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The business for next week will be as follows:
The House has much to celebrate this week. Yesterday, the House agreed to additional days for private Members’ Bills to give more excellent Back-Bench proposals the chance to reach the statute book, and I am truly delighted that on Monday the House agreed to introduce proxy voting. Tulip Siddiq exercised the first proxy vote on Tuesday—a memorable day to do so. Today is Young Carers Awareness Day. On behalf of the House, I thank all those amazing young people whose love and care save lives. We owe them our gratitude and a commitment to do all we can to support them.
The House will know that recess dates are always announced subject to the progress of business. In this unique Session of Parliament, and in the light of the significant decisions taken by the House this week, it is only right that I give the House notice that there are currently no plans to bring forward a motion to agree dates for the February recess and that the House may therefore need to continue to sit to make progress on the key business before it.
I realise that this is short notice for colleagues and House staff, but I think our constituents would expect the House to continue to make progress at this important time. I will endeavour to provide confirmation of the sitting arrangements and business for February as soon as possible. I am very sorry for the inconvenience this will cause to colleagues, House staff and their families. Where House staff are concerned, conversations are under way to ensure that disruption is limited and that no one is out of pocket, and where Members have family, ministerial or constituency commitments, the usual channels will work hard with them to limit the inconvenience.
I do not know whether to thank the Leader of the House for this last-minute change of plan. There is a way of doing this, particularly through the usual channels. Is this the business—staggering from one week to the next? I cannot possibly imagine what hon. Members are going through with this announcement. The shadow Secretary of State for Education has asked me to raise this—she heard on the media that it is possible that the recess may be cancelled. What provision will be given to hon. Members for their children? It cannot be right that hon. Members have to support their children in that way without the Government stepping in and providing proper provision for it.
The House has a lot of business to get through before exit day on
I want to thank the Government for one thing: for working constructively through the usual channels to ensure that the REACH regulations, which I raised last week, will be debated on the Floor of the House. Could the Leader of the House do this again through the usual channels? We prayed against the Securitisation Regulations 2018. Securitisation is really important. It is the pooling of different kinds of loans and debts wrapped up in a financial package. I am sure the Leader of the House knows how important it is, because it was widely regarded as one of the reasons for the financial crash. Not only does that piece of secondary legislation amend primary legislation—which is anathema to constitutional lawyers—but it affects criminal offences already on the statute book and transfers significant powers to the Financial Conduct Authority. The statutory instrument does not quite make it clear whether the FCA will get additional responsibilities, what they will be and whether it will get additional resources for supervision or compliance.
The Leader of the House said in business questions on
We have had two years of “road to Brexit” speeches. We stagger from vote to vote, from week to week. Today, we heard the Foreign Secretary make an announcement on the radio that Brexit may have to be delayed. Is that the way to run a Government—informing people outside the House before you have been informed, Mr Speaker, or before the House has been informed?
The Prime Minister said she wants no running commentary, yet now she wants to meet everyone. I am pleased to say that she met the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Chief Whip yesterday. First, we are told that it is the only deal in town, and now there is a renegotiation. The Government voted for their deal, and on Tuesday they voted against it. The Prime Minister has said that “nothing has changed.” She is right, because the EU has said that nothing will change. Yet the Government are looking for “alternative arrangements”, so could the Leader of the House give us a clue on what exactly these alternative arrangements might mean? That is important because the shadow Secretary of State for Health has said that there are shortages of epipens, Epilim, aspirin and naproxen. These are all matters of life and death, so can we have a debate on the NHS 10-year-plan?
The Leader of the House has announced a debate next week on the local government settlement. That was sneaked out on Tuesday in a written statement—
Yes, it was—in a written statement. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State should have announced it in the House. The shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has called it a “shoddy deal”. Councils need significantly more than a 2.8% rise, and the Local Government Association has said that councils still face a funding gap of more than £3 billion a year. We have had no information on business rates retention, on new funding for social care or on the Green Paper on adult social care. Will the Leader say when that will be published?
We need a debate on why councils are investing in commercial property. Tesco Extra has been bought for £38.8 million by East Hampshire District Council. Branches of Waitrose and Travelodge have been acquired by Runnymede Borough Council for £21.7 million. Ian Hayes from Runnymede has told me that Runnymede Borough Council had to request an increase in the council’s authorised borrowing limit to facilitate earlier purchase of property acquisitions. [Interruption.] As Wendy Morton, who interrupts me from a sedentary position, will know, a B&Q store is now owned by Dover District Council. These are purchases of commercial property outside the local authorities.
I agreed with the Leader of the House when she said that it was an interesting and very important day on Tuesday. Anyone looking in Hansard will have seen the name of my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq. She was able to cast her vote by proxy—it was done by my hon. Friend Vicky Foxcroft—so we know it works. I am just a bit saddened by the fact that the amendment was not referred to the Procedure Committee, rather than agreed by the Government. I hope that the Government will in future refer things to the Procedure Committee so it can look at them again.
The constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for Thomson Reuters, is still separated from Gabriella and Richard—it is over 1,000 days. The Government must act now to free her.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her questions. As she will be aware—I have said this a number of times in the Chamber—in this Session, so far, we have introduced 46 Bills, 33 of which have received Royal Assent, with three others waiting to receive Royal Assent.
The hon. Lady asked whether we have time for all our Brexit legislation by exit day. I can absolutely assure her that my day job is to make sure, on a daily basis, that both the primary legislation and the secondary legislation are progressing through the House. That is the case and will continue to be the case. I am confident that the legislation we need to have Royal Assent—or, in the case of secondary legislation, to be made—by the
The hon. Lady asks about statutory instruments the Opposition have prayed against. As I say consistently to the hon. Lady, the Government have a good record of providing time to debate negative SIs that are prayed against by the official Opposition when a reasonable request is made. The official Opposition prayed against six Treasury SIs very late in the praying period—in fact, the last day before they were made—and did not request a debate through the usual channels. I am afraid that is quite late in the day to be making such requests, but I will continue to consider requests that are made through the usual channels.
I am pleased that the hon. Lady is pleased that the universal credit regulations that are subject to the affirmative procedure will be debated in both Houses. She asks for a debate on the NHS 10-year plan. That is a very good idea and I will certainly take that away as a representation from her. She asks about the local government funding SI to be debated next week. She asks for a debate, which I have just announced will be next week, so I hope she is pleased that there will be a debate. She suggests that a written ministerial statement is “sneaking out” news. As far as this Parliament has always been concerned, a written ministerial statement is not sneaking out news; it is providing information to the House in a way that is entirely orderly.
The hon. Lady mentions the appalling situation for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The hon. Lady will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made it a personal mission to seek to free Nazanin, so that she can get back to her husband and daughter. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady says when. I am not sure what she thinks the UK Government should do, other than to continue to make representations, as we are doing, on the grounds of human rights and the innocence of Nazanin, to have her returned home to her family as soon as possible.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the future of the national lottery? It was set up with the best of intentions, but it has been completely ruined by a multiplicity of games, all at the expense of small lotteries, which give so much valuable support to many charities.
My hon. Friend raises a very good point. He will be aware that the national lottery has raised over £39 billion for good causes since 1994. The Government are committed to ensuring both society lotteries and the national lottery continue to thrive. There was a consultation, between June and September 2018, on the proposed reform of society lotteries to try to allow society lotteries to grow by changing sales and prize limits, while protecting the position of the national lottery. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has said that he will respond to the consultation in the first half of this year.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.
Well, who would have thought it? They actually all united, Mr Speaker. They are united around a fallacy, an illusion, a fantasy. As an exponent of the elaborate richness of the English language, Mr Speaker, you will know that there is a word for their current condition—denialism, a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Nothing could better sum up these unicorn-chasing Tories and the way that they can interpret, “No, we will not renegotiate the political agreement” into “Yes, we will give you everything Mr Rees-Mogg wants.” It is denialism madness. At some point, however, the hard reality will have to catch up with this Government. Can the Leader of the House explain what happens when the Prime Minister inevitably comes back with nothing? What is the process then?
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for confirming that there will no longer be a February recess. I am sure that that has gone down like a bucket of sick with some of our hon. Friends who have already planned their holidays. What is going to happen during that week? Is it going to be Brexit-related business? Is it going to be business like the business we see for next week? What happens to departmental questions? The normal rota has already been done, so can she explain to us exactly what we will be doing for that week given that the recess is to be lost? Mr Speaker, you will remember that I asked the Leader of the House quite clearly last week whether the February recess would be cancelled. “No” was the answer, just like she told me that the meaningful vote would not be delayed just before it actually was.
I have raised the issue of the feral pack-like behaviour of Conservative Members before. Yesterday, when my right hon. Friend Ian Blackford was on his feet, it was simply appalling. Every mention of Scotland or Scottish sent them into apoplexy, with howls of derision even peppered with expletives. These are tribunes of the middle and upper classes. A good proportion of them went to private schools. What on earth happens in those private schools to cause behaviour such as that? The people of Scotland are watching and simply concluding that this House is not prepared to listen to us and will try to shout down every attempt to stand up for our country. We have a very elegant solution: it is called having a Government and independent Parliament of our own.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of denialism. I suggest that it is the Scottish nationalists in this place who are in denial over the result of the Scottish independence referendum. It is interesting that one of my favourite newspapers, The National, reports that the hon. Gentleman himself is questioning the merits of a second referendum on EU membership because he feels it might harm the Scot nats’ chances of a second referendum on Scottish independence. If anyone is a denialist in this place, it is him. Not only that; he is also a pessimist. It is deeply disappointing that he is already saying that the Government’s attempts will fail. If he looks carefully at what has happened in the past two and a half years, he will see that the Prime Minister’s deal for withdrawing from the EU seeks to ensure that we can have our cake and eat it. We have successfully cherry-picked and done all the things that the EU said we would not do, because we will be protecting jobs and our economy at the same time as leaving the EU and fulfilling the referendum result, so he should be a bit more optimistic.
The hon. Gentleman asked about Brexit-related business during the second week of February. He will appreciate that there is a huge amount of Brexit-related business. He criticised the business for next week, but these are very important Brexit-related statutory instruments, as well as some instruments that are always debated on the Floor of the House of Commons. The House should wish to discuss those very important pieces of parliamentary businesses.
The hon. Gentleman also suggested—it was somewhat inverted-snobbery—that Members on the Government Benches have all been to private school. I am an ex-grammar school girl, and the Government side is dominated by people who have worked hard in this life and want to do something for their country. He should be ashamed for saying that, but not nearly as ashamed as his right hon. Friend Ian Blackford should be for his appalling remarks in the Chamber suggesting that there is anything other than a 100% commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. That was a dangerous and appalling thing to suggest, and it was completely untrue.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should all be delighted not only that the Government are making the biggest investment in the NHS in its history but that, as we heard today from Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, with that investment, the NHS is training more doctors and nurses and, importantly, providing direct access so patients can go directly to a physiotherapist or somebody who can sort out their care needs more quickly. That will free up more time for GPs, so they can spend more time with the patients who need that.
The Leader of the House will be delighted to know that I went to a good school—it was approved.
We do not yet know when time will be allocated for a day of debates on departmental estimates, but we are asking that hon. and right hon. Members submit applications for such debates by Friday
May I remind the Leader of the House that, if the recess in February is cancelled or changed, that has an impact on important appointments and events that hon. and right hon. Members have had arranged in their constituencies for months in advance? This is not just about holidays; it is about important local events.
In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s final point, I totally agree, which is why I have apologised to Members for the fact that we are having to do this, and have made it clear that through the usual channels a lot of effort will be made to ensure hon. Members can continue to meet the needs of their constituents and so on.
The hon. Gentleman makes a bid for a debate on
Across Britain, a trip up any road or down any street will be a chance, sadly, to see the litter—the detritus of our throwaway culture: cups and cartons, bottles and bags, from careless corporate coffee shops or feckless fast food outlets. The figures speak for themselves: according to Keep Britain Tidy smoking-related litter, alcohol-related litter and fast food-related litter are all on the increase. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has heroically led the campaign against single-use plastic, but may we now have a debate on packaging waste? That will give us a chance to consider the cause of this problem, rather than just nailing its effect. It might also give an opportunity to consider one of the most curious facets of change in our lifetime: that we have gone from the daily delivery of milk in a bottle which was recycled to plastic cartons obtained inconveniently from distant megastores. It is time that Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west, rode again.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the quality of his prose this morning. I am also very glad that he was able to join my fantastic Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis, to launch the great British spring clean recently. That will take place mainly between 22 and
My right hon. Friend is right to raise this issue; it is of huge concern, and always in the top three items that people in the country raise. Litter is a huge concern to all of us, and certainly it is a function of the improper use of packaging. I am very sympathetic, therefore, and my right hon. Friend might well want to seek at least a Backbench debate for all hon. Members to share their concerns.
May we have an early debate on the state of our town centres and the closure of Marks & Spencer stores? Marks & Spencer used to be a company with high ethical values; indeed, it used to buy a lot of its materials in Huddersfield for suiting and ladies’ fashions, but now its management is under a former Conservative vice-chairman and Member of Parliament, Archie Norman, who we know well from his asset stripping of Asda. We know from the involvement of his team in HBOS and other companies what they do; there is no ethical value there. May we have a debate on these asset strippers destroying our town centres?
The hon. Gentleman makes some very serious accusations, and I cannot share his enthusiasm for pointing at individuals and blaming them. Nevertheless, he makes an important point about the need to have thriving town centres; he is absolutely right to do that, and he will be aware that the Government are doing a lot to try to reduce and reform business rates to give our retail spaces a better chance so that we can all enjoy thriving town centres.
On the hon. Gentleman’s specific point about asset stripping and the policy of big business, I encourage him to raise that directly during questions to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on
Will my right hon. Friend update the House on her early years working group, and may I thank her for agreeing to attend the family hubs conference here in Westminster designed to promote the bonds of love within families, being held, appropriately, on Valentine’s day?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend has raised this issue. The inter-ministerial working group I am chairing on behalf of the Prime Minister is looking at ways we can provide more support for the critical early years of a baby’s life, to ensure that we have strong, socially well secured and established human beings in our society, which is absolutely vital if we are to see the society change we want to see. I was delighted recently to visit the Lambeth Early Action Partnership, and more recently to go to Manchester with Lucy Powell to see the excellent work being done in family hubs and children’s centres. I will be delighted to join my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce at the conference she mentions.
This week, we learned that there was a near miss involving a drone at Edinburgh airport in November 2016. Given that there have been two major disruptions at our international airports recently, would the Leader of the House consider granting a debate on this issue, which is a matter of great public concern?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this serious and concerning issue. She will be aware that there has been an urgent question on the subject. There is in fact a business in my constituency that is seeking to provide a solution to this problem, so I have a personal interest in it. She will be aware that we have Transport questions on
Exeter city has just brought out an excellent report looking ahead to the security and growth of the city centre over the next 20 years. Across the border, however, my county town of Taunton is more like Aleppo than anything else. Following the request from Mr Sheerman, may we please have a debate—in this place in Government time—on how town centres must look forward to visionary experiences as opposed to looking back to what has happened in history?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that local authorities and local enterprise partnerships need to plan properly for the thriving future of their town centres and regions. He makes a good point, and I would encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise his particular issues.
I have been contacted by a group of women in my constituency who have been adversely affected by changes to their state pension age. They are struggling to make ends meet, and it is not good enough for the Government to keep saying that nothing further can be done for them. May we have a debate on this important issue in Government time so that we can try to reach consensus on how we can support these women?
The hon. Lady will be aware that the Government have listened carefully to the concerns of that particular group of women. It was right to equalise the state retirement age, and the Government have taken steps, including committing more than £1 billion, to support those who were worst affected, so that no one will see their pension age change by more than 18 months, relative to the Pensions Act 1995 timetable, and that those with the most significant changes will receive at least seven years’ notice.
Last week, I held a Westminster Hall debate on the contribution that the furniture industry makes to our economy, in which Members from across the House highlighted the important role played by their small and medium-sized furniture manufacturers. Following on from that, may we have a debate in Government time on the importance of supporting SMEs across all industries?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that she does as chairman of the all-party parliamentary furniture industry group. She is right to stress the importance of SMEs to our economy, and she will be aware that small businesses are being supported with new investments, as part of our modern industrial strategy, to boost their productivity and ensure that they continue to thrive. I can tell her that 15 projects from around the United Kingdom have won a share of the £2 million business basics fund, which is part of our modern industrial strategy.
It is absolutely unbelievable that the Home Secretary has announced a knife crime initiative this morning in the papers and on the radio. Where was his statement to this House? Why is he not here to address this House about one of the most crucial things facing our constituents up and down this country? Only a couple of days ago, a police chief told the Home Affairs Committee that 10,000 children were being exploited and used in county lines. Knife crime is rampant and young people are being slaughtered. Where is the Home Secretary? The Leader of the House wrote to him two weeks ago to express the concern raised by all Members across the House about this issue. Where is he? How can he announce this in the papers and on the radio? That gives us no opportunity to ask him about the progress of the serious violence strategy. I say to the right hon. Lady that this is an absolute disgrace, and that the people of this country will not understand why, in the face of this national emergency, the Home Secretary has gone missing.
I share the hon. Gentleman’s grave concern, and he is absolutely right to raise the concerns of all right hon. and hon. Members about the appalling spike in knife crime. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was talking about an amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill that was laid yesterday. He wrote to Opposition Front Benchers, and I have asked him to send a copy of the letter to the hon. Gentleman. All Members will be aware that the matter has been discussed for some considerable time, and the new deterrent in the form of knife crime prevention orders is in effect trying to prevent young people from getting into a life of knife crime.
I thank the Leader of the House very much for what she has said, which does at least explain the chronology of events. However, for the avoidance of doubt, let it be clear that it is utterly discourteous to the House of Commons for an important initiative to be announced outside of this Chamber by means of media interviews. The fact of which the right hon. Lady has helpfully informed us—that the Home Secretary wrote to shadow Ministers—is of interest, but in terms of the priority of a statement in the House, it is frankly neither here nor there. The way in which Ministers are held to account is by interrogation in this Chamber. Simply writing a letter to an opposite number and then beetling off to do a radio or television interview will not do. It is simply not up to the required standard.
I say to Vernon Coaker, who is one of the least partisan Members of this House and is naturally collaborative by instinct, that if a Minister does not come to this Chamber to announce a policy when he or she should, there are well-established means by which to ensure the presence of a Minister at the first parliamentary opportunity thereafter. If Members seek such an opportunity, it will be provided. Among other things, we will all be interested to know what possible credible explanation for the conduct can be proffered to the House by a Minister. In the absence of a credible explanation, what of course is required is an unqualified apology.
As colleagues around the House know, I am also not enormously party political, and I completely agree with Vernon Coaker that the House should have been informed.
There is one issue that is bringing this House into disrepute today, and that is the fact that a Member of this House is in prison and continues to be an MP. My constituents and other constituents around the country do not understand how someone can be convicted and go to prison and yet still be a Member of this House. The police officers who protect us here would lose their pensions and lose everything. Something is seriously wrong, so can we have a debate—in the time that it seems we now have—and change the law to ensure that if someone goes to prison, they will not be in this House, so that the public can believe that what we do is right?
My right hon. Friend is quite correct that it is unacceptable for the residents of Peterborough that their Member of Parliament is unable to represent them. Not only is she physically unable to represent them, but she is choosing not to do what I think all right hon. and hon. Members would say is the right thing to do.
Under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, an MP becomes subject to the recall petition process if they are convicted of a criminal offence in the United Kingdom and receive a custodial sentence, including a suspended sentence, which is not the case here. In the event of a criminal conviction, the recall condition will not be met unless the appeal period expires without the conviction, sentence or order having been overturned on appeal. What that means in layman’s terms is that the recall petition process will not be triggered until all appeals are finalised. I agree with my right hon. Friend that it would be right for that Member to stand down to allow her constituents to choose a new Member of Parliament.
I am not sure the Prime Minister will share the enthusiastic call of the Leader of the House for the citizens of this country to come out on to the streets in hi-vis jackets after the example we have seen in France.
More immediately, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Disclosure and Barring Service means that the Government should urgently correct the blight that is ruining so many lives, often for minor offences committed many years before. Given the limited nature of next week’s business, will the Government take the earliest opportunity to end this scandal? That would have support on both sides of the House, and it would transform the lives of so many and enable them to contribute to the economy and to society.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, I think we would call them the “gilets verts” because they are a green version of the gilets jaunes. Perhaps we could rebrand it and have a positive form. He makes a serious second point, and he is right to raise the issue. I urge him to take it up at Justice questions on Tuesday
Can we have a debate on unique foods? Last week, as many of us celebrated Rabbie Burns, Sheila Gray of Fochabers ice cream parlour in Moray, in her own nod to the bard, was creating a new variety of ice cream that blends whisky, tattie scones and haggis. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Sheila on this latest imaginative variety, particularly as a loyal customer, 84-year-old Charlie Armour, described the ice cream as “better than sex”?
Well, with 84 years of experience, I am sure Charlie would know. I am not sure it would be my first choice of flavour, but I guess it would have to be tasted to be believed. I understand that Sheila attracts customers from far and wide, and I am sure the ice cream parlour is a fantastic tourist attraction. On top of that, I believe she is a tireless fundraiser in the local community. Our thriving food and drink sector contributes almost £30 billion to our economy, and we have people like Sheila to thank for that. Congratulations to her for her extraordinary new invention, and I hope to try her creations for myself one day.
I am sure we all have many cases involving Child Maintenance Service maladministration. The issues are legion, but one example involves the CMS being informed of an ex-partner being in work in September 2016 and the CMS taking until December 2017 to confirm the employment, but by May 2018—after nearly two years—still no payment had been made. Can we have a debate on this important issue so that Ministers can hear just how badly this organisation is run?
Rough sleeping is the visible sign of homelessness, and the rough sleeping figures should be announced today. I am waiting to see what the figures look like, but it cannot have escaped anyone’s attention that the temperatures in this country are plunging. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on what he is doing to ensure that not only do we deal with rough sleeping but that we safeguard people so that they do not die on our streets in this terrible weather?
My hon. Friend has been an advocate for doing more on homelessness for a very long time, and I pay tribute to him. It is so cold outside now, and he is right that we have to do everything we can to make sure people have somewhere warm and safe to sleep. He will be aware that the Government have made this a domestic priority, and I believe the homelessness Minister, my hon. Friend Mrs Wheeler, visited a night shelter just two days ago and has made it her priority to see the homeless numbers dropping as soon as possible.
I have been working with the Director General of the House of Commons to ensure that the homeless people sleeping outside Parliament are better cared for and helped to find night shelters. It is, of course, a very difficult and challenging problem with many facets. Even in cases where night shelters are provided, sometimes homeless people do not want to use them, but my hon. Friend is right to keep raising the issue. It is a big priority for the Government to see those numbers halved and eventually eradicated.
First, let me thank the Leader of the House and the Backbench Business Committee for allocating, on
I wish to raise with the Leader of the House the concern of a number of people who took seasonal work in Hull, and around the UK, with Grotto Hire UK as Santa’s little helpers before Christmas. They learnt this week that they have lost thousands of pounds in pay because the owner of the Hull-based company, Tony Jennings, has put two of his companies into liquidation to avoid paying staff and suppliers. He now refuses to take calls from the staff he employed. Should not the Government allocate time for a debate on who is a fit and proper person to set up a company, and on ending the spiv practice of putting companies into liquidation, in suspect circumstances, and running off with the takings, only to open up another company with another name?
The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue; I have seen similar situations arise in my constituency. It is a huge concern that some people seem determined deliberately to rip off those who have given of their time and their work, and then seek to open a different company and, in effect, steal these workers’ pay. That is an appalling practice. She might like to seek an Adjournment debate to raise these issues. Alternatively, I encourage her to raise them at Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions on
As the owner of Maximus, I welcomed the Government’s introduction of animal welfare regulations last October. However, many doggy day care services and boarding kennels, such as Waggingtons in my constituency, are worried that the regulations are over-complex and risk putting such companies out of business. Will a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister come to the Dispatch Box to explain how the regulations were put together and what dialogue will take place with doggy day care providers? Will a Minister explain to these people how they are able to work within the regulations without being put out of business?
My hon. Friend rightly recognises the high animal welfare standards that we have in this country, and we are committed to continuing to be among the best in the world in our commitment to animal welfare. I encourage him to write to DEFRA Ministers seeking further clarification. Alternatively, if he wishes to write to me, I will take the matter up directly with the Department on his behalf.
May we have a debate in Government time on fairer funding for northern constituencies, particularly those with a former coalfield history? I was shocked to see the front page of The Times today suggesting that Members of this House would be offered bribes or sweeteners if they sign up to the Prime Minister’s deal, which we know will make those constituencies worse off. Given that the Government have taken £6 billion out of northern constituencies, is it not time that they held a proper debate on fairer funding for the north, instead of offering bribes and pork barrel politics?
This Government have shown a huge commitment to the north—through the northern powerhouse, the city deals, the devolution deals and the establishment of Mayors in some of our great northern cities. The Government have invested more than a quarter of a trillion pounds in infrastructure since 2010 through public and private investment, and the public investment part of that is 14% higher, on average, than the figure under Labour. We have invested in the biggest rail programme since Victorian times and the largest road building programme since the 1970s, and much of that is focused on our northern towns and cities. I just do not think it is reasonable for the hon. Lady to suggest that nothing has been done for the north; there has been increased employment, increased investment and increased opportunities.
Following on from what the Leader of the House has said, there is great news in Wellingborough, where we have the electrification of the midland main line and big improvements on the Chowns Mill roundabout on the A45. There is, however, one slight problem: bridges need to be demolished to get the electrification done. As she is a Northamptonshire MP, she will know that one cannot go from the M1 to the east coast without going along the A45, but that is going to be closed westbound for nine months and the local bridges in my constituency have been demolished. Unless this is sneaky plan to keep me stuck in Wellingborough until after Brexit day, will she sneak out a written statement on Monday about how we are going to deal with this chaos?
I hope my hon. Friend is not suggesting for a moment that he would not love to be trapped in Wellingborough until after Brexit day; it is a very nice place, after all, and I would happily come to visit him there. He will be aware that we have Transport questions on
Whether it is regarding the failure to send cervical screening letters to more than 50,000 women, the inhumane approach to personal independence payment assessments, or the failure to bring in 90% of the recruits our Army needs, the disastrous shortcomings of Capita are all too clear, so may we have an urgent debate in Government time on the failure of the Government’s privatisation strategy?
Concerns have been expressed about Capita, and the hon. Lady will be aware that the Cabinet Office has significantly changed the arrangements for monitoring the way in which Government contracts are fulfilled. That work has been very important and remains ongoing. The hon. Lady raises some specific issues, which I encourage her to raise at Cabinet Office questions on
My local Brecon and Radnorshire branch of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, under its capable chair, Mrs Elaine Stephens, and her hard-working team, carries out tremendous work for farmers and farm workers who have for various reasons fallen on hard times. Will my right hon. Friend grant time for a debate on what more can be done to encourage such worthwhile and valued charities as RABI?
I pay tribute to Elaine. As a former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and someone who represents a rural constituency, I know at first hand how hard farmers work and how much they need our support at times. I am aware of the amazing work carried out by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, and know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food met representatives of farming charities, including RABI, just last November to discuss how they were supporting farmers in the aftermath of the 2018 drought. It is vital that we continue to work to support farmers as we leave the European Union, and I certainly look forward to the opportunities that will result for our farmers and food producers.
Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted by several citizens advice bureaux advisers who are experiencing increased delays when they call the employment and support allowance helpline. I am told that delays of more than half an hour and up to an hour are a daily and commonplace occurrence. I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that this is unacceptable, given the pressure her Government are putting on these agencies. May we have a statement on the performance of this so-called helpline?
The Leader of the House is right to highlight the Government’s powerful devolution agenda, including in respect of public transport, especially local bus services. Unfortunately, there has been no progress on this policy area in Greater Manchester; in fact, the local Labour leadership is slashing 33 bus services across Greater Manchester. In the run-up to the local elections in May, may we have a debate on how people can hold their local politicians to account?
My hon. Friend is a strong voice for his area and raises a good point. The Greater Manchester combined authority and the Mayor have all the powers to initiate improvements to local bus services, thanks to our Bus Services Act 2017. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2019 will mean that clear responsibility for bus reform and funding lies with the Mayor, whom local people can hold to account. That is a further step in our powerful devolution agenda. With that order, we will have completed the suite of mayoral powers that we promised as part of the original devolution deal, which unlocked £900 million of Government investment in Greater Manchester’s infrastructure.
The hon. Lady gives me the opportunity to inform Members that the House Commission met to discuss progress on the Cox recommendations just last Monday. There is progress. The key recommendations have all been committed to by the House Commission. Work is underway to establish an informal group that will meet to discuss how to remove Members of Parliament from the responsibility of measuring each other’s transgressions. Further work is underway both on the six-month review of the independent complaints procedure and on Laura Cox’s recommendations on how to ensure that historical allegations can be brought before the independent complaints procedure. I will update the House further as soon as I am able to do so.
Many parts of the country are struggling with difficult winter weather conditions. Will the Leader of the House join me in paying tribute to the council workers who drive gritters and the health services who keep people safe, and may we have a statement on what we can all do to keep vulnerable elderly and disabled people safe during these difficult winter conditions?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. Winter weather does draw our attention to parts of society that come under the most pressure—from hospitals all the way through to people experiencing loneliness and isolation. I join him in praising all those in local services who have worked hard all year to prepare for winter. He will be aware that Ministers across a number of Departments support the work of local resilience forums that are dedicated to ensuring that local areas are ready for all kinds of weather-related incidents. Of course, at this time of year, we should all be mindful of our most vulnerable neighbours, particularly elderly and disabled members of our community who are living in rural or isolated parts of the country.
Yesterday, the Transport Committee heard evidence that the underfunding of local authorities that are responsible for administering the older people’s concessionary bus pass has led to the loss of vital services. This morning, in departmental questions, many hon. Members raised their concern that pushing responsibility for free TV licences for the over-75s on to the BBC will inevitably lead to vulnerable people losing a much-valued benefit. May we have time for a debate on how this Government are wilfully undermining the measures that Labour introduced to improve the lives of older citizens, and to tackle precisely the social isolation that the Leader of the House was just talking about, while trying to dodge responsibility for the cuts?
The hon. Lady will be aware that we have Transport questions on
As the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Ethiopia, I have seen at first hand the vital work that is done by aerospace companies such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Bombardier in boosting British exports and investments in that country. Can we have a debate on the importance of the aerospace industry so that we can give credit to the leadership and the workforce of Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Bombardier and many other companies for the work that they do on behalf of the United Kingdom, on behalf of our exports and on behalf of our economy?
I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the aerospace sector is an absolutely vital part of the UK economy. I join him in thanking those companies for the excellent work that they do to support other economies around the world such as Ethiopia’s. He might like to raise his specific point at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions on Tuesday
We already know from the Prime Minister that the business on
I must say that I do like the way that the hon. Gentleman raises the subject of love at every possible opportunity, and I think he is right to do so—let us hope that this Chamber can learn a bit of that in time for Valentine’s day. We will, of course, have the opportunity to enjoy the Prime Minister coming back for a second meaningful vote as soon as possible. Just to be clear, if we have not brought a revised deal back to this House by Wednesday
Two weeks ago, I raised the question of the WASPI women and the forthcoming court case that led to the closure of a significant number of cases by the Independent Case Examiner. The Leader of the House kindly said that I could write to her. Since then, the matter has become even more complex, with a letter from the Pensions Minister to the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee that came out only yesterday. The confusion now is that women who have received a closure letter from the ICE do not know whether their case may be reopened—depending on the case, on what happens and on what the court decides—or whether it has in fact been closed by assessment. May we have an urgent statement to try to clarify the situation, which is causing great confusion and distress among a significant number of women? My hon. Friend Tonia Antoniazzi has secured today’s Adjournment debate, in which this matter may well be raised, but I also think it should be addressed with a statement to clarify the situation for everyone.
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue and his understanding of the situation. I encourage him to participate in the Adjournment debate secured by Tonia Antoniazzi later today. If he then wants to write to me, I can take up the matter with the Department for Work and Pensions on his behalf, or he can write directly to the Department himself.
Is the Leader of the House aware of alarming reports that the Food Standards Agency is to restrict the supply of cannabidiol products in the UK? Any such move would risk the supply of higher strength CBD products to a number of seriously ill patients who are waiting for medicinal cannabis. Will the Leader of the House seek assurances from the Health Secretary that this is actually not the case?
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s point. If she would like to write to me, I can certainly raise her concerns with the Secretary of State for Health.
The UK Government believe that there has been widespread abuse of the IR35 rules, even though only a minority of companies and individuals have ever been found to be in breach of the rules, and HMRC has lost cases against its own contractors. I have a constituent who operates as a self-employed IT consultant. Most of his work is in England, but under the new rules that the Government are introducing, any reimbursement that he gets for necessary flights and hotels will be treated as taxable income. This means that his business model will fail or that he will have to move from my constituency down to England. His overheads have already increased because of the additional insurance needed against any spurious HMRC investigations. Given that the Tories are supposed to be the party that protects entrepreneurs, can we have a Government statement or a debate—and possibly a rethink—on the impact of these rules changes?
The hon. Gentleman is raising a tax issue that is specific to his constituent, and he is right to do so in the Chamber. However, I encourage him either to seek an Adjournment debate or table a parliamentary question to Ministers, as it is not a matter to which I can respond from the Dispatch Box today.
This week we should have had a debate in Westminster Hall on the regulation of non-surgical cosmetic procedures, but sadly it was cancelled because of the illness of Alberto Costa, who would have been leading the debate—I send him my best wishes for a speedy recovery. People continue to suffer adverse effects as a result of the unregulated administration of cosmetic products by non-medical practitioners. May we have an urgent debate in Government time to discuss putting an end to this corrupt practice?
I think the hon. Lady has raised this issue a number of times in the Chamber, and I absolutely commend her for doing so, as it is of grave concern. I was not aware that the Westminster Hall debate had to be cancelled, and I am sorry for that. I would encourage her perhaps to write to Mr Speaker to seek reinstatement of that debate at the earliest opportunity.
Since the Home Secretary’s announcement that the Government would adopt a public health approach to address violence, we have heard nothing—nothing on funding and nothing on how, just gimmicks. Today he has announced knife crime prevention orders—in the media, as my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker stated, not in this House. Children as young as 12 years old are being criminalised. Instead of criminalising them, we need to tackle the root causes. When can we have an urgent statement on how this fits into the Government’s supposed public health approach?
The hon. Lady has raised this issue a number of times. I have been very pleased to be able to give Government time to two debates on what is an incredibly serious issue that concerns hon. and right hon. Members right across the House. She will be aware that the Government have published a serious violence strategy backed by £40 million of new funding. She will be aware of the £200 million youth endowment fund to provide support in getting children and young people at risk off the path towards crime. She will be aware of the £22 million over the next two years for an early intervention youth fund to support youth groups in communities with early intervention and prevention measures, and the £1.5 million for the anti-knife crime community fund to help communities themselves to tackle knife crime. It is an enormous priority for the Government, as she well knows. I pay tribute to her for continuing to raise this here, and absolutely assure that it remains a top priority for the Government.
Mr Saberi and Mrs Habibimarand are 83 and 73-year-old great-grandparents who live in my constituency. They have lived in Edinburgh for over 40 years. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are all British citizens. The Home Office has refused their application to stay. Disgracefully, their latest correspondence from the Home Office says that because they look after their severely autistic grandson while his mother is at work, they should be able to look after themselves in Iran. The severe emotional distress that their leaving would cause to their grandson could be exacerbated by him visiting their empty flat. This is a disgraceful response from the Home Office. Can we have an urgent debate led by the Home Secretary on article 8 of the European convention on human rights, on the right to a family life, and let these great-grandparents stay in Edinburgh, where their family and their lives are?
The hon. Gentleman raises what sounds like a very worrying situation. I think that the family will be pleased to have his support in raising it in the Chamber. I would encourage him to write directly to Ministers. If he wants to write to me following the business question, I can certainly take it up with the Department on his behalf.
A recent investigation by The Observer and Radio 5 Live found that there has been a 28% increase to more than 3,000 in the number of looked-after children under the age of 18 living in independent living accommodation without support. In many cases, that leaves these young people in danger. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government refuses to take responsibility for these children and does not even collate data on how many of them are being failed. Can we have an urgent debate in Government time on the responsibilities and resources of local authorities to protect these very vulnerable young people?
I think we would all share the hon. Lady’s concern about the importance of looking after young people who have been, for whatever reason, separated from their families. Certainly, the issue of children in care who then leave care and become very difficult to track down is a challenge for all the authorities who are seeking to look after them. I would encourage her perhaps to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that hon. Members can share their own experiences and concerns.
I am sure that, like many other Members, the Leader of the House and I have our fair share of complaints about the Child Maintenance Group, with long delays in recovering arrears reaching thousands of pounds. There is also an issue about whether the change in circumstances threshold is at the right level. The current level of 25% seems to cause quite a lot of injustice and frustration all round. Can we have a debate on whether this service is currently meeting the expectations that people have of it?
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s request. I certainly have my fair share of constituents who have struggled with the CMS. I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business debate in the first instance, so that all Members can share their concerns.
I am sorry to hear of the situation for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. He will be aware that the warm home discount scheme, measures on improving energy efficiency and the energy company obligation form part of the Government’s determination to ensure that people can keep themselves warm in winter. I suggest that he raises his constituency concern in a written parliamentary question to the Department.
Pubs are an important part of our local communities, but too many of them are closing. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the Friends of Ye Olde Cross in Ryton in my constituency, who on Tuesday this week took ownership of Ye Olde Cross as a community pub in the heart of the village? I declare an interest, as one of more than 300 community shareholders in the pub.
I congratulate the hon. Lady and all the other community shareholders. I am sure she will be there pulling a pint at some point over the weekend, and we will want to see a photograph of that. She is right; pubs in our communities are vital. They bring people together and provide somewhere to chat and share views about Brexit and all manner of things. They are the venue for many happy discussions. We appreciate the importance of the pub. That is why the Government have sought to keep taxes down on a pint of beer and a glass of wine, and we are doing everything we can from both a fiscal and community support point of view to keep our pubs going.
Holiday hunger is a scourge in communities like mine, and for too many young children, their free school meal is the best and sometimes only nutritious meal they get. That stops during the holidays, and we have a challenge in this place to tackle that. In the meantime, my community does not want to wait for long-term strategies but wants to get on right away. That is why I am supporting a consortium of organisations, led by the Active Partners Trust, that are making a bid to the Department for Education for a scheme that would feed and provide activities for 2,200 young people in my community in the holidays. I do not expect an explicit commitment to that from the Leader of the House today, but might she help by providing Government time to debate that or another opportunity for me to raise my support for this important bid?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on that bid and wish him success with it. All Members are aware of children in their constituencies who suffer from holiday hunger. In my constituency, there are also children who would prefer to be at school than at home because of not just hunger but the way they are treated during the school holidays, which is unacceptable in our society. The Government are seeking to do all manner of things to improve the plight of those children. I encourage him to raise that excellent initiative at Education questions on Monday
Last week a Backbench Business debate was held on myalgic encephalomyelitis, led by Carol Monaghan. I know that thousands of ME sufferers across the UK really appreciated their long-standing suffering being aired and given a proper discussion in this place, including my constituent Kim Clugston, who has suffered with this chronic condition since 2007. Many sufferers of ME want to know more about what the Government and the national health service plan to do to address their condition. Will the Leader of the House call for a statement from the Health Secretary on plans for improving the research and treatment of ME?
The hon. Gentleman is right; that was a well-attended debate, and I think all of us have received emails from our constituents thanking Parliament for having the debate and at last recognising a condition which all too often simply gets ignored. He is right to seek further information from the Department of Health and Social Care on its response to that debate. Perhaps he could raise it at the next Health questions or seek an Adjournment debate, so that he can ask Ministers those questions directly.
With reference to the earlier exchange between the Leader and the shadow Leader of the House, DEFRA is still struggling to get through 88 statutory instruments before the end of March. The Government have cancelled the debate on the REACH directive next week and one on air quality on Wednesday. How can the Opposition be expected to do the right job of scrutiny if things get cancelled and we do not have the resource to pull things together at relatively short notice? Will she think about giving us some more money so that we can do this job of scrutiny properly?
I am not entirely sure what the hon. Gentleman’s question is. As I made clear to the Leader of the Opposition, I am closely monitoring the passage of secondary legislation, as well as primary legislation, and I remain confident that SIs that need to be made before
Three extra sitting days for private Member’s Bills are welcome, but when will we see the necessary money resolution for the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill that was introduced by my hon. Friend Angus Brendan MacNeil? It was given a Second Reading by the House, and surely it is time for the Government to respect that vote.
The Government have an excellent record of supporting private Member’s Bills to the statute book. In the 2010 Parliament 31 Bills received Royal Assent, and if we include the 2015-17 Parliament the number more than doubles that of the 2005 Parliament. Some excellent new legislation has been made as a result of the efforts of private Members.
We support the principle of family unity and have helped to reunite 24,700 family members in the past five years. Our policy is clear that we want to support refugee families. The hon. Gentleman asks about the progress of the specific Bill to which he referred. We give money resolutions in the appropriate order as the Bills come before Parliament.
As I have said—this is now the third time of saying it in this debate—I am closely monitoring the primary and secondary legislation that is needed for Brexit date, and I am confident that we will be able to pass all the legislation necessary by
You are a kind and generous man, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Although he is not in his place, may I echo the calls made by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee for a debate for Welsh MPs and anyone else who would like to join in around St David’s Day? I am sure that the Leader will echo my calls to wish the Welsh team all the very best on Friday night in their match against the French as the Six Nations begins.
May I ask the leader for a statement? Two weeks ago, St David’s church in Pontycymmer in the Garw valley in my constituency was broken into in an act of mindless vandalism. The vandals achieved nothing apart from damaging crosses to try to gain access to a safe, which they could not do. They forced open lead windows, leaving huge amounts of damage. Rather than asking for a debate about mindless thuggery and vandalism, may I ask for a debate whenever the Leader would like about the importance of the church not just as a place of worship but for bringing communities together? In my constituency, the community has rallied and raised money to repair the church, and it will carry on being a hub for the community and my constituents.
I absolutely share the hon. Gentleman’s good wishes to the Welsh rugby team on Friday night. In fact, a member of my Leader’s office staff who is herself Welsh will be at the Stade de France. In return, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will wish the English all success on Saturday against Ireland. There might be some disagreement here. Come on England! Sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker.
However, the hon. Gentleman has raised a very serious point. I am so sorry to hear about the break-in at the church that he mentioned. The mindlessness of such vandalism is appalling: it does so much to destroy people’s sense of security and safety.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Church does so much good in our communities, from running food banks to providing help for elderly and disabled people and those who are lonely. Churches are a vital part of our communities. I would personally welcome it if the hon. Gentleman sought a Back-Bench debate so that we could all share in a discussion of the excellent work done not just by our churches but by, for example, our synagogues and Sikh temples.
May I remind the Leader of the House that the outcome of the England-Ireland match could mean a great deal in respect of the confidence and supply motion? [Laughter.] I jest, of course.
Let me now raise a very serious matter. Last weekend, during Sunday mass, a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Philippines was struck by horror and tragedy when two bombs exploded, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 100. Responsibility for that devastating attack, which killed both civilians and some police officers who were trying to protect them, was claimed by Daesh.
Across the world, terrorists are picking on, attacking and killing those who are worshipping their God in their place of worship. Will the Leader of the House agree to arrange a statement or a debate on this ongoing and global terrorist violence?
The hon. Gentleman has raised an incredibly serious point about the right of those who wish to worship, whatever their faith, and the appalling abuse of that right by terrorists. He often stands up for religious freedom in this place, and he is absolutely right to do so. I commend him for what he has said today, and I encourage him to seek, for instance, an Adjournment debate so that he can raise the matter further.
As for the hon. Gentleman’s other point, I can tell him that I shall be with a very good friend who originates from Northern Ireland, so I think that we will be eating curry and celebrating whatever the outcome on Saturday.
I was grateful to the Leader of the House for confirming that if the Government have no motion under section 13(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to present to the House before
It is difficult for me to specify exactly what the process for agreeing any further motions will be in the event of different political outcomes. As my right hon. Friend will know, if we do achieve a revised deal, we will bring it back to the House for a second meaningful vote as soon as we possibly can.