The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
The House will rise for the summer recess at the conclusion of business on
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.
I would like to address the Standards Committee report published this morning on Christopher Pincher. I am shocked and saddened at its findings and my thoughts—and, I hope, the thoughts of the whole House—are with the victims. As well as addressing the impact on them of the Member’s behaviour, the Committee found that the actions of the Member significantly affected the public’s perception of this House. I am afraid to say that, shamefully, it appears that the Conservative party protected and even promoted him, despite a previous investigation into his conduct.
I am concerned that the Leader of the House did not announce a motion to approve the Committee’s report. I do hope that the Government are not attempting to delay any possible by-election. Will the Leader of the House confirm that she will bring forward the motion as soon as possible, that the Government will recommend approving the report and its sanctions, and that the Prime Minister will show some backbone this time and actually condemn the actions of the Member? If the Member does not do the decent thing and resign, will the Leader of the House ensure that she allocates time with the speed and urgency that the activities require? Does she want me to remind her week after week that sexual harassment is not acceptable?
To continue, I wish the England cricket team the best of luck as they start the third test against Australia today. On that note, the remaining legislation announced by the Leader of the House up to the summer is more like a series of dot balls. Where is the drive? The Government have a huge majority and they are not doing anything with it. Instead, the Prime Minister is wasting precious time on the Floor of the House trying to pass red meat for a small group of right-wing Back Benchers, rather than new laws that will actually help working people.
Why did not the Leader of the House announce the transport Bill or the mental health Bill, which have been left in limbo, or the much-needed schools Bill, which the Government have now completely abandoned? Where is the leasehold reform Bill? Millions of people around the country will be furious that the Government have, again, failed to introduce long-promised and much-needed leasehold reform. That was a 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment and it has been promised by almost every Housing Secretary since. So where is the Bill?
Labour forced the Government into committing to end the sale of new private leaseholds and to replace existing ones with commonhold. Our motion passed with a majority of 174, without a single vote against, so where is the Government’s plan? Our motion also instructed the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make an oral statement to MPs by
Instead of scoring runs, the Prime Minister is running scared of scrutiny. Too weak to turn up to Prime Minister’s questions, he would not even try to bat away questions on his failing record yesterday—a so-called leader who cannot even defend his own wicket. Any credible Prime Minister would accept the need for scrutiny and answer the questions from colleagues on behalf of the people we represent.
It is not just PMQs, though, is it? The Prime Minister barely makes an appearance these days. He did not show up or even give an opinion on his predecessor’s lies last month. I did notice that he managed to find time to watch the cricket, so I hope this speech might catch his attention. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the Prime Minister will stand up to the senior members of his own party who attempted to undermine and attack the democratic institutions of this House and vote for the Privileges Committee motion on Monday? The public deserve to know what he thinks and they want a Prime Minister who stands up for standards.
Just like at Lord’s on Sunday, the ball is dead, it is the end of the over and we are heading towards the end of the innings. The Tories have sent out their last batsman. He is out for a golden duck. The Prime Minister has nothing to show the people of this country. He has failed to bring down the cost of living, failed to bring down waiting lists and failed to stop the dangerous boat crossings. Should he not, like Ben Stokes, consider what is in the spirit of the game? It is time he declared and called a general election.
May I start by saying how delighted I was to attend yesterday’s service of thanksgiving and dedication for His Majesty King Charles III at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. I thank all involved in what was a magnificent day.
I add my voice to the many tributes that have been paid this week to all those who work in and alongside the national health service for its 75 years of service. I also commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster. I am sure the thoughts of Members across the House are with all those responding to the incident in London this morning.
The hon. Lady sends a message to the England cricket team that I am sure we would all echo. We all want them to do well. May I make a plea to her and her party to assist in that by telling Just Stop Oil to just stop? Not content with interrupting car runs, it is now intent on interrupting cricket runs. I am all for frustrating the Australian batsmen, but that is the England cricket team’s job. In all seriousness, we have seen some awful scenes this week, particularly at the tennis. It is particularly callous to interrupt sporting events, which can turn the course of a match and risk injury to players. I appreciate the connections between this selfish and counter- productive group of people and the Labour party’s coffers, which might also explain why Labour’s energy policy undermines our energy security and prosperity, and the fact that Labour has voted against every measure we have brought forward to end dangerous and disruptive protests. I hope we will see no more scenes such as we have seen at those sporting events, and I wish all those taking part in this sport-packed weekend good luck. On our proposals for renters and for leasehold reform, we remain committed to those and I will update the House in the usual way.
I turn to the very serious matter that the hon. Lady focused on: standards. Let me first make a broad point. The House knows my view on these matters. The only way we will improve the situation here is by recognising that we are not just one organisation, but a community of many. Processes and the volume of standards bodies, with 13 separate entities and counting, does not improve behaviour—only cultural change will do that. The key to that is deepening our understanding of the duty of care we have towards each other. We are custodians of the trust and authority of this place.
I have set out my intention to conclude my own assessment, with external advice, of where we need to focus in this place. I will make those findings available to the Commission, the hon. Lady and the Committee on Standards. I held a private session with the Committee this week to tell it of my concerns and suggested solutions. I have also told the Committee and the Speaker that I think the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme review needs to be brought forward. Finally, as the hon. Lady will know, and I thank her for her support, I am establishing a forum between political parties, the Government and the House to ensure that we can work together in the best way possible to support MPs, prospective MPs, their staff and the staff of the House. I am supported in all that work by the Prime Minister.
The hon. Lady mentions the privileges motion. I will not dwell on that today. We will be able to debate that and both be able to say what we think on Monday. As for the report published today at 9 am, the Government did not set the timetable for the publication of that report; it is the Standards Committee’s report and it has published it today. She will appreciate that the hon. Member concerned has 10 days to appeal and we must let due process run its course. But she knows that we take these matters incredibly seriously. Further business will be announced in the usual way.
I thank my right hon. Friend for what she has said. Eight days ago, on
Does the Department think that is an appropriate way of putting important information into the public domain, when neither Minister speaking in the debate mentioned that increase of nearly £36 million and no MP in the Chamber knew about it?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He should know, because I think the letter would have been copied to his office, that I have written to the Department on that matter and I shall certainly, again, make sure it has heard his comments today.
I thank the Leader for giving us the business and, again, endorse the remarks that the shadow Leader has made about standards. I wish to add my own remarks about the 35th anniversary of the Piper Alpha tragedy. I am sure our thoughts are very much with all those who continue to be affected by the tragic events that took place 35 years ago to this day.
I also wish to say how pleased I am that the Leader of the House enjoyed her visit to St Giles’ Cathedral yesterday for the service of thanksgiving. I hope she did not suffer from a bout of sword envy when she saw Dame Katherine Grainger carrying out that duty yesterday.
This week sees the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS, the inspiration for which came from the experience of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, established in 1913. I add my own words of thanks for the contribution NHS staff, past, present and future, have made and will make to our collective health and wellbeing as a nation.
Last week, I asked the Leader of the House to make time for debates on why six police forces in England continue to remain in special measures and on why NHS staff sickness in England has hit a record high. There are, alas, no signs of any debates forthcoming on those issues. Can I add to that list a request for a debate on why 28 NHS trusts and integrated care boards across England are in similar special measures, so we can find out what the Government intend to do about that?
This week, members of the Orkney Islands Council agreed that they should explore options for alternative models of governance, including exploring their Nordic connections. There have been some suggestions that they might wish to rejoin Norway and exploit those historical links. It is easy for Members on the SNP Benches to see the attractions of being part of a small, prosperous, energy-rich, independent country of 5.5 million people, so the only question is the constitutional means by which that could be given effect, if a part of the UK wished to leave. Asking for approximately 5.5 million friends, could we have a debate on how that might happen please?
I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Dame Katherine Grainger on the incredible job she did. There was a lovely moment in the cathedral when we caught each other’s eye and gave each other a massive grin. She did a tremendous job and it was an incredibly moving service. I again thank everyone who took part in that.
The hon. Gentleman quite often criticises me for being well prepared for our exchanges. I am a former Girl Guide and I believe in that sort of thing, but it is very easy to prepare to answer his questions because they are usually focused on one thing, which is not an issue that is of any relevance to the people he represents. If he were less focused on the cause of independence and more focused on their needs, we might have more clarity on the confusion and concern about the new policy on fishing-free zones this week, announced by the SNP’s coalition partner, which will increase those areas to 47%. Given his brief, he might like to look into that.
If being well prepared is the qualification for a person doing my job, surely it is self-delusion and lack of self-awareness that is the necessary condition to do the job of Opposition Members on the SNP Benches, because only an SNP spokesman would come to this session to ask me a question about police investigations and police performance. Perhaps that self-delusion is hard to sustain in the wake of tens of police investigations. There was more news this week of missing accounts, frustrating the SNP’s auditors from being able to complete their task, and of exactly how much Scottish taxpayers’ money has been spent by the SNP on just one of their foreign jollies. For COP27, they blew nearly £150,000. Not content with staying in Sharm El-Sheikh and flying back to Scotland, they also managed to do an overnight in Milan. No wonder so many of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues are heading off. Quitting because the going is too tough in opposition is really quite something.
Madam Deputy Speaker, we first came across each other as colleagues during a review of the Mental Health Act 1983. At times we were frenemies, but now we are firm friends. I spent a large amount of last year and a bit of this year as a member of the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill. It is a hugely important and complex Bill, but it will ensure that, when people are ill, having a mental health crisis, their wishes in regard to their treatment are better respected. Please can we bring the Bill to the Floor of the House and turn it into an Act?
I pay tribute to all the work my hon. Friend has done on this. It has enabled Members across the House to contribute to the Bill, too. The Bill has been through the Joint Committee process, as he rightly points out. I suggest he raises the matter at the next Health questions, on
It will be a short advertisement from me this week. The Backbench Business Committee is very much open for business and we would welcome applications for debates here in the Chamber and in Westminster Hall for the September sitting weeks, immediately after the summer recess. Please take note, everyone: we have some time available, if that time is awarded to us by the Government.
As Chair of the all-party parliamentary group for parental participation in education, earlier this week I was pleased to welcome as visitors some of the award winners of this year’s national parent teacher association awards and hear about their activities. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the award winners and recognising the invaluable contribution of all PTAs across the country to our schools and communities?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful advert for the Backbench Business Committee. I encourage all Members to use that innovation. I join him, as I am sure all Members of the House would want to, in thanking all PTAs for the incredible work they do in schools and also in their local communities.
May we have a debate on acquired brain injury so that I can highlight the work of my constituent, Dr Shan Shan Jing, who became a victim of this condition after a tragic car collision and is now bravely campaigning to improve care and treatment for others with acquired brain injuries?
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this important matter and I pay tribute to her constituent for doing likewise. She will know that the next Health questions is on
I want to raise the issue of back-of-house drug testing at UK festivals. For years, the testing of confiscated drugs on site at UK festivals has played a successful part in safeguarding, harm-reduction strategies and drug intelligence sharing, but the Home Office made a last minute decision, just before the recent Parklife festival in Manchester, to withdraw permission to carry out back-of-house drug testing, putting thousands of people’s lives at risk. This matter was raised with the Leader of the House last week.
The sudden change in policy will see festivals forced to apply for individual drug-testing licences, which can take up to three months to process and must be administered within a permanent building. Those are not sensible conditions for festivals and senior people in the night-time industry say that such conditions will all but remove back-of-house drug testing on site for the remainder of the 2023 festival season. That is dangerous and I believe it could lead to more fatalities at festivals where drugs are not tested. Given that we are now into the festival season, can we have an urgent debate on this vital issue?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue yet again. She will know, because she alluded to it, the answer I gave at the Dispatch Box last week. The Home Office told me that applications were not received, but clearly this is a pressing matter as there will be festivals over the summer, so I will ask the Home Secretary to convene a meeting before the rise of the House so that the policy on this can be clear. I suggest that any festival that wants to run the service is given the information it needs, so that such licences can be given in a timely way.
It would be better to get inflation down by expanding supply, rather than hitting mortgage holders again to get them to spend less. Can we have an urgent statement, before the summer recess, from the Government on measures to expand our domestic output of food, oil and gas, and industrial products with suitable incentives and facilitations?
I thank my right hon. Friend for that very helpful suggestion. He will know that, as Treasury questions are not until after the summer recess, he will have no opportunity to raise it there, so I will make sure that the Chancellor has heard his suggestion. I know that that will be welcomed by many Members across the House.
For some time, we have been promised a transport Bill in this parliamentary session to establish Great British Railways. The Bill is ready to go, it is short and, unusually, it is unlikely to be controversial, so it will not take much parliamentary time. We are consistently rising early, so why the delay? Can the Leader of the House confirm that it is the Prime Minister who is blocking the Bill? If that is so, can she ensure that the Prime Minister himself comes to the Chamber to explain why he is blocking a Bill that, unusually, will get widespread support in this House?
The hon. Lady will know, given where we are on a number of important Bills, that business is dynamic—if I can put it in those terms—and that the business statement that I have given will be dynamic. She tempts me to comment on future business, which I shall announce in the usual way. Of course, we are preparing now for the fourth Session.
Biomass plants do not provide a viable electricity producing solution for the UK’s net zero transition. They do not keep energy bills low or reduce carbon emissions. By 2027, UK energy bill payers will have paid £13 billion in subsidies developing this technology. In a climate of increasing energy bills for UK households, it is wholly unjust to require them to pay any more. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on how the Government are independently verifying the environmental and economic benefits of this technology?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. She will know that suppliers have to demonstrate to the regulator that they meet sustainability criteria, and there is a process by which the Treasury will arrive at what carve-outs it will do for particular sectors. We have been right to do that for emerging technologies, which cannot currently compete on cost. There is tidal power, for example. Space solar power is another example that we will no doubt look at in the future. She is right to raise the issue of getting value for money for British taxpayers.
I wonder whether the Leader of the House could contact her colleagues at the Ministry of Defence? On
May I associate myself with the comments about Piper Alpha? Over the years, I have been heavily involved in many issues that flowed from the aftermath of that horrendous incident.
Will the Leader of the House bring forward a debate on local news provision across the UK? Iain Pollock, the editor of the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, has recently been in touch with me with concerns about the BBC’s “Across the UK” proposals, which will see money diverted from local radio stations into online services. Many local newspapers rely on those online services, either through subscriptions or from advertising, for their viability and are concerned about the BBC’s move into this area.
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that important matter. It is raised very regularly in business questions so I know how vital and valuable local news services are. The next questions to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will be on
The deputy leader of the SNP has said that she will not stand again at the next election because of the toxic nature of this place. The Leader of the House would do better than to make a joke at her expense over that.
Sunscreen products are too expensive. Research from Melanoma Focus has shown that two thirds of people surveyed would use sunscreen products if they were 20% cheaper. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on my VAT Burn campaign, which has cross-party support both in this place and in the Scottish Parliament, to reform the VAT charged on sunscreen and to raise awareness on melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Other Members have also raised that matter. As a consequence, I have written to the relevant Departments—the Treasury and the Health and Social Care Department. Of course, we can only consider these options because we are now outside of the EU.
We mark World Hepatitis Day on
I thank my hon. Friend for raising awareness about those very important areas. She will know that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has approved treatments that can now cure the hep C virus in over 90% of patients. We also have the commitment to ending new HIV transmissions by 2030, and we have just signed up to an international programme to eliminate the hepatitis virus by the same year. These are incredibly important matters. It is our Department of Health and Social Care, our NHS and our life sciences community that are helping these incredible achievements to happen.
This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, with a theme of alcohol and cost. The ultimate cost is alcohol-specific deaths, which have risen sharply since 2019. The 9,641 deaths registered in 2021 saw a 27.4% increase on 2019 figures, with figures for 2022 set to rise even further. Alcohol duty may bring in around £12 billion, but the cost that alcohol has on our health service and society can be anything from £35 billion to £50 billion, which, I am sure the Leader of the House will agree, makes no sense, and, more importantly, no fiscal sense. Therefore, can we have a debate in Government time on a full alcohol strategy, especially as it has been more than a decade since the last one; numbers are not going backwards and lives are being lost?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter, which he may also wish to raise with the Health Secretary on
May we have a debate about rural colleges? I remind the Chamber that I am a former student of the Scottish Agricultural College, and, like many people across Scotland and the UK, I benefited from the experience of Hugh McClymont who has retired from Scotland’s Rural College after more than four decades. For 43 years, Hugh has been part of the fabric of SRUC and has been widely recognised for his contribution to Scottish education, dairy farming and grassland management. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Hugh on his immense contribution to Scottish agriculture and thank him for the encouragement and support that he has provided to so many?
I am sure the whole House will want to join my hon. Friend in thanking Hugh for his long list of achievements and for the contributions he has made to that community in particular. Not least, I understand, he is responsible for Daisy, a life-size plastic cow that he took around various areas in 2012 to raise awareness of the Royal Highland Education Trust.
In her answer to me on
“it is the intention of both the Commission and myself to bring forward a motion following that debate. There is time to do that before the summer recess.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 733, c. 885.]
We are rapidly running out of parliamentary time, with fresh, concerning allegations made on “Newsnight” last night and the publication today of yet another report on serious sexual misconduct by an MP. How much longer will we have to wait before we take the necessary steps to make Parliament a safer workplace and begin to repair its public reputation?
As the hon. Lady will know, that is a matter for the Commission. I hope the Commissioners will not mind me saying that we will be looking at the matter at our meeting on Monday. There is still the ability to bring something forward before the summer recess, and that is still our intention. She will know, because she attended the debate on the matter—I thank her for doing so—that there are some issues that the House asked the Commission to look at, and we will do so. I reassure her and all colleagues that we want to bring forward measures, but it is the House that will decide what those measures are.
The Defence Committee report on women in the armed forces highlighted the existence of military sexual trauma. Thankfully, a number of Ministry of Defence strategies and support mechanisms are now in place to prevent and manage that, but evidence also highlights that men can be subject to military sexual trauma. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs has funded a research project with the charity Forward Assist to look at formulating a male-specific MST support pathway for servicemen and veterans. Will the Leader of the House join me in urging any such man suffering in silence to contact Forward Assist, which is here to help, and will she congratulate Tony Wright and his team on the work they do on this difficult subject?
I thank my hon. Friend for the work she does on those and related matters. I know it is much appreciated by all who serve. I also thank Tony and his team at Forward Assist for the work they are doing, and echo my hon. Friend’s plea for people to come forward if they are facing issues of that nature. She alluded to other services: the Aurora New Dawn service provides confidential independent support to any serving member who is experiencing sexual violence, domestic abuse or stalking; and Togetherall is an independent digital mental health support tool that is also available for all those serving and for veterans.
Residents in Tyrrell Court in Wakefield got a shock this year when their social landlord, Wakefield and District Housing, added a new service charge for communal energy for things such as lighting. Some have been tenants for more than 20 years and have never had to pay that before. It is an extra £125 on top of recent rent increases. Many tenants are elderly and on fixed incomes and will struggle to find extra money. According to Shelter, it is not a unique case. May we have a statement from the Housing Minister on any steps the Government can take in such situations?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue, which is similar to those that other hon. Members have raised. He will know that the next questions to the Housing Minister will be on Monday. I have also previously written to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to raise these concerns, and the Department is running bespoke surgeries for colleagues who have casework of this nature.
The recent transfer of the administration of Help to Buy equity loans from Target to Lenvi has been handled extremely poorly. Market participants and holders of loans were not advised of the change, and constituents who have loans advise me that they have made numerous calls and sent emails to Lenvi with no response. Remortgaging can be a time-sensitive matter. Can the Leader of the House advise me what steps I can take to raise the importance of this matter with the relevant Department?
I thank my hon. Friend for looking at this important issue. We have helped 837,000 people on to the property ladder through those schemes, and we do not want to see the further people whom we wish to assist discouraged from coming forward, or the people already on the scheme unable to make the financial decisions they wish to because of poor service by a provider. The next Levelling Up questions are on Monday, but, given the seriousness and the timeliness of this matter, I will make sure the Secretary of State has heard his comments in advance.
The upgrade to Lodge Hill junction in Abingdon, an infrastructure project that is key to nearly 2,000 homes in the Vale of White Horse, is stuck. The final piece of funding from Homes England is languishing for sign-off with the Treasury, but now an earlier piece of funding secured from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is in question because of the Treasury delay. If the stalemate between Departments is not resolved by the end of this month, the whole project and more besides will be at risk. I am at my wits’ end. I held a Westminster Hall debate on this matter two months ago and since then I have tried everything to get Departments to engage common-sense mode. Can the Leader of the House please help me to secure a meeting with Treasury Ministers, so that this vital scheme does not have to wait a moment longer?
I shall certainly ensure that Treasury Ministers hear what the hon. Lady has said. We have these schemes in place because we want to get funding into local communities, and we have a great track record of doing so. She will also know that the next Levelling Up questions are on Monday; I encourage her to raise this matter with the Secretary of State, in what I think is panning out to be a busy and question-packed session.
Ultra-processed food is linked to obesity because it is high in fat, sugar and salt and is highly addictive. Some 64% of adults in England are either obese or overweight, as are 40% of 10 to 11-year-olds. That costs the NHS a staggering £6.5 billion per year. Please may we have a debate in Government time on the role of ultra-processed food in the obesity crisis?
As my hon. Friend will know, obesity is of huge concern to the Department of Health and Social Care, but other Departments are also involved in combating what is one of the drivers of the immense costs our national health service faces. Innovation is happening all the time, and she will know that we are bringing forward and making accessible on the NHS particular drugs to help people suffering from obesity issues. However, we need to tackle all the factors in this crisis, and if she were to apply for a debate on this particular topic, I think it would be well attended.
I thank the Leader of the House for taking up the issue I raised the other week about legal aid fees in asylum cases. I did as she always encourages people to do and raised it also at Home Office questions this Monday. The Immigration Minister said:
“I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the problem with our asylum system is not a lack of lawyers;
there are plenty of legal representatives around.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 735, c. 540.]
Then I read in yesterday’s Financial Times that the Government are consulting on a 15% increase in legal aid fees for lawyers working on deportation cases, to attract solicitors to take on such cases and tackle the backlog of asylum claims. Would it not be helpful if we asked Ministers not to weaponise asylum cases, lawyers and so on, but to focus on measures that will reduce the backlog?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are focusing on measures that will reduce the backlog. We are also focusing on measures that will target the finite resource this country has to help genuine asylum seekers, those in need and refugees, many of whom are languishing in camps across the world. That is why we have brought forward legislation, which has recently been debated in the House of Lords. We will bring it back to this House, as I announced in my business statement, and I encourage him and his Opposition colleagues to back those measures, which will mean that we can have an asylum system fit for purpose.
Last week, I met my constituent Rose Elgie, who attends St Teresa’s Primary School in Darlington. She is deeply concerned about the destruction of orangutan habitats as a result of deforestation caused by unsustainable palm oil production. Can my right hon. Friend outline what the Government are doing to reduce our reliance on palm oil, and will she find time for us to have a debate on how we can help to save orangutans and their habitat?
My hon. Friend will know that we have a number of incredible forestry programmes around the world. There is—off the top of my head—one forest habitat in Indonesia that is larger than this country. That is a particularly supporting habitat with a large colony of orangutans whose existence would otherwise be threatened. Some of the forestry programmes that we have had in place in this country and around the world are decades old. That is testament to the impact that this nation has had on those matters. The Government have made absolutely sure that we will continue to have that impact globally.
Billions of pounds were wasted on useless personal protective equipment, and there is no plan in place to build a stockpile for future pandemics. In addition, there are no proper records of £3.3 billion of NHS test and trace purchases, and No. 10 has simply written off £14.9 billion of covid supplies in the past two years. Democracy is about accountability, so will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out who she thinks should be held accountable for that colossal, appalling and eye-watering waste of taxpayers’ money?
First, the covid inquiry is under way at the moment. It will determine what particular things it will look into. We in this House have scrutiny through Select Committees—most notably the Public Accounts Committee—of all those matters. Secondly, products that are bought in those circumstances have a shelf life. As a Member of Parliament who spent pretty much most of the first year of the pandemic on the phone to all colleagues every day, I can tell the hon. Lady that the sentiment of this House and the Members in it is that we moved heaven and earth to get as much PPE as we could to the frontline for NHS and care staff. I would rather answer questions from her about value for money than apologise to her because we did not take those actions at the time.
A recent freedom of information request has revealed that, in the past seven years, Labour-run Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has spent just £11,000 on Dinnington, a town with a population of about 12,000. That equates to about 30p per person per year. By contrast, in the March Budget the Conservative Government awarded Dinnington £12 million to rejuvenate its high street. Does the Leader of the House agree that only the Conservatives can reverse the decades of Labour-led decline in Dinnington, and that anyone who cares about Dinnington should vote for Julz Hall, the Conservative candidate in the upcoming Dinnington ward by-election?
My hon. Friend is right that the Government are putting our money where our mouth is. We need to give communities the capital they need to regenerate and to attract further investment. I wish Julz, who I understand initiated the plan to save the high street and was a great force for good in securing that bid, all the best in the forthcoming election. Other candidates are available, who I am sure will be listed on the BBC website.
As the longest serving Member on the Labour Benches, I have seen some real changes in my 44 years here. One thing that is disturbing me at the moment is the Government’s propensity to put quite junior Ministers forward to answer very important questions. I do not know whether members of the Cabinet are on holiday, but could we see more of them?
This year marks the 75th anniversary not just of the NHS but of the World Health Organisation. Many of the challenges we face in health will be worldwide pandemics. Can we have a debate to consider intently how we can improve the performance of the WHO? Perhaps it needs more resources, but let us not take it for granted.
The hon. Gentleman will know that I take a great deal of interest in ensuring that those in Departments—be they parliamentary clerks, Ministers or permanent secretaries—understand what this House needs and the respect that needs to be afforded to it. From personal experience, I know that even the most senior Ministers—those in the great offices of state—are frequently here, the Home Secretary being a prime example. I shall ensure that, on our regular training, we convey the hon. Gentleman’s sentiments.
Labour-led Cheshire East Council has proposed to close all libraries for at least one and a half weekdays every week. In my constituency, that will affect libraries in Alsager, Sandbach, Holmes Chapel, Middlewich and Congleton. Does the Leader of the House agree that members of Congleton Town Council and others are absolutely right to oppose that inexplicable proposal, bearing in mind its negative and, indeed, potentially damaging impact not only on young people’s learning but on many of my least well-off constituents, who depend on libraries for welfare checks, bus applications, computer use for job applications, to read the local papers, and many other everyday essentials?
Order. It is quite important to ask the Leader of the House in such a way that it is relevant to the business, rather than just asking whether she agrees with the comments that have been made.
I remind my hon. Friend that DLUHC questions are on Monday—it will be jam-packed. I agree with her: that is a crazy solution to a problem of constrained resource. Why have an asset, with all those overheads, just to shut it for part of the week? I encourage her council to be a bit more entrepreneurial by generating income, working with partners, asking for business support and doing the many other things that councils up and down the country have done to secure such vital services, including, in some cases, community asset transfers. I hope that, in addition to securing a debate and asking a question on Monday, she can also get her council to buck up.
Wholesale energy prices for suppliers may have returned to normal, but Bonar Yarns in my Dundee constituency, which has produced specialist textiles and supplied some of the world’s largest sporting venues for more than 100 years, is facing closure because of what looks like price gouging. The company changed ownership earlier this year, but I understand that the existing energy supplier, Brook Green Supply, has quoted a 400% increase without adequate explanation and despite no increase in usage. Many businesses are being held to ransom with high energy costs. Can we have an urgent statement from the UK Government on what reforms they are considering to end the corporate daylight robbery by energy companies, which is putting businesses and communities at risk?
The hon. Gentleman will know that we take that type of matter seriously. He will know that, because of the findings of the Competition and Markets Authority, we are introducing a “pump watch” scheme—to use FairFuelUK’s terminology for it—and ensuring that suppliers are pricing fairly so that where the wholesale price drops, the change is passed on to, in that case, motorists. He will know that we take those matters seriously. Given that the relevant Department is not coming to the House until after recess, I shall make sure that it has heard what he has said. We want fairness, and competition—true competition—is part of that. That is why the Prime Minister commissioned work on those very matters when he was Chancellor.
Can we have a debate about section 106 developer levies? Labour-run Kirklees Council is taking in hundreds of thousands of pounds from housing developers for local infrastructure, but local people are losing confidence in the system. They are not seeing that money invested in local schools, roads and health services in the communities that are being impacted by the large housing developments.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. We need to have transparency on this, which is why we are introducing a new infrastructure levy through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. That will increase transparency about what is being funded through developer contributions in line with local priorities, which should be being set by local people themselves. Again, this is an advert for DLUHC questions on Monday, and I am sure he will be there.
Can we have a debate on the negative impacts that Labour-run Bradford Council’s clean air zone tax is having on local businesses in not only Keighley but in Shipley and Bradford city itself, as well as the negative impacts it is having on local residents in villages such as East Morton, which are experiencing much higher levels of traffic congestion and speeding as a result of motorists taking alternative routes to avoid Labour’s ridiculous tax on hard-working people?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. Across the country, there are good and sensible schemes that are tackling air pollution. The issue that so many people have with the type of scheme that his constituents and, most notably, residents and businesses in London are having to endure is that it is just a revenue-raising exercise. It does not take into account someone’s ability to make the transition that is being asked of them. It is not just affecting these areas; it is affecting everyone. There are traders in my constituency that want to come and provide services to London. There will be traders and businesses in constituencies surrounding my hon. Friend’s that need to get into those communities, and they are being priced out of doing that. We should be supporting people to keep more of the money they earn, for their businesses to thrive, and we need to innovate. That is how we are going to make this transition.
May we have a debate in Government time on a very sad record that will be broken by the end of this summer: the highest ever number of homeless households in temporary accommodation in London? The long-term health and educational attainment of our citizens is at risk. Does the Leader of the House agree that in the current climate, with the mortgage crisis, unaffordable rents going up by 20% in some London boroughs and very long queues for social homes because of the lack of money from the Government to build them, we desperately need to tackle the housing crisis in London and beyond?
The hon. Lady will know that, although there is more to do to ensure that everyone can have a warm, secure home and to increase home ownership to the levels that we want to see, our record on home building is considerably better than her party’s. We want to do more. There are initiatives and pushes, particularly in London, to build up, not out, and to increase the volume of housing stock. We must do these things. She will know that there is a questions session on Monday when she can raise this matter, but I also encourage her to raise it with the Labour Mayor of London.
The excellent prehabilitation and cancer care team at Medway Maritime Hospital have shared data with me which states that 97% of patients need prehabilitative care before intervention with cancer treatments. They are currently awaiting a decision by the Kent and Medway integrated care board on future funding. Will the Leader of the House raise this matter with the Department of Health and Social Care, so that an urgent decision can be made, and can we have a statement on the Floor of the House on prehabilitation and cancer care?
I encourage my hon. Friend to raise this matter directly with the Secretary of State on Tuesday, but he will know that the Secretary of State has been collecting data from integrated care boards to understand which areas are performing well and which are behind the curve. That will be hugely helpful in ensuring that we have the right focus at a local level and that all our constituents are enjoying outstanding care.
Evidence has emerged from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that the Pfizer covid vaccine rolled out across the world was not the same, nor was it manufactured in the same way as the vaccine trialled on 44,000 volunteers and subsequently given emergency use approval. If Ministers were unaware of that, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has potentially committed a criminal act. No one could have given informed consent because the public were misled. This also explains the huge difference between the Pfizer data and our own yellow card data with regard to adverse events. Can we have a statement from the Government at their earliest convenience?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, which is appropriate for business questions because I am here to advise Members on what they can do to progress the issues that are of concern to them. The hon. Gentleman could raise this with the relevant Department on Tuesday. Of course, if he thinks there has been any wrongdoing, he has many courses of action available to him. He can raise awareness. He can apply for debates. He was sat next to the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns, although he is no longer in his place—he could have a word with him. He can table an early-day motion. He can raise it in questions on the Floor of the House. He could write to the Cabinet Secretary, and I would expect him to do so on such an important matter. He could get in touch with the covid inquiry. He could raise this in the media. He could ask a Select Committee to look at it. He will know that other serious matters have been referred to the police. But he knows all of that—he has been in this place for 13 years —and we look forward to seeing which of those actions the hon. Member will take.
The UK Government are determined to level up constituencies like Ynys Môn, and I am delighted that Anglesey was awarded £17 million in the latest round of levelling-up funding to regenerate Holyhead. The memorandum of understanding asks recipients to work with DLUHC and the Government regarding levelling-up branding on projects in receipt of these funds. Does the Leader of the House agree that the branding is an excellent opportunity for my Plaid Cymru-led council to demonstrate to the good people of Anglesey the difference that UK funds are making to their everyday lives? Can we have an important debate in Government time on this branding?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting this investment into her constituency and on not only putting its origins on the record on the Floor of the House, but doing so in front of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities—she has done herself proud. I always try to find positive ways forward, so perhaps I can suggest that she goes to her local authority and suggests an alternative plaque that says, “Regeneration of Holyhead was made possible because of UK taxpayers.” I think that is something we could all agree on.
The motherhood pay penalty means that mothers with two children take home 26% less income than women without children. A report by the Fawcett Society shows that the pay penalty hits black and minoritised women the hardest, with the intersection of sexism and racism compounding disadvantage. There is more than enough evidence of the need to take serious action to deal with these inequalities—for instance, by making flexible work the default, specifically by means of an advertising duty, and by making ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory for employers with more than 100 employees. Can we have a debate in Government time on the implications for women of the UK Government’s refusal to do those things?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I do have to correct her, because the Government Equalities Office and other areas of Government are doing those things. We have had pioneering work on highlighting the gender pay gap, and huge amounts of work went on in the race disparity audit, so those things are looked at. However, if the hon. Lady is really concerned about cost of living issues for particular households, the Scottish Government might like to consider their tax policies.
Like all our constituencies, Southend West has countless NHS heroes, such as Tracy Reed. This week, she celebrates 42 years of service as an end-of-life clinical lead, for which she is Essex Partnership University Trust’s hero of the week. However, we also have many unsung heroes, such as Friederike Englund, who runs Macmillan support at Southend hospital. Could we please have a debate in Government time on a new NHS medal to recognise long service, such as we already have for the police, the Army, the Post Office and the fire service?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on mentioning a few of the unsung heroes in her constituency —I am sure all of us would want to echo the thanks she has given them. She will know that the committee on the grant of honours, decorations and medals is the policymaking body that gives advice on these matters, and we did give the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom in recognition of their service, particularly in response to the pandemic. However, I suggest to my hon. Friend that she writes to that body with her very interesting proposal.
Yesterday, it was reported that some 150 Christians were killed in Nigeria’s Plateau state in the first three weeks of June alone—seven men, women and children each day. On Tuesday this week,
Again, I thank the hon. Gentleman on behalf of all of us for continuing to raise these matters each week. It is very important that we send the message that our eyes are on those groups that are suffering terribly in particular parts of the world. We do have one more Foreign Office questions before the House rises for summer recess, and I know the hon. Gentleman will need no encouragement to be there—he will be there. He will also know that earlier this year, the Foreign Secretary launched the international women and girls strategy, giving that ongoing work an update. We will continue to do all we can to speak out for the plight of all peoples who are being oppressed, particularly women and girls, and to champion their freedoms, including their freedom of religion and of belief.