Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:20 pm on 25th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 12:20 pm, 25th April 2019

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and for our second Opposition day. We ask for one and two come along—a bit like buses, which is quite interesting because the Labour party is announcing £1.3 billion-worth of investment to reverse the Government cuts to 3,000 bus routes. That is a lifeline to our pensioners.

It was the Prime Minister herself who announced a two-year parliamentary Session, in mid-June 2017, just after the election. We know that there is not a fixed length of time for Sessions, and that it is usual for the first Session after an election to go to 18 months, but there is correspondence circulating—I say circulating, rather than leaked—which shows that, as I understand it, Whitehall has been told to work towards a new parliamentary Session starting in or around June 2019. What is the Government line on when this Session will end and the new one will begin, because important Bills—the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill—all need their Report stage?

I have previously raised at business questions the issue of the 17,000 British students who had planned to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from September. The Leader of the House did not respond to that query, so our young people need to know whether their funding is secured. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or for Exiting the European Union—I do not mind which—ensuring that that funding is guaranteed? That is why we need a Queen’s Speech.

In our Queen’s Speech, we would deal with the climate emergency. It was a Labour Government who passed the world’s first Climate Change Act in 2008, and we are the leading country working to achieve the agreements from Kyoto. The Government’s response so far is to expand Heathrow airport and facilitate fracking, and they have a 25-year environment plan—and no statement on a scrappage scheme for diesel cars. By the end of that plan, Greta, who spoke so movingly to all of us, will be 41 years old. I do not think that is what she had in mind when she spoke of the climate emergency.

We need a Queen’s Speech because we need to stop the Department for Work and Pensions’ failing system of assessments. I ask this again, following the tragic death of Stephen Smith, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate that left him in chronic pain, but was deemed fit to work by the DWP. No one should be fighting the DWP from their sickbed.

The Leader of the House is right: our democracy is under threat. At the first meeting of the new Sub-Committee on Disinformation, the Information Commissioner said that she was “surprised and disappointed” by the lack of space given to the regulation of online political campaigns in the Government’s recent Online Harms White Paper, saying that there should be more focus on what she called a “huge societal harm”. The Information Commissioner said that a million people clicked on Facebook adverts paid for by Mainstream Network, with an unknown number going on to email their MP to urge them to reject the Prime Minister’s plans for a Brexit deal. The emails of over a million people who responded to that campaign for a hard Brexit may have been collected.

If we cannot have a Queen’s Speech, could we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on how the Government will regulate online political campaigns? Otherwise, we are in danger of electing a comedian, as they have done in Ukraine.

More important, could we have a debate on early-day motion 2309 on Donald Trump’s proposed state visit, tabled by my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty?

[That this House deplores the record of US President Donald Trump, including his misogynism, racism and xenophobia; condemns his previous comments on women, refugees and torture; further condemns his lack of action on climate change and failure to support the Paris Climate Change Deal; further deplores his sharing of online content related to a far-right extremist organisation in the UK; deprecates his comments about the Mayor of London; notes previous motions and debates in the House including on the withholding of the honour of a joint address to the Houses of Parliament; further notes the historical significance and honour that comes with the choice to offer a full state visit to an individual; and calls on the Prime Minister and the Government to rescind the advice to offer a full state visit to President Trump.]

The President, who is entitled to come here on any other visit but not in our name, has spearheaded a dangerous policy of separating migrant children from their families and of banning Muslims from the USA; suggested today that GCHQ spied on his election campaign; referred to nations as “Sh**hole countries”; and called news outlets “fake news” in an attempt to limit the freedom of the press. The report by the Special Counsel says that he has obstructed justice. At least the EDM was transparent and not redacted.

Will the Leader of the House look into something that a colleague has raised and issue some guidance for what colleagues do outside each other’s houses? They should not be tweeting outside people’s homes; that is not acceptable to their families. I will give her the name of the hon. Member later.

Whether it is 359 people, including 48 children, or Lyra McKee, life has needlessly been taken away. As Lyra’s family have said:

“Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness.”

Murdered on Holy Thursday, she will forever be linked to peace and the Good Friday agreement.

Our thoughts are with the families in Sri Lanka who have been destroyed forever by these events: innocent people enjoying their lives or—as Lyra was—a journalist doing her work. It is our duty and our responsibility to them, as Father Magill said, to work for peace.