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House of Commons Hansard

Commons Chamber

02 March 2017
Volume 622

    House of Commons

    Thursday 2 March 2017

    The House met at half-past Nine o’clock

    Prayers

    [Mr Speaker in the Chair]

    Oral Answers to Questions

    Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

    The Secretary of State was asked—

    Microbeads

  • 1. What steps she is taking to deal with the effects of microbeads in products not included within the scope of her Department’s proposed ban. [908998]

  • We ran a consultation between 20 December and 28 February on proposals to ban microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. The consultation also sought evidence on the extent of the environmental impact of microplastics found in other products. We are now reviewing the responses to the consultation and any new evidence will be used to inform future UK actions to protect the marine environment.

  • May I welcome the proposed ban as far as it goes? However, it appears that several products such as make-up and sun cream will be excluded. I therefore urge the Minister to adopt the Greenpeace definition of microbeads, which is,

    “all solid water-insoluble microplastic ingredients of 5mm or less in any dimension used for any purpose.”

  • I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome the fact that many manufacturers are proactively removing microbeads from their products. We will consider the responses to the consultation carefully and use them to inform any future policy.

  • 9. I urge the Government to go further than the United States and ban all products containing microbeads that risk getting into the marine environment. Will the Government reject the idea that biodegradable microbeads could be used instead, because there is no evidence that there is such a thing? Will they also commission some research into whether microbeads in human tissue have a long-term health effect? [909007]

  • The US ban has not yet come into force, but we will continue to monitor its progress and consider any learning from that approach. Our proposals so far are supported by evidence, which shows that rinse-off products can damage some marine environments. We have extended the consultation and issued a call for evidence on other matters.

  • The Government’s progress on banning microbeads is welcome, but other forms of plastic are polluting our seas, including the 15 million plastic bottles that are thrown away every day. The Cornish-based charity, Surfers Against Sewage, has obtained 209,000 signatures to a petition that calls for a plastic bottle deposit-return scheme. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can advance that petition and make progress?

  • I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the matter. As I informed the House at the previous Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Question Time, we are looking at the issue in the context of the litter strategy. Let me take the opportunity to publicise this weekend’s Great British Spring Clean campaign, in which I am sure many hon. Members will be involved. I also want to advertise BBC Suffolk’s “don’t be a tosser” campaign. Frankly, we do not want people who toss litter about to flood our beaches with the plastic bottles that my hon. Friend mentions.

  • A microbeads ban would be welcome, as would extending it to more products. However, as has been said, larger plastics that break down and become microplastics in the marine environment are the biggest problem. A deposit-return scheme would make a big difference. What is the Minister doing with the circular economy to try to get manufacturers to design out such products so that we do not have the problem of what to do with them in the first place?

  • The advance of plastic packaging reflected consumer desire for on-the-go, safe products that individuals can carry. I welcome instances of manufacturers introducing their own recycling schemes. When we were children, we perhaps got pocket money on some of the deposit-return schemes, but we now have kerbside recycling, which has successfully increased the amount of recycled plastics.

  • The Minister has shown real leadership on the issue and I applaud the Government’s efforts so far. However, for us to make a genuine difference we need other countries to get on board. Will my hon. Friend say more about what she is doing to ensure that we work collaboratively across borders to tackle the problem?

  • But not too much more.

  • My hon. Friend is right. I understand that the recent explosion of nurdles in the world’s oceans is due to the fact that several containers fell off a ship and the contents were dispersed. We are all stewards of the ocean and we therefore want to work with other countries and support the efforts to ensure that our oceans are as clean as they can be.

  • Having visited the nurdle hotspot at Kinneil, we clearly need to know much more to quantify their impact and presence in our seas in order to eliminate them. To date, the European Union has co-ordinated and funded much of the research by scientists in the UK under the marine strategy framework directive. Can the Minister give any certainty that those scientists will still have funding or opportunities for collaboration with European scientists after the UK leaves the EU?

  • The United Kingdom is a leading player in OSPAR. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we protect more than half the seas of this region. I am confident that we, and our scientists, will continue to work with many other countries to tackle this global issue.

  • Leaving the EU: Fisheries

  • 2. What discussions she has had with representatives of the fishing industry on the priority to be given to that industry in the UK’s negotiations on leaving the EU. [908999]

  • First, may I welcome the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) to her place? It is very good to see her on the Opposition Front Bench and I look forward to working with her.

    Mr Speaker, may I convey the sincere apologies of my farming Minister, whose plane has been delayed? He sends his very sincere apologies and we will write to you shortly.

    Since the referendum, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers and officials have regularly met representatives from across the fishing industry. Fisheries will be a key area in negotiations. As a coastal state outside the EU, the UK will be responsible under international law for controlling UK waters and for the sustainable management of the fisheries within them.

  • I have an instinctive sympathy for anybody who is delayed by planes. It is a big part of my life.

    The Secretary of State will be aware that before we had the common fisheries policy we had the London convention of 1964, which governed the access of foreign vessels to the six to 12-mile-limit waters. Is it the Government’s intention to remain a party to that convention after we leave the European Union?

  • What I can say to the right hon. Gentleman is that I am very aware of the issues around the London convention. We are looking at it very closely and will be able to comment on it in the near future.

  • There is no doubt that when we went into the EU back in the 1970s fishermen had a very poor deal on the amount of fish they could catch and on quotas. Is there not now a real opportunity to ensure we have better access to our waters and to larger quantities of fish, so that the industry can progress much further?

  • My hon. Friend is right that leaving the EU presents enormous opportunities for UK fishers. We will seek to get the best possible deal in our negotiations.

  • The Secretary of State knows that our fish processing industry is more important to our economy than the catching sector, and that it is very dependent on imports. We export more than 80% of what we catch, so is not maintaining tariff-free and other barrier-free access to the single European market more important than sterile arguments about fishing rights that could result in battles or worse?

  • I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. Our fishing communities around the UK provide a vital vibrancy to local communities and the rural economy, so I do not agree with the suggestion that processing is somehow far more important. We will seek the freest possible access to European markets, but when I was in China last year I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese worth £50 million, which included UK seafood. It will be very important for us to be able to find new export markets.

  • Last Friday, I spoke at a seafood processing and fishing industry seminar in the Grimsby-Cleethorpes area. The industry recognises the opportunities of Brexit, but understandably it has some concerns. I welcome the Secretary of State’s reassurances to date, but can she give an absolute reassurance to the seafood processing sector that it will form a key part of the negotiations?

  • I had a very happy fish and chip lunch in Cleethorpes with my hon. Friend and I look forward to further such opportunities. He is right to point out that seafood processing is an absolutely vital part of our fishing sector. We are very much taking it into account in our negotiations on leaving the EU and in looking at opportunities around the world.

  • It is always a joy to learn about the culinary habits of the Secretary of State. We are most grateful for being provided with a little extra information.

  • Despite the fact that we are eight months on from the referendum, at a recent meeting with Scottish Ministers the Secretary of State was unable to provide any information on what powers over the rural economy will flow to Scotland after Brexit. Has Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, let the cat out of the bag today in The Times? It looks like there will not only be a power grab, but a cash grab. When will the Secretary of State come clean and own up to what the Government plan to do with Scottish fishing and Scottish farming?

  • I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the UK market is incredibly valuable to all our fishing communities. It will continue to be very important. The Prime Minister has been very clear that no powers that are currently devolved will be, as he says, grabbed. They will continue to be devolved. What we are looking very carefully at is the best possible deal for all parts of the United Kingdom as we seek to negotiate Brexit.

  • Domestic Food Market

  • 3. What recent assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of its support to British farmers in increasing their share of the domestic food market. [909000]

  • Mr Speaker, I apologise for being a little late. I was at the Gulfood exhibition in the Gulf and my plane was sadly stranded because of fog.

    The Government want the UK to grow and sell more British food and drink. Through the introduction of a new plan for Government procurement, we have sought to enable Departments to source more local food, and recent successes include the Ministry of Justice implementing the plan in prisons. Last year, exports of food and drink increased by 9% to £20 billion.

  • West Sussex is home to our finest food and drink, including the superb Sussex Charmer, produced by our exceptional Rudgwick cheesemakers. What further opportunities does the Minister foresee to promote high-quality, well-branded food of local provenance?

  • I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The quality heritage of our local food, such as Sussex Charmer and all the great wines produced in the South Downs, is second to none. That is why we have set up the great British food unit—to promote our food at home and abroad. It is also why I have just returned—late, sadly—from Gulfood, the world’s largest annual trade fair.

  • I remind the Minister that we do not want food at any price. As we have heard this morning, another seven species are in danger in our country because of intensive farming. When will we have good, productive, sustainable farming and start importing less?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As we design domestic agriculture policy after leaving the EU, we will be looking to ensure we have sustainable farming, so that we get the benefits of farming sustainably, while improving productivity.

  • 8. Will the Minister join me in celebrating the success of Wight Marque on the Isle of Wight? There are now more than 450 food and drink products on the Isle of Wight, and Wight Marque is being used to promote the island as a speciality food destination. [909006]

  • My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point. Wight Marque celebrates the Isle of Wight’s brilliant range of food, from locally produced milk to a vast array of fruit and veg. It is a great example of how a little public money and the support of partners can really celebrate the provenance of our local food.

  • Farmers are facing a critical shortage of seasonal labour, and some are afraid that our food will rot in the ground this year. The Government have been asked to reverse their decision to scrap the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, and Ministers say that they are reviewing the issue, but can a decision please be made as a matter of urgency?

  • While we remain members of the EU, we still have free movement and fruit farms and farmers can still source their labour from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria. We are aware that some have raised concerns about agricultural labour after we leave the EU, and we are listening carefully to their representations.

  • Does my hon. Friend share the view expressed by the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation that leaving the EU can both help farmers increase their share of domestic products and improve animal welfare by preventing the import of goods produced under circumstances not permitted in the UK?

  • As my hon. Friend is aware, the Government have a manifesto commitment to place a stronger recognition of animal welfare issues in the design of future agriculture policy and to promote higher standards of animal welfare in international trade deals. We intend to implement those manifesto commitments.

  • Yesterday during a session of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, we heard evidence from Gary Mitchell of National Farmers Union Scotland, and two things were made very clear: that access to migrant labour for seasonal work is essential for our agriculture sector and that the Government are yet to the respond to the representations made by NFU Scotland over these concerns. Will the Minister commit to looking into this and providing an urgent clarification to the agriculture industry on where they stand on migrant labour?

  • The hon. Lady can now breathe.

  • I have regular meetings with NFU Scotland. Earlier this year, we had a meeting and engaged on a wide range of issues pertinent to future agriculture policy in Scotland, including labour.

  • Seasonal Agricultural Workers

  • 4. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the employment of seasonal agricultural workers. [909002]

  • There is a lot of interest in seasonal agricultural labour at the moment. DEFRA Ministers engage regularly with ministerial colleagues at the Home Office and other Departments to discuss the issue of migrant labour in the agriculture sector after we leave the EU. We are aware that the availability of labour is a concern for some sectors of the industry. However, leaving the EU and establishing controlled migration does not mean closing off all immigration; it simply means that we will be able to identify where we have needs and put in place suitable arrangements.

  • Growers in my constituency are worried about fruit going unpicked not only after we leave the EU, but also this year. Can my hon. Friend assure me that he will continue to press the Home Office on this issue, and not only on seasonal agricultural workers after we leave the EU, but also between now and then?

  • As my hon. Friend may know, I spent 10 years working in the soft fruit industry; indeed, I will know many of the strawberry farmers she represents. I am also aware that the Secretary of State has taken up a kind offer from my hon. Friend to visit and meet some of the farmers there to discuss their concerns. As somebody who ran a soft fruit enterprise employing several hundred people, I can tell my hon. Friend that I do understand the challenges the industry faces.

  • But there is an immediate problem in that many of the fruit farmers in my constituency have already entered into contracts for migrant labour for this coming fruit-picking season. They have been concerned about some reports last week that the Government are considering restricting free movement or introducing work permits when article 50 is triggered. Can the Minister confirm whether that is happening, or give them an assurance that it will not happen and they can fulfil the contracts they have already entered into?

  • The point that we have been making to the industry when we have met it is that while we remain members of the EU—that is, until we leave, not until we trigger article 50—free movement remains. The feedback I am getting is that most farmers are able to source the labour they need from countries such as Bulgaria and Romania. We will give the industry plenty of notice of what arrangements we intend to put in place after we leave the EU.

  • Leaving the EU: Farming

  • 5. What plans her Department has to strengthen the British farming sector after the UK leaves the EU; and if she will make a statement. [909003]

  • At the recent National Farmers Union conference, I set out five principles that will support a prosperous future farming industry: trade, productivity, sustainability, trust and resilience. We are now in the process of a broad consultation ranging right across farmers, food producers and non-governmental organisations, to hear their views as we build a policy that will achieve our twin ambitions of having a thriving farming sector and an environment that is in a better state than we found it in.

  • Like my right hon. Friend, I meet farmers regularly—mainly through Staffordshire and Lichfield NFU—and they are actually very positive about Brexit and see the opportunities. But I know we export about £20 billion-worth a year overseas and into Europe, so what efforts is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that we continue to have access after Brexit?

  • We are working very hard right across Government to make sure that we get the best possible deal on market access for our agri-food sector when we leave the EU. There are huge global opportunities for Staffordshire farmers and food producers, and later today I will visit Harper Adams University in neighbouring Shropshire and the chamber of agriculture to hear from the next generation, as well as current farmers, about how we can seize those opportunities.

  • Our constitutional arrangements today are very different from those in 1972. What assurances can the Secretary of State give that after our exit from the EU the agriculture rules that are currently set in Brussels will not be exclusively set by the UK Government, but will instead be set by the devolved Administrations with the closest knowledge of the local farming industries?

  • In the great repeal Bill we will be bringing all the acquis communautaire into UK law. We in the United Kingdom will then be in a position to look at what works best for the UK. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I am working very closely with our colleagues in the devolved Administrations to make sure that we get the best possible deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, and I will continue to do so.

  • 10. Does the Secretary of State share my view that the need to accommodate the views of 28 different countries has led to the common agricultural policy becoming overtly bureaucratic in a way that has harmed the interests of British farmers?

    [909008]

  • My hon. Friend is exactly right. The complexity and bureaucracy associated with the CAP cost the industry £5 million a year and 300,000 man hours, so reducing burdens will help our farmers to grow more, sell more and export more of our great British food.

  • The strength of the farming sector will depend on whether it has an adequate supply of labour. Earlier the Minister suggested that there was not yet a problem here, but we know that workers from the European Union are already reluctant to come to the UK to work, so when is the Secretary of State going to make it clear that we are going to have a seasonal agricultural workers scheme? What is the timeline?

  • The hon. Lady is not correct when she says that people are reluctant to come here. In fact, the Office for National Statistics figures for last year show that there were more migrant workers coming from the EU than ever before, so that is just not true. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has pointed out, free movement will continue until the point at which we leave the EU. We are working closely with the Home Office to assess, understand and put in place good systems to ensure that we continue to thrive in this important sector.

  • 14. Recent EU regulations such as the three crop rule have tied farmers up in red tape but not delivered for the environment. As crop rotation has been around in Lincolnshire for rather longer than the EU, does my right hon. Friend agree that the first thing we do when we leave the EU should be to get rid of burdensome regulation on farmers? [909013]

  • I agree with my hon. Friend. The three crop rule is exactly the sort of measure we should change once we have left the EU. Of course, we want farmers to manage sustainable rotations, to optimise yields and to protect soil, but we can do that without forcing them to grow a specific number of crops on a specific acreage of land.

  • The National Farmers Union warned last week that the Government’s lack of clarity risked stifling the farming industry. This week, it was reported that the price of agricultural land fell by 7% in the past year due to the uncertainty of Brexit. The absence of any Government planning is plunging farming into a grave state. When will the Government give clarity and a long-term commitment to the farming industry on access to the single market, access to a seasonal workforce and a new long-term agricultural policy?

  • The Prime Minister has made it clear that our ambition is to have an all-encompassing free trade agreement with the European Union and to retain free and fair access to the European single market. As we have already discussed, we are looking closely at the need for a workforce now and in the future, and we are looking carefully at what more we can do around the world to make a huge success of leaving the European Union.

  • Trees and Woodland: Carbon Target

  • 6. What the contribution of trees and woodland creation is to meeting the Government’s carbon target. [909004]

  • We recognise the important role that forestry plays in the United Kingdom as a carbon sink. In 2015, forestry contributed an annual emissions reduction of 17.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to our carbon reduction targets.

  • During last week’s Storm Doris, many trees were felled by the force of nature, and we could see that many of them were diseased. What is the Department doing to ensure that threats to tree health are factored into the carbon reduction strategy?

  • The Government take tree health extremely seriously. That is why we promote biosecurity internationally, at UK borders and inland to ensure that pest and disease risks are effectively managed, so that we can continue to actively manage our woodlands and forests and contribute to the carbon reduction targets.

  • As well as helping to meet the Government’s carbon target, the planting of trees has a wide range of environmental benefits. Does the Minister think that the Department’s plans are ambitious enough to reap the benefits that trees and woodland undoubtedly bring?

  • I do think that they are sufficiently ambitious. We are absolutely confident that we will hit our target of planting 11 million new trees during the lifetime of this Parliament. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will speak to his former right hon. Friend the Mayor of London to ensure that he plants the 2 million trees that he pledged to plant, before he was elected.

  • The Minister will be aware of the outbreak of sweet chestnut blight near Exeter. I welcome the first national survey of historical woodland, but what more can be done in the short term to prevent the importation of the devastating diseases that are spread by the international plant trade while doing nothing to discourage tree planting and woodland creation?

  • Biosecurity is one of the key elements for the agencies at our borders, and they are proactive in trying to identify risks and threats coming into this sector. That is why we will always encourage people to buy trees grown in this country.

  • Leaving the EU: Food Prices

  • 7. What recent assessment she has made of the potential effect on food prices of the UK leaving the EU. [909005]

  • The main drivers of changes in food prices are energy costs and exchange rates, and those forces affect all countries, whether or not they are members of the EU. In 2008, there was a steep spike in food prices, which continued to rise until 2014. Since 2014, food prices have fallen by 6%. Despite the depreciation of sterling last summer, retail food prices have remained relatively stable, with an overall fall during 2016 of 0.5%.

  • Large numbers of people in my constituency are in work, but they are still in poverty. They are feeling the effects of increases in food prices over recent months. Given that they are so dependent on cheaper EU food products, what will the Minister do to protect them in the longer term?

  • As I said, the facts do not bear out what the hon. Gentleman says. Food prices have fallen by 0.5% over the past year and by 6% since 2014. We monitor the situation closely. The annual living costs and food survey closely measures the poorest households in particular and how much they spend on food, and the situation has remained remarkably stable over the past decade.

  • The paradox is that we starve the poor by refusing to buy food from them. Will the Minister bear that in mind when we escape from the common external tariff?

  • My right hon. Friend makes an important point. We have some preferential trade agreements in place with some developing countries, particularly to buy sugar from the Caribbean. We want to maintain and secure such arrangements so that we can support developing countries.

  • The Minister talks about food prices falling, but supermarkets are warning of the potential for food prices to rise significantly this year, which will have a huge effect on every household in the country. Nearly half our food is imported and prices are already starting to rise for the first time in three years owing to the weak pound and inflation. What exactly are the Government doing to help with rising prices in people’s weekly food shop?

  • As I said earlier, we closely monitor the amount of money that people spend on food, which has remained remarkably stable at around 16.5% for the past decade. We continue to keep the issue under review. I simply point out to Labour Members that the greatest spike in food prices took place in 2008 on Labour’s watch. Food prices have been falling since 2014.

  • The Minister talks about monitoring, but it was recently revealed that research to inform agricultural and environmental policy once the UK leaves the European Union has not even been commissioned by the Department. The Minister’s warm words are all very well, but the agricultural sector desperately needs long-term clarity and the Government are failing to deliver it. Will the Minister tell us how the Government can have any real understanding of the current situation without adequate research being in place?

  • I simply say to the hon. Lady that the Department is doing a vast amount of analysis and research to inform future policy. We received a specific parliamentary question about whether we have commissioned direct scientific research on the effects of leaving the European Union, and she is right that we have not, but we do not need to. All our environmental policies are regularly evaluated for their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. We are behind time. May I gently hint to colleagues that there are opportunities for others lower down the Order Paper to come in on Mr Carswell’s question if they wish?

  • Leaving the EU: Fisheries

  • 11. What her policy is on the self-regulation of the UK fishing industry after the UK leaves the EU. [909010]

  • There is already a degree of self-management of the fishing regime by producer organisations in the fishing industry through our system of trading quotas and markets in both the leasing and exchanging of quotas among producer organisations. However, leaving the EU does create the opportunity to consider how we manage our fisheries and to look at the approach taken by other countries.

  • Leaving the EU is a wonderful opportunity to rethink public policy. What are the Minister’s thoughts on ensuring better terms for UK fishermen and better access to our exclusive economic zone?

  • As the hon. Gentleman will know, I have consistently made it clear that leaving the EU means that we will take back control of our exclusive economic zone—the area out to 200 nautical miles or the median line—and that will allow us to look afresh at mutual access agreements and shares of the total allowable catch in shared waters.

  • 13. As the Minister will know, current EU regulations prevent farmers from trimming hedges in August. Does he agree that Brexit therefore offers a great opportunity for trimming the regulations and rules that prevent hedge cutting at that time? [909012]

  • I was hoping that there would be some linkage between hedge cutting and fishing previously unknown not only to the Chair but to humankind, but we will have to leave that for another occasion.

  • They have in common the fact that they are policies that originate in the EU. Leaving the EU obviously gives us an opportunity to review some of those things, but we already have a derogation so that farmers who grow winter crops are able to trim their hedges a little earlier. Certain species are very vulnerable—particularly the yellowhammer, which breeds late—and we want to protect them.

  • 16. Scottish farmed salmon has experienced a significant increase in exports to Canada. However, why did this Government not propose any Scottish geographical indicators in the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, despite indicating that not doing so would put the Scottish food industry at a commercial disadvantage? [909015]

  • I reassure Scottish National party Members that I regularly promote Scottish salmon, most recently in the Gulf this week. Scottish salmon is one of our major exports, alongside Scottish whisky, and we champion it at every opportunity.

  • 15. The chief executive of National Farmers Union Scotland, Scott Walker, has come up with a worthwhile idea on framing a post-Brexit support regime for agriculture and fishing. His suggestion is that the devolved Administrations should be allowed to choose from a menu of policies that are best applicable in their jurisdiction. Will the Minister look at that proposal? [909014]

  • I specifically discussed proposals along those lines with NFU Scotland at the beginning of this year. A consensus is emerging that there needs to be some kind of UK framework, within which we obviously want to ensure that the devolved Administrations can pursue the policies that are right for them. We will work closely with all the devolved Administrations to ensure that, after we leave the European Union, policy works for Scotland and other parts of the UK.

  • 12. Not only can this Government not confirm where powers on our rural economy will lie after Brexit, but they cannot say how financial support for farmers will work, either. Why are the interests of Scottish farmers such a low priority for this Government? [909011]

  • I do not accept what the hon. Lady says. The truth is that we have guaranteed payments up until 2020. We have ensured that the budget is still there, and we have made it clear that, well in advance of that date, we will be able to give farmers throughout the UK a very clear picture of what future support arrangements will look like.

  • Topical Questions

  • T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. [909017]

  • I will update the House on the delivery of the basic payment scheme. As of today, 95.5% of eligible farmers have received their payment, which is good progress but there is still more to be done. Last week I secured agreement from the Treasury that a 75% bridging payment will be available to any farmer with an outstanding claim at the end of March. The window for 2017 applications opened yesterday.

  • I thank the Secretary of State for that response. In response to my earlier question, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State mentioned our former colleague, the Mayor of London. Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to his work on tackling poor air quality? Will she say whether it is her policy to retain the existing provisions of the air quality regulations in UK law after the UK leaves the European Union?

  • It is absolutely the case that we will keep all regulations when we leave the EU so that regulations look the same the day after we leave as they did the day before. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are looking very carefully at the whole issue of air quality. We have spent more than £2 billion since 2010 on ultra-low emission vehicles and on trying to reduce the impact of poor air quality. There is more to be done, and we are looking closely at that.

  • T4. Will the Secretary of State join me in paying tribute to poultry producers across Norfolk who set the highest animal welfare and biosecurity standards? There has obviously been concern about the recent avian flu outburst, but can she confirm that no poultry producers in Norfolk will lose their free-range status? [909020]

  • We are determined to hold this terrible disease at bay for the sake of our entire poultry sector, and our robust actions so far have included an amended avian influenza prevention zone from 28 February, which covers all of England and requires mandatory biosecurity for all keepers and the compulsory housing or netting of poultry and captive birds in defined higher-risk areas. That is very important for the entire sector.

  • Further to what the Secretary of State just said, she must be aware that English poultry producers are concerned about the prospect of losing free-range status because of the postcode lottery of the bird flu restriction system. The British Free Range Egg Producers Association is particularly concerned about the inconsistent approach. What more can she say to assure egg producers throughout the UK that the right measures are being taken to sort out this whole sad issue?

  • Colleagues will be aware that there was a full housing order until 28 February. With extensive scientific advice, we have gleaned that those places where wild fowl congregate are high-risk areas. That has been extensively peer reviewed on the basis of scientific evidence, which is why we have published a paper to outline the rationale. This has absolutely not just come out of our own heads; in no way whatsoever are we doing anything other than protecting this vital sector.

  • T6. I have been contacted by a number of my constituents who are concerned about the welfare of puppies, particularly in the context of puppy farming and puppies being bred for sale. Will my hon. Friend the Minister set out what action he is taking to tackle so-called backstreet breeding and to ensure the highest welfare standards for puppies bred for sale? [909022]

  • My hon. Friend makes an important point about an issue I championed while I was responsible for this part of the portfolio. The Government have recently published proposals for improving the laws on the breeding and selling of dogs, among which are proposals that anyone breeding and selling three litters in a 12-month period will need a licence and that no puppies will be sold under the age of eight weeks.

  • T2. Tendring District Council recently did a superb job dealing with a flood threat, calmly overseeing a mass evacuation. Is any extra funding available to support local councils when they are putting in place flood contingency plans? [909018]

  • Traditionally, councils were given grants for their flooding responsibilities through the rate support grant. I visited the centre near Jaywick and saw the excellent work that was being done by the council and by many voluntary services, as well as by our emergency service response. I am sure that councils will continue to work, to reflect on what happened, and to monitor whether their schemes continue to be appropriate.

  • The Prime Minister recently laid out plans to invest £4.7 billion in innovation by 2021. Will the Minister please explain how the food and farming communities of rural West Oxfordshire can look forward to benefiting from such measures?

  • As my hon. Friend will know, we already have in place an agri-tech strategy worth £160 million, which has supported more than 100 different projects to support science and technology transfer in food and farming. In addition, we have food information networks to try to create clusters of innovation in the food sector.

  • T5. Will the Secretary of State go back to her office and think seriously about how we will protect the maritime environment when we come out of the EU? Where are the protections that will save the future of fish and the maritime environment? [909021]

  • We take the marine environment very seriously, which is why we said in our manifesto that we would extend the blue belt, and that is what we have done, not only around this country’s shoreline but around those of our overseas territories. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to play a leading role through OSPAR, as well as through our role on the Council of Europe and the related Bern convention.

  • The BBC drama “Resistance” airs tomorrow on Radio 4 and portrays a dystopian future without effective antibiotics, and antibiotic resistance is also the subject of a Westminster Hall debate I have secured for next week. Does the Secretary of State agree that although we are world leaders in work on antibiotic resistance both in health services and in agriculture, the fact that we have recently licensed three new colistin products, which are the last line of defence, shows that there is more we can do?

  • My hon. Friend will be aware that the UK has taken a leading role in the work on antibiotic resistance, which we have pushed on to the agenda of the OECD, the G7 and the G20. We can adopt processes to reduce our reliance on antibiotics—for example, through the acidification of water in the pig sector. We can always do better, but some of these critical antibiotics have a role in agriculture, too.

  • T3. The partial liberalisation of the water market starts in April this year, with further phases of liberalisation being planned, yet we have seen nothing of the abstraction reform legislation, which is essential if this liberalisation is to work. When will the Secretary of State publish the Bill? [909019]

  • We take the preservation and the use of water very seriously. The opening up of the market for small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses is a good advance, but I am looking at those other matters carefully.

  • On the day after St David’s day, will my right hon. Friend reassure Welsh farmers that Welsh lamb and not New Zealand lamb will be at the forefront of her mind when negotiating an EU exit?

  • My hon. Friend, like me and lots of other colleagues from across the House, enjoyed that lovely reception at Downing Street and the fabulous Welsh singing. I can absolutely assure him that we will keep Welsh lamb farmers at the heart of any negotiations on free trade agreements.

  • T7. At a recent meeting with the Scottish Rural Affairs Minister, Fergus Ewing, the Secretary of State described the discussions as “good”. However, the Scottish Minister said that all he got was radio silence. Does that mean that her interpretation of a good meeting is to say nothing? [909023]

  • It was a private meeting. In fact, the agreement was that we would not talk openly about the level of discussions. I found our meeting helpful. We made some progress and got a clear way forward. Such discussions need to take place, and I look forward to more of them in the future.

  • Has the Secretary of State seen the very positive statement from Associated British Foods, which runs British Sugar, the iconic sugar beet and sugar factory, in Newark, saying that it expects that, post-Brexit, the ability to design our own system without EU quotas will lead to up to a 50% increase in its profits and sales, which is good news for farmers and consumers?

  • My hon. Friend makes an important point. Associated British Foods is one of the great British-owned food companies. It is a world leader in sugar and it has driven competitiveness and investment in the industry. I believe that the sugar industry in this country has a great future.

  • Since 2010, the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been cut by 57%, which means that the Department is struggling to get out plans such as the 25-year farming plan. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Treasury to protect the budget from the 6% cut expected next week?

  • My Department is indeed involved in a transformation project, which will take out costs, but it will also deliver better and more focused front-line customer service. I am very optimistic about that, and we are looking very carefully at the further efficiency savings that are needed.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. I apologise to the House. The House is very hungry today, but, as is so often the case, demand exceeds supply, and it is not possible to satisfy the appetite of all colleagues. We must now move on to questions to the right hon. Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman), representing the Church Commissioners, and to the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson), whom we welcome to her responsibilities as representative of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, and the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission.

  • Church Commissioners

    The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

    Parish Churches: Wi-fi/Broadband

  • 1. What progress has been made on identifying parish churches suitable for wi-fi and broadband in rural areas. [909024]

  • 7. What progress has been made on identifying parish churches suitable for wi-fi and broadband in rural areas.

    [909031]

  • 9. What progress has been made on identifying parish churches suitable for wi-fi and broadband in rural areas. [909033]

  • I would certainly like to welcome the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) to her position and I look forward to working with her at these question sessions.

    There has been a lot of interest from colleagues in this question of how to provide the internet to parts of the country that currently have poor provision. Churches play an important role in supporting community infrastructure, and the Diocese of Norwich has led the way. Since 2011, it has been the majority shareholder in WiSpire, which provides wi-fi internet signal boosters to churches across the diocese. We are in early discussions to expand that provision into the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and Ely dioceses.

  • May I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer? Can she explain how the Church is engaging with communities that live in particularly rural and sparsely populated areas to enable them to receive high-speed broadband?

  • Obviously, the topography of Lancashire is challenging, so I am very sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s case. In fact, I went to see an example of a wi-fi booster signal, and as long as there is a line of sight between a church tower and another church tower, or a high building, it is possible to provide internet coverage in remote rural areas that currently have no signal. I encourage him to speak to the Bishop of Carlisle and I will give every support in his endeavour to ensure that his constituents are not digitally divided.

  • This is very reassuring indeed.

  • Right across the country, church buildings are central to strong local communities. Will my right hon. Friend explain whether it has been possible to provide wi-fi and broadband in listed churches and chapels to help those buildings to remain sustainable well into the future?

  • I am grateful for that question, because there is a commonly held myth that it is not possible to amend ancient and listed buildings in these ways, but as my hon. Friend will have seen from the success in Norwich diocese, there is no fundamental barrier to putting a wi-fi booster set or a mobile phone booster on the top of a church tower or spire. That is why the Government have welcomed the partnership with the Church of England to try to reach our notspots.

  • Will my right hon. Friend outline what work the Church is undertaking to assess the potential scale of this project, and how Members can identify buildings in notspot areas that could be used for wireless transmitters?

  • Yes; my hon. Friend is right. I am sure that he would like the Church in Shrewsbury to be actively involved in this. The absolute key to this is knowing where the notspots are. I met the Minister for Digital and Culture, as I think many colleagues in the House did, who has an enormous spreadsheet that shows where the gaps are, and that is now being matched to what the Church can provide. We have offered to help to create a property asset register, so that this matching process can take place, and I hope it will benefit my hon. Friend’s constituency.

  • Art Exhibitions

  • 2. What assessment the commissioners have made of the use of churches and cathedrals as venues for art exhibitions. [909025]

  • Chester cathedral already has a very strong reputation for the provision of excellent services to its visitors and its local community. Indeed, for over 1,000 years, the Church has been a patron of the arts. Churches and cathedrals provide an excellent venue for exhibitions; I am convinced that the cathedral in Chester is a very good venue for them.

  • I am most grateful to the right hon. Lady for the support that she has given in the past to Chester cathedral’s efforts to increase visitor numbers and therefore, hopefully, to increase worship numbers as well. Does she share my dismay, however, that Arts Council England has declined to support Chester’s bid for support for the major sculpture exhibition that it is hosting this year—the largest in the north of England? Might the Church Commissioners indicate to Arts Council England their support for the cathedral?

  • Cathedral attendance is rising, in no small part because of the quality of the services that are offered. People enjoy going to cathedrals for exhibitions. The Church of England fully supports Chester’s ambition to hold a similarly significant exhibition. My understanding is that the funding for this is on a rolling programme, so I really encourage the cathedral to apply again, and of course we will provide our support.

  • It is often new churches that are best configured for a variety of uses. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Richard Coldicott, the incumbent, and the congregation of St Mark’s, Holbrook, in my constituency, on its consecration last week as a brand-new parish church?

  • It gives me great pleasure to congratulate the congregation of St Mark’s on having the vision to create a new church. In fact, the Church of England is opening as many new churches, typically in new developments, as it is closing old ones. Of course a new facility like that is a wonderful venue for the arts and for exhibitions such as those that we are discussing.

  • I hope the Hansard text of the right hon. Lady’s reply to the hon. Gentleman will be posted on the church door. That would seem only fitting.

  • Will the right hon. Lady also bear in mind not only exhibitions, but new music? Will she look at a work performed at Peterborough cathedral only a few days ago, “Even You Song”, with a wonderful new libretto by someone called Dr Lucy Sheerman?

  • I am very impressed to hear about that. When one looks through the list of the exhibitions that are being held in cathedrals up and down the country, one cannot fail to be impressed by the range and depth. May I commend to hon. Members an exhibition about refugees at Southwark cathedral, a mere short step from the House, should they require some respite from the labours of the House and its debates? This is a very current topic, and I commend it to the House.

  • Many parish churches in the borough of Kettering, particularly in rural villages, are opened up for a variety of community activities, including art exhibitions. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an excellent way of getting people into churches who might otherwise never cross the threshold?

  • My hon. Friend is completely right. The sheer scale of these beautiful buildings creates a backdrop for the presentation of art and the display of sculpture. We have some really interesting and famous examples of sculpture in our cathedrals, including works by Gormley, and indeed Tracey Emin has a piece in Liverpool cathedral. I encourage all Members to encourage their constituents to visit their churches and cathedrals not just for worship, but for the beauty of the art presented within them.

  • Public Accounts Commission

    The hon. Member for Gainsborough, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, was asked—

    Official Development Assistance

  • 3. What scrutiny of the official development assistance budget the National Audit Office has undertaken in the last 12 months. [909026]

  • The NAO audits the financial statements of the Department for International Development annually, and it issued an unqualified opinion on the Department’s accounts for 2015-16. The NAO also produces a number of reports each year on different aspects of DFID’s expenditure. It last reported specifically on official development assistance in 2015. Its January 2015 report, “Managing the Official Development Assistance target”, looked at DFID’s management of its increased budget and at the target to spend 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income on overseas aid.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. He will be aware that our constituents in Lincolnshire have growing concerns about the aid budget. They will be reassured that the NAO is looking closely at it. Can he commit to the NAO to looking much more robustly at many of the aid projects, which are of growing concern to our constituents?

  • I can assure my hon. Friend that the NAO will indeed look robustly at all aspects of DFID’s expenditure. For instance, its reports on the CDC and on St Helena both identified challenges for DFID in overseeing expenditure outside its core area of expertise. The Public Accounts Committee’s report on St Helena concluded:

    “Thus far, the Department has unquestionably failed the residents of St Helena and the British taxpayer.”

  • Under the Government’s new aid strategy, an increasing proportion of the 0.7% is being spent by Departments other than DFID—it is estimated that the proportion will be 30% by 2019. Will the NAO also look at how that money is spent and address concerns that it is being siphoned off, undermining DFID’s core objectives?

  • The hon. Lady is absolutely right that an increasing proportion of the aid budget will be spent by other Departments. That is clearly a challenge for audit, but one that the NAO is capable of undertaking, because DFID remains responsible for reporting to the OECD on official development assistance spending and for reporting to Parliament on the Government’s performance against the 0.7% target. I can reassure her that the NAO is scrutinising that expenditure extremely carefully.

  • Electoral Commission Committee

    The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

    Polling Stations: ID Requirements

  • 4. What assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the potential implications of introducing ID requirements at polling stations. [909027]

  • The Electoral Commission has recommended that an accessible proof of identity scheme should be developed and implemented for polling stations across Great Britain. However, the commission has also recognised the potential implications for electors who do not have access to the prescribed identification documents and costed options for introducing identification requirements.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. What steps is the Electoral Commission taking to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are not disproportionately affected by the requirement to show ID at polling stations?

  • My hon. Friend is right to raise that concern, because some groups will be less likely than the general population to hold certain forms of photo ID. The commission estimates that approximately 3.5 million electors in Great Britain are without suitable ID and would therefore need to obtain an alternative form of identification. It is for that reason that the commission has recommended that electors in that position should be able to apply for identification free of charge, as they can in Northern Ireland.

  • In welcoming again the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) to her new responsibilities, I hope that I can, on behalf of the whole House, very warmly thank the hon. Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter), who undertook these important responsibilities for several years, and who in fact served on the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission from October 2006 onwards. He has discharged his obligations extremely competently and efficiently in the interests of the House, and we know that the hon. Lady will certainly follow in his footsteps by doing so as well.

  • As part of this assessment, what consideration is being given to international best practice from around the world?

  • The Electoral Commission will consider all evidence, and I will relay the hon. Gentleman’s comments to it. It is clear that recent public opinion shows that 82% believe that voting at polling stations is safe. That will be kept under review. It will be for the Government to make recommendations to the Electoral Commission about how that can be improved.

  • My hon. Friend correctly identified the 3.5 million people who do not have the photographic ID required. Does she agree that the Government are completely short-sighted by ruling out a voluntary voter card scheme that would assist those very people?

  • The Electoral Commission has been clear that an identification scheme along the lines of that in Northern Ireland would be the best option. I will relay my hon. Friend’s concerns to it, and I am happy to arrange for him to meet the Electoral Commission to make those points more clearly.

  • Church Commissioners

    The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

    Anglican Church (South Sudan)

  • 5. What plans the Church of England has to support the Anglican Church in South Sudan. [909028]

  • The Church of England is responding to the crisis in South Sudan with prayer and practical action. The Church of the Province of South Sudan has 5 million members and is spread across 43 diocese, so there is an opportunity to provide aid right to the frontline through the Church network.

  • Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Church, which is flourishing in South Sudan, can play a really valuable role in helping to distribute aid and support to all those affected by the famine there?

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In Department for International Development questions, I asked the Secretary of State to acknowledge the opportunity to distribute aid through the Church network. We should not forget the work of Christian Aid in South Sudan, which is providing direct unconditional grants, equivalent to $93, to families who have lost everything so that they can rebuild their lives.

  • Bishops’ Report on Human Sexuality

  • 8. What discussions she has had with Church leaders on the vote by the General Synod to reject the bishops’ report on human sexuality; and if she will make a statement. [909032]

  • The majority of members of the General Synod voted to take note of the report of the House of Bishops, but the motion did not pass because a small majority was against it in the House of Clergy. Following that, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement committing them to find a way forward.

  • Was it not very significant that it was the clergy, who are in the frontline of providing pastoral care to their parishioners, who voted down the bishops’ paper? Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?

  • There was a narrow margin in the House of Clergy vote—93 in favour of taking note to 100 against—but a majority is required in all Houses. The way forward, as outlined by the archbishops, is that the pastoral oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rev. Christine Hardman, will now work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church and to include them in the work of the pastoral oversight group.

  • My right hon. Friend may be aware of the case of my constituent, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who was found not to have been discriminated against on the grounds of sexuality when the Diocese of Southwell denied him permission to officiate in the light of him having had a gay marriage, despite the fact that neighbouring diocese would allow him to officiate. Does my right hon. Friend accept that allowing each bishop discretion in how to handle these, admittedly, complex issues is creating unfairness and variances that are quite hard to justify?

  • It is hard to comment on the specific case. It has come before the House before, but it is a legal process, which we normally do not comment on, although it has now reached its conclusion. My hon. Friend may not be aware that the Ecclesiastical Committee of this House actually met and was content with changes to the law with regard to the need to protect children and the powers and discretion that bishops have. Changes have taken place and more need to happen.

  • But discretion is not always good in the Church, is it? Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, has been barred from becoming a bishop in the Church in Wales, which I know is separate from the Church of England, because the other bishops have refused to do what they have done in every other case—accept what the members of the local diocese have wanted.

  • I am not responsible for the Church of Wales—[Interruption]—because I am responsible for the Church of England. However, I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. This is a really serious matter, and we should heed what the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the head of the Anglican communion, said about the need to have radical Christian inclusivity. The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive.

  • Electoral Commission Committee

    The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

    EU Referendum: Campaign Expenditure

  • 10. What assessment the commission has made of the adequacy of the rules on campaign spending during the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. [909034]

  • The Electoral Commission’s report on the administration of the EU membership referendum, which was published in September 2016, concluded that, overall, the rules on campaigning worked well. The commission has, however, made a number of recommendations based on the experiences in the referendum, which are intended to further improve transparency and the overall effectiveness of the referendum controls. These are now matters for the Government to consider, and the commission looks forward to receiving their response in due course.

  • I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for that reply. Given that lead campaigners and several of the campaign groups on both sides of the debate now face investigation regarding their spending, does she agree that that suggests there may be a need for the rules to be made simpler for participants to understand?

  • The commission announced last Friday that it has opened a number of assessments and investigations into the accuracy and completeness of campaigners’ spending returns. It would not be appropriate to comment at this stage on ongoing cases, but the commission will announce the outcomes when it has concluded its investigations.

  • Business of the House

  • 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, following your brilliant tribute on Monday. His family described it 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 a 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 in the summer recess?

    We need a debate on how the Scotland Act 1998 operates. Schedule 5 of 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 doing 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—and like others, I am pleased that some of his family can be here—he was witty, he was brave, 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 Select 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 that 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 number 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 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 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 “Singing 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 rate 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 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 the time that 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 pursue 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 it 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, 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 with 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 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 and 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 establishing 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 the 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 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.

  • Point of Order

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. First, may I associate myself with those eloquent remarks, and completely concur?

    I know you were in the Chair, Mr Speaker, when the unaccompanied children in Greece and Italy debate occurred—I know that because you cut the time limit for speeches immediately before I spoke. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.] That must have been said by a Whip. There was a strange occurrence at the end of that debate, however. There was suddenly, in the normal way, the call of Ayes and Noes, and there was a bellowing of Noes from the Opposition Benches; in fact, I remember the Labour Deputy Chief Whip bellowing that he did not agree with the motion. Because we had passed the time of interruption, there was a deferred Division. Well, lo and behold, the results of the deferred Division were reported in Hansard this morning, and I can find only one person, who happens to be Conservative Member, voting against the motion. Normally when a Division takes place, there has to be at least two Tellers and somebody who has objected. It appears to me that this was a totally contrived vote to waste the time of the House and cost the House money. But perhaps I am misunderstanding it. I would certainly like your advice, Mr Speaker.

  • I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It certainly would not be for me to suggest that any Division of the House was contrived; I am not in a position to make any such statement. There is of course a very long-standing convention in this place that vote should follow voice; that is to say, it is profoundly disorderly for somebody to shout in one direction and then vote in another. However, the convention is quite strict and, in my experience, clear: a Member must not vote in opposition to the way in which he or she shouted; there is, however, no obligation to vote. It is therefore conceivable that somebody could shout in one direction and subsequently not be present in the Division Lobby. I am neither advocating nor denouncing such a practice; I am simply recognising the procedural and constitutional reality for what it is. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman, who is himself doughty and indefatigable, has registered his point in his own inimitable way.

    Bill Presented

    Senior Judiciary Appointments (Disregard of Age of Candidates) Bill

    Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

    Keith Vaz presented a Bill to require those responsible for the selection and interviewing of candidates for, and appointment to, the posts of Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of England and Wales, the Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England and the President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales to disregard the age of applicants under 70 years of age; and for connected purposes.

    Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March, and to be printed (Bill 150).

  • Backbench Business

    International Women’s Day

  • I beg to move,

    That this House welcomes International Women’s Day as an important occasion to recognise the achievements of women; and calls on the Government to join in this international event and pledge its commitment to gender parity.

    I am honoured to lead this debate today and pay special thanks to the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), and the hon. Members for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) and for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) for supporting the application to the Backbench Business Committee, on which I remain the only woman member.

    International Women’s Day is an opportunity for all of us to use our voices to celebrate the amazing women of the world. It is also our opportunity to send a rallying cry out to the world about the hardships and injustices women everywhere still face. With each passing day, it seems that right now the women out there need to hear us in here and how we support them more than ever before.

    It will surprise no one that the subject that I will speak about today is violence against women and girls. Before my rallying cry, I want to reflect on where we were last year and where we are now. As I closed my speech on International Women’s Day last year, I declared that the women murdered in the UK deserved better than what they got. I pressed this House to hear their names and feel their pain.

    I have been proud to be a Member of this House in the past year, where parliamentarians, including my hon. Friends the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) and for Hove (Peter Kyle), myself and the right hon. Member for Basingstoke and many others, called on the Government to overhaul a family justice system that leaves women and children damaged and unsafe. Our calls were heard, and an establishment—an actual establishment, in this time when we talk of establishments—that others said we would never change will now begin to improve. From this place, a message was sent to women living in fear, and hundreds of them have contacted me to express their gratitude.

    Last week, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) did a thing that few will manage in their time here when she pushed her Bill to ratify the Istanbul convention through this place to its completion, regardless of those who wanted to stop it. That Bill will mean that a Minister will stand at the Dispatch Box in this place every year and lay out to us exactly how they are going to protect vulnerable women and children.

    Yesterday, the Government finally heard the calls that have echoed round this place for over six years and made sex and relationship education compulsory. We have waited too long for this, but the euphoria felt by myself and many campaigners across the House made me want to cartwheel down the halls.

    The work over the years of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), the right hon. Member for Basingstoke and many others means that girls will now be safer. These changes in the past year are not exclusively due to but have been led and pushed through by the women in this place, with the support of amazing women’s organisations such as Girlguiding, Women’s Aid, IC Change and many other female-led organisations.

  • Will the hon. Lady give way?

  • The issue that the hon. Lady has rightly drawn to our attention has international implications. Does she agree that one of the most important things we can do is provide the incentives for girls to remain in school much longer? That reduces the opportunity for early marriage, from which so many of the evils of which she has spoken flow.

  • I absolutely agree. Every time a girl stays in school in any part of the world and uses her education to stand up and speak for the other women in the world, the whole world becomes a better place. Women with voices matter. Women with voices change things. Women with voices in here give hope and protection to women without a voice at all. I am proud of our efforts, and today I will lay down another marker and say that there is still much to do.

    Last year, I rose to my feet in this House and read out the names of the 125 women who had been murdered by men. I decided that I would do that every year while I still had the privilege to be in this place. While we have achieved many things here, I hope that this list once again reminds us of all the reasons we must keep going. I want to stress that this list is the Femicide Census, which is collated by Karen Ingala Smith. The list is made up of all the women killed where a man was the perpetrator or is the principal suspect. While the majority of these deaths can be attributed to partner violence, they are certainly not all in that category and include all the women murdered by men they did not know in the UK since last International Women’s Day. Their names are:

    Lyndsey Smith; Robyn Mercer; Paige Doherty; Carrie Ann Izzard; Lynne Freeman; Jodie Betteridge; Joanna Trojniak; Amina Begum; Natasha Sadler; Laura Marshall; Elizabeth MacKay; Marie Johnston; Norma Bell; Tracy Cockrell; Helen Bailey; Leigh-Anne Mahacci; Jean Ryan; Coleen Westlake; Nasreen Khan; Laraine Rayner; Fay Daniels; Louise O’Brien; Xin Liu; Natalie Hemming; Becky Morgan; Iris Owens; Julie Cook; Khabi Abrey; Anne-Marie Nield; Maria Mbombo; Maria Erte; Sonita Nijhawan; Dawn Rhodes; Sylvia Stuart; Andrena Douglas; Karen Hales; Jade Hales; Jo Cox; Helen Fraser; Jean Irwin; Nijole Sventeckiene; Agnieszka Szmura; Sarah Nash; Albertina Choules; Allison Muncaster; Fiona Southwell; Emma Baum; Claire Hart; Charlotte Hart; Tracy Gabriel; Samia Shahid; Nicola Haworth; Lenuta Haidemac; Hannah Pearson; Margaret Mayer; Darlene Horton; Gregana Prodanova; Lynne Braund; Donna Williamson; Xixi Bi; Mia Ayliffe-Chung; Shana Grice; Alison Farr-Davies; Melinda Korosi; Hayley Dean; Annie Besala Ekofo; Zofia Sadowska; Elizabeth Bowe; Nasreem Buksh; Zoe Morgan; Jackie Pattenden; Natasha Wake; Mandy Gallear; Lucy Jones; Vicky Bance; Alice Ruggles; Sophie Smith; Jodie Wilkinson; Pardeep Kaur; Ellia Arathoon; Belen Trip; Natasha Wild; Deeqa Ibrahim; Lisa Skidmore; Rebecca Johnson; Linda Ordinans; Holly Alexander; Andraya Webb; Umida Eshboboeva; Angela Best; Claire Nagle; Hayley Wall; Nicola Woodman; Eulin Hastings; Victoria Shorrock; Leonne Weeks; Kiran Daudia; Kulwinder Kaur; Anita Downey; Ann Furneaux; Chrissy Kendall; Gillian Zvomuya; Amandeep Kaur; Tina Billingham; Hannah Dorans; Catherine Kelly; Hang Yin Leung; Karina Batista; Humara Khan; Hazel Wilson Briant; Margaret Stenning; Avis Addison; and Julie McCash.

    Let these women be our inspiration. Let these women be the ones who drive us. I would ask each and every one of us to remember these women, one of whom was one of us. We must remember them when we make our decisions and when we use our votes and our voices. We have a responsibility to be the voices of these women, now they are gone. On this International Women’s Day, let us remember why we are all here and let us raise our voices.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. Before I call the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, I must inform Members that there will be a time limit of five minutes on other Back-Bench contributions and that, if there are too many interventions, that will have to be reduced.

  • It is an enormous pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips). She is right to say that we are here to raise our voices. Another hon. Member who is particularly good at raising her voice is the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), to whom we should all pay tribute for the way she works on behalf of women, not only in her constituency but throughout the country. It is a particular pleasure to see you in the Chair for this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I should also like to thank the members of the Backbench Business Committee for giving us the opportunity to hold this debate, and to hold it here on the Floor of the House. I hope that it will become entrenched as part of the parliamentary calendar from now on. I also want to thank the numerous organisations that have so carefully prepared briefings for us today. They include the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Women’s Aid, the Young Women’s Trust and Relate—the list goes on. Without their experience and frontline work, our debate would not be as rich as it is.

    We are here on a daily basis, and we are reminded daily of the challenge that we still face in achieving equality. The job is far from done. When I tell people that I was only the 265th woman MP ever to be elected in this country, they cannot believe it. Indeed, I was the first ever female MP in north Hampshire, though I am proud to be joined on these green Benches by at least two other female MPs representing Hampshire and leading the way on women’s issues. I think that there was another in our midst earlier.

    I sat in the Chamber yesterday to see the swearing in of the newest Member of Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison). It was heartening to hear that she is the 456th woman MP. Things are changing, but there is still a steep hill to climb. To mark International Women’s Day, it is right to applaud the work of organisations such as Women2Win, led by my noble Friend Baroness Jenkin, and 50:50 Parliament and also individuals such as Professor Sarah Childs and our very own Mr Speaker. All are absolutely committed to ensuring that there are more women in this place after the next general election.

    Women’s lives have changed for the better over the 100 years since we were given the right to sit in this place. We have a record number of women here and record numbers of women are in work. The right to request flexible working benefits thousands of women, and the gender pay gap has been all but eliminated for younger women. There are no more all-male boards in the FTSE 100, which the Government felt was a significant milestone that demonstrates the importance of female representation at the heart of decision making. I am therefore somewhat surprised that a third of Government Departments—eight out of 25—have all-male ministerial teams, so we may also need some targets there.

    The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Be Bold For Change” and we must all be bold. There can be no hiding places. Women’s Institute research shows that 70% of women still feel that they are not equal to the men in this country, that women are judged by different standards, that women who stay at home to raise children are not valued in today’s society, and that despite record numbers of women in work the way that our workplaces are structured means it is still difficult to balance work and home life. We understand all that. Those problems have not gone away. We must continue to modernise our country’s approach to reflect how women’s roles have changed, not simply try to retrofit women into a workplace designed for a different age.

    Men are also central to any change. Working Families’ “Modern Families Index” shows that men want change, too. So many families now have two full-time working parents—one in three—and 47% of dads want to downshift to a job in which they can better balance work and family life. A third of dads would even take a pay cut. The sorts of false choices that women have been forced to take for generations are now being forced on men. One of the many reasons why the Women and Equalities Committee is looking carefully into the role of fathers in the workplace is so that we can solve such problems for them as well.

    The establishment of the Women and Equalities Committee has given hon. Members the opportunity to drive forward the scrutiny of Government equalities policies and particularly of how those policies affect women. I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to update the House on the Government’s support for making the Women and Equalities Committee a permanent feature. The value of the Committee’s work is clear to see. In our report on sexual harassment in schools, which was published last September, we uncovered disturbing levels of sexual violence against girls in schools. Indeed, it was the third Select Committee report to call for sex and relationship education to be made compulsory for all children in all schools.

    With the support of more than 40 other Members, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) and I tabled an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill that was due to be debated next week. The amendment, which also had the support of the Chairs of the Health and Education Committees, was intended to make relationship education compulsory. I am delighted that the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Edward Timpson), did so much work on this and that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education has been able to take the idea forward and will put it in the Bill for the Government to press on with next week. That is the sort of change that cross-party working can achieve. I also put on the record my thanks to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) for her support in ensuring that that work was truly cross-party. Organisations such as Barnardo’s and Girlguiding worked hard on making sex and relationship education a top priority for politicians. We should thank them for that hard work and their assiduous campaigning.

    I want to highlight the work done and progress made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. This week, she announced a review of online abuse, which will be of benefit to women in particular, and sits well alongside making relationship and sex education compulsory. I urge the Government to support a Law Commission review of online law, particularly the need for anonymity for adults who are subject to online abuse through images in what is commonly known as revenge pornography. The revenge pornography helpline was put in place by this Government and provides victims with invaluable help. Is the Minister able to update the House on its future?

    All of us will acknowledge that the Government have made great progress on several issues that particularly affect women. I acknowledge the personal role of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in championing the cause of stronger legislation around domestic violence. The Government recognise the complex nature of domestic abuse and coercive and trolling behaviour. I pay tribute to the campaigning work of Women’s Aid in this area, which demonstrates that domestic abuse is not simply about physical violence. Training for police officers is critical if the legislation is to work as intended, so is the Minister able to tell the House how many police officers have received approved training on domestic abuse issues?

    Time is short today, but there a few more issues that I want to shed light on. It is right that Parliament scrutinises issues, including how they might affect vulnerable groups, and the Government are to be applauded for recognising that an exemption is needed around new child tax credit limits, which will come in next month, for women who have children conceived by non-consensual conception or rape. We must ensure that our policies do not penalise women who live in an abusive relationship, perhaps in fear of what might happen if they leave. They are perhaps one of the most vulnerable groups of women. What plans does the Minister have to ensure that that group are not penalised as a result of the actions of the men they live with?

    Our country has done so much on the world stage to champion women’s rights, and we should proud of our international reputation. I am sure that Home Office Ministers carefully followed the national refugee women’s conference in London this week. We need to look at how to ensure that women refugees in this country are properly supported. However, the sustainable development goals that the Government signed up to begin at home. In advance of the Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York later this month, I hope that the Minister is able to reaffirm this Government’s specific commitment to implement sustainable development goal 5 in this country. How do the Government plan to ensure that the devolved Administrations are compliant with SDG5? Is there a plan for the harmonisation of women’s rights across the UK? Universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and to reproductive rights is central to the sustainable development goals. My right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) and the then Prime Minister David Cameron fought hard for that goal. We must fight hard for women’s rights internationally, but we also must fight hard for every woman in this United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland, and not hide behind the fact that such matters are devolved.

    We will not make the necessary progress unless we lead by example. We need to address the lack of women in this place, the fact that some Departments have no female Ministers, and the need for the permanent scrutiny of equality issues. We must be bold for change, and we must advocate that that change is as strong at home as it is abroad.

  • I have spent much of my time in this place encouraging and celebrating women. At the turn of the century I made a study of how much difference the 101 Labour women who were elected in 1997 made, and it was clear that it was because of women in this place that, for example, our defence forces started focusing for the first time on the needs of the families of those who fight. It was because of women in this place that Budgets started resourcing women’s purses, rather than men’s pockets. Frankly, it is very sad that since 2010 the tradition, which started in 1999, has been reversed. I hope that when the Chancellor delivers his Budget on International Women’s Day he might go back to recognising that it is time for women to benefit at least as much as men, if not more. After all, we put our money into the pockets of children, and men use their money for their own pleasure—I generalise, but it is true.

    My speech will concentrate on violence against women. We all have constituents who have been groomed by pimps, beaten up by violent partners or subjected to forced marriage or genital mutilation. It is important to think about how we help them. Rather than just supporting the expert organisations—in my case, East Berkshire Women’s Aid and Sewak Housing—we must ensure that organisations that are not so expert actually realise their own failures. One organisation in Slough is very good at promoting itself but, frankly, is not very good at protecting women. I have called out Jeena International on those things because it cannot offer people a service and then let them down.

    We also need to try to increase resilience among women by helping them to be aware of and to resist the risks of grooming, and so on. I have tried to create a network, largely of south Asian women in my constituency, that aims to build their resilience and that of their sisters. It aims to raise women’s awareness of things such as how to help their sons deal with porn on the net.

    I will finish by focusing on some of the most vulnerable women in the world. Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting a meeting organised by Khalsa Aid, a flexible, opportunist aid organisation led by the Sikh community in Slough. Khalsa Aid has been working with Yazidi women. When Daesh overran the Yazidi community, many women starved and expired of thirst after they were abandoned on a hill. What happened to the other Yazidi women afterwards was more degrading that most of us can imagine. They were bought and sold like radios or books. They were raped, beaten up and forced to watch their children being raped. Their sons were kidnapped so that Daesh could try to turn them into terrorist jihadi fighters.

    Daesh developed a kind of bureaucracy with rules for using the people who are owned. One of the 15 rules states:

    “The owner of two sisters is not allowed to have intercourse with both of them; rather he may only have intercourse with just one. The other sister is to be had by him, if he were to relinquish ownership of the first sister by selling her, giving her away or releasing her.”

    That is today. That is the reality of slavery. We call modern slavery “slavery” in the UK, but this is ancient slavery. It is horrifying to look at the price list. A woman of between 40 and 50 years old is worth £27—that is her price. Daesh publishes the prices because it wants the money to buy bombs with which to blow us up. Terrifying, a child under nine is worth four times as much—£109 is the price of a young girl.

    Those women have participated in an exhibition called “I am Yazidi” that tells their stories and shows photographs of them. I hope to bring the exhibition to this House, but in the meantime I encourage everyone to see it.

    Ravi Singh of Khalsa Aid told me about one woman who managed to fight off her rapists, who then turned on her daughter. After her daughter’s abuse, her daughter said, “Mum, it’s your fault.” The woman does not know where her daughter is now, and she is terrified that her daughter still believes it is her fault. That is the extremity of violence against women, and we should work in solidarity against it.

  • It is an honour and a privilege to speak in this debate about International Women’s Day, a privilege that few women across the world are yet able to enjoy. I congratulate our determined and passionate colleague the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) on securing this debate and on continuing her great mission in this House.

    I am proud to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor as MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, Mabel Philipson, who was only the fourth woman to be elected to this place—she was first elected in 1923. I am only the 378th woman ever to be elected to this House, of a total of 456. I very much hope that the number increases sharply in the years to come, and we all have a part to play in encouraging women who are already passionate about their families, their businesses, their communities and their country to play their part in shaping the future of our nation by standing for election to this place. Our latest arrival, No. 456, my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), is a walking example of that, and she is the woman who took us across the line—the total number of women ever elected to this House is now greater than the number of men currently serving in this Parliament.

    I shall focus my remarks on the women who serve in our armed forces, often in unsung roles. They work just as hard as their male counterparts, and often harder. Many of us civilians are perhaps unaware of the huge strides that women have made in their crucial roles protecting our nation. We are perhaps already aware of the vital part that women played, through necessity, during the great war and the second world war, when women stepped up, ably and with great passion, to take on the roles left vacant by the men who had gone off to war.

    During the first world war, 100,000 women served in the uniformed services, primarily as nurses but with few officially close to combat. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was formed in 1917—100 years ago—and provided women with jobs as telephonists, clerks and chauffeurs. The Women’s Royal Naval Service was created in the same year and saw women taking on domestic work within the Navy, freeing up men for combat roles. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was formed a year later, with women working as drivers, cooks and record keepers.

    Beyond the uniformed services, women took on a range of roles left vacant by the men who had left for war. From working in munitions factories to driving trains, women rose up to fulfil what had been seen as “male” roles. Of course, many of those women were forced out of their job once the surviving men returned to the UK, but their ability to take on such roles demonstrated to society how capable women are and what a valuable resource they are to our economy. Just a year after the end of the war, the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 made it illegal to exclude women from jobs because of their gender.

    Women have played an integral role in our armed forces for a century, but what of their role today? As of October 2016, there are 15,380 women serving in our armed forces, making up just over 10% of the total across the three services, with more women serving in the RAF than in the Army and Navy. That represents an increase of three percentage points over the past decade, but there is clearly much more to do. Just as we need more women serving in this place, the talent of women to serve and defend our nation must be harnessed more effectively.

    The value of having more women in our armed forces extends beyond their individual contributions. The female of the species brings a different perspective to the challenges of war fighting and peacekeeping in the modern age. The presence of women during peacekeeping operations brings an opportunity to gain access and insight to local communities that is simply not permissible for our male military personnel.

    As they serve, women are quietly proving that they are an invaluable asset to our nation, from Royal Navy officers Captain Ellie Ablett, recently promoted to command HMS Raleigh, and Commander Eleanor Stack, who has taken command of HMS Duncan—one of our Type 45 destroyers and which I had the privilege to inspect last year—to Commodore Inga Kennedy, the most senior female officer in the Royal Navy; Major General Susan Ridge, our most senior female Army officer; Brigadier Sharon Nesmith, who was the first woman to command a brigade of 5,000 soldiers; and Air Vice-Marshal Elaine West, the most senior woman in the RAF. Those women, and the 15,000 serving across our three armed services, are an inspiration to girls and women today who, when pondering their future career choices, can be inspired by the leadership of those amazing women in their leading roles in the armed forces.

    The future of our nation’s great asset, the finest armed forces in the world, is safe in the hands of its women and men, and I look forward to continuing my efforts to encourage more young women to study maths and the sciences and then to take up careers as engineers, medics and musicians, pilots and navigators, submariners and logisticians, linguists and intelligence officers. Those are all rewarding career choices both within the armed forces and as civilians with the extra military skillset of personal self-discipline, commitment and passion for a chosen trade.

    This time next year I hope to be able to report that the statistics for women in our political networks and our armed forces have continued to grow, and I also hope to report that my recent application to join the Royal Naval Reserve has been accepted. I encourage other colleagues to consider applying too.

  • I wish to focus on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen, charity worker, mother, daughter, sister and wife, who has been imprisoned in Iran for almost a year now. Nazanin lives 10 minutes down the road from me in west Hampstead. Her life was not very different from mine until she went on holiday to visit her parents with her two-year-old daughter Gabriella, who is also a British citizen. She was detained at the airport and, following trumped-up charges, handed a five-year sentence.

    Long periods of Nazanin’s detention have been spent in solitary confinement in a wing of Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Her health has been deteriorating further and further, and her mental health has also been affected. Last week, she tried to walk to the prison clinic, but could not physically make it there and collapsed. After she came round, many hours later, she could not speak for hours on end. Doctors at the hospital in Iran have said that she needs immediate treatment to prevent long-term damage.

    Nazanin’s detention, and her lack of legal representation and access to her family, fit the UN’s criteria for torture. It is therefore not a surprise that the UN has said that her detention is unlawful and arbitrary. Some 800,000 people have called for her release, and Nazanin’s family and I took a petition to the Foreign Office with the signatures of 200 MPs from different parties.

    This country is not perfect in our treatment of women in prison, and more than half a million women and girls are currently in appalling conditions in prisons around the world. The excuse we often hear for criminal justice systems not having gender-specific options is that the proportion of women prisoners is too tiny to require circumstances to be changed. That is not a good excuse; we must ensure that the needs of female prisoners are met.

    It was no surprise when in 2010 the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to adopt the Bangkok rules, the first international instrument to address appropriate conditions for female prisoners around the world. The rules also outline safeguards for the children of female prisoners. Iran has signed up to the Bangkok rules, but it has flouted them at each and every stage of Nazanin’s detention.

    I ask the House to bear with me as I read out just how those rules have been flouted. Rule 23 states:

    “Disciplinary sanctions for women prisoners shall not include a prohibition of family contact, especially with children.”

    Try saying that to two-year-old Gabriella, who spent her second birthday without her parents and has not seen her mother for the best part of the past year. Rule 26 states:

    “Women prisoners’ contact with their families…shall be…facilitated by all reasonable means”,

    especially when they are detained in prisons located “far from their homes.” Try saying that to Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who has had barely any phone calls with his wife. Those that he has been allowed have been monitored by Iran’s revolutionary guards.

    Iran has signed up to the Bangkok rules, and so have we. As I said, our record is not 100% positive. We need to look at our prisons and the way in which our female prisoners are treated, but that does not mean that we should shut our eyes to abuse in other countries. We should be shouting loudly to make sure that Nazanin, a British citizen, is united with her family and brought back to this country. I went to the Foreign Office with a Government Member, the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), but the Foreign Secretary did not come down to receive the petition, and he has repeatedly declined my request for a meeting.

    I shall end on this. I am a female Member of Parliament, and I ask another female Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister, to do something to secure Nazanin’s release so that she can be brought back to west Hampstead and reunited with her family. The Prime Minister has said that she wants to be a compassionate leader; if there was ever a time to show compassion, this is it.

  • It is an honour to follow that passionate speech by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq). The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change”, so that is the theme of my speech.

    In medieval times, a women who killed her husband was guilty of not only murder but petty treason, because she had betrayed someone superior to her. Her punishment was to be drawn and burned alive. In comparison, a husband who murdered his wife was hanged. Why was the woman’s crime worse than the man’s? Because she threatened the established social order, in which each person had, and knew, their place. By killing his wife, the man did not threaten that order.

    The law was changed in 1828, and four years later the Reform Act 1832 gave the vote to 300,000 more people, but none of them were women. Between 1870 and 1904, women’s suffrage was debated 18 times in this House. In every vote on the matter from 1886 onwards, a majority of MPs were in favour of allowing women the vote, but we did not get it until 1918.

    I shall read out some of the arguments that were made against women being given the vote—arguments that we probably still hear when we are going about our business, delivering public service. They included that women are by nature subordinate to men; that men are made for public life and women for private; that allowing women to vote would, heaven forbid, allow them to think that one day they could become MPs—an idea that was self-evidently absurd; that only men should legislate for women because only men know what is good for women; that we have no grievances, and if we do, they can easily be put right by men; that politics would get women over-excited and lead to nervous breakdowns; and that if women had the vote, they would be pestered on polling day.

    Political parties had their own motivations. For the Labour party, votes for women would just enfranchise more of the propertied classes; for the Conservatives, women voting would lead to socialism; and for the Liberals, women were too conservative by nature, so the Liberals would lose elections.

    Not everything has changed, but some things have. I want to put on record the women we must acknowledge who came to this place before us. The first female MP to take her seat was elected in 1919. We got our first female Cabinet Minister in 1929, our first female Prime Minister in 1979, and our first female Speaker—the legend that is Baroness Boothroyd—in 1992. Yesterday, in 2017, when my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) was sworn in, we got our 456th female MP, finally surpassing the number of male MPs currently.

    It has taken us close to 700 years to reach this stage, and we still have a long way to go. With only 30% of our MPs being women, we are behind Italy, Germany, Norway and Rwanda. I want to send out a message today to any young girl or woman who is listening and wants to enter politics. I want her to hear loud and clear that everyone in this House will welcome her wholeheartedly.

    We have moved on from the medieval age; we are now in the technical age. We are among the first generation of parliamentarians who have had to deal with modern technology and the access it gives the public to their politicians. Those of us who use social media know what it is like occasionally to go on to Twitter and Facebook and see a barrage of abuse from trolls. These faceless and nameless cowards need to be called out and challenged. When the Minister responds, will she say what more can be done to put pressure on social media companies and search platforms to encourage them to take down the hate and abuse that is focused on women just because of their gender, faith or heritage? It would be a grand day if, when all the women in this House saw a fellow female parliamentarian being abused just because of who she was, we all went on to social media and drowned out that hate.

    I shall finish by thanking some of the female leaders in and around my constituency. Five of the eight East Sussex MPs are women: my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd); my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) and for Lewes (Maria Caulfield); the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas); and me. We have a female chief executive of the county council, Becky Shaw, and a female police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne, as well as dozens of fantastic female councillors at county and district level who have mentored me and are inspiring leaders in their communities. They are the ones who show, each and every day, that politics is very much the business of women.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and all the female Members who have spoken in the debate so far. Notwithstanding the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), it is a shame that there are not more men participating in this debate—[Interruption.] I am pleased that he has saved us all some time.

    The theme of this year’s day is, “Be Bold for Change”. It is a call for women and our allies—I thank the few men who are here—to think outside the box, to envision, to be more inclusive, to ensure we have a more gender-equal and fair society, and, ultimately, to be the change that we want to see in the world. Yet today, despite all the progress that we have made, there are still too many women who are adversely affected by cuts, pay disparity, domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, and female genital mutilation. I could continue, but the list only reminds us of how far we still have to go.

    I am pleased to say that, last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) made history in this House by ensuring that the ratification of the Istanbul convention will proceed. I am grateful to all women’s aid organisations, both in Scotland and across the UK, and to IC Change, which helps to deliver the services on which women rely every day.

    Although I welcome the Government’s actions on the gender pay gap—I was proud to sit on the Committee overseeing legislation on that matter—they do not go far enough. It is simply not good enough if a baby girl born today has to wait until 2041 to achieve gender parity. I am pleased that the Government are taking action but, as always, I want to push for more.

    I want to highlight some of the bold and courageous women from my constituency who have acted for change and made a difference. Those women have shaped my world view and my view of politics. They are one of the reasons why I am standing here today—this is not the institution that I aim to be in but, none the less, I am here.

    I recently went to see the film “Hidden Figures” which documents the untold story of African-American women working at NASA, challenging gender and race stereotypes. The fact is that, all too often, many women who do both ordinary and fantastic jobs every day remain hidden in our society. We should recognise them, although no films are made about a cook, a cleaner or an ordinary woman who works hard but does not earn the same as a man.

    This year marks the 40th anniversary of the election of Winnie Ewing in Hamilton in 1967. She was a lawyer who became the second ever SNP MP. Therefore, being a young girl growing up in Hamilton meant knowing about strong, passionate women who believed that they could change things in politics, and I hope that that is what I am here to do. Winnie Ewing went on to be known as Madame Ecosse in Europe, and she led the way in fighting for many of the protections that we enjoy today. We must ensure that Brexit will not remove those equality protections. Winnie was unquestionably bold and she acted for change. As well as increasing representation in this Parliament, I wish to see an increase in women local government representatives after the elections in May.

    Hamilton was also the home of the late and great Margo MacDonald. Margo challenged the established political order in 1973 in the Govan by-election, and she went on to have a long and successful career in journalism and politics. Sadly, Margo lost the battle with Parkinson’s disease, but she never lost the courage to fight for what she believed in. She was indeed bold and brave in striving for change. Like me, she wanted Scottish independence—I remain resolute that I will see that in my lifetime.

    One more great woman who inspired me from a young age is Horse McDonald, who grew up in the area of Lanark. She is a role model for many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Her play “Careful” outlines her own experience of growing up in Lanark. She displayed bravery at a time when being an openly lesbian musician was challenging to say the least.

    I have named just some of the inspirational women from Lanark and Hamilton East, but, as I said earlier, there are many more who do ordinary jobs and live ordinary lives, and also deserve to be recognised.

    Let me outline one final matter that I wish to change. The Prime Minister has committed to review domestic violence legislation, which I welcome, but I ask her to consider the cross-party calls for a review of the child maintenance tax for domestic violence survivors. I have gone on at great length about that, but if the spirit is to be bold and to ask for change, I will continue to do so.

    There is still much work to do. As we celebrate women across the world, let me quote some words from Maya Angelou:

    “If you don’t like something, change it.”

  • Who could argue with that? I call Lucy Allan.

  • It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) and her excellent speech—indeed there have been many excellent speeches so far. I am pleased that there are so many women who are being bold and who are bringing about change in this place, and I am proud to be one of them.

    I am deeply proud of being Telford’s first ever Conservative MP, and of overcoming the odds and the obstacles to make that possible in what was once a safe Labour seat. However, I am prouder still of being Shropshire’s first female MP since 1929 and of overcoming the odds and obstacles to make that possible, because that was the greater challenge.

    No one should underestimate the difficulties and roadblocks that, inevitably, are still there for women who want to come into Parliament and who want to get the voices of women heard. It may not be as difficult as it was in 1929 when Edith Picton-Turbevill was elected to be MP for The Wrekin, or in the days of my family member, Janie Allan, who was a militant socialist suffragette arrested for smashing windows in Downing Street. In 1912, she was imprisoned in Holloway where she was force fed.

    I have no doubt Janie Allan would be proud, and probably also amazed, that I am here and can go to Downing Street to make my voice heard without the need to smash any windows and that when I do so, the Prime Minister is a woman. I pay tribute to Janie Allan for her daring; she was a bold woman. I also pay tribute to the women who came after her who enabled us to be in this place today.

    Sometimes, we minimise the difficulties that women face in getting into Parliament and in staying here. Sometimes, we prefer just not to talk about it. However, if we pretend that there are no problems, we do no favours for the women who are still to come to this place.

    The increase in women MPs since 2005, when there were only 17 female Conservative MPs, has created transformational change in the make-up of the House of Commons and it has transformed the things that we talk about and the debates that we hold, and that is to be welcomed. We must pay tribute to Baroness Jenkin, our Prime Minister and the organisation, Women2Win, which has helped so many women over those years. Today, seeing 70 women Conservative MPs in Parliament, is a proud day, but the work is not yet done. For more women to stay in Parliament and to follow on behind us, we need to speak out about some of the obstacles that we experience. That will make it easier for the women who come to this place after we have gone.

    I am becoming increasingly concerned about a tendency to treat certain crimes, where women are predominantly the victims and men predominantly the perpetrators, as gender-neutral crimes. It is suggested that, as these crimes can happen to men too, they are not about gender relations, and that the male/female dynamic is irrelevant. I do not agree with that. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is not in his place to hear this part of my speech. An example of where that is happening is child sexual exploitation. The perpetrators are men and the victims are almost entirely women and yet, because there have been some male victims, we are told that it is a gender-neutral crime. If we fail to understand that some crimes are predominantly committed by men against women, we cannot tackle the causes and we cannot provide the support that women need to recover from these crimes.

    Child sexual exploitation is about the exploitation of a power imbalance between men and women, and it is where men groom and trade young girls for sex with other men. If we do not see it in those terms and we say that child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse, that gender is irrelevant and that the perpetrator’s gender is irrelevant, it does not take us any further forward. This is a crime perpetrated by men against women, and let us not pretend otherwise.

    I do not have much time left, so I shall cut to the chase. I began by talking about the difficulties that still exist for women to get into this place and stay here; I want to add that most women do not want any special treatment or favours. No one wants to be perceived as complaining. In fact, when I first came here, I did not want to be labelled as a woman who would speak up only for women’s issues, and I steered clear of the Women and Equalities Committee, but I am now extremely proud to be a member of it and to have had a complete change of heart. I want to be a voice for other women whose voices cannot be heard.

  • I want to use today’s debate to highlight an oral history learned at my mum’s knee about the match women of London’s east end, who took control of their lives, setting ablaze a fire of trade union activism that not only secured better conditions at work for themselves, but inspired an era of labour organisation that would see workers’ rights entrenched and a political party of labour founded.

    These courageous, poor, ill-educated women worked in appalling circumstances at the Bryant and May factory in east London. In 1888, they came out on strike to secure safer working conditions. Yet their story has been misrepresented and their impact on the early days of the labour movement has been underestimated—they were not the ones writing the histories. Their victory is attributed to Annie Besant, although not in the version I heard from my mum; in fact, she had never heard of Annie Besant. Let us give Annie her due—she did much to highlight the horrific working conditions at the factory—but she was opposed to the strike. She tried to dissuade the women from going on strike; she feared for them.

    The version of history in which the defenceless waifs of London’s underclass were rescued by the principled, sympathetic middle-class champions has been comprehensively debunked by the amazing, remarkable, redoubtable author Louise Raw. In her brilliant book “Striking a Light”, she meticulously details just how the match women, led by five workers—Alice Francis, Kate Slater, Mary Driscoll, Jane Wakeling and Eliza Martin—knew their own minds, designed their own tactics, led their own movement and forged their own history. They were the true leaders of the match women’s strike.

    Witnesses at the time were in no doubt of the significance of the event. The Star newspaper reported:

    “The victory of the girls...is complete. It was won without preparation—without organisation—without funds...a turning point in the history of our industrial development.”

    But the true story of the match women is so much more than just proud local women’s history. These women were and are integral to our national story. History records that it was the heroic London dockers of 1889 who spurred the foundation of the labour movement. But the record needs to be clear that it was London’s working-class women, a year earlier, who were the vital spark of trade unionism. The men learned from the women—they learned from their mothers, their wives, their sisters, their daughters and their neighbours. John Burns, a leading trade unionist at the time, told the striking dockers—men—to

    “stand shoulder to shoulder. Remember the match girls, who won their fight and formed a union.”

    Today the leaders’ names have echoed in this Chamber. But it ain’t enough. We have no memorial to them—their fight, their impact and their place in history. I have asked the Government before, and I ask again: please put pressure on English Heritage. We need to get this changed. I have tried, and so far I have been unsuccessful. English Heritage does not seem the least bit interested, despite its recent commitment to reflect diversity in its blue plaque scheme. I want a blue plaque on the site to recognise the true leaders of the match women’s strike and the 1,400 women who came together to withdraw their labour, demanding and winning safer and fairer working conditions. We need a plaque to remember the women who organised, who fought and who won against massive odds—women who were instrumental in founding a political labour movement that continues to fight for fair pay and conditions for all of Britain’s workers.

  • I am delighted to speak in this important debate and to follow the very powerful speech from the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), who can count on my support for her campaign.

    The UN’s theme for International Women’s Day this year is

    “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”

    and the global theme is “Be bold for change”, but 2030 is only 13 years away, and there is still much to be done. The Prime Minister has called the gender pay gap—the difference in earning power between men and women—a “burning injustice”. I could not agree more.

    We still have some way to go in the changing world of work in the UK. British women still have 71% of the economic opportunity that men have. Yes, there are other countries that are doing much worse, but the UK should be a leader in this area. Sadly, we are not.

    UN sustainable development goal 5 describes gender equality as a world issue. It is a sad statistic that between 1995 and 2015, global female labour force participation decreased from 52% to 49%. Only 69% of women are employed in the UK, compared with 78% of men. The global gender pay gap is 25.5%, but the UK gender pay gap is 19.2%. That is not something to be proud of. We cannot lecture other countries around the world that we have it better. If the current trends continue, it will take 70 years to close the global gender wage gap, but the Government have vowed to reduce it within a generation.

    If we are going to be bold for change, we will have to look very hard at where we can make a difference. One way to address that is by looking at older women in the workplace. I want to focus on women returning to work, particularly older women. One of the findings from the gender pay gap inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee, on which I serve, was that women who have been out of the workplace for more than six months find it difficult to get back into employment. The longer they are out of work, the harder it is.

    I set up the all-party group on women and work with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) to look at the barriers to work. Our group has proved to be incredibly popular—we have standing room only at most of our meetings. There is still a definite need—I wish it were not so—to help women in the workplace. Our first all-party group inquiry was about women returning to work. We published our report in January, and it seems to have struck a chord with employers and women up and down the country.

    There are some very good examples of companies that are already doing it, but we need to do much more to get people on board and to see the wisdom of tapping into the life experience and work-related experience of older women employees who are keen to get back into work. In my views, companies that cannot see the potential are missing a big trick. To put it quite simply, there is a huge pool of talent out there.

    People take time out of the workplace for all sorts of reasons. The biggest reason is caring responsibilities, whether for children or for elderly relatives. Some people, including me, took time out because we think that parenting is the most important job in the world and we wanted to take responsibility for bringing up the next generation—there is absolutely nothing wrong with that view. For others, childcare costs are an enormous barrier for women who want to return to work. Having 30 hours of free childcare will help, but I fear that too many men and women are not taking time out to look after their children because they are worried about getting back into work. Taking time out of the workplace is a huge financial commitment, but more would be prepared to make that choice if they knew that they would not struggle to get back into work at a later date. Families would be in a better place to budget, too.

    The more social investment and measures that Governments can put in place to balance work and family commitments for both men and women and to recognise the importance of looking after children, the better. I am pleased that the Government have recognised many of those points in their policies, but we need to take it further. For instance, our group’s report found that few people were taking up shared parental leave—just 1% of men are taking it up. It is considered complicated and unwieldy.

    There is little recognition of the work that women—it is predominantly women—do when they are at home. We have to stop this idea that just because someone has taken time out of the workplace, they are any less capable. My heart sinks when people dismiss mothers or fathers who are staying at home; what is more important than bringing up the next generation? It should be treated as equally important as going back to work.

    Many women who have been out of the workplace for some time have lost confidence and do not know how to start, but several organisations are addressing this. We are incredibly grateful for people such as Julianne Miles, the co-founder of Women Returners, who contributed to our report. Companies need to be flexible in their approach and in their conditions. They must not see a gap in CVs as a barrier and show a reluctance to employ someone. Employing older women and men is a huge economic opportunity, especially if we are going to live until we are 90, as the predictions are for South Korea. I challenge all companies: be bold for change and lead the way.

  • I rise to speak as No. 404. Obviously, none of us should simply be a number, but being only the 404th woman to be elected to this place seems astonishing to me, in this day and age, when we would all like to believe that we had moved beyond all that. But we have not. Both at home and further afield, the life chances of women and girls are too often hindered by barriers, sometimes insurmountable ones, that should not be there.

    We all know of exceptional and inspiring women in the public eye who have overcome those barriers, against all the odds, but there are many women who plough through more quietly and are just as influential, and who are no less impressive for being out of the public eye; women such as my late mother-in-law, Harbhajan Kaur, who spent her young life in rural India, where she taught other young women, before moving to Scotland and raising her own family, teaching her own girls to be strong, independent women, as she was. Today we must applaud all the individual women around the world who are pushing against the barriers.

    I recently saw an Indian television advert about a cheery chap called Gurdeep who ran a sweet shop selling piles of delicious-looking ladoo. His shop was called Gurdeep Singh & Daughters, and the message behind the advert was that girls can do anything that boys can, which of course is true. In some ways it is a great shame that in 2017 we even need to say that. But we do need to say it, and that holds true here just as much as it does in India.

    In too many ways we are nowhere near where we should be. Last year, the median average earnings for full-time female employees was £12.82, as opposed to £14.16 for men; less than 27% of FTSE 100 company directors were women; and in this House—well, it has a long way to go. I am pleased that the Scottish Government are very focused on action to make a difference to these and other areas of women’s lives, and we do need action. We need action here, too, such as the brilliant work of my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), who did such a great job in shepherding through her Istanbul convention Bill. We do need frameworks, which is why the Scottish Government’s commitment to gender equality is so influential. These commitments, and role models such as our First Minister, make a significant difference to women’s lives and to the aspirations and beliefs of our girls.

    They also make a difference to the aspirations and beliefs of our boys. As a mum of fantastic boys, I believe that I would be doing them a huge disservice if I did not spend time ensuring that they understand that girls and boys, men and women, are equal in value, in ability and in every way. So the fact that equality for women is at the heart of our vision for an equal Scotland, and seeing that commitment in action in those who influence us, makes a huge difference. It is important for all our children to see these principles of equality and fairness in action in public life, as well as in their own daily lives.

    We all know someone whose commitment to women’s issues and to equality has inspired us. We in this place must amplify that, live it every day and show it, so that all our young people have every prospect of success, whatever their identity. When I was a wee girl, I cannot say that I was inspired much by the most famous female politician of the day—even then I knew that she did not speak for me. But I also knew perfectly well that I could do whatever I wanted with my life, and be whoever I wanted to be, because I was inspired by another politician much closer to home: my own mum. She lived a life that was very far from ordinary, and she believed in her girls in a way that every child deserves and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) said, she was the change that she wanted to see in the world. That is what we all need to do in this place, here in our Westminster ivory tower. We are in the most privileged position. If we do not use it to push the rights of girls and women, we are letting ourselves down, we are letting our girls down, and we are letting our boys down, too.

    Let us rise to the occasion. Let us not just come here every year and agree—I think that largely we do agree—that the rights of women really do merit some attention. Let us all commit this year to making a concerted effort to do the big things and the small things, to make the decisions and change the policies that really will make a difference.

  • International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements of women around the world. I therefore want to begin by marking some of the great accomplishments of women from my constituency of Ogmore. Norah Isaac, who was born in Caerau, was one of the greatest 20th-century Welsh authors and a passionate advocate of the Welsh language. Norah’s accolades include being the first woman ever to be a head teacher of a Welsh medium school, and later, at Trinity College in Carmarthen, establishing the first ever Welsh drama department. Sian Lloyd, from Maesteg, is one the UK’s longest serving weather forecasters, after spending 24 years at ITV Weather. Aside from her meteorology work, Sian is also known for her charitable efforts, including her support for the Prince’s Trust.

    The achievements of women have built our world to what it is today, but unfortunately so many women are supressed and limited by a world that still favours men. I want to encourage each and every male Member of Parliament to use the platform that we have been given to highlight that injustice. It is our duty in Parliament to highlight injustices, and one of the greatest in justice that remains in the world today is the barriers preventing women from succeeding.

    The situation for women in the UK should embarrass us all. In the workplace, according to the Opportunity Now campaign, for every £1 a man earns, a woman earns 81p. One in 10 women have experienced sexual harassment at work, and over half of tribunals involve some form of sex discrimination against women. There are unfair pressures on women that men simply do not face in day-to-day life. For example, one in five women are carers, and there can be even more significant difficulties balancing work live with other responsibilities.

    On a global level, only five countries have gender pay gaps below 10%, and some have a disparity of close to 40%. Internationally, only 1% of land is owned by women, and only a fifth of managers are women, in all walks of life and professions. Progress is being made, but in my opinion the speed is far too slow.

    I passionately believe that men must be far more vocal on these injustices. Ultimately, the fight for gender equality should be led by women. However, as allies in the fight, we male Members of Parliament must use the platform that we have been given to highlight the injustices.

    I want to focus for a moment on the scale of femicide in the UK. In December I raised in this Chamber the femicide census published by Women’s Aid and nia. The report details the cases of nearly 1,000 women in England and Wales who have been killed by men since 2009, demonstrating the absolute worst product of sexism in the UK. It showed that the majority of women killed by men are murdered by their former or current partner, in what the report says is often “the final act of control” in an abusive relationship. Following the release of those data, Women’s Aid and nia called for long-term funding of specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services, as well as additional funding for specialist projects for women to exit prostitution. The partnership also called for a specific recognition that post-separation is a significantly heightened risk period for women leaving abusive relationships.

    That report and the subsequent recommendations were published on Wednesday 7 December. The following day, in this Chamber, I called on the Government to make a statement on what they will be doing to put a stop to any more women being killed at the hands of men through domestic violence. I am disappointed to say that, 12 weeks later, there has been no public response from the Government on those recommendations—I am happy for the Minister to correct me if that is not the case.

    I am pleased by the action being taken by the Welsh Government down the road in Cardiff Bay. The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 improved the consistency, quality and join-up of service provision, introduced a needs-based approach to developing strategies that will ensure strong strategic direction and strengthened accountability, and worked to promote the awareness of, and to prevent, protect and support, victims of gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Since the Act became law, the Welsh Government have consistently looked for new ways of tackling the issue of domestic violence.

    I started my speech by naming two women who are famous for their accomplishments in various fields of expertise. I will end by paying tribute to the many women in my constituency, and probably in every constituency, who frankly are the lifeblood of our communities, be they the women who run the football clubs, the youth clubs, the scouts and the guides, or the business leaders, the managers, the public servants and the entrepreneurs, and all the women who hold public office, in this Chamber and every council and Assembly Chamber across the land. Their leadership is vital, their achievements are many and, frankly, they do a damn sight better job, often with more complex lives, than many of the men I know who do it.

  • May I say how pleased I am to represent the Liberal Democrats in this debate on International Women’s Day, as the 454th female MP? I am proud to say, in contrast to some previous Members’ contributions, that I am not the first, nor even the second, woman to have held my seat. I am, in fact, the third Liberal Democrat woman to represent Richmond Park, and I am extremely proud of that.

    One of the advantages of being a London MP is that I get to go home to my family every evening and spend time with them every morning. As the mother of young children, this is a particular blessing to me, but it does mean that I live a life of contrasts. Yesterday, for example, I spent the first part of the morning trying to get my son to clean his teeth and my daughter to brush her hair. I then travelled into Westminster and challenged the Prime Minister in the Chamber about her spending priorities for education. Of the two things, the latter was more remarked upon—it was heard by Members here, recorded in Hansard and shared on Twitter—but getting my son to clean his teeth was the greater achievement in many ways. It took more ingenuity, effort and emotional commitment, but nobody noticed, cared or applauded me for it.

    It often sounds ironic or self-deprecating to refer to the tasks of motherhood as being more taxing than tasks carried out in the professional sphere, but in this case, I am not being ironic; it is precisely true. We are so used to underplaying the work we do as mothers and in the home that we do not think anyone will take us seriously if we talk seriously about it. So today, in the spirit of the motion to recognise the achievements of women, I want to celebrate the everyday, unacknowledged, unrewarded and unnoticed achievements of women.

    I start with childbirth, which is probably the ultimate feminine achievement. Women are often told not to make too much of a fuss about childbirth, with people saying, “Millions of women all over the world and throughout history have done it, and most of them don’t have access to pain relief”, “It’s the most natural thing in the world” and so on. But the births of my three babies continue to be the most profound experiences of my life. We do not actually talk all that much about childbirth. Yes, we discuss the timing and order of events such as what we were doing when we went into labour and how long it took, but we have not really developed a language to talk about how it feels or how it makes us feel. We just do not have the words. Although the experience leaves a lasting imprint, it is never fully acknowledged. The memory of childbirth remains with us—unshakeable and unshareable, but never fully expressed. I want to take advantage of this occasion to say what a huge achievement it is to give birth, and how proud we, as women, should be of our capacity to do that.

    I also want to acknowledge those first weeks and months of a baby’s life when a woman gives herself over entirely to looking after her child. We all choose different ways to do this, but the achievement is the same. Whether our children are now fully grown adults or still small children, they are only here because their mothers kept them alive in those early weeks and months. Again, the effort and sacrifice that takes is often dismissed or overlooked, so I tell mothers everywhere to be proud of what they did because their children would not be what they are without them.

    The long days and short years of childhood that follow are full of minor, unacknowledged successes such as wrestling them into coats, coaxing them to sleep and getting them to eat vegetables—the hard, hard work of persuading resisting children to do what is best for them. Each tiny triumph is a building block to a better person, but the reward is a very long way away, and nobody will remember the battles fought to make it happen. So, to every mother who managed to get her children up, dressed, teeth cleaned and to the school gates on time this morning—particularly in their World Book day costumes—not just this morning, but every morning: be proud and do not underestimate yourself. It is a great achievement to raise children.

    I am conscious that people will think I am stereotyping women by referring only to their achievements as mothers. If am doing that, it is because I want to focus on the things that only women do and only women can do. I am just as proud of women who achieve great things in a professional, creative or sporting field, especially if they do it against a background of gender bias, but I want to focus on the things that only women do. I do not want to ignore the role of men in childrearing. All the fathers I know are as equally involved in the unglamorous, difficult bits of parenting as the mothers are, but this debate is about International Women’s Day, and we should acknowledge that, globally, the vast majority of childrearing and domestic work is done by women. The truth is that this is why our achievements in this sphere are so often overlooked and underappreciated. It is because this work is done by women that it is so often ignored or taken for granted.

    I am as grateful as any other woman of my age that social progress has enabled me to have a broader life than just being a wife and mother, and I am glad that so many other women are also making the most of opportunities to leave their homes and go out to work. It makes a positive difference, not just to them and their families, but to our economy and society. However, it means that women are not at home to do the unpaid domestic labour that they might have done 30 years ago and have done for centuries. We have found ways to outsource the tasks of childrearing and domestic upkeep, and meet the costs of that from our own pocket, but the job of looking after sick and elderly relatives is now increasingly being met by the state, and we need to find ways to meet the costs of social care that result.

  • I have been absolutely inspired by what I have heard this afternoon. In fact, I have rewritten my speech a good deal as I have been sitting here, but I am going to do the one that I originally started with. When I was asked to take part in the debate, I was also asked whether I could give the perspective of an older woman. I resisted for all of about 10 seconds, because I have now fully embraced my age.

    A mother gives her child the best future she possibly can. She teaches her children what her mother taught her. My mother was born in 1919 and was an intelligent, caring woman who only wanted what was best for her three daughters, but she was raised in a time when men ruled. One of her favourite expressions to me was, “Marion, hen, don’t argue with your father. Just know that you’re right.” I could never take that advice and I frequently argued with my father, but I could only actually do that when only he and I were there, because he still had to be seen as the man of the house, and as untouchable and unarguable with it.

    My husband was raised by his mother and four older sisters, although women are still a complete mystery to him. His mother insisted that George did not have to do any housework. Why should he? He had four sisters; I have heard frequently over the past 46 years how they felt about that. Many years later, he actually said to our daughter, “Rachel, why haven’t you tidied up?” My daughter said, “Why haven’t you asked my brothers that?” And he said, “Because you’re a girl.” I am not denigrating my husband—I actually asked him whether it was alright to tell these stories, because he knew I was going to do it anyway—but I just want to point out how much progress has been made in this regard. My husband would be horrified and absolutely heartbroken if his granddaughters did not receive equal opportunities and pay, and equality across the board. This is how progress has been made. It has not been easy and it is still ongoing work, but we have made progress in the Fellows household.

    I have personally been discriminated against in my lifetime. I secured an exciting new job setting up jobcentres across the east coast of Scotland in 1974. When I phoned to confirm the final arrangements for starting, I mentioned I was pregnant and was told, “Goodbye.” I never started that job. It is vital that the kinds of tests that I had to face are never, ever revisited. Although there are laws to protect us, it is attitudes that matter, and attitudes have to change.

    When I started working, I actually got equal pay with the men I worked alongside in Midlothian County Council. However, when I was a councillor in 2012, before I entered this place, I found myself on a member-officer working group on equal pay. The women on North Lanarkshire Council who did the best and worst jobs—home support assistants, lollipop women and all that—had fought for 10 years, but only when they went to a woman lawyer, Carol Fox, was their claim finally made. That should not happen.

    I realise that I do not have much time left, but the one thing I want to say is that this is not about me, my family or the UK. I went to one.org last night, and I want to say, here and now, that I fully support its “Poverty is Sexist” campaign. It is vital that we educate women across the world. I quote the African proverb:

    “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family”

    and a nation. Let us do that. Please Minister, let us make sure that there is absolutely no cut to what we give to women internationally.

  • It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows). I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) on securing this important debate, and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting it.

    I, too, would like to address the need for an ambitious change in attitudes and culture, as well as for legislation to protect the victims of rape and sexual violence. There were 35,798 complaints of rape in this country between 2015 and 2016, but just 2,689—7.5%—resulted in convictions. Some 90% of rape victims are female, and 10% are male.

    Last week, I was very fortunate to visit Argentina with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. I spoke with Diputada Victoria Donda about the huge protests in the streets last October, following the drugging, rape and brutal murder of 16-year-old Lucía Pérez. According to the popular movement Ni Una Menos, which means not one woman or one girl less, one woman is killed every 30 hours in Argentina, and there are still protests on the streets outside the Congresso today. That is despite the fact that a law was passed in 2012 against so-called femicide.

    However, legislation without enforcement, and without cultural change, is not worth the paper it is written on. As today’s motto reminds us, we must be bold—bold enough to engender change on all levels, from the attitudes of the police, to the process of the justice system, to, most importantly, outcomes and the experiences of victims. I attended the police parliamentary scheme last summer, and it was interesting to see the work being done with the police to address attitudes. We must not be satisfied that legislation alone will make a difference; we must address the culture in all stages of the criminal justice system, be that the police or the courts.

    Following my private Member’s Bill last month, the Government have—I am proud to have, I hope, contributed to this—announced a review of section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. That is a move I wholeheartedly welcome. The Act sought to prevent rape complainants from being questioned about their previous sexual history with a third party in all but exceptional circumstances. The Act came into effect in 1999, but that is not what rape complainants experience when they go into court. Some 36% of rape trials overseen by the Northumbria court observers panel last year included questioning about the prior sexual conduct of the complainant with a third party. The number of harrowing individual cases I have heard indicates that that draconian tactic is still employed by many defence lawyers across the country.

    The brutal cross-examination of rape victims re-traumatises the vulnerable at a time when the system should be protecting them. It is not a matter of proving whether a rape complainant is lying; it is a cynical strategy to discredit complainants’ characters by portraying the complainant as promiscuous, in a way that makes them less credible to the jury. Irreparable harm is done to victims under the noses of judges in our courts. The procedures that are supposed to be followed under the 1999 Act are, in many cases, disregarded. This victim-blaming attitude needs to be stamped out in not only the justice process but our society as a whole.

    On this, our International Women’s Day, we are being reminded to “be bold for change”. At home and abroad, we have an obligation to change not just legislation but perceptions of rape and sexual violence to ensure that all victims, regardless of their gender, have the confidence to come forward and report these serious crimes. I hope all Members in the House will join me as we continue to battle to change not only the laws but the attitudes that fail victims in this society and abroad.

  • It is a pleasure to follow that inspiring speech.

    Yesterday, Labour Women made a short film for International Women’s Day. One of the things we were asked to do was to complete the sentence, “I want to live in a world where”. I said I wanted to live in a world where violence against women was eradicated and where rape was no longer used as a weapon of war. However, I wanted to go on to say that I also wanted the statistic that every week two women are murdered by their partner or ex-partner to be eradicated. That figure remains stubbornly the same, and no amount of awareness raising, improving of police handling of complaints and passing of laws, such as Clare’s law, appears to make a dent in it.

    As we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), those two women per week are not statistics but real people—colleagues, friends, mothers, sisters and daughters. Leading up to their deaths, there is usually a catalogue of assaults—not reported—with partners pleading that they will change, and a repeat of the cycle of violence.

    Imagine the trauma of being a child growing up in that situation, seeing the two most significant adults in their life fighting; going to bed at night wondering whether the night will be broken by yet another argument; worrying all the time; and, sadly, in many cases, thinking that all this is normal because it is all that they have experienced, living in a state of permanent high anxiety.

    The fallout from domestic abuse is wide, yet the figure of two deaths per week sticks stubbornly. I was pleased to hear our honorary sister, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), talk about that issue earlier. We need to do something about the funding of women’s refuges. Too many women are turned away, and it is still not a statutory and, therefore, a funded duty of councils to provide domestic abuse services.

    As this debate is about International Women’s Day, I want to talk about the plight of women around the world. In any conflict, women often have fewer resources to protect themselves. With children, they frequently make up the majority of displaced and refugee populations. War tactics, such as sexual violence, specifically target women.

    However, women are almost completely missing from peace negotiations following conflict. The international community has recognised that women’s contribution is vital to achieving and sustaining peace. In 2000, the UN Security Council passed the historic resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. It calls for women to participate in peacebuilding, to be better protected from human rights violations, and to have access to justice and services to eliminate discrimination. Yet, almost 17 years on, more than half of peace agreements make no mention of women. We face new threats, including climate shocks, global health pandemics and violent extremism directly targeting women’s rights. Now, more than ever, we need the women, peace and security agenda.

    I want to finish with these words:

    “When you have warfare things happen; people suffer; the noncombatants suffer as well as the combatants. And so it happens in civil war…there is a good deal of warfare for which men take a great deal of glorification which has involved more practical sacrifice on women than it has on any man.”

    Those are not the words of our sisters from Nigeria, Iran, Sri Lanka or anywhere else around the world; they are the words of Emmeline Pankhurst in 1913. Yet they still ring true and have relevance to the international community of women today.

    This week, it was my pleasure to be able to vote on the design of a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst to be erected in Manchester, as a welcome relief from the many statues of men in our city. In the borough of Rochdale, we recently erected a statue of Gracie Fields, and Bury in Greater Manchester is working on a statue to commemorate the wonderful and much missed Victoria Wood, so I go back to where I started: I want to live in a world where it is no longer unusual to put up a statue of a prominent woman—not just in Greater Manchester, but the world over.

  • It is an absolute pleasure to wind up this debate on behalf of the SNP. As I often say, this Chamber always feels like a different place when there are mainly women in it, not least because we do not hear funny noises or sounds that are unrecognisable to most of us. This certainly feels like a period of reflection.

    I pay tribute to the many women MPs who have spoken out in the past year with great bravery, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West (Michelle Thomson), who spoke here a while ago about her rape. Many across the Chamber have spoken of the domestic violence and assault that they have faced. I salute them all, and I am sure that everyone watching does, too. It takes tremendous courage to speak about such personal issues in such a public forum. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald), who spoke about mothers. We should remember those who have lost mothers over the past year, as well as how much mothers contribute to what we have to offer our children and the rest of society.

    As I said, this Chamber can often feel like a different place. Our levels of tolerance often have to increase depending on who is speaking and what they are saying. I pay particular tribute to our Tory colleagues who, on certain occasions, need to have much higher levels of tolerance than the rest of us, but achieve that with such grace. I am grateful for the many brilliant contributions that they have made today.

    The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), who always speaks with great eloquence, passion and knowledge about victims of domestic violence, started the debate with another awe-inspiring speech. The right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) spoke about Yazidi women and brought home the terrible plight that they have to endure, which we really must do something about. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) spoke eloquently about women in the armed forces, to whom we pay continual tribute.

    The hon. Member for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) spoke about social media. I had the pleasure of being on a programme with her and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley about how social media abuse can affect women disproportionately. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) reminded us about the important—perhaps the most important—job of men and women in bringing up their families. What can seem like small triumphs at the beginning of the day in getting children to do minor things are actually major triumphs, and we should never forget any of them. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), who spoke about her husband, George, whom I have met—a wonderful individual. If he is not a feminist through choice, he is certainly one through submission.

    We have heard about the main theme of International Women’s Day—and, indeed, that of the UN’s International Women’s Day. We support both excellent themes. I would like to reflect briefly on the achievements of women in the past year. Since the last time we gathered for this debate, Taiwan, in May 2016, elected its first ever female President, with 56% of the vote. Last year, Afghanistan’s first lady, Rula Ghani, officially inaugurated the first ever women-only university in Kabul. Here in the UK, we saw women taking up positions of leadership, not least the Prime Minister.

    Progress is being made, but there is much more to do, particularly in the professions. Women remain significantly under-represented, given that they are 51% or 52% of the UK population. Research shows that we have more female lawyers than ever before, but that does not mean that our legal system has a real gender balance. We also see many more female journalists. I pay tribute to Sophy Ridge, with her new programme on Sundays, and Emma Barnett, with her programme on Radio 5. I have no doubt that they face a very different level of scrutiny from their male counterparts. I hope that Members will join me in saying that we are with them as they try to deal with all the stereotypes while producing excellent programmes. Again, however, having more women in journalism does not necessarily mean that our reporting of politics is more gender balanced.

    I would like to mention some experiences of women in the Chamber. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), as usual, made an excellent speech about equality. She mentioned Winnie Ewing, the first female SNP MP, who, after she came down to Westminster, talked about being stalked at night:

    “I first noticed the problem in the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Wherever I sat this MP sat opposite...Then I noticed that he has started to follow me along corridors, appearing behind me without saying anything...I set through the dark Chamber and into the Public Lobby to go to the stairs leading to the Members’ Entrance, from where I could ring for a taxi. However, as I left the Public Lobby, I saw the door swinging in front of me. I felt afraid but I went on through the door and down the steps…As I turned a bend on the stair, there was my stalker right in front of me, looking very sinister indeed. I tried to humour him as I wanted to reach the cloakroom—where there was an attendant—without anything happening. He kept staring and following me, but I made it and breathlessly told the cloakroom attendant what was going on.”

    That was in 1970, and this is of course 2017, but in 2017 you get barked at in the Chamber. I am sure that I speak for all women in this Chamber when I say that we have had more than enough of this nonsense. While Winnie, Nancy Astor and Barbara Castle were isolated here, I genuinely do feel that if we work together, in our greater numbers, we can make real, positive change. It is not about fighting for equality for equality’s sake—it never is—but making sure that this Parliament is more a place of representative democracy. Having a female Prime Minister does not mean that we have a Parliament built on equality, because in 2017, as we have heard, only 30% of the MPs sitting on these Benches are women. However, we have made progress, and we should celebrate that where it occurs.

    I would like to speak briefly about violence against women. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) on her excellent work on her private Member’s Bill to ratify the Istanbul convention. She has demonstrated how working across this Chamber can really make a difference. The debate on that Bill was one of the brighter days of my time down here at Westminster. Around the world, more than 35% of women have experienced either physical or sexual violence. Intimate partners are responsible for 38% of women’s murders. The Honour Based Violence Awareness Network believes that there are 5,000 honour killings internationally per year. Of those, there are thought to be about 12 honour killings in the UK each year. UNICEF claims that at least 200 million girls and women alive today, living in 30 different countries, have undergone female genital mutilation. The World Health Organisation estimates that 3 million girls a year become at risk of this procedure. These are shocking statistics.

    Of course 2016 was a difficult year, with our solidarity being put to the test by Trump’s election. It is now more important than ever for women to stick together, as we know how to do so well. On next week’s agenda for Westminster Hall, we see a debate to which I am very much looking forward on an e-petition relating to high heels and workplace dress codes. I am really interested in whether there can possibly be a contrary opinion to women being able to wear what they want, when they want, whatever that may be, but I have no doubt that one will surface from somewhere.

    We can and must continue our work to achieve a gender balance in Parliament, in journalism and in civil society. We need women in all parts of public life, not because that is good for women but because it is good for all society. While we do not agree on everything—of course we do not—and there is not a singular female view, there are opportunities for those of us from across the political spectrum in all parties, and those who belong to none, to come together about the things that really matter most.

  • It is a real pleasure to speak in such an important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) on securing it, and thank her for her ongoing commitment to women’s equality. Her passion and dedication to women, and particularly to ending domestic violence, is second to none. This House is definitely a better place for having her in it, and I am grateful for her contributions.

    Before I first came here I had been blessed, because my previous careers were first in the arts and then in healthcare, which are professions dominated by women. It was therefore quite a shock to come into this place, not just because of the small number of women here, but because our voices are very rarely heard. I came into Parliament to give a voice to those who do not have one, so I was quite surprised to find that our voices were shouted over, and that we were belittled, called hysterical or not engaged with at all. That is something that we have to change, and it is why I am so grateful for debates such as this one.

    As a result of that, it is important that I give over most of my time to reinforcing the sisters in this place and giving their voices an extra platform. I start with the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), who proposed—perhaps half-seriously—quotas for ministerial appointments. I am grateful to her for talking about the revenge porn helpline. It is superb that the Government have introduced lots of great legislation on that, but the cash needs to follow the policy. She was right to say that domestic violence is not just physical violence.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) made an incredibly upsetting and powerful speech, which was very appropriate for this Chamber. I hope that we can debate the issue that she raised further. She championed Yazidi women, who are being persecuted, bought, sold, raped, exploited and commodified by Daesh. We need to do more to stop this barbaric form of slavery. I urge the Government to do all they can to prevent it.

    The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) was right to give us the history of women’s roles in the armed forces and to explain how far we have come. I am grateful to other Members who raised the impact on families.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) spoke about her constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is imprisoned in Iran and suffering extreme ill health. The Iranian Government are breaching the Bangkok rules that they have signed up to. There are half a million women in prisons worldwide. I also want to raise the fact that Holloway prison is being sold off, which is likely to put pressure on women. I do not think that prisons are the right place for women. The number of women I have met in my constituency who have been imprisoned for evading the TV licence, or for stealing nappies because they could not afford them, shows that there is something very wrong with the system.

    The hon. Member for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) did a good job of giving us the history of women’s rights and women’s interventions that brought her to this place. I am particularly grateful to her for welcoming all young women and girls into politics, and for telling them that if they come here, we will support them. The hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) highlighted the great women who inspired her. It is right that we pay our respects to the women who give us the power to keep going and who inspire us to believe that we can do this.

    The hon. Member for Telford (Lucy Allan) has been doing some superb campaigning around child exploitation. She is right to say that we often talk about violence as being gender-neutral, but a lot of it is not. We need to call out gendered violence and name it for what it is.

    My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) gave another powerful speech. It frustrates me that it is down to us to correct history and draw attention to the fact that in 1888, the match women, led by just five remarkable women, changed history. They effectively created the labour movement. The match ladies were—I steal this phrase from my hon. Friend—the spark that started the trade union movement, and yet there is no memorial for them. English Heritage needs to listen, and I support my hon. Friend’s campaign. I do not just want a blue plaque; I want a statue. It is only right.

    The hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond) talked about the gender pay gap. It is so frustrating that we consistently have to go back to the gender pay gap, and to the obstacles that prevent us from closing it as quickly as we would all like. I am grateful to her for raising the issues that prevent women from returning to work and make it much more difficult for them to reach their full economic potential. How lovely it was of the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) to talk about mothers and boys. She highlighted the importance of inspiring them by demonstrating equality in public life.

    I am grateful to have the voice of the honorary sister, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), here. I make a lot of speeches about gendered violence and gender inequality, and I tend to speak to rooms full of women. I am looking forward to the day when debates in the Chamber about women are attended 50:50 by men and women. My hon. Friend was right to highlight great local women and to say that men have a duty to combat abuses against women. He was also right to highlight the fact that 12 weeks on, he is still waiting for a response to his questions.

    We welcome the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney). It was interesting to hear her put a personal spin on the complex balance between parenting and working—one that is not helped by this Chamber, but one with which we in this Chamber have a duty, legally, to help other women. In the contribution of the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), I loved the line:

    “don’t argue with your father. Just know that you’re right.”

    Unfortunately, some of us did not get the follow-on sentence; I am grateful to her mother for saying that. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving living examples of progress. Sometimes, it feels as though we are making achingly slow progress, so I thank her for showing us that progress is being made.

    The hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) highlighted the fact that only 7.9% of rapes result in successful prosecutions. I commend her for the work that she is doing to try to address that. She is campaigning for changes in the attitude of the police and in the processes of justice. We must, as she rightly says, address culture and not just legislation.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) is a great campaigner, particularly around the fact that two women a week are murdered by their partners. I am grateful to her for drawing attention to the impact on children, the broader family and the community. So often, their voices are not heard, and there is usually no support for the people who need it the most. I am also grateful to her for raising the fact that funding for refuges is decreasing all the time. It is concerning that because of the funding cuts, local authorities are now using generic providers rather than giving vital specialist support. I agree that the provision of refuges should be done with statutory, central Government funding, rather than being a duty that falls to local authorities.

    Finally, I echo the voice of the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh), who saluted all the women—particularly, but not exclusively, those in this Chamber—who have, over the last year, had the courage to come forward and use the horrors that they have experienced to try to change legislation and attitudes.

    International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the start of the 20th century. Its roots can be traced back to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours. I can only see it as a sign that this year’s International Women’s Day falls on the same day as the spring Budget, and I urge the Government and the Minister to make sure that this Budget works for women.

  • I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) and other Members on securing this really important debate, and all the inspiring female MPs—and, indeed, one brave male MP, the hon. Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore)—on taking part in today’s significant debate, because International Women’s Day is significant. It is an inspiring annual event that celebrates the achievements of women, both past and present day. It is a great opportunity to take stock of how far we have come, but also to keep fighting for what we believe in around the world and to look at how far we still have to go in our own country. I am grateful to Members from both sides of the House for their thoughtful contributions.

    I am incredibly proud that we now have our second female Prime Minister, and that our Parliament is becoming more diverse. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Nusrat Ghani) said, it has been 700 years in the making, which is painfully slow by anybody’s standards. She is right to call on any women watching our proceedings today to come and join us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Telford (Lucy Allan) rightly pointed out, it is the presence of women in the Chamber that is changing the situation we are talking about. The reason we are having this debate is that there are so many more females MPs, and that is the only way we will make the significant changes we want.

    The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Be bold for change”, and the Government want to be bold for change. It is only through being bold, being courageous and taking risks that we can create the lasting change we all want. No country can truly succeed while half its population is left behind, and despite the conscious efforts of many men and women over the years, barriers to equality do exist. The Government are committed to tackling such barriers to equality wherever they manifest themselves. That is why International Women’s Day is for everyone, and we know that gender equality is not a zero-sum game: true equality enables both men and women to be who they want to be, unconstrained by outdated stereotypes and unconstrained by assumptions about what it means to be a woman, or indeed a man.

    I know that Members on both sides of the House share the Government’s commitment to driving forward this agenda. I am particularly grateful to the Women and Equalities Committee, which rightly holds the Government’s feet to the fire all the time. It is very hard to believe that this Select Committee only started to exist in June 2015, given the breadth and range of its inquiries so far. Its work is rightly recognised and respected, which is why I am very pleased to announce today that the House of Commons intends to make the Women and Equalities Committee permanent. This is a very fitting testament to the energy and commitment of all the members of the Committee, but I must pay special tribute to the very dynamic leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller). I pay tribute to her and all the members of her Committee for their work and their amazing achievements in this important space.

    Not only is gender equality the right thing to do, but it is good for our society and really good for our economy. It is essential to unlock the potential of women in the workplace. We need to build a stronger economy that fully utilises the talents that women have to offer. I am very proud that there are more women in work than ever before and that the gender pay gap is the lowest it is ever been, but we must go further. The Government are committed to eliminating the gender pay gap entirely, which is why our bold and groundbreaking legislation coming into force next month will require businesses, voluntary organisations and the public sector to publish both their pay and bonus gaps. The regulations will shine a light on the difference between men’s pay and women’s pay, and we hope employers will lead the way by publishing early. We have also set the standard for highly productive, agile working practices by bringing in shared parental leave, extending the right to request flexible working, and providing 30 hours of free childcare a week for working parents of all three and four-year-olds so that men and women alike can balance work and family life.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond), who is the excellent co-chairwoman of the all-party group on women and work, rightly celebrated the skills, talents and experience that older women can bring to the workforce. On 2 February, the Government published our “Fuller Working Lives: A Partnership Approach” document, which sets out the key actions the Government are taking to support older workers to remain in the labour market. That is not just great for business. I was struck by the words of one woman who had just gone back into the workplace after many years of caring responsibilities when she told me, “It’s the first thing in my life I have ever done for myself.” Those words have really stayed with me.

    We want to support women and girls throughout their lives, but to get the whole picture we must look at everything—from the classroom to the boardroom and beyond. In education, we are committed to increasing the number of girls studying STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—subjects. We are also supporting girls and boys in school by giving them the tools they need to be safe, confident and able to develop healthy and respectful relationships. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education announced yesterday our plans for 21st-century relationships and sex education. Our proposals will ensure that children of all ages and from all backgrounds will have the opportunity to learn what positive, healthy and nurturing relationships should look like. The building blocks for this will start in primary school with relationships education, and continue in secondary school with relationships and sex education.

    We have made great progress at the very top of business, where female representation has gone from strength to strength. We know that companies with more diverse boards and senior executives can access a wider talent pool and that they better represent the society they serve.

    To ensure that girls and women thrive and succeed and go as far as their talents can take them, they must have the right to live safely and free from all forms of violence. The key to that is a strategy to prevent violence against women and girls. Sadly, many Members, like women across the country, have had their lives invaded by the new threat of online violence. There is no doubt that that insidious misogyny limits the benefits women can gain from the digital world, but there should be no public or private space where violence should be allowed to continue. That means eradicating violence and abuse of any kind, anywhere—online, in our workplaces, in our communities, and in every home.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke asked about the future of the revenge porn helpline. I am very keen for its important work to continue and we are looking closely at how we can continue to support it. In addition to the £80 million already committed to provide services and support for victims and survivors, the Prime Minister recently committed to reviewing the legislation on domestic violence and abuse to transform the way we think about and tackle violence, and that basic right to safety. We are determined to ensure that the law is working to protect women and girls so that intervention and prevention, not crisis response, are the norm.

    The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley again this year read out the list of women killed at the hands of violent men since we were last in the Chamber for this debate. This year, the names included, of course, one of our own, Jo Cox. Every life lost is a tragedy; every name is a name too many. No girl should be in doubt of her right to succeed free from fear and the threat of violence.

    The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) spoke compellingly about her constituent, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She drew attention to the plight of women and girls in prisons overseas, but specifically to the tragic case of her constituent, and I will personally take that up with No. 10.

    The right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) was absolutely right to outline the pain and suffering that the Yazidi women endured—we should never forget that. The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), who is a force of nature, spoke about the importance of educating girls internationally, and we are supporting 5.3 million girls in school, including girls from the most marginalised communities. We have also helped 36 million women get access to financial services and are spending more than any other country on bringing an end to female genital mutilation. Those examples underline our commitment to promoting gender equality at home and overseas. I am proud that we are a world leader in this work.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke asked about the number of police trained in dealing with domestic violence. All new recruits undertake a public protection learning programme, of which domestic abuse is a key feature. New police training called “Domestic Abuse Matters” focuses on recognising controlling and coercive behaviour. That has already been rolled out in five police forces, with many more in the pipeline.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) made an excellent speech on behalf of women in the armed forces. She is a feisty champion of the armed forces. Despite some excellent initiatives, more remains to be done, but we have raised our target for recruiting women in the armed forces to 15% by 2020.

    The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) spoke beautifully about the match ladies. I remember going to see a play about them when I was at school. It was so inspiring and I certainly back her call to have those ladies recognised.

    International Women’s Day is a fantastic opportunity to take stock, to recognise the progress that we have made and celebrate the amazing women, past and present, who have fought the battles, and who continue to fight every day all around the world in the name of equality. It is an opportunity to discuss how much further we have to go, a time to remember that there is so much more to do, and to remind ourselves to be bold in the pursuit of change.

  • I shall be incredibly brief. I thank the Backbench Business Committee—I am thanking myself—for allowing us to have the debate. I thank everybody who spoke in today’s debate with much passion and consensus.

    One of the names I had to read out today was that of Jo Cox, my friend and colleague. Her voice should always be heard in this place, so I shall let her have the last word. When Jo Cox was asked what sort of feminist she was, with the idea that we are all terribly divided, and that “I’m this sort of feminist, you’re that sort of feminist”, her answer was, “a massive one”.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Resolved,

    That this House welcomes International Women’s Day as an important occasion to recognise the achievements of women; and calls on the Government to join in this international event and pledge its commitment to gender parity.

  • On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This week, the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) was in my constituency. To his credit, he informed me that he was going to be in my constituency for a Conservative fundraiser. I offered to go with him, but he rejected my advances. Today I opened my local paper, the Camden New Journal, to read that he had described the “pygmy nature of the Opposition.” Do you, Mr Deputy Speaker, think it was appropriate for him to use the term “pygmy” when he was in the constituency of the shortest MP in Parliament? I await your guidance.

  • The hon. Gentleman is normally a very courteous Member, and he did give notice. I know the hon. Lady will have a quiet word in his ear, but knowing the Member I am sure there was no intent. If there was, she will need to come back to me.

  • Welsh Affairs

  • We now come to the Backbench Business debate on Welsh Affairs. I remind hon. Members that the debate is very oversubscribed. If we can try to start off with five-minute speeches, I will try to give everybody equal time. If there are interventions, I will have to drop that straight away.

  • I beg to move,

    That this House has considered Welsh affairs.

    I thank the Backbench Business Committee for selecting this debate. I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams) for joining me and others in putting the case for securing it.

    I am proud to be a Welsh MP, proud to serve in the House of Commons, proud to be Welsh, proud to be British and proud to be an internationalist. Wales has made an enormous contribution to Britain and the globe. I was hoping to make my opening remarks as the Welsh team were on the way, as Triple Crown winners, to winning the Six Nations championship. That is not so, but we are still a very united country and it is unity that is the theme of my speech today.

    Yesterday, as Welsh people, we celebrated with patriotism. We had an excellent service in the House of Commons, where the Speaker’s Chaplain officiated in the service in both English and Welsh. It is now on the record that we are allowed to use the Welsh language in future Welsh Grand Committees. I say to Mr Deputy Speaker that he should take a leaf out of the book of the Speaker’s Chaplain. He should attend a Welsh Grand Committee debate and, as a great visitor to my constituency and many other parts of Wales, speak in both Welsh and English.

    Before I move on to some of the issues that have shaped the past 12 months, I want to say that there has been some good news. I remind the House of the excellent performance of the Welsh football team in Euro16, when we led the way for the United Kingdom. I remind Members, particularly those on the Labour Benches, that Labour was returned to Government in the Welsh Assembly and that we again have a Labour First Minister of Wales.

    Since St David’s day 2016, there have been some issues that have divided the country and the world. Brexit divided many of our constituencies—it divided Wales and the United Kingdom—and Bush was elected President of the United States. To talk of building walls—I said Bush, but I mean Trump. I have made that mistake before, but he is worse than Bush. The serious point is that he talks about building walls. To talk about building walls is to ask on which side of the wall people belong. We need to put an end to that kind of divisiveness. Of course we need political debate, critical thinking and broad opinion to shape our future, but we need to stop talking about Brexiteers and remainers. We need to talk about the 100% we are elected to represent. In Scotland, they still talk of the 45%, but if we are to move forward we have to move away from tribalism and towards unity.

    As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, Welsh MPs have played a pivotal role in the House of Commons. They have introduced policies and concepts that have united the United Kingdom. I am talking about Nye Bevan and the national health service—something we all support, because it has helped all our people—and Jim Griffiths, the former Member for Llanelli, who introduced the National Assistance Act 1948, again to give social protection to everybody in the UK. Those things have helped shape the politics of the UK.

    We must now build a consensus across parties on the big themes that can unite Wales and the UK. For one, we must provide social care for all our people, and we should have that debate here in the House as Welsh MPs. Over the last few years, I have been saddened to see divisions over the health and social care service being used politically by parties to divide us, when it should unite us and help the most vulnerable in society.

    The digital revolution is something else that can unite us. We need to find 21st-century solutions, and one of those is superfast broadband. [Interruption.] Does my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) want to intervene? No? Superfast broadband liberates communities and families—I know of Welsh families with sons, daughters and other relatives around the world who now speak to them regularly because of the digital information technology facilities available—yet many people in rural and peripheral areas of Wales do not have the same facilities as do those in larger towns and cities.

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for spearheading the effort to secure this debate. Does he agree that it is not just a matter of householders’ rights and opportunities? We also need to get broadband right if we are serious about developing the economy in those peripheral areas.

  • The hon. Gentleman is right. In fact, I was just coming to businesses. I welcome the Digital Economy Bill. I have been arguing for some time, like many other Members, that we need universal coverage in the UK, and it has been resisted for too long. Now it is in the Bill. United as Welsh MPs, we can take the lead and have the universal service obligation rolled out in Wales first. The Secretary of State, who I know is paying attention on the Front Bench, could be pivotal in taking this up in Cabinet. The Welsh Government, as a single body, are working with BT to roll this out in Wales, unlike in England, where there are several roll-out bodies. We can be ahead of the game, as we have been on many other big issues that have united us, so I hope he will listen and respond positively.

    Like many Members, I have worked with BT Openreach and the Welsh Government, and I have worked to get individual businesses connected with fibre to their premises. The Welsh Government are moving forward, but according to the Library, many constituencies in Wales are behind the UK average when it comes to superfast broadband roll-out and the minimum of 10 megabits per second in the universal service obligation. We need to move forward on that. I say to the Secretary of State that we should have a cross-party group. We can be pioneers and lead the way. Wales, with its peripheral areas, rurality and sparse populations, can be a microcosm of the rest of the UK. I urge him to work with me and others on that. Many of the rural areas without superfast broadband also do not have mains gas, pay more for fuel and are greatly disadvantaged and socially excluded, so it is a serious issue I raise when I talk about broadband being a step forward for those areas. I hope that Members will work with me on that campaign.

    We also need a transport system that works for the whole UK. I know that the Government have been pushing the case, with the Welsh Government and others, for better cross-border facilities, particularly in the south and north of Wales. It is important that we are an integral part of the UK network. The Secretary of State will get the backing of the Opposition if he pushes not just for electrification of the north Wales line but for better connections between north Wales and Manchester and Liverpool airports. That is essential. Many of my constituents, such as the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb), do not come down to Heathrow or Gatwick if they can get to Liverpool or Manchester. Making that easier for them will be a good deal for the people of north Wales.

    I was in the Chamber for the beginning of the International Women’s Day debate, and was very moved by the comments in the opening speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) about our colleague Jo Cox. Jo’s maiden speech will go down in history, not because she so sadly left us, but because she talked then about uniting people and highlighted that there is more that unites us than divides us. We need to go forward with that as an emblem.

    One of my predecessors, Lady Megan Lloyd George, moved the first St David’s day debate, and she was one of the first pioneers: she stood up for women across the United Kingdom; she stood up for Wales as an integral part of the United Kingdom; and she was not afraid to talk about high unemployment and to fight for the national health service and social insurance. She had the good sense to move from the Liberal party to the Labour party, and she was a pioneer on those very big subjects. Wales can be very proud that in this House of Commons we have an annual debate, and also that throughout the year we are pioneering Members of Parliament across the parties, and that we work together for the best for our constituents, and work best for Wales within a United Kingdom as outward-looking internationalists. I am proud to open this debate, and—