Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:11 am on 11th June 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 11:11 am, 11th June 2020

May I begin at the end? Yes indeed, that will be a proper occasion on which to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday and an extraordinary period of decades of service to the nation as our longest-reigning monarch. May the Queen live forever—amen, amen, alleluia, alleluia, amen.

As for recess dates, those are always subject to the progress of Government business, and the right hon. Lady will be aware that the Government’s business has inevitably been delayed because of the current crisis, but I can assure her that as soon as it is practical to bring forward any changes to dates, they will be brought forward.

May I join the right hon. Lady in wishing a happy birthday to Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe? We remain very concerned about this situation, and I remain grateful to the right hon. Lady for raising it every week. It is continually taken up by the Foreign Office and by our diplomatic service in Iran. The Foreign Secretary will be here to answer questions later in the month, on 30 June, and the issue relating to Luke Symons in Yemen can also be brought up at that point, but the right hon. Lady knows that I pass messages on to the Foreign Office after these sessions every week.

As regards virtual participation, the Procedure Committee is looking into the possibility of people participating in non-interrogative sessions—or substantive sessions, if the right hon. Lady prefers—and we will have to wait and see what that Committee comes forward with.

In relation to the Government’s record on race and faith and equality since 2010, a great deal has been done. The race at work charter was launched, helping to create greater opportunities for BAME employees. The apprenticeships diversity champions network was set up. In other areas, the right hon. Lady mentioned the Lammy review of the criminal justice system. That is being looked at, as well as how to collect and publish more and better data on race, improving diversity in the prison workforce, and working towards incorporating ethnicity when gauging performance. So this is work that is under way within the Government. The Prime Minister was obviously here yesterday to answer questions, as he is every week. The Government are very well aware of these important and sensitive issues and are committed to improving equality in this country. We take the issue with the utmost seriousness.

The right hon. Lady mentioned the third anniversary of the Grenfell disaster. Once again, the Government would like to reiterate their heartfelt condolences to the survivors and recognise what a terrible tragedy it was. The Government are committed to ensuring that something like this does not happen in future. That is part of the reason the Fire Safety Bill was introduced and is making progress through the House.

Coming on to the schools question, the Secretary of State was here on Tuesday to make a statement with regard to what was happening in schools. It is an issue that we are all facing as to how things reopen in a way that protects safety and health.

The right hon. Lady referred to what has been going on in care homes. It is now good news that the deaths in all settings, including care homes, are falling, but every death is a tragedy—we must always remember that. Early death is something that Government policy has sought to avoid. That is why we have had the lockdown. It is why steps continue to be taken to help care homes, with testing kits, an overhaul in the way that personal protective equipment is delivered, and provision of very significant funds to local authorities, including the £600 million infection control fund to tackle the spread of covid-19 in care homes. In the face of an unprecedented pandemic and emergency, the Government have taken the steps that are suitable and the best steps that they could take at the time.