Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to make this statement at a slightly unusual time to facilitate the Division, which makes the business I am going to read out rather more useful than had I done it earlier in the day and then had had to do it again.
The business for next week will be:
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement. He will know that this could have been agreed through the usual channels—we are trying to compromise and come to a consensus—and there would then have been no need for a Division.
This is no way to run a Parliament. Earlier today, we heard how we have to start as we mean to go on and to respect each other in the way we speak to each other, so could the Leader of the House ask the Attorney General to come to the House to apologise? Calling us a “dead Parliament” and “turkeys” is not appropriate language. If the Attorney General so dislikes Parliament, perhaps he should spend more time with his cases and call a by-election.
I know that the Leader of the House has apologised to Dr David Nicholl, but to take up from where we left off prior to the motion on the Adjournment of the House, could the Leader of the House apologise here in the House to Dr David Nicholl and say that he was wrong and that what he said was untrue? He also did not answer my question about the “constitutional coup”—I thought we had eradicated foot and mouth!
If the Leader of the House wants some business, let me give him some business: the date for Report of the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill is to be announced; the date for Report of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill is to be announced; the date for Report of the Agriculture Bill is to be announced; the date for Report of the Fisheries Bill is to be announced; and the Trade Bill had its Third Reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday
I would be grateful if the Leader of the House could provide time for a debate on the Electoral Commission report, which estimates that between 8.3 million and 9.4 million people in Great Britain who are eligible to be on the local government registers are not correctly registered, and that there are between 4.7 million and 5.6 million inaccurate entries on those registers. That is the first study since the 2015 assessment of the registers, following the transition to individual electoral registration. This is seriously disfranchising people. My hon. Friend Cat Smith, the shadow Minister for youth and voter engagement, has raised that continuously. Perhaps that is why the Government are so keen to have an election, while the registers are not up to date.
I note the Foreign Secretary’s statement yesterday on the cases of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori, raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) and for Lewisham East (Janet Daby). Has the Leader of the House had any conversations with the Foreign Secretary, and has the Foreign Secretary met Richard Ratcliffe or other family members of the British nationals who are incarcerated in Evin prison? These are lost lives. We cannot wait any longer; they are losing time with their families.
Finally, I want to thank the Leader of the House for his kind words yesterday on my nomination to the Privy Council. I congratulate the Solicitor General, sitting next to him, who has also been elevated to the Privy Council. I know that he is very excited about meeting Her Majesty. Finally, we have good news from the Whips Office: we want to welcome Evelyn Christine Rose Puddick.
The hon. Lady says, quite correctly, that this is no way to run a Parliament, which is why we should have a general election as soon as possible. If only Labour Members would vote for it and have the courage of their convictions, we would have one. She then complains that the Attorney General has called this a turkey Parliament. I think it is more of a chicken Parliament, because it is trying to flap away from the general election that we need and that would clear the air. We get gesticulation and murmurations coming forth from the Labour Benches saying that we are going to get one, but when? The country wants one as soon as possible. Rather than “dead”, I would use the word “addled”, like the Parliament of 1614, which was known as the addled Parliament. This, I think, may also come to be known in such a way.
The hon. Lady mentions Dr Nicholl; I am happy to repeat the apology I gave before. She referred to a question that I answered at some length yesterday on the question of a coup. I pointed out that if things are said in Cabinet, the 30-year rule means that they will come out in 30 years, but just because newspapers print gossip from Cabinet meetings does not make it fact. I fully support and stand by what the Prime Minister has said, which I will read out again for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members, which is:
“I have the highest respect, of course, for the judiciary and the independence of our courts, but I must say I strongly disagree with the judgment, and we in the UK will not be deterred from getting on and delivering on the will of the people to come out of the EU on
That is my position.
The hon. Lady mentioned a number of Bills that are blocked. One of the advantages of Prorogation, had it taken place, was that we could start afresh with new Bills, better Bills, bigger Bills and brilliant Bills, and that is what will happen when eventually we get to the Queen’s Speech. She asked about the timing of the Queen’s Speech. The best thing for me to tell her is that that is being discussed with Black Rod. Very few changes need to be made in this Chamber for a Queen’s Speech, but quite a number of changes need to be made in the House of Lords, in addition to the unsightly barriers that are there for security, which of course are removed prior to a Queen’s Speech, and the road closures associated with that. We are trying to work out simply the timings, to ensure that any Prorogation meets the requirements of the Supreme Court’s judgment.
The hon. Lady asked for a debate on the Electoral Commission’s report. It is obviously key and in all our interests that electoral registers should be up to date, though some of us also feel it is important that parliamentary constituencies should be up to date, which would be beneficial. I note with great interest that some Opposition Members are keen on boundary changes.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked me about the dual nationals held illegally by Iran and whether I have had any conversations with the Foreign Secretary. Indeed, I asked him about it yesterday, and he has spoken to his Iranian counterpart about all the dual nationals—including, of course, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe—as did the Prime Minister when he saw the President of Iran on the fringes of the meeting in the United Nations. I hope I can reassure the hon. Lady that the Government continue to push, and I thank her for continuing to push, because repeating things every week is powerful and keeps people on their toes, and I hope she will continue to do that.
Far from this being a zombie Parliament, there are lots of Bills that we could consider passing. I am pleased to hear that the Leader of the House has scheduled the Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, but there are also private Members’ Bills that have all-party support, including one that I was seeking to bring to the House: the Creditworthiness Assessment Bill could help millions of renters to get improved credit scores. As the House is now sitting unexpectedly, the Government could look at some of those private Members’ Bill and put them into law.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. It has to be said that this Parliament has passed more private Members’ Bills than any since 2003; 13 have gone to Royal Assent and additional Fridays were made available. It was absolutely right that additional time was made available, but the essential point of what we are trying to do is to get through the public business that the Government were elected to get through. That is what we are aiming for. We have done well on private Members’ Bills, but I doubt that there will be additional time for them.
I echo the calls for temperate language in our exchanges in the House and I join in the congratulations to the shadow Leader of the House. I feel that my hon. Friend Pete Wishart is going to be left out in these exchanges. His Privy Counsellorship really must be expedited as a matter of urgency.
As for next week’s business, such as it is, we are happy to support all the efforts to restore the operation of devolved government in Northern Ireland, but my heart bleeds for the poor Conservative Ministers and Back Benchers who will now have to come to the House during their conference. Successive Scottish National party Chief Whips have used the usual channels to communicate the dates of our conferences over the years, and at no point have we been afforded a recess, despite our status as the third party in this place. In fact, the target date—or it may not be the target date—for the Queen’s Speech now is the second day of the SNP conference, and given that none of us have yet mastered the art of bilocation, I would be interested in the recommendations of the Leader of the House for those circumstances.
Given that the House is to continue meeting, thanks in no small part due to the efforts of my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry, I want to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire said last night. The Standing Orders of this House provide for three Opposition days per Session in the name of the Leader of the third party, and in two years we have had one and a half days. So, however long this Session runs before the next legal Prorogation, the Leader of the House really needs to find time for us to fulfil our role as the third party in the House and the largest party in Scotland, as the Standing Orders of the House, which he considers to be sovereign, require. Knowing how much he cherishes the procedures and customs of this place, I am sure he is the last person who would want to be in breach of either the spirit or the letter of those Standing Orders.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that temperate language is often to be encouraged. He mentioned bilocation. I think Padre Pio, not that long ago canonised, was famed for his ability to be in two places at once, and there is good evidence for this. I am surprised that the SNP do not consider themselves sufficiently saintly to be able to achieve the same and be both at their conference and away from it. The most important point that the hon. Gentleman raised was about the SNP’s Opposition day. I will say on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government that SNP Members may have an Opposition day any day next week; should they wish to have a vote of confidence, it will be theirs.
Mr Speaker, you will know of the threat that is posed to our countryside in Buckinghamshire and, despite all the rain that has fallen, the drought that has caused the problems with our chalk streams. Will the Leader of the House give us an opportunity, now that we are back in Parliament, to discuss the excellent report by Julian Glover and his team on national parks? We could debate his recommendation that the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty is a suitable subject to receive the protection of national park status.
Anything that my right hon. Friend says is likely to be an excellent idea so I have a great deal of sympathy for her request for a debate, but I am afraid that I will once again throw it over to the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee because it is entirely suitable for that Committee.
I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House on her elevation to the Privy Council. I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the Backbench Business for next Thursday—two debates, on women’s mental health and on the spending of the Ministry of Justice. I remind the House that the Backbench Business Committee is still accepting applications for debates, which can be submitted until 2.30 pm tomorrow for consideration next week. The Committee will need to meet as soon as possible next week on our return.
We are what we remember. Each of us comprises where we have been, whom we have known and what we have done. But when dementia robs people of all that, they are bewildered and their friends and families are fearful. In this country 850,000 people suffer from dementia, 63,000 of them under the age of 65. It will not be lost on you, Mr Speaker, that
“Life has a value only when it has something valuable as its object.”
Let it be our object never to forget those who can no longer remember.
I have so much sympathy with what my right hon. Friend says. Dementia hits families particularly hard. Sometimes it hits the carers much more than the individual who is suffering from it. All of us will have known people suffering from dementia and how hard it is for families as they are forgotten by the person they have been closest to, so it is a worthy subject for debate. I am sorry not to be able to promise a debate in Government time, but in Adjournment debate time or Backbench Business time it would certainly have my support if I was still a Back Bencher.
May I take the Leader of the House back to his assertion that the 12 Bills that have been started by the Government and are still outstanding are somehow blocked by the House? I offer him one example. The Fisheries Bill is of tremendous importance to my constituents. It passed this House at Second Reading without Division, as I recall. In Committee only one minor amendment was made to it. There is a broad measure of cross-party support for it, yet is has sat in parliamentary limbo since the end of November. If there is a blockage, that blockage surely is within Government and not Parliament. Will we get that Bill before the Government try to prorogue again?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making the point. The Government are satisfied that all the Bills that are needed prior to leaving the European Union on
The right hon. Gentleman chunters from a sedentary position, “Fisheries”. That does not stop the Bill being amended when it comes back either here or in another place. There is no certainty that these Bills will get through without doing things that are contrary to Government policy, and therefore it is unlikely that they will make progress.
I was humbled to be asked in January 2018 to become the world’s first loneliness Minister to continue the work at the highest level that our late colleague Jo Cox had championed. On
That last point is absolutely true: we all have more that unites us than divides us. I congratulate my hon. Friend who has made a real mark in this area, particularly as the world’s first loneliness Minister. The whole House will welcome all that she has done, and continues to do, to build on the legacy of Jo Cox.
People who are lonely are more likely to be readmitted to hospital, visit a GP or go to accident and emergency, enter local authority residential care, and perform poorly at work. All that comes at a cost to the individual, communities, employers, and public services, and we want to do everything we can to ease those burdens. Tackling loneliness requires society-wide change, and we have worked in partnership with businesses to capture and share the work they are doing to help to tackle loneliness in the wider community, and encourage employers to tackle loneliness among their employees. It is difficult to promise to hold that particular debate in Government time, but if the House is reopened on
My constituent Kayleigh Morgan was the victim of a serial rapist, Dimitris Aspiotis, when working in Corfu. In 2010 he was sentenced to 52 years in prison, so Kayleigh was shocked to learn in the media of his very early release. May we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary about what discussions have been held with Greece about the very early release of convicted rapists, and the impact of that on the safety of British women abroad?
This issue must be treated with enormous seriousness, and a 52-year sentence indicates the brutality and horror of what must have happened to the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. For Dimitris Aspiotis to be released so soon seems to indicate that the consequences of his action are not being justly imposed on him. I will, of course, bring the matter to the attention of the Foreign Secretary and send a written answer to the hon. Gentleman, and I am glad he has brought this matter to the House’s attention.
May I join the shadow Leader of the House in asking for a debate on the Electoral Commission? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Electoral Commission has referred many people to the police for investigation, including professional people employed by all parties and other organisations, yet those investigations have got nowhere? When a Government body is responsible for referring people to the police, they ought not to do so unless there is good information that there is likely to be a prosecution. On a number of occasions the Electoral Commission has referred people to the police, but there has been no such prosecution.
My right hon. Friend raises a matter of the greatest seriousness. The Electoral Commission is publicly funded and must be held accountable for its actions. To say that somebody has been referred to the police leaves a great blot on their reputation and ability to carry out their functions if they are elected to office, because there will be a whiff of suspicion around them. My right hon. Friend is right to say that any suggestion of a police referral must take place only when there is a high likelihood of success. This is more an issue for the Backbench Business Committee, but it is a serious matter.
I thank the Leader of the House for illustrating so beautifully why so many of us fought the concept of Parliament being prorogued and the recess. By setting a date for Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, he proved that there is business across the House that people want to move forward, and work that we could be doing in this place that our constituents would value. Last night I raised the fact that the Government have missed an important reporting deadline in their work to tackle abuse against women, in particular a report to the UN on addressing the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. When will we see that report from the Government, and when does the Leader of the House envisage that the Committee stage of the Bill will take place? Given widespread support for the Bill in its current form, will he commit to the Committee stage being held on the Floor of the House, so that we can all contribute to making this a country where everyone is safe?
I am very pleased that the hon. Lady welcomes the Government’s schedule of business for next week. As I said yesterday, the Domestic Abuse Bill would have been a major part of the Queen’s Speech had it been introduced then instead of next week, and the Government are particularly and singularly committed to it. This important Bill will be brought forward to show the Government’s intent, and I think the speed of its passage will be no faster or slower if it comes next week than were it to have been included in the Queen’s Speech.
A number of colleagues across the House were in Bangladesh last week, and many of them got to see the plight of the Rohingya. The Government have responded well in providing international aid, but there are 1.3 million displaced people who want to return home. May we have a debate in Government time on what we as a country can do to enable those people to return home to Myanmar in safety and security, and bring this issue to the attention of the world?
The plight of the Rohingya people is one of the great scandals of our time, and that 1.3 million people are displaced is something that the world must be concerned about. This is one area where our overseas aid budget is most properly used. I am sure Ministers will be aware that there are no immediate plans for a debate—I do not want to refer everything to the Backbench Business Committee, but once again this is something that falls into its Chairman’s lap.
I am pleased that Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill will be next week, but I know that the Leader of the House is a stickler for procedure and doing things correctly. Will he therefore explain to me—a mere novice having been in the House for only 14 years—how the Government have already announced the statutory role of a domestic abuse commissioner, despite the pre-legislative Committee, which I served on with Mrs Miller who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, having recommended that the post should be full time and not for two or three days a week? We also made recommendations about budget and staffing requirements. How was that appointment allowed to be made when the Bill has not gone through Second Reading, Committee stage, Third Reading, or the House of Lords?
The hon. Lady has longer experience in the House than I do by a full Parliament, so I bow to her superior knowledge on procedural matters. I would have thought it welcome that the Government have got on and appointed Nicole Jacobs as the first Domestic Abuse Commissioner. What goes into the Bill and is passed by Parliament will become law and that will include the standing of the post of the commissioner. This is merely an opportunity to get on with things and push ahead, and I would have thought that would be welcome.
May we have a debate on minimum unit pricing? When it was introduced in Scotland, Ministers said that for England they would await the outcome of that implementation. A report today shows that the implementation of minimum unit pricing in Scotland is benefiting those who are drinking at the risk of their health.
I take everything that my hon. Friend says with the greatest seriousness. She is the most wonderful campaigner and aims to make the lives of people in this country better by everything she does. I particularly admire her support for the family. The issue she raises is crucial, but once again it is much more a matter for the Backbench Business Committee.
Will the Leader of the House please tell us which Ministers will be taking questions on which days, and whether the ballots are open so that we can submit our questions? Given that the Queen’s Speech will apparently be held on
As I understand it, the Chancellor will take questions on Tuesday, and it is normal for a three-day rota to be set. [Interruption.] Will it be Monday? It will be available in the Table Office, and I assume that the Prime Minister will make his normal appearance on Wednesday. The Table Office is the right place to go for those questions.
It is a question of a medical doctor or a doctor of philosophy. I think on this occasion I will take the medical doctor. [Interruption.] Tim Loughton is a very distinguished fellow, but he is not a doctor. We will come to him in due course. I call Dr Caroline Johnson.
I know how hard my right hon. Friend works for his constituents, but perhaps there is one he has worked especially hard for, and that is his constituent Max, who has Batten disease and needed Brineura, an important drug for this rare and very unpleasant condition, which ultimately would lead to his death if he did not have the drug. My right hon. Friend asked an urgent question on this before the summer recess, and just after the Prorogation ceremony we heard from NHS England that this drug will now be available. Does he feel that a debate on the rare diseases protocol would be beneficial in ensuring that other people do not have to wait as long as Max?
Order. Perhaps I should have explained—I will now do so. The next debate, if it is to have two hours, needs to start at 3 o’clock. If people insist on making long interventions, they must know that they are stopping others. It is as simple and incontrovertible as that.
The issue with Max, who has Batten disease, is one of the greatest difficulty, and I am so pleased that the drug is now being made available, but I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a need for greater debate and discussion on the availability of medicines for rare diseases. Again, I think it is a Back-Bench business matter, but the Government are taking it seriously, and I am grateful to NHS England for finding the funding so that Max can get the drug he so needs.
Can we have a debate on the incineration of waste? Many constituents in St Mellons and Rumney are very concerned about the locating of a new waste incinerator and the emissions from vehicles, including big HGVs, going to that plant. I am sure the Leader of the House will agree that this issue will be of interest across the House.
Our parliamentary democracy has taken a battering in the last few years. Will the Leader of the House bring forward legislation in the Queen’s speech to ensure that the recommendations of the boundary review are implemented and that we will represent constituencies of equal size and proportion?
I make an exception for the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, which, for geographical reasons, has slightly fewer constituents, but they are some of the finest people in this country. I would not quite say they count double, but they are heading in that direction. When this matter was being debated some years, I thought we should create a rotten borough for him, because he brings so much levity and pleasure to the House through his interjections.
I am very sympathetic to what my hon. Friend says. The statutory instrument is prepared but is being considered and will be introduced if there is a suitable opportunity.
God bless you, Mr Speaker.
May I add, Mr Speaker, that the Chamber today has been a model of civility all afternoon compared with last night? Parliament is back to what it was. May I suggest that to get rid of the toxicity and disorder last night that Acts of Parliament be referred to by their proper names as assented to by the Queen, so that we do not get these tabloid monikers and pejorative titles? The Leader of the House is one of the sticklers and I am sure would like this to happen. Perhaps the Speaker might rule it disorderly. It was the references to an Act that stoked the fires of toxicity and disorder last night.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to refer to Bills by colloquial names. It is a traditional and perfectly reasonable thing to do. Of course, it is a political matter. People will use the names they use. The forms on language in this House are well set out. As you said earlier, Mr Speaker, nothing disorderly happened yesterday. We have to be really careful. Civility and being polite to each other are important, and when Members on either side are vilified or threats to their safety are made, we must oppose it vigorously, but that is of a very different order of magnitude from robust debate in this House. To conflate the two is a fundamental error and risks making the serious nature of what is happening to some Members appear part of the back and forth of politics. It is not—it is really serious. The term “surrender Bill” is a matter of taste, not a matter of any real importance. I am quite happy with the term “surrender Bill”.
I am sorry I am not a doctor, Mr Speaker, but I am at least a patient—and patient. The Leader of the House mentioned many SIs, but not the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019, which received Royal Assent in May and which requires an SI by the beginning of December in order for opposite-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership by
He can’t not be. A gentleman of his seniority! I do apologise. Anyway, he makes an important point. I will take it up with the relevant Secretary of State to see when that statutory instrument is planned.
As we approach the end of this Session, could I look at one particular issue, which is Government consultations? The Home Office issued a consultation on air rifle safety in October 2017. It closed in February 2018, but we have still not had a Government response. That is simply not acceptable. Could the Leader of the House look at that consultation period?
“The automotive sector, which I met earlier this week, confirmed that it was ready. The retail sector has confirmed that it is ready”—[Official Report,
The representatives of the industry at that meeting, however, denied this was the case, saying, among many other things, that the claims did not “bear reality”. Similar concerns have been raised by other industries and sectors. Given that the comments were made in this Chamber by the Minister responsible for the UK’s Brexit planning and that they appear to bear little relationship to the situation on the ground, will the Government do Parliament the courtesy of scheduling a full debate on this issue to get to the bottom of things and give the right hon. Gentleman a chance to provide much-needed clarity on just what exactly we will be facing in a few weeks?
I think all of us always want access to cash. It is very important, particularly in rural communities, that access to cash remains possible, as many people want to carry on using traditional forms of payment, so what the hon. Gentleman is calling for is not unreasonable. I am afraid, however, that I will once again refer him to the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, although he will have been listening closely earlier and so will know that applications are being received until 2.30 pm tomorrow.
The fact that the Leader of the House has announced more than a dozen pieces of business disproves the nonsense that we could have had a luxurious five-week Prorogation. There is tons of business that needs to be attended to, including the lack of progress on the Trade Bill. We have a dysfunctional arrangement for scrutinising the trade arrangements with the United States, for example. Those arrangements are continuing, and it is totally unacceptable. When will we get a chance to scrutinise these things according to law?
The Trade Bill contains a bit on a customs union, which would be an absolute disaster. It will not come back in that form.
Nine-year-old Ella Roberta died after being admitted to hospital 28 times in three years for acute respiratory problems because she lived 25 metres from a road in south London that exceeded legal pollution limits. When will the Leader of the House find time to debate a clean air Bill and bring forward the Environment Bill to include those provisions, so that 62,000 people do not die prematurely each year?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that very sad case. Obviously, it is important that we have clean air. The Government have an ambitious policy to improve the quality of the air in this country, and we are pushing forward on that.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your words last night acknowledging that it is ethnic minority women who often bear the brunt of words not only by Members in this House, but in columns denigrating them as letterboxes and bank robbers. I want to put to the Leader of the House this point made to me by Matt from Ealing. He says that he was watching the debate last night with despair—I, too, was watching the debate at home very late, as we do not all have a nanny for our childcare—as there was a continual refusal on the part of the Prime Minister to answer any of the questions put to him. He said, “Is it not within the remit for them to answer the questions put to them?” Does the Leader of the House agree that, if the quality of the exchanges were better, there would be more respect outside for us, and we would be able do our jobs better.
I do share the hon. Lady’s concern about the quality of exchanges and the embarrassment of those on the Benches opposite who saw their leader having his Neil Kinnock moment yesterday.
Will the Leader of the House make time for my now de-prorogued Bill on access to radiotherapy treatment? It is wrong surely that cancer sufferers should have to travel day after day, week after week, for three-hour round trips for cancer treatment. Would it not be right to place satellite units in places such as Kendal, so that we can have longer lives and shorter journeys?
The general point on private Members’ Bills is that, if we get to a new Session, there will be more Fridays, a new ballot and the opportunity for Members to bring forward their bills. That would be the best way to go about it.
Would it not improve the atmosphere in all our debates in the House if we returned to an older tradition and took a self-denying ordinance refusing to clap?
By his own admission, the Leader of the House is not very familiar with nappies or how they work, but I am sure that he is familiar with my Nappies (Environmental Standards) Bill. Will he agree to meet me to look at when we can get it a Second Reading? We might even be able to bring him a reusable nappy from TotsBots in Queenslie.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I have a general rule which I am happy to tell the House: as Leader of the House, I will meet any Member who wants to see me to discuss nappies or any other subject that comes to mind. It is important that hon. and right hon. Members have access to people, and I know, Mr Speaker, that you think the same.
If I can start by asking the Leader of the House to pass on my congratulations to his niece, who, I gather, was selected for Stafford last night. I am slightly disappointed that she is not standing against me again given the 2017 result.
On a more serious note, we both raised at Prime Minister’s questions before the summer recess the case of my constituent Jake Ogborne and access to the drug Spinraza. It has been raised a number of times in various different forums in this House. What does the Leader of House think that we can do to try to make sure that Jake’s case is raised again?
May I thank the hon. Lady for her characteristically generous words? That is very much appreciated and, as my neighbour in Somerset, it is kind of her. I will certainly pass that on to Theodora. I am now bound by collective responsibility, but my views on Spinraza have not changed since I became Leader of the House. She has quite rightly raised this issue, and I will write to the Secretary of State for Health making the point that she has made.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 2719 celebrating the football career and life of Fernando Ricksen, the former captain of Rangers Football Club, who died last week as a result of a long battle against motor neurone disease? Can we have a statement or a debate on how the state can support those with this illness?
I understand that a foundation has been set up in honour of Mr Ricksen to raise funds to help people and to have further research into these diseases. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that motor neurone disease is a particularly horrible illness and one that the health service will need to look at with importance. I will pass on his comments to the Secretary of State.
[That this House
notes with the deepest sadness the passing of Fernando Ricksen, the former captain of Rangers Football Club and Netherlands International who died on
recognises his huge contribution to football, winning titles in the Netherlands with Fortune Sittard and AZ Alkmaar, seven trophies including two league titles in Scotland with Rangers FC before going on to win UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup with Zenit St Petersburg in 2008; pays tribute to the brave and inspiring way he fought against his illness both raising awareness and funds for the Fernando Ricksen Foundation which aims to help others suffering from the incurable disease;
and extends sincere sympathy to his wife Veronika, his daughter Isabella and all his family, friends and in the football family who are mourning his loss.]
I commend the Leader of the House for agreeing to meet all Members. I have always found that, if any Minister refuses to meet a Member, a diet of 10 written parliamentary questions a day until further notice soon does the trick—that is just a tip for newer Members. However, on the issue of prorogation, I understand why the Leader of the House said he cannot give us the date because of his consultations with Black Rod about the arrangements for state opening, but can he at least confirm for the benefit of the House—I am sure he can—that the Government do not intend to prorogue next week?
First, on written questions, I think I put down more than 300 written questions on the European arrest warrant. It did not necessarily get me what I wanted, but it certainly kept somebody busy. Prorogation will meet the judgment of the Court and, therefore, will be the time necessary to move to a Queen’s Speech, and no more.
The Leader of the House has already dingied my request to have my supervised drug consumption Bill heard in the House, but could he instead, as an alternative strategy, ask Ministers in the Home Office whether a statutory instrument could be laid to create an exemption to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to allow Glasgow to get on with the job of saving lives?
This is an opportunity for issues exactly like that to be raised, and I will always pass on Members’ comments and requests for statutory instruments to the relevant Secretary of State. Of course I will do that.
Today’s urgent question on the arms trade to Saudi Arabia indicates that there is a bigger issue here. Will the Government schedule a longer debate in Government time, and will the Leader of the House, in particular, consider turning the Committees on Arms Export Controls into a stand-alone Committee, which is in his gift?
Very few things are within my gift that specifically; I think that is in other people's gift as well. The issue was raised; there was an urgent question. The hon. Gentleman knows how to ask for
I am getting slightly repetitive at this stage, but I think the best opportunity would be during the Queen's Speech, once we have a new Session of Parliament and when there is time—days of debate—for Members to raise, with a Minister present, really serious and important issues, and particularly ones relating to infrastructure. I hope the hon. Gentleman will do that.
The collapse of Thomas Cook has deprived around 300 people in my constituency of their livelihoods. I have been contacted by a Thomas Cook employee suggesting that some of the figures used by the Transport Secretary were incorrect and, moreover, that tens of millions of pounds were stripped from the business just hours before it became insolvent. Can we please have a debate on this important issue?
I am sorry to hear of the job losses in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. It is always a blow to the individuals concerned when businesses fail. It seems that really serious questions have been raised about the way money was taken out of Thomas Cook and about the payments that were made, and other, more senior Ministers than I have made these points as well. I unquestionably believe in free markets, but free markets require people to behave properly and to view the companies they are running as a trust, rather than as something that can simply be stripped of its assets and run dry. There is therefore a very good argument for what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I hope he will have his application in to the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee by 2.30 tomorrow.
I have a constituent whose husband was declined a credit card because their bank classed a car lease as unsecured debt, when it is clearly secured debt. Yet she herself was able to get a credit card from the same bank, which is illogical. As the ombudsman says, banks can set rules as they see fit. My constituent would like a Government statement on how we can set more competent credit assessment rules for banks so that they can be held to account.
And that election will take place in the course of October, as I suspect Alan Brown will know.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Supreme Court told us with great clarity this week that accountability lies at the heart of parliamentary democracy. I seek to know what resorts we have when the Prime Minister respects no boundaries in his tactics, language and conduct—and does that in order to avoid or deflect accountability. Could you advise me, therefore, on the applicability of an impeachment motion or, alternatively, censure by the House relating to the conduct of the Prime Minister?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her point of order and for her characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice of her intention to raise it. There are various ways in which right hon. and hon. Members can seek to debate the conduct of Ministers and, indeed, of others on the Floor of the House. My suggestion is that she visit the Table Office, where the Clerks will be ready to advise her in more detail on the options open to her.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Back in March, I was invited to visit Sufra NW London food bank to understand the work it is taking part in on behalf of my constituents. I followed the parliamentary protocol of informing Dawn Butler that I would be visiting Sufra, as it is in her constituency. It therefore came as quite a surprise that the Brent Central Labour party and Brent Momentum tweeted an identical picture of six men saying that they had heard I was planning a photo op and would be going along to make their feelings known. Neither my office nor Sufra had advised anyone of the meeting.
I will not impugn the reputation of another Member, but can you advise me, Mr Speaker? If any Member or, indeed, the staff in their parliamentary office was responsible for leaking information about the whereabouts of another Member, what action would the House take against them?
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but even if he does not, I cannot possibly be expected to know the circumstances that he has just described. That is the first point. Secondly, although he has kindly told the House that he informed the hon. Lady of his intention to raise the matter, I have not heard her viewpoint on it. Manifestly, it cannot be here and now, at 3.01 on Thursday afternoon, a matter for adjudication by the Chair. I should have thought that was readily apparent.
The hon. Gentleman has made his point and registered his displeasure. I am sorry if he has felt ill served by the way in which he has been treated or by the reaction to his visit, but palpably it is not a matter for me now. We do have other business that is quite heavily subscribed, which he might concede is more pressing.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You often advise Members of this House that they should persist, persist, persist, so I shall attempt to persist. I wrote to the Prime Minister seven weeks ago seeking a reply on the need for compensation to be paid to those affected by the contaminated blood scandal, on the basis that one victim was dying every four days. I asked the Leader of the House three weeks ago if he would assist me in getting at least the courtesy of a reply and sent my letters to him. Since then, I have heard nothing. I have not had the courtesy of a reply. I wonder what your view is, Mr Speaker, about a Member of Parliament writing to the Prime Minister and his not being able, with the whole range of the civil service at his disposal, to at least provide an acknowledgement of the letter.
Frankly, I am astonished by that. There is a long-established convention in this place that questions to Ministers are answered in a timely and, preferably, a substantive fashion. The corollary—I say this as much for the benefit of those who want our proceedings to be intelligible as to Members of the House who may know already—is that letters that are sent to Ministers should be timeously answered.
The Leader of the House at any given time has always accepted the responsibility to chase progress on these matters. I hope Mr Rees-Mogg will forgive me if I say that the role of Leader of the House could almost have been invented for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman. I know that he will take his responsibility in this matter extremely seriously. I hope that he will chase a reply.
I also say to the hon. Lady, as I happen to be very familiar with the issue—although the principle applies whatever the issue—and to have granted several urgent questions to her over the years that she has been an indefatigable campaigner on the matter, that whether or not she gets a reply—substantive or not; satisfactory or not—if she wishes when we return to pursue the matter on the Floor of the House, she will get the chance to pursue it all right.