Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 11th July 2019.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:25 am, 11th July 2019

I echo the hon. Lady’s comments on Gemma White, whom I thank for that report. As the hon. Lady pointed out, we received it only at 10 o’clock this morning so, as you will appreciate, Mr Speaker, I have not had time fully to digest the full findings of the Gemma White report on the bullying and harassment of MPs’ parliamentary staff, but I am sure that Members from all parties will share my concern at the initial reports, at least. Let me be clear that there should be absolutely no place for bullying and harassment in this place. We all bear a responsibility to uphold the proper standards of dignity and respect in Parliament.

As you know, Mr Speaker, over the past year, we have made significant progress that will help to bring about meaningful culture change, but more remains to be done. Indeed, as I have announced today, we are bringing forward a motion that will implement the important recommendation in Dame Laura Cox’s report that historic cases should be in scope as part of the independent complaints and grievance scheme. Our Parliament must be a safe place, free of bullying and harassment, and I am determined to play my part in delivering that.

The hon. Lady raises a number of other points. First, I thank her for welcoming the three hours of protected time that we have set aside to debate the Gemma Wright report on Wednesday next week. That will be followed immediately by one hour of protected time to cover the motion that will be tabled on the Laura Cox 2 recommendation.

The hon. Lady rightly raises the importance of the Valuing Everyone training. I urge everybody in the House to go on that training course. It is relatively short, but extremely important. I have written to all my Conservative colleagues in this House to urge them to take on that training, and I raised the importance of it at—let me just say—a very senior level of government.

The hon. Lady asks about the recess. The answer is that we will come back in due course with an announcement on the recess arrangements post the recess when the House rises on 25 July. She raises—as I think she did with my predecessor, to be fair—the publication of ministerial responsibilities. I will look into that and undertake to come back to her very quickly with an answer on when we expect that to be updated online.

The hon. Lady raises the profligacy—although she did not term it in that way—of the Labour party’s spending commitments and my £1 trillion price tag. I think that I will decline the invitation to meet the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter, because I have a volume of information that supports the assertions that I have made in this respect, not least, I believe, the £175 billion price tag on the nationalisations of the various utilities that the Labour party has in its sights.

The hon. Lady raises the important matter of Sir Kim Darroch. The Minister of State has clearly just answered an urgent question very thoroughly on that matter and put forward the Government’s very firm and resolute view on what has happened. She raised specifically the conversations that the Secretary of State for International Trade has had with members of the White House, and I know that he will be aware of the comments that she has made.

The hon. Lady raises the Joint Select Committee and the message from the Lords that we have received and asks when we will be responding to that. I am keen that we do so this side of the recess, and I am in discussions currently with our end of the usual channels in that regard.

The hon. Lady raises the matter of Deutsche Bank. I think that some 18,000 job losses are anticipated there, although it should be pointed out that this is a global retrenchment, not just one that affects the City of London. The Government’s record on employment is, of course, exemplary. We have the highest employment in our history and the lowest unemployment since 1974.

Once again, the hon. Lady also raises the issue of proroguing Parliament. The main thrust of her point was that this should not be used as a device for us to go into a no-deal situation without Parliament expressing its opinion on the matter. As I have said from this Dispatch Box in the past, I do not believe that that would be a desirable situation. The Government do not believe that that would be a desirable situation, not least because it would put the monarch in the awkward position of being involved in what is essentially a political decision given that it is Prorogation based on the advice of the Prime Minister, but ultimately granted by the Queen. I will also say, as I think you have suggested, Mr Speaker, that it seems inconceivable that Parliament will not have its opportunity to ensure that it has appropriate time to debate at the appropriate time these very, very important matters for our country.

The hon. Lady returns to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I can assure her that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains very robustly engaged with the Iranian authorities, and I have now taken it upon myself to ensure that my office keeps closely in touch with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in that regard, as indeed it has done very recently, particularly and not least because of the totally understandable concern that I share with the hon. Lady about her welfare and the desire that we all have in this House that she be released as quickly as possible.

Finally, Big Ben was mentioned. May I share the hon. Lady’s joy in referencing 11 July 1859? We do want to hear the bells again. An interesting fact that not many people may know is that this bell can actually be heard all around the world because the World Service has a live feed of it when it chimes, and that is the live bell that we hear when Big Ben is alive and whole.