Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:35 am on 26th January 2023.

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Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 10:35 am, 26th January 2023

I thank the Leader of the House for setting out the business. Ministers answering questions from MPs on behalf of our constituents should be a given—it is the most basic form of scrutiny in a parliamentary democracy—but, as we all know, this Government struggle with even the basics. Swerving scrutiny is now the norm. Last week the right hon. Lady said, as a justification for setting off on a pre-prepared political rant, that I had invited her to compare the Government’s record in power against Labour’s. I did not, actually, and she should not need to be reminded that that is not what these exchanges are about. I am happy to take her for a cup of tea and talk about Labour’s record achievements: cutting NHS waiting times and crime; on educational attainment; the minimum wage; laws on equality and human rights; and the world’s first climate change Act—the list goes on and on.

What I would like here, on behalf of the people we represent, is direct answers to important questions on the Government’s failing legislative agenda and their utter disdain for Parliament. Admittedly, if the Prime Minister carries on as he is, the right hon. Lady might be able to dust off her “PM for PM” Tory leadership merch sooner rather than later—I’d like a mug—but until then Parliament requires her to represent the interests of this House, and therefore the British people, in Government.

Seeing as the right hon. Lady did not answer last week, let us have another go. First, on the Tories’ sacking of nurses Bill, they should have published an impact assessment before it even reached the House, yet the final stages are due in the Commons on Monday and we still have not got one. That is despite her saying last week, publicly, that she thought impact assessments were very handy. Well, they are, but they are more than that; they are a crucial tool for parliamentary oversight, especially when a Bill is being rattled through like this one. What are the Government hiding? When will we see their report on what the Bill’s impact will be?

The Leader of the House’s reassurance that the burning through of regulations under the retained EU law Bill will have good scrutiny simply does not wash with the people of Bristol West, or anywhere else. The right hon. Lady is Parliament’s representative in Government, so why is she not backing MPs being given a proper say on behalf of our constituents over workers’ rights to holiday or maternity pay, or over environmental protections? It is literally her job.

The Leader of the House could start by giving us the means to scrutinise properly. Last Thursday, I got no answer on the Government’s half-baked dashboard for EU regulations, so perhaps I could get one this week. Do they have a plan to complete the dashboard? If so, by when? Do they have a plan to square the practical difficulties of getting through thousands of regulations before the end of the year? If so, what is it?

In questions to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers, my hon. Friend Andrew Gwynne was told that the return of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill was

“a matter for business managers.”—[Official Report, 12 January 2023; Vol. 725, c. 695.]

The problem is that when I have asked the Leader of the House about this before, I have got—you guessed it—no answer. Like everything else that they have lost down the back of the sofa, apparently it is Tory infighting holding the Bill up. I gather that Tory Back Benchers have had to be reassured that it will not be used as a device to crack down on hunting. They want to protect hunting? What a mess! Can the Leader of the House clear this up? When will the Bill be brought back to the House for its remaining stages?

While the Leader of the House is down the back of that infamous sofa, could she try to pull out the football governance White Paper? The Government committed in the last Queen’s Speech to publishing proposals to establish an independent regulator of English football. Could she give my hon. Friend Jeff Smith a birthday present and find them, please? Since that commitment, we have had flip-flopping, rides on the ministerial merry-go-round, and a promise from the Culture Secretary that the White Paper would be published “imminently”. Labour has supported the introduction of an independent regulator for years. It is urgent for clubs, players, staff and fans. The Government have let them all down. Where is it?

Let me end by noting the fast-approaching 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. The Labour party is immensely proud of its part in the peace process, as are many others across the House, of all political dimensions. Will the Leader of the House please allow a debate in Government time so that Members can reflect on what was achieved, and to allow representatives from Northern Ireland to share their views? Does she agree that this moment should not be left to the Backbench Business Committee and we really should have a Government debate?