The business for the week commencing 5 September will include:
Monday 5 September—Remaining stages of the Finance Bill (day 1).
Tuesday 6 September—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill.
Wednesday 7 September—Opposition day (7th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 8 September—A debate on a motion on scamming and its effect on vulnerable individuals, followed by a debate on a motion on the fourth industrial revolution. Both subjects were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 9 September—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 12 September will include:
Monday 12 September—Remaining stages of the Wales Bill.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 5, 8 and 12 September will be:
Monday 5 September—A debate on an e-petition relating to EU referendum rules.
Thursday 8 September—A debate on the missing Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Monday 12 September—A debate on an e-petition relating to South Korea and the dog meat trade.
As this is the last business questions before the summer recess, may I not only wish colleagues in all parts of the House a restful recess and plenty of scope for constituency duties, but thank in particular the hard-working staff of this House, who serve Members of all political parties professionally and with dedication? I thank especially those who are retiring or otherwise leaving the service of the House at this recess. I hope I speak for Members on all sides when I say that Members in particular want to say a big thank you to Noeleen Delaney, one of the stalwarts of the Tea Room staff, who is retiring from the House of Commons after 30 years of service here. That is a record of service for which we are all very grateful.
It is a great pleasure to echo the words of the Leader of the House, particularly concerning Noeleen Delaney, who we all know as a valued friend, adviser and comforter over many, many years, and all the other members of staff who serve us so faithfully. After the recent days, we might consider accelerating progress on making this place a habitable accommodation for staff, many of whom have suffered severely in the recent heat, and perhaps we are thinking of following your example, Mr Speaker, of having less formal dress, which members of staff are forced to wear and which must be very uncomfortable at this time of the year.
It is right to note that we have lost the previous Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), now the Secretary of State for Transport. I regard it as a bit of a challenge—I have to pay tribute to his services, which were considerable over his period as Leader of the House. All these bouts of Question Time between Leader of the House and shadow Leader of the House have their own personality. We remember with fondness the number of questions that the previous Leader of the House answered; his answers were occasionally related to the questions asked. What we will miss is the rapier-like wit of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), striking against the steamroller solidity of the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell.
It is, however, an undiluted pleasure to welcome the present Leader of the House, but I fear, as a long admirer of his, that his political career might not be on an upward trajectory in this appointment, because his career has been blighted by his solid devotion to the three R’s—rationality, restraint and reasonableness—which are not attributes that go well in his party at the moment. He was a splendid spokesman on European affairs, and the voice of sanity on so many issues, and I am sure that we look forward to his continuing with his restrained and mature performances at Question Time.
The right hon. Gentleman is also, I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), the supreme champion on the television programme “University Challenge”. Not only did he win splendidly in his own time, but when he came back for a challenge of challenges, he was the supreme winner. It is great to know that he is doing this job from the platform of his own scholarship and knowledge. I believe that it is going to be a vintage year and a vintage period for a leadership of the House.
We have the Welsh Bill returning. It is a great shame that we did not get it right the first time. Welsh Bills are not just for St David’s day; they are for eternity, and we keep having them, and oh that we had got it right the first time. I am afraid that when the first Welsh Bill was introduced in the ’90s, the attitude of this House to devolution reflected the fact that it was not then a popular cause; but although it is now universally accepted, devolution to Wales is still seen as a grudging gift—it is doled out in small parcels, a little bit at a time, and some is then pulled back. I hope that the generosity of the Government, in seemingly becoming completely converted to the idea of devolution, will be expressed in this Bill, with the support of all parties, and will help to serve the wellbeing of the people of Wales.
Baroness Altmann made a contribution this morning about her resignation, and I believe that all parties in the House should listen carefully to what she said. She gave as her reason for retiring that the parties—her party, which is the Conservative party, but this is also true of the Labour party—pay too much attention to their internal divisions, to the detriment of policy making. That is a very penetrating criticism of both the Conservative and the Labour party, which we would all do well to heed.
As we look forward to the new Session of Parliament, we should bear in mind the dreadful event that still casts a terrible shadow over this place. The family of Parliament was bereaved by the cowardly, brutal murder of one of our family members, Jo Cox, and the grief is still raw. We could do no better than ensure that our work here is illuminated and inspired by her thought: there are more things that unite us than divide us.
Mr Speaker, I am not sure how I respond to that compliment. I have felt, as a student of Elizabethan history, that the last three or four weeks have been the closest thing to living through one of the crises of the 16th-century Tudor court that any of us is likely to experience, and I suspect that events in British politics this year will have given Hilary Mantel ample material for her next trilogy.
I thank the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) for his warm welcome to me and for the deserved tribute that he paid to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who indeed did act as a champion of the House, not just in the Chamber, but in the many exchanges behind the scenes that fall to the Leader of the House. I, I hope on behalf of the House, wish him well in his new responsibilities.
Listening to the shadow Leader of the House, I felt that the three R’s he laid out before us—reasonableness, rationality and restraint—summed up our Prime Minister’s approach to Government and to politics. In fact he may have presented us with a motto for my right hon. Friend’s Administration and approach to Government.
The shadow Leader of the House is a man of undimmed ambition who has leapfrogged on to the Opposition Front Bench after so many years of parliamentary experience, and for whom two shadow Cabinet roles are just a bagatelle—something with which he can easily cope. I think his ambition should not be restrained, even now. I have been studying his remarks and I note that he said of the Leader of the Opposition that it is very difficult to see how he can unite the Labour party, and he said:
“We’re in the worst position we’ve been in the whole history of the…party”.
I think there is an embryonic leadership campaign there. I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to disregard any taunts and to throw his hat into the ring while there is still time.
On the serious point that the hon. Gentleman made about the legacy of Jo Cox, the security risks that Members face need to be considered very carefully and action needs to be taken. Without going into details on the Floor of the House, I can say that there has been agreement among members of the House of Commons Commission that new measures should be taken. We will be able to go into further details very soon after the House returns in September.
Finally, I hope that Members of every political party would look to Jo Cox and see someone—whether we agreed or disagreed with her on a particular issue—who was motivated above all by a drive to improve the lot of the people whom she served in her constituency, nationally and globally. In that sense, I think there could be few finer examples for us to follow.
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his deserved promotion to the position of Leader of the House. May we have an early debate about the troubles of Southern rail, which are causing significant problems not only for commuters south of London, but for my constituents coming in from Leighton Buzzard? Does he agree that the way to relieve the problems of commuters south of London is not to wreck the rail service north of London, but to pay attention to what needs to be done south of the river?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and the new Rail Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), have already met the operators responsible for Southern train services and Network Rail. They have emphasised the need for the operators to work with the trade unions to try to find a rapid and full solution to the current dispute, which is causing misery to many thousands of passengers every day. The Secretary of State is making the issue his personal priority and I hope very much that there will be a satisfactory resolution soon.
I thank the new Leader of the House for announcing the business for the week that we return after recess. I warmly welcome him to his new role. He comes with a huge reputation of working consensually across the House, and he is also known as one of the House’s truly nice guys. Scottish National party Members are investing a lot of faith in him and we have great ambitions that he will be a reforming Leader of the House.
May I gently suggest a couple of places where the new Leader of the House might want to start? First, get rid of English votes for English laws. It is absolutely loathed in every part of this House other than in the confines of the Conservative party. It is totally associated with his predecessor. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to unite the House again around one class of Member of Parliament. Do not divide us by nationality or geography. That should be his first task.
Secondly, what about the procedures of this House? Did you know, Mr Speaker, that we waste one day a week by just voting in this House? That is an absurd waste of time. Bring this House into the 21st century.
Next, I turn to the circus down the corridor. What always gets me is that all these Tory Brexit dudes go on about imaginary unelected European bureaucrats, but down the corridor there are actual unelected Lords. Come on, new Leader of the House; let us make some progress towards abolishing them.
You will have noticed, Mr Speaker, all the small children with Scottish accents who have been kicking around the House recently. That is because the Scottish schools have been on holiday for almost three weeks. The Leader of the House saw an example of this recently, when he had to come to the Scottish Affairs Committee. He spent an hour in the charming company of Rebecca and Harris, the lovely children of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman), because she had nowhere else to put them.
We are in recess for almost three months of the year. Surely, it is not beyond the wit of a member of staff in the office of the Leader of the House to design the summer recess to accommodate all the school holidays of the United Kingdom, not just the Scottish ones. My hon. Friends had to leave their children at 10 o’clock on Monday evening so that they could vote against the evil weapons of mass destruction, bringing to life our slogan, “Bairns not bombs”. Something has to be done about that.
Lastly, Mr Speaker, may I wish you and all the staff a fantastic recess? I pay tribute to Noeleen Delaney, who has served us all with such professionalism over, I believe, the past 30 years. I also say, “Have a happy civil war” to my friends in the Labour party over the summer. I do not know what we will be returning to—whether it will be just one Labour party, or whether a social democratic and Blairite party will emerge—but all I can say is that we will be back as the real and effective Opposition come September.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words of welcome, and I look forward to working with him and with members of his party in my new capacity. On English votes for English laws, as I said when I gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this week, the Government review promised by my predecessor will start 12 months after the introduction of the EVEL procedures. The Select Committee on Procedure has also said that it is undertaking a review of these arrangements. I think the sensible thing is to see how the new EVEL arrangements go for the first year, take stock of what the Government and the Procedure Committee conclude, and come to a decision at that point.
On the hon. Gentleman’s question about voting procedures, although I can understand the point that he is making—for those of us who went through the Aye Lobby on Monday, it took a lot longer than it would have done to go through the No Lobby with him—there are advantages, as well as drawbacks, to our current arrangements. I would not lightly want to lose the opportunity for Back-Bench Members from all parts of the House to grab hold of Ministers, at a time when no civil servants are present, to make representations on behalf of their constituents. Having looked at voting procedures in the European Parliament and elsewhere, I do not think that they are perfect either. I was told earlier this morning that in the New Zealand Parliament, the Government Chief Whip can cast a vote recording the votes of his entire parliamentary party. I suspect that such simplification would not command widespread support, although it might appeal to those who are sitting to my right.
On recess dates, I undertake to have another look at the matter. I understand the problems that the current arrangements cause for colleagues from Scotland and Northern Ireland, but even now it is not the case that our current recess arrangements suit parents with children at schools in different local authorities in various parts of England. I think it will be very difficult ever to craft a system of recess dates that gives everybody everything that they would like to see, but I will take a fresh look at that in view of what the hon. Gentleman has urged.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend, but will he resist the attempt by SNP Members to urge less EVEL? Many Conservative Members would like much more EVEL.
I echo the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) about Southern. Will the Leader of the House ensure that we have a debate in Government time about the appalling situation that my constituents and those of many other Members face because of the disruption on Southern? Will he urge our right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary to do everything he can to sort this out, and ensure that he is fully apprised of the real causes of the disruption at the moment? Although the causes include network failures, the principal one is what is in effect a work to rule driven by the rail unions, which are resisting perfectly sensible changes in the rail industry.
It is true that if the trade unions returned fully to work, that would ease the situation enormously to the benefit both of passengers using Southern services and, as our hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire pointed out, of passengers elsewhere whose services are being interrupted to try to give extra support to Southern. I undertake to contact the Transport Secretary and to make him aware of the points raised by my right hon. Friend. I hope that by the time we return in September, this dispute will be over and services will have been restored to an acceptable level so that we will not need to have such a debate. I am sure the Secretary of State will want to consider carefully the points my right hon. Friend has made.
Fear, pressure and unrealistic expectations are the words that workers at Sports Direct use about their employment. May we have a debate on zero-hours contracts and the exploitation of workers in the retail industry, where something is going badly wrong?
The management of Sports Direct have given evidence to one of our Select Committees, and its report will no doubt inform debate in the House in the future. I must say to the hon. Gentleman that this Government legislated to outlaw exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts. For all the protestations from Opposition Members, no such action was taken during the 13 years of Labour Government.
A terrible school bus accident happened at the Cotterstock crossroads in my constituency last Thursday. Thankfully, everybody has now been discharged from hospital. Will the Leader of the House send his best wishes to the parents, pupils and teachers of Prince William School and Oundle Primary School? Will he join me in calling on Northamptonshire County Council to review the situation at the crossroads? At the same time, will he thank our remarkable emergency services for all they did? May we have a debate on our return to congratulate them on their efforts?
I am sure my hon. Friend’s constituents will appreciate the tribute he has paid to his local emergency services. I certainly send my best wishes to the two schools concerned and to all who were caught up in the accident. It is obviously for the county council to decide whether it wishes to review the highways issues involved, but in view of what has happened, it would be sensible for any local authority to take a fresh look at such things. With regard to a debate, I am sure my hon. Friend is already skilled enough in how to seek Adjournment debates to raise constituency issues of this type.
Harold Wilson said that a week is a long time in politics, but with recent events in this place, it feels as though 10 minutes is a long time in politics. However, time is of the essence for the Backbench Business Committee. I welcome the Leader of the House to his place and thank him for confirming the business on 8 September. To be able to decide about Back-Bench debates on 15 September, if we are to be allocated time on that day, we will have to do so on Tuesday 6 September. Will he confirm that day through the usual channels—as soon as possible, please—so that we can do that on 6 September?
I am somewhat worried about the Europe Minister—sorry, the Leader of the House. Since his appointment to that role, he has had a rather nasty gash on his forehead. A nasty rumour has been going around that when he was appointed the Prime Minister said to him, “I have some good news, David. You will no longer be the Minister for Europe,” to which he replied, “That’s great; I won’t have to answer questions from my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), for Bury North (Mr Nuttall), for Shipley (Philip Davies) and for Wellingborough (Mr Bone),” but when she told him that instead he was going to be Leader of the House, he started banging his head against the wall. Will he confirm that that is not true? I warmly welcome him to his post.
I confirm that it is not true, and nor is the gash the product of a farewell visit to the European Scrutiny Committee. I am always overcome with joy in the company of my hon. Friend and our other hon. Friends whom he mentioned. Even where, as was the case over the issue of Europe, there are genuine principled differences between us, it is important that in this place we acknowledge that those differences are held honestly, honourably and on a principled basis. We should respect one another even when our views differ profoundly.
I join in the hymns of welcome to the new Leader of the House. When might we have a debate about the Government’s new life chances strategy and how it might help children of alcoholics? Like many other hon. Members I am the child of an alcoholic and grew up knowing what that particular hell is like. But I was lucky. Overall, children of alcoholics are three times more likely to contemplate suicide and to become alcoholics themselves. This issue is no longer marginal. It affects 2.5 million children in our country, which means that one in five children are the innocent victims of drink. We could not change things for our parents, but we can change things for our children. This Government could help, and we should debate how.
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue. Like many other Members, I suspect, I have come across some of the very serious problems he has described in my constituency casework. I undertake to let my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education know about the priority the right hon. Gentleman places on the subject and I am sure he will get a response from the Department.
Following on from the point raised by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne), will the Leader of the House send out a search party to find the updated drugs strategy, as it has gone missing in Government? May we have a statement to reveal how the Government will tackle the growing funding crisis in residential rehab across our country, with cuts of more than 50% to drug treatment budgets? Some areas, such as Birmingham, are not making any referrals to residential rehab, which means the end of the life chances of many vulnerable adults.
The EU Referendum Act 2016, which we debated in the last parliamentary Session, contains no requirement for the Government to implement the result of the referendum or for setting a time by when we should trigger article 50. A lot of constituents have come to see me because they are concerned about the implications of that. This week I met local farmers, who are particularly concerned about EU funding streams and are asking for assurance on that issue. Will the Leader of the House clarify whether we will have an opportunity to debate those very important matters as soon as possible after we return from the summer recess?
The principle of parliamentary sovereignty means that it is ultimately for Parliament to determine our membership of the European Union but the Government have consistently said and have acted on the basis that the referendum outcome would be decisive and they would honour the result, whatever it turned out to be. That is the approach that the Government intend to take; the country would expect no less.
The hon. Lady raised a serious point about agriculture. That is very much at the top of the priority list for the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Along with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary will be considering how to address the question of the next few years of farm funding while we are still in the EU, in particular for those programmes that might carry over beyond the actual date of exit. I am sure that Parliament will have opportunities to debate that and other matters soon after the recess, and of course my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will have a dedicated Question Time, when the hon. Lady and others will be able to press him on such matters.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the distribution of funds by local enterprise partnerships? The LEP in our area had Southend as No. 4 on its list and we have dropped off the radar dramatically. Something needs to be looked at there.
My understanding is that that was an internal decision by the local enterprise partnership for south Essex, and I encourage my hon. Friend to make representations—I am sure he will do—on behalf of his constituents to the LEP. If that is not successful, I am sure that the relevant Minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be keen to hear from him.
May I too welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post? I well recall the many happy although fruitless hours we spent together on the original European Union (Referendum) Bill. Whatever happened to that? May I support the hon. Members who have raised the issue of Southern Trains and the appalling service that Govia Thameslink Railway is providing? The Mayor of London has written to the Secretary of State for Transport to say that he is prepared to take on the Southern franchise. In arranging a debate in Government time on that matter, will the Leader of the House prevail on the Secretary of State to accept the Mayor’s offer or at least to look into it in great detail?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will want to consider all options, but it is not the transfer of the franchise that is the answer: it is for the management to get on top of the operational difficulties that do exist and for management and unions to sort out the industrial dispute that is aggravating matters at the moment.
I echo the words of many right hon. and hon. Members in welcoming the Leader of the House to his post. I also welcome his deputy, and I am sure that they will make an excellent team.
I understand that the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport is visiting Derby this afternoon to discuss the midlands engine. May we have a debate not just on improving the roads in the midlands, but on ensuring that the rail industry is given the same level of investment? It is also important to note that “midlands” means east as well as west midlands.
I thank my hon. Friend for her words of welcome to my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House and me.
Yes is my answer. The very fact that the Transport Secretary is visiting Derby today, so early in his tenure, is a visible demonstration that the midlands engine is about the east midlands just as much as the west midlands. The strategy that the Government plan to have in place by March next year is multimodal, in the jargon—it will cover rail as well as roads.
When my constituent, Mrs Clark, became a kinship carer on the tragic death of her daughter, the backdating of child tax credit payments beyond three months was only done after a protracted process culminating in two appeals to the Adjudicator’s Office, adding to the stress on the family. Will the Leader of the House set aside Government time for a debate on the payment of child and other relevant benefits to new carers after a lone parent dies?
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place. I wonder whether he has had a chance to look at early-day motion 351 in my name regarding the persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh.
[That this House condemns the recent killings of innocent Hindu priests in Bangladesh; urges the government of Bangladesh to take strong steps to tackle the increasing levels of violence against minority Hindu communities in the region and ensure their safety and security; and urges the Government to encourage the government of Bangladesh to put perpetrators of violence against religious minorities in the region on trial as soon as possible.]
This week, I hosted a meeting commemorating the Jagannath Hall massacre 45 years ago. Still we see Hindu priests murdered and other religious minorities massacred. May we have a debate in Government time on reordering the overseas development aid we give to Bangladesh, so that more money is aimed at the security of minorities rather than just capacity building?
I will draw the attention of the Secretary of State for International Development to my hon. Friend’s last point. Bangladesh is experiencing a wave of violent terrorism driven by Islamist extremism that is targeting religious and ethnic minorities, as well as LGBT people and independent journalists and editors. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are in regular contact with Ministers at all levels in the Bangladesh Government. We will continue to do everything we can to try to help the Bangladesh Government to bring about an end to these appalling incidents.
I detect a new acronym creeping into Government language: PBO. That does not stand for the Public Bill Office, but post-Brexit opportunities. One of the most important tools for business is connectivity, whether from Scotland, Northern Ireland or the regions into London, or from London to international markets. If we are going to maximise Britain’s opportunities, we need the Government response to the Davies commission. It is long overdue and the Prime Minister ducked it yesterday. Will the Leader of the House—I welcome him and his deputy to their new positions and wish them success—tell us whether he has had any indication from No. 10 or the Department for Transport that we might have a statement in September, rather than later?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words of welcome. The new Transport Secretary and the new Prime Minister will obviously want to brief themselves thoroughly on the Davies commission conclusions and the other issues around this very important decision. I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister believes it would be right to take the decision as soon as possible. As soon as the Government are in a position to make a statement to the House, we will do so.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend is in his post, as I am that the Deputy Leader is in his post. I welcome him to the Front Bench. May we have a debate on the welfare of dogs? There is much material that could be used in such a debate, such as: the appalling practice of dogfighting; the terrible distress caused by the theft of dogs, which has happened to a number of my constituents; and the great deal of distress experienced by dogs left in cars during very hot weather. Last weekend, the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency helpline received 106 reports of dogs left in hot environments. I suspect that that figure will be much higher for this week, which has been unseasonably hot. May we have a debate to draw attention to the welfare of dogs and how such things can cause unnecessary distress?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue for those of us who are concerned about animal welfare. In his reference to how people sometimes leave pet dogs in cars in hot weather, he alighted on the fact that often for such issues it is not a matter of a need for new legislation, but a matter of people recognising that they have a responsibility to care for the animals they own. If a debate enables my hon. Friend to highlight that, I can see the benefit of such a debate taking place. I would direct him towards either the Adjournment debate process or the Backbench Business Committee, where he might find those opportunities.
I congratulate the Leader of the House, and may I congratulate him on winning next year’s prize for the most reduced carbon footprint? May I also join in the tributes to Noeleen Delaney who, like all the staff in the House, serves us with dedication and discretion. She is ready with consideration and chat, but—typical of Donegal decency—never gossip.
Will the Leader commission a study of how many amendments and groups of amendments this Chamber discharges without any debate whatever, leaving it to the unelected fur-ocrats up the building here to get the enhanced reputation as the revising Chamber and the key amending Chamber? In this age of taking back control, can this Chamber take more control of the legislation that passes through Parliament?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words of welcome. He raises an important point. Ministers have a responsibility to ensure that Bills brought to the House are technically sound, that the policy has been properly worked out and that there is no ambiguity about the intention of particular clauses. The House collectively then has a responsibility, through the programming process, to ensure that Bills are properly debated and that we do not waste time simply scoring party political points, particularly in Committee and on Report. It then has a responsibility to allocate time fairly so that all aspects of the Bill can be properly considered. There are lessons for the Government but also for the House collectively on how we might do our job better.
Many constituents have raised with me the awareness and treatment of Lyme disease, with which I was recently diagnosed after a constituent came to my surgery and raised my own awareness of the symptoms. There is a stark issue here concerning both awareness and clarity about the treatment that is available and should be used. Will the Leader of the House please consider a debate in Government time on this important issue?
I congratulate the Leader of the House on his appointment. There seems to be a growing consensus across the House in opposition to the proposals by the right hon. Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne) to privatise Channel 4. Most recently, we heard the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), the former Culture Minister, on Radio 4 yesterday. When will the Secretary of State come to the House with a statement confirming that this valuable asset will be kept in public ownership?
This will be one of the many items on the agenda of my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. I am sure she will want to spend the summer considering this and other matters and then report her decisions to the House as soon as she is able.
I also welcome the Leader of the House and his deputy. May we have a debate on the better care fund and, in particular, how it applies in Staffordshire? We have seen £15 million not given to the county council, as a result of which services such as drug and alcohol services—already referred to by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) and my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes)—and numbers of health visitors are set to be drastically reduced.
A balance needs to be struck between the responsibility of central Government to set the overall budget for local authorities and the national health service and those of local authorities and NHS managers to ensure that their services are structured in a way that maximises the value received for each pound spent. That sometimes means a need for significant reforms in how services are delivered, but I take note of what my hon. Friend says about Staffordshire. I am sure he will want to seize the opportunity during Health Question Time and Communities and Local Government Question Time, after we return, to make those points directly to the responsible Ministers.
I welcome the new Leader of the House to his position. He has the respect of the entire House because of the courteous way he always operated in his previous ministerial positions. I also pay tribute to Noeleen Delaney. Her 30 years of service in the House epitomise everything that is good about public service.
May we have a debate about the personal independence payments legislation? My constituent Caroline Davie was refused PIP because she had been out of the country for 54 weeks, when the legislation states that someone cannot be out of the country for more than 52. She was out of the country for 54 weeks because she was involved in a serious car accident in Australia seven months into a trip to Australia on a year-long visa. It took a long time in intensive care, a long time in the spinal injuries unit and a long time to co-ordinate both the specialist spinal unit in Glasgow and landing certificates in Dubai to get her home. This meant she was 54 weeks out of the country. This, surely, is not fair, and a reasonable person would see that it was not fair. She is now in a wheelchair, requiring additional support, so I hope that the Minister will be able to look at the situation.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s kind remarks. Clearly, there have to be rules that govern the payment of all kinds of welfare benefits. The hon. Gentleman describes a case in which he felt there were powerful extenuating circumstances. If he writes to me with the details of the case, I shall refer it to the relevant Department for Work and Pensions Minister and ensure that he gets a response.
The Leader of the House is clearly enjoying his new role, and I warmly congratulate him on his appointment. The future of health care in Shropshire has been on hold for three years while a programme board, known as “Future Fit”, deliberates on possible closures to A&E. It continues to be unable to reach a decision and seems to be in a state of near paralysis. This has cost over £3 million and caused real anxiety to my constituents and poor morale at the Princess Royal hospital in Telford. Please may we have a debate on the issue?
On the basis of my hon. Friend’s description of the situation in Shropshire, it seems to me that what is needed is certainty that the local NHS management, including the senior clinicians who will be part of those teams, will decide on what they want and provide justification for any changes. As for a debate, this strikes me as something that might well fall within the scope of an Adjournment debate that either a ballot or Mr Speaker might be able to make available to my hon. Friend.
Today’s Order Paper shows a written statement on the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, although I do not think it has yet been published online. The Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee has already expressed regret at the closure of the commission. Will the Leader of the House join me in commending its achievements, since its establishment in 2008, under its two chairmen, Sir Mike Rake and Sir Charlie Mayfield? In view of its record of independent analysis and advice to successive Governments, is it not a shame that the enthusiasm for independent analysis and advice of the Government who set up the commission is not shared by the current Government?
I am happy to join the right hon. Gentleman in expressing thanks to the commission and its leadership for all the work that they have done. It is also a fact, however, that from time to time, Governments of all political colours need to review the institutions through which policy is delivered, and this is one of those occasions.
I welcome and congratulate the new Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House on their well-deserved promotions. I look forward to my right hon. Friend’s appearance before the Procedure Committee. May we have a debate on the ministerial statement issued by the Prime Minister on Monday about the changes to the machinery of government and, in particular, the establishment of the new Government Departments? This would give Members across the House an opportunity to consider what consequences flow from these changes. The Leader of the House briefly mentioned that time would be set aside for questions, but will it be a Question Time for one Department or each Department and how long will it be for? Are the Government going to create new Select Committees so that Back Benchers can scrutinise these new Departments? May we have a debate in Government time as soon as possible?
I have indeed.
I have had a meeting with the Chair of the Procedure Committee, our hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), and I hope that there will be a fruitful dialogue between my office and the Committee. I can confirm that there will be dedicated question times for the new Departments, and that a schedule of those question times should be available very soon, if it has not already been published. We shall also need to establish new Select Committees, and I hope that we can proceed with that as soon as possible in the autumn. Ultimately, however, it is a matter not for the Government, but for the House.
I, too, welcome the Leader of the House. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who must be the longest-serving spokesperson for matters concerning the Leader of the House in this Parliament.
Will the Leader of the House take a fresh look at the Procedure Committee’s report on private Members’ Bills? The current system is completely discredited, despite the massive success of Scottish National party Members in the ballot. We urgently need a debate and a vote on reform, in Government time.
That is one of the issues that the Chairman of the Procedure Committee raised with me. I said that, as a new Leader of the House, I would take a fresh look at it, but, as I think the hon. Gentleman will understand, I am not going to make any commitments either way at this stage.
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend and his Northampton- shire deputy, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), on their promotions.
As one of his first acts in office, will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement when we return from the recess on the financial situation of hospitals in high-growth areas? Kettering General Hospital is fantastic, and the directors, clinicians, nurses and ancillary staff do a tremendous job, but its financial deficit was £6.7 million last year, it is £11.2 million this year, and it is projected to be £15 million next year. Last year almost 400,000 people went to our local hospital for treatment, and the number of houses being built and the rise in the local population are placing an incredible strain on it. Something needs to be done, so will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State to make that statement?
I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome. As a Member who represents another high-growth area, I am very familiar with the issues that he has raised. Such issues need to be viewed holistically, because it is a question of looking not simply at the provision of hospital services but at the treatment of health services as a whole. Sometimes the pressures can be eased by some sensible reconfiguration of services overall, but account must be taken of the way in which medical science has moved on, and the fact that more people can now be treated as out-patients or day patients rather than having a long in-patient stay. However, I will draw my hon. Friend’s points about Kettering to the attention of the Health Secretary.
I, too, welcome the new Leader of the House.
In 2012, my 14-year-old constituent Elly Blacknell was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, and her treatment included having her leg amputated above the knee. Recently Elly relapsed and asked to re-access Mifamurtide, a drug that she had been prescribed but could not tolerate when she was younger. Her oncologist, Professor David Walker of Nottingham Children’s Hospital, has acted as an advocate for her, but has been unable to find a way through the NHS system of funding, although Mifamurtide is the first drug to be launched specifically to deal with such tumours for 30 years. May we have a debate on the difficulties involved in introducing new drugs to treat rare tumours in children, which are so badly needed by remarkable young people like Elly?
For obvious reasons, I am not familiar with the case or the drug, but I will draw the hon. Lady’s remarks to the attention of the responsible Health Minister. I also suggest that this is precisely the sort of subject for which an Adjournment debate in the autumn might be suitable.
I, too, join in the congratulations to the Leader of the House and the deputy on their new roles. Earlier this week a critical report from the Care Quality Commission was published branding a care home in my constituency inadequate. This is a continuation of a number of serious and critical reports, some of which have resulted in the closure of care homes. May we have a debate about the criteria CQC operate and whether it has become more rigorous, or whether there has indeed been a decline in the standards in these care homes?
Given the frightening rise in bigoted and racist incidents against EU nationals in the UK, will the Leader of the House call a debate on granting EU nationals living and working in the UK before 23 June the right to remain so we can push this Government to make the right decision and defeat growing racism and bigotry in this country?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been very clear indeed that our objective is that we should ensure there is indeed a legally binding agreement that people who are here lawfully are able to stay, and equally that British citizens who are lawfully resident in other EU member states should be able to continue living or studying or working there after we leave the EU. These are things that will have to be dealt with, I hope early on, in the forthcoming negotiations.
The physical attacks and the abuse—directed not just at EU nationals, but sometimes at people from other ethnic or religious minorities in this country—bring shame upon this country. All of us have a responsibility to denounce such behaviour and make it clear that it has no place whatsoever in our society, and I have always found that those hon. Members who have, for principled, honourable reasons, taken a stance opposing the UK’s membership of the EU have also been vehement in saying this sort of behaviour has no place in the kind of society they want to see.
May I also warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend and his deputy on their new appointments?
May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the manifesto commitment, which ought to now be honoured, on the 15-year rule for overseas voters? It is reckoned that 1 million people are disfranchised by this exemption, and it is a particularly sore subject among those living in the EU at the moment who were denied a vote in the referendum.
The Government remain committed to new legislation that will lift the 15-year bar, which was introduced by Mr Blair’s Government. It is a complex matter because we would have to not just extend the franchise but establish a new system of voter registration, which is not straightforward given that voter registers no longer exist for periods that go back longer than 15 years. We have to find some way of allocating those individuals to constituencies and verifying a previous place of residence, but my hon. Friends at the Cabinet Office are at work on these matters already.
In view of what the Leader of the House said earlier, may I remind him that it was a Labour Government who introduced the national minimum wage against strenuous Tory opposition? I remember it well because I voted for the change.
In view of the further situation in Turkey—the state of emergency, the thousands more teachers, academics, judges, journalists who are now being suspended from work, as well as the travel ban and all the other measures, apart from those who have been arrested—may we have a statement today on the situation, bearing in mind that the House will not be meeting again until 5 September? Will the British Government make it clear to the Turkish authorities that what is happening is causing deep concern in this country? It does not seem to be the most effective way of dealing with those who plotted the coup last week.
I would say to the hon. Gentleman that it was a Conservative Government who introduced the national living wage, and the Conservative-led coalition and the Conservative Government who have taken very large numbers of the lowest paid people in our society out of tax altogether. It was also a Conservative Government who led us to a situation in which there are 2.5 million more people in work than there were when the Labour party left office.
On Turkey, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. None of us would have wished to see a military coup succeed in that country. Equally, the political wellbeing of Turkey will be strengthened if it sticks by the principles of a plural society, multi-party democracy and respect for human rights. Those are principles to which the Turkish Government have committed themselves, not least through Turkey’s membership of the Council of Europe and its participation in the EU accession process. That will be the approach we take in our partnership with Turkey.
I am organising a consultation in my constituency on the targeted reduction of VAT for businesses operating in the tourism sector. The policy operates in most parts of the EU, including Ireland, and it is very successful in drawing tourists to those areas to spend their money there. May we have a debate on this matter soon after the recess to discuss ways of helping to boost our tourism businesses?
The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make those arguments to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his team at Treasury questions. I understand the case that he is making, but the reality is that a VAT concession in one area means that the money has to be found from some other source of taxation.
On behalf of the Democratic Unionist party, I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new ministerial position and wish him well for the years ahead.
The death of the young soldier Joshua Hoole while on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons has again raised the issue of the welfare of our soldiers. May I, on behalf of the whole House, convey to his fiancée and family our sincere sympathy? He was a soldier of immense courage, strength and ability, and we sorrow at his death. As the Leader of the House will know, the Defence Select Committee, of which I am a member, has recently made recommendations for training that included the establishment of a defence safety authority, the introduction of a duty holder concept across the armed forces, and the recommendation that the Ministry of Defence should undertake to publicise these measures widely so that families can have confidence that, while military training might be hard and dangerous, the organisers of that training are known and accountable. We recommended that the changes should be put in place by 2017-18. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a ministerial statement on this matter in order to bring forward the timescale for implementation by the MOD?
I will report the hon. Gentleman’s concerns to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. The death of that young soldier on 19 July was a tragedy, and the thoughts and sympathies of everyone in the House are with his family, friends and colleagues at what must be an appallingly difficult time for them. A civilian police investigation and a service inquiry into the tragedy are taking place, and it would clearly be wrong for me to speculate on the lessons to be learned until we know the outcome of those reports.
I recently convened a support and campaign group for the Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign in West Lothian and Livingston. One of my constituents said that her divorce settlement was predicated on the age at which she would retire and get her pension, but that has now been moved by several years. Will the right hon. Gentleman, whom I welcome to his place, perhaps have a discussion with his colleague the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about taking a fresh look at the issue in the hope that fresh eyes will not bring the same stale, old ideas but some justice for the WASPI women?
That is something that the House debated and voted on relatively recently, and I do not in any way want to suggest that there is likely to be a change in policy. Nevertheless, I will report the hon. Lady’s concerns to my right hon. Friend at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Order. I will just gently say that everybody will get in. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), who is a very, very, very fine man, is the human equivalent of a smouldering volcano as he sits waiting to be called with ever-growing frustration at the fact that he has not yet been called. I simply say that the hon. Gentleman will get in. He has been here long enough to know that it did not always use to be that way and that people did not always get in. Much as I enormously admire the hon. Gentleman, he has—if I may politely say so—a slightly underdeveloped sense of others, and I cannot help but think that if he spoke three times in the day, he would think, “Why on earth didn’t I get called to speak a fourth?” He will get in, but he will just have to be a bit patient. We are saving him up—he is a specialist delicacy in the House.
I, too, welcome the new Leader of the House to his place.
Dr Kate Granger, an inspirational 34-year-old, is in a West Yorkshire hospice dying from terminal cancer. She started the “Hello, my name is...” campaign, a worldwide initiative to encourage health professionals to introduce themselves and to treat all patients with dignity. This week she achieved her aim of raising £250,000 for a Yorkshire cancer charity, but her dying wish is to have the new Prime Minister endorse her campaign. Could the Leader of the House use his considerable powers of persuasion to facilitate this amazing lady’s dying wish?
The case that the hon. Lady describes strikes me as inspiring, and I immediately want to pass on both sympathy and admiration to the young lady’s family and friends. If the hon. Lady would like to write to me with the details, I will be in touch with the Prime Minister.
I found it positive to hear the Leader of the House condemn the racist incidents that have taken place since the EU referendum. It was unfortunate, however, that the Prime Minister did not take the opportunity on Wednesday to condemn the unforgivably racist language used in the past by the new Foreign Secretary. May we have a debate in Government time on the importance of reflecting carefully on the language that we use in our roles here and the impact that it has on other people?
As you regularly remind us, Mr Speaker, we must all bear in mind the impact that the language we choose has outside this building—even if the impact may sometimes be not what we intended. I have been genuinely shocked by the way in which in recent weeks decent, law-abiding people, who have been living here for 20 or 30 years in many cases, have been subjected to abuse or even worse. It is important that all of us, whichever political party we are from and whichever side we supported during the referendum campaign, come together to say that that type of behaviour has no place in our society.
As a genuine, authentic Back Bencher, may I welcome the Leader of the House to his position? I hope he will be a good force for making sure this is about business questions, rather than about some of the things that go on under the name of business questions. Mr Speaker called him an egghead earlier, and I hope that did not cause offence. Those who worked on the European private Member’s Bill and watched him in action believe he must have had some training in acting and drama, as his gestures and everything he does at the Dispatch Box suggest that that is the case.
I was a smouldering volcano, Mr Speaker, because I wanted to say it is about time we had a major debate in this House on the barriers to people with autism living a full life. I chair the autism commission and we have just produced a fantastic report on the barriers in the health service to autistic people living a full life. Surely an early debate when we get back on that subject would be welcomed, even by the Speaker.
First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. I agree with him that, as a House and as a country, this question of giving greater opportunity to people with autistic spectrum disorders is something to which we should turn our attention. I hope this might be a matter that the Backbench Business Committee would see as a priority.
I am more of a slow burner than a smouldering volcano, but I am still very passionate.
I welcome the new Leader of the House to his place. May I ask him for a debate in Government time, or a statement, on the effectiveness of the assessment process, the stability of mandatory reconsideration and the cost to the taxpayer of the tribunal appeals process for personal independence payments, because all of these things are causing great distress to claimants in Neath, in Wales and across the UK?
I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome. These are clearly matters that my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions will wish to consider, and I will draw her remarks to their attention. I think that the quickest way to bring these matters before the House would be for her to raise them during the first DWP questions after we come back.
Last September, the Government announced that they were likely to publish the childhood obesity strategy “in the autumn”. Autumn came and went, as did winter and spring. At an urgent question you granted me kindly in May, Mr Speaker, the public health Minister stood at that Dispatch Box and she intimated to the House that the strategy would be published before the summer recess, giving Members the opportunity to debate thoroughly the contents therein. Where is it?
This is undoubtedly an important issue, but one or two other political events in the past few weeks have meant that a number of announcements have been postponed. We have a new public health Minister in place now, who, I am sure, will want to give urgent attention to this point.
I, too, wish to welcome the new Leader of the House to his post. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I pay tribute to his wisdom at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which I fear will be much missed in the future. I also pay tribute to Noeleen Delaney, a very long-serving person in this House, for her service and kindness.
There are cat lovers as well as dog lovers here, so I wish to ask the Leader of the House about the cat at No. 10, who looks in a sorry situation, limping with one paw in the air. Is that because he is missing the old Prime Minister? Does the new Prime Minister care for the welfare of cats as much as the old Prime Minister did?
Finally, I want to ask for a statement or a debate as soon as we get back in September on the very serious situation in Turkey, where some of my friends have been arrested in this first round of arrests, and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria. Nearly 100,000 people are in detention, some of them in very bad conditions, and I ask that the Foreign Office keeps its eye on the ball as far as Syria and Turkey, in particular, are concerned.
First, I thank the right hon. Lady for her kind remarks. On the two foreign policy questions she raised, even though the House will be in recess the work of government will go on, and the Foreign Office will be maintaining a close watch on events in both Turkey and Syria. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will also maintain a key interest not only in the humanitarian disaster to which she alluded, but in making sure that the pledges made by this country and by other countries to put money down to help those in such enormous need in Syria and neighbouring countries are delivered in practice and that the aid gets through to them. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will wish to keep the House updated when we return from recess about what is happening in that region.
On the other matters the right hon. Lady mentioned, I can completely reassure her about the Prime Minister’s good intentions towards Larry the cat. I saw some reports in the media that he had been involved in a fracas with the Foreign Office cat. I hope that they have now established a modus vivendi.
I welcome the Leader of the House and his deputy to their posts. Eagle-eyed Members will have noticed some 30 written statements to be made by the Government on today’s Order Paper. A cynic could be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that the Government are trying to bury bad news before the summer recess. Does he wish to dispel this cynicism by giving Members a debate to discuss and consider the contents of these statements on our return?
I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome, but she is misconstruing the Government’s intention, which is to put the information before Parliament. She would have had much more cause for grievance had Ministers withheld this information, which instead is being made available. The opportunity is now there for all Members to look at the announcements being made in those written ministerial statements, to come to a considered view about them and then to return to the fray in September ready to question and challenge Ministers on the basis of some time for analysis and reflection.
Another fine ending, Mr Speaker! I confess that when the right hon. Gentleman was Minister for Europe, I used to feel sorry for him, given that he was sent out here like a lamb to the wolves every so often. I still do, because he has left behind the finest salons of Europe to come here every Thursday to fend off requests for debates on Southern bloody rail, which I am fed up with hearing about. None the less, I welcome him to his position.
This week, the Transport Committee heard evidence from Vauxhall about the fact that despite recalling almost 300,000 vehicles, almost 300 have spontaneously burst into flames, putting families and consumers in danger. We have also had the Volkswagen scandal over the past 12 months. May we therefore have a debate on the car industry, so that we can push it to get its act together and stop conning consumers, putting people’s lives at risk and endangering public health, and so that we can urge the Government finally to get their finger out and bring this industry to book?
The right sequence of events would be for us to see the report from the Transport Committee, which will doubtless make recommendations to the Government and to other parties, and then to have the benefit of the Committee’s findings and the evidence it has taken when the House comes to debate this subject. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are opportunities during the parliamentary year for Select Committee reports to be debated, either on the Floor of the House or in Westminster Hall. If there is a strong body of support for this report to be so debated, that seems to be a good opportunity. Finally, I say to him that although I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent serving in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, it is to this House that I sought election in the first place and I regard having been asked by the Prime Minister to serve as Leader of the House of Commons as an enormous privilege and an enormous opportunity. I have no regrets whatsoever. It is amazing after one is elected to this place on behalf of one’s constituents, but to be asked to serve as Leader of the House is a privilege indeed.