Welcome back everybody. The business for next week will include:
This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, and we held an excellent debate during which 18 colleagues made valuable contributions. I remind colleagues that the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall is still open for viewing. Today the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference returns to London. Having attended the last IWT conference in Vietnam as the Secretary of State for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I am delighted to see the progress that we as a country are making in helping to stamp out that appalling trade. Today is also International Day of the Girl, and during this centenary year of some women getting the vote, it is important that we support and encourage every girl to reach her full potential.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.
“Mamma Mia!”, Mr Speaker, we have only four days of business, and nothing for the week after. If this was an exam paper, the Government would have an “F” for fail. I do not know whether the Leader of the House knows something that we do not when she said that “a week changes a lot.” I do not know whether she was referring to the Business of the House, or to whether the PM will lead her party into the next election. She could have said that the Prime Minister is a “Super Trouper.”
Is it too much to ask for the dates of the February and Easter recesses? I will give the Leader of the House a clue: Easter is on
I want to raise another breach of convention with the Leader of the House. My hon. Friend Luke Pollard was not invited to the launch of a frigate in his constituency. He tried on a number of occasions to contact the Defence Secretary, but he was not invited. Later, it seems that the Defence Secretary was with Members of his own party, including the hon. Members for South West Devon (Mr Streeter), for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray), and for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer). Was it a ministerial or a private visit? My hon. Friend has a lot of correspondence, so could I ask the Leader of the House to look into the matter and provide him with a response?
More chaos and incompetence. The Secretary of State for Education was reprimanded on Monday by the UK Statistics Authority for his misuse of statistics, yet two days later the Prime Minister repeated the same statistics. Is anybody speaking to the Prime Minister to let her know about this issue? She said to the House that next year
“per pupil funding is being protected in real terms.”—[Official Report,
However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that per pupil funding is projected to fall in the next fiscal year. Will the Leader ensure that my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Education receives a response to her letter to the Prime Minister, and could the record be corrected? I am sure the Prime Minister would not want to mislead the House.
More chaos: the Government flagship policy on universal credit is causing real hurt to people. We now have the intervention of two former Prime Ministers. Half of all lone parents and two thirds of couples with children stand to lose £200 each month. Is that correct? That is what the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions allegedly said to the Cabinet. We want to know in this House whether that is true. We will be having an Opposition day debate on universal credit. I hope the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will give us an impact assessment and clarify her remarks. More importantly, will the Leader of the House guarantee that the regulations for the migration to universal credit will be debated on the Floor of the House, and not in some upstairs Committee Room?
The Government are sticking their heads in the clouds—or in the ozone layer, while we still have one. Their response to the intergovernmental panel on the climate change report has been muted. The report said that unprecedented changes to limit global warming are needed across society and across the globe, yet the Government are continuing to reduce feed-in tariffs, next generation tariffs and export tariffs. May we have an urgent debate on this issue? One of the greatest gifts we can leave to the next generation is to act now on climate change. This is not a short-term game.
We have had our last summer in the EU. We all agree with the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, when she said:
“What we need to see is the legal text.”
Yes—her and everybody else. We all want to see the text on what the backstop will be for a border in Northern Ireland. And I am sure the Prime Minister will want to update the House on discussions with Gibraltar.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to thank you for your statement on Tuesday. The verdict from the inquest into the innocent victims who died in the Westminster attack were announced on Wednesday, sadly on the same day that the Prime Minister gave her speech to the Tory party conference. I do not think it was mentioned in that speech. I want to add my condolences to the families and friends of PC Keith Palmer and the other innocent victims of the attack. It cannot have been easy to relive that day in public. I am sure the House can agree, in consultation with PC Keith Palmer’s family, on a suitable prominent memorial to him.
I would like to start by echoing the hon. Lady’s tribute to PC Palmer and by paying tribute to the courage of his family and friends in what they had to go through in the inquest. It was the most appalling and harrowing story. For many who were involved, either as witnesses or just being in lockdown in this place, as so many of us were, it was a horrible reminder of what happened. I would like to reassure everybody that the security not only of those who work here but those who protect us is absolutely paramount. There have been a number of meetings that you, Mr Speaker, and I have held and taken part in, which seek to ensure that we do everything possible to keep people here safe. I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks.
The hon. Lady calls the Prime Minister a super trouper. I have to agree. I think that would be a good way to describe her. This is an extraordinarily difficult and delicate time in the Brexit negotiations and the Prime Minister has shown her commitment to getting a good deal for the United Kingdom and for the EU27. I think we should all stick with her and allow her the room to be able to fulfil those negotiations.
The hon. Lady asks about Christmas and Easter recess dates. I absolutely assure her that I will give those to the House as soon as possible.
The hon. Lady mentions the launch of a frigate to which her hon. Friend was not invited. I will happily investigate that and if her hon. Friend wants to write to me, I can take it up on their behalf. Otherwise, I will respond to the hon. Lady directly.
The hon. Lady asks about the Department for Education’s statistics. What I can say to her is that the proportion of children in schools whose last Ofsted judgment was good or outstanding has risen from 66% in 2010 to 86% in March 2018. That is really good news for young people’s skills and getting a good education. That translates as 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. All hon. Members should be delighted by that—I know I am.
The hon. Lady asked about universal credit. I encourage her not to believe everything she reads in the press. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has made clear, we are ensuring that nobody sees a reduction in their benefits when they move on to universal credit. Some £3.1 billion in transitional protection is being provided.
The hon. Lady asked about the report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She is absolutely right that it is a really key report. It should act as a rallying cry for Governments around the world to innovate, invest and raise ambition to avert catastrophic climate change. But we should all be proud that in the UK we are showing that carbon abatement and prosperity can go hand in hand. We lead the world in clean growth; we have cut our emission by more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy by more than two thirds.
There is therefore much to be pleased about and to celebrate. I wish that hon. Members would look at the good news and not only at what they read as bad news. They should celebrate some of the achievements that the UK is promoting, including today, the first day of our international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, where the UK has much to be proud of.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the mis-selling of life insurance policies to the over-50s? Too often our constituents find that they have been paying more into the schemes than they will actually receive on their death, and if they try to cancel the policy they lose everything.
My hon. Friend raises an important matter that will be of interest to his constituents and many others. What I can tell him is that with a whole-of-life insurance plan a buyer choses to pay a fixed premium at the outset of the policy. That is then payable until death, with a guaranteed cash amount paid out on death, which means that such policies pay out regardless of whether or not the buyer has paid less or more in total than the lump sum advertised. However, if his constituent feels that the arrangements entered into were unclear or misleading at the time, my hon. Friend should certainly contact the Financial Conduct Authority on their behalf.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. Well, it looks as though the shortest romance in political history is coming to an acrimonious end. With the romance forged in the passion of a £1 billion dowry, how could the Government possibly have resisted the abundant charms of the cuddly Democratic Unionist party? Now it is to be sunk by a border between them as deep as the Irish sea, as these star-crossed political lovers will now bring themselves down as well as the country. May we therefore have an urgent debate on party political partner counselling to see whether there is anything we could possibly do to rekindle some romance in that very special relationship?
What are we going to do about Chequers, the EU deal that now must not be mentioned, except of course in the context of “chuck” from the Brexiteers on the Government Back Benches? Before the conferences recess, Chequers was all the Government went on about, but now there is nothing—zilch; nada. Apparently there is to be a vote on whatever deal is on offer, if there is one. It is probably the most important debate and vote that this House will undertake in a generation, and it could be in a few short weeks’ time. It would be totally unacceptable if the vote is put on a “take it or we burn the house down, no-deal, leave it” basis. Can the Leader of the House therefore give us her view on how the debate will be framed, what sort of motion there will be and what options will be available to the House?
Meanwhile, in Scotland we have Project Ars—I will not give the last letter, Mr Speaker—the codename for the not-so-secret mission given to Scottish Conservative Members of Parliament to stop the prime ministerial ambitions of the former Foreign Secretary. Apparently they have polling suggesting that such is his popularity in Scotland that, were he ever to get near No. 10, they would all be wiped out. Knowing the Scottish Conservative Members as I do, and I do know them quite well now, I know that they will only go and make an ars—I will not give the last letter—of it. May we therefore have a debate on covert political missions, to consider what we could do to properly resource and facilitate Scottish Conservative Members so that they are successful?
I really do not know where to start; perhaps with a helpful Abba reference—“Knowing Me, Knowing You”, it was always going to be like this. The hon. Gentleman is trying to hide behind the DUP, when in fact it is the SNP that has done far more during this passage of legislation to try to harm the prospects of a good Brexit for the United Kingdom than any other party. My hon. Friends on the Conservative Benches who represent Scottish constituencies take the fight to the SNP every week, which is a matter for some merriment on this side of the House.
The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point about the negotiations for Brexit, and he is right to point out that they are at a critical stage. They are very delicate negotiations. It was always clear that they would be complex and it would not be possible to give an hourly, daily or even weekly account of precisely where we were. It was also clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. All hon. Members need to give the Prime Minister the opportunity to finalise an arrangement that is 85% agreed. The arrangements on the Northern Ireland issue and the future trading arrangements need to be given the space to be properly negotiated, and that is what a responsible Parliament will do.
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases;
it will never
Pass into nothingness”.
But we know from the national journal The Mail on Sunday that parks and open spaces across this country are being lost, eaten up by greedy developers and unprotected by careless councils. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Communities, Local Government and other things to come to the House and set out how he intends to ensure that parks are protected through planning guidance, ring-fenced funding and so on? Future generations deserve their taste, their touch of earthly paradise; not to be confronted with concrete jungles where once trees grew and birds sang.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend and I would agree about the need to deliver more new homes so that people are able to have a home of their own, but it is also important to be clear that local authorities would have to show that they have exhausted all other reasonable options, including brownfield and joint projects with neighbouring authorities, before they could tackle the green belt. He is right to prioritise protections for parks, and I am sure that he will find an opportunity, perhaps at next week’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions, to raise the issue directly with Ministers.
I very much hope that the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed his answer from the Leader of the House as much as I enjoyed both question and answer.
Well, we will not know, but the right hon. Gentleman is smiling and looks content. I notice that some observers were much smitten by his eloquence, and we are deeply obliged to him.
Many of my constituents are suffering because of the way in which assessments for personal independence payments are being made. There is growing concern as universal credit is to be rolled out across Liverpool. Will a Minister make a statement about what is actually happening on the ground, rather than taking cover in generalised statements that often hide the reality of acute hardship for people in need?
The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important issue. She will be aware that Work and Pensions questions will take place on Monday
The Leader of the House will be aware that Northern Ireland has been without proper government since January 2017. News of a Northern Ireland Bill that will give the Secretary of State significant new powers is very welcome, but can she say when it will be published, and what timetable she envisages to ensure that it is given proper scrutiny in this place?
As my hon. Friend knows, our absolute priority is to secure a basis for political talks and to re-establish at the earliest possible opportunity a locally elected, democratically accountable devolved Government who work for everyone in Northern Ireland. As he says, a Bill to facilitate certain decision making in Northern Ireland is under consideration. It will be published shortly, and there will of course be ample opportunity for the House to consider it.
I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Mr Ian Mearns.
As always, Mr Speaker, I am very grateful.
I thank the Leader of the House for her business statement, and for mentioning Monday’s very important and moving debate to mark Baby Loss Awareness Week. On the same day, owing to time pressure from other business, we lost a second debate on the important subject of children’s services, which must now be rescheduled.
I note that the Leader of the House did not tell us what would be happening during the week beginning
Of course I am always very keen to hear about the priorities of the Backbench Business Committee, and I always seek to provide time for its debates whenever I can. It was very unfortunate that Tuesday’s debate on children’s social care could not take place, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find another opportunity to schedule it, and I will certainly help as much as I am able to.
On Christmas day last year, 15-year-old Abbie Main from Elgin died from a rare form of cancer. She had lived with that for more than four years, and during her time with the condition her wish was to raise money for, in her own words, “hospitals and stuff”, under the name “Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation”. So far the foundation has raised thousands of pounds, which it has distributed locally and nationally. Last weekend, Abbie’s 18-year-old brother, Cameron, scaled Ben Nevis five times in 24 hours, in terrible conditions—wind-chill temperatures were as low as minus 12° C—and raised £6,000 for Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation. May we have a debate to celebrate all our great local fundraisers, and also to commend inspirational young people such as Abbie Main, who came up with that foundation at such a difficult time in her far too short life?
I am in awe. What a fantastic family they must be, given that Abbie gave such a commitment and inspirational lead, and her brother achieved such an incredible feat. I am sure that I could not have managed to scale Ben Nevis even five times, let alone the seven that he sought to achieve.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many charities throughout the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend, who is a great champion for his constituency, might well want to seek a Back-Bench debate so that we could congratulate all those who do so much on a voluntary basis.
This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. During the recess, a group of women from Mirfield, in my constituency, held a “half monty” event. They had all been touched by breast cancer, and some had suffered from it themselves. They “dared to bare”, raising more than £10,000 for local cancer charities. Some showed off their mastectomy scars for the first time. It was an incredibly emotional but, equally, phenomenal evening. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating those amazing women, and may we have a debate about breast cancer, given that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important issue. I have family members who have been affected by it, and I can absolutely imagine the courage that it would take to “dare to bare”, as she puts it. I strongly encourage her to seek a Westminster Hall debate, for instance, so that all Members can share their constituents’ experiences.
Local post offices are typically independent private businesses and they provide important and valuable services to their communities. They draw their income from the post office services they provide, and while they have other income streams to try to make sure that they are viable, they can still fail. May we have a debate about the importance of local post offices and what can be done to ensure continuity of service when a business, such as the Cold Bath Road post office my constituency, fails?
My hon. Friend often raises significant constituency issues, and I am sorry to hear about the closure of that post office in his area. He is right to highlight the fantastic job that post offices do in all our communities, including providing basic banking services when bank branches shut down. I encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that all colleagues can make contributions on what more can be done to ensure that post offices are sustainable.
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House, surely any debate on universal credit should, given current circumstances, be in Government time, not Opposition time. We are all dealing with its deleterious consequences, which are affecting the poorest and most vulnerable of our constituents. Will the right hon. Lady give one assurance that any regulations relevant to UC will be debated here on the Floor of the House, not upstairs?
First, I think all hon. Members must acknowledge that universal credit is a better, simpler, more flexible system that is helping more people into work. It is absolutely the case that many people found the old system incredibly complicated, involving numerous claims to repay benefits that they had received. This is a simpler system that supports people getting into work, and the evidence is that it is succeeding.
The hon. Gentleman asks whether any statutory instruments can be debated in the Chamber. He will be aware that there are procedures for the Opposition to work within the usual channels to seek such an agreement. He will also be aware that this Government have given more time in the Chamber for debates on statutory instruments than any Government since the early 1990s.
I want to raise a serious matter. I look for a statement from the relevant Minister at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on the democratic functions of local authorities following a sham situation on Harrogate Borough Council. A panel of elected councillors refused a planning application by 11 votes to one for an inappropriate development on the border of Wetherby in my constituency, only for a locum legal adviser, Noel Scanlon, to tell councillors they had reached the wrong decision, forcing them to vote again, but not before a private meeting away from the public gaze had been held. The original result was then overturned by nine-nil in favour. I fear that we are heading towards a situation in which if mandarins do not get their own way, they simply call for further votes to overturn the decision they did not like.
My hon. Friend, who is a strong champion for his constituency, is right to raise what sounds like a very frustrating situation. He will appreciate that I cannot comment on that specific planning case, but I can tell him that although planning committee members are not obliged to follow the recommendations of officers, the law does require that planning decisions are made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise, so local opposition or support is not in itself a ground for refusing or granting planning permission unless for valid planning reasons. My hon. Friend might want to seek an Adjournment debate to discuss the specific case directly with Ministers.
Given today’s intervention by Sir John Major, the former Conservative Prime Minister, which absolutely slams the roll-out of universal credit in spite of what the Leader of the House has said, will the Leader of the House reveal if the draft regulations—not what is in the press—will be amended before they come to this House, when exactly they will be coming to this House, and whether, as my hon. Friends have asked, they will be debated on the Floor of the House? The damage being done now, let alone the damage that will be done next year, cannot be overestimated.
I say again to the hon. Lady that the Government are determined to continue with the roll-out of universal credit because it is helping more people back into work. [Interruption.] The Government have also, however, been determined to improve system as we roll it out, which is why it has been piloted. Following lessons learned from the pilot roll-outs, we have raised advances to 100% of the first month’s payment; we have made it quicker and easier to get those payments so that anybody who needs it can get paid on the very first day of their claim; we have scrapped the seven-day waiting period; and we have formed a new partnership with Citizens Advice to help people to claim universal credit. All these measures have been taken as a result of the sensible proposals made in this place and by constituents. Nevertheless, the roll-out will take place, and we are making sure that no one sees a reduction in their benefits when they are moved on to universal credit.
Two weeks ago, at the Aberdeen and Grampian chamber of commerce Northern Star business awards, I was delighted that two companies in my constituency, Macphie of Glenbervie and Glen Tanar Estate, were recognised as finalists for the work that they do with local schoolchildren. I am pleased to say that Glen Tanar Estate won for the work that it does with Aboyne Academy. Will my right hon. Friend recommend a means by which such companies, which do so much for communities and young people across the UK, can be recognised at national level?
My hon. Friend is a great champion for his constituency, and as he knows, raising those excellent achievements in this place gives recognition to those businesses that are truly helping their communities. I suggest that those enterprises could apply for the 2020 Queen’s awards for enterprise, which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy manages on behalf of the Crown. I particularly suggest that they could be eligible under the promoting opportunity category.
Capita has failed to bring in 90% of the recruits that our Army needs. This shocking performance undermines the defence of our country. May we have a statement from the Government urgently, setting out how they will ensure that our Army gets the soldiers necessary for our security?
I was unaware of the important issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I encourage him in the first instance to raise the matter of Capita with Ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Tuesday
Yesterday was the International Day of the Homeless, and the Secretary of State took the opportunity to announce the use of the £20 million fund towards the national rental deposit scheme. Also, Crisis, the well-known charity for the homeless, announced its report on how we can end homelessness once and for all. May we have a debate in Government time on all the projects that the Government are implementing to end homelessness in this country?
First, I should like to pay tribute again to my hon. Friend for his Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which the Government were proud to support. It creates new duties on public bodies, from the NHS to prisons, to enable interventions at an earlier stage to prevent homelessness. That is absolutely vital. He is right to point out the 48 projects right across the country that the Government are supporting to try to prevent rough sleeping. It is unacceptable that we have people sleeping rough in this country, and the Government are committed to stamping it out once and for all.
This week has been a bumper week for Bradford. First, our rugby league news: the Bradford Bulls were returned to the championship. Secondly, this is the very first Bradford Manufacturing Week. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the Bulls, and all those involved in Bradford Manufacturing Week? May we have a debate in Government time on the skills that young people need to access manufacturing jobs?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising those fantastic achievements. She is a great champion for her constituency, and I am delighted to join her in congratulating the Bradford Bulls and all those involved in Bradford Manufacturing Week. She has raised the important issue of what more we can do to give young people the skills they need to get into those valuable manufacturing jobs, and I absolutely encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can take this up directly with Ministers.
May we have an urgent debate on how an insurance company, such as Hastings Direct, can get away with selling a £15,000 car that it neither owned nor insured? A great injustice has been done to one of my constituents.
I am sorry to hear about that, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter in the Chamber. I obviously cannot comment on the specifics, but the Financial Ombudsman Service should provide proportionate and prompt resolution of any such case. It is vital that insurers treat customers fairly, and every firm is required to do so under Financial Conduct Authority rules, so he may like to take up this specific case directly with the FCA on his constituent’s behalf.
May we have an urgent debate on predatory business takeovers? Until yesterday, constituents of mine had been taking forward a business called DTCC—originally called Avox—for 10 years, but a company called Refinitiv has taken over the business, immediately making 300 people redundant and offshoring the jobs to India. May we have an urgent discussion about appalling business practices that put people on the scrapheap when they have worked so hard for so many years?
I am sorry to hear about the company in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. The situation is worrying, and I encourage him to take the matter up directly with Ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at BEIS questions next Tuesday to hear what more they can do to help support those who have been told that they are losing their jobs.
Staffordshire County Council, like many others, faces a substantial deficit in 2019-20 as a result of the rise in social care costs for both children and adults. May we have a debate on all the ways that the Government can assist councils, such as through business rates retention, the relaxation of the referendum rules, the rate support grant and the better care fund? All those things could help to narrow or eliminate the gap that will otherwise result in many vital local services being removed across the country.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue that affects many constituencies, and he will be aware that we have short-term and longer-term plans for social care. In the short term, we have announced an additional £2 billion for adult social care, which will help to free up 2,000 to 3,000 acute hospital beds. We have also announced £240 million for social care to ease pressures during the winter, which will, for example, help to buy up to 72,000 domestic care packages to support people in their own homes. As for his specific concerns about Staffordshire, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate to raise them directly with Ministers.
I have contacted Mr Álex Cruz, the chief executive of British Airways, which has a contract with this House, several times to raise legitimate constituent concerns, and I contacted Mr Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, about a cross-border constituent concern on the advice of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, but both appear to have ignored legitimate concerns raised by MPs on the behalf of their constituents. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on the unacceptability of both public and private bodies refusing to engage with MPs who seek to present constituents’ concerns about important matters?
The hon. Lady is right that all bodies, whether public or private, should give a proper response to MPs carrying out the legitimate process of representing their constituents, so I completely sympathise with her. If she would like to write to me about it, I can try to take the matter up on her behalf.
It is tremendous that this Government are making an extra £394 million a week available for our NHS, but there remains a role for hospital charities, such as the Friends of St Cross, Rugby’s local hospital. Since 1955, the charity has donated valuable equipment and facilities to improve the patient experience, and I spent time with some of its 200 volunteers only last week. May I join my hon. Friend Douglas Ross in encouraging the Government to arrange a debate to support volunteers in this important sector?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. Volunteers have played a long and crucial role in supporting the NHS to care for patients and deliver services, and he is right to want to want to acknowledge the superb work of the Friends of St Cross and all volunteers as we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS. May I thank all volunteers on behalf of all hon. Members for their great contribution to our wonderful NHS?
Last week, I visited Jump Primary School, which is been working on the Send My Friend to School campaign. Do the Government endorse that campaign and may we have a debate in Government time about protecting students and teachers who are caught up in armed conflict around the world?
At my party conference, I was delighted to meet some students who are taking part in the Send My Friend to School campaign, so we are certainly very aware of it, and we support the excellent volunteering that goes on there. I am very glad that the hon. Lady has raised this issue; and of course, the Government do a huge amount of behalf of the United Kingdom to support all young people in getting the opportunity of an education wherever they are around the world.
SpecialEffect, a wonderful west Oxfordshire charity that seeks to improve the lives of those living with severe disabilities through cutting-edge technology and video games, recently held its largest games industry funding event of the calendar year, called One Special Day. Thanks to the support of the worldwide gaming industry, it has raised more than £300,000. This money will go a long way towards supporting SpecialEffect’s phenomenal work and help it to transform the lives of young people. Will the Leader of the House join me in paying tribute to everyone at SpecialEffect and may we have a debate on how new technologies can be harnessed to improve the lives of those living with a disability?
I congratulate SpecialEffect—what a fantastic achievement. I also congratulate my hon. Friend, who I know has been a long-term supporter of this great charity. He is right to point out that small local charities make a huge contribution to communities across the country, and the Government are committed to supporting their independence and sustainability. I wish SpecialEffect the very best success in the future.
It is almost 100 years since the first Co-op party MP, Alf Waterson, was elected to this House. Notwithstanding the very strong support that Labour colleagues and others in the House show for much of the Co-op party’s political agenda, as we are the third largest political grouping in the House, is it not time that we were allocated an extra dedicated Opposition day debate?
[That this House notes the work of the African Arts Centre, based in Ibrox, Glasgow, a charity organisation that aims to support, develop and empower communities through visual and performing arts; praises the organisation for the work it does on social inclusion with the youths of Govan, lbrox and surrounding areas to try to tackle isolation using creativity as a vehicle for communication; congratulates the organisation on successfully securing £7,000 funding from National Lottery Award for All Scotland Grant from Creative Scotland to deliver 52 art workshops, two art exhibitions and to develop a website which will showcase events and artwork; and wishes them success with all its future projects and events.]
I visited the centre last week and saw a fantastic arts exhibition to commemorate Black History Month. May we have a debate or a statement from the Government on how they are commemorating Black History Month, to allow Members of Parliament to celebrate the work of the African community, not forgetting the burning injustices of the past, particularly the western world’s role in the slave trade?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue and congratulate his constituents who are celebrating African art and the history, which is so important and is often best expressed through art. I commend him for raising the role of the western world in the slave trade, and we are so proud to have also had a part in ending the slave trade. He might well want to seek a Back-Bench business debate so that all hon. Members can contribute that discussion.
My constituent Colin Edwards died last Thursday in St Thomas’s Hospital despite excellent care. That contrasted with the callous indifference his wife and family experienced at Lambeth Town Hall when they tried to register the death. Over two days, they were turned away. They returned to Wales, where the Bridgend registrar registered the death and sent the details to Lambeth. They received no replies. They tried desperately to receive the death certificates. They contacted me and I emailed the chief executive, and today they have been promised that they will have death certificates tomorrow so that Mr Edwards can return to Wales to be buried sometime next week. The family have been traumatised by this difficulty. They would like a debate on why in an electronic age we cannot register deaths in the home that the person comes from with a communication sent electronically to where the person died, so that families are not traumatised in this way and met with indifference that adds to their grief.
I am genuinely sorry to hear about the experience of the Edwards family, as that is really unacceptable and appalling; this House sends our condolences to them for their loss and for the way in which they have been treated. The hon. Lady raises an important question and she may well wish to seek an Adjournment debate, so that she can raise this specific case directly with Ministers.
May we have a debate in Government time on the implications for public authorities of the Treasury’s draft valuation directions for non-funded pension schemes? The changes to the SCAPE—superannuation contributions adjusted for past experience—discount rate are a particular concern in Wales, as it is unclear where the funding will come from to pay for the increased employer contribution rates for the teacher, firefighter and local government pension schemes in 2019-20.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that question, and I encourage him to raise it directly with Ministers at Department for Work and Pensions questions on Monday.
My trade union, Unite, has launched a period dignity campaign to encourage employers to provide a stock of women’s sanitary products for any of their employees or visitors who might need them during their period. May we have a debate about this? More pressingly, will the Leader of the House support my representations to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to consider women’s menstrual products as we would consider soap or toilet paper: as something that could be provided on expenses in constituency offices?
The hon. Gentleman raises a sensible and practical suggestion that I am happy to take away. On the broader issue of businesses providing products to deal with menstrual periods, he makes an equally good suggestion. Obviously, the Government do not seek to legislate on every aspect of corporate life, but he may well wish to seek a debate so that he can discuss this with other MPs and raise the issue more broadly, so that sympathetic companies might choose to take this action unilaterally.
As we celebrate another fantastic Ryder cup win, it is appropriate to reflect on the role of Scunthorpe’s Tony Jacklin. At a time when the Ryder cup was going through difficulty, he was instrumental in rejuvenating the cup, as its most successful captain ever. As the only British golfer to win both the British and US Opens, his is surely the sort of achievement worthy of a knighthood. May we have a statement on how the nation can properly recognise Tony Jacklin’s contribution to golf and wider public life?
He is a great British sporting hero—I remember him from my childhood. If I may be permitted, let me say from the Chair: what a splendid inquiry.
I must agree with you, Mr Speaker. I must also tell the hon. Gentleman that he will have made my son’s day, because he is a big fan of Tony Jacklin and the Ryder cup. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that this year’s was something of a triumph, and we were all glued to our screens. He raises an important point and I recommend that he puts Tony Jacklin forward for an award—I am sure many Members from across the House might provide letters of support.
There has been a record number of Islamophobic hate crimes, a disproportionate number of which have been attacks on women with headscarves or on gentlemen with beards. We have seen the rise of populism and nationalism, with Muslims often being the target. May we have a debate in Government time not only to discuss this issue, but to seriously consider how to tackle it?
The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important issue. Any type of hate crime is absolutely unacceptable. We have to stamp out all forms of discrimination that lead to hate crimes such as the ones to which she is referring. I encourage her to raise this issue at the next Justice questions, a few weeks from now, so that we can discuss how we address the issue of hate crimes and Islamophobia.
On a more serious point, my constituent has been in and out of work, so he has now been told he has exhausted the number of universal credit advance payments he can receive. He is out of work now. He received his last pay cheque two weeks ago. He has even exhausted all his food bank vouchers. The Department for Work and Pensions has told him he will have to wait seven weeks for any sort of payment. Thanks to interventions from my office, he has been awarded £350 towards paying his rent—that is not enough.
May I ask the Leader of the House, most sincerely, for an urgent debate, in Government time, on the horrendous realities of the UC roll-out and the impact it is having on constituents of Members from both sides of the House? Please do not just refer me to DWP questions next week: we need a debate, because the realities of UC are truly abhorrent.
I am extremely sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s points, but he will be aware that the Opposition day debate on Wednesday is to be on the subject of UC and he will have the opportunity to raise this issue then, as well as at DWP questions on Monday, which is the appropriate place to raise it. I wish to repeat that we have been clear that UC is designed to simplify benefits for people. There are many examples—I can give him actual examples—of recipients of UC who have found it to be much easier to manage. We are making sure that no one sees a reduction in their benefits when they move on to UC. He raises a really important individual constituency issue, which he should raise directly with DWP Ministers on Monday.
I call Chris Bryant.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. You are so kind. May we have a debate on parliamentary jiggery-pokery, particularly in relation to private Members’ Bills? A splendid private Member’s Bill, promoted by Tim Loughton, is going forward in 10 days’ time, but the Government cannot decide what they are going to do about it. We would like them to support it.
There is another magnificent private Member’s Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend Afzal Khan, on parliamentary constituencies. It has strong support from Members from across the House, but the Government will not allow it to have a money resolution. Yet next Tuesday we are to have a debate to approve a money resolution relating to the Overseas Electors Bill, even though the Government cannot even get enough Members to serve on the Committee.
I would say to the second-priority Chris that I—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but it was Mr Speaker’s decision—what can I say?
I think you should clarify this matter, Mr Speaker. I would be happy to give way to you. [Interruption.] It appears that we do not want to delay and that Mr Speaker does not want to arbitrate on this matter.
I simply do not accept that the Government are blocking progress on private Members’ Bills—far from it. We have seen excellent progress on these Bills. As the hon. Gentleman points out, we will have the chance to debate a money resolution for the Overseas Electors Bill next week. The hon. Gentleman’s own Bill has received Royal Assent, as has the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, which was promoted by my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake. We have had the money resolution for the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which has now completed its Committee stage. A huge number of private Members’ Bills are going through. In the 2005 Parliament, only 22 private Members’ Bills received Royal Assent, whereas 31 did in the 2010 Parliament—if we include the 2015-to-2017 Parliament, the number is more than double the number in the 2005 Parliament. We are making excellent progress.
The Home Secretary announced at the Conservative party conference that the Government would be adopting a public health approach to youth violence. That is extremely important and Members will know that it is one of the recommendations from the Youth Violence Commission. All I want to know is: when are we going to have a debate on this?
The hon. Lady has been closely involved with the Government’s efforts on the serious violence taskforce and in bringing in a new crime reduction plan. She will be aware that a key focus for the taskforce has been prevention and ensuring that we avoid people getting into a life of crime and serious violence. I am not sure at the moment whether there will be a specific debate on that, but I will certainly take away her request. Obviously, she had a debate on this just last night and I am sure she was able to air her views then.
Last week, I met another constituent who was at the end of her tether with the Child Maintenance Service. My staff encounter the same poor service as my constituents: different advisers at each contact, conflicting information, wrong information, financial breakdowns that make no sense and the CMS not challenging the other partner sufficiently, with cases dragging on and on. The £50 compensation in some of these cases is insufficient for the stress caused. My office has even received information that breached data-protection laws. When we contact other MP helplines, they have real experts in resolution, but the CMS does not. When will there be a root-and-branch review of the CMS’s performance?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important constituency issue, as he often does, and he is right to do so. If he wishes to write to me, I can refer the matter directly to Ministers.
Following the failed coup in Turkey in July 2016, the Turkish Government began a crackdown on human rights in many sectors of Turkish society, including education. That led to Turkey demanding the forcible repatriation of some 285 Turkish teachers working in schools in Pakistan, along with their families. Despite that being in violation of international law, many teachers have been returned and have faced arbitrary arrest, detention, and even torture by Turkish authorities. This is just another example of the worsening situation under President Erdoğan, a fascist dictator and demagogue who has suppressed human rights and does not respect the rights of religious minorities. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or debate on this matter?
The hon. Gentleman often raises in the Chamber issues relating to the persecution of minorities, particularly on grounds of religious belief, and he is absolutely right to do so. I am aware that he has applied for a Back-Bench debate on International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day, and I sincerely hope that he gets the opportunity to share experiences, along with other Members, and to provide the focus so that the Government can respond.
I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the local community in Dennistoun in my constituency? On
As we approach the centenary of the armistice, will the Leader of the House consider holding a debate in Government time on the legacy of the great war in communities throughout the country, particularly as the Dennistoun war memorial was subjected to a horrendous act of vandalism just before it was unveiled, showing that there is still a large amount of ignorance? People of all faiths and classes were involved in that war and their deaths were indiscriminate.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the enormous sacrifice of all those who gave their lives and, indeed, those who kept our country going during the great war. I join him in congratulating all those in his constituency who have contributed to the successful establishment of a war memorial to commemorate those who died. I certainly agree that we will need to ensure that we have appropriate ways to remember those who died in the first world war. On