The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 11 July—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Wales Bill.
Tuesday 12 July—Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Wednesday 13 July—Motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to terrorism, followed by general debate on the report of the Iraq inquiry (day 1).
Thursday 14 July—Conclusion of the general debate on the report of the Iraq inquiry.
Friday 15 July—The House will not be sitting.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 18 July will be:
Monday 18 July—Debate on an e-petition relating to changes to the student loans agreement.
I thank the Leader of the House for that information. As the Speaker now processes majestically from the Chair to Speaker’s House, I wonder whether he has been issued with a parliamentary umbrella. Last week, I noticed two yellow buckets on the route to collect the rain, and today there is one white bucket. Will the Leader of the House tell us when we are going to get this palace into a habitable state? Can he also remind us which party promised to fix the roof while the sun was shining?
The House is grateful, as ever, to the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). He is a rarity on the Government Back Benches as a man who is occasionally caught in possession of an intelligent thought, and who speaks real English—the language that the rest of us speak. This week, he gave us vital intelligence on the three remaining candidates for the leadership of the Tory party: one of them is “bloody difficult”; one does not expect to deliver on the extremely stupid things she has been saying; and one would declare war on at least three countries. We have a legitimate interest in this, because the winner of this race will also be the Prime Minister.
I suggest to the Conservatives that they perhaps repeat the great success that they had in Totnes, where they introduced the system of a primary vote in which everyone took part. It would be wonderful to have the chance to write-in a candidate such as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe. Happily, at his time of life, he has passed beyond the stages of ambition and vanity that afflict many in political life. If he is reluctant to return to the Dispatch Box because he is of a certain age, let me remind him of what I have discovered: the Dispatch Box is a vital support and a wonderful alternative to a Zimmer frame.
Two days next week are given to a matter of the highest importance. Chilcot concluded that the UK chose to join the war in Iraq before the peaceful options were exhausted. We must not let artifice, denial, spin, delusions and expensive barrister-created obfuscation mask the vital Chilcot truths. Chilcot concluded that Government, Opposition and three Select Committees of this House were wrong in 2003, and our decisions led to an avoidable war.
Our reputation as politicians fell to rock bottom during the expenses scandal, but since then it has fallen further and it is now subterranean. We need to recognise the whole truths of Chilcot. We should debate this next week in a very serious atmosphere. We did it; the decisions were taken in this House. I and many other Members were here at the time. Our mood should be one of humility, penitence and respect for all those who put their lives at risk at our command.
The dedication, professionalism and courage of our servicemen were as great and splendid as any in our entire proud military history. We want to express in those two days next week our profound gratitude to all who have given their lives and their service, and who have been maimed in body and mind by the experience of going to the wars, some of which—Kosovo and Sierra Leone—were magnificent achievements in the extension of peace and human rights around the world.
There is another group that we need to bear in mind next week. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the loved ones who were bereaved by the war. We saw yesterday that they were forced to revisit their grief with the added pain of the knowledge from Chilcot that their loved ones possibly died in vain. To them, Parliament should offer our heartfelt sympathy, our regrets and our apologies, because we know that the responsibility was ours. We should hope above all that the spirits of all who died as a result of our decisions may now rest in peace.
It is worth the whole House remembering that today is 7 July, and it is appropriate to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place on this day in 2005. It is also appropriate to send our good wishes and commiserations to the Welsh football team. They have done this country proud and they have done Wales proud. They have exceeded all expectations, and I hope and believe that they will go on to great things at the World cup, when the time comes.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) on being here again. I was not entirely certain whether he would still be with us this week, because there have been so many changes in the Opposition. Not only is he still here, but he has another job; he is now also the shadow Welsh Secretary. I congratulate him on that appointment and on becoming one of the longest-serving members of the shadow Cabinet. I hope to see him here again next week.
On the Chilcot report, we all acknowledge that it is a substantial piece of work and all involved in its preparation deserve a lot of credit. It has taken a long time to come, and we have had lots of discussions in this place about when it would arrive, but I do not think that anybody could say that it is not an exhaustive piece of analysis that has set out for us all the rights and wrongs of what took place 10 years ago.
I know that the hon. Gentleman feels immensely strongly about this issue. He has been a consistent advocate for the point of view that he has just articulated, and I commend him for that. I hope that the fact that the Government have provided a two-day debate on this matter next week is a sign of how seriously we take it, and how seriously we take the need to understand the rights and wrongs of the decisions that were taken a decade ago. He is absolutely right to say that it is an appropriate moment for this House to pay tribute to our armed forces, to those who lost their lives, to those who were injured and to their families. In all circumstances we should recognise the enormous contribution that our armed forces make, the bravery of the people in them, and the bravery of their families.
The hon. Gentleman referred to fixing the roof while the sun is shining. A large programme is taking place to restore some of the Victorian roofing. The Committee looking at the restoration and renewal project is heading towards the completion of its work. Over the coming years, we will all have to work together to make sure that this building is made fit for this century. It is the heart of our democracy. He is right to identify that many things are currently wrong with it but we have a duty to sustain it as the heart of our democracy and protect it for future generations.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). I suspect that the Home Secretary will not be distressed by being likened to Margaret Thatcher. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for taking part in the Conservative leadership election, and for being able to express a view on who our next Prime Minister will be. To be honest, if I was on the Opposition Benches I would want to take part in our leadership contest as well, because try as it might, no matter how hard it struggles, the Labour party does not seem to be able to have one itself.
May we have a debate on flooding? It seems a long time since my constituency and many others were affected by the terrible floods over Christmas, but we should not forget the people affected just because it is now summer and the weather is better. Many people are still not back in their homes. Many of the flood defences required to make sure that that situation does not happen again have not been put in place. We could either have a debate or the Leader of the House could ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make a statement on the progress made in helping those affected and the work needed so that people do not have to suffer the same distress again.
My hon. Friend will be aware that I visited the Colne valley soon after the floods and am acutely aware of the impact that that period of heavy rain had on homes and businesses in and around West Yorkshire, as well as in other parts of the country. I know this matter is of great concern to the Secretary of State and will make sure that she is aware that these concerns have been raised again today. We clearly want to do the right thing for those affected by flooding. Since 2010 we have continued to spend money on flood defences and will continue to do so.
I also thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. He is absolutely correct that it is right and appropriate that we remember the victims of 7/7 today on the 11th anniversary of that appalling and dreadful act.
It is also right and proper that business next week is dominated by the Chilcot report. We are all grateful that the Leader of the House has listened to the many representations made on all sides of the House for that debate to be extended to two days. Although we are grateful for the debate, most of us are starting to think about what will happen beyond it and in particular what means are available to hold those responsible for the disaster to account. The only people who have thus far lost their jobs in this whole calamity are two BBC journalists. I am sure that the public are now appalled and sickened after listening to Tony Blair—his defiance of the report, his lack of contrition and his half-hearted meaningless apology, with no recognition of the scale of the disaster. Will the Leader of the House explain what means and methods we have to hold those responsible to account in this House?
Although we are having two days of debate on the last Labour Government’s era-defining disaster, we still have not had one on this Government’s one. In the two weeks since this country made the decision on the European Union there has been no Government-sponsored debate on the EU referendum or Brexit. It is almost a dereliction of duty. I do not know whether it is a case of denial from the Government or they genuinely do not have a clue, although I suspect it is a combination of the two.
This morning we have heard all sorts of rumours on social media about a decision on Trident. Will the Leader of the House now explain when we will have the vote on Trident rather than leaving it to rumour and hearsay?
Lastly, may we have a debate on the overthrow of elites, in political parties in particular? This morning I looked up the definition of coup. Apparently it is the sudden appropriation of leadership or power and its replacement by other elites within the state apparatus. Today there is almost a physical boundary on the Opposition Benches between the two sides of the Labour party—we can see the barrier there. The chicken coupers must be the most inept coupers ever: no strategy, no challenger, just spineless inertia, with the vain hope that their Front-Bench team will somehow just go. Let us have that debate and see whether they can learn from the hand of history.
On the Chilcot report, I reiterate that it is right and proper that we have a two-day debate. That is the job of this House. It is not for this House to consider whether there are specific measures that can be taken against individuals. That is a matter for the relevant authorities, and it is not for us as a Parliament to debate those matters. There will be plenty of opportunity for this House to express its opinions about the role played by individuals and organisations in that process and that decision making. Sir John Chilcot has provided for everyone in this House a detailed range of information that can be drawn on for that debate, and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will play an active part in it.
On the EU referendum, the country has just had a four-month debate, and we have had a verdict from the United Kingdom. I know the hon. Gentleman still cannot get to grips with the fact that we are part of the United Kingdom together. I value being part of the United Kingdom Parliament with him. He adds something extra to this institution, and long may that continue. We have just had a very lengthy debate on the referendum. There are plenty of opportunities to debate this—virtually every day at oral questions and when the Prime Minister is here. We have had statements on the outcome of the referendum, we have had Opposition day debates, and we will be debating the matter for some months to come.
As I have been clear over the months, we will have a debate on the future of Trident, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that when we are ready to announce the date for that, we will do so to this House.
The hon. Gentleman mentions the overthrow of elites. It is nice to find something on which we have a common view. Until he mentioned it, I had not spotted the completely empty row on the Labour Benches, but it is a bit surreal. It is as if the whole thing has turned upside down. [Interruption.] It is like “Alice Through the Looking Glass”—the Front Benchers have moved to the Back Bench, and the Back Benchers have moved to the Front Bench. Who would ever have imagined the Front-Bench team that we see there now? Never in our wildest imagination did we imagine that the Labour Opposition could find themselves in such a predicament. The hon. Gentleman is right—they cannot even organise their own coup or their own leadership contest. If they cannot do that, they are utterly unfit ever to run the country.
I rise on behalf of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who is attending the opening of a section of the A1M. Unfortunately, the A1M was built over a disused mine shaft and a 30-foot sinkhole has appeared, but don’t worry—officials are looking into it.
As a consequence of the two-day debate on the Chilcot report, a Back-Bench business day has been lost. On behalf of the Backbench Business Committee, may I ask the Leader of the House to confirm as soon as possible that 21 July, the last sitting day before we rise, will be allotted to the Backbench Business Committee so that we can publicise the pre-recess Adjournment debates?
I speak now on my own behalf. An excellent report was published this week by the Royal Commonwealth Society on introducing two-year visas for people from India. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in Government time on visa requirements for people from India and other countries outside the European Union so that we can grasp the opportunities to set and control our own borders?
On the earlier point, we will do everything we can to make sure that we provide information about allocated days in a timely way and that we make provision for the Backbench Business Committee, as is normal. My hon. Friend will not be surprised to learn that the Government felt that next week it is important to have the debate on the Chilcot report and to have that debate across a two-day period. I hope the Backbench Business Committee will understand that.
With regard to visas, I am sure that the Home Secretary will have noted the points that my hon. Friend makes. It is important now, given the decision that this country has taken to leave the European Union, that we maximise the opportunities that we have to forge free trade links around the world. It is encouraging that a number of our Commonwealth friends in particular have come forward and said that they believe that free trade arrangements between us and them will be beneficial for the future.
I thank the Government for producing a written statement on cremations and baby ashes, and I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Family Justice for her work on that issue. I also thank Action for Ashes, and my constituent, Tina Trowhill, and other families up and down the land who are involved with this matter. Will the Leader of the House have a word with the three Cabinet Ministers who wrote to Hull City Council to ask it to hold a local inquiry into baby ashes in the Hull area? The chief executive of the council wrote back to ask for clarification on the terms of reference, and whether any financial support was available to pay for the local inquiry. We have not yet received a response, and families want to get the matter under way as soon as possible.
This is a deeply sensitive issue, and I pay tribute to those families who have been brave enough to campaign for an improved situation, given the difficulties they have been through. I will certainly chase up that response for the hon. Lady, and try to ensure that it is sent as quickly as possible.
One thing that unites this House is the abhorrence of modern slavery. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, of which I am chairman, is working on a report on that issue. However, the funding we need is being held up by the Home Office, so we have not done it. The work done by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) has been superb over many years. In the absence of receiving that money, could we have a debate in Government time to discuss an issue that I know brings the House together, so that we can send a united voice across the world to say that we do not approve of modern slavery and that the entire House says that it must stop now?
Members across the House should be proud that this country passed the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and we have taken a lead on this issue. My hon. Friend’s work with the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) in an area where there is no political difference and on which we are politically united is an example of this House at its best. We are often only seen by the public debating with each other in a lively way, but great work takes place across the House, and long may it continue.
In the light of Brexit, I asked all Departments what steps they are taking to ensure that their purchasing policies support British industry and agriculture. The reply, which was centrally generated by the Government although it came from a number of Departments, stated:
“The Department’s purchasing policies support the Government’s commitment to do all it can to ensure UK suppliers can compete effectively for public sector contracts, in line with our current international obligations and guidance issued by the Crown Commercial Service.”
That is a totally inadequate response to the situation we are facing. Clearly, the civil service still does not get it. May we have a debate to explore how we will back British industry, British agriculture and British workers?
The Government have given the right hon. Gentleman a legally accurate response to the current situation. When we have left the European Union, we will be freer to take decisions about procurement in the United Kingdom and the services, goods and products produced here. I am a great believer in doing everything we can to procure locally, but we are subject to procurement rules with which we must conform.
Whether west, east or sub-Saharan Africa, Commonwealth or non-Commonwealth, the world’s fastest growing economies are on that continent. May we have a debate about what more the Government can do to reach out to those growing economies?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, and we should all be pleased with the way that the African continent is developing. More and more people are being lifted out of poverty, and there is more economic development. We have historic ties with many of those countries, and we should seek to strengthen those ties in a variety of ways, including the development of free trade deals with them in the future.
May we have a debate or statement on justice for all war widows? An anomaly means that those whose partners died in service between 1973 and 2005 are not able to claim the war widows pension if they remarry. The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) recently hosted a protest at which that issue was highlighted, and it is an important matter, especially in the week of the Chilcot report.
The European Union, including the United Kingdom, recognises a difference between the military and political wings of Hezbollah, but such a distinction does not appear to be recognised by the organisation itself. Therefore, in the light of the confusion about the legality of demonstrators displaying Hezbollah flags on the streets of London last Sunday, may we have a statement on the legality of displaying them and any flag associated with a proscribed terrorist organisation?
I agree with my hon. Friend that if an organisation is proscribed in the UK, it should not be allowed to publicise itself in the UK, whether through flags, placards or anything else. I will ensure that the Home Secretary is aware of the concerns he raises. If an organisation is illegal in the UK, it should not manifest itself in the UK.
For too long, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media have become more and more like the wild west, with people thinking they can post anything and say anything. My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) has a private Member’s Bill, but we need the Government to take much more drastic action, because the problem is spilling out into the wider world, as has been said previously. May we have a statement or a debate in Government time about what they will do both to tackle Twitter, Facebook and other forums, and to clamp down on what is happening in the public realm?
This is an issue for Members on both sides of the House and I share the hon. Gentleman’s view, but it is not simply about Members of Parliament—it also affects people in society. I have a more straightforward view than his. It is very simple: if Members of the House or other people receive threats that they are going to be raped, murdered or whatever, the police should arrest the perpetrators and put them in court. That might send a message to those who carry out that kind of disgraceful behaviour that there are consequences. My message to our police is: if that happens, prosecute.
When it comes to sport, my constituency is best known for the game associated with the oval ball, but we have some great football teams, including Rugby Town juniors, who have just received a grant of £371,000 from Sport England towards a 3G astroturf pitch for use by their 700 or so members. The Leader of the House has praised the achievements of the Wales team, but may we have a debate on how investment in grassroots football of the type taking place in Rugby can inspire our national team at the highest level?
No English Member is in any doubt this week that we need a strong grassroots youth development system for the future. Having been outshone by the Welsh, we would like to get our own back at some point, but we definitely need new young players to come through. We know that from our strongest local, non-league and amateur clubs can come stars of the future. Let us hope some of them come from Rugby.
I thank the Leader of the House for his warm tribute to the achievements of the Welsh national football team. I tweeted last night that I will die a happy man, hopefully many years from now, having had the privilege of supporting that great Welsh national side.
Last month, the people of the UK took probably the most important political decision in my lifetime, and I turned 40 in April, yet over lunch yesterday, I had a discussion with Speaker Boothroyd, who informed me that the other place has had two days of debates on the implications of Brexit. When will the House have the opportunity to debate the implications? The fact that there is no plan to deal with what has happened in the last month is no reason to sweep it under the carpet.
I simply assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be plenty of opportunities in the coming months for us to debate these matters. We need to elect a new Prime Minister, complete the preparatory work, start negotiations and ensure that the House has every opportunity to debate those matters. I give him that absolute assurance.
I have one regret on the football front. As a Manchester United supporter, I just wish Gareth Bale would come home and join the reds.
The Kurdish peshmerga have very much been at the front line of the battle against Daesh in northern Iraq, and I am proud that the Government have supported them militarily, but may we have a debate on the medical support that is needed by injured fighters against Daesh, including our allies in the peshmerga and others?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We clearly need to do more than simply provide military support. A huge amount of humanitarian effort is going in to support those affected by the war, but I will ensure that the Secretary of State for International Development is aware of his concern so that it can be a focus.
We have reached the end of the track in terms of my constituents’ patience with one of the worst train operating companies in the world, Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Thameslink and Southern lines that are currently masquerading as train services. In its latest attempt to reduce disruption on the Southern line, it is going to cancel up to 350 trains. That is simply unacceptable. It is causing people to lose their jobs, students to miss exams and untold stress. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Transport Secretary to come and give an urgent statement, and for goodness sake strip this company of this franchise and do so now?
May I say first of all that, as someone who also shares GTR routes, I am well aware of the issue? I have every sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman has just said and I have constituents who share his anger. There is a debate on this matter in Westminster Hall next week. I have already spoken to the rail Minister, who is acutely aware of the issue. What is happening at the moment is simply unacceptable and has to be sorted out.
Parts of my constituency are being blighted by young men driving high-performance luxury vehicles, often at dangerously high speeds. There have been a series of accidents, near misses and hit-and-runs in recent months. As most of these vehicles are hired, usually for just a day at a time, local residents and Pendle Council are calling for action to prevent hire car companies from putting high performance supercars in the hands of young drivers. Will my right hon. Friend make time for a debate on this issue?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am surprised the hire companies want to do that, because high-performance cars tend to be high-value cars and I presume they want to get them back intact afterwards. It is clearly a bizarre situation and I do not know why those businesses are taking the approach he describes. He should certainly put pressure on them locally, but I will make sure his concerns are drawn to the attention of the Transport Secretary.
Those of us who are regular, proper Back Benchers value business questions. I hope the Leader of the House will have a word with the other Front Benchers and bring it back to what it should be about: business questions. We had a Welsh shadow Leader of the House who could not even mention the Welsh team today, which I think he should have done, but business questions is for important future business. My constituents are deeply worried about the closure of the A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. That is of prime importance. They are worried about the quality of management by GPs who become managers in clinical commissioning groups. Those are the sorts of things we want a debate on and we want it soon.
I am not sure whether to congratulate, or commiserate with the hon. Gentleman on the fact that he is still on the Back Benches. Only he will be able to tell us whether he has been offered a job as, for example, shadow Education Secretary. I know it has been a challenge to fill that post recently.
Well that is a bit of a snub, isn’t it? The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about his constituency. I have been a champion of A&E and maternity services in my constituency. Regular opportunities exist through Adjournment debates and Backbench Business debates to bring a Minister before the House. With his long experience, he knows how best to use those systems to get Ministers here and hold them to account.
The changing face of retail is having a major impact on the vibrancy of our town centres. We do not want a situation in which our provincial towns becoming derelict with more empty shop units. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on how the Government will support local authorities to regenerate provincial town centres?
The big thing we have done this year is to change business rates, which I hope will make a difference in places like Cleethorpes. My hon. Friend and I have walked up the main street in Cleethorpes on many occasions. It is a great town. It is a really important part of the community and the area he represents. I hope the changes we have made to business rates will help to strengthen the businesses in that high street. I also hope we get some good weather, so that Cleethorpes fills with tourists in the coming six weeks.
Last week, when I challenged the Leader of the House, he yet again defended the rights of the more than 800 unelected bureaucrats in the place next door. He has previously defended the voting system in this place yet this morning, with no sense of irony, he talks about making this place suitable for a modern democracy. Therefore, in the vein of a modern democracy, I will narrow it down a wee bit. Will he make a statement outlining why he thinks it is appropriate to have 26 Church of England bishops taking part in the legislative process, and why they are able to vote on legislation that affects Scotland?
On Tuesday evening, a Bath mum, Kerry Parkinson, was travelling home and was hit in the face after confronting a passenger who told their son to “Shut up, or we will send you to Istanbul with the other Muslims to join Isis.” I am sure that whole House will join me in condemning such disgusting racist views and in congratulating Kerry on standing up against hate. Will my right hon. Friend speak to the Home Secretary to see what more can be done to tackle xenophobia in our society and look at staging further debates in the House?
That instance is absolutely shocking. We send all our good wishes to my hon. Friend’s constituent for what she has done. Let us be absolutely clear: the Muslim community plays a valuable role in our communities up and down the country. The Muslim community is full of people who have made a real difference to our society, and we should support them. The fact that there are a small number of people in the Islamic world who pursue an ideology of hate that we all stand up against should not in any way tarnish the good, hard-working decent Muslims of this country. We should abhor, tackle and prosecute insults and attacks against them.
Some 5% of students and 15% of staff at British universities come from other EU countries, along with £800 million a year in research grants. Our universities are deeply worried about the impact of Brexit on their future academic competitiveness, and in cities like Nottingham our universities play a vital role in the success of the local economy. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Business Secretary makes an urgent statement on how he intends to protect our higher education sector in the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU?
I will of course ensure that what the hon. Lady says is drawn to the attention of the Business Secretary. Let me make two points. First, particularly in science where these issues have been raised, the European science network, which is a partnership of academic institutions across Europe, includes countries such as Israel that are not part of the European Union in any way, shape or form. There is no reason why our universities cannot continue to play the part they do today in joint international research projects. Secondly, it is worth remembering that we pay a substantial amount of money into the European Union. In future, that money will not be paid, and there is no reason why we cannot continue to provide the money directly and cut out the middle man.
When we discuss Brexit, may we have the opportunity of conducting some sectional debates, so that we can look at how, now that the power exists for Parliament to vote through renationalising the rail industries, we could rejuvenate football as well—and not just the English football team? The Bosman ruling will be abolished, which will allow local football clubs in England and Scotland to rejuvenate themselves rather lose all their best players to the premier league.
The hon. Gentleman, of course, comes to the issue of Britain’s future outside the European Union from a different perspective from mine, but he highlights how, once we have left, we will be able to do in the future the things that we are constrained from doing now. On Bosman and English football, of course we want to see a new generation of bright young players coming through—and possibly from Rugby, as we heard earlier.
We learned yesterday about five walk-outs from five separate prisons in the last five months by prison officers who do not feel safe at work. There has been a 30% increase in serious assaults on staff this year. With so much else going on, it is easy to ignore that, but the Leader of House cannot ignore it because he largely caused the problem. Will he get the Justice Secretary, who should have more time on his hands after today, to come and make a statement about why we cannot get right something as fundamental as security and safety in our prisons and the protection of prisoners and prison staff from harm?
I simply remind the hon. Gentleman that the current structure of staffing in prisons was designed by the Prison Officers Association and the Prison Governors Association three years ago. What we implemented was their advice about how to proceed to staff our prisons.
Last week, Aberdeen City Council held a summit on the problems in the oil and gas industry. The Government managed to appear to appear via a 30-minute video link, but no Government Minister was sent. The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) is currently chasing her leadership ambitions and might be doing so for the next couple of months, so can the Government give a commitment that somebody in government will, in view of the current rocky climate, give more than passing attention to the oil industry?
Absolutely. The oil industry is very important to us. I know that in recent months the Chancellor, in particular, has taken an active interest in how we can best ease the pressures on it, but when the oil price has fallen to such a degree, there are no easy solutions.
The issue of forced organ harvesting in China has concerned us for some time. It involves people who have been jailed for campaigning for civil liberties, for being Christians and practising their religion, or for following the meditation practices of Falun Gong, which is a wonderful form of meditation whose values are truth, compassion and tolerance. Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate, in the Chamber or in Westminster Hall, on the horrific, brutal surgical removal of vital organs from prisoners of conscience, and could we also debate the issue of organ tourism? People travel from the United Kingdom to China to receive those organs. I believe that a subject of such importance should be debated.
The hon. Gentleman has raised a very serious issue. He will be able to raise it directly with the Foreign Secretary during Foreign Office questions on Tuesday, but let me say to him now that, while we seek to engage with China and strengthen our partnerships with it, we always take opportunities to raise the question of human rights, and we want to see standards of human rights in China improve.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) asked about yesterday’s decision to scrap the Care.data scheme. Experts say that access to patient data is vital to better understanding of the causes of disease. It should be possible both to get data security right and to give researchers access to data. We really need to discuss this issue in the House.
I will ensure that the Health Secretary is aware of the concerns that have been raised. It is clearly important for us to protect individual data, as it always has been, but I will ask Ministers to give a proper response to both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz).
Several constituents have contacted me in the last month about ridiculous delays in assessments for employment and support allowance. Some have been waiting not for the 13 weeks for which they should be waiting, but for as long as eight or even 11 months. Given the importance of the issue to the lives of my constituents and their ability to feed themselves, may we have a debate in Government time about how long the process is taking and what is going wrong with the Department involved?
On this very poignant anniversary, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in expressing gratitude to our incredible emergency services, who are simply the best in the world. However, I am alarmed to learn that cuts in our fire services now pose a real threat to public safety, and that, following the cutting of more than 7,000 firefighters since 2010, response times are at their longest for more than 20 years. May we have an urgent further debate on the issue?
Of course I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to our emergency services. Yes, there have been changes, and there have been improvements. One of the changes that is taking place at the moment is a move to bring fire services together with local police services under the umbrella of the police and crime commissioners, because we think that will achieve efficiencies, both operational and financial. Obviously I will ensure that the Department is aware of the hon. Lady’s concern, but she may choose to initiate an end-of-day Adjournment debate so that a Minister can deal with the issue directly.
Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating John Whitgift Academy on securing a People’s Postcode lottery grant so that it can lead and inspire young people through the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust’s On Track to Achieve programme? That will give an important boost to pupils and teachers in a school that was recently given an “inadequate” rating by Ofsted. May we have an urgent debate on the importance of sport and sport mentoring in schools?
Let me begin by paying tribute to the hon. Lady for what she did as shadow Leader of the House. We on these Benches are sorry to see her move back three rows, but I am sure that she will not be in that row forever—unless things carry on as they are. I also pay tribute to those in her constituency who are doing so much work for young people and sporting achievement, which makes such a difference to their development. The work she has described is enormously valuable.
Recent NHS figures show that 142 people per 100,000 in Manchester die prematurely from cardiovascular diseases. Someone is more likely to die prematurely from a heart attack or a stroke in Manchester than anywhere else in the country. May we have a debate on how to address high rates of cardiovascular disease in cities such as Manchester?
That is a very good example of why Manchester will benefit from having greater control over healthcare services in the area as a result of our devolution package. There are clearly particular problems that are found in some of our great cities, and devolution of responsibility to those cities will enable local solutions to be put in place that can make a difference.
This week, the European Commission announced that national Parliaments will be given the chance to vote on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada. Can the Leader of the House give any further detail on when Members of this place can expect to debate, scrutinise and vote on this important deal?
It has come to my attention that a private memo has been sent by the Department for Work and Pensions to the work capability assessment providers warning them not to direct claimants to appeal against decisions wrongfully made on their entitlements. It is clear as day that it is critical that benefit claimants can access appeal rights, and indeed claim their benefits, where they are so entitled. May we have a debate on this issue to ensure that these restrictive policies are not being enforced by the DWP?
Is it possible for the Leader of the House to organise an urgent debate, in Government time, on prosecution policy? Over the past few weeks, we have seen a disgraceful rise in the number of race hate crime incidents, as we heard from the hon. Member for Bath (Ben Howlett). It is quite right that we all abhor that, but do we not need to take a stand as a society and prosecute people who take part in such behaviour? It is not enough to be angry and to say that we abhor it; these people need to be brought before the courts and prosecuted, and that will help to stop it.
I wholly agree with the hon. Gentleman. One of the most extraordinary things is that British Asians, who have had nothing whatever to do with the debates in recent weeks, should be singled out in this way. That is a sign of a streak of opinion in our society. I believe that we are as tolerant a society as any in the world, but we none the less have a core of people whose beliefs are disgraceful and whose actions are disgraceful, and when they act in the way that we have seen in recent weeks, there is absolutely no excuse for our police and our prosecuting authorities not to put them in court where they belong.
We now come to the Select Committee statement. Dr Julian Lewis will speak on his subject for up to 10 minutes, during which no interventions may be taken. At the conclusion of his statement, I will call Members to put questions on the subject of the statement and call Dr Julian Lewis to respond to those in turn. Members can expect to be called only once. Interventions should be questions and should be brief. Front Benchers may take part in questioning.