With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement about business for tomorrow.
Thursday’s business remains unchanged and as previously announced. I shall make the usual statement announcing further business on Thursday.
I thank the Leader of the House for the statement. I clearly need to remind the Government that they are the Government. Instead of touring the television studios in an attempt to defend a failing Prime Minister and grandstanding tomorrow in this place, the Transport Secretary should be relentlessly focusing on getting the parties around the table and getting an agreement hammered out. If he continues to fail, that is on him.
The backdrop to this dispute is that the Tories have overseen a managed decline of our railways. If all the Transport Secretary can come up with is to bring in untrained agency staff, it is clear that this is a Government who have really run out of ideas. Slashing safety standards and putting passengers at risk is not a solution. I remind the Transport Secretary of his job. He is meant to be in government. He holds the power to resolve these disputes. Strikes next week are not inevitable and he could make sure that they are avoided.
In Labour-run Wales, train staff are not going on strike, and all sides are working together to manage change. Labour is on the side of working people. We want our railways to work and people to be able to get to work. Instead of grandstanding, the Government should get a grip and sort out this mess.
I think we may have tickled a little nerve somewhere. Perhaps there is a little bit of sensitivity here. I encourage the hon. Lady to approach her union bosses with the same enthusiasm and get them round the table to stop the misery that they are about to inflict on the great British public—on students who will miss their exams, on people who want to get to job interviews. Let us get round the table and discuss this, and I call on her to encourage her union bosses to do exactly the same.
When I first saw that there was to be a change to tomorrow’s business, I just presumed that it was to introduce the “making the UK an international pariah Bill”, which we all expect to see in good time. Of all the things to choose, they have chosen to throw red meat to the Tory Back Benches on their favourite subject: hammering the unions and being as anti-union as possible. There is one very significant statement that has been made in the UK today, and that happened in Bute House, in the office of the First Minister of Scotland, where we have indicated our intention to get out of this trail of devastation that is the United Kingdom and become a country of our own. That process has started and the debate is now engaged, and by God are we going to win that one.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Perhaps he will want to participate in tomorrow’s debate and offer some advice on how we can get the trains running, just as they got the ferries running.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting observation. I know that he will be in his place tomorrow to participate in the debate and represent his constituents, who want to go about their business using the trains, as they have a right to do.
Can the Leader of the House enlighten us as to what the motion is likely to say? I presume that, as a responsible Government, they will say that there are two sides to every industrial dispute and call on both parties to get around the table, discuss the issues and come to a negotiated settlement in a statesmanlike way. Or will it be a motion from a Government who have given up on governing and are intent simply on sowing the seeds of division among the people of this country? Which is it to be?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, which actually has the benefit of being a business question. The House will be able to read the motion when it is tabled later today.
If these strikes go ahead, many people will be very concerned about how they will get to medical appointments, and many health and social care workers will be worried about how they will get to their place of work, including in my constituency, where many rely on the trains. Will the Government’s motion outline what contingency measures will be put in place if the strikes go ahead, and will a Health Minister be available to respond to those questions?
The hon. Gentleman will have to wait until the motion is tabled later today, but clearly having the debate tomorrow will bring focus to the challenges being faced, and hopefully will put pressure on the unions to come back to the negotiating table at an early stage, rather than calling strikes as a first resort—they should be a last resort.
I beg the Leader of the House to urge his side not to stoke the fires of this dispute. My constituents want to work and they want to go on holiday; they do not want this disruption. They do not care whether it is beer and sandwiches at No. 10—if that sort of thing is still done—or getting around the table as a leader on conciliation. That is what this House expects and what our constituents expect. Do not stoke the fires of this dispute; make peace.
I wholly agree with the hon. Gentleman. This needs to be resolved around the negotiating table, and that needs two parties. The unions need to call off the strikes and come to the negotiating table, not inflict misery on our constituents.
Might I remind my right hon. Friend that in answer to the SNP’s question today, we should remind them that they cannot be trusted? When we last had a referendum on the Union, we were assured by the SNP that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime, generational choice. They cannot be trusted.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting observation. Once in a generation is certainly not five years; I think it would be nearer to 25 years before it should be considered again.
I thank the Leader of the House for bringing forward the change of business and saying that there will be a motion on rail strikes. Literally hundreds of thousands of people will be affected by the strikes right across the whole United Kingdom, and it is important that we have a solution, so I ask the Leader of the House: will the thrust of the motion that comes before the House tomorrow be to find a solution, or to confront the unions? I would prefer a solution, as would others. May I have an assurance that that will be what the Government are trying to achieve?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The only solution is to get around the negotiating table, call off the strikes and have conversations rather than industrial action.