Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:04 am on 21st March 2019.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:04 am, 21st March 2019

First, I share the hon. Lady’s tribute to PC Keith Palmer. I was delighted to be at the memorial recognition of his great sacrifice and the unveiling of the memorial to him. She is absolutely right to pay her own tribute. I also share in her pleasure that there will be a memorial service for Paul Flynn, a much-missed colleague. I echo her words about the appalling atrocity that took place in New Zealand. It is absolutely horrendous. We all hope that the communities in New Zealand can come together, as they are doing, and we support all those who have been so tragically affected.

The hon. Lady asks about the meaningful vote next week. She will recognise that, as I said in my business statement, this is a fluid situation and we are waiting for the response of the EU27 to our request for an extension, which the Prime Minister has taken to them in response to the requirement of this House that she do so. As soon as we have a response from the EU Council, I will be able to update the House on when we can bring forward a meaningful vote and a debate next week. But it is certainly the Prime Minister’s intention to do so. Likewise, in terms of bringing forward the statutory instrument, hon. Members will know that, under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, it is required that that statutory instrument be approved by both Houses. It is therefore vital that we find time for that as soon as we can.

The hon. Lady asks about Opposition days. We have debated a range of secondary legislation this week. I have announced important business for next week, including the section 13 debate on Monday and Lords amendments to two important Bills, the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill and the Offensive Weapons Bill. This week, we have had debates on two statutory instruments requested by the official Opposition. I will, of course, continue to consider her requests for further dates.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that all Members right across the House have a huge interest in matters outside of Brexit. There is no doubt about that. I think the Business question every Thursday demonstrates the range of different interests across the House. All of us share a desire to be able to talk about things not Brexit-related that are so important to people, so I completely agree with her there.

What I will say about the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday is that what she was seeking to invoke among all parliamentarians was just the absolute reality that in a hung Parliament it is for every Member to seek to support good governance. I think that we can all be proud of the fact that in this Session alone we have introduced over 50 pieces of primary legislation, more than 40 of which have already received Royal Assent. In a hung Parliament, that demonstrates the House’s ability to work together in order to reach consensus, agree concessions and act in the national interest.

What the Prime Minister is seeking is for all individual Members to recognise that her withdrawal agreement and future declaration offer the means by which we can leave the European Union, in line with the will of the people as expressed in the referendum, but at the same time the significant minority of people who want to remain in the EU will also have their concerns met by a very close future economic and security partnership. I therefore urge all colleagues, right across the House, to consider the Prime Minister’s deal very carefully.

The shadow Leader of the House asked whether I believe in collective Cabinet responsibility. Of course I do. I have totally supported the Prime Minister’s desire to get a vote through this place. I have always been absolutely clear—in the press and in this Chamber—that I support a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration that deliver the will of the people, but that at the same time continue a close, collaborative relationship with our EU friends and neighbours.

The hon. Lady asked about Interserve, and she was absolutely right to do so. The Government certainly welcome the announcement that Interserve made last Friday regarding its refinancing, which will not affect the operational part of the company. It will bring the company the stability required to allow it to compete for future business and to continue to deliver good-value public services for the taxpayer. It is in the taxpayer’s interests to have a well-financed and stable group of key suppliers, so we welcome the actions that Interserve has taken.

The hon. Lady asked about schools and climate change. Let me say again that I absolutely welcome, support and endorse the determination of young people to do everything they can to support all those experiencing the negative effects of global climate change. We should do everything we can to support our environment around us. The United Kingdom ratified the Paris agreement in November 2016. More than 50% of UK electricity came from low-carbon sources in 2018, making it a record year for renewables, under this Conservative Government. We have cut the use of plastic bags by 86%, through our plastic bag charge. We have reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation. The latest figures show that we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23% since 2010. There is obviously a lot more to do, but I commend all young people who show their passion for the subject. At the same time, I reiterate that education is the best gift that a society can give its young people.