The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
Today is a day of celebration. I am sure colleagues across the House will join me in congratulating our fellow parliamentarians down under, who have today legalised gay marriage. Australia becomes the 25th country to recognise that marriage is a celebration of all love. It has been wonderful to see such happy and celebratory scenes in its Parliament.
In further good news, today marks the commissioning of the UK’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. Her Majesty herself will be the guest of honour at the event, and we hope that it is a huge success.
Let me also wish good luck to the five cities that will find out this evening which of them will be crowned the UK’s city of culture. It is a tough choice between Stoke-on-Trent, Swansea, Sunderland, Coventry and Paisley, but I know that the successful city will do the entire country proud.
My final bit of good news concerns Valerie Vaz. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing her a very happy birthday. I look forward to our catch-up later, when I have no doubt that we shall have a piece of cake together.
Follow that, as they say. I just say that the number has been printed incorrectly: the digits should be reversed for my age. [Laughter.]
I thank the Leader of the House for updating us on the business for the next few weeks. It is more or less settled, subject, I suppose, to a few phone calls. Obviously, we were expecting a statement from the Prime Minister earlier this week.
We know the business for
May I ask the Leader of the House to correct the record? The Chancellor—I notified him that I would raise this matter today—said in his Budget statement:
“We have heard a lot of talk recently from the Opposition about what they would do to crack down on tax avoidance…but the truth is that they did not.” —[Official Report,
He said that he was doing the job that Labour Governments had failed to do. That is totally incorrect. When I asked the House of Commons Library what Labour Governments had done, it supplied a list of the measures in 14 Budgets that Labour had implemented to protect our tax revenues. I will write to the Chancellor and the Leader of the House on the matter. I place that on the record. I will place it on my website as well. It is important to say that tax measures to protect our revenues were introduced. That is important because the deficit is the difference between what the Government spend and what they receive. If they are reducing the tax base and cutting jobs at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, it is hard to know where they will find the money, and that is why there have been cuts in public services and people are living in poverty.
Even as we acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the publication of the Beveridge report, the board of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission resigns en masse, including a highly respected Conservative former Secretary of State for Education, who is now in the other place. The board has said that
“the government seems unable to devote the necessary energy and focus to the social mobility agenda”.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s “UK Poverty 2017” report, published a few days later, nearly one in three disabled people are living in poverty, while 30% of children and 16% of pensioners live in relative poverty; that figure has risen by 3% in recent years. When will we have an urgent debate on the state of poverty in the UK, and when will there be new appointments to the board of the Social Mobility Commission?
Let me now turn to the invisible papers, as I call them. I have a few questions: who, what, where and why. We know who, because the motion was very clear: the Secretary of State had to give the papers to the Exiting the European Union Committee. What is in the papers? In October 2016, they were called assessments; in December 2016, they were sets of analyses. As for the “where”, it is highly bizarre. Members must make an appointment, and must arrive five minutes early. They will then be escorted by a Government official to a room where they can look at the papers. They cannot take mobile phones into the room; they must take notebooks. Presumably they will be given a stubby pencil, or perhaps a pen containing invisible ink. As I say, that is bizarre. We are elected representatives, and we are entitled to see the papers.
Then there is the “why”. If there is nothing in the papers, why are the Government so secretive? But there is a bigger “why”: why have the Government not conducted the impact assessments, given that Brexit is affecting 88% of our economy?
I join the Leader of the House in celebrating gay marriage in Australia, but, more importantly, Sunday is human rights day, and Amnesty International asks us to remember our actions that freed Albert Woodfox, who was held in the USA for over 43 years in solitary confinement, Phyoe Phyoe Aung in Burma, and Yecenia Armenta Graciano, who was detained and tortured in Mexico. They all said on their release that that was a result of the role played by Amnesty International.
You, Mr Speaker, yesterday launched in Speaker’s House Write for Rights with my right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd, chair of the all-party group on human rights. Amnesty International wants us to write for its Turkey director Idil Eser and chair Taner Kılıç and nine other Turkish human rights defenders.
I know the whole House will join me in thanking the Burgundy town of Avallon, which named one of its streets Rue Jo Cox, and there is a sign that reads “British MP. Killed for her convictions”. We condemn those who support her killer and his group, we stand with those who oppose them and, of course, we salute the silence breakers.
Finally, Mr Speaker, may I congratulate you and Sally on your wedding anniversary?
I was not aware that it was your wedding anniversary, Mr Speaker: congratulations.
I join the hon. Lady in remembering Jo Cox and congratulating that community in France which has recognised her memory and the work she did to promote human rights and cohesive communities. She will never be forgotten, and all hon. Members would want to remember her.
The hon. Lady raised the issue of blacklisting. She will be pleased to know that it has been made clear in all of our procurement contracts that none of our suppliers may engage in blacklisting activities, and we have received an assurance on that for the work with the contractor for the restoration of Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower. I share the hon. Lady’s concern about that issue.
The hon. Lady pleads that the Labour Government did a lot to reduce tax avoidance, but the fact is that since 2010 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has generated £160 billion in tax revenue from measures to stop avoidance and evasion. That is an extraordinary and strong achievement on which we should congratulate HMRC and also this Government, because all too often the Opposition talk the talk but do not walk the walk; they simply do not achieve what they promise. Now, under this Government the top 1% are paying 27% of all taxes, and the top 5% nearly half of all taxes. People who earn more have never been taxed more than under this Government, so progressive taxation is a feature of our Government’s achievements—far more so than when Labour was in office.
The hon. Lady talked about the Social Mobility Commission. She is right to point out that Alan Milburn made a great show and dance of resigning from a job and role that was actually coming to an end. I point out to the hon. Lady the amazing achievement just this week on children’s literacy in our schools in England: England is joint eighth in the world for reading as a result of this Government’s changes to phonics and the amazing dedication of teachers across the country.
As shown by our Green Paper on mental health, we on this side of the House are determined to ensure that there is parity of esteem between mental and physical health. Six hundred thousand more disabled people are in work now than in 2010. That is a record of achievement that we on this side of the House are proud of. Of course there are 600,000 fewer children in workless households than in 2010. Those are all things designed to support young people. They are measures that we on this side of the House have put in place and have been determined to make progress on.
Finally, the hon. Lady talks about the impact assessments. The Opposition have generated an enormous amount of headlines and publicity over this issue, but the House will be interested to learn that the sum total of 16 Members of this House and the House of Lords have taken the trouble to go and see that analysis that has been made available. Hon. Members should also respect the fact that the freedom of civil servants to discuss matters and give advice freely to Ministers must be upheld. That is why it is important to hold these reports in a confidential and secure way. Those who need to read them or have an interest in reading them can do so, but I say again that only 16 Members across both Houses have availed themselves of that opportunity.
We have outlawed forced marriage in this country, but could we have a debate on children of 16 still being able to be married with the consent of their parents, instead of waiting until they are 18? That seems to be an anomaly that we should fix.
My hon. Friend raises a question that many people have concerns about—namely, the safety of our children until they reach an age at which they can make decisions for themselves. There has been a long-standing law that young people can marry at the age of 16, however, and I think it unlikely that that will be reviewed in the near future.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week, and I join her in sending congratulations to Australia. I wish Valerie Vaz happy birthday, and I wish you a happy wedding anniversary, Mr Speaker.
Well, what a week! They do not come much more dramatic than that. Just when we thought that this chaotic Brexit cluelessness could not get any worse, this Government went and surprised us all over again. I am actually now embarrassed that my nation of Scotland is caught up in this total and utter disaster. We did not go looking for any of this, and we certainly did not vote for it, but all of a sudden the institutions of my nation are caught up in the collateral of this disaster. I know that this Government are now totally in thrall to the Democratic Unionist party, and I only hope that the Leader of the House shared the business statement with its Members in advance, just in case she has to hastily redraw it if they do not like it.
The farce around the Brexit analysis papers still goes on, six weeks following the binding vote of this House. These analysis papers simultaneously detail 50 to 60 sectoral impacts while at the same time not existing at all. They are Schrödinger’s Brexit analysis papers. What is becoming clear is that there were never any such papers, yet for some reason the Government took it upon themselves to boast about their existence to the point at which the House passed a binding vote to produce papers that did not even exist. If that is not contempt of Parliament, I do not know what is. The Secretary of State really should be considering his position this morning.
We considered the devolution parts of the repeal Bill this week, but everyone noted that the Bill as it is currently constituted—particularly the provisions around clause 11—is not fit for purpose and will deeply damage the devolution settlement. Today, however, those clauses remain in place in the Bill. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that he would table amendments on Report, and he will obviously be held to that, but will the Leader of the House ensure that they are tabled early so that the Scottish Government can assess them, to judge whether they are sufficient to deal with the many threats that are being posed to devolution?
Lastly, Mr Speaker, I also congratulate all the cities competing to be the UK city of culture in 2021, but I am sure that you will forgive us if we on these Benches give an extra cheer for the city of Paisley to become the first ever Scottish city of culture for the UK.
We will always understand the hon. Gentleman’s desire to support his own local contender—that is absolutely acceptable—but we in the Westminster Parliament congratulate all the cities involved and wish them all luck.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the claim that there has been a contempt of Parliament. I must utterly refute that. The Government have satisfied the motion, providing the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee with information covering 58 sectors of the economy. We were always clear that the analysis did not exist in the form that Parliament requested, but the Department for Exiting the European Union has taken time to bring together the analysis that we have in a way that meets the request of Parliament—that is, to provide Parliament with the respect that it is due—and I think, Mr Speaker, that you have now had recognition from the Brexit Select Committee that it considers that matter closed.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about consultation with the devolved Administrations. It has been made clear that the close consultation with all those Administrations, including Scotland, will continue on all subjects relating to the bright future that we believe lies ahead for the United Kingdom once we leave the European Union.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the nuisance telephone calls that are made randomly by cold-callers? Only yesterday, I was driving along the A13 when a young lady came on the phone—it was hands free—to say that she had heard I had been involved in a road accident, to which I replied, “If I get one more call, I will be involved in a road accident.”
I am pleased that my hon. Friend always drives carefully and that he was using a hands-free device, but he raises an important point of concern for many of our constituents. In the past, the Information Commissioner’s Office had to prove that a company was causing substantial damage or distress by its conduct before action could be taken, but the Government have now changed the law to make it much easier for nuisance-call companies to be hit with fines of up to £500,000. That is a welcome step, but my hon. Friend may like to seek a Westminster Hall debate or raise the matter at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions to discuss it further with Ministers.
I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that winter is beginning to bite, and A&E departments up and down the country are struggling to cope with demand. According to a report this morning, a million people are now not being seen within four hours at A&E. The A&E in Huddersfield is threatened with closure, so may we have an early debate on A&E, the shortage of beds, the shortage of doctors and the shortage of common sense in this Government?
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff and record levels of funding, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the NHS is more prepared for winter this year than ever before. We know that the NHS is facing increased pressure this winter, which is why it has robust plans in place that are supported by an extra £335 million announced in the Budget on top of the previously announced £100 million to support A&E departments. More than 1,000 extra beds have been freed up nationally since February by reducing delayed transfers of care, and areas continue to work to increase that number to more than 2,000 to 3,000 extra beds over the winter period.
Will the Leader of the House consider holding a debate on access to NHS dentists in rural areas? Oral health in children is reaching crisis levels, with almost a quarter of five-year-olds suffering from tooth decay—the No. 1 cause of hospital admission for that age group. Selsey in my constituency has a population of 12,000 and growing but not a single NHS dentist. This matter should be debated to ensure that everyone, irrespective of where they live, can have access to good NHS dental care.
I am really sorry to hear of the problems in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and she is quite right to raise them. NHS England has a legal duty to commission primary care NHS dental services to meet local needs. Access has improved significantly in recent years, but more needs to be done. I encourage my hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise the specific problems in her constituency.
May I wish you felicitations for your wedding anniversary, Mr Speaker? Also, I am glad that my hon. Friend Valerie Vaz is still at the stage where the candles do not cost more than the cake, and I wish her a very happy birthday. [Laughter.] There is a very fine line, Mr Speaker.
I ask the Leader of the House for an early indication of availability for Backbench Business Committee time after Christmas. I know that we will be discussing the restoration of the Palace on the first Thursday after Christmas, but I hope that we will get some time on the following Thursday, because the debate on RBS Global Restructuring Group, which was deferred last week, was heavily endorsed, and we are already anticipating applications for debates on really quite important matters.
As for the Brexit sectoral analysis or impact assessments, the north-east of England has a particular set of problems when it comes to the UK economy, and even if there is no sectoral impact assessment for anywhere else, we would like one for the north-east. Our part of the country currently has a balance of payments surplus in manufacturing, and there will be a great deal of concern among businesses in all sectors if nothing has been outlined for our region’s future.
As ever, I am sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s request for more time for BackBench Business debates, and particularly for the important rescheduled debate on RBS Global Restructuring Group. He mentions the impact assessment on issues specific to the north-east, and I am sure he will be reassured that since 2010 unemployment is down 41% in the north-east and 44,000 more children are at good or outstanding schools. Nevertheless, he makes a good point. I assure him that the Government are committed to making a success of leaving the EU for all parts of the United Kingdom.
Order. I indicate to the House—I think there are 34 colleagues seeking to contribute—that we really should finish this set of exchanges by midday, because there is a statement from the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Jackie Doyle-Price, to follow and, thereafter, two very well subscribed BackBench Business debates. There is a premium on brevity.
If colleagues have prepared what, frankly, is too long a text, please have the consideration for others that would be represented by cutting that text. If you cannot cut it, do not bother with the question. The debates that follow are very important and I have to respect the interests of those who want to contribute to those debates.
I was hoping Sir Desmond was going to help out, because he is always a master of brevity—[Laughter.] His questions do not take much time, anyway. They are always very brief.
Following your guidance, Mr Speaker, I have a simple question. We are going to build more houses in this country, which is welcome. A local estate agent, Greenslade Taylor Hunt, has been caught price fixing. May we have a debate on stopping estate agents abusing their position when we want to build more houses for young people?
I completely agree that we want to build more houses for all people in this country, and particularly for young people. There are no Communities and Local Government questions until next year, so instead I suggest that my hon. Friend writes to me on that point. I will take it up with him.
Last week I raised with the Leader of the House the possibility of having a debate on the position of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, particularly the three who were sentenced to death because of their beliefs. Now we understand that Captain Muhammad Safdar, the parliamentarian who raised the issues that led, the day after, to the Ahmadis’ imprisonment, is about to visit the UK. May we have a debate on what the Government will say to him about the Ahmadis’ plight?
Again, the hon. Lady raises an important issue. I am sure she will be in touch with Foreign Office Ministers to reflect her views, and I am sure they will be very happy to respond to her question on what the official line will be when this man visits.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this very important matter, which was of great concern to my constituents and, indeed, yours, Mr Speaker, during the first phase of HS2. I continue to challenge HS2 Ltd on a number of constituents’ house purchase matters that have been long outstanding. I urge my hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate to get a further response from Ministers on what more can be done to ensure that HS2 Ltd is addressing all constituents’ concerns fairly.
The Association of Medical Research Charities has now published its report on greater access to off-patent drugs on the frontline, to which many stakeholders have contributed, including me as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on off-patent drugs. May we have a debate on how to continue our cross-party agenda to increase access to off-patent drugs?
All Members have particular constituency issues concerning off-patent drugs, which is an incredibly important area. I see that there are Health questions on
I am concerned about the way the Boundary Commission is operating its consultation, because 5,957 respondents—96% of all people consulted in Morecambe and Lunesdale—said they wanted to keep Morecambe and Lunesdale intact. Both parties agree that the communities of Lancaster and Morecambe should be kept separate, and since then more than 1,000 more submissions have been put in.
My hon. Friend is raising an important point. The Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland and Wales published revised proposals for constituencies on
Last month, I met my constituents Margaret and Richard in Parliament at an event organised by CRY—Cardiac Risk in the Young. Sadly, the reason they were there is that they lost their son, Tom Hardman, a talented local cricketer who died of sudden cardiac death. May we have a debate in Government time on the work done by CRY and how we might prevent the 600 such deaths every year?
I am so sorry to hear about that tragic case; and, as the hon. Lady says, there are too many of them—600 cases a year. It is right to raise these issues in this Chamber and I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate on this.
I received an email this week from two of my constituents whose mother is a former member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was stationed at Bletchley Park during world war two. She is now being cared for at the Royal British Legion care home, Dunkirk Memorial House, in my constituency. They just wanted to express their immense praise and thanks for the fantastic care their mother and other veterans have received in these homes. Will the Leader of the House therefore join me in praising the staff at Dunkirk House, and will she pass on the message to the Ministry of Defence about how important these Royal British Legion care homes are to our veterans?
I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in praising the excellent work carried out by the staff at the Royal British Legion’s Dunkirk Memorial House in her constituency. All six of the Legion’s care homes around the country make an enormous difference to the lives of ex-servicemen and women and their families, and I know that my colleagues in the Defence team recognise that.
A recent joint police and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency operation in Bradford on uninsured and untaxed vehicles has resulted in 540 untaxed vehicles being identified and 29 vehicles being seized in one week because their drivers had no insurance. Nationally, figures are rising on this, with the highest tax evasion rate for more than a decade. Will the whole House join me in congratulating West Yorkshire police on their initiative in Operation Steerside to tackle dangerous driving in Bradford? Will the Leader of the House grant parliamentary time to discuss this issue?
I join the hon. Lady in congratulating her local police force on tackling this; it sounds like an enormous achievement. Again, I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate to raise these specific points and to share best practice in catching this type of evasion.
Order. I am hoping that somebody might conceivably manage a single-sentence question. I call Mr Stephen Kerr.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 72%-owned by the taxpayer, announced the closure of 259 branches, including branches in my constituency in Bannockburn, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan, with the loss of 680 jobs. Will the Leader of the House provide a debate, in Government time, on the announcement of these closures and the future of retail banking in this country?
My hon. Friend is a strong champion for his constituency and he raises an important point. All banks must now comply with the access to banking standard, which requires consultation and careful thought before closures. He will also be aware that the Post Office now provides access to basic banking services for all retail banks. Nevertheless, he raises an important point and I encourage him to pursue it, perhaps with the Financial Conduct Authority or with this bank itself.
In recent weeks, I have noticed an increase in immigration casework. I have previously written to the Home Office about the effect that delays are having on my constituents. Data published by the Department last week showed that only 62% of MPs’ letters and 72% of emails are being responded to within its standard service timescale. May we please have a debate on the modernisation of Home Office correspondence so that Members and their constituents can receive responses in a timely fashion?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. Many of us have constituency cases related to visa challenges. I know from speaking to the Home Office that often the problem is one of slow responses from overseas countries to inquiries. It is difficult to totally be in control of response times, but she might want to raise her important point at Home Office questions.
This is an important week in the taxi trade, because the world’s first purpose-built electric taxi, made by the London Electric Vehicle Company in Ansty Park in my constituency, has been certified for use in London. May we have a debate about how investment in electrification can help meet environmental objectives?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on that achievement in his constituency. It is great news for London and it is certainly great news for Rugby. The Government are fully committed to reducing the carbon footprint of our transport system. This is a great new step that will certainly provide relief for many people living in London.
The hon. Lady will no doubt have been delighted to hear my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey mention the first London-certified electric taxi, which was built in his constituency. She raises an issue that matters enormously to all of us. The Government are determined to tackle the problem of air pollution, not only in London but right around the country. We are taking strong steps to encourage and help local authorities to pay for new pollution-free zones. Equally, she should speak to the Mayor of London, who, of course, has the challenge of putting in place measures to reduce the poor air quality in our great city.
Given that we came eighth in an international reading test only this week, can we have a debate about phonics and the underlying teaching of literacy, so that we can make all children great readers?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. That great achievement demonstrates just how far the Government’s teaching reforms have taken us. I again praise all teachers for their amazing dedication, and congratulate the children themselves on England delivering its best result since 2001, which was in no small part thanks to our increased emphasis on phonics.
Many Conservative MPs said in this House on Monday that clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is deficient and yet they voted for it. At Scottish questions yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that the purpose of the Committee of the whole House is merely to listen. Can we have an urgent debate on the purpose of the different stages of a Bill as it goes through this House, because I thought that the Committee stage was meant to amend a Bill?
As has been made clear so many times, including by me, we are determined to get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom—and for the EU 27—as we leave the EU. An important part of that is listening to all constructive views that seek to amend and improve the proposed legislation. That is what we have been doing and what we will continue to do.
Reports suggest that some 800 British citizens may have gone to fight for the evil death cult Daesh in Iraq and Syria. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary and, indeed, the Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Africa, my hon. Friend Rory Stewart, have both indicated that those individuals will not be allowed to return to the UK and may be hunted down and killed. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made before Christmas, because this is clearly a policy matter of great importance to Members across the House?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. I pay tribute to the amazing work of this country’s counter-intelligence people, who, as we have heard recently, have thwarted multiple terror efforts in this country. It is important that we continue to support them. We continue to invest in counter-terrorism. My hon. Friend raises the question of what we do to stop terrorists coming back to this country from overseas. It is clearly the case that we need to use every means at our disposable to do so.
Could the Leader of the House do something, or could we have a debate, about the Government publishing routine information? I have been trying for 15 months to get the Library’s taskforce dataset published and have had various answers that it will be published in due course or in the near future, whatever that means. If the Government can publish papers that do not exist, surely they can publish papers that do exist so that hon. Members and the public can see them.
When I visited the excellent Trinity High School in Redditch recently, I had the privilege of speaking to the wonderful young people there. I asked them about their experience of being teenagers in today’s world, and they told me about some of the pressures they faced because of social media and other aspects of their lives. Will the Leader of the House join me in welcoming the massive boost to children’s and young people’s mental health services, and will she work with the Department of Health to make sure that this funding gets to where it is really needed on the ground in Redditch and elsewhere?
My hon. Friend is right. Young people face huge challenges, including unique challenges from social media and cyber-bullying. The Government’s Green Paper on mental health seeks to alleviate those and to address the problem at its core. It is important to build, in the earliest years, the robust emotional strength that young people can then rely on throughout the rest of their lives.
The Leader of the House will have seen that Virgin Care has sued the NHS, and that approach was familiar to me, as the company threatened me when I raised its dubious practices in the House. Will she consider a debate on the matter and make it clear that she will defend our NHS and Members from intimidation by private corporations such as Virgin?
Absolutely. Across the House, we share a commitment to the NHS and to its services being free at the point of delivery. We will always defend the NHS against any external threats, including from private providers. On the other hand, some private provision has been incredibly beneficial to patients and the cost base of the NHS, and we should not overlook that.
My constituent recently received a demand for payment of £160 from parking contractors on behalf of his local Lidl supermarket while he shopped there for about 15 minutes. He wrote to the chief executive, who was distinctly uninterested in solving the case. May we have a debate on the abuse of parking charges by certain private companies?
We all share my hon. Friend’s frustration about some of the appalling abuses carried out by private parking enforcement organisations. I share his concern, and he should seek an Adjournment debate so that other Members can hear about the situation.
The British Association of Social Workers advised its members this week that it considered it unethical and degrading to subject a woman to the disclosure of an incident of rape to a third party just to access benefits. It joins a list including the Scottish Government, Unison, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing. May we have a debate on the growing condemnation of this Government’s two-child policy and the rape clause?
We fully recognise that this is a difficult and sensitive issue, but I assure the hon. Lady that the mother will never be questioned about the incident by a member of staff from the Department for Work and Pensions or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. They will simply take the claim and receive supporting professional third-party evidence. There would not be any requirement for evidence of a criminal conviction or a judicial finding. We have consulted on how the exemption should be implemented, and we have adjusted our approach to make sure that women get the support that they need and that additional financial support goes to those for whom it was intended.
I am afraid that a steelworkers’ pension scandal is brewing. My constituents are worried about making the wrong decision on pension transfers, and the Financial Conduct Authority is providing insufficient support to steelworkers at this crucial time. May we have a ministerial statement and an action plan from the FCA to support steelworkers who are trying to do the right thing for their families?
Pensions are a complex subject, and anybody trying to make decisions needs the right advice. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue and I encourage him to seek further guidance from the FCA so that he can provide support to his constituents.
When are we going to have a statement on the rights of EU nationals, particularly Irish citizens, many of whom have lived in this country for decades? Even if the Government cannot sort out anything else on EU withdrawal, please may we have a statement on this matter, which is causing anxiety to millions of people?
I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman seek that reassurance. The Prime Minister has made it very clear on numerous occasions, including in her Florence speech, that all EU citizens will be able to carry on living their lives as before. We have committed to incorporating our agreement on citizens’ rights fully into UK law.
Can we have a statement from the Home Office regarding Abubelcir Oncu, a constituent of mine who lost his passport in Turkey? He has indefinite leave to remain, but has been stuck in Turkey for three months, even though he has a replacement passport. His wife is pregnant. Will the Leader of the House please look into this for me?
That is a concerning case. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is already in contact with UK Visas and Immigration. If he wants to write to me, I will be happy to look into the matter on his behalf me.
I say very gently to David Linden, who is a most perspicacious Member, that the Leader of the House is not, to the best of knowledge, chief executive of, or another worker for, Citizens Advice. Although the hon. Gentleman was allowed to continue with his question, questions should be about the business for next week. Therefore, my little hint to him is that he should seek to get into his inquiry a reference to a request for a statement or a debate. That is very much the correct form for business questions. It is not quite the same thing as asking, “Will you have a look into something for me and let me know?” Nevertheless, we will let the hon. Gentleman off on this occasion, and I give that advice in the friendliest possible spirit.
May I send the very best wishes from the current city of culture to all those bidding to be the next city of culture?
Radio Humberside this week reported that there has been an upsurge in the use of mopeds to commit antisocial behaviour, and nuisance and criminal offences, in Orchard Park in my constituency. May we have a debate to discuss why this is happening and the practical steps we can take to deal with it, because it is a problem not just in Hull? We want to be on the side of decent people against this kind of yob culture.
I think that we all share the hon. Lady’s concern. We have seen an extraordinary rise in moped crime, which the Home Office is very concerned about. I am sure that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee would be delighted to hear from the hon. Lady with a suggestion of a cross-party debate on the matter.
Will the Leader of the House make time available for a debate on why the Government have conducted an impact assessment into gravity foul sewers and lateral drains, but not into the UK leaving the European Union?
So we are back to the Government smelling, are we?
Tom Brake is being quite deliberately flippant. As he will know, the Government have produced sectoral analysis, which has now been provided in a form that is useful to Parliament in accordance with the requirements of the motion passed by this House. Therefore, the Government have fulfilled the request that was made. I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman is enjoying looking at and learning from that sectoral analysis.
It has now been two years since the Glasgow city deal was announced, yet in recent days we have heard that the Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland is backsliding on its commitment to deliver the flagship Glasgow airport rail link, having sabotaged the project a decade ago. The people of Glasgow are tired of waiting for this project, so will the Leader of the House consider having a debate or a statement on the Glasgow city deal to ensure that it is delivering the world-class infrastructure that is needed for Britain’s second city?
I am extremely sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s call for further progress. This Government are fully committed to the success of the city deals, including the Glasgow city deal. He might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss directly with Ministers what more can be done to make this happen faster.
Increasing the number of live animal exports has been suggested as a way of coping with the expected 80% collapse in meat exports post Brexit. That would increase the number of animals exported on the hoof, rather than on the hook, so will the price of Brexit be paid for in the increased suffering of defenceless, sentient animals?
As a former Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, I can say to the hon. Gentleman that we are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. It is in fact the EU that prevents the UK from looking at measures to curb further the export of live animals. However, on the movement of live animals, I would gently say to the hon. Gentleman that the issue is not the exports, but the distance that animals have to travel without proper care—food, drink, rest and so on. That is the issue he should be concerned with, not the export or distant travel of those animals. The Government remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can to further improve the welfare of animals as we leave the EU.
Last week, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary reported that the new centralised air support service for police forces in Wales and England was not fit for purpose, with the communities I serve waiting over an hour for a response. Can we have a Home Office statement on the report so that we can debate the failings of the centralised service, which was introduced by the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary?
Since 2012, two thirds of Britain’s total waste plastic exports have been shipped to China and Hong Kong. From January, that is going to stop—China is going to ban those imports. May we have an urgent statement from the Environment Secretary about where we are going to send our plastic waste from the new year?
I am sure that the hon. Lady will appreciate that this Government have been totally committed to doing as much as possible to protect our environment, and particularly our marine environment, through our introduction of the blue belt, the protected areas around our coastline, our proposal to ban microbeads in face-cleansing products and so on. This Government have banned the use of plastic bags without a charge, and we have seen a massive improvement in the amount of recycling. We are fully committed to doing all that we can to protect our environment. Should the hon. Lady wish to seek an Adjournment debate on this matter, I am sure that Ministers will be delighted to come along and discuss it with her.
Nepal has passed a new criminal code Bill, which criminalises so-called blasphemy and the conversion of others. There is widespread concern that this code will be used to target religious minorities and will have an impact on religious freedom, human rights and tolerance in Nepal. Would the Leader of the House agree to a ministerial statement on this important issue?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of religious freedoms and looking after the rights of minorities such as those he mentions, so I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate on that subject.
The right hon. Gentleman will have been pleased to see that RBS is recovering. He talks about the Government flogging off their shares. The Government intend to return RBS to the private sector and to recoup, as far as possible, the money that the taxpayer had to use to bail it out. That is the right and proper thing to do. He is absolutely right that the debate about the restructuring group was important, and Ian Mearns, the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, is seeking to reschedule it just as soon as he can.
In among the spin about how powerful the Scottish Tories now are and how they secured the £40 million VAT exemption for police and fire services, I highlighted yesterday that that had actually come at the cost of £265 million per Scottish Tory. If they genuinely did do so much work on the VAT exemption, will the Leader of the House make a statement outlining why the Chancellor was not able to give me in writing the date of one meeting with any one of the 12 Back-Bench Scottish Tories on VAT exemption?
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman recognises the amazing work done by my hon. Friends the Scottish Conservatives. I share his enthusiasm for their assiduousness in looking after the interests of their constituents. I am sure he will be delighted, as I am, that in our Budget a couple of weeks ago, the Chancellor was able to confirm a £2 billion consequential budget boost for the Scottish Parliament.
The Leader of the House will recall that, eight months ago, I informed her that the HSBC bank was closing in Maesteg. Now, NatWest bank is closing in Maesteg and in Pencoed, leaving my whole constituency with one bank. May I press her for an urgent statement from Treasury Ministers about what they can do to address the problem of banks closing across the length and breadth of this country?
As I said earlier, there is a new protocol under which banks must undertake to properly consult. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the footfall in bank branches has reduced significantly as people move to mobile banking. However, as we all recognise, in many of our communities there are older people who are perhaps not so mobile phone-savvy and will prefer to use paper banking. Post offices now offer basic banking services for all high street banks, and in many cases that means better opening hours and a better service for constituents. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise the point, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate in which he can talk about the specifics in his constituency.
As we have heard, we will find out later today the winner of the competition to be UK city of culture 2021. Despite starting the process as an outsider, Paisley, after running a great campaign, is now one of the favourites—I am sure that we will do it. May we have a statement on this competition to raise awareness of the winner and our campaign?
Again, I wish all the competitors the best of luck. It is great to see the hon. Gentleman sticking up for his local applicant, and I do wish him every success with it. I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunities for him to raise the issue directly with the Prime Minister, should he be successful.
Certainly all Members, and I think the whole country, were horrified by what happened: it was an absolute tragedy. We all send our great condolences to the families and friends of all those who died. It is absolutely right, as the hon. Lady says, that we learn the lessons from the report. I will certainly be very happy to discuss what kind of feedback we can get from the Department as soon as possible.