Christmas Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, The Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household 4:48 pm, 17th December 2020

I will certainly make sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is made aware of those concerns. I know that planning is an issue that we will be discussing a lot over the coming months.

My hon. Friend Elliot Colburn quite rightly mentioned the small shops. I hope that, as we come out of the pandemic, there will be a real opportunity for many of our small town centres. Of course, the town centre fund will help us to achieve that. I am also glad that he mentioned the important issue of domestic violence; I think the Domestic Abuse Bill is one of the best things we have done in this Parliament for some time.

Siobhain McDonagh mentioned children having food. I will say clearly that I do not think there is anybody in this House who does not want to see our children have food—I was in receipt of free school meals myself, so I know how challenging it can be for families—but how we achieve that is sometimes an area of debate. That is why this Government are trying to do that through a targeted approach, so that the neediest children receive that help, and we will continue to do so.

Matt Rodda, like many others, thanked our voluntary groups and the many key workers who have worked incredibly hard to ensure that all the services run as best they can in these challenging times. I must say that I dispute his call for us to look at the Christmas rules again; personal responsibility will allow us and our families to have some time together in what has been a very difficult year.

My hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price reminded me a little of Queen Elizabeth I, who was at Tilbury fort, and I can imagine that my hon. Friend will be rallying the troops to ensure that her bid for a freeport is successful. From listening to the impressive amount of work that the partnership has been doing, I hope that their bid will be looked at with great interest by Ministers. Bidding closes on 5 February, so we will wait and see. I am sure she will be popping the champagne. [Interruption.] I cannot give that commitment, but let us hope she will be popping the champagne—that is how I had better put it.

Jim Shannon is, as always, the most courteous man. He appears in every debate that happens, whether here or in Westminster Hall. I was somewhat surprised once when I was leading a debate on HS2 to see him walking in, as I was thinking, “How on earth are we going to connect London to Leeds and then across to Northern Ireland?” However, he managed to get a perfect intervention in. My hon. Friend Fiona Bruce talked about the serious human rights issues and, of course, what is going on in China. It is absolutely right, as was mentioned, that we raise these issues here. The Government are working with all our international partners to ensure that we speak up where there are human rights abuses.

Now I come on to the masterclass from my hon. Friend Sir David Amess. If I were to try to answer everything he raised, we would be here until new year’s eve. However, I will ensure that, as he wanted, he gets a reply to the letter he sent. He raised very important issues, including, of course, the city status one. My little briefing note here may give him some cause for an opportunity, as it says, “The Cabinet Office continues to explore whether there is an appropriate royal occasion on which to hold a city status competition.” We all know that there is one coming, so let us see whether he is finally successful. I have no idea what he will talk about afterwards if that ever happens.

My hon. Friend Mr Holden certainly showed what a busy year he has had, and, yes, I was intrigued by the combination of motor homes, tax relief and public toilets. I am glad that he mentioned the private Members’ Bills, and I want to thank him for the support he gave to our colleague my right hon. Friend Dame Cheryl Gillan with her private Member’s Bill. I am her Whip and I know that she was extremely grateful for that support. He also mentioned dull Christmas lights. I can tell him that we had the same problem in my constituency, but through a lot of hard work from community volunteers we have been able to change a lot of the town. The only problem I would warn him about is that this results in your being up ladders in the freezing cold of November, but it is worth doing.

My hon. Friend Aaron Bell raised the serious issue of landfill in his constituency. Clearly, this is not a very pleasant experience for those residents, and I will raise the matter with my colleagues in the relevant Department. I say to the company involved that it really should engage. I think we can all say that companies that engage effectively with our communities certainly get a better response.

I am running out of time so I had better finish by saying that my hon. Friends the Members for Wantage (David Johnston), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) and for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) all gave great speeches about their constituencies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North on the birth of Amelia. I am also glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich raised the issue of special educational needs, because I have always believed it is an important area where we can get the very best opportunities for everybody.

I want to finish by wishing the whole House a very happy Christmas. Happy Christmas to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to Mr Speaker and to the other Deputy Speakers. On behalf of the whole House, we would like to thank all Members, the peers, the staff of the House, civil servants, security, cleaners, broadcasting, Hansard, catering and the doorkeepers, who always keep us in order—mainly. They have been helping to keep Parliament working safely during what has been an incredibly difficult time in this pandemic. We also thank Members’ staff, who have sometimes had to face a lot of abuse—that is just not on, and they do so with such good grace. We have done a lot in this pandemic: 188 Divisions have happened; and 190 statutory instruments have been passed since March. That is thanks to everybody who has worked so hard. So I wish everybody a very happy Christmas, and let us hope for a much better new year.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.