With permission, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week, which will be as follows:
Monday 16 July—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on health, followed by a debate on adult social care. These debates will arise on Opposition motions.
Tuesday 17 July—Debate on a motion relating to the Prime Minister’s adviser on Ministers’ interests, followed by a motion on the summer recess Adjournment, the format of which has been specified by the Backbench Business Committee. The subjects for these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
The business for the week commencing 3 September will include:
Monday 3 September—Second Reading of the European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill [Lords].
Tuesday 4 September—Second Reading of the Small Charitable Donations Bill, followed by a motion to approve a money resolution on the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill.
Wednesday 5 September—Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, the subject of which is to be announced.
Thursday 6 September—Debate on a motion relating to immigration, followed by debate on a motion relating to community hospitals. The subjects for these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 7 September—Private Members’ Bills.
I should also like to inform the House that the business for Westminster Hall for 6 September will be:
Thursday 6 September—A debate on the UK’s energy supply, followed by a debate on building regulations applying to electrical and gas installation and repairs in dwellings.
As these are the last business questions before the summer recess, may I, as usual, thank the staff of the House for all their hard work, Mr Deputy Speaker? I hope that they have a good and well-deserved break before we return in September. I am sure that the whole House will also want to join me in wishing all participants in this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic games the best of luck, especially Team GB.
I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. May I echo his thanks to all the staff of the House for the way they have supported us this Session? May I also say to him that, following his written ministerial statement on the experiment with public reading stages, the Opposition will certainly be looking forward to the pilot?
As these are the last business questions before the Olympics, may I take this opportunity, as the Leader of the House has just done, to wish Team GB all the best? The whole country is behind them. However, given today’s urgent question on security, the problems with the M4 flyover and the continuing issues at Heathrow, could he assure us that the Government are confident that these troubles will be overcome before the opening ceremony?
The Government’s handling of the House of Lords Reform Bill has descended into farce. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister lost control of his party and the Government abandoned the programme motion. Despite an explicit promise to me on Tuesday, the Leader of the House has failed to make a further announcement about how the Government intend to proceed. I hope that he will do so in his reply to me.
In his usual helpful way, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott said on Wednesday that the Prime Minister must
“not cringe to the Tory dinosaurs now they have tasted blood.”
Last night at the 1922 committee the Prime Minister apparently gave a hint about how he wishes to proceed when, after hugging his beleaguered Chief Whip—we all agree with that and can add our sympathy to him—he said:
“We are not going to negotiate with Labour, they are the enemy and they can’t be trusted—we are going to negotiate with the Liberal Democrats”.
By all accounts, the Prime Minister’s unique perspective on the trustworthiness of Liberal Democrats did not go down terribly well in that room. It was then pointed out to him by a much more experienced member of the Conservative parliamentary party that:
“Labour is not the enemy; they are Her Majesty’s Opposition”.
May I gently suggest to the Leader of the House that, as the PM clearly does not have the votes on his own side to deliver House of Lords reform, we should proceed on the basis of genuine cross-party discussion and agreement?
At business questions last week, I asked the Leader of the House about Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers splitting Government time to enable them to differentiate themselves from one another. In reply, he said that, when it came to the House of Lords Reform Bill, there would be a
“seamless approach to the legislation from those who are opening and closing the debates”.—[Official Report, 5 July 2012; Vol. 547, c. 1071.]
It did not quite work out that way, did it? I see that the Government announced at the end of last month that they were launching a £14 million fund to help people through the process of divorce. It gives people who are splitting up advice on how to divorce amicably and avoid arguments. Could the Leader of the House say whether the Prime Minister and his deputy were the first in line to receive the advice?
Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister sent an e-mail to his dwindling band of party activists, and I have managed to obtain a copy. In it, he says of Tuesday’s Lords vote:
“This is a huge triumph for our party”.
I wonder what on earth a disaster would look like in the eyes of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Last night’s suggestion that replacing the remaining hereditary peers with directly elected Members is a substantive reform is absurd. We have been debating whether there should be a 100% elected or an 80% elected second Chamber; electing just 10% would not be a democratic reform. A 10% elected second Chamber would not be a compromise; it would be the Liberal Democrats running up the white flag.
What a shambles this has been: the Prime Minister has lost control of his party; the Liberal Democrats are in revolt; and Government Whips have taken to ordering rebel Tory Back Benchers off the premises. And it is not just Government Whips who have been bullying their own Back Benchers. We have got used to the Prime Minister losing his rag at the Dispatch Box, but on Tuesday night, in one of his Flashman moments, he had an angry altercation with one of his leading Back-Bench rebels. Would the Leader of the House make a suggestion to the Prime Minister: “Just calm down”?
On the first question, we are determined that the Olympics will be a great success and that the issues that the hon. Lady referred to will be resolved in good time.
The hon. Lady conveniently glossed over the rebellion among the Labour Members, 26 of whom defied their Whip, so it is clear that the Conservative party is not the only party that has differences on this issue. In my business statement, I announced the business for the first week back, which did not include further progress on the Bill, but on the substantive issue that she raised, it was clear from the vote on Second Reading that a huge majority of the House want to get on with it, with majorities within each of the three major parties voting for reform. She said that we could trust the Labour party, but I have to say that the Labour party was willing the end but not willing the means. Saying before the programme motion was even tabled that Labour Members would vote against it shows a lack of commitment to getting the Bill on to the statute book.
It was equally clear on Tuesday that there was no consensus on the timetable for the Bill, which is why we did not make progress with the programme motion. What we want to do—I say this in response to what the hon. Lady has just said—is to reflect and to allow time for meaningful discussion, including with the Opposition and with other hon. Members, to build a consensus on the best way forward. As I said on Tuesday, we do intend to table a timetable motion for the Bill in the autumn, but, as the House would expect, we want those discussions to take place first before I can give the House any further information.
As for marital relations, I think that relationships within the coalition are much better than relationships within the previous Labour Government. I get on much better with my deputy than the previous Prime Minister got on with Tony Blair. I just say to the hon. Lady, in conclusion, that two parties are working together to put right the mess left behind by the Labour party, which still refused to admit that it got anything wrong.
Under the coalition Government, 10,000 more people suffering from cancer have received treatment as a result of the cancer drugs fund that we introduced. That would not have been possible had we followed the Labour party’s proposals to cut the national health service. May we have a debate on the benefits that the coalition Government have brought to the health service and the further improvements we can bring to cancer research?
I am glad to say to my hon. Friend that we can have a debate on the health service, because we will have one on Monday. The subject was chosen by the Opposition and that debate will give all my hon. Friends the opportunity to explain the extra resources we have made available to the NHS, resources that it would have been denied by Opposition Members, including the cancer drugs fund to which my hon. Friend just referred.
May I return to a theme that was raised extensively during last week’s business questions, which is the review of children’s heart services? The Leader of the House will recall that Members on both sides of the House raised that important issue with him. The decision to end services at Leicester’s Glenfield hospital has been shattering news for families and patients in Glenfield. Already 28,000 people have signed a petition and 250 are signing it by the hour, but unfortunately time has not been found for a specific debate on the future of children’s heart services. I concede that there is an Opposition day debate on health, but given the cross-party support I am not sure whether that is the appropriate moment to discuss this. Will the Leader of the House find time for such a debate or impress on a Health Minister the importance of coming to the House to make a statement on the future of children’s heart services before the summer recess?
Order. I stress that a lot of Members are trying to catch my eye and we are already quite late into the day. I want to get everybody in, so if we can have short questions that will be very helpful and I am sure that we will get speedy answers. This is the last chance that Members will have to ask questions of the Leader of the House before the recess so I want to get everybody in.
After the passionate representations made at business questions last Thursday, I raised the matter immediately with my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Health. There are Health questions on Tuesday and I am glad to say that the Backbench Business Committee has found time specifically for debate on children’s heart surgery in Leeds and on children’s heart surgery in Leicester during the pre-recess Adjournment debate on Tuesday. There will also be opportunities to raise the issue during the Opposition day debate on Monday. I hope that between now and the time the House goes into recess there will be three opportunities for the hon. Gentleman and others who share his concern to raise the matter with my hon. Friends in the Department.
In view of the constitutional importance of the House of Lords Reform Bill, will the Leader of the House confirm that sufficient time will be provided in Committee of the whole House for every clause and every schedule to be debated?
It is certainly our intention that there should be sufficient time to debate the House of Lords Reform Bill in Committee. Speaking from memory, I can tell my hon. Friend that 50 hours have already been devoted to the Bill by the Joint Committee. In addition to providing adequate time for consideration of the House of Lords Bill, it is also the Government’s intention to provide adequate time to debate the other Bills in the legislative programme.
I repeat what I said to the Opposition on Tuesday: we are very anxious to have a constructive dialogue with them about the programme motion, but despite repeated requests on the Floor of the House for them to tell us how many days they want in Committee, we did not get an answer. I repeat what I said to the hon. Gentleman when he intervened in my speech on Tuesday, which is that we are happy to enter into discussions with the Opposition, as I said a few moments ago, to find a way forward. As Leader of the House, I am conscious of the fact that a large majority in the House wants the Bill on the statute book and it is up to all those who want to see it there to work together to achieve that objective.
The Government intend to introduce ambitious targets for the recycling of plastic packaging, which will impose financial obligations on UK manufacturers. However, local collection and sorting of plastic packaging is a long way off from being able to deliver those targets and there is little incentive for local councils to improve when they have weight-based recycling targets. May we have an urgent debate on how to establish a realistic road map for promoting recycling that takes account of the local reality and does not hold small and medium-sized enterprises financially responsible for delivering targets that are outside their control?
My hon. Friend raises an issue that is of concern to many local authorities, including my own. I shall raise the matter with my relevant colleagues, who are presumably those at the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Communities and Local Government, to see whether we can find a way through and provide real incentives to recycle that do not impose unrealistic obligations on small and medium-sized enterprises.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made to sort out the mixed messages that are being sent by Ministers to Citizens Advice in Manchester? In June, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly),wrote to me to confirm that he was terminating the contract for the community legal advice centres that Citizens Advice runs in the city of Manchester six months early, so the money will run out next March. At the same time, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), who is the Minister for civil society, wrote to the same organisation to congratulate it in glowing terms for its achievements and saying specifically:
“We would like to see many more projects like yours”.
Will the Leader of the House get those two Ministers together to sort out the message and, more importantly, to sort out some additional resources to ensure that the services can continue?
Of course I will respond to the challenge laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, contact the two Ministers to whom he has referred and get a consistent response, hopefully so that that good organisation can continue to provide advice to the citizens in his constituency. I will raise the matter with the Lord Chancellor and the Minister for civil society in the Cabinet Office.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his efforts, including a change in the law, to clear the demonstrators out of Parliament square so that it is available for all the visitors during the Olympics? When does the Leader of the House expect the remaining demonstrators to leave?
My hon. Friend was a keen supporter of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which prohibits the erection of tents on Parliament square. As he knows, many were removed relatively recently. Operational decisions on making further progress to clear the square are a matter for the Metropolitan police and I shall draw my hon. Friend’s remarks to the attention of the police to see whether any further action is needed.
In previous years, the children who attended the international physics Olympiad were given funding. Last year, they won three silver and two bronze medals. Despite my letters to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, they have refused to restore funding. Will the Leader of the House look at how we can support our brilliant future physicists?
The Leader of the House will know how important local post offices are to many of our constituents around the country, especially in rural areas, and how welcome it is that the Government have made a commitment to having no post office closure programme. May we have an update from the Government on the new Post Office Local model, and particularly whether the Post Office is putting them into the right venues? The loss of services that come with the transition might not be appropriate in all cases.
My hon. Friend is right that we have committed ourselves to no wholesale closures of post offices such as those that we saw in previous Parliaments. I will raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who will be at the Dispatch Box on the first Thursday after we come back. I will see whether I can get a response before then.
On Tuesday, we had a statement from the Department for Work and Pensions about the proposed closure of Remploy factories. The Minister did not give a list of those factories that were facing definite closure and nine were under possible commercial bids. My Bridgend Remploy factory thought that it had made a successful bid and that it was one of those whose bid for their own future was going forward. It is now subject to a commercial factory bid and has no idea who the bid is from or what the future holds. May we have an accurate and fully detailed statement from the DWP about what is happening, and can each Member who has an appropriate factory be notified before we rise for the recess of what is happening in their area to the people who are directly employed in their Remploy factories?
As the hon. Lady said, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), who has responsibility for disability, came to the House to make a statement on Tuesday and answered questions for a substantial time. I do not know whether the hon. Lady was able to get in on that exchange and ask that question, but I shall certainly raise the question of the future of the Remploy factory in Bridgend with my hon. Friend and will ask her to write to the hon. Lady so that we have some clarity on which avenue that factory is going down.
The precise wording that I think I used on Tuesday was “in the autumn”. I have announced the business for the first week back. We are sitting for two and a half weeks in September, and I would very much hope that by the time we rise for the conference recess I will be able to give the House further information about our proposals for the Bill.
One of the particular pleasures that I have had since being elected in 2010 is to welcome parties of schoolchildren to this place from my constituency, and many hundreds of them have benefited from that. One unintended consequence of the decisions taken last night could well be that those opportunities are curtailed somewhat, particularly for parties having to travel many miles to get here. Will the Leader of the House use his best endeavours to try to maximise the opportunities for such school parties in future?
This refers to a debate that took place yesterday when the Deputy Leader of the House mentioned that specific consequence. The House has made a clear decision when to sit on Tuesday, but we will look at the consequences for tours and see whether we can find some way through to make sure that those who want to visit the House are able to do so.
The 2010 Browne report recommended that an efficient national scheme be set up through the student finance system to encourage past graduates to contribute to university endowment funds. May we have a debate on this subject and the progress on that?
I cannot promise an early debate before the House rises, but my hon. Friend makes an important point. I can only suggest that when the House returns in September he applies for a debate in Westminster Hall, so that he can pursue this particular avenue and deal with it at greater length.
The right hon. Gentleman has been here even longer than I have, and I have been here long enough. Will he draw on his considerable experience of this House to confirm that where a clear majority of the House supports a Bill in principle, it is perfectly possible to make good and measured progress even if there is not a timetable resolution, simply by that majority closing a debate on a particular topic when it has had due attention and moving on to the next matter? Can we kill the myth that a timetable resolution is essential for progress on a Bill?
That was not the conclusion drawn by the Labour Government, who introduced timetable motions on all the constitutional measures in the recent Parliament. There is a real risk if we go down the route suggested by the right hon. Gentleman—who I am sorry is standing down at the next election—of having protracted debates on individual subjects each of which needs to be guillotined. My own view is that it is much better if, in principle, one can seek agreement on an overall amount of time and then plan the debate for the Bill in conjunction with the time that is needed for all the other Bills. I am slightly reluctant to go down the route that the right hon. Gentleman has just invited me to go down.
May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the debate on Tuesday on the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests? The motion now has, or will by tomorrow morning, no fewer than 18 signatures from Chairs of Select Committees, and includes support from people such as the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) and our right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames). I have good indications and hope that Her Majesty’s Official Opposition are also sympathetic to the motion. Will the Government be seeking to block the motion and will the Leader of the House say which Minister will be leading for the Government?
I am glad that we have found time to debate this important issue, which was displaced when we had the debate on the banking inquiry last Thursday. This was a step that the Opposition were not prepared to take in government, so I take their current support with just a pinch of salt. I cannot tell my hon. Friend who will be responding to the debate, and he will have to wait for the reply from a Minister to find out the Government’s reaction to the proposition that he has put before the House.
In the written ministerial statement today on wild animals in circuses, the Government talk as though they are proposing a ban, but it is clear that they are considering a licensing regime. That is not what the many, many Members who turned out for the debate a year ago were led to believe when the Government promised them a ban in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing defeat. May we have an urgent statement on it?
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made it clear that we are proceeding with changes to the licensing system in the short term, but we are committed to legislating in the longer term. If the hon. Lady looks at the written ministerial statement, there is a clear reference to draft legislation.
The almost complete absence of Liberal Democrats from their Benches today suggests that most of them may already have abandoned the marital home, but despite that massive handicap, may we have a debate on a votable motion in Government time on the future of the nuclear deterrent? Members from both sides of the House would very much like an opportunity to express their views on such an important matter, because we have not had a chance to do so since 2007.
I understand my hon. Friend’s interest. He will know that the Minister for the Armed Forces is undertaking a review, which I think was the subject of an exchange at recent Defence questions. A good opportunity to have a debate on that issue will be when that review is completed.
The Leader of the House will know that many young people will be leaving schools, colleges and universities this summer, and many will be in danger of joining an already large number—almost 1 million—of unemployed young people. He knows that I have asked for greater attention, imagination and leadership on this issue for a long time. Has he considered the call that I have heard outside this place for the Duchess of Cambridge to have a particular role looking at and leading on the issue of young people who need our help this summer?
I will certainly ensure that the Palace is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. He will know that in the last quarter, youth unemployment was down by 29,000, and I hope very much that we can maintain that downward trend. He will also know that there are a range of initiatives on apprenticeships, the youth contract and the Work programme, which we hope will further reduce the rate of youth unemployment.
I know how much the Leader of the House hates programme motions because on constitutional matters when in opposition he always voted against them. May I make a suggestion that will be helpful to him, the Chief Whip and Parliament? The problem on Tuesday night was not caused by the programme motion; it was because there was not a business of the House committee. If there had been such a committee, with members who were not part of the Executive or the shadow Executive, it would have made time available. Surely in September we should bring in a business of the House committee, and that would solve all the right hon. Gentleman’s problems on programme motions.
I am not sure that my hon. Friend has got that one absolutely right. The Wright Committee recommendations make it absolutely clear that the Government have an entitlement to get their business through. My hon. Friend’s suggestion is that the Government’s business should be subjected to a regime that might put at risk the likelihood of the Government getting their Bills through. It was always envisaged that the House would set up a Backbench Business Committee, which we have done, but it was always recognised that the Government should be entitled to get their business through.
I will certainly be trying to speak in Monday’s health debate, but I am dismayed that the Leader of the House has not given any notice that the Secretary of State for Health intends to come to the House, because he has issued a written statement today about appointing an administrator for my local healthcare trust. He has met the Conservative Members of Bromley and one of the Conservative Members of Bexley who are affected by the decision all together, but he did not meet the Labour Member who covers a Bexley seat, nor the Labour Members in the borough of Greenwich. That is clear and blatant politicising of the decision. I hope that the Leader of the House will take that back and make it clear that not only is the House unhappy with the Health Secretary’s behaviour, but that it is not appropriate for him to avoid coming to that Dispatch Box having put out blatant misinformation from his Department about the performance of that trust.
The Secretary of State has put the House in the picture by making a written ministerial statement, which is a perfectly appropriate means of communicating Government initiatives. There is a health debate on Monday, where the hon. Gentleman may be able to raise this. I think the issue of meeting Members of Parliament was raised at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, and I will do as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said and make further inquiries to see whether meetings can now take place that have not taken place so far.
I shall be travelling to Rwanda this weekend to join Project Umubano, the Conservative party’s social action project. May we have a debate on how such projects are an excellent way for volunteers to appreciate international development issues?
I welcome my hon. Friend’s initiative and know that he has been to Rwanda before. As we speak, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is on his way there, and I commend the work being done by those volunteers who are helping to transfer skills in medicine, law, business and a range of other areas. There was an opportunity to develop this yesterday at International Development questions. My hon. Friend will know that we are sticking to our promise on aid because it is the right thing to do and because it helps our own security and prosperity.
In his big red file, does the Leader of the House have a copy of every one of the 28 written ministerial statements tabled today, including the one confirming that the Government are cutting funding for further education courses for older students, which will mean that those over 24 will have to pay up to £4,000 a year at a time when they are worried about jobs, debt and how to pay the bills? It has been tabled, with the regulations, just three days before the summer recess, preventing this House from properly challenging this big change. Will he make time for a debate on the change in this Chamber?
There is an Opposition day on Monday, when the Opposition could have chosen this subject for debate. I have looked through the written ministerial statements. I saw one from the same Minister, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, about extending loans to students aged over 24, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will welcome.
May we have a statement from the Health Secretary on regional pay, given the decision by 20 NHS trusts in the south-west to walk away from the national pay agreement, “Agenda for Change”, which thousands of NHS staff in Exeter and the wider south-west feel will lead to a further erosion of their pay and conditions, not least because the Liberal Democrats have been boasting recently that they blocked Conservative plans for regional pay?
This morning I attended the Federation of Wholesale Distributors conference and had the chance to be reminded how important the industry is in supplying millions of people across the country through the retail network. Like retail, it is primarily made up of small and medium-sized enterprises, the very businesses that the Government are focused on for delivering job growth and economic growth and that have provided the half a million extra jobs we have seen since the coalition came to power. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in the autumn, in Government time, on the work the Government are doing to encourage SMEs and secure further job growth?
I will spend the summer recess looking forward to that debate, when we can explain what we have done: cutting corporation tax, ensuring access to finance, scrapping regulations, setting up 24 new enterprise zones and a range of other measures to promote employment and growth in my hon. Friend’s constituency and elsewhere.
May we have an urgent debate on the anti-Christian behaviour and bias of the Charity Commission? A constituent has contacted me because the commission has revoked the charitable status of a trust that is part of the Brethren Christian Church, which does a lot of good work for charity. This is an extremely important test case because it has widespread implications for all Christian charitable trusts. Does the Leader of the House not agree that Christian groups that are serving the community have the right to charitable status and should not be subject to politically correct bias?
I am sure that the Charity Commission is not anti-Christian. I do not think that the organisation to which my hon. Friend refers has ever been registered as a charity, so it is not quite true to say that that status has been revoked. The application has been turned down because it was not clear whether there was enough social engagement with the community to meet the public interest criteria. As I understand it, that decision has now gone to appeal at the first tier, which I think is probably the right way to resolve it.
Dairy farmers in my constituency were so concerned about the current and future potential cuts to the price of milk before 1 August that they travelled the 220 miles to London yesterday, with many hundreds of others, to complain about the potential loss of £50,000 from their incomes. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), is having meetings this week about the consultation on contracts, but can the Leader of the House indicate whether we will have a written or oral statement on the matter before the House rises and, if not, what mechanism is in place to ensure feedback to those farmers before the price cut deadline of 1 August?
There will be a debate specifically on the dairy industry in the pre-recess Adjournment debate on Tuesday, which I hope will be an opportunity to bring the House up to date. I know that many hon. Members met their dairy farmers yesterday to listen to their concerns. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made available £5 million to help certain farmers and that we are doing all we can to promote a voluntary agreement that will provide greater transparency and improve contractual arrangements between purchasers and dairy farmers.
The Office of the Rail Regulator is currently carrying out a review of access charges for freight traffic moving on to the network, which are potentially very damaging for businesses that transport heavy bulk loads in and out of Immingham port in my constituency. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on the matter from the Secretary of State for Transport?
I will certainly draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the concern my hon. Friend has just expressed. It is very important that we develop the railway network in such a way that it is possible to move freight from road to rail and that the interests of freight operators are not ignored when we look at track access charges.
Bullying in the workplace is apparently on the increase. On Tuesday night I witnessed a very red-faced and angry Prime Minister sticking his fingers in the face of the hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), who, reportedly, was then removed and marched off the estate by the Prime Minister’s henchmen. May we please have an urgent debate on bullying in this place and the Prime Minister’s anger management issues?
Jaguar Land Rover has recently announced that it intends to create 4,500 new jobs over the next five years and is investing £500 million in a new engine plant in the Black Country enterprise zone. May we have a debate on the success of that enterprise zone in supporting a successful automotive industry in the west midlands?
My hon. Friend reinforces a request for a debate made a few moments ago, which I would very much welcome, although I cannot promise one before we rise for the recess. We need to give business in the UK all possible support, removing regulatory barriers to growth and promoting the excellent record of the motor industry—we are now a net exporter of cars, rather than a net importer. It is absolutely crucial that we stick to our fiscal consolidation targets, which have provided the right framework for this success.
Although this morning’s written ministerial statement on aviation strategy from the Department for Transport is welcome, the House was expecting a second written statement and a consultation on capacity in the south-east and the status of a hub airport. That absence is regarded by business organisations and the TUC as harming British competitiveness and the British economy. Can we expect to have the statement in September, or will it be delayed a third time? We are two years into the coalition but still have not had a strategy.
The hon. Gentleman will have seen the written ministerial statement on aviation policy, which makes it clear that we intend to publish a call for evidence on maintaining our international connectivity in the medium and longer term. We remain committed to adopting the final aviation policy framework by next spring, so there will be the second phase to which he refers in due course.
Has the Leader of the House noticed that Members from Britain’s supposedly third major political party, with a few honourable exceptions, appear week after week to be absent from this Chamber on Thursdays? Is it official Government policy to give the Liberal Democrats a disproportionate leave of absence, or could the national interest, which the rest of us discuss, perhaps be made more interesting and important to attract greater attendance from the junior coalition partner?
I am not sure that that is a useful subject for a future debate, but, if my hon. Friend looks at the record in the Division Lobbies, he will see that our coalition partners have been present—on some occasions in even greater proportions than some members of my own great party.
On Tuesday, a piece appeared in The Guardian about the difficulty that my disabled constituent Ray Bellisario has had accessing buses in his permissible wheelchair, often when going to and from hospital. Despite repeated letters on the issue to the disabilities Minister, Maria Miller, over the past 18 months, he had received no reply. Miraculously, however, a letter appeared in The Guardian from Maria Miller—
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Miraculously, however, a letter appeared today from the Minister for disabled people, suggesting concern at Mr Bellisario’s plight. A citizen in a wheelchair should not have to take or to threaten legal action to get a response. May we have an urgent debate about the needs of people with disabilities when accessing public services, including transport, and the Government’s effectiveness in addressing those issues.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady and have seen that article in The Guardian. As she says, my hon. Friend the Minister for disabilities takes the issue seriously and is intervening. It is important that those in wheelchairs have access to public transport, and I will ask my hon. Friend to write to the hon. Lady.
May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) in pressing the Leader of the House on the appalling decision by the charity commissioners to revoke charitable status from the churches called Gospel halls of the Plymouth Brethren on the ground that they do not admit non-members to their holy communion, although they do admit non-members to all services, bible readings and all the rest? These people are a small and completely harmless Christian community. For almost 200 years we have proclaimed in this Chamber the right to religious freedom. This is a vital and important issue, and we should proclaim it.
Further to the original question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), I must say that it has been decided not to enter one of the Brethren halls on the register of charities because the legal basis for the registration of that organisation as a charity is not clear, and the question, as I said a moment ago, was whether the trust met the public benefit requirement, given the limited social engagement of the followers of the Brethren in the wider community. That decision has been challenged by way of an appeal to the first tier tribunal, and that is probably the right way to let it proceed.
Since the Rio+20 conference, the Environmental Audit Committee has been trying to get the Deputy Prime Minister to appear before it to report on the summit, at which he led the UK delegation. He has not yet found time to do so, but, given that his responsibilities for legislation might be a little lighter in the immediate future, will the Leader of the House ask the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that he appears before the Committee to report on the conference and on how the UK takes forward the issues raised at it?
As I have been reminded, the Deputy Prime Minister made a statement to the House and is regularly accountable to the House at the Dispatch Box. It has been a convention, among all Governments, that they decide which Minister to put before a particular Select Committee. There have always been attempts to get Treasury Ministers to appear before individual Committees, but Governments of all persuasions have resisted that and put up the appropriate Secretary of State.
As a Co-operative Member, it has come to my attention that funding for fan-owned rugby league clubs appears to be under threat. Will the Leader of the House please contact the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a view to releasing a statement after the recess in order to alleviate those concerns?
May I wish the Leader of the House a pleasant summer recess and ask that, when we return, we have a debate about privatisation? Recent events have convinced me that, sometimes, private concerns can do a more effective job than Government concerns, not least because more Conservative Back Benchers voted against the House of Lords Reform Bill’s Second Reading on Tuesday than voted in favour. May we have a debate about privatising the Government Whips Office—in the interests of public efficiency?
I think the Government Whips Office is already privatised: it is run by people who have a commitment to enterprise, individuality, private sector growth and the rest. Rather than looking just at Back Benchers, it would be fairer if the hon. Gentleman looked at the votes of the Conservative party as a whole, where he would see that a majority voted for the Bill’s Second Reading.
A caravan holiday park business, Tingdene, has continuously, deliberately and in a bullying fashion targeted Hazelgrove caravan owners association in my constituency, because the association has stood up for caravan owners’ consumer rights. May we therefore have a debate to discuss broadening the proposed new residential park home legislation to include holiday caravan parks?
I think I am right in saying that one of the successful bidders in the ballot for private Members’ Bills made park homes their chosen subject. I very much hope that that Bill makes progress, because we all have constituents who have difficulties with some owners of park home sites, and I very much hope also that if the Bill is not currently configured in a way that meets the needs of the hon. Gentleman, there will be a sensible discussion as it proceeds through the House, and that any necessary amendments might be made.
The Office of Rail Regulation’s proposal to introduce a specific tax on the movement of coal and iron ore was referred to by the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers). Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on the measure’s likely impact, if it goes ahead, on the UK economy and on UK energy prices?
I repeat what I said a few moments ago, and as a former Secretary of State for Transport I am very keen that, wherever possible, we move freight from road to rail. I would be very concerned if unnecessary barriers were put in the way of that transfer. I will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and ask that any letter she sends to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) be sent to the hon. Gentleman as well.