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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:18 am on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:18 am, 17th October 2019

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business for next week. There will be a debate on the business motion in any event, I am sure he will agree.

We are in a new parliamentary Session. It was helpful that in the Official Report on 14 October there was a chronology of parliamentary debates, a list of Her Majesty’s Government and all the people who are in the House. It is helpful for Members to look at that. There is a recently updated list of ministerial responsibilities.

Unlawful, breaking conventions, misleading—all these words apply to this minority Government. Our gracious sovereign was forced to read out a programme that should have started with, “My Government apologises for dragging me into controversy.” Where are the state visits? It seems that no one wants to come here. Eleven out of the 28 Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech began in the previous parliamentary Session. Of the seven Brexit Bills, five are Bills that the Government failed to get through the last Parliament—nothing new in the Queen’s Speech.

This minority Government set out their plans to recruit more police officers, but they imposed, as we found out in the west midlands, a five-year recruitment freeze. That was the last Conservative Government—hopefully, it will be the last Conservative Government. The total of 20,000 police officers is just replacing those that were cut in 2011. Building 40 new hospitals quickly unravelled as spin. It is not 40 new hospitals; it is a reconfiguration of six. Perhaps the Leader of the House can update us on the news about Canterbury hospital? I am not sure if the Prime Minister was right. Is Canterbury hospital on or off?

On financial services after Brexit, there was nothing in our sovereign’s Gracious Speech on ending tax avoidance or tax evasion. The Government pulled the Financial Services Bill at the last minute in March. Will the Leader of the House please confirm that the Government will not pull this very important Bill? Where is the registration of overseas entities Bill to address money laundering? The chairman of the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, Lord Faulks, said in May:

“Time is of the essence: the Government must get on with improving this Bill and making it law.”

There are no policies for the people, so the Government want to rig the next general election. Requiring voter ID will disproportionately affect people from ethnic minority backgrounds and working-class voters of all ethnicities. The Government only want votes for the few. In the last general election, there was only one instance of voter personation. Will the Leader think again and pull that Bill, or may we have a debate on early-day motion 30 in the name of my hon. Friend Faisal Rashid?

[That this House expresses deep concern at the Government’s announced plans to prevent people from voting unless they can provide photographic identification at the next election; notes that of the 44.6 million votes cast in the 2017 general election, there were just 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud and one conviction; recognises that some 11 million citizens do not possess a passport or driving licence and that people aged between 17 and 30 and black and minority groups are 15 per cent less likely to own driving licences; expresses concern that this policy will introduce widespread voter dropout among vulnerable and disadvantaged groups if rolled out; and calls on the Government to urgently review its proposals.]

We have the Environment Bill next week. We have had earthquakes, and Cuadrilla has begun removing equipment from its site. Will the Leader of the House confirm that there will be an end to fracking?

Misleading statements: saying Brexit can get done by 31 October, when the Leader of the House and this minority Government know it will take years to unravel 40 years of partnership and agreeing new trade deals. The Leader of the House admitted on Sunday that he might have to eat his words. I have two for him: terminological inexactitude.

What about a debate on an alternative Queen’s Speech, with a Bill to establish a national education service that values all children and lifelong learning, and abolish tuition fees; a Bill for an NHS that remains free at the point of need, with safe staffing levels and over £30 billion of extra investment; a Bill to establish a Ministry for employment rights, delivering the biggest extension of rights for people in the workplace; a Bill to build 1 million affordable homes to rent and buy over 10 years; a Bill to invest an extra £8 billion to tackle the crisis in social care; a national investment bank; regional development banks; a national transformation fund; a green new deal; and the closure of loopholes so there is no outflow of capital, with equality, social and economic justice and opportunity as our watchwords? When can we have a debate on that?

When can we have a debate on harnessing the energy of our natural resources in a way that respects planet Earth, on harnessing the energy and talent of all our citizens in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and on an ethical foreign policy that does not allow the incarceration and separation of Nazanin and Gabriella when they go on holiday, or the detention of other UK nationals detained in Iran—Morad Tahbaz, Kamal Foroughi, Aras Amiri and Anousheh Ashouri? Will the Leader of the House please arrange for the Prime Minister to meet with the Families Alliance Against State Hostage Taking? Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a case against Nazanin based on the Prime Minister’s words to a Select Committee?

I thank Lee Rowley for moving the address on the Queen’s Speech. He failed to address one question: in whose interests do we make evidence-based policy decisions—the many or the few? Moreover, we must always make them in the public interest. I say to Sarah Newton that it is great to think that a former party vice-chair is either Demelza or Ross. She may like to know that Ross was a socialist. However, both hon. Members gave entertaining speeches.

I thank Ruth Evans, who has resigned as chair of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, finishing in that post yesterday. I know that we value her insights into IPSA, and I hope that her great contribution to public service will continue.

We wish England, Cymru and Ireland all the best in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

Finally, I welcome the new Serjeant at Arms, Ugbana Oyet. Mr Oyet is currently Parliament’s principal electrical engineer and programme director for the estate-wide engineering infrastructure and resilience programme. Mr Speaker, you know what they say—bigger job, smaller title. We wish him well.