It will be a pleasure.
The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I have to ask him: what is it about Tuesday afternoons and Tory MPs finding themselves anywhere but the voting Lobby to defend their own Government? For the fourth week in a row, Labour has successfully passed Opposition day motions in this House. From cracking down on Tory sleaze and scandal to tackling the cost of living crisis and getting a grip on backlog Britain, Labour has a plan and Tories do not even bother turning up. Picking and choosing which votes they will respect and which they will ignore is no way to run a parliamentary democracy. It is disrespectful to this House, to which I remind him his Government are accountable. How will the Government honour Labour’s successful motions?
Whether it is passports, driving licences, GP and hospital appointments, queues at airports or even waiting times to start cancer treatment, backlog Britain is having a serious impact on people’s lives. Where is the plan? While I am on it, the Government have no plan that I can see to end the 12 years of slow growth and high taxation that we have suffered under successive Tory Governments. Will the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor to come to this House and deliver the emergency Budget that the country so badly needs?
Last week, the Leader of the House did not answer my question about when we can expect a new Government ethics adviser in post. I know that it is a tough job, given this Government’s record, but it is an important one and we need urgency. I ask the Leader of the House again: when will the vacancy be filled? Can he guarantee that investigations that were ongoing prior to Lord Geidt’s resignation will be completed?
The Social Security (Special Rules for End of Life) Bill will allow people who are thought to be in the final year of their life to get fast-tracked access to various benefits. My hon. Friend Jessica Morden has long campaigned for it. We all agree with it. There really is no excuse for the hold-up of this Bill. Terminally ill people deserve the reassurance that they will have the financial support that they need. It is a short Bill and has passed all stages in the Lords. Will the Leader of the House bring forward this incredibly important yet uncontroversial legislation for Second Reading as soon as possible?
I understand that the Youth Parliament has not yet received a date for when its members will be allowed to come to the House again. Is that because the Government have nothing to say about the many important issues affecting young people, and we do? Could the Leader of the House give the Youth Parliament a date for when its members will be welcomed back to the Chamber?
On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to go through the courts to try to hold an illegal referendum in Scotland. However, the First Minister gave the game away in her statement to the Scottish Parliament. It seems that it was not about a referendum; it was about the next general election. Nicola Sturgeon seems to be happy for the 700,000 people on NHS waiting lists in Scotland to take a back seat while constitutional debates take precedence for the Scottish National party. I note the striking similarities with the Conservative Westminster Government, who want to make the next election all about cultural wedge issues. The best way to protect and strengthen the UK is clearly to elect a Labour Government who will deliver for every nation and region of our country. The SNP has no greater asset in its attempt to break up the UK than the Prime Minister. Does the Leader of the House really think that propping up this failed Prime Minister is helping the Union?
Yesterday, the International Trade Secretary pulled out of her scheduled evidence session with the International Trade Committee on the UK-Australia trade deal, following a damning report the night before on—ironically—the lack of parliamentary scrutiny of the deal. As my right hon. Friend Nick Thomas-Symonds said yesterday, when a Secretary of State runs away from scrutiny of her own trade deal, it is worrying and, frankly, embarrassing. Will the Leader of the House remind his colleague of the importance of simply turning up for Select Committee sessions?
This Tory sense of entitlement is symbolic of a Government who have dragged their feet for more than a decade; a Government who are out of touch and out of ideas; a Government who are unable to govern, unwilling to govern, and indeed incapable of governing. As the voters said last Thursday, the Prime Minister’s game is up. It is time for a Labour Government with a plan to back working families.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. Let me begin by saying that we do have a plan for the NHS: we have a plan to invest in our health service. We introduced the health and social care levy in order to invest billions in it. She complained about the backlogs that covid has caused and the challenges that it has presented to the UK. Our plan is to invest in our health service, but she chose to vote against that investment rather than supporting it.
The hon. Lady talked about a Labour Government delivering for the UK. Let us just look at the facts. Let us, for instance, compare cancer outcomes in England with those in Wales. In England, 65% of cancer patients start treatment within six weeks; in Wales, the figure is only 55%. It is because Labour runs the NHS in Wales, and does not run it as efficiently as England, that the outcomes in Wales are not as positive as those in England, and that is a great shame.
The hon. Lady talked about the International Trade Committee. I understand that the Secretary of State has agreed a new date on which to go back to the Committee. It has had that report to scrutinise for more than six months. By the time we finish the CRaG process, we will have had seven months of scrutiny on that matter and I think that is right.
The hon. Lady can spend her time here complaining and claiming that Labour has a plan, but the simple fact is that the Labour party does not have a plan for the United Kingdom. The Government are getting on with meeting the challenges and solving the problems that we face. We said that we would recruit over 20,000 more police officers, and we have already recruited 13,500. We are investing a huge amount of cash—£39 billion—in helping people with the challenges of the cost of living.[This section has been corrected on
In two weeks’ time I will be hosting my first in-person event since the pandemic, which is a pensioners fair to bring together those organisations and agencies that help to support and provide opportunities for the more mature constituents of the Staffordshire Moorlands. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on those community groups that help to provide such great support to more mature people, particularly in the light of the loneliness and social isolation that many of them suffer?
Of course I would be delighted to support my right hon. Friend in that, and I pay tribute to her and the work she does in her constituency to support pensioners and give them help and advice on how to engage with the Government. I also pay tribute to members across the House who hold such events, which are a great asset to our communities.
We need a debate about democracy across the UK. We need to properly consider why this Government think it is okay to try to legally imprison a nation in what is supposed to be a voluntary Union of equals. We need to figure out why this Government seem to believe that democracy can somehow be put into some sort of Tory deep-freeze where people are not allowed to change their minds and their parliamentary majorities do not seem to matter. We need to debate why a nation should continually endure Governments that it did not vote for, and why these Tories think that our country is better being governed by them, rather than by the people who live and work in Scotland. We need to consider what Scotland has done to whatever Almighty is out there to end up being governed by this particular Prime Minister.
We need to debate all the broken promises that were made to Scotland last time: the untruth that only by voting to stay in the Union would we remain in the EU; and the daily attacks on our Parliament when we were promised near-federalism. We have to ask: is this broken Brexit Britain the best that Scotland can ever be and ever aspire to? In that debate, we have to look at the examples of similar-sized countries to Scotland that are powering ahead of Scotland, unshackled as they are from that bunch over on the Government Benches. We need to challenge the Government’s assumption that, with all our resources, skills and history of invention and creation, Scotland would somehow uniquely fail in the world. We need to ask them why they still believe that we are somehow too wee, poor and stupid to run our own affairs. More than that, we need to leave, and most importantly, we need to debate why any self-respecting country would want to remain in a Union that is prepared to do this to Scotland.
I think the direct answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question as to why other countries of a similar size are bouncing forward quicker than Scotland is that they do not have the anchor of the SNP running their Government and holding them back. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman: he is the master of smoke and mirrors. He wants to talk about this issue because he does not want people to focus on the disastrous education system in Scotland or the debacle of the Scottish ferries. He wants to put ideology ahead of the needs of the Scottish people. He talked about broken promises. What about the broken promises of the SNP Government, who said they would protect their children’s education and futures? They have not delivered on that; they have made it far worse. And when we look at the economic performance in Scotland, we can see that it is being held back by the SNP Government. The sooner Scotland has a Conservative-controlled Administration, the better off it will be.
I strongly commend the Government’s exemplary support for Ukraine, but when the head of the British Army compares today to 1937, we must listen and we must act. This is clearly not the time to be cutting our Army by 10,000 troops, because that sends a clear message to Putin that we are not in it for the long haul. We cannot sustain two battlegroups in Estonia and place pressure on the Army to conduct all its other duties to keep the nation safe. Can we have a debate, and indeed a vote, on reversing these cuts? If there were a free vote, I know how the House would act, and it would have the nation’s support.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that we are increasing defence spending by more than £24 billion over the next four years. We have announced another £1 billion of military support to Ukraine, taking our total military support to £2.3 billion, which is more than any country other than the United States. Our military have a huge, proud record around the world and in the UK, and we will continue to support them.
I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns.
I apologise to the House for missing the last two Thursdays due to the recurrence of a slipped disc. I managed to get a physiotherapy appointment last Thursday, which I am glad to say seems to be working.
I am glad the Leader of the House has announced Backbench Business time on
I received a letter from Her Majesty’s Passport Office yesterday in response to 17 different inquiries about missing passports on behalf of my constituents. Some of these 17 answers date back to inquiries submitted in March. We are still getting inquiries, on an almost daily basis, from constituents who are worried about their missing passports. The situation does not seem to have improved since I first raised it in the House back in late February or early March. Can we have a statement from the Home Secretary on what is being done to improve the situation? Whatever has been done already is not working.
On the challenges for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents in getting their passports, I hope he will recognise that the Home Office has recruited another 550 staff, with another 600 to come very soon.[This section has been corrected on
Can we have an urgent debate about the Secretary of State for Education’s mobile telephone? I have been lobbying him on behalf of Haileybury Turnford School for the past six months, as the sixth form needs a new roof. I have sent videos of water flooding into buckets through the leaking roof.
The Secretary of State says, “Send me a text, and I will see what I can do.” So I sent him a text, but it cannot have arrived because nothing happened. I say that because he may have a smartphone and I have this wonderful little Nokia, and maybe the two are not compatible. May I make a serious point? I think it is not fair on him not to be receiving my texts, and we need to find a fix to make sure action happens in future.
I do not underestimate my hon. Friend’s effort in typing texts on that phone. I will make sure his comments are passed to the Secretary of State for Education. The Government are investing huge amounts in our schools to make sure they are fit to educate the next generation, and I am sure the Secretary of State will continue to do that. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s comments.
He should borrow the Leader of the House’s phone, as it might get through quicker.
Each morning, Royal Mail delivery offices around the country are having to decide which streets to rotate and not get their letters. This is because of the wholesale restructuring in Royal Mail, by agreement, involving about 1,400 managers, but a further 900 delivery office managers are now being made redundant and the strain is showing in service delivery. Can we have an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the failure of Royal Mail senior management to implement a restructuring that actually delivers a service for the people of this country?
Of course, I will pass the hon. Gentleman’s comments directly to the Secretary of State. Royal Mail is an organisation that delivers, literally, for our constituents up and down the country, and people deserve to have their mail arrive on time. Lots of businesses and individuals rely on that service, and I will make sure the Secretary of State is aware of his comments directly.
I have raised the issue of Belper mill with my right hon. Friend on previous occasions, as well as directly with the heritage Minister. The Derwent Valley mills world heritage site brings huge benefits to Derbyshire, both economically and culturally. Unfortunately, Belper mill, in the middle of the world heritage site, is in terrible disrepair, under the management of an absent, dreadful owner. Please may we have a debate in this House about the importance of cultural heritage assets to local communities, particularly the country’s globally renowned UNESCO world heritage sites, so that this does not continue to happen in other places, as well as in Belper?
I thank my hon. Friend for her question, and I pay tribute to her and the work she has done on this matter. It is important that we protect our nation’s cultural heritage for everyone to enjoy for many years to come. Our 38 designated world heritage sites across the UK are some of the finest examples that are recognised at a global level by UNESCO, and I will ensure that the heritage Minister is made aware of her concerns and will write directly.
In 2020, the Government finally admitted that the four-year freeze on local housing allowance was completely unsustainable and raised rates to the 30th percentile of local rents, but since then the freeze has been reimposed. Last year alone, rents across the UK rose by an average of 11% and in Nottingham they rose by 13%. There are simply no homes available right now in our city at LHA rates, and families, who are already facing huge energy bills, rising food prices and higher taxes, cannot fill the gap. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities on whether he intends to do his job and take action to protect my constituents from, at best, severe hardship and, at worst, homelessness?
I hope the hon. Lady would recognise the huge contribution that the Exchequer is making to support people with the challenges on the cost of living and what the Secretary of State is doing to help people in the circumstances that she describes. This is why we are introducing the renters reform Bill. It was announced in the Queen’s Speech and is coming in this Session. That will be a huge step forward to help people in those circumstances, and I hope she will be in her place to support that Bill as it progresses through the House.
This week, I have had the honour of hosting the delegation from Mozambique for Mozambique in the UK Week. Yesterday, we were in the City to see agricultural investment opportunities in both our countries. I am fortunate to be serving on the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill Committee, where we heard evidence from the National Farmers Union this week about how it wants us to press on with this legislation to give opportunities for increased crop yields and trade, and reduced environmental impact. Does the Leader of the House agree that Britain is a world-class agricultural leader and it is a shame that the SNP Administration in Scotland and Welsh Labour are not allowing this opportunity for us to show our scientific endeavour, on the basis of historical and unscientific fears?
I thank my hon. Friend for her timely question. Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where I learnt at first hand about how world-leading genetic research is being conducted in Scotland. I met Professor Bruce Whitelaw, who explained how the fascinating research can help us to reduce the terrible impact of disease in our agricultural sector. This will bring huge opportunities to UK agriculture and promises fantastic opportunities for the whole of the UK. I sincerely hope that her prediction is wrong and that the Scottish and Welsh Governments will reconsider and give and Scottish and Welsh farmers access to that brilliant technology, so that they can work alongside English farmers together.
It is nice to see how Labour and the Conservatives ally on this issue.
Those referendums took place over 47 years. That means that a referendum happens in Scotland every 7.8 years. Our referendum on Indyref2, which will take place next year, will be comfortably within that margin. Why are the Government using time as a measure of why this is not appropriate at this time? The Leader of the House cannot say what the people of Scotland want, because we have been rejecting his party since 1955.
It is a question not of time, but of priority. The priority of the UK Government is supporting our constituents with the challenges of the cost of living, with improving our education service, and with investing in police officers. I understand why the SNP wants to distract people from its terrible record in Scotland. It wants to put ideology ahead of the needs of the Scottish people. It should be concentrating on making sure that the Scottish people get the level of service from their Government that they deserve.
As we look forward to the UK’s largest sporting event, the British Grand Prix, this weekend, by your kind permission, Mr Speaker, Parliament came alive this week to the technologies that the motor sport sector has offered us over the years—from the examples of the Formula 1 turbo-hybrid era, to all-electric Extreme E, Formula E and the bambino karts and to a classic Jaguar E-Type that ran solely on sustainable fuels at Goodwood last weekend.
Where motorsport technology leads, other sectors follow. Can we have a debate to explore the full panoply of technologies being developed by the motorsport sector to ensure that, in terms of their future use, cars, aviation, shipping, agricultural machinery and beyond have a wide eclectic future, and not just a monotype battery electric future?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, because I think he is the chair of the all-party group on motorsport, and to you, Mr Speaker, for allowing the use of Speaker’s Court for some of that amazing technology and for those amazing cars. It was a true privilege to be able to see those motor vehicles.
My hon. Friend is right to pay tribute to the industry, which brings forward amazing technology here in the United Kingdom that is driving world investment and benefiting the UK economy. I do not know whether he had the opportunity to raise this in Transport questions this morning, but I will make sure that his comments are passed on to the Secretary of State.
Later today, the all-party group on leasehold and commonhold reform, of which I am proud to be a co-chair, will be hosting a reception. Among other things, it will be marking the life of the late Louis Burns, who did so much to campaign on leasehold reform. We will also be marking the introduction of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022. However, the big question that we will all still be asking is: when will ground rents be banned for existing leaseholders? We have had promises now for nearly five years from successive Government Ministers. Can we have a statement, please, with a date when leasehold ground rents will be banned on all homes?
As I said to the hon. Gentleman’s colleague, Lilian Greenwood, a moment ago, the lease reform Bill is coming forward, which is a huge step forward. It will be an opportunity for the House to debate those matters, but the Government are committed to help and support people across all constituencies to get access to housing. We want to see people own their own home, and also to be able to get on to the housing ladder and to access a home to build a future for themselves.
Unscrupulous private parking companies are a blight to my constituents in Wrexham. Following a survey that I undertook, I highlighted concerns to Ministers, and, last February, they introduced a code of practice for parking firms. However, all has gone quiet. Can the Leader of the House please explain what is happening and how we can ensure that the Government hold these unjust private companies to task?
I thank my hon. Friend for her question; it is a very important one. I know that the Department has temporarily withdrawn the code in response to legal proceedings issued by some members of the private parking industry. We are disappointed by that setback, but we are committed to reintroducing a code that provides the best possible protection for motorists, and we will continue to work with the industry and consumer groups to introduce a new code as quickly as possible.
Can we have a debate on the teaching of geography, especially to Ministers and civil servants? Anyone passing through a UK airport at the moment will see adverts—doubtless quite expensive adverts—for the GREAT campaign, which features a map of most of the country. I say “most” of the country, because that map does not include Orkney or Shetland. It does include the Isle of Man—which, last time I looked, was not part of this country. It is a bit insulting to the many businesses in Orkney and Shetland, which are at the forefront of leading technology exports, to see ourselves excluded by our own Government in this way. Will the Leader of the House fix it?
I understand the point the right hon. Gentleman makes. He is a huge advocate for Orkney and Shetland, and I know he will continue to ensure their voice is heard in this House. I will make sure that those Ministers responsible for the advertising campaign are aware of their faux pas.
I sympathise with the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, as I am suffering from the same condition; perhaps he will grant a debate on the use of NHS chiropractors for the relief of pain.
My constituents Max and Janet are the parents of Adam, who was born last year with a rare neurological condition that will require full-time care. They are just two of many parents who will be full-time carers to a disabled child. As the Leader of the House will know, disability living allowance and carer’s allowance for children are there to assist with the extra costs of caring for a child, but not necessarily as a supplement for lost income. Can the Government make time for a debate on how we can better support parents who are full-time carers for disabled children and therefore unable to work full time?
Of course the Government want to do all we can to support parents such as Max and Janet. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s question to the appropriate Minister. Carers on low incomes can claim income-related benefits such as universal credit and pensions credit, and millions of the most vulnerable households, including carers, will receive at least £1,200 in one-off support later this year to help with the cost of living challenges they face. The household support fund is worth, I think, £1.5 billion; that is a huge investment to try to help people such as Max and Janet.
The hon. Lady will have an opportunity directly to question the Secretary of State for Health on
My constituent was asleep in his bed with his pregnant wife and a small child when a drunken neighbour started kicking in his door. He went to answer the door and was attacked. He needed 10 stitches to his face and mouth. The custody sergeant in this case decided that a caution was the appropriate sanction. We believe the punishment must fit the crime. May we have a debate on the issue of cautions where there is assault occasioning actual bodily harm?
My hon. Friend raises a very concerning case and I will pass on her question directly to the Home Secretary. The Government have made clear our determination to cut crime and make our streets safer; that is why this financial year we will invest £130 million in tackling serious violent crime, including £64 million for violence reduction units and our commitment to recruiting 20,000 more police officers before the next general election.
With the cost of living crisis hitting, I have been contacted by many constituents who live on houseboats, in flats or in park homes who are not eligible for the £400 discount on energy bills. Can we have a debate in Government time on ways in which we can support people who do not pay their energy bills direct?
The Government are very much aware of this issue, which was raised a number of times at Treasury questions this week. That is why the Treasury is looking at the way in which these things are calculated. It is also why we are investing £39 billion to support people with the cost of living challenge that we face.[This section has been corrected on
Howard Provis from Barry recently completed his 1,000th donation of blood and blood platelets. He is an example to us all. His first donation was made at the age of 18 and he has continued to donate for almost 50 years. Can we have a debate on the importance of giving blood? That would be an opportunity to recognise people such as Howard Provis for their commitment to the NHS and to NHS patients and as a great example of how people can give back in support of their community.
Wow! Howard has clearly been a huge servant to the NHS, and thousands and thousands of people will have benefited from his donations. I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to him. Giving blood saves lives and donations are vital to our NHS. It would be a suitable topic for a Westminster Hall debate, and I encourage him to seek such a debate so that he can once again pay tribute to Howard.
Earlier this month, I met Magic Breakfast, a fantastic charity that supports young people with a nutritious, healthy breakfast. It supports five schools across my constituency. But the cost of living crisis is hitting families so hard, with 33% of London parents saying that they have skipped a meal to save money so that their children can eat, and this is only going to get worse as we see the cost of living increasing into the autumn and winter. Children will be going to school hungry. Will the Leader of the House find time to have an urgent debate on how we can all work together to make sure that no child is going to school hungry?
I pay tribute to the work that Magic Breakfast is doing, but the Government do understand this challenge. That is why we are bringing forward £37 billion in support this year alone. We are providing new one-off cost of living payments of £650 to more than 8 million low-income households, separate one-off payments of £300 to 8 million pensioner households, and £150 to individuals receiving disability benefits. That is a huge amount of cash that is going to go to those people who are the most vulnerable in society, and it is a recognition of the challenge we face and the level of support we want to offer them.
Does the Leader of the House agree that after years of neglect our mining towns need more than words to really level up? With that in mind, will he ask the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to look favourably at Don Valley’s bid in round 2 of the levelling-up funding when submitted, as evidently my constituency has been forgotten for far too long?
I declare my interest as someone who represents former mining communities that have also put in levelling-up bids to try to improve the outcomes in those communities. I wish my hon. Friend well with his bid. I know that Members across the House are putting bids forward. This is a huge investment that we are about to make in those communities, and I wish him well with his pursuit of it.
The Government and the rail industry are failing Hull and the Humber—and this has nothing to do with strikes. The Government left Hull and the Humber out of the 30-year integrated rail plan. TransPennine is cancelling services every day because it cannot provide drivers for the trains, and Network Rail seems to have a problem with signalling on a number of occasions each week. Can we have a debate on why this Government are not levelling up transport for Hull and the Humber?
Obviously we had Transport questions this morning. I think the right hon. Lady is a little disingenuous in what she says. The Government are investing billions of pounds in rail, with £35 billion of rail investment from 2022 to 2025, £96 billion through the integrated rail plan and £16 billion during the pandemic to keep the railways running, as well as over £24 billion of strategic road investment. We are investing in our infrastructure systems, and especially in rail. We are investing in our infrastructure systems, and especially in rail. That is because of our commitment to those rail industries. She said this has nothing to do with strikes, but I would gently to say to her that those strikes are having a huge impact on people’s ability to get around the country, and I hope she would encourage her union friends to get back to the table and to talk to Network Rail.
This week I handed in a petition to Parliament to raise awareness of the campaign to save PRYZM nightclub in Watford. Not only is PRYZM the only town-based nightclub in Hertfordshire, but it has played a role in Watford’s night-time economy for more than 40 years under various names, including Paradise Lost, Baileys and Oceana, bringing thousands of people to the high street every weekend. Will my right hon. Friend confirm how I could hold a debate on protecting PRYZM and other similar venues across the country, which play such an important role in our night-time economy and in communities, where their loss could have a devastating impact on local businesses and the taxi trade?
I recognise the huge contribution to the night-time economy that nightclubs and bars make in our towns up and down the country. My nightclubbing days are probably now behind me, but I encourage my hon. Friend to talk to my right hon. Friends the Members for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock) and for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), who may be able to assist him.
I remind the Leader of the House of my call for a debate last week on road air pollution, which is killing so many children and adults up and down the country in every constituency. May I inform him that I am wearing a sophisticated air quality monitor? I will keep Mr Speaker and the Leader of the House in touch about what it is picking up—it is looking pretty worrying at the moment. Could we have an early debate on what is happening in universities to the humanities and the arts? Many departments are being closed. The Government seem to be pushing universities not to have a full spread of higher education subjects. Surely we do not want to go back to renaming half the universities in the country as polytechnics. Could we have an early debate?
I recognise what the hon. Gentleman said about air quality. We are spending £900 million to tackle air pollution and improve public health, and our clean air strategy has been praised by the World Health Organisation. He also mentioned the arts and what universities are doing to promote them. That is clearly a huge industry in the UK, and a big part of the global market is owned and occupied by UK-based artists, and that will continue, and the Government will continue to support them.
Can we please have a debate on London? The Mayor of London has three principal priorities. One is policing, one is transport, and one is housing. The Met is in special measures, the tube is on strike, buses are being cut, and housing starts are way behind target. Frankly, he is failing my constituents, and they deserve better. Can we have a debate on London?
My hon. Friend is once again right to draw the House’s attention to how the Mayor of London is letting Londoners down. In her, he has a tenacious opponent, and someone who will continue to fight for her constituents. I know she will not allow the Mayor to continue unchallenged in not delivering for her constituents, and I am sure that the House would be delighted to support her in a debate of such a nature.
It is more than 100 months since Putin started his invasion of Ukraine, and he must fail. I am truly worried that we are not taking this anywhere near seriously enough, even after what the Government and NATO have done in the past few days. We still have not tackled the illegal dodgy Russian money in the UK. We have not got pretty much any hardware left to send to Ukraine, and we need to ramp that up rapidly. It looks like the defence budget will be seeing a real-terms cut over the next three years. Can we have the debate that the Chair of the Defence Committee, Mr Ellwood called for earlier, and a vote, because we really need—all of us—to take this issue far more urgently and seriously?
I recognise that this topic has the benefit of cross-party support. I know that the whole House wants to see Putin’s invasion of Ukraine fail. We are serious about dealing with the challenge of those who support that regime. That is why we passed the sanctions Act and introduced the first economic crime Act. There will be a further Bill in this Session to continue to clamp down on this issue. The hon. Gentleman will have seen that yesterday the Prime Minister announced another £1 billion-worth of support for Ukraine. That makes us its second biggest supporter behind the US of any country in the world. The Government will continue to lead on this matter.
May we have a debate or a statement from the Government on round 2 of the levelling-up fund? My local authority, Glasgow City Council, is putting in an ambitious bid for the regeneration of Easterhouse town centre. Such a statement or debate would allow me the opportunity to lobby the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to give that money to Easterhouse to ensure that we can make huge progress on the development, along with the Scottish Government.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the second round of bidding is under way. People are putting forward their bids. I wish him well, as I do Members across the House. The Government are committed to making that investment across our communities, and I know that there will be much excitement when the results are announced.
The Thornberry animal sanctuary in North Anston in Rother Valley suffered a power cut early in the morning on
I am sorry to hear of the plight of that animal sanctuary. Ofgem sets the service levels that distribution network operators must meet. I understand that, due to the length of the power outage experienced by Thornberry animal sanctuary, the criteria for compensation were not met. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend who, in asking the question today, has shone a spotlight on the animal sanctuary’s plight. I only hope that it results in charitable support for the animal sanctuary, and that the sanctuary recognises his work to support it as a small contribution to that.
My constituent Debra and her daughter Poppy recently attended my surgery to ask for my help in raising awareness of brittle asthma, a rare but severe condition that can easily be triggered by smoke from barbeques or bonfires, and that can quickly lead to weeks in hospital or even prove fatal. Will the Leader of the House join me in praising the campaigning work of Debra and Poppy? May we have a debate in Government time on the importance of clean air and raising awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke?
Of course I join the hon. Lady in praising Debra and Poppy for their work to highlight this condition. In communities, it can almost be antisocial to have bonfires, given the impact on friends and neighbours. In pursuing this matter, the hon. Lady will draw that antisocial behaviour to the attention of many people across the House.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which is, incidentally, the oldest non-partisan economic research institute in the UK, recommended that the UK Government insure against rate rises in quantitative easing reserves by converting them into Government bonds with longer maturity. The Government did not take that advice, with the result that the UK has an enormous bill, as well as heavy and continuing exposure to interest rate risk. That has led to the squandering of £11 billion of taxpayers’ money—that is £2,000 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. Will the Leader of the House make a statement explaining the staggering level of UK Government incompetence and say who he believes should be held responsible?
The hon. Lady will be aware that Treasury questions happened this week. I am not sure whether she was in her place to ask the Chancellor about that directly. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is making sure that our economy is robust and fit for the future, so that we can continue to invest in our great public services. That is the way forward. We must continue to get more people into work to make sure that the economy is bouncing forward, so that we have the cash available to keep investing.
I was delighted to be at the opening of the Harper Street project in the great village of Middleport, next door to the mothertown of Burslem, where we recently hosted the UK Cabinet. The project has regenerated a row of terraced houses: some are now businesses, one will host the Middleport Matters community trust, and another is a 1950s lodgekeeper’s house that transports people back in time to life in the Potteries at their peak. Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and all the other organisations that made the £2.5 million regeneration project possible? Let us have a debate on how Stoke-on-Trent is the leading city in the country for heritage regeneration.
I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all the organisations that are supporting Stoke-on-Trent. I also pay tribute to him, because he is a true champion for Stoke-on-Trent and has brought renewed enthusiasm and vigour to that town, along with his colleagues. Stoke-on-Trent has a bright future with him as its champion.
Gujarat is one of India’s greatest and fastest growing states. As part of our country’s efforts to increase trade with India, one would have thought that there would be at least a small package of support for those in this country who want to teach the next generation the languages of Gujarat, in particular Gujarati, but there is not. As a result, there has been a steep decline in the number of people taking GCSE Gujarati in the last 10 years. Can the Leader of the House encourage the Secretary of State for Education to publish a statement setting out what he might do to reverse that trend?
The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise that important matter directly at Education questions next week. As he identifies, India is a great opportunity for UK trade, which is to the mutual benefit of India and the United Kingdom. We should invest in anything that we can do to support and encourage that trade, including the speaking of languages.
There are undoubtedly many good people in the Home Office working hard on the Ukraine visa schemes, but we have all seen the evidence that it is just too slow. We have two cases that are now approaching 10 weeks old. The applicants are generally women and young people who are fleeing a war zone in desperately stressful circumstances. Can we have a debate about how we can get more resource into the Home Office to help out those who work there?
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter. As of
May I press the Leader of the House on the issue of people waiting for passports, specifically children and young people? I have young people who have been waiting for passports since April. In some cases, the parents have received the renewed passports and the children have not. I am sure he understands that that is causing significant anxiety for parents who want to take their children away in the summer holidays, which are fast approaching. Some parents are utterly perplexed by how changing a name, or going from a five-year passport to a 10-year passport, can cause such a delay. I ask him to bring forward a statement from the Home Office to explain what specific support it is providing to families to ensure that passports are issued in good time for the summer.
The whole House will recognise that we all deserve a holiday. Up and down the country, people are keen to take that opportunity and they need their passports to do that. The House has debated the matter a lot: we have had two urgent questions and an Opposition day debate. That is why the Home Office is investing in extra staff, and will continue to do so; some 650 additional staff have already been brought in and another 550 will arrive soon. If the hon. Gentleman writes to me with the specific case that he highlights, I will make sure that the Home Secretary looks at it.
It is now 462 days since the end of the consultation on the Government’s proposed reform of gambling legislation. Five hundred people have taken their own lives as a direct result of problem gambling since then, and today someone else will take that tragic way out. I have heard the reasons and excuses for the delay in publishing the White Paper, but, frankly, none of those excuses stands up to any scrutiny. Can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that the White Paper will be published at the very latest before the start of the summer recess? Can I urge him to advise his Cabinet colleagues, if the cause of the delay is that they cannot agree, to bring a Bill to this House and let Parliament do its job, rather than whipping their Back Benchers to do something they may not want to do? Every day’s delay costs another human life.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and we do want to make sure that we get the right balance between respecting freedom of choice and preventing harm. In the coming weeks we will publish the White Paper, which will set out our vision for the sector, but I am sure the relevant Ministers will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s comments.
I am becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of response from the Home Office on urgent non-Ukraine asylum and visa applications. In fact, my team have been told that standard completion times have been suspended. One of many cases I am dealing with is that of a young man whose asylum application has been pending for five years, with no resolution in sight. Can the Leader of the House please assist me with this, and urge his colleagues to ensure that their teams have the necessary resources to action long-standing casework urgently?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and this is of course something the Government take very seriously. We are a very generous nation when it comes to asylum seekers. We want to make sure that we continue to be a generous nation and support those who come here via legitimate routes, but we also want to break the model of those who exploit the very vulnerable people crossing the channel. I am sure we will continue that support and continue to be a very generous nation in the world.
Next week, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland hosts the 2022 freedom of religion or belief international ministerial conference. We all welcome that, and I am very pleased that the Government have taken that step. This is the largest UK Government-hosted event this year, and it will bring together Government officials, Ministers, faith and belief leaders and civil society organisations from over 60 countries to promote respect between different religious and non-religious communities around the world. During the conference, there will be more than 35 side events happening in Parliament. As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international freedom of religion or belief, can I please use this opportunity to invite the Leader of the House and all present today to as many of those events as they are able to attend?
I was concerned for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was not bobbing, because his question reminds me of that moment when I rummage around in the Quality Street tin and find the last little green triangle at the bottom. If he could pass on the details of those events, I will do my best to attend and support him in the way he supports religious groups all around the world on a regular basis.