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Business of the House

Volume 630: debated on Thursday 2 November 2017

The business for the week commencing 6 November will include:

Monday 6 November—Debate on a motion on British membership of the European economic area followed by general debate on transport in the north. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 7 November—Debate on a motion on temporary accommodation followed by general debate on matters to be considered before the forthcoming adjournment. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The business for the week commencing 13 November will include:

Monday 13 November—Proceedings on legislation relating to Northern Ireland.

Tuesday 14 November—Consideration in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 1).

Wednesday 15 November—Consideration in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 2).

Thursday 16 November—Debate on a motion on the roll-out of universal credit followed by general debate on defence aerospace industrial strategy. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 17 November—The House will not be sitting.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 13 and 16 November will be:

Monday 13 November—Debate on an e-petition relating to a referendum on Scottish independence.

Thursday 16 November—General debate on world antibiotics awareness week followed by general debate on Department for Work and Pensions support for care leavers.

This has been a difficult week for Parliament, but it has been even harder for those who have come forward to report their experiences of inappropriate behaviour, harassment or abuse. Their experiences are why we need to change. As I said on Monday, it is a right, not a privilege, to work in a safe and respectful environment. The Prime Minister has written to all party leaders, and I am pleased to say that they have all agreed to meet to discuss a common, transparent and independent grievance procedure.

In the meantime, as the shadow Leader of the House will know, I have met representatives of all political parties, and I can tell the House that I am confident that all sides will want to resolve this together. A cross-party solution is the only solution, and I want to thank everyone I have met for showing commitment to such a proper solution. I have also had further meetings on these issues, including with the Clerk of the House, and a discussion with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I told the House that action would be taken in days, not weeks, and that is exactly what is happening.

I want to remind the House that Parliament Week takes place across the country the week after the recess. Next Friday, we will kick-start those events, and I am looking forward to welcoming the Youth Parliament to this Chamber, as I know you are, Mr Speaker. At a time when Parliament is so critical to our future outside the EU, I am determined to get more people, especially young people, involved in what goes on in this place.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business up to 17 November, and I think most people know that the Budget is on 22 November.

I note the Leader of the House’s statement on the sexual harassment allegations. There is a commitment on behalf of the Labour party to find a common process that will deal with these serious issues, but also retain the rights of MPs as employers of their own staff. In your email yesterday, Mr Speaker, you reminded people that there is a confidential, anonymous helpline—24/7—for all staff on the estate. It is run by an organisation that has nothing to do with political parties and nothing to do with the House authorities. It gives advice on a free, confidential basis, and it signposts people to other agencies.

Any new process must put the complainants at the heart of it, which is why it is important for the House not to invent or impose a process—we cannot just take one out of our handbags and put it on the table—that does not have the confidence of complainants or is unable to deal with the issues that arise. In 2016, there were 163 calls, and I believe it is important to analyse the type of calls to see whether those who made them feel that their concerns have been addressed. There should perhaps be an anonymous survey on that, and I would extend that to a staff survey—a survey of every single person working in the House—so that we know what the issues are, and people do not feel that they have to stand back or not deal with them. I also suggest that we co-opt Bex Bailey, who has bravely spoken out this week. Mr Speaker, you asked the parties to publish their policies and processes, and I can confirm that the Labour party will be sending you our policies today.

There will be a House process, a party process and, if necessary, MPs as employers can make the grievance procedure part of their contracts, so if we are to get to the bottom of this, I think we need to look at those three different routes. However, a change of culture will take longer, and that must be done by education and training. Every Member and every employee should go on an equality training course. For new MPs, that could be part of the induction process, and existing Members and staff should also undertake the training, which can be provided by outside organisations. Will the Leader of the House confirm that there will be additional resources for the House, and will she ensure, in particular, that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has the resources to support such education and training? We know what to do when there is a fire, and we should know what to do about other issues.

In the anniversary of the week when 95 theses were hammered to the door of a church, the Government have finally hammered out the list of 58 sectors. The Labour party would settle for them giving the impact assessments to the Exiting the European Union Committee. That was set out in the motion, but it has not been done. A Select Committee cannot produce a report unless it has all the information before it. Members have a right on behalf of the whole country to have that information, and to make sense of and correct some of the misinformation that came out during the referendum. This is so serious—the sectors make up 88% of our economy. Despite the request, the Government only provided the sector list on 30 October—two days before our Opposition day debate—and again they have refused to vote either in favour or against the motion. They have not even enacted the motion.

Last night the Minister said that Members of the Government are first and foremost parliamentarians, but they do not want to listen to Parliament. He said,

“in the cool light of tomorrow, we will revisit exactly what was said in Hansard.”—[Official Report, 1 November 2017; Vol. 630, c. 930.]

In the cool light of today, the Minister got up this morning and said, “in due course”. Will the Leader of the House please explain the time limit for “in due course”? It cannot possibly be the 12 weeks that she suggested for Backbench Business Committee debates or Opposition day debates.

When I was a member of the Health Committee we heard in private powerful testimony from young people about their experiences of mental health services, and that was used to inform our report. May I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on the CQC report on the review of children and young people’s mental health services? The CQC found that mental health care is funded, commissioned and provided by many different organisations that do not always work together in a joined-up way, and that the system as a whole is complex and fragmented. I hope that the Government will support the Bill presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) which will be debated tomorrow. It is on Seni’s law. Seni Lewis died in a mental health unit, and the Bill aims to prevent the disproportionate use of force against mental health patients. Young people should be provided with the appropriate professional care; it is not a matter for the police.

Mental health was a topic of debate in the Youth Parliament last year, and as the Leader of the House said, Members of the Youth Parliament will be back on 10 November—it is hard to believe that it is their 18th year. I am sure they will be keen for us to vote for the Bill presented tomorrow by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) on votes for 16-year-olds, as that was also on their list of debates. I will have to explain to them what a resolution of the House is. When is a resolution not a resolution? Is it binding or effective? Is there a resolution on the Humble Address? Is it a Back-Bench resolution or a resolution by the Opposition? I will have to explain that and I cannot—I am having difficulty doing that.

Finally, we lost two of our colleagues, Candy Atherton and Frank Doran. I first met Frank in 1987 when he came to the House, and we send our love to Joan Ruddock who was also a Member of this House. Frank played a big part in the life of this House, and it is a shock to us all because they were both so young.

Next weekend as we go to our Remembrance Day services, we should all remember people who died in 2017: Keith Palmer who died on the estate, the eight people who died on London Bridge, and the 22 brilliant and talented young people who died in the Manchester attack. We also, of course, stand with New York. We will remember them. We will remember them.

I thank the hon. Lady for her considered remarks. We share her commitment always to remember those who were so brutally murdered and had their lives cut short by appalling acts of terrorism. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to those public sector emergency workers and volunteers who came out and risked their own lives and safety in protecting us. We are very grateful to them.

I join in the hon. Lady’s commiserations to the friends and family of those ex-Labour MPs who have sadly died in recent days. We commemorate them and thank them for their service to this House.

The hon. Lady talks about the need for a common process for us to resolve harassment, bullying and intimidation. I absolutely share her determination. She mentioned your letter, Mr Speaker, reminding all parliamentary passholders about the availability of a confidential helpline through which they can report their concerns. As the hon. Lady did, I urge all those with concerns to call the helpline. You have reminded colleagues of the phone number, Mr Speaker. I have included the number in my letter, which has been placed in the Library, written in response to a question last week about how many calls had been made to it. I urge all colleagues to use the helpline, or to speak to me or to my opposite numbers if they have particular concerns they would like to raise with us. I commend the hon. Lady for her suggestions. She will be aware that a number of people have talked about the need for better training, more induction, a better understanding of equalities and the need for the highest standards of behaviour in this place. I absolutely agree with her that that will be a part of the urgent review. It will be the case that more training will be provided in future.

The hon. Lady asked about the Humble Address and the remarks made earlier by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. He has assured the House that he is already in discussions with the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee. It is accepted that the motion passed by the House yesterday is binding and that the information will be forthcoming. However, as I think has been made very clear, it is difficult to balance the conflicting obligation to protect the public interest through not disclosing information that could harm the national and public interest, while at the same time ensuring that the resolution of the House passed yesterday is adhered to. I will contact the Department for Exiting the European Union later today to understand the progress on that point.

The hon. Lady raised the CQC report on mental health. I share her concern. It cannot be right that young people with mental health problems ever find themselves in police custody. The Government are taking steps to ensure that that cannot happen in future, but I commend her for raising the matter. It will certainly come under increasing Government scrutiny.

The hon. Lady mentioned votes for 16-year-olds. I can provide the House with a little anecdote of a school in my constituency that had a lengthy debate, between 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, on votes for 16-year-olds. At the end of the debate, there was an overwhelming vote against lowering the age at which people can vote. The reason, which I thought was quite amusing, was that 16-year-olds tend to go along with their parents, while 18-year-olds know that they talk a load of rubbish and are a little more independent in their thinking! This discussion will continue to run. Personally, I am open to the suggestion of either lowering the age or keeping it where it is; I think there are arguments on both sides.

Order. May I gently remind colleagues who came into the Chamber after business questions had started that they should not be standing and should not expect to be called? People either get here on time and do take part, or don’t and can’t. That has always been the case. I think there has been a bit of latitude in recent times, but I have tried to indicate to colleagues that they ought to keep an eye on the time.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House could arrange a debate on car parks and their ownership, in particular at stations such as the London Underground station in Little Chalfont in my constituency, so that we can encourage car park owners to install charging points for electric vehicles. That would enable our commuters and others who use the car parks to take advantage of the new technology which is coming on stream so rapidly.

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. Those of us on the Government Benches are determined to embrace new technology. We are committed to the greater use of electric vehicles to reduce pollution and deal with the problem of poor air quality. My right hon. Friend’s suggestion is a really useful contribution to that debate.

I call Barry Sheerman. [Interruption.] I apologise to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I have Members wittering away to me on either side, because what concerns them at that moment is more important than anything else. That is always the case, but it is my fault. I call Pete Wishart.

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.

It is 50 years to the day since the stunning victory by Winnie Ewing in the Hamilton by-election—a result that transformed Scottish politics and has changed Scotland forever. The day that Winnie was elected, she said

“Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on”,

and we are closer than ever to achieving that ambition, thanks to the spark ignited by Winnie in that by-election.

I congratulate the Leader of the House on the leadership she has shown on the sexual harassment issue. We will work with her to help craft and put together an independent grievance procedure, so that everybody in this House will have a safe place to raise complaints and report any issue. It is encouraging to see people now coming forward and firm and decisive action being taken, but does she agree that this is a real opportunity to effectively tackle the in-built patriarchal hierarchy of this institution and the unsavoury entitlement culture that still pervades these corridors of power?

Last night’s shenanigans on the Opposition day motion were deeply unsatisfactory and brought shame upon this House once again. There is no doubt whatsoever that the vote is binding, and I am grateful to hear the Leader of the House confirm that today. What we need today is a clear and unambiguous statement from the Government that they accept in full what was decided last night, without qualification, and that they will, without any redaction, just hand the papers over to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. That is what is expected of the Government. If they do not do that, as you said, Mr Speaker, the Government will be in contempt of this House, and if that happens, we will bring proceedings to hold them to account on that very basis.

Finally, last week there was yet another pitiful attempt to reform the unelectable circus that is the House of Lords. This was brought forward by the Lords themselves, which is a little bit like asking the vampire community to reform the local blood bank. Apparently, the ambition is to reduce their number to 600, making it only the third-largest, unaccountable, unelected Chamber in the world. When will the Leader of the House produce real and decisive plans to rid the nation of this unelected embarrassment?

I am always delighted by how the hon. Gentleman never holds back in speaking his mind, certainly on the subject of reform of the other place. He will be aware that the Burns Committee report recommends reducing the size of the House of Lords by a quarter and limiting terms to 15 years. Some of us in this place believe that the other place has a vital role in scrutinising and revising legislation, so we will of course consider the recommendations carefully, but I encourage the hon. Gentleman to appreciate that comprehensive reform of the House of Lords involving legislation is not a priority. However, we will make sure that the House of Lords continues to perform its constitutional role, which respects the primacy of the House of Commons.

As for the hon. Gentleman’s other remarks, I assure him that all parts of the United Kingdom enormously love and respect Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom, for the contribution it makes, for the amazing innovation and skills, for the fabulous scenery and for the wonderful food. It is a fantastic part of the United Kingdom.

I am personally grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his constructive contribution to the discussion about how we take forward this very concerning issue of harassment in this place. He has been extremely proactive in offering support from the Scottish National party, for which I am extremely grateful.

The hon. Gentleman makes the point that the vote of the House yesterday is binding on the Government. I encourage him to understand that, while this will be met, it is a case of balancing the public interest with the binding nature of the vote.

On Friday, a constituent came to see me to describe how his 20-year-old son has inherited an eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, which will cause him to go blind and for which there is currently no cure. May we have debate on mental health support networks available for young adults who have been diagnosed with degenerative diseases, who require specialist support to overcome issues such as suicidal tendencies, which all too often accompany such an early diagnosis of such a terrible condition?

I am so sorry to hear about my hon. Friend’s constituent. It sounds like a truly awful case. All of us as constituency MPs hear of such tragic cases. I share his concerns about the mental health of young people who have to deal with those sorts of diagnosis and he is quite right to raise the subject. We know that people with such long-term conditions are at higher risk of mental illness such as depression, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate on the matter.

I was tempted to try my Scots accent, Mr Speaker, but, thankfully for the House, I did not have to.

I want to say something about our dialogue in the House on standards. People sometimes call this place the global village, but we are a community here, and I ask the Leader of the House to involve the media—the journalists here—because I know that some journalists and elements of the media do not treat women in the same way as they treat men, and I think the Press Gallery should be involved in this conversation.

Also, may we have an early debate on the manufacturing sector, which is much neglected? Manufacturing and services are bound together, and there is great fear in the manufacturing sector that going out of Europe will be very damaging to its future.

First, it is absolutely the case that all aspects of those who work in, and have close contact with people in, this place should fall within the scope of our consideration of how we address issues of treating each other with respect, so I assure the hon. Gentleman that what he asks for will be the case.

British manufacturing is doing superbly well; we are now the eighth largest manufacturing nation in the world. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the very real concerns of businesses about the future. The future is, in my view, very bright. There will be many opportunities, starting right after the recess, to discuss the opportunities of leaving the EU for our manufacturing sector.

One of the many issues on the Chase line is fare-dodging, for which the fine is only £20, which is hardly a deterrent. May we have a debate in Government time about tougher penalties for fare-dodging on trains?

I know that my hon. Friend takes a close interest in what happens on the Chase line, and has even, I understand, helped staff from time to time with ticket checking. I know she will find ways to raise this matter, and I encourage her to do so.

The Leader of the House has said that this House can expect a response to all Opposition motions that are carried, and confirmed in a written answer that that will apply retrospectively. Will she therefore confirm that we will have an oral statement in response to the Opposition motion on tuition fees, and can she give us any indication of when that will be?

I can confirm that there will be a response to the Opposition motion on tuition fees, and, as I set out in my statement last week, it will be made a maximum of 12 weeks from when the Opposition day debate took place.

I am currently researching coalfield communities such as my constituency of Mansfield and a strategy to rejuvenate their economies and infrastructure. These communities are among the most deprived in the country, and are characterised by low wages and lack of economic regeneration over decades. May we have a debate to share Members’ experiences of coalfield development and regeneration and share that best practice to inform this policy area?

My hon. Friend is a strong voice for his constituents, and I assure him that the Government recognise the importance of regeneration in coalfield communities, as in all areas of the UK. He indicates that there is some useful research, and I agree that it should be shared across all communities facing this same challenge of regeneration, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate.

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement, and for announcing the forthcoming Back-Bench business debates. Members across the House will welcome the fact that there is a general debate on Tuesday on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment, in which any issue can be raised. I should also like to point out that the debate on Thursday 16 November on a motion on the roll-out of universal credit has been brought forward by the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field). It will deal with the Select Committee report on that issue.

It was remiss of me not to mention last week that in the previous week there had been a heavily subscribed debate on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar. We had asked the Leader of the House for protected time for that debate, and it was given. Unfortunately, however, the time granted was three hours and the House rose early on that occasion. May I ask that, if that happens in future, an order be put down for a minimum of three hours, so that if there is any more time, the debate can continue? On that particular occasion, Members were restricted to two or three minutes by the end of the debate.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that feedback, and I will absolutely take it into account. I am certainly happy to hear any requests from him for protected time.

Like you, Mr Speaker, I am about to attend the memorial service for that great parliamentarian Tam Dalyell, which happens to coincide with the upcoming statement on Northern Ireland. If that statement does not include a definite announcement on when the Government will introduce legislation along the lines of the ten-minute rule Bill introduced yesterday by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) to protect service personnel who served during the troubles from legal persecution, may we have a statement at the earliest opportunity announcing exactly what the Government intend to do about this appalling persecution of our veterans?

Tam Dalyell was certainly a great man, as the right hon. Gentleman has said. He was a quite outstanding parliamentarian, and he was intelligent, doughty, indefatigable and utterly fearless. A lot of Members could learn from him.

Mr Speaker, I absolutely share your regard—and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis)—for Tam Dalyell. I think my right hon. Friend was referring to the statement that is to follow business questions, which will relate to Northern Ireland processes and procedures. It therefore might not cover the issue that he has mentioned. However, I want to set out clearly the high regard of the Government—and, indeed, the whole House—for the amazing work done by our armed forces in ensuring peace in Northern Ireland. We remain absolutely committed to that continuing. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will find ways to raise this issue directly, if not through the statement.

By the way, I would just mention to colleagues en passant that in my recollection—and it is quite a powerful one—Tam Dalyell was always here on time for any statement in relation to which he wished to pose a question. If he was not on time, he would not be so discourteous as to stand. I think my point is pretty blindingly obvious.

I would also like to pay tribute to Frank Doran, who was a very close friend of mine. He served diligently on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and many of the policies that the Government advanced at the time were largely due to pressure from him. I do not know whether the Leader of the House reads “Erskine May” every night as she goes to bed, but there were references yesterday to pages 819, 133 and 203 of that publication. Is it not time that we put “Erskine May” online so that the whole country can read all of it?

I am not sure what to say, Mr Speaker. I am hearing colleagues shouting that it is online, but I am not personally aware of whether it is or not. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that if it is not, it should be. I will certainly take steps to check, and if it is not online, it will be.

That was a wonderfully diplomatic reply, and I genuinely thank the Leader of the House for that.

Order. [Interruption.] Too much information, as the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) observes. If the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) was late, I am grateful to him for his belated apology, but what he should not do is apologise and then just assume that he can take part. We will hear him another time; he can wait till next week. We are grateful to him.

As ISIS is rolled back in Syria and Iraq, it has been revealed that more than 850 British nationals have fought with that organisation, often against Her Majesty’s armed forces. I believe that some 400 have returned, but not one has been prosecuted. For the life of me, I do not know why these people are not put on trial for treason. What are Her Majesty’s Government going to do about that? May we have a statement?

My hon. Friend raises an important, urgent matter. He will be aware that the Government are worried about returning jihadist fighters and are absolutely committed to investigating each and every case and, where possible, preventing them from returning to this country. When they do return, we are clear that if it is not safe to allow them to be in society, the appropriate steps will be taken. The Government have shown a total commitment to keeping our country safe and to taking all the necessary steps to ensure that.

Will the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister involve the trade unions in any discussions about the abuse of staff and in any necessary decisions? Some of the trade unions do not have negotiating rights, yet many of our staff are union members, so they are entitled to a voice in all these discussions.

The hon. Gentleman is right. We need to take advice from and understand the views of several different parties on how we can best resolve the issue, including the trade unions and the Members’ and Peers’ Staff Association. Others are already coming forward with suggestions, which will be helpful as we seek quickly to find a proper way forward that takes into account views from right across all political parties.

I am pleased to have added my name as a sponsor of the ten-minute rule Bill soon to be introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) about abolishing car parking charges at hospitals. While the Bill will provide an opportunity to highlight the issue, the subject causes great anger and resentment among my constituents—I am sure it is the same for other Members—so may we have a debate to allow a wider discussion of the matter?

I am fully aware of the difficulty of hospital car park charges and of the concerns that many constituents have about them. I encourage my hon. Friend to seek a debate on the topic. He will be aware of the challenges of reducing that source of revenue, but there is always a balance to be struck. It is right that we continue to debate the matter.

Will the Leader of the House schedule some time for a debate on the need-to-sell scheme in relation to High Speed 2? An analysis of applications in my constituency has shown an unusually high refusal rate. For example, where eight houses of a group of 10 have been sold, HS2 Ltd is for some inexplicable reason refusing to buy the last two, showing that it clearly has not learned the lessons from phase 1.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on standing up for her constituents, as I have had to do for my constituents and Mr Speaker has had to do for his. I have a great deal of sympathy with the issue that my hon. Friend raises. Many constituents face issues with HS2 Ltd, some of which are still to be resolved. I strongly urge her to consider an application for a Westminster Hall debate or an Adjournment debate to discuss the matter further.

The number of birds of prey across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has risen astronomically to the detriment of songbirds. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs does occasionally grant licences to cull birds of prey, but many country people and landowners who want to avail themselves of such licences in order to achieve a balance in the countryside find the process to be off-putting. Indeed, sometimes they cannot get a licence. There are too many birds of prey and too few songbirds and mammals, so will the Leader of the House grant a debate on that or call for a statement from DEFRA?

The hon. Gentleman shares with me a love of nature and wildlife, but we have seen a reduction in this country’s wildlife over many years. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said, it is vital that we take steps as we leave the EU to improve our biodiversity and the prevalence of songbirds and mammals. He is taking steps to ensure that that happens, and there will be further opportunities as we leave the EU.

Order. I did make a ruling that people who were late for business questions should not be standing.

Order. I have told the right hon. Gentleman what the situation is. If a Member is late, that Member should not be standing at business questions. I have the very highest respect for the right hon. Gentleman, but I—[Interruption.] Order. I made a ruling that if Members are not on time—if they are late for business questions—they should not seek to be called. There will be other opportunities for Members to be called. We have a very heavy load of business and somebody has to judge whether the rule has been observed or not. Manifestly, in several cases it has not been. Most people who were late have accepted that they should not contribute today. They may contribute on other occasions or later in the day, but not at business questions. I cannot see what is complicated about it.

Mr Speaker, you are a strong supporter of the thousands of volunteers in our constituencies across the United Kingdom. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Euna Russell from Elgin, who has been named Barnardo’s national volunteer of the year, in recognition of her 27 years’ tireless work at the Elgin store? We in Moray are all very proud of Euna’s achievements.

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Euna on being named Barnardo’s national volunteer of the year. I understand that he met Euna last December when he volunteered in the Barnardo’s shop. It is incredible that at the age of 79, Euna is still dedicating 20 to 30 hours a week and rarely misses a day. I sincerely hope she enjoys the awards ceremony in London at the end of the month.

May I concur with the remarks you made about Tam Dalyell, Mr Speaker? He sent me a lovely gift when I won the election in 2015 of six boxes of parchment that he found while cleaning out his study. Little did he know that we just have to hit a button to print two copies on the computer these days.

May I ask the Leader of the House about the taxation of airlines? I had cause to complain to British Airways about a flight that I was unable to take. I was told by the chief executive’s office that the taxation on the flight is not automatically refunded to the customer unless they make a complaint or ask for their money back. It therefore goes neither to the customer nor to the Treasury. May we have a debate on the taxation of airlines and how consumers can automatically be refunded the taxation that does not need to be paid to the Treasury because they have not travelled?

Personally, I have had a different experience, but it seems that the matter could easily be resolved with a parliamentary written question to the Department. However, I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern that if a traveller does not travel, they should not be subject to the tax.

This morning, the Scottish Government published a paper that sets out a range of possible Scottish income tax rates. All the options, with the exception of the model proposed by the Scottish Conservatives, would mean that income tax would rise north of the border. Scotland is already the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom, thanks to the policies introduced by the SNP Scottish Government. May we have a statement on the impact of having higher taxes in Scotland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is a tireless supporter of his constituents’ interests. As he is aware, the Scottish Government are now in control of income tax rates and retain about £12 billion of income tax revenue. It is a concern that the Scottish Chambers of Commerce has said that a higher tax rate would drive investment out of Scotland and that the Institute of Directors has said that the net long-term impact would be negative for the Scottish economy. Analysis shows that almost 400,000 Scots will pay £400 more in income tax than people working in other parts of the UK. I am sure that my hon. Friend will seek a debate on the Adjournment or in Westminster Hall on this very worrying subject.

The conflict in Yemen has been going on for more than two years. Many medical staff there have not been paid for more than a year because of the country’s financial situation, and they are struggling to treat people who are dying of cholera every day. May we have a debate in Government time on the situation in Yemen?

I absolutely share the hon. Lady’s concern about the situation in Yemen, which is creating terrible hardship for innocent people there. I also share her interest in it being further debated, and I would encourage her to seek a debate, perhaps through the Backbench Business Committee, if other Members would like to cover that subject.

Although it is reassuring that various reviews are taking place, may we have a debate on the size and scope of Parliament’s human resources function? Does the Leader of the House agree that any review should carefully consider the HR, hiring and staff grievance processes of other legislatures around the world, as we can perhaps learn from them?

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. As we consider how we can improve value for money for taxpayers while using best HR practice from around the world, we will of course look at other legislatures. Especially with regard to resolving the question of how to keep people safe at work, it will be essential that we look at what is done elsewhere.

On standards, I am deeply concerned about the bullying culture within Parliament, an issue that was actually dismissed by Mr Speaker when I previously raised it with him, terming it to be a “women’s issue”—it clearly is not. It is absolutely vital that we use this opportunity to address bullying and to bring forward mandatory training for everyone in this House.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady and will happily work with any colleagues from across the House on making sure that we seize this opportunity to put things right. We must ensure that nobody is left out of the process—it should include all political parties, those with no political party, and all those who work in this place and come here to help us on temporary work placements, as interns and so on—so that we get this right once and for all.

May we have a debate on amending the process for registering births when a father passes away before the birth of a child? A constituent of mine who has a newborn baby is still coming to terms with the unexpected loss of her partner. Although the case is uncontentious, the whole family is distressed by the process, which involves DNA tests and applications to the court to seek recognition of the deceased father. Does not the Leader of the House think that the process for recognising the deceased father should be simplified, because not everyone can afford the bureaucratic, costly and traumatic process that currently exists?

I am sorry to hear about the case of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent—that is an absolute tragedy, and I am sure that everyone in the House would want to pass on our great sympathy.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I urge him to raise it at the next Health questions because I am sure that Ministers will be interested in looking at ways of improving and streamlining the process.

My constituent, Mr McDonald, is a Falklands veteran who has stayed in the UK for 55 years. He has also served in the Territorial Army. His dad, born in Greenock, was a captain in the Navy, but because Mr McDonald was born in South Africa, he does not have a birth certificate and he has not been able to get one. With no birth certificate, he is not deemed worthy of a passport. As he says, it is hurtful that the Government do not think he is worthy of a passport. What steps can they take to rectify this?

As he often does in the Chamber, the hon. Gentleman raises a very concerning issue about a specific constituent. I obviously do not know the particular circumstances of this case, but it sounds very concerning, so I encourage him to take it up directly with Home Office Ministers, perhaps at oral questions, so that they can see what can be done.

The Leader of the House will not know that I wrote to North West Ambulance Service in August to point out that when Rochdale infirmary’s accident and emergency unit was closed, a commitment was given that there would be paramedic cover on ambulances taking my constituents to other hospitals. I am yet to receive a reply, so may we have a debate on the ambulance service in the north-west? It is not good enough, and nor are its officers up to speed with the need to be accountable.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise that issue. We all have challenges with and concerns about the way in which services are delivered in our constituencies. This is exactly the right way to raise them, so I commend him for doing so. He may well wish to seek an Adjournment debate so that that particular situation can be closely examined, with a Minister present to respond.

Following on from the Government’s response to the Opposition motion on tuition fees, as well as the Leader of the House’s earlier response to my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Jo Platt), that motion was about revoking regulations, but the Leader of the House said at the time that it would not be honoured because it fell outside the 40-day limit for statutory instruments to be annulled. Will she confirm that the Government will respect any annulment motion passed by the House within the 40-day limit?

The Opposition day debate on tuition fees was outside the 40-day period for praying against a statutory instrument. In a future scenario, were a statutory instrument to be prayed against during the 40-day period, the Government would follow parliamentary Standing Orders and procedures, and ensure that the matter was addressed in the normal way.

May we have a statement or a debate in Government time on the management and funding of the Equality and Human Rights Commission? Does the Leader of the House agree that it is unacceptable for staff to be made compulsorily redundant while there are unfilled vacancies and the use of agency workers in the commission is widespread? Does she agree that the Government should step in to deal with this emerging crisis?

I was not aware of the situation that the hon. Gentleman highlights, but I absolutely agree that it is unacceptable to have under-utilised places and then to require agency staff to be brought in, potentially at greater expense to the taxpayer. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to take the matter up directly with Ministers, who I am sure will be keen to hear from him.

Last Thursday, the Prime Minister told a journalist from the Eastern Daily Press that the Department of Health would no longer be the sponsoring body for the contaminated blood inquiry. We have not had a statement to the House—oral or written—to confirm that change, so is there anything that the Government would like to tell us this morning?

I again commend the hon. Lady for her work on this tragic issue. Many people have suffered as a result of the contaminated blood tragedy. I will look into this on her behalf, but I do not currently have the answer to her specific question.

I thank the Leader of the House for her response to my question last week. My constituency case was followed up very swiftly by the Treasury.

I was particularly distressed this week to hear the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) inform the House that a Whips Office had not reported sexual abuse, but used the information to coerce Members. That appears to be particularly depraved on many levels. Will the Government reassure us about, or make a statement on, the protocols that apply to all Members of the House, no matter what their seniority or the importance of their role? Only then will culture change truly be possible.

As the Prime Minister has said, when there is evidence or allegations of criminal activity, all Whips Offices should encourage individuals to go directly to the police. The Conservative Chief Whip has absolutely assured me that when there have been any allegations of potentially criminal activity, he has always told—and always would tell—the individual to go directly to the police.

There was potential for a slight misunderstanding in the question from the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy). She is not in the Chamber, but I understand that she was referring to activities that were alleged to have been going on in the early 1970s. There was perhaps some misunderstanding that she was referring to current Whips Offices. As I say, she is not present to confirm or deny that, but I believe she was referring to a television programme about activities in the Whips Office in the 1970s. I cannot speak for the hon. Lady , but I want to be clear that, as I understand it, that was the genesis of her question to the Prime Minister.

I thank the Leader of the House for her kind words about Candy Atherton, who was a true champion for Cornwall and the far south-west.

On 12 October, the Leader of the House described cross-party concerns about the risks of scrapping the Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ships as “nonsense”. Will she now agree to a debate in Government time, as I understand that two Type 23 frigates are facing the axe in the latest round of Government defence cuts?

We have made a commitment to meet our NATO pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defence every year until 2022. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of a cross-Whitehall review of all of our defence spend to ensure that it is absolutely appropriate to meet the needs of the 21st century. I encourage him to raise his specific points at Defence questions because the Ministry of Defence is looking into all the issues that he has quite rightly raised. I cannot answer his specific questions, but I can assure him that this cross-Whitehall review will take into account a balance of spending, which is going up every year in line with our NATO commitment, and the need to have a 21st century-appropriate response to all matters of defence.

To celebrate Paisley winning the competition to be UK City of Culture in 2021, as I have no doubt that it will, the Royal National Mòd, the fantastic festival of Scottish Gaelic culture, will again be held in the town in 2021 after we successfully held the event in 2014. May I encourage the Leader of the House to visit the Mòd and the town in 2021, and to schedule a debate on the important cultural and economic role that the Mòd plays in Scotland?

If enthusiasm for the hon. Gentleman’s competitive entry is anything to go by, I am sure that he will be very successful. I commend him for standing up for his constituents in such a way. Of course we wish all the cities competing the best of luck. I am sure that there will be many visits to his constituency regardless of the outcome.

I am sure that the Leader of the House will join me in congratulating the St Paul’s Youth Forum, which is based in my constituency. Representatives from Blackhill and Provanmill, one of the poorest parts in my constituency, are coming to Parliament today for a tour of the building for the first time ahead of an award ceremony tonight to celebrate their work to provide 200 young people a week with citizenship skills ranging from cycle repair, gardening and growing produce, through to running a local radio station called BOLT FM. This fantastic charity is a great testament to the charitable sector’s work to empower our young people and create the citizenship skills that are so vital to their future success. Will the Leader of the House consider calling a debate in Government time on the charitable sector’s vital role of working with our schools and educational providers to ensure that our young people are equipped for the future?

I commend the charity that the hon. Gentleman mentions for the work that it does, which sounds excellent, as well as all the many hundreds of thousands of volunteers who work for charities right across the United Kingdom, often delivering real value to our communities, particularly for young people and in the areas of training and citizenship. I congratulate the people of the youth forum and hope that they enjoy their trip, and I sincerely apologise for all the scaffolding around the building. I must be honest that we are not looking our best, but we are working very hard to ensure that, in the fullness of time, we will once again be a very beautiful place to visit, although we remain a fascinating place to visit. I absolutely encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek a debate on the amazing work done by the charities sector.

There is real and growing concern among residents in Didsbury, Burnage, Chorlton and other parts of my constituency about crime and antisocial behaviour. I have met senior police officers and the deputy mayor to voice those concerns, but it is clear that they are really struggling as a result of the cuts and because they have lost 2,000 officers since 2010. May we have a statement or a debate on how we can get some extra resources to Greater Manchester police in the light of those concerns?

The hon. Gentleman and all hon. Members will be pleased to know that crimes traditionally measured by the independent crime survey for England and Wales have fallen by 9% over the past year, which is a continuation of a downward trend. That is a tribute to the excellent work of the police right across the United Kingdom. We have protected police budgets in real terms. I urge the hon. Gentleman to take up his specific concerns about policing in Manchester with Ministers at Home Office questions.

May we have a debate in Government time on the inaccuracies of work capability assessments? My Baillieston constituent, David Stewart, who receives morphine six times a day, was found fit for work. It was only through the help of my caseworker, Emily, that we managed to get that decision overturned, so may we have a debate on the folly of work capability assessments, which cause so much distress to our constituents?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important constituency issue. The general public will be pleased to hear that such issues can be resolved as a result of a Member of Parliament’s intervention, and I commend the hon. Gentleman for that. I absolutely defend the policies, but the implementation is not always right. It is vital that we all defend our constituency cases to ensure that constituents receive the right solution for them.

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Secretary of State for Transport announced before the summer recess the cancellation of the electrification of the line between Cardiff and Swansea. Will she request that the Transport Secretary now makes a statement about the lost infrastructure funding that would have come with electrification, but would not be directly for electrification, such as for the closure of dangerous level crossings and highway widening? In my opinion, that funding should be separate so that we can ensure that dangerous level crossings can still be closed, for example, and it should come from the UK Government. I hope that the Leader of the House agrees.

I urge the hon. Gentleman to take up his important point about safety at level crossings at Transport questions. He will be aware that the Government continue their record investment in the railways, with about £48 billion to be spent between 2019 and 2024. In many cases, the issues around upgrading infrastructure are ones of technology, and it has been possible to bring forward solutions to deliver better service to customers and passengers in a shorter space of time, and with less disruption. That is a win-win for his constituents, but I urge him to take up his important point about other infrastructure with the Department for Transport.


A number of planning applications for fracking have recently been submitted in my constituency, causing much consternation locally. That has not been helped by a local political group arguing that councils should determine those applications by way of a local referendum. As the Leader of the House knows, that would be a deeply irresponsible move. Not only would such a decision not be effective, but it could leave a council open to a costly legal challenge. May we have a debate on the precise discretion that is available to councils to consider such controversial planning applications?

I find myself instinctively agreeing with the hon. Gentleman. We need to find a way forward that takes into account strong local views about fracking while also weighing up the benefits to our economy. The economy absolutely needs to continue depending on gas as we transition to sources that involve lower carbon dioxide emissions, as we will need make that transition through a greater use of gas. There is a strong case—in terms of economics and climate change—for fracking, subject to very strong regulation, given that gas is available as a natural resource in the United Kingdom. We need to properly assess the balance between local views, which can be very negative, and the economic imperative for the nation. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek a Back-Bench debate so that others who have the same dilemma can also be heard.

Points of order would normally come after statements, but I will use the Chair’s discretion and take the hon. Gentleman’s.

I am grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I wanted to raise this now because it relates to our earlier discussion about “Erskine May”. There was a bit of a difference of opinion as to whether “Erskine May” is online. It is available on the intranet, as a 1,000-page PDF, which expressly says it is not to be used by the public. What I am asking—I hope the commitment from the Leader of the House is clear—is that we now make it available to the whole country, because the people of this country are demanding that “Erskine May” be available to them without their having to buy a copy.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Perhaps the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) might like to start a petition. Once he is able to show 100,000 signatures—no, I jest. Obviously he is absolutely right: everybody is clamouring in their living rooms for their own online copy of “Erskine May”. As I said to him earlier, I will look into this. I agree that it should be available online, and I will see what can be done.