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Business of the House

Volume 638: debated on Thursday 22 March 2018

The business for the week commencing 26 March will include:

Monday 26 March—General debate on Russia.

Tuesday 27 March—Remaining stages of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 28 March—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by an Opposition day (un-allotted day). There will be a debate entitled “Cuts to local government funding”, followed by a debate entitled “Cuts to police and counter-terrorism funding”. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion. Followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Thursday 29 March—Debate on a motion on autism, followed by a general debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Committee.

Friday 30 March—The House will not be sitting.

Provisional business for the week commencing 16 April will include:

Monday 16 April—Second Reading of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] followed by a general debate, subject to be announced.

One year ago today, violence and terror was visited on the streets of Westminster. Five people were killed, and more than 50 injured in a shocking and abhorrent attack on the heart of our democracy. The whole House will want to join me in remembering all the victims of that day, in particular those fatally injured: PC Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes and Andreea Cristea. Our thoughts are with their loved ones today. We also remember and give thanks to those who kept us safe that day—those who told us to run away from the danger while they ran towards it, putting themselves at risk to keep us all safe. We will always owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Today is a moment for reflection, and to remember those whose lives were so cruelly taken away from them. We unite together in their memory to face down these despicable and cowardly acts. It is in tribute to all those who have lost their lives and suffered in appalling terrorist attacks around the world, including exactly two years ago today in Brussels, that we continue to stand strong in the face of terrorism. We are more determined than ever that terror will never break us, and it will never succeed. Finally, I remind all Members that there will be a short service in Westminster Hall today at 12 noon and all are welcome to attend.

I thank the Leader of the House for stating the business in the final week before the Easter recess and for the Opposition-day debate next Wednesday. It seems, however, that we are only getting business for a week and a day, and I do not know what the House will be doing on 18, 19 and 20 April. This week has been like John Cage’s “4’33””—there have been no notes, and no votes. It is not as if the Government have not got any business. When will the Leader of the House schedule time for the debates on Report of the Trade Bill, the customs Bill and the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill?

My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) tabled an amendment to introduce a Magnitsky clause, but that was voted down by the Government in Committee. Now, it is apparently back in the Bill, so will the Leader of the House please confirm that the Government will work with the Opposition and ensure that that clause remains as strong as ever?

What news of the restoration and renewal Bill? The Leader of the House said that it was in the process of being drafted by parliamentary counsel, but will she state what the timeframe is? She will recall that the kitchen in the terrace café was out of action. I hope that was nothing to do with the fact that we are not being active in ensuring that the work gets done.

The Leader of the House will know that a point of order was made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh). The Office for National Statistics has, yet again, had to reprimand the Prime Minister for using statistics in a misleading way—this time, on police funding. The Leader of the House wrote a letter on 19 February to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) in which she repeated that inaccuracy. Will the Leader of the House apologise today for that inaccuracy or place a letter of apology in the Library?

I asked for a debate on the statutory instrument abolishing nursing bursaries for post-graduate nursing students in early-day motion 937.

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Education (Student Support) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (S.I., 2018, No. 136), dated 5 February 2018, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6 February, be annulled.]

I asked on 22 February, 1 March, 8 March and 15 March —nothing. There is a tradition when statutory instruments are prayed against that we have a debate. If the Government do not want the regulations, they can just vote against them. They will affect returners and life-long learners: people who are committed to nursing. How can the Government deny them that opportunity and deny the Opposition the opportunity to vote against these retrograde regulations? The Leader of the House announced a general debate on Russia on Monday. I would be pleased to support any changes to business, so we can debate the statutory instrument, which will come into effect on Wednesday.

May we have an urgent debate on the allocation of a contract to a French company? The production of British passports is moving away from Gateshead to a French company. If the French can use the national security argument to keep their passport contract with their companies, so can we. Will the Leader of the House confirm why the Government did not use that argument, because this is a matter of national security?

Speaking of Europe, the Prime Minister will make a speech on Monday, on her return from discussions in Brussels. The Opposition were the first to call for sensible transitional arrangements to protect jobs and the economy, while the Government pursued reckless red lines that have now gone green: on no negotiation on future relationship until after transition, a concession; on the UK to pull out of the common fisheries policy as soon as we are out of the EU, a concession—or is it a dead haddock?—and on continuing to pay into the EU until 2064, a concession.

The shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has visited the Sweden-Norway border and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I asked last week whether the Prime Minister had visited the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Will the Leader of the House say whether the Prime Minister has plans to do so, given that crucial negotiations on Ireland are taking place next week?

The UK has to abide by EU jurisdiction—we heard the Attorney General say so—during the transition period. That, too, is a concession. If the Government want the jurisdiction of our courts, they have to get their own house in order. I suggest that the Leader of the House and all members of the Government read the book by the Secret Barrister, who states:

“Walk into any court in the land, speak to any lawyer, ask any judge and you will be treated to uniform complaints of court deadlines being repeatedly missed, cases arriving underprepared, evidence lost, disclosures of evidence not being made, victims made to feel marginalised and millions of pounds of public money wasted.”

Cuts to the Ministry of Justice will amount to almost 40%. That is nearly half the Department. When can we have an urgent debate on the cuts to our world-class, excellent legal service?

Today, we remember two anniversaries. Johnathan Ball would have been 28, and Tim Parry would have been 37. Both died in Warrington 25 years ago this week. A generation of children have grown up with over 20 years of peace, which has made the island of Ireland a thriving place to live, work and enjoy the culture. What plans are there to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement?

Canon Pat Browne reminded us yesterday at mass that there will be a service at 12 noon in Westminster Hall, which I will join the Leader of the House in attending. At 2 pm and 6 pm in St Mary Undercroft, there will be ecumenical services to remember PC Keith Palmer, Andreea Christea, Aysha Frade, Leslie Rhodes and Kurt Cochrane, who were killed on this day a year ago. From the Doorkeepers, the police and security services, and the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), none of us in the Chamber can forget that day. Those services will help us to remember and give thanks for the lives of those who died and to give thanks for those who keep us safe, so that we can do our work for the good of the country.

I join the hon. Lady in remembering those who died 25 years ago in appalling atrocities. This has to stop, and we remain united in our determination to stamp out terrorism in all its shapes and forms.

The hon. Lady asks why there were no votes. I suggest she discuss that with her own party, since it clearly agrees with the Government’s proposed legislation, hence there are no votes. She should understand that that is how government works. On the Magnitsky amendments, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the Americas has made it clear that he is looking carefully at the Opposition amendments, and the Government will come forward with their own to ensure that our response to human rights abuses is as strong as possible.

The hon. Lady asks about progress on the restoration and renewal of the Palace. Work is under way to recruit the external members of the shadow sponsor board and shadow delivery authority. The Bill is still being drafted, and I will of course update the House in due course. The lights went out on the Principal Floor because someone hit an electric wire that was not where it was supposed to be, which I think is pretty standard in buildings of this age but to be regretted nevertheless, and it was repaired as soon as possible.

On the UK Statistics Authority and police funding, I want to be very clear that the police funding settlement for 2018-19 that we set out delivers an increase in overall police funding. We aim to communicate that as clearly as possible to the public and have said repeatedly that about £270 million of the up to £450 million increase in police funding next year results from increased council tax precept income, which is dependent on police and crime commissioners’ decisions. Since the funding settlement, almost all PCCs have decided to use this flexibility to raise extra precept income. That said, the Home Office chief statistician will carefully consider the suggestions from the UK Statistics Authority.

The hon. Lady asks for a debate on the statutory instrument on nursing bursaries. I hope that she will appreciate that, despite the many competing demands on business, including very important fast-track legislation on Northern Ireland this week, the Government have found time for a debate last week on four SIs prayed against by the official Opposition, an Opposition day debate next week, a full day’s debate on Russia next week, which was requested in last week’s business questions, and a Back-Bench business debate next week. I am trying, wherever possible, to accommodate all wishes right across the House, and I will continue to do so.

The hon. Lady asks about passports and the tender potentially being won by a French company over a UK company. We compete in a global marketplace. That is the case and will continue to be the case. Wherever there are specific security issues, those, for security reasons, will be dealt with in the UK, but great UK companies compete on a world stage and often win business around the world, and they will continue to do so, both before and after we leave the EU. She will be aware, however, that as a current member of the EU, we are subject to the EU’s procurement rules.

The hon. Lady asks about the negotiations for leaving the EU. She will be aware that the Government absolutely intend to get a very good free trade deal with the EU after we leave, but it is important for UK businesses and citizens that we have an implementation period that enables us to avoid a cliff edge. As we make preparations for a life outside the EU, this implementation period will give certainty to all those impacted by it. She asks whether the Prime Minister has plans to visit Northern Ireland. I really cannot answer that question; I am not in charge of the Prime Minister’s diary, but she will be aware that the Prime Minister has frequently visited both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in recent weeks and months.

Finally, the hon. Lady asks how we would be commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. The agreement along with its successors have been fundamental in helping Northern Ireland to move forward from its violent past to a brighter, more secure future. The Government’s support for the 1998 agreement remains, and will remain, steadfast.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the regulation of social media? At the moment, people do not have to leave their addresses when they post messages. Given the level of abusive and offensive messages, even when someone has died, is it not about time that these people were shown up for the moronic cowards that they are?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point and gives a very good description of those who abuse others anonymously online. We expect all social media platforms to make it easy for users to choose not to receive anonymous posts. The Prime Minister has recently announced that we will introduce a social media code of practice to address conduct that is bullying or insulting to users. It will provide guidance for platforms and will cover anonymous abuse.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. I also want to pay tribute to all those involved in last year’s dreadful attack on this House. We will never forget that day, but we went home at the end of that day as this House was made safe for us. Some of our community within Parliament did not quite make that, and it is those we will remember today.

The whole fallout from Cambridge Analytica and its connections with the Government is getting murkier and murkier. We now know that three Departments had contracts with the parent company, SCL Group, that the founding chair was a former Tory MP and that a director had donated over £700,000 to the Conservative party. May we have a full statement from the Prime Minister, so that we can gently probe her about the full scale of the Government’s connections with Cambridge Analytica? This is not going to go away for this Government.

We need a full debate on the great fishing sell-out. Fishing communities across Scotland are furious with this Government and cannot believe that they are being sold out once again. That anger was only compounded by the ridiculous stunt on the Thames yesterday, when the Scottish fish chuckers threw perfectly good fish into it. The Tories will never, ever be trusted on fishing again, and they will deserve everything that is coming their way from fishing communities at the next election.

Lastly, may we please have a full statement on le passeport bleu? We can simply feel the upset and fury from all these Brexiteers. How dare these Europeans get their mitts on our blue passports, this new symbol of a free Britain? Forget Agincourt, forget Waterloo, forget Trafalgar—we must say no to these French passport makers. Will the Leader of the House join me in my campaign to make the British passport great again?

As ever, the hon. Gentleman has a great note to end on. I certainly support his desire to see Great Britain great again, independent and a very strong proponent of global free trade. Our very clear intention is that we will compete on a global stage and be trading right around the world freely and openly.

The hon. Gentleman is exactly right to pay tribute to all those who suffered so terribly a year ago today, and I am grateful to him for his considered thoughts.

On Cambridge Analytica, the Conservative party has never employed Cambridge Analytica or its parent company, nor has it used their services. However, it is absolutely right that people must have confidence that their personal data will be protected. The Information Commissioner is investigating this matter, and she will ensure that Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and all the organisations involved must co-operate fully. The Government’s Data Protection Bill will strengthen data protection legislation and give the Information Commissioner’s Office tougher powers to ensure that organisations comply.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman raises the common fisheries policy. Let us be clear: it would be helpful if he was clear that his Scottish National party’s proposal is that UK fishing communities remain within the common fisheries policy forever: the unjust reduction in our fishing communities over the past 43 years, as a result of the common fisheries policy, should endure forever and ever, according to his party.

As for what this Government are seeking to do, we made very clear at the outset of negotiations that specific arrangements for fisheries should be agreed during the implementation period. Our proposal was that we should sit alongside other coastal states as a third party. We pressed very hard for this negotiation, and, as a former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I myself was very keen to ensure that it happened. It is absolutely clear that that was our intention. However, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I hope, that this is a negotiation and that the EU was not willing to move on the issue. That is disappointing, but we have protections in place for our fishing communities during the implementation period, and after that we will be in control of all our own fishing policies.

Further to the fishy question from the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), the House will recognise that perhaps the most iniquitous aspect of the lamentable European Union is the common fisheries policy. Only the EU could devise a policy which, paradoxically, is simultaneously injurious to the interests of both fishermen and fish. My right hon. Friend has confirmed that we will leave that policy, but she must also know that the discard ban that the European Union has devised comes into force during the implementation period. Will she ask those responsible to come to the House and tell us how they can reconcile our departure from the policy with that discard ban?

Order. We are extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but I fear—I am going to be generous to him—that he was slightly led astray by the Leader of the House giving us quite a long statement, which I am sure we much enjoyed, about her personal views and so on when she was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. All that is, I am sure, extremely interesting, not least to her—[Laughter]—but this session is about the business of the House next week. It is not about people making long personal statements which some might think are perhaps just a tad self-indulgent.

My sincere apologies, Mr Speaker, if there was anything fishy about my reply to the last question.

What I can say to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) is that the UK has been a strong advocate for the sustainable management of fisheries, and will continue to promote sustainable fishing when we leave the EU. Arrangements for the implementation period will not change that.

I am glad to see that Back-Bench business is to return to the House next week after a three-week holiday. We are very grateful for that. I also note that there is to be a general debate on Monday 16 April. The Backbench Business Committee could help the Leader of the House by suggesting a topic for the debate, should that be required.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) is racing back to the House, having attended her mother’s funeral yesterday. In her constituency, which is next door to mine, is the De La Rue factory, which currently produces the British passport. I note the potential announcement of a decision to award the contract to the French-Dutch company Gemalto, with production likely to take place in France. It is interesting that the French Government should circumvent EU procurement rules for the manufacture of passports, citing national security as a reason to keep production in France. Could the Home Secretary make a statement that she will secure British production of British passports and the high-quality and highly skilled jobs of De La Rue workers in Gateshead, and could that statement be made quite soon?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his offer of help with a subject for the debate on 16 April. I will certainly take it into account. As for his point about passports, I am very sympathetic to it, and I commend the hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) for her support for De La Rue. Home Office questions will take place on our first day back after the Easter recess, and the hon. Lady may well wish to raise the issue directly then.

We guard our freedom of speech in the House very dearly, and it is something that you rightly and robustly defend on our behalf, Mr Speaker, but we often do not allow our constituents the same freedoms. Recent court cases have put the whole issue of freedom of speech into the public domain. Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel have joined forces on the issue. Ricky Gervais has said:

“A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed ‘grossly offensive’. If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive’, then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.”

May we have a debate about freedom of speech in this country, something that it has long held dear but is in danger of throwing away needlessly?

I commend my hon. Friend on raising this important issue. We do of course fully support free speech; however, there are limits to it and he will be aware that there are laws around what we are allowed to say. I do not know the circumstances of his specific point, but he might well wish to seek an Adjournment debate to take this up directly with Ministers.

With 1 million homes in this country unfit for habitation, I am absolutely thrilled that the Government backed my Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill in January, but that support will mean nothing if we are not able to make progress through the remaining stages into Committee. At the moment, there is nothing on the horizon; will the Leader of the House ensure that time is made available to make progress on this important legislation?

First, I commend the hon. Lady on her Bill, which really will seek to improve the quality and fitness of houses for human habitation. The Government are pleased to support it and, as I said to the House last week and the week before, the Government will bring forward money resolutions on a case-by-case basis, and we are working towards supporting her Bill.

There were many police officers at the remarkable memorial service yesterday for Sean O’Callaghan, and many of the police deserve congratulations on their constant bravery on blue-light calls dealing with terrorism, road traffic crashes and many other things that are awful to take part in.

On early-day motion 1093, and linked to an article in this week’s Private Eye and the book “Behind The Blue Line: My Fight Against Racism and Discrimination in the Police”, may we have a debate in Government time on whether the Metropolitan police should ask for a similar inquiry to the one by Sir Richard Henriques into the allegations against Lord Bramall, Ted Heath and Leon Brittan?

[That this House calls for an inquiry into the investigations and prosecution decisions that preceded the acquittal of retired Metropolitan Police Sergeant Councillor Gurpal Virdi, to establish how there could be a trial without evidence from PC Markwick and PC Mady, how PC Makins could be a prosecution witness when his statement contradicted specific claims by the complainant, how the Crown Prosecution Service could have believed the false allegation of indecent assault with a collapsible baton a decade before they were introduced, and to establish why the Independent Police Complaints Commission referred Mr Virdi’s complaint to the Metropolitan Police Department of Professional Standards whose peculiar original investigation led to the false statements about Mr Virdi and to the unjustified prosecution.]

The good Asian police sergeant Gurpal Virdi was charged inappropriately and investigated badly, and I am reminded of many of the comments Matthew Scott made about Sir Richard’s report, including the

“jaw-dropping naivety, asinine stupidity and Clouseauesque incompetence in allowing themselves to be duped by a man who is plainly either a dishonest chancer or a loopy fantasist.”

These things matter and they matter to the police.

My hon. Friend raises a serious matter, and I understand that the Crown Prosecution Service has previously provided him with a more detailed explanation of the decision-making in this case. The decision to prosecute Mr Virdi was made in accordance with the test set out in the code for crown prosecutors and he was subsequently acquitted by the jury after a full trial. Any decision on whether to prosecute a criminal matter is for the police and ultimately the CPS to take, but I urge my hon. Friend to raise this at the next Home Office questions just after the Easter recess.

It is a point I have often made myself. I was being kinder to the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) than the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) was; it was really a preface to the book which is to follow.

The Leader of the House might be aware that this Tuesday the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) and I had the inaugural meeting of the cross-party group on social media and the impact on children’s mental health. Following the report of the Royal Society for Public Health that social media might be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, may I again ask the Leader of the House to find Government time for a debate on this important issue and start helping to tackle the effect of social media on people’s mental health?

I am incredibly sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman says and commend him on taking this work forward. He will be aware that the Government are putting a record £1.4 billion into children and young people’s mental health, and we are committed to ensuring that 70,000 more children and young people each year will have access to high-quality NHS care and support when they need it. He raises an important and specific point about the impact of social media on young people’s mental health and I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business Committee debate or Westminster Hall debate so all hon. Members can share their views on it.

The Government today will announce and approve the takeover of West Somerset by Taunton Deane Borough Council. It has a lamentable record of bad management and, I am afraid, crooked deals. This is no more than a shotgun wedding and would not have happened if Ministers had listened to what some of us were saying. We still need a debate in this place on local government; please may we have it?

My hon. Friend will be aware that we have had a number of local government debates in recent weeks. I encourage him to seek to discuss this matter, which he has raised on many occasions, directly with Ministers.

For the past two years, I have been helping a constituent with her ongoing attempts to have her former local government employer rightfully added to the redundancy modification order. Her employer has been seeking addition to the list for eight years, and counting. Throughout this time, Ministers have consistently dismissed inquiries with the response that the RMO is under review, providing no further information and no suggestion of when the process will be completed. May we have a debate in Government time on the unacceptable length of time being taken for the ongoing redundancy modification order review, and on its effects on my constituent and many others across the UK?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising this matter, which is clearly an important one in her constituency. If she would like to write to me separately about it, I will take it up with the relevant Department on her behalf.

During the snowstorms of the past few weeks, when parts of the country were brought to a standstill, we rightly praised our emergency services and local council workers for helping to keep our country moving, but our farmers also played a vital role, certainly in constituencies such as mine. They went over and above in helping schoolchildren to get to school and nurses to get to hospitals. May we have a debate on the extra value that our family farmers add to our rural communities, to show that they are the backbone of this country and should be valued, both before and after Brexit?

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the valuable role played by farmers across our economy and in our communities. I was personally very impressed by the way in which farmers helped during the recent snow events. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a consultation document on 27 February seeking views on farming arrangements after we leave the EU, including on how farmers can play a broader role—as indeed they already do. This will include looking into how we can maintain the resilience of our rural communities, particularly in upland areas, where farming plays a significant role in the rural economy. I encourage all hon. Members and their constituents to respond to the consultation, and my hon. Friend might like to secure a Westminster Hall debate so that all hon. Members can share their views on this subject.

Yesterday, James Douglas, a constituent of the Deputy Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster Central (Dame Rosie Winterton), made a statement to the all-party parliamentary group on motor neurone disease. As the Leader of the House will be aware, a third of people with motor neurone disease will die within the first year of diagnosis. James applied for the personal independence payment. They spent four hours completing the form, and he had a face-to-face assessment. He was awarded zero points. His consultant has now given him a DS1500, which means that he is likely to die within six months. The Scottish Parliament is introducing an amendment that gives the definition of end of life as two years. May we have a debate on how this Parliament could also show that level of compassion, so that people such as James do not have to go through this trauma?

The hon. Lady raises a particular situation that I think we would all be incredibly sympathetic to. I would certainly urge her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise the matter directly with Ministers to see what more can be done.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I have spoken on a few occasions about the importance of banks on our high streets, and about what happens when they close. Will she therefore congratulate Lisa Kear and the Belmont and South Cheam Residents Association on their work on opening up a new sub-post office in Belmont village in my constituency? May we have a debate in Government time to talk about community infrastructure and the benefit of banks, post offices and, indeed, pubs as community hubs?

My hon. Friend raises something that is important to all of us in our constituencies, namely the incredible value that we get from local community shops, post offices and the banking system. I am happy to join him in congratulating Lisa Kear and the Belmont and South Cheam Residents’ Association on their work in opening a sub-post office. Often where there is no bank in a community, it is the post office that enables people to continue to get the access to banking that is so essential for us all.

As we approach the end of the financial year, the NHS funding formula is seriously failing the NHS. In York, the deficit will be some £45 million, resulting in cuts to vital services. May we have a debate in Government time about why the funding formula is failing the NHS and patients?

Our NHS has had over £13 billion more to spend on caring for people since 2010. There are almost 43,000 more clinical staff looking after patients, with nearly 15,000 more doctors and nearly 14,000 more nurses on our wards. This Government are ensuring that we are properly funding our NHS in line with the five-year forward view set out by the NHS itself.

Yesterday, I was pleased to entertain Ben McCarthy and Tyler Reeve—two young people from Healing School in my constituency—who won a Humberside police Lifestyle award for work in connection with organ donation. May we have a debate to encourage young people to get involved in projects like that and in the National Citizen Service? Getting more involved in their communities will improve the quality of their lives no end and may lead them into becoming involved in the political process.

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the recipients of the awards, including the overall winners, the Tribesmen, for their amazing campaign to change organ donation laws. The Lifestyle initiative is a fantastic way to get young people out and about and helping in their communities. As the programme approaches its 29th year, I wish it lots of luck and success for many more years.

Will the Leader of the House grant me support for an early debate on the sad decline of our towns and cities? Everywhere we go, up and down the country, we see graffiti, broken pavements, rubbish piling up in the streets, and rough sleepers. Is it not about time that we gave local authorities the resources to do their job? Will she also join me and a group of parliamentarians in rolling up our sleeves and clearing up some of the filth all around this great royal palace?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his initiative. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join in the Great British Spring Clean in my constituency, and I know that many right hon. and hon. Members have been doing the same. We need actions, not words. It is important that we all get involved, and he is right that we need to do everything we can to stop the low-level antisocial behaviour that leads to litter on our streets and so on. When I was the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I was pleased to launch the first national litter strategy for England, which included many more penalties for those who litter. I commend the hon. Gentleman for his initiative.

The Leader of the House will know that the independent inspector of Northamptonshire County Council has recommended that commissioners go in and the abolition of the county council. One of the criticisms was the selling of capital assets for revenue purposes. It is apparent that the council is trying to sell its headquarters for around £50 million, without a proper valuation, before the commissioners go in, and it may even be trying to sign the contract today. May we have a statement next week from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the situation? What advice can we give to the county council, which might be taking an unlawful action?

My hon. Friend is concerned, as I am, about what has happened in Northamptonshire County Council, and the new interim group leader is taking swift steps to try to improve the situation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make a statement about the council’s future—hopefully as early as next week.

The number of ambulance staff and other emergency workers who nowadays are faced with sexual assaults is rising dramatically. Unfortunately the police and the other prosecuting authorities quite often refuse to take such assaults very seriously, but there is a possible legislative answer. Would it not be a good idea if, when my private Member’s Bill, the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, comes back for its remaining stages on 27 April, the Government were to support my amendment to include sexual assault as an aggravating factor?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his private Member’s Bill, which the Government were delighted to support. It is absolutely vital that we protect our emergency workers from any form of attack. I was not aware of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, but I will certainly take that away and look at it very carefully.

This week the Cardiff rugby heritage museum was launched, with over 800 items of rugby memorabilia from each season since 1876. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the dedicated volunteers of CF10 Rugby Trust, whose love of Cardiff rugby and history has made this happen? May we have a debate on the great game of rugby?

I would certainly put my name to such a debate. I would be a big fan.[Interruption.] Yes, I might be slightly in favour of England, but only slightly, because every part of our great United Kingdom works for me, and as I took full credit for the triumph of Scotland in the Calcutta cup, so I would also like to benefit from any triumphs by the Welsh rugby team. I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising this point in the Chamber, and I absolutely support the game of rugby.

The Leader of the House will have seen the recent report on the surge in addiction to prescription opioid drugs. When that is combined with the already enormous levels of alcohol and gambling addictions, it is clear that the country has a major legal addictions problem. Will the Government now bring forward a report to the House on the appalling human, social and financial cost of these addictions, outlining how Ministers propose to tackle them?

I think we have all been concerned by the recent reports of excessive use of opioids, and the hon. Gentleman also raises issues of gambling and alcohol addiction. Those are all very serious social concerns, and I encourage him to seek a Back-Bench debate on this subject, so that Members from across the House may share their opinions.

The report commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “The cumulative impact of tax and welfare reforms”, paints a really stark picture of the impact of the Government’s policies on some of the most vulnerable in our society. May we have an urgent debate in Government time to discuss those findings, in the hope that the Government might finally face facts and halt their harmful programme of austerity?

I take issue with the hon. Lady’s assessment. This Government have been committed to helping people, from wherever they come, back into work. Universal credit, as a benefit, is enabling more people to have the incentive to get into work without immediately losing their benefits. The Government are supporting people with disabilities back into work. There are 600,000 more disabled people in work than there were in 2010. The Government’s intention throughout has been to enable people to improve the quality of their lives, and to get into the workplace. It is no surprise that there are now over 3 million more jobs, with some of the highest employment levels ever, which gives more people the chance to have the security of a wage packet for themselves and their families.

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and the Government said that they would be publishing their serious violence strategy in spring. All I want to know is, when will you be publishing it, and when you do, may we have a debate on it in Government time?

I will not be publishing it, but the Leader of the House might, and we will, I am sure, be deeply obliged to her if she does.

The hon. Lady raises this issue frequently and is right to do so. The Government’s serious violence strategy will be brought forward soon. It is an incredibly important area and the Government are looking closely at what more can be done to take young people away from the prospects of a life that involves serious crime.

NHS England and Staffordshire police have decided to relocate the children’s sexual assault referral centre in Cobridge in my constituency to Walsall. That is a two-hour, 17-minute journey on public transport; instead of a matter of a few miles, it will be over 40 for my constituents. May we have a debate in Government time on the responsibilities of statutory agencies, to consider the impact of their cost-saving measures on people who need to travel to use these vital services?

The hon. Lady raises an important constituency issue and I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise it directly with Ministers.

The Leader of the House’s response on police funding was disappointing. The Prime Minister and the Home Office have repeatedly made it clear that £450 million will be made available from the Government, which is why the UK Statistics Authority ruled that they would lead the public to believe that. Not a single penny is being made available from central Government. The Leader of the House went further than that in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), stating that more money would be available, on top of the £450 million. Will she therefore take this opportunity to apologise to the House and make it clear that not one penny is going from central Government on our much-stretched, overworked local police forces?

Whether the source of taxpayer funding is central Government or local government, it is still taxpayer funding. We have been clear that £270 million of the up to £450 million increase would result from increased council tax precept income—something that police and crime commissioners have, for the most part, decided to take advantage of. [Interruption.] It is really important: this is all taxpayer funding, whether it comes from central or local government.

As chair of the all-party group on deafness, I have been trying to identify which Department is primarily responsible for British Sign Language. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says it is the Department for Work and Pensions, as does the Department for Education. The DWP says, “Oh, no we’re not. We are going to be speaking to the DFE.” The Cabinet Office says there is no Department primarily responsible for BSL. Can the Leader of the House advise me to whom I should write to seek a meeting to discuss these important matters and to seek a statement to the House on BSL?

I am sure we are all looking forward to supporting Team Scotland at the Gold Coast Commonwealth games and, beyond that, at Birmingham 2022. Given that the Government are funding Birmingham to the tune of £560 million, after giving Glasgow 2014 not a single penny, may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirming that the Scottish Government and the other devolved Administrations will receive the appropriate Barnett consequentials that should flow from this funding?

I hope the hon. Gentleman raised that at DCMS oral questions, which preceded this session. If he did not, perhaps he would like to take it up directly with Ministers, as it is not a question I can answer right here.

On the anniversary of the Westminster attack and nine months after my constituency was attacked, the Government are today announcing plans to update terror insurance legislation. It is estimated that more than 4.8 million UK businesses are not currently covered by the Government-backed pool reinsurance system. Will Ministers allow time to discuss how to bring all UK employers into coverage and to offer hope to the 150 businesses at London Bridge and Borough market which collectively lost more than £2 million last year.

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point and he is right to say that the Government intend to bring forward measures to ensure that businesses can be covered. If he would like to write to me about his specific constituency issues, I can forward that letter to the relevant Department to answer his specific question.

Earlier, at DCMS questions, I was directed back to the House in trying to secure a display of Great Grimsby’s original town seal, the 1201 charter for the town and stained-glass work of local artist John Frear within the Houses of Parliament. Will the Leader of the House advise me on how I can best secure that? Would a debate be of use or is there another route?

I am wondering whether this is a matter for you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] Perhaps the best thing would be if I came back to the hon. Lady on this in writing.

For each of the past three weeks, the Government have failed to lay a money resolution to allow the Committee stage of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill to go ahead, so the Committee has had to be cancelled three weeks in a row, at very short notice. Will the Leader of the House explain the reason for these delays? Can she confirm whether the money resolution will be laid this coming week, so that the Committee can complete its work on Wednesday morning?

Discussions are carrying on through the usual channels and money resolutions will be brought forward on a case-by-case basis as soon as possible.

May we have a debate on Home Office incompetence? Following urgent and serious allegations—including the sexual assault of a vulnerable woman and a data breach—that were passed to me by a constituent, I wrote to the relevant Minister on 24 October, but received a letter in response just this week. Until my intervention, another constituent was being denied indefinite leave to remain because he had not appealed a decision, but the Home Office had not even sent the letter out in time to allow him to do so. I can go through a number of cases from my constituency casework in which the Home Office has been incompetent; may we have a debate to expose this to the House?

The hon. Lady might be aware that the turnaround times for Departments’ correspondence are monitored and transparent, so that information would be available to her. I suggest that she raises that issue directly with Home Office Ministers on 16 April, which is the first day back after recess.

I declare an interest as the chairman of the all-party group on off-patent drugs. I recently visited the Institute of Medical Genetics for Wales to see the excellent work being done there. May we have a debate on the future of personalised medicine, which is at the very cutting edge of research into cancer and rare diseases?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his commitment to personalised drugs, which are certainly the way of the future. The UK is at the forefront of many of the new ideas that are coming forward on personalised drugs. In the first instance, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can hear an update from Ministers on our progress in this policy area.

Tomorrow, I am going to visit Barnsley College. Many of its students go on to serve our NHS, yet they will now face huge debts if they study nursing. Will the Leader of the House finally answer the question and schedule a vote on the regulations next week, in Government time, before the 40-day limit runs out?

The hon. Lady will be aware that the statutory instrument refers to postgraduate nursing. The previous arrangements were not working—the costs were largely picked up by the NHS, forcing a cap on the numbers that could undergo training—and the opportunity to move to the same system of student loans as other courses would make further finance available to postgraduate nurses. That is the purpose of the statutory instrument. As I said to the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), we have had quite a busy agenda, but we were able to make Government time available last week to debate four statutory instruments that had been prayed against. I shall take the thoughts of the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) into consideration and see what more can be done.

May we have a debate in Government time on the long-term strategy for drug and substance misuse support? Cities such as Stoke-on-Trent are slashing their funding, which may provide a short-term cash boost to their budgets but has a long-term social impact. Unfortunately, there seems to be no national strategy, so a debate or statement from the relevant Minister would be welcome.

I completely sympathise with what the hon. Gentleman says. It is vital that we provide support for people to get off drugs and out of the criminality that is often associated with them. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate if he wants to discuss the specific issues in his constituency.

May we have a Government statement on immigration guidance? My Mount Vernon constituent, Hisashi Kuboyama, is currently in limbo: he is trying to take his “Life in the UK” test, but the only way he can do that is if he gets his passport or biometrics card, which are being held by the Home Office. May we have a Government statement about the way the Home Office operates and how it hinders constituents?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important constituency issue, as he often does. I am happy to take it up with the Home Office on his behalf, if he would like me to do so. On his more general point about a Home Office statement, I encourage him to seek perhaps an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate to pick up the more general issue.

My constituent, Christine McBain, is one of 167 of my constituents in Glasgow North East who have had work carried out under the Government’s green deal scheme. She is now unable to sell her house because the rogue green deal installer did not obtain a building warrant prior to the work starting. With the Government starting the green deal scheme again, will the Leader of the House call for a debate or ministerial statement to ensure that the Government will compensate and protect people who, like my constituent Christine, have found themselves in limbo as a result of a Government-backed scheme? She was only trying help the environment and save money.

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the importance of these green deals that enable our constituents to do their bit to help prevent climate change. On specific complaints, there is a process by which his constituent can complain. If the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me about this, I can pick up the specific complaint directly with Ministers.

As we speak, in India, an application for an independent medical examination of my constituent, Jagtar Singh Johal, is being made in relation to accusations of torture nearly four months ago. Does the Leader of the House agree that, given the very important report by Redress, a notable charity, and the up and coming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April, it is now time for Government time to be given to debate the torture and ill-treatment of UK nationals abroad?

The UK Government, of course, take every step possible to ensure good treatment of UK nationals wherever they find themselves, and we strive very hard to ensure that our views are made clear to all those who would perpetrate such crimes against UK nationals. With regard to the specific individual mentioned, again, if the hon. Gentleman wants to write to me, I can take the matter up with Home Office Ministers.

We have heard descriptions of systematic violence and discrimination against Shi’a Bahrainis. The religious and military textbook of the Bahraini Ministry of Defence labels Shi’a Muslims as infidels. Numerous Shi’a figureheads and scholars, including Sheikh Isa Qassim and Hasan Mushaima, have had their citizenship revoked and been charged with vague crimes. These are serious times in Bahrain. Will the Leader of the House agree to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office making a statement on this matter to the House?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious case. I encourage him to seek the opportunity to debate this further with Foreign Office Ministers.