Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:35 am on 3rd March 2022.

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Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The business for the week commencing 7 March will include:

Monday 7 March—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill.

Tuesday 8 MarchOpposition day. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 9 March—Estimates day. There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Education in so far as it relates to the national tutoring programme and adult education, and the Ministry of Defence. At 7 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 10 March—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, followed by a general debate on International Women’s Day. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 11 MarchThe House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 14 March will include:

Monday 14 March—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Professional Qualifications Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.

It is devastating for us all that we continue to see the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and unjustifiable attack on Ukraine. It is a heinous violation of international law, and the Labour party stands with our allies, including NATO and our other partners, in condemning it in the strongest possible terms. We have a united House and a United Kingdom. We will continue to strengthen our unity and resolve, and we stand in complete solidarity with the Ukrainian people and with our NATO allies among countries on the border.

On Tuesday, the Home Secretary came to give a statement on the assistance the UK is providing to people fleeing this conflict, and we welcome this. However, there are still some questions about how it is working in practice, and I would be grateful if the Leader of the House took these up. Quite a broad range of family members of Ukrainians in Britain should now be able to come to the UK, but it seems that family migration visas are currently not being administered to people arriving via France, but being administered only from eastern European border countries. Despite what the Home Secretary said here on Tuesday, the guidance on the website is still not quite clear, particularly on whether Ukrainians in the UK who do not have indefinite leave to remain can bring family over. Colleagues have also raised concerns about whether the helpline for this situation—I am afraid that helplines are a bit of a business questions theme—has been fully operationalised. Could the Leader of the House please ask the Home Secretary to come back with some clarifications on these questions?

We know that the toughest possible sanctions must be taken against all linked to Putin and against the Russian Government’s interests. Russia must be fully cut out of the western economic system. The sanctions package so far announced contains good measures, but we believe the Government could go further on banking sanctions, individual asset freeze designations against Putin’s oligarchs and so on. We want to work co-operatively with the Government on this. Will they go further?

There is also the question of the enforcement of sanctions. The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation —the body meant to deal with this—appears to have issued only six fines for sanction violations in six years, despite many more breaches. Could the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor to come and explain to the House what he is doing to ensure sufficient resources are in place so that sanctions on dirty Russian money can be properly enforced?

We welcome the progress that the Leader of the House has announced with all stages of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill next week, especially given that last week he and the Prime Minister said it could wait until the next Session. However, in its current form a key plank of the Bill—the register of who truly owns property in the UK—will not come into force for existing owners until 18 months after the Bill passes. That gives Putin’s cronies plenty of time to launder their assets elsewhere, so will the Leader of the House please confirm that the Government will support Labour’s amendments to shorten this timeframe and finally clean up the corrupt Russian money that has been too long allowed to infest the UK?

We will continue to work with the Government to strengthen our support for Ukraine and our NATO allies, but we also cannot ignore the reality of the continuing cost of living crisis. This week we have had a massive rail fare hike that will be a nightmare for millions of passengers. Families already facing soaring taxes and bills will be hit with the highest rise to the cost of the daily commute for almost a decade, pricing passengers out of the railways and undermining urgent action needed to tackle the climate emergency. I am sure the Leader of the House will be aware that for his constituents a season ticket for commuters from Hucknall to Nottingham, a 15-minute journey, has gone up by over £200 under his Government, so may we have a statement from the Transport Secretary on why rail fares are surging, forcing people up and down this country to pay the price for decisions from Downing Street?

Finally, may I wish colleagues and people in Wales and everywhere a happy St David’s Day?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments about St David’s Day and, more importantly, about Russia and Ukraine. It is vital that this House works together and her co-operation and support for the measures the Government are introducing is vital and should be fully recognised.

The hon. Lady mentioned refugees and I think even she would have to recognise that the way in which the Government are performing and opening our doors to those who find themselves in the most terrible of circumstances is the right way to proceed. We are being very welcoming: we are allowing people who are here already to extend their stay and to stay indefinitely, and our doors are very much open to those who find themselves in those circumstances. I hope the hon. Lady will continue to work with us to improve those measures.

On sanctions, we should recognise the speed with which the Government have worked. We have introduced measures and sanctions that have really taken the pain back to Vladimir Putin. The introduction of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill next Monday is a demonstration of the speed with which the Government are operating, but there is more to come: more sanctions will be brought to this House and another economic crime Bill will be brought forward in the very near future. The Government should be praised for what they are delivering. It is absolutely clear to see that the Prime Minister and the Government are not only leading for us but are leading in the world. We were the first country to call out and say Russia should be removed from the SWIFT banking system; there was resistance in the international community and the Prime Minister has convinced those countries to support us and remove Russia from that system. That is clear global leadership from the Prime Minister.

On the cost of living, the hon. Lady is of course right to recognise that there are challenges. She mentioned the rise in the cost of rail tickets, and even in my constituency people are facing that, but she must also recognise that under a Labour Government the investment in some of that infrastructure was sadly lacking. Labour electrified 11 miles of rail line; this Government are performing much better than that. We are investing in our rail infrastructure. In comparison, the Labour Government did not perform very well; we are still reaping the rewards of their lack of investment even 10 years later.

Another example is our nuclear energy industry. If the Labour Government had invested in our nuclear infrastructure, we would not be facing some of the challenges we face. Luckily, this Government are taking those challenges seriously and investing in our rail infrastructure and our energy infrastructure. The hon. Lady should be supporting us in doing that.

Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Conservative, West Worcestershire

With everything that is going on in the world, I wonder if the Leader of the House could still find time for a debate on Malvern Hills College. It was taken over by Warwickshire College Group in 2016. There is an education covenant on the site. It was closed during the pandemic and it has not reopened. It appears that Warwickshire College Group is trying to flog the site to the highest bidder and is refusing mediation. Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on this matter, which matters so much to my constituents?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to this issue. I am sorry to hear of the challenges that Malvern Hills College is facing. I know that she is a champion in her constituency for the next generation and their right to be educated at great establishments. There is an opportunity for her on 14 March at Education questions. I am sure she will be here to ask the Secretary of State directly what he can do to assist.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

It has now been a week since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. We can only look in awe at the passionate defence of their country by the Ukrainian people. We can only imagine the horror this morning in the cities now almost completely encircled by Russian forces.

The SNP is grateful to the Leader of the House for the flexibility he demonstrated in arranging the House business last week. I am sure he will want to convince us that he will continue that approach as we go into the business next week. What we need to see as a priority is an increase in the number of people, Putin’s friends, being personally sanctioned. When will we see further, necessary measures to get Russian money totally out of our financial institutions and our politics? When can we expect to see the UK brought into line with the bulk of the rest of Europe in allowing Ukrainian refugees free access to the UK?

I do not usually bring up constituency cases, but I want to mention Gavin Price who runs the Schiehallion hotel in Aberfeldy. He has offered employment to two people who are fleeing Ukraine. He says he will pay for accommodation and flights, and meet the cost of any work visas, and I am sure he is not alone among businesses in making that generous offer. He was told that that could take up to three months. Surely, we must be in a position to set red tape aside and allow people to come here when there are places available for them to do so?

It is right that we are now almost exclusively focused on the darkening situation in Ukraine, but we cannot simply forget the issues around the behaviour of the Prime Minister and the series of parties at No. 10. He is the first sitting Prime Minister to be questioned under caution by the police, for 12 alleged breaches of covid rules. Will the Leader of the House update us on when we might be able to further consider that matter? I am sure he undoubtedly agrees that this is an issue we must return to with utmost seriousness.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I am genuinely grateful for the support of the SNP in sending a single message to Vladimir Putin about the way he is conducting himself. I am also grateful that he recognises the flexibility the Government are demonstrating in their ability to make available time at the Dispatch Box for questions and debate about what is happening. I think that will continue. I also pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s constituent Gavin Price. That is a true demonstration of what the British people feel and how welcoming we are as a nation to those people who find themselves in the most terrible circumstances.

In that context, when we consider the horrors happening in Ukraine, to try to pivot back to Downing Street events looks a little crass, if I might say that to the hon. Gentleman. We are thinking about families literally fleeing for their lives, with their villages and towns bombed and destroyed. To try to pivot back at this moment in time is a little bit crass. As he is aware, an investigation is taking place. Once it is concluded, I am sure there will be an opportunity for him to make his political points and undoubtedly he will.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

The Government have very generously supplied £4.5 billion to Transport for London to cover loss of income. The trade unions, for the second day this week, have literally brought London to a halt. There is, of course, one person who is completely silent about that: the do-nothing Mayor of London. May we have a statement from the Transport Secretary on the position of the talks about a long-term deal on the financial basis of TfL? What action will be taken to prevent this happening again?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention to this matter. He refers to the do-nothing Mayor, who, of course, when standing for election was vocal in saying that he would not allow strike days on the London underground. Frankly, his record on strikes has been absolutely appalling. I contrast that with his predecessor as London Mayor, who was exemplary in delivering better transport to the people of London. On 17 March, my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Transport and draw attention to the London Mayor’s lack of performance.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

I thank the Leader of the House for the statement and announcing the Backbench Business for next Thursday, when we will debate International Women’s Day. I remind him that we have an application on the stocks for St Patrick’s day on 17 March, with a debate on the Irish in Britain.

This morning, I was contacted by my constituent Sarah Thomas, who is head of the Pechersk campus of the British International School in Ukraine. Thankfully, she is now at home in Gateshead, but she is massively concerned about her work colleagues, many of whom are UK nationals with Ukrainian families and family members who are either still in Ukraine or in nearby countries and cannot get visas for their family members to travel to safety here in the UK.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and for his work as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. I hear his plea for St Patrick’s day on 17 March, and we will try to deliver on that. He is right to draw attention once again to the plight of those people facing devastation in Ukraine, and their friends and families. The Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary are working hard to try to ensure that the transport passages to the UK are as free and flexible as possible.

Photo of Jo Gideon Jo Gideon Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Measured against World Health Organisation guidelines, 100% of schools, GP surgeries and hospitals in my constituency are located in places with dangerous levels of air pollution. That means that, for 3,000 babies born across Stoke each year, their first breath is toxic. Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have recently partnered to highlight the impact of air pollution on respiratory diseases. Levelling up Stoke-on-Trent Central must include tackling this health issue, which disproportionately affects constituencies such as mine. Will the Leader of the House secure Government time for a debate on this important issue?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The Government take air pollution incredibly seriously. Latest published figures up to the year 2020 show that air pollution has reduced significantly since 2010. Our clean air strategy has been praised by the World Health Organisation as an example for the rest of the world to follow. Our nationally determined contribution commits us to supporting decarbonisation approaches, striving to improve air quality and minimising adverse impacts on human health. We have provided £880 million to help local authorities develop and implement local air plans. There will be Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on Thursday 10 March, and I hope that my hon. Friend will take that opportunity to question the Secretary of State further .

Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

Plans for a west midlands gigafactory in Coventry will result in a £2.5 billion investment in the local economy, creating up to 6,000 new, highly skilled jobs directly alongside thousands more in the wider supply chain in Coventry, Warwickshire and the surrounding region. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the west midlands gigafactory venture so that we can hear how the Government intend to put their full support behind the rapid delivery of this crucial project?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I will give the hon. Member every assistance that I can in my role as Leader of the House. She is right to highlight this fantastic plan. I will also write to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that he, too, puts his full weight behind the plan.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

My right hon. Friend knows that Derby has an exceptional industrial and railway heritage and is at the centre of the UK’s rail network, with connections across England and Scotland. However, those are not the only reasons that Derby would make the best location for the Great British Railways headquarters. Does he agree that Derby has the largest concentration of rail sector employees in the country, and that this provides an incredible opportunity for collaboration between the public and private sector in the rail industry once GBR moves in?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The Great British Railways transition team is running a competition on behalf of the Department for Transport. I should be careful to tiptoe through my answer so I am not seen to be favouring one bid over another. The deadline for expressions of interest is 16 March, and I wish my hon. Friend every success in her pursuit of the Derby bid. The UK has a proud heritage in rail. The Government are embarking on the biggest investment in our railway infrastructure, with £96 billion through the integrated rail plan.

Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

Can we have a debate on the planning laws that allow the conversion of offices into substandard accommodation such as the Imperial Apartments in my constituency?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

That is an important issue. Local authorities have responsibility to ensure that landlords provide adequate accommodation for their tenants. All conversions of that nature should follow building regs and make sure that standards are upheld for their tenants.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Ruby’s is an award-winning fish and chip shop in the village of Thringstone that has been owned and operated by the same family for almost 50 years. It is one of many excellent fish and chip shops in my constituency, but the owner tells me that the business outlook has never been more volatile. With record price rises for fish, batter, fat, wrapping paper and, of course, energy, many fish and chip shops are worried about whether they will survive. Could we have a statement about what action the Government will take to ensure that they protect the future of our fish and chip shops, which are a great part of British life?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I declare my interest in fish and chips, Mr Speaker. Takeaways are recognised as a huge part of the night-time economy. Such businesses provide a service to our communities and should be supported. I wish my hon. Friend’s fish and chip shop and all fish and chip shops well, up and down the country.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

I recognise that the Government have held a series of debates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but in such cataclysmic circumstances there would usually be full-day debates in Government time. This House is more or less unequivocal in its condemnation of the invasion, but there are certain difficult questions that have to be faced, some of which have been raised already. There are also increasing numbers of press reports, which have not really been answered or dealt with yet, to the effect that Indians and Africans are being turned back at the Polish border. Because such complicated issues need to be raised at length, could we have a full day’s debate in Government time?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I think that even the hon. Gentleman will concede that the Government have offered a huge amount of time. Last week, we had not only Defence questions, but three statements on Ukraine, three hours of debate on the Russian sanctions, Prime Minister’s questions, an Opposition day motion, a Backbench Business debate and Friday’s urgent question. This week, we have had three statements, three hours of debate on the Russian sanctions, PMQs and an Opposition day motion. The Government have provided a huge amount of time to debate these matters, and Foreign Office questions on 8 March will be another opportunity. The House will continue to debate and raise questions about these matters.

Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford

In Telford, we have two bridging hotels for Afghan refugees, who have been there for seven months now. When I visited, they told me that they want to work, get settled into communities across the UK and rebuild their lives. I have tried to find out how much longer they must wait in limbo in the two Telford hotels, but I cannot get an answer. As we focus on the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, it is crucial that we do not forget the Afghans whom we welcomed last summer. Would the Leader of the House be kind enough to arrange for the Minister for Afghan Resettlement to come to the House to update us on the progress of the scheme?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. This was the biggest mission of its kind in generations and the second largest evacuation from Afghanistan carried out by any country. Under Operation Warm Welcome, we are ensuring that Afghans arriving in the UK are able to rebuild their lives, find work, pursue education and integrate in their local communities. We are working closely with local authorities to bring forward enough offers of housing to provide every family with a suitable home as soon as possible.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

Commenting on people’s personal appearance is dangerous territory, but may I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your wonderful choice of tie?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West

You’ll be called again.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities)

In cities such as Bath, Airbnb has had a devastating effect, and not only on the local housing market but on traditional B&Bs and small hotels. The effect is particularly dramatic when whole houses are turned into Airbnb properties. It is a travesty of the original intention behind Airbnb as part of the sharing economy—now it is just big business. Before any further damage is done, could we have a statement from the Business Secretary on how he intends to address the huge damage that Airbnb does to local family life and to local businesses?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an important matter that is worthy of debate. She will also recognise, however, that by facilitating people’s ability to visit Bath, Airbnb has a huge beneficial effect on the rest of the economy, with people visiting cafés, restaurants, museums, antique shops—

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

And chip shops, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is important to facilitate people’s ability to visit and make use of tourist attractions. I am sure that the Business Secretary will have heard the hon. Lady’s comments, and she will have an opportunity to address them directly to him at the next Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

Everyone in the new city of Southend-on-Sea stands in full solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this terrible time.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the performance of the UK’s ambulance service? Twice in the past month elderly, vulnerable and frail residents in Southend West have been left, having had a fall, lying in the street, cold and frightened, not knowing when an ambulance will arrive—it then arrives hours later. Despite urgent representations to the chief executive of the East of England ambulance service, we have not even had an acknowledgment. This service is not fit for purpose and must be addressed urgently. Please may we have a debate on the UK’s ambulance service?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

We are committed to supporting ambulance crews, who work tirelessly to respond to emergencies every day. We have more than 4,000 ambulance crews in operation across the country—an increase of 500 since 2018—and the Government have invested huge sums in our NHS throughout the pandemic. However, where there are performance issues, it is important that Members raise them, and I would be happy to support my hon. Friend in bringing this to the attention of the Secretary of State.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West

Can we debate support for our artists and musicians? As the Leader of the House will know, many of them suffered greatly during the pandemic, and freelancers often got no support at all. Those who were lucky enough to get a small grant of £2,500 from the Arts Council were assured in ministerial answers and by Treasury advisers that, as that money was for new projects, it would not be taxed. Yet on 20 January, the day after Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax advisers were still giving that advice, they changed their minds. Why are the Government breaking their promise and picking the pockets of our already hard-pressed artists and musicians?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Treasury questions are on 15 March, and I am sure he will be present to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer that question directly. He is right to draw attention to those who suffered through the pandemic and whose industries were completely paused for that period of time. We now have an opportunity as a society to get back out there, to visit our restaurants, to enjoy those clubs and venues that provide those services, and to support our artists.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

The port of Immingham in my constituency is the largest port in the UK, and therefore a major centre for the logistics sector. The sector is experiencing growing frustration at the delays to customs and the processing of import/export certificates and the like. Could the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in the near future so that we can look at this in more detail?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right to say that our ports provide an important service not only to his constituents but to the whole economy. This is something that is worthy of debate, and I would encourage him to apply for a Backbench Business debate or even an Adjournment debate to highlight the great work that our ports do.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about the standing charges on their energy bills. For those whose energy consumption is low, from next month, when increases kick in, the standing charge will be around a quarter of their entire electricity bill. This means that the poorest are hit disproportionately by these charges. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out what discussions he will have with the energy regulator Ofgem about scrapping standing charges on energy bills so that consumers can more easily and simply compare the costs charged by energy providers?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Of course I will take up the matter with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, whose responsibility it is to negotiate with and talk to the energy providers. The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to it, but the Government have actually put a lot of work into supporting those families who are dealing with the cost of energy increases. Some of the pressures are of course global, but the Government are aware of the challenges we face and will continue to support those families who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

The Government’s decision to reduce air passenger duty on return domestic flights is a huge boost for regional aviation and will make it easier to restore commercial passenger flights to Blackpool airport. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on how we can support regional aviation and the role it can play in levelling up, delivering economic growth and boosting tourism in resorts such as Blackpool?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is a huge champion for Blackpool and for Lancashire. The Government recognise the important role that the aviation sector plays in the UK economy. The package of reforms announced at the Budget will particularly benefit regional airports, which tend to account for a greater proportion of domestic fights. I would be happy to raise his concerns with the appropriate Minister on his behalf.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

My constituent Anoosheh Ashoori is a British citizen who has been held hostage in Iran since 2017. His prison is well known for the physical and psychological torture of its prisoners. The Government have offered only warm words on getting Anoosheh home, and that is simply not enough. The Iranian nuclear deal negotiations, which will allow hostages to be released, are currently concluding, so will the Government agree to bring a statement to the Chamber on the Foreign Secretary’s meeting last month with her Iranian counterpart on this matter?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady is right to draw the House’s attention to this matter. I was appalled to see charges brought against Mr Ashoori, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has raised the matter with Iran. I wish her well, and let us hope that we can get him home as soon as possible.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

The fast-moving situation in Ukraine obviously means that the Government are having to move very quickly on our response to the flow of people leaving Ukraine. In the light of the Home Office statement this week and Home Office questions on the changes that the Government are introducing to immigration policy, and following the request from the shadow Leader of the House and other Members for clarification, can the Leader of the House confirm that he agrees with the assurances given by his predecessor in a letter dated 21 December to the Chair of the Liaison Committee about the expectation of engagement of Ministers with Select Committees, so that the Home Affairs Committee can quickly scrutinise the announcements that have been made this week and call the Minister to answer questions? We know that this is important to all Member of this House seeking answers to the queries and questions of their constituents.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I pay tribute to the right hon. Lady for her work as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. I hope she would recognise that Ministers are very keen to appear before Select Committees not only to defend but to promote their performance. I also hope she would recognise that, while we are in the middle of this crisis and while Vladimir Putin is waging war on the people of Ukraine, several Cabinet Ministers are very busy. I will take up the matter with the relevant Minister on her behalf and encourage engagement with her Committee.

Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Can we have an update on Evusheld, an important prevention therapy that could protect immunocompromised people who we know are unlikely to have developed an antibody response from the vaccines? This important drug will give immunocompromised people protection from covid that they do not have from the vaccines and, importantly, will allow them to enjoy the same freedoms as everybody else. In whatever form, such as a statement or a letter, we need to know urgently when Evusheld is likely to be available.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am more than happy to assist the hon. Lady’s campaign. I will write to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to make sure he is aware of her comments. I recognise her efforts in this area, and I know she is a champion in supporting people who have immune challenges. If I can assist her in any way, I will.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Leader of the House knows that the people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are kind and good friends to have in a crisis. There has been an incredible outpouring of support over the last week for the people of Ukraine, with the Ukrainian centre reporting people coming in with offers of money, support and shelter. Given that desire, which has also been expressed to the local authorities and local Members of Parliament, can we have a debate in Government time on how we can harness this incredible act of community solidarity?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to this, and I saw the vigil held in Nottingham city centre in support of the Ukrainian people. A fund has been set up, and the Government have committed to match funding £20 million of that fund. I will make sure he has the details to advertise to his constituents, and I will do the same.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade)

People across the highlands, including my constituents in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, continue to pay more per unit for electricity than people anywhere else in the UK, despite seeing clean, cheap, renewable energy being generated in their backyard. Worse still, when the eye-watering price increases come through in April, the many off-gas-grid customers face more misery than ever. This is a UK Government responsibility, so may we have a debate in Government time on the energy crisis facing rural communities, especially in the highlands?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I recognise the challenge that the hon. Gentleman highlights. I represent a rural constituency, and there are challenges for those living in rural communities. He is right to recognise that these challenges are best solved by the Union, and we can certainly co-operate together. The British Government can bring to bear the might of the Union to solve the challenges our communities face.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The Leader of the House may have seen this week that my campaign to put an end to the marketing of misleading in vitro fertilisation add-on treatments, such as embryo glue and assisted hatching, is gaining traction. For families desperate to have a child, IVF is already an expensive process and is completely unaffordable and out of reach for so many people. Will he therefore agree to a debate in Government time to discuss this important issue?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I agree with the hon. Lady that this is certainly worthy of debate. I genuinely feel for those who are going through IVF. It is very expensive, but these couples will be pursuing it in the hope of ending up with a beautiful bouncing baby. I certainly wish the couples facing these challenges all the best. I suggest that she applies for either a Backbench Business debate or an Adjournment debate to highlight these important challenges.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee of Privileges

Since the invasion of Ukraine started, the UK has only managed to sanction nine individuals, nearly all of whom have already been sanctioned by other countries—some since 2014. It is only nine individuals, not the hundreds the Prime Minister has referred to. I think everyone in this House wants to see the Government move much faster on sanctioning individuals, because at the moment it feels like we are basically saying to them, “You’ve got a few weeks to sort yourselves out and launder all your money away.” Foreign Office officials and the National Crime Agency are saying, in effect, that they may not be able to do anything, for instance, about Alisher Usmanov for months. He has already been sanctioned in the EU. Can we think of clever ways in Parliament, using parliamentary privilege, to make sure that we can advance these sanctions?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He will recognise that we have introduced these measures now where we can bring forward those sanctions. He is also right to recognise that that is best done across the international community, so that there is no safe haven. A process is in place. I do not want to get drawn into discussing individual names in the Chamber today, but the Government are looking very closely at what more we can do and drawing up a list of people we can certainly take our sanctions fight to. I am sure that more updates will be given at the Dispatch Box in the near future.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

I do not know whether you are aware of this, Mr Speaker, but my Ukrainian club in Huddersfield very much admires you for the leadership you have shown on Ukraine. Can the Leader of the House think of other ways in which we, as a Parliament, across the Benches, can have more impact? Is there room for a delegation to key people in Europe or to Washington? Is there something we as a House can do more of? Could we have the Cabinet Secretary come here? Individual ministries might be doing things, but is there a really joined up process, right across Departments, taking on this dreadful Russian regime and making sure that sanctions and so much else are as effective as possible?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I think the hon. Gentleman would recognise that there is joined-up government here, across all Departments. There is co-operation; we are working together to properly take the message and the fight back to Vladimir Putin through our sanctions regime and our messaging, but also through support in military equipment and humanitarian aid. But I am sure that there are more opportunities the House can take to highlight these important issues, and he will be one of the voices drawing the attention of the world to this matter.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I pay tribute to my constituents Bryce Cunningham, from Mossgiel Farm, and Shirley Wallace of Saxen Office Furniture. They organised community collections for aid to Ukraine and the wider community response was astonishing. However, one issue they encountered was that the first lorry going out to Ukraine was impounded overnight in France. May I get a ministerial statement outlining what work is being done to streamline customs arrangements for humanitarian aid and to co-ordinate voluntary aid as well as strategic military and medical supplies, so that the right aid is getting to the right places as quickly as possible? I understand that there are also pressures on supply chains and supply routes in Poland.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I pay tribute to the hon. Member’s constituents, who are trying to assist on the challenges that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people face. I think our response is best done at state level. I would encourage his constituents to engage with the Foreign Office to try to get assistance to unblock the challenges that they face. I shall draw the Foreign Secretary’s attention to the matter he has raised.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Yesterday, the children of York lined our city streets to pray for Ukraine, forming a human chain from the Minster to the Bar Convent. On Saturday, the people of York will be standing with Ukraine in St Helen’s Square. As they see Polish families opening up their homes to take in Ukrainian families, they want a response from the Government on whether there can be a reassessment of how we can support refugees in this country, bearing in mind that perfection is often the enemy of the good, to ensure that people can come into homes—not just Ukrainian refugees, but Afghan refugees?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I join the hon. Member in paying tribute to the people of York, and to British people up and down the country who are opening their arms in support of Ukrainian people. If I can assist in any way, I shall do so, and I shall write to the appropriate Minister on her behalf.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

2022 marks the centenary of Rutherglen Lawn Tennis Club in my constituency—a huge achievement. I hope that the Leader of the House will join me in congratulating it. Will he schedule a debate in Government time on the contribution of sports to local communities and the benefits for mental and physical wellbeing?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am delighted to join the hon. Member in congratulating the tennis club on its centenary. She is right to highlight the fact that sport plays a really important role in not only people’s physical health but their mental health. On a Sunday morning, up and down our great nation, thousands of kids and parents are engaged in sport. It is good for the nation, good for their health and good for their mental health.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

You have a lovely tie, by the way, Mr Speaker. I was encouraged that this week the Islamabad High Court judge Justice Babar Sattar issued a verdict barring girls under the age of 18 from getting married, even of their own free will, and prohibiting parents from marrying off girls who are under 18. It is welcome news and a giant step in the right direction. It is a crucial step forward in ending forced conversion and forced marriage in Pakistan. Will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate or statement on that important topic, and on what more must be done to ensure that no girls anywhere in the world, and especially in Pakistan, face the fear of forced marriage?

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Member is right to draw attention to what I would call the crime—I think in effect it is a crime—of forcing girls into marriage. My hon. Friend Mrs Latham has a private Member’s Bill on this matter. I am sure that he will be able to link up with her to work together to end that barbaric practice across the world.