The business for next week will be:
Monday 8 September—Second Reading of the National Insurance Contributions Bill, followed by a general debate on food fraud. The subject for this debate was recommended by the Backbench Business Committee.
Tuesday 9 September—Motions relating to the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill, followed by a motion to approve the draft Legislative Reform (Clinical Commissioning Groups) Order. To follow that the Chairman Of Ways And Means has named opposed private business for consideration.
Wednesday 10 September—General debate on Ukraine, the middle east, north Africa and security, followed by a debate on a motion relating to a Select Committee on governance of the House. The subject for this debate was recommended by the Backbench Business Committee.
Thursday 11 September—Debate on a motion relating to carbon taxes and energy-intensive industries, followed by a general debate on Gurkha pensions and terms of employment. The subjects for both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 12 September—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 13 October will include:
Monday 13 October—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 11 September will be:
Thursday 11 September—General debate on the political and humanitarian situation in Kashmir.
May I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business?
The barbaric and disgusting murder of a second US hostage in Syria this week has appalled the world, and reinforced the fact that the threat of ISIL must be dealt with. The Prime Minister is right to say that we should work internationally to build alliances, and also that we need to take strong action against terrorism at home. We will support him in that aim. I welcome the foreign affairs debate announced by the Leader of the House for next Wednesday. Given this fast-moving and dangerous situation, will he assure the House that he will make provision for future foreign policy debates in Government time over the coming period? Does he agree with me that although statements are very welcome, they are no substitute for a debate where all Members can get to the heart of the complexities of these issues?
The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that he wanted to go ahead with reintroducing relocation powers, despite the Deputy Prime Minister suggesting differently. Will the Leader of the House take this opportunity to clear up the confusion about Government policy by outlining when we can expect strengthened TPIMs—terrorism prevention and investigation measures—to be in place and what legislation he expects will be needed?
NATO meets today in Wales at a time of increasing turmoil in many parts of the world. In these volatile times, the summit must address the urgent security concerns that have emerged in eastern Ukraine and agree an appropriate response in the face of the increasingly belligerent Russian leadership. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Prime Minister will provide a statement to the House on Monday? Given the rapidly changing context in which NATO is now operating, will the Leader of the House assure us that the Government will make time available for the House to discuss these important matters?
Today, the Government have finally decided to publish the Elliott report following the horsemeat scandal last year. The report was due in spring, and we are now in September. The food industry is the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK, so it is crucial that the Government show urgent leadership and get the response to this right. Does the Leader of the House agree with the report that the Government’s misguided decision to carve up the Food Standards Agency, splitting the responsibility for food safety and authenticity, created confusion, which was clearly highlighted in the horsemeat scandal? Will he also arrange for a statement from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs so that she can set out the Government’s response to this report?
I see that the Chief Whip is not in his place—yet again. Before the summer recess he lost his first vote, only three days into his new job. Yesterday, only three days into the new Session, he has already had to retreat before he lost another one. He was stuck in the toilet last time—I am not sure that I really want to know what his excuse is this time! Yesterday’s European Committee objected to the Government’s inadequate plans for protecting British ports, despite three panic-stricken last-minute Government amendments. The sector, which employs more than 100,000 people across the country, including many in my constituency, is under real pressure, but the Transport Secretary’s response has been muddled and weak. I understand that a European Commission document relating to the ports strategy has to be considered in this House by early October. Given that that means next week or not at all, will the Leader of the House explain why this has not been tabled for consideration in next week’s business—or will he just admit that the Government are all at sea?
May I take this opportunity to welcome hon. Members back to the House after the summer recess? The Prime Minister seems to have enjoyed his holidays—we have all seen a few too many photos of him in Cornwall pretending to be in “Baywatch”. The problem with him is that he is less the Hoff and more the Toff.
I have been researching British seaside destinations and I have a suggestion for the Prime Minister’s next break: the blue flag, popular, family resort of Clacton-on-Sea. The writ will soon be moved and the by-election will reportedly take place in Essex on 9 October, the Prime Minister’s birthday. We can just imagine the birthday party at Conservative central office: half the invite list will be at Nigel’s party down the road.
Is it not the case that the Conservative party is becoming ungovernable? It has no strategy on Europe. The Prime Minister has lost an MP to UKIP. A Minister has resigned and nine of the MPs from the 2010 intake are just giving up. The MPs he has left are dialling B for Boris. What the Conservative party does not understand is that its chances of winning the next election are sinking faster than Boris island.
The hon. Lady was right to start her questions by referring to some of the horrific events of recent days and the crimes against humanity that are being committed in Iraq and in Syria. The House’s united voice on the matter is very important, as was discussed at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. She has welcomed the holding of a broad foreign policy debate next week. That is an important response to the demand for such a debate. It is important, too, that regular statements are made. There is a need for both those things when there are so many crises in the world. I made perhaps more statements than any Foreign Secretary in history when I was Foreign Secretary. I know that my successor will also want to make regular statements on these huge issues. Whenever it is possible to have a debate as well, so that Members can discuss them in more detail, we will have one, including next week.
On tackling extremism and bringing forward legislation, again the Prime Minister made the position clear at Prime Minister’s questions. We will introduce specific and targeted legislation to provide the police with a temporary power to seize a passport at the border. We are clear in principle that we need a targeted and discretionary power to allow us to exclude British nationals from the UK. We will work up proposals on that and discuss them on a cross-party basis. It is important to have as much cross-party unity on this as we possibly can.
It is important to get that legislation right. Over centuries there has been a legitimate debate in this country on where the balance is to be struck between liberty and security. That arises every time there is a threat to our national security. The House of Commons has always had a variety of views on these matters, so we must make every effort to proceed on a cross-party basis. Consistent with acting with sufficient speed, we will try to get the legislation right. That means that it will not be introduced next week; we will be ready to do that at some stage after the conference recess.
The hon. Lady asked whether there would be a statement by the Prime Minister on Monday following the NATO summit. There will be. The Prime Minister is very keen to do that and to inform the House after that summit. There will be time in Wednesday’s debate to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
On the Elliott review, a written ministerial statement has been published today by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. There will be a debate on food fraud on Monday on the Floor of the House. The Secretary of State has accepted all the recommendations giving top priority to the needs of consumers, improving laboratory testing capacity and capability, introducing new unannounced audit checks by the food industry and many other measures. They are set out in the written ministerial statement.
The hon. Lady took the Chief Whip to task again, although I was a bit disappointed that it was the same joke about his being in the toilet as seven weeks ago. Recycling has its limits and we would like slightly more up-to-date—[Interruption.] I am all in favour of recycling jokes, but I expect more from the hon. Lady. I am sure that she will be able to deliver that next week.
I cannot go into the Prime Minister’s plans for his birthday, but certainly I and many of my hon. Friends will be visiting Clacton in the coming weeks. Our former hon. Friend Douglas Carswell explained in May that the Conservative party’s policy on Europe was 100% right. He may be the only person in British history to leave a political party because he was 100% in agreement with it. That is particularly striking as there are many people who sit in this House in their political parties perfectly happily who certainly do not agree 100% with their party’s policies; that is true in every party. This is no doubt something he will want to explain to the voters of Clacton, and it will be very interesting to see how he tries to do so.
The shadow Leader of the House accused the Government, or the Conservative party, of having no strategy on Europe. That is a bit rich from a member of a party that was against a referendum before the European constitution came up, then in favour of one and announced one, then against one when it came to actually holding the referendum, then against one on the Lisbon treaty, then against our referendum Act of 2011, but now has accepted it into law, then toyed with the idea of being in favour of a referendum, and has now come out against it. There is absolutely no way we will take any lectures from the Opposition on strategy on Europe.
I conclude by saying that after a summer recess in which we have seen strong figures on GDP growth in this country, our world economic ranking for competitiveness now go up four places from where it was left by the last Government on grounds of controlling the fiscal deficit, an excellent reduction in unemployment and a growth in employment figures, a major increase in car registration, and consumer confidence at its highest for a long time, it is rather revealing that there are no requests from those on the Opposition Benches to discuss the economy and the long-term economic plan of the Government.
The House will welcome what my right hon. Friend has just said: that there will be a statement from the Prime Minister on Monday on the NATO summit. Will he confirm that on Wednesday the general debate will run until 7 o’clock? After 7 o’clock, when we move on to the Backbench Business Committee debate, will there be a time limit or it will be open-ended?
Yes, certainly the debate on foreign affairs and security will be able to run until 7 o’clock. That is a full day’s debate, and there are many, many issues that hon. and right hon. Members will wish to address, so it will last until 7 pm, provided that that time is taken up. I therefore envisage that the debate requested by the Backbench Business Committee on the governance of the House will take place after that, and between now and then we will bring forward a business of the House motion to facilitate that, and to establish an appropriate time limit on that debate.
The Leader of the House is right in saying we have lots of statements in the House, and they are very useful. I am very pleased we are going to have a debate on international affairs this coming week, but there is one thing missing. There was a harrowing report to the House on child abuse in one town. We all know that that abuse covered the country, and that there is a much deeper and more worrying problem than any of us thought existed. May we have an early debate so we can look at this in its entirety and reach out to those children who have been abused, raped and put into prostitution and have had no recourse to justice?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue, and hon. Members across the House are extremely conscious of the importance of this. He will recall that the Home Secretary made a statement this week, and, of course, Ministers envisage that there will be a great deal of further discussion in this House about these matters. The Home Secretary has explained that she intends shortly to be able to appoint the chair of the overarching inquiry and then set out the terms of reference. I know she will want to keep the House updated on that. While it is clear that, given the range of matters the House needs to debate next week, I cannot offer a further debate next week on these matters, I have no doubt that over the coming months there will need to be many opportunities to discuss what has happened in Rotherham and may well be happening elsewhere. The Government, like all political parties and Members, are determined that all possible lessons will be learned.
I was concerned that my right hon. Friend did not reply to the shadow Leader of the House on the question of the ports services regulation. The reason I raise this is that there is a grave issue of European scrutiny at stake here. The position is that the ports services regulation is opposed by the trade unions as well as by all 47 port authorities. The matter was referred to the Floor of the House by my European Scrutiny Committee, but the Government declined that request and referred it to a European Standing Committee, which imploded yesterday because documents were not made available to the Committee, and the Chairman rightly adjourned the Committee as a result. That was extremely unusual—indeed, it was almost unprecedented. There are grave scrutiny concerns involved in all this. The real question, when it comes down to it, is this: we have called again today for a debate on the Floor of the House, but the Leader of the House’s statement has made it clear that the Government have not made such a debate available. Furthermore, because of the timetabling, the real question is going to be about 8 October. Finally, I would simply say: may we have a debate on the Floor of the House on this matter? How can this regulation be stopped? That is the crucial question.
That is undoubtedly true, and my hon. Friend always closes with a conclusion that is forceful and that we can always see coming. He raises an important issue, and I know that the debate in Committee was adjourned because a point of order was raised over whether the appropriate documents had been provided to its members. The report of the European Scrutiny Committee will be taken seriously by Ministers. My hon. Friend has pointed out that an important policy issue is involved, and I will ensure that my ministerial colleagues have their attention fully drawn to the point that he has raised.
Will the Leader of the House find time to debate the support that central Government provide to local government? This would enable us to discuss the problem that some of the areas of greatest need, such as Knowsley, are having the most money cut while some of the areas that have the least need, such as West Oxfordshire, are having lesser amounts cut or even, in some cases, having their grants increased. That simply is not fair. We have just been hearing about Rotherham, and it is about time the Government recognised that adult and children’s services will be cut as a result of the reductions in expenditure that local government is having to find.
Local government across the country has had to become considerably more efficient in recent years, and local authorities have varied in their effectiveness and ability to bring that about. The right hon. Gentleman will know that there will be questions to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on Monday, which will provide an opportunity to raise these matters on the Floor of the House next week.
The Leader of the House might be aware of a point of order that I raised yesterday. Will he make a statement to update the House on whether anything has happened regarding the letter sent to No. 10—or is it, like a cantankerous maiden aunt, floating around No. 10 with no one actually wanting to go anywhere near it?
Things do not float around in No. 10; I am pleased to say that that is not the way No. 10 operates. The Prime Minister has received a letter this week from you, Mr Speaker—I am sure you will not mind my saying this—in which you asked for the appointment of Carol Mills to be delayed further until a clear way forward on the issue has been agreed. That is the current status of the letter, rather than any floating.
In exactly two weeks’ time, we will be voting in the Scottish independence referendum. Next week is the last opportunity that the House has to meet before this momentous and historic occasion, yet there is not one iota of referendum-related business in the agenda for next week. Does this House no longer care about the referendum, or has it looked at the opinion polls and the momentum that is gathering and decided that it just wants to give up?
The hon. Gentleman must know that Members across the House care passionately about this matter, but this is a decision being made by the people of Scotland. The debate is taking place in Scotland, among the people of Scotland and in the Scottish media. The Prime Minister pointed out yesterday how much the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland want Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. That is something about which nearly all of us in this House, with the exception of the nationalist parties, are clear. But if we were to debate these matters next week in the House of Commons, the hon. Gentleman would no doubt ask why we are debating them when the referendum campaign is taking place in Scotland. I appreciate that he needs to ask a question, but it was not a very logical one.
I welcome the arrangements that the Leader of the House has announced to ensure that we have a foreign affairs debate, and that we also have a necessary debate after 7pm on what has been described as the way forward in the governance of the House. Can he say at this stage that the Government are not opposed to what the Backbench motion seeks to do?
I will seek to speak in the debate and make my position clear, but let me stress that this is a matter for the House. Indeed, you, Mr Speaker, have emphasised the importance of consent and general agreement in the House, so this is very much a matter for the House of Commons. It is important to facilitate such a debate. The Backbench Business Committee particularly asked for additional time, so that this matter could be debated without reducing the time available to discuss all the other matters that hon. Members are seeking to raise. We have gone to some lengths to provide that additional time, and that is the right role for me to play at the moment.
In the light of the well-informed debate on Monday on mitochondrial DNA, and the agreement between Front Benchers and a number of leading speakers on both sides of the House, when will the Government bring forward the necessary regulatory changes to enable the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to supervise work in this field?
That was an important and well-attended debate. I know that many people across the country paid great attention to it and that there was much anticipation of it around the country. The Department of Health will have listened carefully to what was said. I cannot make any announcement at the moment about any proposals, but I will ensure that when they are ready, the hon. Gentleman will be well informed.
May we have a debate on university technical colleges so that we can see how Government policy is transforming skills and vocations right across the country? Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Sir Charles Kao UTC in Harlow, which the Prime Minister visited when it was being built? It has just opened this month and will transform opportunities for young people in my constituency.
I am pleased to offer my congratulations to everyone involved in the establishment of the Sir Charles Kao UTC in Harlow. We have now established 17 university technical colleges. I am sure that Harlow will enjoy the same benefits that are already being seen in other towns and cities. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for backing the UTC, and we look forward to the future successes of the students in Harlow, which will be partly due to his efforts.
This morning, the Community Security Trust has published its report showing record levels of anti-Semitic hate incidents. The British Jewish community feels under threat as anti-Zionism merges into anti-Semitism following disproportionate criticism of Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza. May we have a debate in Government time to discuss this very distressing and disturbing growing phenomenon?
This is also a very important issue and the hon. Lady is quite right to draw attention to it. I cannot offer an additional debate in Government time at the moment, but of course these issues are related to some of the matters that we will discuss in Wednesday’s foreign policy debate. We should all be clear that whatever our views about the rights and wrongs of conflicts in the middle east, Israeli action in Gaza, attacks on Israel by Hamas from Gaza or the two-state solution that is necessary in the middle east conflict, it is utterly unacceptable to try to translate that into anti-Semitism in any form. In the United Kingdom, we should stand strongly against that and that is why, whatever our disagreements from time to time with the Government of Israel, we stand by the legitimacy of Israel and stand strongly against anti-Semitism in any form.
I welcome my right hon. Friend and constituency neighbour to his new position. The publication of the Elliott review today is very welcome, and it makes some specific proposals. The general debate on Monday will discuss food fraud in broad terms, and we obviously want to congratulate the Government on accepting all the Elliott proposals, but we need to know the time scale and the specific proposals for when the food crime unit and national lab service will come into effect.
I welcome my hon. Friend’s welcome for what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has set out in accepting the recommendations of the Elliott report. As I said, that has been set out in a written ministerial statement but I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will wish to expand on the detail of the implementation in due course. This is the Government’s initial and very clear reaction, but of course the Ministers concerned will have to return to the issue and keep the House up to date on that.
May we have an urgent debate on the universal Jobmatch website? My constituent, Wendy Perrins, was made redundant in June. She has applied for 29 jobs, some of which are duplicates and some of which have been posted before. Why should our constituents be sanctioned when the website is not fit for purpose and when people are desperately seeking jobs?
I will draw that point to the attention of my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions. We had questions to that Department on Monday, of course, so there were opportunities to ask about these things then. However, there will be further opportunities and I will draw the hon. Lady’s point to the attention of my colleagues.
At the last business questions, the Leader of the House said that a business of the House committee could not be introduced because there was not consensus. I went back and checked on that. All three main political parties committed to it in their manifestos and it is in that hallowed document, the coalition agreement. The Prime Minister made a speech saying that he wanted to have a business of the House committee. On Tuesday, this House gave leave for a Bill to be brought in to establish a business of the House committee, supported by senior parliamentarians on both sides of the House. Will the Leader of the House introduce such a Bill and, if not, will he explain where the consensus is not?
It is wonderful to hear my hon. Friend cite the coalition agreement as a key document and I look forward to his doing so on many other occasions. He is a strong and consistent advocate in this regard, which I respect very much, including in the ten-minute rule Bill motion to which he spoke. He won leave to introduce his Bill earlier this week, but this is a matter on which a great deal of detail would need to be sorted out and that is where there is a lack of consensus. There would have to be wide agreement across the House including with the Government on the detail of how that would operate and I do not think that consensus exists at the moment.
Sadly, this week ESCO in my constituency announced the closure of its foundry in Guisborough, with the loss of 65 employees. It is due to close in November and ESCO cited the current economic climate as the primary reason, and it has been operating at less than half capacity for a number of years. One statistic that is quite worrying is the fact that imported non-EU reinforced steel has risen from 4% in 2010 to 44% this year. That is a profound problem for the UK steel industry. Will the Leader of the House use his good offices to help me assist those 65 employees in finding new jobs in the future?
The hon. Gentleman draws attention to an important issue in his constituency. He will have a further opportunity to put his questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills next Thursday in the House, so there are opportunities to raise these matters then. I am sure Ministers will be happy to discuss the issue with him. In general, we are witnessing a strong rise in employment across the economy as a whole; that is not to say that there is growth in every business and every sector at the same time. If the Opposition would only stir themselves to call for a wide debate on the economy in one of their Opposition day debates—if they would summon up the courage to do so—it would be possible for Members like him to raise these points in the course of that debate.
Will the Leader of the House make time for an urgent debate and review of illegal tree-felling? A forest of some 500 trees was destroyed over the summer in Basingstoke, leaving my constituents shocked and fearful of illegal residential development on that site. Fines and criminal sanctions must be sufficient to deter such acts of pure environmental vandalism.
I can very much understand my right hon. Friend raising that issue; it must be of enormous concern to people living in that area. She will gather from the business that I have announced that I cannot offer her a debate on that in the immediate future. However, the Backbench Business Committee has been allocated quite a lot of time, not only next week but in the weeks after the conference recess, and she may like to pursue the matter that way. It is certainly an important issue, which the Government will take a close interest in.
Further to my point of order on Monday, when will the Government be making a statement about the Oakley report into jobseeker’s allowance sanctions? Following the death of David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier who died after he was sanctioned and his JSA was stopped, will the Government finally commit to holding a comprehensive independent inquiry into all social security sanctions, as requested by his sister, Gill Thompson, and nearly 200,000 people?
I am sure the hon. Lady knows that the Government did make a written statement on the Oakley review. That was made on the day that both the review and the Government response were published—22 July. I know that was the last day before the House rose, but if it had been published during the summer recess or delayed until September, I think hon. Members would have been unhappy about that. As I pointed out, on Monday Members were able to ask questions of the Department for Work and Pensions. I do not think any Member raised that issue with the Secretary of State then, but clearly there will be further parliamentary opportunities to do so.
May we have a debate on process? As the United Kingdom rightly edges towards targeted air strikes in Iraq, and possibly Syria, would it not make sense to have a debate and a vote before the House rises, rather than possibly having to recall Parliament or keep the long-suffering people of Iraq and Syria suffering until 13 October?
Next week there will be many opportunities for the House to discuss those matters. As I said, the Prime Minister will make a statement on Monday, following the NATO summit in Wales. In addition, there will be the wide-ranging debate on foreign affairs and security on Wednesday—a full day’s debate—so it will be possible to air those issues then.
I think our conventions on the process of these matters are pretty well established and understood in the House. Indeed, where there is time to do so we have come to the House for permission—for support—for any plan to take military action, and my hon. Friend knows that no decision has been made about that, so the Government are not proposing to do that at the moment. But it is also clear that in an emergency, or to meet a treaty obligation, or to save life in a dramatic situation such as arose in Libya in 2011, it is possible for the Government to take action and then come to Parliament as soon as possible after that.
The debate next Wednesday on international security should indeed be wide ranging, covering the middle east, Ukraine and north Africa, because of the NATO summit this weekend, but will the Leader of the House give an assurance that, as time goes on, each one of those troubled regions will get dedicated time for debate, whenever events dictate that that should be the case?
There are only so many parliamentary days between now and Dissolution next year, as the hon. Lady very well understands, but the Government will make every effort to ensure that foreign affairs, at a time of such turbulence and crisis, can be fully debated and that the Government make regular statements. It is also open to the Backbench Business Committee to bring forward, as it sometimes does, foreign policy issues for debate. It is important to use that channel as well, because there will not be enough Government days on the Floor of the House to debate every foreign policy issue on a very regular basis—but we will do our best.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made on the role of the head-hunters in the appointment of Carol Mills? There is great concern across the House that either the head-hunters failed to carry out due diligence and report to the panel, or the information reported was ignored by the panel. I think the House is owed a full explanation of what went on and what went wrong.
As I have announced, there will be a debate, requested by the Backbench Business Committee, on governance of the House next Wednesday. In addition, questions can be put to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso), who answers for the House of Commons Commission. The Commission will meet next Monday; I will attend that meeting—the first such meeting that I will have attended as Leader of the House—and of course I will draw the Commission’s attention to points raised on the Floor of the House.
May we debate the Welsh language? The Leader of the House will have seen the American ambassador’s effort to speak Welsh on YouTube ahead of the NATO summit in Wales, and President Obama spoke Welsh this morning when he spoke to schoolchildren in Wales—I may say his effort was better than that of the right hon. Gentleman’s predecessor as Secretary of State for Wales. Given the right hon. Gentleman’s close connections to Wales, would he care to welcome the summit to Wales in the language of heaven?
I strongly welcome the summit to Wales. Before I stepped down as Foreign Secretary, I regularly explained to NATO Foreign Ministers the wonders and attractions of Wales, including a fair bit about the language. I shall be going there myself in a couple of hours, to host the meeting on preventing sexual violence in conflict—a side meeting during the NATO summit—so I will add to that warm welcome. I do not think we need to debate the Welsh language next week. Indeed, in my household, debating the Welsh language is not a very good idea; adopting the Welsh language is a good idea, and I strongly welcome the efforts of President Obama and many others to do so.
May we have a statement on progress made on the introduction of the new eligibility rules for community amateur sports clubs? The Government’s intention to simplify the procedure is welcome; the problem is that the process has taken so long that clubs such as Lowes Park golf club in my constituency are suffering, because new applications are being held up, pending the finalisation of the new rules.
It may help my hon. Friend if I explain that if a club whose application is currently on hold because it does not meet the current eligibility conditions to be a community amateur sports club is found to meet the new requirements for registration, or has to make only minor changes, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will be able to backdate registration from the beginning of the accounting period in which the club made its application. I hope that is clear. For registration to be backdated, the club will need to meet all the other conditions of the scheme from the date of its application.
Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister about the worrying rise in child malnutrition and the links to food poverty, which have been identified by a number of reports. He avoided answering the question, as I think he has whenever I have asked him about food poverty and food banks. May we have an urgent debate on the public health consequences of people not being able to afford to feed their family and what the public health response should be?
Again, I cannot offer an additional debate next week. The Opposition regularly have time available to them to bring forward these issues. The hon. Lady says that the Prime Minister did not answer the question, but he did point out that far fewer people are in relative poverty now than there were at the time of the last general election, including 300,000 fewer children in relative poverty than in 2010. Also, very importantly, there are now 50,000 fewer households stuck in the trap of never having worked. This is how we are addressing poverty, and we are doing so a lot more successfully than the previous Labour Government.
Snibston discovery park and museum in my constituency is currently under threat of closure by Leicestershire county council, despite being a popular local attraction that receives five-star reviews from people who have recently visited it. A number of the friends and supporters of Snibston wish to take over the running of this attraction as an independent trust. May we have a debate on what help and support the Government can give to community, voluntary and independent groups seeking to take over the running of council-held assets?
Although I cannot offer an additional debate at the moment, the Government strongly support this. As my hon. Friend knows, we have introduced a community right to bid to give communities a better chance to buy local assets that they cherish. He will like to know that so far 1,500 assets around the country have been listed as assets of community value. We are providing £19 million-worth of support for communities to help them to utilise this right to bid. While not knowing the local issues regarding this very important facility, I strongly encourage all those involved to look at how the Government’s approach can benefit it.
As the Leader of the House is patron of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Yorkshire and Humber Muscle Group and has met members of that group, I am sure he will take an interest in the gaps in neuro-muscular services across the whole of England and the urgent need to improve them. Will he therefore set aside time for a debate on the important issue of delivering the necessary standard of neuro-muscular services across the whole country?
I am a strong supporter of the muscular dystrophy group in Yorkshire, and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for mentioning it. Clearly, she is a very strong campaigner on these important issues as well. I cannot announce any debate additional to those I have already announced for next week, but I will draw the attention of my colleagues in the Department of Health to what she has said and ensure that they write to her about it.
We are now nearing the end of the tourism season. As the Leader of the House is aware, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset had a very difficult start to the tourism year. One of the things that went badly wrong was that we were not able to get the message out that very little of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset was underwater and the majority was fine, so the tourists did not come because they felt under threat. We must have a better mechanism, and may we have time to discuss it?
Tourism is a very important part of the economy in Devon and Cornwall. In recent weeks there have been some very good advertisements for it, including the Prime Minister himself being in Cornwall—as well as many other Members of the House, I am sure. My hon. Friend makes this important point very clearly and eloquently. I think it has been a good year for tourism in general so far across the UK, and it is important that all parts of the UK are able to share in that. Again, while I cannot offer a debate in Government time at the moment, there will be other ways, including Adjournment debates and questions, in which he can continue to pursue this, and our colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will listen carefully to what he says.
The Leader of the House is aware of the close links that exist between Wales and the Kingdom of Lesotho. Last week, there was an attempted military coup in Lesotho leading to its Prime Minister fleeing the country. Will the Leader of the House have a word with the Foreign Office, because there is a lot of concern in Wales about what is happening in Lesotho, where information is very difficult to secure? May we have a written ministerial statement from the Foreign Office about the latest position?
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there are important and long-standing links between Wales and Lesotho. I was very concerned, as other members of the Government and Members of the House will have been, about last week’s events. We are strong supporters of constitutional democracy and good governance around Africa, and for a long time Lesotho has been able to claim to be part of that. It is very important that that is upheld and all of us who are friends of that country will want to see that happen. I will certainly pass on to my colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the hon. Gentleman’s request for a written statement on these matters.
I congratulate the Leader of the House on his work on preventing sexual violence in conflict. NATO leaders are meeting this week, so will my right hon. Friend, as the Prime Minister’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, assure me that the terrible crime of rape being committed by ISIL will be raised at the NATO conference and that this House can have a debate on the issue?
My hon. Friend raises an immensely important issue, which is a part of the conflict in Iraq and Syria that has not received enough attention so far. Among the crimes against humanity being committed by terrorists associated with ISIL is the enslavement and abuse of women and girls, including murder. I will certainly discuss the issue. I mentioned earlier that this afternoon I will host a side meeting at the NATO summit with the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Jordan and Croatia and the new European Union High Representative on the specific issue of preventing sexual violence in conflict. I know that my colleagues will also want to address it in future debates and statements.
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow a debate in Government time on policing during election and referendum campaigning and voting? The intimidation by the yes campaign north of the border is unlike anything I have ever seen in my time in politics. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy) was attacked not only when he was speaking, but when he was protecting an elderly lady. Freedom of speech is being attacked. Given next year’s general election and a possible referendum, when the stakes will be high, we need to look at the issue again and make sure that intimidation—[Interruption.] I can hear some coming from beside me now. It happens all the time where I come from and we need to make sure that it does not happen.
The hon. Gentleman raises a disturbing and important point. He is right to point out the importance of free speech, something that all of us in all parties have always been very proud of in the United Kingdom: in an election or referendum campaign, whatever our disagreements, we listen to each other. That is one of the great qualities of the UK compared with many other countries in the world. It is something we should always be proud to uphold. It is disgraceful to see Members of this House—and, indeed, anyone else— heckled and attempts made to drive them out of giving their views on the referendum, so the hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the need to uphold free speech.
May we have a debate on the scourge of unsolicited automated nuisance phone calls, which have been plaguing my constituents throughout the summer? At best, they are an annoyance; at worst, they are extremely distressing for the elderly, the vulnerable and the isolated. I know that the Government have been taking action on this, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is now time for an outright ban on these automated nuisance phone calls?
My hon. Friend speaks for many people, including hon. Members, on this issue. The Government are taking measures to address the problem. The “Nuisance Calls Action Plan” was published on 30 March. Over the past two years, regulators have issued penalties totalling nearly £2 million to companies for breaching their rules, and further work is under way to see what more can be done to tackle the issue, as set out in the action plan, so I encourage my hon. Friend to make further representations to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Over the summer, council officers in my constituency have routinely been touting libraries and other public buildings for sale to private organisations, even before the local authority has made decisions over their future. Our libraries in Harrow are certainly community hubs and essential for students to do research, for children to do their homework and for the elderly to use as a normal resource. May we have a debate in Government time on the future of Britain’s libraries as community hubs for the benefit of the whole community rather than the favoured few?
Libraries are indeed very important community hubs. There is no time for a debate next week, but my hon. Friend will have a further opportunity to raise the matter on the Floor of the House during Department for Communities and Local Government questions on Monday.
Following the horrors contained in the Jay report, many people across Yorkshire just cannot believe that Rotherham council has today retained control of children’s services. May we have an urgent debate on how quickly the Government can move in and have the Department for Education install an independent trust to look after children in Rotherham?
My hon. Friend is right that there is huge concern across the whole of Yorkshire; I can confirm that as a Yorkshire Member of Parliament and, indeed, as someone who was born in Rotherham. As I indicated earlier, the House will need to return to the matter on many occasions. It is because of such cases that the Home Secretary is establishing an independent panel inquiry. There is the work of the Home Office-led national group to tackle sexual violence against children and vulnerable people. There have also been other announcements concerning Rotherham, for example on urgent Ofsted inspections, so all the Ministers concerned will give urgent and continuing attention to the issue and the House will be able to return to it in due course.
Last week I had the honour of visiting the home of my constituents Mr and Mrs Thomas to hear from them about their daughter Laura, a wonderful girl who was tragically killed by a truck whose driver was using a mobile phone at the time. May we have a debate not only on the sentences available for such crimes, which seem far too short, but on how we can join Mrs Thomas, her husband and others who want to talk in schools and elsewhere about the dangers of using mobile devices while driving?
That is a heartbreaking case, and of course it happens all too often in other parts of the country as well. It is important that people understand the great dangers of using mobile phones while driving, and the kind of publicity that my hon. Friend is creating helps raise awareness. On the question of penalties, I will draw what he has said to the attention of hon. Friends in the Ministry of Justice.
Earlier this year, as my right hon. Friend knows, the railway line at Dawlish was swept away, completely cutting off Plymouth, west Devon and Cornwall from the rest of the country’s rail network. Earlier this summer, Network Rail published a report suggesting five alternative routes. Will my right hon. Friend find time either for the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement, or for us to have a proper debate on the matter, because it is incredibly important to the south-west and to my constituents?
That issue is of massive importance to my hon. Friend’s constituents. As he has said, Network Rail’s study considers alternative options for providing a long-term, resilient route west of Exeter, including re-opening alignments, making the existing route more resilient and maintaining rail connectivity to coastal communities. The Secretary of State will announce his findings on the study shortly, so I ask my hon. Friend to await that announcement.
As a proud Yorkshireman, my right hon. Friend will no doubt have used Leeds Bradford airport on many occasions and noticed how poorly served it is with surface access, compared with other UK international airports. Given that a connectivity study is currently under way, may we have a debate so that we can argue that a new rail link would offer the best solution not only for my constituents, but for passengers using the airport?
As a proud Yorkshireman, I do indeed use Leeds Bradford airport. However, it has not taken me to identify the problem. As my hon. Friend well knows, the area was identified last year as one of the six long-standing road congestion hot spots. The Department for Transport was asked to take forward a study into connectivity to Leeds Bradford international airport. It awarded a contract to a consortium to examine the issue in March this year. The consortium will consider connectivity for public and private transport to see what issues need to be addressed now and in the future. The Government will have to look at the conclusions of that report and announce a way forward. This is an issue that cannot be ignored in the Leeds-Bradford area.
Residents in the Kettering constituency have been horrified to see the latest scenes of serious disorder in Calais, during which 250 migrants tried to storm a number of ferries to make their way illegally to this country. That comes in the same week in which the Home Office has admitted that it has lost the contact details of 175,000 illegal immigrants who are already here. Under the Dublin convention, we have the ability to send asylum seekers back to the first country through which they entered the European Union. That was confirmed to me by the Home Secretary on the Floor of the House on 28 April. I then tabled a parliamentary question, which showed that last year we sent back only 757 such migrants. May we have an urgent statement from the Home Office and a debate on the Floor of the House about how we can get back control of our borders?
My hon. Friend knows the importance that the Home Secretary attaches to the thorough policing of our borders and the additional efforts that the Government have made. He can be absolutely sure that we will continue to take every possible action. Increasing action has been taken over the past few years to tighten up on these matters. We are concerned about the issues that have been raised in Calais. The Government are in close touch with the French Government about those matters. We will continue to protect our borders, reduce immigration and, in particular, tackle illegal immigration. I will certainly draw the attention of my Home Office colleagues to what he has said today.