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Business of the House

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 17 November 2016

The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 21 November—Remaining stages of the Higher Education and Research Bill.

Tuesday 22 November—Opposition day (13th allotted day). There will be a debate on education and social mobility, followed by a debate on the national health service. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion.

Wednesday 23 November—The Chancellor of the Exchequer will present his autumn statement, followed by a general debate on exiting the EU and transport policy.

Thursday 24 November—Debate on a motion on reform of the support arrangements for people affected by contaminated blood and blood products, followed by a debate on a motion on reducing health inequality. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 25 November—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 28 November will include:

Monday 28 November—Remaining stages of the Digital Economy Bill.

Tuesday 29 November—Second Reading of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill, after which the Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to announce opposed private business for consideration.

Wednesday 30 November—Opposition day (14th allotted day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Scottish National party. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 1 December—Debate on a motion on transgender equality, followed by a general debate on the future of the UK fishing industry. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 2 December—Private Members’ Bills.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 21 and 28 November will be:

Monday 21 November—Debate on an e-petition relating to free childcare.

Monday 28 November—Debate on an e-petition relating to child cancer.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I also say that in view of the intense speculation in the media this morning about the Strathclyde report, my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal intends to make a statement in the House of Lords later today, and I shall place a copy of it in the Library of the House and in the Vote Office as soon as it is available. The Government intend to respond very soon to the Strathclyde report and to the Select Committee reports of both Houses on that subject. I can confirm that although the Government found Lord Strathclyde’s analysis compelling and we are determined that the principle of the supremacy of the elected House should be upheld, we have no plans, for now, to introduce new primary legislation.

I thank the Leader of the House for the information he gave, particularly on the Strathclyde report. Obviously, we will wait to see what it says when he places a copy of it in the Library, but I understand that problems may remain despite the report’s contents.

We have heard nothing from the Leader of the House about the dates for the next recess and the next terms. We appear to stop at 9 February—then there is radio silence; there is absolutely nothing after that. Is there any business? Are we on an election footing? Who knows? Even if the Government do not have plans, the staff and Members, and their families, all have to plan for Easter and summer. We might want to go to see Dippy the dinosaur, who is leaving the Natural History Museum and going on tour—there are rumours he might end up in 1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January 2017. The Prime Minister knows what it is like to talk to the winner of the votes of the electoral college—not the popular vote—in the US presidential election. She made the call and heard, as the rest of us do when we try to make an appointment with our doctor or we are talking to our banks, “Thank you for holding. You are ninth in the queue.”

In the Prime Minister’s first foreign policy speech, at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, she said that globalisation—and liberalism, a dirty word—

“in its current form has left too many people behind”.

What we say is that people have been left behind by the past six wasted years of this Government. They have been left behind by: austerity measures; freezes on wages; zero-hours contracts, which now extend to lecturers; current childcare provision; cuts in grants to local authorities, which have decimated local services and caused the closures of libraries; the bedroom tax, which has now been ruled in two cases to be unreasonable; and the reduction in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs staff, which has stopped us addressing tax evasion and tax avoidance schemes, and therefore stopped money flowing into the Treasury coffers. Will the Leader of the House give us a debate in Government time to analyse how people have been affected by their policies in the past six years?

May we also have a debate on the sustainability and transformation plans in the NHS? We have had an Opposition debate, but we need a debate in Government time. The British Medical Association and the King’s Fund have added their voices, saying that the plans are not transparent and there is no legal or clinical accountability. Clinicians, patients and the public should be involved, or we will all be left behind by the new NHS plans. I do not know whether you have heard, Mr Deputy Speaker, but they are called STP footprints—that reminds me of Dippy the dinosaur. STPs will form a group with clinical commissioning groups, local authorities and goodness knows how many other people, adding another tier of bureaucracy. We have had a reorganisation of the NHS, under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and it cost £3 billion. Is this another one? Where are patient care and patient safety in this? These plans need to be made public immediately.

May we have a debate on reaffirming the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law? A judge made an analysis of a case in a lecture to students, and the comments about that are extremely threatening. An hon. Member said:

“If judges dip their toes in political waters by making speeches outside the courtroom, they are asking to get splashed back.”

If anyone says something the Government do not like, they are trolled and trashed. Judges give speeches outside the courtroom all the time. Lord Denning and Lord Scarman did so in the Hamlyn lectures. Lord Bingham did so in the Sir David Williams lectures in Cambridge, and he produced a book called “The Rule of Law”. As I have done before in this House, I encourage all hon. Members to read that book. The situation is a far cry from the Youth Parliament last week, which wanted to debate a better, kinder democracy.

And now to Brexit. The Prime Minister yesterday said that our democracy is underpinned by the freedom of the press. However, No. 10 does not like the fact that the press have said that Whitehall is struggling to cope and that there is no plan for exiting the Union. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on whether there is a plan and whether extra civil servants are required for the 500 projects that relate to leaving the EU? The Leader of the House was the longest-serving Minister for Europe, and he has built very good relationships. He is best placed to be there to negotiate with friends rather than out of secrecy and fear. He must be despairing of the right hon. Members for North Somerset (Dr Fox), for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), who are like “Three Men in a Boat”, only without the oars. The sequel to that is “Three Men on the Bummel”. Bummel is a German word, so let me explain what it means. Jerome K. Jerome—who was, incidentally, born in Walsall—described it as a:

“journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started”.

That seems to describe the Government’s policy on exiting the Union. The British people are being left behind by this Government.

I join the hon. Lady in welcoming and celebrating the sitting of the UK Youth Parliament in this Chamber last Friday. She and I, and the Minister with responsibility for civil society, my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson), were present. We all came away feeling energised by the enthusiasm of those hundreds of young men and women for open, vigorous debate and for the process and the institutions of parliamentary democracy. I hope that following their experience here they will go and spread the word in all parts of the country about how important it is for young people, whichever political party they sympathise with, to become involved in helping to shape the future of their country.

Apropos of recess dates, I am keen, too, to bring an end to the suspense as soon as possible, and I recognise that colleagues in all parts of the House wish to have clarity on future recess dates. Equally, the hon. Lady will appreciate that any Government have to bear in mind the pressures that there will be on handling Government legislative business, but I hope to make an announcement as soon as possible. I can promise the hon. Lady that her appetite for additional legislation and other Government business will be more than satisfied in the months to come.

I was surprised that the hon. Lady made slightly disparaging comments about the Prime Minister’s efforts to build, from the start, a strong and robust relationship with the new President-elect of the United States of America. I had always thought it was common ground between the main political parties to accept that it is in the fundamental interests of the people of the UK for a British Government, whatever its political complexion, to seek to maintain a strong, intimate relationship with the US Administration, whether it is Democrat or Republican.

The hon. Lady asked about NHS plans. The STPs that she mentioned will all be made public. Indeed, the arrangements for STPs explicitly provide for local authority health oversight committees to challenge and check any proposal for significant service changes proposed by the NHS as a result of locally based reviews.

The hon. Lady asked me about EU exit. I am sorry if she was not listening during my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s response to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, because my right hon. Friend spelled out the fact that the Government have a very clear plan. It is to secure for British business the maximum access to, and the greatest possible freedom to operate within, the single European market. It is to continue our strong tradition of close co-operation with our European colleagues on police and judicial matters, fighting together against terrorism and organised crime. It is to continue the essential network of relationships on which our foreign and security co-operation is founded. It is certainly to bring an end to the freedom of movement of people as it currently exists. It is also about forging a role for the United Kingdom as a champion of freedom of trade and investment worldwide. I would once have hoped that the Labour party aspired to support those objectives as well.

Equally, I was sorry that the hon. Lady painted such a bleak and inaccurate picture of the Government’s record in office without acknowledging this week’s employment figures. The figures show that more people are in work in the United Kingdom than ever before, and they show that more people with disabilities have secured employment than ever before. The Resolution Foundation has hailed the past 12 months as the best year in history for low-paid employees because of this Government’s introduction of the national living wage.

The hon. Lady said that she was looking forward to following the tour of Dippy the dinosaur around the country. It is somehow appropriate that Opposition Members should pay such attention to that event. It probably brings back fond memories of their recent leadership campaign. Perhaps the fact that the Opposition is mired in Jurassic-era policies helps to explain why so many of the hon. Lady’s Labour colleagues now fear political extinction.

Like the shadow Leader of the House, I believe in the freedom of the media to report, but the BBC increasingly appears to be becoming the “Brexit Bad Corporation”. I was listening to the “Today” programme at 8 am this morning, when it reported on the launch today of four satellites as part of the European Space Agency and the EU’s Galileo programme. At the end of the report, the BBC said that British businesses were fearful they would not be able to co-operate fully with the programme following Brexit. I did a bit of research and found out that China, Ukraine and Morocco are part of the programme, but the last time I looked, none of those three countries was in the European Union. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to come to the House to tell us what discussions she is having with Lord Tony Hall about having some fairness in the coverage of our Brexit?

My hon. Friend is right to say that there is active participation by a number of non-member states in the Galileo and various other EU programmes. That indicates that it is possible for a country outside the EU, but enjoying friendly relationships with it, to forge such a partnership. It is probably fair to say that the BBC got a lot of flak from both camps during the referendum campaign. The best position for Ministers to take is to respect the independence of the BBC. We should make complaints if we feel that the Government’s position is misrepresented in some way, but, in a free society, we ultimately have to respect the editorial judgment of the broadcasters and newspaper editors.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.

Well, well—it looks like the unelected circus down the corridor has just won the battle of the statutory instrument, as the Government hastily and embarrassingly withdraw all their plans to rein in the powers of the unelected ones. With the imminent ennoblement of the dark lord Farage it seems as though the only intention the Government have for the House of Lords is to increase the numbers in that grotesque place down the corridor.

Today’s piece of Tory Brexit cluelessness does not come from the prosecco-swilling Foreign Secretary as he goes around Europe upsetting the diplomatic community but from the Treasury, as we learn that £100 billion is to be sucked out of the economy because of this shambolic Brexit. Given that dramatic news I presume we are not going to be getting our £350 million for the NHS. May I suggest a way in which we might be able to resolve that situation—could we perhaps get some of the Brexiteer clowns who made that absurd statement during the referendum to come forward and apologise for what they said during the campaign?

We are now anticipating that the Government will be defeated in the Supreme Court when it comes to the appeal on the High Court ruling. Will the Leader of the House tell us what provisional plans he has for legislation as it comes forward? As Leader of the House—this House—will he pledge that there will be opportunities for Members to properly debate that legislation and for amendments to be tabled, and there will be no attempts whatever to curtail any debate on it?

Lastly, after business questions the Labour shadow Leader of the House and I will be doing some recording for the Jo Cox Foundation, as we reclaim the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. It is for a great cause, and I am sure that the Leader of the House will be prepared to support it; perhaps he will even help us get to No. 1 in the new year.

The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to put questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer after the autumn statement about the implications for the economy of EU exit and many other matters.

The Government believe that we have a powerful case to argue in the forthcoming Supreme Court case. We intend to make that case. We should not forget that the High Court in Northern Ireland came to a different conclusion from the High Court in England on the matter. Both the Belfast and the London cases are to be heard together by the Supreme Court later this year. The Government are of course completely respectful of the role of the courts and their independence, and of the rule of law. That is written into the ministerial code and the civil service code alike.

I am certainly happy to wish the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues well in their chart-topping endeavour. Given the character of some of the songs that have managed to top the charts at Christmas and the new year over recent decades, he could follow in the footsteps of Clive Dunn and children’s choirs in becoming an emblem of this country’s somewhat eclectic tastes in music.

I read with interest today in the Telegraph an article by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the conference she has been to in Vietnam. May we ask her to give an urgent statement next week to explain why she is saying that we are leading the world in banning ivory but the fact is that we are only consulting on it after Christmas?

There will be questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 24 November, which will give my hon. Friend the opportunity she seeks. I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to support strongly the lead my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is taking in trying not just to highlight this issue in terms of British public opinion, but in persuading other Governments, in particular those from which the demand for ivory and other products from endangered species largely comes, that it is in their interests and in the interests of the people of the world to maintain wildlife, habitats and the biodiversity of the planet.

I thank the Leader of the House for the welcome development of giving the Backbench Business Committee notice of available dates. That has allowed him to announce this morning the next two Thursdays’ Backbench Business debates. Long may that continue.

I was not able to get in on Transport questions this morning, but the delay to the electrification of the Great Western main line is having a knock-on impact. That electrification was going to release class 150 and class 153 diesel trains for use on the northern rail franchise. There is a massive differential in investment in rail between the north and the south, but I am afraid to say that even delays to the investment proposals in the south and the south-west are having a knock-on effect on rail in the northern “poorhouse”.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments about my efforts to try to give greater notice to him and his Committee about forthcoming Backbench Business days. I am committed to trying to maintain that good practice.

The Government are committed to pursuing the electrification of the Great Western main line. As the recent announcement reflected, however, we need to ensure that constant attention is paid to the need for best value for the taxpayer in how we go about that. I will draw his concerns about the possible impact on the northern rail franchise to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the system of testing at key stage 1 and key stage 2? Concern has been expressed about whether teachers are being adequately trained in the new rules. There also seems to be some inconsistency in the implementation and moderation of the testing, with particular regard to reading at key stage 2 and the disadvantageous effect it may have on children with special educational needs.

I ought to declare an interest, as my wife is a primary school teacher who teaches key stage 1 and key stage 2. A wide-ranging consultation, which will commence in the new year, was announced on 19 October by the Secretary of State for Education. It will give teachers, headteachers and others the opportunity to have their say on the current arrangements for primary assessment. The objective surely has to be to have a system in place that seeks always to drive up the standards attained by children in primary school, while of course at the same time making sure that children with disabilities and special educational needs have their particular needs taken into account, and that they are themselves able to succeed to the very limit of their own talents and determination.

Fourteen-year-old Nasar Ahmed, who lived in my constituency, died on Monday this week after falling ill at school last Thursday. His family are, naturally, devastated. His death is being investigated by the police as unexplained; by the local authority, which has a duty of care; and possibly by the Health and Safety Executive. I have every confidence that the authorities will conduct a thorough examination, but in the event of wider implications and lessons to be learned my request of the Leader of the House is that I can rely on his support for access to appropriate Ministers outside this Chamber—and, with your approval, Mr Deputy Speaker, inside this Chamber—should that prove necessary in due course.

First, may I express my sorrow and deep sympathy for the family of Nasar Ahmed? What has happened to them is the most appalling and unspeakable tragedy that any parent or relative can imagine. Clearly, as there are ongoing investigations, the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment further in detail, but I can assure him that the Government will want to pay close attention to the findings, and I am confident that should central Government need to reflect on current law and practice the relevant Ministers will be happy to talk to him.

Last weekend, we commemorated those who sacrificed their lives in service to this country to enable us to live in freedom and democracy. This weekend, we will celebrate the role of the Indian army in the great war and world war two, and on Sunday the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women will march at the Cenotaph, and I will be pleased and honoured to join them. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate in Government time, particularly in the centenary of the great war, to commemorate the role of the various parts of what was then the empire, and is now the Commonwealth, in securing our freedom?

I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate in Government time—this might well be a suitable subject for an Adjournment debate either here or in Westminster Hall—but I think that the House will be at one in joining him in saluting the sacrifice and service of those who served in the Indian army during both world wars and in saluting Jewish servicemen and women who also fought for freedom.

Will the Leader of the House facilitate a statement from the Home Secretary regarding the position of non-EEA fishermen, mainly Filipinos, who are critical to the fishing industry in the County Down ports and the ports of the west of Scotland and who have already been subjected to raids by UK border agencies? We urgently need proper regulation in this area. We have already had meetings with the Immigration Minister, but we now urgently need a statement from the Home Secretary outlining a solution.

Having visited Kilkeel a few years ago, I am aware of the importance of the fishing industry in the hon. Lady’s constituency, and I will certainly draw to the Home Secretary’s attention the points she has made. It is clearly important that we have arrangements to ensure that people from other countries who come and work here are legally entitled to be here, not least because legal status enables them to take advantage of the opportunities to work and, to some extent, access services they might need. Without legal status, they can so easily be exploited by rogue employers. I accept, however, that the fishing industry has for some time needed to take on labour from the Philippines and other countries, and I will make sure that Home Office Ministers are aware of this problem.

The House of Commons briefing paper on the northern powerhouse, issued on 1 November, states that the ability of the north-west to retain talented graduates was identified as a key factor in the success of the northern powerhouse. May we have a debate on how the Government, in partnership with north-west universities and business, will work to better retain skills developed in the north-west?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. When we look at how to encourage a revival of the civic dynamism that characterised the growth of the great northern cities during the 19th and early 20th centuries, we need to think about economic stimuli and about how we can further encourage those cities as centres of educational and research excellence and as centres of culture and the arts. That is why the devolutionary model initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne) and being taken forward by the present Government is so attractive. It enables elected authorities in the region itself to work across the piece on policies that address the cultural and educational issues, alongside those simply to do with economics.

Will the Leader of the House assure us that next week’s debate on Europe will be broad enough to encompass today’s opinion poll finding that 90% of the country wants to be within the single marketplace? Given that I want to be in the single marketplace, that I know the Leader of the House wants to be in the single marketplace and that anybody with an ounce of a sense understands that in this Trumpian world of protectionist economics where the special relationship means being 11th in the telephone queue for a call with the new American President, we had better be in the single marketplace, will the Leader of the House now get up to the Dispatch Box and tell us that he actually understands the difference between access to a marketplace, which the association of Patagonian shoe manufacturers has, and being within the single marketplace, which should be the overwhelming priority of the Government to secure?

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, as the Prime Minister repeated yesterday, her declared objective is not just the maximum access for British companies to the European market, but the greatest possible freedom to operate within that market as well. Clearly, the detail of that future trading and investment relationship is going to be an absolutely core element of the negotiations that we intend to start next year. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be ingenious and experienced enough to find ways of weaving his particular concern into next week’s debate or indeed on other occasions.

My right hon. Friend may not be aware that Walsall Council is proposing to close all the libraries within the borough, save for one in the town centre. There are six libraries in my constituency and they are all under consideration for closure. What advice can my right hon. Friend give me about this, and will he consider allowing time for a debate on libraries and on the fact that libraries are about much more than just books?

My hon. Friend is right to challenge some of the decisions that Walsall Council is proposing to take about libraries. Of course local authorities throughout England have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service, and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has a statutory duty to superintend that local provision. She also has the power to call a local inquiry if she believes that there is evidence to doubt that the local authority is providing the required service. I am sure that my hon. Friend will ensure that, if such a service is not being provided by Walsall Council, she will put a strong case to the Secretary of State.

Following the publication of the Cheshire and Merseyside NHS sustainability and transformation plan on Wednesday, a senior manager from Liverpool clinical commissioning group has admitted in the Liverpool Echo that the plans are financially driven, were drawn up in secrecy and are already being implemented—yet none of my constituents has had any say in how the proposals were formulated. May we have a debate in Government time so that we can properly consider the impact on my Garston and Halewood constituents of the proposals to reduce the opening hours at Whiston A&E and supposedly “reconfigure” the Liverpool women’s hospital while merging the Royal, Aintree and Broadgreen Trusts?

As the sustainability and transformation plans are published, it is important that they are examined closely. As I said earlier, local authorities have the power in law to exercise scrutiny and a check on proposals for changes in service delivery. The Government have delivered to the NHS all the money that the NHS chief executive asked for to fund reforms to the NHS to make it suitable for the health policy challenges of today and the future. When any of us talk to clinicians in our constituencies, we often find that it is the doctors and the nurses who say that there sometimes needs to be a change to the pattern of the location of services, particularly to deliver more specialist units, to provide patients with better treatment.

With today’s news that Boeing is planning to open a new aviation maintenance facility at Gatwick airport, supporting over 100 jobs, may we have a debate on the importance of the British aviation industry—particularly post-Brexit, given that we are an island trading nation—hopefully including the issue of reducing air passenger duty?

I shall take my hon. Friend’s last comment as a late bid to the Chancellor of the Exchequer prior to the autumn statement, but he has made a good point about the importance of the aviation industry to the country’s economic health and job creation. I think that Boeing’s investment at Gatwick is a further sign that, despite the political turbulence that is bound to follow the referendum result, our country is still seen as an extremely attractive destination for global investors.

This building is one of the most iconic in the world, and millions of people take photographs of it every day, but it has problems. Last week the House of Lords had to go into “Pleasure”—its word, not mine—because of the noise of the building work that was going on. It is now 10 weeks since the Joint Committee, two of whose members were Ministers, produced its report on what should happen here, and all the evidence suggests that any delay of this nature costs millions of pounds more. Why can we not have a debate as soon as possible, and certainly before Christmas?

Both the Leader of the House of Lords and I want Parliament to have an opportunity to debate this matter and make a decision as soon as possible. As a responsible Government, we have felt the need to seek the advice of the independent Major Projects Authority about the Government’s proposals in particular, but I hope that we shall be able to announce a date before much longer.

Voting in my shop competition closes in a couple of weeks’ time, on 1 December, and I shall be announcing the results on Small Business Saturday. I urge those who have not yet voted for their favourite shops to do so before voting closes. May we have a debate about the role that our high streets play in creating new jobs and ensuring that we have thriving local communities?

My hon. Friend is right to speak up for the importance of high streets as a focus of both civic identity and economic activity in towns and villages throughout the country. I applaud the initiative that she has taken, and I hope that not only many Members of Parliament but many members of the public will play an active part in the poll she has launched.

May I press the Leader of the House a little further on his response to the earlier question about the Joint Committee’s report on restoration and renewal? Does he intend the motion and debate proposed in the report to be dealt with in the House before Christmas?

I am not yet in a position to announce a firm date. I am, however, as aware as anyone else of the intense pressures on services in the building that need to be completely renewed, and of the links between the R and R project and the timetable for other restoration work that needs to be done.

As we approach the winter months, it is essential to ensure that people have access to the best possible tariffs for their energy. May we have a debate about competition in the UK energy market?

That is an important point, especially as winter is now approaching. We have a more competitive domestic retail energy market than ever before, and nearly 4 million energy accounts were switched between January and June this year, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy wants to do more. He is particularly anxious to ensure that customers are not penalised for loyalty, and that energy companies treat all their customers fairly, not just those who switch between suppliers.

May I remind the Leader of the House that our constituents will be deeply affected by the decision to take action on article 50, which will, it seems, be made in March? It will make a dramatic change to their lives—indeed, to all our lives. Is it not about time the Leader of the House told us that we shall have a major opportunity every week to debate our progress towards that date? This is such a big issue that my constituents demand accountability of that kind from the House. Will the Secretary of State introduce special measures to meet their needs?

I have just announced the second in a series of debates in Government time about aspects of the public’s decision in the referendum that this country should leave the European Union, so the Government are committed to providing the opportunities the hon. Gentleman seeks. He will also have the opportunity to put questions to the Foreign Secretary on 22 November, and to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on 1 December.

Will my right hon. Friend assist in securing a debate on the preservation of ancient woodland and veteran trees? People are writing to me, along with my hon. Friends the Members for Winchester (Steve Brine) and for Meon Valley (George Hollingbery), about the possible bulldozing of ancient woodland and its loss to our communities and the environment. This needs further protection where there are no neighbourhood or local plans, but options B and C in our proposed local plan are putting my constituents and their green spaces in peril.

My hon. Friend’s point will strike a chord with many Members on both sides of the House. She may get an opportunity to raise that matter on Monday 28 November during Communities and Local Government questions, but I should add that the sooner local authorities get their local plans in place, the sooner they will be able to assure local people that there will be proper protection for ancient woodlands and for other key environmental amenities.

Yesterday the Exiting the European Union Committee heard evidence from Dr Hannah White, director of research at the Institute for Government. It has warned that there will be a full-blown constitutional crisis unless all nations of the UK are involved in the negotiations around leaving the EU. Under questioning, Dr White said it would be almost unprecedented for one of the devolved legislatures to express concern and refuse to pass a legislative consent motion but for the UK Government to go ahead none the less. May we have a debate about how we can avert the constitutional crisis that the Institute of Government has warned about by involving all the devolved nations fully in negotiations to leave the EU?

The Government have made it clear again and again that we are committed to engaging in detail and constantly with all three devolved Administrations, whether that is at the level of the Joint Ministerial Committee, or at operational level between Ministers here and Ministers in the devolved Administrations or between officials in the different Administrations.

May we have a debate on responsibility for repairing damaged culverts? They result in flooding in certain parts of my constituency every time there is heavy rain, and there is a problem with determining who is responsible for the damage, who is responsible for repairs, and what can be done if nobody accepts responsibility, or if they do but cannot afford to pay for the damage.

I will draw my hon. Friend’s concern to the attention of the relevant Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but I can say to him that under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, unitary authorities and county councils have a duty to be the lead local flood authority. That Act also requires all authorities to co-operate and exchange information.

Is the Leader of the House excited by today’s news of a unique parliamentary series of events next year with the performance of a brand-new musical under the snappy title of “The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee takes oral evidence on the relationship between Whitehall and Kids Company”? Does he not think that arrangements by him to have a performance in this House would be both politically instructive and culturally enriching?

I can barely contain my excitement. I look forward to the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), who has a fine baritone voice, playing himself in such a performance.

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. My Bill to introduce Helen’s law would deny parole to murderers who refuse to reveal the location of their victims’ remains. It has the support of 400,000 members of the public and many Members on both sides of the House, but will only become law if the Government support it or incorporate it into their legislative programme. Will the right hon. Gentleman and perhaps the Justice Secretary meet me and Helen’s mum, Marie McCourt, to discuss how we might work together on this?

I will ask the relevant Minister in the Justice Department to contact the hon. Gentleman about this case. No one in the House today will have anything but unreserved sympathy for the family involved, or indeed for any other family in the same appalling situation. There will be also opportunities for him to highlight this issue further through Adjournment debates.

It has now emerged that the person appointed to the quasi-judicial role of Pubs Code Adjudicator has made personal loans of more than £230,000 to Fleurets, a company that is dependent on income from the pub companies that he is supposed to regulate. Having taken four months to respond to the Select Committee, which said that the adjudicator’s appointment should be rescinded, the Secretary of State has now said that he is not going to look into the matter. That is not good enough. May we have an oral statement at the Dispatch Box from the Secretary of State?

I am not familiar with every detail of this case, but my understanding is that the regulator in question was appointed following the normal public appointments process involving all the Nolan principles. I also understand that the criticisms that the hon. Gentleman and others have made have been carefully considered and that there was no evidence to justify a change to the original decision.

On 15 September, the rail Minister, the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), told me that I could expect “good news” about rail electrification to Hull shortly. Yesterday afternoon that scheme was scrapped, despite it appearing in the Government’s northern transport plan. May we please have a debate in Government time about whether people in Hull, who pay their taxes and often pay higher rail fares, can believe anything that a Tory Minister says to them about being included in the northern powerhouse?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Government are investing large sums of taxpayers’ money in improvements to transport infrastructure and, more generally, in northern cities, but I will alert the rail Minister to her particular concern about the situation relating to Hull.

The city of Dundee has spent years and hundreds of thousands of pounds preparing a bid to become the 2023 European city of culture, which would bring funding from Brussels, as well as being a major boost for tourism and cultural, social and economic development. This has now been thrown into doubt, bizarrely by the UK Government’s Culture Secretary, who wants to withdraw from the competition. This has led to the Foreign Secretary having to write to suggest that this move would be framed as “pulling up the drawbridge”. The Culture Secretary should check her job title—the clue is in the name. May we have an urgent debate on this matter before yet more Brexit folly leads to a devastating blow for Dundee?

Cities of culture will be one aspect of the forthcoming negotiations between the United Kingdom Government and the EU 27. This is tied up with our EU membership and our eligibility to draw upon EU funds.

Four months have passed since the end of the Government’s consultation on tips, gratuities and service charges, but abuses are still happening, with workers being told that they will receive a share of the service charge only if their pay is cut by a third. The former Leader of the House promised some months ago that the Business Secretary would update the House about this, but there has been a deafening silence. Will the Government now provide time as soon as possible for the new Business Secretary to make a statement on this matter?

If that commitment was given in the past, I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is made aware of the hon. Lady’s wish for such an announcement as soon as possible.

Twice visitors from the diocese of Hyderabad have been refused visas to visit the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Glasgow, despite the Church having committed to bear the costs. The reason for the refusal suggested that the visitors were not genuine, despite the existence of an ongoing twinning relationship. I hear similar spurious reasons for visa refusals week in, week out. May we please have a statement in Government time on how the Government plan to sort out this sorry situation?

I know from my constituency experience that decisions by immigration officers about individual visa applications are often difficult and sensitive. My advice to constituents is always to ensure that the paperwork—the audit trail—is wholly in place so that it is absolutely clear that people are going to abide by the terms of the visa, if granted, and that they will return to their own country at the end of the visa term. The hon. Lady will clearly not expect me to know about that particular case, but if she writes to me, I will pass the details to the Immigration Minister.

Yesterday, the National Assembly for Wales unanimously supported a motion led by my colleague Steffan Lewis calling for an urgent review of the mineworkers pension scheme. Over the years, the Treasury has cashed in around £8 billion of surpluses from the scheme for acting as a guarantor. May we have a Treasury statement on the matter so that MPs who represent mining communities can make the case for a review?

May I check with the Leader of the House whether the Government will publish Sir John Parker’s national shipbuilding strategy prior to the autumn statement? If so, may we have a debate in Government time to discuss this iconic, highly skilled industry, which employs many of my constituents and other workers in the United Kingdom?

I will ensure that the shipping Minister knows about the hon. Gentleman’s wish for the strategy to be published as soon as possible. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the Ministry of Defence’s commitment to spend more money on building new ships in Scottish shipyards, which will maintain the jobs and expertise that he rightly celebrates.

I recently spoke to the CEO of Pernod Ricard, who informed me that the Chivas Brothers site in Paisley will close in three years. I learned yesterday that while the workforce consultation is in its infancy, the company has applied for permission to demolish part of the site. May we have a debate on employment rights to ensure that such applications can take place only after a consultation has concluded?

As the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, this is a clearly a commercial decision for the company concerned, but the company must, of course, act in accordance with UK and European employment law as it goes about such things. An Adjournment debate might give the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to highlight this important local issue.

My youngest son is doing an accountancy course. He explained to me that if I want to spend 2% of my budget on one thing and 0.7% on another, I need to set aside 2.7% of my budget. Will the Leader of the House therefore explain how the Government can claim to spend 2% of GDP on defence and 0.7% on overseas aid when those two sums do not add up to 2.7%?

The 0.7% target refers to official development assistance expenditure, as defined by the OECD. The 2% is a NATO target, which relies on a completely different set of criteria. The hon. Gentleman is asking me to compare apples with pears.

In February, Department for Culture, Media and Sport Ministers froze rather than cut their contribution to S4C’s budget pending the outcome of a review into the broadcaster’s future. We still have no review. Will the Leader of the House allow us a debate on a sustainable future and funding for S4C?

I completely understand why Welsh-language broadcasting is important to the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. I note that Welsh questions are on 30 November, which might provide him the opportunity to raise that matter.

Pakistan’s poverty rate is some 39%. It has weak governance and political institutions. It has been gripped by violent extremism—it is No. 22 in the league table—and its levels of persecution of Christians and other ethnic minorities put it at the top of the league table for that. It is affected by climate change and natural disasters, which have exacerbated migration and food insecurity. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on the important issue of the shrinking space for civil society in Pakistan?

The hon. Gentleman is a formidable champion of religious rights in parts of the world where those rights are under threat. I think everyone here would want to join him in arguing passionately for freedom of worship and religious expression everywhere. Foreign Office questions are coming up on 22 November, at which he might wish to raise this subject. We do need to continue to help the fragile authorities in Pakistan, but we try to target our aid through non-governmental organisations and others to ensure that it reaches those who are in such desperate need.

Following inquiries from constituents who are serving prison officers, I tabled written parliamentary questions 46654 and 46655 on 15 September regarding officers’ life expectancy, and their medical and injury awards. To date, I have had no answer, and not even a holding response to what were named day questions submitted more than two months ago. That is unacceptable. May we therefore have a debate in Government time on the response times to parliamentary questions?

The Government not only set expected standards for replies to parliamentary questions, but publish regular bulletins showing how each Department has performed against those standards. I am concerned by what the hon. Gentleman says and I shall make sure that it is chased up today with the Department concerned.

Earlier, the Leader of the House waxed positive about the Government’s commitments to city deals and regional growth deals. May we have a debate in this House on the range and reach of such deals across the UK, including the very positive developments and prospects in Scotland and Wales? That might help to illuminate the resistance and negligence on the part of the Northern Ireland Executive in failing to take up what previous Whitehall Ministers have said would be their readiness to support deals—if they get proposals—including cross-border deals.

It may well be that either a long debate in Westminster Hall or a Backbench Business Committee debate would provide the opportunity for the kind of exchange of best practice that the hon. Gentleman wants, so that Members from different parts of the UK can all share their relevant experiences. Clearly the Northern Ireland Act 1998 devolves important powers to the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and it must be for the authorities in Northern Ireland primarily to decide how to take this policy further.

The business statement gives us no indication of when the Brexit Secretary will come to the Dispatch Box, as required by a resolution of this House, to explain why he signed up to the comprehensive economic and trade agreement without waiting for it to clear parliamentary scrutiny, and nor does it give us any indication as to when an urgent debate in Government time, which is also required, will be held. I raised this matter in business questions on 20 October. During the intervening four weeks, will the Leader of the House tell us what he has done to get those two items of urgent business on to the Order Paper?

The position is that CETA has to be ratified by all 28 member states of the European Union. Under our system, that means that the treaty—for that is what this is—must be laid before Parliament under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and that can, if Members so wish, provide the trigger for a debate.

How many more times do the Government expect to end up in court? Not only have they been taken to court over the article 50 shambles, but they lost their appeal against the Terence Higgins Trust and are now compelled to provide PrEP—pre-exposure prophylaxis—anti-HIV drugs to those who badly need them. Given that, can we have a debate in Government time on the commissioning of this treatment, which will make a massive difference to rolling back the tide on the spread of HIV across the United Kingdom?

We welcome the clarity that the recent court judgment on PrEP provided. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there was a genuine difference between the view of the NHS and the view of local authorities as to where legal responsibility ought to rest, and we now have that clarity. Over the years, Governments of every political shade have got used to being taken to court by way of judicial review or other challenge. That is what living in a free society under the rule of law is about.