Topical Questions

Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons on 13th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party

Last week, the Minister for the Constitution, my hon. Friend Chloe Smith, updated the House on the actions we are taking to tackle the inexcusable intimidation of people in public life. We have legislated so that candidates in local elections have the choice to remove their home addresses from ballot papers. We have consulted on a new electoral offence of intimidatory behaviour. It is vital that everyone in the House works together to prevent such behaviour and address this worrying trend.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

My constituents rightly care about the security of their ballots. May I ask for Crawley to be considered for a future voter ID pilot?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party

My hon. Friend makes a good point. We will be looking carefully at the evaluations from the 2018 pilots and—when they come forward in a few months—the 2019 pilots to help inform our next steps and to shape how the final policy will look when introduced. We can benefit from close collaboration with local authorities, and we would welcome the involvement of Crawley as we progress.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

There have been reports that the Conservative party is preparing to take part in the upcoming European elections. The Opposition have heard that on Monday, there was a telephone conference between the Cabinet Office and regional returning officers, who would run such an election, during which preparations for European elections were discussed. Are the Government saying one thing in public and another in private?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister without Portfolio , Party Chair, Conservative Party

As I said to the hon. Lady’s colleague earlier, she should not believe every rumour she reads in a newspaper or on Twitter. It is simply not true.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Conservative, Chelsea and Fulham

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the arbitrary 15-year rule that prevents Britons abroad from voting in UK elections. Will she recommit the Government to supporting the private Member’s Bill of our hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies), when it comes back to the House next week?

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

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that point. The Government continue to support that Bill and think it is the right thing to do.

Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

On Sunday, the BBC reported that Interserve is likely to go into administration on Friday. What steps is the Minister taking to protect jobs and pensions, should Interserve collapse?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

As the hon. Lady would expect, we keep under review the situation in relation to all our strategic suppliers. I assure her that we take appropriate contingency measures in respect of every strategic supplier.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

Can the Minister tell us what discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on delivering more public services online?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

To date, we have already delivered almost 800 services online on gov.uk. In addition, I regularly engage with ministerial colleagues, principally through the digital implementation task force, which is chaired by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Photo of Laura Smith Laura Smith Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

The Government claim that they have lifted the pay cap and declared austerity over, but it seems that this does not apply to their own employees. The lack of consultation on the civil service pay guide is just shameful. When will the Minister make it his policy to return to national pay bargaining?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

This Government do not support national pay bargaining. It has been a step forward that we tailor pay to the needs of each individual Department. But I engage with all trade unions as we set the overall delegated framework that applies to pay grades below the senior civil service.

Photo of Damien Moore Damien Moore Conservative, Southport

I welcome the announcement from the Cabinet Office on reforming the way that Government contracts are awarded so that they consider social impacts. Has my hon. Friend made an assessment of the effect of these changes on social enterprises?

Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

My hon. Friend rightly raises the issue of social enterprises. That is why, earlier this week, I made an announcement that we would be consulting on how to allow social enterprises to bid for a range of Government contracts and set out a clear framework for them to do so. I am confident that we will be able to unlock the opportunities of the over 100,000 social enterprises we have in this country.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

Should private sector companies delivering public sector contracts be subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000? [R]

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

We had a lengthy Westminster Hall debate on this last week. We are considering the Information Commissioner’s report on it, but we think that we are already supplying a lot of transparency on information and that that is adequate.