The business for the week commencing 10 October is as follows:
Monday 10 October—Motion to approve the Second Report 2016-17 from the Committee of Privileges, followed by Second Reading of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill.
Tuesday 11 October—Second Reading of the Small Charitable Donations and Childcare Payments Bill.
Wednesday 12 October—Opposition day (8th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 13 October—General debate on baby loss, followed by debate on a motion on the inquiry into hormone pregnancy tests. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 14 October—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 17 October will include:
Monday 17 October—Second Reading of the Savings (Government Contributions) Bill.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for Thursday 20 October will be:
Thursday 20 October—Debate on the Education Committee reports on mental health and wellbeing of looked after children and on social work reform, followed by general debate on national arthritis week 2016 as recommended by the Liaison Committee and Backbench Business Committee.
Colleagues will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the February recess at the end of business on Thursday 9 February and return on Monday 20 February.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
May we deal with the new Select Committees and the date for the election of Chairs? Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee will be renamed and continue with a Labour Chairman; that the new International Trade Committee will be chaired by a Member of the Scottish National party; and that the new Brexit Committee will be chaired by a Labour MP?
We join you, Mr Speaker, in sending our best wishes to the retiring Speaker’s counsel, Michael Carpenter, and in welcoming Saira Salimi, who has been appointed to the role.
Today is the International Day of Democracy. Democracy was invented in Greece two and a half thousand years ago and has come to these islands in instalments. We are the only country in the world, other than Lesotho, that still has hereditary chieftains in its legislature. David Cameron’s final awards have been described in the Daily Mail and The Guardian—at both ends of the political spectrum—as “devalued”, “debased”, “discredited”, “egregious”, “grubby”, “tawdry”, “tainted” and “tarnished”, but otherwise okay. At the heart of our democracy is this rotten system with, as the Lord Speaker said, 200 unnecessary people prancing around in ermine down the other end of the corridor. The changes introduced by the former Prime Minister over the years involve £34 million of spending. This is a wanton waste of public money at a time when his justification for the massive disruption to elected Members by the boundary changes was that it would save peanuts. Will the Leader of the House add some new lustre to his parliamentary halo and not be just a leader who is here today and nowhere tomorrow, but take on real reforms?
I also strongly recommend that the Leader of the House takes up this report I have with me, published this week by distinguished Members of all parties. For 25 years, parties of all colours have failed to respond to the appeals from the seriously ill who have suffered agonies of pain when they ask for relief that is provided by the only medicine that works for them, which is cannabis. Because of the prejudice-rich, cowardly, knowledge-free policies of both Governments, we have continued with a system that has criminalised seriously ill people. Now there is a clear call from distinguished and knowledgeable Members here and in the other place to end this barbarous practice whereby we criminalise people for using cannabis but allow heroin to be prescribed. Other countries throughout the world are doing this; there is no excuse for continuing with this practice.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s warm support on this matter, which I have enjoyed over the years.
How does today’s decision on Hinkley fit into the parliamentary timetable? It has never been properly debated here, and any new proposals have certainly not been debated here. This could be the greatest financial and technological catastrophe for 50 years. The price is a rip-off and the technology does not work. Finland was promised that nuclear power from the EPR would be working by 2009, but it is still not working and no date has been offered for when it will, while Flamanville is in a mess because of a technical problem. Yet the Government are going to blunder ahead because they do not have the courage to examine the scheme again. They are going ahead because of political inertia. My party’s policy will be spelled out later by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), but in the meantime we have to tell the Leader of the House that he must gain parliamentary approval, because this is going ahead without any parliamentary imprimatur at all. As the years and decades go by, and as the futility of this operation continues, this will be seen not as a parliamentary disaster or a parliamentary error, but as a Tory error.
Let me first agree with and join the hon. Gentleman in wishing a successful retirement to Speaker’s counsel, who has served this House and you in particular, Mr Speaker, with distinction over many years. I can confirm the arrangements that the hon. Gentleman mentioned with respect to the Chairs of the Select Committees.
On the hon. Gentleman’s point about the use of cannabis in medical treatment, it is of course perfectly possible for medicines derived from cannabis—medicines that include cannabinoids—to go through the normal process of medical licensing and approval. I am not attracted to the idea that, without that sort of analysis, checking and approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, we should simply agree to particular drugs being made available to patients who might be suffering from all kinds of different and sensitive conditions.
On the hon. Gentleman’s points about Hinkley, I have to say that I gained the impression that this was, for him, a therapeutic experience rather than a quest for truth. He will have the opportunity in a relatively short space of time to put questions on this subject directly to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, so I urge him to contain his impatience that little bit longer.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about the International Day of Democracy, which I think members of all parties would wish to celebrate today.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, my own voting record on House of Lords reform is recorded in Hansard. The fact is, however, that the House of Commons had an opportunity very recently to vote for reform, and this House—this elected House—voted down every option that was available. Whatever views one holds about the second Chamber, I do not think it right to denigrate the very hard work of scrutiny and review that is put in by members of all political parties, and Cross-Benchers, in that Chamber in order to play their part in the legislative process.
I find it a bit rum that the hon. Gentleman should denounce the House of Lords in such florid terms when so many of his former right hon. and hon. Friends have been in a rush to go and serve there. Only earlier this week, a new life peer, sent there by the Leader of the Opposition, took her seat. I think that the hon. Gentleman needs to have some words with his own leader about his views.
Order. As colleagues know, ordinarily it is my practice to call everyone in this set of exchanges, and I should like to do so again today, but I am very conscious that there are two statements to follow, and then two debates under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee, of which the first is notably well subscribed. There is, therefore, a premium on brevity, which I know will be exemplified by Sir Edward Leigh.
The Leader of the House has on his desk a report on the full decant of Parliament. Will he take his time over bringing the decision back to the House, and ensure that a full consultation takes place? Given that 1 million people visit this place every year, including 100,000 children, the issue is extraordinarily serious, and many of us are deeply concerned about the vacation of an historic Palace for five or more years. Many of us think that we should get on with the work now, abolish the September sittings, and start repairing the building in good time.
This is, of course, a report from a Joint Committee to the House as a whole. It is not just on my desk; it is on the desk of every Member of this House, because it is this House and the other place that will have to make a decision about the future of the Palace of Westminster. I hope that every Member will read the report and consider it carefully, and I hope to arrange a time for a proper debate on the subject later in the autumn.
I, too, pay tribute to Speaker’s counsel, who has been such an assiduous servant of the House for all these years. I also thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business following our return.
It is 12 weeks since the European Union referendum, and in that time there has not been a single debate in Government time on the consequences of that vote. Our constituents demand to know the Government’s intention in regard to Brexit. They want to know whether we will be members of the single market, they want to know what sort of immigration systems will be in place—for goodness’ sake, they just want to know whether visas will be required for European travel in the future. This was supposed to be about taking control, but we seem to have handed control to a bunch of clueless Brexit Tories who are determined to keep all this in a shroud of secrecy. The House should demand better than that, so when will we hear from the Leader of the House when we can have a detailed debate about our European Union Brexit plans?
As you said, Mr Speaker, two important statements will follow business questions—[Interruption.] I will take as much time as is required. I remind the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) that ours is the third party in the House.
I woke this morning to hear all the details of the Hinkley Point C announcement. What happened to the convention that Secretaries of State should make important announcements to this House first, rather than having them discussed in the media? I support the shadow Leader of the House’s call for a full debate on the plans, because it is appalling that we have not debated them thus far.
The House is only just back from recess, but in about five hours’ time we will once again go into what is charmingly called the conference recess. It does indeed cover the conferences of some of the big parties in this House, but curiously not that of the Scottish National party, although we are breaking today to accommodate the Liberal Democrats, who I believe are meeting in a pub near Portsmouth, if they can find the necessary number of members. Our constituents are simply baffled as to why the House is rising while important matters remain to be discussed, such as the details of Brexit, and just because voluntary organisations—that is what parties are—are meeting. I think that we should consider abandoning the conference recess, and I hope that the Leader of the House will support that.
One thing that the recess will resolve is the most vicious party civil war in history—its bitterness is matched only by its destructiveness. Perhaps the Leader of the House and I should offer to work as peacekeepers as Labour Members try to bring back their broken party once again.
On the hon. Gentleman’s last point, I fear that matters may now be pretty much beyond repair. On Hinkley Point C, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be at the Dispatch Box within an hour and all Members will have the opportunity to put questions to him.
On the consequences of the EU referendum, the fact remains—my views were well known at the time—that the people of the United Kingdom voted by a relatively small but none the less decisive majority to leave the European Union. As the Prime Minister said the other day, we cannot have a running commentary on the preparation or articulation of our negotiating position. One does not, in diplomacy, business or any other walk of life, set out one’s negotiating position in detail so that those with whom one is negotiating know all the details. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will have the opportunity to put oral questions to the Foreign Secretary on 18 October and to the Exiting the EU Secretary on 20 October, so there will be further opportunities for debate then, just as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has been appearing before Select Committees of this House and the other place to answer questions on the Government’s policy.
Very briefly, the Leader of the House did mention the Select Committee chairmanships, but he forgot to say whether those motions have been laid before the House. I understand that at the moment they have not been, so perhaps he could comment on that. My main question is about the boundary changes. When the House debated the changes, we did not know that we would be leaving the EU. With 75% of our laws made in the EU, and with the abolition of all those hard-working MEPs, why are we now reducing the number of MPs? Perhaps the Prime Minister should look at this again. May we have a statement next week?
The House took that decision when it passed the primary legislation setting out the proposed reduction in the number of MPs and the framework within which the parliamentary Boundary Commission would operate. On my hon. Friend’s other point, we intend to lay the relevant motions and changes to the Standing Orders as rapidly as possible. There are still a few technical discussions, and if we can we will hammer those out today, but it is certainly our intention that there should be no unavoidable delay before the motions are tabled.
Greenwich clinical commissioning group has granted a £73 million contract to Circle Group plc to provide musculoskeletal services. Circle employs no clinicians who can deliver those services and so will rely on contracting existing service providers to provide NHS services. That is complete madness and it is leading to chaos in our local NHS. It is a totally unnecessary tier of bureaucracy in Circle, which will suck out its profits at the expense of patients. May we have a debate on the performance of private companies in the NHS so that we can expose the poor performance of Circle and others?
The hon. Gentleman may wish to seek an Adjournment debate on the matter. These are rightly decisions for the local NHS, and the decisions may vary from area to area, but this Government, like the previous Labour Government, recognise that the NHS can sometimes usefully make use of the private and charitable sectors to deliver NHS services free to their users.
Residents in Rugeley and, depending on the wind direction, other parts of Cannock Chase are suffering from the smoke from a fire at a farm in Slitting Mill that has been burning for over a week and a half. Can we have a debate in Government time about the illegal dumping of waste and the enforcement action and the penalties applied in such situations?
I was concerned to hear about the plight of my hon. Friend’s constituents. I urge her to liaise with the Environment Agency, which has an important role in trying to sort this out. I will draw her comments to the attention of the relevant Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, so that there can be a Government response to her concerns.
I thank the Leader of the House for the announcement of the business for the week beginning 10 October and for the two important debates on Thursday 13 October. One is on baby loss, infant mortality and stillbirth. The other is on the current inquiry into hormone pregnancy tests and the use of the drug Primodos, which has led to much damage among many in the population. During this morning’s exchanges, he will undoubtedly suggest to right hon. and hon. Members that they go to the Backbench Business Committee to air their issues, but we already have a significant queue of outstanding and unheard debates, so may I ask that he be particularly generous after the conference recess in allocating time to the Committee?
We shall try always to be as generous as possible to the hon. Gentleman and his Committee, within the limits that are laid down on the allocation of days. Just as I and my fellow business managers sometimes have to say no to Ministers who want to bring in legislation, so there is a question of priorities for the Committee.
The New Inn in Norton Lindsey in my constituency has recently closed. Local residents, under the banner of the New Inn Salvation Squad, are campaigning hard to try to save the pub for the village. Can we have a debate on how we can support that community and other villages throughout the country to save their local pubs?
May we have a debate on the NHS? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford). NHS Walsall clinical commissioning group, my local CCG, has had to find savings of £22 million. That is going to have a direct effect on Walsall Manor hospital and on social services. They need extra money, rather than to have to make cuts, so may we have that debate?
The Government have delivered in full and up front the additional money that the chief executive of the NHS said that he needed to deliver the NHS’s plan. The NHS plan involves looking at how health services in different parts of the country need to change and evolve to become the kind of services that we will need in future. Those are rightly decisions for the local NHS because the needs of urban and rural areas, and of one part of the country and another, may differ significantly.
Two Government consultations have recommended increasing the rates of interest paid on late payments of compensation to people who are subject to compulsory orders. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has indicated that those measures are unlikely to be introduced until after the construction of HS2 is due to start. Following years of mismanagement and failure, I have little faith HS2 Ltd will pay compensation on time and fairly to my constituents, but I understand that the measures can be introduced via a statutory instrument. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statutory instrument to be brought before the House as soon as possible and certainly well in advance of the construction of HS2?
Mr Speaker, as my right hon. Friend knows, you and I will both have been following her question very closely. I will talk to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to understand better the current position, and I am sure that he will want to write to my right hon. Friend to set out his views.
May we have a statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs detailing what sanctions or incentives it has to ensure that developers comply with the national policy statement on ports in respect of shore-side electricity connection, particularly in areas identified as having poor air quality, such as London?
I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman was unable to put that question to Transport Ministers in the oral Question Time that we have just had. I would advise him either to write to Transport Ministers or to seek an Adjournment debate at which he can seek a more detailed response from the relevant Minister.
Given that the number of MPs might be reduced by 50, the problem that we would then face is that this House would have to do all the stuff it does anyway with an inadequate budget. Will the Leader of the House either make a statement or allow time for a debate in the House on the staffing budget for the smaller number of MPs, who will still have to do the same amount of work across the House?
As my hon. Friend knows, that is a matter for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, and I hope that he and other colleagues who are concerned will make representations to IPSA. When I meet the chairman and chief executive of IPSA in a few weeks’ time, I will make sure that I have his concerns on my agenda.
Two weeks ago, Paawan Purba, a 20-year-old student from Heston, died of meningitis within 48 hours of contracting what appeared to be normal flu. She had no other obvious symptoms. Her parents, her sister Isha and the rest of her family have described to me how they knew little about how the disease could strike, or that any strand of it was potentially fatal. That level of knowledge has been reflected by almost everyone they have met, as well as by people I know. The family are calling for much more to be done to prevent more people from falling victim to the disease. Cases of meningitis W are on the rise, and Public Health England has called for more young people to be vaccinated. May we have a debate on the take-up rate for meningitis vaccination, on how to increase awareness and better join up the messages and understanding across our communities and on how we can undertake more research, to see an end to this horrific disease?
May I first express my sincere sympathy to the family and friends of the hon. Lady’s constituent? That must be an unbearable experience for any family to endure. I think many of us will have had comparable examples in the areas that we represent. I agree with her about the importance of highlighting this matter, and I am sure that Members in all parts of the House will support her endeavours. It strikes me that this is the sort of thing that a debate in Westminster Hall, which would allow a number of Members to participate, might be the best way in which to highlight the matter.
Since the second world war, the BBC monitoring service at Caversham Park has performed a vital service in providing open source intelligence, and the Secretary of State for Defence confirmed at Defence questions on Monday that it is of vital interest to his Department. Today, an important letter on the same subject from Lord Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, comes to the same conclusion. May we therefore have a statement or a debate as soon as Parliament returns on the swingeing cuts that the BBC is proposing to make to the service? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be disgraceful if any irrevocable steps were taken before the House returns, given that the BBC has been informed that at least one and probably two Select Committees want to hold inquiries into this matter urgently?
I appreciate my right hon. Friend’s concern. He has taken a close interest in these issues for many years. I note that there will be a statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the BBC later today, and my right hon. Friend might be able to contrive to ask her a question that is in order at that point.
The Leader of the House is a keen listener, and probably a wannabe contributor, to my Wednesday afternoon radio phone-in show on LBC, in which I declare an interest. We had a vigorous debate yesterday on Hinkley Point before the announcement today because of Downing Street briefings. Why does he allow that to happen? Why does he not allow a vote, so that those who vote for this monstrous, mind-boggling financial folly can be named and shamed to their constituents for generations to come?
This is not a new policy. I do not want to pre-empt the statement, but a decision was made by the previous Government and it was put on hold by the Prime Minister, so that, quite reasonably, she could re-examine the evidence in detail before deciding whether to commit the United Kingdom to such a major project. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will set out in detail the Government’s decision and the reasoning behind it, and the right hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to put his case to the Secretary of State then.
One of my constituents, Naba Pandey, has been battling for many months for the return of money he invested in StratX Markets. StratX Markets—I want to stress the firm’s name—has refused to engage with my constituent or me, and the money has not been returned. Binary options trading remains an unregulated, almost cowboy market, and the Treasury remains impotent. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate about regulation of the market?
My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment in detail on that constituency case, but binary option operators that hold remote gambling equipment in Great Britain are regulated by the Gambling Commission. Such operators must hold a licence to sell binary options lawfully to consumers. To do so without a licence is an offence. The Gambling Commission can and does take action against unlicensed operators. I advise my hon. Friend to take the case to the Gambling Commission. If his constituent believes that fraudulent activity has happened, he should take the case to Action Fraud.
Children across the country returned to school last week. Research from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers trade union suggests that a quarter of them were potentially malnourished because free schools meals were not available during the school holidays. That is heart-breaking, but we still do not know the scale of the problem because no proper research has been carried out. May we have a debate in Government time to establish what can be done about child food poverty?
The hon. Lady is right to draw the House’s attention to the matter, and I will ensure that her concerns are passed on to the relevant Minister at the Department for Education. It may be that this is a matter for the Backbench Business Committee or for a debate in Westminster Hall, to thoroughly explore the issues and to get an answer from a Minister.
My right hon. Friend will be aware of the situation in east Asia, with North Korean nuclear tests and rising tensions in the South China sea. Does he agree that in this time of Brexit our allies across the region, Japan in particular, will be looking to this House and this Government to see whether we remain engaged in the region? Will he find time for the House to debate the matter?
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the grave significance of the recent North Korean nuclear test. This Government will certainly remain active in world affairs. When the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary go to the UN Assembly, they will have the opportunity to talk to leaders from around the world about, among other subjects, the risks of nuclear proliferation. The Government remain utterly opposed to the North Korean nuclear programme and sanctions are in place. A lot hinges upon the Chinese Government’s approach, as they are the power with the most direct influence over Pyongyang. My hon. Friend will have a further opportunity to ask about the matter at FCO questions on Tuesday 18 October.
I found out this week that the suicide rate is rising faster in Cumbria than in any other part of the country. A mental health nurse has told me her worries about the stresses on services, but she is particularly concerned about the extra pressure that followed the devastating floods of last year. May we have a debate to look not only at what needs to be done to improve support for our mental health services, but at what extra support needs to be put in place when constituencies suffer a crisis?
As I hope the hon. Lady knows, the Health Secretary has made it clear that his policy is to ensure that mental health is treated not as a Cinderella service but on a par with physical health in planning the future of the NHS. I take note of her point about the problems that have affected Cumbria. It seems to me that in the first place this is matter for the local NHS, working with the many charitable and benevolent organisations that can often provide preventive support and help for people who are badly affected by floods or another disaster, and for them then to seek help from the NHS nationally if they feel that they need something extra for a period of time.
My constituent Michelle Evans, who is severely disabled, and her full-time carer and partner, John Turner, received a letter headed, “Your disability living allowance is ending”. It then gave less than a month’s notice to apply for the personal independence payment, followed by a curt text. May we have a debate on the way in which severely disabled people who have been on DLA for many years are communicated with and treated in the transfer to PIP?
My constituent, Maria Hill, who has cleaned Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs offices in Liverpool for 20 years was expecting a modest pay rise when the national living wage came in. Instead, Government contractors ISS cut her hours unilaterally and, as a consequence, she lost her tax credits and was £50 a week worse off. May we have a debate in Government time to discuss how the Government are making sure that their contractors comply with not only the law, but the spirit of the law?
Last Friday, I was honoured to speak at the 80th anniversary celebrations of Vent-Axia in my constituency. I appreciate that we have yet to have a decision of both Houses on the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster, but can we ensure that companies such as Vent-Axia and others in constituencies across the UK will be the preferred suppliers for that work? Perhaps this will even be enhanced in a post-EU procurement world, too.
If Parliament approves the restoration and renewal programme, there will be a need for skills and expertise in construction and renovation of all kinds. Indeed, the Joint Committee report says in terms that we need to make sure that there would be opportunities for specialist firms and for small businesses in this country to get a share of that work.
In the past week, two reports have been published on the tragic problem of drug-related deaths, as well as a report on the medical use of cannabis, which my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House has referred to so eloquently. Given the absence of the Government’s long-awaited drugs strategy, may we have a full debate on developing a relevant and realistic drugs policy?
Obviously, we have a new team of Ministers and it is reasonable for them to consider what drugs strategy they want to publish. The opportunities here lie with the Backbench Business Committee or perhaps with a 90-minute Westminster Hall debate to give that subject a proper airing.
We are fast approaching the anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal. At the same time, the opponents of the Iranian regime are executed, religious minorities are persecuted, the Iranian regime has enhanced its ballistic missile capability and there is serious doubt that Iran is keeping to the nuclear deal. May we have a statement in Government time on what steps the UK Government are going to take to ensure that this regime is halted?
My hon. Friend is right to point to the frankly appalling human rights record of the Iranian Government. I also take the view that, generally, it is sensible, even where we have the most profound disagreements with the Government of another country, to have diplomatic channels so that there is a means by which to communicate with that Government. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is determined to ensure that human rights remain a key element in the United Kingdom’s foreign policy. There will be an opportunity to ask about Iran on 18 October.
Today, postal workers across the UK are taking industrial action to protect their jobs, their pensions and our post offices. The Post Office has received £2 billion of public money over the past seven years. May we have a debate about why that money has not been spent on new services, securing the future of our post offices and protecting decent jobs?
I regret the fact that there is industrial action, because all that will do is inconvenience customers and make it more likely that those customers will look elsewhere for the delivery of parcels and for communicating messages, rather than using Post Office services. The Post Office has indeed been given taxpayers’ money to enable it to make the difficult transformation to a world that relies increasingly on electronic and digital communications and in which there are other competitors for things such as parcel delivery. In general, this has to be a matter of commercial judgment for the Post Office management.
What a summer of sport we have had: Andy Murray winning at Wimbledon, scores of Olympic golds, Paralympic success at the moment, and, perhaps most significantly, Northamptonshire winning the T20 Blast. When the House returns in the autumn, may we have a debate about the stunning summer of sporting success?
I cannot promise a debate, but I know that everyone in the House will want to congratulate not only the Olympians and Paralympians, but Northamptonshire on their T20 triumph. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be doing his best to arrange the Corby ticker-tape parade as soon as possible.
May we have a debate on whether London councils such as Greenwich, which want to resettle vulnerable Syrian refugees, are receiving adequate support from the Government, particularly to cover the higher costs of accommodation in the capital?
There are ongoing discussions between the Government and local authorities about the pressure on a number of local authorities that would, in principle, be willing to take refugees, but that judge that, at the moment, there is too much pressure from a growing population on the housing market in their own areas. Ministers want to see those discussions brought to a successful conclusion as well, so I hope that we can take the matter forward to a satisfactory agreement.
Following the announcement by Celtic Energy to mothball the opencast mine at Nant Helen, Coelbren, with the loss of more than 100 jobs in my constituency, may we have a debate on the coal industry in Wales in order to support an industry that has done so much for the British economy over the centuries?
My hon. Friend is a very strong champion of his constituents, and I completely understand his concern. As he knows, this is a commercial decision taken by the company. I will draw his concern to the attention of Ministers at both the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Wales Office, so that they can consider whether it is possible for the Government to help constituents who will need to look for other employment following the decision.
The House will be aware that, earlier this summer, we saw the collapse of Bathgate-based Dunne Group, which had some 600 direct employees and around 1,200 sub- contractors. Almost two months on, the adverse knock-on effect from that closure on other firms within the supply chain is now fully apparent, and is typified by Beattie Contracts Ltd from Grangemouth, which has lost £280,000. Many other businesses have been affected by this and other closures. May we have a ministerial statement, or a debate in Government time, on what steps the Government are taking to ensure better payment standards for contractors?
The Government have a strong record of insisting on tight schedules of repayment by contractors, and we have introduced new rules that try to make sure that small and medium-sized enterprises in particular are paid on time. If the hon. Gentleman would like to send me details of his constituency case, I will draw them to the attention of the Minister directly responsible.
May we have a statement on what the Government are doing to stop convicted killers absconding from prison? This week, yet another murderer has disappeared, this time from Sudbury. Ministry of Justice figures show that prisoners convicted of murder have been absconding at the rate of one a month for years, putting the public at risk, so it is time that we really got a grip.
In the light of the Brexit vote, may we please have a debate in Government time on whether the previous Parliament’s decision to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies by 50 still commands the support of the House of Commons, and on whether the Government will reduce the number of Ministers if there is a reduction in the number of Members of Parliament?
I have to say that quite a number of Members of this House have, for some years, been representing a significantly larger number of constituents than the quota proposed by the boundary commissions. The central principle behind the new law and the boundary commissions’ recent proposals is that the electorates in each constituency should be the same, so that everybody’s vote counts equally. That seems a democratically just principle.
The Wales Bill, which concluded its proceedings in this House on Monday evening, includes provisions to devolve an element of income tax powers to Wales. For those powers to work properly, they must be supported by a fair fiscal framework. May we therefore have an oral statement from the Treasury on this issue before the Bill reaches the National Assembly for Wales for the legislative consent motion process?
This week, the Victorian Society released its list of top 10 endangered buildings in the country. Tellingly, none was in London or the south-east. The grade-II-listed Victoria mill in Great Grimsby was on that list, and it was pictured covered in scaffolding, paid for by the local council following years of neglect by the private owners. May we have a debate, in Government time, on the responsibilities of private companies to preserve heritage assets around the country for the benefit of local communities?
As the hon. Lady hinted, there are already legal obligations on owners to keep buildings in a proper state of repair, particularly if the buildings are listed in any way, and there are sanctions available against those who choose not to do that, so there should be a remedy for her local authority. Often, the community rallying around can help to restore a historical building and convert it to new use successfully.
May we have a debate about delays to the approval of a report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls on the supply of weapons to Saudi, as there is compelling evidence that UK arms are being used to kill women and children in Yemen? Can the Leader of the House advise us on whether the Government Whips had any role whatever in Committee members breaking the quorum during two Committee meetings, thus leaving the report as yet unapproved?
I am afraid that what goes on in Committees is certainly not a matter for me. On the broader point, there was a statement on this and related matters quite recently by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood). The best thing I can do is point the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) towards Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions, which will be in the week after we get back.
If the Leader of the House will not listen to the will of the current House, which is against the reduction from 650 Members to 600, may I suggest a debate on reducing the numbers in the Lords? Could we take a lesson from sport and introduce a squad system, whereby each party could nominate active peers, including Cross Benchers, thereby reducing the numbers voting in the Lords and ending the ridiculous situation where there are far more peers than elected MPs?
Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will shortly issue a statement on the impact of employment tribunal fees? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that given that claims of sex discrimination are down by 91%, employment tribunal fees discriminate against women workers?
May we have a debate on the all-party parliamentary group on social work’s excellent report on adult mental health in England, especially section 2 on meeting the needs of diverse and marginalised groups, including ex-military personnel with dual diagnosis of mental health problems, substance misuse and complex needs? Veterans are a unique group whose lives have been shattered by service to their country and too many of them are ending up in prison because of mental health problems.
The hon. Lady makes a powerful point. Many of us in our constituency surgeries have experience of individual cases of the kind that she describes. It sounds to me like the right kind of subject for a Westminster Hall debate. In my experience, it is often the military and service charities working with the NHS services that are best able to reach out to and communicate with the ex-service people concerned.
The Charlie Taylor report into the youth justice system will be wide ranging and important. It is critical that we improve the life chances of young people in danger of a life of crime, so may we please have a statement and publication of the report as soon as we return here after the party conference season?
Last month I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer seeking clarification about future funding for projects in the Stirling area that are currently funded by EU funding streams. The response that I received from the Treasury indicated that information on that would be published before the autumn statement. Does this imply that the Government have the beginnings of a plan about how to exit the EU? When will we be able to debate it?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that he will guarantee the funding currently supplied by the EU up till 2020 on projected levels, and that he has also agreed to guarantee to fund various regional agricultural and fisheries projects which will have been signed and sealed by the time of the autumn statement, even if the lifetime of those deals goes beyond the likely date of exit. I hope that that will have given the hon. Gentleman the reassurance he seeks. If it does not and if he would like to write to me about his particular concerns, I will take that to Treasury Ministers.
May we please have a statement on the progress of the Government’s help to buy ISA? A number of constituents have been in touch over the summer. They are saving for their first home and are concerned about reports that they cannot use that for the all-important exchange deposit. May we have clarification as these people need information urgently?
The plight of displaced Syrians has moved us all. One of them came to my surgery last week. She is rebuilding her life as a third-year UCL PhD student and is now, unexpectedly, stuck with a bill of more than £30,000 for fees, as a result of the bar on funds coming in or out of Syria. May we have a Government statement to clarify the status of Syrian students? Her counterparts at Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and Newcastle universities had their fees waived, and she faces an uncertain future here through no fault of her own.
Following the welcome news that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will not be renewing its contract with Concentrix, whose performance the Leader of the House last week described as completely unacceptable, may we have a debate in Government time on the payment-by-results model in our welfare system?
There was a good opportunity to question the Financial Secretary when she made the statement about Concentrix earlier this week. I know that my right hon. Friends at the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions will be doing all they possibly can to ensure that appropriate lessons are learned and that we get the decent standard from contractors that constituents are entitled to expect.
On 16 December 2015, Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his colleague Le Thu Ha were arrested by police in Hanoi for providing training to religious communities throughout Vietnam and charged with conducting propaganda against the state, and they could face a sentence of 20 years. Would Ministers agree to make a statement on the release of these two prisoners, and indeed all prisoners of conscience, and to encourage Vietnam to repeal laws and decrees that infringe on fundamental human rights?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it should be regarded as a fundamental right for people to express and to proselytise on behalf of the religion to which they themselves adhere, so I was dismayed to hear about that particular case. Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions on 18 October may provide him with the opportunity he is seeking.