Will the Leader of the House update the House on the previously announced business?
The business for next week is:
Monday 4 December—Continuation in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 4).
Tuesday 5 December—Opposition day (6th allotted day): there will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Wednesday 6 December—Continuation in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 5).
Thursday 7 December—Debate on a motion on prison reform and safety, followed by general debate on the UK fishing industry. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 8 December—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 11 December will include:
Monday 11 December—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.
Tuesday 12 December—Continuation in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 6).
Wednesday 13 December—Continuation in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 7).
Thursday 14 December—Debate on a motion on equality of pension provision for women, followed by debate on a motion on hormone pregnancy tests. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 15 December—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 18 December will include:
Monday 18 December—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill (day 1).
Tuesday 19 December—Continuation in Committee of the Finance Bill (day 2).
Wednesday 20 December—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill (day 8).
Thursday 21 December—A general debate on Russian interference in UK politics and society, followed by a general debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 22 December—A very merry Christmas to everybody.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for December will include:
Monday 4 December—Debate on an e-petition relating to public sector pay.
Thursday 7 December— Debate on the Women and Equalities Committee report on women in the House of Commons after the 2020 election and the Government’s response.
Monday 11 December—Debate on e-petitions relating to a referendum on the deal for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Thursday 14 December—Debate on the Home Affairs Committee report on asylum accommodation and the Government’s response, followed by a debate on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report on HM Government’s support for UK victims of IRA attacks that used Gaddafi-supplied Semtex and weapons and the Government’s response.
I am sure the whole House will want to join me in marking World AIDS Day, which takes place tomorrow. Significant progress has been made in fighting HIV, but we must continue the work to end stigma, end HIV transmission and end the isolation experienced by people living with HIV for good.
As I have said many times, Scotland is much loved across the whole country. Both the UK Government and the UK Parliament are committed to championing Scotland and standing up for Scotland’s interests, so may I take this opportunity to wish everyone, especially our friends north of the border, a very happy St Andrew’s day?
Finally, may I add my sincere congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their engagement, and wish them all the very best for the future?
I thank the Leader of the House for updating the House on the forthcoming business. Can she say when the Report stage and Third Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will come before the House, and will she publish the motion on restoration and renewal before Christmas? I am pleased to say that the subject of the Opposition-day debate will be universal credit.
I also wanted to thank Mr Speaker for granting the debate on Yemen, as one of the two hon. Members who were born in Yemen—the other being my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz). We have very happy memories of that country. One of the abiding memories at Christmas time was of Father Christmas arriving on a camel. In providing the debate, Mr Speaker has given the gift of life and hope to those suffering people in Yemen.
I thank the Leader of the House for indicating that the List of Ministers’ Interests will be updated shortly. I am just not clear what the word “shortly” means. Section 7.5 of the ministerial code states that
“a statement covering relevant Ministers’ interests will be published twice yearly.”
That was honoured in 2016, but we have not seen anything yet.
The Leader of the House mentioned 22 December and wished everyone a merry Christmas, but will she ensure, by writing to all the Departments, that there will not be a plethora of statements published on 21 December? It would be difficult to put forward our constituents’ views or to question Ministers then. There was an urgent question on the forensic services. The Minister described it as a serious matter. Indeed it is, but the written statement was published the day before the Budget.
Transparency and accountability are the watchwords of our democracy, so perhaps the Leader of the House will explain why there is no general “amendment to the law” resolution. There have been only five occasions when that has not happened at such a time. In 1929, it happened immediately before a general election. On the other occasions, in 1974, 1997, 2010 and July 2017, it happened immediately after a general election. “Erskine May” points out that:
“On occasions, and in particular when it has been necessary to proceed rapidly with a Finance Bill in anticipation of a dissolution of Parliament, the ‘Amendment of the law’ resolution has been omitted.”
Will the Leader of the House update us on the Government’s thinking on why there is not a chance for the Opposition parties to put forward our alternative case? We have had listening chances before, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Paula Sherriff) found out when she tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill to ensure that the tampon tax was put through. This is about democracy. The Leader of the House and I have had a debate about how Parliament is being rigged. The Government have rigged Committees so that they have a majority on them, when they do not command one in Parliament.
Turning from treating Parliament with contempt to an actual contempt of the House, I know that people are not out on the streets of Northampton or Walsall chanting, “What do we want? Sectoral analysis. When do we want it? Now!” They have elected us to deal with that, and on behalf of those constituents, we want to see those sectoral analyses. The motion was very clear. It said that the impact assessments and the analyses of those 58 important sectors should be handed to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union—we are not asking for them to be published—so that the Select Committee can look at them in private session, as Select Committees do all the time. That is what we want. How can the Committee possibly hold an inquiry without the evidence? Parliament is sovereign, as people often like to tell us, and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has to listen to Parliament. Our sovereign Parliament has instructed him to give up those papers.
The Leader of the House has alluded to a number of anniversaries. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) reminded us at Prime Minister’s Question Time that Sunday is disability day. I know that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is making a statement after business questions, and I hope that he will address the Government’s assertion that there is parity of esteem between physical conditions and mental health. A constituent of mine has been penalised in her personal independence payment assessment while her mother is going through cancer treatment. She may not get her PIP because of her mental health condition. Will the Leader of the House please ensure that there is parity of esteem in PIP assessments?
I hope the statement will also set out how the Government are dealing with errors in the payment of employment and support allowance, because 75,000 people have been affected but only 1,000 have been contacted. It is good that the Secretary of State is coming to the House, because the Chancellor’s financial statement—all 8,000 words of it—did not mention the words “disability” or “people with disabilities” once. People with disabilities and their families are set to lose £5,500 a year by 2022 because of existing tax and benefit changes. It was a flatlining Budget from a flatlining Government.
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Diana, Princess of Wales, did much to dispel the myths around AIDS and I echo the words of the Leader of the Opposition in congratulating her younger son, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle on their engagement. It is fitting that they have chosen a visit to Nottingham Contemporary, a gallery that will be hosting a Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair, as their first public event. We wish them as long and happy a life together as Prince Harry’s grandparents are celebrating, and we congratulate Prince Philip on his new honour as he and the Queen celebrate their 70 years together.
Finally, it is St Andrew’s day—one of the patron saints of our United Kingdom—and we wish everyone called Andrew a very happy day.
As ever, the hon. Lady raises a wide range of interesting and thought-provoking points. The Report stage and Third Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the motion on restoration and renewal will be brought forward as soon as we can, but she will appreciate that it is not always possible to give notice so far in advance. Last week, she welcomed my announcing the business up until Christmas, and I will always seek to be as helpful as possible to the House, including in providing information on the future tabling of different items of business.
The hon. Lady said that the subject of the Opposition day would be universal credit. The Government welcome all views, and we have had several debates on this subject in recent weeks. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was pleased to come to the House to address the motion that was passed by this House on universal credit, which I pledged would be the case whenever such a motion is passed by the House. He fulfilled that pledge within the 12-week timeframe, and I hope that hon. Members noted that. I look forward to this further debate.
I share the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm for discussing the plight of those living in Yemen in these terrible times, and we are all looking forward to the emergency debate later today.
I cannot give the hon. Lady a specific date, but the register of Ministers’ interests will be provided as soon as possible. I cannot give her a specific date. Quite a lot of work needs to be done to compile and finalise the register, and it will be provided just as soon as we can.
The hon. Lady asked us to avoid making written ministerial statements on 21 December. Ministers obviously come under criticism for publishing anything outside of sitting days, but she now wants to criticise the Government for publishing things on sitting days. I do not think we can accept that sitting days should be ring-fenced simply because we are drawing near to the end of a sitting period, and she needs to bear in mind that Ministers make great efforts to ensure that announcements are made while the House is sitting, giving the House the opportunity to consider them.
The hon. Lady made a point about the Opposition’s ability to put forward an alternative case on the Finance Bill. I will write to her on that point, if I may, because I am actually looking into the matter at the moment.
The hon. Lady suggests that no one in her constituency or mine is walking about demanding Brexit impact assessments, but I think she underestimates the good people of Northamptonshire—[Interruption.] And Oxfordshire. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), who is my PPS, and I are clear that our constituents are interested. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and his ministerial team have been clear that the analysis was not a series of impact assessments examining what exiting the EU would mean for the 58 sectors. In order to satisfy the motion of 1 November, we have taken a lot of time to bring together the sectoral analyses in a way that is accessible and informative for the Exiting the European Union Committee. The analyses are being made available to all Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in a private reading room, and the Secretary of State will meet the Select Committee on Wednesday 6 December.
Finally, the hon. Lady raised the important issue of parity of esteem for mental and physical disability. I absolutely share her determination that we should achieve that, and it is the goal and intention of the Government. I am sure that she, like me, will welcome the fact that spending on disability has increased by £7 billion since 2010. This Government are determined to enable people with disabilities to have more control over their lives and to seek work that suits their capabilities to give them the chance to improve their own lives as far as possible.
Order. Colleagues will have heard what Mr Speaker said about the pressure on time today. He has indicated to me that he would like the emergency debate on Yemen to start no later than 1 o’clock, in which case I will run business questions until quarter past 12. There is then another statement, so colleagues who might prefer to intervene on the statement should perhaps bear that in mind.
Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House find time for a debate on boosting trade between China and the United Kingdom? Only yesterday Hylink, China’s largest digital marketing agency, launched its office at the Shard, and I am delighted it did so with a British managing director, James Hebbert.
Having seen for myself the huge opportunity in China for our food and drinks businesses, I completely agree with my hon. Friend. On his specific point regarding digital marketing, a number of support agencies specialise in helping UK firms to export to and invest in China. These businesses demonstrate that exporting to China is within reach of our small and medium-sized enterprises as well as our larger companies, and we welcome the decision of Hylink to open an office in London.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. Madam Deputy Speaker, I wish you and all hon. Ladies and Gentlemen a happy St Andrew’s day, and lang may yer lum reek—there’s a challenge for Hansard.
The Scottish National party has now joined an exclusive club with all the Opposition parties, which the Government will not vote against. Thanks to the Tory vote refuseniks, we now have unanimous agreement in this House to tackle WASPI injustice. We were wondering what type of motion might tempt the Tory vote-phobes into the Division Lobby. Given the childish nature of their failure to participate in the democratic structures of the House, maybe a motion that “This Government smells,” might tempt them into the Division Lobby to try to preserve their dignity.
This situation will not end well for the Government, and I know that Mr Speaker is considering my correspondence to the effect that the Government may be in contempt of the House following their failure fully to comply with an earlier binding motion. Mr Speaker has been typically generous with the Government, but his patience must be running thin. It is either compliance or contempt, and we must return the House to a position in which this Government vote. This is a national Parliament, a sovereign Parliament; it is not a sixth-form debating society.
Lastly, the latest piece of Brexit chaotic cluelessness comes in the form of a £50 billion repayment bill. It has apparently gone from “go whistle” to “what’s your sort code?” The total bill to the United Kingdom of leaving the European Union because of this Brexit madness must now come close to hundreds of billions of pounds. That is why we must see these Brexit sectoral impact assessments. We need a proper debate about the true cost of Brexit, and we need to hear whether there is any price that would make the Government think again.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his feisty remarks. I was going to invite him for a bit of haggis, neeps and tatties in the Members’ Tea Room after business questions, but I might think again as he now feels the Government smell—I am not sure that is even orderly language. Nevertheless, I am willing to overlook it.
The hon. Gentleman mentions the specific issue of the pension age for women. Of course he will be aware that this issue has been raised on a number of occasions. The Conservatives in government have committed more than £1 billion to support those affected so that no woman will see her pension age change by more than 18 months compared with the Pensions Act 1995 timetable. He will recognise that the great news that we are all living longer means that the age at which people reach their state retirement and therefore draw their state pension needs to change with it. We are seeking fairness between men and women in that regard.
The hon. Gentleman asks about voting. As I made very clear in my previous statement, we recognise that any motion voted on by the House is binding on the House. Opposition day motions that are voted on and approved are binding on the House. However, as Mr Speaker has made clear, they are not binding on the Government. What I have agreed, in recognition of the House’s desire, quite rightly, to see what actions are taken as a result of motions approved by the House, is that a statement will be provided in respect of any Opposition day motion passed by the House, with a Minister explaining exactly what actions have been taken as a result. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions came before this House to provide such an update only this week, and further statements will be made in the near future.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, his final point about the cost of leaving the EU is not at all something this Government have said is the case; it is simply something that is part of the negotiations. The Government are committed to seeking the best possible deal for the UK as we leave the EU. The negotiations are in a positive phase and we hope to see some good, constructive results from the December Council. We all await those negotiations with enormous interest.
May we have a debate on the importance and value of further education and skills, especially following the disgraceful attack, yet again, by the former chief inspector of schools, Michael Wilshaw, who told FE colleges to “get off their backsides”. That is entirely wrong, as 70% of our FE colleges are good or outstanding. He has previously said that FE is a Cinderella sector, but it is worth remembering not only that Cinderella married a prince, but that we have to banish the two ugly sisters of snobbery and intolerance.
My right hon. Friend is a fantastic champion for young people getting on in life, and I absolutely share his enthusiasm for the contribution of so many excellent FE colleges in giving young people the opportunities they need and deserve.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement, and may I quickly point out to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) that having a reekie lum is in contravention of the Clean Air Acts?
This afternoon, we have two important debates scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee, one on the treatment of small and medium-sized enterprises by RBS Global Restructuring Group and the other on mental health and suicide within the autism community. As a result of an almost exceptional set of circumstances far beyond the control of the Backbench Business Committee, these two important debates will be severely restricted and squeezed for time. In both debates, there will be public support here on site, with constituents visiting this place to witness their very real concerns being debated. May we now look at a potential revision of Standing Orders to enable some measure of protected time for such debates for the Backbench Business Committee in the future? Our constituents, and the constituents of all Back Benchers, deserve that at least.
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. I think we are all disappointed to see the constraints that have arisen, through no individual fault but just as a result of circumstances, on the two important debates he mentions. I will certainly take away the point he makes and look at it.
I want the Government to make a statement on how they are going to involve leaseholders in the discussions on high-rise buildings with cladding. The Department for Communities and Local Government is having meetings with the managing agents and others, but leaseholders, who may be isolated, are not being brought in and not being brought together. Would it be possible for the Leader of the House to consider asking that Department whether it could announce, before next Tuesday, how it is going to get leaseholders involved and how the leaseholders can talk to each other, so that they have a united front and share information?
My hon. Friend raises something that is very important to all of us: ensuring the safety of those who live in high-rise buildings. If he would like to write to me or talk to me after business questions, I will certainly see whether I can help to raise this matter with that Department.
May we have an urgent debate on shale gas fracking planning applications? In my constituency, INEOS, a multinational petrochemical company, has applied to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to avoid local democracy by taking planning decisions out of the local council’s hands and giving it to the national Planning Inspectorate. I would like to ask that Secretary of State how that fits with the Tory manifesto he has just fought on, which promised to “maintain public confidence” in the shale gas industry and
“ uphold our rigorous environmental protections”?
The right hon. Gentleman might wish to raise that specific question in DCLG oral questions on 4 December. As he will know, however, the subject of shale gas exploration has received a huge amount of attention in this place and the regulations are very strong. It is right that the UK economy takes the opportunity to benefit from the transition from high carbon emitting coal, through lower carbon emitting gas, to the renewables future we all want to see.
May we have a debate on a weed called floating pennywort? It is a strong contender for the worst aquatic weed in the UK and it is affecting large stretches of the Thames, including around Henley. A debate would allow us to sort out how to deal with it.
I agree with my hon. Friend that floating pennywort is a highly invasive non-native species that has a significant environmental impact. The Environment Agency has removed thousands of tonnes of this plant as part of a co-ordinated programme of removal and spraying to control its growth. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the EA redoubled its efforts to remove floating pennywort from the Thames and its tributaries throughout October and November and is putting in place a spraying, removal and monitoring programme from spring 2018.
This Saturday, I will be taking part in Small Business Saturday, visiting businesses on Deptford High Street and Ladywell Christmas market, and finishing with a drink in Lewisham’s new bar, Suttons Radio. May we have a debate on the support the Government can provide to help small businesses to thrive and grow?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight her local small businesses and their important value to the local economy. The Government enormously support small businesses and the contribution they make right across the United Kingdom. I am sure that many Members will be doing something similar to the hon. Lady and visiting their own local small businesses, and I encourage them all to do so.
Yesterday saw the long-awaited publication by the Labour Mayor of London of the draft London plan. It could lead to the end of back gardens in suburbia and the abolition of car-parking spaces in all new developments. At the same time, not a single new affordable home has been built on his watch. The plan will affect all Londoners, so may we have a debate in Government time on the drastic impact it will have throughout London?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to hold the Labour Mayor of London to account in the way that he does, and to point out that we do need thriving economies. London absolutely needs much more housing, affordable housing and greater infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Mayor all too often criticises central Government for his own failings.
There was absolute astonishment from MPs of all parties at the fact that the Chancellor made no mention of defence in his Budget. Given the crisis that defence in this country is currently facing, will the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor to come to the House and explain how we are going to stop cuts to the numbers of soldiers, aircraft and Marines, so that we can defend our country properly?
First and foremost, the Government support all our armed forces and our defence sector to an enormous extent. We have committed to meet our NATO pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defence every year until 2022 and we plan to spend £178 billion on our equipment plan between 2016 and 2026. By 2025, we will have a highly capable expeditionary force of around 50,000, up from 30,000. It is important that we look at how our defence needs are changing. That review is vital to this country’s future security needs.
Earlier this week, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made an excellent statement to introduce the industrial strategy, many strands of which will be of particular benefit to constituencies such as mine, Cleethorpes. Do the Government have any plans to debate in Government time the various aspects of the strategy, particularly the teacher development premium, which will be of great value in my area?
My hon. Friend is a great champion for his constituency. I agree that we should all welcome the industrial strategy, which sets out how we are building a Britain fit for the future and how we will help businesses to create better, higher-paying jobs, with investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure that will make Britain an enormous success in the years to come.
Only 10% of children on free school meals in Barnsley go on to university. Can we have a debate in Government time about social mobility in Britain, as our future economic success depends on all children having the opportunities to succeed?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that children are the future and that we need to do everything we can to support them. Making their lives better than those of the generation before is our aspiration. I am sure that she welcomes the fact, as we all do, that there are now 1.8 million more children in good and outstanding schools than there were in 2010, and that there are more than 3.4 million apprenticeships for young people since 2010. It is absolutely vital that we do everything we can to support their future as we move into this enormous industrial change that gives us the opportunity to build the industries of the future.
I do not know whether the Leader of the House has seen the migration figures today, but net migration is a third lower in the past year than it was before the EU referendum. Can we have a debate in Government time on immigration, so that we can talk about the Government’s progress towards the target of tens of thousands, and the fact that we will be able to reach it when we come out of the EU and end free movement?
My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of immigration in this country both in terms of the enormous contribution made by those who have come here to live and make their lives here, and the pressure that high and uncontrolled immigration has wrought on some of our public services. Yes, I absolutely encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that we can discuss the relative merits of uncontrolled versus controlled migration.
Less than 48 hours ago, the Palmer and Harvey company went into administration, which means hundreds of job losses in my constituency just weeks before Christmas. Like something from a Dickens novel, workers found out when they arrived for their shift and saw the gates shut. Despite that, the administrator, PwC, has not responded to multiple attempts by me to contact it. Will the Leader of the House ask the Business Secretary to intervene to support me and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers in trying to find out what is going on and what can be done to help my constituents?
I am very sorry to hear about that. If the hon. Gentleman writes to me, I will be very happy to take it up with the Business Secretary.
I recently had the honour of becoming patron of the Mary Ann Evans Hospice, which is a charitably funded hospice that provides really valuable services to my constituents and reduces pressure on the NHS. The hospice has made me aware of funding challenges that it and many others face, so can we have an urgent debate on the options available for hospices to make it easier for them to apply for NHS funding?
Huge congratulations to my hon. Friend on his new role. Hospices right around the country, including Cynthia Spencer Hospice and Catherine House that serve my own constituents so well, deliver excellent care and contribute to the well-being of their local communities. Millions of families benefit from them. I am sure that I can speak for all Members when I say how grateful we are to them. NHS England has developed a new payment system for end-of-life care, which is designed to be fairer and more transparent, and that will further improve care for patients.
I call Alison Thewliss.
Gosh, I was not expecting to be called so soon. Can we have a debate, please, in Government time, on the postcode lottery of asylum appeals? Some 28% were successful in Glasgow, compared with 47% at the Taylor House centre in London. My constituents deserve a fair hearing when they go for their asylum tribunals.
I completely agree that all asylum appeals should be treated with equal importance and respect. If the hon. Lady wishes to seek an Adjournment debate on the specific concern that she has in her own constituency, then that would be viewed very favourably by Mr Speaker.
Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), who is leaving the Chamber, will my right hon. Friend grant time for a debate on the importance of improved productivity for the growth of the economy in the United Kingdom?
I know that my hon. Friend, who is a former teacher, is a huge advocate of developing the skills of young people. I share his enthusiasm for our new industrial strategy that sets out how we will build a Britain fit for the future and ready to take advantage of the extraordinary advances in technology that can really transform lives for the better.
The Leader of the House might remember that my first question to her, back in June, was about gun crime and police cuts, following 10 such incidents in my constituency that month. It has not gone unnoticed that there was no mention of police cuts continuing in the Budget last week. More and more of my constituents are raising crime and fear of crime as one of the blights on their lives, and Merseyside police are stretched to the limits, having lost 1,000 police officers and £100 million a year from their budget. The situation, as is, is unsustainable. We need a debate in Government time on police cuts and the effects of crime in our constituencies.
The hon. Gentleman raises a serious issue, and of course we know that the fear of crime is widespread around the country, but I am sure he will be pleased to know that the rate for crimes traditionally measured by the independent crime survey for England and Wales has fallen by 9% over the last year, which is a continuation of the overall downward trend. He should also be reassured to know that we are protecting police budgets in real terms and that the proportion of officers in frontline roles has increased since 2010 to over 93% now. There are, of course, individual issues in particular policing areas, however, and if he feels that that is the case in his area, I would encourage him to raise the matter through an Adjournment debate.
I am sure that, like me, the Leader of the House has been inundated with emails about animal sentience. Many constituents have contacted me following an email from the lobbying company 38 Degrees that sadly contained many mistruths about a vote in the House. Through my office, I have requested a correction, but will she advise me on how I and other Members can combat fake news and misinformation when it is passed on to our constituents directly from such sources?
Yes, my hon. Friend is quite right to raise this issue. Matters of concern to the public must always be raised with us, but groups such as 38 Degrees should not, whether inadvertently or maliciously, spread information that is just not true, and when something is proven not to be true, as in this case, it should be immediately withdrawn or corrected. We are very aware of the concerns around fake news, and as part of our manifesto commitment, work is under way through the digital charter to make sure that high-quality news online has a sustainable future and that we have an accurate news environment.
The Leader of the House will be aware that over the last three weeks I have made two speeches about the impact on me of bullying in school. Since those speeches, I have been inundated by adults and children in school saying that they are under constant attack through cyber-bullying. Will she find Government time for a debate about the impact of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on bullying and young people’s lives and wellbeing?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this point. Bullying, and cyber-bullying in particular, are a real scourge of modern life, particularly for young people, and I certainly would welcome his seeking a Westminster Hall debate on the subject. He might be aware that a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry will be looking into this issue. He might want to respond to that.
A growing number of companies around the UK are seeing the value of installing energy efficiency measures and clean tech in their premises. On the refurbishment of this place, will the Leader of the House use her influence to ensure that we set the very highest standards for energy efficiency and the deployment of clean tech so that we can lead by example, reduce costs and showcase the very best of British clean technologies for export around the world?
I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for clean technology and reducing our carbon footprint—I am sure that the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) shares that enthusiasm—and can assure him that throughout the R and R process, as we seek to restore this beautiful palace, we will take advantage of the opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint.
Can we have debate or statement, or—better still—will the Leader of the House have a word with the Work and Pensions Secretary, about HSBC’s pension clawback? Employees in HSBC Midland Bank’s defined benefit occupational pension scheme believe that they were not adequately made aware of the clawback feature. Clawback reduces the bank’s pension contribution when the basic state pension becomes available. This means that many staff were denied the opportunity to make additional financial plans for their retirement. Other banks have not applied, or have since withdrawn, this scheme. Will she do all she can to help us with this situation?
This issue has been raised before in business questions, and a couple of constituents have also contacted me about it. It is a matter of concern that needs to be looked into, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate.
I thank the Leader of the House for her St Andrew’s day greeting. Does her offer of haggis, tatties and neeps in the Tea Room apply to her Scottish Conservative colleagues?
The gulf between the tax paid by Scots and the tax paid by people in the rest of the UK looks set to widen further when the Scottish Government unveil their budget plans on 14 December. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the hugely damaging consequences of such a tax hike for Scotland? After last week’s Budget boosted the Scottish Government by £2 billion over the next three years, the Scottish Government need to explain why they think that raising income tax is justified.
I am always delighted to meet my hon. Friend and our other hon. Friends from Scotland at any time. Income tax powers were an important part of the Smith Commission’s recommendations and we have devolved them through the Scotland Act 2016. How the Scottish Government choose to use those powers is a decision for them. However, I completely agree with my hon. Friend; I do not see how making Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK can be the right thing to do. I cannot see why the Scottish National party would choose to drive away growth and talent. Let us be clear that income tax is not the Government’s money. It is money that has been earned by the people of this country. That is why the Conservatives in Westminster and in Holyrood will always stand up for low taxes.
Will the Leader of the House please give me an approximate time that one should wait for a response from the Prime Minister to a letter signed by 111 MPs regarding the important economic contribution of international students in the UK, particularly in our regions and with regard to the industrial strategy? Is that the sort of thing to apply for a debate on, given its cross-party support?
If the matter carries cross-party support, as the hon. Lady suggests, it is most certainly a candidate for a Westminster Hall or a BackBench Business debate. With regards to the question about the time that it will take for the Prime Minister to respond to the letter, I can forward the hon. Lady’s request to the Prime Minister if she would like to take this up with me by email.
I add my voice to another matter that commands cross-party support: the importance of small businesses and Small Business Saturday, when I will be visiting businesses in my constituency of Redditch. We have a number of successful ones, including Astwood Carpentry and the Inn Plaice in Headless Cross, which has the best fish and chips. Can the Leader of the House find the time for a debate in Government time on the importance of keeping taxes on small businesses low?
My hon. Friend is a great advocate for her constituency of Redditch. All this talk of food is making us all hungry. Small Business Saturday is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign that highlights small business successes, and encourages consumers to shop locally and support small businesses, which is something that everyone across this House seeks to do.
May I actually congratulate the Government—and the Scottish Government, just to make that clear—on something that they have done this week? There has been a change in blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men, as the ban has come down from 12 months to three months. That now means that thousands more gay men can give blood than could previously. But can we have a statement on this? The excellent news does not seem to have caught the attention of the media this week, and we need to discuss how we can make it much more widely known to encourage people to donate blood.
The hon. Gentleman has just made sure that this news will receive some media attention, and I congratulate him on doing so. He raises the matter of a valuable and important contribution to the country’s blood stocks. I am sure that many who were previously unaware of the news will be delighted.
Madam Deputy Speaker, may I also wish you and the whole House a very happy St Andrew’s day?
Can we have a debate on the excellent decision by the UK Government to bypass the failing SNP Scottish Government for the next roll-out of broadband? Does my right hon. Friend share my bemusement at the reaction of Scotland’s First Minister, who has suggested that Scottish Conservative MPs and even the Scottish media have been misleading on this issue? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that Nicola Sturgeon should stop burying her head on this issue, and actually start burying some connections so that my Moray constituents and many across Scotland can get the broadband speeds they deserve?
My hon. Friend’s priorities are always in the right place: looking after his constituents. In September 2017, we announced wave one of the local full fibre networks programme in six locations across the UK, including Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. In parallel to this announcement, we have written to all local councils seeking expressions of interest, and there were more than 130 responses. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The programme is intended to achieve better and faster broadband roll-out for all the people of Scotland, including his constituents.
When the Science Museum said that Hull could not have Amy Johnson’s plane, Jason, for the city of culture celebrations this year, local artist Leonard J Brown worked with inmates at Hull Prison to create a replica, which is now in Hull Paragon station. Can we please have a statement from the Ministry of Justice on why it has now decided that that plane, which means so much to the city, is going to be moved down the road to York without asking the artist or key players in Hull about its future?
I congratulate Hull on the excellent work it has done as the current city of culture; I understand that the local economy has benefited from more than £3 billion of investment from Hull’s role. It is an amazing achievement. I suggest that the hon. Lady looks into having a Westminster Hall debate to raise this point with the relevant Minister.