Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:59 am on 14th July 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.

Monday 18 July—Consideration of a motion of confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.

Tuesday 19 July—Consideration in Committee of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (day 2).

Wednesday 20 July—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (day 3).

Thursday 21 July—General debate on UK sanctions for human rights abuses and corruption, followed by the Sir David Amess summer adjournment debate. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the summer recess at the conclusion of business on Thursday 21 July and return on Monday 5 September.

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

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I note the pleasure, on all sides of the House, at the forthcoming Sir David Amess debate. I wonder if it will be the opening dispatch from the deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Mr Bone, opposite my hon. Friend Jessica Morden.

I am surprised to see the Leader of the House in his place, as all we can gather from his statement and everything else we have heard from his party this week is that his Government are done. They have given up on governing. Tories are running scared, blocking Labour’s vote of no confidence—another new low; morally and constitutionally bankrupt to the bitter end. It is a core convention that the Government must be able to command the confidence of the House and that Opposition motions of no confidence are given time. That has been the case for centuries. Indeed, the Tory party itself tabled a very similar motion on 2 August 1965, as my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, which states, and I quote because I have checked it:

“deplores the Prime Minister’s conduct of the nation’s affairs.”—[Official Report, 2 August 1965; Vol. 717, c. 1070.]

That is what we want to do.

So, I ask the Leader of the House, why was that Tory motion acceptable, but Labour’s motion is not? I think we know why, Mr Speaker. It is clearly a political decision: a Tory party clinging on to a law-breaking national embarrassment brass-neckery—I am not sure whether I have used that word correctly, but my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer used it yesterday—of a Prime Minister. Labour’s motion is entirely orderly and the Leader of the House knows it. I have checked. So, could he please point to the part of “Erskine May” where it says the Government can now choose to accept or reject or dictate the wording of an orderly motion of no confidence purely on a political whim?

The Leader of the House announced today that the Government have tabled a motion of confidence in themselves for Monday. What makes him think that it is right for the Government to dictate to Her Majesty’s Opposition which orderly motions we can table? If they do not want any sort of confidence motion, do you know what they could do, Mr Speaker? They could get rid of the Prime Minister now. He should not be in No. 10 Downing Street a single day further.

I am afraid it is the Government’s incompetence that means the Online Safety Bill has been delayed yet again. I see just now chaos online between Tory Ministers and leadership candidates in their opinions on that. I am sorry, but the Government have had years to bring in this Bill. I called for it for months from the Dispatch Box. They could have brought it in months and months ago. Delaying it means inaction on making children safer online and on tackling fraud and scams. It is on them, Mr Speaker. How long is the Leader of the House going to delay the Bill this time?

From flagrant breaches of long-standing constitutional conventions to not turning up. After spending all her time deciding whether or not to join the circus that is the Tory leadership contest, the Home Secretary just did not bother turning up to be scrutinised by the Home Affairs Committee yesterday. Can the Leader of the House please tell us what it is about passport delays, asylum delays, rising crime, falling prosecutions, record low rape charges and record high fraud that makes the Home Secretary run away from the Select Committee? Lots of preparation goes into these sessions, not just from Members on all sides but from staff. Will the Leader of the House please remind his Cabinet colleague about the importance of just turning up? We have a Prime Minister hinting that he will not turn up to his last Prime Minister’s questions; and with ambulance services in crisis, instead of coming to this House yesterday and telling us what he is going to do about it, why was the Health Secretary somewhere else, tweeting support for a leadership candidate? Will the Leader of the House ask the Health Secretary to take some responsibility, come to this House and make a statement on why the longer the Tories are in power, the longer patients wait?

We can believe the former Chancellor when he said this week that he has no working-class friends, because literally none of them here are doing any work! But this is serious: the Prime Minister has already done untold damage to our country and to standards in public life. He has repeatedly been caught disrespecting the British people, and his pattern of behaviour as Foreign Secretary shows that he is potentially a risk to national security. Those on the Tory Benches are all complicit. They know that he is not fit to govern—they told the public so just days ago—and they are now propping him up until September. He must not be allowed to stay over the summer, when he will have no parliamentary scrutiny and can do whatever he wants.

This situation needs more than challenging the Tory at the top. Conservative Members have failed to remove the man they admitted was entirely unfit for office, and they are all culpable. Labour will act in the national interest and vote with no confidence in this failed and frankly dangerous Prime Minister and his Government, because we need a fresh start with a Labour Government who will reboot our economy, end the cost of living crisis, revitalise our public services, re-energise our communities, unite our country and clean up our politics.

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

I start by welcoming the deputy Leader of the House of Commons to his place. It was a very wise decision to appoint him, and it will certainly make business questions easier for me to have him sitting on the Front Bench rather than on the Back Benches asking awkward questions.

Turning to the weekly rant from Thangam Debbonaire, let us get to the crux of the matter. The Labour party wants a no-confidence vote and we are supplying it with one. The wording is now constitutionally correct. It is not my fault that the Labour party cannot seem to copy and paste from what is constitutionally accepted, but we are giving it its confidence vote on Monday. I trust she will be in her place

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

I hope that I will be with the hon. Gentleman in giving confidence to the Government.

The hon. Member for Bristol West also says that we are not getting on with the job, but that is absolutely not true. Payments are landing in people’s bank accounts today to help them with the challenges of the cost of living—£326 is being given to 8 million households. That is the Government getting on with the business of supporting people through the challenges that we face. Rather than being in the Westminster bubble making cheap political points and trying to stir up trouble, the Government are delivering for people on the challenges that we face.

The Home Secretary will be in her place the next time we have Home Office questions. I am sure that she will be very keen to stand by her record of recruiting 20,000 more police officers; we already have 13,500. We have given more powers to the police and are giving them £17 billion extra this year. We are ensuring that our police have resources through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. We produced our beating crime plan last summer. We have a huge track record of defending police officers and pushing down crime. The shadow Leader of the House should pay tribute to the Home Secretary.

The hon. Lady will be aware that we are recruiting even more people to the Passport Office to try to help. The vast majority of passports are now being delivered within six weeks, so progress is being made—[Interruption.] It is factually correct that a huge volume of the people who apply for a passport now get it within six weeks.

The hon. Lady mentioned that the Health Secretary was busy; he will be here next week for health questions. I am sure he will point out to her when he gets to the Dispatch Box that although there are challenges following covid and queues that we need to overcome—that is why we are investing in our health service through the social care levy—compared with Wales, the queues are shorter in England. That is because the Conservative party is managing the health service in England whereas the Labour party is doing so in Wales, where the queues are longer and the challenges are not being met with the same efficiency. The hon. Lady needs to stop trying to score her cheap political points and recognise and celebrate what the Government are doing to support people.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough

The Ministry of Justice wants to build a large new prison in my constituency, on a beautiful piece of open land between Lubenham and Foxton. It is completely the wrong place to build a new prison; it will force smaller traffic on to some very narrow country lanes, including in front of a rural primary school. There is also an issue of democracy: Harborough District Council clearly voted against the prison proposal, because it was not in its local plan. I asked the Ministry of Justice not to appeal against the decision, but unfortunately it has done so, as it has done in other locations. I am in favour of new prisons— we need new prisons, because we need longer prison sentences—but this is not the right location. There must be a better brownfield location for the new prison. Can we please have a debate about the new prisons programme? I know that the same issue is occurring elsewhere.

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

My hon. Friend is a tenacious campaigner for his constituents and I know that he will make sure we get to the right decision. I will pass my hon. Friend’s comments directly to the Secretary of State for Justice and ask him to write to my hon. Friend about the matter.

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

It would be remiss of me not to congratulate Mr Bone and welcome him to his place. He is the very epitome of bizarre Brexitism, and he is now finally part of the payroll that up to now he has always loathed. When they have got so far down the pecking order to fill places in this ramshackle Government, we know that they have finally reached the bare Bones.

We need a debate about squatting and forced evictions, because we have a problem here in central London that we need to resolve. At the bottom end of Whitehall, there is someone we just cannot get rid of: Schrödinger’s Prime Minister, simultaneously gone and apparently still here. His latest wheeze is this vote on Monday: a Government tabling a vote of confidence in themselves. It would be great to think that they have finally got it and that they will be joining us in relieving this nation of this appalling Conservative Government, but actually it is more ridiculous than that. Knowing that any motion specifying the Prime Minister would probably be passed in this House, they have decided to make it a motion about a Government they can barely fill—a motion of confidence in themselves. Denying Labour’s legitimate motion was just shocking; it was against every principle of House democracy. Any Opposition must be able to table a motion of confidence in the Government at any time and in any way they want.

Wednesday was an appalling instance of democracy denial, but at least it was a diversion from the tedious, grotesque Tory anti-beauty parade. The “I’m the Most Right-Wing Candidate…Get Me Out of Here!” franchise is making Margaret Thatcher look almost like Mary Poppins. One of those people is going to be Prime Minister. For the third time in a row, a small group of Conservative party members will determine who governs Scotland. Is it not therefore timely that today our First Minister will lay out the democratic case for an independent Scotland? I do not know what will be in it, Mr Speaker, but I can tell you something: it will be almost the exact opposite of what happens in this place.

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 questions. When he had a pop at my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough, I think he lost the Chamber. My hon. Friend is very popular in this place.

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

I am confident that we would win that Division quite handsomely, to be honest.

Pete Wishart wants to pivot to talking about a referendum on independence, because he does not want to focus on the record of the SNP in Scotland. The Government are getting on with the job: we are delivering for millions of people up and down this country, including in Scotland, where people will be getting large amounts of support to help with the challenges of the cost of living. That is what we are focused on.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be here next week to make the same point about the need for a referendum. I will give him the same answer: we are focused on getting on with the job, and we will not fall for his smoke and mirrors.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Mid Sussex

The delivery of the urgently needed and far too long-awaited town centre revitalisation in Burgess Hill is an absolute priority for me. Nearby, 3,500 homes are coming forward, supported by Homes England. Our spade-ready pride in place bid for round 2 of levelling-up fund round 2 is ready to go. Will the Leader of the House please make time for a debate in Government time about how levelling up in action is based not on geography, but on the Government responding well to the needs of all our communities?

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

I wish my hon. Friend well with the bid for Burgess Hill and her ambitions to improve that area. She will be aware that there is a £4.8 billion levelling-up fund that I am sure she has been bidding into. I know that Members across the House will be making their bids and putting them in as we speak, and I wish all colleagues well with that process.

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

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business, particularly the Sir David Amess summer Adjournment debate next Thursday.

I welcome Mr Bone to his place. He is a former member of the Backbench Business Committee. This is more proof that the Committee is an amazing springboard for ministerial advancement. Conservative Members should therefore be rushing to their Whips Office to volunteer to take the currently unfilled place on the Committee that the Government should have. I am looking forward to that in no short order.

A report issued this week—it is no shock to many of us—shows that a greater proportion of children in the north-east of England are now living in poverty than in any other part of the country. Child poverty is not a new phenomenon in the north-east, but it is getting much worse and rapidly so. Can we have a statement from the Government on what they are going to do to lift children in constituencies across the north-east out of poverty as a matter of urgency?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman, because the Sir David Amess debate was the idea of the Backbench Business Committee and I pay tribute to the Committee for coming forward with that plan. He referred to the fact that the Committee is the springboard to ministerial greatness. I would say to colleagues on the Back Benches that, like the Deputy Speaker, if you serve on that Committee for 17 years, you too could aspire to ministerial greatness.

On the hon. Gentleman’s very serious point about child poverty, the Government do recognise that there are huge challenges out there at the moment with global spikes in the cost of fuel and food. That is why we are coming forward with huge amounts of money. We have unveiled a £15 billion intervention to help households in these challenging times. Today, payments of £326 will be landing in 8 million households. We are also providing one-off payments of £300 to 8 million pensioner households and £150 to individuals receiving disability benefits. We are doubling the value of the October universal energy bill discount to £400 and scrapping the requirement to repay that money. That is a huge intervention to try to help people in these times of global turmoil.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

Could we have a debate about the Boys Brigade? That would allow me to congratulate 1st Buckie Boys Brigade on receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the most prestigious award for voluntary organisations and is richly deserved by 1st Buckie, one of the biggest companies anywhere in the United Kingdom, in this their 75th year. They are also helped by dedicated officers and helpers, 14 of whom were recently given awards for a combined total of 455 years’ service. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating 1st Buckie Boys Brigade and everyone involved who has made this company so successful?

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

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating 1st Buckie. It is a huge achievement that they have been given this award, particularly in the platinum jubilee year. I pay tribute not only to 1st Buckie but to Boys Brigades up and down the country, and to all the volunteers who help them to keep young people busy, occupied and stimulated.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Last Saturday was the Durham miners gala, with this big meeting taking place after an absence of two years. It is magnificent to see the banners flying and the brass bands playing again. I was proud to march behind the banner of Chopwell in my constituency and then to join the Greenside banner, which was an emotional experience as we remembered our dear friend and colleague Jack Graham MBE, who did so much to contribute to our local community and our local mining heritage. Can we have a debate in Government time on the importance of the Durham miners gala to our communities and our local history?

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

I did not myself receive an invitation to the Durham miners gala this year, but I recognise its importance. Nottinghamshire has a huge and proud mining history as well, and there are still a number of banners in my constituency. I know the pride that goes with those communities, and I hope the event went well.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

I am delighted that the Government have such an ambitious outlook in seeking to sign as many free trade agreements as possible. Unfortunately, however, they have set in motion the process under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 in respect of the UK-Australia free trade agreement without allowing our International Trade Committee to present its report to the House and without providing a debate on the agreement. It is essential for all Members of Parliament to be able to give their views on the trade deals that we are signing, and to give our constituents a voice in this place. I know that this is ambitious, given that my right hon. Friend has already outlined next week’s business, but may we please have a debate on the UK-Australia free trade agreement before we ratify it?

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

The International Trade Committee had six months in which to examine the agreement before the commencement of the CRaG process. The Government’s commitment to holding debates on free trade agreements during that process is subject to the timeliness of requests and the availability of parliamentary time, and my hon. Friend will doubtless appreciate that there is a wide range of competing demands on time in the Chamber before the House rises for the summer recess.

Photo of Jon Trickett Jon Trickett Labour, Hemsworth

I am sure you will agree, Mr Speaker, that fish and chips are the great British culinary gift, and that the local fish and chip shop is often the centre of a community. You may not agree that the best fish and chips in the world are made in Yorkshire, but I will concede that the second best are on the other side of the Pennines.

Mr Malcolm Tully has run the same fish and chip shop, feeding the same community, for 30 years, having used his miner’s redundancy money to set up the business. However, it is now under threat because of the rising costs of various artefacts that he needs to use, and there are tens of thousands of other small businesses in the same perilous position. Will the Leader of the House organise a debate in Government time so that we can discuss the pressure on fish and chip shops and all the other small businesses in the country?

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

I declare my interest, Mr Speaker.

Let me join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Malcolm Tully on the work that he does. Fish and chip shops are indeed a great community asset, and there are some great ones in my constituency. They do face huge challenges—particularly the price of sunflower oil, which is driving many of their costs—but the Government recognise the great contribution that they make to our communities, and we should support them.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

May we have an urgent debate on the response from both the Government and the local community to the disgusting and abusive vandalism perpetrated by young teenagers in my constituency this week? Some of it was racially motivated, and some of it targeted one of our finest female police community support officers. Does the Leader of the House agree that this requires both a police and a community response? We have a record number of police officers in Bedfordshire—1,411—but they need to be deployed throughout the county.

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

Of course I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to the work that he does in his constituency. Antisocial behaviour will be one of the primary focuses of the £50 million-a-year safer streets fund. Next week is antisocial behaviour awareness week, and there will be a debate in Westminster Hall. The deployment of police officers is a matter for the local force, which is operationally independent, but I certainly think that antisocial behaviour is something on which it should focus.

Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford

The independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford published its findings this week, providing an opportunity for the authorities to reflect on their failings and take responsibility for their mistakes. Telford and Wrekin Council, however, published a response suggesting that the child sexual exploitation had happened a long time ago, that the council had made improvements, and that many of the inquiry’s recommendations had already been implemented. There was no apology for the failings, no reference to having made any mistakes, and no commitment to change. Telford and Wrekin Council is in denial. May we have a debate on the report and the response of the authorities?

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

First, let me pay tribute to my hon. Friend. I know that she has worked tirelessly on this matter, and she is a huge champion for those people who have been victims. The scale of the abuse carried out in Telford and Wrekin was truly appalling. I understand that Telford and Wrekin Council has confirmed that it will accept all the inquiry’s recommendations and deliver all the suggested improvements, but we must ensure that the lessons are learned so that victims are protected and offenders are brought to justice. This is an important matter and I am sure that any debate on it would be well subscribed.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Further to the Leader of the House’s failure to answer the question from the shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend Thangam Debbonaire, could we have a statement on the whereabouts of the Home Secretary? Along with her failure to appear before the Home Affairs Committee yesterday, she has cancelled a long-arranged meeting on Monday with Tony Cox, the father of my constituent Lorraine Cox, who was brutally murdered in September 2020. It would be an understatement to say that Mr Cox is upset about this, particularly given the Home Secretary’s previous admission that the circumstances around Lorraine’s murder represented “total state failure”, the serious police failings in the murder investigation and the concerns shared by Mr Cox and many on both sides of this House about the lack of Government action generally to improve women’s safety.

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

I will of course make sure that the Home Secretary is aware of the right hon. Gentleman’s comments and write to her directly on his behalf. She will be here on 5 September, the first day back after summer recess, and I hope that he will be in his place to hold her to account.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

The Leader of the House has already mentioned the £326 payment that is arriving in the bank accounts of 1.5 million people today and further people in the days to come. The cost of living crisis is the biggest issue we face in this country, so can we have a debate on the Government’s wider package on this, which could see low-income households benefiting from £1,200 of help and other macroeconomic measures needed to get inflation down?

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

My right hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the £37 billion of support. That is a huge amount of money that is going to support people in these challenging times. What Putin did in Ukraine has caused huge turbulence across food and energy markets around the world. That is why, as she said, we are making the £326 payments today to 8 million homes, but there also further payments coming. I think it is worth reiterating the £300 to 8 million pensioner households, the £150 to individuals receiving disability benefits, the doubling in value of the universal October energy bill discount to £400 and the scrapping of the requirement to pay that back. That is a huge amount of Government cash going out to support people in these challenging times.

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

As the England women’s football team reach the quarter-finals of the Euros, I want to raise the lack of recognition for the women who played for England in the first official international women’s football match, against Scotland in November 1972. The women in that team have never been awarded a cap by the Football Association, while the Scottish FA has awarded caps to its women footballers for that match. Not only that, but when the England women footballers of the 1970s were invited by the FA to Wembley in 2019 as the “legends of women’s football”, they were only allowed to walk around the pitch and not on it, and yet the male football legends were paraded on the pitch just a few weeks later. I am calling on the FA to award an official cap to every woman who played for England in that match in 1972, and to give those first Lionesses the same status as legends of football that it gives to the male footballers. Will the Leader of the House join me in this call, and will he make time for a debate on the issue?

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

I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising this matter; I think she carries the support of the whole House. Of course I join her in making those representations to the FA. I will also write to the FA on her behalf making that very point. It is worth reflecting that we have moved a very long way and that now, in 2022, we are in a whole different world. We should celebrate all women’s sport and women’s football, and I wish the Lionesses all the best for their future matches.

Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley

Peel Group announced yesterday that it is likely to close the award winning Doncaster Sheffield airport, saying that it is not viable. The people of Doncaster and South Yorkshire need that airport to remain open. Not only are 800 jobs at risk; so is our local economy. The airport is a strategic asset, and could and should be the driver to increase prosperity for South Yorkshire as a whole. Will the Leader of the House meet me to discuss the airport’s future, whether that be through another private investor or maybe—as our very own Ben Houchen did in Teesside—through the mayoral combined authority?

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

I have not had the opportunity to fly from Doncaster airport, but I know a lot of people who have, and their experience was very good. Regional airports are a key part of local communities; as my hon. Friend said, they support hundreds of jobs. Although this is a commercial decision for the owners of the airport, I hope that after consultation with stakeholders, they conclude that there is a viable aviation future for the airport. I wish my hon. Friend all the best with his campaign.

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

Department for Work and Pensions figures that have come out since the House has been sitting show that 359,000 households—1.3 million children—are affected by the two-child limit in universal credit and child tax credit. Shockingly, just to put food on the table, 1,830 women have had to fill out a form to prove that their child was born as the result of rape or coercive control. The two-child limit is driving up child poverty rates right across the United Kingdom, so can we have an urgent debate in Government time about the desperate need to scrap this policy once and for all, and to value every child, regardless of when they were born?

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

These are difficult decisions to take. People up and down the country who are not receiving benefits have to make very difficult decisions about how many children they can afford to have. There is not a blank cheque from the taxpayer to keep funding people. It is about bringing balance and fairness into the system, so that we can protect taxpayers’ money and make sure it is spent in the fairest possible way.

Photo of Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian Liddell-Grainger Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset

Another issue of confidence, on which we need an urgent debate, has come to my attention: Taunton station. The staff there are utterly lazy and incompetent. Those who are young, vulnerable, disabled or need help cannot get from one side of the station to the other, because passengers have to walk around a main road and up a ramp, taking all their suitcases with them; it makes Gatwick and Heathrow look positively balmy. It is beyond belief! Great Western Railway says it is inclusive and stands up for its customers—well, Taunton does not. Can we please have a debate on the issue before somebody gets injured or, worse, killed?

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

There has been huge investment in access to railway stations up and down the country, particularly for disability access to help people get from platform to platform, but I will of course pass on my hon. Friend’s comments directly to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

Further to earlier questions, MPs on both sides of the House will be acutely aware that the Home Office’s MPs’ inquiry line for visas and passports is on its backside. Waits are now measured not in minutes, but in hours. Could the Home Secretary take some time to find her way to the Chamber and make a statement on what she will do about it?

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

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman by telling him what the Government are doing. Some 850 additional staff have been brought in since April 2021, with a further 350 arriving before the summer. Between March and May this year, the Passport Office processed approximately 3 million passport applications, 1.5% of which had been in the system for longer than 10 weeks, so the vast majority of passport applications now are being processed within six weeks.

Photo of Shaun Bailey Shaun Bailey Conservative, West Bromwich West

May I start by wishing everyone a bostin’ Black Country Day, as we celebrate the beating heart of the west midlands?

I come here today with some frustration about an issue that I raised with my right hon. Friend’s predecessor regarding onerous clauses in council house tenants’ contracts and leases that said they would be evicted if they criticised the Labour Administration in Sandwell. After a promised U-turn by the local authority, I found out an hour ago that those clauses have been included in council house tenants’ contracts. That is absolutely outrageous. Members of Parliament in Sandwell were given a guarantee by the Labour Administration that this would not happen. We have had corruption, commissioners and now contempt for the most vulnerable. Can we have a debate on the Floor of the House about this reckless council, and put this situation to bed?

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

I am sorry to hear of my hon. Friend’s frustrations. He is a tenacious champion, and I know he will continue to hold Sandwell Council to account. I suggest he applies for an Adjournment debate to raise the matter fully with a Minister and get a proper response.

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

It is 52 years since the contaminated blood scandal started. Since the former Prime Minister announced the public inquiry—five years ago this week—419 people have died. On average, a person dies every four days. The Government’s independent reviewer of compensation said there is a “compelling case” for interim compensation payments to be made now.

Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate? I had a wholly unsatisfactory answer from the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General this morning as to when the Government will make an announcement about the payment of compensation. The Government have rightly found time to make interim compensation payments in relation to the Post Office’s Horizon scandal and the Windrush scandal. Why has the infected blood community again been left with nothing when people are dying?

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

I pay tribute to the right hon. Lady, who has been a strong campaigner on this topic over a number of years. The infected blood inquiry is a priority for the Government, and it is extremely important that all those who have suffered so terribly get the answers they deserve, and for which they have spent decades waiting.

I know the right hon. Lady raised this with the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General at Question Time. The Government published Sir Robert Francis’s compensation framework, and I will encourage the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General to keep the House updated as this work progresses.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that the World Health Organisation tells us that the biggest killer of children and young people worldwide is not a virus or an epidemic but the roads? Is he further aware that, 40 years ago, an all-party parliamentary group secured the introduction of the Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1982, making the wearing of seatbelts compulsory and saving so many lives? Since then, the UK has been a leading light in raising road safety standards worldwide. We are having a party today in the Cholmondeley Room to celebrate those 40 years of success, and he will be very welcome. Although we have not persuaded a Transport Minister to come, he would be a very good substitute.

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

The hon. Gentleman is very kind. I am a former winner of road safety parliamentarian of the year and, if my diary allows, I would be delighted to come along. I pay tribute to all the work of successive Governments to improve road safety, although we can always do more. The wearing of seatbelts was a huge step forward and, as new technology develops, we should also pay tribute to the car manufacturers for improving the safety of vehicles, too.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

I know the Leader of the House will be delighted that Derby County football club have been saved from administration by a local long-term fan, David Clowes. However, serious questions remain to be answered. It was reported this week that legal action has commenced after Chris Kirchner, the former preferred bidder, was not able to pay the staff wage bill, which he guaranteed. I am very concerned that Quantuma, the administrator, could appoint Kirchner—apparently a man of straw—as the preferred bidder and allow him to get close to a deal that all Rams fans can now see would have been disastrous for the club. Can we have a debate in this House about the responsibilities and accountability of administrators, particularly in relation to community assets such as football clubs?

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

I am delighted that Derby County have been saved from administration. I am only sorry that they are now two leagues apart from Nottingham Forest, who are now a premiership club. Maybe we will get lucky in a cup draw and be able to knock them out of a cup in the near future. To be serious, we do know that there is a widespread culture of clubs operating unsustainably. That is not acceptable and we must ensure that clubs such as Derby are sustainable for the long term. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s comments to the relevant Department; she raises a very important point.

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

I warmly congratulate Mr Bone on taking his seat on the Treasury Bench. I confess that I hardly recognise him with his clothes on; we often change next to each other in the gym.

May I ask the Leader of the House about two issues relating to the recess? First, there may be substantial changes in the situation in Ukraine in the next few weeks and months, and, obviously, we would want to make sure that all Members were informed of what the British situation was. It may be necessary to recall Parliament, and I hope he would say that that would be possible.

Secondly, the passport figures the Leader of the House gives are simply unrecognisable to my constituency office. Many staff have gone to the Home Office team in Portcullis House, but I gather that that will stop for the recess. What will be put in place to ensure that we can still get things sorted for our constituents? Many families are terrified of losing the first holiday they have had for two or three years.

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

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. Clearly, where people are waiting for their passports, that is enormously frustrating for them. The good news is that they are a diminishing group of people, as the vast majority of passports are now being processed very rapidly. However, I will pass on his comments to the Home Office so that it is aware of them. Any possible recall of Parliament over Ukraine would be a decision for Mr Speaker, but other methods are available to Ministers to keep all colleagues informed as to progress. “Dear colleague” letters would certainly be one method of doing that.

Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Conservative, Redcar

The levelling-up fund represents a real opportunity to transform areas of Teesside, particularly in the Greater Eston area, where I have signed off an £8 million bid for the redevelopment of Eston Square and another £8 million bid for a renewed Eston baths. May we have a statement from the Government on round 2 of the levelling-up fund?

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

I wish my hon. Friend well with his levelling-up fund bid. This is a huge opportunity for communities up and down this country to invest in their local communities and improve their local economy. I have no doubt that his local authority’s bid will be a very strong one, and I wish him and all colleagues who have put in such bids well.

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

This week, the 150th Open championship returns to the home of golf, St Andrews, in my constituency. A record 290,000 spectators are expected to attend. Will the Leader of the House join me in welcoming the event and the work that the R&A is doing to increase participation, with 20,000 children’s tickets available? Can we have a debate in Government time on how to maximise the benefit of such sporting events, from both a social and an economic perspective?

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

I join the hon. Lady in her comments and wish everyone who is going to attend at St Andrews well. Even the weather might be nice and not too windy in Scotland this weekend for the golf. I hope that the event goes very well; the UK should be very proud that we can host such international events.

Photo of Lee Anderson Lee Anderson Conservative, Ashfield

Now then, Brian Lee, an 82-year-old from Skegby, in Ashfield, is deeply disappointed with Trentbarton’s decision to axe the 141 bus service, which is a lifeline to Brian and many other people in Ashfield and throughout Nottinghamshire. Will the Leader of the House throw his considerable weight—sorry, his considerable political weight—behind the campaign to provide a service on this route?

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

Now then, first, let me pay tribute to my hon. Friend, as I know he is campaigning vigorously on this matter, and to Brian Lee—I hope he will get the resolution that he deserves. I also want to put on record the efforts of Tom Smith, a local councillor in Sherwood, who is working hard, with Trentbarton, to try to secure the future of the 141. It is a vital bus service to that community and I sincerely hope that Trentbarton changes its mind.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

While the Conservatives have been romanticising about the post-covid return to austerity cuts, I doubt they have noticed this week’s Resolution Foundation report, which highlighted growing inequalities as a consequence of the low wages and low growth that have consistently occurred over the past decade and a bit. We might think that, as a country, we are on a par with France and Germany, but we need to recognise—as one of the conclusion sets out—that, except for those at the top, this simply is no longer true when it comes to living standards. On people on the lowest incomes, we are 22% behind France and 21% behind Germany. That is the record of this Government. That is what levelling down has meant over the past decade and a bit under the Conservatives. Can we have a statement about how the Government might respond to this report?

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

There are huge global challenges that face the United Kingdom at this moment in time. We have seen huge spikes in energy and food prices, which are, of course, bringing challenges to people up and down the country. That is why the Government are investing such a lot of money—£37 billion—in supporting people with the cost of living challenges. There is more that we can do to try to invest in those communities through levelling-up bids, and that is what the Government are focused on doing.

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

UK Government proposals to reduce compensation levels for delayed, cancelled or over-booked domestic flights are in place at a time when passengers across the UK face unprecedented disruption. This cutting of compensation can only be bad news for consumers. Compensation levels have been set to deter airlines from running late services. Reducing them opens the door to poorer standards, which will adversely impact travellers. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out his concerns about this wrong policy at the worst possible time?

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

I hope the hon. Lady is aware that the Secretary of State for Transport has done a lot of work with the airlines to try to resolve the challenges that the industry faces this summer. There has been an amnesty on slots, which means that airlines can give an early indication that they may not be able to make their slots so that airports can inform passengers at a very early stage if their flight will not be taking off, allowing them to find an alternative route. We are making progress. I hope that, by the time we get to the summer, those people who have booked holidays will be able to get on those planes and enjoy the summer.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Labour, Blaenau Gwent

President Putin said in 2004 that there is

“no such thing as a former KGB man”.

Was the then Foreign Secretary Johnson aware of that when he met the KGB’s Alexander Lebedev without officials or security in 2018, which only became clear last week? Can we please have a statement on that, because it is a high security risk for our country?

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 was an urgent question on this matter last Thursday. The particular incident to which he refers was thoroughly debated at that time. We are blessed in this country with some of the finest security services, which keep us safe on a regular basis. I know that all Ministers will want to make sure that their own security and that of the nation is paramount in their minds.

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

On Tuesday, Sir John Major appeared before the Public Administration Constitutional Affairs Committee. I asked him about the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill with regards to breaking the law. He said:

“If it is breaking the law, it ought not to happen. You cannot be a lawmaker and a lawbreaker. That is an absolutely flat line. If they are breaking the law, the Attorney-General should be in there saying, ‘This is not legal.’”

I pressed him further, saying, given the Government’s majority, where does Parliament go from here if it passes. He said:

“Parliament ought to see unexpurgated the advice from the Law Officers as to whether it does break the law at home or internationally. If it does not, it is a matter for Parliament. If it does break the law, it is a Bill that ought not to be laid before the House of Commons.”

The Leader of the House is our spokesperson—our person to the Government. It is his duty to be the voice of Parliament. Has he seen the legal advice himself? If so, is he satisfied that Bill does not break the law, or, if not, will he seek to withdraw the Bill?

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

I can give the hon. Lady good news: the Bill does not break the law. The Attorney General has been clear on that. Legal advice of that nature is not published, but the Attorney General has ruled that it does not break the law and I think that is good news.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

Two days ago, my constituent sent me a photograph of his 15-year-old daughter Zahida. She was lying in her coffin, because she had drunk poison to avoid a worse fate, living under the Taliban. On 25 August last year she, her mother and her sisters were called to the Baron Hotel at Kabul airport but were unable to board the plane to safety because of the bomb explosion that occurred on that date. Many families of British residents are still trapped in Afghanistan. I wholly applaud all the work the Government have done for Ukrainian refugees and the setting up of the hub, but it seems that the Afghan refugees are absolutely forgotten. Please will the Leader of the House secure a debate in Government time on what the Government are doing to assist Afghan refugees?

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

I am truly sorry to hear the story the hon. Gentleman relates, which clearly is a tragedy. The Government have done a huge amount to help people to escape from Afghanistan and from the Taliban. Operation Pitting evacuated 15,000 people; I know the hon. Gentleman recognised those efforts, but the story he describes is a tragic one and I will make sure his comments are passed on directly to the Minister. I hope we can continue to support Afghan refugees as they escape the Taliban.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

The Leader of the House has already made a statement about hoping to bring on 300 extra passport staff before the summer. May I point out that we are nearly halfway through the Scottish school holidays and passports continue to be a huge issue in my constituency? In the case of one individual, the passport was received by the Passport Office on 26 April, but then sat untouched for more than two weeks so that its starting date now is 15 May and the Passport Office will not deal with me because it says the application is less than 10 weeks old. We need a Government statement on this; despite what the Leader of the House says, these cases are increasing, not decreasing.

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

Some 800 more staff have already been recruited, with 300 more to come. There will always be the odd case that does not meet the threshold of six weeks’ turnaround; if the hon. Lady wants to write to me with the specific data, I will raise it personally with the Home Secretary on her behalf.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Minister (Justice)

As many places through the Homes for Ukraine scheme approach their end, Ukrainian families will face a cliff edge. One mother, her two boys and their grandmother have found it impossible to search in the private rented sector. They need to pay six months’ rent up-front and provide income history and a guarantor earning more than £45,000 a year. The boys have already settled into school, but if the family cannot find a home, their lives will be uprooted again. Can we please have an urgent debate on supporting Ukrainian families so that those who have fled war now do not face homelessness?

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

I pay tribute to the tens of thousands of families up and down the country who have opened up their homes to support people fleeing Ukraine. The UK has a very proud track record of supporting and looking after those people. I will pass on the hon. Lady’s comments directly to the relevant Minister to ensure he is aware of her concerns, but we should be very proud of what we have done as a nation.

Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East

Riverside Drive in my constituency has been subjected to repeated flooding since 2015. The residents live in genuine fear of further flooding. I have raised this matter many times on the Floor of this House, in the media and with anyone who will listen to me. The work was due to start last year, yet the Environment Agency has delayed it again. The total cost is only £5 million, but neither the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs nor the Treasury will stump up the money. Will the Leader of the House use his office to persuade the Chancellor and the Environment Secretary to release the required funding, so that my residents can have the peace of mind they richly deserve?

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

I join the hon. Lady in expressing my sympathy to the residents of Riverside Drive. Having your home flooded is a terrible experience. The Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs work together to prioritise schemes to make sure that they get the best value for money. I will pass on her comments directly to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs so that he is aware of her concerns.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Business and Industrial Strategy)

Almost a year ago to the day, the Post Office announced that Neston post office was to be closed, but that it would be a temporary closure while it found a commercial partner. I warned at the time that that would be a tough ask, and lo and behold, a year on, the Post Office has announced this week that because it has not been able to find a commercial partner, the post office will close permanently. A town of Neston’s size, with 20,000 people, should have a post office, and it is unacceptable that the Post Office continues with these flawed business models where they rely on commercial support that clearly is not there. Can we have a statement from the relevant Government Minister about what they will do to ensure that the Post Office can serve all communities?

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

I am sorry to hear about Neston post office. Post offices are great community assets. The Government set access criteria to ensure that services remain within reach of all citizens. I think that 99% of the UK population is within three miles of a Post Office outlet. It is a great resource. It is obviously a shame that Neston post office will not reopen, but we should celebrate all that is positive about post offices up and down the country.

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

Frequently the Department for Work and Pensions is sending constituents to their MP when a decision has been unfavourable, giving constituents the impression that colleagues in this place, and not the Government, are responsible for policy changes or the decision-making process. This gives constituents false hope and unrealistic expectations. Will the Leader of the House please ask his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that Departments are taking responsibility for the decisions they are taking?

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

I will pass on the hon. Lady’s comments to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I know that the Department does a huge amount of work to support people on benefits and to try to help them get back into work, but I will make sure I pass her comments on directly to the Minister.

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

We are told time and time again that this is a voluntary Union of equals, but with the plague of democracy denying and the choruses of “Now is not the time”, it certainly does not feel like it. The former Chancellor and current frontrunner for leader, the right hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak) said in 2017:

“It seems hard to block a referendum, but we should push the timing until after Brexit”.

The Scottish Government have an unquestionable mandate from the electorate, which was demanded as a prerequisite by the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in 2016. We live in a country signed up to article 1 of the UN charter on self-determination, so can we have a debate on self-determination and the routes available to it in a so-called model democracy?

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

I strongly suspect that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will continue to press for such debates. I am of the view that there are huge challenges facing people across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland with the cost of living challenge, with children in Scotland being let down by the SNP Government and their education system and with the SNP Government not getting on with delivering ferries. I understand why they want to try to distract from some of the shortcomings of their Government, but there are bigger things to concentrate on at this moment in time.

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

After the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland donated £1.5 million to Kenya’s drought areas, I was glad to see that the first shipments of that high-density food arrived on Tuesday 12 July. There is no better day to deliver aid. The aid will help support 31,000 severely malnourished children. Sadly, too often, religious minority communities are deprived of such aid, as distribution points tend to be situated far away from such communities. Will the Leader of the House, in solidarity with me and all the communities affected, arrange for a statement on Kenya’s drought and the need to ensure that aid is distributed fairly, equally and without discrimination?

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

First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on not being called last in business questions. With such progress, in the next 30 years he might get called first. I draw his attention to the Backbench Business debate next Thursday on sanctions for human rights abuses and corruption, where he may be able to raise the matters. That will be a great opportunity for him, but if not, there is the opportunity in the Sir David Amess Summer Adjournment Debate for him to raise any such matters.

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Aberdeen has been a global energy hub for the best part of the last 50 years—something that I am sure the Minister is all too well aware of, given the £400 billion that has flowed from Scotland to the UK Treasury. In order to retain that status, we need to be at the forefront of investment in net zero. On that basis, will he back Aberdeen’s bid for a green port, or perhaps go one better and bring the relevant Minister to the Chamber to make a statement to that effect?

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

I pay tribute to the economy of Aberdeen, which is an important part of the United Kingdom. I will of course pass on the hon. Member’s comments to the relevant Minister. The oil and gas industry has a huge part to play as we make our transition towards a greener future.