Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The business for next week will be:
Mr Speaker, this has been an important week for Parliament. There have been difficult decisions to make and at times some challenging exchanges. With such strongly held views across the House, that is to be expected, but it is vital that we continue to listen to each other with respect and understanding. Over the centuries, the country has looked on as Parliament has faced historic decisions, and even in the most challenging of times we have pulled together and put our duty above all else. I hope the House will come together to find a consensus that delivers on the will of the people to leave the European Union and does so in a way that inspires confidence in Parliament and in us as MPs.
I do not know what to say to that, other than that it feels like a wash-up and that we should be getting ready for a general election. I was going to ask for an Opposition day. With the Government losing votes, it feels like we have already had them, but we have not. When my hon. Friend Nick Smith asked the Leader of the House when the next Opposition day debate would be, she said they were announced every Thursday, so, today being Thursday, I invite her to give us an Opposition day. The last one was on
I was going to ask for statutory instrument debates, but I see they have already been tabled for next week. Following what has been an absolutely astonishing week this week, we have a series of SIs. More importantly, George Eustice, who recently resigned, said that a few SIs had been deprioritised and would not be passed by the end of March, which was confirmed by a No. 10 spokeswoman. Will the Leader of the House ensure that a list is published of the prioritised and deprioritised SIs? What criteria are the Government using to deprioritise some of them?
Several Bills have to be passed before exit day. The Trade Bill had its Report Stage in the House of Lords yesterday, but other essential Bills—the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill and the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill—are yet to have theirs. When are they likely to be debated? I raised the financial services Bill and the cross-party amendment last week after the debate was pulled. The Leader of the House said that she wanted
“time to look properly at the proposed amendments and consider their impact with the Crown dependencies, which are separate jurisdictions with their own democratically elected Governments.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 655, c. 1135.]
That is right, but the UK Government are responsible for the good government of the Crown dependencies, and it is already Government policy, passed in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. Mr Mitchell and my right hon. Friend Dame Margaret Hodge have said that offshore secrecy represents a threat to UK national security. Could the Leader of the House say whether there are any conflicts of interest in the Cabinet that are preventing the amendments from being debated?
Today we will debate another motion on section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It is about the negotiated withdrawal agreement, which was laid before the House and voted upon on
It is the Government who have put us in this position. Their red lines were drawn right at the beginning and formed the boundaries for the negotiations. There are ongoing investigations into how the vote was conducted. There was secrecy and a lack of information, and Parliament was bypassed and ignored. That is pernicious to democracy.
One of the biggest announcements on Wednesday, apparently, was the Chancellor’s spring statement. He used it to set out a “deal dividend”—if Parliament votes to leave the EU with a deal, we can have the money. That is effectively blackmailing us. He also said that austerity is coming to an end. Yes, and the people have said that they want authenticity, not austerity. But the latest figures show that the Office for Budget Responsibility has cut its growth forecast for 2019 to 1.2%, which is the weakest growth rate since 2009. That is a significant cut from its predicted 1.6% expansion, and that is from the Government’s own economic watchdog. Who is right: the Chancellor or the OBR?
It is no good the Leader of the House telling us that there are more people in work. Yes, there are, but they are self-employed, on zero-hours contracts and in insecure work. There was absolutely nothing in the spring statement about local authorities or social care. The Health for Care coalition has said that the Government’s failure to protect social care is “a national disgrace”. When will the social care Green Paper be published? It was expected last summer. The Women’s Budget Group said that there have been cuts to youth services of 65%, cuts to Sure Start of 50%, and cuts to subsided buses of 48%. All of that has to be addressed. When will we have a debate on the spring statement, or do I have to make an application to the Backbench Business Committee?
Next Thursday is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination—importantly, it is also the day when the European Council meets. It is important that we are careful with our language in areas surrounding race and accept that there is unconscious bias. More importantly, tomorrow our young people are being explicit; they are taking action to protect the very thing that gives us life. We must listen to them. I also want to send the House’s good wishes to James Shaw, New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister, who has sadly been attacked.
Finally, on a slightly happier note, I want to wish a very happy birthday—today is a triple birthday—to my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Gill Furniss), for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood) and for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali).
The hon. Lady has asked a number of questions, but I would like to start by sharing in her good wishes to all who are celebrating their birthday today, and I would add to her list my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke and of course my hon. Friend Douglas Ross, who is celebrating the birth yesterday of his new baby boy—fantastic news.
The hon. Lady asks about Opposition days. She will recognise that we have had incredibly important business this week, and for next week I have announced a range of important secondary legislation. I hope she will welcome the fact that I have announced debates on two statutory instruments requested by the official Opposition: the Human Medicines (Amendment) Regulations 2019 and the Amendments Relating to the Provision of Integrated Care Regulations 2019. I will continue to consider carefully the hon. Lady’s requests for different types of business.
The hon. Lady asks about the Brexit SIs generally. I am still confident that we will meet all the necessary SIs required to be laid by
The hon. Lady asks about primary legislation for Brexit Bills. She will know that in addition to the EU withdrawal Act, nine exit-related Bills are in Parliament or have already received Royal Assent; the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill completed its 10th sitting in Committee last week; the Agriculture Bill, Fisheries Bill and Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill are currently before the House of Commons; and the healthcare Bill and Trade Bill are progressing through the House of Lords.
The hon. Lady asked particularly about a financial services Bill. She will be aware that as I said last week, which she has pointed out, we are considering the amendment put forward, but on transparency in general it is this Government who are taking the lead on international transparency measures at home and around the world. It was Conservatives in government who led the world with the first public registry of company beneficial ownership in the G20, and it is the Conservatives who have driven the global agenda on tax transparency.
The hon. Lady asked about the Brexit decision today, and particularly the motion on the Order Paper. Today’s debate is not about forcing the House to make a decision on whether the Government should seek a short or a long extension. The Government’s motion simply sets out the factual position so that Members can take a decision on extension in full knowledge of the consequences. The Government’s position is clear, and this is backed up by the comments made in Brussels over the last 24 hours. A short extension only works if a deal has been agreed by the House and the extension period is used to pass the necessary legislation to give effect to, and allow ratification of, a withdrawal agreement. A short extension does not work in any other circumstances, and a long extension would mean the UK having to participate in the EU elections.
The hon. Lady asked about the same question rule. “Erskine May” sets out that a motion
“which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.”
However, any motion that we would table for any further approval would reflect the situation at the time—if it were to be tabled.
The hon. Lady says the economic data in the spring statement was not positive. I simply disagree: borrowing so far this year is at its lowest level for 17 years; our economy has grown for 24 quarters in a row, the longest streak of growth in the G7; wages are growing at their fastest rate for a decade; and from April the national living wage will rise again, taking the total annual pay rise for a full-time worker to over £2,750 since its introduction.
Finally, I join the hon. Lady in commending all the young people who are doing so much to indicate their support for protecting our global climate challenge. I absolutely pay tribute to them, but say again that the greatest gift of any society to its children is a good education, and I urge them not to take valuable time out from school on this subject, but instead to spend their time campaigning for it, which is the right way to do it.
Will my right hon. Friend find time to ban the use of living animals for warfare experiments? In the last year 3,865 animals were experimented on for chemical weapons at Porton Down, which is an absolute disgrace and totally unacceptable in what is supposed to be a civilised society.
My hon. Friend raises an important matter that I know is of interest to many Members of this House. The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down has an active programme to minimise the use of animals in experiments, in accordance with the principles of the three Rs—reduction, refinement and replacement. The Ministry of Defence does not conduct animal experiments for the development or testing of offensive weapons, and the Home Office does not grant licences for those purposes.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the almost comical business for next week. We are still considering our whip on the draft Novel Food (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 motion, which we will be considering as an important measure next week.
Today is a bit like the morning after the night before, with people collectively asking, “What on earth happened last night?” We had members of the Cabinet failing to support the Government on a three-line Whip against their own motion but still keeping their jobs. Politically, the UK is now close to becoming a failed state, with a Government barely able to function, and now we have today’s Government motion and this woeful business statement. There is only one item of business this Government covet, and that is another crack at their dead deal. Today’s motion is exclusively designed to allow that, in the vain hope that the threat of an extended delay will bring the Brexiteers back on board. How many times are the Government going to try to get this deal through? They are like vampires with an ability to survive a stake through the heart. I know that you will make a ruling on this, Mr Speaker, but as I heard the shadow Leader of the House say, the position on bringing a motion is clear. Page 397 of “Erskine May” states:
“A motion or an amendment which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.”
But that is exactly what this Government are intending to do. I am sure you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Therefore, this is a Government who should be certified.
We also need to see the legislation that will honour last night’s decision. The House has now voted three times to take no deal off the table, but the House remains ignored. The Government are right to say that the default position is to leave without a deal—that is what the legislation says—but what we have to do is bring forward legislation to honour and respect the wishes of the House. If the Government are not prepared to do it, let the House do it.
This has been a disastrous week for the Government: they have been defeated on their deal; no deal has been taken off the table; and tonight there will be an extension to the
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I, as a democrat, am absolutely determined to fulfil the will of the people in leaving the European Union. He, on the other hand, is determined to ignore the will of the people of the United Kingdom, both on leaving the EU and on the question of independence. So we know where he stands.
I make it clear again that today’s debate is not about forcing the House to make a decision on whether the Government should seek a short or a long extension. The Government’s motion simply sets out the factual position so that Members can take a decision on extension in full knowledge of the consequences. If Members think it would be possible between now and June to agree a new negotiating position in the House, to secure agreement in Europe for a new deal based on that position and to pass the primary legislation needed to give effect to a new deal, that is a matter for hon. Members to put forward in today’s debate, particularly given the frequent representations I get here in business questions from Members from right across the House who have concerns about having the time they need to scrutinise and debate legislation.
I think the hon. Gentleman is in cloud cuckoo land. Do not take that from me, because Donald Tusk today says:
“During my consultations ahead of #EUCO, I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its #Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”
Michel Barnier says today:
“Why would we extend these discussions?”
“The discussion on article 50 is done and dusted.”
He then says that they are waiting for the “answer” and that
“the House of Commons says what it doesn’t want” and that:
“Now this impasse can only be solved in the UK.”
That means everybody in this Chamber needs to look at the consequences of what they are doing, and today is a very important day.
May we have a debate on the Vienna convention on the law of treaties? The law is complex, and it is difficult in the big debates to get more than a few minutes to describe it, but the Vienna convention may well provide an exit route out of this impasse, because a state can abrogate part of a treaty if there is a change of the circumstances that are the basis of consent. I tabled an amendment to the first meaningful vote, and since then I have been talking about the idea of a unilateral declaration, but these are complex matters and we need to discuss them in full. Perhaps that would allow the Attorney General to come back with a different opinion so that more of our colleagues can vote for the Prime Minister’s deal.
My right hon. Friend has long championed this idea, and I commend him for that. He will know that the Attorney General has considered these matters in great detail and come to the House to answer questions on them for several hours. If he has more to say on the matter, I am sure he will come to the House to say it.
I need to put something right for the record. The shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend Valerie Vaz, suggested that she might apply to the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on the spring statement; I am afraid that as a Front Bencher she does not enjoy the privilege of being able to apply to the Backbench Business Committee. I apologise and wish I could accommodate her, but I am afraid that the Standing Orders prevent me from doing so.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement, and for announcing the two debates next Thursday on services for people with autism and a motion relating to NICE appraisal processes for treatments for rare diseases. My Committee has a hefty queue of important debates waiting for time. There are more than a dozen, including on heavily subscribed subjects such as school funding, fracking, the use of restraint on children and court closures, so we would be very grateful for any more time we can get.
As always, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me prior notice of urgent debates for which he is seeking time. I will always seek to accommodate the Backbench Business Committee.
I absolutely understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. He will appreciate that there are widely held views right across the House among different Members, and it is extraordinarily difficult, at this time that is so important for the nation, to try always to deal with every single aspect of all eventualities. My hon. Friend knows that yesterday Government Members were given a free vote on the Government’s motion, but in the end that was not what the Government were voting on. The motion was amended by the House, which is why the challenging whipping arrangements occurred.
The Leader of the House will surely not be surprised to hear me sounding outraged. Nine statutory instruments are to be taken on the Floor of the House next week, of which seven are from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. There are also back-to-back DEFRA statutory instruments upstairs on the Committee Room corridor. I know that as the shadow DEFRA Whip, and the Leader of the House and her DEFRA Whip must know that. I cannot see how physically we can possibly get through all these statutory instruments in the time available. It is not proper scrutiny, either, which is another consideration. Is it not time for the Government to admit that we need to extend article 50 and put back the date for leaving the EU?
The hon. Lady will be delighted to know that we have a motion on exactly her suggestion for the House to vote on today. Perhaps she had not noticed. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the DEFRA officials and Ministers who have worked day and night to ensure that they get on top of the many DEFRA SIs that are necessary to prepare either for a deal or for no deal. That is what they have achieved and I am delighted to say that we will be prepared, with all the SIs necessary, for
The hand that fate deals can make or break lives, and those with acquired disabilities and those who have always had disabilities pay dearly. The disability equality charity Scope recently published “The Disability Price Tag 2019”, which sets out some of the additional costs faced by those with disabilities—things such as therapies, home adaptions, transport and insurance. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on why too many disabled people continue to pay too much? The Government should make their abiding mission the redistribution of advantage.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that this Government have been absolutely determined to ensure that everybody in our society gets the best possible opportunity. He will know that we spend £50 billion a year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions. That is up more than £8 billion in real terms since 2010. I am so proud that the number of disabled people in work has increased by over 900,000 over the last five years under this Government, giving more people the chance to do something meaningful and useful, and to improve their circumstances in life.
Can I ask the Leader of the House for some guidance that would be helpful for all Members? I understand that the House authorities have been notified of possible industrial action for a period of three days next week. This will affect visitors coming to see Members in the House over those three days. Will she assure me that access will not be denied to people who have appointments with Members of Parliament in that time?
The right hon. Lady is right that the Public and Commercial Services Union has announced, following a ballot of its members, that security staff at the Palace of Westminster have voted in favour of strike action. This is a matter for the House authorities, and I am assured that Parliament is putting in place business resilience plans to maintain both the security of the estate and the continued functioning of the business of both Houses. The priority will be to ensure that the business of the Houses, including Select Committees, is unaffected. I will take away the right hon. Lady’s request, but I am aware that priority will be given to people who have appointments with their Member of Parliament.
My hon. Friend is a great champion for her constituency. She will be aware that the new stronger towns fund will provide £1.6 billion of investment in the future prosperity of English coastal, market and industrial towns; £1 billion of investment will be targeted at the towns with the greatest need and will be distributed by local enterprise partnerships, and £600 million will be available as part of a competitive process that any town will be able to bid into. My hon. Friend might like to table a written question to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for further details on how to apply for that funding.
Tomorrow is the Nottingham North jobs fair, which is a collaborative effort between the council, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Futures Group, my office and my charity, the Rebalancing the Outer Estates Foundation. Last year we helped 150 people to find work in my community, and we will be at the Bulwell Riverside from half-past 9 tomorrow morning. Would the Leader of the House find Government time in which we can have a wider debate on supporting communities such as mine into work?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on organising a jobs fair. I know that many right hon. and hon. Members do so, and it is incredibly appreciated by their constituents. Such fairs are amazingly successful at bringing together employers and those seeking work. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss with Ministers whether more can be done to support these excellent initiatives.
World TB Day is on
First, I acknowledge the work of my right hon. Friend as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on global tuberculosis. It is an absolutely terrible disease that we must beat. The Government are already doing a great deal, including providing support through our commitment to the global fund. There is more to do, and the UK will continue to lead in this important area, but the whole world must act together if we are to eradicate this terrible disease.
Can I ask the Leader of the House for some Government time for a debate on scamming? This week, my constituents have been contacting my office to say that people are calling pretending to be BT phone handlers asking for information. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has reported that in the six months to January this year it has received 60,000 complaints in relation to scams. Only yesterday, a constituent of mine emailed me saying that he had received an email from me with a link asking for their personal information. That has been referred to the House authorities. Could we have an urgent debate on this very important issue in which the Government can explain what more they can do to deal with scamming?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. It is important that anybody who receives an email or a call asking them for any personal details should never give them until they are absolutely certain of who the person is on the other end of the phone or the email. He is absolutely right to raise this. I would encourage him perhaps to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that other hon. and right hon. Members can share their views.
The Leader of the House correctly said in her earlier remarks that education is the best gift that we can give to our young people. Yesterday morning, I was pleased to meet Crawley secondary school headteachers. I welcome the more than 10% increase in local school funding, but they told me that they would benefit from multi-year funding settlements so that they can better plan for the future. Can we have a statement on this from the Secretary of State for Education?
My hon. Friend is a strong voice for his constituents, and he is right to raise this matter. We are all grateful for the superb contribution of teachers in our constituencies. He will be pleased to know that there are now 1.9 million more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010, that the attainment gap has narrowed and continues to narrow, that there are over 34,000 new trainee teachers this year—over 2,600 more than last year—and that those from a disadvantaged background are more likely to go to university than ever before. We want to give schools and local authorities as much certainty about funding for future years as possible. The budgets for 2020-21 and beyond will be subject to the forthcoming spending review.
Last week, the Leader of the House said that Timpson’s review of exclusions would be published soon. I am just wondering what kind of soon she is referring to. Is it the kind of soon where your boss asks you for something and you say, “Yes, yes—I’ll get on to that soon”, or is it the kind of soon where your partner is asking you to do chores and you are like, “Yeah, yeah—I’ll get on to that soon”?
It is not the latter—I know that one very well. First, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her absolute commitment to eradicating the appalling problem of young people getting into a life of serious crime, and particularly knife crime. She has been absolutely stalwart in her determination to see more done, and she is absolutely right in that. As I said last week, I cannot give her a firm date, but I can say that Timpson’s review is considering how schools use exclusion and how it affects all pupils, but particularly why some groups of children are more likely to be excluded. In particular, it will consider why there are differences in the rates among areas, schools and groups of pupils, given that the power that schools have to exclude and the framework in which they do so apply to all state-funded schools across England. The Government support headteachers in using exclusion as a sanction where it is warranted, but the Timpson review, when it comes forward—which will be as soon as possible—will consider the subject in more detail and should shed some useful light on it.
Last Saturday, I joined about 200 of my constituents who were protesting against the closure of Suggitts Lane level crossing in Cleethorpes. Network Rail is trying to railroad this closure through against the objections of local people when other safety measures could be introduced. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the accountability of organisations such as Network Rail?
My hon. Friend raises a concerning constituency issue. He will know that we have launched a comprehensive review of our railways, to build on the success of privatisation and get the best from both public and private sectors. He might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that Transport Ministers can respond to his particular concerns directly.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. This morning on the radio, the Chancellor echoed the Prime Minister in saying that this House must decide not just what it does not want but what it does want. Yet next week’s business is filled up with statutory instruments, many of which could be taken in Committee. Given that the Leader of the House is not only the spokesperson for the Government but a champion of the rights of the House, when will she make time for a series of indicative votes to allow the House to express its will on what it does want in negotiations with the EU?
I can assure the hon. Lady that I take seriously my responsibility to be the voice of Parliament in Government, and all the time I reflect the views that I hear in the Chamber. I am pleased to be able, for example, to give time for statutory instruments to be debated in the Chamber on request from the Opposition, and to give a great deal of time for general debates that have been requested by hon. and right hon. Members across the House. In response to her question about the business for next week, I am sure that she will appreciate that today the House is being invited to consider whether it wishes the Government to seek an extension to article 50. Until we have established an answer to that question, we cannot consider what are the next steps.
David Linden is an authentic representative of the Scottish scouting movement, I believe.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. On Friday night I visited Fifth Clyde Broomhouse Scouts group in my constituency, which kindly gave me this necktie. Can we have a statement from the Government encouraging people to join their local scout group? When the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box, will she give a firm thank you to the volunteers who go out on a Friday night to invest in young lives?
The hon. Gentleman looks very fetching in his scout tie; it is fantastic to see. I absolutely join him in congratulating all those who volunteer their time to take part in scouting groups, which do so much for young people in our United Kingdom. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate so that all hon. Members can pay tribute to their local scouting groups.
I have a constituent who served in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles, and he is extremely scared that, although he has done nothing wrong, he will be dragged through a process to rake over the coals of events of decades ago. When can we have a debate on the imbalance between the treatment of people who served this country bravely in Northern Ireland and of the terrorists who dragged Northern Ireland through the troubles for decades, and when can we have a debate on how we can bring closure and fairness for all those who served this country bravely?
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important issue. The Government recognise the terrible loss suffered by all those who lost loved ones during the troubles. We have said that the system needs to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the troubles, and to treat everyone fairly, including those who served in the armed forces and the police. I will take my hon. Friend’s request back to the Department and seek their agreement to update the House further.
May we have a statement from the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, on the outrageous decision by the Church of England to issue the official invitation to next year’s Lambeth conference and explicitly forbid the same-sex spouses of bishops from attending, when the heterosexual spouses of bishops have been warmly invited? This is a totally unacceptable position for our established state Church to adopt, and this House needs to tell the Church we have had enough of it.
I was not aware of that situation, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising it. If he would like to write to me, I will certainly raise it with my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman.
Ten days ago, Travellers illegally occupied the Anmer Lodge site in my constituency, which has been cleared to provide 120 social housing units and much-needed retail and employment prospects. Hour after hour, tipper lorries turned up bringing contaminated waste on to the site. Last Thursday, the Travellers left, and they left behind a bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds to clear the contaminated waste, ahead of a High Court ruling on Friday. May we have a debate in Government time on measures that can be taken to ensure that the private sector is enabled to clear sites when Travellers illegally occupy them?
My hon. Friend raises what sounds like an appalling situation in his constituency. He will be aware that the Government have done a great deal to try to deal with the problem of illegal fly-tipping and, in particular, of leaving the taxpayer with a huge bill to pick up. We have Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on Thursday
Niloofor Begum is a severely frail 80-year-old suffering from end stage renal failure, hypothyroidism and dementia, and she depends on her granddaughter for 24-hour care. Despite this, the Home Office continues to seek her removal to Bangladesh. Will the Leader of the House find time for a Home Office debate on the removal of a wheelchair-bound 80-year-old lady to a country where she has no one to care for her?
I am truly sorry to hear about the case of the hon. Lady’s constituent. I am sure she is doing everything she can to raise this directly with Home Office Ministers. If she would like to write to me following business questions, I can take it up on her behalf.
Does the Leader of the House agree that the tech giants in this country have accumulated too much power, which means that the digital market is not serving the interests of start-ups that want to innovate in this space to bring more choice to consumers? May we have a debate about the role of the Competition and Markets Authority in the creation of a more stimulating and thriving digital economy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to be championing greater progress in the digital economy. She is right to do that. As she may have heard, the Chancellor announced in the spring statement yesterday that he will examine proposals in the Furman review and in the “Unlocking digital competition” report. I look forward to hearing more about that.
I think all hon. Members would want to join the hon. Gentleman in praising NATO, the absolute core of our defence for many decades. We are incredibly grateful to all of those who work and serve in NATO and all those in Parliament who take part in all the different organisations that support NATO. I encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall debate or a Backbench debate so that all hon. Members can share their views.
In the spring statement yesterday, the Chancellor announced a number of new housing infrastructure fund bids, which was very welcome, but there was no update on the progress of outstanding HIF bids, including the one for the City of York. May I ask the Leader of the House for a statement on the future of ongoing HIF bids, which are so important to cities such as York?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that building new houses is a clear national interest in the United Kingdom, and he will know that one of the top domestic priorities of this Government is to see more homes built for people. The spring statement yesterday was, of necessity, brief and did not go into details on the issues he is raising precisely because the comprehensive spending review will be later this year, as will the proper Budget. Nevertheless, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise these particular issues directly with a Minister.
Newford residents association in my constituency called my office this week to report 90 aggressive cold calls to elderly residents who have already registered for the Telephone Preference Service. May we have a debate in Government time on how we can tackle this antisocial and illegitimate business practice?
The hon. Lady is right to raise that concerning issue. It can be frightening for elderly or vulnerable residents to receive cold calls from pushy people who are trying to scam them or sell them something. The Government have introduced significant measures to try to prevent such behaviour, but if she is seeing a rise in the number of such incidents, I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate and to raise the issue directly with Ministers.
May we have a debate in Government time to welcome the Government’s future high streets programme and the stronger towns fund? Does the Leader of the House agree that, as Britain’s oldest recorded town and first Roman city, Colchester would be an ideal beneficiary for multimillion pound investment?
Nice try, but sadly my hon. Friend will appreciate that that is not a call for me, although I am certainly a big fan of Colchester and his support for it. I encourage him to seek his own bid for some of that £600 million; it is open to any town to compete for it.
British Steel pensioners in Blaenau Gwent have received poor advice, high adviser charges and seen their families’ fortunes put at risk. Being removed from the register and suffering financial penalties is insufficient to deter pension sharks. May we have a statement from the Treasury to promise new criminal charges for rogue financial advisers, so that they are properly held to account?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue, as it is worrying for people to receive cold calls that seek to remove their pension rights, or encourage them to invest in non-existent assets. That is an appalling scamming practice. The Government have already done a lot to improve people’s access to information and to stop such practices, but I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate and to raise his concerns directly with Ministers.
Over a month ago I started to engage directly with the Leader of the House, following engagement since November with the Tory Whips, who have been cynically running down the clock on helping refugee families. Those actions mean that people who should have rights will probably end up taking dangerous journeys from refugee camps across the desert with people traffickers, rather than simply flying. What has the Leader of the House done to get the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill into Committee, and to give children the same rights as adults? If she has done nothing, will she just say so and not waste time?
The hon. Gentleman mentions his private Member’s Bill again, and I commend his commitment to helping the most vulnerable people around the world. He will have received my letter this week in response to his. In addition to what I have said in recent weeks, he will know that the Government have done a huge amount—particularly in the region but also here at home—to help refugees from countries such as Syria. We have expanded our resettlement commitments to provide for more than 23,000 refugees by 2020, and we have committed more than £2.7 billion of humanitarian aid to the Syrian conflict. We must ensure, however, that our focus is on supporting the most vulnerable people who need international protection, and on encouraging those fleeing persecution to seek help in the first safe country they reach, as that is the fastest route to safety.
Demelza House children’s hospice provides outstanding end-of-life care to children in south-east London, yet only 20% of funds for children’s hospices come from central Government. Although the NHS long-term plan provided a welcome boost to the children’s hospice grant, it is still not enough to ensure that hospices are able to deliver their world-class services. May we have a debate in Government time about funding for children’s hospices?
I pay tribute to all the fantastic work done by children’s hospices across the United Kingdom. The Department of Health and Social Care is very aware of the issue of funding for children’s hospices. Questions to that Department are on Tuesday
The Co-op party’s food justice campaign is highlighting the extraordinary situation here in the UK, the sixth-largest economy in the world, where some 8 million people still struggle to put food on the table and 500,000 people are using food banks. When might the Government find time for a debate on ending hunger in this country?
I am incredibly sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s point. Of course, it is the Government’s clear goal to ensure that nobody needs to go hungry. He will appreciate that there are now 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty, which is a record low. It is the Government’s policy to help more and more people into work, so they have the security of a pay packet to help them and their family to feed and take care of themselves. We now have 300,000 fewer children in absolute poverty and we have taken 4 million of the lowest paid out of paying any income tax altogether, all of which is helping people to meet their own needs and to be independent.
North Lincolnshire Council has ended its core funding for North Lincolnshire citizens advice bureau. That means that the general advice sessions, which are very much valued locally, will cease. May we have a debate on the value of citizens advice bureaux and their partnership working with councils, which is crucial to their future?
The hon. Gentleman is right: citizens advice bureaux do fantastic work across the country and I think we are all very grateful to them. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate, so that he can raise his concerns directly with Ministers.
When can we have a debate to finally sort out the terrible way that women who were born in the ’50s have been treated in relation to their pensions? I have lost count of the number of women in Dudley who left school at 15 or 16, started work straightaway and did hard work all their lives. Some had to take time off to bring up kids or care for relatives. Some have been bereaved. They have had no time to plan for these changes. Women like that have done their bit and it is high time the Government sorted this out.
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman. As we have made clear previously, the Conservatives in government committed over £1 billion to support those affected so that no one will see their pension age change by more than 18 months relative to the Pensions Act 1995 timetable. Those with the most significant changes have received at least seven years’ notice. What I would point out to him is that the new state pension is more generous for many women. By 2030, over 3 million women stand to gain an average of £550 more per year as a result of the recent reforms.
Commercial radio is booming in terms of both ratings and revenue but, as a result of totally unnecessary deregulation of FM licence conditions, Global, which owns Capital, Heart and Smooth, is axing local breakfast and drive-time shows. This means that studios will close completely in 10 towns and cities from Kent to Kendal, and more than 100 presenters, producers, journalists, engineers and other staff face losing their jobs in these and other locations, including Nottingham. At a time when many people feel that their area is being left behind, their concerns ignored and their voices unheard, is it not time that we debated the loss of local news and the centralisation of our media in London?
I am genuinely very sorry to hear about the loss of local radio stations and local news. The hon. Lady raises a very important point. We do need to have a thriving local and regional media. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate, so that she can raise her concerns directly with Ministers.
Could we change the name of this session to “Potential Business of the House”? I have looked through the entirety of next week’s business and cannot see another vote on the meaningful vote between now and Wednesday. If it is the Government’s intention not to bring a meaningful vote next week, why is it being trailed to the media today that it will be brought next week, and what is the necessity of paragraph (2) of today’s motion if there is no intention to bring one next week?
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I announce the business every Thursday, as usual. In the event that it is necessary to bring forward an emergency business statement, I will do so. I would have thought he would realise that, just because he has heard something trailed in the media, it does not necessarily make it true.
With two of Scotland’s most polluted roads in my constituency, I am acutely aware of the public health implications of breathing in toxic air. Yesterday, a study in The Times showed that air pollution now causes more deaths than smoking; smoking is avoidable but breathing in toxic air is not. In the light of that, can we please have a debate in the House on how all areas of Government across the UK can get to grips with this dangerous problem?
The hon. Lady is right that this is an incredibly concerning problem and it is something that the Government are taking very seriously. We are cleaning up our air by ending the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans altogether by 2040. She will be aware that the Government have a £3.5 billion spending commitment to reduce roadside emissions. Air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010. Emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides have fallen by 27% and are at their lowest level since records began. She will also be aware that we will be introducing the first environment Bill in over 20 years, which will establish a world- leading body that will hold Government to account for environmental outcomes in the future.
Under this Government, one in four school support staff and nearly one in three teaching assistants in Barnsley schools have been lost, their national body has been abolished and pay has been driven down. Can we have a debate in Government time on school support staff and when austerity will really end?
The hon. Lady will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced his plans yesterday, if we do achieve a smooth transition out of the European Union, to significantly allow investments in some of our key public services, because of the achievements of our economy and all those who have worked so hard to minimise the damage done by the last Labour Government. I pay tribute to all those teaching support staff who do so much for all our children and young people. She will be aware that the core schools budget will rise to £43.5 billion next year—its highest ever level—and that overall per-pupil funding is being protected in real terms. As well as that, we are introducing a national funding formula to make sure that schools and pupils are fairly and consistently funded.
Organisations such as Best for Britain and People’s Vote UK look, operate and sound a bit like political parties, and I believe, therefore, that they should be subject to the tax and regulatory requirements of the United Kingdom. So imagine my surprise when my office started receiving these postcards, all postmarked from Guernsey, which, last time I checked, was a non-EU tax haven. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a Cabinet Office Minister to make a statement on how the regulation of pseudo-political parties in this country operates, so that they are truly transparent?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point and he is absolutely right to do that. The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Chloe Smith, is in the Chamber and will have heard his comments, but we also have Electoral Commission questions next Thursday—
The retrospective loan charge deadline is causing unbelievable stress to tens of thousands of people who thought that they were doing the right thing in respect of their tax affairs, some for up to 20 years. The all-party loan charge group has evidence that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs knows of up to six related suicides, yet yesterday, the chief executive of HMRC denied that. May we have an investigation into this and an urgent debate?
The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue. I also have constituents who have come to me with concerns about the loan charge and I am seeing the Minister responsible shortly to discuss it further with him. She will appreciate that the issue here is one of tax avoidance which HMRC has concluded was not legitimate tax avoidance. It is absolutely vital that we do everything we can to ensure that people are paying the right taxes in this country.
Last week, I asked the Leader of the House for a debate on Islamophobia, given the crisis that the Tory party finds itself in, and on the definition of Islamophobia from the all-party group on British Muslims. The Leader of the House somehow confused that with a Foreign Office issue, so I would like to give her a second opportunity to answer the question: when will this House have a debate on Islamophobia?
Islamophobia is appalling wherever it takes place, including in the United Kingdom. I must say that I was hurt to see my comments misrepresented last week; the hon. Lady had not made clear in her question whether or not she was referring to a global definition of Islamophobia.
International efforts to combat Islamophobia are led by the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, Lord Ahmed, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That is why I suggested that the hon. Lady seek an Adjournment debate involving the FCO. Of course, any form of Islamophobia in the UK would be dealt with swiftly by the Home Office or the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as appropriate.
May we have a debate on the way in which police forces are funded, and the Government assumptions that underpin decisions on funding? For instance, council tax will contribute 1.9% of the funding for police forces in England, but 4.4% of the funding for those in Wales. This matter needs to be considered urgently. It cannot be right that local taxation in Wales is expected to shoulder a heavier burden to deal with UK-wide issues such as county lines which should be addressed by the central police grant.
The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point that is specific to Wales. As he will know, overall we have protected police funding since 2015 and next year there will be up to £970 million of extra investment in the policing system, but if he wants me to take up his specific point about Wales, perhaps he will write to me following business questions.
May we have a debate, and Government-commissioned research, on the long-term impact of poverty, stress and mental ill health on children who are bereaved, and who, because their parents are not married, cannot benefit from the widowed parent’s allowance?
As always, the hon. Lady has raised an incredibly important issue, in this case the mental health of young people. She has particular concerns about the impact of bereavement and the consequences for particular benefits. On the subject of mental health generally, however, she will appreciate that at the heart of the NHS long-term plan is the largest expansion of mental health services for a generation. That includes 24/7 mental health crisis care for adults, children and young people through NHS 111, giving them access to vital support when they need it. If the hon. Lady wishes to raise specific issues, I suggest that she seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise them directly with Ministers.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
As was mentioned earlier, on Wednesday the security staff who protect all of us on the parliamentary estate so diligently are set to go on strike in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay parity and the unfair dismissal of a colleague. It is concerning that the Public and Commercial Services Union has warned that staff are not prepared to put up with a culture of fear in the Palace of Westminster. Will the Leader of the House intervene as a matter of urgency, and seek to resolve this dire situation and end this culture of fear?
As I said in an earlier reply, the strike—which I deeply regret—is a matter for the House authorities. It is not a matter for me, as Leader of the House, and I am therefore not in a position to intervene as the hon. Gentleman suggests that I should. Nevertheless, as the representative of the House in the Government, I will always take away any concerns that are raised here and raise them myself with the appropriate authorities.
May we have a debate in Government time on the proposed changes in IR35 tax regulations? The Conservative party claims to be the party of entrepreneurs and small business, but those changes will severely hamper small entrepreneurs and businessmen such as my constituent Steven Smith, who will be stifled by the classing of contractors as company employees. This will ruin the livelihoods of thousands of people in financial services and other key industries. It is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I should appreciate it very much if the Leader of the House would make representations to the Treasury to get the matter sorted out.
I am aware that many Members are concerned about this issue. I know that it is not absolutely the correct Department, but questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will take place on Tuesday
May we have a debate on this Government’s lack of respect for the devolution settlement? I have been unable to get answers on what the Barnett consequentials for the £1.6 billion stronger towns fund will be, and it has emerged that Treasury officials are considering giving the funds straight to local authorities in Scotland, bypassing the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Government. This is breaking the vow and breaking the rules. Will the Leader of the House explain why this Government want to ride roughshod over devolution?
It will not surprise the hon. Lady to learn that I completely disagree with her. The Government have enormously sought to show courtesy and respect for the devolution settlement and to collaborate closely with officials in the devolved Administrations to ensure that, apart from anything else, we take carefully into account their views and their preparations as we leave the European Union. We have Scotland questions on Wednesday
I thank the Leader of the House for her response on
The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the Chancellor has just stepped into the Chamber and is now in his place. He will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said. I am afraid that I cannot give any further information on this subject, but if he wishes to write to me, I will take the matter up with the Chancellor.
The Leader of the House will know that it is becoming more and more difficult for our constituents to get appointments with GPs. Tomorrow, I have a meeting at the Faith House surgery on Beverley Road in Hull North, which is under threat of closure. May we please have a debate in Government time about what more can be done to adopt a joined-up approach to the funding, training, recruitment and retention of GPs, to take the pressure off our A&E departments and to ensure that areas that are under threat of losing their GP practices are prioritised for any additional funding?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the importance of GPs to all our constituents. We all rely heavily on them, and their workload has grown significantly in the recent past. She will be aware that the Government have provided an extra £33.9 billion in cash terms for the NHS by 2023-24. That will make a significant difference, and the profound changes proposed in the NHS long-term plan will mean that more people than ever before will be able to access their GP in a timely fashion.
May we have a debate in Government time on electronic voting? Since my colleagues and I were elected in 2015, this House has spent 205 hours—eight and a half full days, or five and a half working weeks—just on voting, in smelly, sweaty, stuffy voting Lobbies. This is wasting time and thwarting democracy.
I am very sorry if the hon. Lady’s Lobby is smelly and sweaty. I can assure her that the Government’s Lobby is totally charming and full of courtesy and respect. Perhaps she should join us; she might enjoy the experience. I do take her point seriously; it has been raised on a number of occasions by her hon. Friends. As I have said before, were the Procedure Committee to choose to conduct an inquiry into electronic voting and to take views on it from across the House, I would of course consider its recommendations very carefully.
Last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. In this House, we recognised the challenges faced by women the world over. Women still face discrimination, harassment and violence simply for being women. Women from marginalised religious or belief communities have it even worse: they suffer because they are the wrong woman, and also because they belong to the so-called wrong faith. For example, the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan has found that at least 1,000 girls from Hindu and Christian families are kidnapped and forced into marriage every year. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on this matter?
As ever, the hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. He is a strong voice on these issues. We are continuing to tackle forced marriage at home and overseas. We criminalised forced marriage in England and Wales in 2014, we have introduced lifelong anonymity for victims and we are consulting on a mandatory reporting duty. Internationally, we have scrapped loans for repatriation costs for the victims of forced marriage who are helped to return to the UK and, through our flagship programme, 4.8 million people around the world have participated in initiatives designed to change attitudes and practices related to girls’ rights. The hon. Gentleman might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can take up these issues directly with Ministers.
Can we have a statement on contractor liability through the Government’s energy company obligation scheme—the ECO? My constituent Hilary Moore has had her home rendered unliveable following work that was supposed to make it warmer by fitting Kingspan insulation, but she cannot find out who to raise a complaint with due to the Government’s blind auction scheme. Is it not time for a clear redress process for people who are so badly let down?
The hon. Gentleman rightly raises an important matter for one of his constituents. We have Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions on Tuesday
There are moves by the White House to remove, as part of any future trade deal, the rules that limit what American drug companies can charge NHS services across the UK, which would allow big health corporations to bid for control of large parts of our NHS. Can we have a statement setting out the Government’s commitment to rejecting categorically such an attack on our NHS?
The hon. Lady will know that this Government are absolutely committed to the NHS being free at the point of delivery. That has always been the case. The NHS received its biggest-ever investment following the Government’s latest announcement of billions of pounds more finding. We have Health and Social Care questions on Tuesday
A week ago today, Ayub Hassan, who was 17 years old, lost his life after being brutally stabbed in the street in West Kensington. His death has traumatised his family and the community in White City in which he lived, and a 15-year-old boy has been charged with his murder. Tackling the scourge of knife crime across our country is both urgent and complex, and it will not be resolved by the Chancellor handing back a fraction of the money that has been taken from the police. When will the Government bring forward a comprehensive and adequate response to knife crime?
The death of any young person is tragic, and for it to happen through such horrendous and violent means is totally unacceptable. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor provided an extra £100 million in his spring statement yesterday for urgent action to be taken by police and crime commissioners—a specific intervention to help the situation now. The Government have an enormous range of different interventions to try to tackle the bigger problem of young people getting into gang membership and a life of crime, including £970 million of extra investment in the policing system next year, the serious violence strategy, and the establishment of a serious violence taskforce. We are also bringing through the Offensive Weapons Bill to make it harder for young people to get into a life of a crime, and we are investing significant sums in local community initiatives to try to get young people away from the attraction of joining gangs and carrying knives. The Government are committed to tackling the problem at every level.
I am sure that the Leader of the House will join me in congratulating Lyndsey Coleman of the Y Sort It youth group in West Dunbartonshire. Last night, she was a finalist in the Scottish youth worker of the year award while the Y Sort It management board won the youth participation award for the whole of Scotland. Does the Leader of the House not think that it is time for a debate in Government time to discuss the value of investing in community youth work across the entire United Kingdom?
I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating his constituent on their award; it is always great to hear about the success of youth workers. We recently had a debate in which all Members were able to congratulate the work done by community groups, volunteers and youth workers, but I will certainly take away his request for further such discussions.
The Leader of the House has said that next Friday will be allocated for private Members’ Bills, but this is a two-year parliamentary Session and, so far, we have had only 10 sitting Fridays. We would expect seven a year, so we are four short. When will she table a motion for the extra sitting Fridays, as required?
The hon. Lady will know that these matters are decided in Standing Orders, and the Government have certainly complied with the Standing Order requirements for private Members’ Bills. I am proud of this Government’s record in which, since 2010, more than 50 private Members’ Bills have received Royal Assent. This Friday we will have the opportunity to debate Lords amendments to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill of my hon. Friend Tim Loughton and the remaining stages of the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Bill of my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers and the Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill of my hon. Friend David Warburton. I wish all those Bills well for tomorrow, and Carol Monaghan will know that the Government have complied with the requirement for private Members’ Bills.
I feel sorry for the Leader of the House in the hand she has been dealt by the Prime Minister’s incompetence, causing her to pad out the business for next week. Perhaps I can be helpful in suggesting a debate, perhaps between the motions on flags and Select Committee appointments, on how this Government’s policies, including on the benefits freeze and the two-child policy, are impoverishing the people of these isles.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have some very serious statutory instruments to consider next week, which is why I have put them on the Order Paper. It is Work and Pensions questions on Monday
My constituent invested her £60,000 life savings in London Capital & Finance and had put £20,000 in a similar company called Blackmoor, which markets individual savings accounts with 7% interest, using a third party that took 25% commission, but the small print said they were not ISAs but investment bonds. LCF went into administration earlier this year after the Financial Conduct Authority ordered the sale of the bonds to stop, but investors’ money was lent to people with a connection to LCF, including its founder. Can we have a debate on this scandalous and fraudulent issue?
I had heard of this appalling collapse, and the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it. There will be people who have really suffered financially as a result of this. I suggest that he seeks an Adjournment debate so he can raise it directly with Ministers.
My constituent moved here from France 15 years ago—back to her Scottish mother—and she has had three children born in Scotland, yet the DWP has decided that she does not have a right to reside. It also rejected her universal credit claim, which means she has now lost her child tax credits. With no housing benefit, she is at risk of eviction from her house and she is relying on family support to survive. She has now applied for UK citizenship in a last-gasp effort to get the right to reside here. How can her case be expedited, and when will the Government review their pernicious immigration rules associated with universal credit?
I am genuinely sorry to hear about the hon. Gentleman’s constituency case. We have Work and Pensions questions on Monday, and I suggest that he raises it directly with Ministers then. He will appreciate that universal credit replaces an old system that trapped people on benefits. Universal credit is a much better, modern benefit based on the principles that work should always pay and that those in need of support should receive it.