– in the House of Commons at 12:54 pm on 20th October 2022.
With permission, I should like to make a statement about the forthcoming business. The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing on
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, but, Mr Deputy Speaker, where on earth do I start? Do we even still have a Prime Minister? This is the afternoon after the morning after the night before, with the Government seemingly falling to pieces before our eyes. As some of their own Back Benchers said yesterday, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. We had a Home Secretary resigning amid discussions of national security, a Government seemingly unable even to organise against our motion to ban fracking and forced clarifications in the early hours of the morning from Downing Street. That is all in a day’s work for this absolute disgrace of a Government party, who are simply unfit to govern. They are dragging this country’s reputation through the mud and the British people will never forgive them for it. British people are looking to the Government for answers on how they are going to pay their mortgage, rent or bills, which the Government sent sky high when they crashed the economy. Instead, people are getting chaos.
Parliament ought to be a model workplace, so will the Leader of the House confirm that the reports of bad behaviour in the Lobby or outside it last night will be investigated? Will she put on record that in her view there is no place for intimidation and bullying on the parliamentary estate? On the actual votes themselves, it has come to my attention that there was a discrepancy last night between the number of votes recorded in the No Lobby which was read out in the Chamber and the number later published on the voting lists. Is the Leader of the House aware of any of her party’s Members who perhaps did not want to vote against our motion but, to avoid controversy with their Whips, marched through the Lobby but did not scan their pass and therefore avoided the publication of their names? Will she also clarify whether yesterday’s vote was a confidence vote or not? Downing Street said it was, but then a No. 10 special adviser told the Minister for Climate, Graham Stuart to say it was not, which he duly did from that Dispatch Box, causing confusion on his own side. At half past one this morning, No. 10 suggested that it in fact was and then the Transport Secretary told Kay Burley a few hours ago that it was not. We know that the Prime Minister is infamous for her U-turns, but this is beyond a joke. If it was a vote of confidence, when will the Prime Minister be removing the Whip from her rebels?
I also notice that the Government have pulled our next Opposition day. I cannot think why, after yesterday, they might do that. Are they punishing us for their chaos and incompetence last night? Is the Leader of the House aware of
I am glad that the Leader of the House actually has some business to announce, given the Government’s complete inability to function. As well as chaos, we have a raft of dropped legislation, broken promises and unmet manifesto commitments. She cannot blame the British people for asking, “What’s the point of this Government?” She should not just take it from me, as the former Home Secretary mentioned the very thing in her resignation letter, when she raised concerns about the Government breaking key pledges to voters and failing to honour their manifesto commitments. Someone had their Weetabix, or was it tofu, for breakfast yesterday. Perhaps the Leader of the House can provide some clarity on what further broken promises the former Home Secretary was referring to. Can I also ask that the Government send Ministers to answer urgent questions who can actually provide answers? Many important questions on national security went unanswered this morning in the urgent question relating to the sacking—sorry, resignation, was it?—of the Home Secretary.
Out of touch, out of ideas, unable to govern. They are too busy trying to get through the Tory psychodrama, which is worsening hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute—it is happening in front of my very eyes—to focus on the serious issues facing all our constituents: not just mine, but theirs too. They have crashed the economy and left working people to pick up the bill, and now they are falling apart. This is a Tory crisis made in Downing Street. They are letting everyone down. The Prime Minister has clearly lost the confidence of her party, and her party has lost the confidence of the country. It is time for a general election so that a Labour Government can deliver a fresh start for the British people.
May I start by thanking Mr Speaker for his statement at the start of business? I wholeheartedly endorse it.
We have ways of organising ourselves in a party system in this place, but ultimately we are all individuals making judgments about what is in the best interests of the country and our constituents. Sometimes, votes are about more than the issue that has been debated. Last night’s Labour motion was an attempt to seize control of proceedings. We all know that that was done deliberately to enable campaigns today about Members’ views on fracking and to spark the usual social media outrage; I know that Twitter has taken down some accounts today. This is standard operating procedure by Labour. Many Conservative Members have worked hard to ensure that fracking is rightly not imposed on their community, and it is by their efforts that fracking is not happening in their community. It is the Government’s policy to allow fracking where there is consent.
If we want to take the temperature down in this place, I suggest that we take the temperature down outside of this place too. I am happy to say on the record that I am against bullying both in Parliament and outside it. I hope that is the view of all Members of this House.
The country needs stability and calm. I am glad to say that that is the effect the Chancellor is having—market functioning has improved, borrowing costs have been lowered, and the pound is strengthening—but there is more to do. Despite the very volatile global economic conditions, the economy remains resilient. Unemployment is at its lowest level for nearly 50 years and the UK is forecast to have the fastest growth in the G7 this year.
Elsewhere, good work is going on in Government, in contrast to the picture painted by the shadow Leader of the House. Just this week, the Lord Chancellor opened up the legal aid system to make it easier for victims of domestic abuse to get access to free legal aid and representation; we have had huge wins in the Department for International Trade, with a £100 million trade win for the drinks industry, and huge infrastructure project wins; we have announced nearly £800 million to support research centres with breakthrough new treatments and £180 million to support children’s development in their early years, and the Department for Work and Pensions has launched a new service to help businesses support members of their workforce who have a disability or become sick. Earlier this week, we passed the Energy Prices Bill, removing the worry for households and businesses about their energy costs, and we are introducing the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill to provide protection for the travelling public who rely on rail services to get to work or go about their daily lives. I hope that the Labour party will back us and fed-up commuters, and protect those services.
Opposition Members have been running around all week saying, “In office but not in power.” I think that is probably a more accurate description of Labour’s relationship with its trade union paymasters. We are getting on with the job, and further business will be announced in the usual way.
I call Bob Blackman, representing the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns, is indisposed, so he has asked me to report.
In addition to the business that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has announced, on Tuesday morning there will be a debate in Westminster Hall on baby loss and safe staffing in maternity care, and in Westminster Hall next Thursday there will be debates on Colleges Week and World Menopause Day—all subjects that I think colleagues will wish to debate. On Tuesday
We have a queue of debates requiring Chamber time, so I am grateful to the Leader of the House for announcing further dates for the Backbench Business Committee. We are also short of debates for Westminster Hall on Thursdays, so I encourage colleagues to apply for Westminster Hall debates.
On Monday it is Diwali, and Hindus, Sikhs and Jains will be celebrating in the time-honoured fashion. Will my right hon. Friend join me in wishing everyone Shubh Deepavali, and Nutan Varshabhinandan for Wednesday and the Hindu new year?
I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in wishing everyone happy Diwali. I thank him for his update on Backbench business and for stressing the importance of those debates. The issues that colleagues have put forward for such debates show how helpful an innovation they are, and I urge colleagues to apply for them.
I, too, wish everyone a very happy Diwali when it comes.
It is good to see the Leader of the House still in her place, but perhaps this is our last exchange. Who knows who will be asked to close their eyes, think of Britain and become the next Prime Minister? Given that the jaiket of the current incumbent is clearly on a shoogly peg, I think the Leader of the House should go for it. The 1922 Committee chair reportedly entered No. 10 just now. If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly.
Alternatively, it may be that, after the latest developments in the Government’s implosion, including a “resignation” from a great office of state—the former Home Secretary fulfils that dream of making the front page of the Telegraph, eh?—the Leader of the House’s party is running out of candidates for the job and she will simply assume it. That is assuming she still wants to inherit this Icarus economy so spectacularly burned and crashed by the Government, leading to International Monetary Fund and Bank of England interventions as if the UK were a rudderless economy with no one at the wheel. Come to think of it, that seems to be the course Britain is set on now, with all of us having been treated as economic laboratory mice, trapped within the deluded constructs of libertarian think-tanks. A debate on some sort of compulsory training for Ministers on the basics of economics might be helpful.
Many of us, in this place and outside it, are finding it a bit of a struggle to keep up with events, so can we have a statement, please, on exactly who the members of the Government are just now? I believe the Government are bringing in legislation today mounting further attacks on trade unions and introducing a minimum level of service guarantee for the rail network. Surely it is time we brought in a minimum level of service guarantee for Westminster Governments.
While we are at it, a debate on molestation, reflections and intimidation, as outlined in “Erskine May”, might prove useful. As I am sure the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy knows only too well, in the 18th century, insulting or menacing Members, or trying by force to influence them in their conduct in Parliament, was “roundly condemned” and considered a contempt. The time is clearly ripe for refresher courses.
The temptation is always to have a bit of fun with these weekly jousts over the political soap opera, but there is little room for amusement this week. I am all too conscious of the millions of people who are still looking to this place to provide them with some reassurance that those in charge have a clear idea of the problems they face and know what to do to sort them. All four nations are looking on aghast at the shambles this Government have created for themselves but, far more seriously, for all of our citizens. The attractions of an independent Scotland, free of this burach of a place, grow ever greater. General election—now.
I am actually quite cheered by what the hon. Lady said, because I had always thought the expression was, “Close your eyes and think of England”. Given that she asked us to close our eyes and think of Britain, I think I am starting to make some progress with her.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not mention any of the economic support that we have put through the House this week for the citizens in Scotland. I have to tell her that, as we prepare for a statement on
One of the finer legacies of the previous Administration and of the 2019 Conservative election manifesto was our commitment to animal welfare. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that commitment is still firmly in place, and will she therefore find time, as swiftly as possible, to bring forward the remaining stages of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill?
I thank my right hon. Friend for reminding us of the track record that we have in this area. As an independent nation, we are now able to go further than ever on animal welfare. We have banned the live export of animals for fattening and slaughter. We have legislated for animal sentience and we are building animal welfare into our independent trade policy. Other business will be announced in the usual way, but he has those assurances and he should be confident when he looks at our track record.
I want to ask about brain injury. Yesterday morning, I hosted a roundtable here with lots of people who have been engaged in the issue of concussion in sport. The Leader of the House may have seen recent stories about rugby players and football players who are suffering from depression, anxiety and a series of different mental health complaints—many have suicidal or dementia problems—resulting from sub-concussive events: so not even when they have been knocked out, but repeated shaking or minor blows to the head. Can we have a debate on what the Government are going to do about this? When will we have proper protocols for all sports so that we protect every single child, especially as their brain is developing?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter. I shall certainly raise it with both the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education. But he will know how to apply for a debate.
Currently, organisations such as the Government-funded Energy Saving Trust are providing excellent advice to households up and down the country on how to save energy and then save money on their bills. It is time that we provided similar advice to businesses. I am working on the matter with business leaders throughout the two cities, including Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality and Kate Hart from Central London business improvement districts. Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging businesses across the country to take steps to be more energy efficient? Does she agree that perhaps we should be looking at the energy consumption of the House of Commons, too?
I thank my hon. Friend for her excellent question, and I shall make sure that the Secretary of State hears about it. The campaign she describes would be extremely useful to many businesses. Quite often, small differences in behaviour can lead to massive savings in energy but also business costs.
What I witnessed yesterday in the entrance to the voting Lobby was an absolute disgrace: a clearly visibly distressed Tory MP being forced against his will and bullied—manhandled—into the voting chamber. I know that the Government are disintegrating in front of our very eyes, but that is a challenge to democracy. Will the Leader of the House make an urgent statement against this sort of bullying and support the investigation that now clearly needs to take place?
I refer the hon. Lady to what I said at the start of my remarks today. Mr Speaker made a statement. I completely support what he said. Of course, everyone in this Chamber would condemn bullying, both, I hope, outside and inside this Chamber. However, the situation is not helped if people do not make specific allegations. Any Member of this House who has seen bad conduct, or who has been the victim of bad conduct, must be able to come forward and report that and it must be investigated. I am not aware of any such substantiated allegations at all. I say to the hon. Lady that, if she wants to help the situation, she should think about what she could do to assist that situation, and I ask her to check that against her behaviour today.
Will my right hon. Friend find time in this Chamber for a debate about modernisation of the Land Registry? Currently, if an identity thief steals a person’s identity and uses it to transfer the title of their house, there is a very protracted, long-winded mechanism that ends up in a tribunal, which, at the end of it, may well not see their house returned to them. That has happened to one of my constituents. He has lost a home that he spent many months investing time, cash and his own hard labour renovating only to let it to tenants who stole his identity and then used it to transfer the title. He is struggling to get that property back and it strikes me that the Land Registry procedures, where it is simply impossible to transfer a title back, are outdated and very much in need of updating.
I have heard about the case on which my right hon. Friend has been working on behalf of her constituent. It is appalling. To be robbed of any property is bad enough, but to rob a person of their home, which they have put their heart and soul into and in which they may have brought up a family, is incredibly distressing. I know my right hon. Friend has been doing a huge amount of work to put a rocket up the Land Registry. I want to assist her in doing that and I will write to the Secretary of State. She will also know that there are questions on Tuesday and she should raise that matter there.
I have raised concerns recently with the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence about a 13-year-old girl living in my constituency and separated from her family in Afghanistan, despite assurances they were given when they assisted forces there. Will the Leader of the House advise on how I might go about raising this matter with the Minister directly and on whether we could have some time in the Chamber to debate the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and its progress?
I am very sorry to hear about that case. The hon. Lady will know how she can apply for a debate, and she may wish to work with other colleagues to do that. If she passes the details of that case to my office, I will write on her behalf and ask for a meeting with the Minister.
My right hon. Friend may have heard many of the tributes that were paid to the late Dame Angela Lansbury who sadly passed away last week. Most of those tributes focused on her acting and singing prowess and, of course, her legendary character, Jessica Fletcher, in “Murder She Wrote”, but is my right hon. Friend aware that Angela Lansbury was one of the first champions of the fight against AIDS? In the 1980s, when many celebrities shied away from the issue, she was in the vanguard of fundraising. She famously said that we will “never give up on the fight” until the fight is won. Does my right hon. Friend accept that that fight will not be won unless the United Kingdom and others come forward to replenish the global fund to fight AIDS, because that is the only way in which we will achieve Dame Angela’s objective?
I thank my right hon. Friend and join him in the tribute that he pays to the late Angela Lansbury. I did know that about her. She was a stalwart and someone who really changed views towards that particular disease. I can tell him that the Government have restated their commitment to the global fund and we will make an announcement on our pledge in the coming weeks.
The problem with the chaos in the Government is that it delays getting answers to real-world problems our constituents face. My constituents in the Hayes Point apartments in Sully have been struggling to get an answer on when they will get payments from the energy bills support scheme. They come under the alternative fund, which is for those who do not have a direct relationship with an electricity supplier. I have been trying to get answers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on this. Those people have not had their money as others up and down the country have. Can the Leader of the House urgently chase an answer and a statement from the Secretary of State, so that they know when they will get support with their energy bills?
The support is enormous and it is most welcome, but people need to know how the schemes work. I know the hon. Gentleman appreciates that they are complex. I will certainly follow that up with the Department and ensure that Members are given information that is easily understandable for their constituents.
This weekend, Southend came together to commemorate my predecessor, Sir David Amess. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend agree to a debate on the transformative effect of music for those with learning difficulties and disabilities? In Southend we have not only the Love2Sign choir, but the international Music Man Project, which is recording its first ever single today with the Royal Marines band. Will she and the whole House help to make it the Christmas No. 1 for all the organisation does to help those with learning difficulties to overcome barriers and challenges in their lives, to the benefit of us all?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter and paying tribute to our dearly missed late colleague, Sir David Amess. The Music Man Project is an incredible organisation. The Christmas single she mentions is available now to download and its first live performance is tonight at the Painted Hall in Greenwich, accompanied by the Royal Marines band. I was privileged to go to the first rehearsal, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have had. I have video of the effect of those two organisations coming together; it is an amazing thing and the lasting legacy of our late colleague.
I know the Leader of the House is new to the role and that she has a great combative style, but I hope she will reflect on what she said to my hon. Friend Anna McMorrin, because I think she was very unfair in her response. On forthcoming business, the Leader of the House knows that all Members of Parliament will be very busy, as I am in Huddersfield, working with a whole network of charities, local people and local organisations, because it will be a long, hard winter for many people who will not be able to afford to heat their house or feed their family. Support groups will have to be organised. Can she make sure that we get the right Ministers here—from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities or whichever—to talk about how the Government can help us with the resources to build those networks so that we can provide that food and those warm spaces, and so that MPs can actually roll up their sleeves and help?
On that latter point, I can certainly raise the matter with the key Departments involved. Much of this is about sharing good practice; there will be organisations working across several areas around the country, so picking up and sharing good practice is incredibly important.
Late-night drama, suspense, whodunnit—no, Mr Deputy Speaker, not here, but in cinemas up and down the country. They represent great entertainment, a key part of our social fabric and, for the Whips, an opportunity for people to be somewhere they can turn their phones off. Will the Leader of the House find time to debate the importance of the exclusivity window for new films in this changing entertainment landscape?
I thank my hon. Friend for his witty question. I shall certainly raise it with the relevant Department.
The Leader of the House will be aware that an important principle of our constitutional arrangements is that of the mandate. Given that the Government’s mandate, derived from the last general election manifesto, has now been either abandoned or exhausted, is it not time that we had a general election?
When it would have been in this country’s interest to have a general election, when this Parliament was in paralysis due to Brexit before the 2019 general election, the hon. Gentleman’s party blocked it. I am not going to take any lessons from him on that front. We stood on a manifesto that we are delivering, but that work is not yet done, and we will continue to deliver the manifesto that gave us this sizeable majority.
Grassroots clubs and sports are vital to communities such as mine in Hyndburn and Haslingden. I have some fantastic clubs, such as Huncoat United and Accrington Wildcats, but they need support to ensure that they have not only the vital green spaces they need to train, but the funding to exist. Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate in Government time on how we can continue to support grassroots clubs and sports?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue. I shall certainly flag what she has said with the relevant Department. She will know how to apply for a debate, and I think it will be a well-attended one if she secures it.
Pavement parking is a massive problem in south Manchester and a difficult one to solve. We need the power that London has to introduce a default ban. Last week the Secretary of State for Transport—who, happily, has just joined the Front Bench—said it was a priority for her and she would bring forward the legislation as soon as parliamentary time allowed. I ask the Leader of the House to work with her colleague to make that happen. It would be a relatively simple thing to do and it would be widely welcomed.
To save my civil servants some work and some paper, I shall put on record in Hansard that I will ensure that the relevant Secretary of State hears what the hon. Gentleman has raised.
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed this week that she is pushing for a hard border between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The SNP’s new economic policies would cost businesses a fortune and recklessly risk people’s jobs. Does the Leader of the House agree that we should have a debate on the issue so that the SNP can finally tell the people of Scotland the truth about the enormous economic damage that Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a hard border would do to Scotland?
Yes, I am afraid that is the latest wheeze from the SNP to risk jobs and burn taxpayers’ money. Let us not forget that this is the party that, during the pandemic, hired a testing firm at a cost of £10 million that promptly furloughed all its staff. In fairness to them, they did try to guarantee some jobs: they paid a company to the tune of £5 million per job and then failed to secure any of those jobs. Audit Scotland said of the Scottish Government that it had no framework for dealing with the private sector. Most spectacularly, the Scottish Government paid the cost of 24 ferries for just two vessels.
MPs should be allowed to vote according to their judgment and without being harassed or bullied. Can the Leader of the House clarify what happened in the No Lobby, according to her observations? Does she agree that yesterday’s events cast a very bad light on the professionalism of our Parliament?
I agree with the hon. Lady: as I set out in my earlier remarks, we have a way of organising ourselves in this place, but we are elected by our constituents to look after their interests and the interests of this country. I was in the Lobby last night and did not see any of what has been reported, but there are processes for reporting and for looking at such things. I am sure she will have heard Mr Speaker’s statement earlier today; I think he is right and that is the right approach.
Nitrous oxide capsules have littered North Devon beaches this summer, as more and more people use them for recreational purposes despite risks such as damage to the lungs, halting breathing and slowing the heart to dangerous levels. Manufacturers have called this week for further restrictions on their purchase. Will the Government consider that recommendation and restrict sales for recreational use?
I thank my hon. Friend for shining a spotlight on that important issue, which is clearly of great concern to her constituents. Given the concerns about the use of nitrous oxide, particularly by young people, the former former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Priti Patel, sought advice from the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. When it responds, the Government will consider its advice carefully and inform the House.
There is a huge problem across my constituency of youths razzing around the streets on motorbikes—sometimes stolen—riding without helmets, pulling stunts, and putting other road users and pedestrians in danger. I was accompanied by Councillor Allison Gwynne to a meeting with Chief Superintendent Davies on Friday. The Denton South councillors Reid, Newton and Naylor had a packed public meeting on Monday about this issue, and Audenshaw councillors Smith and Martin are still picking up the consequences of a 16-year-old boy coming off his bike and, sadly, losing his life. This issue is serious, and requires a very resource-intensive programme to tackle it. Can we have a statement from the new Home Secretary that this Government take it seriously, and will give Greater Manchester Police and other police forces the tools they need to tackle this scourge on our streets?
I am very sorry to hear about that situation, particularly that tragic loss of life. The hon. Gentleman is right: a whole-community approach to this issue is required. I will certainly make sure that what he has said today is flagged with the Home Secretary.
I welcome the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement earlier this week, which set out a realistic approach to dealing with our financial challenges, but as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be aware, that causes concerns about funding for a whole range of schemes. My two local authorities are very concerned about their levelling-up bids. Can the Leader of the House give an assurance that when the Chancellor makes his statement on
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter; I am aware of the huge amount of work he has done in his constituency on the levelling-up agenda. I will certainly make sure that the Chancellor hears what he has said today, and will also make sure that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities hears his words.
It is estimated that between 2.5% and 4% of people—adults and children—have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurodiversity matters, and the more that that is realised and understood, the more we all benefit. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate in Government time on the importance of fostering greater knowledge, awareness and understanding of neurodiverse conditions, and thank the groups working hard to provide support and information, especially during October, which is ADHD Awareness Month?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising that important point, and join her in thanking the large number of organisations that work to ensure that families have the advice and support they need. I will certainly flag the issue with the number of Departments that will be looking at it; I also encourage the hon. Lady to raise it during questions.
I very much welcome the minimum service levels that are going to be outlined in upcoming legislation. Can the Leader of the House please tell me whether as part of that, she would support minimum service levels on lifeline services such as the Solent ferries, where we have both the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and Unite?
I heard approving noises coming from my Front-Bench colleague, my right hon. Friend Anne-Marie Trevelyan. I also point to this Government’s record during the pandemic: we saw those services as needing support, and followed up with action. I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful suggestion, which has gone down well with my colleague.
Sunshine Pre-School, which serves families in my constituency on some of the lowest incomes, is facing closure, and several other constituents have written to me because their children have had their nursery places withdrawn due to staff shortages and funding problems. Clearly, this is a national problem. It is not, as the Government seem to think, a question of ratios of staff to children: it is about the failure of funded early learning rates to keep up with costs. Can we have a debate on the crisis in childcare, to urge Ministers to bring forward proper support for that vital social provision which is so important, not only to parents, but to supporting economic growth?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: those services are incredibly important for children’s development and to support families, but also to enable people to remain in work and progress through work. I will raise that matter, which I know is a concern across the House, with the Department for Education. Colleagues involved in the work the Government have been doing on early years, to take a more holistic approach to that whole area and make sure it is doing what parents need it to do, will also want to hear the hon. Gentleman’s remarks.
I join my hon. Friend Bob Blackman in wishing all members of the Hindu community in Warrington South a very happy Diwali. I recently met with many members of that community, who expressed concerns about recent events in the midlands. Can the Leader of the House assure my constituents that the safety of all communities is a priority for this Government, and that they should enjoy the festival of light in their community?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. I join in with his remarks, especially regarding all those in his constituency.
My constituents are really concerned about the cuts to their train services that have been allowed under powers that were introduced during covid. The Secretary of State for Transport has allowed Southeastern to make major alterations to its timetable using those powers, even though we are now out of covid. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State to explain why those powers have been allowed to be abused in that way, and why my constituents are losing train services?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have heard them, but I will formally follow up with the Department.
I draw the attention of the Leader of the House—indeed, that of the whole House—to early-day motion 480, which was published this morning. [That this House congratulates the pupils and staff of Dunoon Grammar School in Argyll & Bute on winning the Community Collaboration category for the World’s Best Schools Prizes 2022; commends this absolutely remarkable achievement and recognises it as just reward for a school which has under the leadership of Head Teacher David Mitchell and his staff, become a cornerstone of the wider Cowal community; applauds the commitment Dunoon Grammar School has shown to working with and for the benefit of their local community and for striving so hard to produce active, responsible, caring and engaged young citizens; recognises this success as being an historic landmark for the pupils and staff, a tremendous boost for the entire community, a source of great pride for Argyll & Bute, and a real triumph for Scottish education; and sincerely thanks everyone involved in securing this accomplishment for the dedication they have shown in making Dunoon Grammar School an exceptional centre of learning and wishes them all the best in the future.]
That early-day motion congratulates Dunoon Grammar School, which yesterday was awarded the 2022 World’s Best School prize in the community collaboration category. I hope to arrange a visit to this Parliament from that school very soon, but before that, will the Leader join me in sending her congratulations to headteacher David Mitchell, his staff, and all the pupils on that remarkable achievement, which—as Members can imagine—is a source of huge pride for the town and for everyone in Argyll and Bute, and is a real triumph for Scottish education?
I am going to enter into the spirit of the hon. Gentleman’s question and not comment in depth about the SNP’s track record in education. It is a wonderful achievement, and I send my congratulations to David Mitchell and all his staff and pupils. I hope they will celebrate.
Given the Prime Minister’s announcement that she intends to stand down, I wonder how wise it is to proceed with much of the business that the Leader of the House has announced for next week, not least the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. That Bill is of massive constitutional significance; it would enact a huge power grab, both from this place and the devolved Administrations.
Given that the Act that created retained EU law, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, was subject to eight days of scrutiny in a Committee of the whole House, can the Leader of the House—if she is able to make any kind of guarantee whatsoever about the future of the Government, given the complete chaos that is now engulfing the Conservative party—say whether that Bill will be subject to scrutiny by a Committee of the whole House, not just a Public Bill Committee?
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is an important Bill that will modernise the statute book. With regard to other matters, I say to the hon. Gentleman that I am going to keep calm and carry on, and I would suggest everyone else do the same.
I take this opportunity to wish all of my constituents a very happy Diwali as they get ready to celebrate next week. The Leader of the House may or may not be aware that since 2015, there has been a steep decline in the number of UK students studying Gujarati, Urdu, and other languages prevalent across south Asia at GCSE level. Given the significance of those languages for many British children’s educational attainment and, crucially, our ability to maximise our trade and security relationships with India and other countries in south Asia, could we have a debate in Government time to explore the reasons for that decline and how we might reverse it?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue, and I will certainly ensure that the Department for Education has heard what he said. He will know very well how to secure a debate, and I thank him for raising that.
I wish I could take the Leader of the House’s advice to keep calm and carry on, but in my role as SNP spokesperson on disabilities, I meet regularly with organisations representing disabled people. This week in Parliament, Muscular Dystrophy UK had a drop-in, to which my young parliamentary assistant went, and he came back visibly shocked at the amount of electricity that one young person needs to use to stay alive.
Given the U-turn by the Chancellor and the news we have just received that the leader of the Conservative party has stood down, will there be a statement on
I thank the hon. Lady for raising that, because it affords me an opportunity to provide reassurance to people. This was raised last week as well, and I have already written to the Department of Health and Social Care and other Departments on the matter. We want to ensure that people are looked after, taken care of and supported throughout this winter. We are very aware of the additional costs that people with certain health conditions and disabilities face. I know that this issue is being looked at, and I assure her that I understand people want reassurance fast.
Conscious that I am in the slot of Jim Shannon, and although I may wish to ask the Leader of the House whether she wants to make any statement of intent on her future candidacy for leader of her party, I will focus on the comments made by David Mundell in relation to the Global Fund replenishment. It was unusual that the Government failed to announce a pledge on
We did not make a detailed pledge at the pledging conference, but we did put on record our strong commitment. The issue was that a Minister was not available to go, so the pledge was not made—that was, from memory, my understanding—but it is expected shortly. I point the hon. Lady to our world-leading record at this and other replenishment conferences.
I thank the Leader of the House for making her statement and responding to many questions.