Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 2 May 2024.

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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 6 May will include:

Monday 6 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 7 May—General debate on defence.

Wednesday 8 May—Consideration in Committee of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Thursday 9 May—General debate on miners and mining communities, followed by a general debate on the BBC mid-term charter review. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 10 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 13 May includes:

Monday 13 May—Motion to approve the draft Procurement Regulations 2024, followed by a motion to approve the draft Agriculture (Delinked Payments) (Reductions) (England) Regulations 2024, followed by debate on a motion on the risk-based exclusion of Members of Parliament.

Tuesday 14 May—Motion to approve the draft Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (Amendment of Schedule A2) Order 2024, followed by a motion to approve the draft code of practice on fair and transparent distribution of tips.

Wednesday 15 May—Remaining stages of the Criminal Justice Bill (day 1).

Thursday 16 May—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 17 May—Private Members’ Bills.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader the House for the forthcoming business.

I pay tribute to the former Member for Hazel Grove Lord Stunell, who sadly passed away this week. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

I welcome to our Benches my hon. Friend Dr Poulter. His words on how the Government have run down our NHS speak for millions. It is remarkable that the Conservative majority of 80 has been almost halved in four years.

This week, there has been a victory for the victims of the infected blood scandal regarding the deadline for compensation. I thank my right hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson for her tireless work on this cause. Could the Leader of the House outline when the timetable for compensation will be set out?

Closer to home, people across south Wales are troubled by the job losses at Tata Steel in Port Talbot. Will the Government work with Tata to ensure that compulsory redundancies will be avoided? Time is of the essence, and there are worried steelworker families across south Wales.

The business for next week is light, with no votes until Wednesday. We can guess why the Prime Minister would want to keep his parliamentary colleagues off the estate. The internal politics of the Tory party have become so febrile that they are getting in the way of good governance. While our constituents face ever higher bills, the Government have simply run out of steam. Tomorrow, we will hear the verdict of the voters. In recent months we have begun to see the runners and riders for the next Tory leadership contest. The Leader of the House says that she has the Prime Minister’s back. Coincidentally, she has been supporting her colleagues up and down the country. Following on from schnapps with Shapps, can we look forward to gin with Jenrick or perhaps Pimm’s with Penny? I am a Scrabble fan, but there is a new game of political Cluedo coming along. Who could be the one to strike the fatal blow against the Prime Minister? Will it be cocktails with Kemi in the garden? My money is on the Leader of the House with the sharpened Telegraph column in the drawing room.

Another possible leadership contender is the Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron. Has he recused himself from part of his role? That point was raised twice last week at Cabinet Office questions, with no clarity provided. Our parliamentary scrutiny is weakened when the Foreign Secretary is out of reach in the other place. Lord Cameron has unanswered questions from Members of this House. He is yet to reply to my letters asking about his time at scandal-hit Greensill Capital. One question was about his use of private planes and personal taxation. We learned this week that Lord Cameron still enjoys VIP air travel. Taxpayers had to foot the bill for his trip to central Asia in a luxurious private jet. How does the Leader of the House think that looks to struggling families across our country dealing with a cost of living crisis?

We wish the Leader of the House, the Foreign Secretary and fellow leadership rivals well. We may well see them touring the TV studios. The Prime Minister has hinted that he may call a general election this summer if his party performs well today, or he may cling on as the clock runs down. Mr Speaker, you can understand the Prime Minister’s hope that something will crop up, but after 14 years in charge it is clear that it is time for change. Each Thursday morning, the Leader of the House puts on a good turn. Some say it is a dress rehearsal for the following Wednesday lunchtime. Who knows? This time it may come to pass.

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

First of all, I would like to join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to Lord Stunell of Hazel Grove, who sadly passed away on Monday. He entered the House of Commons in 1997, leaving for the Lords in 2015. He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the coalition Government and I know Members on all sides of the House will mourn his loss. On our Benches, we are particularly grateful to him for being an effective and collaborative Minister in the coalition, working alongside colleagues to bring in the Localism Act 2011 and drawing up the national planning policy framework. I hope that the many tributes paid to him in the coming days will be a comfort to his loved ones.

I join with the many remarks made by colleagues regarding the tragic loss of Daniel Anjorin, and also the incident in Sheffield. My thoughts, and I am sure those of the whole House, are with all those affected, especially Daniel’s family. I also pay tribute to the police for their courage. They often get a hard time from us in this place, but we should never forget the risks they take and the service they do us. I know the House will also be glad to see His Majesty the King out and about with the public again. I wish all candidates in today’s elections good luck.

The hon. Gentleman tempts me, but I am going to resist, because there is nothing I could say that would be more detrimental to Dr Poulter—to his character, his integrity, his standing in his community and his future prospects—than what he has done to himself. I think that is just about dawning on him.

I, too, welcome the progress on the infected blood issue. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Paymaster General has set out the timetable for the body to be established on 20 May. We now have a clear timetable that I hope will give confidence to all those infected and affected by this terrible scandal.

I will certainly make sure that the hon. Gentleman’s comments on Tata Steel are heard by the Secretary of State.

I have to break it to the hon. Gentleman that it is not going to be Pimm’s with Penny. I am more of a pints with Penny person. But yes, I too have read that I am to be installed, rather like a new boiler, into No. 10 next week. I have to say, Mr Speaker, that there is as much truth to those stories as there is to Labour’s assurances to its business community that it is not actually going to do the things that it has been saying it is going to do and has promised its union paymasters.

Let me say again that I support our Prime Minister, and I will continue to support him after this weekend and beyond, because his plan is working. I will do everything I can to ensure that Labour does not get a chance to wreck the nation again. The nation has chosen a new trajectory to protect its border, to enable growth, and to trade more with the world to strengthen its partnerships with allies. Our exports are 2% above 2018 levels, and we are the fourth largest exporter overall and the largest net exporter of financial and insurance services in the world. Trade barriers have led to a £15 billion uplift for UK businesses in the last five years, and since 2010 UK manufacturing growth has been higher than that of any other G7 nation. We are on the right path, and we have to stick to it. I do not want to give Labour the chance to unpick all that we have done, from Brexit to trade union reforms.

The hon. Gentleman asked about a general election, and whether something was going to crop up. I think that something is going to crop up. Whether it is pensions, the NHS, rail, tax or welfare, the Labour party claims that it is going to do one thing but is planning another, and I think that the public will see through that. It is the most audacious deception since the big bad wolf donned a winceyette nightie and asked Little Red Riding Hood to admire his upper dentures, but unlike red Riding Hood the British people have met this wolf before, and they remember that the story does not end well.

The British people remember how disastrously Labour ran our trains, and we have read this week that to improve efficiency, Labour plans to run fewer trains. They remember MRSA-infected hospitals, and they are now seeing the unforgivable state of the NHS in Wales as it struggles with a reduced budget. Labour is responsible for that, as it is Labour that cut the NHS budget. They remember Labour council tax hikes for pensioners and others on fixed incomes, which constituted the largest increase in their outgoings. In government Labour doubled council tax, and in Wales it has tripled it. The British public will look at the council league tables, out today, and notice that the worst services are provided by Labour councils, those charging the highest taxes are Labour local authorities, and the areas with the worst crime rates are Labour-controlled; and where do we see the lowest employment rate, the smallest pay packets and the worst NHS waiting lists in the whole UK? In Labour-run Wales.

Always, every single time Labour is in office, every single time the British people give Labour a chance, they find themselves worse off, poorer and less safe, badly served and with more unemployment, and they see that the nation is weaker. At least those in the Labour party are consistent. So I say to the British people, “Don’t give them the chance to do it again.”

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

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

The question of local council elections has been raised. Those who want some amusement can read Acts 5:41, quoted in today’s Times and provided by the Bible Society, although I am not suggesting that my right hon. Friend should read it now.

I walked here today through Victoria Tower Gardens, where it is still impossible to walk along the river because of the barricades around the Buxton memorial fountain, which are far too extensive. If people care about memorials in Victoria Tower Gardens, they ought to make sure that the gardens are properly accessible whenever that is possible.

The Select Committee on the Holocaust Memorial Bill reported recently in document HC121, and I have tabled early-day motion 711—I do not expect my right hon. Friend to respond to this today.

[That this House notes the First Special Report of the Holocaust Memorial Bill Select Committee, HC121, on the problems with the current proposal and the restrictions faced by the Committee considering the hybrid Bill; respects the conclusions and recommendations on page 20; agrees with the list of matters related to the current proposals for a Holocaust Memorial and believes these need updated attention on deliverability from the Infrastructure Commission, from the National Audit Office on likely capital costs and recurrent annual costs, from the Chancellor on future funding control, and from the police and security services on maintaining unfettered public access for use of Victoria Tower Gardens while protecting the Memorial; asks His Majesty's Government and the Holocaust Memorial Foundation agency to commission the views of the property consultants on a comparison of the current proposal by Sir David Adjaye in Victoria Tower Gardens with viable alternatives, to commission the full appraisal and to hold a public consultation on the selection of site; and further asks His Majesty's Government to commit to having this or an amended proposal considered first by the local planning authority before considering whether to call in the application, noting that an open-minded observer could doubt another minister in the Levelling Up department should be asked to make an independent decision on an application by the Secretary of State.]

As the Committee has clearly indicated, before the Government think of bringing the Bill back to the Chamber of the House of Commons they need to do a number of things. First, they must review security. We have seen the Holocaust memorial in Hyde Park covered up because of marches going on around London, and everyone knows that a memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens of the kind that is proposed would be a major target. The only way of providing security is to exclude the public from this park, which is the only park for local residents.

Secondly, the National Infrastructure Commission has said that this project is undeliverable. Will the Government please ask the members of the commission whether they have changed their minds? Last year the National Audit Office reported that the costs had risen in one year from £102 million to £137 million. Will the Government please ask its members whether that can be reviewed? How will the Chancellor agree to pay running costs of between £5 million and £10 million?

I think that the Government ought to delay, do what is suggested in my early-day motion, and then report back to the House.

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

I am sure that my hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate and will listen to your encouragement, Mr Speaker. I will certainly ensure, as I do every week, that the Secretary of State has heard the issues that my hon. Friend raises—I will feed them in. On the matter of security, he will know that there is a working group, led by the Houses of Parliament and those in Government, to make sure that all these very important issues are looked at.

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

Just when we think the Government can stoop no lower, they release a sickening detention video, using real-life trauma to show their voters how tough they are. Who instructed the civil service to produce such a piece? Can we have an apology from the Home Office for its appalling misjudgment in electioneering with this footage, and a debate on whether the concept of electoral purdah still exists? If it does, who the heck regulates it?

Meanwhile, the disastrously handled Brexit border checks are causing further chaos, as predicted. The Leader of the House may have seen the reports from the Sevington inland border facility about lorries with perishable goods, the prospect of rotting food and flowers being binned, compromised biosecurity and, of course, crashed IT systems. We have confusion, delay and additional crippling costs—otherwise known as Brexit. I was in the House yesterday for the statement that the Business and Trade Secretary hurriedly brought out, and she seemed to brush aside these failures to prepare as mere supply chain issues, preferring to brag about Brexit. The thing is, her figures rely on a growth in service exports—City pals are doing very well.

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce, which knows a thing or two about the issue, describes the much-warned-of mess at Sevington as

“the straw that breaks the camel’s back” for many UK businesses. This is terribly serious for our small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly our farmers and fishers. Do the Government care? For the third time, I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate specifically on the Tory trade tax so that someone can be held responsible to the House for this cack-handed mess. Will she take it up?

It seems that business questions have become nothing more than a venue for parading opinions. As Madam Deputy Speaker had to remind the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House last week, business questions are about the business of this House, so can we leave the scripted opinions on Scotland and her Government to one side for once and have a debate, in Government time, on the unbelievable mess at Sevington and its impact on the wider supply chain? Or will she, too, just ignore this crisis of her own Government’s making, raise a laugh for her nervous Back Benchers and opine on Scotland instead—a country about which she knows little and cares less?

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

The first issue that the hon. Lady raises is a matter of taste about videos that I understand the Home Office has produced, which show, I assume for the reassurance of the British public, that those who do not have the right to remain in the UK will be deported. There are images of people being put into the back of police vehicles. Scotland has produced quite a few similar videos—although the people being put into the back of police cars have been members of the SNP. I will certainly ensure that the Home Secretary has heard the hon. Lady’s concerns, and that they are taken into account.

The hon. Lady asserts various things about the border operating model. Many of the things that she points to are not true. The system has not gone down, and she is incorrect about the other issues that her party has been reporting. Some customers are having issues, but they are being resolved. I really hope that the SNP will one day acknowledge the hard work of Scotland’s business community, including businesses that are providing services and exporting them around the world.

We are the largest net exporter of financial and insurance services, and many of those businesses are in the hon. Lady’s constituency and the surrounding area. Edinburgh is the second largest financial centre in Europe, behind only the City of London, which is something to be immensely proud of. The work that we are doing not just on trade deals, but on our memorandums of understanding—for example, with the United States at state level—means that it is easier for an accountant in her constituency to work on a project in the United States than it is for an accountant in the state next door. That is something to be celebrated, and has led to our being the fourth largest exporter overall. I hope that the hon. Lady might reflect on that and consider it in her exchange with me next week.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell

I am proud of the work that I and colleagues across the House did, along with our dear, departed friend Sir David Amess, to raise the issue of endometriosis, a terrible disease that affects millions of women across the country. It is only since we started to raise the issues around it that its profile has risen. I am surprised to learn how many young women do not know about the disease, which is not in the sex and health education curriculum in schools. Can we have a debate, through the Department for Education, on ensuring that gynaecological diseases are in the curriculum for both girls and boys, because if someone does not know a disease exists, how will they know they might have it?

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

I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work he is doing alongside the all-party parliamentary group on endometriosis to raise awareness of this condition and to ensure that there is improving care. He will know that we have invested £25 million to roll out women’s health hubs across the country, not just to tackle backlogs but to provide information and raise awareness. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Education has heard what he has said today.

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

I apologise to the House for my absence over the last two weeks. I am glad to say that things are improving as we deal with a very difficult family situation.

The Leader of the House was kind enough to mention that the Backbench Business Committee has been allocated Thursday 16 May, and it will be our intention to put on a debate on the parliamentary ombudsman’s report on the state pension age for women.

All Chamber slots up to the Whitsun recess are now allocated, but we still have several Westminster Hall slots to allocate for the new, improved start time of 12.30 pm on Thursdays, which seems to be working quite well. We have three slots to allocate between now and the Whitsun recess, and we would welcome applications.

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

Mr Speaker, I am sure you will agree that there is no need for the hon. Gentleman to apologise. I hope he heard all our good wishes to him and his family while he was away.

I thank the hon. Gentleman again for advertising the forthcoming Backbench Business debates. The Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign is a topic that many Members will welcome, and they will want to attend and take part.

I also thank the hon. Gentleman for being greatly responsible for the new Westminster Hall start time, which he has also advertised today.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories

Transport for the East Midlands has found that 60% of drivers feel unsafe driving on the A1, and over half report either being in an accident or knowing someone who has been in one. In 2022, there were 500 collisions on the A1, which is 26% more than on the A5 and 16% more than on the A2. Can we please have a debate in Government time on safety upgrades to the A1? This affects dozens of constituencies, as the A1 is the longest road in this country. Will my right hon. Friend also kindly advise on when we can expect to see the next review of upgrading A roads to motorways? This is the No. 1 issue for my constituents. I have sat in traffic on the A1 on many a school run after appalling accidents that take one or two days to clear.

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 this issue, which is of huge importance to her constituents, and for her diligence in consistently raising it with the Government. She will know that the next draft of the road investment strategy, covering 2025 to 2030, will be published shortly, and I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport has heard what she has said today. I also understand that the roads Minister, my hon. Friend Guy Opperman, is happy to meet her to discuss these specific concerns.

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)

First, I thank the Leader of the House for her kind words about Lord Stunell of Hazel Grove. We lost a wonderful friend and colleague, who, until the very end, campaigned for his community and called out injustices across the country. My sincere condolences go to his family at this time.

We Liberal Democrats have for many years called for tougher controls on UK exports of arms to ensure they are not used in human rights abuses. We have called for a presumption of denial to apply to countries whose Governments are listed in the Foreign Office’s annual “Human Rights and Democracy” report. A presumption of denial would mean that the default position of the UK Government is not to permit arms exports. For many years, the Foreign Office has listed human rights issues arising from action that the Israeli Government have carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In the light of a possibly imminent humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah, if the Israeli Government are carrying out their threat to attack, may we have an urgent debate in Government time about UK arms exports to the middle east?

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

I send our thoughts to all Liberal Democrats, who have lost a treasured member of their party. It is said of Andrew Stunell that he was the activists’ activist, and I know that he will be greatly missed.

On UK arms export control, the hon. Lady will know that we have stringent policies in this country and that the actions that are taken stemming from those policies are scrutinised by this House. We take this incredibly seriously. As for the specifics, I also point her to the fact that we have seen Israel have to defend itself against the most unwarranted and reckless attack from Iran. It is very important not only that we say that Israel has a right to defend itself, but, because it is one of our allies and partners, that we understand our obligations to enable it to do so. These are difficult matters and she will know that both the Government’s policy and the procedures in this House to scrutinise the actions that come from this policy are stringent indeed.

Photo of Selaine Saxby Selaine Saxby Conservative, North Devon

The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves was written about my constituency and filmed there. Inspired by the Woodyard community centre in the novel, a number of third sector organisations are looking to support and bring together different third sector groups in a safe and accessible space for work, ideally breathing life back into one of the derelict buildings that North Devon has far too many of. Might my right hon. Friend lend her signature to a copy of the novel for the charities involved, in order to help raise much-needed funds? Will she also help us secure a debate in Government time on how we can ensure that small third sector organisations best work together to share administrative costs?'

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

I thank my hon. Friend for again attending business questions to shine a spotlight on some good work going on in her constituency. I would be very happy to do as she asks, and I thank her for bringing this interesting initiative and the work of third sector organisations in her constituency to the House’s attention.

Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Opposition Whip (Commons)

Three members of the Williams family in Gowerton, in my constituency, have had their His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs contact address changed to the same unknown address without their knowledge, consent or authorisation. As well as raising clear general data protection regulation concerns, that is having huge implications for Department for Work and Pensions issues that they face, and impacting on their credit score. I have seen the HMRC response to the mother’s complaint—it gave no answers; I have seen all the correspondence. The family has had phone calls from bailiffs and they are scared. They are capable, competent people but they are unable to get a response. Does the Leader of the House share my concerns about this serious data breach? Will she alert and raise this issue with the relevant Ministers and Departments, and advise me on how to resolve it?

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. Lady’s constituents are suffering in that way. The situation sounds completely bonkers and if she gives me further details after business questions, we will get it sorted this afternoon. Her constituents should not have to put up with that.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

Nick Smith seems to be really pleased with the Opposition’s new recruit, but it will make not one jot of difference to their voting figures because Dr Poulter, who has moved sides, is rarely in the House.

I have spoken before about my Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022. It came into force in February last year, and makes it a criminal offence to exploit vulnerable children by arranging for them to be married. I have spoken to teachers and lecturers who know nothing about the Act. We must ensure that teachers, lecturers, faith leaders and the police know how to spot the signs of potential forced or arranged marriages. Will the Leader of the House speak to her colleagues across Government to ensure that we get these messages across much more effectively to communities throughout the country?

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 she has done on this subject. She has campaigned diligently on it, and made a huge difference to the lives of many people. The forced marriage unit, which is run jointly by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Home Office, is leading the Government’s work in this area. It is running outreach and undertaking casework, and operates both inside and outside the UK. I will ensure the relevant Minister and officials have heard her suggestions on how its work can be enhanced.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade)

The situation in Gaza continues to be profoundly disturbing. We need a humanitarian ceasefire, all the hostages brought home, and no incursion by the Israel Defence Forces into Rafah; that would be catastrophic. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is pivotal to avoiding famine in Gaza and for the future of Palestinians more generally. Could we have a debate in Government time on why Ministers will not yet restart funding to UNRWA, given the call by no less than the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, for donors to restart that funding?

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 those concerning matters. I will certainly make sure that the Foreign Secretary has heard the concerns he has raised. Aside from the immediate issues on which the hon. Gentleman is primarily focused, UNRWA has been financially fragile for a long time, with little long-term financial planning and security. There are many issues that the Foreign Secretary and his team will want to consider before taking a decision on whether to restart funding.

Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley

Hayfield Lane Primary School in Doncaster is a great school, with great teachers, a great head, Mrs Tempest, and wonderful children. Sadly, the Labour Mayor of Labour-controlled Doncaster Council has failed this great school. Her dither and delay is a disaster, and it is affecting our children. Despite many years of letters, phone calls, meetings and false promises, the school still has a leaky roof, soaked carpets, water in the electric system, mould in the classrooms and a smell of damp throughout. It is a disgrace that the Mayor is allowed to subject our most vulnerable—our children—to that. Can we have a debate on the need for elected Mayors to step up and do their job of maintaining schools, like Hayfield Lane Primary School, instead of constantly blaming the Government for their own shortcomings?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for standing up for, and campaigning on behalf of, parents and children in his constituency. His local authority has been allocated £900,000 for this financial year, to be prioritised across its schools, including the school he mentions. That is on top of the school rebuilding programme, which is transforming buildings across the country, including three in the Doncaster local authority area. I know that my hon. Friend has raised and campaigned on the matter considerably. He will know that where there are serious problems with school buildings and the responsible bodies that are supposed to be looking after them fail, the Department for Education will provide additional advice and support on a case-by-case basis. I will write to the Secretary of State for Education this afternoon and ask that her Department meets my hon. Friend to discuss this serious matter. Doncaster local authority is failing in its duty, and that needs to be addressed.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

The Leader of the House has announced all kinds of worthy general debates, including on statutory instruments, leaving plenty of time for Dissolution and wash-up, if need be, but she has not announced any Opposition days. She will be in receipt of a letter from the Chair of the Procedure Committee, which says:

“If, however, the Government has specific proposals in relation to any changes it envisages to Standing Orders” on Opposition days,

“the Committee would be willing to examine and consult on such proposals”.

It goes on:

“In the meantime, however, we expect that the Government will not ‘hold hostage’ the scheduling of any further Opposition Days to the completion of any such work, as to do so would be profoundly unfair on opposition parties.”

Will the Leader of the House confirm that she is not holding Opposition days hostage?

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

I can confirm that, and I hope to be able to schedule some more Opposition day debates soon, but we want some assurances about the processes that will govern them. I know that everyone agrees that it is incredibly important the rights of minority parties be protected in this place. That is the point of those debates, and we should have confidence in them in the future.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Conservative, Northampton North

Can we have a debate on antisemitism at UK universities? There are reports in today’s press that some groups wish to replicate American-style protests, during which there has been rioting and criminal damage. At Columbia, students have chanted terrorist slogans. At Stanford, they have worn Hamas headbands. At Princeton, they have flown the Hezbollah flag. At Harvard, they have torn down the stars and stripes and raised a foreign one, and at George Washington, they called for the “final solution”, and posted signs saying that they would not disperse until Jews go back to their “real homes”. We do not want this type of terrorist-supporting delinquency at UK universities. Does the Leader of the House agree that the Government and Opposition parties must combine to do everything they can to stop such things happening here?

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

My right hon. and learned Friend is right to draw attention to the disgusting scenes that we have seen in some universities in the United States. Those activities are being met with the appropriate action, and some universities have taken a very strict stance on them. I think and hope that all UK universities will be in no doubt about their responsibilities to all who attend their campuses and facilities, but particularly those in communities who feel under attack. That is what we expect of them; we hope and expect that they will meet the notion of similar protests with an extremely strict response.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Exports)

The London Standard, the Slough Observer and other media outlets have recently reported serious bribery allegations made against Slough borough councillors heading up the planning process. That is extremely concerning. Complaints and rumours have circulated around the town for months. Does the Leader of the House not agree that it is critical that the police delve deeply into the matter, and do a thorough investigation, in order to restore public trust and confidence in elected representatives? Not questioning under oath the credible businesses that have been brave enough to put their concerns in writing, as well as those accused of bribery, would be a huge disservice to democracy. Will she also ensure that the Home Secretary takes an active interest in this critical matter?

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

I am responsible for many things, but operational police matters is not one of them. I will certainly make sure that the Home Secretary has heard what the hon. Member has said.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn

The UK hedgehog population is in sharp decline. Next week is Hedgehog Awareness Week and an opportunity to promote the plight of this beloved, iconic species. It costs around £50 to look after a hedgehog admitted to rescue. Anglesey Hedgehog Rescue is run by brilliant volunteers Sue Timperley, Debbie Evans and Chris Mead, and to raise funds, they are running a name the hedgehog competition. Will the Leader of the House take part? What would her hedgehog name be?

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

May I first congratulate my hon. Friend on raising awareness of this much-loved critter? I also congratulate the volunteers at Anglesey Hedgehog Rescue, and I wish them well in their endeavours. Given that these little creatures are prickly, they move very slowly—definitely below 20 mph—and curl into a ball when challenged, I am tempted to say that Welsh Labour would be an appropriate name, but that would perhaps be doing the hoglet a disservice, so instead, given that both our constituencies are by the sea, how about “Urchin”?

Photo of Neale Hanvey Neale Hanvey Alba, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Yesterday’s judgment from the president of the family division of the High Court concerning the practices of online, Singapore-registered GenderGP set out the following facts. Testosterone was prescribed to a 15-year-old girl with a co-morbid diagnosis of autism and anorexia, in a “negligent approach” that led to “dangerously high” serum levels, placing her at “risk of sudden death”. There was no physical examination, “extremely poor quality” psychological assessment, and no record of counselling or informed consent. An NHS paediatrician checked the girl’s serum levels against those of an adult male. I have asked this before, but these scandals keep happening, and I will continue to raise them in this place: can we have a full debate on how we extract gender ideology’s influence from our public bodies and Government policy, and protect young people from these online charlatans?

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

I am very sorry to hear about the case that the hon. Gentleman raises. It is right that we should have the same scrutiny in this area of medicine as we do in any other, whether in the NHS or in private practice. I will ensure that the Secretary of State has heard what he said about that case. He will know that she is working within her jurisdiction in the NHS to ensure that healthcare professionals and the bodies that scrutinise them know what their responsibilities are, particularly in this area.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

I recently met the local constituency group Pumping Marvellous, a support group for people with heart failure. Members talked about how the NHS services that they use could be improved through integration—specifically through digitisation, which would enable better patient record access. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced £3.4 billion for increased NHS digital investment, which will unlock £35 billion of savings. Can we have a debate on NHS digitisation, so that we can explore the benefits for patients, doctors and nurses, and ensure that the voices of support groups and users are heard?

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. We know that where good reforms have been brought in, patient outcomes are vastly improved. We will all have examples of that from our primary care practices, and particularly our hospitals. We want to ensure that that is sped up, and that artificial intelligence helps with tailoring treatments and interventions and further increases good patient outcomes. The opportunities are massive. It is a very good topic for a debate, and he will know how to apply for one.

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

Has the Leader of the House had a chance to read the report of the all-party parliamentary group on music, which I chair, on artificial intelligence in music? It came out this week. If she has not, would she like me to send her a copy, so that she can consider holding a debate on the subject in Government time? It is a key issue. This technology can bring great benefits, but we must not allow it to be our master; it should be the servant of human creativity, and the creative community should have the right to protect their creations in any scheme that is agreed between industry and tech firms. Will she look at the report and consider a debate?

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

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on producing this timely and necessary report, which I am sure will be of interest to many Members of this House. I would be delighted to receive a copy, and I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport also has one. I will invite her to follow up with him.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

The APPG on HIV, AIDS and sexual health, which I co-chair, welcomed the recent publication by the Department of Health of the pre-exposure prophylaxis road map; however, knowledge about PrEP remains very low among certain groups, particularly in the black, Asian and minority ethnic community, and among women, so there is much more to do to raise awareness of PrEP and its possibilities. Will my right hon. Friend facilitate a meeting between the APPG, HIV groups and the Minister for public health, my right hon. Friend Dame Andrea Leadsom, to see what we can do to tackle inequalities in the use of PrEP?

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

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this issue. We have made huge progress in enabling people to protect themselves through access to PrEP, but he is right that awareness of the opportunity that it provides is not universal. I will ensure that the Department of Health and Social Care has heard his concerns and encourage it to do as he asks.

Photo of Allan Dorans Allan Dorans Scottish National Party, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

This week we have seen the incredible bravery of Metropolitan police officers in Hainault, who literally ran towards a situation knowing that they were putting themselves in personal danger and at serious risk of injury or death. Two of those officers received very serious, life-changing injuries. We all owe a debt of gratitude to all police officers, who on a daily basis place themselves in such circumstances to keep us all safe.

That debt must also extend to obtaining justice for police officers who have lost their lives while on duty, and 17 April marked the 40th anniversary of the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who in 1984 was hit in the back by shots fired from inside the Libyan People’s Bureau. Despite the identity of one of the offenders being known, no one has ever been charged in connection with Yvonne’s murder. May we have a debate in Government time on the circumstances surrounding the murder of WPC Fletcher?

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 his words about those Metropolitan police officers and the police in general. I am sure the whole House will want to send our good wishes to those officers. We have heard the update that the Met chief gave on their condition, and I hope all Members will join me in wishing them a speedy recovery. I hope they are out of hospital soon. I will ensure that both the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said. He will know that Ministers work on the issue and, where they are able to have bilaterals with others who may be able to assist in this area, they do so—it is part of the script that they use when having those meetings—but I will ensure they have heard what he has said today.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

Last week I went to the Aylesbury Vale young enterprise company of the year finals at Aylesbury Vale Academy. The winners were a team from Aylesbury Grammar School who produced and sold biodegradable greetings cards implanted with wildflower seeds that can be planted and grown. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating them and all the other young enterprise finalists, and may we have a debate in Government time to underline the importance of teaching the value of the private sector and of the role of business in creating jobs, generating wealth and enabling the economic growth that pays for public services?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for allowing us all to send our congratulations to Aylesbury Grammar School and all those involved in that good initiative—perhaps the House of Commons gift shop would like to stock that fantastic product. I also thank him for allowing us all to reflect on the force for good in the world that enterprise and businesses represent in our local communities, not only through supporting the charity sector, but through the enormous revenues they raise to keep everything that matters to us going.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales), Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Following the Aberfan disaster in October 1966, donations from around the world were used to build the Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Community Centre. The centre has been managed by a leisure trust and is home to a library, gym and swimming pool. Until two days ago, it faced possible closure. Despite that, the trustees—none of them local—refused to engage with me, trade unions, their own staff or residents, and they only engaged with the local authority at the eleventh hour. May we please have a debate on how charity trustees who hold cherished local assets can be held to account?

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. Losing any facility is not good for a community, but losing one with such heritage and hopes for a legacy that it might deliver for its local community is very upsetting. He will know how to apply for a debate, and I encourage him to continue his work to bring together the trustees and the community. When that happens, solutions are found. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has enabled asset transfers and other things to happen in order to allow such facilities to continue, and my office stands ready to assist him in any way we can to get the right advice.

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

The Government’s long-term plan for towns will ensure that local people can develop plans that deliver the priorities of their community and are given the tools to change their town’s long-term future. Better access to finance for microbusinesses and social enterprises is a critical element of such a plan, and the Government could facilitate it through changes to financial regulations. Will the Leader of the House allocate Government time for a debate on the future of community enterprise and community lending, including Bank of Dave-style initiatives that drive local growth?

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

My hon. Friend raises good points and ideas. She will know that the next questions to the Chancellor will be on 7 May, and I encourage her to raise those matters with him then. I will give him the heads-up today to ensure that he has heard her sensible suggestions.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

As a founding member of the Scottish constitutional convention, and the only Member of the present Commons whose signature is on Scotland’s claim of right, I know one or two things about devolution. Indeed, it will very shortly be the 25th anniversary of the first sitting of the Scottish Parliament. I politely ask whether we might have a debate on how Scottish devolution came into being, the ideals that lay behind it, and how the present Scottish Government are undermining those first ideals.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that very good suggestion, and I am sure that such a debate would be well attended. Having headed up UK-wide organisations, particularly in healthcare, I know that one strength of having different systems of governance to reflect different parts of the UK is that they work together and learn from each other—how our four chief medical officers work together, for example. Devolution was envisaged as four nations working together for the common good of their citizens, but we know that is not the SNP’s interpretation of that opportunity. That would be a good debate and I encourage him to apply for it —and if he does, I will attend.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Outside of London, Aberdeen has the highest proportion of non-UK-born citizens anywhere on this island. Today the Home Office looks set to remove and detain someone who fled persecution in their home country and has begun to build a life in Aberdeen. Right now, the people of my city are out on the streets making it clear that refugees are welcome in Aberdeen. What can I do to ensure that if someone is detained and removed from Aberdeen, they are given basic human necessities such as water on the hours-long journey away from our city, and to ensure that the Home Office updates the MP and answers their questions in relation to that detention?

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

The hon. Lady will know that the Home Office will always talk to Members of this House about constituency cases of whatever nature, but it is clear that, given our finite resource, we can honour our obligations to those seeking asylum here only if our asylum system can deal with the volume of people coming in. We should use those finite resources in a way that helps people, but we can also choose which individuals we want to help and ensure that people who do not have leave to remain in this country do not remain here. That is what this democratic Parliament has decided to do, because the British people wish us to do it. She ought to reflect on that.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

There are a number of bodies that the public rely on to be impartial and to protect the public interest, including the General Medical Council, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority, to name but three. When independent regulators take moneys from the World Economic Forum or other vested interests, they lose their independence, so can we have a statement from the relevant Minister on how we are going to end regulatory capture, something we have seen at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency with disastrous consequences? Can that Minister also explain why the guidance to so-called independent regulators says that it regards their regulation as a tool of government?

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

Regulators have very clear responsibilities —that is well understood. Members of this House will work with them on a whole raft of issues to raise concerns about the sector they cover and how they are operating in their local area. If the hon. Gentleman has any specific charges of a regulator not doing its job, as he knows, the Department for Business and Trade will shortly be bringing forward a White Paper about how we improve regulators in the UK. We are always interested in what can be improved, but he has made quite a serious allegation today, which he should follow up with the Secretary of State.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

As millions of people across England and Wales go to vote in today’s council elections, will the Leader of the House join me in recognising the work of my constituent, the right honourable Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Robert Aldridge, who this week marks 40 years of continuous service as a councillor in Edinburgh? That longevity is the envy of many others in Scottish politics, and I am sure will be the ambition of many of those who are starting their career today.

However, like this place and many other parts of our democracy, councils do not always reflect the diversity of their area. In 2022, the Local Government Association found that 92% of councillors were white, 40% were retired, 46% had caring responsibilities and just 12% had a disability, so may we have a debate in Government time on how we could make local government roles more accessible and more representative of their communities?

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

I am sure that the whole House sends its congratulations to Councillor Robert Aldridge on this landmark anniversary, and thanks him for both his service and his stamina in the role. The hon. Lady raises a very important point: we want many people from many different backgrounds and with many different skills to come forward and run for office. It is an excellent topic for a debate—she will know how to apply for one—but of course we can all encourage people in our communities to come forward, step up and serve.

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

As a child of the 1970s, I am certain that the Leader of the House will value and remember fondly the performances of AC/DC. However, she may not know that AC/DC’s frontman, Bon Scott, is no less than a child of Angus—of Kirriemuir in particular. I am certain that she will wish to welcome this weekend’s Bonfest festival, wish it every success, and congratulate DD8 Music on the promotion of that tremendous international music festival. However, one thing that causes problems for music festivals across this island is the Brexit obstructions that prevent many musicians from coming from the EU to perform in Scotland, and Scottish and English musicians from performing in the EU. Does she agree that we should have a debate in Government time about how we can best reconcile that situation with the Brexit reality that we find ourselves in?

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

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised that I disagree with his characterisation of the UK’s choice to leave the European Union as a highway to hell, but I will ensure that the relevant Minister has heard his concerns. Of course, I congratulate everyone involved in what sounds like a very jolly festival, and I hope a good time is had by all.

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

Today we read in the press that the oil and gas company Shell will take some of its bumper profits, creamed off the top of people’s soaring energy bills, and use it for share buy-backs. Shell plans to start a £2.8 billion share buy-back scheme to inflate its own share price, rather than to help tackle the climate emergency or boost our economy. A 4% tax on share buy-backs as proposed by the Liberal Democrats could raise about £2 billion per annum for our public services, so could we please have a debate on share buy-backs and the potential benefits of such a levy?

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

The hon. Gentleman will know that, on any such proposals that the Liberal Democrats wish to put forward, they can question the Chancellor next Tuesday when the House returns. He will also know that the Government have done a huge amount of work with both energy companies and their suppliers to assist in alleviating the cost-of-living issues that households and businesses are facing.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker. These are the strongest legs in the Chamber, without a doubt.

I thank the Leader of the House for the opportunity to highlight the prevention of violations of freedom of religion or belief. It has been more than a year since the outbreak of the civil war in Sudan, and Sudanese civilians certainly bear the brunt of the atrocities committed due to the fighting, with thousands killed and millions internally displaced. While His Majesty’s Government are working with others to resolve the crisis, the vulnerability of Sudanese Christians has been overlooked. Christians and their churches are being targeted, and there have been reports of rape, kidnap and looting against Christians. Even when the war ends, religious minorities fear future persecution. Will the Leader of the House join me in condemning the atrocities against Christians in Sudan, and what can she do with the Foreign Secretary and the Government to combat these crimes as they work to find a solution to the conflict?

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

I again thank the hon. Gentleman for raising awareness of an issue that has affected enormous numbers of people, but does not necessarily get the airtime on the UK media that it warrants. He will know that the Foreign Secretary and the Minister covering this region are very focused on ensuring, and will do all they can to make sure, that civilians are protected and security issues are properly addressed. As part of that, he will know that the envoy for freedom of religion or belief and the team supporting that post will be very focused on this matter. As I always do, I will make sure that the Foreign Secretary has heard his concerns, and I thank him.