The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 19 December—General debate on exiting the European Union and science and research.
Tuesday 20 December—General debate on leasehold and commonhold reform followed by general debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment.
The business for the week commencing 9 January will include:
Monday 9 January—Remaining stages of the Technical and Further Education Bill.
Tuesday 10 January—Remaining stages of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill.
Wednesday 11 January—Opposition day (17th allotted day). There will be a debate, or debates, on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 12 January—Debate on a motion on Yemen followed by debate on a motion relating to the security and political situation in the African great lakes region. Both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 13 January—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 16 January will include:
Monday 16 January—Second Reading of the National Citizen Service Bill [Lords].
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for Thursday 12 January will be:
Thursday 12 January—Debate on the fourth report from the Justice Committee on restorative justice followed by general debate on the future of the UK maritime industry. The subjects of these debates were determined by the Liaison and Backbench Business Committees.
As this is the last exchange at business questions ahead of the recess, may I conclude by wishing a happy, peaceful and restful Christmas recess not just to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, but more particularly to the staff of the House in all departments?
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.
May I press the Leader of the House yet again for the date of the summer recess? People are absolutely desperate to print those little calendars. We do need that date.
May I also ask the Leader of the House for a date for the restoration and renewal report? I understand that a date has been floating around—people have mentioned it to me in passing. Can he enlighten all of us and perhaps let me know whether the resolution that is to be put before the House on this issue will be in the form of votable motions, whether all three options will be put to the House and whether Members can table further resolutions?
When will the Bus Services Bill arrive? It has the flashing sign, “Due”, but it has been due for a year now. It would be quite helpful to know that.
Did you know, Mr Speaker, that 21 years ago today—no, not “Sgt. Pepper”—European leaders announced that their new currency would be known as the euro? It was a Tory Government who took us into the European exchange rate mechanism—and out again—but a Labour Government who defined the five economic tests before we joined the euro. That is why we will not give the Government a blank cheque on article 50; we want to see the framework for negotiating. We know the vital statistics following the referendum—52% leave, 48% remain, and 28% did not vote—so we need to find a way forward that encompasses everybody’s view.
To Labour Members, the position is clear: the UK voted to leave the EU, and our job is to ensure that we shape that exit. We need to shape the exit to ensure that jobs, the economy and living standards are our priorities; that trade and services with and to the EU are not damaged; and that we preserve all the good things about our place in the world, acting in concert with other countries to protect the vulnerable against bullies. Negotiating a good trade agreement will help the UK to negotiate with other countries to preserve the rights that were secured for our workforce, who have powered this economy through knowledge, skills and creativity by hand and by brain. Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure that between January and March there are discussions through the usual channels on a proper form for debate? Many Select Committees are producing reports. We do not want the public to be confused and we do not want to get into post-truth debates: we want a proper form of motion and proper recommendations. We need all that in order to shape the Government’s thinking before article 50 is triggered.
We need that debate because there is confusion in the Government. On Friday last week, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said that he is “not interested” in transitional arrangements. On Monday in the Treasury Committee, the Chancellor said that the Government would likely seek a transitional deal in order to avoid disruption that would risk Britain’s “financial stability”. At PMQs the Prime Minister was very emphatic in saying that we are leaving the EU. Yet Downing Street says that it may consider EU associate citizenship that will allow people to travel and work in the EU, and presumably we need to offer reciprocal arrangements. May we have a statement on the correct position?
We need to look at the effect of leaving the EU on young people and to debate how these policies will affect them, because 75% of those aged between 18 and 24 voted to remain. The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that exiting the EU will herald the biggest pay squeeze for 70 years, with younger people hardest hit. Since 2007, the median income for those aged 22 to 30 has dropped by 7%. Inflation is already going up, and the cost of food and other necessities is rising. Will the Government look at implementing the real living wage based on the cost of living, which is £8.45 per hour, or £9.75 in London. That is not the Government’s living wage of £7.50, which will come in in April 2017?
At PMQs, many right hon. and hon. Members mentioned the music single for Jo Cox. Let me place on record my thanks to MP4, who did a fantastic job of organising and playing on it: my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), and the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight). Others who took part included Ian Cawsey and Mary Macleod, formerly of this House, who came back to sing, Steve Harley, KT Tunstall, the brilliant community choir, members of the Royal Opera House, and many colleagues. Jo’s family will have to face their first Christmas without her.
Many Members in all parts of the House are facing hostility. They have had to endure court cases. They have to deal with all this with courage. Will the Leader of the House and other Members try, on a cross-party basis, to find out the nature of and evidence for what is happening to our colleagues, because it is huge, and encourage them to report it. Perhaps we could have a streamlined way of ensuring that this matter is dealt with? Will he also look at what is happening when Members agree a package to keep their offices secure, because apparently they are not being implemented?
I do not know what the Leader of the House will give the Prime Minister for Christmas, but may I suggest a couple of books? The first is the autobiography of the former Prime Minister, John Major, in which he writes:
“Calling three of my colleagues, or a number of my colleagues”
a very non-parliamentary word
“was absolutely unforgivable. My only excuse is that it was true.”
The second is “Team of Rivals”, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet, three of whom had previously run against him.
Finally, Mr Speaker, may I wish you, your family and your office, the Leader of the House, his suave deputy and those in his office, the Clerks, the Doorkeepers and everyone who has made me so welcome, from the cleaning and catering staff, to the postal workers, and all right hon. and hon. Members a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year?
I thank the hon. Lady for her personal good wishes. The thoughts and prayers of everybody in the House will be with Jo Cox’s family at this time. I also salute, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, what MP4 and other hon. Members on both sides of the House did to contribute to the recently released download.
The hon. Lady asked about the serious issue of the threats and abuse that a number of hon. Members in different political parties have been receiving. I and the House authorities take that very seriously. She will understand that we do not usually talk about such security matters in detail in the Chamber, but the Chairman of Ways and Means and I recently sent a letter to all Members of the House, alerting them to the existence of a dedicated police hotline to which any such threats should be reported. Certainly, both the Chairman of Ways and Means and I would want to know of any evidence or suggestion that a local police force was not taking such threats seriously. We would take the appropriate steps were we to receive such information. Similarly, if there is evidence that necessary security improvements to Members’ homes and offices are being held up on unreasonable grounds, I would certainly be willing, as would the Chairman of Ways and Means, to try to make sure that things were sorted out rapidly.
Turning to the policy points that the hon. Lady raised, I will try to give the summer recess dates as soon as possible, but she will appreciate that, in line with precedent, it has not been the custom for any Government to announce summer recess dates quite this early in the parliamentary year. Similarly, I hope to be able to satisfy as soon as possible her appetite for dates both for the report on the renewal and restoration of the House and for the Commons proceedings on the Bus Services Bill.
The hon. Lady might have noted in her comments on the EU that it was a Conservative Prime Minister, Sir John Major, who ensured that this country had the opt-out from the euro in the first place and that without his efforts that choice would not have been available to the United Kingdom.
On EU exit, I welcome the hon. Lady’s statement on Labour’s position, but I have to say that it is at odds with what her party’s own spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), said just over a fortnight ago when he stated that we need to “keep our options open” on a second referendum. If we are to take the Labour party’s approach seriously, it has to accept that whichever side we campaigned on and supported during the referendum, and whether we agreed or disagreed with the verdict of the public, this was a decision that the electorate was democratically entitled to take and which almost all of us in the House agreed, in supporting the European Union Referendum Bill, should be delegated from Parliament to the voters of the United Kingdom to decide finally.
I think that the hon. Lady’s appetite for debates on the European Union will be more than sated in the new year. I also point out that there are more than 30 different Select Committee inquiries taking place in this House and in the House of Lords into various aspects of our departure from the European Union. She is right to say, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, that it is in our interests and in the interests of the other 27 members of the European Union to secure a negotiation that provides for as amicable a divorce as possible, because although we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe. A strong, productive, mutually beneficial relationship with the EU27 will be important both for the prosperity and security of all 28 countries and for effective co-operation, on an international scale, to deal with such challenges as large-scale migration from Africa and the threat from international terrorism, which will be with us, I am afraid, for a long time into the future.
The hon. Lady chided the Government about our approach to the living wage, but I have to say that we followed the advice of the Low Pay Commission in the recent increase in the national living wage. I note, too, that the Resolution Foundation, which is not always an unalloyed champion of Government policy, has said that 2016 has marked the best year ever for low-paid workers because of the Government’s commitment to the national living wage.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked me about Christmas presents. For some unaccountable reason, she omitted to mention that in the Opposition’s campaign grid for this week, tomorrow is marked down as the day for Christmas jumpers. That combination of garish design, clashing colours and a general sense of naffness rather summarises where the shadow Cabinet is.
Over the last three weeks or so, Chelmsford commuters travelling into London by train have had nightmare journeys because of broken-down trains, faulty tracks and other problems. Would my right hon. Friend be able to arrange for a statement by a Transport Minister on what can be done to stop such inefficient service provision, or would my right hon. Friend advise me that I ought to seek to catch Mr Speaker’s eye next Tuesday afternoon to contribute to the Adjournment debate before the recess?
For as long as I have been in the House, I have known that my right hon. Friend is the most formidable champion of commuters from Cheltenham—[Hon. Members: “Chelmsford!”] I beg his pardon as well as yours, Mr Speaker—from Chelmsford. The Christmas spirit is getting to me.
There is an important message here for the franchise holder and the railway workers, who together have to make that line operate, that the interests of the travelling public should be first and foremost in their priorities at all times. I am sure that if my right hon. Friend catches your eye, Mr Speaker, Transport Ministers will be only too happy to respond to him.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing what there is of business next week; I thought for a minute that he was trying to talk out business questions. It is good to see a Leader of the House minus the lederhosen. Mr Speaker, may I take the opportunity to wish you and your family a merry Christmas? I extend that to the Leader of the House and, of course, to the staff of the House, who have looked after us in their usual exemplary fashion. I think we all pay tribute to them for that. Perhaps we should have a debate about 2016, and vow never to have another year quite like it, with the loss of so many of our stars and artists, as well as the election of Donald Trump in the States and this accidental, clueless Tory Brexit. Shall we learn a lesson from 2016 and vow never to go back there again?
Today’s piece of Tory Brexit cluelessness comes courtesy of our man in Brussels. The UK ambassador to the EU has warned Ministers that it might take 10 years to get a trade deal with our European partners, and that some European capitals might never ratify Brexit, but apparently we are not to worry, because this only reflects the views of the 27 nations we are supposed to be negotiating with. Only in the weird world of Tory Brexit cluelessness does that make it all right, then.
With the Christmas recess in a few days’ time, it might be weeks before we have an opportunity to debate the deteriorating situation in Aleppo, so I appeal to the Leader of the House for at least a statement from the Foreign Secretary to keep us updated before we rise for the recess on Tuesday.
Lastly, I know the whole House has engaged with trying to get the single for the Jo Cox Foundation to No. 1 for Christmas. On behalf of MP4, may I say that we are really grateful to everybody throughout the House for ensuring that we do that? I am sure that the Leader of the House would join me in thanking Sir Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for waiving the royalties on their “You can’t always get what you want”, ensuring that even more money will go to the Jo Cox Foundation.
I happily endorse the hon. Gentleman’s tribute to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for waiving their royalties.
I will pass on to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the hon. Gentleman’s wish for a further statement on Aleppo next week. I think the House is united in a sense of horror at what civilians there are having to endure. I know that Foreign Office Ministers are normally very keen to ensure that the House is informed as soon as possible about recent developments.
In my previous ministerial role, I worked with Ivan Rogers for a number of years. He is a formidable public servant who always reports to British Ministers in successive Governments what he picks up and what is said to him by various people in different Governments and EU institutions. It may be hard for you to believe, Mr Speaker, but in some countries people in the same Government say slightly different things about the future of Europe; that is not that unusual. The truth is that we have not set out the Government’s objectives in the negotiation to our 27 colleagues, nor have they yet met to hammer out their mandate for their appointed negotiators, so the speculation about how long the negotiations will take seems to me to be remarkably premature. If there is good will and strong political intent, I am confident that an amicable and good negotiation can lead to an agreement in which all sides can take pleasure.
As we approach the time of the year at which there was no room at the inn for Jesus to be born in, may we have an early debate on the position facing many of our constituents who are moving into new shared ownership properties? Many of my constituents exchanged contracts in early September, but the completion date has been rolled forward endlessly. They are being chased by their current landlords, and some of them have been taken to court. Some of them are pregnant and expecting to have children shortly, and they do not know when they can move in. To make matters worse, I understand that some of the developers are concentrating on finishing off their own properties first, leaving the shared ownership tenants totally at their mercy when it comes to when they will be able to move into their new homes.
I am concerned about what my hon. Friend says about the case in his constituency. The Government are right to press forward with an ambitious programme of new home building for all types of tenure, but we need to be very clear that where sites have planning permission, developers have a responsibility to move ahead as quickly as possible. The most important step on shared ownership is for developers and authorities to work closely together at a local level to ensure, once permission is granted, that work on building out such sites is taken forward as rapidly as possible. As my hon. Friend knows, we are taking action through the Neighbourhood Planning Bill to remove some of the causes of unnecessary delays to development, but I hope that local councils will use their powers—both through setting conditions on development, and through the negotiation of section 106 planning agreements—to ensure the rapid delivery of shared ownership properties alongside properties for sale.
Mr Speaker, may I join other right hon. and hon. Members in wishing you, the Leader of the House, all right hon. and hon. Members of the House, the staff of the House and our constituents a very happy Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year?
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement. A number of hon. Members have asked me why we have not had a debate about Yemen. I am very glad that the Leader of the House has announced that, following our deliberations, it is scheduled for 12 January, along with a general debate about the African great lakes region. I have been asked about Yemen an awful lot. May I also thank the Leader of the House for his generous co-operation since he came to office, which has helped the Backbench Business Committee to plan ahead?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his Christmas wishes and his final remarks. It is always a juggling act to ensure that adequate time is available for what different Members in different parts of the House want to see debated, but we always do our utmost to accommodate the Backbench Business Committee.
Today, the sustainability and transformation plan for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has been published. There is a lot of good common sense in it, but there is also the statement that there needs to be consideration of whether to move from three A&E sites to two and an urgent care centre. It is clear from the demand and the history in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire that all three A&E sites at Stoke, Stafford and Burton are required. May we have a debate on this issue urgently, because it is vital that our constituents know that their interests are being properly considered?
As always, my hon. Friend will be trenchant in defending the interests of his constituents. He is right that sustainability and transformation plans must not only be locally tailored, but deliver services that are of good quality and sustainable for the future of their locality. Any change has to meet the four tests that have been set out. It must have support from GP commissioners, be based on clinical evidence, demonstrate public and patient engagement, and consider patient choice. The local authority health overview and scrutiny committee of any locality has the right to object to a planned service change and refer it to the Secretary of State for a decision.
I know that the timing of statements is never easy, but given the importance of the local government settlement for places such as Birmingham, which are virtually bankrupt, and the fact that many of us will be serving on Public Bill Committees from 11.30 am today, may I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on the combined impact of social care, education and local government funding decision on towns and cities that are not run by Conservative administrations?
I do not want to pre-empt what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is going to say in his statement later today, but there is an opportunity next Tuesday in the Adjournment debate to raise precisely the kind of local city or county-specific issues that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.
Rothley post office in my constituency closed recently and moved its services to a local shop, despite strong local opposition. It appears from local reports that promises about services that were made during the consultation are not being fully adhered to by the Post Office. May we have a debate on the impact on rural communities of changes to the Post Office branch network and, in particular, on the importance of the Post Office adhering to assurances that it gives during consultations?
I would be concerned to hear that the Post Office was going back on previously accepted positions. My hon. Friend may wish to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, in the Adjournment debate next Tuesday to raise his constituency concerns. The Post Office operates as an independent business, and the Government do not interfere in day-to-day operational responsibilities, but the Post Office has a responsibility to carry out proper consultation locally and seek feedback from people. I hope that my hon. Friend will bring his constituents’ concerns directly to the attention of senior managers in the Post Office.
Order. Before I call the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), I should inform the House that he received the Coppieters award last night in Brussels. I feel sure that the House will want to know that the Coppieters awards are an initiative of the Centre Maurits Coppieters to honour individuals and organisations that stand out in defence of cultural and linguistic diversity, intercultural dialogue, self-determination, the rights of minorities, peace, democracy and a united Europe. I hope that, in the circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman deservedly feels and will sound even more chipper than usual.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and congratulations on the pronunciation, which displayed all your customary savoir faire—a quality also required of Leaders of the House. May we therefore have a brief statement now to show that the Leader of the House, alone in the Government, understands the difference between access to the single market, which just about everybody in the world has, and membership of the single market, which is an economic advantage that only 500 million people on this planet have just now? How many answers to business questions does the Leader of the House believe that he can cram into the 10 years that Sir Ivan Rogers estimates it will take to complete trade negotiations?
I sometimes think that the right hon. Gentleman wants to continue debating these matters indefinitely, rather than reach a decision and a good outcome for this country. However, may I genuinely congratulate him on his award? In response to his points about the single market, one thing I learned in my six years as Europe Minister is that none of the four freedoms that are discussed in the context of the single market is unqualified in its operation. For example, the single market in goods is much more developed at EU level than the single market in services. To present “in or out of the single market” in the binary fashion of the right hon. Gentleman does not do justice to the complexity of the negotiation ahead of us. The Prime Minister has made it clear that she wants the maximum access for UK companies to the European single market, the greatest possible freedom for UK companies to operate within that market, and reciprocal rights for EU companies here.
May we please have a debate on essential services? That would give me and hon. Members of all parties the opportunity to thank and pay tribute to our armed forces, who are serving in this country and around the world, the police, our NHS staff, care sector workers, prison officers, energy sector workers, security staff, caretakers, transport workers, broadcasters and the many others who will have to work over the Christmas period.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Many of us will know of constituents or family members working in the health service, the police, the Army and other key public services, who will be on duty over the Christmas period. We want to wish them and their families well, and to say a profound “thank you” to them for their continuing service.
Having spent time on the police parliamentary scheme and seen close up the excellent work that our police officers do up and down the country, I am concerned that the Government now plan to make being a police officer a graduate entry occupation. There are a number of excellent police officers who do not have degrees, especially the bobby on the beat. May we have a statement from the Government about their plans in that regard, please?
If the hon. Lady looks at what has been proposed by the College of Policing, she will see that the degree requirement is one of three options it has suggested for consideration; another is an apprenticeship scheme to provide enhanced education and training for police officers after recruitment. The police service itself believes it needs to address the point that we ask police officers—even the most junior new constables—to make very sensitive decisions on our behalf, including whether to initiate a process that may lead to a family’s children being taken into local authority care and whether a person should be physically restrained because they represent a threat. It is right that police officers should have expertise and training so that they are capable of taking those decisions wisely. The College of Policing is seeking to ensure that.
Residents in King’s Cliffe are very concerned about the lack of post office facilities in the village and the amount of time it has been taking to try to get those facilities reopened. Will the Leader of the House join me in encouraging Post Office Ltd to expedite the matter and get those services reopened as an early Christmas present for my constituents? May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar) in calling for a debate on this next week?
I know that my hon. Friend will continue to champion the interests of his constituents in securing the reopening of local post office services. As I said earlier, the Government do not intervene in the day-to-day business decisions of the Post Office, but I am sure that its senior management will have heard what he has said.
We learned about 12 hours after the EU vote that the £350 million pledge was arrant nonsense, so will the Leader of the House commit to a debate in Government time on the real impact of the EU on the health service, and the issues we need to consider regarding Brexit?
Tomorrow is Local Charities Day. We all have very good local charities in our constituencies. One of mine is Crazy Hats, run by Glennis Hooper and her group of dedicated volunteers, who have raised more than £2 million through people wearing crazy hats. They spend that money on breast cancer care in Northamptonshire. Will the Leader of the House tell us how those charities can be further supported?
I thought for one moment that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) was auditioning for a role in some remake of the film “Elf”. The Chancellor has demonstrated through improvements in the gift aid scheme that the Government are keen to provide greater opportunities for small local charities to benefit from donations. Legislation going through Parliament at the moment will make further concessions to help such charities. We will all want to celebrate tomorrow the work that so many thousands of local charities do in every constituency in this country.
Even though you were not able to call me during International Trade questions, Mr Speaker, may I wish you a very happy Christmas? I especially want to do so because at one stage it looked like the House of Commons children’s Christmas party would not happen, and I believe that you played a role in making sure that it did. We had a lovely party on Tuesday. All the kids had a great time, as did the parents and grandparents, so thank you for that.
Before I came here today I consulted my constituents about the neglected issues that they want us to go back to in the new year. They had three. The first was of course Aleppo, that heartrending, disgraceful blot on our civilised world. The second was the fact that we are likely to lose our A&E hospital in Huddersfield. The third was that we are neglecting the people who make things in our country, our manufacturers; in International Trade questions, the M-word was hardly spoken. Those are my constituents’ three priorities. May we have debates on them early in January? And happy Christmas, everyone.
I shall look for opportunities to provide debates on all those important subjects. As I said earlier, sustainability and transformation plans must meet four specific criteria. The hon. Gentleman’s local authority has the right to challenge and refer to the Secretary of State any change to services to which it objects.
Aleppo has already been debated and been the subject of questions this week, but I do not think there is any Member who does not share the hon. Gentleman’s horror at what we have seen. It is a matter of the utmost regret—that is putting it too mildly—that Russia, sometimes in alliance with other countries, has consistently vetoed Security Council resolutions designed to ensure a ceasefire and the peaceful evacuation of civilians from affected areas.
On manufacturing, support for it and the upgrading of our skills base so that we can compete internationally in high-value manufacturing are core elements of the Government’s economic and industrial strategy.
At both of the recent Women and Equalities questions, the Minister for Women and Equalities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), committed to publishing the consultation document on caste discrimination legislation. That will give British Hindus the opportunity to ensure that this ill-thought-out, divisive and unnecessary legislation is removed from the statute book. Time is short. There are only three more days of parliamentary time before the end of the year, when the release of the consultation has been promised. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House ensure that we have a statement to the House on the consultation document before Parliament rises, so that British Hindus have the optimal opportunity to respond to it?
Yesterday, as chair of the all-party kidney group, I hosted, with the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), a symposium of leading experts on kidney disease. One thing that shocked us was that a quarter of people on dialysis have diabetes. Early monitoring of diabetic kidneys for renal failure would make a huge difference to those who go on to need dialysis and transplantation. May we have a debate on how we join up that knowledge, so that through early diagnosis of diabetes we can prevent people needing dialysis and transplants?
Earlier this week the finals of the Great British High Street awards took place. Sea View Street in Cleethorpes was one of the finalists, winning a silver in one of the categories. The street is a collection of independent retailers. May we have a debate on the role of independent retailers and the contribution that they make to our communities and to the economy?
I think we all accept that with the growth of online sales all retailers, but in particular small high street shops, face a challenging environment. That makes it all the more welcome that Sea View Street in Cleethorpes has won this award. I would like to add my congratulations to all the retailers there who have clearly worked extremely hard, and in an innovative fashion, to ensure they still pull in customers.
Last week, the Leader of the House failed to tell me how far it was from Castlemilk to Newlands, which I am surprised about, given that when the Department for Work and Pensions calculated the distance, it did not use any of the great resources at its fingertips; instead, it used Google Maps. That is how it calculated its decision to close eight of Glasgow’s 16 jobcentres. Here we are, however, eight days on from the announcement, and still the consultation is not on the DWP website—so that is at least eight days by which it will have to extend the consultation. Will the right hon. Gentleman help me to facilitate getting it put on the website today, and will he convey our frustration to Ministers at the way they have handled this whole sorry affair?
The central point is that there will no change in the level of service that jobcentres offer people in Glasgow. The DWP is merging a number of smaller offices into bigger sites as leases come to an end so that we can save taxpayers, including Scottish taxpayers, money without changing the service offered. The Government have already consulted on the plans, but there will be further consultation in areas where people have to travel more than three miles or for longer than 20 minutes to reach a jobcentre.
May we have a debate on horse-racing, particularly the bravery of jockeys? Horse-racing is undoubtedly the finest sport there is and plays an important part in many communities’ local economies, but it would not be possible without jockeys and their bravery. One in 10 jump jockey rides ends in a fall. Freddy Tylicki, a flat jockey, recently suffered life-changing injuries from a fall on the flat, and Mark Enright recently spoke about the mental health problems that he and other jockeys have faced, particularly in keeping their weight down to ride horses. Such a debate would enable us to praise those jockeys, the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys Association. Will the Leader of the House grant such a debate and see if the Government can help the horse-racing industry to tackle these matters?
Millions of people in this country enjoy horse-racing in all its forms and admire the guts and determination of jockeys, and it is a very risky occupation, but, as I am sure my hon. Friend will acknowledge, it is one for which those jockeys volunteer; they accept the sort of devastating risks he describes and, I think, derive huge pleasure and accomplishment from it.
I ask that the Leader of the House offer up a feast for Members on both sides of the House: the Transport Secretary at the Dispatch Box to answer for the chaos that our constituents have been suffering on the railways. It would give him an opportunity to explain why he refused, on political grounds, to give suburban services to the Mayor of London, which is something now supported by businesses in London, and to listen to what Members think about his decision.
I recall my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary answering hon. Members’ questions about this within the last two weeks. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, in his work on the railways, might drop a line to ASLEF inquiring why it has so far refused to respond to the Transport Secretary’s invitation to come to talks to try to end this devastating strike, which is plaguing so many commuters in the south of England.
May we please have a debate on the implementation of personal independence payments? I have been contacted by constituents with serious long-term health issues who were previously in receipt of disability living allowance but who have been assessed with low scores in relation to PIP. I am concerned that some of the most vulnerable in our society are being cast aside by a system that is not working as it should.
As the hon. Lady knows, personal independence payments are designed to compensate people for the additional living costs incurred as a result of their disability. If she knows of cases where she believes there to be a systemic problem with how awards are assessed, she is certainly welcome to draw them to my attention, and I will pass them on to the relevant Ministers, but it is surely right for the Government to concentrate on enabling disabled people who wish to work to find employment, as record numbers are now doing, while also helping people with those additional costs.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the availability of high-cost drugs for children with rare medical conditions? A young child in my constituency suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but a consultation is taking place about the withdrawal of the drug Sarepta, which has dramatically improved his life. I am sure there are many other such conditions, of which I am not aware, for which such drugs may or may not be available to families. This is a really urgent matter that affects many children and others across our country. The Leader of the House needs to talk to Ministers in the Department of Health to ask them to come to this House to discuss and debate with us the availability of funding for such high-cost drugs.
If the hon. Gentleman sends me a note about the particular constituency case, I will pass it on to the Health Secretary. As he will understand, the general principle to which we and the previous Labour Government adhered is that decisions about the availability of drugs to treat unusual conditions should be determined either by NICE nationally or by local commissioners, looking always at the clinical effectiveness of those drugs. I do not think it would be right to go back to a system in which Ministers, perhaps influenced by the political voices of whichever campaign shouted the loudest, took these decisions, instead of the expert bodies.
May we have a statement or a debate in Government time on the World Health Organisation protocol to eliminate the illicit trade in tobacco products? In June, in a response to a Lords parliamentary question, we learned that the Government are fully committed to ratification of the protocol, and will ratify once they are satisfied that legislation is in place to require the licensing of tobacco machinery. However, growth in this criminal trade continues to threaten public health and results in a loss of Government revenue. Is it not high time that we had an update?
Sadly, in July, a constituent’s teenage daughter needed to seek acute mental health care on an in-patient basis. The nearest available bed was in Colchester—an eight-hour round trip by car, causing her family untold hardship, both emotionally and financially. Will the Leader of the House clarify whether this is what his Government mean by “parity of esteem”? I hope he agrees with me that owing to the seriousness of this issue, we need an urgent debate.
We have not only legislated to give mental and physical health equal priority in law, but the Government have introduced the first ever access and waiting standards for mental health services, which never existed under previous Administrations. Some 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day compared with 2010—an increase of 40%—and we are investing more taxpayers’ money in mental health than ever before. Yes, there is more to be done—I do not deny that for an instant—but I think this Government have shown greater determination than any of their predecessors in moving forward to improve the quality of mental health services available to our constituents.
May we have a debate on the importance of accessibility for disabled people to local sportsgrounds and amenities? I recently had an inspirational meeting with East Kilbride youth disability sports club, many of whose members, I am delighted to inform the House, will be taking part in the special Olympics next year. Does the Leader of the House agree that this is an important issue, and that we require access for all to maximise potential and should focus on ability rather than disability?
I completely agree with the hon. Lady. Wearing my hat as the Member whose constituency includes Stoke Mandeville, I think that sport has shown that it can provide one of the best means available for people with disabilities of all kinds to show that they can achieve great things and have those achievements celebrated by the public as a whole. I hope all sports governing bodies and the management of stadiums and other premises will pay close attention to the hon. Lady’s words.
The Drive for Justice campaign is being led by Sheffield’s The Star and its sister publications, looking at sentences for causing death by dangerous driving. One mother pointed out that the drunken woman who had murdered her 15-year-old son had served only one year in prison, while she described herself as serving “a life sentence”. May we have an urgent debate on sentencing guidelines for causing death by dangerous driving?
The next Transport questions are not until 12 January, but the hon. Lady will know that the Government have recently put out to public consultation proposed increases to the severity of sentences for dangerous driving. I hope she and her constituents will avail themselves of the opportunity to make their voices heard during that consultation.
At the weekend, there were newspaper reports that the Home Office has stopped transfers to the UK of unaccompanied minors registered in the Calais camp. Most worryingly, there were reports that children awaiting transfer in France are going missing and that children who have come to the UK under the schemes operated by the British Government have gone missing after their arrival. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary before Christmas updating the House on the operation of the scheme under both the Dublin system and the Dubs amendment?
I will draw the hon. and learned Lady’s request to the Home Secretary’s attention. The Home Office continues to work very closely with the French authorities to ensure that we identify the most vulnerable children and give them priority in our resettlement plans. That is what was envisaged under Lord Dubs’ amendment to the recent legislation, and the Government remain committed to that policy.
According to Department for Work and Pensions figures released yesterday, more than 120,000 disabled people have had their benefits severely downgraded despite living with chronic progressive conditions. So following the earlier question, may we have a debate on how reassessments from disability living allowance to the personal independence payment have been conducted?
I will draw the hon. Lady’s concern to the attention of the Work and Pensions Secretary, but the principle is surely right, as my ministerial colleagues have announced, that people who are suffering from long-term, often degenerative, medical conditions or disabilities should be exempt from reassessments, and people with disabilities and medical conditions who are capable of returning to work of some kind, helping to restore to them the dignity that goes with working, should be supported in doing that.
This is the third Christmas for which six veterans, including my constituent Billy Irving, will be stuck in jail in India awaiting yet another judgment. Will the Leader of the House join me in making a new year resolution to do everything in his power to bring these innocent men home, and may we have a statement on what the Government will do to make sure that that happens?
As the hon. Lady knows, those men are being held under the Indian judicial system. Although we cannot give orders to another country about how it operates its judicial system, the case of the hon. Lady’s constituent and the other men being detained has frequently been raised by Ministers when speaking to their Indian counterparts, and continues to be raised by our high commissioner in New Delhi. We will continue to make such representations.
Instead of the traditional Adjournment debate, perhaps Tuesday’s debate could be on the substantive motion, in tribute to our fallen colleague Jo Cox, that this House believes we have more in common than that which divides us. If we did have such a debate, that would enable us to highlight wonderful gestures like that of the bookmaker William Hill, which has said this morning that it will donate all the money staked on the Friends of Jo Cox single becoming Christmas No. 1 and in addition make a £5,000 donation to the Jo Cox Foundation. Does the Leader of the House agree it would be a wonderful gesture if all the other major bookmakers matched William Hill’s generosity?
Last week’s announcement of 270 job losses at the Doosan Babcock facility in Renfrew may herald the end of 121 years of production and industrial heritage, so may we have a debate on advanced manufacturing and what we can do to protect jobs in that sector, particularly in light of the Government’s plans to leave the biggest single market in the world?
Any job losses of the type that the hon. Gentleman has described are to be regretted, but he will surely welcome the fact that unemployment in Scotland has fallen significantly since this Government took office and that more people are in work in the United Kingdom today than ever before.
As I said at business questions last week, the Bill’s promoter did not publish it until three days before its Second Reading was due to be debated. No estimate or description of costs was provided with the Bill, and the Government are now having to undertake that analytical work.
May we have a debate in Government time or a statement on the unacceptable delays in tier 1 visa tribunals? One constituent has been waiting since November 2015 for an appeal on a visa for his wife, another has been waiting since February 2016 and a third is facing eviction from his home along with his wife and four children. Will the Leader of the House please help my constituents?
Is the Leader of the House aware of the “Bartend against Bombs” campaign? It was started in Chester by my constituents Calum Adams and Ben Iles and involves low-paid bar and hospitality staff giving a large proportion of their gratuities to charities that support children. It has now been rolled out across the country, making thousands of pounds in just a couple of years. In view of my constituents’ marvellous success, now would be a good time to debate about and celebrate voluntary and charitable giving.
I give my unreserved congratulations to those bartenders in Chester. I understand that they have raised more than £7,000 over the past year for aid in Syria. We rightly take pride in the fact that the UK has pledged £2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Syria, but the hon. Gentleman’s constituents have demonstrated that that sense of solidarity with the suffering people of Syria is felt widely and in every part of this country.
I recently visited the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum in my constituency. It is an excellent business that employs many EU nationals, but they are extremely concerned about their future following the vote in June. Given the position in which the Government find themselves with their wrongheaded policy, will they reflect on that concern over the Christmas period and come back with a statement in the new year to give certainty to those employees, who make such a contribution to our society?
On the behalf of the Government, I will say very clearly that people from other EU countries who have come here lawfully in order to work, who are obeying the law and paying their taxes, are contributing to our society. The Prime Minister has made it clear on many occasions that we want an early agreement on a deal that enables those EU nationals already in this country to know that their rights here are secure and, equally, that UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU will have their rights respected on the same basis.
As the great Tory party icon Ebenezer Scrooge saw the error of his ways at this time of year, may we have a statement or debate in the new year on building a social security system based on the needs of the most vulnerable and poorest in our society? Does the Leader of the House agree that initiatives such as the Govan community toy bank, which has provided toys to more than 700 families over the last two years, brings into focus why such a change in social security, and our economy, is necessary?
The truth is that whatever system of social security we have in this country, voluntary initiatives such as the Govan toy bank will have a significant additional role to play. We cannot shy away from the fact that we need to have a welfare system in the United Kingdom that is fair both to those people who are genuinely in need and to taxpayers, especially taxpayers who work hard on modest wages to pay for that social security system.
During Monday’s Defence questions, I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) why the national shipbuilding strategy had not yet been published. In her reply, she accused me of
“complaining about the lack of publication of a report that has been published”.—[Official Report, 12 December 2016; Vol. 618, c. 485.]
May we have a Government statement, preferably right now, to confirm for my benefit, the country’s benefit, the benefit of this House and, most importantly, the benefit of the Under-Secretary that Sir John Parker’s report is not the national shipbuilding strategy, and that that strategy has not been published and indeed will not be published until the spring of next year?
At the end of the question, the hon. Gentleman was replaying a timetable that I had given him in the past at this Dispatch Box. He is right to say that the Parker report has presented the Government with some very far-reaching recommendations for the future of our shipbuilding industry. The hon. Gentleman and his friends would have been the first to criticise us had Ministers rushed to the Dispatch Box abruptly after the publication of the report, rather than first giving it the serious consideration it needs.
It appears my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman) does not want to hear what I have to say—it is his loss.
After the autumn statement, the Government made great play of the £23 billion investment fund, however a single budget line of £7 billion has been put back to 2021-22—that is beyond the scope of this Parliament. That budget line is called “long-term investment”, so will the Leader of the House make a statement explaining what that money is for, how a future Government can be held to account on it and why, if it really is for long-term investment, we are not making that investment right now?
It is sensible to have provision in a medium-term economic plan and obviously it will be for the Government to decide on and, if necessary, seek parliamentary approval for the details of spending within that overall envelope, when we have taken stock of where the economy is closer to that date. In talking about the autumn statement, I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have had the grace to acknowledge not only the £23 billion that the Chancellor has set aside for infrastructure, but the £800 million infrastructure bonus going to Scotland as a result of those decisions.
I have just been informed of a most remarkable, almost novel development in the House, namely that an hon. Member has beetled out of the Chamber and not asked his question on the ground that it had already been asked—that has never normally stopped Members! It has to be said that the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman) is a most unusual denizen of the House. Let me also say that I am most grateful to the Leader of the House and to colleagues.
Just before I call the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make his statement, I will just say this: I understand that a copy of the statement was provided to the Opposition spokesman only approximately 15 minutes ago, and that is, frankly, a discourtesy, not only to the Opposition, but to the House. It is also a departure from a very long-standing and almost invariably adhered to convention in this place. I must say to the Secretary of State, in all courtesy, that I had considered, in the circumstances, a brief suspension of the House, but after consultation and on reflection, I am persuaded, not least in the light of other business with which we have to deal today, that it is probably best for the House to press on. That said, this must not happen again.
Moreover, I very gently say to the Secretary of State one further thing: he inquired of my office earlier whether it would be acceptable for his statement to be of 15 minutes’ length rather than the normal 10, because he wished to provide the House with as much detail as possible. It is acceptable for him to do that on this occasion, but of course compensation must be granted to the Opposition spokesperson in terms of the length of his reply. All of that said, I nevertheless would like to wish the Secretary of State, the Opposition spokesman and of course all colleagues a very merry Christmas.