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 Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:35 am, 26th January 2023

I start by addressing the hon. Lady’s serious point about asylum seekers, particularly with regard to their vulnerability and the vulnerability of children. Many Members have raised this issue, but one of the very sad things about the system—we recognise it is a broken system that needs reform, and we are introducing legislation to do that—is that keeping people in hotels for long periods of time increases their vulnerability. We have heard stories of gangmasters turning up at hotels where they know asylum seekers are staying to take people away. For obvious reasons, it is very hard to protect people in such an environment, so we have to address this. When we introduce legislation to tackle this issue, to get the system working more effectively and to make it fairer for both the UK taxpayer and for the very vulnerable people who are being trafficked, I hope we will have support from both sides of the House. This is a serious matter, people need protecting and they need protecting swiftly.

The hon. Lady, again, invites comparisons. I hope she will forgive me, but I cannot let this exchange pass without quoting Rabbie Burns:

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

I am sure the hon. Lady and her colleagues could deliver those lines much better than I have, but I wish the SNP had the gift to see itself as others see it, or as Audit Scotland and Scottish taxpayers see it in the week in which the Auditor General for Scotland, Stephen Boyle, called for greater transparency on the colossal underspend in the SNP’s budget. Very often, Scottish National party Members come to this House asking for additional funding from the UK Government, but the SNP has underspent its budget by nearly £2 billion—that is the equivalent of 7,142 nurses. I am sorry to say that the areas of underspend were in education and skills, the economy, net zero and transport, and also in money given to the covid response.

The hon. Lady paints a picture of Scotland and of the people she represents that I do not recognise. I say to her that she is governing a great and dynamic country, one that stiffens the backbone and reinforces the soul. It is the nation of Fleming, Dunlop, McAdam, Watt, Telford—[Interruption.]