Just before we come to the business question, I remind the House that, on Monday, I did indicate that there would be an opportunity for hon. and right hon. Members to pay their own tributes to the former Father of the House—that parliamentary giant, Sir Gerald Kaufman. That opportunity for Members comes today, in the course of business questions. Therefore, I will exercise some latitude in terms of the normal length of questions if colleagues wish to express their own personal and heartfelt tributes. I look forward to hearing what colleagues have to say about a very, very remarkable man.
Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
Mr Speaker, as you said, this is the first business questions since the death of the Father of the House. There is this sense with Gerald Kaufman’s passing of another link being broken with a former political age. His first general election contest was in 1955, when he stood against Harold Macmillan himself in the Bromley constituency—I think without too much expectation of a shock victory on that occasion. Then, of course, he represented successive Manchester constituencies for many years.
This was a man who also served in No. 10 under Harold Wilson and who carried the memories of working alongside him and debating against—in those days through the columns of the press and in his speech-writing capacity, rather than as a Member of the House—his opponents in my party. He went on to serve as a Minister and, for many years, as a senior member of the shadow Cabinet during the Labour party’s years in opposition.
I can certainly say from experience that Gerald’s book “How to be a Minister” is still worth reading—[Interruption.] I suspect that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) is looking for ways in which to publicise a second edition sometime soon. I do recall from my reading of Gerald’s book the importance he gave to getting control of your diary and private office at the earliest possible date, and also his sage warning to Ministers to avoid, so far as they could, their numerous invitations to speak at banquets and formal dinners, which inevitably ended with the host denouncing the guest of honour in the most strident possible terms.
Gerald was perhaps most in his element as the Chair of first the Select Committee on National Heritage, and then the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. Even those of us who did not share Gerald’s politics knew that he was a man who was passionately committed not only to his own political party and tradition, but to the importance of the arts and cultural values as something that mattered to people in all walks of life in all parts of the United Kingdom. While his interests and enthusiasm in the field of the arts ranged widely, it was perhaps cinema for which he had a particular affection. I do just wonder what we have missed in not being able to hear his comments on the Oscars debacle that took place earlier this week. I suspect that they would have been fairly forceful and waspish in tone.
We mourn Sir Gerald’s passing and we shall miss him in this House. I am sure that everyone, on whichever side of the House they sit, would want to send their sympathy to his family and friends.
The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 6 March—Second Reading of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill.
Tuesday 7 March—Remaining stages of the Children and Social Work Bill [Lords], followed by a motion relating to the appointment of the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, followed by a motion relating to Standing Orders.
Wednesday 8 March—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement.
Thursday 9 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.
Friday 10 March—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 13 March will include:
Monday 13 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.
Tuesday 14 March—Conclusion of the Budget debate.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 6, 9, 13 and 16 March will be:
Monday 6 March—Debate on an e-petition relating to high heels and workplace dress codes.
Thursday 9 March—Debate on the second report of the Scottish Affairs Committee on the demography of Scotland and the implications for devolution, followed by a debate on human rights and political situation in Turkey.
Monday 13 March—Debate on an e-petition relating to sentencing for child abuse offences.
Thursday 16 March—Debate on the sixth report of the Transport Committee, “The future of rail: Improving the rail passenger experience”, followed by a debate on Jobcentre Plus office closures.
Colleagues will also wish to know that subject to the progress of business—I stress that point—the House will rise for the summer recess at close of play on Thursday 20 July and return on Tuesday 5 September.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to spend some time talking about and paying tribute to one of our great parliamentarians and the Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman, who died at the weekend. You paid a brilliant tribute on Monday. His family described his death as the end of an era; it is for us here in Parliament, too.
As the Leader of the House said, Sir Gerald’s great loves were ice cream and films. Apparently he went to see “Singin’ in the Rain” 20 times in all the cinemas in Leeds when it first came out. He worked on “That Was the Week That Was”, the forerunner of “Saturday Night Live”, with the great broadcaster Alasdair Milne, the future director-general of the BBC. He was fearless in his support for justice internationally and for his constituents. His majority at the last election was 24,000, and that was down to his popularity and his care for his constituents. Today—World Book Day—he is remembered for his iconic book “How to be a Minister”. Before I came into this place—before I met Sir Gerald—I bought that book as a present for my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) when he first became a Minister in the Blair Government. Many hon. Members here, as well as former Members who are now in the other place, have told me how they used that book as their bible.
We have some lovely anecdotes. The Clerk of the House reminded me that on your re-election, Mr Speaker, Sir Gerald was quite keen to get the whole process right, and he proceeded with avuncular dignity. I remember the day; it went off absolutely beautifully and you were re-elected. He loved marmalade, so on a Select Committee trip to the Isle of Mull, to cheer him up on his birthday—it was one of the big numbers—he was made orange marmalade ice cream. On a Committee visit to Rome, some Members had not been there before, so before he went to the ambassador’s dinner, he took them to the Trevi fountain and, of course, to have some gelato. Another Member told me that when Sir Gerald was a Minister, he always gave a lift to Back Benchers in his ministerial car because he knew that one day he would be a Back Bencher. We talk about the greasy pole of politics. I think it is more like the luge, actually—you just get battered as you go down.
Sir Gerald dressed beautifully—I always used to watch him in the Tea Room—and that was probably a tribute to his father, who was a tailor. He was a close friend of Harold Wilson, another great Labour Prime Minister. He was loyal, clever and courageous, and he will be missed from this place. We send our condolences to his family and friends.
I thank the Leader of the House for providing the dates of the summer recess. Everyone is rejoicing because we now know we will rise on 20 July. I wonder whether he could give us an indication of when the state opening of Parliament will be. I know that the Deputy Leader of the House is keen to get his outfit ready, perhaps in keeping with the tribute to Sir Gerald.
I know that the Leader of the House has been busy tabling motions. One, in particular, will be considered on Tuesday 7 March. It relates to Standing Order No. 83. Many lawyers like amendments that read “Substitute ‘the’ for ‘and’”, but I might have to explain the motion to other people, so I wonder whether the Leader of the House could publish an explanatory memorandum and tell us why this is being hurried through on the day before the Budget? I know that the motion relates to things that are happening in Scotland.
The Leader of the House is keen on visiting the other place, so he will be interested to know—I do not know whether he has caught this on the news—that their lordships intend to send back the EU Bill with an amendment, which they won by 358 votes to 256. Will the Leader of the House give us some indication of when the Bill is likely to come back to this House? Will it be in the week commencing 13 March or the week commencing 20 March?
On a point that the Leader of the House made last week, I remind him that, as has been pointed out in a cross-party Select Committee report, the Government’s claim that the NHS will receive an additional £10 billion by 2021 does not accurately reflect
“the impact of the Spending Review on health expenditure…If the spending review period is considered—2015–16 to 2020–21—that increase is £4.5 billion”,
not £10 billion. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House cited the alternative figure.
I thank the Leader of the House for providing me with the closing date for the consultation on the new funding formula, which is 22 March. I appreciate that he has also written to me. The Prime Minister yesterday said that we “have had free schools”, as though they are in the past, but that they continued to create more good places. She said no to grammar schools, but was that a no to free schools? The overall funding of new places through free schools is set at £7.9 billion out of a total of £14.9 billion for new places. Will the Leader of the House comment on the latest National Audit Office report, which found that some free schools opened in areas where there were already plenty of places, thus creating spare capacity that could affect the future financial sustainability of other schools in the area? May we have a statement on whether funding for free schools represents good value for money for the taxpayer, and whether it will fix the problem of school places?
I am trying to rush through my points because I am aware that other hon. Members want to make contributions on Sir Gerald’s life. Given that we will have a debate on International Women’s Day after these proceedings, I want to raise two cases of women who have been arrested and placed in a detention centre. Irene Clennell was married to a British husband for 27 years, and her children and grandchild were born here. She has been removed without warning. A 20-year-old student, Shiromini Satkunarajah, who is about to finish her degree, has also been placed in a detention centre with no warning. Will the Government clarify the policy on the deportation of women who are no threat and who have been caught unfairly by these arbitrary decisions?
It is now 10 years since the Corston report on women in prison. Women who enter prison are more likely to be there for non-violent offences. Last year, 12 women killed themselves in prison in England and Wales, and there were 22 deaths of women in prison. The noble Baroness Corston has called for more Government funding for women’s centres. I know from sitting on the Criminal Justice and Courts Public Bill Committee that the Government had committed funding for secure colleges, but they U-turned on that decision. If that money is there and committed, will the Leader of the House have discussions with the noble Baroness about using it to protect existing women’s centres and create a more sustainable model?
Lastly, I welcome the two new Members: the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), who is the 456th woman in this place, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell). It is good to have another Labour Member from the west midlands. I hope that both hon. Members will be inspired by the life and work of Sir Gerald Kaufman, a great parliamentarian. May he rest in peace.
I happily join the hon. Lady in welcoming our two new colleagues. Apropos of state opening, while I can assure her that my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House has more than one outfit available for such ceremonial occasions, I cannot yet give her the date that she is seeking.
On the hon. Lady’s point about the motion on the Standing Orders, I have already had a similar request from Scottish National party Members for an explanatory memorandum—we will provide one. The proposed change to the Standing Orders is to recognise the fact that the Scotland Act 2016 has devolved to the Scottish Parliament the right to set the main rates of income tax. Our own Standing Orders on English votes for English laws therefore need to be adjusted to take account of the fact that we may well in future have resolutions or pieces of legislation relating to main income tax rates that are specific to England, or to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not to Scotland, because those matters have been devolved. That is the purpose of the technical change to the Standing Orders.
We will return to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill as rapidly as possible after the House of Lords has finished debating it and given it a Third Reading. The Government certainly remain of the view that the Bill is straightforward—it does no more than confer authority on the Prime Minister, as required by the courts, to initiate negotiations by triggering article 50 of the treaty—and we will therefore seek to resist changes that would make the negotiating task more difficult.
The hon. Lady asked about the national health service. The figure of £10 billion is completely accurate. It represents the £8 billion that the head of NHS England said was needed to finance the NHS’s own reform plan, plus a further £2 billion that was allocated to the financial year before the period in which NHS England intended to carry out its reform plan. It is not only that because, in response to the request from the chief executive of NHS England, the Department of Health has front-loaded the funding, so the NHS is getting an additional £4 billion this year to get the reform plan off to the best possible start.
The hon. Lady asked about free schools. I have to say to her that, for me, the key test for free schools is whether there is a demand for them from parents in the area in which they are to be located, because without that, those schools will not be able to survive. The test for free schools, like the test for any other school, is whether they are able to provide the best possible opportunities and life chances, and to improve the achievements of the children sent to those schools. Children only get one chance of an education, and we should be looking for every opportunity to improve the quality of educational opportunities offered to them.
The hon. Lady talked about International Women’s Day and cited two particular cases. Without going into the detail of those cases, the principle is that people—men or women—are detained only if the Home Office or the immigration service has reason to believe that they may be at risk of disappearing and avoiding removal from the country. Such a step is taken only after people have exhausted their rights to appeal and it is clear that they have no further legal right to remain in this country.
The hon. Lady’s point about prisons was perfectly reasonable, but it is one of several important issues to do with prison reform. My right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary made it clear in her recent White Paper that she is committed to a programme of prison reform that improves the chances of women and men who serve time in prison being treated decently while they are there, as well as giving them opportunities for the type of courses, work and education that mean that they will have a better chance of leading law-abiding lives after their release.
I associate myself with the remarks of both Front-Bench spokesmen about the late Father of the House. He gave me one piece of helpful advice when I first arrived in the House: “On immigration cases, young man”—that is always good for getting my attention—“my strong advice is to ask anyone who comes to see you, ‘Have you got a lawyer?’ If they haven’t, tell them to get one, and if they have, tell them to use the lawyer.”
Speaking on behalf of the Backbench Business Committee, I note that the Leader of the House did not announce the business for a week on Thursday. We now have a queue of debates that would fill Thursdays until Prorogation. Early sight of the business for a week on Thursday would therefore be appreciated.
Sadly, on Monday, Mohammed al-Zufairi, a constituent of mine, was murdered at a cash point in Wealdstone High Street. It appears to be a targeted murder, and I am pleased to say that the police have arrested an individual whom they believe to be responsible. May we have a debate on the increase in knife crime in London and the impact that we can make on stopping people carrying knives to ensure that no one else suffers my constituent’s fate?
I happily take on board my hon. Friend’s request for allocating more slots for the Backbench Business Committee at an early opportunity.
May I pass on to the family of my hon. Friend’s constituent my sympathy and sincere condolences? They must be going through the most appalling and harrowing time. There will be an opportunity on Monday 6 March at Home Office questions for my hon. Friend to raise his concerns about knife crime more generally, and he may well wish to seek an Adjournment debate on the subject.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.
May I add to the tributes to Gerald Kaufman? The Leader of the House was absolutely right—he summed it up perfectly—when he said that Gerald Kaufman was from a generation that is quickly passing away. Hon. Members relied on Sir Gerald for advice and guidance, such was his experience. For many hon. Members, he was simply a style guru. I remember those long scarves he used to wear. One day he had to be rescued at the entrance to the tube station because his scarf had got caught, and I remember the great efforts that went into ensuring that Gerald was separated from his scarf. I send my condolences to his family and friends.
I welcome the fact that today is World Book Day—I think that Sir Gerald would appreciate that, too. We should pay tribute to the writers of this country. I have the great pleasure and privilege of chairing the all-party parliamentary writers group, and it is right to recognise the wonderful work of all our authors and writers, and to ensure that they are properly rewarded for the fantastic works that they produce.
What about three cheers for our heroes in ermine, although perhaps not from the Government Benches? The people’s aristocrats have spoken and their voice must be heard. Every time I raise the House of Lords with the Leader of the House, he tells me that there are no plans whatsoever to reform the other place, therefore accepting its legitimacy to raise such issues. Will he now listen to the House of Lords and say today that the Government have no plans to use the Parliament Acts if our unelected friends continue to show backbone?
I also thank the Leader of the House for announcing the dates of the summer recess, but I express our profound disappointment that, yet again, the Government have conspired not to have a long recess that will cover the school holiday periods of every nation of the UK. Once again, my colleagues from Scotland will have to try to make sure they have particular childcare arrangements in place. They will struggle to find an opportunity to have a proper school holiday with their children. Will the Leader of the House make sure that this is the last time we have to deal with this issue and ensure that in future all nations are covered by the summer recess?
We need a debate on how the Scotland Act 1998 operates. Schedule 5 to the Act lists all the reserved powers. If it is not on the list, it is devolved. I looked at the list again this morning and I cannot find agriculture or fisheries on it, so I presume they will be devolved after Brexit. Will the Government confirm that today, or do they intend to reserve more powers?
Finally, next week will see a huge Commons event. I am referring not to the Budget, but to the Second Reading of the driverless cars Bill. Believe it or not, they do share similarities: one is a journey with no one at the wheel heading for disaster and the other is the driverless cars Bill.
I am happy to join the hon. Gentleman in celebrating World Book Day and in paying tribute to authors. It is a welcome trend to find that the public’s appetite for old fashioned hard copy books seems to be increasing in a way that defies many of the predictions of recent years.
On the Scotland Act, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland could not have been clearer yesterday at Scottish questions. As powers are brought back from the European Union following Brexit, additional powers will be exercised by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government. What we have to work out, and what the United Kingdom Government are looking at in consultation with all three devolved Administrations, is how that can be done in a way that preserves the integrity of a single market across the United Kingdom as a whole. It will not help food and drink producers in Scotland who sell in large quantities to customers in England if we find, because we have not thought this through properly, trading obstacles in the way of them being able to sell at the least possible cost to those English customers. I therefore suggest that the hon. Gentleman needs to have regard to the interests of Scottish producers.
On the House of Lords debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, I cannot add much more to what I said in response to the shadow Leader of the House. However, the hon. Gentleman’s new-found passionate affection for the House of Lords suggests to me that it is not just Mr Farage who has secret yearnings for the honours list.
It is a great pleasure to welcome members of Sir Gerald’s family, whom, I have just been advised, are here to witness the proceedings. You could not be more welcome and thank you for coming.
Those of us who had experience of Sir Gerald’s long life and parliamentary career will choose those parts that affect our own areas of interest, so I hope the House will forgive me if I focus on the crucial role Sir Gerald played, between the years of 1988 and 1991, in shifting Labour party policy away from a stance in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament.
He started in 1988 by contributing to a policy review. If I remember correctly, it was called “Meet the challenge, make the change.” In it, Labour acknowledged that it would be sensible to get some reciprocation in return for giving up Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Then, after a lively exchange of letters in the national press with the then chairman of the Conservative party, Chris Patten, and others, he ended on 10 July 1991 with the all-important statement that a future Labour Government would continue to possess nuclear weapons as long as other countries had them. This marked the end of a crucial policy realignment.
When the Blair Government, with the support of the Conservative Opposition, voted to renew the nuclear deterrent in March 2007, Sir Gerald made a great speech, referring back to the fact that he famously described Labour’s 1983 anti-nuclear manifesto as the longest suicide note in history. He urged his colleagues not to make the mistakes of the 1980s, and he ended by pointing out what it would mean if Labour went back to that stance:
“Defeating the Government tonight…could so reduce our party’s credibility as to contribute to a Labour defeat at the next election…A cartoon in The New Yorker once showed an army officer in a bunker saying to his assembled troops:
‘Gentlemen, the time has arrived for us to make a futile gesture.’
Futile gestures can be personally satisfying, but what do they get us? I will tell the House what they get us: 18 years in opposition. It is one thing to revisit the scene of the crime; it is quite another to revisit the scene of the suicide.”—[Official Report, 14 March 2007; Vol. 458, c. 344-45.]
Those of us who believe in nuclear deterrence have every reason to be grateful to him for his crucial role in restoring bipartisanship between the Labour Government and the Opposition of the day, which secured the renewal of the nuclear deterrent, and I think the country has reason to be grateful to him too.
As I ought to pay lip service to the fact that this is business questions as well, I will segue from one form of unilateralism to another. May we have a statement from a Brexit Minister about the Government’s assessment of the motives of those with whom we will be negotiating in other countries in not responding to our initiatives and indications that members of their societies who have chosen to live in Britain can continue doing so as long as our citizens can continue living in their countries? Unilateralism, as a principle, is sometimes high minded and sometimes a futile gesture. In the spirit of what Sir Gerald did to the Labour party, we ought to think about whether we really want to leave so many of our citizens exposed to poor treatment by other countries while offering generous treatment to their citizens living here.
The EU27 Governments have been clear that they will engage in negotiations only once article 50 has been triggered, but I am optimistic that a reciprocal agreement on the status of each other’s citizens can be achieved. It is in the rational interests of the UK and all our 27 EU partners, and so I very much hope that it can be an early achievement of the negotiations once they start.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the dates of the summer recess. It was a shame he could not do it earlier, but at least we now know where we stand.
On Sir Gerald, it is rare—it must be many decades since it last happened—that we are unfortunate enough to lose a Father of the House during his incumbency. I am sure the whole House shares my regret that the new Father of the House, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), cannot be with us today. One of Sir Gerald’s more gleeful tales was of how he had the forethought, when first elected to the House, to take the oath before the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in the belief that both were likely to be here for some considerable time and so be contenders for the post of Father of the House. He took great glee in telling that story. I would like to say that I think he probably would not have begrudged the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe his opportunity, but I am not absolutely certain about that, and I would not wish to do Gerald an injustice in any way. Certainly he was desperately anxious to become Father of the House and fully deserved to hold that office.
As everyone has said—like others, I am pleased that some of his family can be here—he was witty, he was brave and he could be extremely acerbic, but he was a very skilled parliamentarian. I see that some of the obituaries have referred to his skill in Committee, and, as somebody who was a Whip when Gerald was a Minister, I can certainly testify to that. Gerald was a Minister of State trying to get a Bill through the House at a time when we did not really have a majority; people would be astonished about that period, and it might be worth their looking back at some of the Hansards of the time. We had a notional majority of maybe one or two, most of whom were too sick to be here at any time unless things were absolutely desperate. So in Committee things were extremely tight, but Gerald was an absolutely brilliant Committee Minister. He flattered the Opposition shamefully and quite disgustingly; he covered them with compliments and praise while just not being able to quite see his way clear to accepting their brilliant amendments to the Government’s proposed legislation.
As people have already said, he was also very good value as a confidante and adviser. I happened to be in Committee with Gerald on a day when we had a Government vacancy—it had been vacant for some little time. I was summoned to No. 10 and I had to say to the civil servant who made the call, “I can’t possibly come. I’m the Whip on a Committee and we have not really got a majority. Don’t be ridiculous, of course I can’t come now. I will come at lunchtime.” That gave me the opportunity to consult Gerald. I had only been a Member for just over a year and was unenthusiastic about the prospect that appeared to lie before me, and I said to Gerald, “Do you think I can ask for time to think about it?” He, like me, had guessed what the summons might mean and the first thing he said was, “Congratulations. That’s fantastic. I’m thrilled.” I said, “Yes, but hang on; can I ask for time to think about it?” He replied: “My dear Margaret, when the Prime Minister sends for you and offers you a post in the Government, you either say ‘Yes, Prime Minister,’ or you say ‘No, Prime Minister.’ You do not ask for time to think about it.” Looking back I am stunned by how naive I was even to ask the question, but it was certainly very helpful advice.
Gerald was also an extremely kind man. As it happens, I have a close personal friend who worked with him in No. 10 and who always spoke about what hysterical and great company Gerald was, but also what a kind person he was. He was—despite the advice he gave to the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), who spoke earlier—a ferocious advocate on behalf of his constituents. The Leader of the House should probably count himself lucky that he did not have the chance to hear Gerald’s comments on the cases raised by my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House on people who were detained without notice. Gerald would have had a lot to say about that, and it would not have been very nice to hear.
I was looking forward to hearing more of the right hon. Lady’s reminiscences. She has reminded us of the length of Sir Gerald’s career and the depth of his experience, and of the wisdom that comes with that experience of operating in this House and in government over such a long period of time.
Like you, Mr Speaker, on separate occasions I saw Gerald Kaufman at his home in St John’s Wood only a few weeks ago: I know that you visited him as did a good friend of mine and that of a number of other hon. Members, Claire Ward, the former Member for Watford. Even just a few weeks ago, Gerald was still saying how keen he was to return to this place, and we are all very sad that he did not.
Those who did not know him saw him as being ferociously vitriolic, and he was in this Chamber. But outside he was a very different man. He had a waspish sense of humour. I had the privilege of joining him in 1993 on the National Heritage Select Committee. The Committee was excellent, the trips were so marvellous and he was such a brilliant Chairman that I stayed with him not only on the National Heritage Committee, but also, for two Parliaments, apart from a brief excursion to the Select Committee on Home Affairs, on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Gerald hated pomposity—that was one of his most admirable features—but he loved outrageous clothes, as hon. Members have already said. I used to go with him to the theatre and the cinema from time to time. His last recommendation to me was to see a brilliant movie called “Hail, Caesar!”, which I duly saw and loved. It could sometimes be embarrassing to go somewhere with Gerald, because if the weather was cold, he would wear a red tea cosy on his head. When I mentioned this to him, he said it was not half as embarrassing as what I was wearing. [Laughter.]
Gerald also loved ice cream. I remember being on a Culture, Media and Sport Committee visit to Los Angeles and attending a meeting that was getting very boring. We were being addressed by a chap from the Foreign Office about something that had nothing to do with our inquiry, and Gerald got up and said, “Thank you very much for your speech.” The Foreign Office official rather foolishly said, “But I haven’t finished.” In the way that only he could do, Gerald turned round slowly and said, “Oh yes you have.” Then we toddled off to get our ice cream. Ice cream, musicals—which he could sing along to; he knew all the words—and Judy Garland were his great loves.
Gerald was a brilliant Chairman of the National Heritage Committee and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He was great fun. He was not party political. I am now going to lose the support of all my hon. Friends by saying that I often found myself defending the BBC, whereas Gerald wanted to abolish it. That was a strange juxtaposition of roles.
He told me not long ago that the present Conservative party chairman—when he was a junior Whip back in 1993—had asked him to take me under his wing because I was rather wild and perhaps he could make me more like a conventional parliamentarian. You can see that that worked!
In short, Gerald was a wonderful man who brightened all our lives. He was a great friend, and he was nothing like the person whom I think the public saw him as. He was self-deprecating, kindly and a great parliamentarian. I think we will all miss him.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving the House this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Gerald. He inspired so many parliamentarians, as others have said, and he certainly gave me invaluable advice and support during my time as a Minister and as Chief Whip. Gerald was a stalwart member of the Labour party and, with a political career stretching back over 50 years, he knew that principle without power was not enough, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) said. He campaigned tirelessly for a Labour Government. His book “How to be a Minister” remains a classic guide for new Ministers wanting to make their mark. He had an ability to sum up his views with a witty turn of phrase that could be as colourful and memorable as his suits.
It was an honour for all of us when Gerald became Father of the House, and we were very proud to see him take up that role. He took the role extremely seriously. He had always been fiercely protective of the rights of parliamentarians, and I remember him bellowing at the then Leader of the House, William Hague, when he felt that Mr Hague had sided too closely with the Executive against the wishes of Members of this House. Gerald continued to uphold Members’ rights when he became Father of the House.
When I last saw Gerald, he was clearly very ill, but he was still keen to talk politics and to offer his advice. That advice was as insightful as ever. I was greatly comforted to see him surrounded by his loving family, who clearly adored Uncle Gerald.
As so many have said, Gerald made a distinctive mark on our national life, particularly in this place. He will be greatly missed. Given his 10 years of chairing the culture Select Committee, I can think of nothing more fitting than a debate on the importance of the arts to our economy and society and on the devastating effect of Government cuts, particularly on arts funding in the regions. I hope that the Leader of the House will let us have that debate.
The right hon. Lady pays a moving tribute to Sir Gerald. I will take on board her request for a debate about the arts at some future date. It may also be something that the Backbench Business Committee would consider.
I join others in paying tribute to the late Sir Gerald Kaufman. I got the impression that Sir Gerald did not entirely approve of me, which is quite understandable. I was never sure whether that was because I was once the Member of Parliament for Basildon or whether it was down to my views on the state of Israel, but I can say without hesitation that he was a commanding figure in this House and a great orator, and that I would not have wanted to get on the wrong side of him.
I am really glad that Sir Gerald became Father of the House. As a result of his death, I am now No. 14 on the list. As I look around the House, I see a number of colleagues who are in front of me in the queue and note that they are in extremely good health, so I am not holding my breath about my becoming Father of the House.
Turning to my question, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on fake news? An increasing number of constituents complain to me about once reliable websites giving false information and about the number of scams. I have to tell my right hon. Friend that it was announced this week that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway opened an envelope and suggested that I had won the Oscar for leading actor. I am delighted to tell my right hon. Friend that they opened the wrong envelope and that the award has now been given to its rightful recipient: Mr Tony Blair for his performance at the press conference following the publication of the Chilcot report.
I understand the genuine concern about the wide availability of sometimes deliberately misleading information on various websites. Inevitably, the international character of the web means that addressing the problem is not straightforward, but the Minister for Digital and Culture is convening a roundtable of a broad range of people from the news industry on 14 March and this topic will be under discussion.
I met Gerald Kaufman when I came into the House in 1979. He was part of a wonderful gang of people, including John Smith and Roy Hattersley, who were getting used to being in opposition, which we had to get used to because we were going to be in opposition for a very long time. We would all say that Gerald Kaufman was a great parliamentarian, but when I came into the House—when the wind-ups were taken much more seriously, and when debates were taken more seriously in terms of attendance—the one thing that could be guaranteed was that the House would be packed if Gerald Kaufman was at the Dispatch Box. He was the funniest, most incisive and most brilliant debater I ever saw in this House. I have seen some very good debaters in this House, but Gerald in his prime was peerless. People should remember that.
I look at where Gerald sat for so many years and remember him serving on the Liaison Committee with me as the Chair of a Select Committee. As he got older, the wonderful thing about Gerald was that he did not lose any of his brainpower in his later years. His body let him down, but his brain certainly did not.
As some will remember, last year was the centenary of the birth of Harold Wilson. Gerald gave me a tremendous amount of information about when he worked for Harold Wilson in No. 10, and I will tell the House about one little incident. Gerald was in No. 10 one night when the phone rang—it was Lyndon Baines Johnson, the President of the United States, asking to speak to Harold Wilson. Gerald took the phone call and passed it over to Harold Wilson. Lyndon Baines Johnson was begging Harold to send at least a token British force to Vietnam, and Gerald described how Harold listened patiently—he was a good friend of LBJ—and, at the end, said, “I’m sorry, LB. Not even a Scottish pipers band.”
I talked to Gerald about where the party had been, and some Labour Members will remember some of the uncomfortable things from when the Labour party was in trouble. No one has mentioned this, but Gerald was the brains behind Solidarity, the group within the Labour party that wanted to be very careful about a shift to the hard left. That work, with Hattersley, John Smith and a bunch of others, was very important to how the Labour party survived and thrived to win the election in 1997. Labour Members must pay tribute to the man who kept our ship moving towards a decent target.
When I first met Gerald, he had a great friend, Eric Varley. Many people do not remember Eric Varley because he died very young, but he and Gerald were close friends, and I think it right to mention Eric’s name in relation to that period of Gerald’s life when he was a very happy man.
I will tell the House one last story. No one ever wanted to cross Gerald about a film. I remember foolishly going into the Tea Room and being enthusiastic after seeing “Superman” for the first time. Gerald had also been to see it, and he gave a caustic review about everything that was wrong with American cinema at the time, with the plot and with the acting. He said, “But you liked it, Barry, so it couldn’t have been all bad.”
Gerald Kaufman has left a legacy. He did not have any children, but he has left a legacy both in this House, in the country and in his constituency. I used to tease him because Harold Wilson was born in Huddersfield and had to go to Lancashire to get a seat and, of course, Gerald was a real Leeds man who had to go to Manchester to get a seat.
Some people have talked about Gerald’s sense of style, and his wonderful suits pushed the boundaries in some ways. He remained faithful all his life to the same Leeds tailor and would specify the Huddersfield mill in which the cloth would be spun and woven. He was a man of great talent, great common sense and brilliant oratory. We owe him so much, not only as a party or as a House but as a country.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for this heartfelt tribute, and particularly for his reminder of the key political role that Gerald Kaufman played at that particular time in the Labour party’s history.
And may we have a debate on films?
I will take careful note of that request.
I am afraid I am unable to contribute any anecdotes about the life of the late Father of the House, but I of course associate myself with the expressions of sympathy to his family and friends.
Earlier this week, the all-party group on retail crime met to review a recent survey of the increasing levels of verbal and physical violence against people who work in the retail trade. Will the Leader of the House find time for an early debate on this serious issue?
I cannot offer an early debate in Government time, but there may be other opportunities. I am sure the entire House shares my hon. Friend’s sense of revulsion at the threats faced by shop workers and others in the retail trade, which should not be tolerated in any decent society. I am sure everyone would agree on how important it is not only that the police try to make sure that such attacks are deterred and that perpetrators are punished appropriately, but that citizens who might have information about them come forward.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, and the Leader of the House for this opportunity to pay brief tribute to Sir Gerald Kaufman. After my selection as a parliamentary candidate, I was lucky enough to attend many community meetings and events with my next-door neighbour. They would often reflect the causes that Sir Gerald championed, such as the rights of the Palestinians or Kashmir. I particularly remember doing a Bollywood dance routine with him on an open-air stage in Longsight market a couple of years ago. I have to say, his dance moves showed up my own, even though he was well into his 80s at the time.
Whatever the event, what was quite remarkable was the admiration and extraordinarily high esteem in which Sir Gerald was held by his constituents. I genuinely do not think I have come across another MP who was so widely admired by their constituents. It was largely because he was such a fierce champion of their interests both in Parliament and in Manchester, but also because he was so assiduous in his dealings and communication with them. Residents often told me how they had written to Sir Gerald and received a hand-written reply. Sometimes, the replies would reflect his sharp tongue; a particular favourite of mine was:
“I agree with your concerns on this issue. Unfortunately there’s no point in me writing to the chancellor because he’s useless and won’t listen to me.”
Perhaps the only thing sharper than Sir Gerald’s tongue and mind was his dress sense. In Parliament, we will miss his remarkable suits and shirts almost as much as the people of Manchester, Gorton will miss his quite remarkable service.
The hon. Gentleman made his point well. I think we will all be searching YouTube to see whether a video of that dance routine survives.
I, too, add my commiserations to the family of Sir Gerald. He was not only a legend in this place, but had a formidable career before he arrived here, working for the BBC on satirical programmes such as “That Was the Week That Was”. I must say I was a bit too young to watch them, but I have seen some of the stuff that went on.
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House knows, in 2020, Plymouth and the UK will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower ship leaving Plymouth to found the American colonies—
With hedgehogs on board?
Sadly, I do not think there were any hedgehogs. May we have a debate on the possibility of a Mayflower national walking trail through the concordat places through which the pilgrims travelled?
That sounds like an excellent idea, and I hope there might be an opportunity for an Adjournment debate in which my hon. Friend can pursue the matter further. It strikes me that it is something to which the Government would be sympathetic, but that it would also need a great deal of local work to try to make it happen.
I would like to add to the tributes to Gerald Kaufman, who was a friend of mine for very many years. As has been said, he was elected in 1970—at the same election as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner)—and was one of that generation of MPs who did not get to the Cabinet. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a Minister of State in 1979 when Labour left office—sadly for many of us, including Gerald, it was for 18 years. If things had been different, Gerald would have reached the Cabinet and would certainly have made an extremely impressive Minister: he was quick; he was witty; and he had a rare ability to think on his feet. Not many people can do that, but Gerald certainly could. I used to see it on a regular basis, including in parliamentary Labour party meetings. As chair of the PLP, I can tell Members that PLP meetings have certainly had their moments of interest. [Laughter.] I am not breaking any confidences in saying that as those meetings are virtually open to the public at the moment. Gerald certainly lightened the tone. There were times when I was chairing PLP meetings when I would find myself momentarily discombobulated by Gerald’s sartorial magnificence. He used to walk in just as I was saying something sensitive.
Gerald always had something interesting to say in PLP meetings, in private conversations and in the Chamber. He was never that easy to pigeon-hole politically or personally. He often had views that seemed at odds with his public reputation. Although he was, in some ways, rebellious, he was actually a natural loyalist. Every Labour leader recognised that Gerald had very loyal qualities. If he had any criticisms of Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, he never made them public. When he spoke to me, he would start any criticism with, “As you know, John, I bow to no man in my admiration of the Prime Minister.” Then he would go on to be acerbic about something that the Government had just done. He will be very, very deeply missed by many of us from all parts of the House.
In a not entirely unrelated issue, because Gerald represented a city that has a very, very strong footballing tradition, the local football team in my constituency, Leyton Orient, was served with a winding-up order yesterday. This was not something that I was going to raise, but the order was served yesterday. The owner, who has caused mayhem in two and a half years and who has taken the club right down from some of its highest points to some of its lowest, has not paid Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for a number of years. No one knows exactly how much he owes, but the rumour is that it is about a quarter of a million quid. We are seeing that sort of pattern in football on a fairly regular basis. I know that we have had debates and statements in the past on the governance and administration of football clubs, but I think that we could do with another statement, or a debate, on the governance of football clubs, because we are seeing people of increasingly dubious character buying up football teams in Britain for whatever mendacious reasons they may have. I think that an awful lot will come out about the owner of Leyton Orient.
I am sure that the whole House will have welcomed the hon. Gentleman’s tribute to Sir Gerald Kaufman. On his point about football and Leyton Orient, we did have a debate about the governance of football only two weeks ago, so I do not think that I can offer a further debate in Government time in the short term, but I will undertake to report his concerns about both Leyton Orient and the general issue that he raises to the Secretary of State.
May I associate myself with the tributes paid by right hon. and hon. Members to the late Father of this House? It speaks volumes about the depth of knowledge and wisdom in this House that the late Sir Gerald was a Member of this House and of the Government before I and many other Members were even born. Although I only overlapped with him in this House for a year and a half, I think that I am on very safe ground in saying that his wisdom, judgment, wit and experience will all be sorely missed from the deliberations of this House in the future.
Today the Joe Humphries Memorial Trust, which was set up in memory of Joe Humphries, a 14-year-old boy from my constituency who dropped dead suddenly while jogging in 2012, is holding an important conference in the city of Leicester to bring together professionals from the world of sport and the medical profession to discuss sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, also known as sudden adult death syndrome. They want to discuss what can be done to raise awareness of it and to help to prevent it. Will the Leader of the House join me in paying tribute to Joe Humphries’ family and to all those who work with the trust for their work, and can we have a debate in this House on sudden arrhythmic death syndrome?
I certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Joe’s family and to the others working with them. I very much welcome the initiative that he describes to encourage a fruitful exchange of ideas about how we can do more to detect and treat these very distressing conditions. The death of a young person, in particular, causes devastation to their family and friends.
We have some of the fastest improvements in hospital death rates for strokes and heart attacks anywhere in Europe, and there is some evidence that that is partly due to the creation of specialist stroke and cardiac units, but there is a great deal more to be done. I know that the Department of Health will want to applaud the work that is happening in Leicestershire.
May I associate myself with everything that has been said about Sir Gerald Kaufman? He had acerbic wit and pomp, certainly, but in his role as Father of the House, kindness and wisdom were his outstanding characteristics. Listening to the warmth of these tributes, I cannot help thinking of a procedure in the Scottish Parliament in which the death of a sitting Member is followed by a motion of condolence led by the party leaders, which provides a real opportunity to hear some of the warmth, humour and insight that we have heard from so many Members today. Someone of Gerald’s stature would certainly have been well worthy of such a motion.
The Leader of the House could have done with having Gerald Kaufman here today, because Gerald had been a Member for almost 30 years when the late Donald Dewar introduced the Scotland Bill. Donald Dewar’s genius was to put at the heart of the Bill the principle that any matter not specifically reserved to this Parliament would automatically be devolved to Scotland. When the Secretary of State for Scotland was caught like a rabbit in headlights yesterday, and the Prime Minister was seemingly unaware of that foundation principle of the Scottish Parliament, that was not just insensitivity towards Scotland or a betrayal of commitments that were made in the referendum campaign; it struck at the very heart of the devolution statute itself. Rather than resting on civil service gobbledegook, perhaps the Leader of House will now show some awareness of the seriousness of not agreeing that everything that is not specifically reserved automatically goes to the Scottish Parliament, including fishing, farming and a range of other issues.
The right hon. Gentleman is correct in how he describes the Scotland Act 1998, but that Act was taken through Parliament in the context of the United Kingdom’s continuing membership of the European Union and with the clear knowledge on all sides that certain powers were exercised at that level. We are now in a very different situation. Whichever side any of us took in the referendum, I think there is an understanding that the decision that the UK electorate made represents a profound change of course for the United Kingdom. This is exactly why the UK Government are talking to the Scottish Government, both at ministerial and at official level, about how exactly to deal with the repatriation of powers from Brussels to ensure that they are correctly allocated.
The right hon. Gentleman oversimplifies the position, I am afraid. To take the fisheries question that he cited, the powers exercised by the European Union relate to matters that might well involve the devolved Administrations exercising jurisdiction, and the settling of matters between the European Union and third countries that involve United Nations conventions and that would be reserved matters under the Scotland Act. It is that conundrum that has to be addressed.
May I, too, associate myself with the many comments that have been made about the late Sir Gerald Kaufman? I cannot claim to have known him very well, but that does not diminish the respect that I and fellow Welsh Members on the Government Benches had for him. I send our sympathies to his family.
There are several park home developments in my constituency. The owners pay their council tax, utility bills and maintenance charges, but when it comes to selling their properties, in addition to the estate agent’s fees, they have to pay 10% of the sale price to the site owners. May we have a debate on the unfairness of that additional charge?
My hon. Friend, as always, speaks up strongly on behalf of his constituents. The site owner’s entitlement to receive a commission is an implied term in all agreements, and my understanding is that the commission is an important income strand for park home businesses, enabling them to ensure that sites are properly managed and maintained. The issue was looked at in 2012 by the Communities and Local Government Committee, which recommended that the 10% or less commission rule remain in place, and the Government then agreed that the current position should continue. A review of the Mobile Homes Act 2013 this spring will provide a further opportunity to listen to representations and consider how the present system is operating.
Gerald Kaufman was justly proud of being the longest serving Member of Parliament for Manchester ever, both continuously and by broken service, as he would tell us from time to time—he was particularly proud of that.
When I became leader of Manchester City Council in 1984, I went to see Gerald, because he had not always been appreciative of the efforts of the council’s officers to deliver services to his constituents. We came to an agreement whereby he could come to me if he had contacted a department twice already, and if I could not sort it out he could be as critical as he liked. My phone rang one morning and it was Gerald. He said—this is not one of the most acidic comments he made, but I think it epitomises him—“Graham, do they employ human beings in the housing department?” He was very dissatisfied with the treatment of a family who were in severe housing difficulties.
What was more remarkable was that on that morning he was the centre of worldwide media attention because, as shadow Foreign Secretary, he was in charge of changing Labour’s policy from unilateralism to multilateralism. Yet he took time off in the middle of that media hubbub to take up cudgels on behalf of a family in his constituency who were in need. He was a ferocious tribune of the people of Manchester, Ardwick, his first constituency, and Manchester, Gorton.
Gerald loved this place. He intended to stay here as long as he did. When he started drawing his pension, there was a lot of interest from young Turks in his constituency, who rather fancied that they could do a better of job of representing the people of Manchester, Gorton. When they sidled up to him and asked, “Gerald, are you standing at the next general election?”, he would reply, “Yes—and the one after that.” That was always his reply, even until recently.
Gerald’s love of musicals has already been referred to. He was a personal friend of Stephen Sondheim, the American lyricist and songwriter. He brought Stephen Sondheim to Manchester to stage some of his plays. I guess you, Mr Speaker, have never been serenaded by Gerald Kaufman, but my office has been opposite his for the past 18 years. If he had been to a particularly good musical in the west end the night before, I could hear him singing the songs from it, which is not the image that most of the public would have had of him.
A number of colleagues have mentioned Gerald’s book, “How to be a Minister”. I once went with Gerald and the other Manchester MPs to see a Labour Health Minister because there was a problem in the city’s hospitals. The unfortunate Minister mentioned that he had read “How to be a Minister”, and, as we were leaving—not particularly satisfied with the meeting—Gerald said in a very loud whisper, “He might have read it, but he didn’t understand it.” That Minister is no longer a Member of this House. Gerald loved his constituents and cared passionately about his party, and both will miss him.
The hon. Gentleman reminds us that, although an adopted son of the city, Gerald Kaufman always felt that his roots were very much embedded in Manchester. He always strove to represent the interests of his constituents and the city more widely.
May I associate myself with the lovely tributes to the late Father of the House? As a new Member, I did not have the opportunity to get to know him well, but what I have heard today has provided a tremendous insight, from which I can conclude only that he will be a sad and great loss to his friends and family.
I ask the Leader of the House whether we may have a debate on what it actually means to
“be committed to the best possible outcome for the United Kingdom following its departure from the European Union”.
Does the Leader of the House not agree that we all want the best possible deal in the circumstances following the referendum result, but that we may disagree on what that deal might look like? To that end, does he agree that to ask the organisations bidding for Government contracts to subscribe to the Government’s political view on Brexit is not only wrong but would take us down a dangerous path for the future?
I assure the hon. Lady that there will certainly be many opportunities to have the sort of the debate she seeks, when all views, including her own, can be expressed in full. Government contracts are allocated under a fair and transparent process that is laid down by the Cabinet Office.
We all feel a real sense of loss at the passing of Sir Gerald Kaufman. In considering why, we remember, as hon. Members have done this morning, his many qualities such as his personality, humour, powerful intellect, dress, individuality and charm. In missing him, the greatest tribute we can pay is to ensure that his memory lives on and that we never forget the example he set to all of us.
When looking at Sir Gerald’s past, I noticed that he was shadow Home Secretary in the ’80s. I am sure that he would wish me to continue to hold the Government to account as he did then, so I ask the Leader of the House whether we can have an urgent debate on policing. Astonishingly, the Government have today failed to come forward with a statement on the policing crisis we face. Forces, including my own, are rationing their responses to the public in the face of a 15% reduction in the number of police officers between 2010 and 2020. It is not good enough. We need a debate. It is a crisis. What does he say to that?
First, I salute the hon. Gentleman’s tribute to Sir Gerald Kaufman.
In response to the hon. Gentleman’s challenge about the police, I would say that the police—like all parts of the public sector—have, indeed, had to face up to the need for very difficult decisions about budget priorities. Those decisions were made necessary by the parlous state of the public finances that the Government inherited in 2010, but chief constables, and police and crime commissioners, have responded extraordinarily well. Testament to that is the fact that there has been a significant fall in crime despite the reductions in police funding described by the hon. Gentleman. I pay tribute to the work that the police are doing and the leadership they have shown in setting those priorities and getting on with the job successfully.
May I apologise to the House and to you, Mr Speaker, for not being here earlier? It was just not possible for me to be here, as I indicated yesterday.
I would also like to say a few words about Gerald Kaufman. I pay tribute to him, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have done. If there ever was a one-off, it was Gerald—in the way he approached his job and in the way he had various enthusiasms, not least films. Apparently, he saw “Singin’ in the Rain” 70 times, but he was not entirely satisfied with that, so he made an appointment with Gene Kelly in Hollywood and wrote about it—it must have been one of the high moments in his life.
I knew of Gerald before I came to the House in the mid-60s, because he was quite a well-known journalist by then and wrote a regular column in the New Statesman. When I came here, he was what we now call the “spin doctor” for Harold Wilson. If you look at all the diaries about the kitchen Cabinet—the rows that went on, the difficulties about Harold Wilson’s private secretary and the rest of it—it is all very interesting, gossipy stuff, and it is perhaps politically interesting as well, but you will not find a single mention of any of that by Gerald. He never wrote about it, although he could easily have done so—he was a professional journalist, and he might have kept a diary, for all we know. The reason he did not write about it was that he was so dedicated to Harold Wilson as his employer, and he did not gossip about what went on in private proceedings. As I say, none of the exploits of the kitchen Cabinet at 10 Downing Street, which became so well known in political circles, was written about by Gerald.
I was once in the Members’ Lobby during the days when Gerald was a spin doctor. He said to me, “Come here a moment,” so I did. He said, “Look at those two”—they were two of my Labour colleagues. They were chatting together, and it was simply innocent, as far as I was concerned. He said, “You know, those two were hardly on speaking terms until recently, and look at them now.” What he was implying was that they were plotting against Harold. If Harold had paranoia, his spin doctor contributed to that, but he did so out of a dedication to the Labour Government.
Gerald spoke in the House when Harold Wilson died. He told us about his time as a junior Minister in the Environment Department dealing with transport matters. He said, “I received a memo from the Prime Minister saying, ‘Will you make provision for former Prime Ministers to have a car and a chauffeur?’” He said, “At that moment, I knew Harold Wilson was going to retire,” and he was probably right.
If I may, I will make two other points before I sit down. As has been mentioned by others, including Manchester colleagues of his, Gerald was dedicated to his casework. You will know, Mr Speaker, and you mentioned it yesterday, how he would rise in the Chamber and ask why he had not had a reply about so-and-so and so-and-so. It was not just occasionally—he did it quite frequently. That shows his dedication. Despite the fact that he did 46 years, he was as dedicated as a constituency Member of Parliament, by all accounts, as he was in his first week or his first year here, and that says a great deal about him. It also says a great deal about Members of Parliament in general, because there are very few now who do not take great care of their constituents in replying as promptly as possible and pursuing their cases.
The last point I want to make is perhaps controversial. Gerald was born in 1930. If ever there was a person of Jewish origin who understood the horrors of what was to take place by the time he was 15, it was Gerald. He knew from the very beginning, when the stories came out and the statements were made in the House of Commons, how Jews were being slaughtered in their hundreds of thousands—in the end, 6 million—not because of their politics or anything else, but for no other reason than that they shared the same origin as Gerald, and indeed myself for that matter. From early times, he was an ardent supporter of Israel. Before he was a Member of Parliament, during the 1967 war, I remember his eagerness that Israel should survive. His great fear, shared by many others who became critics, was that if it was otherwise, the Jewish population could be forced into the sea, as in the threats that were made at the time.
But later Gerald became a harsh critic of Israel, not because he ceased to be concerned about Jews—a false accusation that was made against him from time to time—but because he believed that the Israelis were showing a total lack of consideration for Palestinians, thought that they were treating Palestinians, in many instances, with contempt, and felt a strong urge to speak out in the way he did. In doing so, he antagonised a number of people in the Jewish community, but Gerald was not the sort of person who would feel intimidated because people did not like what he said. I happen to believe that he was right. One would expect me to say that, because I too have very strong feelings about the way in which Palestinians have been treated: the contempt for human rights and the fact that, as far as I can see, the Israeli authorities—the leading people—show no desire to bring about a sovereign, independent Palestine alongside Israel.
Gerald was not the easiest of people to get on with. I had my own rows with him occasionally, and then we made up and spoke about films. He was difficult in many instances, but how many people with such courage, determination and single-mindedness do we not find difficult when we assess their lives? He did good; he wanted to do good. He was dedicated to the Labour party and the Labour movement, and to this country. We shall miss him a great deal.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said.
I wish to add my tributes, on my behalf and that of my party, to the late and much missed Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman. He was an extraordinary servant of Manchester, which he represented for such a remarkable number of years, but, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) said, he was in fact originally a Leeds boy. He was born in Leeds, went to school in Leeds, and developed a lot of his political thinking in Leeds. Leeds is proud of him and pays tribute to him.
He was also the son of Jewish refugees who escaped pogroms in Poland. For the son of foreign refugees fleeing persecution to end up as Father of this House is not only an enormous tribute to him and his family but something that must surely send a very clear message today, in these troubled times. We should all reflect on it and be proud of his achievement. He was a great parliamentarian—a real defender of this Parliament. All of us who regard ourselves first and foremost as parliamentarians, ahead of our roles in government and party, have certainly lost one of our own.
With regard to my party, it has to be said that he was not always the greatest fan of Liberal Democrats. No doubt that was largely because of Manchester Liberal Democrats snapping somewhat unsuccessfully at his heels for many years. He was clearly never going to be shifted, no matter how long that continued. He had a large personal vote, in addition to representing a safe Labour seat.
Sir Gerald, as hon. and right hon. Members have said, spoke without fear or favour, and he will be long remembered for that. I think some of that goes back to his Leeds origin and famous Yorkshire bluntness. He had the courage to disagree with his own party leaders and colleagues. He had the courage to criticise journalists, as a former journalist. He had the courage, whatever people may feel about his views as a proud Jewish man, to speak out about the situation in Israel and Palestine. The legacy of that is that we must reach the stage where we feel obliged not to take one side or the other, but to fight, as he did, for justice, peace and resolution.
Sir Gerald, I am pleased to say, supported consistently the campaign for fairness in respect of pub companies and their landlords. I am proud to say that he was a parliamentarian who stood up for Parliament in the vote on the matter in November 2014, in which MPs defeated the Government on a three-line Whip after Ministers had not listened. I am proud of the fact that he was involved in that.
On that point, may I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on the way in which we tax pubs? In this country, 37% of pubs face a rates rise, and many thousands face paying £10,000 or more. That will put many pubs out of business. For pubs in Manchester, Leeds, London and all around the country, can we have a debate urgently in Government time about recognising the social value of pubs in the tax system? That simply does not happen at the moment.
Although I cannot offer a specific Government debate on that subject, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am confident that the debate on the forthcoming Budget statement will provide him with the opportunity to raise all those questions.
I think the last Father of the House to die in office was T. P. O’Connor in 1929, so this is a very unusual moment for us. I support the earlier call for us to have a formal means of paying tribute to Members, so that the decision is not just left up to you, Mr Speaker.
I think I am the first gay MP to speak in today’s business questions. Many LGBT people in this country are deeply grateful to Gerald. He campaigned on LGBT equality for a long time when it was very unfashionable, long before anybody thought of a Labour Government introducing equal marriage and all the rest of it. He had an impeccable record on that.
Sir Gerald loved musicals to the point of distraction. Everybody has referred to the fact that “Singin’ in the Rain” was his favourite musical. I was on the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport when he chaired it. When the Committee went on tour—I use the term advisedly, because every year he insisted that the Committee had to go to the west coast of America, so we had to find something that we needed to investigate there—he would welcome us all to breakfast by singing, “Good morning, good morning”. I remember him being very angry with the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant)—I am sorry the hon. Gentleman is not here—who said one morning, “Oh yes—that great song, sung by Debbie Reynolds.” Sir Gerald pointed out, “No, Debbie Reynolds danced in the routine, but she was dubbed by Betty Noyes. You should know that.” He was, as has been mentioned, a great friend of Stephen Sondheim, and the first time he met me—I having formerly been a priest in the Church of England—his first words to me were from “Sweeney Todd”: “Stick to priest!” But his favourite lyric was:
“shepherd’s pie peppered
With actual shepherd on top!”
People have referred to Sir Gerald’s dress sense. It was recondite, I would say. I think he probably outlived his tailor from Leeds, because he certainly wore Etro from Milan all the time by the end. It was not enough to have a loud suit; he had to have a loud tie and a loud shirt, neither of which went with the other. It was a kind of act of defiance against people’s eyesight. I remember that when he was cold in Las Vegas airport, he wanted to go and buy a jumper, so he went off with Claire Ward, and when he saw the Missoni store he went straight in. He and Claire could not decide between two jumpers, so they asked me for advice. I said, “Gerald, they’re both absolutely hideous. You shouldn’t buy either of them”, so he bought both.
Gerald had been at university with Rupert Murdoch, who had never given evidence to a Select Committee at that time, so on the same trip we went to Fox studios to beard him in his den, as it were. There was a great moment when Rupert arrived with his men at the end of a very long avenue of trees while we were at the other end, and we then marched towards each other as in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. During the phone hacking scandal, I told the story about the lunch we had had with Rupert Murdoch, when Gerald had teased him about getting him thrown out of the Labour party for corruptly organising the election of the wrong person at university. I think they opened the wrong envelope—it feels as though that has been happening for the past six years in British politics as well, but anyway. I told a journalist the story about how Rupert Murdoch had been so violent and aggressive in the meeting—how he kept on hitting the rings on his hand against the table and all of that—and that I just thought it was so funny for all that to happen in the Judy Garland room at Fox studios. About three weeks later, Gerald came up to me in one the Division Lobbies and was absolutely furious with me. Many people have referred to his reputation for giving a little bit of a sharp dig. He came up to me and said, “Christopher, you should know better! You told that story, but we were on tour.” I thought he was going to say, “What goes on tour stays on tour,” but he did not; he said, “It was not the Judy Garland room; it was the Shirley Temple room.”
I remember once at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party—the chair of the PLP, my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer), has left the Chamber, so I hope it is all right for me to refer to something that has been said in the PLP—that he started his contribution with the words, “As Lana Turner once said to me,” and a new, young Member of Parliament who was sitting next to me said, “What seat did she sit for?”
Gerald was also something of a fan of Bette Davis, and I am thinking of his last few years. Bette Davis once said:
“Old age is no place for sissies”,
and I think Gerald would have agreed, because it was sometimes a travail for him to come to the House. He was quite frail, but when he had to represent his constituents he was absolutely determined to be here, and when there were issues he cared passionately about, he made sure he was here. I think the last year was tough for him. I know, Mr Speaker, that you visited him, as Claire Ward did regularly. I do not know whether it was “Sweeney Todd” or “Singin’ in the Rain”, but he was still singing musicals last Tuesday.
To move on to a serious subject, Gerald used to get very angry about ticket touts. He thought it was very unfair that people who contributed nothing to the performance or the venue and who did not enhance the experience for anybody should manage to make, in some cases, thousands or tens of thousands of pounds on the secondary ticket market. I just hope that the Government will do something about this very soon; we are still waiting for a review. In honour of Gerald, may we have a Gerald Kaufman memorial debate on ticket touts and the pernicious scum that they are?
I cannot help remarking that if Gerald Kaufman was actually able to sing along with numbers from “Sweeney Todd”, he must have had a very good musical ear indeed, because they have some pretty challenging lines.
In response to the hon. Gentleman’s question about ticket touts, I will refer to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport his point about wanting a review. I also draw his attention to the efforts being made in the Digital Economy Bill to limit what ticket bots can do in snapping up vast numbers of tickets for musicals and other public events and then selling them at, indeed, a quite extortionate price.
First, I pay tribute to the late Father of the House, Sir Gerald. As I arrived in the House only in 2015, I did not get much of an opportunity to learn from him. However, while going through the voting Lobby, I observed how stylish and dapper his sense of dress was. In fact, one day he went through the Lobby with a fabulous Panama hat on. He spent time with two of my parliamentary colleagues on an overseas trip to Jordan, and they spoke very highly of him, including of how interesting all his parliamentary stories were. I will leave it to parliamentarians who had the pleasure and good fortune to serve alongside Sir Gerald between 1970 and 2017 to pay longer tributes to him, but I offer my condolences to members of his family who are in the Gallery today.
The Hansard Society, which is widely respected and regarded as an independent expert on Parliament and democracy, has warned that the current process of scrutiny is “not fit for purpose” for the Brexit process. The society’s director has warned that if Parliament is to fulfil its responsibility to hold the Government to account, MPs need better procedures. Will the Leader of the House inform the House whether he is taking these concerns seriously, and will he urgently review the parliamentary scrutiny process so that any necessary changes can be made before the great repeal Bill is introduced?
The hon. Lady makes a very serious and important point. The Government, including me, are indeed paying close attention to the question of how, given the implications of the Brexit process for both primary and secondary legislation, we can ensure that there is proper and fully adequate parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary debate.
I hope I can reassure the hon. Lady on one point arising from the Hansard Society report. Any additional powers for secondary legislation that may be sought in new primary legislation, such as the repeal Bill, will of course themselves have to be approved by Parliament through the normal process. When such a Bill providing any kind of enabling power is introduced, Parliament will be able to debate and decide properly on questions concerning the scope, definition and duration of such powers.
It has been wonderful to hear from many long-standing colleagues of Sir Gerald. When I was first elected as a new MP in 2010, I distinctly remember deciding to take an office on the corridor above Star Chamber Court on the basis that if it was good enough for Sir Gerald, it was certainly good enough for me. To my delight, during my first week there was a knock on the door and it was the man himself, Sir Gerald. I was a young MP—I was only 29 when I was first elected—and I did not really know anyone down here and I was away from home, but our constituencies were quite close to each another. He knocked on the door and invited me to his office for a drink, which I thought was a wonderful gesture. We talked for hours: about Harold Wilson, about Jim Callaghan, about the winter of discontent, the 1983 manifesto, the Social Democratic party. He was a living encyclopaedia of Labour and British history. We talked a lot about foreign policy—about Kashmir, about Israel and Palestine—and many of the Labour party’s foreign policy positions are actually those that he set during his time as shadow Foreign Secretary. When I expressed my admiration of his office, which was rather more palatial than mine, he took very great delight in telling me that he had been given it over Tony Benn, who made expressly competing demands, on the basis that he had a longer period of continuous service, and that clearly still mattered a great deal to him. I believe that for someone so distinguished and experienced to give so much time to and take so much interest in lots of new Members is the mark of not just a great and true parliamentarian but a great colleague, and we really will miss him a great deal.
One piece of advice that Sir Gerald gave me that day was never to hesitate to raise on the Floor of the House of Commons a constituency problem that I was not able to resolve through paperwork alone. In that spirit and in homage to Sir Gerald, may we have a debate about decent access to universal broadband in all parts of this country? My constituent Peter Edwards of Matley in Hyde runs a business from home, but his business is severely hampered by poor broadband speeds. BT has not been able to resolve this matter satisfactorily in correspondence with me, but surely Mr Edwards should not have to wait to get a decent broadband connection. Universal access to good broadband speeds should be available for everyone.
We all know from our constituency experience how important it is for businesses, large and small, to have fast broadband access so that they can compete and sell to customers. If the hon. Gentleman will let me have details of his constituency case, I will refer it to the Minister responsible for digital affairs.
I did not know the late Father of the House but, as a student of politics, I was aware of him for many years. It is clear from today’s tributes that he combined great intellect, principle and political acumen with warmth, humour and insight. I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to his family and friends, particularly those on both sides of the House.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for reminding us of Sir Gerald’s work in campaigning for LGBT rights. As a gay woman, I am very grateful for that. I am particularly conscious of the fact that Sir Gerald campaigned at a time when it was not fashionable to support LGBT rights and when, sadly, not all political parties in the House supported them. That has now changed, which is largely due to the work of people like Sir Gerald.
Earlier this week, I wrote to the Home Secretary expressing my concern about the circumstances surrounding the deportation of Irene Clennell, whom the shadow Leader of the House has already mentioned. May we have a debate about flexibility and discretion in the immigration system, the need to respect basic human dignity and family life, and the need for due process? May I suggest that such a debate would be a fitting tribute to the late Father of the House, who clearly believed in such principles?
I understand the strength of feeling that the hon. and learned Lady expressed about that particular case. However, my understanding is that Mrs Clennell has spent the majority of her life, including her married life, in Singapore, that several applications were refused between 2003 and 2008, and that since July 2014, she has had no legal basis for remaining in the United Kingdom. I stress that all applications for leave to remain are considered on their individual merits, in line with immigration rules, and subject to the various appeal mechanisms under United Kingdom law. Obviously the hon. and learned Lady is welcome to raise that particular case directly with the Home Secretary or the Immigration Minister, but the facts are as I have outlined.
Like many Members and thousands of people throughout the country, Sir Gerald Kaufman had an impact on my life, not least because I was given a copy of his book, “How to be a Minister”, for my 21st birthday, which probably had something to do with the fact that I became a Minister 25 years later. I had not forgotten the brilliant advice in Gerald’s book about how to deal with one’s ministerial box and civil servants, and about how to get things done, rather than just being a spectator in government. I am eternally grateful for his advice in that book.
Those who have paid tribute were right to mention Sir Gerald’s assiduousness towards his constituents. I entered the House in 2001, at the same time as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), and I learned that business questions is the most important session of the week and that Members of Parliament value it. It is more important in some ways than Prime Minister’s questions because, apart from on the rare occasions when Mr Speaker has to curtail our efforts on a Thursday morning, it is an opportunity for every Member who is present to raise a matter. Sir Gerald often used business questions to raise a point, and it was almost always related to constituency casework: a Department that had failed to answer a letter; a Minister who had not come back with a quick reply; or even some other institution that had failed to treat correspondence from a Member of Parliament, acting on behalf of a constituent, with appropriate respect, or to furnish an appropriate reply.
Sir Gerald was absolutely right to do that because, whatever one’s view of electoral systems and so on, the strongest thing about our democracy is the representative link between Members of Parliament and their constituents, and the way in which Members of Parliament use this place and their title of “Member of Parliament” on behalf of their constituents to help them—not to enrich themselves or to burnish their reputation, but simply to help the weak against the strong. That is what democracy should be about and Gerald, I think more than anyone in the House, showed us all how that should be done. We would all do well to remember, whatever heights we reach in politics—whether just the Back Bench or ministerial office—why we are here. Sir Gerald was an exemplar of how to do that.
As has been said, Sir Gerald was also politically brave. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) said that this was a controversial point to make at the end of his remarks, he was right to mention Gerald’s position on the state of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian people. It was extremely brave of him to raise those issues in the House in the way that he did, and it is to his eternal credit that he did so.
People have mentioned Gerald’s dedication to his constituency. One morning about four years ago, I was having tea in the Tea Room, as I often do—I was probably with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda—when Gerald came in, dressed as usual in colourful fashion. My hon. Friend and I had a brief debate about exactly what colour his suit was, and indeed whether a word existed in the English language to describe such a colour. Gerald had a spring in his step and looked delighted. We wondered whether he had been to a musical the night before—he was whistling as he entered the Tea Room. Then the penny dropped. The Boundary Commission proposals had just been published and Manchester, Gorton was not to be dissected in any way. Sir Gerald was delighted that he could say, “Yes, I’ll be standing at the next election, and the one after.”
My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda also mentioned Rupert Murdoch; as this is business questions, I think that Gerald would have wanted my next point to be raised. The Leader of the House will have read press reports about the speech that is being made today on the proposed takeover of Sky by 20th Century Fox. How will the Government inform the House of their intentions in relation to that announcement?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue about media ownership. He will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has to act in a quasi-judicial manner when making decisions about any proposed merger. It would therefore be wrong of her to express any kind of view in advance of a formal notification. If formal notification is made, she will make whatever decisions fall to her by law.
Anyone who has a love of musicals, Judy Garland and Bette Davis, and who can begin a sentence with the words, “As Lana Turner once said to me,” is positively sound in my book. Although I did not know Gerald Kaufman well, there is clearly much admiration for him, particularly among Labour Members. I send his family, friends and colleagues on the Labour Benches my sincere condolences.
On 24 March, it will be exactly one year since the shopkeeper Asad Shah was killed in my constituency by a man called Tanveer Ahmed. Members may know that the newspapers today cover a “celebration”—I hate to call it that—of Asad Shah’s death and the veneration of his murderer in Pakistan. Mr Shah was one of the most gentle and kind people ever to own a shop anywhere in the United Kingdom. He was loved by many people in the south side of Glasgow. Will the Leader of the House join me in condemning the horrifying display that we can see in newspaper and online coverage? Will he also do something to ensure that what we remember is the kindness of this wonderful man and his wonderful family, not the demagoguery of the man who took him from us?
I willingly join the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure the entire House, in expressing unreserved revulsion at and condemnation of the event he describes. It is, frankly, sickening to hear that human beings could be prepared to behave in such a fashion. I remember, from reading and seeing news reports just under a year ago, the sense of shock and genuine grief on the part of people in the south side of Glasgow. People from very different ethnic and religious heritages felt that they had lost a friend and a devoted champion of community life. That is how we should remember.
In a sense, the best tribute would be for people in Glasgow in particular, and all of us, to redouble our resolve to eradicate from our society this scourge of bigotry, whether it is based on racial, religious or any other grounds. I hope very much that the Pakistani high commission in London, which I think will have been equally appalled by these news reports, will have taken note of the words that the hon. Gentleman has spoken this morning.
As a fellow Greater Manchester MP, it was my privilege to visit Sir Gerald in his constituency and see for myself the love of his constituents and the esteem in which they held him. He will be greatly missed in that constituency and by everybody in this House. Like everybody, I will miss Sir Gerald’s sartorial elegance. I remember one day, when he turned up in a particularly flamboyant number, my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) commented that several deckchairs in Blackpool must be missing their seats.
My last memory of Sir Gerald is his absolutely barnstorming speech from the Labour Back Benches against the forced academisation of schools. I was pleased—no doubt this was thanks to the efforts of Sir Gerald and many others—that the Government backtracked on those plans.
Another subject very close to Sir Gerald’s heart was the NHS. With that in mind, I would like to request an urgent debate on the activities of NHS Shared Business Services. When I worked for Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, NHS Shared Business Services put in a bid to run our payroll services. As trade union reps, we did a quick search of the internet and found a catalogue of woeful errors it had left in its wake from the NHS contracts it already held. May we have an urgent debate about why it was allowed to carry on performing NHS work?
The issue with NHS Shared Business Services was identified by the Department of Health and NHS England in March 2016. They immediately established an incident team, which is still working to try to resolve the situation. A team led by NHS England, including clinical experts, has now reviewed all 708,000 items of correspondence. Some 2,500 were identified as having potential risk of harm and required further investigation. Local GPs have now identified nearly 2,000 as having no patient harm. There remain 537 active cases, and they are still being followed up so that we can be absolutely certain there has been no harm to any patients. So far, there is no evidence to suggest actual harm. When the investigation is complete, I am sure that it would be reasonable for the relevant Health Minister to report to the House.
I would like to associate myself with the many wonderful tributes to Sir Gerald Kaufman and offer my condolences to the family. It is interesting to hear so many stories, and it is through such stories that we remember our own. As a very new Member—within the first month of my being here—I had my first opportunity to have a quick chat with Gerald in the Lobby. I remember saying to him, “I really like the look of your new suit.” To this I got a long, slow languorous look up and down to say, “You’re not doing too bad, either.” I assure the House that I will aspire to Gerald’s sartorial nature.
The UK Government claim to support a world free of nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament, yet bizarrely they plan to boycott multilateral negotiations at the UN to ban nuclear weapons. May we have an urgent debate about the Government’s important obligation not only to support but to participate in this UN conference?
I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the conference to the attention of the Defence Secretary, but the Government’s position is very clear indeed. We are a party to the non-proliferation treaty. As the hon. Gentleman knows, that gives particular responsibilities to the acknowledged nuclear powers. We remain an active supporter of the independent inspectorate. We are a very active supporter of multilateral nuclear disarmament, but that has to take place in a way that is genuinely multilateral. It is sometimes easy to come up with suggestions for unilateral action or slogans that do not actually deliver what is needed: detailed treaties that help to reduce the nuclear threat.
It has been really good to remember Sir Gerald Kaufman today. I used to talk to Gerald in the Members’ Tea Room about film whenever I could, and I got some great recommendations about what important films I should see.
May we have a debate on the rent to buy sector? Customers are being ripped off across the country. In my constituency, young families who are struggling to get by are being told by BrightHouse that they can buy a cot for their baby for just £5 a week. However, because of eye-watering interest rates, they end up paying £780 for a £283 cot. That is just not on.
It is very important that people who are tempted by offers of apparently cheap finance really do look hard at the underlying terms and conditions before they commit themselves to what turn out to be quite extraordinary and extortionate repayment obligations. The law is not always the right answer when trying to deal with these matters, as sometimes that just has the effect of driving such activity underground, but this is the sort of question that the Government keep under review the whole time.
As a relatively new Member, I confess that I did not have the opportunity to get to know Sir Gerald Kaufman personally, but I can tell by the warmth of the tributes that have been paid to him today that I have seriously missed out in that regard. I would like to extend my sympathy to his friends and family.
My constituent, Mr Johnson from Whitburn, was medically disqualified from driving. Since his treatment, he has made an excellent recovery. In June, with favourable reports from his consultant and doctor, he applied to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to resume driving. May we have a statement or a debate in Government time on how long such DVLA reviews take? I was informed in September that the process would take a few weeks, but his file is with a specialist DVLA professor for review and he is still waiting for a conclusion.
The best advice I can give is that the hon. Gentleman pursues the matter directly with Transport Ministers and the chief executive of the DVLA. The principle has to be that somebody who has temporarily lost their licence on health grounds should be able to reapply and have their case looked at fairly on the basis of the evidence, but those assessing the evidence clearly have to satisfy themselves that other road users and pedestrians would not be put at risk were their licence to be restored.
May I associate myself with the comments about Sir Gerald Kaufman? I hope that in my time here I achieve a fraction of his stature in the House and reputation as a doughty campaigner.
Given Sir Gerald’s passion for all things related to culture, as well as the recent by-election in my great city of Stoke-on-Trent and some of the appalling coverage it received, can we have a debate in Government time on why my great city should be designated City of Culture in 2021?
The hon. Lady has launched the campaign this afternoon, and I am sure she will have opportunities, whether in questions to Ministers or debates of various kinds, to make the case even more strongly. Most of us know that the towns making up the modern city of Stoke-on-Trent have an amazing history of cultural contribution to our country, most notably through the pottery industry, but also in the role Stoke played in the industrial revolution and in the development of British industry and technology over many years. We have seen with Hull this year the difference that being designated City of Culture can make to a city’s self-confidence and opportunities. I hope, without prejudicing any future decision, that one day Stoke-on-Trent might have that opportunity as well.
I would like to associate myself with the remarks about the late Father of the House. I did not know Gerald as well as some of my colleagues, but I always found him to be immensely kind.
I wish to talk about my private Member’s Bill on boundaries. Last year, more than 140 Members, from every region and every party, stayed on a Friday to vote overwhelmingly for the Bill. It was and is the will of the House. Yet, instead of allowing it to progress into Committee and, if they so wish, voting against it on Third Reading—if they could get the votes—the Government have chosen to engage in what I can only describe as a series of dirty tricks to prevent it from getting into Committee. I suspect it was because they feared I would have the support of the Committee and that the Bill would have progressed to Third Reading. I remind the Leader of the House that we had a referendum in this country in which the sovereignty of Parliament and the will of the House was an important feature. Yet this has demonstrated to me that the will of the House counts for nothing if it clashes with the will of the lady in No. 10. I have worked well with the Leader of the House in the past—I shadowed him when he was Europe Minister—and I have found him to be a decent man, but this has not reflected well on him. It has not been well done.
There is no doubting the hon. Lady’s commitment to her private Member’s Bill, but in fairness she must acknowledge that the Government are the Government only by virtue of having a majority in the House of Commons and that the Government came into office with commitments of their own on boundary changes—commitments on the basis of which they fought and won a general election. I understand that it is possible for her Committee to meet and to begin debating, irrespective of whether a money resolution has been secured. My advice is that the Committee convene and begin its work.
In May 2005, I was in the Tea Room, and I was rather chuffed to be sitting near Sir Gerald Kaufman, listening to him talk. A Whip came in and said that the queue to take the Oath of Allegiance was short and that any new Member who wished to join it could do so, even though it was ahead of the days allocated. Gerald turned to me and said, “Go! One day, it might help you to be Father of the House.” I slightly glazed over at the thought of how old I would have to be, and how long I would have to totter on for, to be Father of the House, but I heard this voice say, “Go!”, and I did. Yesterday, female MPs were sent a list of where they stood in the ranking of women elected to the House, and I am ashamed to say that I took some pleasure in noting how many women who arrived in the same year as me I was ahead of because of that advice. I am 264th and the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), who is sitting opposite and who went to school in Bridgend, is 265th. I cannot begin to tell the House the pleasure Sir Gerald will always give me thanks to that little piece of advice.
Sir Gerald also talked about the importance of focusing on the people who send us here, so that is what I shall do. Is the Leader of the House aware that the automotive industry is worth £71.6 billion a year to the economy, and an additional £18.9 billion in added value; that it directly employs 169,000 people; and that more than 184,000 are employed in the wider industry? Is he further aware that 12% of the total value of UK exports and goods comes from the 30 manufacturers building 70 models of car and the 2,000 component providers working in the industry—never mind the £4 billion invested in automotive research and development? Given events in Bridgend yesterday, may we have an automotive summit composed of hon. Members, appropriate Ministers, automotive companies and trade unions involved in this great British industry, the future of which we must work to secure post-Brexit?
I completely understand the vital importance of the automotive industry both in the hon. Lady’s constituency and in the country as a whole. There will be questions to the Business Secretary on Tuesday 14 March, but I will certainly ensure that he is aware of her concerns before then. I hope she knows that he is committed personally to doing all that is in the power of Government to ensure that the UK automotive industry is competitive and able to deal with the challenges posed by Brexit and the wider issues of global competition and digital technology, and that the Government are determined to ensure an industrial strategy that delivers jobs and prosperity to every part of this country.
May I associate myself with the many warm tributes to the recently passed Father of the House?
The Tory-Labour coalition administration running Stirling Council recently tried to privatise sports service provision in the area and was only forced to back down because of public outrage, having spent a colossal sum of money in pursuit of that policy. May we have a debate on the provision of public services more generally so that we can help to educate Tory and Labour councillors in Stirling that privatisation is not the answer for these services?
The judgment that local authorities of all political colours, as well as national Government, have to make is what outcome will be best for the people we serve who use particular services. The quality of outcome for the service user is more important than whether it is provided through a directly managed service or one managed by a contract of some kind.
In paying tribute to Sir Gerald, I speak, I think, as the newest Member of the House currently present in the Chamber; seven by-elections have followed mine, but I think I am the most recently elected Member here at present. I do not think I ever had the privilege of actually speaking with Sir Gerald—he became very ill following my election in May 2016—but I did receive a note from him on my election, as I did from many Members from across the House. The note said, without quoting it verbatim, that, “As the Member for Ogmore, get comfortable, you could be here for some time,”—if anybody knows the history of my seat, they will know about that—“but don’t take it for granted.” He then decided to give me a potted version of the chequered history of my three immediate predecessors, all of whom he had served with. I will never, ever release the letter, especially to my immediate predecessor, who is now the Assembly Member for my constituency, but that experience will live with me for the rest of my life.
As many Members have mentioned, the key point of Sir Gerald’s work in this House was championing his constituency, and I am sure the Leader of the House was in the Chamber yesterday and heard the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) to the Prime Minister about Ford, which affects many hundreds of workers in my constituency. May I echo the calls that my hon. Friend has made for an automotive summit? May I also request that we do not just wait for questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but that we have a statement on the Floor of the House to explain what the Prime Minister meant yesterday about there being ongoing discussions with the automotive industry and how exactly the Secretary of State will help the people of Bridgend and ensure that Ford continues in the years ahead?
As I said in response to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), I will, well ahead of questions on 14 March, ensure that the Secretary of State is fully aware of the concerns that both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady have expressed, and I will ask the Secretary of State to consider the requests for a summit and for a statement.
May I echo the sentiments expressed on the passing of Sir Gerald? I have enjoyed listening to the heartfelt tributes from Members across the House on his passing, and offer my condolences to his friends and family.
Following a promise of near-federalism, voting no to remaining a member of the EU, the plea that we lead the UK rather than leave it before immediately proposing English votes for English laws after the independence referendum, a promise that agriculture and fisheries would be devolved in full, and the establishment of a UK-wide position for triggering article 50 after the EU referendum, will the Leader of the House facilitate a debate on broken referendum promises made to the Scottish people?
The promise that I remember being broken is the promise that the referendum in Scotland would settle the issue for a generation.
I thank the Leader of the House, the shadow Leader of the House and all colleagues who over the last two hours and more have contributed so eloquently and with feeling, based on their knowledge and appreciation of the late Sir Gerald. These are very difficult, fraught and perhaps even harrowing times for members of Gerald’s family; I hope that they will derive some succour and comfort from knowledge of the affection and esteem in which their great family member was held in this House.
Reference was made to the fact that I, among others, had visited Gerald in recent months; I did indeed visit him twice at his London home, most recently in January, and I will always treasure my very close memory of the conversations we had. His recollection of historical anecdotes was second to none and they were often extremely amusing. He was a very special person, he was certainly a great parliamentarian, and I am sure people will understand if I say that, alongside being an outstanding and indefatigable Member of Parliament in his constituency, Gerald was quintessentially a House of Commons person. I think that on behalf of colleagues I can offer no greater tribute to Gerald than to say that.