Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:39 am on 18th July 2019.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The business for the week commencing on 22 July will include the following:

Monday 22 July—Tributes to the Serjeant at Arms, followed by remaining stages of the Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Tuesday 23 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Cableway Installations (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, followed by a motion relating to the reappointment of an electoral commissioner, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the British Nationality Act 1981 (Remedial) Order 2019, followed by a general debate on body image and mental health.

Wednesday 24 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by Legislative Grand Committee (England) and remaining stages of the Kew Garden (Leases) (No.3) Bill [Lords], followed by a general debate on the role and sufficiency of youth services.

Thursday 25 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.

At the conclusion of business, the House will rise for the summer recess and return on Tuesday 3 September.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House. I do not know what he said to Pete Wishart, but he is not in his place. I think it is because he would not allow the hon. Gentleman and the rest of MP4 to get into his car. However, we are pleased to see that Patrick Grady is present. I believe that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire is, in fact, on a Select Committee trip.

There is one week to go, and Sir David Amess has worked his charm. He has usurped the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, and arranged a pre-recess Adjournment debate next week.

It seems that, just as the Leader of the House is hitting his stride, we will have a new Prime Minister. I have asked the Leader of the House this before, but will he tell us whether there will be a statement from the new Prime Minister that has not been included in the business for next week, or at least set out the timetable for what will happen next Wednesday, when the former Prime Minister will go to the Palace? I assume that the new Prime Minister will go to the Palace on the same day.

The Leader of the House said that we would return from the recess on 3 September. Is he able to say whether the House will sit throughout the conference recess?

The pound has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar in 27 months, and to its lowest level this year against the euro, because of the prospect of no deal. No deal would have a damaging effect on research: EU research funding would cease overnight. In 2016, the nine Russell Group universities engaged in 50 large European collaborations; in 2018, the number fell to 20. The Leader of the House will have heard from Venki Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society, how much more we get back when we collaborate with Europe in science projects.

Some Members seem to know more than the Chancellor. The Chancellor has said that there will be a £90 billion contraction in the economy if there is no deal, but someone who is not the Chancellor reckons that leaving without a deal would boost the economy by £80 billion. Who is right?

How is the Leader of the House getting on with setting up the Joint Select Committee that I asked about last week? We have received a Lords message about it, and I know that the Leader of the House was keen to respond to it

“this side of the recess”.—[Official Report, 11 July 2019;
Vol. 663, c. 462.]

He also said that he was having discussions with his end of the usual channels. Will they be the same usual channels next week? We need a response urgently, because we need to do this for the good of our country.

Despite what you and the Leader of the House said last week, Mr Speaker, Prorogation is now becoming a major issue. The team of Boris Johnson have confirmed that they are looking into the possibility of proroguing Parliament for up to two weeks in October. A member of the team has said:

“A number of ideas are under consideration, including this one.”

Friends of the right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped to have a “simple trade pact” with the United States ready to go on the day of Brexit, 31 October, but the Secretary of State for International Trade said that a deal could not be agreed before then. He said:

“We can’t negotiate anything with the US until after we’ve left the European Union. It would be in breach of European law”.

Who is right?

The Government were defeated in the other place yesterday on an amendment relating to intentions to prorogue Parliament. Now both Houses have spoken. I know that the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill is due to come back to this House shortly, so can the Leader of the House categorically state that Prorogation will not happen, and that it is against the will of the House and democracy?

Mr Speaker, you kindly granted the urgent question yesterday to my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq. As Nazanin said, she went to visit her parents and has ended up in an asylum. This cannot be about a woman against a tanker; it is like a butterfly being crushed against a wheel. We say to the Iranian Government, “Show your humanity to an innocent woman and release her to her family.” And as you said yesterday, Mr Speaker, we won’t let go. I know that the Leader of the House has taken a keen interest in this matter: what update does he have for the House following the urgent question yesterday?

Ahead of the summer recess, I ask the Leader of the House to raise some matters with his colleagues in the Cabinet. Will he make representations to the Secretary of State for Education to tell all parents of schoolchildren, when they are taking their children abroad, that female genital mutilation is illegal: it is not a cultural issue and it is not a religious issue; it is an assault. And I would like the Secretary of State for International Development to say to those who are carrying out this practice that they should retrain so that they help the young women, not hurt them.

As we celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day, marking someone who suffered a terrible injustice but worked for a better society, I am sure all hon. Members will join me in welcoming the Bank of England’s decision to have Alan Turing on the £50 note; he was a genius, and during world war two he was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma code. He has been credited with shortening the war by as much as two years, saving countless lives in the process, and it is terrible that he could not witness how much we value his life.

We are celebrating the moon landing, and I am sure everyone was excited when they saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. I know I was; I was watching it on television in the sitting room and then ran out and looked at the moon and thought about the fact that someone was standing on it. I think I wanted to be an astronaut, but in the end I ended up here, which is not the Sea of Tranquillity. We should use our creativity and talent not to destroy each other, but for the good of all and our precious Earth.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

May I thank the hon. Lady for her questions and express, as she did, disappointment that Pete Wishart is not in his place? I had lined up numerous dreadful gags at his expense, which we will now probably never hear. I also thank the hon. Lady for welcoming the pre-recess Adjournment debate; I was pleased that we were able to accommodate that. She referred at one point to “hitting his stride”, but I thought we were going to outlaw all bullying and harassment in this place—I obviously have a wolf in sheep’s clothing opposite me.

I feel sure that there will be an opportunity for the House to hear from the new Prime Minister next week, although clearly I cannot comment on the precise circumstances that may pertain to that; that will be a matter for him, whoever he is.

The hon. Lady also raised the issue of the recess dates beyond 3 September, and what I would say in response is that that, once again, will be a matter for the new Prime Minister to decide upon, and whoever is the Leader of the House at that time will come forward and make the announcement in the usual way.

The hon. Lady raised a number of matters around no deal, and she asked whether I thought the Chancellor’s assessment that the impact of no deal will cost the economy £90 billion or that of another person—I think I know who that other person is—who suggested that it might actually add to the economy by some £80 billion was right; I suspect the answer lies somewhere between those two figures.

The hon. Lady also rightly raised yet again the issue of the Select Committee on no deal, and when that motion will be coming before the House. I am afraid that I have nothing to add today to what I have said before on this subject, which is that I am engaged with our end of the usual channels and am keen to see that motion coming forward. At the earliest opportunity I will return to the House with further information on that.

The hon. Lady once again raised the issue of Prorogation, and of course there are a number of circumstances in which Prorogation may occur, but the essential principle here is that it should not occur simply as a device to exempt Parliament from the important decisions that there will be around no deal or a deal as we approach the end of October.

The hon. Lady, once again quite rightly, raised the issue of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the news that she has now been moved to a psychiatric hospital. This is a lady who, as we know, went to Iran simply to visit friends and family. She has now been detained for around three years. That is totally unacceptable. As the hon. Lady pointed out, my office has been in close engagement with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The latest update I have, as of tomorrow, is that discussions have been held at a senior level between the Foreign Office and the Iranian regime, and that we are again urging that Nazanin be released and returned to her family here in the United Kingdom. I will welcome every occasion on which the hon. Lady raises this matter because, like her, I believe it to be extremely important. She also raised the issue of female genital mutilation and made the important point that it is nothing less than an assault. She is absolutely right about that.

The hon. Lady also expressed her pleasure at the fact that Alan Turing will appear on the £50 note, and I share that, not just because of the huge contribution that he made to perhaps shortening the war with his code-breaking activities, but because this is indicative of how far we have advanced as a civilised society.

Finally, the hon. Lady mentioned the moon landing and said that she had seen it on television. I find that extraordinary, given that it happened in 1969. She cannot possibly be old enough to have been cognisant of that event at the time, but we all, right across the House, celebrate that one giant step for the whole of mankind.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Over the past month, a group of Travellers ensconced themselves in my constituency, first at Anmer Lodge, then on to Hatch End playing fields, then on to Stanmore Marsh and then into Canons Park, finally ending up at Whitchurch playing fields. Harrow Council and the police have done everything they can to move them on swiftly, but the Travellers have left behind hundreds of thousands of pounds’-worth of damage to be cleared up after them. May we have a debate in Government time on what more can be done to expedite dealing with the illegal occupation of public land by groups of Travellers?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I know that this is a problem for many of us, particularly those in rural constituencies such as mine. I would say two things to my hon. Friend. First, we have Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government questions next Monday and he might wish to raise the matter then. Secondly, I think that this would be an excellent opportunity for a debate—perhaps an Adjournment debate—and if he would like to speak to me, I will see what I can do to facilitate that.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

My hon. Friend Pete Wishart—in fact, I think he should be my right hon. Friend—is racing back in breathless anticipation of the Lords amendments. We all know how much he values the Lords and their amendments. I have been left here to respond, but I do not know whether I would qualify for a last-minute spot on the Leader of the House’s caravan holiday. I am not as musically talented as my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire, but I was told at my auntie’s recent birthday party—she turns 70 today, Mr Speaker—that I mix a good Bloody Mary. That might be helpful for Conservative Members next week when they wake up after six weeks of self-indulgence with an almighty hangover and realise the enormity of what they have done in selecting the new Prime Minister. That is why the Leader of the House really must make time for my hon. Friend’s Prime Minister (Nomination) and Cabinet (Appointment) Bill, which would give this House the opportunity to endorse any candidate put forward for nomination as Prime Minister. That is what happens in most civilised democratic institutions these days—starting, of course, with the Scottish Parliament.

Failing that, perhaps the Leader of the House’s caravan could be fitted with a rocket booster so that we can all observe the new Prime Minister’s blunders from the safety of the moon. Perhaps we could also have some time to debate my early-day motion 2599, which I have launched with support from across the House. It commemorates the 50th anniversary of that shared human endeavour.

[That this House recognises that 20 July 2019 marks 50 years since humanity first landed on the moon; remembers that NASA’s legendary Apollo 11 mission was launched by a Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the ambition of landing a crew on the moon and returning them safely to earth; thanks the crew of three American astronauts, Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Buzz Aldrin; recalls that the Lunar module, nicknamed the Eagle, finally touched down on the moon on 20th July 1969; celebrates the legacy of Commander Armstrong who become the first human to ever set foot on the moon as he took one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind on to the lunar surface; further recognises that the moon landing represented the single greatest accomplishment in human history as it pushed the boundaries of what was believed to be possible and united humanity in a sense of collective endeavour and hopes that the spirit of Apollo 11 will inspire future generations to better understand the complexities of the universe.]

If we cannot go to the moon, perhaps we could go to Kew Gardens. At least, Scottish National party Members could go to Kew Gardens, because we are all going to be shut out of the debate on the Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill next week as the English Parliament—the English votes for English laws Legislative Grand Committee—meets for the first time in its full glory to consider that Bill in Committee. We look forward to seeing how many Members from England actually turn up to take part in that process, which was supposed to transform democracy in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps while we are in Kew Gardens, we can have a look under the bushes to see whether we can find out where the 1.5 allocated Opposition days that are still due to the SNP have got to. There are many good reasons not to prorogue Parliament in the autumn, but if it were to be prorogued without our having had those opportunities that we as the third party are entitled to under the terms of the Standing Orders, that—and the use of the EVEL procedures—would serve only to demonstrate the fact that Scotland’s voice is being tuned out, and that the Leader of the House’s caravan is ready to drive off into the Brexit sunset without us.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I welcome Patrick Grady to his place, standing in for the legendary hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who I hope will be here next week, so that I can use my various lines on him. The hon. Member for Glasgow North mentioned the Prime Minister (Nomination) and Cabinet (Appointment) Bill, which would make the Prime Minister’s appointment subject to a vote in this House. However, I think it is just a thinly veiled attempt by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire to get himself into No. 10 Downing Street, coming hard on the heels, as it does, of his tilt at the speakership and his Speaker’s manifesto. We know that all that is just a blatant power grab.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North mentioned EVEL. All I have to say is that this approach is working well and gives everybody across the House the ability to participate in the various debates at the different stages of a Bill, while giving the final veto on devolved competencies to the relevant area, such as England and Wales. He also mentioned Opposition day debates, and the Standing Orders are clear that there will be 20 such days per session, with 17 for the main Opposition party and three for the second largest, which is the SNP. My understanding is that that allocation has been met.

Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

I was elected chair at the inaugural meeting of the all-party parliamentary group for sustainable clothing and textiles. This House should have a debate on whether we are moving too far towards a plastic-free environment for the things that we pick up while retaining too much plastic in our textiles. We need to support our farmers who want to give us more natural fabrics, and we need to get out of wearing plastic.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend makes some important points, and I urge her to make them again at Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions next Thursday. We should not overlook this Government’s considerable achievements in getting plastics out of our economy. Single-use plastic bag usage has reduced by some 86% since we introduced the plastic bag levy. I take on board her comments about plastics in clothing, which would make an excellent subject for debate.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee

I thank the leader of the pack—sorry, the Leader of the House—for next week’s business. As you know, Mr Speaker, the Backbench Business Committee puts on debates in the Chamber when the Government give us the time, so we are a little taken aback that the Leader of the House has decided that next Thursday will not be a Backbench Business day, going instead for a general debate in Government time on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.

I am also a little surprised that the Leader of the House has also stolen from the Backbench Business Committee the subjects of two debates to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. That is fine, and I am sure that the Members who applied to the Committee will be happy to have the subject matters aired, but one of them was going to involve a votable motion and is now a general debate. The other thing is that the lead Members in those applications do not now get to lead those important debates. Mr Speaker, will you give special consideration to Johnny Mercer in the general debate on body image and mental health, and to Lloyd Russell-Moyle in the debate on the role and sufficiency of youth services and give them slots high up in the pecking order?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the absence of a Backbench Business debate next week. He has become rather used to having such debates almost every day over the past few weeks. I am particularly pleased that we are having the usual pre-recess debate, because it would have broken the heart of my hon. Friend Sir David Amess had we not done so. If I have the opportunity to find time at a late stage for a Backbench Business debate—the hon. Gentleman has mentioned this to me before—I will attempt to accommodate that, although I make no promises. Finally, I am sure that Mr Speaker has noted the hon. Gentleman’s request regarding my hon. Friend Johnny Mercer and Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

Apparently—not that I remember it—my parents got me up so that I could watch the moon landing, just as the shadow Leader of the House did. On its 50th anniversary, we should use its inspiration. May we have a statement on the importance of STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—as we remember the inspirational Apollo mission? I pay particular tribute to Ifield Community College in my constituency, which is undertaking a solar car project.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

In case anybody was wondering, I was just eight years old at the time of the lunar landing, and I remember watching it; it was an extraordinary moment. My hon. Friend makes an important point. He rightly congratulates his college, and stresses the importance of STEM subjects. I point out that we are making major progress in this area; for example, A-level maths is now the single most popular choice among students.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Privileges

Yesterday, a group of young people were involved in a serious knife attack in my constituency. One of the group was taken to hospital, and the others were taken into custody. All were aged under 18. A primary school sports day was taking place across the road from where the attack occurred. May we have an urgent statement from the Government on the effectiveness of the serious violence strategy, and what Ministers are doing to ensure that we take these weapons off our streets?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an important point. The thoughts of the entire House are with the family and friends of those involved in the incident. Knife crime, as she knows, is a complex issue, and there are a number of reasons why we have higher levels of it, albeit that crime generally has been falling since 2010. Often, knife crime is related to drugs, as she will know, and to county lines. That is why we have a cross-Government approach to tackling the issue. Some £100 million was provided in the last spring statement to make sure that we have the appropriate co-ordination to tackle the problem. I am sure that the Home Office and other Departments will have heard her question.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon

The National Crime Agency was first warned about the activities of the paedophile Matthew Bell in September 2016, but he was not arrested until March 2018, which allowed him to continue to abuse Filipino children, some as young as 11, until April 2017. Yvette Cooper, Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, described this as “incredibly disturbing”, and went on to say,

“I’ve been concerned for many years that there just aren’t enough resources going into this given the scale of the escalating problem we face.”

May we have a debate in Government time, or a statement from the Home Secretary, on the resources available to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command and the NCA, so that we can ensure that we are properly resourced to combat a crime that sometimes, alas, includes children around the world being peddled by their own family, and so that we can make sure that we are doing everything that we can to control and stamp out this abhorrent behaviour?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My right hon. Friend raises an appalling and deeply distressing set of issues that would be well served by a debate. Perhaps Ian Mearns might consider this a subject for a future Backbench Business debate. I would be very happy to go further and offer to facilitate a meeting for my right hon. Friend with any particular Minister.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport)

In the very city where William Wilberforce led the fight against slavery, P&O Ferries is employing Portuguese and Polish crews on £1.83 an hour. The deck crew are required to work five months on. British ratings earn about £35,000 a year and are required to do two weeks on, two weeks off. Could we have a debate on this really important issue? I think this is slavery.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend—I will call him that—for raising this issue with me personally prior to business questions. He is absolutely right. On the face of it, what he has shared with the House is a deeply unsatisfactory situation, which appears, to me at least, to be a form of exploitation instead of the wages and conditions we would expect. It is certainly a good topic for debate, but if he would like me to arrange a meeting with the relevant Minister to take a closer look at the issue, I would be very happy to be of assistance.

Photo of Kirstene Hair Kirstene Hair Conservative, Angus

On Saturday, Brechin young farmers club will celebrate its 75th anniversary. I declare that I was previously a young farmer. Such clubs do fantastic work in raising awareness of the farming industry, with social events and sporting events, and my locality had an annual cabaret competition. It did not serve me particularly well, which is why I am not on the stage but on these Benches instead. Will the Leader of the House join me in commending the fantastic work of young farmers clubs up and down the country, because they should be recognised in this place?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for asking a fantastic question. The young farmers in my constituency are a vibrant and important force. Farming sits right at the heart of our rural communities, in terms of employment, looking after the environment and so on, but farmers are generally getting older and the average age is increasing as the years go by. It is really important to get young blood into farming, and the young farmers clubs, including my hon. Friend’s, do a great job.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

Staff in libraries across Bromley are currently on indefinite strike because of draconian terms and conditions placed on them by the contractor, Greenwich Leisure Ltd, and Bromley Council has refused to take action. Our libraries are a fantastic community asset, but they are nothing without the dedicated staff who work there. Can we please have a debate in Government time about support and funding for our libraries?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I will direct the hon. Lady to Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday. I think that would be useful. Libraries are hugely important, and we have provided considerable funding for them. There is no doubt that the terrain on which libraries operate is changing dramatically, with the use of digital information as opposed to books and print media, but we as a Government are very keen to support them.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee

Can we have an urgent statement from the Housing Minister about Persimmon Homes, following my question yesterday to the Prime Minister, which you kindly allowed, Mr Speaker? The homes, dreams and lives of Gilden Way residents in Harlow have been ruined because of shoddy building by Persimmon Homes. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Persimmon should be removed from the right to buy scheme until these problems are sorted out, not just in Harlow but in other Persimmon properties across the country?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

We are making considerable progress in increasing the supply of new build housing, but that is not the same as saying that all housing is of the appropriate quality. It is characteristic of my right hon. Friend to look closely at that particular issue, to make sure that housing is fit for purpose. We have announced our intention for a new homes ombudsman, to protect the rights of homebuyers and to hold developers to account. I know that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will have heard my right hon. Friend’s request for a statement, and I am happy to meet him to follow that up if he wishes.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. In calling Chris Elmore, I congratulate him on, and offer him best wishes for, his wedding on Saturday. I know that the House will join me in that expression of good will. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] He is a very young man to be contemplating the state of matrimony, but we wish him well in its pursuit.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much. I am quite thrown now.

The Leader of the House may be aware that this week the Disability Benefits Consortium has highlighted the devastating impact of welfare changes on disabled people. The report highlights how disabled people have lost benefit payments of an average of around £1,200 each year as a result of Government changes. May we have an urgent debate on how we can change our benefits system to ensure that we actually help disabled people, rather than push them further into poverty?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

In the spirit of the wedding fest, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, and I thank my wife for having put up with me for 14 years. It is our anniversary this weekend and she has truly put up with a great deal. I love you very much, Michelle. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Now I can do no wrong, can I?

On the hon. Gentleman’s question, overall we have brought in through universal credit a welfare system that is making sure that work pays, which is the best way for people to work out of poverty and why we have the lowest level of absolute poverty in our history. We recently made some changes to universal credit, including an increase in the annual allowance, which is worth £670 per year to 2.3 million people. Various other changes were made to help those who need support, but at the same time to encourage employment.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

It is a huge source of shame that modern slavery persists in our country, in some cases on an industrial scale. It is always accompanied by other forms of organised crime, such as people trafficking, sexual exploitation and money laundering. May we have a debate on whether the modern slavery unit in the Home Office has sufficient manpower and resources to successfully and swiftly bring the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, and the complex criminal networks associated with them, to justice?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Modern slavery is one of the scourges of a modern and global world. It is worth reflecting for a moment that one of the current Prime Minister’s key legacies will be the extraordinary work that she did and drove forward in this policy area, particularly when she was Home Secretary. For example, she brought in the various requirements on companies and on reporting, and she made sure that we have the resources and tools available to clamp down on this iniquitous situation.

Lisa Forbes:

Will the Leader of the House provide Government time to implement one of the Government’s own pledges? In 2015, they promised statutory guidance on school uniform costs. Since then, the cuts have got worse, and the Tory council has axed the school uniform grant in my constituency, leaving parents in Peterborough forced to fork out three-figure sums annually. Education Ministers have replied to my questions by stating that, four years on, they are still waiting for parliamentary time. Will the Leader of the House make it clear that time is available?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady appropriately raises the question with me, because it relates to the provision of parliamentary time to bring in measures that she wants to see brought before the House. On that basis, I am happy to meet her over a cup of tea to talk about what might be done.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Unless I am misinformed, I think that was the hon. Lady’s first intervention in the Chamber. I congratulate her on it and express the hope that we will hear a lot more from her in the days, weeks and months to come.

Photo of Ross Thomson Ross Thomson Conservative, Aberdeen South

On Tuesday, we learned that drug-related deaths in Scotland have reached their highest level on record—three times higher than the rest of the UK and the highest in the developed world. After 10 years in government, that is a shameful stain on the SNP’s record. This needless loss of life is a national emergency, so will the Leader of the House agree to hold an urgent debate in Government time?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Scotland questions are on Wednesday, so I urge my hon. Friend to raise that issue on that occasion, as I have no doubt others will too. As the House will probably be aware, the UK legislative framework in this policy area falls to the Government here in Westminster, but operations on the ground—if I may term it that way—are the responsibility of the Scottish Government, who I am sure will have heard my hon. Friend’s comments.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Sanctuary Care runs a number of care homes in the London Borough of Greenwich, and it is cutting the pay and conditions of staff who were TUPE-ed over several years ago from the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The chief exec earns £240,000 a year. At a time when people are concerned about standards of care in social care, is the company doing the right thing? May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about this kind of practice in the care system?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman raises a very specific issue relating to a particular care home in his constituency, and, of course, it is very difficult for me to comment with any intelligence on the points that he has made, other than to say that I would be very happy to assist him in facilitating a meeting with the relevant Minister at the Department of Health and Social Care should he so desire it.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. Ordinarily, I call everybody in business questions, as colleagues can testify from personal experience, but that will not be possible today because of the pressure on time. I give notice that we will be moving on at 11.30 am. Colleagues, therefore, should be considerate of each other and, dare I say it, perhaps behave in a comradely manner towards each other.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes

May we have a statement on the issue of short formation trains? In Lewes, on peak services, we still get four-carriage trains, and passengers who pay an average of £4,500 a year for a season ticket cannot get on them. Will the Leader of the House ask for a statement from the Department for Transport?

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Labour/Co-operative, Manchester Central

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I try.

With new Government figures out this week showing that, for the first time ever, there are now more young black and minority ethnic young people in young offenders institutions than there are white people, will the Government make time for a debate on this important issue, given that their own race audit, the David Lammy review, and other evidence show that the way that charges are brought, prosecutions are made, and courts are run disproportionately affects those from certain backgrounds and certain communities more than their better-off peers?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady does indeed have a wonderful smile, though it is the smile of a crocodile, I think. Notwithstanding that, I will give her an answer and make it snappy, shall I?

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. We did, of course, commission the Lammy review. We accepted its recommendations and we are keen to crack on with them. The Minister responsible for the issue, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Edward Argar, is sitting next to me on the Treasury Bench and would be delighted to meet her.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

Last week, I met my 97-year-old constituent, Ron Mockford, who served in the far east in the second world war, was captured by the Japanese and spent three and a half years in captivity, during which time he worked on the Burma railway. Next year is the 75th anniversary of VJ-Day, and Mr Mockford has called for a national day to mark it. Can we have a statement from the Government on their response to this very reasonable and sensible appeal?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Because of the sequencing of the end of the second world war we tend perhaps to focus more on VE-Day than on VJ-Day, but I can inform him that the Government, working with the Royal British Legion, will look to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day on 15 August next year in the appropriate way.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows SNP Whip, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation)

Following the recent European Parliament elections, three SNP MEPs have been working hard to represent Scotland in the family of European democracies. However, there are three Catalan MEPs who are being denied their seats in the European Parliament for protecting Catalonia’s right to self-determination. Ministers in this place have frequently committed themselves to defending democracy, so can we have a debate, in Government time, on the state of democracy in Europe, and what this Government are doing to protect it?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an important point about representation within Parliaments and about Members of Parliament taking their seats once they have been elected. I think that, perhaps, an Adjournment debate might be the right approach to ventilate that matter.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Can we have a debate about British Telecom’s hapless delivery of broadband under the Building Digital UK taxpayer-funded programme? Constituents of mine in Cirencester Road have been waiting for cabinet 129 to be fixed up. They were promised that it would be done by the end of June. There has been delay after delay and broken promises. Can we have a debate to hold BT to account?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Once again, this might be a good subject for an Adjournment debate, when the very specific issues—not least around cabinet 129—can be aired with the appropriate Minister.

Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education)

Could the Leader of the House arrange a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport? Although the Secretary of State has said since 2017 that the Pacer trains are going, we have just heard in Transport questions that “the majority” of the 101 Pacer trains are going. May we have a statement on which trains are going and when?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure that the hon. Lady will have taken the opportunity to raise that matter in Transport questions. If not, she has raised it now and I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will shortly be aware of that. What I would say is that this Government have invested more in rail than at any time since the Victorian era.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

If someone were caught speeding, the police would have two weeks to notify them and six months to bring proceedings, but that person could bring a complaint against the police officer at any time and the investigation could take years to resolve. Could we have a debate on limiting the time for police complaint investigations to provide certainty for the complainant and for serving police officers?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The whole issue of speeding has been raised with me in different ways and from across the House in the short time that I have been Leader of the House, so it appears that it is probably an area on which further debate is well overdue. I have just been passed a note to tell me that my hon. Friend’s father served 29 years with the West Midlands police; we thank him for his service.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Labour, Barnsley East

This summer, schools in Barnsley East will be taking part in my Little Litter Champions project to help keep Barnsley tidy. Can we have a debate to discuss how we can use this initiative and others like it to promote recycling, protect our environment and promote pride in our local communities?

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Labour, Barnsley East

I am encouraging local schoolchildren to take part.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I direct the hon. Lady to Environment questions, which are next Thursday.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay

I want to raise an issue that I know Mr Speaker has previously commented on. All too often my constituency office staff are being blocked from assisting my constituents by overly officious staff at Cornwall Council saying that we do not have the required authorisation to act on behalf of our constituents under general data protection regulation rules. Could we have a statement from a Minister to make it absolutely clear that as elected representatives of our constituents, we are authorised to act and that no further authorisation is required?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend raises an important point that lies right at the heart of our ability as Members of this place to serve our constituents effectively. I would be happy to go further and arrange a meeting with the relevant Minister so that my hon. Friend can ensure that we have clarity on this matter.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

The healthtech industry and health technology is a very valuable sector for the United Kingdom economy. This technology sector is very important, with 127,400 jobs, 3,860 companies and a turnover of £24 billion, and it has seen a 5% increase in growth in the last year. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on this sector, which promotes and creates so much for the economy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend raises the important topic of the use of technology in healthcare—something with which the current Secretary of State for Health is very personally engaged as it features in our NHS long-term plan. I think this would make an excellent topic for a Westminster Hall debate.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

We all know that helping the environment is the greatest challenge of our time, but we cannot just leave the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to crack on with its work when we need reforms of planning systems so that we can have solar panels on houses, and reforms of transport infrastructure so that air quality is improved in places such as Chipping Norton. Can we have a series of debates in Government time so that we can examine how climate change and environment issues can be tackled holistically across Government?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Taking a holistic approach to the many measures that are being taken right across Government Departments would be a very good angle for a debate. Of course, we are right in the lead when it comes to climate change internationally, having made the commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

The Sankey canal, first opened in 1757, is an important green corridor and is used by a boat club in my constituency. It is in danger of drying out because the Fiddler’s Ferry power station, which supplies its water, is due to close next year. May we have an urgent statement or a debate involving the Environment Secretary to discuss what the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can do to help this situation?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman raises a matter specific to his constituency. If he writes to me or has a word with me about it after these questions, I will see what I can do to facilitate an engagement with DEFRA.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling

I want to return to the subject raised by my hon. Friend Ross Thomson: the 1,187 people who have died in Scotland because of drug misuse. This is the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom. There is clearly a drugs emergency in my part of the UK, yet no urgent question was granted and no Minister appeared at the Dispatch Box to make a statement. Will the Leader of the House facilitate an early statement from either the Home Office or the Department of Health and Social Care about what they will do to support the Scottish authorities to deal with the crisis?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Given that my hon. Friend has raised that important matter as a follow-up to my other hon. Friend’s question, the best thing I can do to take it forward is to offer to meet them and any others interested in this subject, so that we can discuss the best way forward.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

Ms Watson is a disabled single parent who is studying to become a children’s social worker. She gave all her information to the universal credit authorities correctly and on time. Some 18 months later, they uploaded the information; two years later, they decided that she had had an overpayment of £10,000. They have accepted that that is their fault and even paid her £100 in compensation but they still want her to pay the money back. May we have an urgent debate on how the debt management department in the Department for Work and Pensions actually works and why it will not take responsibility for its errors?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am happy for the hon. Lady to write to me on the specific point about her constituent so that I can take it up with the DWP, to make sure that we get a full and detailed response to the various issues. However, as I said earlier, the general principle of universal credit and how it works has been a major driver of employment in this country: we have the highest level of employment in our history and the lowest level of unemployment since 1974. We have halved youth unemployment since 2010.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

When all the kipper waving is over, may we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer here to tell us how we can use the French method of taking on Google, Facebook and others to regenerate our towns and cities so that they are safe, secure and prosperous?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Treasury questions are on 10 September, when there may or may not be a new Chancellor of the Exchequer. All I can say is that, as regards current Government policy in this area, we have committed to a digital services tax—a levy on platform-based businesses that generate significant value within the United Kingdom while not traditionally falling within the criteria whereby we would normally have the taxation right. We are doing exactly what the hon. Gentleman has requested.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Women’s sport has never been more prominent, and the women’s football World cup has opened many eyes and minds to talent in the women’s game. May we have a debate on how we can capitalise on that exposure and success by ensuring that women’s sport is supported appropriately—rather than what happened last week, when the Scottish Professional Football League thought it sufficient to gift the women’s game a few bags of footballs?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

That would be an excellent subject for debate; I say that as the father of three daughters who are enthused by subjects such as women’s football. It is great to see women getting more and more involved in a variety of our national sports.

Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Labour, Gower

Teachers, social workers, volunteers and NHS workers are all subject to enhanced disclosure checks, but Members of Parliament are not. I would like us to have a debate on the Floor of the House about why, with all the reputational damage that has been going on, we too are not subject to those checks.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

An Adjournment debate would be an opportunity to interrogate a Minister on that specific issue.

As this is the last question, may I thank Members for all their questions this week? Who knows what will happen next week, but it has been a great pleasure to take all their questions from the Dispatch Box.