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Christmas Adjournment — [David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:09 pm on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Labour, Bristol South 4:09 pm, 20th December 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson, and I thank Marion Fellows for that comment.

I start by thanking my hon. Friend Ian Mearns for securing the time for this debate in Westminster Hall; I think that it has worked quite well here, actually. When he began his speech, his comments suggested that he did not quite trust the Government actually to deliver; I cannot imagine why. However, having had so much time to discuss the chaotic and now—frankly—reckless handling of Brexit by the Government, it is a crucial time for hon. Members to have a chance to talk about other issues affecting their constituents. However, to quickly look back, this time last year we had just voted against the Government’s attempts to sideline Parliament on the deal. That should have been the point at which the Prime Minister took a different, more inclusive path to involve MPs and Parliament in that proposal. However, it is 12 months later, and in the past few weeks we have seen the problems that have arisen as a result of not choosing that inclusive path. I agree with my hon. Friend Martin Whitfield that it is irresponsible not to rule out a no-deal Brexit: it is entirely possible to do so, and to take away some of the fear and uncertainty of our constituents.

I think that all colleagues here today share a frustration that other policy areas are not being addressed, some of which we have heard about. For me, one of the most important crises facing the country is social care, and recently, the Green Paper has yet again been delayed: it has been delayed five times since summer 2017, when we were promised it. We are now being told that it will be published at the first opportunity in 2019, so perhaps the Minister could take back to the Government the message that the first opportunity needs to come very quickly. That delay is also tied up with the NHS plan, on which I chaired a session with NHS England in Parliament last week. We know that plan is ready, but again it has been delayed, and we do not know when it is coming. That means that local health providers are facing great uncertainty at what is a very busy time for them, which is not acceptable.

We have actually passed legislation in the past year since we last rose, and although we sometimes think this place is a bit arcane, I am pleased that Dame Laura Cox’s report on bullying and harassment has been published, and that the House of Commons Commission has agreed a way forward. I hope that there will be some progress on that, and that conduct across the House will improve.

We have heard a great range of speeches today—I have enjoyed these debates when I have heard them in the past, because we get to learn an awful lot. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead took us through a number of issues in his constituency. To me, one of the main issues was the cuts that are happening, not just to local government but to all the partnership bodies and charities that are working together, and the impact that is now having on local people. We had the usual sweep from Southend: I too am looking forward to the centenary party for Sir David Amess. The thing I learned most is that Brexit is going to stop in the Amess household on 25 December, for one day only. We all look forward to that.

My hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh reminded us of the debate that she so powerfully led in this place last year. The fact that those poor families are yet again in that so-called temporary accommodation is really scandalous. We are all aware of the issue of rent arrears from universal credit that my hon. Friend mentioned, and I would certainly like to take up her offer of more information on the great work that the WISH Centre is doing for young people—as, I am sure, would many hon. Members. I had not heard the debate about isotretinoin, but I know that Bob Stewart will keep that debate going and keep it in Members’ interests.

We heard from my hon. Friend John Grogan about the trials and tribulations of the Cougars, and the breakthrough that is rugby league and rugby union co-operating on something. That has taken a number of years, so if that is happening, there is hope for all sorts of co-operation breaking out. My hon. Friend also highlighted an important issue about the scandalous lack of accountability of regional schools commissioners for the very important decisions that they are making in our communities. We have perhaps all experienced that, and I wish my hon. Friend luck in addressing that issue. Mr Robertson, you missed out an important contribution: we have a tip for the King George VI on Boxing day. We are all going to be waiting patiently at Kempton, so that was very useful. I completely agree with my hon. Friend about Boxing day travel. Fans will be travelling from Brentford to Bristol City on Boxing day, and public transport is important every day of the year for local people, but is especially important for grounds on Boxing day. That is a really important campaign, and I wish my hon. Friend well with it.

We heard from Bob Blackman about the great work that he has been doing, particularly on housing and other issues. I commend him for his vital work on the holocaust memorial, and the importance of continually combating antisemitism in our country. From my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian, we learned a lot about cats—perhaps more than we wanted.