Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:35 am on 26th January 2023.
I am sure the whole House will want to recognise that we have Holocaust Memorial Day this week. Let me place on the record my thanks, in particular, to all the survivors who help us and new generations to understand what happened and, of course, to redouble our efforts to tackle antisemitism wherever it appears. I also thank the Holocaust Educational Trust. I know that many Members will have relied on it to take them to Auschwitz and elsewhere, and that will have had a huge impact on all Members of this House.
May I also place on the record my thanks to the ship’s company of HMS Queen Elizabeth, who visited Parliament this week, for all they have done for the Atlantic Future Forum?
I remind colleagues that today marks 100 days until the coronation, and I encourage all Members to make use of that moment to bring our communities together and create new projects in our constituencies, which I know is a focus of His Majesty the King.
I anticipated correctly that Thangam Debbonaire would not ask me today about our £150 million extra investment in mental health support, or the £50 million to supercharge the UK satellite industry, or the crackdown we announced this week on criminal gangs. I am shocked, quite frankly, Mr Speaker, at the suggestion that there are pre-prepared political rants in this Chamber.
I shall attempt to answer the hon. Lady’s questions. I completely agree with her that we need transparency and truth on all the Bills that she mentioned, so I am grateful for the opportunity to correct some of the misunderstanding in what she outlined about some of them.
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is not about nurses. Nursing unions have been hugely responsible when they want to take industrial action, and we have great confidence in the minimum service levels that they have put in place. Very explicitly, we are not taking these powers and bringing forward measures regarding nurses at all, and it is quite wrong to suggest that. Instead, we are focusing on where we have deep concerns about minimum service levels—in two blue-light services and in transport. I remind the House that under the current Mayor of London there have been nearly 100 strikes on public transport in London, and I do not think the commuting public, who rely on public transport, can go on like this. So that is what the Bill is doing, which is very well understood by everyone except, perhaps, those on the Labour Front Bench.
There is clearly an ongoing misunderstanding about the way in which the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will work, and about the scrutiny that will be applied to it. Committees in both Houses are dedicated to looking at that, but there are clearly measures that we will want to continue; we have been explicit about, for instance, environmental protections and protections for workers, to which we are committed. Just last Friday we passed additional measures to protect workers’ tips in the hospitality industry, and this week we have proposed measures to introduce a statutory code so that practices such as firing and rehiring no longer take place. Let me gently remind the hon. Lady what her own party did to its workers at their headquarters in July 2021, when it put many of its staff on very insecure contracts.
We will protect workers’ rights and we will protect environmental standards, but there will be some EU law on our statute book that does not work for the modern economy, and that is what we will focus on and reform. I hope the hon. Lady will appreciate that, and will start focusing on what our economy needs rather than misinterpreting the way the Bill will work and the scrutiny that surrounds it.
I am delighted that the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, a private Member’s Bill presented by my hon. Friend Henry Smith, completed its Committee stage this week. That is another step towards ensuring that we protect endangered species around the world which some people wish to go and shoot and bring back and turn into ashtrays: it is a huge step forward. We care deeply about the welfare of animals, which is why we introduced the important measures in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.
I have placed on record all the work that has been done by my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch on football governance, which is a subject close to my heart because I helped to save my club, Portsmouth, in the largest and fastest ever community buy-out in the country’s history, and that club is thriving now. Improving football governance is a priority, and in the course of my work I have been looking at bringing it forward—I would say “soon”, but the hon. Lady has banned me from saying that. Further business will be announced in the usual way.
The hon. Lady made a very sensible suggestion about the Good Friday/Belfast agreement, which was an incredibly important moment for our nation and for Northern Ireland. I will certainly take up that suggestion and see whether we can accommodate it.
Tuesday was National Compliment Day, so I will end by paying the hon. Lady a compliment: these exchanges are always a pleasure.