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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:31 am on 13th February 2020.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:31 am, 13th February 2020

May I begin by saying what a real pleasure it was yesterday to be at the Privy Council, where the right hon. Lady was sworn as a member? I congratulate her on that. To my mind, it was a very special occasion, and certainly one I will remember.

The right hon. Lady raises some very important questions relating to the pay rises at Highways England when the smart motorways programme is under such question. I think we all have the deepest sympathy for those who have been affected by the failures on smart motorways, and these concerns have registered very clearly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who has said in unequivocal terms:

“Smart motorways must be as safe or safer than regular motorways, or we shouldn’t have them at all.”

However, there is a review going on, and it would be wrong of me to try to pre-empt it.

As regards leaving the European Union and border checks, there will be an opportunity at Cabinet Office questions on Thursday the 27th to question the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on the work that he has been doing. However, we are leaving the European Union, and therefore things will change. We will be negotiating with it as an independent sovereign state on an equal basis, not as a supplicant, and that is quite right. That will apply to all the negotiations that we have. I am absolutely confident that the interests of our fishing industry will be protected.

I am deeply puzzled by the Labour party’s opposition to the deportation of criminals, particularly as it is done under a 2007 Act of Parliament that was passed when the Labour party was in office. It is absolutely wrong and really surprising that the Labour party wishes to conflate criminals with people affected by the Windrush scandal. The Windrush scandal affected innocent people who were British citizens and had an absolute right to be here. They should not be confused with people who have broken the law, who have committed either many offences or offences leading to more than one year in prison, and who do not have a right to be in this country. Their deportation is right, and the clarification and compensation provided by the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill, on which we voted earlier this week, for those sadly affected by the Windrush scandal is a completely different and separate issue—it is of top priority and importance to emphasise that. The Government must keep the country safe, and deporting foreign criminals is part of that.

As always, the right hon. Lady is right to raise the issue of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The Government continue to be in touch, but we must always remember that the Iranian Government are the Government who are at fault and who are behaving in a way that is not in accordance with international norms. That is where our criticism should be focused.

I have six children and, as could be imagined, I watch a lot of cartoons—I am quite an expert. I feel I have much in common with Daddy Pig. Certainly any DIY I ever try goes very badly wrong, so it is best left to others, and my children have me wrapped around their little finger. Alfred would not forgive me if I did not put in a word for “Thomas & Friends.” The good news there is for Gordon, who will be thundering down a new High Speed 2 line in the not-too-distant future.