Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 11:03 am on 26th April 2018.

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

The business for the week commencing 30 April will be as follows:

Monday 30 April—Remaining stages of the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill followed by debate on a motion on section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 followed by consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 1 May—Remaining stages of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] followed by a motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill.

Wednesday 2 MayOpposition day (10th allotted day). There will be a debate on Windrush on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 3 May—A general debate on matters to be considered before the May adjournment. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 4 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 May will include:

Monday 7 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 8 May—Remaining stages of the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [Lords] followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill followed by a motion relating to a statutory instrument on criminal legal aid.

I am the 336th woman to be elected to the UK Parliament ever. To put that into perspective, there are 442 male MPs in Parliament today, so for all the great women in this place and around the country, the unveiling of the new permanent memorial to Millicent Fawcett was a superb moment, celebrating her achievements and all those of the suffrage movement.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of some women getting the vote, I look forward to the many occasions there are to recognise the valuable contribution that women make to public life. In particular, I recommend that all Members take part in the excellent initiative by Parliament’s education and engagement team for a series of “EqualiTeas” in our constituencies, where schools, girl guides, the women’s institute and many others will be hosting celebratory tea parties.

This week we have had the joyful news of a new royal baby, and the House has sent its warmest congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Finally, I take this opportunity to wish the House a belated happy St George’s day for last Monday.

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. Before I call the shadow Leader of the House, I must emphasise to colleagues that it may not be possible to call everybody today. The Government have put two statements on the agenda before we even get to Back-Bench business, so what is needed is a short question each time and a short reply. I will have to judge when to move on to the next business, because it is Back-Bench business day, not a day for just lobbing statements on to the Order Paper which could have been made at some other time.

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 support her in sending our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the safe delivery of their son on St George’s day. And yes, women are very important—we hold up half the sky.

I asked the Leader of the House about allocating time for nurses’ bursaries. Will she allocate time for a debate on that? I thank for her finally allocating time for a debate on the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018—a matter that was raised as a point of order by my hon. Friend Richard Burgon. I am sure that the Leader of the House will have heard your words, Mr Speaker, when my hon. Friend did that. You said that it was

“a regrettable state of affairs” and

“in terms of the smooth running of the House” does not help to build an

“atmosphere of trust”.—[Official Report, 23 April 2018;
Vol. 644, c. 639.]

The changes to the legal aid fees have triggered the barristers’ boycott of new legal aid work. Lawyers are being asked to peruse documents and are not being paid for it. That is part of the evidence bundle. Bizarrely, the Lord Chancellor on Tuesday at Justice questions said that the Government are waiting for information from the Labour party. I am not sure whether he meant that they are waiting for a Labour Government, so that we could then revoke the statutory instrument.

I want to ask the Leader of the House about another small House issue: is it possible to have email alerts for statutory instruments that are published on Fridays? Our hard-working staff have to trawl through all the statutory instruments to see the new ones. They get an email alert for statements, so could we have that for SIs?

The Prime Minister said on the steps of No. 10:

“We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives”,

but that does not seem to apply to the Windrush generation. Amelia Gentleman, a journalist for The Guardian, publicised in November 2017 the case of Paulette Wilson, who used to cook for us in the House of Commons. She had been here for more than 50 years and was taken to Yarl’s Wood and was about to be deported. Although it was grand having the Home Secretary making her statement in the House, it raised more questions than answers. The Home Office should know who is in detention and must know why they are there.

When will the Government produce these figures? Why are they now waiving the citizenship fee for anyone in the Windrush generation who wishes to apply for citizenship when they are British citizens and do not need to apply, as the Prime Minister repeated over and over again yesterday? Why are the Government saying that they will waive the requirement for them to carry out a test on knowledge of language and life in the UK, when most of the Windrush generation have lived here for years—some for over 50 years—and they speak English? The Government do know how many people are affected, because the Home Office has written to tell them that they have to leave.

May we have a further statement updating the House on all the figures, and on whether the Cabinet Secretary should conduct an inquiry into the Department? What sort of Government throw a net using unassessed policy, rhetoric and ads to catch people who are here legally along with those who are here illegally? What sort of Government throw a net that catches the innocent with the guilty?

But there is more chaos in the Government. In the autumn Budget, the Chancellor promised that councils would be compensated for losses incurred as a result of changes to the “staircase tax”. Days later, a letter was written to council finance officers stating that the Government would not be compensating local authorities for any loss of income caused by the reversal of the tax. On Monday, legislation overturned the tax. May we have a statement on why the Government have U-turned, and are not honouring the expenditure that was committed by the Chancellor?

More chaos: the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has finally visited the Irish border, but he broke parliamentary protocol by failing to tell Mickey Brady. He said that it was

“an administrative oversight for which we are happy to apologise.”

Despite his being a prominent member of the Leave campaign, that was his first visit.

More chaos: EU negotiators have said that backstop plans to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Brexit will not work. Mr Rees-Mogg has described the Prime Minister’s plan for a “customs partnership” as “completely cretinous”, “impractical, bureaucratic”, and

“a betrayal of common sense”.

Had he said that here, Mr Speaker, you would have been on your feet telling that it was unparliamentary language.

Will the Leader of the House urge the Prime Minister to visit the border, and has she had a chance to work out when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will come here from the other place?

I join the Leader of the House in her congratulatory remarks about firsts for women. My hon. Friend Carolyn Harris has been elected Welsh Labour deputy leader, in Labour Wales, and I too was delighted to attend the unveiling of the statue of the suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett in Parliament Square—the first statue of a woman erected there—by another woman, Gillian Wearing. That was excellent, and we should thank Caroline Criado Perez and the Mayor of London for this important work of public art.

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

I join the hon. Lady in congratulating Carolyn Harris on her new appointment. That is fantastic news. It is excellent to hear of yet more achievements by women.

The hon. Lady asked about statutory instruments, and asked specifically about the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. Let me gently say to her that the Opposition were perhaps a little tardy in making their request for a debate; having prayed against the SI one month after it was laid, they then raised it during Business Questions for the first time on 29 March. By that stage it was already too late to schedule a debate within the praying period without changing last week’s business through an emergency business statement. We have now provided time for a debate as soon as possible, but on that occasion the Opposition’s request was not really a reasonable request with which the Government were able to comply. Let me also point out to Members that in the current Session the Government have already scheduled more negative statutory instruments for debate on the Floor of the House than have been scheduled in any previous Session since 1997. I assure the hon. Lady that we are working very hard to try to deliver on our obligations in this regard. She also asked for e-mail alerts about statutory instruments, and I will of course look into that on her behalf.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of Windrush. As I have said, it is a very serious and very regrettable unintended consequence of the intentions of many Governments over many years to try to limit and restrict illegal immigration. The Windrush generation are absolutely British, and it is absolutely the intention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to regularise their position as soon as she can, to get a grip on the issue, and to sort it out as soon as possible. As the hon. Lady will know, my right hon. Friend has just answered another urgent question on this very subject, and she will make further statements in due course.

The hon. Lady referred to the “staircase tax” Bill. There will be plenty of opportunities, as it passes through both Houses, for discussion of issues such as compensation. She mentioned notice of visits by members of the Government. Of course all Members should seek to give notice when they visit one another’s constituencies, but as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has said, this was an administrative oversight for which he has apologised.

The hon. Lady asked when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will come back to this place. I had the pleasure of visiting the other place to sit at the steps of the throne and hear the opening of Report stage. They are very interesting debates and take some time. The Bill is due to be back in this place in the next few weeks; the precise day will be announced through the usual channels.

Finally, I join the hon. Lady in congratulating all those involved in the work to unveil the fabulous statue of Millicent Fawcett.

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the future of the National Fund, which was established in 1927 by an anonymous donor? If a debate is held, I think the House would be pleased to learn when the money will be released and what it will be spent on.

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

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, about which I was not aware. The Attorney General’s office is working with the Charity Commission and the fund’s trustees to help resolve what is a legally very complicated matter. My hon. Friend might like to seek an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate to receive an update directly from Ministers.

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

May I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week and associate myself with all the remarks about suffrage and the raising of the statue of Millicent Fawcett?

Today is World Intellectual Property Day and I will have the great pleasure of hosting the annual parliamentary event to celebrate our inventors, creators and artists. Let us continue to grow our economy on the imagination of our people.

Are the Government going to come out to play in today’s debate on the customs union, or are they going to continue to contemptuously refuse to vote on non-Government business? I say to the Leader of the House that there is no running away from this issue. It will have to be confronted by this Government and it looks like they do not have a majority. All of the business community are saying that they want “a” or “the” customs union, yet the Government are in thrall to the Brexit nutters on their Back Benches, who still hold sway over them. Will the Leader of the House confirm that, if the Government are defeated, the will of the House will be respected?

This has been a black week for devolution. The will of the Scottish Parliament on large swathes of devolved areas is to be totally ignored, and last night we learned that even if we withhold our consent in the Scottish Parliament, it will be considered as consent anyway. No self-respecting Scottish parliamentarian worth his or her salt could sign up to that. There is still time, however, so will the Leader of the House say that nothing will be finally decided until Third Reading in the House of Lords, when this can, I hope, be resolved?

Lastly, the farce of English votes for English laws continues to profoundly embarrass this House. The only thing it seems to be good for nowadays is to give a bit of exercise to the Serjeant at Arms when he lowers then raises the Mace. There is no opportunity to speak on English votes for English laws. It is Dave’s daft legacy to this House—a stupid sop for an English voice that has never been raised. It has not worked and it shames this House. I say to the Leader of the House that enough is enough: get rid of this nonsensical process.

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

I join the hon. Gentleman in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day. He talked about the imagination of our people, and I certainly celebrate that: we are the most extraordinarily creative four nations, and we can be very proud of that.

The hon. Gentleman asked about today’s debate. As always, the Government will fully take part. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will lead on it and it will certainly be very interesting to hear views from right across the House, which always inform policy and help us to form conclusions as to what should be our approach.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the devolution settlement and the EU withdrawal Bill. Through the amendments to clause 11 the Government are seeking to devolve as many powers as possible to the devolved nations while ensuring that we keep the integrity of the UK internal market, which is worth almost £46 billion to the Scottish economy, approximately four times more than the value of exports to the European Union.

Finally, I genuinely do not understand why the hon. Gentleman keeps talking about English votes for English laws being a waste of time and a travesty. The point is to ensure that those matters that affect only English or English and Welsh voters and residents are voted on only by English and Welsh Members of Parliament. That is fair.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

May we have a statement next week to explain why single-lens reflex cameras have been forbidden in Westminster Hall?

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

My right hon. Friend raises a very interesting point. I shall have to look into it and come back to him.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee

Despite the fact that the Backbench Business Committee has a number of unheard debates on the stocks, it has been difficult to cajole hon. Members to air their debates on Thursday 3 May. There must be something happening outside in the country on that day, although I am not quite sure what it might be. It therefore falls to us to have a general debate on matters to be raised before the May Day Adjournment. I thank the Leader of the House for giving us that time on 3 May, but I hope that that will not prevent us from getting more time during that month for other debates to be aired. May we also have a debate or a statement in Government time on the strategy to upskill the population and workforce of this country? There has recently been a significant drop in the number of people being recruited into apprenticeships, and that coincides with the number of students doing degrees with the Open University falling by 74,000 between 2012 and the present day. What is going wrong with our strategy to upskill our population to meet the demands of the new technological age?

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

We always seek to give as much Back-Bench time as we can, because the hon. Gentleman has some very important debates going on and we seek to support them wherever possible. He also raised the issue of upskilling, and I can tell him that we have committed to reaching 3 million new apprenticeship starts in England by 2020, and that there are more than 1.2 million starts already. So we are in a good place and we seek to do more. With the new apprenticeship levy, we expect to see many more taken up in due course. We have also abolished the cap on student numbers in further and higher education, and record numbers—particularly of disadvantaged young people—are now going to university. I do not think we should be concerned about a failure to upskill our young people; to the contrary, there is an enormous improvement going on that we should all be proud of.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

The town of Montrose in my constituency is suffering from the impact of coastal erosion. The world-class golf course there is eroding hole by hole, and if the erosion continues at this pace, the town will be at risk of flooding. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should debate the impact of coastal erosion on our communities in the United Kingdom and discuss what we can do to alleviate it?

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

My hon. Friend is quite right to stress the importance of our coastal communities and the impact of coastal erosion. I am aware of the problems at Montrose golf club in her constituency, and of its request for help. She will recognise that this is a devolved matter, but in England we have committed nearly £1 billion to support defences against erosion and coastal flooding. She might want to seek an Adjournment debate, which might be answered by the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Dr Coffey, who is a fellow coastal constituency Member as well as being an Environment Minister.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The Leader of the House knows how precious business questions are to genuine Back Benchers. Will she try to do a little more to prevent us from being squeezed by so many statements on a Thursday? Also, may we have an early debate on the fact that three former Health Ministers have called for £50 billion more investment in the NHS? Many local hospitals, including mine in Huddersfield, are facing closure, and we are fighting that hard in the constituency. May we have an early debate on the closure of hospitals?

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

I am always delighted to see the hon. Gentleman in his place at business questions. We do have some good discussions here, and I am not sure that we ever really lose out. There are some good issues raised. I can tell him that the NHS now has over £14 billion more to spend on caring for people than it did in 2010. He will be aware that new plans will be brought forward for a long-term plan for the NHS, which is absolutely vital for the success of its future. Nevertheless, we are doing more, and there are almost 40,400 more clinical staff looking after patients now than there were in 2010.

Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe

My constituent Pamela Corbett is extremely poorly—how can I put it; time is of the essence—but power of attorney would not be appropriate in her case, which is not unusual. However, TSB has frozen her bank account, which has caused her and her daughters considerable distress. May we have a debate on how we can ensure that banks see the human being—the person—in such cases instead of having some over-bureaucratic process?

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

My right hon. Friend raises an important issue. I am aware that TSB’s chief executive was on the radio this morning to apologise for the awful service that customers have received over the past week and that he pledged to sort it out. My right hon. Friend is right that there are times when personal intervention is necessary to ensure that constituents can access their money, and I encourage her to seek a debate on the subject.

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

Acquired Brain Injury Week is coming up in a few weeks’ time, so may we have a debate on the condition in Government time, because it is a hidden epidemic that affects hundreds of thousands of families every year? It is not just about health; it is about the criminal justice system, the education system, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence. The Leader of the House is so nice, so will she—[Interruption.] Well, she supports my private Member’s Bill. Will she please ensure that we can have a debate in Acquired Brain Injury Week?

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

Flattery gets you everywhere.

I will, of course, be delighted to see what can be done, but I also encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek a Backbench Business debate, because he raises an important issue, as he has several times. I have a constituent who is in a permanent vegetative state as a result of being attacked and hitting his head. He is a relatively young man and the situation is absolutely appalling, so I am extremely sympathetic towards what the hon. Gentleman says.

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

A significant amount of construction has occurred in Colindale in my constituency over the past decade. While residential properties are welcome, many of the people who bought these leasehold properties now find themselves subject to crippling service and management charges. Will a Minister come to the Dispatch Box to say what the Government can do to control the situation, as they have done for ground rent?

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

My hon. Friend raises another important matter. Service charges must be fair and transparent, and there must be a clear route to redress when things go wrong. Consumers should be paying only for the services that they receive. I can tell him that we are establishing a working group on regulating letting and management agents with a remit to look into unfair fees and charges, and to set minimum standards for service charges through a statutory code of practice.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

When will we have the promised debate on the Government’s serious violence strategy?

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

The hon. Lady raises an incredibly serious point, as she often does, about the rise in certain types of crime, particularly knife crime. As I have said, I am talking with other business managers about whether we can find time for a debate, and there is a lot of sympathy towards that. The legislative agenda is busy, but she is absolutely right to raise the issue, which is of great concern, and we will seek to provide that time.

Photo of Antoinette Sandbach Antoinette Sandbach Conservative, Eddisbury

My constituent Sharon Hollman went through the devastating consequences of the suicide of her teenage son. It appears that safeguarding procedures were not followed by Kent County Council, so may I call for a debate about the safeguarding procedures that schools should have in place to ensure that children suffering from mental health difficulties get the support they need?

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 the issue. Everyone in the House is worried about young people’s mental health and the action being taken to support young people. My hon. Friend will be aware of the Government’s Green Paper on mental health in schools. We are bringing forward measures to improve support and training for schoolteachers, peer support, and child and adolescent mental health services, to try to address this appalling problem.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 1115, which was tabled by my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick and refers to Firefighters’ Memorial Day on 4 May?

[That this House joins with firefighters across the UK on Firefighters’ Memorial Day, on 4 May 2018, remembering the bravery and sacrifice of the 2,524 colleagues who have lost their life in the line of duty; extends its sympathies, especially on this memorial day, to all the bereaved families of fallen firefighters; acknowledges the good work of the Firefighters’ Memorial Trust in remembering and honouring all firefighters who have lost their life while serving humanity and recording their names on The Firefighters’ Memorial located close to St Paul’s Cathedral in London; applauds the commitment and selfless dedication of all UK firefighters who stand ready today and every day to risk their life to save others and protect their local communities from the consequences of fire, floods, terror attacks and numerous other emergency situations; and calls on Members of both Houses to join members of the Firefighters’ Memorial Trust and the Fire Brigades Union at the Firefighters’ Memorial, St Paul’s or to stand with firefighters at their nearest fire station to observe the minute silence at midday on 4 May 2018.]

Given the cuts to the fire service that are now biting deep in my area, where fire cover has been cut by 50%, may we have a debate on the fire service?

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

I pay tribute to the amazing work done by all firefighters—they really do make our lives so much safer and their prevention work is vital. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, luckily and fortunately, due to much greater fire prevention measures, the incidence of fire has dropped quite dramatically in recent years. Nevertheless, he is right to raise the issue of Firefighters Memorial Day and the importance of a debate on this matter. I suggest that he seeks an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

May we have a debate on energy security? The southern gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey, and then on to Greece and Italy, is shortly about to open and is a direct threat to the Russian monopoly of supply to Europe. May we therefore have a debate in Government time so we can debate the issues, and make sure that this gas pipeline is secure and operated by BP, a wonderful British company?

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

First, I wish my hon. Friend a very happy birthday. He raises an important point about energy security and I am pleased to say that gas security in the UK is strong. Nevertheless, the creation of new gas pipelines, and in particular the gas security of those in eastern Europe, is important. I encourage him to take this up at oral questions on 1 May.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

MPs from all parties have signed my letter about plastics pollution. Does the Leader of the House agree that now is a good time to have a debate in Government time on the action being taken across all industrial sectors, not just by supermarkets?

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 has been able to attract cross-party support. She will be aware that all hon. and right hon. Members are keen to see everything being done to reduce the amount of plastics in our environment. The 5p plastic bag charge that the Government introduced has reduced the incidence of plastic bags by around 9 billion. We have also created the blue belt around our overseas territories to protect our valuable marine areas. Many more measures are under way, and there will certainly be plenty of opportunities to discuss our plans to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

On Saturday, I will be in Immingham to attend a ceremony to mark Workers Memorial Day. Three events in north-east Lincolnshire are being organised by my constituent Herbert Styles, who does a tremendous job. Mr Styles was delighted when the day was officially recognised, but he would like it to receive more publicity. Will the Government look at putting more details on websites and the like? Perhaps publishers would then follow suit in diaries and so on. Will the Leader of the House consult other Departments and bring forward a statement?

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

My hon. Friend is a strong voice for his constituency. I commend his constituent, Herbert Styles, for the work he has done in organising these events in north-east Lincolnshire. The Government do recognise Workers Memorial Day, which is a poignant reminder of why it is vital to manage workplace health and safety risks. I am happy to promote it in any way that I can, and people will be delighted to hear my hon. Friend raising Workers Memorial Day in this House. Many people will have been listening to him.

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

Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Pontypool rugby club on its stunning achievement of going through an entire league season unbeaten? May we have a debate on the contribution that local rugby clubs make to our communities?

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

Now we are talking! Rugby is a much better sport than some others that get raised in this place. I only wish that Northampton Saints, my own club, could boast the same proud record. Of course I am delighted to congratulate Pontypool rugby club. Rugby is a fantastic sport. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek a debate, and I would be delighted to take part in it.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

My constituent Sarbast Hussain was told last year that his application to renew his British passport had been refused. Having fled Saddam’s Iraq before working for the Home Office for 15 years as an interpreter, he has now lost his business, his family are being split up and he is being treated like a criminal. May we have a debate in Government time on the waste of Home Office resource and how this injustice might be addressed?

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 the case that the hon. Lady raises. Members on both sides of the House often raise individual cases, and it is very valuable for our constituents that we are able to take up cases in which the rules have not been applied properly or when further information must be gleaned. I encourage the hon. Lady to take this up directly with Home Office Ministers or, if she would prefer to write to me, I can take it up with them on her behalf.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

New data released by the Trussell Trust this week shows that emergency food bank usage has increased by an average of 52% in areas of full universal credit roll-out. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in Government time so that we can prevent the roll-out from inflicting even more suffering on our communities?

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

I pay tribute to the work of food banks. The volunteers and those who donate to them do a fantastic job. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that food banks should not be necessary, but they have been a feature of our communities for a long time. All hon. Members must agree that, in terms of giving people an incentive to get into work and providing continued income once they do so, universal credit offers a valuable change to our benefits and the safety net for people who are looking for work. It has also had the impact of encouraging more people to look for work and find work. The Government continue to listen to ways in which we can improve the roll-out of universal credit, which is being done very slowly so that all lessons can be taken into account.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My constituent will reach state pension age in 2021, but she has only three years of contributions and thus will not qualify for any pension. That is because she spent her working years with her husband, a warden on a remote island with simply no employment opportunities, while jointly contributing to the married couple’s pension. May I request a debate on pension provision and people such as my constituent whose circumstances are exceptional?

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

The hon. Lady raises an important and worrying constituency case. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate in which she can raise it directly with Ministers. Alternatively, she can simply write to them—via me, or directly—and seek their answer regarding this very particular exceptional case.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

The debate on the Royal Bank of Scotland, latterly in the name of my hon. Friend Martin Whitfield, has twice been cancelled due to pressure on Government business. Will the Leader of the House rearrange the debate as a matter of urgency with the Backbench Business Committee so that constituents such Clive May, who has real grievances about the way in which he was treated by RBS, can get justice?

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

As I have said before in the House, I am very sorry that that very important debate has had to be cancelled not once but twice due to unforeseen circumstances. I am very keen to see it rescheduled, and I am working with business managers to ensure that the Backbench Business Committee has the time to reschedule it.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

May we have a debate in Government time on community transport? Badenoch and Strathspey community transport group is extremely concerned about proposals for new rules on operating permits. The Transport Committee has already warned of a devastating effect on the sector and communities.

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

The hon. Gentleman raises a devolved matter relating to community transport. I believe that we have Scotland questions in the near future, and I encourage him to raise the issue then.

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

Yesterday pupils at St Anthony’s Primary School told me that their local park had been vandalised by yobs. When I met the police last week, they told me about their frustrations when, for example, yobs with 19 breaches of criminal behaviour orders appear before the courts but no action is taken. May we please have a debate about why, since 2010, we do not seem to have been able to hold yobs to account for their actions in our communities?

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

I share the hon. Lady’s concern about antisocial behaviour in our communities. People find it incredibly disturbing and worrying if they cannot get away from appalling behaviour. I take issue with her suggestion that this has been a problem only since 2010; it has been a feature of our community for many years. The Government have done a lot to try to bring in antisocial behaviour orders and restraining orders, and police community support officers take an active part in reducing and preventing bad behaviour. The hon. Lady might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise her points directly with Ministers.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

I support the request from my hon. Friend Chris Elmore for a debate about universal credit. Notwithstanding the fact that the Leader of the House has been extraordinarily helpful, something like 80% of my constituency caseload is queries about the personal independence payment and universal credit. I know of a young couple with two children whose claim for universal credit was closed because of a missed appointment when the individual concerned was in hospital. I have a whole list of cases, but for reasons of brevity I will not go into them, so may we have a 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 has the option to raise individual matters directly with Ministers, as he knows. As for a debate, there have been a number in this place. There will be further opportunities, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate on those specific matters.

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

This is a long sentence, Mr Speaker. I recently met Dewsbury Soup, a wonderful group in my constituency that has a simple concept: attendees pay a small donation, receive a bowl of soup and then listen to pitches for funding from inspiring local projects; and then the pitches are voted on and the winner receives the donations. May we have a debate on how we better support innovative local organisations such as Dewsbury Soup?

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

I congratulate the hon. Lady for pausing for breath in the middle of her lengthy sentence and join her in congratulating that organisation. That sounds like a fantastic concept. Much more of that should be done around the country, and I am absolutely sure that she will find a way to continue to raise it in this place.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs)

The Leader of the House will be aware of concerns about Government cuts to bereavement support payments, which will force many widows and widowers to increase their working hours at the same time as they are trying to cope with the loss of a partner and their children are trying to cope with the loss of a parent. Does she agree that this is an issue on which the House should have further debate?

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

I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that we need to do everything that we can to support bereaved families while balancing the need to provide good value for the taxpayer, who has to foot the bill for benefits. The hon. Lady might like to seek an Adjournment so that she can raise the matter directly with Ministers.

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

This week it was announced that Plymouth Studio School will close. Parents have raised concerns about not receiving enough evidence and not being consulted, so may we have a debate on Plymouth Studio School’s closure before Ministers sign off the closure order?

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

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the matter in this House. I encourage him to seek an urgent Adjournment debate so that he can raise it directly with Ministers.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader

I was very concerned to hear the Home Secretary say that MPs across the House have been overwhelmingly positive about the UK Visas and Immigration hotline service. Given that Ged Killen and Mr Lammy have tabled written questions about it, and that my hon. Friend Pete Wishart has written to the Minister for Immigration to set out our concerns about the service, will the Leader of the House ensure that the Home Secretary comes back to the House and explains in an oral statement what she meant?

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

My experience as a constituency Member is that the MPs’ hotline for UKVI is very efficient and effective, but if hon. Members have problems with it, they should raise them with the Home Office. There will be plenty of opportunities, including in next week’s Opposition day debate, to speak to Home Office Ministers directly.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I welcome the long-overdue pay awards for NHS staff, but may we have an urgent debate on the effect of the proposed NHS pay increases on voluntary sector hospices?

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 glad that more than a million NHS workers will benefit from the new pay deal. Of course, we are all incredibly grateful for the amazing work done by the hospice movement, and if she has specific concerns about the relative pay scales, she might want to raise them directly at Health questions on 8 May.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Since 2015, City of York Council has built zero social housing and commissioned zero social housing, so may we have a debate about disaggregating social housing from affordable housing?

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

The hon. Lady raises a very concerning local constituency point, but on the bigger point about affordable housing and social housing, she will be aware that affordable housing is roughly 80% of the normal market cost and social housing roughly 40%. That is the differentiation, but she may seek to raise the matter at oral questions or seek an Adjournment debate to clarify the distinction directly with Ministers.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I knew you would not forget about me.

Right now, in Glasgow, people are injecting heroin on waste ground and in dirty back lanes and bin shelters. My ten-minute rule Bill, which would amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to allow for supervised drug consumption facilities, is published today. The proposal is backed by Glasgow City Council and a majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament. May we have a debate in Government time about treating drug misuse as a public health issue?

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

The hon. Lady, as she often does, raises a very important issue about drug misuse. She is right to raise it and I congratulate her on bringing forward her private Member’s Bill but, nevertheless, she will appreciate that if she wishes to seek a debate further to that which she will have on her Bill, she should probably apply for an Adjournment debate or raise the matter directly with Ministers.