Speaker’S Statement – in the House of Commons at 10:31 am on 25th July 2019.
May I ask the new Leader of the House for the forthcoming business?
Thank you, Mr Speaker—[Hon. Members: “Resign!”] It’s a bit early!
The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. This is not exactly an energised list. I thought we were all supposed to be energising for the future, but maybe we can look forward to a further energised list. I want to start by thanking Mel Stride for engaging in such a supportive way in the House. He really wanted to know how the House worked. I congratulate the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Andrea Leadsom on her new role. I also want to thank a former Leader of the House, Mr Lidington, who has stood down from his Front-Bench post after 20 years. He started as a special adviser to Douglas Hurd. I hope we see the like of those people again in the Conservative party.
I, too, want to pay tribute to Paul Evans, who has been absolutely fantastic. He has had a distinguished career in the House. He has been very supportive when I have asked him questions, and he has been really assiduous in the kind of work that he has done and in the Committees. If anyone cares to look at his “Who’s Who” entry, they will see that his recreations include the British constitution, walking, silence and empty places. Paul, how have you survived 38 years in the House of Commons? It is interesting that he likes the British constitution. I do not know why he is retiring—we need him more than ever now.
I welcome the Leader of the House; it is great to see him in that place. Perhaps I can suggest a few things to him. He does have staff, so the nanny can stand down. I know his previous job was to send googlies and a full toss to the Government, but he now has to try to get the business through. Along with Pete Wishart, I want to ask him whether he will get a complimentary copy of “Erskine May” for us. We should not really have to buy it. I know it is online, but it would be really helpful if the main opposition parties had a copy.
Let me talk about the way that this happens. The deal is that I ask about business and the Leader of the House is supposed to respond. We usually get two weeks’ business; I wonder whether we could go back to the discipline of two weeks. I have a few questions for him. What is going on with the conference recess? Is proroguing still on the menu? Can he rule that out? We know that the Prime Minister gave a mini manifesto on the steps of Downing Street. When will we have a new Session of Parliament? This has been the longest. The previous Leader of the House said that we had used up our allotted Opposition days; can we have some unallotted days?
What a mandate, what a ringing endorsement—less than 0.4% of an electorate. Some 46.8 million citizens can vote in a general election, but the Prime Minister was selected by 92,000 people—92,000 people, taking back control. He has not won the support of our country. The Prime Minister talked about the awesome foursome, but what about the gruesome twosome? I know that the Leader of the House respects Parliament, but given that the special adviser to the Prime Minister refused to obey an order of this House and is actually in contempt of Parliament, will the Leader of the House please say whether the special adviser can come to the Floor of the House while he is in contempt of Parliament? Will he get a pass? Perhaps we need counsel’s advice on this.
I know that the Leader of the House respects Parliament. There was a message sent from the Lords about a Joint Select Committee; will he look into that? I know that his predecessor, as we finished business questions, was on the way to the Lords. It is not difficult to set up a Joint Select Committee. There is not much work in the first week back. We know that the Exiting the European Union Committee has already produced a report on the effects on business under no deal. It cannot be difficult to set up a Select Committee, take the evidence that already exists and produce a report.
While the Tory party has been appointing its new Prime Minister, unprecedentedly, there have been 70 written statements—that is absolutely outrageous—over three days. There have been important ones, including one on the school teachers review body. What does it say in that statement? Yes, teachers can get a pay rise, but the Government are going to give only 0.4% to support them. The rest has to come from their own budget—2% from their own budget. This really is a tale of two Britains.
On the Philip Augar review, the previous Prime Minister said that she wanted to see it implemented, whereby tuition fees should be reduced from £9,250 to £7,000. However, the written statement says that the maximum tuition fee will remain at £9,250 for the 2020-21 academic year. Some parents can afford to pay the tuition fees up front. This really is a tale of two Britains, and, on the same day, the Secretary of State for Transport revealed that the cost of Crossrail has escalated.
As a keen parliamentarian, will the Leader of the House ensure, through the usual channels, that some of those written statements are debated on the Floor of the House? We can make an agreement and perhaps we can have a debate, given that the business is so light for the first week back.
The Leader of the House will know, I hope, that I have made a pledge that I will raise the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe every week until she is free. Richard Ratcliffe said that Nazanin returned to prison and that it was like proper torture. Will the Leader of the House raise this with the Prime Minister, and will the Prime Minister make amends by meeting Richard Ratcliffe as soon as possible and make that important phone call to the Iranian Government? A five-year-old girl is growing up not knowing what it feels like to hug and kiss her parents. The Leader of the House will know, as a father of six, how important that is.
I want to say thank you, Mr Speaker, to you and your staff and the Deputy Speakers for their unfailing courtesy and help to me; to the Leader of the House and all his staff; to the Clerks; to Phil and his team of doorkeepers; to the House of Commons Library; to the official reporters; to the catering and cleaning staff; to the postal workers; to security; and to our officers and Chief Whip, and his staff. I also welcome the new Government Chief Whip, who has actually shown me personally some kindness. I thank him for that.
All sorts is going on in our Whips Office: my hon. Friend Chris Elmore has got married, Devena has got married, Millie has moved to the Department for Education, and we welcomed Keir William Stocks Sullivan on Monday 22nd—I send good wishes to Simon and his wife. Finally, I thank Sam Clark, who has been in the usual channels departments of the Opposition and the Government for six years. He is going to restoration and renewal—another big thing for the Leader of the House. I hope Sam will enjoy lots of Mars bars—that is a private joke. I obviously thank everyone in my office.
I say to each and every hon. Member: I know how hard this time has been, and I hope you all have a restful and peaceful summer recess.
I thank the shadow Leader of the House for her incisive list of questions and, indeed, for the suggestion that I replace nanny with the staff in the Leader of the House’s office. I think they might be a bit bemused if six children trotted in with me and expected to be looked after by House of Commons staff, so I will not go down that route.
“Erskine May” is available online for free. I understand that Opposition Members view themselves as modern, cutting-edge and thrusting. Therefore, going online might not be too problematic for them. Even I can do it occasionally myself. If they do not want to do that, the proper edition of “Erskine May” is available for £400 and may prove a good investment.
The business has been announced for a week, as has been standard practice for some time. I know that historically it was not, but you said yourself, Mr Speaker, that convention has to evolve, and this is one of those conventions that has evolved. Now, we merely have it for one week.
The hon. Lady asked about the conference recess. She knows that recesses are a matter for this House to determine. No doubt a proposal will be made through the usual channels, but I imagine that it would be convenient for Members to be able to attend their own party conferences. That is what has happened previously, and it tends to be to everybody’s benefit. [Interruption.] I am glad to see the Labour Chief Whip nodding, or at least appearing to nod, at that. I therefore think that something may be forthcoming in due course.
The issue of Prorogation is absolutely marvellous, because the hon. Lady asked for a new Session and asked when this Session would end, and then asked me to promise that we would not prorogue. We cannot have both, because we cannot get to a new Session without proroguing. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that he views Prorogation as an archaic mechanism and that he does not wish to see archaic mechanisms used—[Laughter.] As I am now bound by collective responsibility, that is now also my view.
The Lords message about a Joint Committee will obviously be looked into. We always wish to treat the other place with respect; that is an important way in which we operate. That will be taken care of in due course.
On the written ministerial statements, I was going to use a word beginning with “d” and ending in “n”, with an “-ed” on the end—you are if you do and the same if you don’t—but Mr Speaker might rule me out of order if I did say that, which I do not want to happen on my first appearance at this Dispatch Box. Parliament wants to know what is going on and there is limited time for debates. Earlier this week, Mr Speaker granted me an urgent question on Batten disease. We know that the system for getting statements and urgent questions answered works. Therefore, if there are issues that people wish to raise from the 70 written ministerial statements, there are mechanisms that the hon. Lady is extremely well aware of.
As to the hon. Lady’s extremely important point about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, absolutely I will take that up. I promise that I will take it up every week for her. We as a nation should always put the interests of our citizens first; that is fundamental to how this country should operate in its conduct with foreign nations. The treatment that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had to undergo is shameful and must be so distressing. When the hon. Lady talks about her child—a five-year-old—being deprived of a mother, that is the most awful thing that one can imagine. I have the greatest sympathy and yes, of course I will take this matter up.
May I conclude by reiterating the thanks that the hon. Lady gave to everybody in the House? How lucky I am now to be Leader of the House—what a privilege it is and what a fine House we have. I have always found that, whenever one wants to know what is going on in the House, the Doorkeepers know first and provide us with a fabulous service.
In paying tribute to Paul Evans as he retires, I should say that the British constitution is a hobby of all sensible people. It is the most interesting matter to discuss and be informed about. It is why £400 for “Erskine May” is such a good investment: it educates one about the British constitution. I wish him well in his retirement.
Finally, I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend Mel Stride, who was such a distinguished Leader of the House and Lord President of the Council.
There are, of course, Greek antecedents of the word “archaic”—a concept and fact with which the Leader of the House himself will be closely familiar. However, I think I can say, without fear of contradiction and for the avoidance of doubt, that the word “archaic” as it is now spelt originated in the 19th century, and in France. By the standards of the Leader of the House, it is distressingly modern and also—I say this simply as a matter of fact—of foreign origin. He will have his own views about that matter and others.
I start by welcoming my hon. Friend—I do not think he is yet “right hon.”—to his post. I think he will bring modulated and very moderate tones to these debates. One thing is for certain: having a seat in business questions will now be an absolute must. I welcome my hon. Friend in that regard.
Nothing can be done in this Session, but I want to raise a particular issue. With Lord McColl, I am a co-sponsor of a Bill to change the process relating to modern-day slavery. I ask and urge my hon. Friend to press his colleagues at the Home Office, who have to date been utterly mealy-mouthed about the changes necessary to give victims of modern-day slavery the opportunity to come forward without fearing arrest and incarceration. Will he press his colleagues at the Home Office to urgently bring forward the Bill’s provisions as soon as possible, to improve the quality of the lives of those who suffer most? [Interruption.]
As I rise, my right hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has arrived to sit next to me. She is a very distinguished predecessor of mine, whom I congratulate on her promotion and return from the Back Benches.
My right hon. Friend Mr Duncan Smith is absolutely right about modern-day slavery. It would be opportune to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Mrs May, the former Prime Minister, for all the work that she did on modern-day slavery—the terrible and hidden curse that it is. I share his view that everything should be done to stop it. The Home Office should move in that direction and people should not fear criminal prosecution if they have been held as modern-day slaves. That would clearly be desperately unfair.
I join you in your warm tributes to Paul Evans, Mr Speaker. I wish him all the best in his retirement.
I thank our curious new Leader of the House for announcing the, well, meaningless stuff that we are coming back to in September. I warmly welcome him to his place. He is the fifth Leader of the House that I have had in this post, but it has to be said that he is by far the most exotic.
I did not mean to upset the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with that remark.
It might be as well to point out that the hon. Gentleman is Leader of the House of Commons, not the House of Plantagenet or the House of Tudor. He will have, of course, a number of key responsibilities, prime among them being restoration and renewal—perhaps not a concept for which he is particularly renowned, unless it involves one of his own houses.
I join everybody in paying tribute to Mel Stride. We will now never get that holiday bus from hell, and I will forever miss his terrible jokes about music at my expense. Although he knew that his post would probably only be temporary, he did take his job in his “Stride”.
I do not know about you, Mr Speaker, but I went to bed last night and had this horrible nightmare that the UK Government had been taken over by rabid, right-wing Brexiteers. I am not particularly sure whether I am awake yet. May we have a debate about dystopian visions of hell, and have a look at where this Cabinet of dysfunctional Bash Street Kids fits in?
I presume that at some point when we get back after recess the Leader of the House will want to have some sort of debate about Brexit, given that it has been his life’s mission. He and his European Research Group colleagues are now the political mainstream in this House, so when will we get the chance to debate their big plans to crash out of the EU without a deal, and all the disastrous consequences that await us?
The Leader of the House is familiar with Scotland—he famously fought the Glenrothes by-election with his nanny and his Roller—so he knows there is no way on earth that Scotland is going down with his colleagues in their buffoon’s Brexit.
Lastly, Mr Speaker, I wish you and all the staff of the House a very happy recess. I wish the shadow Leader of the House, Valerie Vaz, and the new Leader of the House a very warm time and hope that they enjoy themselves and have some time for relaxation. It is hot outside, but as the Government continue to open the doors of hell in their buffoon’s Brexit, it is going to get a lot hotter yet.
I may be the fifth Leader of the House since the hon. Gentleman took up his post, but from what I hear it seems that his question is the same regardless, so it does not make any difference who the Leader of the House should be. I therefore fear that the answer is going to be much the same. I would point out that the House of Commons predates the House of Tudor: it started in 1265, and the House of Tudor obviously began with Henry VII—
That’s wrong as well. It was 1341.
No, no. The hon. Gentleman is a very good parliamentary historian, but 1265 is when the burgesses came from the towns, as he knows perfectly well.
Anyway, on restoration and renewal, I had the privilege of serving on the restoration and renewal Joint Committee. It is extraordinarily important that the House of Commons is not only a beacon for democracy, as it was built to be in the 19th century, but a functioning, modern Parliament.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman will be reassured to know that he does not have to wait long: on Thursday
I welcome my hon. Friend to his role, to which he is very well suited. He is obviously a student of the British constitution, so may we have a debate on the importance of parliamentary democracy and Governments respecting the will of parliamentary votes on all matters, including the wish of this House not to leave the European Union with no deal?
My right hon. Friend is well aware of how to obtain debates in this place, through the Backbench Business Committee and Adjournment debates. Mr Speaker was kind enough to give me an Adjournment debate only last week and is wonderfully accommodating—if I may pay a tribute to you, Mr Speaker—in ensuring that the House gets to discuss what it wants to discuss, which is important.
In relation to leaving the European Union, this Parliament voted for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 that said we would leave. Its predecessor Parliament, which had an enormous commonality with this House, voted by an overwhelming majority for the article 50 Act, which also said we would leave. These two Acts combined provided that we would leave, under UK law, on
I welcome the Leader of the House to his new role. I thought I was getting somewhere with his immediate predecessor, Mel Stride, on the issue of parliamentary time becoming available should Government business run short and whether the Backbench Business could be considered on those occasions and could backfill the business so that the House does not rise early and Members can vent the issues that they want to vent on the Floor of the House. I really do hope we can work together on that.
I echo the tributes to Paul Evans. We share the bus into work in the morning quite often so I know him quite well, and he has helped us on the Backbench Business Committee.
I wish you, Mr Speaker, everyone from all parties and all the staff of the House, particularly the staff and members of the Backbench Business Committee, a very happy and healthy recess. The members of the Backbench Business Committee have done a great service to the House in recent months, keeping the business of the House ticking over on many days.
May I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his fine work as Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee? I may have received a generous promotion from the Prime Minister, but I have not gone native. I do believe that the Government should be held to account, particularly by Back Benchers, and that the issues that they want to debate ought to be debated—and the Backbench Business Committee ensures that that happens. As to the question of short business, I completely understand the point the hon. Gentleman makes. The only point I would make is that there is a concern that if business is not known in advance, people cannot prepare their speeches and remarks, but I am very happy to work with him to see whether there is a solution to this.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment, thank his predecessor for today’s summer Adjournment debate, and pay tribute to the retiring Serjeant at Arms, the Speaker’s Chaplain and the retiring Clerk.
Will my hon. Friend find time for a debate today on benefits paid to people without sight? Mrs Jill Allen-King has pointed to an anomaly whereby people born before
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He reminds me to pay tribute, too, to the retiring Serjeant at Arms, who is a very distinguished figure. He is also absolutely right to raise the matter that he does. Blind and severely visually impaired people clearly face significant challenges in living independent lives. Up until April 2011, the disability living allowance failed to reflect those challenges. The Government have put in place changes to rectify this, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate, so that he can raise this particular concern directly with the appropriate Minister, but I will also pass on his concern after today’s proceedings.
I really welcome the Leader of the House to his position, because the Liberal Democrats could not want for a better recruiting sergeant than him as we set up a contest between Victorian values and Liberal Democrat values. More seriously, will the Leader of the House make time available for the House to discuss his views on Northern Ireland and the checks on the Irish border—as we had during the troubles—how the Government can keep an eye on the border and be able to have people inspected and the impact that that would have on the Good Friday agreement?
I may be a better recruiting sergeant for the Liberal Democrats than the right hon. Gentleman, but I fear that that may not be a very difficult task. With regard to Northern Ireland and the border with the Republic of Ireland, the Prime Minister has made it clear that there will not be a border imposed by the British Government. The right hon. Gentleman is another fortunate man as there will be Northern Ireland questions on
I, too, warmly welcome the new Leader of the House. I was delighted that, on the steps of Downing Street, our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made social care a priority. Does my hon. Friend back that, and will he use his efforts to bring forward this important legislation which affects so many carers and dementia sufferers up and down the country?
I am very grateful for that question, because before I was bound by collective responsibility, I wrote the foreword to a paper encouraging the Government to do exactly what the Prime Minister suggested yesterday. Therefore, before I was bound to say things that I am now not allowed to say, I was saying broadly what my hon. Friend would like me to say, if that is not unduly complex. There will be an Adjournment debate on social care on
May I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place following last night’s brutal events in Downing Street? He will know, more than most on the Government Benches, that the job of the Leader of the House is to be the voice of Parliament in the Cabinet, rather than just the voice of the Cabinet in this place. We are in a very volatile situation, with the threatened Prorogation of this place as a tactic to drive us out of the EU without a deal, when he and I both know that there is no majority for that in this House. Will he give me a pledge that he will take his duties to this House seriously and warn the new Prime Minister that that way will cause chaos?
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question. She was herself a very distinguished shadow Leader of the House and she is somebody I have great admiration for in her appreciation for the Commons as an institution. I absolutely assure her that I take that part of my role extraordinarily seriously. I have perhaps a somewhat romantic view of the House of Commons—one I think I share with you, Mr Speaker—in that I believe it is our job to hold the Government to account, not simply to facilitate whatever the Government want to do. However, this House passed into law the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and the article 50 Act, and we only speak our view by legislation. We do not speak our view by mere motion, and mere motion cannot and must not overturn statute law. If that were to happen, we would not have a proper functioning representative democracy; we would have an erratic, changeable and irregular system of government.
What a pleasure it is to welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box: a fellow Ultramontane Catholic. I am not sure that many people here know what that means, but my hon. Friend knows—perhaps luckily.
My hon. Friend has a firm grasp of history; perhaps some would say he is living history. Does he agree that so much of the work we do here depends on our being here in the Palace of Westminster? I do not want to pin him down because I do not want him to rule anything in or out at this very early stage, but is he aware that many of us believe that if we do have to leave this Palace, it should be for as short a time as possible; that when we return, it should be exactly as it is now; that our priority should be the safety of the building; and that we should care about heritage, particularly the heritage of Richmond House?
I share my right hon. Friend’s admiration for the late Pope Pius IX. In terms of this House, what it represents and the symbolism of this building, what our Victorian predecessors did was to show, through their architecture, their belief in their democratic system and their confidence in our great nation. We should never do anything that undermines that. The idea that we should be in some modern office block in the middle of nowhere, or that we should fail to have the understanding and the glory of our democracy that this House, through its building, shows is one I utterly reject.
May I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new job? We will watch his performance with great interest.
Can we rely on the hon. Gentleman to be a champion for justice for everyone, regardless of their background, wealth or connections? On
This is an issue of the greatest importance. These terrible events move anybody who hears about them. The death of a 15-year-old through a criminal act is invariably tragic. I absolutely believe that one of the founding principles of our nation is that justice is blind and there is equal justice for everybody, and that is something that all Members of Parliament should commit to. As regards a debate, the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s appeal, which I am sure that many other Members of the House may want to support.
It is an absolute joy to see my imminently right hon. Friend in his proper place at the Dispatch Box, and of course I congratulate him. I know he will want to join me in congratulating our right hon. Friend Nicky Morgan on her return to Government. Can he give the House any indication of when we can look forward to the eagerly awaited and anticipated, I am sure, election of the new Chair of the Treasury Committee?
That is a very important question. I threw my hat into the ring last time and it was thrown back at me very firmly. It is really important that our Select Committees have Chairmen in place. The matter will be dealt with in the normal way, but I would hope that it is dealt with urgently.
This week, lots of children break for the summer holidays. For many, that is a joy and a pleasure. However, many parents will now have to pay for an extra 10 meals per week, per child that were provided through free school meals, and 20% of parents will go without a meal this week in order to do so. The Government have invested in a pilot scheme. May we have a statement in the first week back on how the pilots ran?
The hon. Lady is indeed right. This year, about 50,000 disadvantaged children in 11 local authority areas will be offered free meals and activities over the summer holidays, funded by £9 million from the Department for Education, following a successful £2 million scheme last year. She knows that there are means of obtaining statements or urgent questions to see that an answer is given, and no doubt you will reflect upon it, Mr Speaker, if such a request is made.
May I welcome the new Leader of the House? He will know that his role, as has been said already, is to represent Parliament to Government and to say things that Parliament wants said and not necessarily what the Government want to hear. We have had an extraordinarily long Session. We need to end the Session, to have a new Queen’s Speech, to have new Opposition days, and, importantly, to have private Members’ Bills days. Will the Leader of the House consider arranging a Queen’s Speech in, say, November?
My hon. Friend may want to raise that question with the Prime Minister, who is making a statement later and who is the person who will advise Her Majesty on when the next Session of Parliament should begin. But obviously there will have to be a new Queen’s Speech at some point. I believe that this is the longest Session since the Long Parliament of the 1640s.
My constituent Jackie Wileman was killed by a stolen lorry. The four men responsible had 100 convictions between them, yet will only serve between five and seven years. It is now nearly two years since the Government committed to raising the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving, so will the new Administration make this a priority, and when exactly will the new Leader of the House make parliamentary time available for this?
These cases are absolutely terrible. I think I mentioned earlier an application to the Backbench Business Committee on this matter. The hon. Lady and Mr Sheerman are coming together in feeling that such a debate is necessary and important, and I feel that that is absolutely the right way to go. I have every sympathy for families in this terrible, terrible situation who feel that the law is not helping them.
In welcoming my hon. Friend to his place, may I say how welcome it is for this House to have a Ministry committed to leaving the European Union in all circumstances? On that point, can we have a debate on preparedness for all outcomes, including a no-deal Brexit?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I share his view that it is jolly good news that we have an Administration who are committed to leaving the European Union, which is exactly what the British people voted for in 2016 and, indeed, what Parliament legislated for. Preparedness is of great importance. He may find that there are some encouraging words from the Prime Minister a little later, which may pre-empt an immediate debate.
Fourteen weeks today, we are due to leave the European Union, but with five weeks of recess and three weeks of anticipated conference recess, more of that time will be spent away from this place than here. The new Leader of the House told us that he believes in our parliamentary democracy. What plans does he have to recall Parliament, so that we can deal with the greatest issue to face our nation since the second world war?
Any visitor to the Chamber over the last few years would have heard hours of debate in this place on leaving the European Union. If they troubled to wander to the other place, they would have heard even longer hours of debate on leaving the European Union. This is the most discussed subject that Parliament has managed in decades, and Parliament came to a decision when it legislated. I am sorry to repeat the answer, but I will have to carry on doing so. Parliament voted for the article 50 Act and the withdrawal Act. That set by law the timetable for leaving. That is the democratic decision of Parliament.
As the self-appointed shop steward of the regular attenders of business questions club, I welcome our many guests and, in particular, the Leader of the House, of whom I have always been inordinately fond, not least because I know that not everyone enjoys the benefit I do of a working-class upbringing.
The Leader of the House will know that taxi and private hire vehicle licensing has been a matter of profound concern, so much so that an enlightened former Transport Minister commissioned a report on that subject, which was published in September last year, with the Government response published in February this year. We have heard nothing since. It is vital that we reform taxi and private hire vehicle licensing, so that the concerns of those who drive taxis can be taken into account and the welfare and wellbeing of those who travel in them can be protected.
Was it not Disraeli who said that London taxis were the “gondolas of London”? I share that view. We are very lucky to have the taxi drivers that we have. I think that the shop steward of these sessions will find that—[Interruption.] Well, are most shop stewards not self-elected? I thought that that was how those things worked. My right hon. Friend will be able to raise that with the new Secretary of State for Transport.
With more people self-employed than on the minimum wage, and more people self-employed than in the public sector by 2020, any Government worth their salt, and a Government who say they are the party for the people and working people, should know that putting the self-employed at the front of their agenda is vital. Can we have a debate in Government time on self-employed workers’ rights, and particularly maternity and paternity rights?
The great thing to remember is that the self-employed are the entrepreneurs of the future. They are the ones who create the new businesses and new jobs. It is a fantastically dynamic part of our economy. The hon. Lady’s question is well timed, because I am sitting next to the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who will have heard her plea and will no doubt take it into consideration.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his wonderful new role. I know that, as well as liking the British constitution, he likes cutting taxes, so can we have a debate on axing the reading tax? It is incredibly unfair that people who buy books or magazines online have to pay 20% more than those who do not.
My right hon. Friend is a genius at getting debates in this place, so he hardly needs advice from me. He already has an Adjournment debate coming on
The Leader of the House is known for his courtesy, so I am sure he will agree that language describing Travellers as an invasion or a disease, contrasting them with decent people or talking of them as a problem—all of which have been heard in this House in recent months—is deplorable. Will he arrange a debate, perhaps in Hate Crime Awareness Week after the recess, on how we can use language respectfully towards everybody in this country?
I thank the hon. Lady for her generous compliment. It really is important that we use language properly, that language is effective and that language is powerful. You, Mr Speaker, control how it is used in this House to ensure that it is orderly, but the general tone should be one of generosity and kindliness, and I would always encourage that. I do not think a debate on language in Government time is likely, but as I have said, there are Adjournment debates, Backbench Business debates and Westminster Hall debates. It is a really important issue, and I would encourage and share the hon. Lady’s view that good manners go a long way.
May I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on his new appointment? He is already looking like an old pro in the position. May we have an urgent debate on serious deficiencies in the enforcement of minimum wage legislation? A carer in my constituency is owed £63,000 in unpaid minimum wage, despite the Care Act 2014 requiring Luton Borough Council to have an effective monitoring process of the personal budget payments involved. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, as the enforcement agency, can take no action against the person cared for because she has no assets. How can my constituent get her unpaid minimum wage?
That is a very serious issue. Regrettably, I cannot comment on individual cases, but I am clear that careworkers provide essential support to some of the most vulnerable members of society, and it is essential that they are paid in accordance with the law, including the national minimum wage, for the work they do. This is a responsibility of local authorities, which should ensure that personal budgets are sufficient to deliver a person’s care needs, including making sure that they cover the cost of wages, and local authorities have a duty to monitor how personal budgets are spent. However, the Department of Health and Social Care will take this up with the local authority and ask it to investigate what sounds like a very serious and concerning case.
Order. I am keen to move on to the statement by the Prime Minister at or very close to 11.30 am, so the normal practice of accommodating everybody will not apply today. However, participation will be maximised by short questions and the Leader of the House’s characteristically pithy replies. Single-sentence inquiries are to be preferred.
I express my congratulations to the Leader of the House on the new job. He has said already today that he will be the voice of this Chamber and that he will hold the Government to account. Will he therefore tell us what he feels about the appointment by the new Prime Minister, as his closest adviser, of somebody who has been found in contempt of this House? What will he do to hold him to account for that decision, and what does he feel about it?
Parliament did what it did. It passed its sentence; it did not use its ancient powers to imprison or fine the gentleman concerned, and it did not send him to the Clock Tower. Therefore, in effect, his conviction is spent, and I believe in the rehabilitation of offenders.
I welcome my hon. Friend to his new role. Ministers made a holding statement on the telecoms supply chain review this week, but Huawei and Chinese high tech were not part of that, or no announcement was made. Due to the seriousness of this issue, will the Leader of the House consider a debate in Government time so that the Government can outline options on the role of Chinese high tech in our critical national infrastructure? Apart from Brexit, this is one of the most serious issues we will face in the 21st century. Does he agree that we need more debate on it?
This is obviously an important issue, but the means of obtaining a debate are well known. I did express views on this before I was bound by collective responsibility, but I am currently waiting for the Government’s review.
Going back to the question from Sir John Hayes about the taxi regulations, the Leader of the House never answered the question. When is the Minister responsible going to bring those proposals to the House, because the Minister told us it was only a matter of parliamentary time? Will the Leader of the House find the time?
The hon. Gentleman knows that there are usual channels for finding time. Ministers ask for time for things to come forward, and these things have to slot into the overall parliamentary timetable. However, the commitment has been made, and the commitment will be honoured.
I, too, welcome my hon. Friend to his new role. I know that his predecessor was looking at the online harassment that politicians sometimes face, especially women and those from certain ethnic groups, and was planning to engage with counterparts from other Parliaments across the world to see how they have addressed this issue to stop people being put off standing for Parliament. May I urge him to continue this important work?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important issue, and it should distress us all that online harassment seems to affect one category of society more than others. It seems to affect women and ethnic minorities more than men, and it would be appalling if that deterred good people from coming into political life. I am extremely keen for my hon. Friend’s suggestion to be looked at, and to try to work out how to lessen that problem, which is something we should all be worried about.
Will the new Leader of the House say a little more about how he intends to champion the supremacy of the House of Commons? We have slipped into some bad habits recently—Opposition day motions have not been fulfilled by the Government, and other resolutions have been ignored by the Executive. If the House of Commons resolves something, will the Leader of the House ensure that that resolution is faithfully executed?
The hon. Gentleman’s view of history is longer than mine. He said “recently”, but I do not think 1972 is that recent. It was then that the House abrogated parliamentary sovereignty and decided to hand it over to what then became the European Union. I am glad to say that we have taken back control and that Parliament will be sovereign once again. Parliament is sovereign by law, not by mere motion. The last time it was sovereign by mere motion was when it issued ordinances under Oliver Cromwell. Do I wish to go back to that, Mr Speaker? No sir!
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment, and I welcomed the new Prime Minister speaking about investment in primary care yesterday on the steps of Downing Street. In Crawley, too many GP surgeries are at or over capacity. May we have an early statement on that issue?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. He is right to raise this issue. GP practices provide a vital service to our local communities. We will continue to build on the recent changes to GP services in primary care, as set out earlier this year in the NHS long-term plan. That includes an extra £4.5 billion for primary care and community services, and up to 20,000 additional staff working in general practice over the next 20 years. I am sure that the Health Secretary will report back on that, which I hope will meet my hon. Friend’s demand for a debate.
The Leader of the House is supposed to be a great defender of Parliament and parliamentary democracy, but in January he said:
“If the House of Commons undermines our basic constitutional conventions, then the executive is entitled to use other vestigial constitutional means to stop it, by which I basically mean prorogation.”
Will the Leader of the House be Parliament’s man in Cabinet, or Cabinet’s man in Parliament?
You and I know perfectly well, Mr Speaker, that this constitution of ours, this precious vessel of our constitution, is bound by conventions, and it is overwhelmingly important that all those conventions are followed and obeyed. Such conventions are about how this House operates, how the other place operates, and how the Executive operates, and they have grown up over time from our history and understanding of how we should be governed. It is risky to break one convention, because that leads to other conventions being taken less seriously.
I welcome my hon. Friend to his new position. Private building inspectors are a vital part of the construction industry, but through no fault of their own many now have a massive issue with renewing their professional indemnity insurance. Will the Government make a statement to confirm what they can do to support the reform of that important insurance?
I am well aware of that important issue and I will pass it on to the relevant Minister.
The power to stop and search young people is viewed as useful in reducing serious youth violence. Will the new Leader of the House agree to a debate on that issue in Government time?
If Members would only bate their breath momentarily, the new Prime Minister will soon make a statement. He has already advocated ensuring that the police have our support for stop and search, and there may therefore be the opportunity to ask him about that in a moment.
As we break for some restoration and renewal during the recess, my constituents’ lives are being blighted by two things: inconsiderate garden grabbing with no social purpose whatever, and the stealing of car parts to order. May we have a debate in Government time on those twin menaces, and on how we can reform the law to help my constituents?
It is very important that we always stand up for and help our constituents. The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee is still sitting here paying close attention to what is being said. I am sure his Committee will consider my hon. Friend’s request.
I recently met matrons at my local hospital in Coventry. We talked about a range of issues, including the Government’s disastrous decision to abolish NHS bursaries, which they said had resulted in a 32% drop in applications to study nursing, thereby exacerbating the workforce crisis in our NHS, where we already have 41,000 nursing vacancies. Will the Leader of the House look for time to debate the problem of recruitment and retention in our nursing profession, and the need to introduce the NHS bursary?
The relevant Secretary of State has whispered in my ear, and I feel it should have a wider audience, that we have record numbers of nurses and record numbers in training. That is a significant success of this Government. If we wish to have a debate on the successes and triumphs of this Government, I would be all in favour.
Will my hon. Friend provide Government time for a debate on the future of the northern powerhouse, because we need to: d, deliver on the vision; u, unite the talents across the north; and d, defeat the poverty of Labour’s low aspiration? Will he reinsert the all-important energy to the northern powerhouse?
That is an absolutely brilliant point, which follows on from what I was saying. I think we should have days of debate on the wonderful successes of this Government. Some £13 billion has been spent on the northern powerhouse, and the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse is now attending the Cabinet. Triumph after triumph achieved by this Government and we have only had our new Prime Minister for 24 hours. It is absolutely amazing, but the issue that my hon. Friend raises is probably in the purview of the Backbench Business Committee.
I congratulate the Leader of the House. He appears to be very well fitted to the role. I am very disappointed that in the first week back we do not have business with regards to a draft historical Bill on abuse for Northern Ireland. Will that be in the second week when we are back, as indicated by the Northern Ireland Secretary?
My hon. Friend should be aware that there will be Northern Ireland questions on
May we have a debate on the importance of a commitment, from both the UK and the EU, to continue to allow musicians and artists to work without hindrance in each other’s territories?
This is obviously of importance. We want to be able to ensure that cultural exchanges continue. I am sure that this is something that will be achieved by the Government.
I congratulate the Leader of the House, with whom I spent many happy hours in the Procedure Committee, where he championed the rights of this House. He perambulated around the question of Prorogation. To be absolutely specific, will he confirm that the House will be sitting each week, every week between
Mr Speaker, we have got perambulators and nannies into this session, which I think must be a first for questions to the Leader of the House. The issue of Prorogation is one that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said is an archaic usage, but there will have to be a Prorogation before there is a new Session. This is the routine constitutional position, and I believe in maintaining the constitutional conventions.
One sentence. I call Bob Blackman.
Transport for London is currently consulting on building high-density multi-storey housing on car parks at stations across London. May we have a debate in Government time on the impact on commuters right across the whole of south-east England?
I understand that my hon. Friend is likely to be called later in the general debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. It will be a golden opportunity to raise this subject.
I do hope that recent kipper waving is not a red herring. [Interruption.] May I ask the Leader of the House when we can expect to see the Fisheries Bill back? [Interruption.]
I am frightfully sorry, Mr Speaker. I didn’t hear a word.
Let’s hear it again.
I do hope that recent kipper waving has not been a red herring. When can we expect to see the Fisheries Bill back in this place?
Those kippers, I can assure the hon. Lady, were absolutely delicious. They were eaten by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with gusto, showing his characteristic support for the British fishing industry. The hon. Lady knows that Bills come back through the normal channels, and all things will be well and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
Gusto eating is a challenge to even the most vivid imagination, but we will reflect upon that, I feel sure.
Earlier this week a group of local authorities representing rural areas formed a coalition under the title, Britain’s Leading Edge. Many of these areas have benefited from European funding. Once we leave the EU, will the Government continue their commitment to investing in these areas through the shared prosperity fund?
It is of course our money in the first place, which is recycled. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has whispered in my ear, “SPF”, so yes, the money is there.
When will the House have a chance to vote on their Lordships’ amendment to the Trade Bill for participation in the customs union?
Why on earth would anybody want to do that?
I welcome my hon. Friend to his place. Will he join me in congratulating the team at Sainsbury’s in Kinross for getting the Perth and Kinross gold star for equality at work, and will he provide some Government time to discuss the Disability Confident and Access to Work programmes?
I extend my warmest good wishes to Sainsbury’s in Kinross for its brilliant achievement. I think it might be a slightly niche subject for a debate on the Floor of the House of Commons, however.
Antisocial behaviour and crime have risen steeply since 2010, and in the first half of July, 23 emergency service workers were assaulted in Hull, so I was very pleased to hear that the Prime Minister last night announced that there will be 20,000 new police officers. Can we have a debate on when those police officers are actually going to be on the streets, where they are going to be in the country and whether they will be equally shared around?
May I wish the hon. Lady very many happy returns of the day? I understand that it is an auspicious day today. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making a statement. He has clearly made the extra 20,000 police an absolute priority. We need to ensure that everything is done to combat crime and ensure that people in Hull and everywhere else in the country are safe, but it may be sensible to ask my right hon. Friend later.
Order. We must now move on, but in thanking the new Leader of the House, I note that there will be many opportunities to question him about future business in the weeks and months ahead.