Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for the first week back after the Easter recess will be as follows:
Monday 17 April—The House will not be sitting.
Tuesday 18 April—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.
Wednesday 19 April—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Technical and Further Education Bill, followed by motions relating to the Higher Education (Higher Amount) (England) Regulations 2016 and the Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations 2016, followed by a motion on section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, followed by a motion relating to the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2017.
Thursday 20 April—Statement on the publication of the 12th report of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on lessons learned from the EU referendum, followed by a statement on the publication of the 12th report of the Justice Committee on prison reform, governor empowerment and prison performance, followed by a debate on a motion relating to state pensions payable to recipients outside of the UK, followed by a general debate on research and development on tackling infectious diseases. The subjects for those debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 21 April—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 24 April will include:
Monday 24 April—Consideration in Committee of the Finance (No. 2) Bill (day 1).
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 20 and 24 April will be as follows:
Thursday 20 April—Debate on the third report of the Transport Committee, Volkswagen emissions scandal and vehicle type approval, followed by a debate on the European arrest warrant.
Monday 24 April—Debate on an e-petition relating to GCSE English literature exams.
May I add my congratulations to the inaugural winner of your prize, Mr Speaker, which is very welcome? We have given refuge to Malala Yousafzai, who has also made an amazing contribution. We support everything that women in Pakistan do to promote democracy.
May I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business? I am sure that he is also getting concerned that our Gracious Sovereign might not be aware of the date on which she is due to give her speech. Is he checking whether she is actually free on the various dates being suggested for the Queen’s Speech? Obviously I want to ask about the date of Prorogation as well. If the Leader could indicate when in May we are likely to rise, that would be helpful.
Eight right hon and hon. Members shared a birthday on 26 March—it was a significant day—including the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) and the youngest Member, the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black). We wish them a belated happy birthday. But PC Keith Palmer, who often stood around here and was a Charlton Athletic supporter, Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran and Leslie Rhodes will not be able to celebrate their birthdays again. Mr Speaker, I thank your chaplain, Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, and Canon Pat Browne, the Roman Catholic priest for the House of Commons, for the services they held in the chapel of St Mary Undercroft last Thursday. They have always supported us when we need them.
It is a convention that when a statutory instrument is prayed against, the Government provide time for a debate, so I want to raise the Opposition’s concerns that no time was provided to debate the regulations relating to personal independence payments and to tuition fees. Will the Leader of the House confirm that in future the convention will be honoured so that the Opposition will not have to use Standing Order No. 24 to get an emergency debate? That is extremely important because there will be a plethora of statutory instruments as we leave the EU and we do not want to return to powers being exercised by an absolute monarch when Parliament is sovereign and a democratic institution.
Not all of last Wednesday’s business was carried over, so will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on exiting the European Union and global trade? The House would like to know what the Department for International Trade has been doing during the past nine months. The Prime Minister said yesterday that everyone has been busy, but as yet the Secretary of State has not come to the House to tell us what global trade deals are in the offing.
Yesterday was a significant day in our island’s story, and we in Her Majesty’s Opposition want a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU, the exact same benefits as we currently have as members of the single market and the customs union, and the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities. We want to defend rights and protections, and prevent a race to the bottom. We want to protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime and terrorism, and to ensure that any negotiation delivers for all regions and nations of the UK. That is a position of certainty, not the fall-back position of
“no deal…is better than a bad deal”,
which should not enter the Government’s vocabulary.
Is the Leader of the House aware that the CBI says that businesses would experience serious disruption if no new trading relationship is agreed and they are forced to trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules? No deal should not be an option. Manufacturers in the west midlands have asked, “Do I need to change my supply chain? Will I have to enforce new rules?” Those are just two of their questions, so may we have a statement on how the Government will answer such questions from business?
Could we have a debate on the National Audit Office’s report “Capability in the civil service”, which was published on 24 March? It says that the Government face ever-increasing challenges in providing public services. Continuing budgetary restraints are putting pressure on Departments, which are making important reforms with fewer staff and smaller budgets. There is a skills gap that cannot be filled by the private sector. The report says that one in four senior posts are unfilled. What will the Government do to address that skills shortage as we leave the EU?
When will NHS staff receive a pay increase of more than 1%, given that half the Cabinet have said that £350 million a week is now available for the NHS? Will the Leader of the House also set out how the Prime Minister will report back to the UK on the negotiations? Our children and grandchildren, 75% of whom voted to remain, feel hurt and betrayed, because they know that the EU is about equality, peace, security, collaboration, quality of life, the air we breathe, tourism, consumer rights and human rights. We must not betray them.
And so to R and R—rock and roll, and the recent death of the creator of that genre, Chuck Berry. It is as though he wrote some of his songs just for the Government. We have “Maybellene, why can’t you be true?” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’”—the Government have made some U-turns on national insurance contributions, and there has been disquiet about school funding and special deals with Tory councils—and there is one for you, Mr Speaker: “Johnny B. Goode”.
I want to thank all our civil servants for the work that they have done while we have been part of the EU. I thank all the ambassadors and Ministers for Europe, including the Leader of the House. As he was such an outstanding Minister for Europe, I hope that the goodwill will come back when we finish our negotiations.
I also want to say goodbye and thank you to David Beamish, the Clerk of the Parliaments, who, sadly, is retiring after 42 years. He is a great public servant who has done a fantastic job, and he worked closely with our own Clerk. I also thank Russell Tatam, an unsung back-room hero who has worked for both Labour and Conservative Opposition Whips. He has kept us all going. We wish him well in his new post at the Department of Health, and we hope that he can sort that out, too. Finally, may I once again thank everyone for everything that they have done in the last week, and wish everyone connected with the House a very happy and peaceful Easter?
First, I join the hon. Lady in expressing thanks to your chaplain, Mr Speaker, and to the Roman Catholic chaplain for the work that they have done in the past week, which I am sure they will continue to do. I also join her in paying tribute to David Beamish, who has served the House of Lords, and Parliament as a whole, with great distinction throughout his career. I would add to that the name of Glenn McKee, one of our own Clerks, who is retiring after more than 30 years of service to this House. We put on record our thanks and appreciation to him for that record of service.
The date of the Queen’s Speech will be announced as soon as possible. As the hon. Lady knows, the exact date of Prorogation will depend, as it does every year and under every Government, on the progress of business.
I turn to some of the other issues that the hon. Lady raised. The Government have delivered on the convention, and slots have been provided for debates on the prayers against the statutory instruments concerning tuition fees and the personal independence payment. The Opposition will get their opportunity to debate those after the recess. The Government will act, as all Governments do, on the basis of what Parliament decides.
The hon. Lady made a broader point about secondary legislation in the context of forthcoming European legislation. I am sure that questions will be put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union later today, and there will be ample opportunity to debate the matter during proceedings on the repeal Bill in the next Session, but it is a fact that Ministers may exercise delegated legislative powers through secondary legislation only if those powers have been expressly conferred on them by an Act of Parliament. Authority for the use of delegated legislation will have to be approved, after a full parliamentary process in both Houses, before such legislation reaches the statute book.
The hon. Lady asked about international trade. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade has hardly been invisible. He is doing the job that the Prime Minister appointed him to do, which is to maximise the opportunities for jobs and investment in the United Kingdom by drumming up support for trade and investment all around the world. He has been in the Chamber regularly, in the slots allotted to the Department for International Trade, to answer questions from Members on both sides of the House. I would add that the hon. Lady’s description of what she wanted out of the EU negotiations sounded very much like a paraphrase of the Prime Minister’s letter to President Tusk yesterday, which I welcome. If there is an outbreak of common sense and the Opposition take a more consensual approach by supporting the Prime Minister as a response to her call for national unity at this time, I would very much welcome that.
I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could possibly have been clearer—either in her letter, or during the nearly three hours that she spent making her statement and answering questions at the Dispatch Box yesterday—that her objective is a comprehensive deal with our friends and allies in the European Union that makes possible a deep and special partnership between ourselves and the 27 countries of the EU after we have left, because it will remain an essential national interest of the United Kingdom that there is stability and prosperity right across Europe. While we will implement the decision that the British people took in the referendum last year, it is right that we should strive for a new form of co-operative agreement with countries that will continue to be our friends, allies and partners on so many different areas of policy.
The hon. Lady asked about the national health service and the capacity of staff to deal with what will be demanding reforms—I think that the chief executive has said that—but I would point her to the track record of NHS managers and clinicians in delivering effective reforms. One of the things I find so striking about the national health service is that there can be a severe disparity of performance between different trusts or hospitals in various parts of the country. One of the objectives that NHS England wants to secure is to make certain that best practice—the successes of the most innovative parts of the NHS—can be disseminated and put in place more widely.
May we have a debate on protecting and valuing the Church of England estate? We learned this week that the Church of England’s consistory court and the chancellor of the diocese of Peterborough have given the green light to ripping out the interior of the grade I listed, 13th-century St Botolph’s church in Longthorpe, Peterborough. That will include replacing the altar with a self-standing altar and the pulpit with a modern lectern, and ripping out all the pews. Is it any wonder that the Church of England is losing the support of its parishioners when it so grievously fails to protect its own architectural heritage?
I clearly do not know any details of the parish church to which my hon. Friend refers. There is sometimes a difficult balance to be struck between what a congregation wants to meet the needs of worship and the historic fabric of a church. I would hope that such matters are always approached with proper sensitivity and high regard for our architectural and design heritage, and that the views of the local community, and particularly of the church congregation, are fully taken into account.
I join in the thanks and tributes to the chaplains of the House for their exemplary work last week. I congratulate Marvi Memon on winning your inaugural award, Mr Speaker—thank you for such a fantastic idea. I also thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for after the recess.
It has certainly been another one of those weeks, hasn’t it? What an historic week. This is therefore not the time for meaningless or provocative soundbites, but later we will continue with this pace when we see the White Paper on this shabby repeal Bill, as this Parliament attempts to repatriate almost 20,000 pieces of European legislation in what will be the greatest transfer of powers from Brussels to this Government. For a Parliament that has so jealously guarded its sovereignty throughout the centuries, how cavalier the Government have been about leaving the European Union. Parliament will need to have a look at this. These powers are not so much Henry VIII; it is more like a bespoke new Tessy the first.
One thing that we need to hear from the Leader of the House is a commitment that the shabby repeal Bill will not be subject to the English votes for English laws procedure. I say to him: just do not seek a certification. It is far too complicated and cross-jurisdictional for that, so will he rule it out today? This morning, without any fanfare or flourish, we got the Leader of the House’s review into the operation of EVEL. The dramatic conclusion he comes to is that it is working perfectly. In fact, it is an absolute and total embarrassment to this House. The bells go off, we suspend our business, we go into Committee, we come out of Committee, and not a word is said. It is not so much the court of Henry VIII; it is the court of Byzantium when we are dealing with issues such as this.
Lastly, we still have not had any sort of statement or response from the Government on the historic vote that was held in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday. That seems to be consistent with the way this Government treat Scotland. We know that there is no such thing as a common UK approach to leaving the European Union, and this Government could not have gone further out their way to antagonise Scotland over their plans to leave the European Union. Today, when we look at the great repeal Bill and think of Henry VIII, on the Scottish National party Benches we will be thinking of Robert the Bruce.
For a moment at the start of that question I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to become part of the new consensus that the Prime Minister is seeking to build. I hold out some modicum of hope for him, but I have to confess, after the rest of the tirade, not all that much.
I seriously encourage the hon. Gentleman and members of his party to read the White Paper before they make a judgment on it. When they have seen it, they will see that the case for certain powers as regards delegated legislation is made in detail. The argument is set out very clearly, as is the Government’s position that it will be necessary for the exercise of any such specific delegated legislative powers to be subject to conditions and restraints to ensure that they cannot be abused and are used only for the purpose for which they are created. I am sure that other Scottish National party Members will want to put questions to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union this afternoon, but the Government will be proposing a number of very important safeguards on the exercise of those powers.
On the hon. Gentleman’s question about the application of the English votes procedures to the repeal Bill, I have to repeat what I have said to him in previous exchanges. As we both know, the English votes procedures can be exercised only in a case where an issue to be determined is both devolved to the Scottish Parliament and, in relation to legislation before this House, applies to England only or to England and Wales only. The chances of that happening in the repeal Bill are very slim indeed, given that it addresses the application of the European treaties to this country and, as international agreements, they are reserved matters under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998. I cannot at this stage rule out some hypothetical piece of future secondary legislation, but it is not right to exaggerate fears of something that is very unlikely to come about.
The hon. Gentleman then asked me about the First Minister’s call for another referendum—[Hon. Members: “The Scottish Parliament’s.”]—and the vote by the SNP and the Greens in the Scottish Parliament for a second referendum. The Prime Minister was very clear yesterday that we are embarking on a major change of policy in response to what the people of the United Kingdom as a whole have decided, and that now is not the time for a further referendum on a matter that all sides agreed would be settled in the 2014 referendum. I simply remind the hon. Gentleman of what the First Minister of Scotland said when launching her party’s manifesto for the Scottish elections in April last year:
“Setting the date for a referendum before a majority of the Scottish people have been persuaded that independence—and therefore another referendum—is the best future for our country is the wrong way round…If we don’t succeed, we will have no right to propose another referendum.”
I support what the First Minister of Scotland said on that occasion.
Order. On my reckoning, a further 44 right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. As per usual I am keen to accommodate all would-be contributors, but I remind the House that there is a very important statement to follow that is likely to be well-subscribed, and thereafter two important debates under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. There is, therefore, a premium on time and brevity.
I have been contacted by a growing number of residents who are concerned about the influx of Travellers and the number of illegal encampments in my constituency. There have been major reports of intimidation and threatening behaviour. I am well aware that there are problems in other parts of the country, but it is disappointing that local authorities and the police lack either capacity or willingness to use their powers to deal with them. Some of the problems relate to antisocial behaviour and a disregard for the local community. Will the Government make time for a debate on the obligations of local authorities and police, and on how the current law can be strengthened for the good of our communities?
My hon. Friend may have an opportunity to press this issue with Ministers at Communities and Local Government questions on 24 April. My view is clear: the powers she describes exist for a reason and I would hope that both local authorities and police forces use them.
I thank the Leader of the House for advertising the forthcoming Backbench Business. I also thank him and his staff for arranging to move back by two hours the debates scheduled for Westminster Hall on 18 April and 2 May to allow Members travelling from their constituencies to get here in time for them. One additional piece of news is that we have determined that on Tuesday 25 April at 9.30 am there will be a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall on post office closures, and on Tuesday 2 May at 11.30 am there will be a debate on voter ID and electoral fraud, also in Westminster Hall.
I am going to get my begging bowl out, Mr Speaker, not on behalf of my constituents—I know Government Members always accuse Members from the north-east of England of having a begging bowl—but on behalf of Back-Bench Members. In the week after the recess, on 20 April, we will have our 27th allotted day—actually, our 27th and one quarter allotted day—of Backbench Business, which is all that is allowed in this parliamentary Session. With my begging bowl out on behalf of Back-Bench Members, I ask the Leader of the House to please send any spare time our way. We already have a waiting list of debates.
I would just like to make a point of clarification. On Tuesday, during the Backbench Business debate on Yemen, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), on a point of order, asked whether it would be possible to use up the full allocation of time—up to 30 minutes before the House was due to rise. Madam Deputy Speaker responded by saying:
“The House decided on the timetable.”
That was true, but she then went on to say:
“The Backbench Business Committee gave 90 minutes for this debate, and I am powerless to change that.”—[Official Report, 28 March 2017; Vol. 624, c. 206-7.]
Mr Speaker, the Backbench Business Committee asked for a minimum of 90 minutes of protected time for the debate, but the Order Paper allowed a maximum of 90 minutes. The Backbench Business Committee determines the subject matter of debates. The allocation of time, and the way in which the Order Paper reflects that allocation, is not within its remit.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his words of thanks. I will always do my best to accommodate what he and his Committee want, but, as I am sure he will appreciate, spare hours in the parliamentary timetable are a rare commodity.
In March 2014, the only son of Joanne and Robert Wark, my 19-year-old constituent Callum Wark, was killed by an HGV driver who was three times over the legal drink-drive limit. On 29 October 2014, I held an Adjournment debate in the Chamber in which I asked the then Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), to conduct a sentencing review so that those who caused death by drink-driving would face a manslaughter charge rather than the current charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Callum’s killer was sentenced to just seven years, and will serve only three and half before returning to his home country of Bulgaria, where he will be free to drive unrestricted once again. May we have a statement from a Justice Minister, updating the House on the progress of the review?
Let me first express my heartfelt sympathy to Callum’s family. Three years on, they will still be grieving and feeling acute and inconsolable loss.
The Ministry of Justice consultation to which my hon. Friend has referred ran until February this year, and received more than 9,000 responses. The Government are considering those responses, and Ministers will publish a written response in due course.
May we have a debate in Government time on the conduct of Virgin Care in our national health service? It has emerged that Virgin Care is suing the NHS after a contract to provide children’s care in Surrey was given to a non-profit provider, and apparently it is seeking a massive payout from the taxpayer. Does the Leader of the House agree that that is appalling behaviour, and will he ask the Health Secretary to make a statement?
If a case is the subject of legal action, neither I nor any other Minister can comment on the specifics, but if the hon. Lady will give me the details of this case, I will ask the Secretary of State or one of his team to write to her.
Yesterday, which was a busy day, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced a consultation on the future of Channel 4. Please may we have a debate on its future direction, and does the Leader of the House agree that given the success of the BBC’s relocation to Salford, Channel 4 should perhaps consider coming to Yorkshire?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is seeking the broadest possible range of views and evidence to inform the Government’s assessment of the location of Channel 4. I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to be a formidable and persuasive advocate for Yorkshire.
When can we discuss early-day motion 1131?
[That this House is appalled at the runaway multi-billion pound waste of nuclear costs for a power source that promised to deliver electricity that would be too cheap to meter; notes that Hinkley Point’s estimated cost of £6 billion in 2008 leapt to £24 billion and is now estimated to soar to £37 billion, while the cost of nuclear decommissioning, estimated at £55 billion in 2005, is now set at £117 billion and rising; and condemns this and previous Governments’ gullible infatuation with the myth of cheap nuclear power that has created a massive burden of debt for the nation that will impoverish public spending for decades.]
When can we discuss the staggering cost of decommissioning nuclear sites—£117 billion—and the leap in the price of Hinkley Point from £6 billion to £37 billion? Why were successive Governments infatuated by the myth of a cheap source of nuclear power which promised to deliver electricity that was too cheap to meter, given that what has been delivered is a £170 billion bill for taxpayers that will impoverish Governments and restrict their spending for decades?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responded to an urgent question about nuclear decommissioning on Monday, but I advise the hon. Gentleman to seek an opportunity to initiate one of the longer Westminster Hall debates.
The Government’s view is that nuclear energy should be part of a broad mix of energy sources to ensure that we have a secure energy supply and can rely increasingly on sources that do not add to the problem of climate change.
May we have an urgent debate on Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which is illegally proposing to close its accident and emergency ward in the autumn, thus endangering up to 40 children a week? Does the Leader of the House agree that such moves should be subject to consultation with the public, local authorities and local Members of Parliament? There has been no such consultation, yet the proposal is going ahead.
I am concerned to hear about that, and I will draw it to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health. A significant change in the configuration of NHS services in any area ought to be the subject of public consultation. There is, of course a power for the relevant committee of the local authority to ask the Secretary of State to call in such decisions and review them. I encourage my hon. Friend to pursue the issue with Health Ministers, but, as I have said, I will draw his comments to the Secretary of State’s attention.
May we have an urgent debate on the state of local roads? In Nottinghamshire, which includes my constituency of Gedling, there is a £319 million backlog in respect of Nottinghamshire County Council being able to deal with those roads. My constituents and the people of Nottinghamshire are fed up with driving along roads that are crumbling and full of potholes, and it is about time the Government sorted it out.
It was precisely to address infrastructure problems that the Chancellor of the Exchequer found £23 billion of additional spending in the autumn statement. As the Transport Secretary said during Question Time earlier today, the Government have allocated very significant sums of money to support local highways authorities to deal with potholes and other local road repairs. But the reality, which any responsible Government must accept, is that resources are finite and the country and the Government have to live within their means. We still have a significant deficit in our public finances, and the responsible approach is to live within our means.
Will the Leader of the House grant an urgent debate on conflicts of interest? During that debate we could probably look, for example, at the relationship between CH2M, a High Speed 2 contractor, and HS2, currently in the constituency of the Leader of the House, your constituency, Mr Speaker, and my constituency, because that relationship cannot be a good one as CH2M must be facing some financial difficulties having given up a £170 million contract. We could also consider whether HS2 can explain what it is going to do with Bechtel and Mace, the other bidders—whether the contract will be started from scratch, or we are going to have to take its word that there was no conflict of interest if one of them is appointed. We could also clarify the roles of individuals such as Chris Reynolds and the raft of CH2M secondees working in HS2, and also—[Interruption.] Perhaps we could also look at the role of the chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission. [Interruption.] The NIC has to provide impartial expert advice to the Government and operate independently—
We are immensely grateful—
Yet the NIC chairman serves as a director—
Order. That is enough; I have been more than fair to the right hon. Lady. I know that she is seeking a debate, but a number of Members are already muttering that the debate has now happened. I am sure she will get the debate, but we do have to make progress; I hope she will forgive me.
I did catch some of the Transport Secretary’s response to my right hon. Friend a little earlier today. There are strict rules around any kind of public sector procurement and we expect all proper procedures to be followed, including the rules to provide safeguards against conflicts of interest.
Having received a response from the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), regarding over 40 of my constituents who allege they have been mis-sold solar panels by a Government-approved green deal provider, I am not entirely confident that his Department appreciates the magnitude of the problem and just how many people across Britain are suffering financial hardship because of this botched Government energy efficiency scheme. May we please have a debate in Government time to discuss this urgent, important and potentially far-reaching issue?
I have not seen the letter from the Minister to which the. Lady refers. If she feels there has been maladministration by a Government Department, there may be a case for reference to the parliamentary ombudsman to investigate that. That is one option she might want to explore.
Will the Leader of the House schedule his own statement on your excellent award, Mr Speaker? That would give him the opportunity to announce the critical role of the Department for International Development in the Benazir Bhutto scheme, and explain to the House that this scheme uses the latest biometric technology to deliver money electronically to the world’s poorest women, thereby absolutely transforming their status by providing them with a bank account.
Without tempting your wrath by giving a statement, Mr Speaker, I am very happy to applaud the Speaker’s Democracy Award, and the nomination that was successful today. I also pay tribute to the role of the Department for International Development in this. As my right hon. Friend rightly says, the use of digital technology can provide power, freedom and opportunity to women, in particular, in some developing countries who would otherwise have to live in fear and never have any control over their own lives.
The funding crisis in the NHS has reached new heights today, with reports of a hospital trust asking full-time nurses to register and set up as sole traders so that it can avoid paying employers’ national insurance contributions. Will the Leader of the House ask the Health Secretary to investigate this matter urgently and assure us that this outrageous practice is unacceptable and has to stop?
Given this particular case, I think that the hon. Gentleman should write directly to Health Ministers. Alternatively, if he would like to come by my office with the details, I would be happy to forward his concerns to the Secretary of State.
Domestic dog attacks on sheep, especially now, in the lambing season, are a real concern not only for the businesses of our farmers across the country but for dog owners, who are often unaware of the consequences of such attacks for them and their pets. May we have a debate on what more the Government could do to improve awareness of the actions that farmers and the authorities can take when dogs attack sheep, and on what more could be done to prevent such attacks in the first place?
The Government certainly understand the huge loss that farmers face as a result of dog attacks on livestock. It is the duty of all dog owners to ensure that their animals are kept under proper control when on farmland. Government officials recently met police forces and farming representatives to discuss the situation and, as a consequence, five police forces are now going to pilot the more systematic collection of incidents and good response practices.
May we have an urgent debate on the 6,000 constituents of Norwich South who have been sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions since 2010? In particular, I should like to raise the issue of one 45-year-old terminal cancer patient who failed his work capability assessment. He was stripped of his employment and support allowance, denied jobseeker’s allowance and is now living off his dying father, in food poverty. May we have a debate on this as a matter of urgency?
The sanctions, in their current form, have been used ever since jobseeker’s allowance started in 1996, so the sanctions regime existed throughout the 13 years of the Labour Government, and the vast majority of people comply. If there are particular cases where things have gone wrong or where bad judgments have been made by officials, I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to take them up directly with the Ministers concerned. However, a sanctions system is a logical element in an effective and fair system of benefits.
Residents and retailers in Barton-upon-Humber in my constituency are angry about the possible development of a new Lidl supermarket on the edge of the town. The Government’s efforts to revitalise and support our high streets are often undermined by the decisions of local authority planning departments. May we have a debate on the impact on the high street of planning?
I should probably direct my hon. Friend towards Westminster Hall opportunities for such a constituency case. It is right that these decisions are taken at local level and that we do not try to second-guess every supermarket location from Whitehall, but I am sure that he will be a formidable advocate for his own communities in trying to ensure that the planners reach a decision that takes account of local opinion.
On “The Andrew Marr Show” last weekend, the Home Secretary said that
“we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp”.
This was a clear departure from stated Government policy. Lord Howe said last October:
“The assertion that the Government are opposed to encryption or would legislate to undermine it is fanciful.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 October 2016; Vol. 774, c. 2404.]
May we have a debate in Government time on whether the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is still relevant and whether it is still GCHQ’s guidance to industry to encrypt communications? Will the Leader of the House also enlighten us as to what the “necessary hashtags” are?
The Government want people to be able to communicate with each other securely. There is a real threat to cyber-security, and cybercrime has a massive cost on society, so we support encryption. However, we need a balance to ensure that encryption does not provide a safe space for terrorists, paedophiles or organised criminals. Therefore, we want to require companies to have the ability to decrypt those messages when they have been served with a properly authorised warrant. The hon. Lady will know that end-to-end encryption is a particular issue, which is why the Home Secretary is meeting representatives from the digital industry and internet providers today to discuss the issues further.
My constituent, prison officer Nick Medlin, died in the early hours of Christmas morning after a vicious attack, and PC Keith Palmer lost his life while doing his job here in Parliament last week. The trial of the man charged with the manslaughter of Nick Medlin starts on 26 June. May we have a debate on introducing a specific offence to deal with those who attack the people who protect us?
While I express my utter condolences to the family of the prison officer who lost his life on the Isle of Wight, my hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on a matter that is to be the subject of a criminal trial. The courts already have powers to impose an additional sentence on grounds of aggravation if an attack has been upon a police officer.
I do not know why the Leader of the House is being so coy about the date of the Queen’s Speech; it is on 17 May, and we all know that because it is on the Government’s all-party Whip and has been for the past four weeks.
IPSA seems absolutely determined to publish information regarding MPs that will reveal their home addresses. That is entirely inappropriate, and I hope that the Government will stand ready to legislate if necessary.
Both the hon. Gentleman and I have raised this matter directly with IPSA and, earlier this week, IPSA gave some assurances that the matter was under active review. I would certainly hope that action is taken at the IPSA board to ensure that any material that might identify a Member and put them at risk of possible attack is not published in future.
May we have an urgent debate on NHS workforce planning? Among the reasons given to me by my local NHS trust for difficulties in filling key posts are the impact of IR35 and the sharp decline in applications from European Union citizens.
There will obviously be opportunities, although not in the next two weeks, to put questions to Health Ministers, but I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured to know that we have record numbers of nurses and GPs in training. The Government have significantly expanded the training provision.
May I take this opportunity to place on the record my congratulations to Marvi Memon on winning the inaugural Speaker’s Democracy Award? That speaks to the importance of highlighting women’s contribution to politics, which should be the focus of people’s attention, not what we wear or how we appear.
Has the Leader of the House ever had the opportunity to listen to a recording of a personal independence payment appeal? An increasing number of constituents who visit me are upset and distressed by the process. Given that the majority of claimants are successful on appeal, the system is clearly failing them. May we have an urgent debate on how the system is failing and on how we can turn it into one that treats people with the dignity and respect that they deserve?
I simply disagree with the hon. Lady that the PIP system is failing. In fact, more than a quarter of those who receive PIPs get the highest level of support, compared with just 15% of working-age claimants under disability living allowance. If we look at figures for people with mental health conditions, we see that significantly more people are getting help through PIPs than secured help at a high level under disability living allowance, so the record is that PIPs are providing greater help to those in the greatest need.
May we have a debate, or at least will my right hon. Friend raise the matter urgently with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, on the developing situation with Falkland Islands Holdings Ltd? The alternative investment market-listed company holds the majority of land, transport and retail on the Falkland Islands and is facing a hostile takeover by a politically motivated Argentine billionaire, a matter on which the Prime Minister or the Chancellor would have to step in under the takeover code to protect the interests of the Falkland Islands people.
My hon. Friend raised that matter earlier in the week, and the question is the subject of a full review by the Falklands Islands Government. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is giving support to the Falkland Islands Administration in that task.
On Monday students from Grange Technology College in my constituency visited me here in Parliament. During their visit I was asked about the more than £900,000 due to be cut from the school’s budget by 2019. Research suggests that that equates to £612 per pupil, or the salaries of 24 teachers. That is at a school working hard to come out of special measures. Is the Leader of the House willing to allocate time to debate the severe funding cuts faced by our schools?
The hon. Lady refers to the new funding formula, which is the subject of a consultation. The Secretary of State for Education will set out her proposals in due course. It is hard to defend the current system, under which comparable schools with comparable catchment areas but in different parts of the country can receive startlingly different sums of money per pupil simply because of their geography.
Order. It has become alarmingly common for business questions to take more than an hour. I have to have regard to the next statement and to the two debates, so I appeal for short questions and short answers in the faint hope that we might be able to move on to the next business shortly after midday.
May we have a debate on diversity in the arts? On Monday night I was pleased to attend the Muslim News awards for excellence 2017, where my constituent Shahida Ahmed from Nelson was awarded the Alhambra Muslim News award for excellence in the arts, presented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituent on that achievement, and I give him the news that Arts Council England is making a priority of diversity in the arts. That has included half a million pounds for organisations such as Eclipse Theatre, which is delivering a programme supporting ethnic minority artists in northern England.
Further to the earlier question from my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), the Automobile Association says that our roads now resemble “Swiss cheese.” I understand that the number of potholes filled by councils in England fell by 19% last year, so when will the Government properly deal with that issue? May we have a debate, please?
The latest official assessment of road conditions in England, published in March 2017, shows that local classified roads are improving, with fewer local roads needing to be considered for maintenance. The Government have provided councils in England outside London with more than £6 billion up to 2020-21 to improve the condition of local roads, but resources are finite. Clearly priorities have to be set at local level, just as at national level.
The much-loved Harrow arts centre is once again threatened with closure. The centre has adult education and cultural activities for the whole community. Cultura London has raised £3.1 million towards funding the centre, but Harrow Council is now thinking of closing it. May we have a debate in Government time on the future of community and cultural centres across the UK?
My hon. Friend may have an opportunity to raise this either in Westminster Hall or in Department for Communities and Local Government questions on 24 April, but I hope that when Harrow Council takes its decisions it will take account of the strong representations from him and his constituents.
The Leader of the House is known as a great big planner, so how much time is he planning to have on these 19,000 statutory instruments, pieces of legislation and other instruments on the great repeal Bill and its attendant legislation in this place over the next two years, so that Parliament can fulfil its job of parliamentary scrutiny? How much time is he planning?
We will have to wait for the Bill to be published and the statutory instruments to be brought forward. Of course, a statutory instrument can be dealt with only by whatever procedure this House and the other place have approved in the parent Act of Parliament, but I can say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that the 19,000 figure he has just given is very far-fetched. In my view, the number concerned is going to be nothing like that.
I thank the Leader of the House for making a written statement today on the technical review of the English votes for English laws Standing Orders and responding in particular to the Procedure Committee report. Does he agree that the 12 pages may be summarised simply by saying that there will be no changes at the moment but the provisions will be kept under review?
That is a very fair summary.
Will the Leader of the House make time available for a series of debates, which I think it would be appropriate for the Cabinet Office to respond to, so that it can update us on the progress on the £350 million a week for the NHS, the reduction in immigration and the cut in VAT on fuel? It would also be able to update us on the increased costs associated with setting up parallel organisations to the European Court of Justice, Euratom and REACH.
The Cabinet Office is very active in seeking to ensure that the pledges given in the manifesto on which this Government were elected are delivered, whether through legislation or through other means. The points to which the right hon. Gentleman referred have not been part of the Government’s manifesto.
May we have an urgent debate to clarify the Prime Minister’s negotiating stance with the EU? If we extrapolate her wish list from both her statement in the House yesterday and her letter to President Tusk, the only conclusion we could come to is either being a member of the European Union or a member of the single market.
What the Prime Minister said yesterday was absolutely consistent with what she said both in her Lancaster House speech and in the subsequent White Paper. We are at the start of a complex and challenging period of negotiation. As she said yesterday, there will need to be the political will and give and take on both sides, but we are looking forward to that task and we are entering into it in a constructive spirit.
Will the Leader of the House ensure that a statement is made explaining to young people why his Government believe it is more important to reduce inward migration than to protect the freedoms that I have enjoyed so that my children can enjoy them, too?
We want to implement the decision that the people of the United Kingdom took in the referendum on membership of the European Union. That will clearly involve a change from the existing arrangements on free movement, which are provided under European law. The exact nature of movement rights and opportunities are things that Home Office Ministers, in particular, will be reflecting on, but they are also going to be part of a conversation between ourselves and other European Governments.
Options are clearly narrowing in Northern Ireland, so what time is the Leader of the House setting aside to prepare to do business on the Floor of this House on Northern Ireland after 18 April?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is the Government’s wish that devolved government in Northern Ireland can be resumed at the earliest possible opportunity; we have no wish to see a resumption of direct rule. Obviously, I have been talking to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland regularly in recent weeks. As the hon. Gentleman would expect, the Government make plans for many different contingencies.
Commercial burglaries and serious knife crime remain persistent problems in parts of Walworth, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in my constituency. When will the Government provide time to debate the worrying findings of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary report, which show that police forces throughout the country do not have the resources to investigate all crimes and that the Met in London has 700 fewer detectives than needed?
I point the hon. Gentleman to the success of the police both in and outside London in reducing crime, despite their having to make some difficult choices about budgetary management. The police have done that by reorganising their operations and priorities to ensure that cutting crime successfully comes first, and by implementing and spreading best practice.
The issue is barely mentioned in the Leader of the House’s EVEL technical review, so will he finally admit that, contrary to what his predecessor told us, it is simply not possible for Scottish MPs to debate or vote on Barnett consequentials through the estimates process?
A Procedure Committee report on the estimates procedure is due later this year; I will want to consider that, and the Government will of course reply to it in detail in due course. The basic problem is that it is in the nature of devolution that a budgetary decision taken here that has Barnett consequentials for Scotland does not ring-fence that Scottish funding for the same subject on which it might be spent here. It is up to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament how that money is spent. There is not a direct read-across.
Every day, I hear another story of a person who has discovered that they have been duped into buying a leasehold property. Lenders are now refusing to grant mortgages on these homes, threatening the very integrity of the housing market. The Prime Minister said on 1 March that there was no reason for these properties to be sold on a leasehold basis. When will the Government find time to introduce legislation to put those words into action?
My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning is taking this matter very seriously. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman’s concern to his attention, but I assure him that my hon. Friend is on top of the issue.
The Leader of the House will be aware that paragraph 25 of the European Parliament’s draft motion on Brexit makes it clear that passporting for financial services will not be countenanced. Financial services are of key importance to Edinburgh and to many of my constituents who work in the sector. May we have a debate in Government time to hear how the UK Government intend to support our financial services organisations, which are facing serious disruptions?
I refer the hon. Lady to the Prime Minister’s letter yesterday, which made explicit mention of our objective of securing trade access for our financial services and, of course, reciprocal rights for financial services firms based in other European Union countries. The hon. Lady temps me to speculate about a forthcoming negotiation; as she knows, that is not something I am prepared to do.
Small businesses in my constituency gained little confidence from the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday. We were promised debates in Government time on important issues affected by our leaving the EU, including workers’ rights and environmental protections, and on the effect on small businesses, yet they have not happened. Will the Leader of the House publish a schedule of debates in Government time on these important issues?
I can promise the hon. Lady that there will be numerous opportunities, particularly in the forthcoming parliamentary Session, to debate every aspect of our departure from the European Union.
If the cross-party talks in Northern Ireland are to inform the legislation that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland introduces in late April, will the Leader of the House assure us that business constraints in this House will not be used as an excuse for saying that that legislation and those talks should not address serious issues such as how the First and Deputy First Ministers are jointly elected and the petitions of concern?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his statement earlier this week that he might need to bring forward legislation, not least to address the possibility of there not being funding for essential public services in Northern Ireland. It would be wrong for me to speculate about the exact nature of legislation that might conceivably be brought forward. We still hope that that proves not to be necessary, and the Secretary of State continues to work tirelessly with the political parties to try to secure the restoration of devolved government.
Fly-tipping is a blight on the lives of residents across my constituency, particularly those living in Plumstead. May we have a debate on what more the Government can do, particularly with regard to the powers available to local authorities, to tackle this problem?
There will be an opportunity to put questions to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Thursday 20 April. There are quite significant powers available to local authorities. Local authorities sometimes also work with police forces, because organised crime is quite often involved in large-scale fly-tipping. I am sure that there is good practice that can be shared around the country, but I will flag up the hon. Gentleman’s concern with the relevant Minister.
Two years ago, a 33-year-old constituent, Caroline, was given just two months to live because of an untreatable brain tumour. Her continuing quality of life is attributed by many of those treating her to a reluctant decision to take a daily dose of cannabis oil. May we have a debate in this Chamber about whether it really can be right for those such as Caroline to be criminalised, hindering her treatment and discouraging others from making the same decision?
I express sympathy and support to the hon. Gentleman’s constituent and her family. It is possible for a medicine that has been developed on the basis of cannabinoids to be properly licensed and to go through the necessary safety procedures that we have for any medicine in the United Kingdom before it is made available through the national health service or generally. I would be very reluctant to dispense with a system that has been put in place to ensure patient safety. Prosecuting authorities have powers of discretion, and, given the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman has described, I very much hope that everybody will look at the case with nothing but compassion.
The Leader of the House will no doubt be aware of the case of Mustafa Bashir who was spared jail despite repeatedly beating his wife, forcing her to take tablets and to drink bleach, telling her to kill herself and hitting her over the head with a cricket bat, saying:
“If I hit you with this bat with my full power then you would be dead.”
I fully support the independence of the judiciary, but may we have a debate on sentencing guidelines for domestic violence perpetrators?
This Government have introduced legislation to strengthen the penalties for domestic violence. It is something in which the Prime Minister, both as Home Secretary and now, takes a very close interest and to which she gives a high priority. Sentencing guidelines, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are published by the independent Sentencing Council, and individual decisions are taken by judges. In England and Wales, a consultation has started today on a new sentencing guideline to apply to all cases of domestic abuse. I hope that the authorities in Scotland might consider following suit.
Following the Prime Minister’s article 50 letter yesterday, senior figures in Brussels have complained that she has issued a blatant threat and is treating security as a bargaining chip. May we have a debate in Government time about the art of negotiation so that the Government might learn that bullying and threats are not an effective way to get a good deal from our allies?
I am really sorry that the hon. and learned Lady—particularly with her legal expertise—is giving credence to such nonsense. The facts are that our participation in European arrangements on the sharing of information between police forces and judicial systems rests on instruments based in the treaties and grounded in European law. Under article 50, on the day that we depart the EU, the treaties, and therefore all instruments flowing from the treaties, cease to apply to the United Kingdom. That is why we say that we are ambitious for an agreement—a new, deep and special partnership with our EU neighbours—that encompasses security co-operation as well as trade. I wish that she would support that.
Last week, RBS announced a plan to close its busy Newton Mearns branch. East Renfrewshire was already the area worst affected by bank closures before this news. May we have an urgent debate on RBS’s surprising assertion that branches remain a core part of its offering to customers when that is patently not the case?
It is obviously a commercial decision for RBS but, as with any bank, I would hope that it would stick to the code to which all banks say they adhere, whereby it would continue to ensure that the last branch of a retail bank in any particular community is not closed, except in the most extreme circumstances.
May we have a statement from the Leader of the House explaining why the Government think it is fair to take half the surpluses on a year-on-year basis from the mineworkers’ pension fund?
I will ask the relevant Minister to write to the hon. Gentleman.
May we have a debate in Government time and a statement on the abuse of job trials by unscrupulous employers? One instance was brought to my attention by a constituent who worked for a week without pay for Juice Garden, which has now been dropped by the Department for Work and Pensions which acknowledged the abuse of contract by that company. Does the Leader of the House share my concern that these companies are making use of free labour above and beyond what is reasonable for a job trial?
All workers should be treated properly and certainly in accordance with employment law. We expect responsible employers to treat people who are on a work trial or work experience with decency.
There is much concern about the delays for licence renewal and applications among the sporting and shooting organisations, and individual firearm certificate holders. One way of addressing that issue would be the extension of a firearm certificate to a 10 or 20-year period, thereby reducing administrative resources and costs. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement from the relevant Minister on how to deliver a 10 or 20-year firearm certificate?
I will ask the Minister to write to the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure he understands that a balance has to be struck between the problem he described and the need to ensure that we know where potentially lethal weapons are and that they are in the right hands.