The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the week commencing
So there we have it: confirmation that the Government have given up on governing. The Prime Minister’s first and likely only King’s Speech, and what should be his moment of maximum power and authority—yet it was not, because he is too weak, he has no burning agenda, he cannot escape his Government’s own record and he certainly cannot be the change the country is crying out for. The verdict is in: “thin gruel”, “damp squib”, “dull as ditchwater”, “a series of gimmicks”, and a Prime Minister who had
“already checked out, his wheelie was at the door”.
Those are not my words, but those of Conservative Members. The Leader of the House knows it and they know it: yet another failed reset. They are out of ideas and out of road—“drifting to defeat”, as one has put it today.
The programme is so thin it is embarrassing. Of the few Bills announced, five are carry-overs, four are barely longer than a page, three we have seen before and the flagship crime Bill has already been shelved. Despite the big issues facing our country, the Government’s answers are so small. There is nothing to tackle the cost of living crisis, just a Prime Minister deluded that everything is going great, and even getting his own figures wrong. There is nothing on NHS waiting lists or mental health, despite a Bill being promised many times. Education has been consigned to lofty ambitions years away. There is nothing of substance on transport, despite Network North being the Prime Minister’s last big reset—another flunk. However, the Government have found time for the regulation of pedicabs and a Bill to make it easier to sack doctors. Do the Government really think that sacking doctors is the solution to an NHS crisis?
Other Bills are political stunts, not fixing problems. Take North sea gas and oil. Can the Leader of the House confirm that we already have regular North sea licensing and that it has not prevented the worst cost of living crisis in generations? Can she also confirm that, in the midst of that crisis driven by energy bills, the grand offer of this King’s Speech is a Bill that, by the admission of the Energy Secretary, will do absolutely nothing about bills? The only way to bring down bills and get energy security is by going further and faster on cheap renewables. Instead, this Government are retreating and spending billions subsidising gas, the price of which is set globally anyway. It is politics first, country second.
Then there is the so-called flagship crime Bill—a Bill that has had to go back to the drawing board. The Prime Minister is too weak to stand up to his Home Secretary, who wants to criminalise giving homeless people tents because she thinks it is a lifestyle choice—despicable. We all know what she is up to; it is naked. Instead of sacking her, the Prime Minister cowers next to her. He is cowering next to her today, too. She is out of control. She is utterly irresponsible, undermining the police while stoking up division ahead of a difficult and important weekend. She is unhinged. Does the Leader of the House agree with the Home Secretary that police officers are playing favourites in this case? But the Prime Minister is so weak that he cannot rein in the Home Secretary. He is so weak that he could not even get his own ideas into his own King’s Speech—
Order. I do not like the term “unhinged”. I understand that tensions are running very high, but I want us to try to moderate our language.
I will withdraw that, Mr Speaker, and I will ask my questions instead.
Nutrient neutrality has been dropped to avoid another embarrassing defeat. Whatever happened to the motorists Bill, briefed several times as the Prime Minister’s big idea? It is nowhere this week. The ban on conversion therapy? Dropped.
One of the Prime Minister’s pet projects did make it into the King’s Speech though: a Bill on autonomous vehicles. But the joke being made on the Tory WhatsApp groups is that it is their own Government that is the driverless car. I can tell the Leader of the House that Labour is revving up. There is much that we would do. We would bring in a fiscal responsibility lock, so that mortgage payers never again pay the price of Conservative failure. We would ban water bosses’ bonuses and clean up our rivers; end non-dom tax breaks and have more doctors and teachers; change planning laws to build more affordable homes; levy a proper windfall tax; and set up GB energy. We would make work pay, legislate for proper leasehold reform and rights for renters, tackle crime and violence against women and girls, introduce a skills and growth levy, and pass real rail and bus reform—the list goes on.
The Prime Minister was right about one thing: this country needs change. But his programme offers more of the same: weakness, failure, political stunts and division. This Government have given up on governing and are preparing for jobs in opposition, but take it from me: Opposition is not all it is cracked up to be. It is a privilege to have the power of Government and a majority in this place. Is not the biggest travesty of all that they do not even want it any more?
I know that many right hon. and hon. Members will be taking part in remembrance services across the nation and overseas this weekend. Medals proudly worn by our veterans are not just thanks from a grateful nation; they are a message for the rest of us. We should remember their service and sacrifice, but also the lessons that made their service and sacrifice both necessary and possible. This weekend, as we attend services and lay wreaths beside memorials, we should reflect on how best to honour them and the freedoms we enjoy because of them, and protect their precious legacy.
The shadow Leader of the House started by talking about the cost of living. I am sorry that, as she did so, she did not recognise that this week we have paid out £2.2 billion in cost of living payments and that 99% of households eligible for the cost of living payment have already received it from this Government. I disagree with the hon. Lady, because I do not think that our cost of living issues are remotely helped by lessening our energy security, which is why we are bringing forward the Bill and why I ask her party to support it. It is not at all incompatible with investing in renewable energy and clean technology.
The hon. Lady is rather fond of criticising both our record and our plans for this Session, so it might be helpful to get the scores on the doors. She believes that our 43 Bills, 1,000 statutory instruments and record number of private Members’ Bills—24—passed in the third Session of this Parliament is a shabby record. I point out to her that only in two of the 13 parliamentary Sessions between 1997 and 2010 were more Bills put through than we put through in the last Session. In the last Sessions of Labour Administrations, the average number of Bills brought forward was 21. The hon. Lady cannot justify her charge against us about the amount we have got done. She might be relying on the time it took us—it did take us less time than we had allocated to pass a lot of that legislation and to do Government business—but that is not really a problem for those on the Government Benches; it is a more a problem for those on the Opposition Benches, although I have no complaints about that. Those on the Government side of the House have been pulling their weight, even in Opposition day debates—in debates on school safety and animal welfare, for example, there were more Conservative speakers than Opposition speakers.
Let me go into the specific points that the hon. Lady raised. On tents, the Home Secretary has no plans to ban Millets—we are not doing that. The Government have made the largest investment ever in tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, providing £2 billion to accelerate its mitigation and prevention, including preventing 640,000 people from becoming homeless in the last five years.
On conversion therapy, we have a manifesto commitment, and it is still a manifesto commitment. The Secretary of State will keep the House informed on the work she is doing on this important matter.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Lady raise nutrient neutrality. I had hoped she would support our measures, but the Secretary of State will no doubt update the House on the further work he is doing in that area. However, we are bringing forward many measures that will assist more developments to happen, including reforms at the valuation office.
At the heart of the charge the hon. Lady presents are values and the question of who is fit to govern for the people of this country, and I would ask her to undertake just a little self-reflection. She mentioned doctors, but 80% of the medical doctors in the House sit on the Government Benches, while 91% of the veterans in the House sit on these Benches, so I do not think there is a problem with our values, our service or our duty.
Yesterday, outside this place, Just Stop Oil activists held up an ambulance on Waterloo bridge. It was Government legislation, passed in this House, that enabled the police to arrest 40 of those protesters and get the traffic moving—legislation that the hon. Lady blocked, along with reforms to protect the public from strike action.
The hon. Lady supports the regressive tax policies of the London Mayor and the tax and spend policies of the shadow Chancellor, which would saddle every household with an additional £3,000 of tax per annum. The one-time party of “education, education, education” is now the party of “tax education, education, education”—the hon. Lady should think about that for a moment and about the values it represents.
I will take no lectures from a Labour party that puts politics before people. Labour Members talk of change, but I am afraid that the Labour party has not changed at all.
Yesterday, I hosted the first ever parliamentary reception for Yorkshire Cancer Research—a fantastic charity that has been working for nearly 100 years in the fight against cancer, and not just in Yorkshire. It is a significant funder of research, and we have some very fine research institutions in the north. However, institutions in the north as a whole—the north-east and the north-west, as well as Yorkshire—can do more. Please could we have a debate about research funding and the process by which it is allocated?
I thank my hon. Friend for the work he is doing. He raises an important point, and if he were to apply for a debate, I am sure it would be well attended. The Department of Health and Social Care invests about £1 billion a year in research through the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and that institution welcomes funding applications on any aspect of health research. Its expenditure on cancer research in the last financial year was over £100 million. I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important matter, and I shall draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to what he has said.
I call the SNP spokesperson.
Before her rapid rise to her current role as the Leader of the House, the right hon. Lady briefly served as Minister for Women and Equalities. There is—believe it or not—still such a role in this Tory Government. I raise that because recently there have been some absolutely shocking insights into the Government’s attitudes to women and equalities that give us an opportunity to assess her Government’s record, and—spoiler alert for her—it is grotesque.
First, we had the stomach-churning misogyny in language and behaviour described by witnesses at the covid inquiry. I imagine that even the Leader of the House would find it hard to defend the routine and disgraceful attacks on women in a Government she served. It told us so much. We then had the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Oliver De Schutter, telling the right hon. Lady’s Government that their record on poverty was “simply not acceptable” and was violating international laws. That surprises no one who sees the effects of her Government’s cruel policies day in and day out. Then a former Tory chair joined the fray by saying that there was “rot at the heart” of the party she was once so proud to be a member of—a rot at the heart of Government.
What we are talking about is the Tory Government’s values, and those values are not Scotland’s values. Their values suggest that the way to help the homeless is to ban charities from supplying tents to rough sleepers—it is a “lifestyle choice” to be homeless, is it not? Those comments were so misjudged that even the Prime Minister was embarrassed. They have the values that say, “We don’t care if we break international laws on poverty and the human rights of the poorest”, and that women can be dismissed in the foulest way imaginable as a part of normal behaviour. Simon Case, the country’s most senior civil servant, said that he had
“never seen a bunch of people less well-equipped to run a country”.
He should know.
Can we have a debate on the Tory Government’s values and what 13 years under this “brutal and useless” Government have done to progress women and equalities and the interests of the most vulnerable among us in this far from United Kingdom?
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. The powerful words this week of Susie Flintham of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice should give us all pause for thought. That is why the Government have placed professionalism and care of each other at the heart of what we do. We are the first Government to have set up a ministerial human resources function in Whitehall—it is shameful that previously that did not exist. That is also why we are focused on more training and support for MPs, Ministers and officials, and it is why, in my evidence to the Standards Committee, I said that the only way we will make the nation proud of our conduct here is to recognise the responsibility and duty of care we have to each other across the hundreds of organisations that make up the political landscape—Parliament, political parties and Whitehall. The Government and I as Leader of the House take these matters incredibly seriously.
The hon. Lady talked about values and language. I hope that she will have a word with some of her party’s activists, who have intimidated those who stand against her or stand up for their own principles. I point out that, despite by-election losses, the Government did arrive back here with a new MP who sits on our Benches. A little self-reflection about some of the reasons why that MP made that transition would be appreciated.
The hon. Lady wants to talk about values. On women and equalities issues, it is the SNP that has torn the social fabric of the UK with its plans on gender recognition reforms. It is the SNP and the Labour party, which backed the SNP on that, that have backed the anti-free speech Bill that the Scottish Government have been so keen to push. The parties are in coalition together at a local level. Labour would give the SNP powers on foreign affairs and has indulged the First Minister of Wales’s separatist agenda.
The hon. Lady often comes here to say that the Government do not respect devolution. We do respect devolution; it is part of our values. Since the turn of the century, the UK Government have legislated for Scotland more than 200 times with the Scottish Government’s consent. It is the SNP that does not listen to local voices. The party that does not respect local people and local decision making is the SNP, which overrules 50% of councils on planning appeals, did not consult local authorities regarding its council tax policies, and does not pass on funding from the UK Government that is designed for Scotland’s local authorities. I think that our values are fine. The hon. Lady should look to her own party if she wants some improvement.
Some of the Ukrainians housed in Mid Derbyshire under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are worried about their futures, as their visas are starting to expire. They include school pupils who are uncertain about whether they can continue their education here, attend British universities and receive home student fees and funding. Will the Government make a statement outlining the future of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and how students will be affected?
Many Members are hosting Ukrainian refugees, and we are acutely aware of how difficult it is for them to plan their lives in the situations that they find themselves in. We will give them as much certainty as we can so that they can start to make decisions about studies or where they might go in a year’s time. My understanding is that they must be given a year’s notice, so many will be given information next spring. I will write to both relevant Departments to flag the point that if we can do anything earlier it would be appreciated.
The word “economy” was mentioned only once in the King’s Speech. Given that the country faces the highest tax burden since the second world war, not to mention the longest squeeze on wages in 200 years, does that not speak volumes about the Government’s lack of a long-term plan for our economy?
The hon. Lady will know that the biggest way we can help households is to curb inflation. That is the Chancellor’s priority, and it is why we have exercised restraint on spending. I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not support us in those efforts, but she will not have long to wait for the Chancellor’s autumn statement, which I announced in the business statement.
Could we have a debate on the volunteers who support the Royal British Legion? I am lucky enough to be the honorary president of the Royal British Legion in Hinckley, 100 years since its formation, and my predecessor but three was also its honorary president. I have seen the work of the likes of Elaine Ward, who has been collecting for the poppy appeal for 50 years. I will be there in Hinckley on Friday. Could we have a debate about how magnificent this charity really is?
I am sure I speak for all Members of the House by thanking the hon. Gentleman for enabling us all to send our thanks to the Royal British Legion and its army of volunteers who assist all year round, not just during the poppy campaign. If we were to have a debate, it would be well attended and very long, because the work it does is tremendously diverse, helping families as well as veterans and serving members of the armed forces.
This summer I welcomed to Parliament teachers from Oldfield Park Infant School and Twerton Infant School. They told me how they were struggling with staff shortages, underfunding and an increasingly unmanageable workload. In the south-west, teacher vacancies have risen by 175% in the last five years. So far, the Government have committed only to a fraction of the recommended £15 billion needed for catch-up education. Can we have a debate in Government time to get to the bottom of the considerable underfunding of schools?
As the hon. Lady knows, we have protected the schools budget and increased the number of teachers substantially—I think we have an additional 30,000 since 2010. Clearly, recruitment is an issue in certain parts of the country. There have been a number of campaigns through local authorities to attract teachers from particular disciplines into areas that do not have enough of them. I will write to the Secretary of State on the hon. Lady’s behalf and ask her whether she and her Department could share some best practice with the hon. Lady and her local authority.
The Leader of the Opposition recently said that he would bulldoze local protests and opposition in order to build millions more homes, which has folk in my patch worried. Is there some way of finding Government time to have a debate to show that there always needs to be local consent and engagement to build the homes that we need? We need those homes to be affordable, proportionate, sustainable and appropriate.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important point. It is important to respect local decision making. We know from the neighbourhood planning forums we helped to establish that quite often they are more ambitious about building homes in their area than their own local authorities. We are on track to meet our manifesto commitment of 1 million new homes in this Parliament. Since 2010, we have delivered over 2.2 million homes, with millions moving into home ownership. Through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, we are also improving the planning process. At the heart of it, I am very happy to say, we still have local people and local decision making.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending the launch of the north-east Field of Remembrance, run by the Royal British Legion, in Saltwell Park in my constituency. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking and congratulating the Royal British Legion on an excellent ceremony? Saltwell Park is a massively brilliant venue for our north-east Field of Remembrance. I was also wondering how soon we might get an announcement that will lead to the recommencement of the Backbench Business Committee in this Session of Parliament.
First of all, I am very happy to join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating the Royal British Legion in his constituency on all the work they do all year round, but particularly at this time of year. I have been prodding my colleagues with regard to his request, and I hope to have some news for him this afternoon.
This weekend, the nation will fall silent to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the great war, the second world war and other conflicts. Next weekend at the Cenotaph, the Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women will conduct its annual march. That will be a really important security operation for the Metropolitan police. Last year, my right hon. and learned Friend Alex Chalk became the first ever Minister to lay a wreath at that service. Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate in Government time on the contribution made by Jewish ex-servicemen and women, and will she prevail on the Defence Secretary or a Defence Minister to attend the service and lay a wreath?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that very important point. It is right that we mark the contribution of all ex-servicemen and women. He mentions the—I think 120,000—Jewish servicemen who fought in world wars with our British armed forces. These are incredibly important events, and
The Leader of the House has assured the House time and again that it is the intention of the House of Commons Commission and herself to bring forward measures on risk-based exclusions, which we were meant to debate before the summer recess. It is now November. I am sure the right hon. Lady is bored of being asked this question, but not as bored as I am of having to keep asking it. With yet more recent reports alleging serious misconduct while measures to address them appear to be kicked into the long grass, when will time be found to discuss how to ensure Parliament is a safe workplace and to restore our reputation with the public?
When either the Committees of this House or the Commission bring forward proposals to be debated on the Floor of the House, we find time very swiftly—usually within a week. We did debate the proposals before the summer recess and there were some very legitimate comments from Members. The hon. Lady took part in that debate herself, if I remember correctly. The Commission is considering these things and as soon as it has finalised a proposal we will, just as we always have, bring it back to this House.
Since my election, I have liaised closely with the Environment Agency and City of Doncaster Council to ensure that we never again see as many flood victims as we saw in 2019. Storm Babet resulted in the flooding of 15 properties; far more were flooded in 2019. While that is an undoubted success and a testament to the hard work of the agency and the council, we in Doncaster are now being penalised for that success. For those 15 households who did suffer flooding, it is still a disaster, so may we hold a debate on my proposal that the Government’s excellent compensation scheme for flood victims should apply to all areas, not just those where a minimum of 25 properties are affected?
I am very sorry to hear about those households, and my sympathies go out to all who have been affected. I am pleased to hear that the floods have had less impact than in previous years. That is a very good development, but of course it is of no comfort to those who have suffered. I would encourage my hon. Friend’s local authority to contact the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if it thinks that it is able to meet the criteria for support. I understand that the Department is open to listening and working with councils so that they receive proper support, and I think they have until late January next year to provide information on those criteria, but I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State has heard my hon. Friend’s advocacy for the 15 flooded households in his constituency.
The overwhelming majority of people in Yorkshire are proud and patriotic, love their families, and work hard. How can it be, then, that families had to approach food banks 75,000 times last year in order to feed their children? That is shameful, and doubtless it was in the UN rapporteur’s mind when he said that our country was in breach of its international treaty obligations under the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. May we have a debate about child poverty in Government time, and will the Leader of the House arrange for a Government Law Officer to be present to tell us what their legal defence is for the position in which the Government have put us?
This is an important matter, and one that the Government take extremely seriously. That is why we have a package of more than £90 billion to support people through these cost of living strains, and it is why we are working to combat and mitigate the causes. What is happening internationally has placed immense strain on our fuel prices and so forth. I think that we should debate these matters, and I hope that we debate them in all parts of the UK. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman applied for a debate, it would be well attended. He might also like to read the Senedd’s report on the Welsh Labour Government’s track record on child poverty, which is out this week: I think he would find it an eye-opening read.
Speeding and antisocial driving continue to blight Chalkwell and Leigh-on-Sea, with boy racers using illegal exhausts hurtling down our seafront at all times of the day and night. Even our local legend Linda Catling, who, despite being partially sighted, regularly knits woollen postbox toppers and has now created a speed camera topper, is considering moving out of Marine Parade owing to the dangerous driving. Given that road crime, including speeding, kills more people in Essex than all other crimes put together, may we please have a debate in Government time on speeding and antisocial driving?
I thank my hon. Friend for giving a plug to Linda Catling. I will have to google her knitted speed camera post box toppers—they sound very interesting indeed—and we send our best to her. I also thank my hon. Friend for raising such an important point. As she will know, one of the Bills that we announced in the King’s Speech will hopefully lead to much greater road safety in years to come, and I hope she will support that Bill as it makes its way through the House.
Last weekend, the Home Secretary turned her damaging and divisive rhetoric on the homeless, describing homelessness as a “lifestyle choice” and suggesting that her Government should prioritise stripping homeless people of their tents and fining the charities that provide them with that shelter. Although I am relieved that this disgraceful proposal did not make it into the King’s Speech, could I ask the Leader of the House to take this opportunity to apologise for her colleague’s callous remarks?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I have already given some statistics on this Government’s record on tackling homelessness, in terms of finance and how many people we have prevented from becoming homeless. Our Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 has already ensured that more than 6,000 people have been prevented from becoming homeless. I am here to answer for the Government’s record and the Government’s agenda, and I have.
Mr Speaker, may I, too, thank you and your staff for all the hard work that was done to make the state opening such a magnificent occasion? It was exceptional, as usual.
“clinically effective treatments with important benefits”,
they are too expensive to be recommended for use. Such a decision robs suffering children and their parents of the hope of life. Does the Leader of the House think the four-week consultation is adequate so that representations can be made to see these drugs extended to suffering young people across the whole United Kingdom in order to save lives and give hope to parents?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this question, which will be of concern to everyone who has this condition, their carers and their families. He will know that there is a very clear process to ensure the drugs that are available and approved by NICE are both cost-effective and clinically effective. There are appeal processes, and I am sure he will assist his constituents to make representations. Of course, even if a drug is not approved by NICE, patients can, in certain circumstances, still have access to it if it can be shown that the drug would disproportionately benefit that individual.
Can we please have a statement from the Paymaster General to explain to the House why the very clear and final recommendations made by Sir Brian Langstaff in his report published in April—seven months ago—setting out the need to extend interim payments and to set up a compensation scheme this year, have effectively been trashed by the Government? Is it not shameful that, after setting up a five-year public inquiry and running a parallel compensation review so that the payment of compensation would not drag on for far too long, and with very clear recommendations from a well-thought-of, esteemed former High Court judge, the Government have decided not to implement any of those key recommendations?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her diligent campaigning on this matter. She rightly notes that the compensation study was set up to run concurrently in order to save time. I know that the Paymaster General is planning some engagement in the coming weeks with the groups that are campaigning. Having raised this at a previous business questions, the right hon. Lady will know that I have also raised it with the Paymaster General. I will make sure that he hears what she has said again today. I can tell her that he is committed to acting as swiftly as possible to ensure that all people, including those who should receive interim payments, do so.
It has recently been announced that the two islands in my constituency, the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Cumbrae, are each to lose their Bank of Scotland branch. Following hard on the heels of that announcement, Brodick post office on the Isle of Arran is also set for closure. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out her support for these vital resources for the viability of our communities, especially rural and island communities? Does she agree that it is time to protect, in legislation, these crucial physical services in island and rural communities?
I am sorry to hear about the potential situation that some of the hon. Lady’s constituents will be in. She will know that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has made funding available to find solutions to ensure that people have access to banking services or post office services, with those sometimes being run out of other premises. I am not across what might be available in her local area, but I can write to the Secretary of State to ask his officials to contact her office to signpost her to what support is available. Even if stand-alone facilities have to go, that does not mean that the services have to go, and there are some great examples of how those services have been able to continue running across the country.
May I, through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, thank Mr Speaker for facilitating the Constituency Garden of Remembrance, at which many of us have been laying memorials this week? I will be placing my own for constituents in Cardiff South and Penarth who have served and been lost or injured over generations of conflicts and wars. I think in particular of the diverse communities who have served—our diverse Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish communities, and indeed many others, including those from across our Commonwealth. I should also mention our merchant navy, which is specifically remembered on Saturday in Cardiff bay. May we have a debate on the excellent work of not only the Royal British Legion, which has been referred to by a number of Members, but other veterans’ organisations in our constituencies? I think of the work of Woody’s Lodge and the Welsh Veterans Partnership in my constituency, which do so much to support those who have served, often where there have been life-affecting issues. Those organisations do excellent work and it is right that we remember them, as well as all those we have lost.
I join the hon. Gentleman in thanking the House staff and all Members who have made use of the ways in which we can remember those from our constituencies who have fallen, such as the memorial garden and the service that took place yesterday against the war memorial at the top of the Westminster Hall stairs—it is much appreciated. He has got on the record what I am sure is just a fraction of the incredible organisations in his constituency, and I thank him for doing that. This is one reason why we have set up the Office for Veterans’ Affairs. We want to be able to commission services directly for veterans—something that could not be done as part of the Ministry of Defence. We must ensure that this country is the best place in the world to be a veteran, and I thank all Members who will be taking part in services and saying thank you to their veteran community this weekend.
A recent ruling by the inner house of the Court of Session in Edinburgh put beyond any doubt that the ill-conceived Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill of the Scottish Government impinges significantly on the Equality Act 2010, the sex-based rights of women and the same-sex rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. We have had a debate in Westminster Hall to discuss redefining and having precision in law about the word “sex”. Will the Leader of the House discuss this matter, and the possibility of bringing in legislation to clarify the definition of “sex” in the 2010 Act in the future, with her Equalities and Justice colleagues?
I know that the Secretary of State is very across this issue, and I think that that judgment was a helpful thing to have taken place. We deeply regret the lack of understanding on these matters about the need—whatever the Governments and Administrations in other parts of the UK wish to do—to bear in mind the social fabric of the UK. Tearing at that social fabric, what it is to be a citizen and the values and norms that we live under is a bad thing. We also need to ensure that we are upholding what is in the 2010 Act. I shall make sure that the Secretary of State has heard what the hon. Gentleman has said.
I would welcome the Leader of the House’s advice on how to expedite a response from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for my constituents who are desperate to return home from Kyiv with their newborn son, who was born in September in Ukraine through surrogacy and for whom they are seeking an emergency travel document. I totally understand the importance of completing the passport application process, but my constituents have a vulnerable baby who needs to be cared for at home and a three-year-old back here in the UK who desperately needs her parents back.
I am sorry to hear about that situation. If the hon. Lady liaises with my office after this session, to give me the details and information about what she has already done, we will give her advice about how we can try to speed the process up for her. As an advert to other Members, the Home Office still offers bespoke surgeries; caseworkers can sit down with them here or online, and go through cases that are stuck in the system.
Wick harbour in my constituency suffered damage in the recent storms. If that is not dealt with very fast indeed, it could jeopardise the future use of the harbour. In the same storm, a section of sea defence beside the main railway line from Inverness to the far north fell away, so we had no trains, which are a vital transport link, for a length of time. The Leader of the House might say these are matters for the Scottish Government, but I would argue that they are strategic to the United Kingdom. Further to her previous answer, will she encourage officials at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to speak to the Scottish Government, and possibly the Highland Council, about these issues, so we can get them put right as fast as possible?
I am sorry to hear about that situation. The hon. Gentleman is right that unless these things are taken care of and mitigated, future bad weather will exacerbate the situation. I will make some inquiries on his behalf. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs may well be able to assist him more than some other Departments. In times of great crisis, we always ensure that the Scottish Government and local authorities across the UK are able to make a request for military aid to the civil authorities, in order to get assistance from UK armed forces to keep our communities safe. I will make some inquiries on behalf of the hon. Gentleman and contact his office.
This week, after three years of threatening journalists at The Guardian and elsewhere with legal action, wealthy business tycoons Douglas Barrowman and Michelle Mone finally admitted that they are indeed behind the dodgy covid company PPE Medpro Ltd. The Government have repeatedly promised to outlaw the practice of dodgy lawyers and dodgy clients using the threat of legal action to prevent the freedom of the press from reporting the truth in the public interest. Will the Leader of the House clarify which of the Bills announced in the King’s Speech will fulfil that promise and outlaw the practice once and for all?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point. As someone who has been subject to such threats myself, I think these matters are very important. We did work on this in the previous Session. There is ongoing work in the Ministry of Justice and other Departments to ensure that people are able to whistleblow. In other parts of Government, we have moved to protect individuals who find themselves in different but similar sets of circumstances, particularly relating to issues of employment and sexual harassment.