Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons on 6th February 2019.

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Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Last week, I announced new measures, as part of the follow-up action to the Government’s racial disparity audit, to improve outcomes for ethnic minority students in higher education; to ensure league tables reflect performance in addressing inequalities; and to encourage higher education providers to make their workforces more diverse.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

Some 16% of the adult population of this country has some form of disability, yet when I look around this House, I see very few Members with a disability. When are we going to see an effective Access to Elected Office Fund? We need a Parliament that is representative of the public it serves. When are we going to be like that?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman raises this issue. He is right to say that we need to raise that level of participation. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities is working on a fund that will help that to happen. Furthermore, a statutory instrument will be before the House next Monday that will help with this by addressing election expenses.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

Members discharge their duties in a variety of ways, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is not possible to discharge them properly from inside a prison cell? When will the hon. Member for Peterborough (Fiona Onasanya) do the right thing, stand down and give the people of that part of the country the representation they deserve?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

My hon. Friend makes a fair point, and it comes down to what the people of Peterborough need: a hard-working and present local MP. Of course we have passed legislation in this place to enable recall. I suspect that may be used in this case, but I hope it will happen promptly, for the sake of the people of Peterborough.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs

Let us consider these figures: 25,342 and 21,900. Those were the number of voters who cast their votes for me and for the Minister to serve as elected parliamentarians, yet just 100-odd votes secured a win in the most recent hereditary peer by-election in the other place. He was eligible to stand because his great-grandad’s cousin’s dad’s fourth cousin’s dad’s cousin’s great-great-great grandad was made a Lord by Charles I in 1628. What progress is the Minister making on reform of the other place?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

May I first welcome the hon. Lady back to the Dispatch Box? It is a pleasure to see her here again. Two points need to be made: first, the legislation she cites was that of her own party; and. secondly, reform of the House of Lords is not a priority for this Government. We have been clear on that matter and I can be so again today.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

What conversations is the Department having with local authorities in Scotland and the Scottish Government about relocating civil service jobs north of the border, specifically in areas such as international trade?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The Government have a policy of seeking to relocate government offices and agencies outside London wherever possible. We are keen to work with Scottish local authorities, as well as local authorities from all around the United Kingdom, to secure that objective.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Labour, Enfield, Southgate

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy reported last year that it was concerned that

“the current complex arrangements for ministerial responsibility mean that day-to-day oversight of cross-government efforts is, in reality, led by officials, with Ministers only occasionally ‘checking in’.”

Do the Government have a grip on cyber-security?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Yes. It is right that different elements of cyber-security report in to different Departments. For example, where this relates to an offensive cyber-capability, as part of our defences, that is rightly part of the Ministry of Defence’s responsibility. The relevant Ministers do co-operate regularly, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that this all reports back to the National Security Council where the relevant Cabinet Ministers take the decisions.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

On the inter-ministerial early years working group, which is an excellent initiative, is the Minister aware that the cost of child neglect is estimated at some £15 billion per year? So when negotiating with the Treasury, will he be mindful that funding for this is not only the best way of giving kids the best start in life, but a good way of saving money

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be very glad of my hon. Friend’s support.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

What with the £1 billion-plus of Northern Ireland contributions secured by the Democratic Unionist party, the knighthoods for the European Research Group, and now the cash-for-votes inducements that we hear are being offered to MPs, are the Government not a bit worried about sailing dangerously close to the wind of the Labour-introduced Bribery Act 2010? Will the Minister reaffirm that no votes in this place should be for sale? Especially not mine; I have not been offered anything.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am deeply shocked that the hon. Lady has so little confidence in her own colleagues as to think that they would be capable of that.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

Some of my most engaged constituents are expats who currently reside in France or Spain. Does the Minister agree that it is unfair and undemocratic to deny these British citizens the right to vote after an arbitrary 15 years?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

Yes, I do, which is why we support the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend Glyn Davies, which will redress that injustice and deliver votes for life.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

Northern Ireland has required voter ID for 13 years. Why is it necessary to run a pilot programme when we have already evaluated it and found that it works effectively and has not affected voter turnout?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support on this matter. We should see such support throughout the House for a set of measures that are reasonable, proportionate and already used in countries around the world and in our own country, the United Kingdom, to help to protect voters and ensure that their vote is theirs alone.