Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:31 am on 23 November 2023.

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Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The business for the week commencing 27 November will include:

Monday 27 November—Conclusion of debate on the autumn statement.

Tuesday 28 NovemberSecond Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Wednesday 29 November—Remaining stages of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

Thursday 30 November—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill.

Friday 1 December—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 4 December will include:

Monday 4 December—Remaining stages of the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business.

The agreement of a cessation in hostilities in Gaza and Israel, to release hostages and tackle the urgent and unacceptable humanitarian catastrophe, is welcome. Let us also hope that it could lead to a longer-lasting resolution. Will the Government keep the House updated as the situation develops? There really should have been a statement this week, and we really should be hearing from the Foreign Secretary, as we discussed last week. Members give careful consideration to these matters, and want to raise their constituents’ concerns.

In a few cases, however, we have seen the legitimate lobbying of Members by their constituents cross a line into intimidating protests and vandalism. I thank the Leader of the House, you, Mr Speaker, House staff, and the police for everything that they are already doing to support Members and their staff. Does the Leader of the House agree that the spreading of misinformation and the whipping up of hate is a threat to our democracy? Much of it takes hold on social media platforms. Given that the Government watered down the Online Safety Act 2023, does she believe that they have the tools to deal with online hate, misogyny, antisemitism and Islamophobia, no longer covered by the Act?

Turning to yesterday’s autumn statement, does the Leader of the House want to take this opportunity to correct the record, because the Chancellor did not seem to get his numbers right? The real figures were published by the Office for Budget Responsibility alongside his statement, and they do not match. He said that it was

“an autumn statement for growth”.—[Official Report, 22 November 2023;
Vol. 741, c. 334.]

The OBR said that growth has been downgraded in each of the next three years. He said that he was cutting taxes. The OBR confirmed that this will be the biggest tax-raising Parliament on record, with 7 million workers now caught by stealth tax rises. Even with his cut to national insurance, the Government are handing back only £1 for every £8 they have taken in this Parliament.

The Chancellor said he was helping with the cost of living crisis, yet the Office for Budget Responsibility says this is the largest reduction in real living standards since records began, and energy prices rise again today, adding more pain. He said he had got inflation under control, but the OBR inflation forecasts have now gone up in every year of the forecast period, with prices rising higher for longer. He said that debt had fallen, yet the OBR said it would be 28% higher next year than when the Tories came to power. The Prime Minister said yesterday that he had reduced debt, yet the Institute for Fiscal Studies is clear that public sector debt is rising in cash terms, in real terms and as a percentage of the national income. Perhaps those discrepancies are why the IFS’s director said of the autumn statement that

“a lot of these numbers… are sort of made up.”

No matter what the Government do at this late stage, the facts for families will not change. Prices are up, tax is up, debt is up, mortgages are up, rent is up; that is their record, and nothing they said this week can change it. When people ask themselves whether they are better off after 13 years of a Conservative Government, the answer will be no.

The latest immigration figures are now out—up again. So much for the Foreign Secretary’s plan to get numbers down to tens of thousands. That is further evidence that this Government cannot stick to their promises, and in next week’s business there is still no sign of the emergency legislation on Rwanda. Where is it? What is the hold-up? Is it with the Leader of the House’s parliamentary business and legislation committee, or is with it the Home Office? Has she even seen it? She knows it will not work; it will absorb loads of time and it will not solve the problem. Maybe the delay is because the Home Secretary reportedly thinks that the Rwanda policy is “batshit”. Yesterday, he also said that Stockton was a “shithole”. Does the Leader of the House agree that besmirching another hon. Member’s constituency goes against all the courtesies of this place and is utterly disrespectful to their constituents? Will she ensure that the Home Secretary comes to this House and apologises? That sort of foul language may be accurate when describing Government policy, but not the great town of Stockton.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I place on record my thanks for hosting the UK Disability History Month event that took place in your rooms last night, Mr Speaker. We had great speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House about their disabilities and of course the performance of the Music Man Project. I promise you that the video of you dancing Gangnam-style to one of their hits will go with me to my grave.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank Lucy Powell for, and join with, the sentiments she expressed about Israel and Gaza. We all hope that some of the hostages are able to be released in the coming days, and our thoughts are with everyone affected by that. It is incredibly important that this House is kept up to date. She will know that the Procedure Committee is looking at that and will shortly make some announcements on how it thinks the Foreign Secretary can best come to answer questions from hon. Members.

This week I met the director of national security and the director of consular and crisis services in the Foreign Office, as well as Home Office officials, on behalf of Members of this House to look at what they can do to support the families of hostages—not just the British nationals, but those who have a connection to the UK—and I know that they are in touch with those hon. Members directly concerned. A lot of that cannot be put in the public domain, for obvious reasons, but they are in touch with hon. Members on Privy Counsellor terms with things that cannot necessarily be put in the public domain.

May I also thank the hon. Lady for what she said about security? It is incredibly important. I refer Members to what I said last week on that point: we should be free in this place to use our judgment and vote accordingly, and we should not face intimidation for doing our duty to this House. Although it is a growing and moving challenge, I am confident that we have the tools to tackle misinformation online. She will know that we have stood up new services in the House of Commons Library, strengthening its ties with Government Departments—particularly the Department for Culture, Media and Sport —as well as with our security agencies.

The hon. Lady mentions the facts relating to the autumn statement and the OBR, and I am happy to remind the House of those facts. Inflation is now at 4.6% and will fall to 2.8%, and at the end of next year, towards 2025, we will be back to 2%. Headline debt is now 94% by end of forecast, down from a predicted 100%. Underlying debt next year is expected to fall to 91.6%, and we are due to meet our fiscal rule of having underlying debt fall as a percentage of GDP by the end of the next financial forecast. We have the second lowest debt in the G7.

The hon. Lady talks about the cost of living. On average, a person on benefits will be £470 better off, pensioners £900 better off, and those on housing allowance £800 better off. The national living wage has gone up. Our total commitment on cost of living measures is now over £104 billion, which includes £3,700 on average toward a person’s energy bills. She will know that the energy price guarantee remains in place until March next year.

On our ambitions to grow the economy, the hon. Lady will also know that we have a strong and resilient economy. That fact is evidenced by our continuing to attract inward investment. I very much welcome Nissan’s announcement of its commitment to continue making the Qashqai and Juke models in Sunderland. Yesterday, we made expensing permanent, as well as other measures to help businesses large and small, particularly on our high streets and in the hospitality sector. We have new investment zones, one of which is in her beloved Greater Manchester.

The hon. Lady mentions Stockton North, which will benefit from £20 million of levelling-up funding for Billingham town centre. With regard to the charge that she makes against the Home Secretary, he denies it and I believe him.

The economy is predicted to grow. We would like it to grow faster, and that is why we are focused on productivity. We have been able to cut tax through the tough decisions that have enabled us to create that headroom. We were able to do what we did during the pandemic, on furlough and other support, only because we paid down Labour’s deficit by 80%. Labour has opposed every measure that we have brought in to balance the books. Labour has blocked every measure to reform welfare in favour of denying people with disabilities the dignity of a pay packet.

Labour has blocked every measure to protect access to public service and cut waiting lists, in favour of militant unions. Labour has blocked every measure to make us more energy secure, in favour of Just Stop Oil. Labour has blocked every measure to raise education standards, and now wishes to tax education and halve apprenticeships. While we have been reducing fuel duty and holding down council tax, Labour put both up by 42% and 104% respectively. Where Labour is now in power, it taxes the lowest paid out of work. The ultra low emission zone has wreaked havoc in London and cost livelihoods. Sadly, I understand that those measures will shortly be coming to Wales.

Labour Members say that they have changed, but their actions past, present and planned for the future say otherwise. Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I am delighted to inform the House that, after 50 years, the crown jewels of Darwen—our freeman’s casket and our mace—will be returned from Blackburn to the Darwen Heritage Centre. After 14 years of campaigning myself, I congratulate the heritage centre and all its volunteers on their work to secure them. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is high time for a debate about local government reorganisation? As well as getting its crown jewels returned, Darwen wants to break free from Blackburn, which would truly be the crowning glory of our £120 million town deal.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a successful, if lengthy, campaign, and I congratulate him and everyone who has worked on it on their diligence and on never giving up. I do not know about a debate—it sounds like we ought to be having a party to celebrate this. In all seriousness, I know that it means a tremendous amount to the local community. They are known as the crown jewels locally. I understand that some of them are very heavy—if they need a hand carrying them around, I know someone who can help.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (COP26), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Commons Business)

Things became a bit clearer for us all this week. For a time, we have been wondering what the Leader of the House meant when she delivered her infamous “stand up and fight” battle cry. She told us 12 times in 90 seconds that she wanted to have a fight with somebody, but we were not quite sure who the enemy in her head was. We know in Scotland that she likes having a fight with us; she is always telling us off for disobedience or treachery. In Tory Britain, we Scots really should know our place. But the Chancellor helpfully revealed who else her Government want to fight with.

If you are unable to work because of ill health, get ready for battle with the Tories. If you are among the 4 million families destitute in the UK, forget it—there will be no real help for you in your daily struggle to survive. As is clear from the covid inquiry, if you are a scientist or—God forbid—an actual expert, gird your loins. In England, Tories fight NHS workers. They fight teachers. They fight local councils. They fight the low-paid. If you are on pensions or benefits, sure, they threw you a few crumbs yesterday from their table, but the Office for National Statistics says that food prices are 30% higher than they were two years ago, so they will fight you at the checkout tills. There was not a word about fighting billionaires’ tax evasion, fighting dirty money being laundered through London, or fighting the corruption and fraud drenching this Government in sleaze.

When the Chancellor sat down yesterday, the independent OBR assessed that his measures would bring the largest reduction in living standards since records began. But never mind; I see the other place was debating the Pedicabs (London) Bill last night, so we can all calm down, knowing that this Government are focused on the things that really matter. And people ask us why we want to see Scotland independent and away from this bedlam of a place!

I realise that I will wait in vain for any actual answers to these questions—questions like, how is it exactly that the right hon. Lady’s Government can find fiscal headroom in their Budget when some of my constituents in Edinburgh North and Leith cannot afford to feed themselves? Is it not time her profligate Government stopped fighting everybody and held an inquiry into themselves and the many billions they have squandered over the last four years?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am not in any doubt who I am standing up and fighting for—the people of this country—and who I am standing up and fighting against, and the SNP are on the latter list. First, what the hon. Lady says is not the case. She spoke about the welfare measures that were announced yesterday. She knows that the closing claims measure does not apply in Scotland and does not apply to anyone with disabilities or a child. If she was not aware of that, I ask her to please read the documents that were put out yesterday and the Chancellor’s statement, and if she does know that that is the case, it would be helpful for her not to say otherwise.

The hon. Lady lists a number of things and makes various accusations. I would ask her to be a little more self-reflective. It is her party that has been subject to 22—and counting, I think—police investigations. The Serious Fraud Office is investigating GFG Alliance, the company to which the Scottish National party gave hundreds of millions of pounds to guarantee jobs that never materialised, and that just happened to be sponsoring its party conference at the same time.

The hon. Lady likes to lecture my party about values. Which party is it whose leader smirked while people booed the national anthem? Which party is it whose activists called BBC reporters traitors? Which party is it that bullied Conservative party members attending a conference in Scotland to the extent that it made national news? Which party is it whose behaviour was so horrific towards its own elected representatives that they said they suffered panic attacks, and some have crossed the Floor? Who is responsible for the bile-fuelled rants that are so evident in Hansard?

Once the hon. Lady has clocked that the answer to all those questions is her party, she might reflect on why that is the case and on the appalling legacy that such a warped, irresponsible displacement activity has seeded to a generation of Scottish children—a wrecked education system, a widening attainment gap, fewer teachers, maths scores declining in every PISA survey, science at a record low and plummeting literacy rates. But they will, of course, have somewhere safe and warm in which to take heroin. I am not going to take any lectures from the hon. Lady about values, responsibility or performance in office. This is why I will get up every week and stand up and fight against the slopey-shouldered separatism evidenced by the SNP.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Part of my constituency is fortunate still to be served by a daily newspaper, the Grimsby Telegraph. The funeral of one of its most distinguished journalists, Peter Chapman, took place earlier this week, which caused me to reflect on the sadly declining role that local newspapers play in serving their community. May we have a debate about the role of local newspapers and how they can help build the foundations of their local community?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue—he is a huge champion for his local paper. As he knows, the pro-competition regime set out in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill will help rebalance the relationship between the most powerful tech firms and those who rely on them, including press publishers, which will make an important contribution to the sustainability of the press. The next Department for Culture, Media and Sport questions are not until the new year, so I will make sure that the Secretary of State has heard about his interest, and if he wishes to apply for a debate, I am sure it would be very well attended.

Photo of Duncan Baker Duncan Baker Conservative, North Norfolk

In North Norfolk in East Anglia, we have some of the most important areas for sugar beet in the entire country. Does the Leader of the House think it is right for British Sugar to bypass the National Farmers Union, the beet growers’ sole representative in negotiations with the monopoly processor, while negotiations are ongoing to get farmers to sign up to a contract that the majority of them do not believe is in their best interests or reflects an adequate return for the sugar market?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he is doing to support his farmers—I know it is a lot. He is a consistent champion for their interests, and he is right to encourage them to stand firm. I am pleased that NFU Sugar and British Sugar are resuming negotiations on next year’s sugar beet price, and I hope they can work together to agree a mutually acceptable deal as soon as possible for the benefit of both growers and processors. My hon. Friend may wish to raise this matter on 7 December with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

Well, you know. I see from the Order Paper that the Committee of Selection has done its business, and hopefully the House will agree the membership of the Backbench Business Committee on Monday night, which will mean that it will be able to meet on Tuesday afternoon. I gather that the Committee Clerks already have a dozen applications to be heard on Tuesday afternoon, so we look forward to getting back to work. We are also looking to the Leader of the House to award us a constant flow of time in which to air those debates, both here in the Chamber and in Westminster Hall.

Yesterday, we heard that benefits will be uprated from April and national insurance will be reduced from January, but overnight we also got news from Ofgem that it intends to raise the energy price cap by 5% from January. An inordinate number of my constituents are already spending more on daily standing charges than they can afford to spend on heating their homes and feeding their families. I understand that the Government intend to look at this issue, or are looking at it, but given what has happened in the last couple of days, could I ask for that work to be speeded up and done in anticipation of the price cap being raised in January?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for the advert about the timetable for his Committee being re-established, which is very good news. We will certainly, as always, make sure there is time for the debates that hon. Members wish to have.

The hon. Gentleman will know from the answer I gave to the shadow Leader of the House that we have the energy price guarantee in place until the end of March next year, but I know that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero will want to update the House on the ongoing work to which he alludes. I shall make sure that she has heard what he has said, and of course he knows how to raise it with her directly.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Labour, Bradford East

Over the last seven weeks, we have seen over 15,000 innocent men, women and children killed; hospitals, churches, mosques, refugee camps and homes attacked; numerous instances of war crimes; and food, water, power and medicine cut off in an act of collective punishment that is in violation of international law. Yet, even as over 2 million people remain trapped in the never-ending humanitarian nightmare in Gaza, we still have not had a substantial debate in this Chamber on the conflict. This is one of the most important issues to my constituents and to constituents of many hon. Members, so will the Leader of House finally allocate Government time for a substantial debate on this critical issue?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this. I know that the situation in Gaza, particularly what we hope might happen over the coming days, is very much at the forefront of people’s minds. He will know—and I have given many examples—the complexity of the situation there and what the Israel Defence Forces are trying to do in very difficult circumstances, but of course we all want to see a pause in hostilities to enable humanitarian assistance to get to where it needs to be and we hope for hostages to be returned home. There have been a number of opportunities to discuss this on the Floor of the House, not least with the usual Prime Minister’s questions and other questions to Departments. I shall make sure that the Foreign Secretary has heard what the hon. Gentleman has said, and he will know that the doors of consular services, but also of Departments that are closely monitoring what is happening on the ground, are always open to Members who have particular concerns.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Conservative, Northampton North

May we have a debate on antisemitism at the Football Association? The FA board, which for years lit up Wembley for numerous causes and campaigns, has now said that it will not light up Wembley ever again for any non-entertainment reason. This is because it has been shamed by its antisemitic decision not to light up the stadium when 1,400 Jews were murdered in the pogrom of 7 October. Should the national lottery even fund organisations that seem to regret every death and injustice apart from the death of Jews?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My right hon. and learned Friend the Culture Secretary discussed the lighting of the arch with the Football Association at the time and expressed her disappointment about how it approached that situation. As was announced in the autumn statement, we are making further funds available to combat the rise in antisemitism. We are also repeating the £3 million uplift to the Community Security Trust to fund its critical work, to ensure that that work is able to continue and to meet the unfortunate demand. However, my right hon. and learned Friend makes a very good point. Whatever businesses or organisations we are involved in, we can all make a difference by calling things out, while also, critically, showing support to particular communities. I think his point was well made.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

May we have a debate on improving road safety? I recently met a community speedwatch group in Bath, a bunch of highly dedicated and motivated people who stand for hours in all weathers, facing abuse. They have caught 80,000 speeding vehicles, yet they see very little result for their hard work. Speeding kills: a third of road fatalities are down to speeding. Would Road Safety Week not be a perfect opportunity for such a debate to show that the Government really take the issue of road safety seriously?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this—very sadly—timely question given the events of this week. As she knows, speeding is a critical issue and one of the biggest killers globally, affecting many countries. As well as measures we take at home, she knows that we make a big contribution to reducing the number of deaths on the road elsewhere. It is an excellent topic for a debate. I will download her interest to the Secretary of State, and I am sure that if she applied for a debate, it would be well attended.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

My right hon. Friend has already mentioned the financial impact on poorer families of the Labour Mayor of London’s hated expansion of the ULEZ—ultra low emission zone—scheme, but she is probably not aware that the Advertising Standards Authority has found him guilty of using incorrect statistics in the scientific evidence, which led to its expansion. Given that authorities across the country are now considering introducing similar schemes, would it not be a good idea to have a debate in Government time on ULEZ, so that we can expose these lies for what they are?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. That is a very good idea and topic for a debate, and he will know how to apply for one. There are schemes elsewhere in the country that address air quality issues which have chosen a different path to clobbering those who can least afford it, with terrible unintended consequences —people losing their businesses or livelihoods, charitable organisations being prevented from going about their work and the knock-on economic impact to surrounding areas. It is not just those in London or potentially in certain parts of Wales who are to be affected by these schemes; it is anyone who is going there to do business or for some other purpose. It would be very good to have a debate on these matters. There is good practice out there, and there is also appalling practice, based on shoddy evidence, and the Mayor of London is the top candidate for that accolade.

Photo of Paula Barker Paula Barker Labour, Liverpool, Wavertree

The Chancellor said yesterday that he had taken steps to support people through the cost of living crisis created in Downing Street, so why have 2 million citizens had to rely on food banks in the past 12 months?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

As I stated earlier, the cost of living measures we have brought in now amount to £104 billion. We have been there through the immense crisis that was the pandemic and through furlough, helping people so that they could be at home and be supported and also, critically, keeping jobs and businesses going, which is why we were one of the fastest recovery nations. We have been there to pay energy bills. I shall not repeat the statistics I gave earlier, but the hon. Lady will know that we have protected those on benefits and also pensioners through the triple lock, and we are ensuring that those who are on benefits and trying to get into work have additional support to do so. The result of our record is 1.7 million more people lifted out of absolute poverty, 200,000 of whom are pensioners and nearly 500,000 are children.

Photo of Marco Longhi Marco Longhi Conservative, Dudley North

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has already found the Department for Work and Pensions guilty of maladministration on two counts in relation to the WASPI women—the Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign—once in 2005 and the other in 2006. I forget who was in charge at the time; it must be my age. Many women have suffered as a result in a variety of ways. Will the Leader of the House agree to having a statement so that the Government can show they are doing what they can to help speed up the processes at the ombudsman, which appears to be taking an inordinate amount of time in finalising its investigation and recommendations?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and the work he has been doing campaigning on behalf of pensioners more broadly and his work on the triple lock, as well as with respect to particular cohorts of individuals, both his constituents and more widely. The ombudsman’s investigation is ongoing, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment on that, but I understand that it issued a statement on the timeline and the reasons for the delay. I will certainly make sure that it has heard what my hon. Friend has said today.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley

I note that the Leader of the House failed to respond to the question from my hon. Friend Lucy Powell about the Government’s Rwanda policy. The right hon. Lady will be aware of reports that if, as seems likely, the Government are unable to find a legal way to take that policy forward, they are considering using the Falkland Islands as an alternative. Will she take this opportunity to either confirm or deny that the Falkland Islands is a possible alternative to Rwanda?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am very happy to knock that one on the head. It is not an alternative to Rwanda, and nor are various other places that have been mentioned, including the Orkney Islands. That would be definitely out, given the reliability of Scottish National party ferry services.

Photo of Scott Benton Scott Benton Independent, Blackpool South

Last Sunday was International Men’s Day, which is a brilliant opportunity to highlight the positive contribution that men make to society, as well as some of the challenges we face. Foremost among those is men’s mental health and, in particular, the high rates of male suicide. I recently visited Conscious Recovery, an inspiring Blackpool charity that supports those dealing with mental health issues and raises awareness of those issues in our community. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking and praising those brilliant volunteers and charities who do enormous work in this area and who make so much difference? Will she support a debate on improving mental health and preventing suicide?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for championing Conscious Recovery in his constituency. I am sure the whole House would want to thank all the volunteers who work for that organisation, as well as those who work for many organisations across the country and in our own constituencies, too. I am pleased that he has been able to raise the profile of this important issue, and I thank him for his campaign work on it. It is critical, particularly for young men who are very vulnerable to not opening up about their mental health issues, often with terrible consequences. We should applaud all efforts to ensure that they get the help and interventions they need.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

Further to earlier exchanges, many of us have constituents stuck inside the hell that is Gaza, and in trying to get them out, we are struggling to get information out of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I have always found Mr Mitchell to be an honourable and honest man, and he is doing his best to help to get people out, but it is still difficult getting that information. Could we have a statement, or at least a written statement, setting out the channels that might be open to us so that we can get people home?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I will certainly make sure that the Foreign Office has circulated an updated contact list to all Members of this House. We will make sure that is done. The consular services are the best point of contact in most cases for hon. Members, but in the meeting I spoke about earlier in this session, I also emphasised the importance of the Foreign Office and in some cases the Home Office making sure that they are in regular touch with Members who have a particular interest in this issue. I would be happy after this session to ensure that the Foreign Office gets in touch with the hon. Gentleman to talk about any issues he needs support with.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Will the Leader of the House update us on the legislation to create an independent regulator for men’s football? My constituents who support Everton are frustrated about the process their club has gone through and worry about unfairness. Fans of many clubs believe that the structure of men’s football requires much better governance, and there is support from parties across the House to crack on and legislate for a better system. Will she tell us when the Bill will be published and when Second Reading will be?

Hon. Members::

Hear, hear.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that matter, on which there was audible agreement from around the House. I know that this issue is supported by many people, and I am one of them, as a Portsmouth football club fan and having done the largest and fastest ever community buyout of a football club in the UK. We have spent a great deal of effort on this. As she knows, we will be bringing legislation forward, and she will not have long to wait for that. She will not be surprised to hear that further business will be announced in the usual way.

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

It is hard to know which is worse: the continued robbery of Scotland’s vast energy wealth while one in three house- holds in Scotland exist in fuel poverty, or the Scottish Government’s supine response to the closure of Grangemouth oil refinery. According to Petroineos, the precise timeline for implementing any change has yet to be determined. I agree with Derek Thompson of Unite the union, who said:

“Every option must be on the table in order to secure the hundreds of highly skilled jobs based at the Grangemouth complex for the long term.”

Will the Leader of the House bring forward a debate in Government time to consider the economic impact of UK energy policy on the people of Scotland?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State has heard the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about the oil refinery, but I invite him to examine his party’s policies on oil and gas and the support it gives to that sector.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

Quite rightly—[Interruption.] If the Scots can stop their spat for a moment. This country quite rightly maintains a list of the crown jewels of sport and of our sporting heritage and culture with a listed events regime, but the six nations rugby tournament is not on that list. Most people would think that it would be, but every few years the danger of it falling off free-to-air television broadcast comes along, and that is with us again following this week’s session of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Is it not about time that the Government added the six nations, which is a festival of friendship across these islands and Europe, to the listed events regime?

Hon. Members::

Hear, hear.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman’s suggestion got a lot of support from across the House. It is the most fantastic tournament, with friendship as well as friendly rivalries. I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has heard his suggestion, as the Department’s next oral questions are not until 11 January.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Government’s “Creating a smokefree generation and tackling youth vaping” consultation closes in two weeks, and it is crucial that they do not rush through legislation without considering all the responses carefully. Will the Leader of the House confirm that there will be a sufficient window between the consultation’s closure and the introduction to the House of the tobacco and vapes Bill? Will she allow Members of the House an opportunity to debate the consultation’s proposals before a draft Bill is published?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for that advert for the consultation. It is very important that people are aware of it and able to contribute to it. Although I cannot give her a precise time that the Bill will come before the House, there will be good time between the consultation closing, the publication of its results and any debates in this place.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

My constituent Alistair Inglis of Duthie & Son motors in Montrose is suffering a prolonged issue with HMRC about its 2022 VAT return, which centres on misallocation of payments to the digital tax system using the dealership management system for the years 1993, 2001 and 2002. This has been going on since August 2022, and it is still not resolved—not, I must say, for want of effort on the part of officers within HMRC, who are trying their best with a system that will not resolve the situation. Can we have a debate on the dealership management system to see whether this is a localised issue to my constituent in Angus or it affects franchised car dealerships across the United Kingdom? Is there any other way in which the Leader of the House can seek to advance this apparently intractable situation for my constituent?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman’s constituent has had difficulty getting the right person in HMRC to resolve that. I will ask my officials to contact HMRC on his behalf, and ask them to get in touch with the hon. Gentleman’s office to have an individual sit down and work through what might be a complex case. There will be a solution at the end of it, and I am happy to do that on his behalf.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Could we please have a statement to explain why the overhyped Hull and East Yorkshire devolution deal announced in yesterday’s autumn statement and described by a local, well-respected journalist in Hull as “cobblers” is worth only £13.3 million a year extra in funding over 30 years, and goes nowhere near the £111 million lost each year to Hull alone since 2010?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady will know that she can put that to the Secretary of State himself on 4 December. That devolution deal would not have proceeded if local stakeholders were not in favour of it, but if she has suggestions about other things, she can raise that with the Secretary of State.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

The Leader of the House is a stickler for detail, yet there was scant mention in her replies to my hon. Friend Lucy Powell, or indeed by the Chancellor yesterday, of freezing personal tax thresholds until 2028. That will cost basic rate taxpayers an average of £720 more each year. Does Leader of the House think that people will not notice the effects in their pay packets?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I think that people will notice that this Administration has doubled the personal tax thresholds and lifted many people on the lowest incomes out of paying tax altogether.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Oak Square housing complex in Stockwell was built in 2010. Sadly, since then there has been a host of issues with the building, from leaks and defective cladding to faulty infrastructure. That has meant that my constituents have had to live in a nightmare for almost 10 years. I visited it earlier this summer to see the issues at first hand. The tenants continue to pay their rent and service charges to their landlord, Notting Hill Genesis. Can the Leader of the House please urge the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to accept my invitation to come down and see at first hand the nightmare that residents have to live in?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sorry to hear the situation that the hon. Lady is in. I will make sure that the Housing Minister has heard of the ongoing situation, and I will ask that she be given any advice that is available from officials about further avenues she can pursue to get redress for her constituents.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Farming, Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

A few days ago, the Care Quality Commission found that more than two thirds of hospitals in London and more than half of hospitals in England offer substandard levels of care. Will the Leader of the House make a statement expressing her alarm and concern about that shocking revelation? Can she share with the House what she thinks has gone wrong?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

That is a question that she might like to ask the Health Secretary at the next available questions. I would ask her to look a little closer to home at life expectancy figures and at what is happening in her own constituency.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Broadmarsh in my constituency is one of the most significant city centre development sites in the UK, with the potential to bring up to 1,000 new homes and more than 6,000 extra jobs. Nottingham City Council has already invested in a new bus station and big improvements to the public realm, and on Tuesday it will open the new central library. However, for the third successive time, the Government have failed to provide any levelling-up money to support its regeneration. Can we have a debate on this Government’s continued failure to back local authorities, which are facing high inflation, high interest rates and unprecedented levels of demand for social care, leaving so many teetering on the brink?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady will know that we have provided additional funding for social care. We have also been supporting both the care sector and the NHS to work more efficiently and effectively together. I will ensure that the Secretary of State has heard her concerns today, and she will know how to raise them with her directly.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport)

My constituent Jess McNichols, who is receiving treatment for cancer at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, missed an important medical appointment due to the general disruption of Royal Mail services. Her letter arrived late. Could the Leader of the House counsel me on how best to raise this case further in this place?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

This is becoming a consistent theme for hon. Members on both sides of the House. Services are not meeting Royal Mail’s performance targets and he has just illustrated that that can often have a pretty devastating impact, with missed appointments and knock-on effects for inefficiencies in other public services. I have ensured that the relevant Department is aware of hon. Members’ concerns. I urge all hon. Members to do their bit, particularly on the issue of industrial action, to ensure that there is no further disruption to mail services.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon

Today is Carers Rights Day, when we recognise that unpaid carers have rights too and need those rights strengthened. Carers UK today published new research that shows thousands of people are having to give up work due to the stress of juggling paid work and unpaid care. At this point, I would like to thank all carers across the Blaydon constituency who do so much, and Gateshead Carers Association and Carers Trust Tyne & Wear, who support them in that work. May we have a debate in Government time on how we can better support our unpaid carers who do so much?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. I think all hon. Members across the House would echo what she has said: the huge debt we owe these individuals who step up and take responsibility, both for their immediate families and others. We have, through the carers’ strategy, introduced a range of measures to support them. I think Wendy Chamberlain also assisted us in delivering a manifesto commitment on access to leave for carers. There is always more we can do and if Liz Twist were to apply for a debate it would be very well attended.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Defence)

In the past two years, Plymouth has suffered two incredibly bad tragedies: the mass shooting in Keyham, where we lost five people; and the murder of Bobbi-Anne McLeod, an 18-year-old who was taken from a bus stop and murdered. Members on all sides of the House have committed to tackle male violence against women and girls, so will the Leader of the House ask the relevant Cabinet colleague to come to the House to give a statement on what progress is being made, especially as we approach the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, to tackle not only domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, but the growing scourge of incel culture online?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter. All the work done to strengthen local communities, particularly after those two tragic incidents, is a credit to his constituents. He will know that a number of Departments, but particularly the Home Office, have done a huge amount in recent years on combating violence against women and girls. Measures need to range from education at an early age, right through to ensuring that victims and potential victims have all the tools they need to enable them to avoid harm. This is an issue that is keenly followed by all Members. If he were to apply for a debate it would be well attended, but I will make sure that the Home Secretary has heard what he has said today. We all send our best wishes to his constituents.

Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Labour, Bradford South

Last year Bradford faced the highest increase in car insurance prices in the whole of Yorkshire, with the average premium standing at a staggering £879. Will the Leader of the House grant a debate in Government time on the car insurance rip-off which means that law-abiding citizens such as her constituents and mine are left paying for the reckless criminality of others?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure that if the hon. Lady were to apply for a debate it would be well attended, because there is a huge amount of interest in these issues. As she will know, our legislation to ensure that competition is working well and the consumer really is king will also ensure that people are able to get the best price from, in particular, online companies, if need be going through a broker in the case of insurance. However, I shall make sure that the Department has heard about the hon. Lady’s concerns in the context of her own constituency.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

My constituent Margaret Beveridge, a pensioner, took out a £20,000 loan for a ground source heat pump on the understanding that there would be a seven-year payback grant from Ofgem, which it has now withdrawn following an audit. Margaret’s installer is adamant that what Ofgem has said and done is wrong, but getting the information to Ofgem took her past the 28-day appeal deadline, and she is now left high and dry with energy and bank loan outgoings of £700 a month. How many more vulnerable customers will have to suffer before Ofgem’s rules and attitudes are reformed, and how can I get Margaret the help that she desperately needs?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am very sorry to hear that. I shall certainly put pen to paper this afternoon and write to the relevant parties on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf, but I hope that Ofgem will have heard what he has said today and will be in touch with his office directly if there is anything it can do within the parameters in which it is required to operate. If he wants to give me further details about the specifics of the case, I shall also explore with the Department whether there are any other avenues of redress for his constituent.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

The rise in the number of neurodivergent children is a cause of serious concern. In 2018 there were 42 diagnoses in York, but last year there were 118, and the number will exceed that this year. Moreover, the number of education, health and care plans has more than doubled. May we have a debate on the support that is there for families, the staffing that is there to expedite diagnosis, and the ongoing support of children in schools?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this matter. If we want to ensure that every child and young person can reach their full potential, we must also ensure that people have not only diagnoses but the support that they and their families need in order to thrive. The hon. Lady knows how to apply for an Adjournment debate, and the Backbench Business Committee has just been set up and will provide her with another avenue. However, I shall make sure that all the relevant Secretaries of State have heard her question today.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

May I again ask the Leader of the House a couple of questions about the position of minority religious groups? The first concerns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which has rightly been described as a state without parallel. Crimes against humanity go unpunished, while those who have escaped can face major human rights violations, which are particularly harsh in the case of religious people.

Secondly, many newspapers reported yesterday that what was happening in Darfur could now be considered genocide. People are being killed on the basis of their ethnicity and faith, while places of sanctuary, including mosques and churches, are being destroyed. I believe that departmental action is needed to stop this escalation of violence. As our representative—for I know that she asks questions on our behalf—will the Leader of the House bring the situation in Sudan to the attention of Ministers, and will she also ensure that they are aware of the crimes against humanity in the DPRK, that their escalation is addressed, and that we can do something here in the House to help these people?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman has again done something to help. He has sent a very clear message that all of us in this place are focused on the appalling human rights abuses and atrocities happening in Sudan, North Korea and elsewhere. I thank him for doing that, as he does every single week. I will make sure the Foreign Office has heard what he said, and I know we will do all we can to ensure that the chances of such horrors happening are lessened. He will know that, through the programmes run by the FCDO, we do all we can to help community cohesion in many parts of the world.