Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:34 am on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:34 am, 20th June 2019

I thank the hon. Lady for her various questions, which I will go through in some detail in a moment. I also thank her for welcoming the recess dates, which I think we are all relieved have now finally been announced.

Having just announced the summer recess dates, an idea has occurred to me. We meet as a merry band on Thursdays—we are like a tightly knit club—and I wonder if this recess we might perhaps keep the camaraderie going, and all go off on holiday together. I would be happy to hire a bus or a charabanc, Mr Speaker, and as the new Leader who, as you know, has brought such a powerful sense of direction and renewed purpose to this House, I would be happy to drive it. Nothing would give me more pleasure than for my new-found friend, the shadow Leader of the House, to join me. She would be serenaded of course by the ever-cheerful hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) on the pipes, or maybe the banjo, and accompanied by my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes displaying his musical prowess on the spoons while spouting Wordsworth and Keats and John Clare and regaling us with cheery tales of those halcyon Victorian times when small boys cheerfully shinned up chimneys and widespread malnutrition and rickets were a mere footnote to a far happier age. And as the sun slips below the horizon we will hear the extraordinary tales of Ian Mearns explaining how he quietly took over the entire business of government with his Backbench Business Committee. Or perhaps we should stick to our original plans.

The hon. Lady raised several important points. First, she asks who will be at the Dispatch Box when Parliament goes into recess. Of course, that is unknown; I have no crystal ball. There are four finalists, all extremely strong candidates, and we will have to wait and see. I can offer her a membership form for the Conservative party so that next time she can participate in the excitement and fun. I was grateful to receive her satisfaction, however, at our having set out the situation for September and at the fact that we will be sitting from early that month.

The hon. Lady mentioned the Cox report. Her request for a debate would need to be taken up through the usual channels, but I have taken her request on board—it is the second time she has raised it with me—and undertake to come back to her later today at least with something by way of a response, even if it is to say that I have asked the usual channels at my end of the usual channel to consider it seriously. She also asked about various pieces of future legislation and when they will be coming forward. They will come forward in due course. On flood defences, which she mentioned, we have of course just had Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions, which was an opportunity for Members to address that issue.

The hon. Lady made various important points about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has now spent three years in jail in Iran. I can assure her that, whatever may or may not have been said by others in the past, the Government are working extremely hard to do whatever they can to ensure her imminent release. She also raised carbon emissions, which she will know the Government have reduced by 25% in terms of greenhouse gases since 2010. We have now had over 1,700 hours of producing power in our country without the use of coal, which is the longest stretch in the history of power production in the United Kingdom.

The hon. Lady made some very important points about hospices, particularly relating to the care of children, on which subject there will be an Adjournment debate on 1 July in the name of my hon. Friend Dr Johnson. The hon. Lady may wish to attend and urge others to do likewise. I would certainly be prepared to facilitate the approaches she requested to the Secretary of State for Health in terms of funding.

The hon. Lady made some very important points about Jo Cox and the excellent work of Kim Leadbeater and her concerns about humanitarian aid in Syria. In that regard, we have a proud record in this country and have allocated some billions of pounds of assistance. Given that she also referred to Refugee Week, I should remind the House that we have agreed to take 20,000 refugees and 3,000 children from Syria.

Like the hon. Lady, I was pleased that during the remaining stages of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill yesterday we underscored our commitment to education in this place, and, like her also, I commiserate with our Scottish colleagues on the football result yesterday while also cheering on the England team.