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Business of the House

Volume 598: debated on Thursday 9 July 2015

The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 13 July—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Tuesday 14 July—Conclusion of the Budget debate. At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Wednesday 15 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to hunting, followed by a general debate on English votes for English laws—the first of a two-day debate on that subject.

Thursday 16 July—Matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.

Friday 17 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 20 July will include:

Monday 20 July—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Tuesday 21 July—Second Reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

If I may briefly explain to the House, on Monday I will, having listened to comments from hon. Members, publish a modified set of draft Standing Orders on English votes for English laws. We will debate those on Wednesday. Subsequent to that debate, I will table a final set of Standing Orders, which we will debate at an early opportunity once the House returns.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, which has clearly been subject to last-minute, sudden change.

This week, the Government’s reckless and shoddy plans for what they like to call English votes for English laws have descended into chaos. On Tuesday, the Leader of the House had to be dragged to this Chamber kicking and screaming to account for his complex and controversial plans, but it was clear from that debate that he did not even have the support of his own side. We then had the sorry spectacle of the Government abstaining on their own process while he fled the Chamber in embarrassment. He published 22 pages of draft changes to our Standing Orders, which he was proposing to ram through the House with minimal votes and debate next Wednesday. Now I am told that he is frantically re-drafting them in a desperate bid to regain the support of his own Back Benchers, which I assume is why they have not been laid.

This morning I hear the Leader of the House was summoned to the Prime Minister’s office to account for his role in creating this mess. As we have heard, the outcome of that meeting appears to be two days’ debate, rather than one, but we have still not seen these draft Standing Orders. The Leader of the House said he would publish them on Monday. Will he now give us an undertaking that when we have the debate with votes on EVEL, he will allow all amendments to be taken?

The original point that I raised in the debate on Tuesday was that the process by which he had decided to institute these controversial changes did not allow for a proper examination—an amendment process—of very complex changes to Standing Orders. Will he now give us an assurance at the Dispatch Box that whenever we get to vote on these changes—he has not announced when that will be—it will be done in a way that allows all appropriate amendments to be taken and voted on? Will he also say whether the Procedure Committee will get to look at the changes that he tables on Monday prior to this House voting on them, as he promised in his English manifesto?

Last night we learned from reports in the media that the Government intend to stage a sudden vote to wreck the Hunting Act 2004, which, in the muddle and confusion, they have now moved from Thursday to Wednesday. Why were MPs inundated with emails from pro-hunting groups who clearly knew about the timing of this vote before the Government had even announced it to Parliament? When will the statutory instrument be tabled? Can the Leader of the House confirm that it will remove the existing limit on the number of hounds that can flush a fox to guns, thereby effectively wrecking the Hunting Act? Does he agree with his own Sports Minister, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), who said that the underhand way in which the Government are behaving amounts to relaxing

“fox-hunting legislation via the backdoor”?

Why will the Leader of the House not allow more than 90 minutes for the debate? Will he confirm that it is indeed the Government’s intention to wreck the Hunting Act using this back-door device because they do not have the majority to repeal the Act itself or the guts to try?

Yesterday the Chancellor’s second Budget in four months rebranded parsimony as largesse and stole Labour policies in an attempt to disguise a savage attack on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. He gave with one hand and hoped no one would notice just how much he took with the other. His so-called living wage con has already unravelled. The Living Wage Foundation has confirmed that it is not a living wage at all, and that in fact his plans amount to a cut in what the living wage is worth today. He said that

“Britain deserves a pay rise”—[Official Report, 8 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 337.]

Despite that, the poorest working families will be massively worse off because he has slashed £4.5 billion from tax credits. With his sleight of hand he has impoverished millions of low-paid workers, disabled people and children just weeks after the Government conveniently redefined child poverty—and Conservative Members cheered him to the rafters for doing it.

This Budget could not hide the fact that growth has slowed, exports have stalled, and the economic recovery is still fragile. There was nothing in the Budget to challenge the Chancellor’s woeful record on productivity, which the Office for Budget Responsibility has revised down for next year, and the year after, and the year after that. The Chancellor ducked all the big decisions on infrastructure, putting the northern powerhouse at risk. That is hardly surprising, as this week the Minister responsible for the northern powerhouse revealed that the Government have not yet actually worked out where the north is. I see that the Government’s plan for infrastructure and productivity will be published tomorrow —a day when the House is not even sitting. Will the Leader of the House explain why that was not done in a ministerial statement today?

The Conservatives have suddenly started claiming that they are the workers’ party, and I am beginning to worry that they have taken it a bit too far. We have five-year plans, we have shameless propaganda on wages that bears little resemblance to the truth, and now we have a two-child policy. Whatever next—a portrait of the dear leader adorning Parliament Square?

I have listened to what the hon. Lady has said. Of course, she, from her time in government, would not understand the logic of this process. You table a draft, you listen to the people who read it, you make some modifications, you have a debate, and you then have a vote. It is called consultation. Labour Members never did that when they were in office; they just published their proposals and voted them through with a large majority. In a shock development, we have actually listened to hon. Members’ comments. Labour Members ask for more time. The surprising thing is that the Labour Chief Whip spent the past few days going round Conservative Back Benchers saying, “Please, please vote for more time”, yet if she had just come and asked me for more time I would have given it to her—and now I have. But that is the way they operate.

Labour is now essentially an English and Welsh party, so the question for Labour Members is whether they are going to vote for extra rights for English and Welsh MPs on matters that affect only their constituencies. Is Labour going to back our proposals or vote against them? If it is going to vote against them, I look forward to debating that on the doorsteps of this country, because I know where the voters of England and Wales stand; the question is whether Labour Members stand alongside them.

On the hunting issue—[Interruption.]

Order. I will not have louder noise coming from the Opposition Front Bench than from the Leader of the House. It’s just not on.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) can’t help himself, Madam Deputy Speaker, so you’ll have to give him a bit of slack.

The hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) talked about a back-door device. Since when has a statutory instrument in this House been a back-door device? Ninety minutes is the normal length of a debate on a statutory instrument on the Floor of the House. The proposals that the House will debate next week will not lift the ban on hunting with dogs. They respond to the representations of upland farmers. Members of this House—certainly those on our side—will have a free vote in responding to the legitimate concerns that have been raised.

I come to the hon. Lady’s comments on the Budget. Talk about hunting—the problem for the Labour party is that every single fox they had was shot yesterday in this Chamber. She said that the Chancellor had a woeful economic record. The only woeful economic record in this place in recent years was that of the last Labour Government. We have spent the past five years sorting out the mess that was left behind. Yesterday, we saw some of the fruits of our work: tax cuts to give people in work more money in their pockets; a national living wage that reflects the work done by the people of this nation; support for business; and encouragement for investment in skills and technology—exactly the kind of things that this country needs to deal with the productivity issues that we inherited from the last Labour Government.

What was not in the hon. Lady’s remarks this morning—and I am not surprised—was any reference to today’s strikes. In the capital and across the south-west of England and Wales, the trade unions are disrupting the working lives of ordinary people. Government Members condemn those strikes as being utterly unnecessary, inappropriate and the wrong way to address the concerns. Have we heard a single voice of concern from the Opposition? Not one word. Perhaps that is because, as we learned this week, the hon. Lady is the second choice of Len McCluskey for the deputy leadership of the Labour party.

Following the tragic suicide in May this year of Olive Cooke, who was hounded by the aggressive marketing tactics of leading charities, including being swamped with phone calls and letters, and following the exposure by the Daily Mail of the fact that those appalling practices are being used today against the most vulnerable and elderly in our society, may we have a debate to ensure that the code of conduct has teeth and that those grotesque practices stop forthwith?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The Daily Mail’s campaign has been immensely valuable in highlighting a shocking set of practices. It is simply unacceptable for charities to exploit vulnerable, elderly people to raise funds. Charities that have been involved in such practices should be ashamed of themselves. Of course, the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill is currently working its way through the other place and will end up in this House in the autumn. I say to charities that if they do not want the House to react sharply against what they are doing in those debates, they ought to get their house in order pretty quickly.

I, too, thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.

Well, well—what an EVEL shambles! I am prepared to take the Leader of the House at his word that he is listening and is prepared to move on this issue. May I suggest a way forward that we could all agree on and work together on? We are grateful that we are getting an extra day’s debate and that we will have more time to consider the issue, but now is the time for him to go to the Clerks, get a Bill and bring it to the House so that we can debate all the issues to do with English votes for English laws properly, given its historical significance and constitutional importance. We would then have the opportunity to amend it and to treat it like every other major piece of legislation. Will he commit himself to delivering that today?

There was a promise to go to the Procedure Committee. That was clearly broken—a manifesto promise made by this Government. Before anything happens, the proposals should go before the Procedure Committee and the Scottish Affairs Committee. They should proceed only with the permission and say-so of those two Committees. Will the Leader of the House commit to that today?

Madam Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.]

I am very grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

We debated the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill for four days. Some 200 amendments had been tabled, and there were some 20 Divisions. How many of those amendments did the Government accept? Zero. None. Zilch.

The amendments were designed in the Scottish Parliament to improve the Bill and deliver the principles of the Smith commission. They were agreed by all parties in that Parliament, they were voted for by the Members who are sitting behind me now. None of them was accepted. We already have English votes for English laws, because all those amendments were voted down on the backs of English Members of Parliament: it was they who decided the votes. When will we get Scottish votes for Scottish laws in the House of Commons?

Finally, may I ask whether we can have an urgent debate on mis-selling and false labelling? What we heard yesterday was nonsense. The Government should have been pulled in front of the Advertising Standards Authority for describing what we heard about as a national living wage. I think that the people of the United Kingdom are waking up this morning and trying to understand what sort of nonsense this is. I am sure that we shall hear much more about it in the future, because we have never come across anything quite like it before. To call that a national living wage does not even do respect to the label.

The whole point about Standing Orders is that they are the way in which the House conducts its business. We have discussed that extensively over the last few weeks, and I have discussed it with the hon. Gentleman. It is the clear view of the people who put these proposals together in the last Parliament, and of some distinguished figures in and around this place—including former Officers of the House of Commons who are now in the other House—that Standing Orders are the way in which this matter should be conducted. However, I have said to the hon. Gentleman that I shall be happy to consider the possibility of legislation after we have tried the system out for 12 months, and I will listen to his representations during the review that will be carried out at that time.

Of course, if the hon. Gentleman wants the Scottish Affairs Committee to consider these matters over the next few months, he—as Chair of the Committee—is perfectly free to make representations to his colleagues about doing so. We will listen carefully to what that Committee says, as we do in the case of other Committees. As I have said, I have discussed our approach very carefully with the Chair of the Procedure Committee, who is entirely happy with it.

The hon. Gentleman has returned to the issue of the Scotland Bill pretty regularly since the House reconvened. He appears to be missing a crucial point—namely, that this is a United Kingdom Parliament, voting on proposals that affect the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom, and the Bill is therefore a matter for United Kingdom Members of Parliament. Similarly, when the rest of us vote on English votes for English laws, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues from Scotland will vote on that as well. He asks why we cannot have Scottish votes for Scottish laws. The answer is that he has Scottish votes for Scottish laws already: he has had that since the 1990s, in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

If we are to have a debate on mis-selling, the mis-selling that we should be debating is the outrageous way in which the Scottish National party claims that fiscal autonomy would be fine and would not lead to a massive deficit in Scotland, huge tax increases for the Scottish people, and an economic disaster for that country.

The lives of thousands of my constituents, and many other people in Kent, are being made miserable by the use of Operation Stack. Lorries parked on the M20 are causing traffic chaos across a large part of the county. Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate to be held in Government time, as a symbol that transport Ministers are determined to replace this wretched policy with something that will allow the people of Kent to go about their daily business when there are industrial problems in France?

I understand my right hon. Friend’s concerns. Similar concerns have been expressed to me by his neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately). I understand the impact of what is happening on the people of Kent, and, indeed, on the lorry drivers who end up stranded on the motorway for days on end. I hope very much that the French Government will resolve the issue by sorting out the problems that are causing the challenges in Calais and are having a knock-on effect. I urge my right hon. Friend to raise the issue with the Home Secretary next week, but it is clear that the situation in Calais needs to be resolved in a way that will enable free trade to continue to flow through Calais and also end the problems experienced by his constituents.

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on how HMRC treats vulnerable taxpayers such as my constituent Mrs Latimer of Morden, who is her mother’s carer and works part time as a guide for disabled children. She cannot read and write, she has learning difficulties and she has suffered a stroke. She is being fined £10 a day because she has been unable to complete her forms. She needs the protection of this House.

It is always important that Government agencies treat vulnerable people with great care, particularly when there are personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to deal with procedural issues. We have the Budget debate, when Treasury Ministers will be present. We also have Treasury questions in 10 days’ time, but I am sure that Treasury Ministers will have noted the concerns the hon. Lady raised today.

Can the Leader of the House confirm that the only reason he is able to bring to this House an SI on hunting is that the Labour Hunting Act 2004 provided the legal basis to do so, and that all it does is bring the provisions on hunting in England and Wales in line with those that work well in Scotland?

My hon. Friend is right. This is a simple reform. It does not do the kind of things to which the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) referred. The Labour party is struggling in Wales too, where it lost seats in the general election, and it might want to ensure that it considers taking steps that are helpful to Wales.

As it is now the fashion to have debates that straddle the recess, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on bell-ringing next week to reflect Tory MPs’ reaction to the Budget, to be followed after the recess by a debate on hand-wringing, after they have had the opportunity to meet thousands of their low-paid constituents, who are going to lose hundreds of pounds as a result of the failure of the national living wage to match the withdrawal of in-work benefits? When the Tory party claims to be a one-nation party, does it mean that it has a mandate in only one out of four nations in these isles?

What the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues never seem to understand when they talk about austerity is that austerity means living within our means. That ought to be a pretty basic premise for all of us in our own lives and in our national life. The SNP may appear to believe that we can borrow our way into the future; we do not. We believe we have to create wealth, jobs and prosperity for this country. Our way is the only way to do so. Their way is the way to ruin.

In rural areas such as Bacup, Tockholes, Whitworth and Edgworth in my constituency, tackling “not spots” is a much better solution than hard-wired superfast broadband. Will the Leader of the House ask the relevant Secretary of State to place a statement before the House explaining what progress the Government are making in tackling “not spots” in rural areas?

Ensuring that we have good broadband and good mobile connections around the whole country, particularly in rural areas, is essential. This Government have been working hard to try and improve things, as did the coalition Government. I will make sure that Ministers are aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns. He is right that it is essential to ensure that we have a modern, high-tech rural economy that can best equip people in those areas for their jobs and businesses.

There was an absence from the Budget statement yesterday of any commitment to fund essential transport projects such as the electrification of the trans-Pennine link, although we did hear about Crossrail, as ever. Rail campaigning groups in my constituency are very disappointed because these cuts will mean no extra rolling stock for our local rail lines, not just the Manchester-Leeds connection. May we have a debate on what the Manchester Evening News is now rightly calling the northern power cut?

I am a bit surprised that the hon. Lady appears so sceptical about Crossrail, which I thought her party had supported throughout the years. We are committed as a Government to one of the biggest programmes of rail modernisation that this country has seen for a long time. She talks about electrification. We will electrify the trans-Pennine route. She needs to look back at her party’s record in government when, over 13 years, it electrified, if I remember correctly, 10 miles of railway line. We are setting in place a proper modernisation programme for our railways. Labour failed to do so even when it had the money.

I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend agreed to a debate in Government time on the way in which so-called Travellers are thwarting the whole essence of the planning system. I have a number of dreadful cases in my patch, including one where so-called Travellers have submitted applications followed by appeals for 10 years or more. They are building on the site as well as squatting on it. It is green belt land; they should not be there.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is a bit of a contradiction in terms—if someone is a Traveller, why are they establishing a fixed site to live on? My view is that every citizen of this country should be subject to the same laws as everyone else. We should not make exceptions for any groups, and it is an oddity that should be dealt with—people who claim to be Travellers should not be given special permission to establish fixed sites to live on permanently.

Millions of people will lose out as a result of the Budget, but, regarding other business next week, is the Leader of the House aware that despite all his denials, there will be a dishonest attempt to legalise foxhunting? A 90-minute debate is totally unacceptable and will be viewed with contempt by millions of people in the country who detest the very idea of foxhunting being brought back?

The hon. Gentleman will have the chance in that debate to make his point. I simply reiterate what I said earlier: this measure does not overturn the ban on hunting with dogs.

Leyland has world-class tourist sites such as the British Commercial Vehicle museum and Worden Park, although we often lose out in tourist numbers to our larger white rose neighbour. May we have a debate on tourism in Lancashire?

My hon. Friend has already proved an effective advocate for her constituency. My family originates from Lancashire, and it is a fine county with many great historic sites. She and others who represent that county will continue to beat the drum for it, and at the various available opportunities, such as questions to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, they will no doubt ensure that the Minister responsible for tourism also gets the message.

Many people across the UK are tied into mobile phone contracts yet they have either poor or no service in the areas where they use their phones. Will the Leader of the House allow a debate in Government time on whether people should be given the same rights as those with landlines and broadband to switch or cancel those contracts?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and it is simply not reasonable for companies not to offer the service that is being paid for. I know that he will use the next session of questions to the DCMS to raise that matter, and he might also find an opportunity to discuss it during the Budget debate over the next few days because it also has an impact on business.

May we have a debate on open prisons? On 3 February the then prisons Minister wrote in a written answer to me:

“Prisoners may no longer be transferred to open conditions or allowed out on temporary release if they have previously absconded,”

Imagine my surprise to read about Ross Underwood, who on May 24 absconded from HMP Springhill. The court heard that Underwood had a previous conviction for absconding from the same prison in 2009. May we have a debate to clear up the shambles relating to open prisons once and for all?

My hon. Friend knows that I took great interest in that area in my previous role as Justice Secretary. I do not believe it is acceptable for people who have previously absconded to be allowed back into open conditions, and I changed the rules to ensure that such things should not normally happen. He will undoubtedly raise the issue with my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary, who I am sure shares my view on that.

It is two months since the general election and this House has appointed its Select Committees. The people of Britain face unprecedented threats to their security, yet we still do not know who the members of the Intelligence and Security Committee will be. Will the Leader of the House bring membership of that Committee before the House next week so that it can meet before the recess?

I think all parties are finalising their appointments to Select Committees. There are a number of Select Committees where that needs to be completed. It is very much my hope and expectation that that will happen as soon as possible, and hopefully before the summer recess.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that it is illegal to use a statutory instrument to wreck or repeal an Act—a fact the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) is well aware of?

My hon. Friend is right. This is a change permissible and provided for under the Hunting Act 2004. It does not reverse the ban on hunting with dogs. Hon. Members on both sides will have the chance to debate the issue next week.

The Leader of the House is very keen for us all to accept austerity and live within our means. May we therefore have an early debate on the cost of HS2? The most recent evidence puts the estimate, with disguised and hidden costs, up to £160 billion at a time when the trans-Pennine electrification has been put on hold and the northern powerhouse is a sham. There is a conspiracy of silence on both sides of the House on HS2. Can the country really afford this wasteful project?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that HS2 was originally proposed by the Labour party. If we do not do something about the genuine capacity problems at the lower end of our rail networks, constituents in his northern seat will be affected. I am surprised, therefore, that he believes that we should not make the changes needed to improve things for his constituents.

As the Prime Minister continues with our EU renegotiations, will he please reference the continued breach of EU treaties by the Italian Government with regard to foreign lecturers working in their universities? Known collectively as the lettori, these people have been discriminated against for more than 30 years. May we have a statement from the Government on how finally we are going to bring this injustice to a conclusion?

I hear the point my hon. Friend makes. He will want to raise it with the Foreign Secretary who, as he knows, has a number of discussions with his Italian counterparts. There will be an opportunity to do so in Foreign Office questions next Tuesday.

Will the Leader of the House consider a debate to ensure the upper House is more fairly representative of the broad spectrum of political opinion in this country, so that it might at least try to retain the pretence of legitimacy?

I suspect the hon. Gentleman is referring to the fact that there are not many UK Independence party peers in the House of Lords. I suspect he is feeling lonely. He has no friends in this House, so I suspect he is looking for a few friends at the other end of this place.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on NHS spending on agency staff? According to the organisation Liaison, they cost £3.3 billion last year—a rise of £793 million.

This is very much a concern for Members on both sides of the House. When we look at the challenges for our individual local hospital trusts, we realise that this is one of the biggest pressures they face. I remind my hon. Friend of the work my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary is already doing to try to address this issue. He will no doubt have heard my hon. Friend’s comments today. We really do need to get to grips with this properly.

May I take the Leader of the House back to 1980? Baroness Thatcher’s Government were one year old, the Commodore Pet computer was the height of technological advancement and the first Pacer trains were developed as a short-term solution to rail capacity in the north of England. May I now bring him forward 35 years? With electrification cancelled, the Chancellor merely offers us an Oyster card to use on our now decrepit Pacer trains. May we have an urgent statement from the Transport Secretary on rail strategy for the north of England?

We have just had a statement on rail strategy and there will be further opportunities. I remind the hon. Gentleman of two things. First, he makes reference to the manufacturing of trains in the north. It was under the Government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that manufacturing in this country almost halved as a proportion of our national income. Secondly, Labour was in government for 13 years and had money in the bank, but electrified only 10 miles of railway. Under this Government, we have started to redress that woeful failure.

This week is national organ donation awareness week, and my constituent Lucy Ryan is petitioning for a change in the law to provide for a soft opt-out to help the 6,800 people currently desperately awaiting a transplant. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate or for a statement from a Minister on this important issue?

I absolutely understand the sensitivity and difficulty of this issue. We have to weigh the need to have organs available for donation against our wish not to put pressure on bereaved relatives reluctant to go down that route. We have to approach this issue with great care. It is continually under consideration by ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health, but it is a sensitive issue that must be treated very carefully indeed.

May I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s appointment of the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) as his special envoy to Yemen? He cannot, however, visit Yemen because Yemen is in crisis. There are 21 million people facing a severe famine, and the Saudis continue to bomb parts of the country. When can we have an urgent debate or statement on this important matter?

The situation in Yemen is deeply troubling. It is one of many parts of the middle east going through an immensely difficult period, and there is clearly a serious humanitarian issue there. It is a difficult situation for the international community. The right hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise his concerns with the Foreign Secretary when he is before the House next week, and I am sure he will choose to do so. We in this country, in whatever ways are available to us, will always seek to ensure peaceful outcomes to disputes across the whole middle east.

Last week, Alstom started work on the first of two new manufacturing and research facilities in my constituency covering high-voltage direct current and automation. May we have a debate on the vital importance of establishing world-class manufacturing and research facilities in the United Kingdom?

I am proud of and encouraged by the fact that this Government, like the coalition Government between 2010 and 2015, have started to turn around the years of decline under the previous Labour Government in our manufacturing and research and development sectors. In those 13 years, manufacturing fell from about 22% to about 12% of our national income, and we lost crucial facilities, which means we now lack skills and technological capability for the future. The fact that facilities such as those in my hon. Friend’s constituency are being built and developed and the fact that we have seen such success in the automotive industry in the past five years are signs that under Conservative leadership this country is finally turning things around in manufacturing and technology.

May I support my hon. Friends the Members for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) and for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) in asking for time for a full debate on the Government’s strategy for rail in the north? Our constituents are dismayed at the pause in the electrification of the trans-Pennine railway, which will also delay the release of rolling stock to improve the passenger journey experience in other parts of the region. I know that our constituents would appreciate it if we could find time for a proper debate with Ministers about the Government’s strategy in this area.

Of course, the hon. Lady and her colleagues will have the opportunity to raise this matter today and next Monday and Tuesday during the debate on the Budget, of which infrastructure investment is very much a part. It is on the agenda.

The hon. Gentleman has only to look back at 13 years of Labour Government during which time absolutely nothing was done about this. We at least are starting a process of modernising our infrastructure. It is years too late, but that is because Labour did nothing about it.

Last year, former Crawley constituent Matt Bass died from suspected organo- phosphate poisoning. Many air crew and frequent flyers are at risk from faulty air intakes on many aircraft. May we have a debate on this issue please?

This issue has been cited for some time, and there are real worries about some things that have taken place. My hon. Friend refers to a tragic situation in his constituency. I believe that this should be considered by both the airlines and the transportation authorities. I know that my colleagues in the Department for Transport will have heard his concerns, but I will make sure that the issues he has raised are brought to their attention.

May we have a debate in Government time on the incredibly distasteful statement in yesterday’s Budget, which means that a woman who has a third child as a result of rape will need to prove this to the Department for Work and Pensions in order to be eligible for tax credits?

The hon. Lady of course has the opportunity to raise that issue in the Budget debate. The Chancellor was clear yesterday that this provision will be designed to handle difficult cases in the most sensitive way possible. However, she must understand the necessity of putting in place a system of welfare that is grounded in common sense and designed to help people back into the workplace. She will know that there have been many examples of people with large families who are overt in their statements that they had such large families to take advantage of the welfare system. That should not happen. We want those people to have fulfilling lives—in work as well as in their families.

The test of a good Leader of the House is whether he listens to the House and puts it above the Executive. The Leader of the House clearly listened to the request for more time to discuss Standing Orders, and he should be congratulated on that. Now that the second vote is clearly going to be in the autumn, will he make a statement next week confirming that it will be possible for the Select Committees on Procedure and Scottish Affairs to sit through the recess, if they want to—everyone knows that the recess is not a holiday—and then report, possibly before we have the second vote?

It is, of course, a matter for the Committees to decide when and how they sit and what comments they make. I have no doubt—I am absolutely certain about it—that when we come to the second day of debate, those who chair the Scottish Affairs Committee, the Procedure Committee and indeed the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will wish to put their views across, and perhaps those of their members as well.

As Ministers in the Department for Transport failed to include Hull in the original plan for electrification of the trans-Pennine line, which I guess is not surprising given that the Government do not seem to know where the north is, and now that it has actually been paused, may we have a debate on what will happen to Hull’s privately financed plan to electrify the line between Selby and Hull, which now seems to be in jeopardy because of the Government’s decision to cancel the scheme?

If the hon. Lady has specific concerns about transport affecting Hull, she will have the opportunity to raise them with Ministers over the next three days. She talks about our not knowing where the north is, but if I recall correctly, the last Labour Government left office with unemployment higher than when they started, and they did not deliver to places such as Hull the kind of investment that we are now seeing in offshore wind, which is generating thousands of new jobs in Hull and her part of the country. That is what this country needs. It needs investment in skills and new technologies, and a Government that supports business and ensures that jobs are created. That is what is happening.

It is now five years since Aisha Bibi, a Christian mother of five children, was imprisoned and sentenced to death after being falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, and her health has continued to deteriorate. Having previously authored a letter signed by 54 Members of Parliament of all parties to the Pakistani authorities asking for urgent justice in this case, may we have an urgent debate on religious freedom and support the release of Aisha Bibi?

Religious freedom should be universal, and we should not see people imprisoned for their religious views in any part of the world. That should never happen, and this country should always stand against it. My hon. Friend makes a really important point, and he will undoubtedly take advantage of next Tuesday’s opportunity to bring it to the attention of Foreign Office Ministers. I commend him for the work he is doing.

A recent report by the Competition and Markets Authority highlighted my early-day motion 238, which stated that people using pre-payment meters were paying up to £226 more than those on the cheapest energy tariffs.

[That this House notes the recent Ofgem report calling on all energy suppliers to treat prepayment meter (PPM) customers fairly; further notes that households need more support in switching to different tariffs and method of supply; believes that companies should abolish the charge for installing PPMs as this adds to debt and investigate the best way to establish a price to beat so that consumers can trust the price they pay is fair; further notes that energy companies apply through the courts for warrants to transfer customers with fuel debt on to PPMs, the very people who are least able to afford high tariffs; further believes that meters should not be routinely used to pay off debt as this leads to self-disconnection; further believes that stronger safeguards are required for the issue of warrants and the authority forcibly to install PPMs where households include vulnerable children or adults; and further notes that the expansion of smart meters into homes presents safeguarding challenges to avoid homes being put at risk of disconnection by a simple click of a mouse.]

Will the Leader of the House make time to have a debate in the Chamber to discuss this addition to household debt for those who can least afford to pay a higher tariff?

I commend the hon. Lady for the work she is doing on this issue. Of course it is right and proper that energy companies should take into account the pressures that some people in our society are facing. I will ensure that her concerns are drawn to the attention of my colleagues, and I know that she will take advantage of the opportunities that the House provides to continue to raise her concerns.

My lorry driver constituent Peter Clark, from Desborough, is facing a £2,000 fine because five Vietnamese illegal immigrants were found in the large cement mixer that he was bringing to this country from Italy. When he got to Calais, he asked the French authorities to inspect the open trailer, because he had been unable to secure it. They said that they could not help him because it was too early in the morning, they had no torches and their ladder was locked up. May we have a statement from our Immigration Minister about what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to ensure that the French fulfil their responsibilities in regard to stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into our country?

It is difficult for me to comment on an individual case, but I would always want lorry drivers to be treated fairly by the system. I want those who are innocent of any crime to be judged innocent of any crime. My hon. Friend makes a really important point. There is close collaboration between our Home Office and the French Interior Ministry, and we are working as hard as we can to ensure that the French Government fulfil their obligations in Calais. We are also doing our bit to help them by, for example, providing additional secure fencing.

Yesterday I secured a 90-minute Westminster Hall debate to consider the report of the United Nations independent commission of inquiry into the 2014 Gaza conflict. The debate was chaired by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), who did a great job and made every attempt to accommodate the contributions of all those who attended. Unfortunately, the debate was so over-subscribed that speeches were limited to two and a half minutes with no interventions. It was agreed by everyone, including the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), that we would seek to bring the issues to a debate in this Chamber, so that we could explore them in more detail. Can the Leader of the House give us the time to do that?

I probably cannot, because I do not have the time to give to the hon. Lady, but I can tell her that we set up the Backbench Business Committee precisely for these purposes. It can allocate time for when we return in the autumn, and this is precisely the kind of thing for which that debating time should be used. I hope that she will approach the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who now chairs the Committee, and put on his agenda the fact that the House would very much welcome the opportunity to debate this matter.

Those who serve in our armed forces are true heroes and great heroines, and they deserve the grateful thanks of this House and this nation. Will my right hon. Friend answer the call of constituents of mine such as Laurie Loveless for a debate on instituting a national defence medal for those who give long service to our armed forces?

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. That is not an idea that I have heard before, but it is an intriguing request. She is absolutely right to say that those who serve our country do us all an enormous service. They are heroic in what they do and in the sacrifices that they sometimes make. There will be Defence questions on Monday, and I suggest that if she puts her point to Ministers at that time, they will be interested to hear it.

May we have a debate on the attempt to impose night working on tube workers, to discuss the need to enter into proper negotiations and reach agreement with the trade unions on proper and safe staffing levels and working arrangements?

I am sorry. I am very glad that the hon. Lady has raised this issue, because this highlights the difference between us. I look at the fact that tube drivers are paid something like twice the amount that nurses, paramedics and others in our public services are paid. I also look at the disruption that is being caused in London today. Some people are having to work from home, some are unable get to essential jobs and some are having to walk long distances across the capital because a group of well-paid people are holding this nation to ransom. I think that that is unacceptable and that we should condemn it. Will she?

Many of my constituents rely on the railways to get from Fleet, Winchfield, Hook, Bramley and Basingstoke to work. Will my right hon. Friend ask for a statement on how we can have faster, longer and better trains as part of the new franchise that this Government are moving towards?

I declare an interest in this matter, as my hon. Friend and I share the same rail franchise in our two constituencies. I very much want to see longer trains, and I hope to see them come into force shortly. This Government have made financial provision for longer trains across the South West Trains route. Much work still needs to be done on that front, but he and I will both be making representations on that matter to the new franchisees.

As the Leader of the House will be aware, the Sewel convention and a memorandum of understanding govern relations between the UK Government and the Scottish Government where competences overlap. Given that the UK Government are in favour of English votes for English laws, but not Scottish votes for Scottish laws, will that matter be considered in a debate next week, or should we throw the memorandum in the bin?

The hon. Gentleman keeps missing the point. We already have Scottish votes for Scottish laws; it is called the Scottish Parliament. The reason we are having this debate is that the laws on Scotland are made in Edinburgh, but laws on England, in areas such as health and education, are made here, decided on by Members of the United Kingdom Parliament. All we seek to say is that when a constituency in England or Wales is exclusively affected by a change, then its Member should have the decisive say in what happens.

Slow broadband afflicts too many of my constituents in Cheltenham. I know that positive steps are being taken locally, but can we have a statement on what more can be done nationally to ensure that the Government’s target of getting all Britons out of e-poverty and onto 2 megabits per second is achieved?

This is an enormously important issue. The success of this country will depend on the quality of the technology we have available to carry out our daily work. My right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will have heard the comments that were made earlier about the availability of mobile signals in rural areas. I can assure my hon. Friend that this will continue to be a priority for this Government.

Many of my constituents are glad that they do not have to travel on the Pacer trains, but those trains have been replaced by class 37s, which were built in 1960 and are long past their sell-by date. May I echo the concerns that have been expressed by my hon. Friends on this matter and call for a debate on rail in the north and where it is going?

The Labour party has a substantial allocation of Opposition days. If it wants a debate on rail in the north, it can choose to have one. I simply repeat what I said earlier: in 13 years of Labour Government our rail network essentially stood still. It is only this Government that are trying to take it forward.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) made a mistake earlier when he said that the highlight of the women’s tour was in Kettering; it was in fact the stage in rural east Northamptonshire. Those villages are affected by rural crime, which is a problem that crosses the border between Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. May we have a debate on rural crime and the important cross-border policing that has to take place to tackle it?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important that police forces do not simply concentrate on the urban areas. They need to remember the impact of crime on villages, and especially on rural businesses. One thing I sought to do as Justice Secretary was to ensure that the voice of business was more clearly heard in our justice system by allowing businesses to make clear statements in court about the impact of what might seem to be trivial crimes on their businesses, but which can in fact be hugely disruptive. My hon. Friend might look to the Backbench Business Committee for an opportunity to have such a debate, because this is a matter that affects MPs on both sides of the House.

I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will have noticed the complete absence in the business statement of any time for debates on subjects nominated by the Backbench Business Committee. Will the Leader of the House please allocate us at least some time before the recess, and use his influence to extract the names of nominees for the Committee from the Conservative party? Names from the Labour party and the Scottish National party are already in place. Can we please have those other names so that the Committee can convene and, hopefully, get some time allocated to take up the interests of Members, particularly those sitting behind the right hon. Gentleman, for nominated debates from the Backbench Business Committee?

I am keen to see all Select Committees, including the Backbench Business Committee, set up as quickly as possible. The hon. Gentleman talks about the delays in getting names, but the problem is not limited to the Government side of the House; some elements still need to be brought forward from all parties in the House. As soon as we can get these Committees up and running, we will.

A former gasworks at Hollacombe in my Torbay constituency is the subject of a housing development that requires major decontamination work this summer. I have supported local residents and the head of Preston primary school, Mr Kenneth Kies, in calling on the council and developers to hold a public meeting to explain how that will be done safely. That request has been declined. May we have a debate on how those who undertake developments affecting contaminated land can be required to explain how their works will be undertaken safely in the surrounding local community?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and it is good to see an active Member of Parliament for Torbay, making representations on behalf of that constituency. He will undoubtedly do a fine job over the next five years. His comments will have been heard by Ministers today, but I suggest that he seek to initiate an Adjournment debate to raise this issue directly with the relevant Minister. It is obviously a concern. We want developments to proceed at pace, particularly on brownfield sites, where they will not have a damaging impact on our environment.

The Leader of the House will recall that I joined Members on both sides of the House a week ago in calling for a debate on delays to the Chilcot inquiry. Patience is wearing thin, certainly among the constituents I represent. Will the Leader of the House ask the Government to hold a debate before the recess so that Members on both sides of the House can debate whether more robust action is required and our constituents can get the answers that they surely deserve?

The hon. Gentleman’s frustration is shared across the House and in the Government. We would prefer to have seen this report published long ago. We are keen to see it published as soon as possible. It is an independent report; we do not have control over the timing. I have absolutely no doubt that, when the report is completed, lessons will need to be learned about how inquiries are conducted, so that things cannot happen this way in future.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The introduction of employment tribunal fees is one of the most calculated, callous and unfair acts of the last Government, so I was pleased that a review of the system was to take place. However, I was disappointed to learn that it will be an internal Government review only. Will the Leader of the House make time to debate that in the House, so that we can hear about the access to justice that has been denied to thousands of people as a result of the introduction of these fees?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman and I are simply not going to agree on this. The change was necessary. We are a Government who believe in business and job creation. The whole way in which our tribunal system was being used was a barrier to job creation. We now have a system that is fair and proportionate. Yes, we are reviewing it, but it is absolutely my view that the change we put in place is essential to ensure that small businesses hire people, rather than backing away from taking that recruitment decision.

bills presented

Welfare Reform and Work

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Secretary Duncan Smith, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Greg Clark, Greg Hands, Mr Oliver Letwin and Priti Patel, presented a Bill to make provision about reports on progress towards full employment and the apprenticeships target; to make provision about reports on the effect of certain support for troubled families; to make provision about social mobility; to make provision about the benefit cap; to make provision about social security and tax credits; to make provision for loans for mortgage interest; and to make provision about social housing rents.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow; and to be printed (Bill 51) with explanatory notes (Bill 51-EN).

Health Services Commissioning (Equality and Accountability) (No. 2)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Rehman Chishti, supported by Tom Brake, Yasmin Qureshi and Jeremy Lefroy, presented a Bill to make provision to reduce inequalities in the health care received by people with mental illness and people with learning disabilities; to require commissioners of health services to make an annual report to the Secretary of State on the equality of service provision to, and the health outcomes for, such people and of their qualitative experience of health care services; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 September 2015; and to be printed (Bill 52).