on 19 April. Will the Leader of the House find time for debates on those regulations?

This wonderful resilient country of ours is grieving—from Manchester to London Bridge, Westminster to Finsbury Park, and Kensington to Batley and Spen. The pain of loss may lessen, but it never goes away and lives are changed forever. As we hear about those lives, we mourn the loss of talent for this country.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister made a statement on Grenfell Tower. I am not sure why it took a week for her to confirm that all the people who were affected could finally be housed nearby and that any payments made to them will not affect any other entitlement.

May I ask the Leader of the House to confirm—perhaps she could do it in a letter and place it in the Library—that the number of counsellors for firefighters was reduced from 14 to two under the previous Mayor of London—now the Foreign Secretary? Kensington council has the reserves but not the staff to deal with the disaster. Other local authorities are helping. Ealing council, for example, is running the rest centre in Westway. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the disaster was the fault of the state at local and national level, but it is the elected members of the council and the Government who are responsible and accountable. The state, through its public servants, has responded brilliantly. It is blameless.

There seems to have been some confusion about the review of building regulations. The review, which was recommended by the coroner in 2013, was announced by the former Member for Croydon Central—now the Prime Minister’s chief of staff—in October 2016, but when asked when it would take place, we were told that it would be in due course. Will the Leader of the House make time for a statement on that before the inquiry?

The Government want to consult again on social care, but the independent Dilnot commission reported in 2011. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Dilnot report will be part of the consultation, or will it now be abandoned? Will it be yet another report that is not actioned? Dilnot costed his proposals at £1.7 billion. Simple maths tells us that the £3 billion top-down reorganisation could have saved the Government money.

It is unclear how Parliament will be kept informed during EU negotiations. Yes, we do want a running commentary so will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a timetable for a debate on the report-back on where we are with the negotiations? That is particularly important as the Chancellor appears to be providing a running commentary of his own, setting out his own different policy.

The Queen’s Speech mentions a new industrial policy. My hon. Friends the Members for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi), for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) want a statement or a debate on the Government’s position on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, which is part of the old industrial policy. Without a decision from the Government soon, the project may collapse, putting at risk 2,000 local jobs. Will the Leader of the House please say whether we can have that debate?

I want to welcome new Members and say goodbye and thank you to former ones. Some Members used to turn up regularly to business questions and they are no longer here. I want to make a special mention of my hon. Friend Emma Dent Coad. The people put their trust in her and she has repaid it, showing them what a great MP she is.

This time last year, we all came together to remember another brilliant colleague. We will have a permanent reminder in this Chamber of her campaigning zeal, her energy and her love for humanity. Helen Joanne Leadbetter Cox will be a permanent reminder to us that we will not be divided by hate as we work in this place for the common good and in the public interest of our United Kingdom.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I call—[Interruption.] I call Andrea Leadsom.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I fully understand that it is early days for all of us. Hopefully, you will bear with me as I make mistakes too.

May I welcome Valerie Vaz to her place? I have always admired her enormously. It will be a great pleasure to work together, and I am sure that we will do that very well. I thank her for her kind tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr Lidington, who is a fantastic colleague and who, I am sure, will be absolutely committed to his new role as Secretary of State for Justice.

The hon. Lady asked for time for a debate on carry-over regulations from the last Parliament. I will absolutely take that away and look into it. I am sure that it is in hand, but I will make sure that it is. She mentioned the appalling loss of life in recent weeks due to the deliberate and evil actions of terrible people who are either misguided or evil, and she was exactly right to raise that matter. Everybody across the House shares the horror at some of the actions that have been perpetrated against innocent citizens. She also mentioned the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. I saw for myself what devastation it has caused. Our hearts go out to those poor, poor people. I hope that colleagues were reassured by what the Prime Minister had to say in her statement today, which is that we will leave no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of what has happened and in doing everything possible, including of course looking closely at building regulations, to see whether more can be done to ensure that such a thing never happens again.

The hon. Lady asked about resources for firefighters. We will of course review that situation. She will be aware that, fortunately in recent years, the number of fires and lives lost due to fires has reduced quite dramatically. The harrowing events at Grenfell Tower put a very different complexion on that and will require that we look again at those resources. I can assure her and all hon. Members that this Government will ensure that our emergency services have the resources that they need.

The hon. Lady asked about the Dilnot commission and the review of social care. She will be aware—as indeed are all hon. Members—that we have an ageing population. There will be more than 2 million over-75s within the next decade, which requires us to tackle this situation. We need to look holistically at how we can best balance the needs of an ageing population with the need to pay for what is becoming increasingly expensive.

The hon. Lady also mentioned the Queen’s Speech, which included our new industrial policy. I hope that she shares my excitement about some of the measures, which will see the UK leading the world in electric vehicle technology. Some of our commercial space flight programmes will be very exciting, creating new, well-paid, high-technology jobs. I will absolutely take away her requests about where we are on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon.

I wish to pay my own tribute to all those colleagues who did not win their seats this time. It is always a great sadness to say goodbye to so many good colleagues. It is also wonderful to have new blood coming into the House. I welcome all new colleagues right across the House. I am really looking forward to working with them and hearing their views. I ask them to please come and talk to me at any time. My office is just down the corridor.

Finally, as the hon. Lady said, the memorial to our dear colleague, Jo Cox, will be unveiled tomorrow, and all colleagues are very welcome to attend. I thank the hon. Lady for her opening remarks.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

The unveiling is on Saturday. As the Leader of the House said, Mr Speaker will be glad to receive any applications.

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Conservative, Cannock Chase

May we have a debate in Government time about the ways in which society lotteries can increase the amount of money being channelled to local charities?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

That is an excellent idea. The work that all of the jackpot-oriented lotteries do in raising money for charities is absolutely valuable. It sounds like an excellent bid for an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business and warmly welcome her to her new Front-Bench role. I very much look forward to working with her in the future. Being awarded the position of Leader of the House suggests that she is either on her way up the greasy pole or on the way down. I am pretty certain that she is in the former category.

May I thank the right hon. Lady for announcing the recess dates? Scottish National party Members are profoundly disappointed that, somehow, we cannot design a summer recess that accommodates school holidays in all parts of the United Kingdom. I hope that we can work together to resolve some of the difficulties around the conference recess.

By God, Mr Deputy Speaker, has the right hon. Lady not got a job on her hands? This is a Government who arrogantly and unnecessarily called an early general election to secure an overwhelming majority only to find themselves humbled, diminished and without any majority whatsoever. As this is now a Parliament of minorities, does she agree that consensus must be the key for getting business through the House and that it will mean working with the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments throughout the United Kingdom?

On that and on the confusion around the great repeal Bill, will the Leader of the House confirm what the Prime Minister said yesterday, which was that the Scottish Government could have a role when it comes to legislative consent motions? Will she confirm that, in fact, the Scottish Government will have an LCM when it comes to these issues?

Looking around the Chamber, one can see quite clearly that English votes for English laws—probably the biggest innovation of the last Parliament—no longer commands a majority in the House. It is almost impossible to see how a minority Government can get their business through while being dependent on a party that is subject to the EVEL procedure. When will the Leader of the House introduce plans to get rid of this unnecessary and divisive measure from Standing Orders?

I am glad that you are back, Mr Deputy Speaker, with a reasonably good majority—I got through by the skin of my teeth, with a majority of 21. What is appalling about my situation is that the Conservative candidate whom I defeated will soon be ennobled as an unelected Lord, drafted into government as a Scotland Minister. That is a total affront to democracy and an insult to my constituents, who so recently rejected him. Will the Leader of the House pledge never to use the House of Lords as a receptacle for cronies, donors and failed leadership candidates?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Likewise, I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place. I congratulate him on hanging on to his seat—unfortunately, a number of his colleagues did not; we on the Government Benches are delighted by the outcome of the general election in Scotland—and I look forward to working with him.

I shall consider the issue of recess dates. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that dates are also set to try to work around some of the challenges posed by this building and the work that is already scheduled, but I will speak to Mr Speaker and the Chief Whips about whether more can be done in future to accommodate the Scottish National party conference.

As the hon. Gentleman says, we called the general election, and we do not have a majority. We have been very clear that we accept that result. We are very disappointed, but nevertheless we have a commitment to consulting widely across parties. As the Prime Minister has said, we want to be a listening Government. We seek the support of Members across the House and I very much hope and wish that the Scottish nationalists will support the democratic decision of the United Kingdom in last year’s referendum to leave the European Union. On the hon. Gentleman’s point about a legislative consent motion, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has made it clear that he wants to consult the Scottish nationalists and other devolved Administrations on the repeal Bill. A decision will be taken on whether an LCM is needed at that point.

The EVEL measures, as the hon. Gentleman knows, were an attempt to ensure that when English-only matters are being discussed, only English—and perhaps Welsh—MPs can take part in those discussions. That is very important. Finally, decisions on who should be ennobled are taken on merit, and on the grounds of political contribution, regarding people who have given many years’ service, across the public sector. That is a matter not for us but for discussion at another time.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

I warmly welcome the positive engagement between the new Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House. Between them they can achieve a great deal for Back Benchers through these sessions. The Leader of the House will be aware that a number of Select Committees, including the Select Committee on Defence, had to publish reports in great haste because of the suddenness of the announcement of the general election. As there is a hiatus and no Select Committees scrutinising Departments at the moment, will she ensure that at least those Departments that are obliged to produce responses to reports will get on with the job so that Committees can consider those responses at the earliest opportunity?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My right hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. Of course, Departments will respond just as soon as they can.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Labour, Gateshead

I welcome the Leader of the House to her place. Has she seen a copy of the letter that I, as the then Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, sent her predecessor asking whether, if there is any time for general debates before the Committee is established, the Leader of the House would consider giving time to Back-Bench business that was residual—debates that had not yet been held—from the previous Parliament?

On another matter, the Standing Orders of the House of Commons say that in a parliamentary Session the Backbench Business Committee will be given 35 days of debating time, 27 of which will be in the Chamber, but this will be a two-year parliamentary Session. Will the Leader of the House give us a guarantee that that will be pro-rated over the two years, rather than our being limited to that time limit?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions and, if there is Back-Bench time available, I will consider whether those outstanding subjects for debate can be prioritised. On the hon. Gentleman’s other point about extending the time available, my understanding is that the amount of time is set out in Standing Orders, but we will certainly look at whether it can be extended.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Conservative, Braintree

Will the Leader of the House meet me and any other colleague who so wishes to discuss the erection of a permanent memorial to PC Keith Palmer, who fell defending us and our visitors before the general election, perhaps taking as inspiration the memorial in St James’s Square erected to PC Yvonne Fletcher?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to remind us of the tragic murder of Keith Palmer and to say that we need to consider how we can remember him and his sacrifice. I shall certainly take that up with Mr Speaker.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

May we have a debate in Government time on how to tackle the problem of persistent illegal Traveller encampments in public parks and other community facilities? This involves a costly game of cat and mouse, as these people are evicted but just move in a circle. It is expensive for cash-strapped councils and it is only a matter of time before it leads to a major incident unless the concerns and frustrations of law-abiding people are recognised.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue that comes up time and again for many colleagues across the House. I have certainly had problems in my constituency, and I know that many local authorities would like different arrangements so that they can act much faster. It sounds to me like a very good debate for the Backbench Business Committee to consider, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me with some proposals, I will be pleased to receive them.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara Conservative, North West Cambridgeshire

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her appointment as Leader of the House, and I wish her well in all that she does. This week, there has been absolute misery for thousands of motorists in my constituency. It has arisen because of a decision by Highways England to close off a slip road at junction 17 leading on to the A1(M). That decision was taken by Highways England without any consultation with local stakeholders, with inadequate notice to motorists and with ill regard for a diverted route. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport in which he can urge Highways England to act in the best interests of the community rather than unilaterally?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend raises another issue that is pertinent to all our constituencies, that of action being taken on roads without due notice. If he wants to write to me, I will be happy to pass that on to the Secretary of State for Transport so that appropriate action can be taken.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday Tesco announced that it will axe 1,100 jobs in my constituency? It was done with no consultation with either the UK or Welsh Government and some workers found out through social media that they were losing their jobs. That is shocking and wholly unacceptable behaviour, and will be devastating for all those concerned and for their families. Will the Leader of the House provide an urgent debate or statement on the issue so that we can hear what help the Government can provide and, at the very least, will the Department for Work and Pensions be dispatching a full emergency taskforce to support my constituents at this difficult time?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

May I first welcome the hon. Lady to her place? She tells a very sad story. It is always terrible to hear of such situations, particularly when there is a large loss of jobs because that is incredibly unsettling for the whole community. The fact that the matter has been conducted in such a way is completely unacceptable. If the hon. Lady writes to me with her thoughts, I will seek a response from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

As Members will know, the next debate is heavily subscribed, so I implore people to make a single point. If you find yourself about to use the word “and”, resist the temptation.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

May we have a debate in Government time on housing, especially on leaseholds and commonholds? The former Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, who is now the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, wanted to reform LEASE, the Leasehold Advisory Service, paying attention to exploitation. It is time to do that with a debate on what the Government are going to do about Travellers. They have needs, but they do not solve them by coming into urban areas and camping on public parks.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

As luck would have it, the very next debate on the Queen’s Speech is on the subject of housing. My hon. Friend may well want to take part in that debate later today.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour/Co-operative, Hackney South and Shoreditch

Last year the Department of Health laid its accounts before the House on 21 July, the last day the House sat before the summer recess. Will the newly appointed Leader of the House—the champion of this place in Cabinet—ensure that this does not happen again? Could the accounts of not only the Department of Health, but all Government Departments be laid so that we can scrutinise them?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I appreciate what the hon. Lady says. As she will appreciate, Departments move heaven and earth to ensure that they get reports out on sitting days. There is always a rush to try to get them out before the recess begins. I have some sympathy for Departments trying to meet those deadlines and trying not to deliver during recesses, but I certainly take the hon. Lady’s point and will ask colleagues to try to ensure that there is time for parliamentary scrutiny.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Last year, the Secretary of State for Transport commissioned Chris Gibb, a rail expert, to deliver a report on the appalling performance of Southern rail. That report has been published today and it is excellent. It identifies the unions as the primary cause, but all parties have a role to play. On that basis, can we have a debate in Government time on the report and its impact across not just my constituency, but the entire rail network?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The plight of rail travellers on certain lines has been so bad for some time now. The report highlights that a great deal needs to be done to put that right. I will happily write to the Secretary of State for Transport to urge him to review that report fully and, if possible, will hold some parliamentary time in which colleagues can debate it.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

I have a constituent who was mugged in Ibiza, losing her passport and her money in the process, which, as hon. Members can imagine, was really upsetting. She wanted emergency documentation so that she could fly home with her friends and return to her family, but unfortunately the consulate was shut for three days for the Whitsun holiday, a time when demand is obviously higher. That is unacceptable for someone in an emergency situation. Will the Leader of the House commit herself to having a statement reviewing how such emergency situations are dealt with by consulates abroad and look to put in place an improvement plan?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

That was obviously a difficult time for the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. I am absolutely sure that the House would want to address such situations. If the hon. Gentleman writes to me, I can pass the specific details on to the relevant people.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

Given the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday that every child deserves a place at a good school, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the plans of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust and my local clinical commissioning group no longer to diagnose children with autism? The decision would mean that there will be no opportunity for a special educational needs statement and no opportunity, therefore, for an appropriate school place.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The issue of children’s mental health is very dear to my heart. It sounds as though the hon. Lady should apply for an Adjournment debate. I am sure that all hon. Members will be interested to hear about the issue. On the face of it, the hon. Lady’s desire for that decision to be overturned is one with which I am extremely sympathetic.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

May we have a statement from a Health Minister on NHS funding as soon as possible, particularly in the light of the savings that areas up and down the country, including mine in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, are being asked to make, which are entirely impossible to effect without having a drastic impact on patient services?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Government are committed to significant real-terms increases in funding for the NHS. There are programmes in place to try to improve the efficiency of particular CCGs and hospitals. If he writes to me about the situation in Staffordshire, I will refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Labour, Battersea

We have seen developers across London reducing their commitment to provide affordable homes. Yesterday, the Battersea Power Station developer in my constituency announced that it is reducing its affordable homes commitment by 250. It is using viability assessments as a loophole to reduce the number of affordable homes provided. To tackle the housing crisis in London, we need to ensure that developers are held to account in providing a decent level of affordable homes. Is it possible to have a debate on how viability assessments are being used?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

May I first welcome the hon. Lady to her place? She is exactly right that affordable homes are vital to a thriving economy and a society that is fair to all. We have delivered more than 313,000 affordable homes since April 2010. Our target is to deliver 400,000 new affordable home starts by 2020. As I mentioned to my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley earlier, the debate on the Queen’s Speech this afternoon includes housing, so the hon. Lady might well wish to make some interventions during that.

Photo of Anne-Marie Trevelyan Anne-Marie Trevelyan Conservative, Berwick-upon-Tweed

Will the Leader of the House consider my request for a debate in Government time in the next few weeks on the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and our continued NATO commitment as we return to a carrier strike capability?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend raises an important subject. Billions of pounds are being invested in a growing Royal Navy with new aircraft carriers, frigates, submarines, patrol vessels, aircraft and support ships. The Royal Navy and the nation will reach a significant milestone this summer when HMS Queen Elizabeth commences her sea trials. She will be accepted into the Royal Navy later in the year. It is an exciting moment, and I am sure that the subject would make for an interesting Adjournment debate.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

It is a pleasure to see you in your place, Mr Deputy Speaker, although I, for one, will greatly miss the former Member for North East Derbyshire, who was a good friend and colleague.

Since 2010, the previous Government were rather random in their use of pre-legislative scrutiny. For the Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill, for example, it was clearly just a delaying tactic. To what extent will the seven Brexit Bills be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny and when can that start?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

First, may I say that I will also miss the former Member for North East Derbyshire? She was very good in the House, like many Members who lost their seats. Although we are delighted to see new colleagues, we will miss those who are no longer here.

There will, of course, be a need for broad consultation on our whole legislative programme. As I said at the start, we do not have a majority in this House, so there is a real need to take colleagues with us. There will be a lot of consultation with many opportunities for colleagues to give their views and thoughts.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

A number of my constituents are concerned about the news that Easton Garford Endowed Church of England Primary School is to be relocated across the county boundary into Rutland. Can we have a debate next week about the need for statutory processes to be followed properly and for full consultation with parents before any such changes are made?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am very sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s concerns. Again, this sounds as though it is a prime candidate for an Adjournment debate. If he would like to write to me, I will be very happy to take it up on his behalf with the Secretary of State.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I welcome the Leader of the House to her place and wish her every success in her new position. She will be aware of my interest in human rights and equality issues. Only last week, Taimoor Raza was convicted of blasphemy by the Pakistani anti-terrorism court and has been handed the death penalty. That is a flagrant violation of international law, and it is the first time that someone has been charged under article 295-C of the penal code, which prohibits blasphemy, for an offence on social media. The sentence also sets a deeply worrying precedent from the anti-terrorism court and raises serious questions about the use of anti-terrorism legislation to deny citizens their right to freedom of religion or belief and expression. Will the Leader of the House agree to have a statement or a debate on this very important issue?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this case. I am sorry to say that I was not aware of it, but if he would like to write to me, I will certainly be happy to take it up.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

As a new Member of this House, I was struck yesterday by the excessive pomp and ceremony of the Queen’s Speech. I just wish that the British state would put half as much effort into making sure that children in Glasgow East did not go to bed hungry last night. May we therefore have a debate in Government time on child poverty?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place. I absolutely share his concern about child poverty. He will be pleased to know, as will all Members, that child poverty has reduced as employment in this country has reached much higher levels and the number of workless families has reduced significantly. Nevertheless, he is right: it is an incredibly important subject, and he may well want to raise it as a Backbench Business Committee debate in due course.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

I welcome the right hon. Lady to her new position. In the light of the statement made earlier by the Prime Minister about the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, I have been contacted by a constituent about the hospital in Hull, which is a tower block that had cladding put on it a couple of years ago, who raised concerns about whether that cladding is safe. Would it be possible for the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement about all NHS buildings that the public may be concerned about?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady will be aware that the Prime Minister said that any samples of cladding on high-rise buildings should be sent to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is arranging for their combustibility to be tested. I am not sure whether that extended to public buildings other than residential buildings, but I will get back to the hon. Lady on that point.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade Unions and Workers' Rights)

At least four minority political parties in this House fought the election opposing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs office closures. Can the Leader of the House confirm that during purdah—the election period—HMRC signed new contracts for new regional centres? If so, may we have a statement or a debate in Government time so that Members of this House can discuss the provision of services that deal with tax avoidance and non-compliance with the national minimum wage?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

HMRC has done a superb job since 2010 in raising the amount of money that it is recovering from those who seek to avoid paying their taxes. We should absolutely pay tribute to it for the billions of pounds in extra revenue that have been collected legitimately for the Exchequer. It is very important in dealing with our deficit that we do everything possible to reduce tax avoidance and evasion. As to the hon. Gentleman’s specific point about office closures, I am afraid I am not aware of the situation that he describes, but if he would like to write to me, I can take it up with the Treasury.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

I second the request made by my hon. Friend Anna McMorrin, who it is great to welcome to this House, about the shameful decision of Tesco, which affects nearly 100 of my own constituents. I also pay tribute to USDAW, which is working to support those workers.

May I ask the Leader of the House for a debate in Government time on historical injustices, particularly the historical injustice faced by those who were affected by the contaminated blood scandal, the nearly 4,500 women in my constituency affected by the state pension age changes, and the hundreds of people still suffering injustice from the Allied Steel and Wire pension scheme? These historical injustices need to be righted, and we should be debating them urgently in this House.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that quite wide-ranging question. He is right: there are injustices from the past that this Government, since 2010, have sought to deal with. For example, the contaminated blood situation was absolutely terrible. I had two constituents who suffered from that injustice. Great steps were taken by the coalition Government to try to right that wrong. I guess that he is asking to reopen that and other injustices, as he describes them. I think that would have to be subject to a Backbench Business Committee debate when the Committee is up and running, and I would certainly be very interested to hear it myself.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

High Court judge Mr Justice Collins ruled this morning that the Tory Government’s benefit cap was “unlawful” and “discriminatory”, also stating:

“Real misery is being caused to no good purpose.”

Will the Government now act immediately, not duck the matter as they did with the statutory instrument on the rape clause, and stop wasting public money on appeals on this? Will they make an urgent statement scrapping the rape clause and the two-child policy?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important point. All I can say is that the Government will be looking very carefully at the judgment and deciding on their position.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

Following seven years of delay and four court cases that found the Government wanting, the Government published the draft air quality plan on 5 May. This was after Parliament had risen, and the consultation ended before Parliament met. The final air quality plan needs to be in place on 31 July. May we therefore have an urgent debate in Government time on this issue, which really does impact on my constituents who die prematurely because of poor air quality?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady is right to raise this very significant and serious public health issue. As Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs until recently, I was very closely involved in the enormous amount of work that has gone into producing the air quality consultation. She is right that the plans will be published at the end of July. The Government are firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality. That is why we have committed more than £2 billion since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles and committed to support greener transport schemes with a further £200 million in the 2016 autumn statement. There is a lot that needs to be done, and it is a complex scenario, as she, too, knows very well, but I do believe that we will be able to make strong progress very soon.

Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Scottish National Party, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

Like many returning Members, I was contacted by several constituents just prior to Dissolution concerning the Roadchef employee benefits trust and the compensation due to its beneficiaries. Now that Parliament has resumed, may we have a statement or a debate in Government time regarding the HMRC and tax liability situation, when we could also look at future regulation of EBTs?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s concern on this point. I suggest that it would be a very good candidate for an Adjournment debate, at least in the first instance.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Housing)

On the matter of tower block cladding raised by my hon. Friend Diana Johnson, it is not just about flammability and the type of cladding, but how it is fitted, whether it has been compromised by later alterations, and whether it is compatible with the existing structures. This morning the Prime Minister was clearly struggling with that issue and who was going to enforce this and pay for it. May we have a full statement on those specific issues of fire safety, because nothing is more important now than the safety of the hundreds of thousands of people living in tower blocks?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Yes, I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman that nothing could be more important than getting to the bottom of this. I think he will agree that the Prime Minister has made it very clear that she is herself committed to absolutely getting to the bottom of all these questions. I cannot answer the specific points that he raises, but I can assure him that everything that could possibly be done is being done to understand whether it was a problem with the type of cladding or the way it had been fitted, and so on. The Prime Minister has also confirmed that all similar types of high-rise building are being inspected. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there is a lot of work going on. We all have thoughts on what more needs to be inspected, but the Prime Minister is personally committed to ensuring that we do everything possible to get to the bottom of this.