Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at on 18 January 2024.

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Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 10:30, 18 January 2024

Beautifully done, Mr Speaker. May I ask the Leader of the House for the business for next week?

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

The business for the week commencing 22 January will include:

Monday 22 JanuarySecond reading of the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill.

Tuesday 23 JanuaryOpposition day (3rd allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the Official Opposition, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 24 January—General debate on Defence and International Affairs.

Thursday 25 January—General debate on Holocaust Memorial Day. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 26 January—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 29 January includes:

Monday 29 January—Second reading of the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 30 January—Remaining stages of the Media Bill.

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

I thank the Leader of the House. I want to start by paying my own tribute to my dear and hon. Friend Sir Tony Lloyd. The words spoken about Tony since his passing yesterday, which have come from across this House and the political divide, really are a reflection of the special person he was. He was kind, sincere and driven by his deep values and principles. He worked with everyone necessary to further a cause, and always with integrity and humanity.

Tony was also my predecessor as MP for Manchester Central. As I said many years ago in my maiden speech, he was a brilliant man, first elected in 1983, serving Stretford and then Manchester Central for 29 years before being elected as police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester. He then returned to Parliament to serve the people of Rochdale from 2017. He was an incredibly hard act to follow; I still often find myself in his shadow. For the first few years, I had to accept the frequent complaint that I just was not as good. Some of my constituents still say, “You’re no Tony Lloyd, are you?” He was a proud Mancunian—but we did disagree on football as he was a long-standing season ticket holder for United.

We all knew what Tony stood for and the causes he held dear and tirelessly campaigned for, but in all the years I knew him I cannot remember ever hearing him raise his voice. He went about his politics differently. For him, politics was all about relationships and discussion, whether in this place, internationally, on the street or in his beloved pub. That is what earned him so much loyalty from everyone who knew him—because he was such a thoroughly nice bloke. My thoughts are with his family, his friends and his staff at this difficult time. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

Tony was not afraid to champion little-heard or unpopular causes, such as his campaigning on mesothelioma. One of his last acts just this week was to join more than 100 Members and peers and my right hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson in calling for urgent action on infected blood compensation. We have raised that issue many times in business questions, but given Sir Brian Langstaff’s statement, which was issued yesterday, it needs raising again. I just heard questions on it during Cabinet Office questions.

Sir Brian, the chair of the inquiry, has unfortunately delayed publication of the final report until May. However, he also made it absolutely clear that his final report on the compensation scheme has already been published—in April last year—and that that aspect of the inquiry and its findings will not change. Given that, may I ask the Leader of the House once again to arrange for a statement from the Cabinet Office on establishing the compensation scheme? She and the Government cannot keep hiding behind the final report or complexity when the chair has made it crystal clear that his recommendations on the scheme are now published. I must say that the answers I heard in Cabinet Office questions just were not good enough. They felt like dodging, unfortunately, yet the will of the House is clear on this subject.

This week I happened upon an article by the Leader of the House in The News Portsmouth, bemoaning the fact that nothing seems to work anymore. It was remarkably similar to a big speech she made a year ago this week to the Institute for Government, making similar arguments that ordinary people feel the system is rigged against them. I agree with her and, after the Post Office scandal, I am sure many others do, but it left me wondering what her Government are doing about it, and who she thinks is responsible. In a week when Avanti is bragging about “free money” from the taxpayer while rail passengers suffer poor services, whose responsibility does she think that is? In a week when the National Audit Office warned that the Government are wasting tens of billions of pounds on crumbling infrastructure and badly run projects, whose responsibility does she think that is?

The Leader of the House says that she wants to focus on improving the quality, accountability and accessibility of healthcare, so in a week when it has been reported that the NHS is spending a staggering £10 billion a year on agency staff, whose responsibility does she think that is? Whose responsibility is it that millions of people are waiting longer for treatment and cannot access a GP? Before she embarrassingly blames doctors or Welsh Labour for the problems of the English NHS, will she be honest about her Government’s terrible record, and tell us what she is doing to fix it?

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

The whole House will soon have an opportunity to pay tribute to our late colleague Tony Lloyd. People may not know, and the hon. Lady may not have had an opportunity to do that, so I thank her for her tribute today. Let me place on record my deepest sympathies for all who loved him. The tributes paid to him already illustrate his gentle and kind nature, and the breadth and depth of his public service. As the hon. Lady testified, he was still doing that right up until the end.

I also thank the families of those held hostage by Hamas for again coming to Parliament this week to talk about their loved ones. We will all keep them at the forefront of our minds and do all we can to bring them home. I remind the House that Kfir Bibas turns one today in captivity. I also wish both His Majesty the King and Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales a speedy recovery.

I thank the hon. Lady for again raising the important issue of infected blood. This session follows Cabinet Office questions, in which a number of things were placed on record both by the Paymaster General and by Members. I again remind the House that the compensation study was established acknowledging the moral case for compensation, that the study should be concurrent to the inquiry, and that the inquiry and the study could make reference to each other. The reason for that was to ensure that we could arrive as swiftly as possible at a compensation package for all those affected by this appalling scandal. I do not disagree with any hon. Member who believes that we should not have to wait.

As the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley, said in the Cabinet Office questions, the Government now have all the information to arrive at a compensation scheme in those inquiries, which is why the Paymaster General is making progress on exactly that. We are acutely aware of that moral imperative and what both the study and the inquiry have said on this matter so far. This House has also been clear in its desire to see that appalling scandal resolved quickly. I refer the hon. Lady to what the Paymaster General just said at the Dispatch Box with regard to legislation, but I am kept regularly informed of progress that he, the Treasury and other Departments are making on this matter. I expect more news on that important point in the coming weeks.

The hon. Lady referred to my article, and I thank her for the publicity. I argued that we should ensure that the consumer is king again. We have some challenging new monopolies—the natural monopolies of water companies —and the online giants, and we need to ensure that the customer is king. That is what the Government have been doing, through our legislation to improve competition and the work we are taking forward with regulators on a whole raft of things, from energy bills to other consumer issues. We can do because we have a plan. We have a plan on all the issues facing the public.

I expect praise from those on my own Benches, but I was much encouraged at the praise we heard yesterday from the Opposition Benches. One Labour Member, Fleur Anderson, was urging a focus on reducing the backlog and ending hotel use. She said:

“The Conservatives started this work by employing some temporary new officers and it started to work”.

She went on:

“The Tories have also started smashing the gangs through the work they are doing in France.”—[Official Report, 17 January 2023;
Vol. 743, c. 972.]

She was right. On that priority, she could have added that crossings are down by 36% this year, the Albanian returns scheme has seen a 93% fall in arrivals, and we have dismantled, alongside the French, 82 organised criminal gangs. We are making progress on that and other areas. The health statistics announced show that the waiting list figures Lucy Powell mentioned are coming down. These are not easy problems, particularly because of the recovery from the pandemic and the global situation on prices and supply chains, but we have a plan and we are methodically working through it with zero assistance from the Labour party.

On any issue and priority, we are sticking to that plan. The reason we can do that and are not being blown off course is that we have some principles backing it up. Unlike the Labour party, we understand our duty to the people of this country, whether that is setting up inquiries into infected blood and the Horizon scandal, or on the people’s priorities, which are also the Prime Minister’s five top priorities. We have never wavered in our duty to the people of this country. We have never wavered in our support to protect our country’s borders and protect the defence of the realm, unlike the hon. Lady’s party which has six current shadow Cabinet members who voted against our continuous at-sea deterrent. We are working to strengthen our borders and stop the boats. The Labour party has voted consistently against that legislation. We believe in supporting minimum service standards on vital public health services, including health and transport. Labour has opposed that. And we have taken tough decisions on helping the economy, including controlling borrowing, which is why inflation is down by 60% since October and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts inflation falling to 2.8% this year. Labour’s stated policy on fiscal rules and spending means that it will have to raise taxes if it wants to stick to those fiscal rules, but it has not said what and when.

On all those things, we have a plan and it is working. We are going to stick to it, despite what the Labour party is doing. Labour has no plan, just a big fat bill for taxpayers.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

I agree with a great deal of what the shadow Leader of the House, Lucy Powell said about Tony Lloyd, and I agree with much, if not all, that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said on party politics, having a plan and delivering for the British people.

Next week, the Select Committee on the Holocaust Memorial Bill continues its hearings. It had three sessions this week and transcripts can be made available in the Vote Office. One issue that comes up is the Government’s continued failure to publish the minutes of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation from 2015 to 2016. There was a consultation on a site for the proposed memorial and learning centre. The consultants analysed the responses and shortlisted three. Two days later the Government produced an alternative option, which was Victoria Tower Gardens.

No one outside the Department has seen the comparisons between the merits of Victoria Tower Gardens and other possible sites. No one has seen the minutes of discussion changing the specification behind the backs of the public. Will my right hon. Friend look to see the redactions made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and why it is continuing to instruct lawyers to oppose the freedom of information request, which is vital to the work of the Select Committee? Through her, may I recommend to the Select Committee asking for that information and making it public?

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

I know that this issue, which my hon. Friend raises almost weekly, is of great concern to him, and that he wants to ensure that the final outcome of the process is as good as it can be. I will again make sure that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has heard what he has said. The next session of questions to the Secretary of State will be on 22 January, and my hon. Friend may wish to raise the matter with him directly. This is the kind of information that should be in the public domain, so that people can make good decisions, although on some matters—relating to security concerns, for example—it may be sensible to redact.

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

Let me start by associating myself with all the remarks about Tony Lloyd, whom I always found to be a very good and decent man.

Once again, I am indebted to the Leader of the House. Her eccentric video last week, in which she joked about Tupperware and the Stone of Destiny, excited quite a response in Scotland. “Why is she always on about Scotland?” people ask. The Tories have given us a joke Minister for common sense, and now it looks as if we have a Minister for clickbait.

Scotland does seem to be just a big joke for the Leader of the House. The brief seems clear: to rubbish and insult Scots every week during business questions. Of course she is not alone—this seems to be Tory policy nowadays—but she is adding value now by producing full-page articles in the papers about how awful Scotland is, along with a new clickbait video every week. All that effort, Mr Speaker! Although, given the very bad news for her party in this week's YouGov poll, perhaps these joke videos are in fact auditions. Perhaps it is not so much “stand up and fight” as stand-up comedian.

Meanwhile, the record of the right hon. Lady’s own Government is absolutely nothing to joke about, with destitution rising, doctors on strike crippling the English NHS, sea coasts foul with pollution, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the breaching of international law, unresolved scandals piling up, and the crushing impact of one of the worst Tory jokes of all, Brexit. But before we are treated to—oh, I don’t know, perhaps an attack on the Scottish Government and praise for the bullish actions of the zombie Scotland Office—let me say this. Surely Scotland can find a better use for—what is it now, over 12 million quid?—than funding that ever-expanding propaganda unit beavering away behind the scenes, undermining the work of the Scottish Parliament and, of course, assisting the Leader of the House with her scripts each week.

Closer to this place, however, we have the Westminster joke of the other place, with its 860 or so ermine-clad peers but one notable absentee. The right hon. Lady’s Scottish Tory friend and colleague Baroness Mone is currently not a sitting Member, because she has taken leave of absence by her own choice. It is being reported in the Daily Record that Baroness Mone claims she is still a Conservative as far as she is concerned, because she never had the Whip removed. Can the Leader of the House confirm that if Baroness Mone resumes her position in the other place tomorrow, as I believe she is entitled to do, she can sit as a Conservative? If not, exactly when was the Whip removed? Can the Leader of the House make time to answer that question before reading out this week's hilarious clickbait script?

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

The hon. Lady should thank me. I have been giving her publicity that money cannot buy, and I think it is encouraging that we have generated such a following and such an interest in what goes on in the Chamber during business questions. Let me make it clear to the hon. Lady that I am not talking Scotland down. I am talking the Scottish National party down, because it has been an unmitigated disaster for Scotland. The stoicism of the Scottish people in dealing with their inept Government deserves great credit.

Each week the hon. Lady talks about our record on delivery and invites me to make the comparison with the Scottish Government. I shall try to do so this week without mentioning the appalling record of the SNP Government, and just invite people to contrast our record with theirs.

In the UK, we have the largest rail infrastructure investment since Victorian times. We have massive regeneration projects across the UK. More than 1,000 miles of major roads have been refurbished; compare that with the A9, please. We have 20 times as much offshore wind capacity as we had when we entered office. Eighteen million households have full-fibre broadband. How is the Scottish Government’s broadband rollout going? Then there are our hospitals, mental health facilities, 50 new surgical hubs, new nuclear power stations and record investments in home and flood defences, and in the coming financial year our research and development spend will be about £20 billion.

In 2010, the strategic defence and security review greenlit a couple of aircraft carriers and, six years later, one was commissioned. That complex 65,000-tonne warship was built through the carrier alliance, a wonderful example of the UK supply chain working together. After the same six-year timeframe, the SNP is still building a couple of ferries, which are £308 million over budget. For context, the overspend is three times the original budget, and I now understand that these pioneering green vessels will run on diesel.

The SNP Government have been an unmitigated disaster for Scotland. They have been found out. They are incapable and incorrigible, and now they are in trouble.

The hon. Lady’s final question is a matter for the House of Lords, not the House of Commons.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will be meeting in Strasbourg next week, which means that Members on the UK delegation will not be here for the tributes to Tony Lloyd. He was latterly an effective and diligent member of that Assembly, and I hope we will be able to pay our tributes in Strasbourg. We miss his charm and humanity. As a fellow Member who first entered this House in 1983, I had the privilege of knowing him for a very long time.

Will the Leader of the House initiate a debate on the effectiveness or otherwise of integrated care boards? The rationale for the boards was to deal with the interaction between health and social care and to reduce the incidence of bed-blocking. Last week we heard that no fewer than 353 hospital beds in Dorset are occupied by people who do not need them, at a cost of over £100,000 a day, let alone the opportunity cost of missed operations and so on. This is intolerable and shows that the system of integrated care is not working. Can we have a debate?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for putting on record his beautiful tribute to Tony Lloyd. It would be wonderful if such tributes could also be heard in Strasbourg.

My hon. Friend is right that it is vital that commissioners are held to account. Our NHS will not function properly without accountability and choice. The former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend Steve Barclay, undertook work on patient outcomes data and the quality of commissioning in each board and across the UK, which will help to drive accountability. Now that we have that data, I am sure it will make for a very interesting debate. My hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate, and he may also wish to raise this matter with the Secretary of State on 23 January.

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

I add my condolences to the family and friends of Tony Lloyd. Last night, in the local I frequent in Kennington, Tony was remembered with great fondness by the regulars. The manager, who is also a friend of mine, asked me to make it known that he really respected, loved and missed Tony Lloyd. He will be missed by all in the House. He was probably the nicest Manchester United supporter I have ever come across.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week and the Backbench Business debates for Thursday. There will also be a Select Committee statement from the Procedure Committee on Commons scrutiny of Secretaries of State in the House of Lords. If we are allocated time on Thursday 1 February, we have lined up two debates, one on miners and mining communities, and one on freedom and democracy in Iran.

We are approaching the tabling of supplementary estimates, and the Backbench Business Committee will soon publish information on the application process for a day of debates in the Chamber. The Committee is keen to receive applications for Westminster Hall debates, particularly for Thursdays.

I apologise to the Leader of the House, because last week I raised the subject of the Tyne bridge, which I raised again at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, but it is a matter of urgency and I will quickly explain why. The Tyne bridge and its surrounding buildings are the furthest inland nesting place for kittiwakes. If we do not get the work started before the kittiwakes return from their wintering, it will become increasingly difficult because it will mean disturbing kittiwake nests. We do not want to do that, so we want to get on with the work. There is urgency from an environmental perspective, but also from a financial perspective. The work really needs to be started as soon as possible. I thank the Leader of the House for writing to the Department for Transport on my behalf last week, but I would like her to understand the urgency of why we need to do that.

I apologise, Mr Speaker, that I miss next week’s business questions, as I will be on Select Committee business.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very helpful advert to all Members for forthcoming debates. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also heard the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about the bridge and, again, I will ask the Department for Transport to lean in.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation, Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation

May I add my tribute to Tony Lloyd? He was a good man, who never underestimated or undervalued the extreme power of kindness.

The Leader of the House will have seen last month’s judgment in the case of the Duke of Sussex v. Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd, which records that witnesses for MGN accepted that, in 2007, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee was misled by the then executives at The Mirror trying to conceal the illegal and unlawful activities that were going on. The individual accused of misleading the Committee died in 2022. Does the Leader of the House agree that any attempts to mislead Committees are unacceptable, but especially those by media organisations, from which the public and Parliament expect honesty and integrity? Will she commit to keep the important issue of Select Committee powers under review, so that Committees such as mine can continue to operate without obstruction?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. The powers and privileges of this House are necessary to enable Parliament to function freely and fully, and it is vital that Select Committees are able to obtain full and accurate evidence from witnesses as part of their inquiries. That is critical. The powers available to this House and Select Committees have been under continual review, and they have been investigated numerous times in the past decades. It is, of course, very frustrating when witnesses do not co-operate with Select Committees, and the Government support this House in asserting its powers to ensure that it can scrutinise effectively.

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 I say how sad we on the Liberal Democrat Benches are that Tony Lloyd has passed away? I was a councillor in Rochdale when Tony became the first police and crime commissioner in Greater Manchester. He was such a decent man, and a sincere politician and public servant.

Warm and comfortable homes are crucial to reach net zero and reduce energy bills. People should be encouraged to invest in energy-saving measures, but a complicated certification landscape means that it is difficult to find qualified and reliable installers. A review of this issue has been recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority and supported by Which? Can we please have a debate in Government time on consumer protections in the green heating and insulation sector?

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 very important question. The Competition and Markets Authority is doing important work in a number of areas, and that is one of them. We have had announcements on petrol retail, for example, in the last week. I shall certainly make sure that the Secretary of State has heard her concerns about that particular area.

Photo of Damien Moore Damien Moore Conservative, Southport

Southport pier was a significant feature of our town’s life for over 163 years until it was closed by Sefton Council in December 2022. Given the significance of piers to many towns around the country, particularly because of the economic impacts that they can have, will my right hon. Friend agree to have a debate on how can they be restored and maintained for future generations?

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

The Government recognise the importance of these often much-loved heritage assets. That is why part of the coastal communities fund was there to renovate heritage buildings, particularly piers and lidos, and we have done that. We have renovated an enormous number of those types of structures across the UK.

Even sadder than the pier closing is the fact that it received £2 million through the coastal communities fund and only a few years ago underwent a £2.7 million enhancement. There are questions about the use of that public money and what my hon. Friend’s local authority is doing.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I want to alert the Leader of the House to action by a private security firm on the Wynyard estate in my constituency to stop legitimate political campaigning. There are thousands of homes on the estate, but Chris McDonald, who I hope will succeed me as the Labour MP for Stockton North, was ordered to leave the area by guards. He was told that they did not allow cold callers, and that was how they categorised Labour activists. The Leader of the House will recognise that as anti-democratic, denying thousands of people the right to hear from those who seek to represent them. I would be obliged if she could use her offices to investigate the silencing of politicians, and make it clear that people of whatever political colour should not be stopped carrying out perfectly legal activities.

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

I will certainly ensure that the Cabinet Office has heard about that case. I think there is sometimes a misunderstanding about the function of local councillors and Members of Parliament when they go door to door, trying to identify issues. There are certain areas in local authorities, particularly those with a high volume of quite vulnerable people, where cold calling zones are in place. That is perfectly proper. I will certainly raise the matter with Ministers, but I also encourage Members to address such issues directly and locally. Often these things are misunderstandings. If people say what their business is in a particular area, hopefully such incidents will not arise, but I will ensure that Ministers have heard the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

May I add my words of condolence to the family of Tony Lloyd? I served with him on the International Trade Committee. He always made a valuable contribution and will be sadly missed.

The RAC recently published a report calling on the Government to commission an independent inquiry into headlight glare. Members will be aware that headlights on vehicles are now much brighter, with LED lights. In my constituency, the local paper the Grimsby Telegraph has carried a report on the issue, which is clearly of concern to many of my constituents. May we have a statement from a Transport Minister about whether the Government intend to commission such a review?

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 important matter. I know it is of concern to many people, which is why the RAC has highlighted it. He will know that in the current provisions for vehicle headlamps there is a maximum and minimum light intensity, and specifications for the light pattern and the position of the lights on the vehicle. This is a highly regulated area. My hon. Friend can raise the matter directly with the Secretary of State on 8 February, but I will ensure that he is aware of the survey and what the RAC has said. I thank my hon. Friend for his campaign.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I will be here to pay tribute to my friend Tony Lloyd at the appropriate time.

The Hillsborough inquiry, the Post Office Horizon scandal, Windrush, contaminated blood, and LGBTQ veterans have all been the subject of reports, and they are all examples of how the state treats working-class people when it should be there to support them. Victims of the last three of those scandals—Windrush, contaminated blood and veterans—are still waiting for their compensation to be sorted out and for the outcomes of the reports to be enacted. Can we have some form of cross-party arrangement whereby we can all come to an agreement on how we should respond to the reports and treat those people with the dignity to which they are entitled? The Government are just obfuscating and kicking the can down the road. We know that we are at the fag end of the Government, but these things need dealing with now. Why can we not have some co-operation to bring matters to a conclusion for those people?

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

In last week’s session, I spoke about many of the inquiries and issues that the hon. Gentleman raises. I am proud of this Government’s record in bringing forward, for the first time in some instances, inquiries into such matters and in making public apologies on behalf of the state about some of those issues. I will not repeat what I said earlier about the legislation and progress on infected blood, but I will repeat the statement with which I ended my evidence to the infected blood inquiry about why the inquiry is so important, not just to a comparatively small group who have been affected or infected, but to all of us, because it could have been any one of us—anyone in the country could have been affected.

How the state responds to such matters is incredibly important and we all want to see justice done. Last week, I wrote to the Cabinet Office about how we could learn lessons from the series of inquiries we have set up. I know that the Paymaster General is in regular touch with the all-party groups that are primarily concerned with the issues the hon. Gentleman raises, and with Dame Diana Johnson. In addition, many people in the House and other stakeholders are engaged in consultations and providing their input.

We are determined to get these long-running injustices resolved; that has been our visible track record. When I was Paymaster General, I admitted that there is a moral obligation on infected blood and I set up the compensation study. We will deliver on it with, I hope, the support of Opposition Members.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I send my condolences to the family and friends of Tony Lloyd. I did not know him well personally, but I knew him well within this place. He was not just well respected but well liked, which is quite hard for a politician of such tenure. He was also known to be very kind, and the immeasurable difference he made to this place will last for generations.

I recently spoke to a constituent who was concerned about fraudsters knocking on doors, dressed as if they worked for a commercial business, with the intention to scam usually vulnerable residents. Will my right hon. Friend advise on how that issue can be addressed to ensure that residents feel safer when opening the door to people who are supposedly selling to them?

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

May I start by saying how good it is to see my hon. Friend in his place again, fit and well? Earlier we heard from an Opposition Member about cold-calling zones and measures that are put in place to protect areas with a high volume of vulnerable people, which is one way to address the problem that my hon. Friend raises. That is within the gift of local authorities and may be something his local residents wish to see. I will also ask the relevant Department on his behalf whether there is any good practice that can be passed to my hon. Friend’s office.

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

Time and again, the Government have ignored warnings about the crisis brewing in adult social care, children’s services and homelessness that, combined with rising costs, is pushing local council finances over the brink. The result is that from lunch clubs to libraries, and from art groups to youth centres to supporting bus services, communities are losing the things that bring people together and support their lives. Can we have a debate in Government time on the impact that this loss of social infrastructure is having on communities, and particularly on the old, the young, the sick, the disabled and those who already face extreme poverty?

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

The hon. Lady will know how to apply for a debate in the usual way, but I also draw her attention to the local government finance settlement and the offer from the Secretary of State and his Ministers to discuss that with Members. I urge her to take him up on that offer if she so desires. I also point to the work and focus across many Government Departments on the issues that she raises. I am thinking in particular of the Department of Health and Social Care and the work that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, my right hon. Friend Johnny Mercer, has been undertaking with regard to homelessness.

Photo of Jo Gideon Jo Gideon Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Last week, I met my constituent, Kym Ledgar, a former sub-postmistress and former representative of the National Federation of SubPostmasters. I was already appalled but am now incensed by the stories that the victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal have to tell. I welcome the Government’s commitment to complete the process of exonerations and resolve outstanding compensation claims as soon as possible, but those responsible need to be held accountable. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government should learn from victims of this appalling miscarriage of justice? Will she find parliamentary time to debate the introduction of a whistleblower Bill to protect brave citizens who speak out against corporate wrongdoing in the future?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for her work on that matter. Her question comes in a week when we have also seen reports about previous whistleblowers on other issues, such as Maggie Oliver and her work on grooming gangs, at tremendous personal cost to herself, losing her career and livelihood in the process. We owe those individuals a huge debt of gratitude, and I will certainly make sure that the Cabinet Office has heard what my hon. Friend has said. As I mentioned, I wrote last week to the Cabinet Office asking it to reflect on what it could learn from Horizon and from other inquiries that we have established. My hon. Friend may wish to raise the matter directly at the Business and Trade questions on 25 January.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee), Shadow Minister (Wales)

There was no transport Bill in the King’s Speech and therefore no opportunity to update legislation relating to e-scooters and e-bikes, and, obviously, we have seen a massive increase in their use. May we have an opportunity, on behalf of constituents who regularly raise with me the antisocial use of e-bikes and e-scooters, to question Ministers on what more they can do to tackle this?

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; I know this is an issue of concern to many Members across the House. She will know how to apply for a debate, but I will also make sure that the Secretaries of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and for Transport have heard what she said.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Conservative, Bosworth

The House will know that I have repeatedly raised my concerns about image and performance-enhancing drugs. It is estimated that between half a million and a million people are using these drugs, so may I pay tribute to the sports Minister, who has agreed to join a roundtable discussion with me next week that will bring together academics, clinicians, groups and the police to discuss the matter further? We need more data. One of the biggest problems is that it is a cross-departmental issue, so would the Deputy Speaker mind writing to the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, so that this issue gets the attention that it deserves?

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

I am sure that Mr Deputy Speaker would mind writing to those Departments, but I do not at all. I thank my hon. Friend for his really important campaign in this policy area, which did not have a lot of focus prior to his taking it up. I am pleased to hear what the sports Minister is doing and I will certainly make sure that, via him, this will be co-ordinated across Government.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

On 12 April, Barclays will close its doors in the county town of Bridgend, leaving 145,000 constituents in my constituency and in the constituency of Bridgend with one fewer bank. In my own constituency, there is now one bank left. In Bridgend, older people and charities are finding it increasingly difficult to get access to cash. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in which a Minister comes to the House and sets out what the Government will do to stop this desert of banking services, so that we can ensure that people have access to cash and that our hard-pressed charity sector is able to bank and have support from towns right across the United Kingdom?

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

I am sorry to hear about the situation in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He will know that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has a number of programmes to ensure that vital services, such as those he outlined, are co-ordinated locally and can still be accessed. He is right that for the charity sector in particular, but also for businesses and individuals, these are necessary services that people should have access to. He will know that just because bricks and mortar may be going, those services can be continued in other ways, as happens in many other places across the UK. I will ensure that someone from the Department gets in touch with his office, shares the good practice that is going on and gives some advice on how he can ensure that those services are available to his constituents.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

In Tuesday’s 90-minute Westminster Hall debate on trends in excess deaths, Back-Bench contributions were limited to three minutes each. Given the huge and growing public interest in, and concern about, excess deaths, and given the growing awareness across this House, may we now have a debate in Government time on excess deaths? Also, will the Government instruct the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to release anonymised the doses, dates and deaths data that it holds, which it has already disclosed to AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna—public data that the public have no right to, and data that would very quickly verify whether those experimental covid-19 vaccines are, in fact, safe and effective?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The fact that he has held a debate in this place and that it was well attended shows that there is great scrutiny of and interest in these matters. He will know that he has other options for applying for a debate. He is sitting next to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns, and I am sure that some of the things he said in his question would be considered favourably—meaning that his application would be considered favourably. I would encourage him to apply for a debate. He knows that he can secure a debate on that subject, because he has just recently done so.

I will also just emphasise that there is no evidence linking excess deaths to the covid-19 vaccine. Analysis from the Office for National Statistics, published in August last year, shows that people who have had a covid-19 vaccine have a lower mortality rate than those who have not been vaccinated. The issue of excess deaths is important to scrutinise, and clearly the covid inquiry is looking at those issues too, but we need to be careful in our messaging to ensure that—it is individuals’ choice—people have the facts about vaccines of all kinds.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Barnsley East has missed out on all levelling-up funding. The local council has put in an excellent bid to support and develop Elsecar Heritage Centre, but in the latest round of announcements we were told that it would be decided separately from the national funding round as a culture and heritage bid, yet DLUHC makes the decision. Will the Leader of the House inform us when the Government will make this announcement?

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

I wish the hon. Lady and her colleagues in her constituency good luck with the bid. She will know that if a bid has not been scored to be particularly good in a round of funding, officials from that Department will quite often work with the local authority and other stakeholders to improve the bid and ensure that it is robust—I am not saying that that is the case for the hon. Lady, but it is good that she is still in the process. I will do all I can to assist her in ensuring that the bid is in good shape. I shall ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to give her an update on timing, as the next oral questions for that Department have not yet been given a date.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy)

As has been amply demonstrated this week, the highlands and islands have the coldest climate in the UK. We have the highest levels of fuel poverty and pay the highest bills, despite generating six times the electricity that we use. Energy policy is entirely reserved to the Westminster Government. May we have a debate in Government time on establishing a highlands energy rebate, along the lines of what the Chancellor has proposed for those in new electricity-generating equipment areas for those living among the existing electricity-generating equipment?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I shall certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has heard his suggestion and, given that the next oral questions have not yet been given a date, ask the Department to respond to him.

Photo of Ashley Dalton Ashley Dalton Shadow Minister (Equalities Office)

Given that there is a debate later today on HS2 compensation, and that Skelmersdale in my constituency has repeatedly been denied any support for a train station—infamously, it still has none—will the Leader of the House share her thoughts on the Department for Transport’s Network North advert that boasted of rerouting £235 million of HS2 funds from the north to fix potholes in London?

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

I am not sure I have seen that Government advertisement, so I cannot comment on it. However, if that is a matter of concern to the hon. Lady’s constituents with regard to HS2 compensation, I encourage her to attend the debate this afternoon.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

My constituent is one of six British Sikhs on an “enemies of the state” hit list of 20, broadcast on certain sections of the Indian media. We have seen shocking revelations by the Canadian Prime Minister of the assassination of a Sikh activist and an indictment submitted in a United States court of a foiled alleged plot to assassinate a Sikh activist there, and the family of a Birmingham Sikh activist, who have their own suspicions, are calling for an inquiry into his death. All three were on that hit list. Given that many Sikhs have been handed “threat to life” notices by UK police, does the Leader of the House agree that, whether or not we agree with someone’s views, everyone has the right to freedom of expression in our democracy without the threat of violence? Can she outline what steps the Government are taking to ensure the safety and security of British Sikhs?

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

I am sorry to hear about the situation of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. He will know that the Home Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office take those matters very seriously and that, where there are issues with foreign Governments, the Foreign Secretary and his Ministers will raise them directly in bilateral meetings. The Home Office, working often with local authorities, will put in place measures to protect people who have had such threats. We have sadly seen interference in some cases from a number of state actors from China and from Iran in particular, as well as the cases to which he refers.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

May I add my condolences to Tony Lloyd’s family? He was a dear friend and colleague, and he was particularly kind to me when I was first elected in a by-election, 13 years ago.

My constituent’s partner has been awaiting evacuation from Gaza for months now. Her partner has evidence that others in exactly the same circumstances as him are being prioritised over him. Although my office and I have been in almost daily contact with not only the Foreign Office—I thank Lord Ahmad for his support—but the Israeli and Egyptian embassies, I would be grateful if the Leader of the House could liaise with the Foreign Office and identify exactly when my constituent’s partner can be brought home.

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

I am sorry to hear about the situation with the hon. Lady’s constituent, and I thank my noble friend Lord Ahmad for the work he is doing. I know he is focused on the protection of British nationals, ensuring that people can be returned to the UK and offering them all assistance. I will certainly ensure that Ministers hear what the hon. Lady has said today. As with cases regarding hostages, I have helped facilitate some services being stepped up for Members of Parliament. I think I am perhaps not able to assist her in quite the way she wishes me to, but I will ensure that the Foreign Office has heard what she has said and, although I know that she is in contact with them already, I will raise her concerns with FCDO officials to see whether anything further can be done. I know she appreciates that these are very difficult circumstances.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

The House will recall that on 2 January the Prime Minister posted on X:

“I said that this government would clear the backlog of asylum decisions by the end of 2023. That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

In fact, it was pretty soon apparent that they had done nothing of the sort, with more than 4,500 legacy applications still awaiting a decision. Accordingly, I took the matter to the UK Statistics Authority to seek its guidance, and this morning I received this reply from its chair, Sir Robert Chote:

“The average member of the public is likely to interpret a claim to have ‘cleared a backlog’—especially when presented without context on social media—as meaning that it has been eliminated entirely”.

He goes on:

“This episode may affect public trust when the Government sets targets and announced whether they have been met in the other policy domains.”

Will the Leader of the House make time for the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary to come to the House and explain why, yet again, they have had their knuckles rapped for their use of statistics?

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

It is a good thing in our democracy that we do not mark our own homework. We have independent bodies that review statistics. We also have bodies that look at how statistics are presented, so that they are presented in the clearest possible way to members of the public. The right hon. Gentleman will know that massive progress has been made in that area. Off the top of my head—he will forgive me—the processing of applications in the Home Office has increased by 250%. It is now working through those applications at pace. However, I will certainly ensure that the Home Office hears what he has said, as its question time has not yet been tabled.

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

I raised this issue last week. The Leader of the House may be aware of the open letter signed by actors, musicians and campaigners, including Adrian Lester, Annie Lennox, Martin Forde KC and Baroness Doreen Lawrence, urging the Government to go faster on the Windrush compensation scheme. More than 40 people have died while awaiting compensation. May we have a debate in Government time to consider taking Windrush compensation out of the Home Office and into an independent body, so that we get a speedy resolution for the many people still waiting?

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 diligence in raising this issue again. She will know that last week I wrote on her behalf to the Department, as well as to the Cabinet Office, to see what more they could do to learn from this and other matters. I will do so again.

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

Will the Leader of the House have another go at improving written ministerial answers? I recently asked the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities a very simple question about what meetings Ministers had had with Welsh and Scottish counterparts on the implementation of the new ombudsman scheme. The answer from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety was:

“Ministers and officials have regular engagement with the devolved administrations on a range of issues.”

That passes the Lloyd George test: it was short, accurate and told me absolutely nothing I did not know already. In this day and age, can we not at least have a culture among Ministers of answering perfectly straightforward and factual questions in a perfectly straightforward and factual way, and will she help to facilitate that, please?

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

The hon. Gentleman will know that a great deal of time and effort is taken in the drafting departments in Government Departments. My noble Friend Lord True and I run regular training sessions, as do the officials in my office. We are always on the lookout for good and bad practice so that we can ensure that people know what Members of Parliament need, and we inform those individuals of what is helpful to us in dealing with casework and in which format we might need information. I am always open to example of good and bad practice being passed to my office, and I will certainly raise it with the relevant Department.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

Twice in questions today, compensation schemes have been raised, and I am heartened that the Leader of the House herself championed this issue as Paymaster General and has been in contact with the Cabinet Office. However, could she help me and my constituent who was in the secret services? He was dismissed because of his sexuality alone, and is one of a group of people who cannot talk about the matter publicly. Despite my hammering on doors in Whitehall, we are making very little progress. As well as the gay veterans’ scheme and other compensation schemes, would the Leader of the House take up this issue for people who served their country well and were dismissed simply because they were gay or lesbian? It is not fair, it was not right, and it needs redress.

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

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Quite often, because of the nature of someone’s service, they are not able to participate in particular inquiries or reports that are produced on historic wrong- doing and miscarriages of justice. Clearly, the agencies have evolved over the years, and the heads of those agencies are now public figures, so I will certainly write to the Cabinet Office and ask it to consider this matter, copying in both the Home Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which are primarily the sponsoring Departments for those agencies.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

Tony Lloyd was shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when I had my first Front-Bench role as SNP spokesperson for Northern Ireland. He was extremely welcoming, collegiate and helpful, for which I will be forever grateful. I offer my sincere condolences to his friends and family.

I received a letter on Monday from the Minister for Legal Migration stating that the Home Office’s use of the Muthu Erskine Bridge hotel, which is currently home to 114 asylum seekers, would cease by the end of April. The problem is, that was nearly a week after the news had become public, and after I had already had a meeting with Mears to discuss winding-down arrangements —all this after no real engagement, consultation or even basic communication with the local community at the outset, leaving it to local representatives like me to try to answer questions I had no answers to, with the abuse and threats to me and my staff that went along with it. Can we have a debate on Home Office communication with Members of this place and, when necessary, directly with members of the public?

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

I am sorry to hear about that situation, and I will raise it with the Home Office. From my own experience, the Home Secretary’s Parliamentary Private Secretary has been very diligent in making sure that Members on all sides of this House are kept informed about things that are going on in their constituencies, so I am sure that if there has been a delay in sending a letter to the hon. Gentleman, it will have been an error. However, I will make sure the Minister and the Department have heard his point.

Photo of Andrew Western Andrew Western Opposition Whip (Commons)

I associate myself with the comments that have been made about my friend and predecessor as Member for Stretford, Sir Tony Lloyd. I will reserve my comments for the appropriate time in the forthcoming weeks, but in light of the comments made by the shadow Leader of the House, I wanted to express my solidarity with her in having experienced unfavourable comparisons with Tony. She is more fortunate than I am; she had those comparisons for only the first couple of years, but I continue to experience them some 27 years after he ceased to represent Stretford.

My constituent Colin is a retired senior police officer awaiting pension adjustment under the McCloud remedy. He and many others have made important life decisions on the basis of a promise made by XPS, the Government’s pension administrators for the scheme, to remediate all retirees by July this year. Without notification—with a website update alone—XPS has now pushed that date back to November this year. Colin and thousands of others have made life-changing decisions on the back of information previously provided, and years’ worth of hard-earned pension are still outstanding, yet I understand that, to date, not a single retiree has been remediated, or one letter been sent to any recipient. Could we have a statement from the Policing Minister on the progress that XPS is making on the remediation of affected police pensions, and the steps the Government are taking to assure themselves that the legal deadline for adjusting those pensions will be met?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As the date of the next Home Office questions has not been tabled, I will write to and make sure the relevant Minister has heard the hon. Gentleman’s request.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Opposition Whip (Commons)

I would also like to put on record my sadness at the loss of our dear friend and colleague Sir Tony Lloyd. As the shadow Leader of the House said, he was a thoroughly decent bloke. He was kind and a great conversationalist over a pint, especially when we were talking about the losses of Manchester United these days, about which we shared our depression. More importantly, this place and politics are much poorer without him.

This week, I met the Environment Agency on behalf of concerned residents regarding the odour coming from the Pilsworth South landfill site in my constituency. The Environment Agency serves an important function for all our constituencies, particularly on issues such as flooding, balancing the needs of people and the environment. Could we have a debate in Government time on the appropriate level of funding for the Environment Agency to ensure that it has enough teeth to monitor and potentially punish operators that breach licences?

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

I am sorry to hear about that ongoing issue in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He will know that that is the purpose of the Environment Agency. It has quite considerable investigatory powers and, with other bodies, the ability to sanction particular people. The next questions to the relevant Department are on 1 February, and the hon. Gentleman may wish to raise that issue then.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons)

Hon. Members who visited Iraqi Kurdistan with the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq know that it is a firm ally against extremism, and they will be disgusted that the Iranian regime has targeted the capital, Irbil, with missiles, killing a prominent businessman, his baby daughter and others in a vile and illegal act. May we have a debate in Government time on how the Government can best assist our allies and support Iraq’s complaint at the United Nations about Iranian aggression? Could the Leader of the House prompt the Foreign Secretary to discuss the issue with the Kurdish Prime Minister in Davos?

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 Secretary has heard what the hon. Lady has said. She will know that the next Foreign Office questions are on 30 January, and she may also wish to raise it then. I thank her for shining a spotlight on that particularly brutal attack. Again, it is highly consistent with the Iranian regime’s standard operating procedure in many places around the world.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

The former Prime Minister, Elizabeth Truss has recently been trying to sell de-mining equipment to the People’s Republic of China, including ground-penetrating radar capability. The sale was blocked by the Government, but it brings into view a proposal made this time last year by the four Committees that make up the Committees on Arms Export Controls to make it a dedicated Select Committee of the House. This proposal was supported by the Chairs of the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, both Conservative MPs. If they support making the Committee a dedicated Select Committee of this House, why does the Leader of the House not do so?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and for advertising that the systems the Government have put in place to ensure that sales that should not be taking place are blocked is alive and well and working. Sitting next to me on the Front Bench is the Security Minister, who has stood up new infrastructure in Whitehall to ensure that we have full situational awareness of particular sales or takeovers that might be against the public interest. That has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for the endorsement and advert for that.

There are many issues to be considered when new Select Committees are stood up. They are ultimately a matter for the House, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman from my experience of serving on the Committees on Arms Export Controls—for those who do not know, it does not decide on arms exports; it scrutinises the decisions taken—that the input and expertise from the four Select Committees of this House on live issues and the geopolitical situation that needs to be considered when scrutinising such decisions are incredibly valuable. Ultimately, however, these things are a matter for the House.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Clean Power and Consumers)

It is now over two years since Tracey Crouch produced her fan-led review of football, and the Government have accepted most of the recommendations. In that time, several communities have faced losing their local club, and the longer we wait, the more that will happen. When will we finally see the football governance Bill, or are we going to have to wait for a Labour Government to take action on this issue?

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

Given that the Labour Government did not take action on this issue, the hon. Gentleman should not hold out for that prospect. We have taken the decision to focus on this matter. We set up the football governance review, which the former Sports Minister my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch took forward, and we are bringing forward legislation. I am expecting that legislation to come to the House very soon and I thank Members from all sides of the House and supporters of all clubs for all their input into the review and the legislation that has come from it.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

I want to put on record that, like others, I miss our friend and colleague Tony Lloyd so much. He was a public servant of the highest order and a socialist of wit, wisdom, integrity and public service, and we will miss him.

People out there in Leeds and across the country are really struggling, through no fault of their own, to get by. This Government say they are proud of their record on living standards despite the reality out there being very different. If the Government are so confident, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in Government time on living standards after 14 years of Conservative Government? Can we have it as soon as possible, before the general election that we need very quickly so that people out there can give their verdict?

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

The hon. Gentleman will know how to apply for a debate, and if he did so I am sure it would be very well attended, certainly by Members on the Government Benches. He will know that the cost of living package we put in place recently, because of what we have gone through with the pandemic and the shocks to fuel prices particularly, in part because of the war in Ukraine, is now worth over £104 billion.

I am very proud of our record and not just because of the support that we have given directly; I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the uplift in housing allowance, other benefits, and the triple lock for pensions that were announced in the autumn statement, and also to what we have done to double people’s personal tax allowance. We believe that the best way we can support people, as well as providing a strong welfare system and that targeted support, is by ensuring that more people get into work and are able to have more high-value jobs. That is sitting behind our trade deals; the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership in particular will increase wages in this country in particular sectors. It is also fundamental that we get people into work. We have managed to get an additional 4 million people into work; 2 million are women and 1 million are disabled people who would not have had the dignity of a pay packet had we not brought through welfare reforms. We have lifted many people out of poverty, including 500,000 children.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

I join in the early tributes to Tony Lloyd, who was a sincere, decent and kind man, and a model to us all in these hardened times.

Independence is a viable option for Wales’s future and the status quo is not. Those are two of the most striking conclusions of the independent commission on the constitutional future of Wales led by former Archbishop Rowan Williams and Professor Laura McAllister whose report is published today. Whatever the views across the House and of the Leader of the House, any sensible UK Government with sincere concern for the governance of my country would engage with the change that is already afoot. Will the Leader of the House demonstrate that sincere concern by arranging a full-scale debate on the commission’s report, perhaps around the time of St David’s day on 1 March?

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

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman’s interest in this matter. We on the Conservative Benches will always defend the Union of the United Kingdom. Many services are devolved, and it pains me to see many services run very badly by the Welsh Government, to the detriment of Welsh citizens, as I know he will appreciate. Waiting lists are four times what they are in England, to give just one example. We will always defend the Union, and if the hon. Gentleman applies for a debate, I am sure many on my side will turn up and do precisely that. It is a sad and sorry state that the most vibrant separatist party in the UK now is not the Scottish National party, but the Labour party.

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

Last week, in response to my comments, the Leader of the House said that people in England pay lower tax than people in Scotland, even though 55% of people in Scotland pay less tax than people in England, including council tax. She added that her Government delivered a balanced budget, even though they have never done so since they came to power. The Scottish Government must, by law, deliver a balanced budget every year. Those are matters not of opinion but of fact, and I am sure she had no intention of misleading the House. Will she make a statement to correct the record?

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

I would be happy to correct the record now. A nurse earning £34,000 would pay £4,348 in Scotland, compared with £4,286 in England. A doctor earning £50,000 would pay £9,038 in Scotland, compared with £7,486 in England. A headteacher would pay £17,436 in Scotland, compared with £15,430 in England. The hon. Lady needs to go and check the facts before she comes back next week. That is before I even start talking about the money that the UK Government have given the Scottish Government for businesses in Scotland, which the SNP is hanging on to instead.

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

I thank the Leader of the House for this opportunity to ask some questions on freedom of religion and belief and about persecution across the world. One example just in the past week is the Baha’i farmers who have suffered land seizure by the Iranian Government. That is another indication of the Iranian Government intensifying religious persecution against the Baha’i. Secondly, there have been recent actions against Christians in Sudan. On 12 January, the evangelical Presbyterian church in Wad Madani, Al Jazirah state was burned down. The Sudanese army has been accusing civilians of spying for the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group based on ethnic grounds, leading to arrests, torture and killing. Will the Leader of the House join me and others in denouncing these arbitrary actions against Christians in Sudan and against the Baha’i in Iran?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he does every week to draw a spotlight on some appalling situations that do not necessarily get a lot of media attention. These have been themes this week. Many Members have spoken in these business questions, but also throughout the week, about the conduct of the Iranian regime. I thank him again for shining a spotlight on the ongoing situation in Sudan. As he knows I always do, I will make sure that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has heard his concerns.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

I thank the Leader of the House for responding to questions for more than an hour.

May I say that Sir Tony Lloyd, a north-west MP— I called him Mr North-West—was caring, honest, decent and a gentleman? Everybody got on with him. He worked with everybody. He was a fantastic man. I was on the Council of Europe with him. He was a true internationalist. We worked hard together. We had the odd pint together in Strasbourg. Politics and Parliament are the poorer for his passing.