Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 11:08 am on 19th May 2022.

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

It will be a pleasure.

The provisional business for the week commencing 23 May will include the following:

Monday 23 MaySecond Reading of the Public Order Bill.

Tuesday 24 MaySecond Reading of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

Wednesday 25 May—Remaining stages of the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, followed by a general debate on Ukraine.

Thursday 26 May—My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will propose a Humble Address to celebrate the platinum jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.

The House will rise for the Whitsun recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 26 May and return on Monday 6 June.

The provisional business for the week commencing 6 June will include the following:

Monday 6 June—Second Reading of the National Security Bill.

Tuesday 7 JuneOpposition day (1st allotted day). A debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition: subject to be announced.

Wednesday 8 June—Second Reading of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill.

Thursday 9 June—A general debate on social housing and building safety, followed by a general debate on a subject to be announced.

Friday 10 June—The House will not be sitting.

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

I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. I also thank him for mentioning the forthcoming recess, but staff tell me that they would like to plan their holidays, so will he help them out by announcing the rest of the year’s recess dates?

I agree with you, Mr Speaker, that Ministers should make their statements before talking to the press, but it is also the case that ministerial statements should be made to announce Government policy. Yesterday’s statement from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Tom Pursglove —who is also the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration—was pure party political polemic. If his statement had been drafted by civil servants, it would have been an abuse of power, so I sincerely hope and trust that that was not the case.

Every day that the Government continue to dance their hokey cokey with Labour’s popular windfall tax, working families and pensioners suffer. Bills, food—which was mentioned earlier by my hon. Friend Jim McMahon, the shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—and petrol prices are up. Real wages are down. Suggestions from Conservative Members range from incentives for granny annexes to getting a better job. How does that help an actual granny whose pension went up by 3% when inflation is 9%, the highest in 40 years? How does it help the three in five people who are turning off the heating to save money? Putting on a jumper does not reduce the standing charge.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said that the Government were against raising taxes, although there have been 15 Tory tax rises in two years. He then said that they would look at “all sensible measures”. By the evening, the Chancellor was telling business leaders that he had a plan. I ask the Leader of the House: where is the plan? If he does not know, perhaps he could persuade the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency to use his “overgrown prefect” powers to put the Chancellor on the naughty step until we see it. The Leader of the House must know that the Government will eventually have to give in and accept our plan. Will his Government continue to leave people to struggle while they wait for the inevitable U-turn? Will the Leader of the House urge the Chancellor to present an emergency Budget now?

Members on both sides of the House are still experiencing unacceptable Home Office delays. Our constituents cannot obtain driving licences or passports. When I visited our local jobcentre last week, I was told that people could not take up jobs because they could not obtain ID. Yesterday the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Corby, could not say whether proposed cuts would affect the number of Home Office civil servants. The Leader of the House will surely have seen the long, slow queues in Portcullis House for the Ukraine drop-in hub, which is now also the passport drop-in hub. Civil servants are doing a great job, but this is not a plan. So I ask the Leader of the House again: where is the plan? How will people get passports and driving licences with fewer civil servants?

During the trial of the former MP for Wakefield, the survivor of this abuse said that he had contacted those at Tory HQ during the 2019 general election campaign to tell them about it. I commend his bravery. My hon. Friend Louise Haigh wrote to the co-chairman of the Conservative party on 24 April asking why there had been no action at the time. She has received no reply. Can the Leader of the House please help? Can he also tell us why these allegations were not acted on in the first place? Have the Government contacted the child sexual abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse to apologise for putting her on a panel with the former Member for Wakefield after they had been informed of the allegations? Does the Leader of the House understand why survivors of sexual abuse might conclude that this could have been a cover-up?

Earlier this week, my hon. Friend Anneliese Dodds raised a point of order about a letter sent by my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock to a previous Tory party chair about potential connections with members of the Russian state, which has also not received a response. Obviously this needs clearing up. My hon. Friend mentioned six other letters that she had sent to Tory chairs that had also gone unanswered. Other Members on both sides of the House have experienced similar delays in receiving replies to their letters to Ministers, if they have received replies at all.

I recently received one from the Department of Health in response to a letter sent six months ago, so this is clearly a pattern of behaviour. Could the Leader of the House please encourage his colleagues to invest in a pen and some writing paper, or perhaps to familiarise themselves with email? Is not good enough to have to wait six months for a ministerial response to letters. When the Government fail to respond to MPs, on all sides, they are letting down the British people we are all trying to help. Those British people are furious. They are sick of this Government’s lacklustre approach to the country. They are tired of inaction when action is possible, and they are fed up with being treated with what can only be described as disregard. This Government need to get a grip, and to do it now.

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

Thank you for that advice, Mr Speaker. I should start by correcting the record. At last week’s business questions I may have inadvertently misled the House when I said to Thangam Debbonaire that the Government had introduced 33 Bills in the Queen’s Speech. I forgot the five carry-over Bills, so we are actually introducing 38 Bills. This is a demonstration of the Government’s huge commitment to our ongoing response to the global inflation challenge.

The hon. Lady asked about recess dates, and I will do my best. I hear her plea, and I will respond as quickly as possible. We then got into what I think we can call her party political rant; she started with Labour’s plan for a windfall tax. It is time to undress exactly what this plan is. She paints it as a silver bullet that would solve the global inflation challenge faced by not only the UK but the rest of the world. That simply is not true—[Interruption.] I will tell her about my plan in a moment, but we need to address her plan. Let us look at the numbers. I think she is suggesting that the amount of support we will give each household will be somewhere between £50 and £100, as a one-off hit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s actual plan is for a £22 billion intervention to try to help families fighting the global inflation challenge. That is an enormous package of support. It includes a reduction in the duty on fuel. That is alongside our plan to reduce national insurance contributions for over 70% of those paying them, and to change the taper regime for those on universal credit so that people can keep more of their wages. The Government recognise that this is a huge global challenge, and we will continue to fight it on behalf of people up and down the country. The Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will continue to monitor what is happening, and will continue to deliver the £22 billion-worth of support.

The hon. Lady mentioned passports. Clearly there have been a number of challenges at the Passport Office, as well as at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. That is why we have recruited another 500 people since April 2021, with a further 700 arriving by the summer. There is a support centre in Portcullis House, as she identified, but if there are specific cases in which I can assist her constituents, I will of course feed them directly to the Foreign Secretary.

The hon. Lady made reference to Wakefield, and I hear your advice on that, Mr Speaker. We need to work together across this House to ensure that those who are victims of abuse in any way, shape or form have the confidence to come forward, and that their allegations are taken seriously and fully investigated. We have made huge strides in that direction, with cross-party support, but my door is always open to anyone who has suggestions on how we could move forward on this. I know that Mr Speaker is putting together a Committee to look at some of these matters. Together, cross-party, we can address these challenges. We take them very seriously, and I think we are moving in the right direction, but there is more to do.

The hon. Lady made a passing reference to political donations, for which there is a system that must be followed. The Conservative party and other political parties must follow those laws. She also mentioned the speed of ministerial responses, and I accept that challenge. Departments should respond quicker, bearing in mind that there has been a global pandemic.

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

I use that excuse because it happens to be true, but I accept that the world has moved on. We are moving out of covid, so Ministers need to respond quicker. I will do my best to make sure they do.

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Administration Committee, Chair, Administration Committee

It is very kind of you to call me first, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much. If the country wants better politicians, it has to treat them better. The Administration Committee is about to start its inquiry on planning for the general election, and it will be looking at not only how we welcome people here but how we assist them as they leave this place. Too many people are put off coming into politics because they see it as career death or reputational death. Most colleagues have huge talents and, if we can prove to people thinking of coming here that we look after those who leave, we will improve the overall quality of this place.

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

My hon. Friend will have heard the House’s response to his question. He is addressing something that needs to be resolved, and it is clearly something we need to do across parties. I encourage him to continue. If I can support him in any way, I would be delighted to do so.

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

Another week, and yet again I find no scheduling of an emergency Budget. This Tory-induced cost of living crisis is leaving our constituents in the worst situation and conditions ever encountered in modern times. Although there is no real action from this Government, there is plenty of budgeting advice from Tory Back Benchers. Let us look at the top five instances of their most patronising drivel: learn how to cook, work more hours, get a better job, put the name brands down and rent out the granny flat. Perhaps we need a debate about the real world, so we can examine how many Tories actually inhabit it.

We also need an urgent debate on law and order, with a laser-like focus on the emerging criminal hotspots across the United Kingdom. With Operation Hillman winding up after an extraordinary and record-breaking 126 fines, No. 10 Downing Street is now the biggest covid lawbreaking address in the country by a country mile. The party of law and order is now the party that parties in no particular order. Surely this lawbreaking cell must be broken up and social services should be asked to intervene. This criminal gang should be sent a short, sharp shock; perhaps they should do some sort of collective community service, or perhaps even work in the food banks that they like to talk about at such great length. For some reason, this Government believe they have got away with it and that this scale of lawbreaking can simply be set aside, but the more the people of this country suffer at the hands of their cost of living crisis, the angrier they will be with this party with a culture of partying at No. 10. From no lawbreaking to 126 fines! Can the Leader of the House confirm that any Minister issued with a fine will come before the House at the earliest opportunity?

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

The hon. Gentleman says the Government have taken no action on the global inflation challenge we face, but I think £22 billion-worth of support is a huge intervention.

I understand why the hon. Gentleman is a little excitable this week, as it has not been a great week for the Scottish National party. The ferry-building fiasco has been going on for five years, and the SNP leader has been touring the United States to explain how an independent Scotland would join NATO with no military of its own as a sort of observer nation. The SNP recently nationalised Scotland’s rail industry, only to cut a third of rail passenger services, and it finally acknowledged that it is failing students in Scotland, as it gave up on its flagship election promise to reduce the attainment gap for students from the most deprived areas. Unlike its ferries, the SNP is all at sea.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Yesterday was the 13th anniversary of the Tamil genocide. To date, none of those responsible for the murder of Tamils or their disappearing has been brought to justice. I understand that this morning the Sri Lankan Government have defaulted on their debt, plunging their country into a cauldron of misery. May we have an urgent debate, in Government time—it could be the debate for which no subject has been chosen yet—on the situation in Sri Lanka, because it affects thousands of our constituents across the country?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is a long-time campaigner on Sri Lankan issues. I know that his constituents and others with connections to Sri Lanka will be enormously grateful for the efforts to which he goes to raise the issue of their plight in this House. He will be aware that we have Foreign Office questions on 21 June; I am sure he will be in his place to question the Foreign Secretary, but will also find other avenues to continue to press his case.

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

I am very grateful, Mr Speaker. I am also very grateful to Members from across the House for putting up with me again. I understand that the Backbench Business Committee’s membership will be appointed on Monday, so I hope we will be up and running on Tuesday, if we can get a room to meet in; we are working on that. If there is still some time available in the week beginning 6 June, the Backbench Business Committee could fill a void; if Bob Blackman, its Vice-Chair, were to make an application for a debate about Sri Lanka, I am sure we would be very happy to hear it.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House can help me. He will be aware that when sanctions were imposed on Russian oligarchs, Chelsea football club was given a licence to operate, so that it could finish its fixtures and its staff could be paid. When other oligarchs have been sanctioned, there has not such licence, and many staff have been made redundant, often without being paid. A constituent of mine is owed £14,000 from their previous employment; they worked for a service company and were employed by an oligarch. May we have a look at that, so that people can get their money, without there being benefit to the ultimate beneficial owner—the oligarch? People are suffering because of that situation, probably through no fault of their own.

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

I should join in congratulating the hon. Gentleman. I see that no one was brave enough to challenge him on this occasion. I know that people have challenged him in the past and have disappeared from view, so it is no surprise to me that no one was brave enough to do it this time. If he is struggling for a room, he can use my office to meet next week, in order to get the Backbench Business Committee up and running; we are very keen for that to happen, as it does great work. On the question about oligarchs, if he has specific cases that I can assist with, I will make sure that the relevant Minister responds to him directly. I understand the challenges he is talking about.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Metropolitan police has announced that it has concluded Operation Hillman, its investigation of behaviour in Downing Street and Whitehall. He will also recall that on Wednesday 9 February the Prime Minister gave me an assurance at the Dispatch Box that as soon as inquiries were concluded, he would publish Sue Gray’s report immediately and in full. The Prime Minister has also said that when the inquiries were concluded he would be able to say more on this matter, and I am sure he would intend his first words to be to this House. Will the Leader of the House confirm that Sue Gray’s report will be published in full next week, before the House rises for the Whitsun recess? Secondly, will he confirm that the Prime Minister will come to the House next week to make a full statement and to be questioned on this very important matter?

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

I am aware of those commitments made at this Dispatch Box and see no reason why they will not be delivered upon. I shall make sure that my right hon. Friend’s comments are fed back directly to those who will make those decisions.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

Please may we have a debate on the roll-out and take-up of electric vehicles? I know that a general debate on transport is coming up, but I seek a specific debate to explore the issues that are affecting take-up, so that we can cover things such as consumer concerns, infrastructure roll-out and the regulatory and taxation frameworks. Simply put, the more progress we make on EV roll-out and take-up, the more progress we will make towards hitting our net zero objectives.

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

As my hon. Friend recognises, he could make some of those points at this afternoon’s debate, but I understand that he will want more time to scrutinise the details he mentioned. The issue is worthy of further debate, and perhaps the right route would be to apply for a Westminster Hall debate, because I know the topic would command a lot of support throughout the House.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour/Co-operative, Vauxhall

There were 37 disabled residents living in Grenfell Tower before that awful fire nearly five years ago; 15 of them died that night. The Grenfell public inquiry made the sensible recommendation that all disabled tenants should be given a personal evacuation plan in the event of a fire. Ministers have constantly said in this House that they will accept the inquiry’s recommendations in full, but yesterday the Government dropped their commitment to evacuation plans for disabled people, leaving my constituents and many others terrified. Will the Leader of the House please ask his colleagues in the Home Office to come here to explain why disabled residents do not have the right to be evacuated from a burning building?

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

As we approach the anniversary of the Grenfell disaster, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on what a terrible disaster that was and on the people who lost their lives in that disaster. We should do all we can to make sure that it is not repeated, which is why the Government brought in the Building Safety Act 2022 to try to reduce the chances of such a disaster happening again. I know that the hon. Lady will continue to hold the Government to account and to feed in her suggestions. The Government take this very seriously, and we should do all we can to make sure that such a disaster never happens again.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I welcome the Leader of the House’s announcement that we will have the opportunity to pay tribute to the quite remarkable contribution that Her Majesty the Queen has made to the life of this nation for the past 70 years. I hope that, as part of that, we may reflect on how we treat that generation in general. My 98-year-old constituent Shelagh Connor recently enlisted my help to get support for the replacement of a medal that was awarded to her late husband in the second world war but stolen from a missionary station in what was then Tanganyika in 1956. Mrs Connor wants the replacement medal so that her grandson, who also serves in the Royal Army Medical Corps, can wear the medal that was originally given to his grandfather. She has been told that she can get the replacement only if she can produce a crime reference number or an insurance claim from the time. Surely we are capable of treating that generation, to whom we owe so much, with a bit more consideration and respect than that.

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

I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to Her Majesty the Queen. The jubilee will be a huge opportunity for the nation to recognise what a privilege it is to be alive at this time to see any monarch reach 70 years on the throne, particularly the amazing monarch we have now. I also share the right hon. Gentleman’s admiration for that generation. The next generation takes for granted our national security and safety; that generation went through huge turmoil and two world wars, so I understand what he says. If he gives me the details of the individual case he mentioned, I will of course take it up directly with the relevant Minister. Defence questions are on 13 June; if am not able to deliver by then, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will raise the matter again at that opportunity.

Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford

My constituent Leah Maries, from Woodside in Telford, is due to go on her first ever family holiday next week. Unfortunately, Leah’s plans are now in disarray because a passport renewal application that was received by the Passport Office in February 2022 has got stuck in the system. No amount of effort by the family or queuing in the Portcullis House hub has been able to rectify the problem. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Kevin Foster, for whom I have great admiration and regard, is now personally on the case; however, may we have a debate on the inability of some Departments to deliver the basic and essential services on which millions of people, including Leah Maries and her family, rely?

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

Passport Office staff are firmly focused on ensuring that people receive their passports in good time for summer holidays. We have recruited an initial 500 staff since April 2021, and there are a further 700 arriving before the summer. We have an excellent civil service, which is working incredibly hard to deliver passports to people in good time. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue, because we must be relentless in ensuring that people get their passports in good time.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Shadow Minister (Education)

Less than a month from today, communities across the country, including in my constituency, will celebrate Windrush Day and the immense contribution that the Windrush generation and their descendants have made, and continue to make, to our culture, communities and economy. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has still not announced the annual Windrush Day grant awards, which many local groups are relying on to fund their celebrations. The Department has said that grants will be awarded this month, but this could mean grant recipients having barely two weeks’ notice of their funding, which is insulting given the importance of Windrush Day and the hard work of local community organisations on their celebrations.

Will the Leader of the House speak with his Cabinet colleague at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and urge him to ensure that grants are awarded this week? Will he also allocate Government time, during the week in which Windrush Day falls, for a general debate so that Members across the House can pay their tributes to the Windrush generation and reflect on the injustices that they still experience?

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

I do not know whether the hon. Lady had the opportunity on Monday to question the Secretary of State directly while he was at the Dispatch Box, but I join her in recognising the huge contribution that was made by people coming to this country during the Windrush period. It has greatly benefited the UK both culturally and economically. I will pass on her comments to the Minister responsible and encourage him to respond to her directly.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

Last June, a six-year-old girl was tragically killed when a car hit her and her father as they walked along a road in Stoke-on-Trent North. Having sought advice from the Clerks in advance and to avoid hindering any legal proceedings, I will not name any of the individuals or the place where this incident happened, but the victim’s mother, family friends, the wider Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke community and I have been outraged by the unacceptable delay in having this case brought before the courts. One reason for the hold-up was the wait for the defendant to give permission for his blood sample to be tested. The victim’s mother, who am I working with, thinks it is wrong that permission for blood testing is required in cases where, tragically, a life has been lost. If a person has done nothing wrong, they should have nothing to fear. That is why I am campaigning on behalf of the victim and her family for an amendment to section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for blood testing to take place without permission being required where loss of life has occurred. Can my right hon. Friend help me to secure parliamentary time to debate this important change in our law?

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

I am truly sorry to hear about the case in my hon. Friend’s constituency. The Department for Transport will be conducting a call for evidence on parts of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and I expect its scope to include drink and drug driving offences and the offences of failure to stop and report. He will have the opportunity to raise those matters again in this afternoon’s transport debate should he choose to do so. Next week, there will be Justice questions, which will be another opportunity for him to raise that matter. I wish him well in his campaign.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

As you know, Mr Speaker, since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, rugby league legend Rob Burrow OBE has been a tireless campaigner, both raising awareness of the disease and pushing the Government to invest more in research. The hard work of Rob and other campaigners led to the announcement of £50 million of investment, but there are now serious concerns about delays to that funding. Today, as chair of the all-party rugby league group, I have written to the Health Secretary to raise the concerns of the entire rugby league community and to ask him to sort out this delay. Will the Leader of the House ensure a prompt response to my letter, and can we have a debate in Government time on funding research for motor neurone disease?

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

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for once again raising the profile of Rob Burrow and all he does to raise this important issue. She is also a huge advocate for rugby league in general. I hesitate because I cannot remember whether she is a Bulls or a Rhinos fan, and I will upset somebody if I get that wrong.

Our spending on disability support is among the highest in the G7, but there is always more we can do, certainly with diseases such as motor neurone, to fund research. A number of charities will benefit from the Rob Burrow Foundation, and I pay tribute to him, and to the hon. Lady for her work.

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley

I have received countless pieces of correspondence from constituents who are struggling to see their GP, including someone who waited for more than three weeks for an appointment, another who spent four hours waiting for a repeat prescription and even people whose children cannot see a GP in a timely manner. That simply cannot continue. May we have a debate in Government time on access to local GP services so that we can ensure that people across Keighley and Ilkley can access those vital services as soon as possible?

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

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work in this area. He will know that it will be Health questions on 14 June, when he can raise that matter directly with the Health and Social Care Secretary. I also encourage him to talk to our hon. Friend Andrew Selous, who is not in his place, but does a huge amount of work on that subject. Access to GP surgeries is vital for constituents up and down the country. That is why we are recruiting more doctors into our NHS and why we have introduced the healthcare levy to fund our NHS properly.

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

I am sure the Leader of the House would like to wish Huddersfield Town and Huddersfield Giants well in their challenges.

May I press the Leader of the House on two things? First, may we have an early debate on the steep decline in the number of people in our armed forces? When I first got into this House, we had about 200,000 people in the armed services. I think the Government’s current plan is to reduce that to 72,000.

Secondly, there was a lovely, peaceful demonstration by JENGbA—Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association —which campaigns for people who are wrongly charged for being on the scene of a crime, not participating in it, and who finish up in prison. Often, this doctrine impinges on people on the autism spectrum. May we have an early debate on that?

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 three points—he is a skilled operator who always manages to get more than one business question in. I would like to join him in wishing the fans of Huddersfield Town a speedy journey home from Wembley.

I also join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to our fantastic armed services. The United Kingdom benefits from the most professional military services in the world, and we should be enormously proud of that. I hear his call for a debate. The subject is worthy of further discussion, and perhaps he should apply for an Adjournment or a Westminster Hall debate, where he can explore those matters further.

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

A number of my constituents are leaseholders in a property named Mar House in Colindale. Even though it is of fairly recent construction, all the leaseholders have been subjected to demands to pay for a waking watch. May we have a Minister come to the Dispatch Box to clarify exactly who is legally responsible for paying for waking watch and other fire prevention measures? My constituents are receiving demands to pay for issues that are not of their own making?

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

The Government have made more than £60 million available to fund the installation of fire alarms and end the misuse of costly waking watch measures. We had Levelling Up, Housing and Communities questions on Monday—I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in his place to question the Secretary of State directly. I have announced a general debate on social housing and building safety on 9 June. That will be an opportunity for my hon. Friend to raise those matters again and get his thoughts on the record.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

A number of Government Departments have administrative backlogs, yet following the two press releases in the past week on the closure of Insolvency Service offices across the UK and the quite grotesque plan to put 91,000 civil servants out of work, there has been no written statement and no statement on the Floor of the House. When are the Government going to abandon government by press release, and can the Leader of the House assure us that next week we will have statements on the closure of Insolvency Service offices and the grotesque plan to put 91,000 civil servants out of work?

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

The hon. Gentleman must not confuse numbers of individuals who are employed with efficiency. The Government must be focused on the best use of taxpayers’ money and an efficient civil service, and must make sure that those people who are working within the civil service are focused on what we want to deliver and are match fit for the future. That is what my right hon. Friend the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency is doing. He is making sure that our civil service is fit for the future and is working as efficiently as possible for the Government and for the taxpayers of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Marco Longhi Marco Longhi Conservative, Dudley North

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 provided for the establishment of health and wellbeing boards hosted by local authorities, and placed a duty on their commissioning functions to co-operate with those of senior stakeholders within the local community, but specifically with those of the clinical commissioning group. My constituents who are parents of children with special educational needs and disability are suffering really quite poor outcomes, with the local authority and the NHS really passing the buck. Will my right hon. Friend agree to a debate reflecting on the effectiveness of health and wellbeing boards, whether they are discharging the commissioning functions provided to them, and whether they are in fact delivering good outcomes for local people?

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

The creation of the integrated care system represents a huge opportunity to make sure that children’s services are more joined up. The SEND review Green Paper published in March recognises the challenges with the current arrangements and includes a proposal to legislate to introduce new local SEND partnerships to ensure effective local delivery. Health questions on 14 June will be an opportunity for my hon. Friend to raise these matters directly with the Secretary of State, but he may want to pursue an Adjournment debate as well to explore them further.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Defence)

Can we have a Government statement on what checks were made on an individual’s background, including allegations made against them, before they were put on to the Home Office panel to advise the Home Secretary on how to deal with grooming gangs and child exploitation?

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

I have Mr Speaker’s advice ringing in my ears and I do not want to talk about—

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

Yes, so I will not make reference to that individual. But clearly we have a responsibility in this House to make sure that we address the challenges that we face and that those individuals who do act inappropriately are weeded out and held to account. My commitment to the Chamber and to this House is to continue to weed out those who act inappropriately, and I look to working with the hon. Lady to achieve that.

Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak

The five-year survival rate for those with secondary breast cancer is just 22%. I pay tribute to my amazing constituent, Gemma Ellis, who, following her own diagnosis of secondary breast cancer in 2017, founded Stage 4 Deserves More—a brilliant charity that does so much to support lots of women with secondary breast cancer. Can we have a debate on the need to turbo-charge research into this awful disease so that we can give more hope and support to thousands of women like Gemma?

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

I join my hon. Friend in commending the work of Gemma Ellis. The Government have invested over £52 million to develop the next generation of cancer and diagnostics specialists over the next two years. A new 10-year cancer plan is due to be published in the summer. I will raise his comments directly with the Health Secretary, but he has the opportunity to do that himself on 14 June at Health questions.

Photo of Feryal Clark Feryal Clark Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

The Government have been promising to scrap section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, which has caused thousands of private tenants in my constituency and across the country to be evicted for no fault of their own. My borough of Enfield has the highest rate of section 21 evictions in London, and the people of my borough cannot afford any ministerial can-kicking on this issue. With the cost of living crisis hitting so many people, the effects of section 21 evictions are only going to get worse. Can we therefore have a debate in Government time on what steps will be taken, at pace, to ensure that this shameful piece of legislation does not continue to blight the lives of people in my constituency?

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

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and I hope she will note that in the Queen’s Speech, there was an announcement of a social housing regulation Bill, as well as a renters reform Bill, so there will be opportunity for her to continue to raise those matters on the Floor of the House. There are plans to come forward to try to assist with some of the challenges we see in the housing market, but I am sure she will take the opportunity going forward to continue to raise these matters with the relevant Ministers, and I will make sure they are aware of her comments today.

Photo of Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher Conservative, Bolsover

The Leader of the House will know that I recently visited Exclusive Secure Care Services in Barlborough in my constituency. While I was hugely impressed by the company, I was disturbed to hear that this organisation, which looks after and transports some of the most vulnerable people in our society—whether they are children in extremely difficult positions, or those who are having mental health difficulties—operates without any regulation. Along with its fellow competitors within the industry, it has been trying to get the Care Quality Commission to regulate them. They are actively looking to be regulated, and the CQC is not playing ball and is being intransigent. Will the Leader of the House please bash some heads at the Department of Health and Social Care, and could we have a debate on those who are most vulnerable in our society and need to be protected by our health services and regulators?

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

I have a feeling that Health questions on 14 June will be very popular. The Care Quality Commission wants to be able to regulate all providers that are providing remote medical advice to people in England. The Department of Health and Social Care will undertake a formal consultation on all proposals to amend the 2014 regulations, including in terms of transport services, triage and medical advice provided remotely, following a post-implementation review later this year. I am sure my hon. Friend will continue to press this matter, and I will make sure that the Health Secretary is aware of his comments.

Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I propose a debate that affects all our constituencies, and all our high streets especially: bad commercial landlords. We have a fantastic organisation in Stirling called Creative Stirling, which has great plans for expansion. It is being held back by an intransigent, poor landlord, and other landlords are just not maintaining their properties in the way that they should. This issue is affecting all our high streets’ recovery from covid, and we need to shine a light on these landlords’ practices. I would be grateful for a debate in Government time to do just that.

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

I think the issue is worthy of further debate. We should also recognise that there are some very good commercial landlords as well, but the hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to those who fall below the standards that we and our constituents would expect. That debate would command support across the House, and colleagues would want to engage with it. I encourage him to apply either for a Westminster Hall debate or an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley

When I became the first Conservative MP in Doncaster since 1964 and the first ever in Don Valley, I lobbied for a rail link to Doncaster Sheffield airport, as that would lead to an expansion of the airport and massively help to level up the whole of South Yorkshire. Through the city region sustainable transport settlement bid, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and Doncaster Council have put together an economical package to connect the airport via the Lincoln line. This short spur will bring huge economic growth. However, that bid is apparently still being looked at after two years. Will the Leader of the House help press those decision makers for me to get a quick positive decision to help level up my constituency?

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

I should point out first that the two Transport Ministers on the Front Bench this morning will have heard his comments. I cannot let this moment pass without also mentioning the Robin Hood line in Nottingham, which I am sure those Ministers will want to consider. My hon. Friend is an admirable campaigner for Don Valley and his constituents. He recognises how important good infrastructure networks are to our communities. The Transport Ministers here today will have heard his comments, and I am sure they will hear them again in the debate this afternoon.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales)

I will return to an issue raised by the shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend Thangam Debbonaire. Many of our constituents turn to us when they cannot get answers and we write on their behalf to Government Department and Ministers. It is unacceptable that those replies are taking weeks, and in some cases, months. I have tried asking parliamentary questions, but even then, a timely written response is not guaranteed. Many of our staff are spending many hours each week chasing responses, which is unacceptable. Can we have a debate or a statement to ensure that the standards set by the Government are maintained and our constituents receive responses in a timely manner?

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

I hope the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the global pandemic caused some challenges in the last Session—that is not an excuse but a statement of fact. We are now in a new parliamentary Session. As Leader of the House, I expect Government Ministers to respond more quickly than during the pandemic and I will continue to drive that message as strongly as possible. As a constituency MP, I share his frustration at times that ministerial responses take longer than they should, and I will continue to press his message with Ministers across Government.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on prostate cancer? Every 45 minutes, a man in the UK dies of prostate cancer and one in eight men in Britain will suffer from it, which is about four to five of the men who were in the Chamber, including the Galleries, when I arrived. Last week, the brilliant Southend charity Prost8 UK launched a new national campaign to encourage the NHS to roll out new world-leading, minimally invasive treatments for prostate cancer. I am sure that he will be delighted to join me in supporting that important campaign.

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

I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising that important matter. In doing so, she spreads the message about awareness of prostate cancer. She mentioned it in her maiden speech, so I know that she is passionate about trying to solve those challenges. I encourage her to apply for a Backbench Business debate; I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to engage in that debate. I think I am right in saying that it is the most common cancer in men and she has assisted in raising its profile this morning. I encourage anyone who has symptoms to go to the doctor and seek help.

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

My constituent, Joseph Kuria Waithaka, studied at the University of Hull and worked in healthcare while he studied. On graduating, he was employed by the Humber probation service and had a great future ahead of him. Sadly, however, he was one of the 157 passengers killed on flight ET302 on 10 March 2019 in one of the flawed Boeing 737 MAX aeroplanes. So far, it has not been possible to have an inquest in this country, as Ethiopia has not yet published an accident report. Can we have a statement from the Government on what they are doing to support families such as Joseph’s to get closure on that awful event?

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

I am truly sorry to hear about Joseph and his demise. I will make sure that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is aware of her comments; I am sure that it will be engaging with the Ethiopian authorities. I understand that Joseph’s family will want to know the facts of what happened on that day to assist them in getting some sort of closure and understanding as to what happened to him.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I am sure the House will want to wish St Johnstone well in the first leg of their relegation play-off final tomorrow. My constituent Paul Broadley was backpacking in Australia when covid struck and the British consulate advised him to apply for another visa and remain there. Shortly thereafter, however, he started to suffer severe back pain and was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, for which he received treatment, including multiple surgeries that were paid for with insurance and personal savings. He is now home but unable to work and the benefits he receives do not meet his bills, including rent. He has been told that he cannot claim a personal independence payment as he has not lived in the UK for 104 of the last 156 weeks. Can I ask for the Leader of the House’s assistance in securing common sense and compassion in this case?

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. If he sends me those details, I will pass them directly to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I am sorry to hear about his constituent’s plight and I hope that he will recover in due course. I will ensure that the Department for Work and Pensions responds to the hon. Gentleman directly, so that he can assist his constituent.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Labour, Worsley and Eccles South

More than 2,000 autistic people and people with learning disabilities are being held in inappropriate hospital units miles away from home, subject to appalling treatment, including seclusion and restraint. In our report, “Treatment of autistic people and individuals with learning disabilities”, the Health and Social Care Committee urged the Government to ban long-term admissions to assessment and treatment units. It has now been more than 10 months since that report was published. The Government have not responded and nor have they set a timeline for a response. That is a deeply concerning indication of Government apathy on this important issue and a poor precedent to set for responses to Committee reports. Will the Leader of the House please take action to press the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the urgency of responding to the report and of acting to ensure that people who are autistic and people with learning disabilities can live in a home, not in a hospital?

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

The direct answer to the hon. Lady is yes, I will raise that matter directly with the Health Secretary on her behalf. I will find out where the Department’s response is to her Committee’s report.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Rochdale

The Leader of the House has already touched on this theme, but of the 141 outstanding cases that I have with the Home Office, 112 are more than two months old, 25 are more than five months old and the oldest goes back to August last year, which is outrageous. When I put down a parliamentary question, I get evasive answers, or the responses are not even timely. Would it be possible for the Leader of the House to arrange for a Home Office Minister to come to the House to talk through the strategy for resolving what is clearly an outrageously unsatisfactory situation?

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

The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity on 20 June, at Home Office questions, to question the Home Secretary directly. I hear his comments and those of colleagues across the House and I repeat my commitment to ensure that Departments take this seriously and respond in a timely way. I know that colleagues will think that it is an excuse that I blame the global pandemic, but it did cause huge ripples and backlogs in some of the systems. That is no longer a valid excuse and Ministers need to respond more quickly than they have in the past.

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

The scale of the use of alcohol by young people, including in our public places, is deeply troubling. This week, I met the York Community Alcohol Partnership, which highlighted how the lack of youth services is leading to this crisis. So can we have a debate about having a statutory youth service and ensuring that every single local authority commissions youth services to help our children?

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

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. She is of course right to raise the challenges that those people who are consuming alcohol underage present for communities and their own health. Up and down the country, trading standards departments carry out a number of operations to prosecute those retailers who supply alcohol to underage people and police forces also take this seriously. It is something that is worthy of further debate and I am sure that she knows the opportunities that will come to her to do that.

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

Petrol and diesel prices have hit record highs, which is feeding inflation and the cost of living crisis. The Chancellor’s spring statement included a 5p fuel duty cut that merely tinkers at the edges for my constituents. Will the Leader of the House therefore join me in lobbying the Chancellor to reduce VAT on petrol and diesel, which would benefit motorists, businesses and the whole UK economy?

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

The hon. Lady will recognise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already reduced fuel duty, which is assisting people with some of the global challenges of inflation. VAT matters would of course be considered at a Budget, and I am sure that the Chancellor will come forward with his autumn Budget in due course, but I will ensure that he is aware of her comments today.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is always a pleasure to ask any question of the Leader of the House. Last Thursday, in this House at this time, we debated the arrest of Cardinal Zen and the other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund in Hong Kong. A Nigerian student, Deborah Samuel, was murdered after being accused falsely of blasphemy in Nigeria. Deborah’s life was cruelly taken away far too early. My thoughts and prayers, and those of many in this House, are with Deborah Samuel’s family. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the use of blasphemy laws in Commonwealth countries and their impact on religious minorities, freedom of speech and the rule of law?

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. If I can assist him in any way in continuing to raise the profile of religious persecution around the world, I will of course do that. Certainly, freedom of speech is something the Government take very seriously. I know that he is a huge campaigner for that as well and that he will continue to hold the Foreign Office to account in trying to achieve the things that he wants to achieve around the world. We will continue to spread the UK Government’s freedom of speech narrative wherever we can.