The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 11 September—Conclusion of the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 2).
Tuesday 12 September—Second Reading of the Finance Bill followed by motions relating to House business.
Wednesday 13 September—Opposition day (1st allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 14 September—General debate on abuse and intimidation of candidates and the public during the general election campaign.
Friday 15 September—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 9 October will include:
Monday 9 October—General debate. Subject to be confirmed.
I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to those caught up in Hurricane Irma, which is causing great damage to many areas of the Caribbean.
Today, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will have the first of its two days of Second Reading on the Floor of the House. It is a key piece of legislation that paves the way for an orderly exit from the EU and fulfils the will of the British people.
Finally, Select Committees provide vital scrutiny in this place. I have been working hard to ensure that we establish them as soon as possible, and I am grateful for the co-operation of colleagues from right across the House who have worked quickly to bring forward the names of elected Committee members. I am delighted to draw colleagues’ attention to the motion in my name that will ensure that the Select Committees can begin their important work next week.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business and for tabling the motion on Select Committees. It has been drawn to my attention that the Chair of the International Development Committee does not appear to be on the list; I hope that will be rectified soon. Her Majesty’s Opposition have been ready for the Select Committees to start since July; nevertheless, they will be taking evidence next week, so I thank the Leader of the House for arranging that.
We have had R and R—rest and relaxation—and we have had rock and roll, although I did not get an invitation to Glastonbury. All that is left now is restoration and renewal. Will the Leader of the House please tell us when we are likely to have the debate on restoration and renewal? The House needs to consider the proposals as soon as possible.
Look at what the Government have done to our children who were expelled because they missed out on a few grades. We teach our children that it is okay to fail; that is how we learn from our mistakes, and sometimes that is the spur that leads children to go on to do better things. We had the bizarre situation of parents having to threaten judicial review just to get their children back into education. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Education to make it clear that every child can have an education? Some headteachers do not appear to be abiding by the law.
Will the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor to make a statement on the fiscal rules? It seems that the Ministry of Justice broke Treasury pay rules for civil servants for a six-month period from last October by increasing the overtime pay rate for prison staff by £5 an hour. The Opposition agree with that increase, but I understand that there are Treasury rules. We need a statement on whether or not there are fiscal rules. We could do with that clarity for the NHS, because our nurses need to be paid.
The cherry-picking season is over. Look at what the Government have done to our health service. The Secretary of State for Health picked a fight with Professor Stephen Hawking, who rightly told him to stop the slide towards privatising the health service—a person who can explain a black hole against a Secretary of State who cannot even recognise a financial black hole. The sustainability and transformation plans are the second reorganisation of the NHS under this Government. There is a crisis in social care, £100 million will be spent on recruiting GPs from abroad, and the health service needs a cash boost of £350 million. After the Government’s defeat in the House of Lords yesterday on their decision to abandon the 18-week target time for treatment, will the Leader of the House please ensure that the Secretary of State comes to the House to explain this shredding of Government policy, because we have had silence from him? Otherwise, what is the point of the Secretary of State?
There has been more pain and distress for our constituents, as highlighted in last week’s United Nations report on people with disabilities. The report said that the UK has failed to ensure that the UN convention on disabled people’s rights is reflected in current law. Will the Leader of the House tell us when the Government will respond to the report, which found a persistent employment and pay gap for disabled people?
The Leader of the House mentioned the Brexit Bill; look what the Government have done to the Brexit negotiations. They should have allowed the civil service to use position papers to present the facts. That way, we would not now be seeing the whole thing unravelling. Clauses 7, 8 and 9 of the Bill state:
“A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the Minister considers appropriate”.
Never before have Ministers been given such unfettered powers. Will the Leader of the House confirm how many statutory instruments will come before the House? Is it likely to be more than 500? Fewer than 1,000? Anyone from any party who believes in parliamentary democracy, the sovereignty of Parliament and the separation of powers should be against the Bill. The Government are playing Jenga with our economy and our rights.
As if that is not enough, the Government want to fix the Standing Committees. They do not have a majority in Parliament, but they want a majority on Standing Committees. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will not insult the British people, who did not give them a majority, and that they will ensure that the result of the election is reflected in the Standing Committees?
I wish to touch on the eminent people who have recently died: our friend in the other place, Lord Garry Hart, who was a leading planning lawyer before he come to the Lords; Michael Siefert, who sent his lawyers to give free legal advice to people during the miners’ strike; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster; and of course Heather Heyer, who was mown down in Charlottesville for opposing racism and anti-Semitism.
Finally, I wish to draw the House’s attention to a film that is doing the rounds— “Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast”. What Members will find is that, like the sovereignty of Parliament, the beast of Bolsover will endure.
It was great pleasure to visit Bolsover and to see at first hand what an excellent job he has done over so many years. It is a great pleasure to see him here, but there is always another election. That is the great thing about our democracy—there is always another one.
The hon. Lady has raised a number of broad issues. I will try to deal with them all in turn. First, she caught me slightly unawares when she mentioned a Committee that may be missing from the list on Monday’s motion. I am checking that as we speak, but may I assure all colleagues that all of these scrutiny Committees will be established on Monday at the close of business following a decision by the House. Let me be clear that if there has been an omission, it will be rectified. She and I both played a part in last night’s farce, where we were running around like idiots trying to sort out the order. I am very grateful to her for her help yesterday.
The hon. Lady talks about education and wanting to hear more about inclusion. May I assure her that this Government are determined to see that every child has a good education? There is much to be proud of: 1.8 million more children are in good and outstanding schools than in 2010. That is really something of which we can be proud. Delivering a good education to every child is vital.
The hon. Lady mentioned the fiscal rules. There are very clear Treasury fiscal rules. She will be aware that, because of the difficulties in certain prisons, there has been some short-term support for prison officers. I am not aware of all the details that she mentioned, but I will certainly take them away and write to her about them.
Stephen Hawking is a very eminent and highly regarded person, but I am afraid that I absolutely agree with the Secretary of State for Health, who said that he is just completely wrong to be talking about privatisation of the NHS. The Government are fully committed to a free health service at the point of delivery, as are all parties across the House.
On the UN inquiry into the rights of persons with disabilities, we are very disappointed that the report does not accurately reflect the evidence that we gave to the UN. The Government are working to improve accessibility, including by improving building regulations and guidance to local authorities, strengthening accessibility requirements for transport and working right across Government services to improve the accessibility of the information that we provide for those with disability.
Very importantly, on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the hon. Lady talks about Henry VIII powers. I want to assure all Members that what the Bill seeks to do is to bring into UK law the entire body of EU law. The point of doing that is to provide continuity and certainty and a smooth transition as we leave the EU. Let me talk about the powers that are used to do that. May I give the example of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016? We can all understand that Henry VIII powers are used there so that as any new legal high is created, we can update the legislation to ensure that it is then banned to keep people safe. The Bill is about that kind of use of Henry VIII powers, so that we can finally define the terms that are necessary. About half of the legislation in the last Parliament contained Henry VIII powers; there is nothing new or unusual about their use. They are of course always subject to scrutiny, either by a Committee of the Whole House or by Committees as a part of this House.
Finally, I join the hon. Lady in noting the passing of a number of eminent and high-profile people who have contributed a great deal to our communities over many years.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the update on the business. We should also pay tribute to Edward du Cann, the former chairman of the 1922 committee and an eminent Member of this House, who has sadly passed away.
May we have a debate in Government time—I note that there is an opportunity for a general debate when we come back in October—on housing policy? It is the single biggest issue affecting this country right now, and the need to get young people the opportunity to have a home of their own is absolutely crucial. We need a strong debate to get answers from the Government on how this will be implemented in the future.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I think we all agree that being able to get a home of one’s own is crucial for every young person and for everyone in our society. I am pleased to tell him that nearly 900,000 new homes have been delivered since 2010, including nearly 333,000 affordable homes. Annual housing supply in England amounted to 189,000 additional homes between 2015 and 2016, an 11% increase on the previous year. My hon. Friend will know plenty of ways to ensure that the subject is debated in the House, and I am sure that a lot of colleagues will be interested in taking part.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) has just left the Chamber, because I think that we are looking forward to sequel after sequel of the film—I particularly look forward to “Beast II: The Return”. Let us hope we have many more of these events.
I welcome back all right hon. and hon. Members. Today we have the first day of a two-day debate on the Second Reading of the repeal Bill, as we continue to progress in this clueless, delusional Brexit folly. Two days to debate this unprecedented power grab with all the horrors of these Henry VIII powers. It is almost certain that these two days of debates will be heavily subscribed, with many Members having only a few minutes to put their constituents’ many concerns to the House.
It gets worse than that, Mr Speaker, because according to the programme motion there will be only eight days for the Committee of the whole House to negotiate setting up of a new legal framework for the UK and disentangling ourselves from an institution that we have been a member of for decades, with all the attendant regulations, directives and treaties. To put that in context, there were 41 days for the Maastricht treaty, 25 days for the Lisbon treaty and 39 days on entering the European Union when it was just the Common Market. Eight days for leaving the European Union—it is almost beyond a joke, and the Leader of the House must come back with a sensible programme motion that allows a sensible amount of time for us to debate the thousands of amendments that will surely have been tabled by the time we come back in October.
After your rebuke yesterday, Mr Speaker, and all the faffing around we had in supplying all the names for the Select Committees, one would have thought we would at least have had a motion on the Order Paper today to get the Select Committees up and running. I appreciate that there are a lot of constraints and that we have got the motion for Monday, but that will also mean a lot of pressure on Select Committees wanting to meet next week. What is the difficulty and the problem with all this?
Then we have the thorny issue of the Standing Committees. The shadow Leader of the House is absolutely right: the Government have no reasons to expect to have a majority in the Standing Committees of the House. They do not command a majority. This is a House of minorities, and that parliamentary reality and arithmetic must be reflected in the Standing Committees. Does the Leader of the House understand and appreciate that she is in a minority in the House and that all the Committees must recognise that reality?
The hon. Gentleman has raised the issue of the programme motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. What I can say is that it has eight days in Committee, with eight hours protected every day. It is important for hon. Members to appreciate that the Bill will provide a base for the UK’s departure from the EU. There will be a large number of subsequent Bills on new policies, systems and processes that relate to the UK’s departure from the EU, so there will be many opportunities for all colleagues throughout the House to have all their views taken into account. As we have said time and time again, it is absolutely clear that we want to be a consulting Government, to take into account views right across the House and to provide sufficient time for all colleagues to make their views known.
The hon. Gentleman’s others points about Committees are rather churlish. We have made every effort to establish the Select Committees as soon as we possibly could. They have been established faster than in the previous two Parliaments. It is extremely churlish; what he actually demonstrates is opposition for opposition’s sake. He does not even have the decency to recognise that the House is responding to a genuine request from Select Committee Chairs right across the House to get a move on and do it, and we have done it. He does not have the grace to say thank you or to appreciate that fact. He merely—this is important—wants to oppose for opposition’s sake. That is simply not constructive. It is a great shame that he takes this approach at a time when the House needs to come together to look at what we can agree on, not simply make small and petty points.
I must advise the House that although there is extensive interest, as always, in business questions, there is a ministerial statement to follow. Approximately 60 Members also wish to contribute to the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and I have to take account of their interests. So exceptionally—and colleagues know it would be exceptionally—it may not be possible today to get everybody in. The chances of my doing so will be greatly enhanced if the premium on brevity from Back Benchers and Front Benchers alike is observed.
Over the summer, many of my constituents in Aldridge-Brownhills have once again had to endure the litter, rubbish, antisocial behaviour and noise caused by unauthorised Traveller encampments on public open spaces and village commons. Even our local football club, Walsall Wood, has been affected. I am sure the House understands the upset and frustration this causes. Can we please have a debate in Government time to look at the matter, including at the powers available to councils and police, and—really importantly—the impact on our local communities?
My hon. Friend raises an important point, which is of great interest to Members throughout the House. I am sorry to hear about the issues she has faced in her constituency. The police and local authorities have a wide range of powers available to address the issue. They can direct trespassers to leave the land, and remove any vehicle and property if there is a suitable pitch available on a caravan site elsewhere. Failure to comply with a police direction is a criminal offence. It is really important that the police and local authorities work together to address the issue.
I think the phrase that the Leader of the House was looking for earlier was “scalded cats”. In Tyneside, we would say, “scadded cats”. I note that there are two days of general debates in the business that she announced this morning. One is next Thursday and the other is on the first day back after the conference recess. As she is aware, the Backbench Business Committee has not yet been established but I, as elected Chair, am already receiving inquiries from Members about the availability of time. Will she ensure that when the Committees are established on Monday, that includes the membership of the Backbench Business Committee? I understand that there are still some vacancies on the Conservative side, but can we ensure that the Committee is established notwithstanding any such vacancies?
I thank the Leader of the House and her assiduous Parliamentary Private Secretary for responding so quickly to the requests led by the Chair-elect of the Public Accounts Committee. Indeed, I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your intervention in getting the Select Committees up and running from next week.
May we take advantage of the fact that there is a suspension of the usual arrangements in Northern Ireland to get a statement from the Government once and for all bringing forward a plan for a statute of limitations to protect our veteran servicemen from prosecution for acts that occurred during the troubles—many years ago—that have been investigated many times in the past? It is not right that criminals and terrorists go free while veteran servicemen face the possibility of long terms of imprisonment.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for reflecting particularly on your role, Mr Speaker, in ensuring that we have Select Committees up and running soon. He raises an important point about the statute of limitations. Yesterday, the Prime Minister made it clear that there has been a review of bodies looking at legacy issues, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will take the issue up separately with the Secretary of State for Justice.
I welcome the fact that Select Committees will be appointed on Monday. Further to the previous answer from the Leader of the House, I would be grateful if she could assure the House that the International Development Committee will be added to the list for the vote on Monday so that it can meet for the first time next week.
The hon. Gentleman raised this point earlier. He is right: there was an administrative oversight in the last-minute running-around, and it will be rectified. I can assure him that his Committee and the Brexit scrutiny Committee will be on the Order Paper for Monday.
May I thank the Leader of the House for taking time out of her busy day yesterday to attend the launch of “A Manifesto to Strengthen Families”, which is supported by 44 Back-Bench Conservative MPs? It contains 18 practical policy proposals, such as strengthening prisoners’ family ties and promoting greater support for veterans’ families and for fatherhood. Does she agree that this subject has long needed more consideration by Members of this House, and will she meet a small group of those 44 MPs to discuss how more parliamentary debate time can be provided for it?
Has the Leader of the House noticed that Huddersfield University has won the prestigious global teaching university of the year award? In a year when Huddersfield has also become a premiership football club and the new Doctor Who comes from Huddersfield, will she congratulate our university and our team on their success?
May I echo the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) for a general debate on housing, to deal with the issue of leasehold reform? There are substantial abuses of leaseholders in my constituency and many other constituencies. If that bid fails, I would request that the regeneration of town centres—particularly the town centre of Winsford—be included for debate.
The Leader of the House may be aware of the real anxiety of organisations such as Mencap, which provide vital services for people with learning disabilities, that they face demands for back pay of up to six years following a change of guidance on so-called sleep-in shifts. Many organisations fear that this will push them under, and they need the Government to step in to provide support. There has been a moratorium on enforcement action until 2 October, but with the House not sitting then, will the Leader of the House ensure that the Business Secretary comes to the House to clarify the position and provide reassurance for these organisations?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that very important question. This is an exciting and innovative new industry, and we are very keen to harness it effectively, but he rightly raises concerns around safety that the Government take equally seriously. He will be aware that registration and testing will be introduced for users of drones of 250 kg and above. Further measures, such as a ban on drones flying at certain distances from airports and at certain heights, are being considered, and we will make further announcements on that in due course.
Months ago, a report commissioned by the Government and only released after freedom of information requests found that the Ministry of Justice’s own approved methods of restraining children in young offender institutions and secure training centres can actually kill children or leave them disabled. Will the leader of the House ask her colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to make a statement explaining why the Government have continued to preside over this and failed to act on it yet?
I used to serve on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which is little known in this House but which looks at statutory instruments to advise on whether they fall within certain criteria. When EU directives came before the Committee, even if they made no sense at all and did not so comply, we still had to recommend to this House that they were passed. Will the Leader of the House confirm that if we are going to use Delegated Legislation Committees to discuss important EU matters, those Committees will, as usual, be open for any Member to attend and speak at, the instruments will be voted on, and, more importantly, will then come to the whole House to be voted on, so that, whatever the Opposition like to believe, there will be proper scrutiny?
My hon. Friend, as ever, makes a really important point, which is that this House will scrutinise all legislation relating to EU withdrawal and to our future policies post EU in the usual way, and that that democratic oversight will be continued for the duration of this period.
Despite serious underfunding and rationing in Vale of York clinical commissioning group and the acute trust, it has been placed in the capped expenditure process. Over the summer, it emerged that this process seems to be changing day by day. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health to say exactly what the process is and to ensure that our health service is properly funded to meet local demand?
As the hon. Lady will be aware, NHS funding will be over half a trillion pounds from 2015 to 2020, and we have protected and increased health funding. As regards local sustainability and transformation partnerships, where work is under way to change processes locally, there is broad consultation under reconfiguration tests, where there must be support from clinical commissioners, clinical evidence, patient and public engagement, and support for patient choice.
Colchester’s Lib Dem and Labour-run borough council has recently introduced a very unpopular fortnightly black bag scheme that is leaving my residents to deal with rats, other vermin, flies and maggots. It is totally unacceptable. Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate in Government time to discuss local councils ignoring the wishes of residents and failing to address their concerns?
Speaking as an ex-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it is interesting how litter is always one of the biggest concerns of everybody in our country. Litter is right up there, and so what happens to it is a vital issue. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) shouts “Rubbish!”, and he is quite right—it is a very important issue. Regular litter collections are incredibly important. I am sure that my hon. Friend will take every chance to raise that with the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Although I was present to vote in the first vote last night, I was not able to do so because I was locked not in the lavatory but in the lift. Were it not for a Conservative party researcher, I suspect I would still be in the lift. It is very unsatisfactory, in our first week back after the recess, that there are problems with the lifts. Will the Leader of the House ensure that they are serviced? Surely, with all the maintenance men around, they ought to be.
In August, 15 Gypsy and Traveller motorhomes and caravans invaded the popular open green space at the foot of the Ise Lodge residential estate in Kettering. Rubbish and human faeces were left in the undergrowth; the local convenience store had to employ a security guard; and widespread harassment, alarm and distress were caused to the local settled community. The police refused to use the section 61 powers open to them to request the Travellers to move on. May we have an urgent statement from the Home Office that it will review the powers available to the police so that we can have an effective system to protect the settled community from the intimidation caused by Gypsies and Travellers?
This is an incredibly important issue that is raised time and time again at business questions and at other times. I know that all Members suffer from the problem of unauthorised Travellers’ camps. The reality is that the powers to tackle them do exist, but the police and local authorities need to work together to make sure that they use them, and that they use the enforcement possibilities that are open to them.
May we have a debate on the labour market and labour shortages? Yesterday the all-party group on migration published a report highlighting employers’ concerns about so-called low-skilled jobs after Brexit—that they will no longer be able to recruit EU workers to these roles, and that the language stigmatises such roles, which makes it more difficult to recruit UK workers to them. Will the Leader of the House read the all-party group’s report and encourage her ministerial colleagues to do so?
I am always delighted to read all-party group reports, so I am happy to do that. The hon. Lady will be aware that the Home Office will be coming forward with proposals on new immigration rules as we take back control of our borders, and that the Home Secretary has made it very clear that she will ensure that we have the right balance between the excellent work that is done by many EU and other migrant communities in this country, and, at the same time, taking back control of immigration. She will ensure that there is the right balance between what our country needs by way of immigration and fairness to those who already live here.
Almost 1,000 of my constituents are Travellers. I know many of them, and they are good people. Their reputation is being destroyed in our community by the action of a small minority, who over the summer have destroyed gravestones, damaged village greens, intimidated residents and damaged businesses. This cannot go on. Nottinghamshire police are highly constrained by the powers available to them and looking to the Government, and to a cross-party agreement, to move things forward. May I echo the comments of other Members from across the House who have called for a debate in Government time about how we can move this issue forward, for the benefit of the whole community, and specifically of the Traveller community whose reputation is at stake?
My hon. Friend is looking at a different aspect of the matter, namely that legitimate and well-mannered Travellers who take account of local communities are being run down by those who behave appallingly and who cause so much heartache, mess and concern in so many communities. Hearing the mood of the House, I am happy to take the question away and look at whether we can provide time. The hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), the Chairman-elect of the Backbench Business Committee, is also hearing this, and he may well be prepared to make time for it in his Committee.
Will the Leader of the House give us some Government time to have an urgent debate about the quality of decision making of the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos—or Independent Assessment Services, as it now seems to be known? I have a paraplegic constituent with schizophrenia who was called for a medical. When I raised concerns with the MP complaints team, I received the stock reply that PIP entitlement is determined by how a disability affects an individual rather than a particular diagnosis. Does the Leader of the House share my concern that the DUP are devoid of compassion and common sense? How many paraplegic schizophrenics does she think would not qualify for enhanced care in the mobility component of PIP?
I must say that individual members of staff of—I think the hon. Gentleman means—the DWP are actually working incredibly hard, very often in very difficult circumstances. We all have particular constituency cases that we need to pursue with quite a lot of vigour to make sure that constituents can get through a system that is sometimes not sufficiently attuned to their individual needs. I certainly encourage him to talk to Work and Pensions Ministers, who I am sure will be very interested in the case and keen to help him.
As somebody who lost many relatives, including my grandfather, in the Kashmir earthquake, I know the dire consequences of natural disasters. May we have an urgent statement on the Floor of the House about the floods in south Asia? They are affecting 41 million people, have cost 1,200 lives and are affecting our fellow Commonwealth members.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I am very sorry to hear of his own very sad personal experience. I can tell him that in Nepal the Department for International Development has set aside £400,000 for the Red Cross and the Nepal Red Cross Society for monsoon flood response to help 30,000 people, most of which is earmarked for water, sanitation and hygiene. In Bangladesh, the UK’s contribution of £660,000 to the flood response will help over 60,000 people. In India, as the Government have not requested international assistance, DFID’s response has been through the Start Fund global consortia of non-governmental organisations, which responds to small and medium-sized emergencies, with a donation of £325,000 for Nepal and £400,000 for India.
At the end of this month, Sneyd Green community centre in my constituency may well be closing its doors, after seven years of attempting to carry out a community asset transfer. Local volunteers, led by John Reynolds, have worked tirelessly, but have simply not received the support they should have received from the local authority. May we have a debate in Government time about what the big society really looks like now, and about what support can be provided to volunteers in such a situation?
I pay tribute to the excellent work of volunteers. I know that a lot of people work tirelessly as volunteers and find it very frustrating when trying to get such things done. I encourage the hon. Lady to talk to one of the Communities and Local Government Ministers and see whether anything can be done at this late stage to try to help this along. Otherwise, she may wish to apply for an Adjournment debate to get the Minister to respond on the Floor of the House.
Will my right hon. Friend allow time for a debate on the proposals announced yesterday by Babcock DSG to close three of its sites across the UK, including the only military land support repair workshop in Scotland—at Forthside in my Stirling constituency—with the threatened loss of 56 highly-skilled jobs?
We are always incredibly concerned to hear about the prospect of job losses. My hon. Friend will be aware that there are very strict rules on consultation and about working closely with those affected to ensure that all decisions taken are fair. However, if he wants to write to me specifically about this, I will see whether I can bring it to the attention of the relevant Ministers.
British Steel pensioners are concerned that proposed changes will result in their losing out on the proper uplifting of their pre-1997 service. May we have a statement from the Government on the proposed changes to the British Steel pension scheme and on how they will ensure that pensioners are not short-changed?
During the recess, I visited Abercrave farm and the Dan-yr-Ogof show caves in my constituency, where the owners have installed small-scale hydroelectric schemes. These are outstanding examples, being invisible to the eye in beautiful national park countryside, based on private investment and providing much-needed green energy. May we have a debate on how we can help rather than hinder the development of further hydro schemes around the country?
I do not think we hinder in any way, but are keen to encourage the development of renewable electricity. It is something that this country has done extremely well at—we are one of the top performers across the EU in terms of the speed at which we are starting to use green electricity—and I would be happy to talk further to my hon. Friend about what measures we can take. Or he might want to arrange an Adjournment debate.
Order. I am afraid that we are now running very short of time, so I am looking for single-short-sentence questions. It is really a matter of good faith. If people want to ask a single-short-sentence question, that is fine, but if they want to include a long preamble, it is better they keep it for the long winter evenings that lie ahead.
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important issue that is of great interest to all of us. There will be lots of opportunities over the next few days, during the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, to raise the issue, and later in the year during our discussions on immigration.
Big Ben’s bongs are silenced. They are loved by the community and international visitors. May we please have a debate about why this has happened? Is it beyond the wit of man for ear defenders to be worn by the workers? [Interruption.]
My hon. Friend will be aware that there are strong views on this matter—she will have heard Opposition Members shouting her down over the prospects of a debate—but my view is that this is an important issue. The House of Commons Commission met last night and agreed to continue with the cessation of the bells for the time being but also to consider alternatives to leaving the bells off.
The growth in the spirits market, particularly gin, whisky and other spirits, both here and in exports, is important to our economy. Indeed, there is a Lakes distillery now in Cumbria. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on the importance of this sector and of reaching a sector deal, and does she agree that such a deal must be UK-wide, not limited to any particular part of the country?
My hon. Friend raises a valuable point. I travelled around Europe this summer and saw the fantastic UK spirits now available there and the increasing exports. Spirits are an increasingly important UK export, and I would support any efforts he wants to make to ensure we give them the right level of priority.
Over the next couple of months, the new Mersey crossing will open, and it will be tolled, contrary to promises made by Conservative Ministers. May we have a debate either on the tolls on the new Mersey crossing or, failing that, on why Ministers are so willing to break their promises?
The Government are guilty of investing a huge amount in infrastructure, particularly transport infrastructure, right across the country. I am not aware of the specific issue the hon. Gentleman raises about broken promises, but if he wants to write to me, I can take it up. I want to reiterate, however, that we are fully committed to improving road and rail transport across the UK, and our record is extremely strong.
May we have a statement from the Home Secretary on the shocking and sickening revelation on BBC’s “Panorama” about Brook House immigration detention centre? It showed the shocking behaviour of G4S staff and how our immigration detention system is not working, with committed criminals who should have been deported being held alongside asylum seekers not convicted of any crime.
Given that the Chancellor has said in Leeds this week that the Government are now willing to consider devolution proposals from 17 Conservative and Labour councils in Yorkshire, is it time for a statement next week on devolution in Yorkshire?
Awamiyah, a predominantly Shi’a district in Saudi Arabia, has been surrounded by siege barricades since Government attempts to relocate residents in order to redevelop the neighbourhood in May 2017. There are many reports of heavy clashes between Saudi citizens and military forces, and entire blocks have been demolished. Thousands of local citizens have fled—
As ever, the hon. Gentleman has raised a very specific and incredibly important issue, and the Foreign Office will certainly examine it closely. I should be happy to raise it on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf; alternatively, he can raise it in the usual way through the Foreign Office.
May I pursue the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson)? Many of my constituents tell me that they will have to pay up to £80 a month more just to get to work as a result of the Mersey crossing toll charges. May we have a debate on what the Government will do to prevent them from being penalised by what is, in effect, a jobs tax?
As I said to the hon. Member for City of Chester, the Government have invested a huge amount in infrastructure. This sounds to me like a question that needs to be put during Transport questions, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me, I can take it up with the Department for Transport on his behalf.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the viciously successful campaign by the British company Bell Pottinger to stir up racism in South Africa by working for the corrupt Gupta brothers, who are linked to President Zuma?
I read about that myself, and on the face of it, it seems very concerning. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Bell Pottinger has been removed from its trade body as a result. He may well wish to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate, or in a question to a Minister.
May we have a debate in Government time on bank closures, which are ripping the heart out of communities across the country? In my constituency, the last bank in the northern town of Amlwch has now been closed without consultation. The public want to know why the Government are saying nothing, and why Parliament is not discussing the issue.
I hope to give the hon. Gentleman a bit of good news about that. There are very clear rules governing how banks can close—there must be broad consultation and assessment—but not enough people know that the Post Office has now agreed with all the major banks to provide basic banking services. Given that post offices are open at weekends and for longer hours, that can often provide a very good alternative.
My constituent David Hemphill suffers from myotonic dystrophy, and previously qualified for a mobility allowance of £224 a month. When that was removed in December, he lost his mobility vehicle and was instead given an Access to Work grant for taxis, which costs £560 a month. May we have a statement, or a debate in Government time, about the detrimental costs of such changes to the public purse?
The question of the shortage of nurses in Rochdale—which reflects the national shortage—was raised with me during the summer. May we have a debate in Government time about how the Government plan to increase nurses’ pay, and also to ensure that we are training enough nurses?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the number of nurses on wards is up by nearly 12,000. We are increasing investment in the NHS, increasing the number of training places, and so on. If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise issues relating specifically to Rochdale, it might be a good idea for him to do so during Health questions.
Across Stoke-on-Trent and north Staffordshire, the closure of community care beds is causing great concern to my constituents and those of my neighbours. The decisions were referred to the Secretary of State for Health under the 2013 regulations, but there has been no response. May we have an urgent debate in Government time on the accountability of clinical commissioning groups? Those who spend public money and commission public services should not be outside the realm of public scrutiny.
May we have a debate on the Home Office’s shambolic visa system, with case after case throughout the summer of artists and academics, especially from Africa and the middle east, being denied entry to the United Kingdom, affecting festivals, research tours and business? Will a Home Office Minister come to this House and answer the concerns of some of my constituents, who are trying to arrange these visas and are beginning to believe a covert travel ban is in place?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are millions of visitors to this country every year; the Home Office manages those processes extremely effectively. If he has specific concerns about individuals, he might wish to take that up with Ministers, but there is no sense in which there are any travel bans operating in the United Kingdom, and nor is the system unjust or inefficient.
Drug policies in Holland have delivered a prison crisis in that they do not have enough prisoners to fill their prisons. Drug policies here have created chaos in our prisons and a record number of drug deaths, including psychoactive drug deaths, last year. May we debate which country has got its policies right?
There is a great deal of consultation going on, as the hon. Gentleman knows, between the devolved Administrations and the Westminster Government. That will continue, and there will be plenty of opportunities for further consultation in the weeks and months ahead.
When Tony Newton was Leader of the House in 1995, in a Conservative Government, he accepted that if the Government lost their majority in the House of Commons they should not have a majority in the Committees of this House considering legislation. Why on earth does this Conservative Leader of the House think that this Government are any different? They have no majority in the House; they should have no majority in the Committees.
During the recess I met with I Am Me Scotland, an inspiring group working to tackle disability hate crime in Renfrewshire and beyond. With 62,000 hate crimes being committed against disabled people each year in the UK, may we have a debate on this most heinous of crimes?
It was clear from this week’s statement on Grenfell that little progress is being made, especially on rehousing residents, so may we have weekly reports to the House until further notice, to concentrate Ministers’ minds on this issue?
I think that is really very unfair: Ministers have been very focused on trying to alleviate the suffering of those victims of Grenfell. The Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and others have come before this House many times to update. What they have not wanted to do is force residents into accommodation that those residents do not wish to take. The offers have been made, and there is a total focus on ensuring we do everything we can for those people.
As a Government Minister, the Leader of the House voted to give an additional £16 billion for private renewal and then a £34 billion tax giveaway package for the wealthiest, while maintaining the public sector cap. Will she make a statement explaining why she thinks that is fair and saying whether the UK Government are going to follow the Scotland Government’s lead and scrap the cap?
To be very clear, what we have to do in any Government is have the right balance in priorities for spending. It has to be right for the people who are doing the amazing work they do in our public services, but also right for the taxpayers who have to foot the bill. When we came into office, we had the largest peacetime deficit ever, and in the ensuing years we have been trying to get back to living within our means. The alternative is that we leave the debts for the next generation, and that would be completely unfair. So balance in spending priorities is absolutely key.
In 2015, Wales introduced the opt-out system for organ donation. In the following year, there was a 19% increase in kidney donations. Scotland is about to introduce a similar system. Is it not about time that those awaiting organ donations in England were also given a right to live?
The hon. Lady raises a really important point, and I am very sympathetic to it. Last year, we saw the highest ever rates of organ donation, but we want that number to rise further so that everyone who needs a transplant has the best chance of receiving one. This is organ donation week, and the campaign is focusing on the importance of people talking about this and telling their family about their wishes. We are committed to continuing with campaigns that raise awareness, but we will also be looking closely at how the situation in Scotland and Wales affects donation rates. I also want to highlight the need to encourage black, Asian and minority ethnic donors, and we are looking at more ways of doing that.
Will the Leader of the House comment on the possibility of including topical questions in the devolved nations’ questions that fall before Prime Minister’s Question Time? We seem to be shortlisted on a number of questions, week in and week out, and we can hold no one to account.
May we have a statement on the powers of the Financial Conduct Authority? Its slowness in taking action against sky-high interest rates in the rent-to-own sector has left hard-up families paying through the nose for cookers and for cots.
It is incredibly important that financial conduct is carried out meticulously, and the regulator has strong powers to ensure that people behave appropriately. There are all sorts of issues around financial conduct at all times, and I think the FCA does a good job, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to raise a particular issue, I recommend that he tries to arrange a Westminster Hall debate on that specific point.
Two years on from the Syrian boy being washed up on a beach in the Mediterranean, there is still a crisis affecting children in Europe. May we have an urgent debate on what can be done to speed up the process of reuniting the child refugees who are sleeping rough in Calais with their families in Britain?
The situation for children is incredibly harrowing. This country has made huge strides in trying to reunite refugee children with their families, with relatives and with other people in the United Kingdom. We continue to be one of the most generous donors in trying to establish safe havens for children closer to home, to avoid their getting into the hands of people traffickers, making appalling journeys and losing relatives on the way. There is always more to be done, and the hon. Gentleman might well want to arrange for an Adjournment debate on that subject.