Before I do, it may be appropriate—I hope this view is shared by Members in all parts of the House—for us to express our solidarity with and good will towards the Parliament in Kabul, after the dreadful terrorist attack there this week. We express all our sympathies for those affected. It is a matter of great dismay to me when a democratically elected Parliament is a target in this way.
The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 29 June—Consideration in Committee of the Scotland Bill (day 2).
Tuesday 30 June—Consideration in Committee of the Scotland Bill (day 3).
Wednesday 1 July—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 2 July—General debate on Britain and international security.
Friday 3 July—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 6 July will include:
Monday 6 July—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Scotland Bill.
Tuesday 7 July—Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Wednesday 8 July—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement.
Thursday 9 July—Continuation of the Budget debate.
Friday 10 July—The House will not be sitting.
May I associate myself with the Leader of the House’s commiserations and good thoughts for those caught up in the awful events in the Parliament in Kabul?
There is just over a year and a half until the BBC’s charter runs out, but the Government still have not set out a timetable or plan for its renewal. After the Prime Minister’s election threat to close down the BBC, and given that the last charter renewal process began three years before the charter expired, could the Leader of the House say when and how the House will be kept informed of progress on this important issue?
On Tuesday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that a staggering 88% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people had experienced some form of hate crime, and 35,000 such cases go unreported every year. As I dust off my pink Stetson, ready to join the LGBT community at Pride, does the Leader of the House agree that we need to redouble our efforts to root out prejudice and discrimination at home and abroad? Does he agree that the Foreign Secretary’s decision to ban the Pride flag from being flown at UK embassies around the world sends exactly the wrong signal?
Later today, EU leaders will meet in Brussels. The Prime Minister has briefed that the meeting is all about his renegotiation, but I read this morning that one senior EU diplomat has said that discussion on the subject would be “cursory”, so I thought I would take a look at the agenda. I can see items on migration, terrorism, jobs, growth and competitiveness. Squeezed in just before the end, above the adoption of the minutes of the last meeting, is our Prime Minister. His Back Benchers have got him on the run, and his tour of European capitals has been an object lesson in how to lose friends and alienate people. One Slovak official said:
“He is not the brightest spark in terms of getting what he wants…His approach is making him irrelevant”.
But not to worry: the Prime Minister has come up with a cunning plan. Instead of successful renegotiation, he has apparently decided to rebrand our membership of the EU by calling us associate members. Given that the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) has indicated that Eurosceptics, such as the Leader of the House, will resign before the referendum, perhaps the Prime Minister should consider offering his Cabinet associate membership to hold his Government together.
This Government really do say one thing and do another. Just last year, they promised more disabled people would be in work. Now we know that fewer than one in 10 disabled people on the Work programme have actually found a job. Before the election, the Government claimed they had exceeded their target for selling off Government land for house building, but now we know that they were counting land sold off from 1997. On Monday, the Prime Minister claimed he had saved £1.2 billion through the troubled families programme, but within minutes the National Institute of Economic and Social Research had dismissed his comments as “pure, unadulterated fiction”, so may we have a debate in Government time on the Tory parallel universe where a person can say something and do the complete opposite, and hope nobody will notice?
It is three months since the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) ceased being Chief Whip. I would be missing him, if he had ever bothered turning up, so I thought I would take a look at what he has been up to in the Ministry of Justice. After a period of uncharacteristic silence, he has suddenly sprung to life and issued a detailed guide on grammar for his civil servants. His rules include never using the word “impact” and avoiding “anything too pompous”. I wonder who on earth he has in mind, Mr Speaker. Over at his old Department, I notice that the Secretary of State for Education has also been tackling the big issues. She has appointed a new low level bad behaviour tsar, presumably to help deal with Tory Eurosceptics.
Finally, I feel compelled to mention the developing drama in the Liberal Democrat leadership race. Only the Liberal Democrats could manage to have a split when they have eight MPs. This week the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) had to apologise after his activists were caught discrediting his rival by calling round the party’s entire membership, which cannot have taken very long, although he earned the endorsement of boxer Frank Bruno, which means that at least he has one big hitter.
The hon. Lady began with a question about the BBC. The next 18 months will be an important period in deciding how the future of the BBC will be shaped. We have a new Secretary of State—a very welcome appointment—who has been in post only a few weeks. He has already started work on this important issue and the House will be updated in due course about progress on that front.
On hate crime, I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. It is not simply a matter of those in the LGBT community; in other parts of society hate crime is wholly unacceptable in whatever form—in relation to sex, colour, creed or whatever. All of us in the House should deprecate it and we should always seek to ensure that our authorities deal with it in the appropriate way. I hear the hon. Lady’s comments about flags. She will no doubt raise that question also with the Foreign Secretary. There are many countries around the world which need to change their approach to gay rights and I very much hope they will do so.
On Europe, let us be clear. What I hope and believe will come out of the European summit is a historic agreement with our European partners to renegotiate our membership of the European Union. That is a major step forward. I listen with interest to the Labour party, which seems to waver in the wind on this issue. It opposed a referendum; now it supports a referendum. It seems to support some form of renegotiation, but it does not appear to believe that any change is necessary to our relationship with the European Union. When Labour Members have a clear policy and a clear view on what our relationship should be, perhaps we will start to listen to them and take them seriously, but right now, we will not do so.
On the employment front, I am sorry to tell the hon. Lady that the Work programme has been a great success. It has led to a massive drop in the number of long-term unemployed in this country. This Government have, and the coalition Government as well had, a fantastic record on employment. We have seen a huge increase in the number of people in work to record levels. We have seen a massive drop in unemployment and a very welcome increase in the number of disabled people in work.
The hon. Lady mentioned guidelines issued by Ministers —in this case, on grammar. I would rather have a former Education Secretary issuing guidance to his correspondence team on how best to phrase letters from his Department than a Chief Secretary to the Treasury issuing instructions to his civil servants about how to make his coffee.
Finally, it would be wrong to end without a quick glimpse at the Labour leadership contest this week. I have, as usual, taken a look to see what has been happening. I had a look at the website of the Wallasey Labour party—where else to get an insight into what is going on? There, on the front page, I found an article about the Labour leadership candidates with the headline “The candidates are awful”. Enough said.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. Through the current system, the Government provide nearly £50 million of support a year for people going through the trauma of bereavement. I encourage him to bring forward a debate in the House or to raise the matter in oral questions, and I know that Ministers will listen sensitively to the points that he raises.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week and for his comments on the attack on the Parliament in Kabul, which I think were well made.
Next week we will return to consideration of the Scotland Bill, with two days for further amendments to try to improve it and return to it the principles of the Smith commission, which the Scottish Parliament’s devolution Committee believes have not been met, and neither does the House of Commons Library, as my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) told the Prime Minister yesterday. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland therefore come to the House next Monday and Tuesday in a much more accommodating mood, in order to ensure that the principles of the Smith commission are met?
The Leader of the House had better not be thinking about amending the Scotland Bill in the unelected House of Lords. The House of Lords, I can tell him, has never been held in such contempt by the Scottish people, who see it as nothing other than a repository for the donors and cronies of the UK parties. The Bill must be amended in the elected House of Commons, so may we have an assurance that any important amendments will be made here and not in that bloated, ermine-coated, absurd legislature down the corridor?
I see that we are to have a debate next week on English votes for English laws as it would apply to north Wales, secured by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen)—I do not see him in his place. Perhaps we will at last get some answers on English votes for English laws, because the Leader of the House has failed to answer a single parliamentary question on the matter. We now have three weeks until the summer recess, so will he bring forward his plans and start answering questions? He is going to have to turn up to the debate next Wednesday, so can we hear some more about English votes for English laws and how that will affect my hon. Friends and you, Mr Speaker, because it will place you in the most invidious political position. We need some answers.
Lastly, the Scottish schools go on holiday next week. Our recess is almost three months long, yet we seem unable to match our recess arrangements with the school holidays in a large part of the United Kingdom. Many of my hon. Friends have young children. It is great that English Members will get to spend the whole recess in their constituencies with their families, but my hon. Friends will not. We are off for almost three months! Surely it is not beyond the wit of this House to design a recess period to cover that. I suggest that we do away with the Daily Mail fortnight in September and with the conference recess. Let us have a recess that covers all the school holidays and then let us return here, like everybody else in the country, after the August bank holiday. Surely that makes sense for everybody. I hope that the Leader of the House will consider that suggestion.
First, on the Scotland Bill, I can only reiterate that the Government are fulfilling our obligation and implementing the Smith commission’s report. The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of opportunities to bring forward amendments if he so chooses and to question Scotland Office Ministers about the content of the Bill. However, as the Prime Minister said clearly yesterday during Prime Minister’s questions, we are fulfilling our obligation to the Scottish people by delivering the package of devolution that we set out before them. They looked at it and chose to stay within the United Kingdom, and I am very grateful that they did. We are fulfilling the agreement we made at the time, and that is what the Bill does.
On English votes for English laws, I can only reiterate that we will bring forward our proposals shortly. They are measures that both the Labour party and the Scottish National party should support—the Labour party because it no longer has a presence in Scotland, so it should understand the need for fairness in this country’s devolution settlement, and the SNP because, as a champion of devolution, it should understand the need for fairness. I hope that when I bring forward the proposals shortly they will welcome them and see them as an important part of solidifying our constitutional arrangements.
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about the recess arrangements. The Chief Whip and I will always think carefully about how best to structure the parliamentary calendar. It is not always easy to provide a solution that satisfies everyone, but we will always try to make this place as child and family-friendly as possible.
Finally, although there are still some terrible conflicts around the world, which we hope to see resolved, I have to report to the House that one conflict close to home appears to have been resolved. The morning race for the Front Bench below the Gangway on the Opposition side has stopped, peace has broken out and an agreement has been reached between the two parties on where they will sit in future. That is good news for this House, although perhaps bad news for the bookmakers.
Order. As I mentioned earlier, a statement by the Secretary of State for Transport will follow these exchanges, and thereafter there is to be a very well subscribed debate. Therefore, there is a premium upon brevity. I am looking for single, short supplementary questions, preferably without preamble, and the Leader of the House’s characteristically pithy replies.
I commend my hon. Friend for initiating that well-attended debate. We have now established the new Committee structure, and the Backbench Business Committee will be able to meet shortly. I encourage him to talk to the Committee members with a view to trying to secure one of the Back-Bench business days for that purpose.
May we have a debate on the role of the National Crime Agency in preventing harm to children? I have been raising my concerns about a substance called Miracle Mineral Solution, which is being promoted particularly to parents of children with autism as a cure for that condition. I have been asking the National Crime Agency why this is not considered a direct threat to children. It is being promoted as something that can be given orally in a baby’s bottle or even as an enema. May we have a debate to ensure that the National Crime Agency is on top of issues like this?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I was not aware of that particular substance. We have Home Office questions on Monday week, and I hope he will take advantage of the opportunity to raise this issue with Home Office Ministers. We should clearly take it very seriously.
I do not have a pink T-shirt or even the use of a pink bus, but this weekend hundreds of thousands of people will be celebrating the diversity and equality that we all cherish in this country. Unfortunately, in about 80 countries people cannot do that because it is illegal. Mr Speaker, few people have done more than you to promote LGBT rights in this Parliament. Will the Leader of the House please have a word with the Foreign Secretary about the displaying of the rainbow flag over the Foreign Office and high commissions and embassies throughout the world? That would send the important signal that we stand by the side of those who are oppressed, and indeed, in some cases, those who fear death for the crime of being born gay.
I am happy to communicate the issue to my right hon. Friend. I am very sympathetic to the work that has been done to address this around the world. As I said earlier, it is shocking that many countries still regard homosexuality as illegal. All of us in this House should work to end that.
May we have an urgent debate on the Government plans to sell off a majority stake in the Green Investment Bank—a move that will damage investor confidence, set back the low-carbon economy, and, crucially, undermine the very reason for setting up the bank, which was to lever private investment by de-risking it?
I am not surprised to hear the hon. Lady’s concerns given her views. I believe that it is far better for an organisation like the Green Investment Bank to be able to stand on its own two feet. If it can function as an effective organisation without the need for taxpayer support, that is surely a good thing. It is a sign that investment in green business, green industries and green technologies is becoming more and more mainstream in the investment world.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate about the provision of healthcare across south Gloucestershire, especially the long-awaited and much anticipated community hospital on the old Frenchay hospital site, which has been delayed for long enough?
I commend my hon. Friend for being such a powerful advocate for his constituency. He has campaigned on this issue for a long time. My colleagues in the Department of Health will have heard what he said. A lot of this is now down to local decision making, so the influence that he has locally will play a big part in it. Health questions will take place in 10 days’ time, and he will have the opportunity to restate his point then.
As we see the dangerous situation in Kobani in Syria, is it not time that we had a full debate in this House about our strategy towards Syria and the region, and what we can do to help the brave Kurdish fighters who are fighting against the horrible Daesh cult and its misogynist, homophobic, murderous policies?
I endorse the hon. Gentleman’s concerns about the dreadful things happening in parts of Iraq and Syria. It is absolutely right and proper that the international community should stand against this and be supportive of those who are resisting that terrible regime, and of course we are playing our part as a nation in doing so. One of the reasons we are having next Thursday’s debate on international affairs is that over the past few weeks I have listened carefully to the comments made by Members on both sides of the House on the need for this and similar issues to be debated. That opportunity will be available this time next week.
Although investigatory powers in Britain and international security are undoubtedly important topics, it is also important that this House debates what everybody else in the country is talking about. Night after night we see on our television screens the wave of human misery coming to our shores from the middle east and north Africa and the problems being caused at Calais. That is what everybody is talking and concerned about, so may we have a full day’s debate on the Floor of the House about Britain’s immigration policy and how we are going to tackle both legal and illegal immigration being too high?
I recognise that this is a matter of great concern to the public and, indeed, the Government. My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend addressed the issue in the House yesterday. What is happening in Iraq and Syria and the crisis in the Mediterranean were two of the key reasons for ensuring that there is a full day’s debate next Thursday—I hope my hon. Friend will take advantage of that—to discuss what we all regard as a crucial issue. What is happening in north Africa and the Mediterranean is frankly shocking.
The hon. Lady raises an important point. I will make sure that her concerns are passed to DFID and I suggest that she look to bring an International Development Minister to the House through an Adjournment debate, in order to raise the issue directly. I know she will continue to ask questions about the issue.
At their school assembly yesterday, the pupils of Cheam Park Farm junior school gave me several messages in support of the Send my Friend to School campaign. May we have a debate to discuss how this Government can help in the objective of making free education available to more children around the world?
I commend the teachers at Cheam Park Farm junior school for their work in raising awareness and helping their pupils to raise their concerns. My hon. Friend can look those pupils in the eye and say that this Government have an excellent record in providing financial support through our international aid budget to those parts of the world where young people do not have adequate access to education or, indeed, other basic needs in life, such as clean food and water. We are doing everything we can internationally to help the development of those communities, and those young people should feel proud to be part of a country that is doing its bit in the world.
Two years ago a constituent of mine used Safestyle UK to fit windows throughout her property. Two years on, the windows still rattle and leak water, but Safestyle UK denies any responsibility. May we have a debate about consumer rights and how we can improve them so that people are not ripped off by cowboys?
The hon. Gentleman is performing one of the most important functions of a constituency Member of Parliament, which is to put pressure on organisations that are simply not delivering for the people we represent. I am sure that merely by having raised the issue today, he will have stirred some people outside this place. He will have another opportunity to do so in BIS questions on Tuesday and I hope he will continue to do so. It is right and proper that we put pressure on organisations that fail to deliver for our constituents.
When the Leader of the House referred to the European Council summit and said that he expected the Prime Minister to report back that the European Union had agreed to the fundamental reforms, I think I saw, for the first time in 10 years, some flying pigs looping and laughing. I do not know whether you caught that, Mr Speaker. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Prime Minister will make a statement on Monday about the European Council?
I was not necessarily commenting on the outcome of the negotiations, but merely that the negotiations are starting. My hon. Friend will form his own view about whether there are flying pigs around, but I assure him that there will be a statement on Monday. The Prime Minister will appear before this House and take questions in detail not only about this issue, but about the Mediterranean, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) referred.
This week North Yorkshire police held a summit on the sharp increase in antisocial behaviour fuelled by excess drinking in York city centre at weekends. When will this House have an opportunity to debate an increase in police levels linked to licensing legislation, to ensure that city centres can be safe, family-friendly and good for business?
One of the things we have always believed is that it was a mistake for the last Labour Government to go as far as they did on the road towards all-night drinking. I think it had an effect on antisocial behaviour and put extra pressure on police. We have taken a number of measures since then that will contribute to easing that problem. The hon. Lady will always have the opportunity, at Home Affairs questions and through the Adjournment debate system, to raise concerns related to her constituency when she feels the existing powers do not go far enough.
Following the brouhaha over the Crown Estate, the Scotland Bill and the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, will my right hon. Friend make time available for a debate to allow our friends in the Scottish National party to reaffirm their loyalty to our and their sovereign?
I note the welcome nods from Scottish National party Members. I am glad that the First Minister has clarified the situation this morning in no uncertain terms. I think that we, on both sides of this House and in all parts of the United Kingdom, should be absolutely proud of our monarch. We value her and are amazingly grateful for everything she has done for us. The fact that she is in Germany today, representing this country again, is an example of how well served we are by her and by our royal family.
The Leader of the House has announced that we will have a debate next Thursday on international affairs in Government time. May I suggest that the House should have the opportunity to discuss some domestic issues, notably the proposed £200 million cut in public health budgets, £3.6 million of which is to be cut from Durham County Council in my area? It flies in the face of all the evidence and expert opinion, will damage preventive healthcare and is extremely short term. Members from all across the country would like the opportunity to discuss it.
I simply remind the hon. Gentleman that we, both in coalition and in Government, have continued to increase funding for healthcare, somewhat against the wishes of the shadow Health Secretary, who argued that we should reduce funding for healthcare and that it would be irresponsible to continue to increase it in the way we have. I am very happy with our record.
My constituent, Mohamed Kalefa Aisa, is currently studying in Salisbury on a visitor visa. There are no flights back to Libya because of the turmoil and my constituent is stranded here. The border agency expects him to travel to another country to reapply for a visa. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on our immigration rules in the light of the impractical and unrealistic advice my constituent has received?
I understand the difficulty that my hon. Friend’s constituent faces, given the very difficult situation in Libya. My advice is to approach the relevant Minister directly. I know that Ministers try to be flexible when there are exceptional circumstances, although, of course, given the immigration pressures upon us, they have to be pretty rigid in upholding the rules, otherwise we would be opening the door to very large numbers of other people who wish to come here.
May we have a statement on why the Ministry of Justice is still paying G4S and Serco millions of pounds every month to supply electronic tagging equipment more than a year after both companies were barred from running the contract?
I assure my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State for Transport is well aware of how important the issue is in this House. Once the report is received by Government, he will certainly come to the House and take questions, before deciding how to proceed.
The roll-out of universal credit has begun in my constituency, with it having been available to single new claimants since April. It has enormous implications for very vulnerable people, many of whom do not have access to the internet and now have to get used to managing money differently. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on access to universal credit for the most vulnerable people in our society?
Labour’s policy has been, I think, to be supportive of universal credit, so I am not sure how the hon. Gentleman’s comment fits in with that. The reality is that universal credit creates a new structure that means that people are better off in work than sitting at home on benefits doing nothing. If people are going to get away from the benefits environment that many of them live in and get into the workplace, as we all want them to, they will need knowledge of, access to, and the ability to use technology, which is available through jobcentres, public libraries and other facilities. I think we have got this absolutely right and that universal credit will make a transformational difference to people’s lives.
My constituency has a growing problem of heavy goods vehicle drivers parking overnight on industrial parks and in neighbouring residential areas, such as Coleshill. They are predominantly drivers from eastern European countries. Hams Hall distribution centre is seeing up to 70 trailers a night. As a result, there is an increase in accidents and antisocial behaviour. May we have an urgent debate on the provision of adequate lorry parks and on the need for consideration to be given to this matter when granting planning on industrial parks?
By coincidence, the Secretary of State for Transport has just walked into the Chamber, so he will have heard my hon. Friend’s remarks. I understand the nature of the challenge and there are things that could be done to address it. I would like service station providers to cater more for this need, which is clearly present. It should not be imposed on local communities and estates. I know that the Department for Transport will be happy to listen to his comments.
In the last Parliament, the Government established, at considerable cost, the post of police and crime commissioner, which they argued was vital for democratic accountability. The post is now to be subsumed into the office of metro mayor, which will be imposed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with an additional precept, whether local people want it or not. May we have a debate on what the Government mean by democratic accountability?
I think that police and crime commissioners have made a real difference by providing a focal point for those who are concerned about local policing. Of course, the two posts are combined in London. I know that the Labour party has always been sceptical about police and crime commissioners, but that does not seem to have stopped a large number of former Labour Members of Parliament standing to be police and crime commissioners.
Exactly a year ago today at Prime Minister’s questions, I raised the tragic case of 17-year-old James Goodship, who had tragically drowned just days before in Lake Burwain in my constituency. As this week is drowning prevention week, may we have a debate on how we can reduce the rate of such drownings and tragedies across the UK?
That was a tragic event and our sympathies are very much with James Goodship’s family. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for taking up the mantle of this issue and for working intensively in Parliament to raise awareness of the risks. His comments will be heard in this place and outside it. An Adjournment debate might provide a valuable opportunity to discuss the issue with Ministers and to allow other Members of Parliament who have experienced similar tragedies in their constituencies to contribute.
I have received many emails about the case of Andargachew Tsige, as I suspect has the Leader of the House and every other Member of the House. He is a British man who is being held under a death sentence in incommunicado detention in Ethiopia. Has the Leader of the House had any requests from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to come and debate the matter? If he has not, will he follow the matter up with FCO Ministers?
I, too, have received a number of emails on the matter, as I suspect have many Members. I deprecate the death penalty wherever it is in place around the world. I have always opposed it and I oppose it in this case. This is clearly a worrying case. I will certainly pass on the concerns to the Foreign Office, so that it is aware how many Members have had constituents raise these concerns with them.
Steel production is a crucial employer in Corby. As vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for steel and metal related industries, I know that Members from all parts of the House want to come together to secure the future of the industry. May we have a debate in Government time on carbon taxation and the steel industry, with a Treasury Minister at the Dispatch Box?
It is enormously important that we support key industries like steel. It is an important part of the local economy in my hon. Friend’s constituency and in many other parts of the country. Ministers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be before the House next week. I hope that he will take that opportunity to raise his concerns with them. Of course we have a challenge ahead in tackling climate change and bringing down carbon emissions, but we also have to be smart when it comes to looking after our industries.
Two weeks ago, the Leader of the House kindly offered to pass on a request to the Prime Minister to meet Muscular Dystrophy UK and six young boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who need Translarna. The decision on the drug is imminent, but the boys have heard nothing. Will the Leader of the House kindly do something to hasten the response from No. 10?
At a meeting I hosted this morning with higher education sector leaders, concern was once again raised about the damaging impact that the inclusion of students in the Government’s net migration cap is having on one of our most important export industries. Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate about that? There is concern about the policy in all parts of the House and beyond.
I do regard it is an anomaly that students are contained in some of the migration figures, but that is not a matter for this country. It is set by international statisticians and statistical rules. A large number of students come to this country, and we have taken appropriate steps to make sure that those who come here are legitimate. That is right and proper. We have a thriving higher education sector, but we must also have a system that is careful in ensuring that people who come here should be here.
Joseph Gleave and Son, an SME based in Stretford that has supplied the Ministry of Defence for many years, reports chaotic tendering practices, onerous timescales and contracts being extended or awarded without proper competition. That is good for neither the business nor the taxpayer. May we have a debate in Government time on defence procurement?
Of course, we will have Defence questions again early in July, so I encourage the hon. Lady to raise the issue with Ministers at that point, but I will make sure that I pass on her concerns on behalf of the company in her constituency to my colleagues at the Ministry of Defence after this session.
During the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, Rev. Melvin Tinker in Hull told me that if I supported it, he would instruct his congregation not to vote for me. That might have something to do with why my majority went from 641 to 12,899. However, this weekend he has equated homosexuality with paedophilia and put it in the same category. May we please have a debate in Government time about the responsibilities of the established Church of England on community cohesion and not inciting crimes of hate?
First, let us be absolutely clear: there is absolutely no connection whatever between homosexuality and paedophilia. Paedophilia is a crime; homosexuality is a reality of our society and something we have moved to support through same-sex marriage and other changes in recent years. It is never acceptable to equate the two.
I would also say that it is important to be sensitive about these issues, as we were during the passage of the Act, particularly in relation to those with strong religious views. We are, and we should be, but there is never any justification for equating homosexuality and paedophilia.
It was announced yesterday that my local authority in St Helens is having a further £23 million cut from its budget, meaning that by 2020 it will have suffered a 50% reduction in funding under this Government. May we have a debate on the crisis in local government funding and its impact on critical services?
Local government has certainly faced budget reductions in recent years, as have many parts of government, but it has also been noticeable how well most councils across the country have adapted to the changes and sustained their services. If the hon. Gentleman’s council, which I have a sneaking suspicion may be a Labour council, has not been able to do that, maybe it is time for a Conservative council in St Helens.