The business for the week commencing 16 October will be:
Monday 16 October—Second Reading of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill.
Tuesday 17 October—The Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration followed by a debate on a motion on the persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar Government. The subject of this debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Wednesday 18 October—Opposition day (2nd allotted day). There will be a debate entitled “Pause and Fix of roll-out of universal credit” on a motion in the name of the official Opposition.
Thursday 19 October—Debate on a motion on the tobacco control plan, followed by a debate on a motion relating to valproate and foetal anti-convulsant syndrome. The subjects of these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 20 October—Private Members’ Bills.
I am delighted that next week we will have the first debates from the Backbench Business Committee and the first private Members’ Bills sitting Friday, and I look forward to hearing many interesting contributions from Members right across the House. I take this opportunity to welcome all Members back after the conference recess for what I am sure will be a very busy time in the run-up to Christmas.
Order. I do beg the pardon of the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). I am not bothered about the right hon. Gentleman—I do not have to beg his pardon; I have known him for 34 years. It is no use his smiling beatifically at me. I call Valerie Vaz.
I am wearing pink, Mr Speaker, so I thought you might have noticed that I was sitting here.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business. Did the she really announce the Second Reading of a Bill that had its First Reading and was published yesterday? I have looked at the Bill, and it is riddled with delegated powers to Ministers. Is this an acceptable way for the Government to behave—with no scrutiny? In addition, the Leader of the House has announced only one week’s business, whereas her predecessor used to announce the business for two weeks. Are the Government in such chaos that they do not even know what is happening from one week to the next?
Mr Speaker, this is a fiasco. I think we are running out of words. There is a new lexicon for constitutional outrage—I will have to consult my thesaurus. This is terrible. It is actually quite a serious matter, because it is a contempt of the democratic process. I am trying to make light of it, to see whether we can get some movement, but we cannot.
I note there was no reference in the Leader of the House’s statement to a debate on restoration and renewal. Whereas we all want the works to be done, Members on both sides of the House will be keen to see the Government’s motion, particularly as, in response to a written question tabled in the other place, Lord Young of Cookham said that a motion and debate was likely “in the autumn”, although he failed to say which year. Can the Leader of the House confirm that that will be autumn 2017?
Will the Leader of the House ensure that the list of ministerial responsibilities is updated? The Prime Minister confirmed ministerial appointments on 20 June 2017, and I do not know whether there is any reason—we are waiting for an announcement—why the new list cannot be published. Members need to know which Minister to write to. The last list was published in December 2016.
I want to clarify a question that was raised on Tuesday. An hon. Member asked, “Where does it say in ‘Erskine May’ that the Government have to vote?” Well, chapter 21 of “Erskine May” deals with debates. At the conclusion of a speech of a Member moving a motion, the Question is always proposed by you, Mr Speaker, or the Chair, and voices are called when the Question is put on every motion. The Government are either for or against a policy, and if they abstain, they have to tell the House—and the country—exactly what their position is on that policy. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) made a pertinent point in Tuesday’s debate when, as a true parliamentarian, he said that the Government could actually make a statement on what that policy was within a reasonable time, so they would not have needed to have do so before the conference recess.
The Prime Minister yesterday referred to the Labour party conference, but she failed to mention that when she spoke at conference, there were cries of, “F off!” Actually, that was people saying that the letter “F” had fallen off the back of the platform. Her Majesty’s Labour party had no problem with our F’s—ours was “For the many, not the few.” Maybe our message has more stick-ability.
During Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, the Prime Minister failed to answer when the Leader of the Opposition asked whether she agreed with the former Prime Minister, John Major, when he said that universal credit is
“operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving.”
Croydon Council, which piloted the roll-out, has said that it wants a pause. Mayor Burnham has said that homelessness will increase. The National Housing Federation has expressed its concerns. Members on both sides of the House and the Work and Pensions Committee have called for a Christmas truce. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions actually comes to the House on next week’s Opposition day with a position? People are being pushed into rent arrears and poverty.
The Government are always saying that the NHS is not being privatised, so will the Leader of the House please say why Public Health England is reviewing whether free travel vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis A should be stopped? Does she agree that they should remain free? Their removal could pose a huge risk to the community. May we have a statement to say that those vaccinations should remain free?
It is National Libraries Week, and I would like the Chancellor’s autumn Budget to provide local authorities with enough money so that South Walsall, Pheasey and Pleck libraries in my constituency can be reopened. Our children are losing out.
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, and I will be presenting on your behalf, Mr Speaker, a Speaker’s School Council Award in the 17-to-19 category to Queen Mary’s Grammar School in my constituency for its “change your mind” project. The aim of the scheme is to increase awareness and discussion of potential mental health issues, particularly for those in years 6 and 7 who are making the transition to senior school, and that message has already been taken out to six primary schools.
Sunday is the last day for the old £1 coin, and David Pearce, a pupil at Queen Mary’s, was the winner of the contest to design the new coin. The winner was chosen by George Osborne, who in a nice move actually telephoned David to tell him. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing headteacher Tim Swain, the teachers, the parents and, of course, the pupils for their continued success and commitment to public service.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on having a fantastic school in her constituency. I am sure we would all like to congratulate Queen Mary’s Grammar School on its excellent work on World Mental Health Day, and we have seen work done right across the country. I also pay tribute to the excellent efforts of the parent-infant partnerships right across the UK that help families who are struggling to bond with their newborn babies. Cross-party consensus has been reached on the need for help in the earliest years. I also congratulate the school on its excellent work in contributing to the shape and design of the new £1 coin. I was not aware of that, and the House sends many congratulations.
The hon. Lady mentioned Second Reading of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill. I assure all Members that the Bill will be debated and scrutinised in absolutely the usual way. I have said many times at the Dispatch Box that I am absolutely keen to hear from Members if they have ideas about how to improve Bills or scrutiny. She also referred to the business for the week after next, but there has frequently been no such advance notice. We are hopeful for some good news from Northern Ireland that may allow for legislation to recreate the Northern Ireland Executive, and other legislation can also come up at the last minute. It is important that we provide as much notice as possible, but it is perfectly normal to announce only one week’s business.
As for restoration and renewal, I can confirm that the debate will come in autumn 2017. The hon. Lady and I both sit on the House of Commons Commission, which you chair, Mr Speaker, so she will be well up to date with my determination to see some progress. I was not aware that the list of ministerial responsibilities had not been updated. I sincerely apologise to the House for that and will look into it straight after business questions.
The hon. Lady talked about F’s, and I am slightly bemused by the various F’s that are going on. As far as I am aware, nobody is going to “F off” and that is good news. Whatever happened during the party conferences, the Conservative Prime Minister made some excellent policy announcements, not least the excellent proposals to reform the energy market, which is so much in the interests of this country’s consumers.
The hon. Lady asked about universal credit. As she will be aware, the policy is designed to help people to get back into work. It reduces the complexity of six benefits by replacing them with one. It is incredibly important and is showing progress in helping people to get into work. We absolutely take on board the concerns: all of us as constituency MPs always have issues with individual constituents whom we need to do more to help during the implementation. Nevertheless, it is a good policy.
I take on board the hon. Lady’s point about the review of vaccinations. I am not aware of that specific review of those particular vaccinations, but I am sure that the Secretary of State for Health will take her views on board.
We are all keen on National Libraries Week and we will continue to support our libraries. We thank all those volunteers who do so much to keep our libraries going. That is a great thing to be doing.
Thank you, Mr Speaker; it is always worth waiting for a good opportunity.
As well as my perennial request for a statement about what steps the Government will take to protect our Northern Ireland service veterans from pursuit in the courts, perhaps I may ask for a good news statement about the progress made by so many schools and colleges in GCSEs and A-levels in recent weeks and months.
I believe that that was two questions; we are all keeping count. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his assiduous focus on good news stories for this country. He is right to raise them and I certainly join him in congratulating all those who achieved so excellently in our schools and higher education colleges with GCSEs and A-levels, and in other forms of higher education such as apprenticeships, under this Conservative Government.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.
Well, that was a successful conference recess for the right hon. Lady and her party! They have all returned full of peace, love and understanding, all united—well, the Brexiteers are all united against the Chancellor anyway. We desperately need an urgent debate about the consequences of a no-deal hard Brexit if that lot are seriously contemplating going down that route. Already there are claims that that could cost up to £400 billion and suck 18% of GDP out of our economy. No country in history has ever considered committing economic self-harm on such a scale before. We need to know the Government’s views about the costs, and the issue needs urgently to be debated.
What we do not need, Mr Speaker, is for you to have to grant any more emergency debates about the behaviour of the right hon. Lady. She needs to accept the Government’s minority status in the House, obey the democratic structures of the House and seek not to circumvent our arrangements, which protect the rights of all Back Benchers.
There has still been no statement on the situation in Catalonia. If people were getting beaten up for voting and ballot boxes were being confiscated anywhere else in the world, the Government would be indignant and a Minister would race to the Chamber. Just because the situation involves a supposed friend on mainland Europe does not excuse the Government from simply ignoring this appalling state repression.
Lastly, when are we going to see the repeal Bill? We thought that the right hon. Lady would say a bit about that today. As she knows, the Bill is still unacceptable to the Scottish Government, who are not prepared to give it a legislative consent motion. We are not prepared to have our devolution settlement undermined, or our Parliament emasculated and made subject to this unprecedented power grab. What is she doing to fix the situation?
The hon. Gentleman has given us a tour de force. I think he was asking about expenditure in the event of all outcomes of the negotiations to leave the EU. He should feel absolutely reassured that, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, all outcomes are being considered, assessed and prepared for, including the spending of money as necessary on contingency arrangements to ensure that, whatever the outcome of negotiations, there is a strong and secure future for the United Kingdom. It is our intention, plan and expectation that we will have a very good outcome from EU withdrawal, along with our EU friends and neighbours. That is our absolute intention.
The hon. Gentleman mentions Catalonia, and all Members were distressed, as were all people in the country, to see the level of violence there. It can never be right to inflict violence against innocent people, and that is absolutely clear. Spain is a key ally of the United Kingdom. It has a strong constitution, and it is absolutely right that it resolves this issue not only constitutionally, but in a secure way that respects the rights of individuals.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the repeal Bill. I believe he was asking when the sittings of the Committee of the whole House will be scheduled. What I can say to all Members is that some 300 amendments and 54 new clauses have been proposed—and rightly so—by Members who have concerns about the Bill. Those proposals are being closely evaluated. That is taking a bit of time so that we give proper, thoughtful, well considered responses to them. We will, of course, be bringing forward the Committee of the whole House just as soon as we are able to do so.
In January 2016, Cannock Chase High School was rated as requiring improvement, but following a recent visit, Ofsted recognised the positive impact that has resulted from the improvements that are being made. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating all the staff and pupils at the school on that progress? May I use this as another request for either a statement or debate about schools and, in particular, improving standards?
I am always delighted to join colleagues in congratulating a particular school, and it does sound as though this one has great news to celebrate, so I am happy to echo my hon. Friend in that. All colleagues will be delighted to know that 1.8 million more children are in good and outstanding schools than was the case in 2010, when this party came into office.
May I just correct my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House, as World Mental Health Day was on Tuesday, not yesterday? It is always on 10 October, and we should never forget that.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s businesses and, in particular, for advertising the wares of the Backbench Business Committee. On Tuesday, there is opposed private business, and I do not yet know what form this will take. I also do not know whether there will be any statements or urgent questions on that day, but we will have a heavily supported debate on the Rohingya and Myanmar. Is there any chance that the Leader of the House could protect the time for that important debate, so that as many right hon. and hon. Members as possible will have an opportunity to contribute to it?
In tune with the shadow Leader of the House, may I also ask that we get early notice of any future time for Backbench Business Committee debates? We have a list of unheard debates, and we will be making considerations next Tuesday, so will the Leader of the House let us know as soon as possible what time will be allocated to us in future weeks?
As I have said, I am delighted that we are having two days of Backbench Business Committee debates next week. I will always endeavour to let the hon. Gentleman know as soon as possible when Backbench Business Committee time can be given. On his point about protecting time for the incredibly important debate on the plight of the Rohingya people, I have absolutely heard his request, and I will look into it to see what can be done.
I congratulate the Government on their response to the unfortunate demise of Monarch Airlines, but I wish to call for a debate on the pension fund of former employees of that company. Many of my constituents who were employed by Monarch are deeply concerned about that.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising a really important point about Monarch workers’ pensions. I am proud that the jobcentre rapid response service has looked quickly at the future for any employees made redundant from Monarch. People are naturally concerned about their pensions. The Insolvency Service can make payments out of the national insurance fund for unpaid pension contributions, subject to statutory limits, and I am sure that he will want to raise this issue at the next Work and Pensions questions.
S4C, the Welsh language public service broadcaster based in my constituency, is undergoing a review, which was announced in August. Will the Government be making a statement on that review? When can we expect any announcement that will guarantee S4C’s future as a unique and valuable broadcaster in Wales, offering quality and innovation?
I pay tribute to the work of the Welsh language channel, which is vital; I have come across it in previous roles and think it does a fantastic job. I do not know the answer to the hon. Lady’s question, but she can certainly write to me and I will find out for her; or I am sure that Ministers from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will be happy to answer her directly.
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that, given the leadership vacuum in Police Scotland since the chief constable stepped aside last month and the chair of the authority resigned in June, it would now be irresponsible and reckless for the Scottish National party Scottish Government to continue with their merger of the British Transport police into Police Scotland? May we have a statement to update Members on the discussions between the UK and Scottish Governments, with particular reference to the concerns of BTP officers and staff in Scotland?
In his short time in the House, my hon. Friend has shown that he is a strong voice for his constituents and for Scotland. He will be aware that, under the Scotland Act 2016, the issues he raises are matters for the Scottish Parliament. Nevertheless, although they are devolved, it is important that, as the Prime Minister has said, this Parliament does not devolve and forget, so the UK Government are engaging with the Scottish Government on the transfer arrangements to make sure that the overall level of policing—including police across the border—remains as effective as it is today.
I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Next Wednesday is national Anti-Slavery Day, when there will be an event at which various awards will be given out to people, courtesy of Mr Speaker, who will also be speaking at the event, for which we are very grateful. The House is united in trying to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking. Has the Leader of the House had any indication that any member of the Government will come to the House next Wednesday to talk about the progress in tackling this horrific issue?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his becoming the co-chair of the all-party group on human trafficking and modern slavery. I know that the issue is of great importance to him and to you, Mr Speaker. It is also of great importance to the Prime Minister, who was absolutely behind the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. It is a horrific problem that is still taking place on our streets every day, but the UK is at the forefront of tackling this evil. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find a way to make sure that the Government come to the House to make a statement on progress.
You must be cheered up today, Mr Speaker; in all the time I have been in Parliament, I have never heard a Leader of the House ask Members to suggest ways to increase scrutiny. That is a triumph for the current Leader of the House, who will be so good at this. One thing that we could do urgently is to require a statement from a Minister within four weeks of the House making a decision on a substantive motion, whether it is in a Backbench Business debate or on an Opposition day. As we go into a situation in which there will be a lot of delegated legislation under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, a statement about substantive motions would help to reassure the House.
My hon. Friend has made this suggestion several times, and I am interested in it and would like to discuss it with him further. My concern is that such a process could lead to the downgrading of the quality of debate, because it would effectively mean that the Government could just reply after the fact. Nevertheless, I am interested in what my hon. Friend has to say and would be delighted to have him buy me a drink so that we can discuss it further.
Scunthorpe market provides around 250 local jobs and is well valued by its customers, yet its future is currently at risk because of the behaviour of North Lincolnshire Council. May we have a debate about the role of markets in local communities and councils’ roles in supporting them?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. Market towns, of which I have two in my constituency, are incredibly important to our communities and we should do everything we can to sustain them. I thoroughly recommend that he use the good offices of the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns); I am sure there would be enthusiasm across the House for such a debate.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the welfare of British subjects detained in Dubai? One such individual is one of my Stirling constituents. He is currently being detained in Dubai, and, as the House will understand, there is much concern for his wellbeing and prospects.
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point. A number of our constituents are held overseas in circumstances that we as MPs become very concerned about. I think that I know the case to which he refers, and I point out to him that he might want to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, on Tuesday 17 October at Foreign Office questions, when he can raise this matter directly.
I am sure that, as a great student of British history, the Leader of the House will know of the turbulent time in 1917 when a group of very angry Members of Parliament —they were angry that Lloyd George was not giving the right amount of importance to the co-operative movement—marched down to Westminster Hall and founded the Co-operative party, of which I and many of my hon. Friends are proud members. Can we have an early debate on the real value of co-operation—what it has done for this country and what it can do in the future—and would she like to pop into the Co-operative party’s annual conference this weekend just down the road?
I am absolutely happy to share with the hon. Gentleman in remarking on the incredibly valuable work of the co-operative movement over a century. I thought that he was going to mention the revolution in Russia. I am glad that he did not go there, because I might not have been quite so enthusiastic.
As my right hon. Friend will know from her previous role, the food and farming sector is vital to my constituents in Brecon and Radnorshire. We help to add to the 3.9 million people employed in the agricultural sector in this country and to contribute to the £108 billion to our economy. Can we have a debate on the importance of the food and farming sector in this country?
I certainly agree that the food and farming sector contributes massively to the success of our economy. There can never be too many debates in my book about its importance and about what more we can do, because there is huge potential for innovation, improving productivity and making more of our superb food and drink exports, which are growing rapidly. I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend and urge him to try to ensure that we do spend more time in this House debating that important issue.
Can we please have a debate on the future of the Red Arrows? For decades, the Red Arrows display team has showcased the best of British aeronautical manufacturing around the world. The Hawk trainers used by the Red Arrows and built at Brough just outside Hull had been due to go out of service in 2020. As the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said in 2014 and as the lead pilot, Squadron Leader Jim Turner, said, the jets will need to be replaced in 2018. In 2016, the current Defence Secretary said that, eventually, we will have to replace them and will start to think about that in the next year or two. In the light of the announcement from BAE Systems this week, a discussion about the future of the Red Arrows would be very timely.
We would all pay tribute to the excellent displays by the Red Arrows, not least of which is the one put on every year at the British Grand Prix in my constituency at Silverstone circuit, where they fly overhead. I can actually see them from my garden, and it is a fantastic sight. They do a brilliant job, and I absolutely support the hon. Lady in her request. She could speak to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead, as I am sure that there would be plenty of interest in such a debate.
Mr Speaker, you were 100% right to have said in a recent speech that the House of Commons belongs to all its Members on behalf of the people and not just to those Members who happen to serve in ministerial office and that therefore this House should have the ability, in cases of emergency, to recall itself and not wait for the Government to do so. Does the Leader of the House agree, given that, as well as being a member of the Government, she is also meant to be a representative of the Members of this House to the Government? If she does, what will she do about it?
Mr Speaker, I found your speech yesterday very thought provoking with some extremely interesting ideas, particularly the idea that Back-Bench MPs could recall Parliament. I am sure we will hear more about that interesting idea and I shall certainly be listening.
Will the Leader of the House make time available for a debate, which I suggest should be led by the Cabinet Office, to enable Ministers from different Departments to set out the costs of Brexit? They could set out, for instance, the cost of the contingency plans, the cost to the 50 different sectors set out in the sectorial reports that we are not allowed to see and the cost of the Nissan deal and any other secret deals with car manufacturers. It would also enable Ministers, like the Leader of the House, to set out exactly what they had said during the EU referendum campaign about what the cost of leaving the European Union would be for the taxpayer.
I absolutely disagree with most of the right hon. Gentleman’s points. He is clearly seeking to fulfil the Liberal Democrats’ ambition of denying the public their say in last year’s referendum by trying to tie the Government up in knots talking about contingent possibilities that may or may not come to fruition. This Government, however, are getting on with the job of delivering on the democratic decision of the people of this country.
Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on the work of the National Infrastructure Commission and the progress of major projects—in particular, to give a timescale for the implementation of the northern hub and to say why there are such lengthy delays to Crossrail 2?
My constituent’s daughter, Amy, is a United States citizen who has lived in the United Kingdom for 10 years. She has graduated from university and has been successfully running her own business, yet she has been refused a renewal of her entrepreneurial visa. Her appeal was nothing more than a tick-box exercise. She has been visited twice by Home Office agents and her mental health is suffering as a result of the situation. Will the Leader of the House commit to getting a Minister to do a proper review of this case and see common sense about somebody who is contributing to the UK economy?
I commend the hon. Gentleman for taking up this case. We all have individual cases about which we are concerned because we want to ensure that justice is done and that we are fair to the person who is contributing so much as well as to our own rules and regulations. I am sure that the Home Office will be keen to look into the matter for him if he wants to take it up with the Department directly.
The Leader of the House—and perhaps you, Mr Speaker—may not be aware that the Westminster dog of the year competition will be held in two weeks’ time. Although the event may seem somewhat frivolous, there is a serious point behind it: raising the subject of good animal care and welfare. The Government take these issues seriously, recently raising the sentences for animal cruelty to five years. Will the Leader of the House join me in welcoming that move by the Government and in wishing everyone good luck in Westminster dog of the year, which helps to promote animal welfare? If she has a spare moment on 26 October, I know that the Dogs Trust would welcome a late entry. Indeed, Mr Speaker, you might think about coming along as well.
I see you as something of a springer spaniel, Mr Speaker. I am not sure whether I would qualify because I sadly do not have a dog or even a tortoise. I would love to have both but life seems to get in the way. My hon. Friend made an important point, though. We are a nation of dog lovers. When I was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I was totally delighted to preside over a change in puppy licensing laws, which has gone a great way towards helping in the welfare of puppies and dogs. I am also delighted with our changes to animal cruelty sentencing. I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising a point that may appear trivial but that is actually very dear to us all. I offer good luck and best wishes to every entrant.
The national health service is under immense pressure from under-resourcing, but also from the heavy and continuing burdens arising from alcohol abuse. May we have a full debate in Government time on how the Government propose to address this serious problem?
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important issue. Alcohol abuse is certainly enormously to the detriment of people’s lives in this country, but it also adds enormously to the financial imposition on the NHS, given the burden of care involved in dealing with the ramifications of excessive alcohol abuse. The hon. Gentleman may well wish to raise this directly with the Department of Health and to look for a specific opportunity to talk about the impact of alcohol abuse on the NHS.
Can the Leader of the House provide time for the Business Secretary to address the threatened closure of the Britvic and Colman’s factories in Norwich, which could lead to job losses for hundreds of my constituents? I have written to the Business Secretary, and I hope the Leader of the House can assure me that he will respond. He was able to intervene in the Nissan case last year, and if he can do that for Nissan, he can do the same for my constituents. Anything less just will not cut the mustard.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to speak up for his constituents, and I can assure him that the Business Secretary will reply—of course he will, as the hon. Gentleman would expect. The hon. Gentleman may wish to call an Adjournment debate, and he will then have a Minister here who can directly address the issues he is concerned about.
I am vice-chair of the all-party party parliamentary group on Show Racism the Red Card, and the Leader of the House will be aware that there is a fortnight of action, so can we have a debate or a statement in Government time on the funding of that organisation? Does she agree that it is great that the football community is in schools such as St Constantine’s Primary School and Ibrox Primary School in my constituency talking to kids and encouraging anti-racism activity?
I think we can all agree that football has a really good part to play in providing a role model for young people, where it seeks to do that—it can also be a bit of a problem on occasion. However, the example the hon. Gentleman gives of football being used as a means to motivate and inspire young people in schools is very valuable, and if he wanted to apply for an Adjournment debate, I am sure you would look very favourably on the matter, Mr Speaker.
I do not know what the Government have against the children of York, but we are going to experience real funding cuts to all the schools across the city—in fact we are going to move from being the seventh worst funded authority to the very worst funded authority. When will the Government have a debate in their time to discuss the new funding formula?
The hon. Lady might like to share in the genuine happiness and pleasure at the fact that 1.8 million more children are in good and outstanding schools than in 2010. Unfortunately, the Opposition always equate achievement with more money. It is just not clear to me from what the hon. Lady said that she is concerned about standards in her schools—she just talked about money in her schools. If she wants to raise the issue of standards and achievement, that would be different, but, unfortunately, the Opposition always focus on just providing more money. This Government’s achievement in education has been superb. There are more children in good and outstanding schools—1.8 million of them—than ever before. It would be great if the Opposition recognised and celebrated that.
Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder tell me that residential treatment is a lifeline for many of them and their families. Welsh veterans will be among those protesting tomorrow against the planned closure of the Combat Stress treatment centre at Audley Court in Shropshire. They fear that their nearest residential centre will be hundreds of miles away in the south of England. Could time be found for the House to debate how to ensure that all veterans with PTSD receive effective, affordable and accessible treatment that puts their needs first?
The hon. Lady is right to raise the issue and we would all want to pay tribute to the amazing contribution made by our armed forces, often at a high price for them personally and individually. She will be pleased to know that on 9 October the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Foundation publicly announced their new partnership to try to reduce further the residual stigma of mental ill-health across the defence community. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is very concerned about this issue, and the hon. Lady may want to raise her concerns about that centre directly with him.
On 3 June, London Bridge and Borough Market in my constituency were attacked by terrorists, leaving eight dead and shutting the area down for 10 days at a cost of £1.4 million to local businesses. The Borough Market Trust has done a huge amount to raise public and business-to-business support; the council has provided £100,000 in rate relief; and the Mayor of London has provided £175,000 in support. Despite meetings between traders and Business and Treasury Ministers, not 1p of Government support has been provided and insurers such as Aviva have yet to make pay-outs. Will the Leader of the House re-examine what emergency support the Government offer in the aftermath of terror attacks and provide Government time to debate the publicly funded pool reinsurance system?
The whole House was incredibly impressed by the way the traders and communities in the London Bridge area came together after the appalling terror attack, and we all pay tribute to the work that they did. The hon. Gentleman makes the point that contributions have been made by local government, which does of course receive funding from central Government so that it can support local communities. I understand the point he makes, however, and he may wish to raise a specific issue in an Adjournment debate. The Government provide support in many ways for recovery after these horrendous attacks, and it is right that we will continue to do so.
Andrew Brunson, a Protestant pastor, who led a small church congregation in the western Turkish city of Izmir, was arrested in October 2016. He has faced unsubstantiated accusations in the Turkish media. Erdogan’s offer of a prisoner swap for Andrew Brunson is an unfortunate confession by the Turkish president that the pastor is a pawn held hostage by Ankara. May we have a statement or debate on the suppression of human rights in Turkey, in particular for those of a Christian faith?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that case. The Government are firmly committed to protecting the right to freedom of religion and belief around the world and to being a strong voice in defence of that fundamental right. The persecution of Christians and those of any other faith is of profound concern to us and we are active in condemning any such persecutions.
I have been made aware that constituents taking advantage of the call-back service on the universal credit helpline commonly wait at least 12 minutes to get through, which costs some £7 on a mobile, equating—as I am sure the Leader of the House is aware—to an hour’s wages for some people. Universal credit is on its way to my constituency and my constituents are already contacting me because they are worried about the implications. Does the Leader of the House agree with the 55p a minute cost of calls to the helpline and may we have a debate on that specific issue?
I share the hon. Lady’s concern that we have to do everything that we can to make claiming universal credit as easy as possible. I rang the universal credit helpline myself just before business questions to see how long it takes. Clearly, there is the facility for call-back, and if the hon. Lady has evidence that it takes too long for that to be provided, the DWP will look at it. It has made clear its commitment to ensuring that the process is fair to claimants. Of course, 99% of all universal credit claims are made online, and jobcentres have facilities for people to access digital services and be helped to make an application online.
I would just like to point out to the House that universal credit is a good policy. It is designed to help people get back into work, to reduce six benefits to one and to make the system less confusing and less capable of causing a problem.
May I begin by putting on the record the great sadness of many of my constituents at the recent death of Sir Teddy Taylor, who served my constituency for 15 years? It is a privilege to represent his old stomping ground, where his name looms large to this day.
During the recess, Mr Speaker, you visited two schools in my constituency, and I am quite sure that the young people there told you about their experiences of cyber-bullying and having social media platforms used against them. [Interruption.] I say to hon. Members who are screeching from a sedentary position that this deserves a bit more respect. There is deep confusion at what the Government are doing in this regard. The Culture Secretary yesterday said that legislating on this would be ideological and too difficult. May we have a statement from the Culture Secretary on how she intends to clamp down on companies such as Facebook being used to make a misery of young people’s lives?
I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to Sir Teddy Taylor. I do not agree that the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was at all confusing yesterday. I heard her say very clearly that, ideally, to address this issue more quickly, we will seek voluntary co-operation from social media organisations, because it takes longer to legislate. It is really important, as the hon. Gentleman quite rightly says, to explore means of reducing the appalling problem of cyber-bullying, which goes on all too frequently.
The Leader of the House spoke about universal credit just now. I have constituents who have waited more than 20 minutes, many of them more than once, to get through before they can even ask for a call-back. Will she please get a Minister to come to the House as soon as possible and announce the scrapping of the 55p charge? These people are in desperate need of money, which is the only reason why they are having to make the calls in the first place.
To be clear to the hon. Gentleman, the charge—I am not condoning it at all—is not a Government charge. The Government do not make money from these calls; the charge is made by phone providers, so his remedy of scrapping it is not a matter for the Government. I absolutely take on board his concern that people should not have to hold on for so long on those calls. As I said to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff), 99% of applications are made online, and there are facilities in jobcentres to help people to log in online. It is absolutely vital that all of us, as constituency MPs, make it clear to our constituents that they can ask for a call-back, which would be free to them.
May we have the debate that has been missing for so long on the importance of the UK textile and fashion industry to the economy? The industry contributes almost £21 billion each year. There are very real concerns in the industry regarding Brexit, and it is crucial that we support this important industry.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising a subject that is, I know, very important to you, Mr Speaker, with your clear personal commitment to fashion and design. She raises a very good point, and I urge her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise the importance of this industry, in which the UK is, if not leading the world, a key player in the sector. It is a growing success story for the United Kingdom.
May we have a debate on early-day motion 372, so that I can enjoy the lifetime first experience of congratulating the Government on an intelligent drugs policy of approving safe injecting rooms?
[That this House believes that it is the duty of the good citizen to challenge laws that oppress the sick and the powerless and deny them their medicine of choice; congratulates the United Patients Alliance for the act of mass civil disobedience in challenging the discredited, cruel and unenforceable law that criminalises thousands of seriously ill patients for using natural cannabis to relieve symptoms of severe pain and spasm; and thanks the police for its wise restraint and the Multiple Sclerosis Society, two police and crime commissioners and hon. Members for their support for a new compassionate and practical reform of medicinal cannabis use to replace the present irresponsible black market with a legal market that can be regulated, removing the threat of prosecution from those already suffering disproportionately the burdens of life’s misfortunes.]
I congratulate the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the United Patients Alliance on the act of civil disobedience that was undertaken on Tuesday of this week, when a group of seriously ill patients protested against an unjust and unenforceable law. These are people who have already suffered more than their fair share of life’s misfortunes, and it is wrong that they should live under the threat of prosecution for taking their medicine of choice—the only medicine that will cure them of their symptoms.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ten-minute rule Bill—I happened to be in the Chamber for its introduction—which seeks to address this very issue. In particular, in raising this issue he will, of course, have proper Government scrutiny over it. I wish him well in achieving his ambition.
At Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to rule out the scrapping of the Royal Navy’s entire amphibious assault capability, but she chose not to. Will the Leader of the House recognise the very genuine cross-party concern about this latest round of Government defence cuts, and will she hold a debate in Government time to help inform the Ministry of Defence’s decisions?
The hon. Gentleman will know that it is simply nonsense for him to talk about defence cuts. We are committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence, and that means there is increasing expenditure on all areas of defence. It is for the Ministry of Defence to look at the mix of different types of activity and the levels of expenditure that are appropriate to meet 21st-century needs.
It is a year to the day since I held a debate in Westminster Hall on the rape clause and the two child policy. May we please have debate on this vile policy, particularly as it has implications for women in Northern Ireland? They are being actively put in danger by this policy, because the third-party verifier is obliged by the law in Northern Ireland to report the rape to the police. There are significant implications for both women and third-party professionals, who could find themselves criminalised by this ill-thought-out and vile Government policy.
It is a matter of great pride in this country that the British aerospace industry is the second largest in the world, employing many thousands of highly skilled people who are paid well above the national average wage. It was therefore with great dismay that we heard this week that 2,000 jobs are being cut at BAE Systems. I have personal experience of that, having worked in the shipbuilding industry when 2,000 jobs were cut at BAE Systems back in 2013. In both cases there was a common cause: a lack of long-term industrial planning for key sovereign industrial capabilities. The national shipbuilding strategy, published just recently, in fact gave up any pretension to our having a world-class shipbuilding industry through providing the capital investment in shipbuilding infrastructure necessary for the industry to be world class. Will the Leader of the House consider holding a debate in the House on the national shipbuilding strategy and an aerospace industrial strategy to enable us to scrutinise this properly and ensure that we maintain a world-class industrial infrastructure?
I must say that it is great to hear an Opposition Member speaking up for the amazing manufacturing sectors in the UK. He raises an important point about BAE Systems. He will be pleased to know that, just last month, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary signed a statement of intent with Qatar, committing the country to the purchase of 24 Typhoons and six Hawks from BAE. It is incredibly important to have a long-term look at the potential for industrial growth in this country, which is why the Prime Minister has set out a new industrial strategy, and this Government are absolutely behind it.
The Grace Arms is a well-known landmark on the drive into Ellesmere Port town centre, but its existence is under threat from property developers. Many people in the area are deeply concerned by the potential loss of this much-loved community facility, so may we have debate on what more the Government can do to support local pubs?
I know we all go to great lengths to support our local pubs—not just by our physical presence, but in this place as well. It is right that we should do so, because they really are at the heart of all our communities. It sounds to me as though the hon. Gentleman might want to consider applying for an Adjournment debate.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, recently spoke about the serious threat facing Spanish democracy. However, the real threat to democracy is the brutal and thuggish approach to the Catalan people as they took part in a peaceful democratic vote. In that, he is acting more like a dictator than a democratic leader. May we have a debate on the right of democratic self-determination to enable hon. Members to discuss the brutality of the Spanish state?
I certainly join the hon. Gentleman in being extremely disturbed by the violence against innocent citizens. However, he will appreciate that each case of self-determination needs to be addressed according to its specific circumstances, and the Spanish courts have ruled that the vote was not held within the Spanish legal and constitutional framework.