The business for next week will be:
Monday 3 July—Second Reading of the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Bill.
Tuesday 4 July—Second Reading of the European Union (Approvals) Bill, followed by motion relating to the allocation of Select Committees, followed by general debate on the Chris Gibb report: Improvements to Southern Railway. At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.
Wednesday 5 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill, followed by a motion to approve the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (Extension of Duration of Non-jury Trial Provisions) Order 2017, followed by a general debate on Israel and Palestinian talks.
Thursday 6 July—General debate on exiting the European Union and global trade.
Friday 7 July—The House will not be sitting.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 6 July will be:
Thursday 6 July—Debate on global education before the G20 summit, followed by a debate on the seasonal agricultural workers scheme.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business. I am not sure that she is aware that although she has allocated a debate on the Gibb report on Tuesday, there is a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday at 9.30 am on the same report. I do not know whether that is a typo or whether she just wants to punish Back Benchers.
I send the condolences of Her Majesty’s Opposition to all Scottish National party Members on the death of Gordon Wilson, who was their leader from 1979 to 1990 and was the Member of Parliament for Dundee, East from 1974 to 1987. We send our condolences to his family and friends.
It was a great get-together in the Chamber on Saturday, as Jo’s family and friends gathered together to unveil that beautiful plaque. I thank you, Mr Speaker, and your office for making it such a memorable day and all Members from both sides who turned up. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), who organised the plaque. You were at Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday, Mr Speaker, and Brendan was right when he said that it was noisier during PMQs than when there are children in the Chamber.
I am grateful to the Parliamentary Digital Service, who worked over the weekend to stave off the cyber-attack. Will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate on restoration and renewal and will the Gibb report be debated on two separate days? Will she allocate the Tuesday to the Opposition?
The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said that he hoped that we would not be a cynical Opposition and that we would support him, but it is not the Opposition’s job to put sellotape on a minority Government. As “Erskine May” helpfully points out, the Opposition’s task is
“to direct criticism of the government’s policy and administration and to outline alternative policies.”
It is this Government who are unpatriotic and have caused uncertainty.
Let us remember that the previous Prime Minister resigned and walked away, that the current Prime Minister wanted a bigger majority and now has a minority Government, and that that minority Government are pulling in separate directions. First, a Minister says that the cap on public sector pay may be lifted, then No.10 refutes that. The Chancellor has to leave the country to set out his position because it is opposite to the positions of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Foreign Secretary. We on this side have an alternative: we will take the country’s result and turn it into a new relationship with the EU, in a new model that puts the economy, jobs, peace, security and opportunity for our citizens at its core.
That is Europe, but what about here? Local government finance faces uncertainty. The revenue support grant will be phased out in 2020, but the consultation on business rates ended on 3 May 2017. Given that the next Queen’s Speech will be in 2019, will the Leader of the House say how we will find out what the policy is and when we will scrutinise local government finance? Local government needs stability.
Two High Court judgments have overturned Government policy. The High Court has ruled that the benefit cap was unlawful; Mr Justice Collins said that it was causing “extreme hardship”. Some 20,000 children and many single parents have been hardest hit by this heartless policy. Irrespective of whether the Government will appeal, may we have an urgent debate on the judgment? When will the Government report back on the Cridland review of the state pension age?
The Government’s plans do not meet the court order to cut air pollution in the shortest possible time. Some 40,000 people die prematurely from air pollution. Do we not deserve time for debate on that failure of Government policy?
There has been nothing about fair funding for schools or how much will be available. During the election, a school governor told me that their school managed to stave off making a teacher redundant this year, but what will happen next year? A head told me that she needed extra funds because sometimes she cannot make room even for young people living on the same street as her school. When will the Government bring forward new proposals on the discredited funding formula? The Government have become a minority Government because they are so far removed from the reality of people’s lives.
You may not know, Mr Speaker—you will be busy next week as it is Wimbledon fortnight; you must be pleased that your deputies have been elected—but it is the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. I suggest a new book—Harry Potter and the Magic Money Tree. The Opposition say to the minority Government, “Expelliarmus!”
That was a tour de force, covering a range of areas, and I thank the hon. Lady for it. To deal specifically with her first question about the order of business, only this morning I received a note from my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) pointing out that in last week’s business questions he had asked for time to discuss the Gibb report, which the Government were pleased to give as many colleagues have raised the issue with us, and so, as I understand it, he will withdraw his request for time in Westminster Hall. I hope that that is a happy outcome for all colleagues who want to discuss the severe problems that many rail commuters have had with Southern and on other railways too.
I join the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) and send commiserations from this side of the House to the Scottish National party and all the friends and family of Gordon Wilson, a man who really did serve his country well. On the subject of the unveiling of the plaque for Jo Cox, I also thank Mr Speaker for the wonderful opportunity of being in the state apartments yesterday with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which is a subject dear to my heart. I have a project in my own constituency to bring communities together through coffee mornings to try to stem the tide of loneliness, and all hon. Members should be delighted that in Jo Cox’s memory we will renew our efforts to tackle it.
I also add my congratulations to those of the hon. Lady to the staff of the Parliamentary Digital Service. They really did work 24/7 over the weekend to protect us, and the great news is that they achieved that. As I understand it, they did about six months’ IT development work in three days, so they have put us in a stronger position than we were in before. I know that all colleagues will want to send their thanks for how they dealt with that and prevented serious harm from being done.
On restoration and renewal, the Commissions of both Houses are looking at the proposals and at what is to be done, and we hope to make some announcements in due course.
The hon. Lady then moved on to her opposition to the Government and her sense that it is not a legitimate Government, but I would point out that the Conservatives won the general election. It is not only our right but our constitutional duty, in the interests of the country, to bring forward a strong Government with support from colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party.
The Government have a very strong programme to achieve a successful Brexit that will create jobs and opportunity and will be a global force for free trade, but we also intend to introduce measures to improve and restore good mental health in this country, to make real the issue of parity of esteem, and to protect people from domestic violence and from stalkers. That is very important social legislation. Our economic programme, too, will build some of the industries of tomorrow, to make this country a world leader in electric vehicle technology, in autonomous vehicles and, of course, in space flight—building spaceports and being at the heart of new satellite technology, which is absolutely vital for the devolved Administrations. Finally, on the subject of security and keeping people safe—the first duty of Government—we will introduce more measures to stamp out extremism and enhance global working on counter-terrorism. Those are many good and worthwhile pieces of legislation that I hope all colleagues will be able to support.
May we have time for a debate on accident and emergency services, specifically those in Southend, to assure constituents that any decision on A&E will be clinically led?
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing what there is in the way of business for next week. May I say how grateful we are on the SNP Benches for the kind words that have been expressed about Gordon Wilson? He loved this place and I know that the words expressed here today will be a great comfort to Gordon’s family and friends.
What a meagre business statement this is. From a quick scan, it looks as though there will be no votes at all next week and, given that the Government secured a majority of only 14 last night, we can see why they will not regularly want to test the will of the House. They are already a zombie Government inhabiting a minority wasteland, unable to impose themselves or even to give the nation the relief of their just being gone. There is much to debate, primarily and particularly the grubby deal that has been stitched up with the Democratic Unionist party, which demonstrates the worst excesses of pork barrel politics. In fact, this deal would give pig-based receptacles a bad name.
You decided that I could not secure an emergency debate under Standing Order No. 24, Mr Speaker, but I would have thought that the Government wanted to rush to the House to debate the deal. Members must be able to scrutinise, ask questions and debate what is going on. The deal turns the normal funding arrangements of the nations of the United Kingdom on their head. It is unbelievable that a deal of such significance and importance could be passed without any debate and scrutiny in this House.
We urgently need a debate on the role of the Scotland Office in all this. The Department is now run by a Secretary of State without a shred of credibility who has failed to stand up for vital Scottish interests. He says one thing about our funding arrangements under the Barnett formula one day and is contradicted the next. He is about as much use as Emu without Rod Hull. The Scottish National party will continue to fight for vital Scottish interests. After this week, we know that all the new Scottish Tories will be nothing more than apologists and Lobby fodder for this chaotic Conservative Government.
Where to start? First, the Secretary of State for Scotland is a diligent advocate for Scotland. He speaks up for Scotland in every Cabinet meeting, and he is the strongest advocate for the Barnett formula. He called for transparency on the deal with the DUP, as have the Scottish nationalists, and they have had that; it is absolutely clear.
Let us be clear that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), in his desire to see Scotland walk away from the United Kingdom, wishes to walk away from the Barnett formula, so it is extraordinary that he is now calling for the arrangements with the DUP to be Barnettised. The Scottish nationalists want to walk away from the formula, but that would not be in the interests of Scotland at all. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government appear to spend all their time talking about that breakaway, rather than getting on with the job that they have been asked to do by the Scottish people.
On the issue of money for Scotland, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Barnett formula supports funding for the devolved Administrations, but it is by no means everything. The UK Government have invested in city deals including £500 million in Glasgow, £125 million in Aberdeen, £53 million in Inverness, £5 million for the V&A in Dundee and £5 million for the Glasgow School of Art—the list goes on. The SNP really needs to be clear. Is it interested only in independence or is it interested in governing Scotland properly and contributing to the United Kingdom? There is no evidence of the latter.
May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Education on school funding in Cheshire? There is a great deal of concern among parents, governors and teachers about funding for their schools. I hope that a statement will provide me and them with the reassurance we seek.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to her place. It is fantastic to see her back and I look forward to talking with her in the House. She raises an important point. I am sure the Education Secretary has heard her and will be keen to come to the House. Nevertheless, fairer funding for education carries the support of many across the education sector and it is vital that all pupils get the same level of funding. That equality is key.
I thank the Leader of the House for the letter she sent to me in my role as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee in the last Parliament, but I do have some concern about a particular line. We were looking to see how Back-Bench time would be allocated, given that this is a two-year Parliament. The Standing Orders guarantee us 35 days within a Session—27 of which should be in this Chamber—but this is a two-year Session, so that simply would not work. I am afraid there is a line in her letter that says:
“In the first instance, discussions about how this time will be allocated will take place through discussions in the usual channels.”
That concerns me. The Backbench Business Committee was established to circumvent the usual channels, so I would ask that discussions take place with the Committee once it is established. However, I thank the Leader of the House for allocating time for a residual Backbench Business Committee debate from the last Parliament on Israel and Palestine, and time has been allocated for that on Wednesday.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. What I tried to make clear in my letter is that we are very sympathetic, particularly to his request that we bring forward debates that were held over in the last Session into this Session. He will be aware that Standing Orders set out the time allocated to different types of debates, including Back-Bench debates, but we are very sympathetic to his point. The usual channels means the Whips of all parties, and we will be discussing this. I am very sympathetic to his request.
When will the Government make a statement on access to abortion in Northern Ireland? It is wrong that women in Northern Ireland do not have the same access to abortion as women in England, Wales and Scotland, and the High Court has ruled that this law contravenes human rights law, which is the responsibility of the UK Government, not a devolved matter. When will the Government make a statement to say how this wrong will be put right?
This is an incredibly sensitive and important issue. To be very clear, it is my personal view that every women should have the right to decide what happens to her own body—that is very clear. The question of women from Northern Ireland accessing abortions in England is not one of whether they should have that access; it is a question of devolution and the fact that health is devolved to Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is a question of who should pay for it. What I can tell hon. Members is that the Department for equalities and the Department of Health are discussing and looking very closely at this issue today.
This week it was announced that surgery for my constituents who smoke or who are overweight will be restricted—in some cases, for up to a year. May we have a debate in Government time about the potential impact of this decision on my constituents’ health and mental health, and about the legacy of NHS rationing such as this?
In recent days, there has been absolute misery for thousands of motorists in my constituency, which has been caused by work that is being carried out by Highways England. I wrote to Mr Jim O’Sullivan, the chief executive of Highways England, for an explanation, and it has taken a week for me to receive a standard acknowledgment letter saying that I will get a substantive response within the next 15 days, by which time the works will be over. Given that the decisions taken by Highways England impact on millions of people throughout the country, may we have a statement from the Transport Secretary as to whether this “couldn’t care less” attitude from Mr O’Sullivan and his organisation is an acceptable way to go forward?
I can well imagine what an irritation this is for my hon. Friend’s constituents. I would certainly not be happy with an acknowledgment and then the pledge of a proper reply within two weeks. Many public sector organisations respond very quickly to requests from Members of Parliament, and I hope that Highways England will have heard his remarks and will give him a very quick answer.
Last week, rumours circulated in Wallasey that Kingsway Academy, which is in Leasowe in my constituency, was going to close. We have now managed to establish that there are plans to close it, perhaps by the end of July. This will throw our whole education system in Wallasey into disarray, and there are 400 pupils whose future is currently completely obscure. We do not know where they are going to be, and parents of new pupils do not know whether they should buy uniforms for the school. The school is part of a multi-academy trust that has not communicated any of this at all. May we have a debate on public accountability among multi-academy trusts? If this had been a local authority school, there would have been a two-year consultation period instead of this chaos.
May we have an early debate about the importance of police stations in local communities? Police stations are a place of security, safety and sanctuary for many people, and being able to just drop into them is vitally important. In Lancashire, there are proposals to close 10 police stations, including my own in Clitheroe. May we have an early debate so that we can say how important it is to keep these police stations open?
My hon. Friend raises another important point about expectations in local areas. I have seen in my own area closures of police stations. The police have made a very strong case that people do not tend to drop into police stations very much, and that they can therefore use their time better by not having manned police stations. However, I completely sympathise with the reaction of local people that such closures are never good. I encourage him to seek an early Westminster Hall or Adjournment debate on this. In particular, if he wants to write to me, I will pass on his concerns to the right Department.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. In my short time in this place, so far I have seen the Secretary of State for Scotland fail to get any money from the Exchequer for open-cast coal restoration, while he has done nothing to get any money for the Ayrshire growth deal, and now we have seen Scotland completely bypassed in the deal with the DUP. We think the Secretary of State for Scotland should resign. Can the Leader of the House make a statement outlining his personal achievements for Scotland and why she thinks he should continue to represent Scotland?
I reiterate what I said earlier: that the Secretary of State for Scotland is a huge advocate for Scotland. Having been an Energy Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I can absolutely assure hon. Members that he has spoken up for energy in Scotland. He was very diligent in looking at measures for the oil and gas sector in Scotland, which is absolutely vital. He was very supportive of the city deals for Glasgow and for Aberdeen. He has been an enormous advocate for the Scottish agriculture and fisheries sectors. That is just speaking from my own personal experience. He is a superb advocate for that nation and Members should be delighted to have him.
This week my postbag has been swollen by a large number of very well-written letters from the pupils of Whiteness Primary School in Shetland, who have been studying the topic of slavery, especially child slavery, across the world. Given that general debates seem now to be finding fashion with the business managers, will the Leader of the House make time available to discuss how we, as a country that meets the 0.7% overseas target, might do more to tackle this across the globe?
Of course, it was this Government who introduced an Act that seeks to stamp out human slavery. We take a world-leading role in stamping out modern slavery. The right hon. Gentleman is right to point out that we do commit to overseas development aid, which goes in great part to supporting efforts to stamp out human slavery. He raises an incredibly important point. I am certainly sympathetic to it and will raise it with the Chief Whip.
Many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House await with great eagerness the Government’s 25-year plan for the environment. I know that this is a matter of great interest to my right hon. Friend and I very much hope that she will tell us that it is going to be published and that there will be a statement to the House when that happens.
I absolutely praise my right hon. Friend for his contribution to protecting and enhancing our environment. Our manifesto made a commitment to the 25-year plan and we remain fully committed to it. The great repeal Bill will bring all EU environmental legislation into UK law, and our ambition is to be the first generation that leaves the environment in a better state than we found it. I am very proud that the Conservative party remains committed to that outcome.
Today’s Times says:
“Thousands of people die each year as a result of breathing air that is officially considered safe”.
The British Medical Association thinks that we should have air pollution monitors at the roadside. May we have a debate on improving air quality standards?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise a very serious public health issue. A consultation is under way on measures to improve air quality, but that relates to reaching a certain level of air pollution. This Government’s longer-term aim is for almost all vehicles to be zero-carbon by 2050. That is a real solution, and in the short and medium term we will set out measures to tackle the problem of air quality.
Following on from the comments of the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), I look forward to welcoming my right hon. Friend to the best constituency in England at any stage in the next fortnight.
Will my right hon. Friend ask the Transport Secretary to come to this House and make a statement on Crossrail 2? The Department has been considering the business case for a substantial time and the constituents of Wimbledon and London are keen to understand the Government’s commitment to the project.
I will certainly be happy to write on my hon. Friend’s behalf to my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary. I am interested to know whether it is true that the strawberries for Wimbledon are being grown underground in Clapham; I wonder whether my hon. Friend can enlighten the House on that. He is exactly right to say that Crossrail 2 will be a very important measure to get people in London moving, and I am personally supportive of it.
I was shocked by the complete lack of clarity on school funding shown by the Secretary of State for Education on Tuesday. The claim by the Leader of the House that the funding formula for schools is fair simply will not ring true in my constituency, where school budgets have been squeezed year on year and our fantastic boys’ secondary school, Forest Hill School, has a deficit of £1.3 million. May we please have a proper statement and a debate on school funding before the summer recess?
I welcome the hon. Lady to her place and wish her every success in her new role. We are proud of the top-line achievement that there are now 1.8 million more children in good and outstanding schools than in 2010, but she is exactly right to point out that there are pressures on school budgets. That is being looked at very closely by my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary, and I will happily take up the issue with her.
Given the Prime Minister’s commitment to more capital spending in the NHS, may we have a statement on capital spending? Although Harlow’s Princess Alexandra hospital has excellent staff and provides an excellent service, we are in desperate need of a new hospital because of failing infrastructure and sewage coming into the operating theatres.
When can we debate early-day motion 85?
[That this House congratulates the Scottish Government for announcing new legislation to introduce presumed consent for organ donation in Scotland; notes the model successes of presumed consent in Wales where 39 lives have been saved in the last year, which has inspired the change in Scotland; further notes that the UK still has the lowest rates of organ donation consent in Europe; and calls on the Government to save more lives by introducing presumed consent for organ donation in England.]
The early-day motion congratulates the Scottish Government on introducing legislation so that Scotland can share the benefits that Wales has enjoyed in having presumed consent for organ donations. The United Kingdom has the worst record in Europe for the number of consents. It has been a brilliant, life-saving success in Wales. Is it not time that England and Scotland enjoyed those life-saving benefits?
This is a sensitive subject, and there are strong views on all sides of the argument. I share the hon. Gentleman’s view that presumed consent would be life-changing for many people waiting for organ donations. I will certainly raise the issue, but of course he could secure a Westminster Hall debate to highlight it. I am sure that will be in his mind.
May we have a debate on the need to restrict postal voting? Not only has it helped people vote more than once in elections, but in certain parts of Bradford it has been known to be abused for a considerable time, and I might add that it has effectively deprived many women of the vote in those communities. [Interruption.] These people who speak up for women’s rights are very happy to be silent about them when they clash with another politically correct shibboleth. These are serious issues that many people are concerned about, so may we have a debate on the abuse of postal voting?
My hon. Friend is exactly right to speak up for democracy in this country. I hear Opposition Members pooh-poohing his comments, but it behoves us all to stand up for democracy. Nobody should want double voting to be available to people, or for one person to vote on behalf of their entire family or people who are no longer with us. I absolutely agree that we should have a debate on the subject and ensure that democracy continues to prevail in this country.
The M62 upgrade would be the great northern powerhouse project, connecting Lancashire with Leeds in Yorkshire, with two lanes going into Yorkshire and four lanes coming into Lancashire. When will Ministers recognise the importance of that project and start talking about it? When will they start talking up the northern powerhouse, and funding it as they seem to be doing for the Northern Ireland powerhouse?
The hon. Gentleman has raised his point loud and clear. He will know that it was this Government who created the term “northern powerhouse” and who, more importantly, have funded it with hundreds of millions of pounds and continue to support it. His words are now on the record, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be interested to hear them.
Yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) bravely raised both the personal impact of online abuse and the direct effect that it had during her campaign and those of many other female candidates across the UK. As the previous chair of the all-party women in Parliament group, may I ask the Leader of the House to make time for a debate on the issue so that the House can express its disgust at such direct abuse? We must not let it put off the women leaders of the future coming to this House.
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The number of colleagues who were genuinely scared for their personal safety during the recent general election campaign was a total disgrace. There was the appalling, disgusting behaviour of the defacement of offices and posters, and the constant tearing down on social media of colleagues’ efforts to get elected. It is an appalling indictment of our society that such things have been allowed to happen, and I certainly think that the House will want to take the matter further.
Will the Leader of the House provide some Government time for a statement on the development of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon? The project was omitted from the Queen’s Speech. She knows about it, and it is no use her blaming previous Energy Ministers or Environment Ministers, for that was she.
I accept my involvement in the Hendry review, which was designed to ensure that the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon gets a fair hearing. That report has made its findings clear, and the Government are looking at it carefully. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the project would be a significant expense, but it also has enormous potential, so it is right that we look carefully at its value for taxpayers’ money. A review is ongoing, and there will be a statement about it in due course.
I have given notice of a question to the Leader of the House—I hope that she has done her homework on it—but I am not going to ask it, because something more important has come up. It has been brought to my attention—I expect that other colleagues know about this—that people can be registered to vote in a general election in two places. I am registered in London and in my constituency. However, a number of students are bragging on social media that they voted not only where they live, but where they go to university. That is an abuse, so could we have a statement from the Cabinet Office on that matter next week?
I am always delighted that my hon. Friend likes to throw in a googly, so I thank him for that. He raises an incredibly important point for our democracy. We must get to the bottom of people deliberately voting twice, which I understand is illegal. We need to investigate that and ensure that parliamentary democracy, for which this country has been famous—this is indeed the mother of all Parliaments—upholds the rights of one person and one vote.
Given that there will be no Welsh questions before the recess, may we have an opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Wales on the Floor of the House about what he has been doing since the Government’s announcement of the deal with the DUP to ensure that Wales is not short-changed?
In recent years, my constituency has benefited from Government support but, as my right hon. Friend will be aware, coastal communities continue to face particular challenges. May we have a debate on those challenges, and on how the Government will continue to support coastal areas?
My hon. Friend is right to say that coastal areas suffer from unique problems, and we have had fruitful Westminster Hall debates about the particular issues that face such communities. I am delighted that those communities also have the advantage of fabulous fish and chips, which I was pleased to enjoy with him in Grimsby during the recent general election campaign. He raises a good point, and he should apply for a Westminster Hall debate so that he can raise those issues properly.
For the third time in a fortnight, my constituents are having to put up with the noise, nuisance, litter and mess caused by illegal Traveller camps on parks and public open spaces in Dudley. That is completely unacceptable, but when I talk to the council and the police about the situation, they tell me that they need more powers to deal with it. May we have an urgent debate in Government time so that we can get to the bottom of the issue? We need to provide local authorities with the powers that they need to deal with this problem once and for all so that my constituents and their children can start to use parks and play areas once again.
I think the hon. Gentleman might have raised that point last week—[Interruption.] No, but it was raised very recently. We all share the same concern about the impact of this problem on our local areas. If he would like to write to me, I would be happy to take the matter forward. I would be sympathetic to a debate in Government time, but I am sure that he will also be looking at the option of a Westminster Hall debate.
Following a meeting with a constituent, I learned that the number of children who are home schooled in Warwickshire has more than doubled since 2012. There is consensus that home schooling is on the rise across the country, which leads to concerns that checks on quality may not be as rigorous as they might be and that some children might not be getting the education they deserve. May we have a debate on the future of home schooling?
To raise standards, the Government have sought to provide a wide range of schooling options. I pay tribute to the many families who provide excellent home schooling for their children when there are issues such as bullying, particular needs and so on. My hon. Friend is right that checks must be carried out to ensure that children do not drop out of sight. Local authorities have a statutory duty to check that all children are receiving a proper education, and they have recourse to the law if that is not found to be the case. My hon. Friend could raise the matter to good effect in an Adjournment or a Westminster Hall debate.
On 23 June, two bombs were detonated in Toori market in Parachinar in Pakistan; 84 people were killed and many were injured. That was the third bomb this year and 115 people are now dead. The deceased remain in the streets, with their families unable to bury them, and another attack is a very real risk. Protections must be put in place to prevent further loss of life. Pakistan is clearly trying to restrict news of what is happening and is not letting the world outside know. May we have an urgent statement on how we can give the people of Parachinar in Pakistan the help that they need right now?
The hon. Gentleman raises the very important issue of those three recent attacks. The UK and Pakistan have a shared interest in addressing and reducing the threat of terrorism. We are committed to working together to combat, in a human rights-compliant manner, the terrorist threat and the extremism that sustains it. This will help to reduce the threat to the UK and UK interests. If he would like to write to me on this point, I will certainly take it up with the relevant Department.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to talk about the importance of keeping people safe. May we therefore have a statement and some action from the Secretary of State for Transport regarding the threat to commercial and military aviation from the use of drones by private individuals and commercial organisations?
The National Audit Office says it will cost nearly £7 billion to get existing school buildings up to scratch, yet the Government are spending money hand over fist on developing free school sites, including four in London that have cost more than £30 million each. Should we not have a debate in Government time about how we manage the capital budget for schools so that all our pupils can be in schools with decent sports facilities and playgrounds, rather than in old office blocks that are not fit for purpose?
I remind the hon. Lady that 1.8 million more children are in good and outstanding schools than in 2010—[Interruption.] Opposition Members tut but, for parents, a decent education is absolutely essential in a globally competitive world. She makes a good point about the fabric of buildings. It is not as important a point as the quality of education that our children are getting, but I would be very happy to take it up for her if she would like to write to me.
I welcome the debate next week on the Chris Gibb report. Will my right hon. Friend secure a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport on ensuring that the line that runs through my constituency and supports east Sussex and Kent will be electrified so that all our network will be modern and up to date?
May we have a debate in Government time on the injustice of the mineworkers’ pension scheme, which has seen Government coffers swell by billions of pounds due to the unfair 50:50 surplus split? More cash needs to go to ex-miners and their widows.
The hon. Lady will know that this has been debated a number of times in Parliament. There was a long-standing agreement on sharing the surplus, but if she would like to write to me, I will happily take up the issue again with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
I and my constituents are passionate about reversing the 2013 downgrade of night-time accident and emergency at Cheltenham general hospital, but the trust has made it clear that recruiting middle-grade A&E doctors is difficult. May we have a debate on improving incentives and conditions for such staff so that my constituents can have the hospital they deserve?
Yesterday I asked the current Prime Minister to confirm that all services at both Dewsbury and District hospital and Huddersfield royal infirmary would remain open, including full A&E services. She replied that A&E at Dewsbury would stay open, but omitted to mention the significant downgrade, and strangely she ignored Huddersfield royal infirmary. Will the Leader of the House provide Government time for the Prime Minister to come to the House and either reassure local people that services are safe, or apologise for her comments about scaremongering when we were just highlighting that services were under threat?
I am not sure that I fully understand what the hon. Lady is saying. She says that the Prime Minister gave reassurance to—[Interruption.] What I heard the Prime Minister say was that Dewsbury A&E was not under threat, but if the hon. Lady would like to write to me on that point, I can try to understand exactly what she would like to happen.
May we have a debate in Government time on the disposal of local authority assets? Shortly after the election was called, it emerged that Harrow Council had sold the freehold on the Hive to Barnet Football Club. Barnet Football Club rides roughshod over local people, and no one was consulted about the sale whatsoever. Barnet Football Club illegally plays its first team matches at the Hive. It has ignored planning rules, breaching them on several occasions, and imposes misery on all the residents around the stadium on match days, so may we have a debate in Government time on this issue?
On 2 December 2015, the House passed a motion concerning air strikes on Syria that specifically targeted Daesh assets. It did not involve targeting any other actor in that region, so it was with some surprise that I heard this week the Defence Secretary claim his unwavering support for US air strikes to target the Syrian regime. The Foreign Secretary went one further in April, stating that the assumption of parliamentary approval needed to be tested. Can the Leader of the House do two things: provide us with an urgent statement on Government thinking about changing the nature of the conflict; and ensure that there is a debate and a vote in this House before mission creep sets in?
Following the Government’s welcome announcement that farm payments will continue until 2022, may we have a debate on exactly how they will be allocated? Many farmers in Brecon and Radnorshire are concerned about the mechanism that will be put in place and whether the administration of the payment will ensure that they are paid on time.
Farm payments are a subject very dear to my heart, as an ex-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and I have worked closely with my hon. Friend, who is a great spokesman for farmers in his constituency. The important point about the continuation of the single farm payment is to ensure a smooth transition for farmers right across the UK to a new agricultural policy when we leave the EU. The arrangements for that transition will be consulted on and discussed, but I cannot give him the specific outcome as yet.
Notwithstanding our view of the Government’s relationship with the Democratic Unionist party, will the Leader of the House assure us that either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will come to the House at the earliest opportunity next week and make a statement about the outcome of the talks that are taking place today in Northern Ireland? Those talks are of crucial importance to the whole United Kingdom. If they fail, we will see a restoration of direct rule, and if there is a restoration of the Executive, which we all hope for, there will still be serious questions to be asked. Parliament needs to discuss this as a matter of urgency.
This is an absolutely key issue. As the hon. Gentleman points out, today is the deadline for new Ministers to be appointed, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is working flat out to try to encourage that, along with Irish politicians and, of course, members of the Northern Ireland potential Executive. All parties in Northern Ireland are working very hard to try to ensure that we get an arrangement signed today.
The real impact of police cuts can be measured by the rising tide of gun crime across Merseyside, where there have been 100 shooting incidents in the last 18 months and 10 in this month alone. Merseyside’s chief constable has said that he has “never known a situation” in which a police force has been so stretched “to the limits” as Merseyside’s is today. The people of Merseyside need urgent action from the Government and proper funding for the police. Can we expect a statement from the Home Secretary, or a debate, so that we can rid our streets of gun crime?
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important point about policing. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, police budgets have been protected. There has been a big increase in investment in intelligence, counter-terrorism and attacking cybercrime, for instance, to try to ensure that the police have all the tools that they need to do the job, but of course the Home Office will be listening carefully to what is said about particular issues. It sounds as though there is a very specific issue in Merseyside, and the hon. Gentleman may wish to raise it during Home Office questions.
Given that the former Member of Parliament for Leigh presented the House with evidence of criminal behaviour in the contaminated blood scandal, may we please have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health about what action he will take now that that evidence has come to light and when a full inquiry will be set up?
Like many Members, I have had occasion to sign off referrals to ombudsman services. In most instances, the determinations —matters can only be accepted or rejected—are sufficient for my constituents, but they cannot be appealed against. May we have a debate in Government time on the working of ombudsman services, and, in particular, on what recourse constituents may have if they believe that full or essential details concerning their case were not fully taken into consideration when the determinations were reached?
I have a lot of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says, having myself come across cases that seemed to have extraordinary outcomes. I think that this would be an ideal subject for a Select Committee inquiry—it is the sort of issue on which evidence really does need to be provided. I am also conscious that different ombudsmen deal with different types of activity. While the matter seems ideal for a Select Committee inquiry, I am happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman separately if he thinks that another route would be better.
Residents of Coventry and Warwickshire are concerned about building on the green belt. May we have a debate in Government time, or a statement, to clarify the Government’s policy on the green belt, and, more important, to clarify the position in respect of the planning authority and the regulations? A blame game is going on at present: one group blames the local authority, and the other—the local authority—blames central Government. By the way, I have applied for an Adjournment debate on the subject.
That is excellent. I am so glad that the hon. Gentleman has done that; it saves me from the laughter that we would hear in the House if I were to suggest it.
This is a very thorny issue. Of course we all want more people to be able to live in and own their homes. There is a balance to be struck between protecting the green belt and building to ensure that people can aspire to have homes that are fit for purpose. However, the Government are committed to protecting the green belt. I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has applied for an Adjournment debate, because I think that that is the ideal way in which to raise such issues.
Research carried out by the Trussell Trust indicates that mental health problems affect nearly a third of households that use food banks, and 50% of such households are classed as having a disability. May we have a debate on cuts in disability benefits and the terrible impact that they are having by plunging our most vulnerable people into extreme food poverty?
We all applaud the work of food banks. There are a couple of them in my constituency, and they and their volunteers do a fantastic job.
The important topic that the hon. Lady raises would lend itself to a Westminster Hall debate. The issues of food bank use and the reasons why people go to food banks are very complex, and it would be valuable if we were to get to the bottom of all the factors involved.
The Government shook their magic money tree this week to find a £1 billion bung for Northern Ireland. May we have an urgent statement from the Chancellor on when that magic money tree will blossom again to enable my constituents to benefit from the full funding of the Edinburgh city regional deal?
From my recollection, it is the Government who said that there is “no magic money tree”, but it was Opposition Members who were expecting a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow.—[Interruption.] I said gold. This Government are seeking to create an economy that is booming and that takes us away from the problems we were left with by the profligate spending of the last Labour Government, followed by a global financial crisis that left this Government with the worst economic situation since the second world war. The reality is that we are making progress, but the job is far from done. We can choose either to sort out the deficit and live within our means or to leave the enormous debt that results from that deficit to our children and grandchildren. This Government are making the sensible choice to provide fairness between the generations by dealing with our deficit and tackling that mountain of debt in a fair way.
This week is breastfeeding week, and last week was breastfeeding in Scotland week. May we have a debate in Government time on the societal barriers to breastfeeding and on how the Government could better support and invest in support services for women and families so that they can make informed feeding choices?
I am extremely sympathetic to that topic. Breastfeeding is unquestionably best for the baby, but it is equally important that all mothers have the opportunity to make an informed choice based on the information that is given to them. I completely support the hon. Lady’s ambition to remove barriers to breastfeeding, and I will certainly take up the matter with the Chief Whip, but this is also an ideal subject for a Westminster Hall debate.
I am somewhat concerned that friends of the Leader of the House appear to have told the Business Insider news site today that dozens of Conservative MPs are appealing to her to run for the Conservative leadership again. I hope that this will not distract her from her duties as Leader of the House, including looking at how we can improve the procedures for private Members’ Bills and Friday sittings. I was unsuccessful in today’s ballot, but it is important that the 20 MPs who were successful should get a fair chance to air their issues without being subjected to the juvenile filibustering tactics of a few Tory Back Benchers.
In answer to the hon. Lady’s first point, it is absolutely right for this country and for this party that we get behind Theresa May, who is doing a great job as Prime Minister, and I am absolutely committed to her remaining as leader of our country for as long as she wishes to do so. I want to be very clear about that.
On the hon. Lady’s second point, as I mentioned to the previous leader of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), the Standing Orders set out the number of private Members’ Bills in any Session; it is then a matter for the usual channels to discuss whether there is a possibility to flex that. I am very sympathetic to her view that we should enable Members to have a fair hearing, and she will be pleased to see that a number of her colleagues came in towards the top of the private Members’ Bills ballot. We look forward to hearing from them. I congratulate all those Members who will be introducing private Members’ Bills and I look forward to working with them.
Dundee has the busiest food bank in Scotland, and we have seen an almost 10% increase in the use of food banks in Scotland in the past year. Even the Tory MSP Brian Whittle admitted in the Scottish Parliament last week that this Government’s benefit rules are forcing families to turn to food banks. May we please now have an urgent debate on the UK Government’s cruel and callous social security system, which is pushing more families into ever more desperate situations?
Again, I thank all those who work in food banks for what they do. It is important that we recognise the amount of volunteering and the generosity of people who donate to food banks. As I said in answer to a previous question, the reasons that push people to food banks are complicated. A debate in Westminster Hall to try to get some of the evidence would be valuable, and I would support him seeking to hold such a debate.
NHS Improvement seems to be struggling to provide the required timely and effective support to the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust to bring about the sustained improvements at Scunthorpe general hospital that everybody wants. May we have a statement about the performance of NHSI in bringing about improvements in the health service?
The hon. Gentleman raises another important local point about a local hospital service, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate on that topic. As for the broader point about the performance of NHSI, if he writes to me, I can raise it with the Department of Health.
The Leader of the House has heard pleas from both sides of the House for the Secretary of State for Education to come here to explain what she is doing to tackle the funding crisis in schools, but we still do not seem to have had a firm assurance about when that will happen. When it does, can we get the Secretary of State to talk about the opaque accountability procedures in education as well? The regional schools commissioners are a particular anomaly in a country where the Government have abolished the regional structures.
Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right. Several colleagues have raised concerns about education, which the Secretary of State will have heard. I will certainly discuss that with her. She is of course looking closely at some of the issues, and the Government are determined to ensure that more children have the opportunity of a good school and a decent education. She is looking closely at the funding formula not only to make it fairer, but to try to ease the burdens on schools. I am sure that she will be making statements on all those issues in due course.
The Vale of York clinical commissioning group has been continually underfunded. As a result, it has fallen into deficit and is now being punished further by being put into the capped expenditure process, meaning that it will have to make further service cuts. May we have an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Health on the capped expenditure process?
Government Members have quite rightly been quick to praise the efforts of our emergency services as they responded to the Grenfell Tower disaster and the terror attacks across the country over the past few months. Yesterday, however, we saw a public sector pay hokey cokey in Downing Street and the Scottish Tory MPs giving the Prime Minister a majority to stop efforts to end the pay cap, which is ending in Scotland. May we have an urgent debate in Government time on fairer public sector pay?
It is nice to see you back in your position, Mr Speaker. Congratulations on your re-election. Dark times are usually funded by dark money. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is time to shine a light on political funding by supporting the publication in full of all political donations made in Northern Ireland? If this is a Union of equals, it is time to publish or be damned.
Will the Leader of the House ensure that we have an urgent debate in Government time on ensuring that councils, such as Lewisham Council, receive adequate funding to cover the costs of appropriate fire safety checks, removal of cladding, installation of sprinkler systems, and any other associated costs to guarantee that our residents remain safe?
The hon. Lady raises the absolutely key priority for this Government, which is of course at the moment to deal with the horrors that have ensued at Grenfell Tower, and to ensure that all residents who live in similar towers or other buildings that could suffer from the same problems with cladding are properly looked after. We therefore need to allow the fire inspections officers to do their work and to make recommendations on what is required for each building ; it will not be a one-size-fits-all, but she can rest assured that the Government remain absolutely committed to keeping all residents in high-rise towers safe.
May we have a debate on antisocial behaviour associated with off-road bikes, quads and mopeds? Some of the parks and estates in Sheffield are like scenes out of “Mad Max”, with masked riders riding around and blighting the lives of local residents. May we therefore have a debate, in Home Office time, on whether the police have the powers and resources to tackle this issue?
I am very sympathetic about the local nuisance, as I have experienced it in my area, too; I have every sympathy for what the hon. Lady says. This matter of course lends itself to a Westminster Hall or Adjournment debate, but she has raised it in this House and people will have heard her support for that.
Having been unsuccessful in securing a Westminster Hall debate, may I ask the Leader of the House for a statement or debate on the future of Glasgow’s jobcentres and the Department for Work and Pensions estate across the UK? Given that the public consultation is closed, does she agree that we should end the seven months of uncertainty for users of social security services?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in order to give a more efficient and cost-effective service the question of where jobcentres are located is being carefully considered, taking into account the travel needs of users; we are trying to review jobcentres. He will also know that he can apply for Westminster Hall and Adjournment debates every week, so he will get lots more opportunities to keep trying for such a debate.
Next month sees the first parliamentary by-election of this Parliament, when the 10th Baron Walpole will be replaced as a Cross-Bench peer in another place. The electorate for that by-election is 31 people. May we have an early debate on how to stop this nonsense? Will the Government support Lord Grocott’s Bill to do just that?
Although my constituents have endured years of disruption as a result of the London Bridge station rebuild, draft timetables published by Southeastern recently suggest that they will not see the improved service they were promised following the completion of the works. May we have a debate about what is needed to give rail passengers in south-east London the service and the franchise they deserve?
May we have an urgent statement from the Government on the National Audit Office report on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station development? The NAO’s damning report says that it is “risky and expensive”, “not value for money”, and a cost to the consumer, the taxpayer and other energy developments. Does the Leader of the House not agree that it is time the public saw an end to this overcharging white elephant?
I absolutely do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is absolutely right that we have transparent discussion in this place, but he will be aware, as he knows quite a lot about energy matters, that about 20% of our electricity is always provided by old nuclear power stations, many of which are to reach the end of their useful life in the next 10 or so years. It will be very important for electricity security that we have in place a new nuclear power station to replace that. Nevertheless, he may well wish to raise that issue in a Westminster Hall debate.
What the Leader of the House said earlier about private Members’ Bills is great and, as one who has a minor interest in this matter, it would be good to know when we will start debating them. Surely to God, as the Government have nothing in their programme and are allowing themselves two years to do it, should we not have double the number of days allowed for private Members’ Bills in a single session? So, we would like 26, please.
The hon. Gentleman knows far better than I do about the Standing Orders of this House, so he will be aware that they set out the number of private Members’ Bills. I congratulate him on drawing the No. 1 slot and look forward to working with him on that. As I said in my opening reply to the shadow Leader of the House, this Government have a very full programme not just on Brexit, but on social reform, economic progress and prevention of extremism. There is a lot of work to do. This Government will remain focused on that, but we are absolutely sympathetic to the requests of colleagues for further time to be given for private Members’ Bills.
Saturday marks Paisley’s annual Sma’ Shot Day, which is a celebration of the town’s radical past, particularly of the political battles between its weavers and their employers. The first ever Weave festival has been organised around Sma’ Shot Day, celebrating Paisley’s distinct cultural and political identity. May we have a debate on the UK City of Culture 2021 competition, so we can learn more about why Paisley’s bid should and will win?
My constituent, Bashir Naderi, came to the UK more than 10 years ago as a child refugee from Afghanistan after seeing his father murdered by the Taliban. The Home Office tried forcibly to move him back there last year and is attempting to do so again this year. May we have a debate on the inhumane Government policy of child refugees being removed when they reach the age of 18?
I am sure that the hon. Lady will have raised that matter with the Home Office, and I encourage her to continue to do so. I completely understand that support for child refugees is absolutely vital. This Government have provided a home for many child refugees and will continue to do so. On the specific case she raises, I encourage her to continue to liaise directly with the Home Office.
In recent weeks, I have been very proud to become the president of my home town football club, Blaenavon Blues, and have seen at first hand the work that volunteers do, particularly with young people. May we have a debate on the contribution that grassroots football makes to our communities?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his elevation. I am sure that that is great news. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is in her place and will have heard exactly what he has said. If he would like to progress the issue of grassroots sport, which is very important for all of us, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate on the subject.
On Friday, I visited a very vulnerable constituent whose child benefit had been removed by the Child Benefit Agency at the advice of the Home Office. The only way that she can get her child benefit back is to get her passports, which are being held by the Home Office. May we have a debate in Government time about bureaucracy and the lack of internal communication in Her Majesty’s Government?
The hon. Gentleman is raising a specific case. He needs to raise it with the Home Office, and possibly with the UK Border Agency if there is an issue about where the passports are. We all deal with similar issues in our constituencies and I know that, right across Government, officials and Ministers are very sympathetic to these cases and do try to expedite them.