– in the House of Commons at 12:00 pm on 27th October 2022.
Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?
The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. May I congratulate her on being reappointed? There were suggestions that it may not have been the job she was hoping for but we both know that, as Parliament’s representative in Government and the Government’s representative in Parliament, she has an incredibly important role. I know that she takes her responsibilities seriously, and I look forward to continued work with her to ensure that Members can properly hold the Government to account. In that vein, I repeat my regular plea, on behalf of our constituents, for prompt responses from Ministers to MPs.
The Prime Minister’s promise to restore “integrity” and “accountability” lasted barely a few hours. The Home Secretary was reappointed to the job from which she was sacked just six days earlier for breaching the ministerial code and putting our national security at risk. We now hear that there were
“multiple breaches of the ministerial code”,
which even involved “documents relating to cybersecurity”. The first duty of any Government is to keep this country safe. This is exceptionally serious. Does the Leader of the House agree that there must be an urgent investigation?
The Home Secretary said she that “rapidly reported” her mistake
“on official channels, and informed the Cabinet Secretary”,
but we now hear that the evidence was put to her rather than the other way round. Despite that, the Prime Minister said yesterday at the Dispatch Box that the Home Secretary
“raised the matter and…accepted her mistake.”—[Official Report,
This is really important. The shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper has raised two points of order, asked two urgent questions and sent a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, but we still have no clarity. It is imperative that the Prime Minister sets out a clear timeline of who reported what to whom and when. If he has misled the House on this serious national security matter, will he come to the Chamber, apologise and correct the record?
This is yet another example of why a Government ethics adviser is so badly needed. After months of calling for one, I welcomed yesterday’s announcement that an appointment would be “done shortly”, but it is obvious that one is needed urgently. Can the Leader of the House give us a timeframe?
The new Prime Minister claims a mandate from the 2019 general election, but that was three Prime Ministers and several national crises ago. Meanwhile, the Government are pulling legislation left, right and centre. Which sofa has all the Government’s missing legislation has fallen down the back of? Where is the Energy Bill? Where is the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill? Where is the Online Safety Bill, which was first mooted a decade ago? We have been waiting four years for it. Has the Prime Minister been forced to pull it to appease his new International Trade Secretary?
Since the Conservatives first announced their intention to regulate, seven other jurisdictions have introduced online safety laws. In that time, in the UK, online crime has exploded, child sexual abuse online has become rife and scams have proliferated. Every day that goes by without the Bill, this suffering continues. We hear it has been delayed and not pulled so, yet again, I offer Labour’s willingness to work with the Government to get this Bill over the line as soon as possible. Will the Government accept our offer, and can the Leader of the House tell us when the Bill is coming back?
The Government are dragging their feet on the climate and nature emergency. The Environment Act 2021 legally requires the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to set long-term targets for air quality, water, biodiversity, resource efficiency and waste reduction by
We have a Prime Minister nobody elected and with no mandate, and he is letting down the British people. It is time the Government accepted that the British people deserve a choice between the failed Tory trickle-down economics of the past and a green, clean, sustainable future with a Labour Government.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions on the themes of democracy and integrity, which are both very important. I reassure her that it is not a disappointment to find myself here, in part because I very much enjoy my exchanges with her across the Dispatch Box. It was important that we tested the proposition of a contest, as we did to destruction, and I think that has been a good outcome.
The Conservative party has one member, one vote and, of course, the Leader of the Opposition tried to end that for Labour. He had to abandon his attempt to return to an electoral college amid accusations of gerrymandering and holding the membership in contempt. Of course, the Labour party has form on this, as it blocked an election when Parliament needed one and its leader campaigned to overturn the result of the European Union referendum, so I will take no lectures from Labour Members on honouring democracy.
On integrity, the ethics adviser is a matter for the Prime Minister, and he intends to bring that decision forward. It is a matter for him, but he has made that commitment. Opposition Members have made allegations about support for jobs. As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, there is support for jobs: he supported 163,000 kickstart jobs; he supported job-entry schemes, benefiting 177,000 unemployed people; and, of course, he paid the wages of 11 million people in this country to protect them and their jobs. I am proud of our record of getting nearly 4 million people back into work with the dignity of a pay packet.
The hon. Lady mentioned prompt responses, and I have met the Home Office permanent secretary. All Members can have a bespoke service in which they attend a surgery to go through their cases, or they can have the usual responses and written replies. Both those options are open. We hope all the backlogs will be cleared by the end of the year, and there are ongoing improvements. I hope hon. Members will have an improved service shortly.
The Online Safety Bill will be back in the House shortly. The Bill remains a priority for this Government. We need to ensure there is time for Members to consider amendments properly, which is why the Bill has not yet returned to the House. I will announce business in the usual way, and we are committed to that Bill.
One thing the hon. Lady did not mention is diversity. All Members of this House can be very proud that we have the first British Asian Prime Minister. He was sworn in this morning, which is why today’s business questions are at an unusual time. I am very proud that my party has had three women Prime Ministers and now the first British Asian Prime Minister. Obviously, many other great British institutions are also enabling talent to thrive. Labour has a little way to go. Even “Doctor Who” has a more successful track record on the diversity of its lead characters.
All other business will be announced in the usual way.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Opposition spokesperson, Thangam Debbonaire rightly described the importance and significance of the role of the Leader of the House. My right hon. Friend knows I am glad she is doing it, partly because it is good for the House and partly because it is bad for the Labour party.
After Prime Minister’s questions, this session is one of the more interesting parts of the parliamentary week. I pay tribute to the Labour spokesperson for giving a review of the week, but may we turn to what should be considered in this House?
I ask the Leader of the House whether we may have the Government’s statement, as soon as possible, on changing the fees for park home residents from using the retail price index to using the consumer prices index, which is long overdue. We need to deal with the issue of the 10% commission whenever anyone changes their home.
On residential leasehold, we need to have the Law Commission’s proposals brought to the House and enacted.
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks regarding me and my post. He will know that the new Secretary of State is no stranger to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and I am sure will grip these issues swiftly. On my hon. Friend’s sentiments on greenfield versus brownfield sites, local consent and putting people in the driving seat, I think all Conservative Members would agree with him.
I call the SNP spokesperson, Deidre Brock.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is good to see the Leader of the House in her place. I am glad to hear that she is not too disappointed to find herself back here again, answering probing questions from the House, such as this one: if the new Prime Minister can claim yesterday a mandate to govern based on the Tory 2019 manifesto, why will he not recognise the even clearer mandate for an independence referendum, as laid out in multiple SNP manifestos and voted for by a clear majority of Scottish voters, as legitimate? I look forward to the Leader of the House’s answer.
Weren’t there waves of relief from those on the Tory Benches yesterday as they joyfully registered that their jobs were possibly safe for a little while longer? However, criticism has already begun about the new Prime Minister’s choices and judgment; it has been described by others far unkinder than me as a Cabinet of retreads. That does not point to a bright new future for this Government. Most questionably, perhaps, we now have a Home Secretary who admitted breaking the ministerial code, apparently multiple times, and resigned over it just days ago, but she has been given a free pass back. Yes, an investigation is needed, but should this place not produce a guide or pamphlet on “How to be a Secretary of State” —or even a “Secretary of State for Dummies”—for those chosen for these positions?
I do not wish to trivialise the Westminster psychodrama, but there is news that makes all that look like the proverbial storm in a teacup: the three main greenhouse gases were at their highest level ever in 2021, and the UK is not even halfway to meeting its climate targets in the 2030s and being net zero by 2050. Yet new licences for oil and gas exploration are being issued; we have a climate Minister who seems to think that that is good news for the environment; and the COP26 President has lost his position and influence at the Cabinet table, although he has since demanded that the Prime Minister explain how increased licensing dovetails with the UK’s legally binding green commitments. I hope that the Leader of the House will not be tempted to refer to the lazy haverings of Scottish branch colleagues and accuse the SNP of not supporting oil and gas workers in the industry. After all, the Scottish Government have committed £500 million to transitioning from a reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy, a commitment the UK Government have still to match.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations warns that we are rapidly approaching the point of no return and that we must prioritise the climate or face catastrophe. Is it not time this Government took seriously the message that scientists, academics, students and ordinary citizens are trying to tell us through their protests and all work together urgently to reach net zero and quite literally save our planet?
The hon. Lady asks me why we do not acknowledge the mandate to have a referendum. As I say every week, it is because we have had one. I long for the day when SNP Members will follow the democratic mandate of the people of Scotland. It was a once-in-a-generation vote. Now is not the time to be trying to have another one. People should be focused on the needs of the Scottish people—on improving educational standards and getting people access to health. However, I know that is what I say to her every week, so let me give her another reason. We learn today that, for there to be an independent Scotland in Europe, Scotland would have to join the euro. If she can tell us how she intends to do that, I will be happy to take her question again.
I welcome my right hon. Friend back to her place. Some weeks ago, I asked her about the urgent matter of the Worcester Warriors, and since then both they and Wasps have gone into administration. With rumours that the rugby organisations want to see a 10-team top league, can we have an urgent debate about the future of rugby union in England and how we keep the benefits it brings to so many constituencies such as mine?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this incredibly important matter again. The date for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions has not yet been announced, but I encourage him to apply for a debate in the usual way and I shall write to that Department about the issue he raises.
I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns.
I welcome the Leader of the House back to her place and thank her for announcing the Backbench Business debates for Thursday
As the House is not due to be sitting on Thursday
I thank the hon. Gentleman. Unfortunately, we were given two choices today: to delay the start of business questions by suspending the House or to take business questions in between the two Backbench Business debates. After consulting colleagues, it was felt that the former was going to cause the least disruption to hon. Members. On his other issue, I shall come back to him.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used his first outing at the Dispatch Box to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the levelling-up agenda. It is already making a huge difference in towns such as Long Eaton in my constituency, where a £25 million towns fund deal is beginning to become a reality. The levelling-up fund could transform Ilkeston and other towns in my constituency if our £20 million bid is successful. Prior to the latest round of announcements of the successful bids, can we have a debate in Government time so that Members can again put forward the reasons why they should be successful in the levelling-up bids?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. She knows that we will be investing close to £5 billion over the next four years on infrastructure projects and culture, but we will be very much focused on towns and city centres as well. I know that she has been championing her local bid and I encourage her to apply for a Westminster Hall debate on the subject.
In the early hours of Monday morning, three people were shot in my constituency. Two have died and a third is still in intensive care. Since January, eight people have been murdered in my constituency, including Zara Aleena, whom I spoke to the then Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s questions about, and Hina Bashir. Both of them were murdered in psychotic acts of violence against women. Violent crime is now blighting Ilford in a serious way. I am horrified that the place I have lived in most of my life and grew up in is now so badly impacted. All I want to know is whether the Government will provide some decent considered time, in Government time, to talk about how we genuinely combat violence, not just against women, but against the young people who are losing their lives, sadly on an almost weekly basis, in Ilford.
I was very sorry to hear about the several incidents in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I am sure that all hon. Members will want to send their thoughts to the families of the victims. We hope that the person who survived that terrible attack will make a recovery. It is incredibly important that we tackle violent crime. The Government have lifted restrictions on stop and search and removed more than 72,000 knives and dangerous weapons in recent times, but more needs to be done. I am sure that, if the hon. Gentleman wanted to apply for a Backbench Business debate, he would have support across the House for it.
In the past week many of my constituents have been afflicted by flooding from sewerage systems that are completely inadequate. Developments have taken place, but no further improvement of the sewerage system in Harrow has been made. May we have a debate in Government time on what measures we can put in place to ensure that, when developers put in applications for developments, proper consideration is given to sewerage systems so that people are not afflicted with unnecessary flooding?
This is incredibly important. Planning committees need to give due regard to infrastructure not just for developments but, for example, for the astroturfing of pitches and so forth. I will raise this matter with the new Secretary of State. I also encourage my hon. Friend to raise it in questions.
Recognising that children and youngsters quickly outgrow football boots, in 2019 Karl Bradley and his fabulous volunteers Tracy, Nanette and Rhys set up The Boot Room, a swap and donate your boots scheme based at Pure Football in Swansea East. This month it is celebrating its third birthday. It has ensured that more than 1,500 pairs of pre-loved boots have found a new home. It also now offers a limited number of shorts, shirts, socks and shin pads, thus ensuring that there are no barriers to young people enjoying the beautiful game. Will the Leader of the House join me in wishing The Boot Room a happy birthday and congratulating Karl and his team on all their hard work in bringing joy to so many young people?
I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate Karl, Tracy, Nanette and Rhys. What a fabulous project. I thank the hon. Lady for allowing us all to pay tribute to them.
A previous chief constable of Bedfordshire described police IT as “yesterday’s IT tomorrow”. I am hearing alarming stories that it now takes officers up to a day and a half to input case files, when it used to take 40 minutes. May we have an urgent debate in Government time? The public want the police out on the streets catching criminals, not hunched over their computers.
I fully understand why my hon. Friend is so annoyed at this situation. I will certainly write to the Home Office to make it aware of this. One of the benefits of the representation we have in this House is that good practice can be shared. If he were to apply for a debate, we could see what other forces do and how they ensure that the 20,000 new officers that we are putting in to frontline policing are able to serve their communities and are not stuck behind a desk doing admin.
May I also welcome the right hon. Lady back to her place? A bit of continuity is very welcome. Voices, a local charity in my constituency, has highlighted the devastating impact that the cost of living is having on women suffering from domestic abuse. A third of respondents to a Women’s Aid survey said that they found it impossible or very hard to leave their abuser. Could we have a debate in Government time on this unique problem that the cost of living crisis is posing for women suffering domestic abuse? I know the Leader of the House will say that I should apply for a Backbench Business debate, but showing Government support on this important issue would be very welcome.
I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important issue. This has been a priority for the Government. Most recently—last week, in fact—we announced that we were opening up further legal aid access to victims of domestic abuse so that they can get support and representation. I shall write to the Home Office and encourage my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to write to the hon. Lady in detail.
Currently, a young entrepreneur must wait until they reach the age of 18 before they can open a business bank account. Does my right hon. Friend agree that entrepreneurship should be encouraged as a path post education, and that existing barriers should be reconsidered to increase accessibility for young people? Will she set aside parliamentary time for a debate on how we can encourage and support young entrepreneurs?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this. We want to support all young people in their talents and ambitions. She has identified a barrier that stops people setting up their own businesses and starting to develop their ideas at a young age. I shall certainly write to the new Secretary of State and raise the matter with him.
I know that the Leader of the House is a great supporter of green growth. She may know of the innovative work at Swansea University to create hydrogen from off-peak renewables and waste plastic. Is she aware that the university faces a cliff edge in EU funding that threatens 50 projects and 270 highly skilled jobs? Will she talk with her colleagues at Cabinet level and look to make time for a debate on this so that we have the investment in existing projects and jobs and the money to scale up market-ready innovation to generate jobs and exports?
We recently had Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was able to raise the matter then. If not, I will be happy to do so on his behalf.
Following the events at the Chinese consulate in Manchester, I was concerned to read a recent report from the Safeguard Defenders non-government organisation which claims that the Chinese police are operating from several locations in the UK, including an estate agents in the Hendon constituency in order to seek the repatriation of Chinese nationals. Could a Minister from the Home Office come to the Dispatch Box to address not only the report but the subsequent security concerns?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this. These are disturbing reports. I shall bring them immediately to the attention of the Home Office. It is vital, if that is happening, that it desists. I shall also raise it with the Foreign Office. It is an absolute disgrace.
The SNP amendments to the Online Safety Bill were tabled by the original deadline of July, so I can only assume that the amendments that Members are being allowed extra time to consider are those that have been tabled by the Government. Can the Leader of the House please confirm that, when the Online Safety Bill comes back, hopefully, makes progress and goes through to the Lords, it will not do so with another swathe of Government amendments that will make the Bill unrecognisable?
Future business will be announced in the usual way, but I heard the hon. Lady. The reason why this has been delayed that I gave earlier is correct. It is simply to allow more time for hon. Members to look at the amendments.
I am growing increasingly concerned about maternity services and pressures on midwives. The superb Stroud maternity hospital has also had post-natal beds temporarily closed due to staffing shortages. Post-natal care is not a nice-to-have luxury; the first few days after birth are discombobulating at best and terrifying at worst. Recently, there have been many national reports, such as on Ockendon and East Kent, but some are still saying that this is only a Government issue, and they are not looking to the NHS to solve some of the complex problems. Will my right hon. Friend grant time on the Floor of the House to debate this serious issue so that we can remove it as a political football and see what can be done to bring about change?
First, let me welcome my hon. Friend back from her maternity leave and thank her for the work that she is doing to highlight this deficit in her constituency. Normally, I would suggest that she applies for an Adjournment debate, but I know that she has raised this issue repeatedly, so I will write on her behalf to all relevant Departments to ask them to come together to resolve this, and I encourage some of her local stakeholders to do so as well. This is a priority for our Government. We are making a £127 million investment in the maternity system over the next year alone.
I know the Leader of the House will be aware that today marks the start of the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal. Last week, I spent time in Belgium and northern France with Philip Dunne—we are both commissioners, representing Parliament, on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Seeing the scale of the loss and the ages on the gravestones of people from all around the Commonwealth, it really struck me that it would be very timely for this House to debate and to remember again the sacrifices that so many have made for all of us.
I thank the right hon. Member for raising that wonderful suggestion. As she spoke, I heard many Members of this House also voice their approval of that. She will know how to secure such a debate, but it would certainly have my support. The Royal British Legion and Poppy Scotland are just two of the organisations that help us commemorate and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Earlier this week, Ms Qaisar attacked the Prime Minister over his race. In a nasty social media post, the SNP Member suggested that the Prime Minister was the wrong type of Asian. Does the Leader of the House agree that the Member should apologise, and will she consider holding a debate—
Order. I presume the hon. Gentleman has told the hon. Member that he would be mentioning her.
I have, yes.
Does the Leader of the House agree that the Member should apologise, and will she consider holding a debate on divisive rhetoric in politics in the light of recent hate-fuelled statements made by SNP politicians?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. The overwhelming sentiment across the whole of the UK, whatever people’s political differences, is that we should be incredibly proud that this country has its first British Asian Prime Minister. Ms Qaisar did, I think, delete her tweet, and she may wish to proactively apologise for it. The fact that she has deleted it shows that she recognises that it was the wrong thing to do. Again, I would just say to our Opposition colleagues that they might like to think about some of their tone and some of the things that their party leaderships say that gives permission for people to do such things.
Last month, one of my constituents was detained at Charles de Gaulle Airport. On arrival, authorities said that a Schengen travel ban had been in place since 2019. That came as a great shock to my constituent who had travelled to many Schengen countries since 2019 without any issue. During his detention, he was subjected to racist language and stereotyping and was detained in appalling lodgings. The travel ban is now affecting his work, which necessitates travel within the Schengen area. I am doing all that I can to help, but may I ask for a statement in Government time on how the UK Government might expedite the removal of the Schengen travel ban against my constituent and move the matter forward swiftly?
I hope the hon. Lady has contacted the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; I do not know the gentleman’s circumstances.
I am glad to hear that that is the case. I will write to the Department, then, and let it know that this is an ongoing issue for the hon. Lady.
I welcome my right hon. Friend back to her place. I think that she does an outstanding job.
News reports this week suggest that children as young as 10 are abusing nitrous oxide, and indeed Southend police recently confiscated more than 100 industrial use canisters on just one day. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on this important issue, described by doctors as an epidemic among our youth?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important issue. My hon. Friend Selaine Saxby, is also campaigning on this issue. They should join forces and apply for a debate, and I am sure that other Members of the House would welcome that, too.
The housing crisis is being fuelled by the plethora of short-term holiday lets, which, I know, is a matter of concern for Members across the House, but the Government are simply not acting fast enough. The situation is growing in my constituency: I have three times more Airbnbs and short-term holiday lets than the right hon. Member has in her constituency. Can we have an urgent debate on the rise of short-term holiday lets and what the Government will do to stop this?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising that matter, which other Members have also raised recently. I think that I can best be of assistance to her by writing to the Department and asking that it takes this matter up. She will know how to apply for a debate in the usual way, and I know that other Members of the House would support that.
As the first six months of the Homes for Ukraine scheme draw to a close, housing authorities, host families and refugees will be taking stock. There is likely to be a need for more hosts. There may be a need for higher amounts of reimbursement to host families to take account of the rising cost of living. At the same time, there are still housing issues for Afghan refugees and Hong Kong British national (overseas) passport holders, and, as we heard earlier, pressure for asylum seekers as well. Does my right hon. Friend agree that all this perhaps provides an opportunity for a debate that takes stock of how this scheme has worked, what its successes have been, what lessons there are to be learned, and perhaps whether we can have a wider homes for refugees scheme?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that matter. Clearly, for a fairly modest sum of £350 a month, a sizeable group of people are being taken care of. If those people had not stepped up and done that, pressures on housing stock and others would be severe and it would be much more expensive to the public purse. I thank him for enabling us to say thank you to all those individuals who have stepped up. He is right that it is the most cost-effective and nicest way of caring for those individuals and showing our support to the people of Ukraine if we keep that scheme going.
As well as reaching the dizzying heights of the highest office, the current Prime Minister has in common with the right hon. Members for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and for Maidenhead (Mrs May) and the former Member for Witney having no mandate in Scotland. Will the Leader of the House make a statement, advising the new Prime Minister not to follow the example of his erstwhile predecessors in seeking to deny Scotland’s right to choose its own future, or did democracy die in Scotland in 2014?
Again, the way that democracy works has not really been fully understood by SNP Members. My hon. Friend Richard Graham, who asked a question just before the hon. Lady, is intimately familiar with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which promotes and explains the importance of democracy in all places around the world. Hon. Members should get in touch with him and learn what democracy actually means.
In my constituency, residents are contacting me about antisocial behaviour. It does not matter whether they live in Padiham, in Burnley town centre, or up on Corn Road. When I speak to local police officers, they tell me that the issue is not with the police, but with youth justice and successfully prosecuting a very small number of highly motivated young children. Can we have a debate in Government time on antisocial behaviour and youth justice so that we can find a solution to this problem?
My hon. Friend is right to point to the team effort that is needed to ensure that communities are protected from antisocial behaviour and their lives are not disrupted, but also to ensure that young people are taken care of and enabled to follow a more productive path. That is a very good suggestion for a debate and I encourage him to apply for one.
For months now, various Ministers, Secretaries of State and one of our recent Prime Ministers have all promised action regarding my constituent, Mr Singh. Mr Singh is subject to identity theft. He and his family have been held by Border Force, his immigration status is in jeopardy, his family have been placed in danger and his health records are in utter chaos. Now, a long-awaited ministerial meeting for next week has just been cancelled. Will the Leader of the House please use her good offices to ask her colleagues in Government to start doing their jobs?
I assume the relevant Department that the hon. Lady was expecting to meet is the Home Office. If that is the case, if she gives me the details after this session, I will write to the Department immediately. I know this must be a traumatic time for her constituent, and we would want the case dealt with very quickly. As I said earlier, I met the permanent secretary to the Home Office yesterday to discuss timeliness of getting back to colleagues, and he is determined to improve the service that hon. Members are getting.
Ynys Môn is currently represented by five Members of the Senedd, soon to increase to six under the Welsh Labour Government’s plans to increase the size of the Senedd from 60 to 96 MSs, at an estimated cost of £100 million. Yet the Welsh Labour Government continue to deprioritise north Wales: the sudden closure of the Menai bridge last Friday, with no warning, will bring months of chaos to my constituents. Does the Leader of the House agree that the Welsh Labour Government should be prioritising the maintenance of key transport links, not increasing the number of politicians?
My hon. Friend is right, and this is another example of the Welsh Labour Government’s deprioritising the people of north Wales. I heard about the bridge closure, which is outrageous, but she is doing everything she should in her work on getting a freeport and on championing nuclear power and infrastructure to support that industry. I also know she is very effective, because I think she has already secured an Adjournment debate on this matter, so I shall give some more power to her elbow by writing to the Minister before that debate.
I am afraid that I too have to ask for a debate about the Home Office’s not taking its responsibilities seriously. I have two refugee constituents who, for different reasons, are stuck in two different countries and have had their travel documents lost or stolen. They both have significant childcare responsibilities, yet the Home Office seems content to leave them stranded for weeks on end waiting for replacement documents, while they run out of money and their children are placed at risk. Can the Leader of the House help me to get those cases urgently in front of someone who will pay attention and respond to them?
I am sorry to hear that that is the case. One of the new services that the Home Office has stood up is a surgery with hon. Members, which can be done either in person or on a Zoom or Teams call. That sounds like a way of resolving the matter in the swiftest possible time and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to use it, but I will also write and let the Home Office know that this is a pressing case.
On a personal note, may I say that the Leader of the House is an asset to this party, this House and this country?
I am an avid Bath Rugby supporter, which is tough to say as a Leicestershire MP, but my father is a season ticket holder and my brother was the medical doctor there. The one thing that unites us is our passion for rugby; to see the likes of Wasps and Worcester Warriors collapsing is incredibly scary, especially for my constituents who are employed by the likes of Wasps. Will my right hon. Friend write to the Government to ask for a review like the one we had of football and, failing that, can we have time to debate such a review?
I know this will be a pressing issue of immense importance to my hon. Friend’s constituents, and I am happy to write to the relevant Department. I thank him also for his kind remarks to me; I may not be the centre forward, but I shall always be needed on the right wing.
Given all the changes of Ministers recently, can the Leader of the House confirm that we can still expect timely answers to letters and to written and oral questions from recent weeks? Specifically, on
Yes, it will. The faces change but the Government continue. If there is a delay in the hon. Lady getting a timely response, as she has indicated, I will always follow up on behalf of hon. Members. That is one of the main reasons for having business questions, so that we can ensure that urgent cases in particular are followed up. She has that assurance.
In June, Warrington Council introduced a low-traffic neighbourhood zone in the Latchford area of my constituency—an area that is totally unsuitable, because it is constrained to the south by the Manchester ship canal and to the north by the River Mersey. Roads have been closed to traffic, resulting in longer journey times and more congestion. In a survey I conducted, 87% of residents who were impacted by the changes say they want things to go back to how they were. May we have a debate in Government time on low-traffic neighbourhood zones, and does my right hon. Friend agree that local councillors need to listen to local residents and scrap those changes?
We do need to listen to local people, not only because that is what their representatives are supposed to do, but because quite often they will have the best ideas on how to manage particular situations. I would tell my hon. Friend how to secure a debate, but I know that, like my hon. Friend Virginia Crosbie, who is sitting next to him, he has already managed to secure an Adjournment debate. I congratulate him on that, but I shall also flag the fact that he has raised the matter with me to the relevant Ministry.
If we could reopen the Rhondda tunnel, which goes from Blaencwm to Blaengwynfi, it would be the second-longest cycle tunnel in Europe and a great local asset in some of the poorest areas in Wales. It belongs to the Department for Transport, so I have been trying to secure meetings with Ministers. I met with the then Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, who was very enthusiastic. Unfortunately, he was sacked, and then he became the Home Secretary and then the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I met with a Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, but he was then made the Europe Minister, then Chief Whip and then Northern Ireland Secretary. I met with another Minister, Wendy Morton, who then became Chief Whip, resigned, un-resigned and was then sacked. I was going to meet with the new Secretary of State, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, but she is now a Minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Therefore, can the Leader of the House do two things for me? First, can she ensure that I do meet a Minister, and that whichever Minister I meet stays in place long enough to make sure we get the money? Secondly, as she is the fixed point in this Government, as far as I can see, will she personally come to the Rhondda tunnel? We can dangle her down in a hole, right down to the bottom, so she can see it for herself. We will let her out again—probably—but it will be amazing; there will be lovely chaps who will look after her as she goes down, and she will not hit her head or anything like that. It is amazing. We need to make this project happen; will she help?
I shall do my utmost to help the hon. Gentleman. We often talk about a whole-of-Government approach, and it seems that he has done all the legwork to secure that. I will be happy to flag the matter to the new Secretary of State, who I saw this morning—
My right hon. Friend Mr Harper. I hear the hon. Gentleman’s frustration and I shall do my best to ensure that the matter is prioritised by the relevant Department.
I wish I had an offer to make as good as that of Chris Bryant. Many people in rural towns and villages in my constituency rely on public transport. They need those links and that connectivity to get them to where they need to be, so it is very concerning to hear that route 41, which runs between Bedford and Northampton, stopping at many towns and villages in the rural parts of my constituency, will soon be running at a much-reduced rate. That will leave constituents isolated, without the means to travel to work, school or the doctor’s. Will the Leader of the House ensure a debate in Government time to underline our commitment to keeping rural communities connected and the fact that everybody has a role to play in that—bus operators and local government included?
I shall be very happy to flag that issue with the Department for Transport and the new Secretary of State. My hon. Friend will know that the six-month extension to the bus recovery grant scheme provided up to £130 million to continue supporting bus services, and England’s long-term national bus strategy, which I am sorry to hear is called “Bus Back Better”, is explicit about ensuring the needs of rural transport.
Just a few days from COP27, the new Prime Minister has decided to sack the COP26 President not only from Cabinet but as a Minister. What message does that send when the Government are looking at a hundred new oil and gas licences, and the UN Secretary General is saying, “Prioritise climate change or face catastrophe.”?
I am incredibly proud of what the Government did at COP26, and I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Alok Sharma for all the work he has done as COP26 President. It is not correct to say that he has been sacked; he will be there to ensure that that work has a real legacy, and he will hand it over to the new president. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to put on record my gratitude to our colleague.
I wish the Prime Minister and his Front-Bench team every success as we return to greater fiscal responsibility and focus on meeting our 2019 Conservative party manifesto commitments, which include action on climate change. In the spirit of focusing on COP26 and COP27, I invite the Government to welcome King Charles to attend COP27, he having done such a fantastic job with the COP26 President in Glasgow.
I thank my right hon. Friend for placing his views on the record. He will understand that they are not a matter for me, but they will have been heard. Hopefully we will be keeping His Majesty rather less busy on other matters.
Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Bonnie Blantyre and pals on their community horticulture gold award from Keep Scotland Beautiful for their tireless campaign to brighten up the local area with flowers and plants? May we have a debate in Government time on the importance of biodiversity at a local level?
I am sure that all Members would congratulate the Bonnie Blantyre team for this huge achievement. The hon. Lady is right that this is vital for wellbeing, and for the look and feel of our communities. I thank her for getting that on the record.
The principal rail service into my Cleethorpes constituency is provided —or at the moment not provided—by TransPennine Express. It is supposed to run an hourly service between Cleethorpes and Manchester. When I checked its website this morning, there were five consecutive cancellations, which means at least six hours between trains. I have had frequent meetings with members of the management over the last 11 months of various disputes, but to no avail. They tell me that they need approval from the Department for Transport to conclude negotiations. Could the Leader of the House arrange for a statement from the new Transport Secretary so that we can try to resolve the issue?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. I will raise it straightaway with the Department for Transport. It is absolutely vital. We know that there are occasional disruptions to services, but to have so many will have caused my hon. Friend’s constituents a huge amount of difficulty. I thank him for raising the issue, and shall help him to get it resolved with the Department for Transport.
I am very pleased to see the Leader of the House back in her role, and I look forward to business questions every Thursday. The Chinese embassy in London is currently looking to move to the former Royal Mint building. Yesterday the BBC reported that the Chinese Communist party had established unofficial police stations operating out of embassies and consulates in Europe. Does she agree that steps should be taken to ensure that the Chinese Communist party does not use that building to establish a clandestine police force to intimidate or threaten Hongkongers and Chinese nationals living in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman—or any building, for that matter. Another colleague raised the same issue earlier. These reports are appalling. People need to be protected, and this needs to be stopped.