Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:18 am on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:18 am, 4th July 2019

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. I shall come to them in a moment, but let me start by saying that I have some bad news. Unfortunately, I have had to cancel the holiday that I suggested last Thursday. The hon. Lady did not, I think, take my offer seriously, as she never replied to it. Pete Wishart was prepared to join us and provide the musical entertainment, but the appearance fee that he demanded was utterly disproportionate to his talent. Two pounds fifty and a couple of cans of Irn-Bru was a generous offer, and the hon. Gentleman should have accepted it. I mean, who does he think he is, Pete Wishart or something? Perhaps not.

Let me now deal with the hon. Lady’s questions. She rightly raised the business for Monday, and asked whether there would be time for sufficient scrutiny of the Northern Ireland Bill and the tabling of amendments to it. All I will say to her is that we are very aware of the importance of both those matters, and discussions are taking place in the usual channels.

The hon. Lady asked me about a potential debate on the Cox report. We did, of course, have a debate on that report recently, but she also raised the important matter of the Gemma White inquiry, which will be reporting soon. We are at one in respect of the desirability of a debate on that matter, and I am already engaged in discussions with my end of the usual channels with a view to such a debate.

The hon. Lady raised the issue of energy-saving materials again, and asked whether VAT was or was not applicable. More specifically, she asked whether it was a requirement of the European Union that we apply it at a certain level. That is my understanding, but given that the hon. Lady has pressed me again, which may mean that she has some information on this matter that she is keeping to herself—perhaps I am wrong; I do not know—I will check with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General, who I believe is the Minister responsible for that particular issue and tabled the statutory instrument.

The hon. Lady also raised the matter of the £90 billion that the Chancellor has referred to in respect of a potential no-deal exit from the European Union. Of course that is a figure that has been out there for quite some considerable time, not least in the analysis that the Government provided some months ago—an across-Whitehall report on the potential impact of no deal on the Exchequer.

The hon. Lady also raised the matter of the Joint Committee proposed by the House of Lords, and referred to the vote on that. We will of course consider that proposal very carefully when it comes to this House, but I would point out to the hon. Lady that there have been numerous opportunities in the past to debate at length the potential consequences of no deal. None the less, we will take the Joint Committee proposal seriously and have a very close look at that as a potential vehicle for further discussion of that matter.

The hon. Lady referred very generously to my lovely article, which was rather a kind way of introducing her remarks on that, and then she plunged into the costs of the various promises that the two candidates in the Conservative party leadership contest may have been putting forward. At one point she totalled them up to the dizzying heights of £100 billion, which pales into insignificance compared with the £1 trillion that her own party seems to be putting forward in additional borrowing, or indeed in additional tax to be raised from the hard-working men and women up and down our country.

The hon. Lady referred to Serco, but of course we have had an urgent question just this morning on the matter. She made some important points about legal aid. Justice questions are on Tuesday and, as I mentioned last week, the Justice Committee is looking at precisely the issue she has raised around the availability of legal aid to the suspected perpetrators of atrocities compared with its availability to those who have suffered as a consequence of their actions.

I applaud the hon. Lady for raising Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe again, as I know she intends to at the Dispatch Box every week as the shadow Leader of the House. I can once again assure her that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and others have been very engaged in ensuring that somebody who went to Iran simply for the purposes of a holiday and meeting family and friends is not incarcerated in the way she has been.

Finally, may I also welcome the hon. Lady’s comments regarding Rose Hudson-Wilkin and her appointment as Bishop of Dover? She will be much missed by this House, but will be a great asset and of great benefit to Dover.