Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:57 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Labour, Poplar and Limehouse 3:57 pm, 25th July 2019

I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend Wes Streeting, for whom I have so much respect.

I want to raise several issues briefly. The first is electric scooters. There is a Transport for London/Greater London Authority consultation on these illegal items. The Paris Mayor recently tightened regulations, not only because these scooters have been littering the streets of that great European city, as well as others which have licensed them—we see the same happening in London now, with more cycle hires available—but because in Paris they have killed five people and seriously injured more than 300, according to reports. We saw our own tragic first casualty recently in London.

The police, unsurprisingly, are not making this a priority. We need more clarity, and extending a licence to such scooters would be regrettable. The penalty for using e-scooters on land other than private land is a £300 fine and six points on a licence. For drivers who have recently passed their test, a six-point penalty means a driving ban, which means they have to pass their test again. That needs more publicity.

On leasehold, Sir Peter Bottomley, co-chair of the all-party group on leasehold reform, got a positive answer from the new Prime Minister earlier. We have a full programme of Government promises on ground rents, the right to manage, the ban on leasehold houses being sold, service charge and refurbishment cost protection, banning events fees and introducing commonhold. The previous Secretary of State engaged the Law Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority, and we await the Best report, which is due out at the end of this month. Hopefully, we will see the first legislation soon.

On connected matters, Sir David Amess, who opened the debate, covered cladding and sprinklers. On the Government’s £200 million, which they have made available to the private sector, questions are still being asked about how to apply for the money, when it will be available and who will be able to access it. An update on progress with that, as well as on the failed non-ACM cladding which is being tested this summer by the Government, would be very welcome.

On ombudsman issues, recently I had an Adjournment debate on the accountability of housing associations. I raised the lack of clarity about the role of the local government and social care ombudsman and the housing ombudsman in holding housing associations to account. This week, I had a very good meeting with Mr Michael King, the chair and ombudsman at the local government and social care ombudsman organisation. I am grateful to him for clarifying the position for me.

Mr King advised me that the Government had introduced an ombudsman Bill in 2016, which would have merged some of the ombudsman services, but that it was a casualty of the 2016 referendum and the 2017 general election. Since then, Wales and Northern Ireland have gone down that route. Indeed, they have gone further and included the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in the same service. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House’s office could advise me whether the Bill might reappear at some point to streamline and strengthen ombudsman services, which hold to account so many public services and servants in England on the public’s behalf.

In the past two weeks, we have seen the refreshed road safety statement, which is very welcome. However, it has initiated another two-year study on a graduated licensing scheme and targets to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, which inevitably means more delays in making progress on those issues.

On deaf issues, news on the British Sign Language GCSE has gone quiet, which I hope means that work is being undertaken. We are still awaiting an outcome on deaf access to NHS services, bursaries for teachers of the deaf and other issues.

We also await an outcome on better support from the Department for International Development for small charities in the UK that are doing such great work across the world.

Following the Prime Minister’s statement, I look forward to more support for my local authority, Tower Hamlets, and our local schools, which are both suffering from years of severe cuts, and to the extra police officers to address antisocial behaviour, although I am not hugely optimistic that we will get all that.

As a Labour MP, I want to say that I am embarrassed and ashamed at my party’s response to the antisemitism allegations against us. I do not think we will get past this until the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry reports.

Finally, we know that we are not going on holiday for six weeks—it is the summer recess. One colleague in this debate last year finished her speech by saying “Happy holidays,” which was not entirely helpful. I wish everybody associated with the Palace, including all colleagues, a decent break during the summer recess.