Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 11:42 am on 14th June 2018.

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Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:42 am, 14th June 2018

May I start by congratulating the Clerk of the House on his knighthood?

Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?

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

I certainly share the hon. Lady’s pleasure at the award to the Clerk of the House.

The business for next week will include:

Monday 18 June—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Canada Trade Agreement) Order 2018, followed by a motion to approve European documents relating to EU trade agreements: EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, followed by a general debate on acquired brain injury.

Tuesday 19 JuneOpposition day (14th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 20 June—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, followed by a general debate on NATO.

Thursday 21 June—Debate on a motion on the importance of refugee family reunion, followed by a debate on a motion on the future of the Erasmus+ scheme after 2020. The subjects of these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 22 JuneThe House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 25 June will include:

Monday 25 June—Remaining stages of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords]. The shocking and heartbreaking scenes a year ago today at Grenfell Tower will stay with us all forever. That night, 72 lives were tragically lost, and the lives of so many were changed forever. The strength, dignity and determination shown by the survivors and the families of all those affected have been truly inspiring, and I pay tribute to them all.

Our overwhelming priority over the past year, and going forward, is to ensure that the survivors of this terrible event get the homes and the support they need and the truth and justice they deserve. A minute’s silence will be held across the United Kingdom at 12 noon today in remembrance of all those who lost their lives and all others who were affected. We will not forget them.

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

Just before we proceed to questions, I wish to say this: I thank very warmly the shadow Leader of the House and then the Leader of the House for what they said by way of tribute to the Clerk of the House, Sir David Natzler. For those who do not know—many will be aware of this—David joined the House in 1975 and he has served with distinction and without interruption for 43 years, and we look forward to him continuing to serve us. In serving us, he applies his intellect and his energy to facilitate the House and he does so with the keenest and most admirable spirit of public service. David, you are much appreciated in this place.

In reference to what the Leader of the House very appositely said about Grenfell, a lot of Members will want to take part in the minute’s silence, and a number of Members will be taking part in commemorative activity much later today.

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

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the tribute to Sir David. We are used to using the “Sir” after his name, but now we will have to move it to before.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I am glad that we are having another Opposition day, and pleased that she thinks the Opposition can fill in the gaps in the Business of the House.

I have a gentle reminder to the Leader of the House. She may want to let the House know when we will have an updated draft of the list of ministerial responsibilities, as there has been a change in Home Secretary and another resignation by a Minister. We also have a Foreign Secretary who says that negotiations are in meltdown; that the Government lack guts; and that he wants the leader of another country to negotiate—that sounds like no confidence in the Prime Minister. We then have a Brexit Secretary who threatened to resign until he got his backstop—I thought we only had backstops in rounders. She may want to keep the list of ministerial responsibilities in draft form.

The Government said that the White Paper sets out their negotiating position, but there is no White Paper. The House of Commons Library has confirmed that no one has any information about the content or the title of the White Paper, except that it will be published after the meeting of the European Council on 28 and 29 June, which therefore means that it will be in July. It is like the emperor’s new clothes: the Government are strutting about saying that we are negotiating, but there is nothing in it. When will the White Paper be published with content?

Will the Leader of the House confirm whether the subcommittees looking at the customs agreement, or a customs partnership, are still meeting? I ask that because she will know that the amendment that was agreed yesterday referred to a customs arrangement, so it seems that there is a name but no content.

The Prime Minister said at Prime Minister’s Question Time that the Government have a position and that it needs parliamentary support. That is not the constitutional role of Parliament as I understand it. The previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, understood the role of Parliament. On 29 August 2013, he said with regard to military action that, even without a motion, it was very clear that

“the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”—[Official Report, 29 August 2013;
Vol. 566, c. 1556.]

So Parliament can direct the Government; this is a parliamentary democracy.

What is going on in the rest of the country? This week is Carers Week, and many hon. Members attended the event in the Attlee Suite. There are 6.5 million carers in the UK, saving the economy £132 billion a year. When can we have a debate on the future of social care funding? I congratulate the founders of John’s Campaign, who have been fighting since 2014 for the right of carers to stay with people with dementia. Nicci Gerrard’s father, Dr John Gerrard, had dementia; his family faced restricted visiting hours and he deteriorated. Together with Julia Jones and Francis Wheen, they presented the chief nursing officer for England with a book of pledges by NHS acute trusts that allowed unrestricted visiting hours. It reminds me of the words of Margaret Mead, who said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

They should be congratulated on their personal efforts.

Will the Leader of the House schedule a debate on students? There were 146 student suicides in 2016—the highest in records going back to 2001. Perhaps she could combine it with a debate on the report on tuition fees by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which found that the student loan book will grow to over £1 trillion over the next 25 years. Interest rates are set to rise to set to rise to 6.3%, but the Committee has suggested that they should be at the same rate—1.5%—that the Government use when they borrow. The report says that the system of fees and loans is “deeply unfair”. For instance, nurses will pay back £19,000 more than lawyers.

May we have a debate on our early-day motion 1383 that we tabled on 12 June, praying against the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018, which seek to hand over large amounts of student data to various unaccountable organisations.

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018 (S.I., 2018, No. 607), dated 21 May 2018, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23 May, be annulled.]

As the Leader of the House and you, Mr Speaker, have said, today marks the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. We remember the 72 people who lost their lives, the survivors and the families.

This Saturday is the second anniversary of the death of our dear friend and colleague Jo Cox. We know that a number of our colleagues in this House are facing threats to their lives, and we stand by them.

As England play Tunisia on Monday, I hope that the House will join me in remembering three generations of Walsall football club fans—Joel Richards aged 19, his uncle Adrian Evans and his grandfather Patrick Evans—who died in the attack in Tunisia three years ago.

On a happier note, there is still time to arrange an EqualiTeas event, to remind us of the journey that women have taken from behind the grille to the Floor of the House.

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 covering a wide range of subjects.

First, on the list of ministerial responsibilities, it will not be lost on the hon. Lady that her party appears to be dropping Front Benchers like flies. I gather that yesterday’s total was six, which is a great shame, but not only that: there were also 90 rebellions against the Labour Whip. That demonstrates how very unfortunate the Opposition are on the subject of fulfilling the will of the people in the referendum of June 2016. The hon. Lady will appreciate that Walsall voted overwhelmingly to leave, so she may consider whether she is fulfilling the democratic will of the people of Walsall.

I certainly join the hon. Lady in remembering her constituents who died in Tunisia. It was an absolute tragedy. In doing so, at this time of great excitement about football, I wish the England team great success in their adventure.

The hon. Lady asks about the White Paper. The Prime Minister said it all. We will bring forward the White Paper after the June Council. July comes after June; need we say more? The negotiations are well under way. As the hon. Lady will know, it is for the Executive—the Government of the day—to put forward proposals for legislation. It is then for Parliament to amend and, ultimately, approve or reject that legislation. That is how Parliament works. I am surprised that the hon. Lady has any doubt about that.

During Carers Week, I join the hon. Lady in commending all those who do so much to care for friends and family. She also mentioned the appalling issue of student suicides. The situation is utterly unacceptable. She will be aware that the Government are doing everything we can to look at the issue, particularly regarding what more can be done to prevent the harm that is being caused by appalling abuse on social media.

The hon. Lady mentioned threats to colleagues. Mr Speaker, as you and I said on Tuesday in response to a point of order, threats of violence to hon. and right hon. Members across the House are utterly unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I encourage any Members who are experiencing such abuse and threats to go to the parliamentary police service, who will monitor social media and take action where they possibly can to prevent this type of violence against Members.

Finally, the hon. Lady asked when there will be a debate on the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018. She will be aware that, as ever, business is announced on a Thursday in business questions. We have been doing that for some time, and it is the convention that when the Opposition request a debate through the usual channels with reasonable notice, that debate will be forthcoming.

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on illegal encampments? Yet again, so-called Travellers, which they absolutely are not, have turned up in public spaces and parks in Essex and areas such as Southend, causing havoc and at a cost to the council tax payer. I know the consultation is about to finish, but I hope the Government will look very carefully at the recommendation by our right hon. Friend Mr Francois to go for the Irish option.

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

My hon. Friend raises an issue that is vital to lots of hon. and right hon. Members, particularly at this time of year when the pressure rises because the incidence of illegal encampments rises. He will recall, I am sure, that Members have had the opportunity to discuss this issue in three parliamentary debates in the last year. The Government are very concerned about unauthorised Traveller encampments and their effect on communities, and the consultation, which I hope he has fed into, will remain open until 15 June.

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 next week. I echo her sentiments about the victims of Grenfell, and I congratulate you, Sir David, on your very well-deserved knighthood.

There are weeks when you get a sense that the tectonic plates have shifted and things will never be the same again—and no, I am not referring to Scotland beating England at cricket. The people of Scotland have been observing this place very closely this week. They have seen this Government disrespecting our Parliament and treating its institutions with utter contempt, with 19 minutes to turn the devolution settlement on its head—19 minutes in which no Member of Parliament from Scotland was selected to speak. Those were amendments designed in the unelected House of Lords, and we the Members of Parliament elected by the people of Scotland have had no opportunity to debate them. What sort of democracy is on offer in this House?

I warned the Leader of the House about giving—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, look at the Government Back Benchers braying and shouting, just as they did yesterday; it is no wonder the people of Scotland are appalled by their behaviour. I warned the Leader of the House about giving sufficient time for debate, and she singularly refused to listen. She has to take responsibility for what happened the other day. She is in charge of business. I do not want to hear anything about Labour Members taking up the time for votes. Yes, they have the tactical guile of the Foreign Secretary at an ambassador’s ball, but they can vote on what they wish. It was she who designed that programme motion, and it was she who had to make sure that time was protected for debate.

Surely now the time has come for us to stop the practice of going round and round in circles for a headcount vote. Over two-and-a-half hours were wasted standing in cramped Lobbies when we should have been in this Chamber debating important issues to do with the repeal legislation. Nothing could be more useless and counterproductive, and we must end this nonsense.

Lastly, the people of Scotland are now watching fully the events here, and more and more of them are saying, “Enough.” If this is the way Westminster treats Scotland, Scotland will make its own decisions about its own future.

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. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the Leader of the House will want to respond fully to his inquiries, and the opportunity for that will arise shortly. However, it seems to me that it would be seemly for us to prepare for our one-minute silence.

We shall now observe a one-minute silence in respectful memory of those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire a year ago today. I had been intending to invite all present to join us in this commemorative silence, but it has not proved necessary to do so because everybody is so minded.

The House observed a minute’s silence.

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

In the light of what happened at Grenfell, it hardly seems right to dive straight back into debate. Nevertheless, that is what we must do.

I thank Pete Wishart for his comments, and I of course accept his right to challenge in every way in this Chamber. I say to him that the Government’s programme motion, which was approved by the House—by 321 votes to 304—provided six hours in total, with three hours for each set of amendments. As you said, Mr Speaker, there was no constitutional or procedural impropriety. It was up to Members, if they did not like the programme motion, to defeat it. There were 11 votes, which took about two hours and 40 minutes, leaving very little time for the devolution amendments the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It was of course a matter for the House to choose to divide on a number of issues that were broadly similar to one another, each of which was won by the Government with a double-digit majority.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the lack of debate in general on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I say to him that, prior to the 12 hours of debate on the Bill this week, Parliament had collectively spent 258 hours debating the Bill, including a total of 15 hours on the subject of devolution, so it is simply not the case that there has been no debate on this matter. Across both Houses, 1,390 amendments have been tabled, of which 1,171 were non-Government amendments. There has been an enormous amount of debate, and there continues to be a huge amount of debate.

On the subject of the Sewel convention, I say to all SNP Members that we have followed the spirit and letter of the devolution settlement at every stage of the process. The devolution settlement itself envisaged situations in which the UK Parliament might be required to legislate without the consent of a devolved Administration. On this issue for the UK, we have sought to work closely with—[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. This is rather unseemly. To be fair, Pete Wishart asked a question and the Leader of the House is in the process of answering it, so he should not be conducting a side discussion with some Government Back Bencher. [Interruption.] Somebody says it is “uncouth”. I am always rather gentle and understated, so I would not say that. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire is still doing it; it is a rather obsessive characteristic of his. Let us hear the reply of the Leader of the House.

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

The hon. Gentleman did tweet at 10.37 am to ask all his followers to watch the business question, so he obviously had something in store for us.

I would like to finish the point. The Government have tried very hard to reach agreement with all the devolved Administrations. Since the Scottish Government walked away from an agreement, they have offered no new proposals to try to bridge the gap. Their demand for a veto on how the UK internal market operates is just not acceptable, and that is never how devolution was intended to work.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

May I associate myself with the remarks about Sir David? It is a welcome recognition of his distinguished service to the House. May I also say what a privilege it was to stand here and mark the deep sorrow we all feel about Grenfell? It sends a wider message to the wider world.

May I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on emissions reductions? If we were to be granted one, it might be helpful for Members to know that the all-party group on electric and automated vehicles, in partnership with AXA, will be demonstrating a pod in the space opposite Old Palace Yard on 20 June—next Wednesday—between 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock. The pod was produced by Westfield Technology Group, a British company, and can show us how to proceed towards the Chancellor’s avowed target of having the first driverless cars on British roads by 2021.

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

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise such a crucial issue of our time. I am pleased to say that emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides fell by almost 27% between 2010 and 2016. The Government have published a new clean air strategy that aims to cut air pollution and save lives, and of course we are currently passing legislation on automated vehicles that will place us at the forefront of clean driving. I am proud, too, of our commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it in.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee

The estimates day debates are forthcoming. We believe the dates will be something like 2 and 3 July. Applications for debate slots—there will be four over the two days—should be submitted to the Clerk of the Backbench Business Committee by lunchtime tomorrow. A time-sensitive application has also come in. The Government launched their tobacco control plan on 18 July 2017, and we hope there will be a Backbench Business debate on 19 July to debate its anniversary. That application is sitting with us at the moment.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Great Exhibition of the North, which launches on 22 June—next Friday—in Newcastle and Gateshead, with the great opening ceremony happening on the Gateshead side of the river. At the moment, however, we have a problem with rail services in the north of England. Many people wanting to get to the venues for the exhibition will have to rely on Northern Rail and TransPennine Express—I hope it stays fine for them—but the services are dreadful at the moment. Last Sunday, I travelled from Newcastle to Southport for a speaking engagement and it took me almost six hours. It can be done in two and half hours by car. We need urgent intervention so that people can actually get to the exhibition.

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

First, may I say good luck to all those taking part in the Great Exhibition of the North? It sounds like an amazing opportunity for local businesses and the community to come together. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Transport Secretary is doing everything possible to sort out the appalling situation with Northern Rail, and he believes and is reporting that the situation is improving. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that the great north rail project means an investment of more than £1 billion designed to deliver space for 40,000 more passengers and over 2,000 more services a week, but nevertheless there can be no excuses for what has happened in recent weeks, which has been just appalling. I also heard his bid for a Back-Bench debate on tobacco on 19 July, and I particularly commend the Backbench Business Committee for this afternoon’s very important debate on Windrush.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

Further to the question from my hon. Friend Sir David Amess, and in advance of any future debate, in the light of the end of the consultation tomorrow, will my right hon. Friend encourage the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to come to the House to inform us about what support he has received for the so-called Irish option of making deliberate trespass a criminal offence?

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

I know my hon. Friend will have plenty of support from across the House for his suggestion, which originally came from my right hon. Friend Mr Francois. I am sure the Minister will come to the House in due course, once the consultation is closed, with further ideas on what more can be done. I draw the attention of hon. Members to Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday, where they may wish to raise this issue directly with Ministers.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

Six months ago, Carillion went bust and work stopped on the Midland Metropolitan Hospital. It still has not restarted. This week I received a parliamentary answer from a Health Minister turning down a proposal because it involved additional public capital input. Frankly, if Ministers think they will be able to finish this hospital without putting up more cash, they are living in cloud cuckoo land. May we have a debate or a statement from the Health Secretary to tell us when he is going to stop dithering and start building?

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

The right hon. Gentleman raises a very specific project. I can absolutely sympathise: we are all keen to see new hospitals and improved hospitals in our constituencies. Health and Social Care questions are next Tuesday, so he may want to raise the issue directly with Ministers then.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

As my right hon. Friend might be aware, today’s newspapers report that Stracathro Hospital in my constituency is being considered for closure. That is of great concern to my constituents. Only recently, the Scottish National party Government in Edinburgh closed the mental health unit in Stracathro, which was of great use to my constituents. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that we can debate in this place the importance of keeping health services provided locally and indeed rural services as a whole?

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

My hon. Friend, who is a big champion for her constituency, raises another local hospital issue. As she rightly says, this is a matter for the Scottish Government and NHS Tayside. I understand that written assurances were given earlier this year by both the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and NHS Tayside’s chief executive that there was no threat to her hospital. She might like to seek a Westminster Hall debate to discuss this further, or of course there are Health questions next Tuesday.

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

As I have said on a number of occasions, I am absolutely supportive of the need for new parents to have that essential time to form an early bond with their babies. I am very grateful to the Procedure Committee, which has tried to look at what is quite a significant constitutional change—[Interruption.] As the hon. Lady and other Opposition Members are pointing out, they are themselves members of the Procedure Committee. I am extremely grateful to them for their work on trying to address these issues. They will appreciate that this requires quite a significant constitutional change. It is important to ensure we have the right solution that provides parents with that opportunity to be with their babies. I intend to bring forward a general debate within the next few weeks to inform a broader range of discussion that will enable me to respond to the Procedure Committee’s report. I believe that is due by 15 July.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

The Leader of the House has previously met my requests for debates on acquired brain injury and on knife crime and encouraged me in my campaign for nuclear test veterans, so mindful of my earlier question on Network Rail felling trees, may I turn her attention to the local authorities that, irrespective of emissions, in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Sheffield are felling thousands of trees, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England tells us that greedy developers are building on land from Howard’s End to Watership Down? Will she ask the Environment Secretary to turn his brilliance, shining a light, on how we can build a sylvan future of hedges and haymaking, forests and fields? I want no less for the next generation—as I know you do, Mr Speaker—than Arcadia.

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

I love the way that my right hon. Friend puts his questions and tempts me to always deliver on his requests, which is a very clever way of approaching business questions. He will appreciate that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is totally committed, as was I when I was doing that job, to improving our environment and to being the first generation that leaves our environment in a better state than we found it in. That means ensuring many millions more trees are planted and that we protect those precious trees, including those that are on Network Rail land. Housing, Communities and Local Government questions are on Monday. He might like to raise his specific point directly with Ministers then.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation)

Mr Speaker, although I know you did not hear the taunt shouted at my right hon. Friend Ian Blackford in this place on Tuesday, people in Motherwell and Wishaw did hear the word “suicide” yelled across the Chamber. The families and friends of the far too many young men in and around my constituency who have recently committed suicide were rightly appalled—as am I. My office is arranging suicide awareness training for local parliamentarians, their staff and local organisations. Will the Leader of the House liaise with the appropriate House authorities to provide such training to all Members?

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

I am not aware of the specific circumstances that the hon. Lady raises, but I would say—and I am sure you would say, Mr Speaker—that language in the Chamber is a matter for the Chair. Nevertheless, Mr Speaker and I have both made clear that unacceptable language—threatening, violent and offensive language—should not be used at any time, let alone in the Chamber. What I can say to the hon. Lady is that cross-party a number of us are working on an independent complaints procedure that will change the culture in this place and ensure that all people who work here, regardless of their position and what they do in this place, will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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

As I think Marion Fellows knows—and I respect her sincerity and the force of what she has just said—I indicated earlier in the week that I simply did not hear the term used at the time. However, I emphasised, once it was brought to my attention, that I utterly deprecated it. It is not a term that should be bandied about in the spirit of political polemics. As the hon. Lady says, it is something that touches a lot of people very deeply. I echo what the Leader of the House says: we should weigh our words carefully.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

May we have an urgent debate on the Home Office’s very welcome but seriously overdue commitment to move to a fairer funding formula for the police? Back in 2004, damping was brought in, which means that many police forces such as Bedfordshire received millions of pounds less than the national funding formula says they should get. In Bedfordshire, that equates to 90 police officers. May I ask the Leader of the House to convey to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, as well as to the Home Secretary, the real anger on this issue of the people of Bedfordshire at the way their police force is underfunded by this unfair issue of damping?

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

My hon. Friend raises something in which many Members take a great interest. The Home Office will be looking again at the funding formula in the next spending review to provide all police leaders with the financial certainty they need. Following the 2018-19 settlement, the Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner has announced that she will increase officer numbers by at least 100 over the next two years. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government will listen very carefully to all forces and reflect on all evidence before taking funding decisions.

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

The Leader of the House will know that we had a fantastic year in Hull as the UK city of culture last year. However, despite a strong police presence in recent weeks, the scourge of individuals who are addicted to the synthetic drug, spice, and walking round the city centre in a zombie-like state is causing real problems for citizens who want to go about their daily lives shopping there. Today, the BBC is reporting that this negative publicity has resulted in businesses not investing in the city, including Pret a Manger not opening a branch. May we have a debate about what additional enforcement action we need, and also about how the cuts to public health budgets are affecting drug treatment services around the country?

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

The hon. Lady always speaks up for Hull, and I am always delighted to congratulate Hull on its success as the city of culture. She raises an incredibly concerning issue that is affecting many communities right across the country—the increased use of psychoactive substances. It is a major problem. Through the serious violence strategy, the Home Office, with police officers, are looking very carefully at what more can be done. All hon. Members will be aware of the recent spike in drug-related crime, which is a very grave issue. The hon. Lady may well want to raise the issue at Home Office questions so that she can discuss it directly with Ministers.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Next Thursday is the International Day of Yoga. We have a series of events for Members, including open-air yoga in Victoria Gardens and yoga in Committee Room 14—and, I believe, in a Committee Room in the House of Lords. You might choose, Mr Speaker, to exercise another sanction on Members who get excited in the Chamber on that day. May we have a debate in Government time on the beneficial aspects of yoga for health and wellbeing?

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

I cannot quite imagine the prospect of you, Mr Speaker, requiring hon. Members to stand on one leg, perhaps, or in other yoga positions in the Chamber in response to poor behaviour, but it would be quite amusing and I am sure the public would find it highly entertaining. My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. I know that many people find yoga incredibly relaxing and it is of great benefit to their general wellbeing. He may well want to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can promote it to Ministers.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

My Easterhouse constituent, Mr Tabogo, is currently in an immigration detention centre near Heathrow airport, with the idea of moving him back to Cameroon where he will face a military court. As a result of his being removed from Scotland, he does not have access to legal aid—a similar position to people in Northern Ireland. May we have a statement in Government time about this absolutely ridiculous situation?

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

The hon. Gentleman is raising, as he often does, a concerning constituency matter. I encourage him to take it up directly with Ministers, who seek to ensure that our immigration system is fair to those who want to come here and contribute to this country but is robust in dealing with those who are here illegally. If he wants me to take it up on his behalf, then could he please write to me after business questions?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

There is a rather arbitrary proposal by the Mayor of London to extend the low-emission zone to the north circular road. Without any exemptions, my constituents in Chingford will find it very difficult to get to their hospital without having to pay vast sums of money to go back and forth and into local communities. We need to look at exemptions for local travellers. May we have a debate about this?

While we are on the subject of Chingford, with your blessing, Mr Speaker, I want to wish Harry Kane the greatest good luck. He is the greatest striker in the world and happens also to be a Chingford boy, thus one of our own.

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

My right hon. Friend raises two very important points. I certainly join him in wishing Harry Kane the best of luck.

My right hon. Friend is right to raise the subject of the Mayor’s plans for low-emission zones in London. I know that there are grave concerns about the Mayor’s tendency to take credit for things that go well and blame central Government when anything is not going his way. It is for him to take action against the appalling air quality in certain parts of London, but it is also for him to facilitate the ability of innocent citizens to go about their daily business, whether for work or to hospital and so on. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that challenge to the Mayor.

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

As an Arsenal fan, I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that I hugely look forward to Harry Kane deploying his brilliance for England, much more than I ever look forward to him deploying his brilliance for Tottenham. He is a great player and a great representative of our country.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend Melanie Onn and I have been campaigning for the visa cap on doctors that is affecting recruitment to North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust to be lifted so that patients needing treatment from these people can get it sooner rather than later. There is speculation that this change is about to happen. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will come to this House shortly and announce that it is taking place?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. We all want the excellent work of many immigrant medical professionals who come to this country and contribute so much to our NHS to be able to continue. I can assure him that this House will receive that announcement as soon as there is something to announce.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

This week, Guide Dogs for the Blind has led a very important and effective campaign in Westminster aiming to put an end to the problem of pavement parking and street obstructions. As this affects constituents right across the country, and certainly in Brecon and Radnorshire, may we have a debate on the perils of pavement parking and how we can stop this problem?

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 issue. We all know that parking on pavements causes serious problems for pedestrians, and particularly for anybody in a wheelchair, with a pushchair, or with a visual impairment. Local authorities already have powers to prohibit pavement parking by making traffic regulation orders. They can also use bollards to physically protect pavements. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is gathering evidence on pavement parking and the effectiveness of the current regulatory frameworks, and it will consider what more can be done.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade Unions and Workers' Rights)

May I refer the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1397?

[That this House congratulates South West Arts and Music Project (SWAMP) Glasgow on its recent award of £91,300 from the Scottish Government Empowering Communities Fund; notes that the organisation is an SQA Approved Centre using accredited outreach in gardening, film, music, digital and technologies, and demonstrates how the creative arts can enable and empower social change; further notes that SWAMP has empowered many young people in the South West of Glasgow and helped them find work, and that creative industry plays a key role in assisting young people into work; and wishes SWAMP continuing success in its new premises in Brockburn Road, Glasgow.]

The EDM congratulates South West Arts and Music Project in my constituency on a £91,000 grant from the Scottish Government. May we have a debate in Government time on the creative industries and their importance to the economy, particularly in finding young people employment?

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

I think that all right hon. and hon. Members would share the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for the creative industries and the benefits that they give to communities, and particularly to young people in finding work. He has raised the achievement of his community, and I congratulate them on that. We have Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions next week, and he might want to raise the issue with Ministers directly.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

Two and a half years ago, 22-year-old Thomas Demaine was tragically killed in a car accident. His post-mortem revealed that he had an enlarged and dilated heart. He became one of 12 people under the age of 35 who die every week because of undiagnosed cardiac conditions. Before his death, Thomas attended Bodmin College in my constituency. Thomas’s family are now campaigning for young people to have access to free cardiac screening. May I ask for a debate on this issue so that we can bring up the merits of introducing free cardiac screening for young people?

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

I am truly sorry to hear such a sad story. I commend my hon. Friend, and also Thomas’s family and friends, for the work that they are doing to highlight this tragic issue. The UK National Screening Committee is looking at the evidence on screening for the major causes of sudden cardiac death in young people. An evidence review document will be developed and will publicly consulted on later this year.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Shadow Minister (International Trade)

Last week, I was honoured to receive an award from the road safety charity, Brake, because of my work, alongside many others in this Chamber, on pushing the Government to implement tougher sentences for dangerous drivers. Will the Leader of the House answer a simple question that she failed to answer last week: on what date will this important legislation come into force?

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

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her award and pay tribute to all the work she has done to try to prevent dangerous driving from being the scourge that it is. She will appreciate that dangerous driving has been decreasing over many years; we are finding fewer deaths on our roads. I cannot give her a specific date, but if she wants to write to me, I can ask Ministers to provide a response to her directly.

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

My right hon. Friend will be aware that highland games season is now upon us, and from Drumtochty to Aboyne, Lonach, Braemar and Ballater, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine boasts the best Highland games in the country. I invite the Leader of the House to my constituency to attend the games, and will she grant a debate in Government time about the importance of these fantastic events to the economy of north-west Scotland?

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

Another outing to the highlands sounds like great fun, and I would be delighted to attend and take part—I am sure there would be some sport I could turn my hand to. I congratulate all those who take part in the fantastic highland games for which Scotland is known throughout the world, and I am sure my hon. Friend will find other opportunities to raise the success of those games in this place.

Photo of Hugh Gaffney Hugh Gaffney Labour, Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Will the Leader of the House make a statement on the rising cost of fuel at garage pumps, which is having a big effect on working families?

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

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Government sought to get rid of the fuel duty escalator that was put in place by the previous Labour Government, in order to save motorists from the rising costs of fuel that were built into the fiscal position that we inherited. We have done everything we can to ensure that people can afford to fill their tanks. This is about a global price, and it is difficult for us to intervene in that, other than through the tax measures we have already introduced. The hon. Gentleman might wish to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can take the matter up directly with Ministers.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

Knaresborough in my constituency contains a specific clutch of shops that have been empty for years or even decades, impacting on the attractiveness of the high street. Persuading the owners to bring those shops back into use is difficult because they are listed buildings and incur no business rates as long as they are empty—they are simply decaying. May we have a debate to explore how to use the business rate system to incentivise or even compel shop owners to bring long-term empty units, particularly listed buildings, back into use promptly? I recognise that that could include a change of use.

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

I totally sympathise with my hon. Friend, and it is a huge shame to see shops standing empty on our high streets. Owners of empty shops normally pay rates when those shops have been vacant for three months, which provides a clear incentive for owners to bring those shops back into use quickly. However, in recognition of the particular challenges faced by owners of listed buildings, currently no rates are payable on empty listed buildings. I strongly encourage my hon. Friend to raise this important issue directly during questions to Housing, Communities and Local Government Ministers on Monday.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

As the home of Manchester airport, my constituency is one of the most visited in the north of England. However, many of my constituents suffer the menace of unlicensed airport parking operators who use the streets outside their homes. Will the Government provide a statement on the measures they are taking to tackle rogue meet-and-greet airport parking companies?

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

That genuinely sounds like an appalling issue, although I was not aware of it previously. I can well imagine that if someone hands over their car in good faith while they go on holiday, and they get it back vandalised or damaged in some way, or illegally parked, that is pretty horrible. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can take the issue up with Ministers and see what more can be done.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby

In Corby in east Northamptonshire a number of unwanted, controversial planning applications are in the system, despite the fact that housing targets have been more than exceeded, which has been tested by an appeal. May we have a debate next week on the need for developers to respect local wishes?

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 the Government have made every effort to ensure that local views are heard through local planning frameworks. They have sought to put power into the hands of local people, defend the green belt, and ensure that although building more houses is a top priority, local wishes should be taken into account. Questions to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are on Monday, and I encourage my hon. Friend to raise the issue then.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

The country is becoming gripped by World cup fever, but I confess I have mixed loyalties, having drawn both Mexico and England in different sweepstakes. May we have a debate on the role of the Football Association in encouraging grassroots and women’s football? There has been a perverse decision to demote Sunderland Ladies football club by two divisions. That decision was based not on results or league position, but on financial criteria, which is a retrograde step in encouraging the game.

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

The hon. Gentleman will realise that the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch, is a keen footballer and would no doubt be delighted to hear from him directly. In this time of World cup football fever, he might like to raise that issue with the Backbench Business Committee and seek a debate that all hon. Members can join in.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in the past three months, 48,000 adults in northern Lincolnshire have not accessed the internet. With more and more public services becoming available only online, it is essential that people have that access. May we have a debate so that the Government can outline their policies to ensure that people have both access to the internet and the necessary skills?

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

My hon. Friend rightly raises an important constituency issue, and we must ensure that provision and training are provided to people so that they can use the internet and take advantage of its enormous benefits. He will be aware that we are investing in science, technology, engineering and maths in schools, including through £84 million over the next five years for a comprehensive programme to improve teaching and participation in computer science. Questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are next week, and he might want to raise the backlog of training and education with Ministers.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

As Nic Dakin has already alluded to, the new Home Secretary appears to be making a series of piecemeal announcements outwith the confines of this House, indicating a degree of tinkering around the edges of the Prime Minister’s toxic immigration policies. When will he come to the House to make a statement about his long-term immigration policies, and when will we get the chance to debate those policies properly?

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

I entirely reject what the hon. and learned Lady says about my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He is showing absolute commitment to a fair immigration policy that welcomes those who come here legally to contribute to our economy, while at the same time being strict with those who are here illegally. That is what the people of the United Kingdom want. Since becoming Home Secretary he has come before the House on several occasions, and he will continue to do so.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

I associate myself with your comments, Mr Speaker, and those of the Leader of the House and shadow Leader of the House about Grenfell Tower.

Three and a half years ago, two constituents in Staffordshire lost their lives in a terrible fire and explosion in a fireworks factory in my constituency. Court proceedings have now concluded, so may we have a debate or statement about what the Government propose to do to ensure better regulation and inspection of premises that contain large quantities of fireworks? At the moment, local authorities can inspect facilities that have up to 2 tonnes of powerful fireworks, but I believe that should be the responsibility only of the Health and Safety Executive or the fire and rescue service.

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

My hon. Friend raises a serious issue, and I am sorry to hear about the experience in his constituency. As he said, the storage of less than 2 tonnes of fireworks needs a licence from the local authority, and storage of more than 2 tonnes requires a licence from the Health and Safety Executive. Both those bodies may inspect storage facilities if they so wish. If my hon. Friend wishes to take the matter further, he could write to me and I will ask Ministers to respond to him directly. Otherwise, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling

I have raised this issue with the Leader of the House on a couple of occasions. This week we have been discussing huge matters of national importance, but my constituents and many other people across the country are plagued by the national disgrace that is the state of our roads. May we have an urgent debate to discuss how we can support local authorities such as Nottinghamshire County Council to sort out the state of our roads? Our roads are causing accidents and damage to people’s cars, and although that may seem insignificant compared with some of the massive issues of national and international importance that we have been discussing, it is a national problem that many of our constituents are demanding central Government take more seriously.

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

I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, and I completely agree. While we discuss many important matters in this House, issues such as potholes are a real scourge of many of our constituents’ lives. I certainly know from my constituency that they are a big problem that people often raise with me on the doorsteps. I encourage him to raise the issue directly with Ministers at Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday to see what more can be done, or to seek an Adjournment debate. A lot of money and investment is going from central Government into pothole funds, but I agree with him that it remains an ongoing problem.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

The Leader of the House must surely be more concerned than most about how the way in which we do business in this Chamber is perceived by the outside world. Whatever happened on Tuesday evening, our procedures failed democracy in this country. The problem was not because of the number of votes, but because of the archaic and cumbersome method by which we vote, so will she bring forward, in Government time, proposals to allow reform of the voting system and introduce a modern secure, electronic voting system, like in any other modern legislature across the world?

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

I respect the hon. Gentleman’s view that he would like to see electronic voting in this place, and I assure him that it is something that the House keeps under review, but it is not a priority for now. When it comes to talking about stunts and embarrassments, perhaps he would like to comment on what Tim Farron said in response to the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues’ stunt at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday—he said that they responded appallingly and tried to disrupt the proceedings of this House in a very unfortunate and disrespectful way. I find myself agreeing with a Liberal Democrat about the behaviour of the Scottish nationalists—[Interruption.] I have answered the question, and the Scottish nationalists should consider their own behaviour in this place.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

A constituent of mine, due to errors admitted by the Department for Work and Pensions, recently had her tax credit stopped, and has now had her child benefit stopped. That is having a huge financial impact on the family. Will the Leader of the House find Government time for a debate on DWP errors and how they are having a real impact on families up and down the UK?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important constituency issue, and it is absolutely right that Members do that in this place. I urge him to take it up directly with Ministers in the DWP, who will be pleased to look at it.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

May we have a debate on the legacy of Charles Stewart Parnell? He, of course, along with his colleagues at the time, successfully used the Standing Orders of the House to frustrate Government business, which is an entirely legitimate tactic, to force them to take Irish issues seriously, including in a 45-hour sitting on the 1877 South Africa Bill. Given the way that Ireland has this Government over a barrel at the minute, it might just be that those tactics are of interest to hon. Members at the present time.

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

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues are unhappy about procedures in this House in recent days. What I would say to him is that there has absolutely been adherence to all Standing Orders, procedural conventions and rules on Divisions of the House, and there has absolutely been nothing untoward going on. There is not the need for a debate—[Interruption.] It is entirely disrespectful 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. We have to try to re-establish some seemliness of exchange. The hon. Gentleman asked a robust question, and I do not think anybody objects to that, but he should then listen to the reply, and to heckle the Leader of the House noisily as she replies is discourteous.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker. There is no point saying anything further to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Climate Justice)

As we have seen on our television screens last night and in the papers this morning, the Saudi-led coalition bombardment of Hodeidah has begun, despite all the discussions and talks behind the scenes. It is a war, of course, that the UK has personnel, arms and intelligence involved in and which will lead to what the UN estimates at a quarter of a million lives being lost, with 6 million people entering into famine. May we have an urgent statement from the Foreign Secretary as early as possible in this Chamber, and subsequently an urgent debate on this very topical matter?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue. He will recall that we had an urgent question earlier this week, when a Minister came to this House. When the Prime Minister spoke to President Trump about the matter, they agreed that there is an enduring requirement for a political resolution to the conflict and cautioned against any action that might increase the severe humanitarian suffering in Yemen. We remain deeply concerned by the increasingly grave and distressing situation there.

What the UK Government have done is as follows: on 3 April, we announced an additional £170 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which will meet the immediate food needs of 2.5 million Yemenis, coming on top of the £400 million in bilateral support since the conflict began in 2015. We want to continue to work with the UN to ensure that any civilian impact of this conflict is minimised.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

My constituents who work at MOD St Athan RAF School of Technical Training are concerned that little action is being taken to renew the lease. Their concerns are not only about job losses, but about defence security should the lease revert to the ownership of the Welsh Assembly Government, who obviously cannot provide the same level of security. May we have a statement from the MOD, please, about what steps the Defence Infrastructure Organisation or the defence school of technical training is taking in relation to the lease?

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 her question; it is obviously very specific to her constituency. The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend Stuart Andrew, who is with me on the Front Bench, is happy to take that up in the Wales Office to help her.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

I join the congratulations to the Clerk of the House and thank him and his team for his professionalism and advice over the last few days, and particularly the Division Clerks, because they have been working three-hour shifts in a row.

I want to echo the question from my hon. Friend Tommy Sheppard. The voting system in this place is not just archaic; it is unsafe. There are Members who are on crutches, Members who are pregnant and Members who are waiting on medical procedures being forced into small, locked, crowded, hot rooms for a ridiculous headcount that has undermined the procedures of this House and the opportunity for Members to debate. It has to be reformed. It has to be a priority.

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

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. I do not think it can be counted as a small and confined place; nevertheless, it is a matter for the House as to the number of times it chooses to divide. We have seen an exceptional number of votes this week, but I respect his view and will always take into account the views of all Members across the House.

Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South

When Royal Mail was a public company, we used to be able to question Ministers and FOI the company on its performance with regards to delivery times, the number of post boxes and its overall performance in delivering our mail. This is a national institution, but we now cannot do that. Could we have an urgent debate or statement on how we can continue to put freedom of information requests to companies that have been recently privatised?

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

I hope the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is a Minister for Royal Mail, so there is somebody to whom he can put questions. The rules around freedom of information apply right across the United Kingdom, and he will be aware of the fact that he is able to put freedom of information requests to many businesses and public sector organisations.

Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I was out of this place for a few years and many things have improved, but one of the things that has not is the standard of IT receptivity and accessibility. I know that this is not the Leader of the House’s responsibility, but will she talk to the House authorities to try to get a decent IT system in this place once and for all?

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

I think there will be a great deal of sympathy on both sides of the House for the hon. Gentleman’s view. What I can tell him is that approval has been obtained from the Administration Committee for a “refresh of hardware”—it says here—for returning MPs, to start in October. That could be exciting news, but we must wait with bated breath.

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

Yesterday the indefatigable Effie McGachie, the president of Renfrew Community Council—of which I am a former member—announced her retirement after 36 years’ service, 32 of them as chair. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking Effie for her service to the town and wishing her well in her retirement, and will she schedule a debate on community councils so that we can reflect their importance in constituencies throughout the United Kingdom?

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

I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating his constituent on all those years of service. He may wish to seek an Adjournment or Westminster Hall debate so that all Members can congratulate all those who do so much in our communities.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

My constituent Duc Nguyen was on the brink of deportation to Vietnam yesterday. It took the quick action of my office and others to prevent that from happening. It is unacceptable that a deportation attempt was made without sufficient solicitor and MP involvement, especially given evidence that Duc was a victim of human trafficking and would face a threat to his life if he were deported. May we have a debate in Government time on the deportation process in cases of suspected human trafficking?

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

It sounds as though the hon. Gentleman did a superb job in representing his constituent, and I congratulate him on that. He has raised a very important point, which is a constituency matter. As ever, when Members want to raise an important visa issue, they have the means to do so directly with Ministers, or through the MPs’ hotline, to try to deliver the best possible response to their constituents. If the hon. Gentleman wants to take up a particular issue, I suggest that he seek an Adjournment debate.

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

I recently visited the InS:PIRE project, which is a partnership between different disciplines in the national health service and Citizens Advice. It is based at Glasgow University, and supports intensive care patients and their families. There is an issue with recognition of post-intensive care syndrome in the social security system, especially when it comes to employment and support allowance. May we have a debate about that, in Government time?

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

The hon. Lady has raised an important public health issue, as she often does. I encourage her to raise it directly during Health questions next week.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

A major healthcare provider in my constituency recently had to terminate the contracts of two dedicated, skilled professional members of staff because the UK Government had refused to grant them tier 2 visas so they could continue to work here. If they had wanted to work in London, their salaries would have been high enough and they would have been allowed to stay. Their dedication to returning to work in Fife is shown by the fact that they are both continuing to run up significant expenses to keep their homes in my constituency. May we have a debate in Government time so that the Secretary of State for the Home Department can be made fully aware of the direct impact of his Government’s policies on the health of my constituents?

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

I think we would all want to pay tribute to the many people who have come from other countries to work in our health service, and who have done so much to support the health of the population of the United Kingdom. As the hon. Gentleman will know, discussions are under way about the issue of visas for immigrant healthcare workers, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will update the House as soon as he is able to do so.

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

Will the Leader of the House consent to a debate on political party membership? She will be aware that it is a significant barometer of political engagement throughout the United Kingdom. It would be a timely debate for Scottish National party Members, because yesterday we enjoyed the new membership of 5,085 Scottish people.

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

I can only say that I personally found it a great shame that the Westminster leader of the Scottish nationalists lost his opportunity to vote yesterday, and, moreover, lost his opportunity to propose an urgent debate. Many of the hon. Lady’s colleagues also missed their opportunities to put questions to the Prime Minister. The hon. Lady may feel that that was a good trade, but many people in Scotland will feel that their representatives at Westminster should be representing their interests in this place.

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

On Saturday I visited my local branch of the Samaritans, and I pay tribute to the good work that they do in helping people in times of trouble.

I have been at the funeral of the son of one of my best friends, who committed suicide. I have been at the funeral of one of my early childhood friends, who committed suicide. My office recently had to help a constituent to get his son sectioned for his own safety because he was suicidal. I too want to put on record my disgust at Mr Liddell-Grainger for shouting that suicide was an option for the Westminster leader of the SNP to consider. That was completely out of order. Will the Leader of the House make a statement about what is being done to educate Members in relation to their behaviour, and will she acknowledge that a complaints procedure in itself is not enough to change the behaviour of some people?

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

Let me first join the hon. Gentleman in commending the Samaritans for the amazing work that they do. Let me also convey my real sympathy and commiserations in respect of the awful suicides that are taking place throughout the country, and the two that he specifically mentioned. It is an appalling scourge. We are seeing an increase in the number of suicides, particularly among young men. I think we have already made it clear that all Members should be very careful in their use of language in order not to offend or upset those who are listening to us, but I also think we should all do everything possible to try to improve the work done in communities and in our mental health services to improve the mental wellbeing of young people.