Business of the House

EU Exit Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 1:32 pm, 15th November 2018

I would like to announce that the business for next week will be:

Monday 19 November—Consideration in Committee of the Finance (No. 3) Bill (day 1).

Tuesday 20 November—Continuation of consideration in Committee of the Finance (No. 3) Bill (day 2).

Wednesday 21 NovemberSecond Reading of the Fisheries Bill.

Thursday 22 November—General debate on the armed forces covenant.

Friday 23 November—Private Members’ Bills.

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

Monday 26 NovemberSecond Reading of the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill [Lords].

The House is rightly focused on the important decisions that lie ahead of us with regard to leaving the EU, but we also continue to fulfil the many other vital aspects of our parliamentary roles, so I was delighted, along with you, Mr Speaker, to welcome the Youth Parliament to the Chamber last week and to hear of the significant issues that its members wanted to debate, such as mental health and serious violence.

Also last week, we had the first ever Women MPs of the World Conference in this Chamber, demonstrating our commitment to global outreach and promoting our democratic values. This week is Parliament Week—a chance for hundreds of schools and civic organisations to take part in and promote democratic engagement.

Finally, along with the Prime Minister, you, Mr Speaker, and others, the Leader of the Lords and I look forward to presenting a Humble Address to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales later today on the event of his 70th birthday.

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

I thank the Leader of the House for the statement. I, too, congratulate the Youth Parliament; it was absolutely wonderful to hear its members debate the issues rather than people.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business—again, it is a week and a day, and we do not seem to be any nearer getting the dates for Easter recess. The staff of the House need to make plans. I know that there have been many more things to discuss and that it has been difficult to get those dates, but could she possibly look at doing so for next week?

I ask the Leader of the House to remind her colleagues about the ministerial code. The Government have again breached paragraph 9.1:

“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament.”

It took numerous points of order and a letter from the leaders of all the Opposition parties for the Government to finally realise that they had to abide by the code and make a statement to Parliament—we are very grateful that that was done today and to the Prime Minister for staying and taking all the questions. I hope that the Leader of the House will continue to remind the Government of their duties.

It was a marathon session of the Cabinet yesterday. I wonder whether they all started with, “I hadn’t quite understood the importance of” the Dover-Calais border/the economy/jobs/security/the effect on science—delete where applicable for each of the Secretaries of State when they read the draft agreement. We have had the statement, but could the Leader of the House outline the timetable for the next stage? The Prime Minister alluded to the fact that the House will get a debate; will it be before or after Christmas? When are we likely to be able to scrutinise this very important agreement, given that the EU will be meeting on 25 November?

On Tuesday, the House resolved that the legal advice from the Law Officers would be made available. Will the Leader of the House say when it will be published? Why did it take the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, my hon. Friend Mary Creagh, to publish a letter from the Environment Secretary saying that he was raiding 400 staff from other agencies to work on Brexit? When will we get a statement and the impact assessment on the effect of enforcing the regulations that deal with recycling, air pollution and flooding?

Turning to more contempt of Parliament and the vulnerable, private companies are making large sums of money by locking up our young. There are 2,375 people with autism and learning disabilities held in assessment and treatment units. Seven providers are charging taxpayers up to £730,000 a year for each patient. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced that he has

“instigated a Care Quality Commission review into the inappropriate use of prolonged seclusion and segregation.”—[Official Report, 5 November 2018;
Vol. 648, c. 1264.]

However, that was in a wider statement on prevention of ill health, and no notice was given to the Opposition. My hon. Friend Barbara Keeley made a point of order to ask the Secretary of State to come to the House to make a statement on that review. As she said, this is scandalous. Could we have a statement on this important review, including the timeframe for reporting back? No child should be deprived of their liberty in this way. They need support, not imprisonment.

More disarray: I was going to say that the Government have lost one Minister—Tracey Crouch—but actually it is half the Cabinet. A week later, the Government have done what she asked; a written statement was slipped out yesterday. My hon. Friend Carolyn Harris and others have campaigned for this change, and the Minister will have had to give weight to relevant or irrelevant considerations, so this is not about losing money to the Exchequer, but about saving lives.

Yet another fall-out from the referendum is the number of statutory instruments—800 to 1,000. I am pleased to say that Parliament staff have worked on an SI tracker, which is now available, so I thank them for doing that. We can filter it by European Union SIs, but not by when they are going to be laid, so we have absolutely no idea of when the SIs will come to be scrutinised. We need to know that to give them effective scrutiny. Perhaps some sort of category such as “SIs on hold” or “Waiting to be laid” might be quite useful for Members.

It has been announced that a memorial to PC Keith Palmer near Carriage Gates has been agreed with his family. The Police Memorial Trust said that the memorial would be a reminder of PC Palmer’s sacrifice and heroism. We need our police officers in the House; they provide valuable back-up to other House staff, such as the Doorkeepers and those around the Estate. We need them, and we thank them for their work.

My right hon. Friend Mr McFadden had a debate yesterday on police pensions. In the west midlands, the changes will cost about £22 million—that is what the west midlands force will have to deal with. That is putting a huge amount of pressure on police forces. The Home Secretary and the Chancellor should come up with a solution now, as the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service alluded to yesterday. Could we have statement to the House on that? It would be a fitting recognition of our police service.

Mr Speaker, yesterday you read out a great letter from our Clerk. I know that there is time until his retirement for tributes to him, but we appreciate the sentiments that he expressed in his resignation letter and thank him for his guidance and expertise in his 43 years of service. He will be missed.

Finally, I want to add my own good wishes to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on his 70th birthday, as I did not have a chance to do so yesterday. I do not know whether Members are aware of one of the facts about him, which is that every time he plants a tree, he gives it a little shake for good luck. I wonder whether the Prime Minister did the same to her Cabinet yesterday. I shall certainly remember to do it when planting trees for the Queen’s Commonwealth canopy.

His Royal Highness is a great innovator. He highlighted organic farming many years ago, before it was fashionable, and as his mum—our Gracious Sovereign— said, he is a true Duchy Original. I wish him a belated penblwydd hapus.

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

Let me first join the hon. Lady in in paying tribute to the Clerk of the House. I have already made my views clear—he has done a great service to the House, and we wish him a long and happy retirement. I also pay tribute to PC Keith Palmer, who sacrificed his own life for us in this place. It is very fitting that there will be a memorial to him here.

As for the hon. Lady’s other requests, as ever, there were many. I am not quite sure that I can offer a statement on how to shake Cabinet members into submission, but it is an interesting suggestion.

The hon. Lady asked about the Easter recess dates. I can only say again that we have announced the Christmas and February recesses, and we will announce the Easter recess in due course. I remind the hon. Lady that in 2010 the Easter recess was announced on 18 March, about 12 days before it started. I think we have a way to go before we can match the appalling—[Interruption.] Yes, we can do better. I totally agree. I fully intend to do better than that.

The hon. Lady said that we had breached the ministerial code. I entirely rebut that, and it is quite outrageous that she should suggest such a thing. The Prime Minister made herself available to the House at the first opportunity to make a statement, and she answered questions for three hours, many of them totally repetitive. The House gives her absolutely no quarter, but it does owe her some respect for that marathon statement, and it does not owe her the discourtesy of suggesting that it broke the ministerial code. I should like to see some evidence of that if the hon. Lady wants to press the point, because she is entirely wrong.

The hon. Lady asked about the timetable for the next stage of the process. As the Prime Minister said, the European Council meeting will be on 25 November. After that point the deal will be finalised, and it will then be brought back to the House for a lengthy review, for discussion, for debate, and for a meaningful vote.

The hon. Lady referred to what she said was another aspect of contempt of Parliament, but did not quite explain what she meant by that. As far as I am aware, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has made absolutely clear his concern about young people being locked up owing to mental health problems. As the hon. Lady said, he did discuss the issue in his statement on prevention, but if she wants to raise it with him again, I suggest that she table a parliamentary question or raise it during Health and Social Care questions on 4 December.

I am not entirely sure what to make of the hon. Lady’s point about Cabinet losses; I think that she, and indeed all Members, should celebrate the fact that the Government are addressing the scourge of gambling addiction, rather than trying to score political points.

The hon. Lady asked about statutory instruments. She will know that the Government have really sought to get a handle on SIs to ensure that the flow is even and the House has time to consider them properly. I have already made it clear—but she may wish to consult the House of Lords Select Committee that is looking into the matter—that the number of SIs will be at the lower end of 800 to 1,000, possibly even lower than that, but we are bringing them forward at a good rate. We are providing further information on the bandings and the likely range of numbers of SIs each month, to be helpful to the sifting Committees in both Houses, and we will continue to co-operate as much as we can to ensure that we get a good Brexit.

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

Yesterday in this place we congratulated His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on his birthday—the greatest living Briton, Mr Speaker; you and I are on the list, but not at the apex.

One of the prince’s many achievements is to be patron of the Heritage Crafts Association. That association covers everyone and everything from wheelwrights to woodturners, from lorinery to lamp making, from passementery to pargeting. A study that I initiated as a Minister in 2012 revealed that it is, collectively, worth £4.4 billion to our economy, employing 200,000 people. Should we not have a debate in the House on those heritage crafts? They, in the union of beauty and utility, add lustre to lives and wealth to our nation.

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

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising a lovely subject. I am not quite sure what my response should be, except to say that I should certainly welcome such a debate, and also to pay tribute to the wonderful contribution that heritage craftspeople make to the beauty of our environment.

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—still in place—Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. She has only gone and upset my Brexit resignation bingo coupon, Mr Speaker. I had her down as a definite resigner today. However, I know that there will be further opportunities later in the day. She will probably have something to say about her place in all this. Once she has recovered from the hangover from all the unchilled Chardonnay that was consumed last night, we may get a sense of what actually happened at that Cabinet meeting.

What we want to hear from the Leader of the House now, however, is what is going to happen next. We need to be reassured that this nonsensical binary choice between a bad deal and no deal is taken right off the table. We have just listened to the Prime Minister’s statement. More than half the Tory Back Benchers were trashing and traducing her deal. It will not get through the House. We are facing the option of a no-deal Brexit. We need to design a process whereby the House could consider a proper response, with all the options properly presented, so that we could make an informed choice. The Leader of the House must say today that it is not about a bad deal or no deal, the devil or the deep blue sea.

May we have a debate about huffing and puffing? The Scottish people are looking at my Scottish Conservative colleagues with a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment. First, they threaten to resign, then they do not resign, then they write letters with red lines, then they do nothing, then they write more letters—only to be ignored, which then seems to satisfy them. They are about the most useless rebels in the history of parliamentary rebellions. Everyone in Scotland is watching the wonderful “Outlaw King” on Netflix, the story of the great king Robert the Bruce. We can only imagine what the Bruce would do if he had to rely on these “rebels”—they would still be sending letters to Edward I as the heavy horse came charging over their heads.

Lastly, given the scale of the resignations that we have seen today—I think that a quarter of the Cabinet have resigned in the past few months—perhaps the Leader of the House would consider providing a spot in the parliamentary weekly calendar that would allow “resignees”, if we can call them that, to come forward in the comfort of this place, rather than having to stand outside on that draughty green to give their views to the press. I think that that is worth considering.

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

I am normally happy to entertain the hon. Gentleman’s banter, but all that he has done today is demonstrate that he is not very good at bingo. He is also not very good at disrespecting the Scottish Conservatives, who at least understand how to fulfil the will of the people.

The hon. Gentleman talked of my having to resign: he had me down as a “resignee”. What I can say to him is that I am staying in the Government because there is more work to be done to secure the Brexit that the Prime Minister wants to deliver to the people and I am determined to support her. The hon. Gentleman’s bantering about that and mocking it is all very well, but he does not suggest anything else, and his party has form for ignoring the will of the people in Scotland, who voted in a referendum to stay in the United Kingdom. What are SNP Members doing sitting there? All they want to do is break up the United Kingdom and, against the will of Scottish fishers, keep them in the common fisheries policy. How much sense does that make?

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee is away on other parliamentary business. He has asked me to plead with the Leader of the House to give us some time to allocate in the Chamber. There is a queue for debates, some of them time-sensitive, that would extend to the end of January if we were given every Thursday. So may I ask for some extra time?

This is my question. Last week, we celebrated the Hindu new year and for most of us it was a joyous occasion. The following day, very sadly, the Willesden temple was broken into and the idols, or statues, that all Hindus celebrate were stolen. Subsequently, earlier this week, the Kenton temple was also broken into and the same thing happened. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary on the subject, so that greater security could be provided for Hindu temples across the country to prevent this from happening anywhere else?

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

I am really sorry to hear about the break-ins at Willesden and Kenton temples. That is appalling. I encourage my hon. Friend to take the opportunity to speak to the Home Secretary about that himself. I am sure he will do that. I am very aware that we need to provide Back-Bench time. I am working on it and would be happy to meet him and the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee to discuss their priorities.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons)

Last Friday, we witnessed some of the best contributions I have ever heard in this Chamber. After a day of passionate speeches, the UK Youth Parliament chose knife crime as one of its two campaign priorities this year. Several MYPs called on the Government to treat knife crime as a public health crisis. I join their calls and ask, for the seventh time: when will the Government grant this House a debate on the public health approach?

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

As I said in my introductory remarks, I was also delighted to hear the extent of the impassioned debate in the Youth Parliament and MYPs are right to raise that very serious issue, as is the hon. Lady. I am aware that she raised it directly with Home Office Ministers earlier this week and I have written to them on her behalf. So she has very well raised this issue, as she should, and I hope to come back to her on it soon.

Photo of David Amess David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the use of meanwhile spaces? Under present arrangements, charity shops, artists and entrepreneurs often take these spaces for three months and then face the full business charge, which seems very unfair under the circumstances.

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

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. He will be aware that the Government introduced a range of business rate reforms worth over £13 billion in England over the next five years, and that we want to encourage the use of empty town centre properties by some of those occupiers who can contribute to the vitality of town centres. We launched our “open doors” project this month, which matches community groups looking for spaces with empty commercial properties and I encourage him to speak directly to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Ministers to see what more can be done to protect them from unnecessary costs.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Opposition Whip (Commons)

After two years, the Prime Minister has said the Government will act to stop rogue bosses swiping tips intended for staff. In answer to my written parliamentary question, the Government, however, have said that this requires primary legislation. When will the Leader of the House make time available for this important Bill?

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

The hon. Lady raises an important point. She is absolutely right; this does require primary legislation. We will be looking carefully at how we can bring that forward as soon as possible. In the meantime we have Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions on Tuesday 20 November and she might want to raise the issue there.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

I am glad my right hon. Friend told us about the women MPs of the world and the Youth Parliament, which has also been referred to. I was able to listen to a bit of the women MPs of the world debate and I was very pleased to see them contributing in this Chamber.

Early-day motion 1826 is on the Shaw report on deportation.

[That this House joins the Home Secretary in endorsing the recommendations of the Shaw Report on possible deportations of foreign nationals, especially when they last lived in their family’s country of residence when young.]

It is associated with two previous EDMs, Nos. 1591 and 1630, about Kweku Adoboli, together with the written questions that were tabled yesterday— questions 157 to 162, on page 19. Is it possible to have a debate on the Shaw report? Can Ministers, instead of saying “We don’t discuss individual cases,” actually say why someone has been deported to a country he last lived in when he was four, and what risk assessment was made of his being allowed to stay here?

May I briefly also mention early-day motion 1440 on fixed odds betting terminals from the summer?

[That this House welcomes the Government's decision to cut the stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2; acknowledges that a £2 stake is now supported by parties across this House; notes that a reduced stake will greatly improve the lives of problem and at-risk gamblers, as well as their families and wider communities; further notes with concern that each day £5 million is lost on such machines; notes with equal concern that the stake is not due to be reduced until April 2020; and calls on the Government to implement this new reduced stake of £2 immediately, to prevent any further gambling related harm or possible loss of life.]

It has been well met by responses in the Commons and by the Government, and I thank the Government for that. We look forward to seeing it in the Finance (No. 3) Bill and to seeing progress to reduce the appalling losses, particularly for people who cannot afford the money they are betting.

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

My hon. Friend raises a number of important points. On deportations, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so he can raise his EDM issues directly with Ministers. On FOBTs, he raises a very good point that many hon. and right hon. Members will have a lot of sympathy with.

Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

In my constituency, tributes are gradually being withdrawn from the site where two young brothers were killed earlier this year by a speeding motorist who was high on drugs and received a paltry sentence for the crime. Last October, the Government announced they planned to increase the maximum penalty for death by dangerous driving. A year on, we are still waiting. May we therefore have a debate or statement on when the Government will introduce the Bill to increase the sentences given to those found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving?

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

The hon. Lady raises a very serious issue and it is completely horrendous when anyone is killed as a result of dangerous driving. She will be aware that we had a debate, as a result of many representations from hon. Members, just before recess. I hope that she was able to make her points there, but certainly Ministers are looking very carefully at what more can be done.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

The Procedure Committee, on which I sit, is going to report imminently on the meaningful vote. It would obviously be wrong for me to provide a trailer for that, but I can give my personal views, and I wonder what the Leader of the House thinks about this. If we are going to have a meaningful vote, should not we know what we are voting on? Is not it the right thing to do, in accordance with the normal procedure of the House, to have the amendments first? Some of us are Brexiteers and some are remainers, but we all believe in the supremacy and importance of Parliament. This motion is amendable and it makes no sense at all to vote on the main motion having no idea what subsequent amendments might be passed. So can the Leader of the House consider at least that as a representation—we should take the amendments first?

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

My hon. Friend will be aware that there will be, as the Prime Minister said earlier, plenty of time for discussion and consideration of exactly what the deal looks like and of the advice given around it, and indeed for consideration of amendments that hon. Members want to bring forward. Clearly, once the deal with the EU has been agreed, Parliament will have a vote on the withdrawal agreement and the terms of our future partnership. Parliament will have the choice to accept or reject the deal. Of course if Parliament accepts the deal, we will introduce the EU withdrawal agreement Bill, which will implement it in domestic legislation, and if Parliament chooses to reject the deal, the Government will be unable to ratify the agreement. But to be clear, of course the motion will be amendable.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

On Saturday, my daughter Jessica, will be two months old and Saturday is also World Prematurity Day. My daughter was born very premature. At the moment, under UK law, fathers have to take their paternity leave within 56 days, but that is very difficult to do when their child is in a neonatal intensive care unit. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate so we can look at this issue and change the law for good?

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

First, may I say that Jessica is gorgeous? We all saw the tweets that the hon. Gentleman put out and congratulate him again; we are so pleased she is making good progress—that is great to hear. He raises an important point and I encourage him to raise it directly with Health Ministers on 27 November. I am sure they will be keen to support him.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

May we have an urgent debate on the way in which private landlords treat some charities? Families United Network is the most amazing charity, serving a lot of my constituents, and it is facing having its rent doubled, which will probably put it out of its premises. This charity provides respite care that is desperately needed by families with disabled children. I visited the charity and it does amazing work. It concerns me that a company such as Petchey Holdings can just threaten to double the rent, effectively meaning the charity has to close down.

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

I am sorry to hear about that and hope that my hon. Friend raising it in the Chamber will cause the landlord to think again. He is right to raise the problem of landlords unreasonably raising rents and the Government are looking at what more can be done to prevent that from happening.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing)

Last Friday, we marked the two-year anniversary of the worst rail disaster for decades: the Croydon tram crash, which took the lives of seven people and injured many more. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report was published last year, and its first recommendation was to set up a UK tram safety board to ensure that nothing like this could happen again. The Government have withheld funding for the board, so it has not yet been set up, and that withholding of funds leaves all those across the country who travel on trams potentially less safe than they should be. Last year, when the investigation report was published, I asked for a debate and for a Minister to come to this place, but no Minister has been to the House to talk about this at all. May I ask that a Minister comes to this place to make a statement about the Croydon tram crash and how we can ensure that nothing like it happens again?

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

We all recall that appalling day and that terrible crash. It was horrendous, and the hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the matter here. We will have Transport questions next Thursday 22 November, and I encourage her to ask her question then.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon

Yesterday it was announced that the House of Fraser store in the Metro Centre was to close, apparently following a breakdown in rental negotiations. Will the Leader of the House join me in offering the staff commiserations on the loss of their jobs? Will she also arrange a debate in Government time to discuss the retail sector and the impact that these rent discussions are having on shops?

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

The hon. Lady raises a really important point. We know that the retail sector is under great strain at the moment, not least because people are changing the way in which they shop and doing much more shopping online. I certainly agree that we should all send our best wishes to those who are losing their jobs, and of course Jobcentre Plus will stand ready to support them in finding other work. The House has had a number of debates on what more can be done in the retail sector, and I encourage the hon. Lady to take part in next week’s Finance Bill Committee debates so that she can raise this issue again.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

The Leader of the House will be aware that there are 115 pieces of proposed legislation to be debated on 23 November, including the beautifully written Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill—

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

I wonder who that was written by.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

Funnily enough, it was the Member for Glasgow South West. Can the Leader of the House indicate whether more time will be allocated for the House to debate private Members’ Bills in the future?

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

I tabled a motion on Monday to provide the House with an additional three sitting Fridays, but unfortunately it was objected to. All hon. Members will know that the Government are keen to support some of the excellent private Members’ Bills, and that is why that time has been provided. I will put forward the motion again shortly, as I am keen for the House to have those extra days.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

The only Crown post office in the centre of Cardiff, Wales’s capital city, is to be franchised to WH Smith, a failing retailer, together with 73 other post offices across the country. May we please have a debate on stopping this unnecessary and damaging privatisation, which is going to affect the jobs of 800 people?

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 raising this point again—it has been raised a number of times at business questions. As I have explained to other hon. Members, the Post Office is moving some of its centres into WH Smith. That is designed not to reduce the services in any way, but to rationalise them. Indeed, in taking on banking and other services, the post office network around the country is often enabling people to get a better service than previously.

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

I am delighted that the Leader of the House is staying in her job because I will admit—as long as she does not tell anybody else—that I quite like her. [Interruption.] Blowing kisses is not going to get her anywhere, however.

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

Easy!

As the Leader of the House will know, the House passed a Magnitsky-style measure in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. The Government have provided three excuses for not doing anything about this yet. One is that it cannot be done until the end of Brexit, and the Foreign Secretary says that that means after the transition period is over. Another reason is that we would have to table statutory instruments and that there is no time for SIs. However, everyone in this House would love to get this done as quickly as possible. Other countries in Europe have already done it, so will she please stay in her job just to get this thing done?

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

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman; I also enjoy our little altercations across the Floor of the House on so many different subjects. I hear what he is saying, and I would be happy to raise this with Ministers directly on his behalf.

Photo of Ruth Smeeth Ruth Smeeth Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North

May we have a debate on who should be on the front of the new £50 note, and will the Leader of the House back the campaign supported by the Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel to have the brilliant engineer who designed the Spitfire, Reginald Mitchell, as the winner?

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

That is a very leading question from the hon. Lady. I absolutely applaud her for suggesting that we should have some sort of debate on this. I could probably come up with my own proposals as well. She makes a good suggestion, and I encourage her to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that all hon. Members can have their say.

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

Yesterday, I met a delegation from Burma consisting of Christians and Buddhists. In September 2018, a United Nations fact-finding mission published a report cataloguing the human rights violations committed by the Burmese military. The report accuses military generals of genocide against the Rohingya, and also outlines crimes such as murder and arbitrary imprisonment. In the past few months, for example, 90 pastors were detained in the Kachin province alone, and 50 churches were attacked and destroyed. Other crimes outlined in the report include enforced disappearance, torture, rape and the enslavement of other religious and ethnic minorities in the Christian Kachin and Buddhist Shan states. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on this important matter?

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

The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important issue that is quite harrowing for all Members across the House. I am aware that a number of right hon. and hon. Members have visited Burma to see for themselves what has been going on there. It is certainly ethnic cleansing, and there seems to be an overwhelming level of evidence for some of the atrocities that he has highlighted. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited Burma in September to press its leaders to take action, and also convened a meeting in New York later in September to try to galvanise the international response. From a humanitarian and a diplomatic point of view, the UK Government are trying their hardest to get these issues resolved.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North

Each Lent, Nottingham women seeking a termination of pregnancy must run an unacceptable gauntlet of protesters outside the Nottingham treatment centre. We need a buffer zone, but this has been ruled out by the Home Secretary. May we have a debate in Government time on the harm that this will cause?

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

I am very sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman says. He will be aware that there is a balance of issues on all sides of this debate, and it has been concluded that it is reasonable to have quiet and peaceful objections shown. I think that many hon. Members will have differing views on this, and I encourage him to perhaps seek an Adjournment debate on the subject.

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health)

May we have an urgent statement—as soon as someone is appointed as Secretary of State—on the mistreatment of young people with epilepsy by the Department for Work and Pensions? My constituent suffered an intermittent epileptic seizure, which is an unpredictable part of his condition, and could not attend his assessment, but he has now had his personal independence payment stopped. This is surely a callous system that needs to be turned around. Could the situation be looked at, particularly in relation to young people with epilepsy, who are being disadvantaged?

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

The hon. Lady raises what sounds like a terrible constituency issue—she is absolutely right to do so. She will be aware that we have Work and Pensions questions on Monday 19 November, and I encourage her to raise this matter with Ministers then.

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

The outgoing Clerk of the House is a great champion of the London living wage, which is paid here in Parliament. May we have a debate in Government time on the excellent scheme here in Parliament, given that some of our publicity is not so excellent? That might also encourage other employers to pay the London living wage, when they can, to entry-level employees.

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 raising that issue. She is right to suggest that we are not all bad, and that the paying of the London living wage is a significant positive for this place. There are many more areas in which Parliament leads the way or aspires to do so, and I share her enthusiasm for having a debate on that subject. She might like to raise the matter directly with Ministers at Question Time, or perhaps seek a Westminster Hall debate so that other colleagues can share their views on the importance of paying the London living wage.

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

My constituent’s husband died 11 days before she became eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. I wrote to the Home Secretary on 20 July to ask for a meeting with him about that case, but I have still not had that meeting. I wrote to him about another constituent, Mr Moneke, on 5 June, 20 July and again on 9 November to ask for a meeting to discuss that case. Could the Leader of the House please nudge the Home Secretary and ask him to meet me about those two cases?

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

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise important constituency matters here, and I will be happy to write to the Home Secretary on her behalf.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Since my election, it has been a joy and an inspiration to get to know the Alive and Kicking project, which plays a vital role in the service of elderly and disabled people in my constituency, in the north-east of Glasgow. Indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker, it was opened by one of your predecessors, Michael Martin, on 15 December 1988, which was a month and a day before I was born. For the last 30 years it has been led by Anne Marie Robertson and Eulalia Stewart. It has been recognised at a national level, including with a Queen’s award for voluntary service in 2008. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking and congratulating Alive and Kicking on its excellent work as it celebrates its pearl anniversary, and will she consider granting a debate on the excellent work that voluntary organisations such as Alive and Kicking do to prevent social exclusion and to involve our elderly people in the later stages of their lives?

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

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman raises this wonderful charity, Alive and Kicking, which has obviously been alive and kicking since before he was, although he is very much alive and kicking these days, to extend that analogy. I absolutely share his enthusiasm for all the fantastic charities that do so much, particularly for people who might be vulnerable, elderly or with disabilities. I am absolutely happy to join him in praising them. He might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can talk more about what they are doing for his community.

Photo of Gareth Snell Gareth Snell Labour/Co-operative, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker—what a surprise to be called. [Interruption.] It is lovely to have friends, isn’t it?

In her answers to other questions, not least that from Sir Edward Leigh, the Leader of the House rightly outlined what may happen should this House decide not to endorse the deal that has been brought forward. She rightly says that if the House rejects that deal, the Government cannot bring forward the European Union withdrawal implementation Bill. However, under section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the Government would have to bring forward a statement within 21 days to outline their intentions. Could I encourage the Leader of the House to take back to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet the point that, while it may be their prerogative to take 21 days, bringing that statement forward as soon as possible after any vote would be in the national interest and would allow the businesses in our constituencies to do some planning, without waiting until potentially the new year?

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

I certainly note what the hon. Gentleman says. He will appreciate that the instructions of the House are the instructions that were given in this place through the withdrawal Bill. However, the Government are clearly trying to be as collegiate as possible across the House to try to get the best possible deal for the UK as we leave the EU. I will certainly make sure that his thoughts are passed on.