Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 11:10 am on 8th February 2018.

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

The provisional business for the week commencing 19 February will include:

Monday 19 February—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 20 FebruarySecond Reading of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 21 February—Remaining stages of the Finance (No.2) Bill.

Thursday 22 February—Debate on a motion on the role of disabled people in economic growth followed by a general debate on cancer strategy. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 23 February—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 26 February will include:

Monday 26 February—Estimates day (1st allotted day).

Tuesday 27 February—Estimates day (2nd allotted day).

At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in marking Children’s Mental Health Week. The earliest years are vital for lifelong emotional health, and I strongly support our efforts in this area.

Both Houses have now agreed to the same motion regarding the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, and my noble Friend the Leader of the House of Lords and I will present a paper on the next steps to our House Commissions within the next few weeks.

We were all proud to take part in the celebrations marking 100 years of women’s votes. We have made huge progress in advancing women’s rights, but there is still a long way to go, especially when dealing with the vicious and personal abuse that is so often directed at women. Parliament needs to show the highest standards, so I am delighted that today the report on an independent complaints and grievance policy has been published. There is a statement to follow, but I hope that the proposals demonstrate a renewed commitment to treating everyone who works in this place with dignity and respect.

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

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business and ask again about the date that we will rise in July. Obviously, people need to plan their lives.

I know that the Government are focused on Brexit, but will the Leader of the House explain the European Research Group? Does she know whether it will be publishing any sectoral analysis or impact assessments, or is it another secret society operating around the House that only a few people can join? The Government should publish the list of ministerial responsibilities. Maybe then they will know what they are doing in sending junior Ministers out to debates and to answer urgent questions, instead of Secretaries of State. Also, when will the Data Protection Bill be debated in this place?

If this is not ideological, I do not know what is: the Secretary of State was warned at the time, so why was the east coast railway line, which returned £1 billion to the Treasury and had a 91% satisfaction rating, privatised in the first place? So far, the cost of forfeiting that contract is £2.2 billion, and the shadow Secretary of State for Transport has said that another £380 million would be added to the bail-out. Rightly, the National Audit Office has launched an investigation. Will the Leader of the House please write to me to say what the costs associated with this debacle are so far, and will she say whether the Secretary of State made that decision against advice?

An inquiry is ongoing into the east coast railway, and now an inspector has been sent into Northamptonshire County Council. Surrey, which benefited from a midnight visit by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to No. 11 Downing Street, is also in difficulties. The leader of Northamptonshire County Council said that she had been warning since 2013-14 that the council

“couldn’t cope with the levels of cuts” it was facing. An inspector is being sent in to do what? The council leader has explained that the cuts are the cause and the fact of the inspection also stifles any further discussion. As the Minister said, it

“would be inappropriate for the Government to comment while the inspection is under way”.—[Official Report, 6 February 2018;
Vol. 635, c. 1357.]

So, will the Leader of the House write to me, letting us know how long the inspection will take before the inspector reports, and what the inspector’s terms of reference are?

Is the Leader of the House aware of any statement by the Government on the misuse of statistics? Sir David Norgrove, Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, said the Prime Minister was misusing the statistics on waiting times by comparing different things. In England, she uses time from decision to admit to time of admission to another part of the health service. In Wales, she quotes the entire time patients wait from arrival, including decision to admit, to actual admission. When will that be corrected? The Government’s statement said that they accept the UKSA assessment, but their assessment of this target still stands. That is bizarre. When will the correction be published, in response to Sir David’s comments?

Let us acknowledge that the oldest language in Europe was celebrated this week in the Welsh Grand Committee. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

However, more delay by the Government: the Women and Equalities Committee report, “Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment”, was published in April 2017, but there has been no Government response. In a written answer, the Minister for Employment referred back to an earlier answer. That earlier answer says “shortly”—but that was on 9 November. This issue affects blind people. When will the Government respond, and when will they take people with disabilities seriously?

I join the Leader of the House in celebrating the fact that women got the vote. They said, “Deeds, not words”—the cry celebrating women over a certain age and with property getting the vote. The test of a Government’s commitment is deeds, not words. So, will the Leader of the House explain why former military wives are losing out on their pension credits because they reached pension age before the rules changed? Deeds, not words, on WASPI women. Deeds, not words, on the House of Commons research that found that 86% of austerity falls on women. Cuts have cost women £79 billion compared with £13 billion for men. Deeds, not words, on equal pay for equal work. The Leader of the Opposition has done his deeds, because our shadow Cabinet is 50% made up of women. That cannot be said of the Cabinet.

We could not take part in the photo in Central Lobby because the members of the shadow Cabinet were at the Museum of London, and I would encourage everyone to visit the suffragettes exhibition there. A loaf of bread had been preserved since the day when one of the suffragettes came out of prison and held it aloft to prove that she had been on hunger strike. It is an amazing thing to see. The deeds of the suffragettes allow our words to resound, as we strive for equality.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the series of questions that she put to me. In response to her requests for letters, I will write to her on several of the points that she raised, to which I do not have the specific answers to hand.

Through the usual channels, we will, of course, as soon as possible give the summer recess dates, and, as the hon. Lady knows, a list of ministerial responsibilities will be published very soon.

The Data Protection Bill will be introduced to the House as soon as possible—as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The hon. Lady asks about county councils. She will appreciate that under this Government, since 2010, we have seen in real terms, taking into account inflation, a decrease in council taxes, and in non-real terms—in headline terms—some of the lowest council tax rises since council tax was introduced. This year, the cap has been lifted to 3% to take inflation into account, and that is important.

On my own county council, Northamptonshire, the hon. Lady will be aware that there are particular concerns around the way that budgets and finances have been managed there, and that is subject to an investigation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is now in hand.

The hon. Lady invites me to celebrate the oldest language—the Welsh language. I am delighted to do that, and proud that the Under-Secretary of State for Wales is himself a Welsh speaker. We could probably drag him to the Chamber to sing to us, or something of that sort. However, he might require prior notice, and he might be very cross with me for even suggesting it.

Finally, the hon. Lady talked about “deeds, not words”. I think she should celebrate the fact that the UK was one of the first countries in the world to introduce mandatory gender pay gap reporting, which will quickly become a reputational issue for companies. McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, estimates that closing the gap would add £150 billion to the economy by 2025. I am pleased to tell the House that the gender pay gap among full-time workers is the narrowest that it has ever been, but we are committed to eliminating it entirely.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. As usual, a great many Members are seeking to catch my eye, and I shall do my best to accommodate their interest. However, I must remind the House that there are no fewer than three Government statements and two Select Committee statements to follow these exchanges, before we even reach the debate that is due to take place under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee and the debate that will follow that, so there is a premium on brevity from Back Benchers and Front Benchers alike. If colleagues have scripted screeds as prefaces to questions, may I very politely suggest that they abandon those scripted screeds? Let us just have the pithy questions.

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on banning UK tour operators from advertising and selling rides on Asian elephants? Those wonderful animals are often abused when in training, and I am sure that no UK visitor would want to condone that.

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

As ever, my hon. Friend has raised a question that is of huge interest to the United Kingdom, a nation of genuine animal lovers. I am proud of the fact that we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. We do not believe that changing the law in the UK would make a significant difference, but we absolutely agree that making people aware of the situation and allowing them to judge for themselves is likely to result in UK tourists’ addressing the problem with their feet.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for the week after the recess.

After all sorts of attempts by the Government to keep the figures for their Brexit concealed from the British public, we now know the true costs of their disastrous plans for the nations and regions of the UK, and my nation’s economic growth is to take a hit of up to 9% to pay for their chaotic cluelessness. Scotland does not want their Tory hard Brexit—Scotland did not vote for their Tory hard Brexit—but here we are, tethered to a dysfunctional Titanic as it careers haphazardly towards the abyss. May we have a debate on these national and regional breakdowns, and design a solution that will at least protect Scotland from the worst of this madness?

May we also have a debate about coups and how to achieve them? Over the weekend, we were presented with the prospect of the “dream team” of Boris, Rees-Mogg and Gove, which sounds like a bad remake of a film: “Three Men and a Brexit”. For most of us, it was possibly our worst nightmare, or something designed to keep the kids awake at night. How much longer must we endure this Tory civil war, and will the Leader of the House accept my offer to supply peacekeepers to ensure that it is conducted properly?

When we return, we will have our new estimates debates. For the first time in recent political history, we will actually debate estimates on estimates day. What a novelty that will be! The one piece of departmental spending that we urgently need to address is the billion-pound bung to the Democratic Unionist party, as the House has never debated it and never had a chance to give its verdict. Does the Leader of the House agree that the new estimates debates will provide the ideal opportunity for a debate and vote on that subject?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his series of questions. He asked first about the economic analysis of the impact of Brexit on different parts of the United—United!—Kingdom. He will be aware that a room in Parliament Street has been made available to Members who wish to look at that analysis. He will also be aware that it was early analysis, and had not been seen by Ministers.

The hon. Gentleman talked about coups. For a moment I thought he had said “cows”, and wondered where we were going with that. I can assure him, and all other Members, that the Government are working together to make leaving the European Union a success, both for the United Kingdom and for our 27 EU friends and neighbours. I share his delight at estimates being debated and being announced in the future business, and at the efforts of the Liaison and Procedure Committees to resolve the timing of those with the Backbench Business Committee.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about additional funding for Northern Ireland. In recognition of the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland, we have committed to make available £50 million of the funding set out in the agreement in this financial year for health and education, but we continue to want to see the financial support set out in the agreement decided upon and spent by a restored Executive in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

Does my right hon. Friend agree that—[Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. Vernon Coaker is no doubt having a most illuminating private conversation, but it must not be to the detriment of a pertinent inquiry from Kirstene Hair; the hon. Gentleman can always witter away outside the Chamber if he is so inclined.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House agree that, while income tax is devolved to the Scottish Government, we in this House should debate the impact the Scottish National party’s tax hike will have on armed forces personnel and how that will reduce the demand for postings in Scotland?

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I commend her for standing up for her constituents and raising an important point. Over the coming months, the Ministry of Defence will be reviewing the impact of this latest decision by the Scottish Government, but she is right to point out that, in accordance with the legislation, all those who are identified as Scottish taxpayers by HMRC will continue to be issued with the appropriate tax code and so must have Scottish income tax applied on their earnings.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee

I thank the Leader of the House for the confirmation that the estimates day debates will take place on the 26th and 27th. The subject of those debates is in the hands of Members of this House and applications have to be made to the Backbench Business Committee by next Friday, the 16th, in order to determine which departmental estimates will be debated, so I say to Members, “Please, it’s in your hands. Make those applications.”

I am also aware, Mr Speaker, that today we will be very pressed for time. May I humbly suggest that we withdraw the pre-recess Adjournment debate and devote the whole time to the divisible motion in the name of my hon. Friend Ruth Smeeth?

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

I am genuinely sorry that time for the Backbench Business debates has been reduced today, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is important that the House is able to question Ministers on some of the very important issues in today’s statements and urgent questions. I will always consider requests for the protection of Backbench Business time, and I was pleased to be able to protect time for the Backbench Business debate on Tuesday this week.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said that we will not have American-style industrial factory farming in this country, yet in my constituency there is an application to have 540,000 chickens slaughtered every 42 days. That is unacceptable. May we have a debate in this House on industrial-scale factory farming? Would you allow me, Mr Speaker, to bring in a cage with the chickens in it to demonstrate the appalling conditions they have to live under?

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

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. As I have said, we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, including for the way chickens are reared. However, he raises an important and concerning point and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that a DEFRA Minister can come to respond.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling

First, may I apologise for my earlier excitement?

May we have a debate on crime statistics? In Nottinghamshire, the latest crime statistics show a 29% year-on-year increase. The Prime Minister yesterday just said that that was because of the different way this was recorded. In Nottinghamshire, we believe it is due to police cuts and many of the other changes that have been made. There is an urgent need for that to be clarified.

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

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about policing and crime statistics. He will be aware that, overall, traditional crime is continuing to fall—by almost 40% since 2010. It is also the case that the recording of crime is improving and more people than ever before feel able to come forward to report crimes such as domestic violence. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise that specific issue. It is important that communities are able to do more to help themselves. That is why we have awarded £765,000 to community groups and more than £280,000 to community projects that are specifically working on ending gang violence and exploitation. There is much more to do, but across all areas of rising crime the Government are taking action to try to get on top of it and reduce it.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Every two minutes, a child dies of malaria in this world. May we have a statement or a debate in the Chamber on what we are doing to combat this dreadful disease, and on the opportunities to promote its treatment around the world at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April?

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

We all share the desire to see malaria stamped out, and other insidious diseases, particularly those affecting children in poorer regions of the world. My hon. Friend might like to seek a Backbench Business debate in order to share views with colleagues across the House.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Chair, Petitions Committee

Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on old toll bridges and the traffic chaos they cause? The Warburton toll bridge in my constituency is causing traffic jams on all the surrounding main roads, for the sake of a 12p toll. The Department for Transport seems to hold no data on the impact of these bridges. Is it not time we debated that and abolished these 19th century tolls?

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

I absolutely share the hon. Lady’s frustration because I have had my own experience of toll roads and queues going down the street for the sake of 5p or 10p. I encourage her to raise the matter at departmental Question Time because I am sure that, if she persists, Ministers will look into it.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Unlike the Scottish National party spokesman, my constituents are optimistic about post-Brexit Britain. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate, in Government time, when a Minister from every Department, including the Treasury, can come to the House and outline the advantages of Britain leaving the EU? We would need at least a full day.

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

As my hon. Friend would expect, I would be delighted to be able to deliver that. I share his enthusiasm for the United Kingdom’s prospects outside the European Union. He certainly might like to put that to every Department in Question Time.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

As the Leader of the House might be aware, there are widespread concerns over the outsourcing of probation services to community rehabilitation companies, many of which are facing financial difficulties. I am aware of one serious case in my constituency where a violent offender was released without a risk assessment by the CRC. May we please have a debate or a statement on the future of outsourcing probation services to CRCs?

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

This is a very important area. The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that our reforms to probation mean that we are now monitoring 40,000 offenders who would previously have been released with no supervision at all. That is a positive change for public safety. Overall, community rehabilitation companies have reduced the number of people reoffending. If she has a specific constituency case, she might like to raise it directly with the Department.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, I very much support what my hon. Friend Bob Blackman said.

May we have a debate on the status of recommendations made by trust special administrators—in my case for the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust? That report—the cost was £20 million—was accepted by the Secretary of State for Health and it made a lot of recommendations that are really important for my constituents, but we are seeing some erosion of them, despite the best efforts of the trust that took over Mid Staffs to implement them. It is absolutely vital that my constituents know that those recommendations are firm and will continue.

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

My hon. Friend has always championed his constituents and, in particular, been a strong advocate for improvements to his local hospital. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can hear directly from the Department of Health.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

In a written statement, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently announced the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards. Please may we have a debate so that we can better understand the Department’s responsibilities, especially around counterfeit electrical goods sold online and, of course, electrical white goods?

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

The hon. Lady raises an important issue, and we have heard several times about the problems with counterfeit goods. If she wants to write to me, I can raise the matter directly with the Department, or she could seek an Adjournment debate to raise it directly herself.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

An important piece of legislation for the post-Brexit world is the immigration Bill, but recent statements from the Home Secretary would suggest that there has been some back-sliding on its potential timescale. Will the Leader of the House tell us when we can expect to see this important Bill before the House?

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

My hon. Friend should rest assured that we are determined to make a success of leaving the European Union, and all the legislation that is necessary to ensure that that is the case will be brought forward as soon as it is required.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

My constituent Helen Hill’s husband was murdered in 2002, and his killer was released after 10 years. Helen has recently been told that his supervision may stop four years on from his release and that she has started an online petition calling for the supervision of murderers to be kept in place in for life. May we have an urgent debate on the supervision of murderers?

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

I am truly sorry to hear about that. I can well imagine that that is a difficult situation for the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice is reviewing the Parole Board’s processes, and I am sure that there will be further updates to the House in due course.

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Members will no doubt share my admiration for the way in which Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir has reacted to his motor neurone disease diagnosis. Will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate on MND and join me in congratulating everybody in Kelso who raised £250,000 last week to help deal with this terrible disease? I also remind Members that I am running the London marathon to raise money for Doddie’s foundation and to combat MND—any donations will be welcome.

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

I am delighted to support my hon. Friend and all other hon. Members who are mad enough to take part in the London marathon. I share his admiration for the manner in which Doddie Weir has reacted to his MND diagnosis. It is a terrible disease, and we should do everything we can to support work on it. I congratulate everyone involved in the Tartan Giraffe Ball, which sounds fascinating—I would love to see the photos.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

In her opening remarks, the Leader of the House mentioned that it is Children’s Mental Health Week. I am working with the Royal Society for Public Health to establish a specific all-party parliamentary group on child mental health and the links with social media companies, including the impact that social media has on mental health. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate that focuses specifically on child mental health and the impact of social media?

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

I genuinely commend the hon. Gentleman for sorting out that APPG. It is such an important matter. We are seeing a spike in young people with problems that are attributed to the use of social media. We are putting a record £1.4 billion into children and young people’s mental health, and a record 1,440 children’s mental health beds are available. We are also training staff in secondary schools in mental health first aid. There is a lot more to do, but I commend him for his contribution.

Photo of Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian Liddell-Grainger Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset

Many local government problems have been laid bare this week and, as the Leader of the House knows, I have warned week in, week out about such problems. May we therefore please have time in the Chamber for a debate on the problems within local government—not just in my area, but throughout England and Wales?

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

My hon. Friend will be aware that there was a debate yesterday on local government funding, and there are regular opportunities to raise matters of local government in the House. If he feels that a further debate is important, I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business debate?

Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security)

In my role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on off-patent drugs, I have been proud to contribute to the working party on this issue over the past two years. The drug repurposing report produced by that group is now on the desk of the Minister in the other place, the noble Lord O’Shaughnessy. When can we have a statement from the Government on the report’s recommendations?

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

If the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me on that point, I can find out from the Department and get back to him.

Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup Conservative, Erewash

Following the debate in this Chamber last week on High Speed 2, will my right hon. Friend consider a further debate on statutory compensation not just for HS2 but for other major infrastructure projects of national importance?

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

Mr Speaker, I am sure that both you and I would support such a debate. My hon. Friend might wish to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise her particular concerns with Ministers.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

Can we have a statement on the failure of the Financial Conduct Authority to release its report on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s mistreatment of small businesses?

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

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise how small businesses were treated by the big banks during the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis and subsequently. He has now raised the issue in this place, and I suggest that he seeks an Adjournment debate if he would like further action so that Ministers can respond directly.

Photo of Damien Moore Damien Moore Conservative, Southport

Can we have a debate on what we can do to encourage more women to stand for public office? That is particularly apt as we commemorate the first women getting the vote 100 years ago.

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

My hon. Friend is right that, 100 years after the first women got the right to vote, we have made huge progress in advancing women’s rights, but he is also right that there is a long way to go. Vicious and personal online abuse has no place in our public life. We are doing several things. First, we are introducing a new annual internet safety transparency report. Secondly, the Prime Minister announced this week that the Law Commission will review the legislation relating to offensive online communications. And thirdly, a social media code of practice will be published later this year setting out clearly the minimum standards expected of social media platforms.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

Can we have a debate in Government time on acquired brain injury? It is a delight that, thanks to the introduction of major trauma centres across the country, 500 more people are kept alive every year, but unfortunately more than a quarter of those major trauma centres have no rehabilitation consultant, so people are not able to get the important support they need to get back on their feet and able to look after themselves. We can make a real difference to people’s lives if only we try hard.

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

I am sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s question. I recently met a constituent whose husband had been brain injured by thugs, and the situation is absolutely terrible both for the victim and for their family. The hon. Gentleman may wish to raise this directly with Health Ministers at departmental questions.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

Can we have a debate on family businesses? Earlier this week we celebrated Scottish family business day, and two of the five oldest family firms in Scotland are in my Moray constituency: Johnstons of Elgin, which was established in 1797; and Christies of Fochabers, a garden centre established in 1820. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating these two Moray firms on their contribution to the local economy and on what they do for our local area?

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

My hon. Friend is always a great champion for his constituency, and I am proud to tell him that I own a Johnstons jumper. The British Business Bank is supporting more than £276 million of finance to more than 3,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in Scotland. Additionally, the start-up loans programme has delivered more than 3,000 loans, worth more than £20 million, in Scotland. There is much more to do, but he is a great champion for all those small businesses.

Photo of Paula Sherriff Paula Sherriff Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care)

I recently held my first jobs and apprenticeships fair in Dewsbury, and it was attended by more than 300 people and many businesses, but too often young people in towns such as mine feel that there is a lack of opportunities at home and that the only alternative is to move to the big city. Can we have a debate on how we can nurture talent in Britain’s small and very proud towns?

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

I am delighted that the hon. Lady is supporting apprenticeships, as many of us in this Chamber do in our constituencies. I take every chance to recommend to colleagues that they get an apprentice for their parliamentary office. I have had an apprentice in each of the last seven years, and it has been brilliant for me and for them. This is an important issue across all our towns. There have been more than 3 million apprenticeships since 2010, and there is much more to do. We should all combine forces to improve these life opportunities for young people.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North

May we have a debate on the progress made on house building and the further action needed to build the number of homes we so urgently need in this country?

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

My hon. Friend raises a really important point. He will be pleased to know that this week the Prime Minister chaired the inaugural meeting of the housing implementation taskforce to talk about the progress we are making and what more action is needed. More than 217,000 additional homes were delivered last year—the highest level we have seen in all but one of the past 30 years. That takes us to more than 1.1 million extra homes in England since 2010. There is more to do, but there has been good progress.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

Activists in Honduras have been targeted with a wave of surveillance, intimidation and violence. Last year, as we found out last week, the UK—for the first time ever—approved the sales of interception equipment to the Honduran Government. Will the Leader of the House make time for a statement from the Secretary of State in this House about how the consolidated criteria on arms sales might have been breached by the sales to their sister party, which organised a coup in 2009, and has killed 100 lawyers since then and 50 Opposition members in the past year—their sister party?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises a point that will be of concern to many Members in this House. He is right to do so and he might want to seek an Adjournment debate, but what I can say to him is that we operate one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world and a licence will not be issued where there is a clear risk that items to be licensed might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

May we have a statement or a debate on the benefits of switching energy supplier and how we can and should encourage even more consumers to switch?

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

My hon. Friend raises a very important question for many people in this country. I am glad to tell him that there has been good news. Since 2010, the number of energy suppliers has gone from 13 to more than 60 and 7.8 million energy switches took place in 2016, an increase of nearly 1.7 million on 2015. That means that customers are saving an average of around £308 by switching from a standard variable tariff offered by the big six. He will be aware of our commitment to bringing forward an energy price cap Bill, and that will happen in the near future.

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

My constituent, Christine Lilley of Kilmarnock, has received confirmation from the DWP that from now on it will cover her mortgage interest as a loan against her property. May we have a debate about the impact of this policy, the stress it is causing and the utter madness that could see people feeling forced to sell their homes and claiming more money on housing benefit than their mortgage interest relief would cost the Government?

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

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I recently had a constituent come to me to discuss this issue. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the reality for many is that there is significant value in their property. It is important to be fair to taxpayers as well as to those who need support in meeting their mortgage costs.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Will the right hon. Lady say what she has done in her role as Leader of the House to satisfy herself of the accuracy of reports into the economic impact of Brexit produced by civil servants? Will she make a statement on what she is doing to prevent Ministers from attacking the motives of the civil servants who produce those reports?

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

I simply do not accept that people are attacking the credibility of those reports. What Government Members and Members from across the House quite rightly say is that economic forecasts are independent but nevertheless often subject to views and inputs as to the economic models used, and that they are therefore not an exact science and are often wrong. We need only look at the out-turn of economic forecasts in the past to see that they are not always accurate. In direct response to the hon. Gentleman’s question, however, he will be aware that a room is made available in Parliament Street for hon. Members who wish to see for themselves the economic forecasts to which he is referring.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

May we have a debate on UK Visas and Immigration decision-making processes? This morning, my hon. Friend Gavin Newlands and I heard of a group of young Malawians who have been denied visas for this country on the basis of their not presenting birth certificates. They have not done so because many people in Malawi do not have birth certificates, but their sponsors have a flawless record of bringing people over. Will the Leader of the House look into that case urgently, and may we have a debate in Government time on the failures of UKVI?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue for his constituency, as he often does. I am sure that if he raises the matter directly with Home Office staff, they will look into it for him.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

The remains of Royal Navy sailors who died serving our country on board HMS Exeter and HMS Electra are being buried in shallow mass graves in East Java in Indonesia. The Dutch Government are acting in support of the Dutch sailors from warships lost in the same actions, but the UK Government are not. May we have an urgent debate on this issue to make sure that we are taking every step to at least re-bury our fallen sailors with the dignity and respect that they deserve?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point and I am very sympathetic to what he says. He might be aware that we have Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions on 20 February—the first day the House will sit after the recess—when he might wish to raise the matter with Ministers directly.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

On 2 January 2018, Mr Hamed bin Haydara, a follower of the Bahá’í faith, was sentenced to death in Yemen for his religious beliefs. Formal charges against him included trying to incite Yemenis to leave Islam and embrace the Bahá’í faith. The sentence represents a clear violation of Mr Haydara’s right to freedom of religion or belief and is part of a worrying trend in the treatment of all Bahá’ís in Yemen. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or debate on this issue?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises a very concerning issue of freedom of religion. He will be aware that the House fully supports freedom of religion and is totally against depriving people of their human rights in any form. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can take the matter up directly with Ministers.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport)

Thank you for the opportunity, Mr Speaker, but my hon. Friend Patrick Grady raised the case in his question. I would add, though, that that case is urgent, with the exchange visit due to take place next week, so I would certainly appreciate it if the Leader of the House would look into it urgently.