Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:41 am on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:41 am, 14th February 2019

As Jane Austen said,

“Is not general incivility the very essence of love?”

I shall therefore take the slightly unhumorous remarks of Valerie Vaz to be the beginning of a real friendship between us. I am grateful to her for asking some important questions. She asks about Opposition days. I hope she will accept that I have been able to find time for some of the important business that she has requested of me in recent weeks. I was pleased that, as she requested, we were able to debate the Securitisation Regulations 2018 yesterday. I hope that she will also welcome my announcement today that we will have a general debate on the NHS 10-year plan next week, which she requested on 31 January. I am seeking to deliver on requests that she is making. She asks about the probate statutory instrument, and I absolutely heard her request. I ask that she also makes it through the usual channels, as is the convention. The Government will of course respond, as we have done in the past, taking her requests very seriously and delivering on almost all of them.

The hon. Lady asks again about the awarding of contracts by the Department for Transport. She will be aware that we have just had DFT oral questions, where this issue was very much dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He also answered an urgent question earlier in the week on the same subject. Just to be clear—all hon. Members who have been involved in any kind of business procurement will understand this—a process is undertaken that seeks to assess who is suitable for a contract. That does have a cost associated with it, but as my right hon. Friend made very clear, no taxpayers’ money was actually awarded to the supplier involved, because it failed to meet the requirements of the contract.

The hon. Member for Walsall South asks for a statement on a call for changes to use of the consumer prices index and the retail prices index. I will of course take that away and consider what can be done. She asks when we will bring back a meaningful vote. As the Prime Minister explained to this House just this week in a statement lasting two hours and 18 minutes, in which she answered questions from Members from right across the House, she is currently negotiating a revised deal. Members will be aware that there is a debate all day today on this topic.

The Prime Minister has explained that when we achieve the progress we need, we will bring forward another meaningful vote, but if the Government do not secure a majority in this House in favour of a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration, they will make a statement on Tuesday 26 February, and will table an amendable motion relating to the statement. A Minister will move that motion on Wednesday 27 February, thereby enabling the House to vote on it, and on any amendments to it, on that day.

Obviously, I will make a business statement in the usual way next week, setting out the details of the business for the week commencing 25 February. The hon. Member for Walsall South asks, “Where is the negotiation?”. She will appreciate that there is a negotiation; it is on the final element—resolving the issues associated with the backstop—that the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union are firmly committed to achieving in order to bring a motion to this House that it can support, thereby giving certainty to businesses, and citizens across this country and the EU.