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Business of the House

Volume 606: debated on Thursday 3 March 2016

The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 7 March—Second Reading of the Policing and Crime Bill.

Tuesday 8 March—Remaining stages of the Enterprise Bill [Lords] (day 1), followed by a debate on International Women’s Day, a subject determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Wednesday 9 March—Conclusion of the remaining stages of the Enterprise Bill [Lords] (day 2), followed by, if necessary, consideration of further Lords amendments.

Thursday 10 March—Consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill, followed by a debate on a motion on record copies of Acts. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 11 March—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 14 March will include:

Monday 14 March—Remaining stages of the Energy Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 15 March—Second Reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Wednesday 16 March—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement.

Thursday 17 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Friday 18 March—The House will not be sitting.

Finally, I indicated before Christmas that we would provide regular updates on the situation in Syria. The intention is that there will be a further statement shortly on matters in Syria.

There have been two fire alarms in the Palace this week, and on both occasions there was great confusion among Members and members of the public. May I urge the Leader of the House to initiate a review of those arrangements as soon as possible?

Last week I asked whether the Leader of the House plans to delay the Queen’s Speech until after the EU Referendum. He refused to answer, which is of course usual, but we all now know that the Government intend to extend this Session beyond 23 June. We know that not because the Leader of the House has told the House, but because Downing Street has told The Times. I know that, as a Brexiteer, the Leader of the House is not allowed to see Government papers any more, but one would think that the Government would at least allow him to know when the recess dates will be. So come on, just tell us: will the Queen’s Speech be after 23 June, will there be a Whitsun half-term recess, will the House sit during the week of the referendum, and will he give us the dates through to the end of the year? Before he goes all pompous about this—oh no, it is too late for that—I just say to him that Members from across the House, and, for that matter, the staff who work in this building, all want answers to these questions.

The terrible news about the article in The Times is that Downing Street has also said that there is going to be a reshuffle after the referendum and that the Leader of the House tops the list of those who are going to be sacked. I, for one, am beginning to feel very, very sorry for him, so I have been searching the job pages for him. Sadly, the only thing that seemed even vaguely suitable was working as an unpaid voluntary intern for the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett), but unfortunately he says in the job description that he wants somebody who is a “good team player”, so that rules out the Leader of the House. All the other jobs say they want someone with a good sense of humour—need I say more? He need not worry though: I am sure the Prime Minister will give him a glowing reference.

The previous Parliament was the zombie Parliament—for months on end the House had no proper business—and now we have the return of the living dead. They walk among us, they look like Ministers, and they are paid like Ministers, but they are doomed. They hate the Prime Minister; they think he is damaging the economy and putting our security at risk. Frankly, the only thing that is keeping them in the Government is the £23,570.89 in extra salary they will get come 23 June.

How do the Government intend to fill the business between now and then? Here are my suggestions. One: I have married a lot of people in my time—to one another, as a vicar, that is—but it has always seemed wrong to me that marriage certificates include the names of the fathers of the bride and groom but not the mothers. Even the Prime Minister says that he wants to change this, but apparently he has written to one of our Members saying there is not enough time. Well, there is clearly now going to be enough time to do it in this Session. My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees) has a handy private Member’s Bill to be considered tomorrow: why do not the Government adopt it or help it into Committee so that it can be amended?

Two: I am delighted that the Government are no longer going to water down freedom of information, but should we not extend it to private companies engaged on public sector contracts? How much did the Government’s preposterous review cost? The Leader of the House might as well tell us now, because he knows full well that if he does not we are going to put in a freedom of information request and he will have to tell us in the end anyway.

Three: I am glad that Adele did so well at the Brits last week, but tickets to see her live are now selling on the secondary market for up to £24,000. This market pretends to support the arts, but actually it just leeches off them. The Business Department’s review of the ticket resale market closed on 20 November. When is it going to be published, and when will the Government legislate to put an end to this pernicious, parasitical secondary market?

The hon. Members for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) and for Salisbury (John Glen) and I have long been calling for a parliamentary inquiry into concussion in sport. This week, more than 70 doctors and health experts have written to the Government calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby games. I do not want youngsters wrapped in cotton wool, but given that it is 12 years since the West Bromwich Albion footballer Jeff Astle died of chronic traumatic encephalopathy brought on by heading the ball, five years since 14-year-old Ben Robinson died of second impact syndrome, and Will Smith’s new film “Concussion” shows how the NFL failed to protect its players and ended up with a legal bill of $1 billion, is it not time that we set up a proper parliamentary inquiry to make sure that we get all the facts out there?

Next week sees the 100th anniversary of Harold Wilson’s birth. He gave women, for the first time, control over their own property and their bodies; he abolished the death penalty; he decriminalised homosexuality; he introduced the first race relations Act; and he won the referendum to stay in Europe. He ended censorship and created the Open University and the Arts Council. For that matter, under him we won the Eurovision song contest—I know the Leader of the House is obsessed with this—three times: three times more than we have ever won it under the Tories. Is it not outrageous that we have a louring statue of Mrs Thatcher, who made my constituents’ lives miserable, but just a bust of Harold Wilson, who made this country a civilised society?

I very much hope that we will win the Eurovision song contest under the Conservative party next year, with that great band MP4 leading the charge for the nation.

In order to understand what does and does not work with fire drills, it is, of course, necessary to carry them out. Lessons will be learned from the experience earlier this week, but I extend my thanks to all the Officers of the House who were involved in the fire drill. They will now work out how to make sure that our processes are appropriate and suitable for the future.

We will announce the date of the Queen’s Speech when we have decided the date of the Queen’s Speech. As always, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) makes the mistake of believing that what he reads in the papers is what is actually going to happen. We will take a decision on the Queen’s Speech and we will announce it to this House, as usual.

We have to be mindful of the need to ensure the progress of business. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. It is somewhat ironic that, on the one hand, he asks, “Where are the recess dates?” while on the other he says, “This is a zombie Parliament with no serious business.” He is completely wrong. I have just set out plans for the Second Reading of the Policing and Crime Bill next week. That really important measure will restore a sensible balance to many aspects of our policing and justice system. I have also announced the Second Reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will be crucial in enabling us to defend our country. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that that is a feature of a zombie Parliament, then frankly he does not know what the word “zombie” means.

May I echo the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the work done collectively by Members across the House, including by my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), on the issue of head injuries? I know how serious an issue it is. The Children’s Trust is situated in Tadworth Court, just outside my constituency, and it does a brilliant job in helping children who have had the most terrible experiences. The issue should be of concern to Members on both sides of the House. I hope very much that the Select Committee will pick up on the work that my hon. Friend and others have done and write a full report. The hon. Gentleman asked for a parliamentary investigation, and the best way to do that is through the Select Committee.

The Welsh affairs debate will take place later today. It was, of course, St David’s day this week, and I extend my good wishes to all Welsh Members of Parliament. I am looking forward to 5 May, when the people of Wales will have the chance to get rid of a failing Labour Administration.

It is a bit of a relief to me to see the shadow Leader of the House in better spirits today than he was yesterday. I do not know whether others noticed that he looked utterly miserable during Prime Minister’s questions, but I understand why. It was not just because the Leader of the Opposition spent last Saturday, just like old times, at a CND rally, or because he has appointed the former Finance Minister of the Greek Syriza Government as his new economic adviser, although heaven knows how any self-respecting Member on the Labour Front Bench could take that appointment seriously. It was not even because a former shadow Cabinet member said of the Leader of the Opposition’s appearance at the parliamentary party meeting on Monday:

“Expectations were rock-bottom—and he fell below them”.

The most bizarre claim to come from the Labour leadership this week was when the Leader of the Opposition said that he gets his moral compass from “Eastenders”. Surely not even the shadow Leader of the House can think that this is a man fit to be Prime Minister.

I understand that it is hard for someone who has decided, as the shadow Leader of the House has, to become a cheerleader for a team he clearly does not support. I would be happy to grant him a debate on learning from the lessons of history, because he is the man who says he is proud to have stuck a knife in the back of Tony Blair. Only this week, however, he seems to have had second thoughts and has started to show signs of thinking again, because he told a group of students:

“‘I’m going to talk about Tony Blair, I think we’re still allowed to speak about him”.

Of course, those were the days when Labour was a serious political party.

Some French Minister has apparently been saying today that if we have the nerve to come out of the EU, all 4,000 people in Calais will be put on rubber boats and come across to Britain, because the French do not want anything to do with them. If I were a Frenchman, I would be hugely embarrassed by my Government. If a country that is two and a half times the size of this country, with roughly the same population, cannot disperse 4,000 people and look after them, it should be ashamed of itself. Could we have a statement next week from the Foreign Secretary on whether it is the Government’s position that, if we come out of the EU, we would have more rather than less immigration to this country?

I am absolutely certain that the Foreign Secretary will be back before the House shortly, so there will be an opportunity for my hon. Friend to put that point to him. In the last couple of weeks, I have heard the French Interior Minister reassure us that the French Government would not wish to put at risk the bilateral agreements over border controls between the United Kingdom and France.

I, too, thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. Today is World Book Day, and it is worth noting, especially as I am chair of the all-party writers group, the wonderful wealth of writers that we have in this country and the power of literature to bring joy to people and enhance their lives.

The Leader of the House and I now have a joint experience in fighting referendums. We have both been on the sharp end of various “Project Fears”. In the Scottish referendum, I experienced “Project Fear”, and he is now experiencing the new “Project Euro-fear” as he leads the campaign to yank the UK out of the EU. The scaremongering from the in side is almost straight out of the useless and dysfunctional Better Together manual, and it is likely to cause as much damage to the in campaign as it caused to the massive lead of the no campaign, which was shredded, in Scotland. As a supporter of our place in the EU, I want that counterproductive scaremongering to stop, although I presume that the Leader of the House is quite happy with it, given that it will probably work in his interest. Can we have a debate about positive campaigning, and can we encourage everybody to ensure that when we debate our place in Europe, we do so as positively as possible?

We need an urgent statement from the Defence Secretary on Trident. Apparently, he is just about to declare that Trident renewal is already under way, before we have had the opportunity to approve that in the House. It is absolutely appalling that the Defence Secretary can simply take the House for granted, and he must come to the House and explain himself. Scotland rejects Trident, and we intend to make it a huge issue in the Scottish elections. We simply refuse to have that weapon of mass destruction dumped on our nation without any approval from the House.

What do we do now, Mr Speaker, about large parts of Scottish funding? On English-only legislation, you are to lay aside minor or consequential issues when certifying legislation as English only, even though they have huge Barnett consequentials to Scotland. The Leader of the House told us that the mysteries of the Barnett consequentials lie in the mystery of the estimates. I tried to debate estimates in the estimates day debate, but I was ruled out of order within two minutes and 46 seconds. Somebody, somewhere, has to tell us how we should get that addressed and when we, as Scottish Members, will get to discuss, debate and vote on the critical issue of the Barnett consequentials.

Finally, the irony of last night’s debate on the Lords amendments on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, in which Tory after Tory lambasted all those wicked Lords, was not lost on Scotland. For the Tories, however, the Lords are only to be chastised when they do not do the Tories’ business, and to ensure that that happens, the Tories are going to introduce another 40 Tory Lords. Why do the Tories not just back us? Instead of trying to gerrymander that bizarre House, how about working with us and getting rid of the whole shooting match altogether?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on the need for positive campaigning, and I hope that all who are involved in the debate over our membership of the European Union in the coming months will take a positive approach and set out the facts so that the British people can take their decisions. I gently chide him for mentioning “Project Fear” when he talked about positive campaigning, and I remind him of the things that he said about the introduction of English votes for English laws. To listen to what he said, one would have thought that about as much doom and gloom and disaster as possible would fall on us, but it is not entirely clear to me that that has happened. The Union has not fallen apart because of the introduction of English votes for English laws, and the Scottish people I know think that it is entirely fair.

The hon. Gentleman raised Trident. If he is concerned to bring the Defence Secretary to the House to explain himself, there are mechanisms in the House by which the hon. Gentleman can do so. He can either seek your consent, Mr Speaker, or use the other avenues that are available to him, and I am sure that he will choose to do so. He talks about Trident being “dumped on our nation”, as he phrases it. I remind him of all the people in Scotland whose livelihoods depend on Trident, and of the people in the north-west of England whose jobs depend on the future replacement of Trident. Is he really saying he wants all those jobs to disappear? Is he really saying he wants the area around Rosyth to end up abandoned and without an economic role for the future? I do not think that is in the interests of those communities. I have to say that it is in the interests of Scotland and the United Kingdom that we retain a nuclear deterrent both for our national security and to ensure there are jobs in the parts of the United Kingdom that need them.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the estimates debates. I simply remind him that he is a member of the Liaison Committee, which chooses the subjects for debate on estimates days. The Committee is perfectly free to hold discussions on any aspects of public spending, and it chose to do so on Foreign and Commonwealth Office matters. It is for the hon. Gentleman, who sits on the Committee, to secure the debates he wants.

The position of the hon. Gentleman’s party on the Lords has been well set out. I must say that I think the Lords plays a role in helping to improve the quality of legislation in this place, but I suspect that we are never going to agree on that subject.

In recent months, five coal-fired power stations have announced that they will close, potentially close or partially close: one of them is Rugeley B. The Government have stated that they intend to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2025, but market conditions mean that the closures may come far sooner. May we have a debate in Government time on energy policy and the role that existing power station infrastructure can play?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns, and I heard her question at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. She is freely able to bring forward that subject in an Adjournment debate or to seek consent for a Back-Bench debate to have it discussed in the House. The matter clearly affects the constituencies of a number of hon. Members, and I encourage her to bring that subject forward for discussion.

If this Session of Parliament runs beyond June, will the Leader of the House consider giving us more days for Back-Bench business and for private Members’ Bills? If he gives us more days, will he put the Bill I am promoting with support from colleagues on both sides of the House—for the automatic registration of children for free school meals and the school premium—at the top of the list on one of those days? That is the one move we could make between now and the summer holidays that would have a real effect on poor families.

The right hon. Gentleman has a long track record of pursuing social reforms of that kind, and I will certainly look very carefully at what his Bill proposes. Of course, the progress of business in the House very much depends on our success in getting Government business through. We have a substantial programme—it was set out in our manifesto—to bring forward and complete by the end of this Session. I want to make sure that the dates set for both the Queen’s Speech and for the end of this Session and the recess are consistent with our need to ensure that our manifesto is implemented.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the impact of c2c timetable changes on the lives of commuters who live in Southend? The company has at long last accepted that there is overcrowding and it has ordered new rolling stock, but it has just announced that it will not be arriving.

I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing on behalf of his constituents on an issue that, in different ways and on different lines, affects very many of us. The Transport Secretary will be in the Chamber for questions next Thursday, and I encourage my hon. Friend to raise the issue directly with Ministers. He is doing a good job in keeping the company under pressure at a time when there are clearly serious issues about the delivery of the service on that line.

As Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, I wrote to the Leader of the House to look for assistance in getting protected time for particular debates. The debate on gangs and serious youth violence was bumped, but has now been rescheduled for later today. On Tuesday, which is International Women’s Day, we have a particularly time-sensitive debate on International Women’s Day. I asked the Leader of the House to give an undertaking that the time for that debate would be protected. I have received a reply, and I am afraid to say that no such undertaking has been given. That is regrettable, because it is possible that there will be urgent questions and statements and that the Enterprise Bill will run, which would curtail the time for the International Women’s Day debate. We have already seen evidence that such protected time is required from time to time. Will the Leader of the House please reconsider that matter?

As I have said, I have given that matter careful consideration. I have looked at the flow of business on Back-Bench days and will watch carefully next Tuesday. I am sure that you and I, Mr Speaker, will want to ensure that there is proper time for debate on that day. At the same time, I have to be mindful of the working hours of staff and of this House, so I do not want to make significant changes without being confident that there is a real problem that needs to be solved, rather than an occasional problem. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will keep the matter under review, but my hope and intention is that we will have proper time available next week.

In the light of Switzerland’s withdrawal of its application for EU membership after 24 years, may we have a debate next week on why it might possibly have chosen to do that?

I think that will simply add grist to the mill of the debate on the European Union referendum. Although I have not scheduled a debate on European Union matters for next week, I am in little doubt that there will be an opportunity shortly for those matters to be raised with Ministers.

Most Members will be surprised that many current and former service personnel never receive a medal acknowledging their service. All those who served accepted the danger and sacrifice associated with their decision, but they will never receive a medal unless they were actively involved in conflict or served for a very lengthy period. May we have a debate in Government time on the introduction of a national defence medal, which would be a tangible recognition of their service?

It is open to the hon. Lady to bring forward an Adjournment debate on that subject if she wishes. From my perspective, I do not think that medals should be handed out without consideration of the contribution that has been made and the individual’s circumstances. If we start to have medals for all, the value of the medals for particular examples of valour and service in particularly tough circumstances will perhaps be slightly devalued. I praise unreservedly all our armed forces, but the medals system that we have always had in this country is designed for those who go beyond the routine and put themselves in danger in the service of this country.

When will the House have an opportunity to express its opinion on the new fiscal framework for Scotland? When we have a debate on that issue, will we be able to debate Barnett consequentials? For example, when the United Kingdom Parliament gives more money to Glasgow in city grant, there is a Barnett consequential that means that more money goes to the Scottish Government as a result.

The Scotland Bill is making progress through the other House. I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. The agreement that we have reached will provide for a transitional period to a new world for the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government now have to start using the powers they have been given and taking some of the decisions that other Governments have to take, which they have so far insulated themselves from.

In the last few weeks, there have been many stories in the media about gamblers and addiction. Tony Franklin lost his money, his job and his family, and claims that fixed odds betting terminals were the reason. It is clear that the gambler stands little chance of leaving the roulette table with heavier pockets than when he entered. There is a need to change the legislation on fixed odds betting terminals. Would the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on that matter?

Unfortunately, we have just had Culture, Media and Sport questions, when the hon. Gentleman would have had an opportunity to raise that matter with the Ministers concerned. They will, of course, be back before the House in due course. I am aware that this is a matter of concern across the House. It might be possible to take the subject to the Backbench Business Committee if his concerns are shared across the House.

If the Government persist with their intention of delaying the vote on Trident renewal until after the Labour party conference, it will become harder for pro-defence and pro-Trident Labour MPs to vote in favour of renewal. May we please have the date on which the debate and vote will take place, especially if more time will be made available by extending the length of the Session?

I know about my right hon. Friend’s concerns over the timing of the debate. I will make sure that his views are fed into the discussions about when the debate should happen.

This week, a Select Committee in the Lords found that, contrary to Government claims, the Trade Union Bill will profoundly affect Labour party funding. Previously, the Leader of the House had a letter from the Minister for Skills, the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), seeking to make concessions on the Bill. Will the Leader of House now agree to the concessions and commit to cross-party talks to reach a fair and long-lasting settlement on party funding?

Of course, that is a matter of discussion and debate in the Lords, and the Lords Committee has made recommendations. We are trying to provide a sensible balance for the future. [Interruption.] The shadow Leader of the House says, “Oh no you’re not”, but the Conservative party has to seek voluntary contributions from individuals who choose to back it. The Labour party has depended on a system in which people have to go beyond the extra mile to take themselves out of automatic contributions.

One of the major issues to be debated during the European referendum campaign will be the size of the UK’s net contribution. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate so that those of us who are in favour of leaving the EU can outline the infrastructure projects and improvements to public services on which we could spend that money? It would also provide others with an opportunity to try to defend why money should go to Europe rather than be spent in their constituencies.

My hon. Friend makes his point in his customarily succinct way. Of course, we have just had an all-day debate on our EU membership, and I am absolutely certain that it will not be the last time these matters are debated in this House between now and June.

May we have a debate on the dodgy dossier that the Government have produced in advance of the EU referendum? I do not know whether you, Mr Speaker, saw the Minister for the Cabinet Office skewered on the “Daily Politics” by Andrew Neil yesterday when he tried to back up his claim that Norway had to abide by three quarters of the EU’s laws. Andrew Neil pointed out that the figure was actually 9%. If the Government are prepared blatantly to lie so badly on that issue, perhaps we need a full debate on the dodgy dossier to see how many other blatant lies they are prepared to resort to.

I would simply say that I hope everyone will set out their views and the facts in a completely dispassionate way.

Hannah Morris, the fantastic Camden youth mayor, is stepping down later this year. When I have spoken to young constituents, the point has been made to me over and over that young people feel disfranchised from politics and disengaged from Parliament. That has been exacerbated by the Government’s refusal to lower the voting age and their scrapping of policies such as education maintenance allowance. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate in the House on young people’s worrying disengagement from this Parliament, the mother of Parliaments?

We talked earlier about the importance that the education centre plays in this place and the importance of bringing as many young people as possible to Parliament. All of us individually have a duty on this matter, and I spend quite a lot of time talking to groups of sixth-formers in my constituency. I am sure the hon. Lady does the same. Every one of us has a duty to go out and explain why the decisions that we take in Parliament and the issues that we debate are of material importance to young people, and why they should vote and take an interest.

Can time be found for a debate on the effects of uncontrolled immigration into the UK, which would be one of the impacts of our remaining in the EU? It has a massive impact on people’s access to services, healthcare, school places and decent wages, and it is extremely important to my constituents.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. He may have seen the serialisation of the new book by Tom Bower over the past few days, which has exposed just how complicit the Labour Government were in opening our borders and allowing uncontrolled immigration to this country. Those who were part of that party and that Government should be forever ashamed of the way in which they allowed uncontrolled immigration—not managed immigration or immigration organised in a careful way—as a deliberate policy. They should be ashamed of that.

Has the Leader of the House received a request from any Minister to make a statement explaining why the wheels have come off the Brexit BMW, or perhaps a request from an individual Member who has performed a handbrake turn on EU membership to make a statement explaining their diversion? Such statements would provide the public with critical facts about the weaknesses of the Brexit case and the motivation of some people in supporting it.

Has the Leader of the House seen reports that plans are being drawn up to reclassify e-cigarettes as tobacco products for tax purposes? Vapers and the sector accept that some additional duty should be charged, but the consequence of the proposal is that the price of e-cigarettes to consumers will more than double. Public Health England has deemed e-cigarettes to be 95% safer than tobacco, so may we have a debate to consider taxation of those products to ensure that they remain an effective method of smoking cessation?

I know that my hon. Friend raises a matter of concern, which affects a large number of people. I suspect that it is the sort of proposal that causes uncertainty and disquiet about decisions made in Brussels. I very much hope that no decision on the matter will be made without due care and attention, and without due focus on whether e-cigarettes are a good way of enabling people to move away from smoking.

May we have an urgent debate in Government time on the recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, which showed that 10 of the 12 towns and cities in greatest economic decline are in the north of England? Not a single town in the south is among the worst 24 listed. That causes real concern about the vision of a northern powerhouse. We urgently need a debate, particularly as Steve Rumbelow, the chief executive of my council, Rochdale—which, incidentally, is listed as the town in the greatest economic decline—has accused the foundation of using out-of-date figures, which mask the progress made in northern regions.

It never ceases to amaze me that Labour Members do not understand why the northern powerhouse is needed. It is because, when they were in power, the manufacturing sector of this country almost halved. Northern towns declined steadily—Labour policies failed the north of this country unreservedly. That is why we need a northern powerhouse, which helps to contribute to the significant fall in unemployment across the north of England. We inherited high unemployment in those towns and cities, and we are sorting it out.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about St David’s day, and I look forward to the Welsh affairs debate later. Cardiff and Wales held the rugby world cup at the turn of the millennium. Since then, we have held the FA cup finals, the Ryder cup, the UEFA super cup and Ashes tests, and played our part in the Olympics. I pay tribute to the Scottish Government for what they did with Glasgow and the Commonwealth games. Is it not time to have a debate about what we can do to chivvy and encourage the Welsh Labour Government to put in a bid for the Commonwealth games to come to Cardiff?

London did a fantastic job of hosting the Olympics, Glasgow did a fantastic job of hosting the Commonwealth games, and I would love to see the Commonwealth games come to Cardiff. I echo my hon. Friend’s view and I hope that the Welsh community will come together and find the right moment to make that bid for the future.

Last week, I discreetly visited the besieged district of Sur in Diyarbakir. I witnessed almost incontrovertible evidence of suppression of civil liberties and worrying signs of the potential for more civilian deaths. Given Diyarbakir’s proximity to Syria, the fact that Turkey is a NATO ally, and emerging evidence that Turkey is targeting US and UK-backed Kurdish forces fighting against Daesh in Syria, will the Leader of the House commit to a debate in Government time to allow Members to discuss the nature of our relationship with our NATO allies?

As I said earlier, I have agreed with my colleagues in Government and made provision for a further statement on the situation in Syria shortly. That will give the hon. Lady an opportunity to raise that very point.

Tomorrow, I will be at New College in Huddersfield with the Anthony Nolan “Register & Be a Lifesaver” programme. May we have a debate on bone marrow donation, blood donation and organ donation to see how we can increase the number of people involved in those programmes and raise awareness?

My hon. Friend makes an important point and I pay tribute to everyone involved in that important work, particularly in his constituency. He raises an issue that has, over the months, been of concern to Members of all parties. Again, it might be a subject that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee would like to consider as an opportunity for a Thursday.

Next Thursday will be exactly 29 years since the brutal murder of Daniel Morgan of Llanfrechfa, who was investigating police corruption in south London. This week, “Panorama” gave a vivid account of the extraordinary amount of corruption that existed in the Metropolitan police. I am one of the few people in the House to have read, under strict surveillance, the Tiberius report. It is the most deeply shocking document I have read in my life. Will the Government publish it—perhaps next Thursday—so that the whole country can understand the breadth and depth of police corruption in this city?

I will ensure that the Home Secretary is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. I am not aware of the detail of the report, but I will make sure that she responds to his request.

Unfortunately, a number of my constituents have recently been the victim of a substandard building firm that, when challenged, liquidates itself only to quickly re-establish itself in a new guise. May we have a debate on such abuse of company law?

It is obviously disturbing when one hears of such incidents. The Business Secretary will be here in 10 days’ time, and current procedures for director disqualification allow members of the public to lodge direct complaints when such issues arise, so that they can be investigated.

May we debate internet awareness? The Prime Minister’s explanation of his damascene conversion on Sunday trading between April and June last year is the existence of internet shopping—in other words, between April and June he discovered the internet. Is that not just an empty excuse for a broken promise that will affect workers not just in England and Wales, but also in Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Those measures also include provisions to improve workers’ rights, and the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to debate all those matters when the provisions are brought before the House. If he has concerns, he will be able to raise them then, and vote accordingly.

All Members of the House recognise how sensitive pensions are, and that any changes we make impact on individuals—we have seen that with the raising of the pension age for women. I understand that there may be further general changes to pensions. Will the Leader of the House guarantee that should that happen, we will have sufficient time to debate them in this House, and to consider the impact that they will have on our constituents’ quality of life?

I know that the Chancellor will want to take great care when bringing forward any proposals to reform the pension system. I do not know what will be in the Budget, but whatever there is, there will be ample time to debate it in this House. Such matters must be handled enormously carefully, and we do not want to make the same disastrous mistakes that Gordon Brown and the Labour party made when they were in government.

I wish to outline an important case. I am supporting Kath and Tom Leary, who are parents seeking answers following the death of their son, Wayne, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2010. The driver, Colin McDonald, is a criminal with little regard for human life. He was on bail for a serious stabbing, having already been given early release for the manslaughter of Jonathan Tripp. Colin McDonald was sentenced for that stabbing and hit and run, but again he was let out on early release on licence until 2021. Last week he was again sentenced for another manslaughter, of Dominic Doyle. The parents want answers. How can a justice system that is meant to give people confidence do this to people? Will the Leader of the House support me in securing a meaningful debate on the issue?

In my time as Justice Secretary I was involved in discussions on a number of such cases, and we introduced measures to tighten the law. We also started a broader review of the laws on motoring, precisely to see whether further steps needed to be taken in tragic cases of this kind. The Lord Chancellor will be here next Tuesday, and from past experience of constituency matters, I encourage the hon. Gentleman to use the Adjournment debate system to bring a Minister to the House, go through the case in detail, and look for changes that can make a difference to families who have been through the most terrible situations.

Local councils must help to maintain trust in politics by openly discussing and transparently agreeing their budget, and by explaining the savings, efficiencies and programmes that they will undertake. Does the Leader of the House agree that councils such as Eastleigh Borough Council must lead the way, because it is struggling to explain openly its future budgets to the public? May we have a debate on open and balanced council budget setting, so that MPs can highlight the importance of vital local decisions and how they must be clearly and roundly understood by residents?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. There is a curious irony, given who controls her borough council. The Liberal Democrats argue for openness, but do not necessarily deliver it when in power. I am sure that if the decisions they take are as opaque as she is suggesting, they will not be holding that power for very much longer. It is of course important that local government is transparent, explains the decisions it takes and sets out why, when it has had to take difficult decisions, it has chosen that route rather than any other.

Yesterday in Westminster Hall we had a debate about the chaos on Southeastern trains. The Minister gave us some reassurances that things were improving, but last night I got a phone call from a concerned constituent who was on a train. He was told by the driver that the signallers had mistakenly put the train on the wrong line, so it would not be visiting any of the stations the passengers on the train intended to go to. My constituent said to me, “We are used to the chaos, but this is downright dangerous.” May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport about safety on our railways and, in particular, Southeastern? This is going too far.

Obviously a situation like that is unacceptable. Every service is occasionally subject to human error, but nobody would seek to defend a situation of that kind. The Secretary of State for Transport is here on Thursday and will be able to take questions on the challenges in relation to Southeastern trains. They are, to a significant degree, being generated by the huge investment we are putting into London Bridge. That means some disruption in the meantime, but it will mean a better service for passengers in the future.

At the most recent Council of Europe meeting we initiated a debate on the media portrayal of the women abused in Cologne and in other places at new year. The media had not reported the situation fully or in a timely fashion. May we have a debate on that in this House, because the BBC was one of the media groups identified?

It is not acceptable for the media, in particular a free media, not to set out the facts when they arise. I commend my hon. Friend for his work in the Council of Europe. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary has taken note of his comments.

Four weeks ago, in response to my question about the 1955 UK-Malawi tax treaty, the Leader of the House very helpfully replied that he would ask the Foreign Office to give me a detailed response. The quill pens are writing slowly. When can I expect a response?

May we have a debate on the midlands engine, the important role manufacturing plays in our regional economy, and how the Government can provide further support to this vital sector?

I commend all those in the midlands who are working so hard to revitalise business in that part of the country. The midlands is another area that was badly affected by the collapse in manufacturing in the years of the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labour Governments. We are now seeing real investment and real progress, for example in the automotive industry. In the midlands, we are seeing an expansion of capacity, new investment and new jobs created. It is a sign that the midlands, under a Conservative Government, is going from strength to strength.

Earlier this week I took part in a workshop delivered by the Alzheimer’s Society. MPs from across the House attended in order to become dementia friends. May we have a debate on what more can be done to support those living with dementia, and their carers and families, and in particular how we can extend the blue badge parking scheme to those facing dementia-related challenges?

I commend all those in this House who have trained to become dementia friends. Members of the Cabinet did the same a while back. It is enormously important that we all understand the impact of dementia. I had an elderly relative who suffered from dementia. My understanding of what she went through, having taken the training, is now much greater. I praise all those who deliver it. This is a subject the Backbench Business Committee might like to consider. There is a demand for subjects to debate and the hon. Lady may wish to bring this forward for consideration.

As my right hon. Friend knows, there is a shortage of engineers in the UK. May we have a debate on career advice for young people who are approaching school-leaving age? After all, how else are we going to have enough engineers to build the network of hedgehog highways around the country?

Well, Mr Speaker, we were all waiting—and we were not disappointed. I gather that my hon. Friend has now got his petition past 20,000 signatures, so we are on the way to debating it in the House, for which I commend him. This nation’s hedgehog population has every reason to be grateful to him. On a more serious note, the solution to the problem is very much at the heart of this Government’s strategy, with the huge expansion in the number of apprenticeships. In my view, these provide the best way of ensuring that we have the breadth of engineering skills that we need.

A year ago today, the Tuberous Sclerosis Association started its “fight4treatment” campaign because sufferers of this pernicious disease are currently not able to access everolimus, the life-saving drug that they so desperately need. A year on, may we finally have a statement from a Health Minister about when the sufferers from this ultra-rare condition can finally get access to the treatment that can save their lives?

This is of course a matter that would normally go through the procedures of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which decides which drugs it is right for the NHS to offer. I will, however, ask the Department of Health to respond to the hon. Gentleman on the issue he has raised.

This week we welcomed the new Indian high commissioner to a meeting in the House, and next week there is the celebration across the Indian sub-continent of Maha Shivratri, which commemorates the auspicious occasion of the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Can we find time—eventually—for a debate on the tremendous links between the UK and India, and the opportunities for business, trade, education and the opening up of services, because it has been a very long time indeed since we have had such a debate in this House?

My hon. Friend is a powerful champion for the ties that exist between this country and India. I pay tribute to all members of the Indian diaspora in the UK, who play an important role in our society and our economy. The links of our Indian business community, not just with the sub-continent but with the Asian economy as a whole, are immensely valuable to us. In my view, we should continue to develop the best possible trade links with India for the future.

May we have a statement on the uses of broadcast footage of the House of Commons? My constituent Charlie Brooker has raised with me—[Interruption.] He has, and he was one of my 270-something constituents who contributed to my majority. He has raised with me the problem that he is unable to use such footage in his programme “Screenwipe”, yet other not too dissimilar broadcasters are allowed to use it. It depends on whether the programme is satire, light entertainment or factual. Given how vague these boundaries are and the fact that these rules were dreamt up some 27 years ago, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that now is a good juncture to revisit this matter and have a statement on it?

If it is a matter of concern to the hon. Lady, she should make a submission to the Administration Committee. However, I think it is very important to ensure that the coverage of this House’s debates is used in an appropriate way, and I am not in favour of making it available to satire programmes.

In other referendum news, I know that the Leader of the House will be paying close attention to the outcome of the referendum on the Mayor of Bath and North East Somerset, which is coming up on 10 March. It is opposed by me and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), as well as by pretty much every other local party. Will my right hon. Friend join me in opposing a Mayor for Bath and North East Somerset, and consider having a debate in Government time on its huge cost and its impact on reducing democratic accountability?

I am sure that I could not do a better job of influencing the people of Bath and Somerset than my hon. Friend, so I will leave it to him to make that case.

Yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Prime Minister admitted that he is going to go begging to the French President to try to get EDF to commit to Hinkley Point C. Later on in the session, he praised the Royal Mint without saying that it has been mooted for privatisation. Hinkley Point C and HS2 can happen only with Chinese investment. “For sale” signs are on the Green Investment Bank, Network Rail assets, air traffic services and Ordnance Survey, among others. May we have a debate in Government time on why the long-term recovery plan means owning nothing and being for ever in debt to other countries?

I always thought it was a good thing to attract international investment, but if it is now Scottish National party policy not to, I am sure investors will be able to come to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and not to Scotland. My own personal view is that we want international investment in Scotland, too.

Nuisance calls are an annoyance to many Members on both sides of the House, but they can cause real distress to the vulnerable and the elderly. The Government have already taken some steps, but may we have a debate about what more can be done to tackle this menace? [Interruption.]

The shadow Leader of the House is chuntering as usual, but I think that this is rather an important issue. Many elderly people suffer from nuisance calls, and the more that we can do to prevent them, the better. A great deal of work has been done by the Government and the regulatory authorities. However, my hon. Friend should take advantage of the opportunity presented by Business, Innovation and Skills questions on Tuesday week, or, indeed, table a written question to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to ensure that we do not ease the pressure on sorting the problem out.

May I request the right hon. Gentleman’s assistance? The 90-strong all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood has sought a meeting with the public health Minister to discuss the consultation that is currently taking place, but she has refused to meet us. Many of our constituents are rather perplexed: they do not understand why, in the middle of a public consultation, the public health Minister will not meet MPs and listen to what has been said by people who have been affected by the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. Might the Leader of the House be able to intervene and ask the Minister to reconsider her position?

I will certainly make inquiries on the hon. Lady’s behalf. In the meantime, I hope that the preparations for the year of culture are going well in Hull.

This morning, in the Vote Office, I picked up a copy of the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, which authorises, for the year ending 31 March 2017, Government spending of £258,322, 682,000. Last night, the Bill received its First, Second and Third Readings in the space of three minutes. When, during those three minutes, did I, as a Scottish MP, have an opportunity to debate and amend Barnett consequentials arising from the Bill?

The hon. Gentleman clearly did not do enough of a job in persuading his hon. Friends on the Liaison Committee to secure such a debate. That is the route to decisions on what we discuss during debates on estimates. I advise him to talk to his hon. Friends more closely next time.

I was disappointed to learn of the closure of the Fab Lab in Ellesmere Port, which provides advice and opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and represents an important part of the future of manufacturing, as well as contributing to the regeneration of the high street. If the Government are really serious about the northern powerhouse, why are they allowing this excellent facility to close? May we please have a debate so that we can ask when Ministers will start putting their words into action?

Business Ministers will be here on Tuesday week. I do not know where the funding came from—whether it was national or local—because I do not know enough details of the individual case. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that unemployment in the north of this country, and business in the north of this country, are moving in the right direction, not the wrong one.

Services at popular walk-in clinics in Harrow are being put out to tender under the direction of the NHS procurement authority, including services at the Alexandra Avenue clinic, which is used by many of my constituents. May we have a debate in Government time so that we can discuss the role of the procurement authority, and, in particular, explore the question of why local GPs who are currently running walk-in clinics continue to be granted a stake in the long-running provision of such crucial services?

Local GPs are able to have a stake in the future of those services. Local GPs are, typically, private organisations providing services for the NHS, and if those services are put out to tender, GPs are perfectly able to demonstrate that they are best placed to do the work.

Despite his funny ways and daft policies, I have become very fond of the Leader of the House over recent months. One of the things that I think he is very good at is arranging regular debates on Syria, so that we do not put the issue on the back burner but, every now and again, have a good debate about it. Most people in this country would expect us to do the same when it comes to the European Union and the referendum. Every week, surely, we should have a major debate on that subject. Could we begin with a debate on the dreadful impact that leaving the EU would have on our universities? For most of us who represent university towns, the universities are our biggest employers and vital to our future, but not one vice-chancellor has come out in favour of Brexit. May we have an early debate, and a regular debate?

I am sure that we will have plenty of opportunities to debate European Union matters. We have just had a series of statements and debates on these issues and I am sure that the future of universities and their means of funding, whether direct or indirect via Brussels, will be a regular subject for debate.

The Guardians of Scotland Trust is a Stirling-based charity which also involves the excellent Stirling Smith art gallery and museum. It is raising money to create a permanent memorial to Sir Andrew de Moray, who alongside William Wallace governed Scotland following the battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. May we have a debate on recognising excellent fundraising efforts such as this?

The hon. Gentleman is able to use the Back-Bench debate system or the Adjournment debate system to bring forward such a debate. This might also be a subject that he would like his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament to debate.

The Leonard Cheshire care home in Littleborough provides care for 22 people with long-term disabilities. I visited the home last month and was truly taken aback by the lengths to which the staff will go to help their patients. However, Leonard Cheshire has decided to close the home, which is devastating for the patients, families and nurses. May we have a debate on the priorities of such charities?

It is obviously disappointing to hear of a change of that kind, although I do not know enough about the circumstances of that particular decision or the reasons behind it. I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise his concerns with the charities Minister—the Minister for Civil Society—either in questions or in an Adjournment debate.

On 17 November, I wrote to the Department of Energy and Climate Change asking for a meeting after DECC officials had met in my constituency to discuss a deplorable situation relating to an open-cast mine that is still not being restored. Despite several follow-up phone calls, I have still not secured a meeting. On 2 November, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs promised me a substantive reply by 20 November on the case of Mr Thornhill that I have been chasing since 2010. I am still waiting for a reply. May I ask the Leader of the House to utilise his foot, which he has also offered to the Scottish National party, to assist my efforts to ensure justice for my constituents?

Yesterday, a train carrying highly radioactive waste travelled through Gilmour Street station in Paisley, causing obvious anger and concern to commuters and residents alike. The Scottish Parliament is against nuclear weapons and new nuclear power, and we do not want those weapons or that waste travelling through our communities. Will the Leader of the House ensure that we get a statement setting out what safety precautions were put in place prior to that nuclear train setting off on its journey?

The hon. Gentleman might not remember this, but some years ago there was a very visible public demonstration of the safety of such trains to show just how robust the units that carry the radioactive waste are. Nuclear energy remains an important part of the electricity generation for the whole of the United Kingdom, and the waste will need to be moved around, but speaking as a former Minister involved in the whole area of health and safety, I can assure him that the safety standards are of the highest level.

Last Friday, I visited Greenhead College, at which many of my young constituents study. Deep concern was expressed about the delays in the accreditation process for some of the Government’s new-style A-levels that are due to start this September. Without that accreditation, planning for the new curriculum cannot take place. This is leaving many teachers in limbo. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on this issue so that colleges and sixth forms can make the necessary plans for their new intake of students?

This is an obviously important issue. The Education Secretary will be here on Monday, and I will let her know that this concern has been raised today so that the hon. Lady can raise it again and get a proper response at that sitting.

The Leader of the House has yet again failed to announce the recess dates. I can understand the political advantage in failing to announce Prorogation, but hundreds of staff in this place are struggling to juggle their childcare arrangements and will now be unable to take holidays with their partners as a result of this. When will the Leader of the House stop this unnecessary power trip and show some respect for staff members in this House?

As I have set out time and again, the Government’s first and foremost task is to ensure the flow of business and to get our business across. We will announce the recess dates as soon as we can, but I am also committed to ensuring that we can deliver our manifesto.

The Wilton Lane allotments in Guisborough have been used as allotments for more than 100 years, and some families, including the Grouts, have had an allotment there for all that time. Part of that land is in the ownership of the denizens of Guisborough. The Tory chair of Guisborough Town Council wants to sell the land off for development, and went to the extent of asking the clerk of the council to strike a sentence to that effect from the record, so that that information could not be spread around the town. May we have a debate on the powers and responsibilities of town and parish councils across our country?

On the matter of town and parish councils, I simply say that it is for the town and parish councillors to decide whether or not to take a step, and of course no individual can take a step without securing a majority vote from their council.

With the working and child tax credit departments accepting only faxes and letters, and not emails, from constituency MPs’ offices, and with the Information Commissioner’s Office defining faxes as an unsecure form of communication, may we have a statement from Ministers confirming a full modernisation programme of upgrading communications to the 21st century?

Clearly, each Department has to work out the best way of receiving complaints and information about issues from Members’ offices. I hear the point the hon. Gentleman makes. The relevant Cabinet Office Minister is here next week for questions and I am sure he will want to make that point to him then.