Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:41 am on 24th May 2018.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:41 am, 24th May 2018

“Dear Pot… Yours, Kettle” springs to mind. The hon. Lady asked me to be swifter in making the business statement and then said that she would waffle on for ever—and she did.

The hon. Lady asks about the business that was discussed, and I made it very clear that I aim to bring back the very important Brexit legislation within weeks. She will know that in this place discussions take place and the business is announced through very long-standing conventions through the usual channels, and that is indeed the case on this occasion. There has been no announcement to any committee through any private meeting. There has not been any announcement.

Secondly, the hon. Lady asks about the customs arrangements, and she will be aware that the discussions are ongoing. The Government have been very clear that we are seeking the best possible deal for the United Kingdom and for our EU friends and neighbours as we leave the European Union. That we will continue to do. It means that we are constantly considering the best alternatives with the best information that is available at the time. We will continue to do that, because, rather than playing politics with it, trying to score points day in, day out and undermining the will of the people, the Government are determined to ensure that we get the best possible deal that we can.

The hon. Lady asks about the economy, and she suggests that it is struggling, so she might like to welcome the fact that employment is up to another record high, unemployment is down to a 40-year low, real wages are rising, and UK exports rose by nearly 10% in the last year to a new record high. She might like to welcome the fact that the highest growth in investment spending in the G7 last year came to the United Kingdom. She might like to welcome the fact that our day-to-day spending is in surplus for the first time in 16 years, and certainly since her Government were in power in 2001 and 2002. She might also like to welcome the lowest net borrowing in over a decade. I am sure that she will not welcome any of those things, but what we on this side of the House focus on is giving more people the security of a job and a pay packet to give themselves and their families a better life.

Also, the hon. Lady talks about inequality and how unfair life is, and she might like to welcome the national living wage, introduced by this Government. Last month, we increased the national living wage by 4.4%—inflation busting and the equivalent of an annual pay rise of more than £2,000 for a full-time worker since its introduction. She might like to welcome the fact that basic rate taxpayers are £1,000 better off than in 2010 as a direct result of our changes to the personal tax-free allowance. She might also like to welcome the fact that the basic state pension is now more than £1,450 a year higher than it was in 2010. But as I say, I do not expect the hon. Lady to welcome the real improvements in people’s lives under a Conservative Government that balances the need to keep the economy in good shape with the ability to pay for public services.

The hon. Lady asks about the legislative programme. What I can say to her is that 31 Bills have been introduced so far, 17 of which have been sent for Royal Assent. Hundreds of statutory instruments have been passed by each House. Seven draft Bills have been published and there are six Brexit Bills before Parliament at this time. That is not by any means a small legislative programme. Perhaps the hon. Lady simply has not noticed.

As for the post office counter, as I said last week to my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis, I am delighted to take up the issue of the its opening times. I have already asked the chief executive of the House authorities to respond to Members who want to raise the issue and to ensure that when services to Members are under question, consultation takes place with all Members. I hope that I have answered all the hon. Lady’s lengthy questions.