The business for the week commencing
May I, on this particular occasion, extend the best wishes and thoughts of the whole House to all who are assembled in Normandy today to reflect on and commemorate the D-day landings?
It has been a very crowded field, with many runners and riders, but here I am as the new Leader of the House, and also as the new Lord President of the Council, which means that I have become a leader without an election and a lord without having to be elevated to the peerage. For having quietly achieved that during these tumultuous times, I think I should be congratulated.
Indeed I have.
I would like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom. In so doing, Mr Speaker, may I say that I hope that we can continue in the warm and familiar spirit that characterised your relationship with my predecessor, and hope that I can benefit from your continued indulgence? My right hon. Friend travelled the length and breadth of our country to press the case for our Parliament. She pressed hard to protect the very fabric of our Parliament with all her work around restoration and renewal. She fought for the piloting of proxy votes to make this place a more family-friendly environment. She worked particularly hard to change the culture in the Palace of Westminster so that there should be no place for bullying or harassment of any kind. We owe her a great debt.
I would also like briefly to pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mark Spencer, who stood in at such short notice on the previous occasion and performed with such oratorical brilliance and dexterity. His are big shoes to fill, not least because he has very large feet.
For my part, I will strive to be an effective voice for Parliament in Government and to conduct myself in a consensual and inclusive manner. My door will always be open to Members right across this House—especially, of course, to Valerie Vaz, and all those who speak for their parties and the Committees of this House.
Beyond these walls, I will play my part to defend our democracy, in a world in which the public square has too often become a place of misinformation and abuse. This House is precious, yet sometimes fragile. When it is degraded, we are diminished, but when it is at its best, we are all enriched.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new position and congratulate him on his appointment. Perhaps we can talk later about whether he is going to give a speech every time he announces the business; I am happy to have the extra time too. I thank him for giving the forthcoming business and for restoring our Opposition day. I am pleased that he is starting off in the right way—long may that continue.
Can the Leader of the House confirm the dates for the summer and conference recesses? I ask that not because I do not want to be here—we do want to be here—but because I have heard rumours that the House might rise on
I remind the Leader of the House that he holds democracy in his hands, which is a very precious thing. This is a minority Government, and he needs to respect that. Can he confirm the status of the confidence and supply agreement and whether it will have to be renegotiated with the new Prime Minister? I am sure that he has been briefed, but I will give him the figure again: it is 715 days since the Queen’s Speech. This is now the longest continuous parliamentary Session since the Acts of Union in 1800.
The Leader of the House is the voice of the House in Government. Can he assure the House that he agrees that Parliament is sovereign, and that Parliament has voted against a no-deal scenario? I say that because there are many candidates up and down the country coming here to have coffee and tea and talk to their colleagues, and they are saying various things. I am sure that he still respects his former colleague at the Treasury, the Chancellor, who said that the Conservative party is at risk of losing its “reputation for fiscal responsibility” as candidates fighting for the top job have made “unfunded” spending and tax-cutting pledges. Are those meaningful or un-meaningful pledges? Are they new policies? We need to know. As a former Treasury Minister, he knows that when someone makes a public spending commitment, they have to honour it. One of them is even talking about repealing the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Given that they have all been in the Cabinet, why did they not do those things at the time? Does that mean they are not very good at persuading their colleagues?
This Government are failing in their duty to bring forward important legislation. 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, and the Trade Bill is stuck in ping-pong. Can the Leader of the House update us on when those Bills are likely to get their Report stage and when the Trade Bill will return to the House?
The House has resolved that there is a climate and environment emergency. I do not know about other Members, but I am already getting emails from people about the Environment Bill. The Environment Bill is required to put in place a domestic structure of environmental governance, but it is still to be published and is only in draft form. The draft Bill seems to exclude our cultural heritage from future environmental improvement plans. When the Leader of the House is having strategy meetings with his candidate, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, can he ask him when the Environment Bill is likely to come before the House?
All the while, the UK manufacturing sector contracted in May for the first time since July 2016. The justice system is under threat while barristers are considering strike action in a dispute over legal aid rates and prosecution fees; that is about the rule of law. A shortage of qualified staff has become hospitals’ most pressing concern. The Royal College of Radiologists recently said that the shortage of cancer doctors “puts care at risk”. Also at risk is the community of Scunthorpe and, we learn today, the community of Bridgend.
Also at risk are children in Northamptonshire. Yesterday two Northamptonshire serious case reviews on the murder of two toddlers were published and widely reported, and they said that there was a serious failure, after child protection workers, police and the local authority missed crucial opportunities to intervene. An Ofsted inspection last year said that social workers and staff are inundated and are “drowning in work”. When will the Government make a statement on this horrific incident, and what steps are being taken to ensure it never happens again?
Mr Speaker, you can see why we need such debates. Given that the Government do not have much business or refuse to put business before this House, could the Opposition have that time because we could put forward how we see the future of this country? That is important because—and I join the right hon. Gentleman in saying this—on this day more than ever, we want to remember and thank the 22,442 British troops who gave their lives over the summer of 1944. They worked together to ensure, and they still ensure, peace and our freedom, fighting antisemitism, racism, fascism and injustice. Let us get this place and this country working so that we honour their sacrifice.
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, and particularly for welcoming me to my new role. I very much look forward to the great pleasure of working closely with her in the weeks and months ahead.
The hon. Lady asked several questions. She initially asked about recess and when we will be coming forward with the dates for recess. These matters are being considered in the normal manner at the moment, and I will come to the Dispatch Box to announce those dates in due course.
The hon. Lady raised an interesting question about a vote of no confidence and whether such a vote would be permissible. I think the desire to put forward such a motion is really something that originates from her side of the House, so I would suggest she speaks to the leader of her own party. I am aware that there is a lack of communication between the Back Benches and the Front Bench, but I did not realise that there is a lack of communication between the Front Bench and the leader of her own side. She would do well to speak to him in that respect.
The hon. Lady also raised the matter of the confidence and supply agreement. It is of course an agreement between the Conservative and Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist party, and I am therefore confident that it will not be affected by any change in the leadership of the Conservative and Unionist party.
The hon. Lady specifically asked whether Parliament is ultimately sovereign. Of course, the answer to that is very simple: it is yes. Parliament is the sovereign body within our constitution.
The hon. Lady raised—rather bravely, I thought—the issue of tax cuts, among other measures. That comes from a party that has pledged unfunded spending commitments approaching £1 trillion in total, and one can only imagine the kind—[Interruption.] I am looking at the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd, who is smirking away at the thought of all those tax cuts, which he knows he will be bringing in in the course of time. Meanwhile, our party has of course reduced tax left, right and centre, including the latest increase in the personal allowance in the last Budget, taking up to 3 million or 4 million of the lowest-paid people out of tax altogether since 2010.
The hon. Lady quite rightly turned to the issue of legislation and the Bills that will come before this House. I would remind her that no less than 44 Bills have received Royal Assent in this Session. To go back to her point about tax, that includes the last Finance Bill, which reduced tax for no less than 32 million hard-working people up and down our country.
Perhaps I should finish by saying that it is our joint desire to get business through the House—it seems we both have such a desire—and I very much look forward to working closely with the hon. Lady to make sure that the views and aspirations of those right across this House are fully met.
I join others in paying tribute to the outgoing Leader of the House and congratulating my right hon. Friend on his appointment. Will he find time for a debate on future relations between the United Kingdom and the Maldives? The House will be delighted to know that, following the election of the new President, Ibrahim Solih, the warring factions have joined together and the Majlis is now sitting. The Maldives wants to rejoin the Commonwealth, and it would very much like a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.
I welcome my hon. Friend’s question—I know he is a welcome and regular fixture on these occasions, and I look forward to future questions from him. The Government welcome the growing bilateral relations with the Maldives and President Solih’s commencement of steps to rejoin the Commonwealth. My hon. Friend may wish to raise that issue with Foreign Office Ministers during the next Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions on
I thank the new Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, and I warmly welcome him to his post. He is only the fourth Leader of the House that I have encountered over the past four years, but I have a feeling that he will be about the best yet. In that spirit, given all the unallotted days that are kicking about, and the lack of business, how about giving the SNP a debate one of these days? Perhaps that could be a starting gift for him to offer the Scottish National party.
The post of Leader of the House is usually offered to those in government who are firmly on their way up, or decidedly on their way down. I will leave it up to the right hon. Gentleman to decide which category he falls into. However, looking at this poor excuse for business, it is not a new Leader of the House that is required—it’s the sandman. We do not need a business statement; we need a cup of Horlicks laced with Mogadon. This business purgatory is where zombies go to die. We have only another six or so weeks of this nonsense to go before we can all go away and do something much more interesting.
May I fully associate myself with what has been said about D-day? This 75th anniversary has caught the whole nation’s imagination, and we pay tribute to all those engaged in providing the freedom that we enjoy in this House today.
I bet Government Members are delighted to be back—that was a good and productive week off! Absolutely and totally gubbed in the euro elections, their Brexit going nowhere, and Farage pulling all the strings once again in their dilapidated party. May we have a debate about beauty contests—specifically, no-deal Brexiteer beauty contests? SNP Members are enjoying watching those Tory beauties strutting their stuff, with their mad plans about the degree of just how disastrous their Brexit will be. One thing that has come out of their hustings thus far, however, is the suggestion that this Parliament could be prorogued to facilitate their no-deal Brexit. The first thing that the new Leader of the House must say this morning is that that subversion of democracy will never be considered or entertained, and that he has no intention of suspending democracy in this country to facilitate that no-deal Brexit.
Lastly, may we have a debate about anything—something with some meaning? We have all this to look forward to when we come back again to hear another business statement that says exactly the same thing next week. Welcome to your new life, Leader of the House.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. I have observed him from a distance over many weeks performing as he has done—he normally has a tightly knit script of prose that he rattles through at great speed, and we were not disappointed in that respect this morning. With his comments about zombies and other references there was something more of the Rab C. Nesbitt than the Rabbie Burns about it on this occasion—[Interruption.] I do have a soft spot for the hon. Gentleman, so he will make good headway with me on a general basis.
On SNP Opposition days, the hon. Gentleman will know that the Standing Orders are clear that there should be 20 Opposition day debates in any one Session, with 17 for the largest Opposition party, and three for the second largest, which is the Scottish National party. Those days have already been allocated and occurred, but in the spirit of the hon. Gentleman’s generous opening remarks, I would be happy to sit down with him, at a time of his convenience, to discuss that matter, and perhaps even the vexed issue that he raised about whether I am on my way up or on my way down. Only time will tell.
The hon. Gentleman raised a specific point about prorogation, which of course is ultimately in the gift of the Queen. I think Her Majesty should be kept out of the politics of our Parliament, and I am sure that matter will be in the forefront for those who toy with such decisions in the future. He also mentioned the Bills being introduced, and I think many fine Bills are coming forward in this House, as well as many important debates. It should be borne in mind that debate does not just take place on the Floor of the House, and important work is also carried out in many important Committees.
It is good to see another one of my protégés climb the greasy pole.
Martin Luther King said that law and order exist for the purposes of justice, but the injustice of disorder hurts people and spoils places as too many yobs and crooks penalise, torment, terrorise and taunt their innocent and vulnerable neighbours. Small shops are targeted in particular. The Federation of Independent Retailers said recently that the cost of crimes against the convenience sector alone is £246 million. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on retail crime, which does so much harm in all our constituencies? Then, perhaps, as well as being a Leader, as well as being a President, as well as being a Lord, he will, like me, become a champion of the shopkeepers.
Order. The right hon. Gentleman was legendarily eloquent and mellifluous, but it is extremely important that the proceedings of this House are intelligible to all those observing them. Therefore, for the purposes of clarification and the avoidance of doubt, I inform people that before the Leader of the House attained the giddy heights in the political stratosphere, which is he proud to announce today he has done, he did serve as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir John Hayes. I fancy that the right hon. Member thinks that that was the apogee of the career achievements of Mel Stride.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think it is very important to put that important matter clearly on the record. May I say what a privilege and honour it was to have served as my right hon. and gallant Friend’s PPS? I always found him to be visionary, wise, and just occasionally present in the 21st century. [Laughter.] I did stress the word “occasionally”, Mr Speaker, in that context.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in his important point about crime and our local communities. We tend to see local communities and high streets through the prism of taxation and, in particular, business rates, but he is right to raise the other issues that impinge on the health of our high streets and communities. If he were to suggest this issue for a Backbench Business debate to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, it might well find favour.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new role and look forward to working with him as we try to sort out parliamentary business over the coming weeks and months.
I very much echo the comments about D-day and remember the terrible sacrifice that was made as the liberation of Europe began on
The likelihood is that there will be two days of estimates day debates in early July. The Backbench Business Committee is anxiously waiting for applications for estimates day debates by Friday
Finally, last night I attended a function to celebrate the Open University’s 50th birthday. The OU is still a real chance for those already in work or those who missed out on studying for higher level qualifications after school, and for many to requalify in the fast-moving and ever-changing world of work. There is, however, a sting in the tail, which is that we have witnessed a massive reduction in the number of students from the UK signing up to courses because of tuition fees for adult learners. May we have a debate in Government time, so we can highlight the ever-growing need for lifelong learning and the great potential the OU still offers to people across this country?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and very much look forward to working closely with him in the coming period. I echo his sentiments regarding D-day and the reference he made to his family and prisoners of war at the time of the second world war. It is important to reflect not only on those who made the ultimate sacrifice and the men and women who fought in the war on our behalf, but on all those who were damaged in many different ways by it: men, women and children not just in our country, but in many countries around the world.
The hon. Gentleman said that he seeks applications for estimates days by his deadline of Friday
The hon. Gentleman makes important points about the Open University, which has been a great success for our country, and I pay tribute to the Labour party, because the commitment of the former Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, saw the birth of that important institution. I believe that my hon. Friend Wendy Morton is an alumni of the Open University, and it is good to see her on the Front Bench today.
As for a debate on the matter, perhaps Ian Mearns can consider that as a Backbench Business debate. He can ask himself that important question, deliberate and wrestle with the pros and cons and perhaps even come up with the answer that it would indeed be appropriate for a Backbench Business Committee debate.
Parliament matters, and it seems to me entirely proper that a new Prime Minister should face the House before any recess. If the Government fall on a vote of confidence in a newly elected Conservative Prime Minister, I would expect that Prime Minister to take us to the country and return with a substantial majority. We should not be afraid of Parliament; we should encourage it. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the new Prime Minister will be in place to face Parliament before the recess?
The answer to that question is an interplay between when the contest within the Conservative party for the new leader is due to conclude and when the recess is announced to fall. As we certainly do not know the answer to the latter, and I am not sure that we entirely know the answer to the former, I think that the answer, unfortunately, is no, not necessarily.
There are reports today that Ford is planning to close its plant in south Wales. This would be a devastating blow to the 1,700 people who work there and for supply chains across Wales. May we have a statement from the Government on this dreadful situation and a programme of practical support for manufacturing in south Wales?
I echo the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. Clearly, discussions are taking place, and I believe that senior executives from Ford America are taking part in them. We do not yet know the outcome of the discussions. No announcement has been made, although I am led to believe it is possible that one will be made later today. What I can assure him of is that this Government and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in particular, will keep a very close eye on developments and respond appropriately.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his position and pay tribute to his predecessor, my right hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom, who was in her place for a long time and did a lot of valuable work for the House.
May we have a statement or a debate on the Leader of the Opposition leading a student-type protest in Trafalgar Square against the leader of the free world when he purports to become the next Prime Minister? Is this appropriate?
I respect the question, but I do not think it is for me to comment one way or the other on the decisions made by the Leader of the Opposition about which events or demonstrations he chooses to attend or not to attend—other than to say that I am sure the public will have noticed, and I am sure the electorate will draw their own conclusions.
Yesterday we had an excellent debate on hidden disabilities, but there are still several areas in which those with disabilities are disabilities are being badly let down over accessibility. One of my constituents, Shirley Todd, has launched a campaign on that very issue. A particular problem is boarding aircraft. At most airports—including Edinburgh airport in my constituency, which has won several awards relating to accessibility—once passengers are beyond the gate they come up against a completely different set of circumstances, and are often literally manhandled on to the plane by baggage handlers. May we have a debate on the issue, and discuss how airlines and air transport services could be encouraged to tackle it a bit more sensitively?
The hon. Lady raises a very important matter, particularly in the context of her constituent. The Government fund support for those with disabilities and long-term health conditions extensively, to the tune of some £55 billion a year. However, the specific issue of getting on and off aeroplanes might lend itself to an Adjournment debate, which would give the hon. Lady an opportunity to question a Minister in detail. I also refer her to Transport Questions, which will take place on Thursday
In a week in which Muslims across the world have celebrated the end of Ramadan, the crisis in Sri Lanka seems to be increasing still further, with the resignation of all the Muslim Ministers and officials in the Sri Lankan and state Governments. Today, in the other place, Lord Naseby is putting a question about travel advice given to UK citizens. I note that there has been no statement from the Government about either travel advice or the crisis. May we have a debate in Government time on the situation in Sri Lanka, so that Members of this House can put their views on record and challenge the Government on what they are doing to assist UK nationals?
I believe I am right in saying that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides travel advice online, so that those who are considering travelling to certain parts of the world can be properly informed. This might well be an appropriate subject for an Adjournment debate, and my hon. Friend may wish to consider that.
As I told the House earlier today, my thoughts are with those commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. As a small child I saw very little of my father in the first five years of my life, because he was overseas serving in the Royal Engineers. I think that the House should think very profoundly about those young men and women who fought and lost their lives.
As a fitting tribute, could we seriously consider something that I am passionate about—the planting of trees to remember people and their contribution? Is the new Leader of the House aware that there is to be a new northern forest stretching all the way from Hull to Liverpool, containing 50 million trees? Could we expand that across the United Kingdom, as a real tribute to the people who fought for us in the war and many of whom died fighting for the freedom of this country?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we should seek whatever means we can to pay tribute to those who fought on our behalf in the second world war. He mentioned the planting of trees. I remember that when I was a young boy, we were urged to “Plant a tree in ’73”, and I assume that there are forests of giant trees today as a consequence of that initiative. The planting of the great northern forest is an excellent and imaginative approach; I think that the Government intend to plant about 15 million trees. As for the hon. Gentleman’s specific point, environment questions, on Thursday week, will provide an excellent opportunity him to raise it with Ministers.
May we have a debate about the Queen’s award for voluntary service? This year Forres in Bloom received the honour. Diane McGregor, the chairwoman, Sandra McLennan, the secretary, and all the volunteers do outstanding work throughout the year in Grant park and across Forres with their flowers and displays. This is appreciated by not just locals but the thousands of visitors to the town. Will the Leader of the House also join me in congratulating them on all these efforts, ahead of their 30th anniversary next year, in their three decades of work and agree that their motto is very fitting: “We love where we live”?
My hon. Friend raises an excellent point, and I do of course join him in paying tribute to Diane McGregor, Sandra McLennan and the amazing band of volunteers for their outstanding work and for receiving the Queen’s award for voluntary service. The Government recognise the huge importance of volunteering and it would be an excellent subject for an Adjournment debate.
I warmly congratulate the new Leader of the House, although I will not do your trick, Mr Speaker, of reminding him of where we first met as it would be far too embarrassing for me. May I just say that I think his answers on prorogation and whether a new Prime Minister will address the House swiftly after being elected have been wholly inadequate so far? It would surely be on a Venezuelan scale of outrage if we were to prorogue Parliament simply to force through a no-deal Brexit against the will of Parliament. Even Winston Churchill—during the midst of war when the British Expeditionary Force was in danger of complete collapse in France and we were trying to get people out of Dunkirk—when he was made Prime Minister in May 1940 addressed the House of Commons just three days later. Even the Marquess of Salisbury in 1885 knew he had to come to Parliament the next day. So surely to God the new Leader of the House should be able to say to us today, “Yes, a new Prime Minister will address the House of Commons within a week of being appointed.”
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and I am not quite as shy as him about revealing to the House where we first met: I was very proud to meet the hon. Gentleman I think for the first time as a fully signed up member of the Conservative party at Oxford University. Quite where it all went wrong after that I have no idea, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to come and talk to me about the error of his ways at any point I will be happy to try to enlighten him on those matters.
The hon. Gentleman raises once again the issue of prorogation, and he will know that these matters and others are all going to be decisions that the future Prime Minister will take and that it is not for me to speculate about what they might be.
One thing we all know, because I have said it myself several times—and I think Chris Bryant believes this—is that Parliament will not be evacuated from the centre stage of the decision-making process on this important matter. That is simply not going to happen; it is so blindingly obvious that it almost does not need to be stated—but apparently it does and therefore I have done.
May I also welcome the very modern-minded Leader of the House to his role? With that in mind, he may be aware that in 1989 when cameras were first allowed in this place they were brought in with restrictions: footage can be used on news programmes and so on, but not on satirical or light entertainment programmes, presumably to maintain the dignity of this place. Given that so much of this content, in particular the more light-hearted moments—a lot of it including you, Mr Speaker—is currently available online on YouTube and so on does the Leader of the House believe it is about time to update the rules and bring them into the 21st century?
I am sure there are many light-hearted and satirical moments in the House—too many for any producer of any film to get their head around I would imagine. However, whether we should permit this might be the subject of a future debate, rather than my opining on it at the Dispatch Box.
Unfortunately, many foreign-born citizens and others with the right to live and work in the UK are being made to feel like second-class citizens. This happened a couple of weeks ago to EU citizens who were turned away from polling stations, and last week at my surgery, Firas Ibrahim, the regional director for the middle east at the University of Edinburgh, came to tell me that, despite the fact that he loves living and working in Scotland, he feels that the UK Government are making him feel like a second-class citizen. Despite holding a British passport and fulfilling an important role at a Russell Group university, he has been repeatedly questioned by border officials on returning from business trips abroad, and as a dual Syrian national, he was very upset by the Home Secretary’s suggestion about banning travel to Syria. As the architect of the hostile environment—the Prime Minister—vacates her role, may we have a debate on how the hostile environment has made our friends, colleagues and family members who are foreign-born British citizens and EU nationals living here feel like second-class citizens, and on what we can do to remedy that?
I think it is fair to say that our Prime Minister has done a huge amount to ensure that we reassure those EU nationals who live in our country that they are not only entirely welcome but an essential part of our communities and our society. The hon. and learned Lady raised a specific point about voting, and my comment would be that the Government ensured that we provided all the legal requirements and funding to facilitate that, and that the returning officers had the tools at their disposal to enable them to take the appropriate decisions. We will have Home Office questions on Monday, and she might wish to raise that issue with Ministers at that time.
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on assuming his position. May we have a debate on the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria? It is absolutely essential that the UK not only maintains its generous commitment but increases it, as a congressional appropriations sub-committee has just recommended that the United States should do. We need a proportionate increase to ensure that those deadly diseases can be tackled, and an early decision by the Government is now necessary so that they can continue to show the global leadership on this issue that they have shown in the past.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his work in this area and on his chairmanship of the Global TB Caucus. The Government recognise the importance of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and we are in fact the world’s third-largest contributor to it. We are currently considering a further commitment to the fund’s replenishment this year, and I will ensure that my right hon. Friend’s points are noted.
I was under the impression that the new Leader of the House’s most important previous role was his position on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in 2010. That position has allowed him to speak with accuracy and clarity on the state of the confidence and supply agreement, and I hope that he will continue to develop his relationship with the people on the Ulster Bench. Will he take this opportunity today to commend the work of the education and engagement team in Parliament and to support them as they try to fill the gap to ensure that their brilliant work in reaching 11,000 children every year is extended to Northern Ireland, where only 37 children were reached last year?
I echo my hon. Friend’s warm comments about our time together on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. I remember that time with fondness, when he and I worked on a lot of important matters. His point about education and engagement and the relatively low number of children coming from Northern Ireland seems to me—although I have not looked into this in great detail—to be something that might need to be addressed. I would therefore be happy to meet him to look at this more carefully.
I should like to add my congratulations to the new Leader of the House. Earlier, my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes referred to the problems faced by small shopkeepers. He and I attended an event yesterday that was organised by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. As well as the issue of retail crime, they drew our attention to the anomalies in the business rates system that are having a damaging impact on them. Could the Leader of the House find time for a debate on that issue?
On business rates and high streets, this Thursday there will be BEIS questions, and that would be an opportune moment for my hon. Friend Martin Vickers to raise the point that he has made.
A constituent of mine is in the process of applying for a visa, but she has experienced technical problems online and is attempting to resolve the issue by phone. It would appear that the helpline—I use that term in the broadest sense—has been outsourced, and the company being used is charging £2.50 per minute for calls. She has already spent over £100 and is absolutely no nearer to getting the problem resolved. I thought the Government had told us that the hostile environment was over; it clearly is not. May we have a statement urgently on what the Government will do about that helpline?
I am pleased that the hon. Lady has raised that matter, because there are a number of companies out there who purport to do things which, apparently, are too complicated to do for nothing, and make profits as a consequence. I personally believe in general terms that that is not right, and I would be happy to facilitate a conversation perhaps between the hon. Lady and the appropriate Minister.
I very much support what my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert said about the global health fund.
May we have a debate on the importance of smaller accident and emergency units up and down the country? Yet again, County Hospital, Stafford has come into the limelight. It is actually performing excellently at the moment. However, there is no way that the local health system—indeed, the regional health system—could survive without the A&E there and, indeed, the one a few miles away in Telford. May we have a debate so that we can highlight that, and ask for a different model for funding those vital smaller general hospitals up and down our country?
My hon. Friend, who is a great champion for his local hospital, raises the issue of smaller A&E units in general. We are, of course, investing the largest cash amount in the national health service in its history—some £85 billion over the next five years—and we are fully committed to the NHS. The point that he raised might make a good BackBench Business Committee debate, or perhaps even a Westminster Hall debate when it is the Department for Health’s turn to respond.
From an early age I have been a real champion of, and been fascinated by, Glasgow’s built heritage. In particular, most people would associate Glasgow’s iconic tenements with the city. Indeed, 76,000 tenements were built in Glasgow before 1919, of which over 60% are in need of urgent repair. Would the Leader of the House consider congratulating pupils at Whitehill Secondary School who developed a Go4SET engineering project to look at future-proofing and greening Glasgow’s tenements, and surpassed 91 other secondary schools by winning the Go4SET national competition? Would he consider building on their excellent achievements and work by holding a debate in the House, in Government time, on the need to provide practical support for improving our historic built environment—particularly looking at measures such as VAT relief for historic buildings?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the schools that he referred to, particularly Whitehill Secondary School, and the competition that was won around the greening of buildings. He is right to raise our historic buildings and our heritage; they are extremely important, especially in local communities. He referenced some tax measures that may assist in that area. I would be very happy to write on his behalf to the Treasury, or facilitate a meeting with the Treasury to discuss those matters.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the support that the Government can provide to industry at this deeply challenging time? As my hon. Friend Nick Smith mentioned earlier, there are deeply worrying reports this morning about the future of car manufacturing at Bridgend, which faces the pressures of reduced demand for conventional combustion engines and Brexit uncertainty. It is imperative that industry is given the support to transition to new technology and a more sustainable footing, so a debate on the role that Government can play in that endeavour is urgently needed.
The hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware of the extensive industrial strategy that the Government have committed to. He will be aware of the reduction in corporation tax rates that we have been bringing in, and the reliefs around research and development—all the things that are important in ensuring that our businesses are sustainable, growing and strong. I think the subject might make quite an interesting debate, so perhaps it is one to propose to the Backbench Business Committee.
Last Thursday I joined local residents of all ages at “Jumpers for Goalposts,” a community football event organised by my constituent Pete Bell, alongside students from Farnborough Academy, and supported by the police, the armed forces, the Prison Service, the city council, Nottingham Forest and many others. Pete is using his experience of delivering “Step Out, Stay Out,” a prison football programme, to strengthen community cohesion on the Clifton estate, where he lives. Will the new Leader of the House congratulate Pete and the students on the event, and will the Government make time to debate the vital role that sport-based education and mentoring can play in both helping offenders to turn their lives around and preventing young people from getting involved in crime and antisocial behaviour in the first place?
In joining those congratulations, it seems opportune to point out that the women’s parliamentary football team scored a great victory last night—2-1, I am advised—at a match in Battersea Park.
I was told they had won 2-1. By all accounts it was a splendid performance, and I think colleagues will wish to congratulate all members of the team. [Interruption.] I note the sedentary chunter of Chris Bryant, which probably would bear repetition, but I will spare the House at this time.
Will the Leader of the House consider scheduling a debate on early-day motion 2455, on the theme of sport and free-to-air TV?
[That this House celebrates a successful start to the summer of sport but regrets that a lot of sport is broadcast on subscription TV which is unavailable live to most people in the UK; notes that the European Nations Football League finals is available free to air in three of the four participating countries: the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, but not England; regrets the fact that BT Sport tried to fulfil its promise to make the European Champions League final available to all viewers by offering it on a flickering YouTube channel rather than through a main public service broadcaster; further regrets that no cricket world cup matches have been available live on free to air to inspire future generations; welcomes the fact that the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and Netball World Cup will be broadcast live on the BBC but notes that no female team sport has been accorded the status of a listed event which must be offered to broadcasters with reach across the population; calls on Sky TV to allow the final of the Cricket World Cup to be simulcast on Channel 4; and calls on the Government to undertake a review of the listed events with a view to extending such events.]
The early-day motion argues the case for extending the list of events that must be offered live to free-to-air TV, given that much of our glorious summer of sport—the cricket World Cup; the UEFA Nations League finals, which England are involved in tonight; and the Open golf championship at Portrush—is hidden away behind subscription TV. Even the Champions League final was available to many only on a grainy YouTube channel.
These arrangements are clearly subject to a variety of commercial contracts and arrangements between businesses. As to the suggestion of our having a debate, I invite the hon. Gentleman to write to me setting out precisely the arguments he is putting forward and what he wishes to be debated. I would then be very happy to have a much closer look.
I did not agree with my hon. Friend Chris Bryant when he was a member of the Oxford University Conservative association, but I agree with him when he challenges the new Leader of the House to be much clearer about his constitutional position in relation to proroguing Parliament. Will the Leader of the House now make it absolutely clear from the Dispatch Box that he would oppose any future Prime Minister who proposes Prorogation in order to avoid this House being able to express its view on a difficult constitutional matter such as Brexit? As Leader of the House, he needs to be clear that that is his position.
If I may say so, Mr Speaker, both your interjection on this matter and my previous answers cover the hon. Gentleman’s point.
Today the oil company Hurricane Energy has started production in a giant oilfield west of Shetland—the output is expected to be 20,000 barrels a day. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate in Government time on how we transition to a much greener economy and transfer all current oil and gas revenues to the Scottish Exchequer so that they can be used much more productively and wisely in future, and not be frittered away by the UK Government?
I welcome the Leader of the House to his new role. We urgently need a national debate on social care. As a first step, can we at least have a statement indicating when the Green Paper in respect of England will be published and offering proper resources for immediate social care needs all around the United Kingdom?
The Government have made a number of announcements about additional funding for adult social care in particular. There will be a Green Paper, as the hon. Gentleman has identified, and it will come forward at the earliest opportunity.
The last thing the Speaker wants to do is to mislead the House. I have just been shown what appears to be conclusive evidence that the team eventually lost 3-2. I had been advised of a 2-1 victory, but perhaps it was a 2-1 lead. Apparently, the team lost, but they had a great time. There are magnificent players in that team, and I think we should celebrate the merits, commitment and passion of the women’s parliamentary football team. They may have lost the battle, but they will win the war.
It is almost three years since I reassured students at Sheffield Park Academy, in my constituency, that the Government were acting to introduce sharia-compliant student loans. That was on the basis of a pledge made in the higher education White Paper, which had just been published at that time, but nothing followed. In May this year, the universities Minister implied that the issue would be addressed by Philip Augar, but his report, published last week, barely mentions it. May we therefore have a statement from the Education Secretary on when the Government intend to fulfil their promise to Muslim students?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue of sharia-compliant loans on behalf of pupils at Sheffield Park Academy. Within the Treasury, that comes under the responsibilities of the Economic Secretary. As the hon. Gentleman has suggested, the Department for Education also has important input on it. If he would like to contact me, I would be happy to make sure I facilitate appropriate contacts with the Treasury—if that is appropriate—and certainly with the DFE.
May I say that an ability to make glory out of a football defeat qualifies you for honorary membership of the tartan army, Mr Speaker.
The hon. Gentleman raises a specific point about the experience that one of his constituents is having with a particular business, and on that aspect of his question I would be happy to facilitate contact, perhaps with an appropriate Minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to see what possibilities there are. On the more general point he makes on policy on administration, we have BEIS questions on Tuesday coming and he may wish to raise the issue then. Equally, he may wish to consider it for a Westminster Hall debate, perhaps when BEIS is the Department due to answer those debates.
I recently introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on animal sentience. When I asked the relevant Minister about it before the Select Committee, he said that the Government were just looking for a “vehicle” and parliamentary time in order to bring forward such a proposal, which I believe was promised back in 2017. Clearly, I can provide the vehicle; I have been working with animal welfare groups on draft legislation. When we look at next week’s business, we think, “Why can’t we just crack on with it?”
First, I congratulate the hon. Lady on the huge amount of effort she puts into the very important area of animal welfare, something to which this Government are totally committed; she will be aware of the many measures we have brought in during this Parliament. She asks what legislative vehicle there might be to further the issue of animal sentience that she has raised. I would like to give that some thought, and if she would like to have a conversation with me after questions, I would be happy to talk to her specifically about it.
The Leader of the House’s predecessor was a keen supporter of breastfeeding, so I am sure he will be keen to congratulate all volunteers in Volunteers’ Week and all those in Scotland who are involved in Scottish Breastfeeding Week, which happens to coincide with Volunteers’ Week. May we have a debate on the “Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland” recommendations, which are part of a global project in which England is also involved, in conjunction with Yale University and other countries around the world?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue. She is absolutely right that breastfeeding was very important to the previous Leader of the House, and I recognise its importance, too. The extent of breastfeeding in the United Kingdom is below that in many other countries, most notably Sweden, where a high proportion of babies are breastfed. I recognise that it does matter and that it does make a difference. Perhaps a debate in Westminster Hall at the appropriate moment might be the right approach.
I welcome the Leader of the House to his new job. He and I have done business together over a period of time, so I wish him well in the job.
May I also associate myself with his remarks and those of my hon. Friend Valerie Vaz about the D-day landings and the sacrifices that those men made? The Leader of the House will probably know that Coventry suffered as a result of the bombing. There are lots of services in Coventry today because the people of Coventry, like those in the rest of Britain, appreciate the sacrifices of those men.
May we have a debate or statement on the national school breakfast programme? I am told that it has been a great success, but there is concern about future funding. Bearing in mind the fact that 20,000 people in Coventry used food banks last year, and that we still have the working poor, I am sure the Leader of the House will be sympathetic to getting us a statement or a debate, because he is a humane person and understands that the longer it takes to get a decision, the longer children will suffer from anxiety.
I associate myself entirely with the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the D-day landings, and I recognise the enormous damage and destruction that was caused to Coventry by the bombing in the second world war. May I congratulate him on securing an Adjournment debate on his local hospital next Thursday? I look forward either to being present at that debate or to reading Hansard after it.
Sacred Heart and St Lucy’s in Cumbernauld are among the churches up and down the country that have close and long-standing links with priests, ministers and other religious leaders from overseas—people who come to lead and support worship while regular pastors are on vacation. May we have an urgent debate on the changes to the immigration rules that are set to destroy those links and make that recruitment impossible?