Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:58 am on 16th June 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 business for the week commencing 20 June will include:

Monday 20 JuneSecond Reading of the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill.

Tuesday 21 JuneOpposition day (3nd allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 22 June—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill.

Thursday 23 June—General debate on investing in the future of motor neurone disease, followed by a general debate on the national food strategy and food security. Business determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 24 JuneThe House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 27 June will include:

Monday 27 JuneCommittee of the whole House on the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill (day 1).

Tuesday 28 June—Conclusion of Committee of the whole House and remaining stages of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

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, but all we can conclude from his statement is that, whether it is failing to deal with the Tory cost of living crisis or just adding to backlog Britain, this is a Government with no plan. They continue on with reckless undermining of British institutions and principles that we on this side of the House are proud of.

And now the Prime Minister adds to his own labour market shortage after losing his second ethics adviser in just 14 months. There is a reason why even his hand-picked referees cannot defend him: it is because the Prime Minister is indefensible. He should come to this House and come clean about the events that led to Lord Geidt’s resignation. I am glad that Labour’s urgent question finally pushed the Government into announcing they would publish the resignation letter, but why was it not published earlier? Why has it not been published yet? Will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to come to this House and answer questions after it is published? Does he have any answers to the questions put by my hon. Friend Helen Hayes during the urgent question on concerns, which I share, about the impact of all this on public faith in our democracy?

Meanwhile, Labour, the party of patriotism, stands up for our world-renowned broadcasting industry. On Tuesday, in our successful Opposition day motion, we called on Government to reverse the decision to sell off Channel 4. That provides great entertainment, quality news reporting, good jobs around the country—including in Bristol—and projects British values and creativity overseas, so could the Leader of the House tell us why the Government are prioritising selling off Channel 4 over dealing with food, energy and fuel bills?

Not happy with selling off our country’s most treasured institutions, Government are also selling out our global reputation. Breaking international law with the Northern Ireland protocol legislation damages our standing on the world stage, and it does not solve the problem. It does look like the Government are deliberately making things worse to distract from their own civil war. Ministers say that it is normal only to publish a summary of legal advice, but this does happen to be the only Prime Minister to have broken the law while in office. So I ask the Leader of the House: if the Government have nothing to hide, will he undertake to publish the legal advice in full?

This morning, we heard that more than 150 men who worked at the British embassy in Kabul are still in Afghanistan. Many have applied to come here, but have not heard back from this Government, and many have been tortured, which is shameful. The Home Secretary told us only yesterday that there are supposed to be safe and legal routes here. This needs sorting. Will the Leader of the House get the Government on to this today?

Last week, a BBC investigation revealed shocking abuse and safeguarding failures in children’s homes run by Calcot Services for Children. At the same time as these alleged incidents, the company recorded massive profits. We have not had a response from Government, so could the Leader of the House please ask an Education Minister for a statement?

The Government’s failure to tackle backlog Britain is piling misery on to millions. Waiting lists in Government departments cripple our economy, cost the taxpayer billions of pounds and prevent people from getting on with their lives. Just look at the Home Office. We have families forced to pay for fast-track passport services and millions wasted on failed outsourced contracts, including a courier service—you could not make this up—that is losing hundreds of passports. This is a Home Office in freefall.

Labour called for an apology from the passports Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Kevin Foster—but he cannot even tell us the scale of the backlog. He said work continues to recruit more staff over the summer. Where is the urgency? Given the Home Office’s well-known top-down culture of fear, I am sceptical that it will be able to fill the jobs. So could the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to make a statement telling us exactly how many outstanding passport applications there are and how she plans to recruit more staff?

It is worth mentioning that backlog Britain seems to extend to the Government’s own legislative agenda. The renters’ rights reforms announced today are welcome, but they were promised three years ago. All we have is a White Paper. When will they bring the legislation forward and give renters the rights they deserve?

Downing Street is now Britain’s boulevard of broken dreams—a Queen’s Speech in disarray, failure to tackle the Tory cost of living crisis, writing off billions to fraudsters, selling off British institutions, selling out Britain’s reputation and no grip on backlog Britain. A party unable to govern ought to make way for one that can. Labour will get the country back on track.

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

We are getting into a regular pattern, where the hon. Lady basically stands up and has her weekly rant. She started with Lord Geidt. We have just spent an hour debating that and the Minister I think answered those questions. Those letters will be published very soon and we await that. She went on to talk about the sale of Channel 4. I think we had a slight glimpse of Labour party DNA, where apparently public is good and private is bad. Actually, that does not stack up. Channel 4 is a great TV station and releasing it into the private sector, and allowing it to flourish and compete with other great private sector programme providers, will allow it to continue to be a world leader. We look forward to it flourishing within the private sector.

Afghanistan is a very important issue and the Government managed to get out 15,000 people under very difficult circumstances. I acknowledge that there are people who struggle to get out, and we continue to help people to find safe routes to get to the United Kingdom. It was a huge success to get in there and get thousands of people out in the middle of a war zone, and the people involved in that process should be commended.

The hon. Lady went on to talk about waiting lists and passports. The statistics are out there: 91% of people get their passport within six weeks and we continue to recruit more people. I acknowledge that 91% of people getting their passport within six weeks means that 9% of people are struggling to get their passport. That is why the Home Secretary is bringing on more staff. She has brought 750 on already. More are coming before the summer. We acknowledge that we need to get people their passports, so that they can enjoy a summer holiday post covid as we move forward.

The hon. Lady made passing reference to the backlogs in the NHS. That is why we introduced the health and social care levy to help fund the NHS and provide support to get the backlogs down post pandemic. It is disappointing that the Labour party decided not to support that investment in the NHS and not to address those challenges. We can see through it—Labour just likes to complain. It does not have a plan. It just wants to criticise the Government because it does have not a plan, and it will do anything it can not to talk about its union bosses who are going to call strikes and make people’s lives a misery. It just wants to throw mud and criticise, to hide the fact that it does not have a plan for the country and the British people.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on support for parents with children who are gravely ill, such as those on continuous life support? One of my constituents, Archie Battersbee, is only 11, yet he is on life support in hospital following a freak accident at home in April. His family are by his side, day and night. Does my right hon. Friend agree that maximum professional mental health and emotional support, not just legal support, is needed in these extremely sad circumstances?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. Of course our thoughts are with Archie and his family at this very difficult time. Such difficult situations put a huge amount of pressure on friends and family, and they need help and support with physically getting to and from hospital, but also their mental health and the impact that has on their family life. That is why we are expanding and transforming mental health services in England through the NHS long-term plan, which will see an additional 2 million people able to access mental health support. The House will want to recognise Archie and his fight.

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

I am sorry I was not in my place last week, Mr Speaker, to enjoy all the fun. But I don’t know what those 140 Tory MPs were possibly thinking. Don’t they know that Scotland needs this Prime Minister? We have a referendum to win, and we need him in place because he is the best recruiting sergeant we have ever had. Come on Tory MPs—think about the Scottish national interest and let the big dog roam free, unneutered.

We need a debate about the opportunities that Scotland can secure through being unshackled from this place. Can you imagine any other successful, resource-rich country in the world being asked to forgo all its internal democracy to be run by this place—this morally bankrupt, failed state? It would be laughed all the way out of the United Nations, but that is what Scotland has: a Prime Minister we did not vote for doing things that we profoundly disagree with.

Following the urgent question earlier, we need a full debate about who should become the next ethics adviser to the Prime Minister. I know it is a tough job and someone has got to do it, but think about it. The job security is good. All the new person has to do is say, “The Prime Minister is a very fine chap who always demonstrates the highest possible standards of behaviour. And he doesn’t even like partying.” I am sure that the House could provide a list of candidates to fulfil the role in that post. My starter for 10 would be the Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, or perhaps Machiavelli. How about Attila the Hun or Vlad the Impaler?

The stench of moral decay from this failing Government now stinks to high heaven, and the House wonders why Scotland wants to get out. The Scottish people are closely observing this place and, when they are given the opportunity to make a decision about their future, they will grab it with both hands.

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. The Government are getting on with the job and delivering on behalf of the British people. They are concentrating on the huge backlogs that we face following covid and dealing with the fight against global inflation. I understand why he wants just to talk about independence and another referendum—and maybe another one after that and another after that. It is because he does not want us to talk about the SNP Government’s diabolical record. He does not want us to talk about their failing education system and how they are letting young Scottish kids down. He does not want to talk about the debacle about their ferries—their landlocked ferries cannot sail on the ocean waves. That is why he just wants to talk about independence.

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

Please can we have a debate on the support given to homes that have less conventional fuel supply sources but still face fuel inflation like everyone else? I think in particular about those who live in park homes, who may have contracts detailing where they have to buy their liquefied petroleum gas, or metering arrangements through park owners. I fully recognise that the Government’s general support on fuel prices has been fantastic, but in a debate we could explore how different types of homes are exposed to fuel inflation.

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 an undoubted champion for those people who live in rural areas such as Harrogate and Knaresborough. He will know that the Government are committed to targeting support to the people who need it the most in our fight against global inflation. The issue of households who do not receive electricity through a domestic electricity supply contract, such as residents in park homes, was covered by the Government’s technical consultation, which concluded on 23 May. The Government’s response to the consultation will be issued later this summer.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

The Leader of the House will be aware that many of us on both sides of the House frequently raise the scourge of knife crime, which affects constituencies not just in London but across the country. It certainly affects mine. A knife crime event organised by my neighbours, my hon. Friend Ms Brown and my right hon. Friend Sir Stephen Timms, started a quarter of an hour ago in Committee Room 14. Could we also have a statement from the Home Office? Many of us—this affects both sides of the House—are worried that, with the longer days, we will see an upturn in knife crime.

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 is right to highlight the issue and I encourage Members across the House to attend the event in Committee Room 14. The Government take knife crime seriously: that is why we committed to another 20,000 police officers and we have already recruited 13,500 more of them. Colleagues across the House do the right thing in highlighting the challenge and the Government will continue to work on it. I hope that he will be in his place for Home Office questions next week to raise the matter again with the Home Secretary.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

On the sixth anniversary of the dreadful murder of Jo Cox, who I remember as a happy young Labour MP who was clearly going to make a mark on this place—I also think, of course, of the loss of my dear friend David Amess—I thought it might be helpful to the House if I read out an email that I got yesterday:

“Hi,

Just wanted to say something to you Peter.

YOU ARE AN ODIOUS”— the next word begins with F, and the next with C. It continues:

“I hope you get a horrible painful cancer and suffer in agony.

Either that or someone kicks”— the F word again—

“out of you in the street.”

That is not fair, obviously, to me. It is not fair to my staff, who have to read it, and it is not fair to my family members. I do not raise this today because it is about me—I bet that virtually everyone in this House has had something like this. On the anniversary when we remember Jo, I wonder if the Leader of the House could arrange for a statement or debate, or, more importantly, something to stop this sick element in society.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

It is appalling. It is not acceptable. I will take this up and speak to our head of security immediately after I have finished in the Chair. I remind Members that if they get emails, threats or any intimidation, please let us know. You can go directly to the police in the constituency, but certainly speak to people here. It is not acceptable. It is not tolerable. We will not put up with it. We will follow up on what has been mentioned. Sorry, Leader of the House, but I do think it is important.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and may I take this opportunity to pay tribute to you and all the work you have done in this area? I know that the House is certainly grateful for your efforts and I echo your comments. It is a poignant moment to reflect on colleagues we have lost and to recognise the seriousness of this issue. Sometimes it is easy to dismiss such emails as just an email, but they can turn into physical violence and that must be avoided.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Future of Work)

It was recently brought to my attention, by members of the ACORN Union and tenants in York House in my constituency, that properties in that building are fitted with asbestos floor tiles and that the social landlord responsible for the building has failed to make residents aware of that. Understandably, it has caused great concern to the residents of York House, particularly where the asbestos floor tiles are damaged. It has left them deeply concerned for their health. Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on social landlords and their absolute responsibility to keep their properties and those living in them safe, especially where asbestos is present?

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

I am sorry to hear of the plight of those residents. I am glad that the ACORN Union has drawn the issue to the hon. Gentleman’s attention and I am sure he will take action to ensure it is put right. The Government take this issue very seriously, which is why we are introducing the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill. There is a White Paper this morning on taking action to ensure we get good landlords and good tenants. We can make progress in this area and I look forward to him supporting the progress of the Bill.

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

I thank the Leader of the House for his comments earlier on Afghanistan. For about six months, my office and I have been trying to assist a constituent of mine whose former colleague is in hiding. He was very publicly exposed as having been involved in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism, and served the UK Government in Afghanistan for over 10 years. Can he use his good offices to speed up the process at the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence? Could we possibly even have a debate in this House to discuss how we can improve the situation for those people out there who served, with great courage, our country and our allies over the years we were in Afghanistan?

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

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that case. A debate would be worthy of consideration. The Government have a proud record of supporting people and getting them back to safety and to the UK. If he wants to write to me with the specific details of the case, I will make sure I raise it with the Home Secretary directly.

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)

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has published a report, “Tip of the Iceberg” indicating that waiting times in accident and emergency and access to emergency care are a lot worse than officially reported. That is down to a reporting mechanism that only counts the time from DTA—decision to admit—made by a responsible clinician, which is often hours after a patient first arrives in A&E. The college found that in 2021, on average over 1,000 patients waited in A&E for 12 hours or more from time of arrival every single day. May we have a debate in Government time on this hugely concerning and important issue?

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

I would welcome a debate. That is why the Government introduced the health and social care levy to give the NHS investment to cope with the covid backlogs, and why we are doing NHS reform. I do not understand why the hon. Lady did not support that NHS investment through the health and social care levy. I only hope that she will have another opportunity to put the record right and to support the Health Secretary as he brings forward reforms to make the NHS more efficient.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

The BBC has announced that it plans to end the local TV news bulletins produced in Oxford that serve my constituency of Aylesbury. Instead, we will receive a bulletin from Southampton. Stories about sailing and the coast are not terribly relevant to one of the most inland towns in England. I am extremely concerned that this move is in contravention of the BBC charter, which says that all audiences should be able to engage fully with major local issues. Could my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House tell me how best this can be addressed by this House?

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

I am sure that my hon. Friend understands that the BBC is operationally and editorially independent of Government, and that that is a decision for the BBC. We recognise that the BBC is having to make difficult financial decisions. However, under the licence fee settlement, the BBC will continue to receive around £3.7 billion of public money. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is conducting an inquiry into the sustainability of local journalism, which plays a vital role in scrutinising local authorities. That is something that I personally value: the BBC’s “East Midlands Today” is a great resource. I look forward to seeing what the Committee reports in due course.

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

Thousands of immunocompromised people are still shielding because they know that the vaccine does not really work for them. However, there is hope with Evusheld, so will the Leader of the House help to press to ensure that a timeline is published for when this life-changing drug will be made available?

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

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who is a doughty campaigner and has done a lot of work in this area. I do not know whether she had a chance to raise the issue during this week’s Health questions, but I will raise it with the Health Secretary on her behalf and try to assist her in the work that she is trying to deliver.

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

Many businesses in my constituency of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey have been in touch with me because they are experiencing severe difficulties in recruiting staff, especially seasonal workers in the tourism and transport industry. They make up a large part of the sector’s workforce, but UK restrictions are depriving our communities of their contribution. This Government’s hostile environment, coupled with being ripped out—against Scotland’s will—of the EU, the single market and freedom of movement, has left too big a gap. Can we have a debate in Government time on the urgent need for Scotland to have the power to address this issue?

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 there will be Home Office questions next week, so he will have a chance to raise that directly with the Home Secretary. I think he will recognise that, because the economy is so strong and because the Government have put measures in place to allow us to come out of covid quicker than other economies, that has brought huge pressure to the employment market. I think this is an opportunity for people to improve their life chances by seeking other careers and jobs. There are support mechanisms for getting people back into work and off unemployment benefit and into employment. I hope that those businesses will take the opportunity to look at those schemes.

Photo of Sarah Atherton Sarah Atherton Conservative, Wrexham

To mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee, schoolchildren across the UK were given jubilee books. Schools automatically received the books to coincide with the celebrations, but in Wales, where education is run by the Welsh Labour Government, this automatic system was rejected in favour of each school opting in. However, the opt-in system means that schoolchildren will not receive the books until September. That means that children in my constituency of Wrexham have not received their books, but their next-door neighbours in England have. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Department for Education was explicit in telling the Welsh Labour Government about the delivery date of the books?

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

I think my hon. Friend is right that the Department for Education was explicit with the Welsh Government. It is very disappointing. We had a fantastic jubilee weekend, where the whole country celebrated Her Majesty’s achievement of 70 years. It is really disappointing for those schoolchildren that they will not get their books on time or be able to read them as part of looking back at those jubilee weekend celebrations.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Minister (Justice)

A year on from the Government’s rape review, in which they admitted that they had failed victims, the Secretary of State for Justice has announced today that a new pilot will be rolled out in just three out of 77 Crown courts, and not even in those until October. When rape prosecutions have reached record lows and court backlogs have reached record highs, that is simply not good enough. Can we have a statement from the Justice Secretary so that hon. Members have the opportunity to question him on why the Conservatives continue to let rapists off and let survivors down?

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, but I do not accept the premise. The Home Secretary has made violence against women and girls a national policing priority. Home Office questions are next week and Justice questions are in early July, but we have launched the safer streets fund and the safety of women at night fund, we are providing £25 million for safer streets projects, we have established a new lead on violence against women and girls, and last year we passed the landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The Government have a fantastic track record. I accept that there is more to do, but the Government are committed to doing it and we are making great progress in the right direction. I hope that the hon. Lady will support us when we introduce the victims Bill in the near future.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Conservative, Blackpool South

Many Blackpool residents are struggling to access an NHS dentist appointment, which is creating considerable problems for thousands of my constituents who cannot afford to access early preventive treatments. It is also putting the Government’s levelling-up agenda at risk by undermining action on health inequalities for the most disadvantaged communities. Will the Leader of the House look into holding a debate in Government time on how we can best support additional NHS dentistry provision?

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

Dentistry provision is, of course, worthy of debate. The Government are investing millions of pounds in our NHS, and dentistry is a very important part of that. I am sure that my hon. Friend, as a local champion, will continue to pursue the Department of Health and Social Care to make sure that his constituents get the services they deserve.

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

Does the Leader of the House agree that every one of our constituents deserves the inalienable right to breathe clean air? On Clean Air Day, is he concerned that all the people who work in this Parliament were breathing in poisonous air yesterday? The measurements around Westminster were so bad: there was such a high level of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. It was deeply poisonous. May I remind him that when we come inside the building, the air follows us in? The levels of air contamination are as bad in here as they are next to a diesel bus outside. Can we have an early debate on how to tackle the problem and ensure clean air for everyone in our country?

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

I join the hon. Gentleman in recognising Clean Air Day today. Clean air is an important issue and the Government take it seriously, so we are investing in infrastructure to improve the quality of our vehicles and move towards electric vehicles. We recently passed the Environment Act 2021 and we are looking at investment in our energy production infrastructure to move to more renewable sources. We need to proceed at a pace that our constituents and consumers can afford, but the infrastructure is coming very quickly.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Yesterday, I took part in a discussion on BBC Radio Humberside that included Councillor Steve Beasant, the mayor of North East Lincolnshire. The mayor’s wife suffered a delay of 10 hours after Councillor Beasant called for an ambulance. On a previous occasion, when I was out with the ambulance crews, there seemed to be unnecessary delays in changeover times at the hospital. I know that procedures have to be followed, but can we have a debate or a statement from a Health Minister so we can see what we can do to improve the situation?

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

I hope that the councillor’s wife is okay. [Interruption.] It is good to see my hon. Friend indicating that she is. Clearly we are committed to investing huge amounts of cash in the NHS, but money is not always the answer. That is why the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is determined to reform our great health services to ensure that they are more efficient, and look at practices to ensure that our constituents up and down the country get the service from the NHS that they deserve.

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

This week I have heard that another three NHS dentists in the City of York are handing back their NHS work and will be going private. We have hardly any NHS dentists in the city now. People are not only travelling miles but waiting years to see a dentist. This is completely unacceptable, and the pace at which the Government are addressing it is also unacceptable. Can we have an urgent statement on NHS dentistry? Our constituents cannot wait and the oral health of our nation is in deep decline.

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

We had Health questions this week, although I do not think the hon. Lady had the chance to ask the Health Secretary her question directly. What she describes is exactly why we are investing huge amounts in our NHS—to deal with the challenges in the NHS. She chose not to support that huge investment we are putting in alongside the reforms we are making. I hope she will be in her place to support the Government as we move forward with reform and investment.

Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Conservative, Redcar

May we have a debate on diagnosis and support at an early age for children with autism and Asperger’s? Currently, the pathway for diagnosis is difficult for parents and often takes a couple of years, which means that many young people are not getting the support they need in nursery, in school and at home.

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 and his tenacity in pursuing this campaign. We had Health questions this week, on Tuesday, but I will pass on his concerns directly to the Health Secretary. I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to press the issue enthusiastically.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales)

On 26 May, I asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the role of traffic commissioners, given that bus companies are cancelling and changing bus routes without proper notice and consultation. His rather glib reply was that I should speak to my Labour colleagues in Wales, as transport is devolved. I am fully aware that transport is devolved. In fact, my Labour colleagues in the Senedd have already published a buses Bill to try to correct the mess created by a previous Tory Government. But the role of the traffic commissioners is not devolved, so may I ask the Leader of the House again to grant a debate on the commissioners’ role? The cancellation of buses without notice is affecting constituencies right across the country.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for acknowledging that transport is devolved. Of course we were told yesterday that, because of the brilliance of the Welsh Government, there are no rail strikes in Wales, but that turns out not to be true.

I think such matters are worthy of debate, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to apply for a debate. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will engage enthusiastically in such a debate and make sure that the Government’s record is set out very firmly.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

The rising cost of energy bills in the UK underlines the importance of security of energy supply. Rolls-Royce has developed a state of the art modular nuclear reactor. Each such reactor could power a city the size of Leeds, and once up and running one reactor could be produced every six months. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is supporting this financially, but the plans are stuck in the Treasury. May we have a statement by the Treasury giving the green light to that important project, so that we can improve our energy resilience?

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

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. Treasury questions are on 28 June, I think, and I am sure he will be his place to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer directly. He recognises that we need a diverse energy supply system. We are just catching up after previous Governments’ lack of investment in nuclear power. That is something we can put right, and with great technology such as that supplied by Rolls-Royce, there is a bright future for the country’s energy supply.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

This week is Scottish Breastfeeding Week. Would the Leader of the House like to congratulate everyone involved in Scotland and more widely in supporting breastfeeding? Will he bring forward a debate in Government time on the merits of bringing the international code on marketing of breast-milk substitutes into legislation, so that those who are breastfeeding and those who are bottle feeding can be protected properly?

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. Lady in supporting Scottish Breastfeeding Week. I do not know why it is just Scottish Breastfeeding Week and we do not take it across the whole country. Breastfeeding needs to be supported and advertised so that young mums can engage and make sure that their children have their brightest future, having started life with healthy support. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have heard her comments, but if that is not the case, I will make sure that he does so.

Photo of Felicity Buchan Felicity Buchan Conservative, Kensington

The Mayor of London is consulting on axing 18% of London’s buses—that’s right, 18%. That would affect Kensington and Chelsea very badly, where he is proposing that seven bus routes should be completely axed and a further seven would be severely affected. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Mayor of London is failing Londoners, whether it be through bus cuts, strikes on the tube or more taxes on drivers, and will he contemplate a debate on the subject?

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

I am shocked to hear that 18% of buses might be cut. I think the previous Mayor of London was an enthusiastic supporter of buses and of making sure that the transport links within London worked. That is because the Conservative party recognises that getting people to work is very important. That is why we support transport to make sure that people can get to and from work and that the economy can continue to boom.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

Large numbers of people who had flights cancelled over the holiday period have not had compensation, and consumer experts fear that many who had to purchase extra flights and extra hotel nights and incur other costs will not get compensation. Could we have a debate in Government time on the legal loopholes preventing such compensation and on what might be done to prevent a repeat of that?

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

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight that; I too have had constituents affected in this negative way. I will make sure that the Department for Transport is aware of his comments. Trying to communicate what rights consumers have is the right thing to do, and I will encourage the Department to give that advice and make sure that it is made as widely available as possible so that constituents such as his and mine know their rights in those circumstances.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

The Backbench Business Committee agreed to a debate in my name on the armed forces compensation scheme and war pensions, and on 28 March in that debate the House agreed that we should have a public inquiry into the handling of the issues affecting thousands of our veterans. I followed it up with a written question, and on 25 April I was told that the Department had no intention of holding the public inquiry that this House had agreed to. Will the Leader of the House provide Government time so that we can consider the Government’s failure to comply with a resolution of this House?

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 I will make sure that the relevant Department is aware of his comments. While I am on my feet, I think it is also worth recognising the 40th anniversary of the Falklands war this week. We all have huge pride in our armed services and I know that, cross-party and across the House, we want to support our armed services. We may disagree on the way to do that, but we certainly share that support.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West

Joy was unconfined recently in the Cardiff City stadium in my constituency and across Wales when our men’s team qualified for the World cup for the first time in my lifetime. Great credit is due to Rob Page, the manager, and to the Football Association of Wales for the great leadership it has shown and the way it has linked the football team to our culture. At the same time, however, it has signed a deal with Viaplay, via UEFA, that will take Welsh language commentary off the free-to-air provision in the years to come. Would it not be a shame if, after such a wonderful sporting and cultural achievement, the great jewel of our Welsh language was to be taken off free-to-air television in one of its most popular dispensations—namely, through football?

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

I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Wales on their qualification. I hope they will succeed in the group and come at least second. We are of course the party of S4C, which is a great Welsh language channel. I will certainly make sure that the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is aware of the matter he has raised and write to her directly on his behalf.

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

By way of preamble, Mr Speaker, I wish to congratulate you on the acquisition of your new cat, Clem, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting this morning.

The Tories in Scotland have fought every election since 2014 with the slogan, “Vote Tory to stop an independence referendum”, yet since 2014 the SNP has clearly won every UK, Scottish Parliament and council election. The Leader of the House and his party have repeatedly and resoundingly been rejected by the Scottish electorate, but they think they know better when it comes to what the Scottish people want when choosing their own future. Will he make a statement explaining—I genuinely do not know the answer to this—why he and his Government believe that democratic choices matter unless you live in Scotland?

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

I also believe that democratic results matter. The result of the referendum was to remain within the UK. I understand why the hon. Lady wants to talk about this, because she does not want to concentrate on the terrible record of the Scottish Government. The more they talk about independence, the more we see through their plan to disguise their failing results in education and their inability to deliver for the people of Scotland.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Labour, Battersea

Today is Clean Air Day. Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to our health and causes around 64,000 premature deaths a year. We know that this Government have failed to take meaningful action to tackle air pollution. In my constituency, the PM2.5 concentration level is more than twice the World Health Organisation guideline. Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and it is beyond me why this Government will not commit to international health targets on air quality levels and will not be ambitious. Can we have a statement on what action the Government will take to tackle air quality?

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

The hon. Lady will have an opportunity at Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions next week to ask the Secretary of State directly. The Environment Act 2021 is a huge step forward in improving our environment, and there is an upcoming transport Bill. The Government are committed to improving our air and, on Clean Air Day, it is worth recognising the progress we have made, although there is further to go.

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

On Saturday I will be joining constituents at Summerfest in Cambuslang; we are all excited to see it return after a two-year break. There will be stalls, entertainment and community champion awards to recognise the work of local residents. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating John and Liz Edgar and everyone involved in organising the gala day? Will he schedule a debate in Government time to recognise the value of community-led events and the work that goes into them?

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. Lady in congratulating John and Liz Edgar. I am sorry I cannot make it to Summerfest, but I will be going to Renfest in the village of Rainworth in July. Up and down the country, community groups lay on events that draw people together and give us an opportunity to socialise, communicate and support each other.

Photo of Mary Foy Mary Foy Labour, City of Durham

Like the constituents of Scott Benton, many of my constituents are unable to register for an NHS dentist, and those who have registered are finding it difficult to access a dentist due to the exodus of dentists to the private sector. One constituent told me, “I cannot afford private treatment, so what can I do?” The British Dental Association has warned

“this is how NHS dentistry will die.”

Does the Leader of the House agree that it is simply unacceptable that people in Durham cannot afford to access dental appointments? I echo the call for a debate on the availability of dentists and the inequity of NHS dentistry.

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

I think I am right in saying there is an NHS dentistry debate next week, so I hope the hon. Lady will take that opportunity. The Government understand the challenges we face, which is why we are putting in huge volumes of cash to support our NHS. I look forward to listening to next week’s debate.