The business for the week commencing
The business for the week commencing
Colleagues will also wish to know that remaining stages of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will take place on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday
Six months have passed since the awful tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Our hearts go out to those who suffered such trauma and have had to rebuild their lives after such terrible loss. This was a truly unimaginable tragedy, and it should never have happened. Today’s memorial service will remember those we lost and will thank the emergency services, the recovery team, the community, public support workers and volunteers, who did everything they could on that terrible night.
I thank the Leader of the House for the future business. I note that she has only gone as far as
They say that good things come in threes. First, tomorrow is Save the Children Christmas jumper day, and I hope we will all be wearing one. Secondly, we congratulate the new Senate member for Alabama, the Democrat Doug Jones, on his victory for politics being about hope, not division. Thirdly, of course, there is the matter of yesterday: we are very pleased that, finally, Parliament has been recognised as being sovereign. The amendment brings back to Parliament a final vote on the deal so that the UK Parliament, just like every other Parliament in the EU, can have a say. It enables us to do our job. Mr Speaker, you may have thought that three was the magic number, but actually it is four. Before anything happens to those MPs who voted to bring sovereignty back to Parliament, let us remember that there are many Maastricht rebels still sitting in this House.
Following on from the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, there will be many statutory instruments. The Government made the concession of accepting amendments from the Procedure Committee, so when will the new sifting committee be set up, and will the Leader of the House ensure that its chair comes from the Opposition?
Mr Speaker, I heard what you said about contempt in relation to the sectoral analyses and impact assessments. I have seen the documents, but we almost had to sign a note to say that we would not reveal what is in them. It is unacceptable that democratically elected Members of Parliament cannot share that information with our constituents. The Leader of the House said last week that only 16 Members and Peers had seen them. Any commercial information contained in the documents may or may not be excluded. If they are just matters of fact, I see no reason why Members cannot read the documents in the Library and why they cannot be published. I am not sure if I can reveal this, but many of the footnotes come from the Office for National Statistics, so they are, in any event, in the public domain.
Having undertaken the biggest reorganisation of the NHS, the Government have now embarked on yet another, with sustainability and transformation plans. If that were not enough, they now intend to bring forward regulations to support the setting up of accountable care organisations, an idea imported from the United States. It is not clear how the ACOs will be accountable to the public, what the levels of private sector involvement will be, and what the implications will be for NHS staff. We have had CCGs, STPs and now ACOs—they are becoming the Government’s acronyms of incompetence. The shadow Secretary of State for Health has written to the Leader of the House about the matter, and I ask again: is it the Government’s intention to lay the regulations before the House in the new year, and if so, when? Will the right hon. Lady reassure the House that there will be adequate time for a debate and a vote?
We have a Government who cannot make a decision. We have a new industrial strategy but no decision on the Swansea tidal lagoon. After a review by one of the Government’s own former Ministers, we had a letter on
I turn to Opposition day motions and how information is dealt with. It is crucial that the Opposition and Members are able to hold the Government to account. In a written statement on
I would like to mention the passing away of the former MP Jimmy Hood. He was 69 years old. He was a Member for 28 years and a good servant of the House. He served as Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, as well as being a member of the Panel of Chairs for 14 years. He served the House well and we honour his memory, just as I join the Leader of the House in honouring the memory of those who died at Grenfell Tower. There was a memorial here yesterday, which was attended by you, Mr Speaker, and today’s memorial service at St Paul’s cathedral will be attended by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. But, the shadow Housing Minister has asked the Prime Minister why, after she said that she had
“fixed a deadline of three weeks for everybody affected to be found a home nearby”, that has not taken place.
Mr Speaker, as you lit the Hanukkah candle yesterday in Speaker’s House, candles will be lit at St Paul’s any minute now to remember the innocent dead. One minute people were watching television or doing their homework; the next, they were dead. The light has gone out of their lives, but the flame of remembrance will continue to burn as we remember them today and always.
I share in the hon. Lady’s great tribute to those who suffered so much in the Grenfell tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them today—and all the time. The Government have been committed, all the way through this last terrible six months for the survivors and the families, to ensuring that their needs will be taken care of, and we remain absolutely committed to that.
I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to Jimmy Hood, who was a good servant to this House. He is remembered with great fondness by Members right across the House.
The hon. Lady asked about the scheduling of the debate on restoration and renewal. She will be aware that a number of representations have been made by Members on both sides of the House, and we are looking into options other than a Thursday for that debate. Colleagues will appreciate that there are a number of priorities to consider when scheduling the business that we take through the House, but we are listening to the representations about the debate, and the future business will continue to be announced in the usual way.
The hon. Lady asked about the sifting committee. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Walker for the work of the Procedure Committee in proposing amendments. I am happy to confirm that I will propose changes to the Standing Orders once the Bill has received Royal Assent so that the sifting committee can begin its work as soon as possible.
The hon. Lady asked about viewing the sectoral analysis. She will be aware that the Government have satisfied the terms of the motion. Mr Speaker, you have just confirmed that you have taken advice from the Brexit Committee, which is satisfied that there has been no contempt. On further representations, you have confirmed that that remains your view.
On ACOs—this is an important point—the new care models were proposed by NHS England as part of the five year forward view to address the three major challenges facing the health and care system: the health and wellbeing gap; the care and quality gap; and the funding and efficiency gap. They are intended to improve integration between different services to ensure that we are delivering joined-up, patient-centred care that is preventive, of high quality and efficient. I think we can all agree that it is vital that we focus on making the most productive use of the resources available to us in the NHS.
On the subject of Opposition day debates, I can only remind the hon. Lady of what I said in my written ministerial statement:
“Where a motion tabled by an opposition party has been approved by the House, the relevant Minister will respond to the resolution of the House by making a statement no more than 12 weeks after the debate. This is to allow thoughtful consideration of the points that have been raised, facilitate collective discussion across Government, especially on cross-cutting issues, and to outline any actions that have been taken.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 630, c. 12WS.]
In the circumstances mentioned by the hon. Lady, that commitment was fulfilled by my hon. and right hon. Friends.
The hon. Lady asked about the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, which is a complex and expensive project. Our track record on renewable generation is excellent, with 26% of electricity derived from renewables in the year to September 2016. PwC has confirmed that we are decarbonising faster than any country in the G20, so our resolve to improve renewables and low-carbon electricity sources should not be ignored.
Finally, the hon. Lady raised the question of action taken for the victims of Grenfell Tower. I reiterate that we are working closely with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to ensure that we provide all 151 households from Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk with a new home in social housing.
May I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it might be sensible to have another Grenfell United meeting in, say, six months’ time? We will not forget what we heard this week, but I think that a repeat would be a good idea so that we can hear more from those who have life after death.
In this season of good will, and especially in view of the Foreign Secretary’s visit to Iran, might it be a good idea—perhaps in the first week after the recess—for the relevant Ministers to look through cases of deportations from this country? They might ask whether it is seriously sensible to try to expel someone who has lived here for much of his life, has lost both his hands and feet after a criminal attack, and yet has still not been given leave to remain in this country, where the attack took place.
Ministers might also review the case of someone who, although he has not lived in Ghana for more than a year since he was four, is up for deportation because he served his sentence in this country as an adult. It seems to me that some of the cases are so absurd that if the Foreign Ministers of the countries involved came here, we ought to pay as much attention to them as we hope Iran will to our Foreign Secretary.
Order. The only words that were missing from that quite lengthy and absolutely fascinating essay were a request for “a statement or a debate”.
The hon. Gentleman did refer to the first week back but, if memory serves me correctly, he did not refer to a statement or a debate, which is not beyond his competence. We will leave it there, but let me very gently say to other Members that, although they may wish to imitate the hon. Gentleman in all sorts of ways, they should not seek to imitate him in respect of length today.
I entirely share my hon. Friend’s desire for a further review of the experiences of Grenfell survivors six months from today. As for his point about deportations, I am not aware of the specific cases that he raised, but I am sure that Foreign Office Ministers will be happy to discuss them with him.
I thank the Leader of the house for announcing the business for next week. I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for your helpful statement. I fully appreciate the consideration that you have given to this very serious matter.
In the wider context, however, something has to change. Something has to happen. We have to get the House back on an even keel. All these issues and difficulties are down to the simple fact that the Government are not prepared to participate fully in the democratic structures of the House. The current position is clearly unsatisfactory: it is contrary to all our democratic instincts, and it is badly letting down the constituents whom we represent and serve. When Governments avoid votes and diminish the significance of Oppositions to hold them to account, bad stuff happens. Bad stuff happened on this occasion, and it has to stop. Let us return the House to the conditions before the last election and administer a democracy of which we can all be proud, so that all of us in the House can be happy and satisfied.
I know that it is party season, but today feels very much like the morning after the night before. It is almost palpable, as the groggy heads in the Government start to assess last night’s defeat for their mad hard Brexit plans. Hopefully this will be the first step on the brake of sanity, and this madness can be slowed down and put back under democratic control. One of the lessons of last night is that there must be inclusivity. There must be cross-party talks about the Brexit process, and they must involve democratic Assemblies and legislatures throughout the United Kingdom.
May we have a debate on trading standards? I think the feeling in Scotland is that we have been sold a Tory pup. When they were elected, the Scottish Conservative MPs vowed to be a distinctive Scottish voice here, always acting in the Scottish interest. They were Ruth’s Tories, proudly and defiantly taking on the Scottish Government. But what have we found? For six months they have been nothing other than Tory lobby fodder for this chaotic Government, right down to their Whip-distributed cotton socks. Scotland is demanding its money back, but if we cannot get our money back, can we please replace those hon. Gentlemen with real champions for Scotland who will act for its interests in this House of Commons?
The hon. Gentleman is obviously on good form this morning, although I think he made a bit of a slip-up in calling my colleagues hon. Gentlemen. I am not sure that they are all hon. Gentlemen; I think that there may be an hon. Lady or two among them. I take them extremely seriously, because I think they make an enormous contribution to their constituencies in Scotland. They regularly attend business questions so that they can raise constituency issues, and I encourage them to continue to do so.
The hon. Gentleman did not mention the £2 billion of additional funding for Scotland that was announced by the Chancellor in the recent Budget. That good boost to Scottish finances should enable the Scottish Government not to take the step of making Scotland the most highly taxed part of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of democracy and listening, and he will be aware that we have had countless opportunities to discuss Brexit in this place. The Government have been listening, and I myself have taken part in a number of discussions about how we can more carefully accommodate views across the House. We have been listening carefully, and I have been delighted to accommodate the efforts of the Procedure Committee to create a sifting committee, which is something that the House is keen to see. We have had eight hours of protected debate on each of the eight days for the Committee of the whole House, and we have exhaustively considered every aspect of this debate. That is certainly not evidence of a failure to communicate or engage. The Government are listening, and we are keen to engage right across the House. That will continue to be the case as we seek to leave the EU with a great deal for all parts of the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend will no doubt want to take part in the debate on restoration and renewal, but it is vital to focus on the key issues. First, we must protect this palace for future generations. It is a world heritage site and receives more than 1 million visitors a year. Its future is paramount, but so too is keeping in mind the cost to taxpayers, and we must focus on the best value for money we can get.
I thank the Leader of the House for her statement and for the cordial meeting that she held with me last week to discuss a range of issues. May I ask her again for early notice of any time allocation for the Backbench Business Committee for January, so that Members can be given ample notice of the time of debates in which they wish to participate, both in the Chamber and Westminster Hall?
I have one little gripe: the Backbench Business Committee has a membership of eight and, unusually, a quorum of four, which is greater than the quorum for bigger Select Committees with a membership of 11. Can we look at that issue in the Standing Orders? A quorum of three would be ample and mean that we could get the business done. Will the Leader of the House have a word with her colleague, the Chair of the Selection Committee, Bill Wiggin who is in his place, and ask him not to pick members of the Backbench Business Committee for statutory instrument Committees that sit when the Backbench Business Committee is due to meet?
Last week, General Electric announced the loss of 1,000 jobs in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey. May we have a statement from the Government on the support that will be provided to those trained and excellent workers to help them find other work, and to show how the United Kingdom Government will support power-engineering so that it can maintain and grow its position in research, manufacturing and exports?
I am sorry to hear of those potential job losses, and my hon. Friend is right to support his constituents in this way. The Government regularly meet General Electric to discuss its UK business, and as my hon. Friend will know, in November it announced plans for a global restructuring. A consultation is under way on the redundancies, and the exact timescale is yet to be announced. The Government stand ready to support anyone who loses their job, through the Department for Work and Pensions and its rapid response service.
I want to raise the issue of rough sleeping. My constituents are contacting me, and they are really concerned about the rapid rise in the number of people sleeping on the streets, especially in this bitter weather. I understand that Hull City Council has done it is very best to prevent more than 5,000 cases of homelessness over the past year, but there has still been a 75% increase in rough sleeping. May we therefore have a debate in Government time on why rough sleeping has doubled in this country since 2010, and risen particularly in the last year?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this subject. It is extremely disturbing to see anyone sleeping rough in our country. The Government are investing a significant sum to eliminate rough sleeping altogether by 2027 and to halve it by 2022. In my own area, the Hope Centre in Northampton, of which my husband is vice-chairman, is doing excellent work, as are so many homelessness charities around the country, to try to ensure that no one has to sleep rough during this cold patch. I share the hon. Lady’s concern, and she might well wish to seek Back-Bench debate to discuss this very concerning issue.
Following on from what my colleague has just said, this week two very vulnerable people were driven from Taunton Deane and left in Bridgwater on an excuse that I find utterly unacceptable in the 21st century. Unfortunately, they were left there to fend for themselves for two nights, and an awful tragedy could have occurred. If it had not been for very kind people, we would have had a nightmare on our hands. May I echo the call from my Labour colleague? May we please have a debate in this House on homeless people and people who are vulnerable in our society? Dumping is not acceptable, and can we please have a debate in Government time to talk about this?
Order. Just before the Leader of the House responds, I listened most attentively to what Mr Liddell-Grainger said, and I say very politely to him that if he is going to refer to another hon. Member’s constituency, it would be a courtesy to notify that Member in advance. That is all I want to say. These matters should be sorted out between colleagues, and this is what I would call a point of courtesy rather than a point of order.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Again, I completely share this concern about homelessness and rough sleeping. It is a huge worry across the House, and I encourage all hon. Members to consider combining to hold a Back-Bench debate on the subject. We have implemented the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which was introduced by my hon. Friend Bob Blackman, and we have allocated £550 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping through to 2020. We have also provided £10 million of funding to support eight new social impact bond projects, so that we can give targeted support to the most difficult issues around rough sleeping.
I am grateful that the Leader of the House is thinking of moving the debate on restoration and renewal to a different date, because I think it is better not to have it on a Thursday. May we also have a debate on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, specifically because of the way in which our staff are treated? Most employers in this country now bring forward the December staff salary payment to before Christmas. Why on earth cannot IPSA do that?
That was splendidly pithy by the standards of the hon. Gentleman. We are deeply obliged to him.
My hon. Friend and I share a deep interest in the plight of some of those in their earliest years and the importance of secure early attachment for the mental and emotional wellbeing of children right the way through their lives. I am always happy to support him in his efforts to secure debates in the House on that subject.
I have details here from Norfolk police of regular occasions on which people are held unlawfully by the police while they are waiting for mental health services to respond. In one such case, someone was detained for 68 hours in police custody. We know that this is happening regularly around the country. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Health Secretary to make a statement to the House on this? It is surely intolerable that the police should be put into a position where they have to detain people unlawfully because of the failures of the mental health services.
The Government have shown huge commitment to improving mental health, and many more people are accessing mental health services than ever before. However, I share his concern about his specific points and encourage him to attend Health questions next Tuesday, where he will have the opportunity to question Ministers directly.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your words about the courtesies of the House and how we should conduct ourselves.
Last week, I met the Taunton chamber of commerce, most of whose members are small and medium-sized businesses, which are the backbone of Taunton and Wellington’s thriving economy. However, enabling them to grow is important as we move forward, particularly given Brexit, so may we have a debate on how to benefit the SME sector, particularly in the south-west, with specific reference to how to unlock opportunities through the Government’s commendable industrial strategy?
I totally agree with my hon. Friend. SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy, and they absolutely deserve our praise and support. I congratulate Taunton chamber of commerce on putting in place some incredibly smart measures to support local businesses. Our industrial strategy will support businesses. The retail sector, for example, will benefit from business rates relief, the cutting of £10 billion of red tape and improved access to finance.
Parliament uses Servest, so I want to tell the House how that company treated my constituent Mr Iqbal when he worked for them: it deducted break time for breaks he was not allowed to take; it refused to give him annual leave, but then held him to the company rule that he was not allowed to carry any over; and it refused to give him expenses when he was moved to another site. Due to the tribunal fees introduced by this Government, he was unable to take the company to court. I have managed to get him some money back, but Servest has not engaged with me in any meaningful way to get Mr Iqbal his full compensation. Will the Leader of the House confirm that she will review how Servest treats its employees and advise how I can get the settlement that my constituent is due?
This evening, I will be joining the Uckfield chamber of commerce, which celebrates small businesses across my constituency and provides opportunity and security, at its Christmas dinner. A thousand jobs have been created every day since 2010, so will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on the Government’s success in the area of employment?
I am pleased to join my hon. Friend in welcoming the latest employment figures and in congratulating Uckfield chamber of commerce on its work to support businesses. There are now 325,000 more people in work than at this time last year, and youth unemployment is down 416,000 since 2010. I am sure that the whole House will welcome those figures.
Last night, we had the unedifying sight of a Minister frantically coming to the Dispatch Box to give concessions to his own Back-Benchers to push through Government policy. In last week’s debates on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, many Government Back Benchers said that clause 11 was deficient, but amendments were not tabled. May we have a statement or debate on when the Government will actually bring forward amendments to clause 11, which Government Members say is deficient?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, as I have just announced, day eight of consideration of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will happen next week, so he might want to raise that point then.
The whole House will agree that constituencies ought to be equalised, but our departure from the European Union has ensured that we will be cutting the cost of governance. Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure that any private Member’s Bill coming along that might correct the 650 to 600 debate gets the money resolution it needs?
I declare a registerable interest, having travelled to Bangladesh with Muslim Charity to see the Rohingya refugee camps.
Can we have either an early statement or a debate on the situation of the Rohingya? There were a number of debates focusing on the crisis as people fled Myanmar, but the situation now is that 800,000 people are living in camps, including 36,000 unaccompanied children and 30,000 women who have been raped and are now pregnant. They need clean water and help to address the problem of refuse. What will be the ongoing commitment of our Government and of Ministers in the Department for International Development to help to address the plight of the Rohingya?
I commend the hon. Gentleman for going to see the camps for himself. A number of hon. Members from both sides of the House have been to lend their personal support, for which I commend them all. This is a harrowing case. We have had three debates and urgent questions on this subject since September, and the Government are watching the situation incredibly closely. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has announced a further £12 million of UK aid to help to support the Rohingya people, bringing the UK’s total support to £59 million. I commend the generosity of the British people who have personally contributed millions of pounds to help to support the Rohingya people.
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, unemployment in Crawley has reduced by 59% since 2010. Can we have a debate early in the new year on continuing economic policies that increase employment and, therefore, revenue for our important public services?
I am delighted to hear the employment statistics in my hon. Friend’s constituency. He shares my enthusiasm for the fact that employment is up by more than 3 million since 2010. That is more people than ever before with the security of a pay packet to support themselves and their families.
The Government’s draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill is of great interest to many of my constituents who are victims of the collapse of the AEA Technology pension scheme, which cannot be investigated due to a loophole in the law. Will the Leader of the House find time to introduce this important Bill in the new year?
The hon. Lady will be aware that the Government carefully consider all potential Bills and try to accommodate, as far as possible, those important Bills that could improve the lives of all our constituents. She raises an important issue, which I will certainly look at.
Can we have a debate in the House on the very damaging taxation policies being pursued by the Scottish National party? Those policies will have a huge impact on my Moray constituents and on people across Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the SNP, as it prepares to announce its Budget in Holyrood today, should stick with its manifesto commitment, on which it went to the Scottish public, not to raise the basic rate of income tax? The SNP should stick with that commitment to prevent Scotland from being the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend continues to be a champion for his constituents, and he is absolutely right to raise his concerns. Income tax powers were an important part of the Smith commission’s recommendations, and we devolved them through the Scotland Act 2016. It says a lot about the priorities of the Scottish Government that, within just a year of having those powers, they are threatening to renege on a manifesto commitment. As I said earlier, it would be a great shame if Scotland were to become the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom.
Does the Leader of the House understand that 1,300,000 people will be killed this year by road death? This week, legislators from all over the world, including the Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, came to this Parliament, under the auspices of the Towards Zero Foundation, to debate how we can tackle road deaths. This is the greatest epidemic of our time. Can we have a debate on it in the new year?
Governments of all colours have tried hard to ensure that we reduce the incidence of road traffic accidents and that we try to provide all drivers with the right know-how to be able to drive safely and carefully. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of forthcoming legislation on driverless vehicles, which presents an opportunity to improve road safety. Nevertheless, he might wish to seek an Adjournment debate so he can discuss the specific and very good work of the organisation he mentions.
The Government have committed to help at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries to get a decent education by 2020. Will the Leader of the House find time to hold a debate on the importance of investing in education as a means of helping children out of poverty?
My hon. Friend raises something that the UK Government are extremely proud of: our international aid efforts to support all young people everywhere to get a decent education. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate or perhaps a Backbench Business Committee debate so that all colleagues can celebrate the contribution of the UK’s people towards ensuring education for all.
An estimated 1,400 people with dementia will be stuck in hospital on Christmas day, so dementia patients will make up a quarter of the people who will spend this Christmas day in hospital because of delays in finding them care. With the Alzheimer’s Society describing wards as being “turned into waiting rooms”, will the Leader of the House grant parliamentary time to discuss this important breakdown in social care?
We all share in the desire to see as many people as possible receiving the right sort of care and protection, and some company, particularly at Christmas. The issue of loneliness has been raised in this Chamber a great deal. We all know the NHS faces increased pressures at winter time, which is why we have put in place an extra £335 million, on top of the previously announced £100 million, for accident and emergency departments. Nationally, more than 1,000 extra beds have been freed up since February by reducing delays in the transfer of care, and areas continue to work to increase that number to 2,000 to 3,000 extra beds over the winter period. This is really important for those who find themselves in hospital during the Christmas period.
Will the leader of the House join me in congratulating Elaine Monro and Selkirk’s Cancer Research UK committee for launching the Cancer Research UK tartan scarf, which is being produced by Lochcarron Weavers in Selkirk? Elaine and some of her colleagues are in the Gallery today showing off the wonderful scarf. Will the Leader of the House consider arranging for a debate on how the Government work with and support the excellent work of Cancer Research UK and other charities in fighting cancer? Does she agree that it is a very fetching tartan, which will no doubt raise lots of money for Cancer Research UK?
By sheer coincidence, this morning I decided to wear a pink jacket and when my hon. Friend presented me with this wonderful scarf that Elaine and her colleagues have produced for Cancer Research UK, I was absolutely delighted to find that the chill in this Chamber could be offset by something warm from Scotland. I am delighted with the contribution of all of those volunteers to Cancer Research UK, as I have had family members suffer from this terrible disease. We should all celebrate the excellent work of volunteers.
I am most grateful to the Leader of the House. If I had known of the intention of the hon. Gentleman in advance, and of the sartorial plans of the Leader of the House, I would have worn a pink tie, of which I am proud to say I have several. Nevertheless, the important point is that the great cause has been eloquently highlighted, and that is what this place exists to do.
Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to come urgently to the House before Christmas to explain why his Department is failing to get a grip on the poor assessments that are taking place for those people applying for the personal independence payment? I have encountered a case just recently involving a lady who has had cancer. The impact of it has been massive; its effects on her have been life-changing. When I challenged the case, I was told that the way it had been assessed had been below standard. It is not acceptable for people to be suffering in this way and denied payment, so will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State to come here urgently to make a statement?
The hon. Gentleman raises a concerning case, and I am sure Ministers would be happy to talk to him about it. If he would like to email me, I will be able to take it up on his behalf. What I would say is that this Government have been committed to helping those with disabilities to take control of their own care and to be able to be funded to meet their own needs. We have been committed to helping them to get into work, which for many people gives them the opportunity to contribute and to have the self-confidence that arises from being able to work within their capability to do so.
On one of the busiest Saturdays in the run-up to Christmas in Totnes, local activists—including, sadly, the local Labour party—decided to parade with a real coffin and leave a large and carefully constructed model of a coffin at my constituency office. Does the Leader of the House feel, particularly in the light of the report on intimidation in public life that was published yesterday, that the line of decency was overstepped? There are real dangers in using the imagery of death and directing it against individuals to whip up hatred. Most importantly of all, this kind of thing deters really good candidates from applying for positions in public life.
I was disgusted, as I am sure all right hon. and hon. Members were, to hear about my hon. Friend’s awful experience. I texted her at the time to say that I hoped she was okay. It must have been absolutely terrifying. It was truly horrible and we should all condemn this kind of behaviour and call it out wherever we see it. Lord Bew’s report on the abuse and intimidation of candidates highlights that this is not a simple matter of holding politicians to account. It goes far beyond that and it will be a deterrent to diversity and the high calibre of candidates we want to see standing for Parliament. We all combine in condemning that action against my hon. Friend.
Since September, the Department for Exiting the European Union has answered departmental questions on three occasions, including this morning; DExEU Ministers have made several oral statements and appeared before the Exiting the European Union Committee on three occasions; and you, Mr Speaker, have facilitated four urgent questions, in addition to the many hours we have already spent discussing legislation. We will, of course, be discussing further legislation in great detail over the next 18 months, so I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to raise his specific concerns.
May we have a debate on dementia in Government time? Many Members have or have had family members who suffer from this wicked and cruel disease. May we have a debate that covers not only the disease itself but the social care system, the health service and all the other aspects of society on which dementia touches? Hopefully, we can then take forward some action.
My hon. Friend raises an issue that is of concern to us all in our constituencies, and often also in our families. It is certainly an increasing problem in the United Kingdom and around the world and we should discuss it regularly, so I encourage him to seek perhaps a Back-Bench debate on the subject, so that we can look at exactly what further measures can be taken to ensure that we do the best we can for those suffering from dementia, and for their families and friends.
As part of the work of the cross-party commission that is looking into the root causes of youth violence, this week we heard from a panel of experts about the public health approach to reducing violence and the evidence-based results that they have achieved. May we have a debate on this extremely important issue?
The hon. Lady has worked really hard on that issue, for which I absolutely commend her. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate on the subject; I am sure it would be of interest to a great number of Members.
On Tuesday night, Members from all parties attended a Grenfell United meeting to which you, Mr Speaker, gave a deeply emotional and moving introduction. The survivors told stories that are truly harrowing, and the reality is that this Christmas most of them will still be in hotels or bed-and-breakfast accommodation. The people of this country very willingly parted with huge amounts of money to provide compensation for the victims. That money cannot bring their relatives back, but it does not appear even to be reaching the victims, many of whom are still in temporary housing. May we have two statements: first, a statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the progress of rehousing the survivors; and secondly, a statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whose Department I understand is responsible for the distribution of the money to the victims, on where that money is going and how it is going to reach the victims so that they can at least live their lives in some degree of comfort?
My hon. Friend raises some very important points, and I will happily go away and discuss them with our hon. Friends in the Department for Communities and Local Government. What I can say is that the latest figures that I have from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are that 142 of the 151 households have accepted an offer of either temporary or permanent accommodation. Ninety-nine of those have moved in: 54 have moved into temporary accommodation and 45 into permanent accommodation. However, as all hon. Members will know and appreciate, we can move only at the pace at which those survivors wish to go. It is a very difficult area and no one wants to force anyone to move at a pace with which they are uncomfortable. I hope that all hon. Members will rest assured, however, that the Government are utterly determined to provide the right level of support and care for all those who are still very much suffering at the present time.
Given the ongoing problems with the roll-out, is it possible to have a statement or an urgent debate on universal credit? A family in my constituency were told to claim universal credit and that shut down their child tax credit claim. That was the wrong advice as they had more than two children. They are now being told to claim jobseeker’s allowance, but Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will not reinstate, or backdate their child tax credits. Therefore, there are eight people in one household in my constituency living on less than £1.60 a day. Given the UN’s target that no one should be below $2 a day, how does that sit with the Government’s anti-poverty strategy?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very specific and very concerning constituency matter. It is Department for Work and Pensions oral questions on Monday, and he may well wish to raise that specific point then. On universal credit more generally, what I can say is that the Government really have listened. This is an attempt to ensure that universal credit provides a good solution for people that combines six previous benefits into one, that improves access to childcare and that enables people to keep more of what they earn as they move into work. We have raised the value of advances so that people can get 100% of their first month’s payment up front if they need to and then return it over 12 months. We have introduced an overlap for those already receiving housing benefit to ensure a smooth transition on to the new system. Really importantly, universal credit is expected to boost employment by 250,000 because it is a simpler system that makes sure that work always pays.
Hafod Hardware, a family run high street shop in Rhayader in my constituency, recently received national and international notoriety by taking on the big-hitting supermarkets and producing the ultimate heart-warming Christmas advert for the production cost of just £7. I strongly recommend all Members go online to look at it. Can we have a debate on how we promote our independent high street shops, showing that, through sheer imagination and ingenuity, David really can take on Goliath?
I congratulate Hafod Hardware on its Christmas advert. It just goes to show the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that exists in our small businesses. The Government’s new industrial strategy aims to support businesses such as Hafod Hardware to prosper and to grow, so that they can compete with the likes of Moz the Monster with their own successful Christmas campaigns.
My constituent Matthew Pounder was served an eviction notice by his letting agent when he chose to switch to a month-by-month contract rather than sign up to a new 12-month tenancy. He later discovered that the letting agents falsely told his landlord that Matthew wanted to leave the property. The agents had attempted to force him out of his home in order to profit from the fees from a new tenancy. May we have a debate on the practice of letting agents such as Philip James in Manchester and how we can strengthen regulations to protect renters?
The hon. Gentleman rightly raises an important and concerning constituency case. It may be tricky, but he may find a way to raise the issue in DWP questions on Monday. The Government are looking at measures to protect rental tenants better. Draft measures are coming forward and consultations are under way on making sure that people in rented accommodation have protected tenancies and more security about how long they can remain in their home.
Good news—more people are getting on their bike in my constituency for work or leisure. That is a good thing because my constituency is very clogged up and polluted. However, a number of my constituents have contacted me about shared spaces—the danger of pedestrians mixing with cyclists and the impact on people with impaired vision. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on road safety?
My hon. Friend always speaks up for her constituents; she is particularly concerned about congestion and a big fan of cycling so I commend her for her question. She is right to raise the sharing of pavements by cyclists and pedestrians, and I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can talk about her specific concerns in Eastleigh.
I was recently contacted by five constituents who have told me that the pain infusions that they need to function are being stopped due to Government cuts to East Riding clinical commissioning group, which does not now have the funds to provide them. Please may we have an urgent debate on funding for CCGs to provide therapeutic care so that those people can continue to have some quality of life?
NHS funding will be more than half a trillion pounds from 2015 to 2020. We have record funding for the NHS. We have record numbers of doctors and nurses and more midwives. Last year the NHS treated more people than ever before and the Commonwealth Fund has rated the NHS the No.1 health system in the world for the second time in a row. Record funding is available to the NHS. Where the hon. Lady has specific concerns, she should raise them with Ministers, but she should be in no doubt that the Government are committed to a successful NHS that protects our people, and that the people of this country benefit from the amazing work done by all our NHS staff.
My hon. Friend is a strong supporter of veterans, and I commend him for his work as the treasurer of the all-party parliamentary group on the armed forces covenant. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, those who have served deserve recognition of the sacrifice that they have made throughout their lives, and we will continue to make sure that they get it. As part of the Government’s commitment, the veterans card will ensure that the public can recognise our heroes when they seek specific support such as health care, housing and services in the charitable sector.
Tonight Cardiff will be designated officially a music city. I congratulate the Womanby street campaign and others, and my colleagues in Cardiff on that achievement. When my right hon. Friend John Spellar introduces his ten-minute rule Bill on
Music brings enormous pleasure right across the UK, and I congratulate Cardiff on its opportunity to celebrate musical achievements. I am not completely familiar with the events to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I wish Cardiff every success. I will of course, as always, look closely at the ten-minute Bill.
Enfield is fortunate to benefit from three local theatres, the Millfield, the Chickenshed and the Dugdale—indeed, I will be taking my grandchildren to the Millfield to enjoy “Dick Whittington” over the Christmas period. Such local facilities are very important. May we have an early debate in Government time about how the Government’s deep cuts to local authorities have affected the ability of arts venues to provide these events and programmes for local people?
First, I congratulate all those who are taking part in those plays at Christmas time. The pantomime is such good fun—my family continues to enjoy it.
It’s behind you.
It is important that we continue to enjoy and support these local venues, and the arts are a vital part of a thriving UK economy. The right hon. Lady will be pleased to know that there are Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions next week. She will be able to raise the issue of how this Government continue to support the arts—as we do—and she will have the chance, before Christmas, to put her questions to Ministers.
May we have a debate on the need for Lucy’s law, which was launched by the all-party parliamentary dog advisory welfare group last week? The law seeks to ban third-party puppy sales and to end the unimaginable horrors of puppy farming. Lucy was a little black spaniel who was puppy-farmed and, sadly, died.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this issue. We are a nation of animal lovers. As Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, I was pleased to change the rules on puppy licensing, and it is incredibly important that we continue to do everything we can to enhance our already very high standards of animal welfare.
Like many on both sides of the House, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of Government policies on the mental health of my constituents—especially those who are moving on to universal credit over Christmas. Can we have a debate in Government time on the impact of Government policy on mental health?
The hon. Gentleman is right that mental health is a key issue across the United Kingdom. He will be pleased to know that around 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day, compared with 2010—that is up 40%. There has been a fivefold increase in the number of people accessing talking therapies since 2010, and spending on mental health has increased to a record £11.6 billion. There is a long way to go, and I was delighted to see the Government’s launch of the Green Paper on mental health only last week. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to take part in that discussion and to provide his input into it.
This week, the humanitarian organisation the Enough Project published a detailed report outlining the Government of Sudan’s continued oppression of religious minorities and support for extremist groups. The report highlighted that, despite the Sudan Government’s claims of improving human rights, there is an ongoing campaign of violent state-led attacks against Christians, Sufi Muslims and other minority groups. Would the Leader of the House agree to a statement on this matter?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue about human rights and particularly the rights of different religious groups. As ever, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate on the important points he raises.
There is hurt and bewilderment among many disabled people about the extraordinary statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that one reason for Britain’s low productivity figures is the excessive number of disabled people in the workforce. That is the reverse of the truth, because every disabled person who comes from benefits into full-time work improves our productivity figures. When can we have a debate to celebrate the great work of all Governments and the European Union in increasing opportunities for disabled people to get into the workforce, and to thank those people for their heroic contributions to our economy?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point about the contribution disabled people make to our economy. I am absolutely delighted to thank and praise them from the Dispatch Box for the contribution that they make. We have seen over 600,000 more disabled people in work over the past three years, with 3.5 million people who have disabilities now in work. This Government have a proud record of supporting them and encouraging them.
Following yesterday’s victory in Parliament on the meaningful vote, will the Leader of the House make time available for a DExEU Minister to come to the House in advance of that meaningful vote to set out the impact assessment that they will have conducted on the impact of Brexit according to the deal that will have been secured with the European Union?
As ever, the right hon. Gentleman uses terms that I personally would not use. There will be ample opportunities for him to raise any questions that he has about the UK’s arrangements as we seek to leave the EU with the best possible deal for all of the United Kingdom and for our EU friends and neighbours. That is what the Government are determined to do to fulfil the result of the referendum that took place last year and took the very clear decision that the UK will be leaving the European Union.
Last week, I attended an event as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on social enterprise with Chris White, the former Member for Warwick and Leamington. I mentioned this to the current MP, my hon. Friend Matt Western, earlier. Chris’s report, “Our Money, Our Future” reviews the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which he took through Parliament. It recommended extending, strengthening and embedding social value, including extending it to this place. May I ask the Leader of the House for time to debate the implementation of the Act, Chris’s review, and social value on the parliamentary estate?
That sounds like a very interesting report. I have not seen it myself, but the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it. We do need to look at ways to ensure that we get the best value for the public purse. I encourage him, in the first instance, to seek an Adjournment debate.
I recently received notification from the Post Office that its branch in Sutton Way in my constituency is closing. I understand that it was aware that the branch was closing for almost a year, but it gave me and my constituents only three weeks’ notice of this. To rub salt into the wound, it also asked me if I had any idea who might be interested in taking over the branch. This is no way to run a business, let alone a public service that many people rely on. May we have a debate on the competence and accountability of those running the Post Office?
I am genuinely very sorry to hear that. I think it is unusual. Usually with post office closures, all Members receive very good prior notice, including specific requests for suggestions on who might be interested in taking over. Quite often, we as MPs are in a position to suggest such individuals. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that next Wednesday there is a debate on post office closures in Westminster Hall. He may wish to take part in that.
One in 10 fathers suffer with post-natal depression, and the suicide rate rapidly increases in men between the ages of 30 and 43 after having a child. My constituent Mark Williams from Ogmore Vale has been campaigning on these subjects, and he is an inspirational speaker. Will the Leader of the House find time for a Government debate to bring new light on to this area of mental health, which has a real impact on fathers right across the UK?
I am absolutely sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s point. In fact, I may even have heard a speech by the gentleman he mentions. I care passionately about the subject of pre-natal, peri-natal and post-natal depression of mothers and fathers, which can have an extremely profound impact on the future long-term mental health of their child. I positively encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek a Back-Bench debate on this subject, because there are Members right across the House who take a big interest in early years.
The Leader of the House will be aware of industrial action by driving examiners this week and the concerns of many that the management at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency are refusing to negotiate to resolve the dispute. May we have a debate or a statement to allow Members of this House to hold DVSA management to account and ask the Department of Transport to intervene in this matter?
The hon. Gentleman may well wish to take that up directly with Department for Transport Ministers. He will recognise that a debate on the subject would be very helpful to try to move things forward if good ideas are suggested by Members of Parliament. Nevertheless, it would be for Ministers to intervene if intervention is necessary.
The people of eastern Ghouta, in Syria, were subject to horrific sarin nerve agent attacks in 2013 that killed 1,700 people. Since then, around 400,000 civilians have suffered constant artillery bombardment, a blockade of food and medical aid and the blocking of medical evacuations. May I ask for a statement from the Foreign Secretary on the representations that he is making to the Syrian regime to help the people of eastern Ghouta, and on what further efforts can be taken to secure much-needed peace in the area?
The Government have shown our very strong commitment to sharing in finding a solution to the problems of Syria and providing aid to alleviate the suffering of so many who have been displaced or driven away altogether into neighbouring countries. I think we can be proud of our contribution, but the hon. Gentleman may well wish to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate so that he can speak directly to Ministers.