Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:04 am on 11th January 2018.

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Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Government Whip 11:04 am, 11th January 2018

I hope that the hon. Lady retains her sense of excitement throughout the forthcoming exchanges. I am disappointed, though, that she wanted me to be replaced so quickly in the new role that I am required to perform today. None the less, I will do my best in the short time that I have available.

The hon. Lady rightly raises the importance of winter planning in the NHS, and I am sure she will have carefully read yesterday’s debate and listened carefully to the words of the Prime Minister, who has made clear that she has apologised to all those whose operations have been cancelled. We spent £437 million on winter planning for A&E this year, and NHS providers have been clear that the NHS has never been better prepared for winter. Part of appropriate planning for winter is making sure that patients do not find out on the day that their operation has been cancelled.

I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments on many of the environmental policies that the Government are adopting. It is welcome and right that we are soon to have a 25-year plan for the environment, and many Members across the House will be interested to see what that will involve. I hope she will welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement today of the extension that we shall be making to the plastic bag charge. The charge has contributed some £95 million to good causes across the country so far. It is right that we now extend that to smaller enterprises, because I am sure they too have been very keen to participate.

The hon. Lady referred to one of my previous areas of expertise: rail fares. I am surprised that she wants a statement so soon, given that we had a lengthy Opposition day debate on rail franchising only yesterday, during which many of these issues were discussed. The challenge for the Opposition is clear. As they will be aware, the Secretary of State for Transport has made it clear that he aspires to move to the consumer prices index, but one of the biggest obstacles to that comes from the hon. Lady’s own side. I would love to be a fly on the wall when the Labour party tries to persuade the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers to drop its excessive retail prices index wage demands.

As a child of the ’80s, I have fond memories of Bananarama. They had many hits, but perhaps the hon. Lady will recall their Comic Relief guise of La-na-nee-nee-noo-noo, which I think was much more the tone of her comments on the reshuffle. I find it bizarre that anyone on the Opposition Benches has the temerity to criticise a Government reshuffle. I remember when, in the not-so-distant past, Opposition reshuffles came along as often as London buses. It was almost like a random number generator; the composition of the Opposition Front-Bench team was as random and unpredictable as the balls on the national lottery—she might regard herself as the bonus ball in any reshuffle. What we see today on the Government Front Bench, with a range of new Ministers—at least five when I stood up at the Dispatch Box—shows how our Government increasingly resemble the nation we seek to serve. We are seeing a range of new talent coming through. When we have a reshuffle, we have a positive sense of progress. I thank the hon. Lady for her comments today.