The business for the week commencing
The House will be prorogued when Royal Assent to all Acts has been signified.
May I first take a moment to remember our former colleague Sir David Amess, who was brutally murdered two years ago while carrying out his duties? His memory and legacy still shine brightly.
As we continue to witness the horror of the events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, and the emotions that they raise here at home, Hate Crime Awareness Week is a timely reminder that we stand united against hate. The whole House speaks with one voice against antisemitism and Islamophobia. As Members, we know that events in the middle east are directly and indirectly impacting on our constituents. We stand in solidarity.
We condemn unequivocally the heartless terrorist actions of Hamas. Israel has the right to defend itself, rescue hostages and protect its borders. International law must be upheld at all times. The lives of innocent civilians must be safeguarded, and every possible assistance must be made available to those who need help. There must be immediate humanitarian access to Gaza for aid, food, water, medicines, fuel and electricity. We welcome developments today, but it is urgent and it needs to be sustained. Hamas are not the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people are not Hamas. We will continue to be strong advocates for justice, human rights and international law, and to keep alive the prospect of peace based on a two-state solution. Will the Prime Minister update the House following his visit this week?
I am afraid that I return again to a running theme: the disrespect and disregard that the Government have for Parliament. Mr Speaker, I know that we were both appalled that the Prime Minister chose the very first day of recess to announce a major shift in Government net zero policy from Downing Street, while the Leader of the House sat in the front row and cheered. It is no wonder he was ducking parliamentary scrutiny, with his fiction of seven bins and meat taxes, and his substance was met with alarm by industry and investors.
It is not a one-off but a pattern, no matter how many times you pull them up on it, Mr Speaker. Again this week the Justice Secretary announced first to the press that he is abolishing short prison sentences—something the ministerial code forbids. And of course, we have had the great northern train robbery, denied for weeks and finally announced at Conservative party conference. Despite MPs having spent 1,300 hours of legislative time on High Speed 2 Bills, we have had no say on it. Only this Prime Minister could cancel major rail infrastructure to Manchester while in Manchester.
This shoddy back-of-the-fag-packet new transport plan, affecting many constituencies, has not withstood exposure to reality. Most of the “new” schemes were already announced, previously cancelled or completed years ago. Others are simply illustrative. Euston station remains a pipe dream, and Network North now reaches Cornwall. It turns out that spreadsheet guy cannot even read a spreadsheet. It is not so much a relaunch as a crash landing—in a private jet, of course.
The contempt that this Government have for Parliament is a disgrace, and we have a Leader of the House who claps along. Parliament needs answers. What will now happen to the HS2 hybrid Bill, which is necessary to deliver the central section of Northern Powerhouse Rail and safeguard the land for it? When and how was the decision to scrap it made? The Secretary of State for Transport is under the illusion that he made it the day before—pull the other one!—yet the video shared from their party conference was clearly made days earlier in Downing Street. When was this taken, and should a party conference video be made in Downing Street at all?
There is another pattern here. Conservative HQ has released videos of Conservative Members and a Cabinet Minister announcing Government projects. Can the Leader of the House assure us that Conservative Members are not being given advance notice of Government announcements, and if they are, will she confirm that this breaches the ministerial code?
Finally, I want to congratulate the Leader of the House on achieving meme status for her conference speech. It was—how can I put this?—a call to arms to stand up and fight. Well, it certainly involved lots of arms, anyway. So why does she not stand up and fight for Parliament; stand up and fight for Members to hear Government policies first, or for colleagues not to be hoodwinked when big decisions are taken? Why does she not stand up and fight for trust to be restored in politics? The truth is that she is more interested in standing up and fighting for her own leadership ambitions. As a fan of boats, she should know that a new captain is not saving this sinking ship. It is time for them all to get off.
First, I thank the hon. Lady and join her in remembering our late colleague, Sir David Amess. His legacy lives on, not just in city status for Southend; the many charities and projects that he fostered are going from strength to strength, and they are a daily reminder of the work he did and the effect and impact he had.
I add my voice to those of many in this Chamber who have expressed their horror, sadness and sympathy with all those caught up in the situation in Israel and Gaza. My thoughts are particularly with those who have lost loved ones in the most barbaric terrorist attack, and with those taken hostage and their families who await news of them. At times like these, we in this place may feel that we cannot directly help, but we all can. We can all make judgments based on facts, promote those facts and debunk deliberate disinformation campaigns, keep informed and wide-eyed about the realities of the situation, and reassure communities here in the UK.
On behalf of all colleagues, I thank the armed forces, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, our diplomats and humanitarian experts, and the police for all that they are doing to protect and secure people’s safety in the middle east and at home. I join the hon. Lady in saying that all of us in this place are united against hate. She will know that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are currently in the region, and I am sure that they will want to update the House. I am sure that many colleagues will want up-to-date information, particularly about some of the situations that have happened in Gaza and the facts behind those situations. As such, I can also tell the hon. Lady that my office has been in touch with the House of Commons Library to ensure that what information is available is given in a timely way to Members of the House.
The hon. Lady criticises me very robustly about my role as this House’s representative in Government. I hope to be able to reassure the House of my record on that front. First, I hope that Mr Speaker would support me in saying that I have always followed up any criticism that this House has made of any Government Department —more, I think, than anyone else who has held the role. My noble friend Lord True and I have also introduced training programmes for Government Departments to ensure that they know what their obligations to this House are. Her complaint against me might have had more effect had the letter she wrote to me complaining about this issue not been received by myself only after it had been briefed to the Daily Mirror, which is where I found out about it.
I did cheer our announcement on net zero, unlike the Labour party, whose path to net zero would include immense burdens on working people. We have chosen a different path to alleviate that burden. The hon. Lady invites me to contrast our parties’ records on infrastructure, and particularly rail. I remind her that in the 13 years we have been in power, we have electrified 1,220 miles of track. In the same time period, Labour managed just 70 miles. I am not going to apologise for standing up and fighting for this country; even prior to taking this role, I think my record has been one of standing up and fighting for this House. Hon. Members will know that, in the first year of the pandemic, I spent every single day on the phone, to all Members of this House, in my role as Paymaster General, updating them on what was happening. I take my responsibilities to this House very seriously indeed.
I will always stand up and fight for this House and for my country. I will not be lying down with Just Stop Oil and damaging our energy security. I will not be potentially lying down with the Liberal Democrats—I note the hon. Lady’s encouraging words about proportional representation. I will not be lying down with the SNP, which Deidre Brock will be pleased to hear, and contemplating assisting that party on a second referendum. Those are the facts, and I can understand why Labour does not like them. That is perhaps why it has chosen to ban some news programming available on Freeview to anyone operating in the Senedd.
Further business may be announced in the usual way, or by His Majesty the King on
I associate myself with the words about our late colleague Sir David Amess. I was privileged to serve with him on the all-party parliamentary group on the Holy See, of which he was a dedicated chairman.
In considering future business, may I draw the Leader of the House’s attention to the collapse of a company in my constituency, Initiative Property Management, which manages a large number of residential blocks in my constituency and more widely? Since the collapse, many residents have seen building works on their blocks cease, and have been unable to access tens of thousands of pounds of their own money in management fees. While the matter is now being investigated by Dorset police—and I do not invite my right hon. Friend to comment on that—may I suggest that there may be a regulatory gap here? It appears that management companies of this style do not fall under the regulatory framework of the Financial Conduct Authority. I invite the Leader of the House to make Government colleagues aware of the fact, and perhaps ask them to take a look at it.
First, I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work he is doing at what must be a very worrying time for his constituents who are affected. He will know that the Government are currently considering the recommendations in the final report from my noble Friend Lord Best’s working group on the regulation of property agents. Of course, the Financial Conduct Authority currently has a limited role, and although we are not seeking to expand its role, we want to ensure that it can be a more innovative, assertive and adaptive regulator.
I call the SNP spokesperson.
I associate myself with all the remarks about Sir David.
The Leader of the House has previously commented on how much she enjoys our exchanges at business questions, as do I. It is the weekly forum where I challenge her on our deep and profound differences in policies and priorities, and there will be plenty of opportunities in the next few weeks and months to tackle her on her Government’s shortcomings. However, today, like so many people, my thoughts are with the civilian populations in Gaza and Israel. People across all nations of the UK share this House’s revulsion and fear of what we see unfolding—revulsion at the barbarism of Hamas and fear of what the future holds for innocent children, women and men in both Gaza and Israel. A huge number of MPs have constituents who are worried sick about friends or relatives who are caught up in these events, and of course communities across the UK will be anxious about what we are witnessing and its potential impact. As the House will know, Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and his wife and family are directly affected in the most terrible way, and my thoughts are also with them today.
The UK Government have several roles to fulfil in this crisis, and there is an urgent need for action, as we all know. In the first instance, they must direct their efforts to the enormous humanitarian aid needs in southern Gaza—medical supplies, water, food, basic power. Twenty trucks is a start, but there are apparently 100 standing by and they must get through. However, they need to travel safely through, so calling for an immediate ceasefire to facilitate the provision of aid in Gaza and to give evacuees a safe passage out is vital, as is the release of all the hostages—one’s heart breaks to think of them—and the use of every possible diplomatic effort to stop an escalation into a wider regional conflict. The Government should join First Minister Humza Yousaf in calling for a worldwide refugee scheme similar to that established for Syrian, Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. In the longer term, they should use all their powers to keep the two-state solution alive and keep a dialogue for peace open. They must rise to many challenges, and we wish the Prime Minister well in his endeavours today. Will the Leader of the House confirm that he will deliver a statement about the outcome on his return?
Of course, we will return to the business of scrutinising the Government’s actions in the usual way when politics returns to some sort of normality, hopefully very soon.
I thank the hon. Lady for dwelling on that particular matter, because I think that is the prime concern for all Members of the House this weekend. I join her, as I am sure all colleagues will want to, in her sentiments about the plight of the First Minister’s family and in wishing that that has a good outcome.
The hon. Lady will know that additional humanitarian support is being provided by the Government to the region, which is built on many years of providing support. We are one of the major contributors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and we have done a huge amount of work in Lebanon to support the refugee programmes there. So we bring not just the financial offer, but decades of expertise in working in the region and with our networks. Of course we want hostilities to end, but I would just say to the hon. Lady that we are dealing with a terrorist organisation, and negotiating ceasefires with terrorist organisations is a very difficult thing to do.
The hon. Lady is right to highlight the plight of hostages, and one way we can all help is by keeping a focus on those individuals and their families in the coming days—I hope not weeks—and on their return. This is another area where the UK has a lot of expertise to offer. Israel will not have had a lot of expertise in hostage negotiation. Not just the Government but our non-governmental organisations have huge experience of working with organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and interlocutors in trying to get hostages extracted. I know that all we can do to help will be on offer. She is also right to point to the fact that the barbaric terrorist attack that kicked off this chain of events is in part designed to wreck any chance of peace, in particular the progress that was being made between Israel, Saudi Arabia and others in normalising relations. I thank her for the opportunity to send a message from all of us in this House that this is our focus and concern.
An incredibly impressive Stroud constituent called Sally-Anne came to see me last week about the contaminated blood scandal. Her father is a haemophiliac and is sadly affected by what we now know is a national and international scandal; families have spent decades seeking answers and compensation. Sally-Anne has turned her pain and her worry for her father into action, and she is doing a PhD to look at the wider impact on families, and at the McFarlane Trust work. I know that the Leader of the House is incredibly respected on this issue, and she has fought for victims of the infected blood scandal for many years. Will she clarify how I can best use time in this House to push those issues for the wider families affected, and say whether a debate or other actions will assist?
I thank my hon. Friend for all the work she is doing to support her constituent, and to ensure that those affected and infected by that appalling scandal get justice swiftly. If she secured a debate on this issue, it would be most welcome and well attended by many across the House. I have said this before, but we should recognise that even though we are talking about a small number of individuals as a percentage of the population, this issue is relevant to everyone in this country. What happened to those individuals could have happened to anyone in this country, and how we respond to that is important. That is why I am pleased that this Government have set up the inquiry, why I set up a compensation study to run concurrently with the inquiry, and why we must ensure that we press forward with getting those people some recompense for all they have suffered.
I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.
I am grateful, Mr Speaker. May I ask you and the Leader of the House to help us by helping to facilitate the re-establishment of the Backbench Business Committee as soon as possible after the King’s Speech in the new parliamentary Session? I will be writing to the Leader of the House with a list of as yet unaired debates from this Session which might be held prior to the re-establishment of the Committee in the new Session. We have applications for debates in this Chamber and in Westminster Hall on subjects such as protection for children with allergies, heritage pubs, floating offshore wind generation, knife crime, and several others.
I declare an interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on rail in the north. Yesterday I had a meeting with the Rail Industry Association’s northern section, and we were reflecting on what the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission said yesterday in urging the Government not to sell off too quickly land acquisitions for High-Speed 2 on cancelled northern routes. Those land acquisitions may well facilitate other schemes in the northern regions, and we hope that the Government would not sell those assets off too quickly.
Finally, as part of the crisis in Israel, Palestine and Gaza, a number of families in my constituency have been affected. Prior to the horrific Hamas attacks was the Jewish festival of Sukkot. A number of families from my Orthodox Haredi Jewish community were in Israel celebrating Sukkot and then became stranded and could not get home. Some have had to pay eye-watering sums to travel home by alternative means, because lots of flights were cancelled. Will the Leader of the House help me and those who have had to pay out sometimes whole-life savings to get their families of six or seven back home from Israel?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for a helpful advert for future potential business for his Committee. We have had conversations about this matter before, and I am keen to ensure that the Committee is re-established quickly so that it can get on with its important work. He raises an important point, with which I agree, that it is important that things have a proper masterplan, so I will write to make sure that the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have heard what he has said today. The hon. Gentleman will know that in cases where people are unable to return because they cannot afford to get out of a situation, there are schemes in place, run by the Foreign Office, under which people may be loaned finance. Many insurance products will not cover terrorist events, so I will make sure that the relevant Department has heard his concerns on that front.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be aware that in Lancashire we have secured £2 billion at least for a brand-new hospital to replace the much-loved but ageing Royal Preston, which has cold, dark corridors and a flat roof that can occasionally leak. With a number of sites in South Ribble under consideration, it is down to the wonderful Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire County Council and local borough authorities to get on with that site selection. I hope, like me, that she would love to see them get on with that. With Chorley hospital’s future secured as one of only eight elective surgical hubs in the country, does my right hon. Friend agree that this Government are committed to delivering a once-in-a-generation investment in healthcare in South Ribble? Can we have a debate in Government time about the importance of these investments for local communities?
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend and thank her for all the work she has done to secure the £2 billion-worth of funding for her hospital, and also for managing to secure one of those critical elective hubs. That is an achievement of which she should be proud. She is right that we are committed to the biggest programme in a generation of hospital building. We are also prioritising the delivery of 160 community diagnostic centres, which are so important to ensuring that people are getting healthcare in a timely way. I am sure if she wanted to apply for a debate on those topics, it would be well attended.
The Warburton toll bridge is a vital route, linking Greater Manchester and Cheshire across the Manchester ship canal. A recent consultation of local communities on a proposed eightfold increase to the toll charge was met with unanimous opposition, including from Partington and Carrington in my constituency. Despite that, the Secretary of State for Transport has approved the associated transport and works order. Can we have a debate in Government time on the steps that should be available to Members to challenge such decisions and, importantly, how we can strengthen the voice of local communities, such as Partington and Carrington, to ensure they are heard fully in decisions of this nature in the future?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter. He will know that I will not be able to comment on particular schemes, but I will make sure that the Secretary of State for Transport has heard about that scheme. It is important that local voices are listened to when such matters are put in place. I question the relationship between the works order that the Secretary of State has signed and the fee, but I will certainly look into this matter for the hon. Gentleman. If he would like to give me some further information, I will be happy to write on his behalf.
I wonder whether we could have a debate in Government time about Liberal Democrat councils—something we could spend hours on. The Government have very kindly given Mid Devon £660,000 for new housing, and I am grateful to Ministers for that, but the problem is that it has been given to a council that is inept. It has a development that is going wrong now. The leader of the council, who doubles up as a perfume-packing guy called Eau de Toilette and is the member who deals with scrutiny, is appalling. Can we please have time to discuss giving money to councils that are not able to spend it properly? We need Government control to ensure the money is spent wisely.
I am sorry to hear of another ongoing concern for my hon. Friend’s constituents. It is important that, when money is distributed, it is given to bodies that will get on and do what is needed. Sometimes, local authorities are not the best bodies to do that, which is why, when I was looking after the coastal communities fund, I always kept open the option for local community groups, charities and organisations that would qualify to be monitoring officers for such funds to administer them. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has heard his concerns.
Will the Leader of the House consider arranging for a statement or an early debate on the dangers of gambling and the gambling industry’s impact on children and young people? There is increasing evidence that these big gambling concerns are using social media to get children engaged in gambling at an early age, as well as many vulnerable people. May we have a debate on the power and influence of this massive, wealthy industry?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will know that there has been a focus on all aspects of gambling, including online and offline gambling and the level of stakes spent by individuals. If he were to apply for a debate, there would be much to discuss and it would be well attended. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has heard what he said.
Could we have a debate on media reporting of the conflict between Israel and Hamas so that we can hold to account those media outlets that chose to rush to blame Israel for the hospital tragedy without a sound evidential basis? Accurate reporting is crucial. Failing to deliver that makes the situation worse, could cost lives and could fuel hatred and antisemitism here in the UK.
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that important point. There are two issues. One is the Ofcom code and certain broadcasters’ adherence to it. The guidance for that code says:
“Broadcasters should have regard to the list of proscribed terror groups or organisations in the UK”,
which is incredibly important. It is also critical that reporters, sometimes stationed in very stressful environments, report facts as facts and that those things that are not facts—things that have not been verified or are lines to take from terrorist organisations—should not be treated as facts. The BBC does focus on these things to a very large degree, but we know that sometimes it does not get things right, as we saw recently with its code of conduct surrounding the Gary Lineker situation. I am sure that it will want to kick the tyres on this and ensure that anyone listening to a BBC outlet is being given the best possible information.
On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I echo what has been said this morning about the terrible conflict in Israel and Palestine and repeat what my hon. Friend Layla Moran said: peace is now more difficult than war, so the global community has to come together and press for peace.
Many of my constituents have written to me in dismay about seasonal variations in train fares. For example, during recess, Great Western was charging £46 for a peak return from Bath to London on
The hon. Lady raises a concerning matter that will make life difficult for her constituents, who are trying to budget and anticipate their outgoings. I will certainly ensure that the Transport Secretary has heard her concerns, and I will ask that his Department advise her on what action she can take.
The Grimsby Telegraph is carrying a report of a local man who, for the last 25 years, has been collecting fly-tipped rubbish from various sites around the town. After 25 years, he has now been told that he needs a licence to take the rubbish to the tip. That is just one example of so many petty regulations that discourage community-minded people from assisting in the local area. Could we have a debate so that Members from across the House can identify those petty regulations and sweep them away?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point and for affording us the opportunity to thank his constituent, who appears to be providing a much-needed community service that his local authority is not. We want people who want to step up, take responsibility and help their communities to be able to do so. He is right to call out ridiculous behaviour that prevents that from happening. I am sure there are other examples and, if he were to have a debate, we could expose some of them.
Could we please have a statement from the Paymaster General in the light of Sir Brian Langstaff moving his final report on the infected blood inquiry to next March, due to the number of individuals and organisations that will be criticised in it, and in the light of the fact that the Government have rightly given £600,000 in compensation to the victims of the Horizon scandal without waiting for the final report? It would be very timely to have a report because we know that the Government were working to the November deadline. We keep being told that work is “at pace”, so it should be ready for next month in any event.
I thank the right hon. Lady for raising this matter and for all her work through the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, which she has chaired for many years. It is not lost on anyone that those individuals have waited far too long for redress in this appalling situation. I know that the Paymaster General feels that way, too, and I will ensure that he has heard her request for him to update the House.
At its conference this weekend, an SNP MP said he was “sick and tired” of Scottish Conservatives speaking in Parliament about the A9. The Leader of the House will know that that is a crucial road between Perth and Inverness and up to Wick which the SNP promised would be fully dualled. That is not happening. Can we have a debate in this House to discuss that crucial infrastructure project? Perhaps Pete Wishart will attend and stand up for his constituents, rather than sit down and support the SNP Government’s failure to dual that road and the A96 through my constituency.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. I happened to see what I would describe as a spittle-flecked monologue, criticising members of the general public in Scotland for daring to voice their disappointment at the quality of the A9 and other road infrastructure. My advice to Pete Wishart is that if he does not want the public to continually complain about things, he might dual those roads, as that project has been long overdue. The public should have decent roads for the taxes they pay.
When a Government announce that they have identified a problem facing the public and simultaneously announce that they have identified the only possible solution, I am always a little sceptical. Twenty years ago, the Labour Government announced that diesel vehicles were best for the environment; today, as we know, they are vilified and effectively being taxed off the road. We are now told that electric vehicles are our only salvation, despite growing concerns about their safety and real questions about the true environmental cost of manufacturing and disposing of their lithium batteries. May we have a debate on the costs and benefits of electric vehicles?
The hon. Gentleman will know how to apply for a debate in the usual way. He has recently applied for debates and I think he has a debate on another topic later this week. The House is always happy to facilitate that. He is absolutely right: we want to ensure that information is taken from a wide range of sources. Historically, there have been scandals; we had the EU emissions scandal related to diesel vehicles. It is very important that information is out there and people can scrutinise it. I encourage all Members to make use of the House of Commons Library, which is a tremendous repository of information, but also to take their information from a wide variety of sources.
It is understandable that, after suffering the worst terrorist atrocity in its history and the largest loss of Jewish life since the holocaust, the state of Israel will now seek to eliminate the threat of Hamas and all the other terrorist organisations. Mr Speaker enabled a statement on Monday and then an urgent question. Rather than a statement, would it not be better for the House to have a debate, in Government time and on a Government motion, so that it can express its support for the state of Israel and we can come to a ready conclusion to send a strong signal? Does the Leader of the House agree that there can be no equivalence between the Hamas terrorists, who kill, maim and torture civilians and try to eliminate as many Jews as they possibly can, and the Israel Defence Forces, which seeks to target terrorists and minimise civilian casualties?
I think that many Members of this House would want further opportunities to discuss this very important matter, so I suggest to my hon. Friend that he pursues the idea of a debate.
There has been discussion over the last week of proportionality, and the term “collective punishment” has been used on the Floor of the House. It is incredibly important that we recognise that the International Committee of the Red Cross principle of proportionality does not mean an eye for an eye, as some have suggested. That would be perverse. We do not suggest via that very important principle that, if the Israel Defence Forces raided Gaza and beheaded a precise number of infants or burned a precise number of families or raped a precise number of women and girls, that would be okay—of course not. That is not what proportionality means. The principle of proportionality seeks to limit damage caused by military operations by requiring that the effects of the means and methods of warfare must not be disproportionate to the military advantage sought.
What Israel is trying to do is end Hamas, a terror organisation that is a block to peace. The IDF is a trained military force that is subject to the rules of armed conflict and international law. Its soldiers are trained in these ethical matters. Its targeting doctrine and analysis of it is in the public domain and subject to scrutiny. I do not think that Hamas produces joint service publications, but if it did, they would say the opposite. It is there to cause damage and suffering to Israeli civilians and it has no regard, either, to the value of Palestinian lives, whose suffering appears to be acceptable collateral damage to its cause. It is very important that all of us in this House understand those critical principles, and I am sure that the Library will be able to assist hon. Members.
I was pleased to hear the Leader of the House be so unequivocal about Hate Crime Awareness Week. In that vein, can we have a debate on respectful language in politics, particularly when we are discussing vulnerable groups and minorities? The dog-whistle transphobic language and comments from some at the top of her party during its conference were abhorrent. They shame us all. I know that that does not apply to all her colleagues, because I am working actively with some of them on these appalling issues. The Leader of the House and I have had some discussions and I have heard her support for the trans community, but does she understand that our trans siblings are facing unprecedented levels of abuse, and that they are scared? What they need is kindness and humanity, not senior politicians using them as a punchline.
I thank the hon. Lady for affording me the opportunity, as a member of this Government, to reassert that we want to ensure that everyone in our society, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most misunderstood as a group, are protected and supported and feel safe. That is part of the reason why the Government undertook the largest survey in the world of LGBT people and their experiences of day-to-day life, and from that survey produced an action plan many of whose elements have already been delivered. This is a priority for the Government. We have a trans MP on our Benches, and we have Members of Parliament whose children or other family members are trans people.
The shambolic leadership of Labour-run Kirklees Council has taken the council to the brink of bankruptcy. Its members are blaming everyone but themselves, and local leisure centres, including Colne Valley leisure centre in Slaithwaite, are now under threat of closure. May we have a debate on how failing councils can be held to account for their financial ineptitude so that people do not suffer the loss of vital local services such as leisure centres?
I am extremely sorry to hear about the situation that my hon. Friend’s constituents are having to endure, and I can sense his frustration at the fact that many of the services they enjoy are now in jeopardy. He will know how to apply for a debate on this matter, but I would say to his constituents that they will have an opportunity to hold to account the people who are putting those services in jeopardy at next year’s local elections.
May I ask a question about business in the new Session? The Government asked the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to scrutinise and report on the draft Media Bill and were also keen for us to scrutinise the fan-led review of football governance and the White Paper “A sustainable future—reforming club football governance”, but we hear from within Government that there is some pushback on the inclusion of those items in the King’s Speech because they are not divisive enough at this stage, when the Government want to divide rather than unite. Can the Leader of the House assure us that that is not the case, and that the media Bill and the proposals for an independent football regulator will be included in the new legislative programme?
The hon. Gentleman, who is a very experienced parliamentarian, will know that, because of the rules applying to the King’s Speech, I cannot give that assurance from the Dispatch Box at this time. However, I want to place on record my thanks to him and his colleagues for the work that they have done on these important matters. As he will know, the Government are committed to both of them and, as a supporter of Portsmouth football club, I am particularly committed to the second. He will not have long to wait for the answer to his question.
Given that Bernie Ecclestone is now paying £652 million in back taxes, may I, through the Leader of the House, make an autumn statement representation and propose that we use that huge sum to ensure that all the GP surgeries and other health facilities that were committed to in planning applications for large-scale housing estates and have not yet appeared will now be built?
As my hon. Friend knows, we are going to change local authority planning guidance to raise the profile of primary care facilities when planners are considering how developer contributions and funds from new housing developments are allocated. He has brought this important matter to our attention many times, and I will be happy to write again on his behalf and make a formal representation ahead of the Chancellor’s autumn statement on
This year’s wear red day for Show Racism the Red Card is tomorrow. I cannot think of a more apt day in the light of recent circumstances. Will the Leader of the House join me in encouraging all Members and folk across the four nations of the UK to take part in this important day and reinforce this year’s theme of “change hearts, change minds, change lives”?
On behalf of the whole House, I thank the hon. Lady for publicising this important day. For the benefit of Hansard, there were many nods in agreement with what she said. We should all ensure that we take part.
I thank all Members for their wonderful tributes to my incredible predecessor Sir David Amess. Last Sunday was, of course, a sad day for Southend, and I know their comments will be appreciated by Lady Amess, the family and all Southend residents as we remember Sir David’s incredible dedication and courage not only in campaigning for city status, animals and the Music Man, but in his commitment to women’s health.
In that vein, I invited the brilliant Southend breast cancer charity Lady McAdden to Parliament on Tuesday. Lady McAdden provides the only one-to-one, nurse-led awareness appointments in the country, and it reminded me that, with breast cancer success rates now at nearly 99% when detected early and locally, it is shocking that 30% of women still do not attend their routine mammograms. Will the Leader of the House congratulate Lady McAdden on its work and encourage all women to attend their mammograms? May we have a debate on the future of breast cancer screening?
I thank my hon. Friend for all the work she is doing to carry on Sir David’s legacy, particularly with the wonderful Music Man project, with which so many Members will be familiar. It goes from strength to strength, and it is wonderful to see how it has developed.
My hon. Friend also deserves credit for the work she has done to raise awareness of the importance of attending screening. We know that early detection hugely increases the chances of defeating cancer, which is why we have invested so much in new diagnostic centres but, of course, people need to be encouraged to attend.
I thank my hon. Friend for the event she put on earlier this week. It is disappointing that props are not allowed in the Chamber, as I understand the event was on knitted bosom day, and there were knitted bosoms available for Members to wear. It is a shame that my hon. Friend was prevented from wearing them in the Chamber today.
I join the Leader of the House in her utter condemnation of Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel. It was not what Hannah Arendt once called “the banality of evil”; it was the calculation of evil. That is why it is right that we defend Israel’s right to self-defence.
Like the shadow Leader of the House and colleagues across the House, I am acutely concerned that 2.2 million Palestinians now face humanitarian disaster. The Prime Minister was right to say in his statement:
“We must ensure that humanitarian support urgently reaches civilians in Gaza.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 738, c. 24.]
What is the best way for us to debate the strategy next week? It seems to many of us in this House that an urgent, negotiated cessation of hostilities, binding on all sides, will be required to ensure that we meet the Prime Minister’s objective. We know that the United States and Egypt are working hard to secure that, so it would be good for us to understand how the UK Government are helping to achieve that objective.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising this very important matter, and I congratulate him on his recent election as Chair of the Business and Trade Committee.
I repeat what I said earlier: it is incredibly difficult to negotiate a ceasefire with a terrorist organisation but, of course, we want to ensure that innocent civilians are protected and are given the support they need. The UK has a vital role to play in that, not just through diplomatic channels, but through the expertise that Government and our non-governmental organisations have. I am very conscious of the fact that Parliament is about to be prorogued and that Members will want to be kept informed when the House is not sitting, and I shall certainly bear that in mind. He will know how to apply for a debate in the usual way and that Ministers will want to keep the House informed.
More than 18 months ago, the National Trust removed a much-loved and vital bridge in Stiffkey that connected the mainland to the marshes at this popular visitor spot on the North Norfolk coast. After much to-ing and fro-ing, it was agreed that on the basis of safety—to ensure that people were not cut off by rising tides—it would be replaced with a new bridge by the National Trust. However, the evidence for the removal of the bridge is still shrouded in mystery today. Despite asking, I, like residents and National Trust members, have been denied sight of the structural surveyors’ report, although we are told that it exists.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a parliamentary debate on the openness and transparency of membership organisations such as the National Trust and whether an organisation designed to protect heritage for the nation should be doing the opposite by prohibiting people from accessing the very spaces they want to enjoy?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important point. Organisations such as the National Trust will be subject to particular obligations, not least those placed on them by the Charity Commission. I can think of no reason why such a report should be withheld, particularly from the members of the National Trust. I will certainly write to the relevant Department to ensure that it has heard his comments today and ask that an official from that Department give my hon. Friend’s office advice about how he can rectify the situation.
May we have a statement from the Transport Secretary to explain to the House the proposal that the search and rescue helicopter stationed in Shetland in my constituency should have its response times increased from 15 minutes to one hour? The blue-light services of towns and cities would never be treated like that, so why should islanders be treated differently?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising what sounds like a concerning matter. I shall certainly make sure that the Secretary of State has heard what he has said this morning. I think this is a timely matter, so if the right hon. Gentleman keeps me posted, I shall ensure that the Department is in touch with his office.
May I associate myself with the comments about Sir David Amess? I have certainly been thinking about his family and friends this week.
Will the Leader of the House agree to an early debate on the serious financial situation confronting local authorities across the country, including Kirklees Council, which covers my constituency? Areas such as mine in West Yorkshire have seen deeper cuts in funding than others. Indeed, the Prime Minister actually boasted that when he was Chancellor he shifted resources to places such as Tunbridge Wells, saying that
“we inherited a bunch of formulas from the Labour party that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas…that needed to be undone.”
If the funding formula was the same today as it was when Labour left office, Kirklees Council would be in surplus. Instead, it is having to make extremely difficult decisions about the future of valuable local resources, such as Batley sports and tennis centre, Cleckheaton town hall and Claremont House care home in Heckmondwike. I hope that the Leader of the House will agree that this is a matter of urgent concern. Without a fair settlement, we will be storing up enormous problems for the future, which will impact on the health and wellbeing of many of my constituents and those of other hon. Members across the House.
First, let me say that the hon. Lady will understand more than anyone in this place the comments about Sir David Amess and those sad events. I thank the Jo Cox Foundation, one of the many legacies her sister left, for all the work it is doing on this matter and the tributes it has paid in recent days to Sir David.
The hon. Lady is the second Member today to raise the grave situation at Kirklees Council, which will lead to the potential loss of much-loved public services— I know that leisure services are a particularly great concern there. The Government have always maintained strong funding for local government. In times of great stress, particularly in recent years, we have increased that massively. What we have not done is allow councils over the past 13 years to raise council tax by enormous sums. In the timeframe we have been in government, councils have raised council tax by about 36%, whereas the last Labour Government, over the same period, raised it by 104%. We always have to bear it in mind that there is no such thing as government money—it is taxpayers’ money. We need to protect people, particularly those on fixed incomes, from unlimited increases in the taxes they pay.
I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as I have been contacted in my capacity as chair of the Public and Commercial Services Union parliamentary group on behalf of low-paid, outsourced facilities management staff across 10 different Government sites. As a result of a retendering process, I am advised that those workers will shift from Mitie to either ISS or OCS Group. That means workers will face seven weeks without a wage because of changing pay dates. I am sure the Leader of the House will understand the impact that will have on universal credit, for example, so can we have a debate in Government time about the outsourcing of facilities management workers? In the light of prorogation, will the Leader of the House contact Cabinet Office colleagues so that we can pause the arrangements and there can be a meeting with the trade union, ensuring those workers are not left in financial hardship?
I associate myself with the remarks made by the shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend Lucy Powell. Many constituents in Cardiff South and Penarth have expressed their horror and shock at the loss of innocent life in Israel and Gaza, their revulsion at Hamas, but also the importance of international law and humanitarian access and principles being upheld.
We have seen a shocking rise in antisemitism and Islamophobic incidents in recent days and weeks. It is National Hate Crime Awareness Week and we heard about Show Racism The Red Card yesterday, so can we have a debate in Government time on the importance of tackling hate crime on the basis of race and religion, particularly the important work that faith communities are doing to respond to those issues and to increase cohesion? We have had terrible examples of these issues in the past in my own community, but the response of faith communities has always been amazing. Could we have a chance to praise that work and to share good practice?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for adding his voice to the many who have spoken about their concerns and about the desire to ensure all communities are secure, protected and feel confident going about their daily lives. He is right that we need to point to good practice and the tremendous number of organisations who are doing wonderful work across communities, ensuring people are brought together and stand against those individuals who seek to divide and spread hate. If he were to apply for a debate, I am sure it would be well attended.
As we approach Remembrance Sunday, we can all agree that veterans and their families who have experienced pain and loss as a result of their service in the armed forces are rightly compensated. Yet under current arrangements, 150,000 armed forces veterans and their families, 12,000 of whom are in Scotland, find their welfare benefits are means tested as their compensation payments are treated as income. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out her support for the British Legion’s credit their service campaign, which asks that no member of the armed forces community has their compensation treated as income when undergoing means testing for welfare benefits, as is already the case with civil service awards?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. The UK Government take these matters extremely seriously, which is why we have compensated members of the armed forces who are resident in Scotland and who are serving for the additional tax that they have to pay under the SNP Government. Large parts of welfare policy are devolved to the Scottish Government, but given that we are about to prorogue Parliament, I shall make sure that colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence have heard the hon. Lady’s remarks. The next Department for Work and Pensions questions are scheduled for
We have all been horrified and devastated by the Hamas attacks on innocent Israeli civilians and by the suffering of innocent Palestinian civilians facing an unfolding humanitarian crisis. We urgently need the release of the Israeli hostages and we need the opening of viable and sufficient humanitarian and medical relief corridors.
Like a number of Members, I have constituents stranded in Gaza. They are in a terrible situation and it can be very difficult for us to know how to get help to them. I trust that we will get regular updates on the situation next week. Can they include specifically any updates on how we can best engage with the Government and other agencies to get help for our constituents? Further to what the Leader of the House said earlier, will she make arrangements for regular virtual updates as appropriate while we are in prorogation?
I am sorry to hear about the situation that some of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents are facing. Those who have worked with Foreign Office consular services will know that they are incredibly diligent and work very hard to ensure that people are kept informed about things, and also that cases can be resolved. I will certainly undertake to ensure that, before Parliament is prorogued, all Members of this House have very clear information about where they can get updates. I am very conscious that some Members may not yet be aware if a constituent is in this situation, and we want to ensure that that constituent can get help and assistance immediately it is needed. I undertake that that will happen, and I have already had a number of conversations with colleagues in Government about how we can ensure that that is done.
I wish to return to the infected blood scandal and the reality that victims are still waiting for compensation despite having been infected as long ago as the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, it is also estimated that every four days a victim dies without receiving justice. The Scottish Government have set up the Scottish infected blood scheme. Ireland has been paying out since 1995. Given the fact that there are further delays in the infected blood inquiry, as other Members have raised, can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will do the right thing and bring forward a compensation framework before there is a risk of a general election kicking everything even further into the long grass?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter. I just want to make sure that people are not misunderstanding what he has said. The schemes that he mentions are not compensation schemes. I was the Paymaster General who brought in parity across the four nations for support schemes, so this is not compensation for the injustice that people have suffered; it is ongoing support for what they need. There is now parity across the four nations, and I am very pleased that we secured an agreement that, if there is any change to support schemes, they are done together with that parity across the four nations of the United Kingdom—that is a very important principle. What we also want to ensure happens is that people are compensated for the layer upon layer of injustice that they have suffered. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave a moment ago to Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the all-party group on Haemophilia and Contaminated Blood, and I will make sure that the Paymaster General has heard that this House would like an update.
Will the Leader of the House ask ministerial colleagues to report to the House on breaches of international law during the war in Gaza? Targeting, displacement and collective punishment of civilians are war crimes whoever commits them. This country has a proud record of upholding international law and bringing to justice those who break it. Should we not continue to do that whether in Gaza, Ukraine or other conflicts?
I take these matters very seriously. Indeed, when I was International Development Secretary it was because of the regard that nations had for international humanitarian law that I was unable to unblock Hodeidah port and get aid into Yemen. These are very important principles and we must ensure that they are upheld. We as a nation must ensure that people understand that we place them at the heart of everything that we do.
What I would say to the hon. Gentleman, though, is that we need to be led by the facts in this case, and saying that Israel is collectively punishing Palestinians is quite wrong. In an earlier answer I gave quite detailed information about the framework that Israeli defence forces adhere to and the training that they undergo. He can look up previous conflicts and information that has been put out about how the Israeli defence forces conduct themselves, the care that is taken when undergoing targeting boards and the scrutiny that is applied to that, and the legal frameworks covering those things.
Hamas does not have the equivalent, and it is important that the language that we use in this place is correct and factual. There are extremely serious consequences in this country and across the middle east region of promoting information that is not correct. That is incredibly important. I know that the House of Commons Library will take its responsibilities seriously. This is a legitimate action that Israel is taking to defend its own security and defeat a terrorist organisation. We and other nations have stressed that that must be done according to international law and the principles that I set out earlier. The hon. Member has the Government’s assurance that we will not waver from that view.
Over the recess, I met representatives of Dementia UK, a fantastic charity that is providing research, support and much needed hope for people suffering from this dreadful condition. It is currently working to provide more of its specialist admiral nurses in primary care settings, including in my city of Edinburgh, where there are 8,500 people currently coping with dementia. I was unable to put the question directly at questions this week, but could we please have a statement on the progress that the Government are making on dementia care under the major conditions strategy and their Dame Barbara Windsor mission, particularly with an emphasis on training and support for specialist dementia nurses?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising that incredibly important point and highlighting the work that that organisation does on research and, critically, care. She will know that it has been a priority for the Government under successive Administrations to ensure that we are having the current breakthroughs on new drugs, with the second drug that is able to combat this terrible disease, and that we have the best possible care across the UK. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State has heard of her desire to have an update on these very important missions.
My constituent Callum from Coatbridge is a firefighter based in a station on the outskirts of Glasgow. With the support of his watch commander, he recently applied to the Government’s access to work scheme for the additional support that he is rightly entitled to, but after months of waiting he has still heard nothing. I am sure that the Leader of the House, like me, supports the aim of the access to work scheme to help people to remain in the workplace, so can we have a debate on the Floor of the House to ensure that people who are desperate to work are not being impacted once again by the intransigence of the Government?
I am sorry to hear about the difficulty that the hon. Gentleman’s constituent has had in accessing the scheme. The hon. Gentleman will know that through the health and work plan, of which access to work was a large part, we have managed to get an additional 1 million people with disabilities into work. It has been a priority for the Government. If the Scottish Government were concerned that we were not moving fast enough, they could have taken up the offer of administering welfare and disability benefits and schemes themselves when that was offered by the UK Government, but they did not. The access to work scheme is vital. If he gives me the correspondence that he has had with the Department and the details of the case, I will follow it up this afternoon, because his constituent needs to get access to that money, and I will do everything that I can to help him to ensure that that happens.
The three earthquakes in Afghanistan last week killed at least 2,445 people and left thousands of families homeless. Despite that, the situation has received little international attention, but with the ongoing war in Ukraine and the conflict and murders in Israel, we understand why. We also know that humanitarian aid often does not reach minority or rural communities, particularly in Afghanistan. The Leader of the House always responds positively—we all appreciate that—so will she ask the relevant Minister to highlight the UK response to the disaster and the steps taken to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches all those in need, who are not forgotten by us in this House?
On the behalf of the whole House, I thank the hon. Gentleman for shining a spotlight on the plight of individuals who may not have received either media coverage or debates in this place. He enables us to get on record the fact that just because that has not happened, does not mean they are not at the forefront of our minds. What has happened in Afghanistan is a terrible tragedy, and I know that the Development Minister has been focused on ensuring that we do all we can to alleviate suffering. It has been one of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s largest bilateral aid programmes this financial year and will remain so, I think, for some time. I will ensure that the Minister is alive to the fact that this House would appreciate an update, and if that cannot happen on the Floor of the House due to Parliament being prorogued, I shall ensure that the Commons Library has the updated information.