Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for next week will include:
Monday 23 April—Second Reading of the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill followed by motion relating to a statutory instrument on the Higher Education and Research Act 2017.
Tuesday 24 April—Remaining stages of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] followed by motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill.
Wednesday 25 April—Opposition day (9th allotted day). There will be a debate on schools followed by a debate on social care. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion. Followed by debate on a motion on section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993.
Thursday 26 April—Debate on a motion on customs and borders followed by debate on a motion on plastic bottles and coffee cups. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 27 April—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 30 April will include:
Monday 30 April—Remaining stages of the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill followed by consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords].
This has been a key week for Parliament. The Prime Minister took part in more than nine hours of debate on Syria, and with the Report stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill under way in the other place, we continue to shape our future outside the European Union. Members across both Houses have held Government to account, scrutinised decisions and debated matters of national and global importance, putting the vital role of Parliament beyond any doubt.
It has been our privilege to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting this week, and I have personally enjoyed the opportunity to meet delegates from around the world. I want to thank them for the generosity of time and spirit that they have shown.
Finally, we send our best wishes to another place with which we have strong ties: Israel marks the 70th anniversary of its independence day today. This week’s hugely important debate on anti-Semitism has shown that we must continue to uphold the British tradition of freedom of religion. To all those celebrating, I wish them a very happy day.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I also thank her for Monday’s motion relating to the statutory instrument on higher education, Tuesday’s motion to approve the money resolution—my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) will be delighted, because the business was cancelled again earlier this week—and for our Opposition day.
This seems a bit churlish, but we do need to have the Report stage of the Data Protection Bill, we are still waiting for the nurses bursaries statutory instrument and the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 need to be revoked and relaid, because we are running out of time.
I, too, welcome the Commonwealth Heads of Government here to the 25th summit. They will know that a speech given to the Conservative association in Birmingham 50 years ago by a former Member of the House, Enoch Powell, was in response to immigration from the Commonwealth and the proposed Race Relations Bill. I remember my parents being alarmed at the speech—broadcasting it again was unnecessary—but they and other visible minorities were somewhat reassured by the stance of the then Prime Minister, the great reforming Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who, despite those inflammatory words, passed the Race Relations Act 1968.
It was chilling, therefore, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) had to ask for—and was granted it by you, Mr Speaker—an urgent question on the unjust treatment of British citizens who came from Commonwealth countries; I and 134 other Members across the House signed the letter to the Prime Minister. The Home Secretary said it was wrong and appalling, but came to the House only in response to the UQ. British citizens now in their 60s and 70s are losing the right to work, rent property, receive their pensions and access their bank accounts and vital healthcare, and some have even been deported. These cases can be dealt with immediately.
The presumption should be that those people are here legally, not illegally. The destruction or shredding of landing cards is a distraction. It is only as a result of 2014 Government policy that evidence is required, and landing cards are only one form of such evidence; there are others, including tax returns, national insurance numbers and NHS numbers. Can we, therefore, have a statement next week so that the Home Secretary can tell the House what she appeared not to know earlier this week—how many people are affected, how many have been deported, how many are in detention centres? My right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary met a woman in Yarl’s Wood whose parents were both British citizens. Why do we not know these figures? The Home Office has no direction—it is Rudderless. The Secretary of State and Ministers have to direct what a Department does. That is why the series was called “Yes, Minister”—because Ministers have the civil servants who respond to what they want.
I want to highlight another injustice—that affecting students in receipt of disabled students’ allowances. With changes to DSA, a £200 up-front fee was applied across the board and not means-tested, which has resulted in a nearly 30% reduction in the number of students taking up vital equipment that could help them to work independently. Some 20% of students at the Royal Agricultural University are in receipt of DSA. We need their skills, so we need them to qualify, particularly because, as the Leader of the House said, we are leaving the EU. Can we have a debate, therefore, so that the Government can look again at removing that £200 up-front fee?
The Backbench Business Committee, not the Government, agreed to a debate on customs and borders. Opposition analysis shows that 44% of Brexit legislation is still to be introduced: Bills on immigration, fisheries, and the withdrawal agreement and implementation. Last June, the Prime Minister said that this Parliament would have a busy legislative Session, but the Government have passed only four Bills since the last Queen’s Speech and not a single piece of Brexit legislation. Given that 11 Bills will have to go through the House before the end of the transition period, will the Leader of the House publish a timetable or a grid like that produced by the Institute for Government, and will she confirm whether the EU withdrawal Bill—which is being considered by the other place, where Members have agreed they want to be in a customs union—will come before this House in the week commencing 21 May?
I know that the Government do not like to come to Parliament, but I was a bit saddened to read in The House magazine—we like The House magazine, particularly when we are in it, although in my case that is not very often—an article on restoration and renewal. The right approach would have been to make that statement to this Chamber, given that so many Members on both sides took part in the debate and were concerned about it. I know that some decisions are already in train, and it would have been appropriate to come to the House.
I recently had to take part in a rally in opposition to the English Defence League. For the very first time, it was allowed to assemble right next to our peace and unity rally near St Paul’s at the Crossing in Walsall. I now have to write three letters to ascertain who was responsible for that decision—and there were breaches of the peace. In the evening, I heard the testimony of Janine Webber, a child of the holocaust. She told us that her grandmother, father and mother were murdered, and she said that when they took her brother away, she wondered why they let her go. She would have been saddened by what happened, but proud at the debate—at the dignity of all our colleagues who took part and at how they have opposed anti-Semitism. I hope that the time comes when we judge each other not on the colour of our skin, not on our religion and not on our gender, but just on who we are.
Finally, on a slightly happier note, I wish the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), a very happy birthday on Saturday—a birthday he shares with Her Majesty.
Every year. I wish Her Majesty a happy birthday, and we thank her for her service to the country and to the Commonwealth.
I join the hon. Lady in wishing the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee and Her Majesty very happy birthdays for Saturday. I take it that the hon. Gentleman is slightly younger than Her Majesty, but I am sure he would not venture to suggest by how much.
The hon. Lady has raised a number of important points. I am glad she is glad that we have debates on the higher education statutory instrument, the money resolution and Opposition motions scheduled for next week. We are, in fact, extraordinarily busy, and I would like to remind her of some of the achievements so far. We have introduced 27 Bills in this Session so far, including the seminal European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and other very important legislation that she mentioned, such as that on the general data protection regulation—I assure her that we are very aware of the impending deadline, and proceedings will be brought forward very soon.
We have had 11 Bills sent for Royal Assent already, including the Space Industry Bill—a fantastic opportunity to build the new skilled jobs of the future. We have six Brexit Bills before Parliament at the moment—the withdrawal Bill and Bills on nuclear safeguards, customs, trade, sanctions and road haulage. Of course, hundreds of statutory instruments have also been passed by each House. In addition, we have seven draft Bills published in this Session, and I will not detain the House any longer by naming them all.
However, I want to make the point to the hon. Lady that, in fact, we are achieving a lot, and I am delighted that that is the case. I am also delighted that the House is taking such an active part in not only the legislative programme, but some of the vital debates we have had just this week—that is incredibly important.
On the Windrush generation, which the hon. Lady raised, I can only again apologise. These individuals are British; they have absolutely every right to be here. What has happened is incredibly regrettable. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have apologised without reservation, and I do so again today. The Home Office is determined to put this right in short order, and that is what it is absolutely focused on doing.
The hon. Lady raised the issue of a fee, which I am sorry to say I am not aware of. If I may, I will investigate and come back to her. She asked when the EU withdrawal Bill will come back. As she knows, there are no programme motions, so their lordships will send it back to us in due course. Of course, we will consider all attempts to improve legislation, as we always do, and we will respond in due course to amendments that have been passed in the other place.
The hon. Lady also raised the issue of the restoration and renewal of the Palace. I am sorry if she thinks there was some sort of statement. In fact, the article in The House magazine was merely an attempt to keep Members’ interest in the subject. I am, of course, delighted to talk to her about progress at any time. As soon as there is substantive progress—for example, once we have recruited the internal and external members for the shadow sponsor body—there will be the opportunity to debate that in this place.
Finally, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s constituent, Janine Webber. It sounds as if that was harrowing testimony, and I am sure all of us in the House absolutely support the hon. Lady’s view that we should consider each other for who we are, not for where we come from or what we believe in.
May I ask my right hon. Friend about two statutory instruments that were laid just before Easter, which are designed to abolish Christchurch Borough Council against its will? Will she assure me that neither of those instruments will be brought forward for debate until there has been a report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, to which I have written pointing out that one of those statutory instruments seeks to change primary legislation and to do so retrospectively, with hybrid effect and in breach of Government undertakings to Parliament?
My hon. Friend raises a serious matter, although it is not something of which I am aware right now. If he allows me, I will certainly look into it and write to him.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. I also extend birthday wishes to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns). I always tell him that he is the finest Chair of the Backbench Business Committee that we have. I wish all London marathon participants from the House all the best on Sunday. A record 18 MPs will be running, including two Scottish National party Members of Parliament—Lightspeed Linden and Supermac Stuart McDonald—who will be running for charity.
Regardless of what the Leader of the House says, this has not been one of her finest weeks in the job. The structuring of parliamentary business at the beginning of this week was an utter shambles. I do not know what she was thinking in trying to discuss the Syrian air strikes in a debate under Standing Order No. 24; she is in charge of the business, for goodness’ sake. It is ridiculous that I am having to tell her that she could have tabled a motion on Syrian air strikes at any time. I ask her once again: will she now table a proper, amendable motion with a full day’s debate on the situation in Syria?
And what about the heroes in ermine, eh? The tribunes of the people and the red remoaners, who have somehow managed to thwart the Government’s chaotic and clueless Brexit? When I look around at my Conservative friends, I wonder whether some of them might now be a little more disposed to dealing with the House down the corridor, which is a national embarrassment, even though its Members are doing the right thing this time. I am saying to Conservative Members of this House, come on and join us! Let us get rid of the Lords from the face of our democracy, because it is an utter national embarrassment to this country and to what we call our democracy.
We need a full debate on what has happened regarding the Windrush generation; the cases and issues are getting more alarming and concerning. We have now heard that the policy described as creating a “hostile environment” passed in the Immigration Act 2014—supported by the Labour party, it has to be said—was opposed and objected to by Ministers and civil servants. But it certainly informed the whole approach to the Windrush victims.
Now, I am not against hostile environments. In fact, I would quite like a hostile environment for Faragist-informed Conservative Ministers, but this issue will not go away; it is going to get worse and worse for this Government. They should have learnt lessons from the Syrian air strikes, and come to the House with a proper motion and a full debate on what is happening on this appalling issue.
Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman were to participate in the London marathon himself, he might be a little distracted and less willing to let his blood pressure get as high as it obviously has today. I certainly congratulate his hon. Friends and all Members who are taking part in the London marathon; they are definitely braver than me.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the order of business this week. Mr Speaker, I know that you shared the desire of all Members across the House to see urgent debates on the subject. The Prime Minister herself applied for such a debate, on the grounds that the only practical way to change the order of business on a given day is through an urgent debate request.
Mr Speaker was pleased to grant an urgent debate to the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern). All hon. Members, including Conservatives, were pleased to stand in support of that. As the Prime Minister said, she was determined to be held accountable for her actions by the House. There was no question about it. At the same time, she also made it very clear that it was vital that she took action in such a way as would protect our armed forces, secrecy around the limited nature of the targets and secrecy around the extent of the operation, in order for that operation to be effective.
Following the Prime Minister’s action, which was entirely within the conventions of the House, she came to the House—facilitated in no small part by Mr Speaker himself—and made a three-and-a-quarter-hour statement, answering 140 individual questions. She then took part in a debate, answering 27 individual interventions from right hon. and hon. Members. She also took part in a further urgent debate the following day. It is simply unfair and ungenerous to suggest that anybody in this place was seeking to avoid accountability. The Prime Minister was absolutely clear about her intentions.
Coming into the House on Monday, I encountered, by chance, on the wireless an interview with the mother of a young boy murdered with a knife. In calling for tougher sentences and more stop-and-search, that mother chillingly declared that politicians did not care because their children were not at risk. I know, as you do, Mr Speaker, that people across this House do care. So, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on knife crime and the culture, which is gaining hold in our cities and elsewhere, that not only allows but celebrates the carrying and use of knives?
My right hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point that hon. Members across the House have previously raised. He is exactly right to point out that we have seen an increase in the appalling use of knives in fights, particularly among younger people, the causes of which are very complicated: the increased use of county lines, drug use and so on are partly responsible.
I assure hon. Members that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is determined to take early action. We have had a number of discussions about what more can be done. In March, she launched a national knife crime media campaign across all channels, including billboards, to try to take young people away from this awful scourge. We are doing a great deal more intervention work in hospital A&Es, trying to appeal to those who have already experienced some sort of knife attack. We are awarding significant sums to community funds and to community groups who are tackling gangs and knife crime. My right hon. Friend has also launched the serious violence strategy. We will be bringing forward an offensive weapons Bill to try to limit access to and use of knives.
I have to say to the Leader of the House that I followed Her Majesty by some 31 years, so I am not just behind her, but despite my tender age, Tyne and Wear fire service has advised no candles on the cake this year.
I am glad to see from today’s Order Paper that the Backbench Business Committee is to get reinforcements in the shape of the hon. Member for Gordon (Colin Clark). I am very glad that we have now got back our full complement. However, even with eight members and a quorum of four, it is sometimes difficult to get that quorum when members have been called away to Statutory Instrument Committees and so on. Could we please look at this again? It seems rather unfortunate to have a quorum of four for a Committee of eight.
I am afraid that it looks as though De La Rue has thrown in the towel on the production of UK passports in Britain. I would like a statement from the Home Secretary about exactly where and how our passports will be produced post-2020. De La Rue has done an awful lot of work in looking at the bids being put in by Gemalto in Paris. It seems to De La Rue—and to me, I think—that it is very likely, with the costs that have been provided, that post-2020 our passports will be produced, or mainly produced, in eastern Europe or in the far east. It is not a satisfactory situation, post-Brexit, for the UK—an independent nation, proud of itself—to have its passports produced far, far away.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying the issue of age. He would admit to being a young whippersnapper by comparison, I am sure.
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point about the quorum. I have taken soundings, as I said I would. The concerns are about whether a quorum below four is truly evidence of cross-party decision making. If he were to write to me, I could perhaps liaise with the Procedure Committee, which might be persuaded to look into this from a more formal point of view. I do understand the practical points he raises, but he will, I am sure, equally appreciate that, to be truly cross-party, four is a pretty small number of people to have in the decision-making process.
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that De La Rue prints passports, security documents and money for countries right across the world. The UK, as we seek to leave the EU, will be a global champion for free trade, and so this cannot be one-sided. We need to accept that, just as our brilliant UK businesses generate income and profits from overseas, so other businesses must be able to compete in the UK market.
In relation to the point of order I raised a short time ago, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate—in consultation, of course, with the Privileges Committee—on the principles and practice by which the House deals with questions of molestation, abuse and intimidation of Members of Parliament, including on social media, and by reference not only to the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) and for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), but to all others?
I listened with great interest to my hon. Friend’s point of order and I am extremely sympathetic to it. As you will know, Mr Speaker, I have also raised with you the issue of how social media can be used to intimidate Members and, potentially, to put out slanted versions of what takes place in the Chamber. I am sympathetic to my hon. Friend and will be happy to look into this if he wants to write to me. I know you have also asked him to raise it with you, Mr Speaker.
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the investigation by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee into fake news may look at these issues, and he will also be aware that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking carefully at an internet safety strategy for keeping young people safe online, and at seeking further ways to stamp out the sort of horrific abuse that has been described in the Chamber this week.
In January 2013, Kevin Doherty was found guilty of the manslaughter of his partner Jane Harrison. It had taken 18 years to bring him to justice, and he is still to disclose the location of Jane’s body to her family. In January this year he was granted a transfer to an open prison without reference to the Harrison family. How is that just or fair? I have written to the Ministry of Justice without success four times seeking a meeting with the appropriate Minister. Perhaps only a debate on the treatment of the families of victims will elicit any justice for the Harrison family.
The hon. Lady raises a truly harrowing case and I am sure that all Members send their deepest sympathy to the family of the victim. I am happy to take up the lack of response with the Ministry of Justice on her behalf if she would like to write to me.
Following on from the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), I have the same situation. May we have a debate in Government time on local democracy? My locals have been stamped on and ignored, and now they are being told by the Secretary of State that they will have what they get. I have total sympathy with the situation in Christchurch, so may we have a debate on local democracy before it is trodden on by this Government?
My hon. Friend raises an important constituency point. He may wish to seek an Adjournment debate. I also draw his attention to the fact that Ministers from the Department will answer oral questions on 30 April—he may wish to raise the issue directly with them.
I join the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) in pressing the Leader of the House to have an urgent debate and a continuing report from the Home Secretary on the serious violence strategy she has announced. The young and the middle-aged in London and across the country are being stabbed and becoming the victims of violent crime. We are seeing huge increases in violent crime. This is an emergency for the Government and the House should discuss it regularly. Local communities, including Nottingham Forest Football Club and Notts County Football Club, are coming together to try to tackle and stand up against this increase in violent crime, but we need the Government to report regularly to Parliament on what they are doing to tackle this scourge.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We must do everything we can. I have tried to set out how, through the serious violence strategy, the Government are seeking to provide funding for community efforts, and to use a national media campaign to take young people away from this seemingly attractive lifestyle of joining a gang and being involved in this appalling violence. We are working with young people who have already been stabbed and are in hospital, and trying to turn them away from that lifestyle before it is too late. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that more could be done, and I recommend that he seeks a Backbench Business Committee debate so that all Members can share their thoughts on the subject.
Understandable changes to the parliamentary timetable this week precluded the opportunity to debate the hugely important banking scandals, and the effect that they had on thousands of business people around the country. Will my right hon. Friend find Government time to debate that important issue?
I agree that that is an important issue. The loss of livelihoods following the financial crisis was a devastating blow for many people. I will certainly take my hon. Friend’s request away and see whether it can be accommodated.
Will the Leader of the House make available Government time for a debate to be led by the Prime Minister, in which she could explain that a logical consequence of her hostile immigration environment is the hurt caused to the Windrush citizens, and the creation of citizens of nowhere? She could also provide a guarantee that no Windrush citizens will be harassed by the Home Office, and that EU citizens in the UK who are applying for settled status will not be faced with threats of deportation if their indefinite leave to remain papers no longer exist.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have both apologised unreservedly and made clear their commitment to putting this right. There is no question but that the Windrush generation are British and deserve to have all the same rights as citizens. He raises an important point about EU citizens, and I regret anybody seeking to cause a lack of confidence and destabilise the feelings of EU citizens—[Interruption.] No, I am sorry. The Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, Ministers from the Dispatch Box and I have all been absolutely clear: EU citizens who have come to the UK, made their lives here and contributed to the United Kingdom, are welcome here, and their rights will be protected. It is not the same situation at all.
As the new chair of the all-party furniture industry group, may I make an early plea to my right hon. Friend for a debate in Government time to highlight the significant contribution that the furniture industry makes to the UK economy? May I urge her to exploit the unique skills of our British furniture manufacturers when we commence work on the restoration of this place?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on her new position. I am a big fan of that industry—my mother and stepfather had a furniture shop when I was growing up. The furniture industry is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises, and in 2017 alone it contributed nearly £3.9 billion to the UK economy, employing more than 90,000 workers. I assure my hon. Friend that the restoration and renewal programme will consider how the UK furniture sector can benefit from the restoration of our grade I listed palace.
I hope Members across the House share my anger with the multinational waste management company FCC Environment. It is refusing to grant all its workers the basic right of sick pay, despite one of those workers suffering from cancer, despite workers offering to give up their annual bonuses to help cover the cost, and despite the fact that all the management team receive sick pay. May we have a debate in Government time on whether any public contracts should be given to companies that do not offer something as basic as sick pay for all their workers?
The hon. Lady raises a worrying situation. She will be aware that the Government’s Taylor review has raised all issues of the rights of workers and the way they are treated, and the Government will bring forward measures to ensure that any public procurement takes into account the importance of the rights of workers. I encourage the hon. Lady to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise this specific case directly with Ministers.
It has been a strange old week for Parliament: money resolutions not provided and blocking a private Member’s Bill; a Government motion signed by the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader not moved by the Government; and a Standing Order emergency application from the Government to destroy their own business. The real Whitehall farce of the week, however, was when the Leader of the Opposition had an emergency debate. Government Members were called back from everywhere to vote against the motion and the Leader of the Opposition got all his Members to vote against the motion. The Government voted for the Corbyn motion and Labour MPs voted against it. It was carried by a massive majority and not a single Labour MP supported it. Leader of the House, that is a nonsense! We have to change this and the simple way to do it is to have a business of the House committee. May we have a debate in Government time on this matter?
My hon. Friend raises a real mish-mash of issues. On private Members’ Bills, he will be aware that a money resolution is being brought forward in due course as soon as we can do so. On Select Committee term limits, he, and I am sure you, Mr Speaker, would agree it is perfectly orderly for a Member whose name is on a motion to bring it forward. As another person whose name was on that motion, I am pleased that it has now been passed, giving Select Committee term limits of 10 years rather than eight years during this Parliament.
My hon. Friend also raises urgent debates. I have gone into some detail on the importance of the Government being held to account as early as possible on Monday. The practical way to do that is through an urgent debate, which you, Mr Speaker, were pleased to give. I do not think my hon. Friend has raised a succession of arguments for reform. To be very clear, a Committee of the whole House would not be able to deal with some of the many necessary changes to business.
Yes it would.
The reality of trying to call a committee in short order to deal with very fast moving situations makes it entirely impractical. Having looked carefully at this issue, the Government have decided that it would not be a workable solution.
I should just say to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), and for the benefit of other Members, without in any way dissenting from anything that the Leader has just said, that it is perfectly open to the House to amend Standing Order No. 24, of which there is some uncertainty and often incomprehension. It could be amended to allow for the tabling of substantive motions in circumstances of emergency, which could also be amendable and on which the House could vote. If there are Members who are interested in that line of inquiry, they could usefully raise it with the Chair of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), but it is a matter for Members.
On a lighter note, the sun is shining and it is obvious it is now spring. I always feel it is spring when the London marathon takes place. So many people run the marathon—not me, thank goodness—to raise money for charities, particularly heart and cancer charities. May we, from across the House, congratulate them all?
Many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger), are calling for a debate on local democracy. Local democracy is fundamental to this country. We are all part of local democracy and products of it. May we have an urgent debate on local democracy? There is a big decline in social and community networks in our towns and cities, because, due to cuts to their budgets, local authorities are no longer able to support them.
First of all, I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating the 18 Members of Parliament and the thousands of others taking part in the London marathon, in particular Mo Farah, whom a number of us will be cheering on.
The hon. Gentleman asks for a debate on local democracy. A Westminster Hall debate or a Backbench Business debate can always be sought to share issues and ideas on local democracy. I draw his attention to departmental questions on 30 April, when he can raise it directly with Ministers.
I recently visited ILKE Homes, which is developing a factory near Knaresborough for the off-site pre-manufacture of homes. Other comparable initiatives are taking place across the country. This is an exciting development for the housing sector, as it will deliver houses quicker, with improved environmental benefits and at a cheaper cost. I was certainly impressed by what I saw at ILKE, so please could we have a debate about new methods of construction in the infrastructure and housing sectors, so that we can highlight the emerging benefits?
My hon. Friend raises a really good point. The idea of manufactured housing can certainly contribute to the Government’s principal domestic priority, which is to ensure that everybody has the chance to have their own home. It is encouraging to see companies such as ILKE Homes using modern methods of construction. Throughout 2017, we saw continued growth in modern methods of construction across all sectors, and the Government’s home building fund is providing support for those methods. We should encourage all businesses looking at this to continue to do so.
Nearly 7,000 jobs and our steel industry rely on the contract for three new ships to support our aircraft carriers. The Government must get behind our shipbuilding and steel industry, so can we have a statement on defence procurement?
We are all very proud of our shipbuilding sector, which is in a good position and has had some huge successes with our new shipbuilding programme. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the Government’s commitment to provide not just a decent, home-grown future plan for new ships, but to seek to win orders from overseas as well. If he wants to seek a specific debate on shipbuilding, I recommend that he asks for an Adjournment debate so that he can raise the issue directly with Ministers.
Can we have a debate on the work of the Council of Europe, hopefully on an annual basis? As we leave the EU, it becomes the most important organisation in Europe of which we are still a member, and yesterday there was cross-party agreement to such a debate.
My hon. Friend makes a really interesting suggestion, and I am certainly happy to take it away and look at it.
I echo the calls from the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) for us to have a debate on youth violence and the Government’s serious violence strategy. It might be helpful if I remind the Leader of the House of her comments on 29 March. On the strategy being published, she said:
“It will be very important, when the strategy comes forward, for the House to have a chance to debate it”.—[Official Report, 29 March 2018; Vol. 638, c. 957.]
If she is worried about what the Home Secretary might think about this, when she was asked about this on 16 April, she said:
“I will take that very good question to the Leader of the House. I would relish such a debate.”—[Official Report, 16 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 24.]
When are we going to have that debate on the serious violence strategy?
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, because she raises this issue frequently in the Chamber and I know that she is absolutely committed to doing everything that she can to eradicate this appalling increase in knife crime. I have already mentioned the steps that the Government are taking. I hear what she says about having a debate, and I will certainly take that away and see what can be done.
Agricultural machinery rings, such as Ringlink in my constituency—I have visited Ringlink, which has in excess of 2,700 members—play a vital and yet undervalued part in running a modern agricultural business by matching a shortage of machinery and labour on some farms with a surplus on other farms. Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate in Government time on the vital part played in rural economies by businesses such as Ringlink and other machinery rings across the country?
My hon. Friend asks a very good question. Collaboration between farmers can bring real economic benefits and help them to benefit from economies of scale, to share knowledge and share machinery, and of course, to jointly market their produce. Ringlink is a great example of a collaborative organisation that has managed to evolve in response to changing industry needs. The Government are keen to support that type of work in the agriculture sector, so in February this year we announced a £10 million collaboration fund to bring together those who are interested in greater co-operation.
Let me first associate myself with the comments made by the Leader of the House about the anniversary of the foundation of Israel. That was a great achievement by a great Labour Government and a great Labour Foreign Secretary.
Three Members have asked questions about the wave of violent crime that is sweeping the whole of Britain to some extent, but especially London, and east London in particular. Given that it cannot be dissociated from the loss of police officers and police stations, we urgently need a debate about crime, policing levels and police station closures.
I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the increase in crime levels, particularly in London. As I said earlier, on 8 April the Government announced plans for an offensive weapons Bill, which will make it illegal to carry corrosive substances in a public place. We will consult publicly on extending stop-and-search powers to enable the police to seize acids from people who are carrying them without good reason. The Bill will also make it illegal to possess certain offensive weapons, and we are taking a raft of other actions in the serious violence strategy. However, I hear from all Members that there is a strong desire for a debate on this subject, and I will certainly look into what can be done.
The disappointing profits results issued by Debenhams today follow hot on the heels of the difficulties that high street names such as Maplin, New Look and Toys R Us are experiencing. May we have a debate on what the Government can do to help high street retailers, especially those in small towns such as Shipley, Bingley and Baildon, which are having a very difficult time? Could we discuss in particular how we can help them to compete against online retailers by, for instance, doing something about business rates, so that the bricks-and-mortar retailers that are so needed and so welcome on our high streets can continue to thrive rather than struggling, as I am afraid they are at the moment?
l think we are all concerned about the health of the high street shopping centres in our constituencies, and my hon. Friend is also right to refer to online competition. Business rates may indeed be making the difference between bricks-and-mortar retailers and those that are doing better online. My hon. Friend will be aware of our measures to reform business rates and try to create a more level playing field. Measures such as Small Business Saturday and the work that we all do as Members to promote our own small shopping areas are obviously important, but he may wish to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can talk directly to Ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about what more we can do.
The day before a recess, I am reliably informed, is known as “take the trash out day” in Government circles. Before this year’s Easter recess, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published its long-awaited review of the future of S4C. I am sure that the British Government would want to avoid the impression that they would refer to my country’s primary asset in such derogatory terms. May we have a debate in Government time, or at least an oral statement, on this important issue?
Let me first reassure the hon. Gentleman that the reason there is often a flurry of activity on the day before recesses is that, far from its being “take the trash out day”, the purpose is to ensure that the House is still sitting when important announcements are made so that they are not left until the House is in recess, which is precisely the opposite of what he has said. Let me also reassure him about the Welsh broadcasting channel: it is absolutely vital, and he may well want to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise the issue directly with Ministers.
Yesterday morning the Prime Minister welcomed Narendra Modi to No. 10 Downing Street, and yesterday evening I joined right hon. and hon. Members to attend events in Central Hall, where Modiji subjected himself to two and a half hours of detailed questioning.
At the same time, a quite disgraceful event was taking place in Parliament Square, where the Indian national flag, which had been raised to celebrate the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, was burned. Meanwhile, some disgraceful billboards were going around London comparing our good friend Narendra Modi to Hitler. I am all for free speech, but that seems to transcend free speech. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary about what will be done to prevent such actions from taking place in the future?
My hon. Friend has made a shocking announcement, and if he wants to write to me giving details of what he saw or heard, I shall be happy to take it up with the Home Secretary on his behalf.
The data protection legislation currently going through the House is a welcome update to our legislative framework, but may we have an urgent statement from the relevant Minister on the unintended consequences that this legislation might have for MPs being able to communicate with their constituents?
The hon. Gentleman might be aware that a number of Members have raised this issue with me in recent days. Both the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Information Commissioner’s Office are putting out further advice for MPs. My own parliamentary staff undertook the first round of training, and found it much too generic: there was not enough detail about the consequences for pre-existing data we hold on constituents who have contacted us before, and so on. So there is now a huge effort under way to ensure that MPs get the advice they need so that they can be absolutely clear about the impact this has on their relationship with their constituents. To be clear, it is vital that our relationship with—our ability to communicate with, about and on behalf of—our constituents is not impaired in any way.
In the first two months of this year, there were 413 domestic burglaries in the London borough of Bromley, some 32% up, and 38 of them were in the Chislehurst ward alone. They are largely carried out by organised gangs of criminals, almost invariably armed and willing to threaten, and sometimes use, violence. It is not unique to Bromley, either, or to other parts of London. Many of my constituents regard this as a crime of violence and think that, frankly, all domestic burglaries should be treated as crimes of violence because of the invasion of someone’s home, family and privacy. May we have a debate in Government time on having a joined-up strategy for tackling this through both police priorities and the sentencing framework?
I am sorry to hear about my hon. Friend’s experiences in his constituency, and of course any form of burglary, particularly when violence is threatened, is very frightening and harrowing for the victims. I encourage him to seek either a Backbench Business Committee debate or an Adjournment debate so that he can raise his particular concerns directly with Ministers.
In light of the decision of the Scottish Government, followed by the Welsh Government, to put the healthcare and dignity of women first by allowing abortion tablets to be taken at home, may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for England Health explaining why English women still have to attend an abortion clinic to get those medically prescribed tablets, and why we are still making the harrowing stories we hear of women who have miscarried on the way home from those clinics in public toilets or on public transport happen in England?
The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue, and I encourage her to raise it at Health questions, but if she would prefer to write to me, I can take it up with the Department on her behalf.
The issue of potholes is understandably troubling my constituents in Corby and east Northamptonshire, and I am delighted that Northamptonshire is to get an extra £1.6 million of Government funding to help with repairs, but Ministers must keep the resources under constant review, so may we have a statement on that next week?
I confess to having a great interest in my hon. Friend’s pothole problem since his constituency is just up the road from mine, and very often the journey there goes through both of our constituencies. Potholes are a disastrous problem, and it is at this time of year, after the long winter and when the roads are in a particularly bad state, that the potholes start getting repaired. Certainly in my area I am seeing some improvements, and I hope all hon. Members are in theirs, too. My hon. Friend raises an important point that affects all of us, and it is a perfect example of something the Backbench Business Committee might look at.
I recently had lunch at the Old Bailey with judges, and they told me that virtually every other trial they are handling at present involves knife crime, gang crime and teenagers. I then sat in and witnessed the trial of four teenagers who were convicted of murdering another teenager. That is such a tragic waste of life, so I just want to add my voice to those of the other MPs who have spoken about this matter. The House really does need to debate it, and I hope the Leader of the House will give it parliamentary time.
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I think she is about the sixth hon. Member to raise this issue, and I will certainly go away and look at it carefully.
There is traffic chaos in north-east Lincolnshire due to the number of temporary traffic lights. Some have been installed for essential roadworks, but the council is failing to co-ordinate these operations. May we have a debate on how local authorities deal with these situations? Motorists are frustrated, traders are becoming increasingly angry and we need action.
My hon. Friend is a great spokesman for his constituency, and I can well imagine the frustration caused by poorly co-ordinated roadworks and permanently “temporary” traffic lights, which are very frustrating for motorists. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate or to write to Ministers on the specifics in his constituency.
May we have a debate to mark the 25th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham? It was a seminal moment for race relations in our country, and it should be recognised in some way by the House. Such a debate would give us an opportunity to distance ourselves from the remarks made by Mr Mellish, the former detective, on last night’s documentary, in which he accused Stephen Lawrence’s mother of having a gimmick in not smiling. She was a bereaved mother who had lost her son in the most tragic circumstances, and she was let down by the Metropolitan police, which was found to be institutionally racist. Mr Mellish was a fine example of that last night, and we should be given the opportunity to distance ourselves from individuals such as him.
I am very sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman says. We all have our own recollection of the appalling night on which Stephen Lawrence was murdered, of the bravery of both his parents in their own ways in the subsequent years, and of the lessons learned by the police forces. Our current Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has shown her commitment to stamping out any form of racism, which is vital for all of us, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that Stephen Lawrence’s appalling death must never be forgotten.
Pursuant to the hon. Gentleman’s inquiry and to what the Leader of the House has said, I believe I am right in saying that there is to be a commemorative service at St Martin-in-the-Fields next Monday to mark the 25th anniversary of that appalling murder. I think I am also right in saying that our admirable Chaplain, Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, will be preaching at the service. I hope colleagues will agree that that is singularly appropriate.
Mr Speaker, at the last business questions, you stated that you expected the Government to make an announcement in the House of Commons about the awarding of the mechanised infantry vehicle contract. In fact, that announcement was made during the recess, on Easter Saturday—a time, I would suggest, deliberately designed to minimise publicity and avoid scrutiny. May we have a debate in Government time in this House as soon as possible on that important £2 billion contract?
First, I reiterate my commitment to ensuring that Parliament is the place where as many announcements as possible are made. I also draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the fact that we will have Defence questions on Monday, so he will have an opportunity to raise his concern directly at that point.
The Leader of the House will recall that I recently raised in business questions the problem of addiction, including compulsive gambling. One of the most dangerously addictive forms of gambling is online gambling, and she might have seen that one of the German Länder has recently legislated to prevent online gambling in that area. Will she urge her Government colleagues to look at that German initiative in addressing the scourge of gambling addiction?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this point. Addictive online gambling is absolutely destroying lives, and the loss of income and vital family money is appalling. If he would like to write to me separately, I can take the matter up with Ministers on his behalf.
May we have a debate on community sport and active lifestyles, such as those promoted by local bowling clubs? I had the pleasure of attending Kelvindale bowling club in my constituency for the opening of the season, and I am proudly wearing its tie today. Will the Leader of the House join me in wishing all the best to that club, to clubs across the country, and indeed to the Scotland team, all of whom came home from the Commonwealth games with one kind of medal or another?
I am always delighted to congratulate those involved in all sporting efforts, including the bowling team that the hon. Gentleman mentions, and, of course, I congratulate Scotland and all parts of the United Kingdom on an excellent Commonwealth games.
Every weekend, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children make their weekly pilgrimage to watch their football team. In the top two tiers of English football, they can only do so sitting down. This is unsafe, as it is not universally observed, and it is bad for the atmosphere. It is time to permit safe standing, as they do in Scotland and other parts of Europe. May we have a debate on this matter in Government time?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are arguments for and against standing and sitting in football stadiums and we have our own horrendous examples of unfortunate and appalling circumstances involving standing. I am sure that he will appreciate that it is not an easy issue to decide one way or the other. I encourage him to take the matter up directly with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and see what progress it is making.
On the subject of the London marathon, not only is my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) running but so is my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman). This will make them the first husband and wife team from the House of Commons to run the London marathon—
She may indeed.
I confess that I do not read the impact assessment for every Bill placed before the House, and the Leader of the House has mentioned a large number of Bills, but I was surprised to read in the Daily Mail this morning a quote from the Home Office on the Bill that became the Immigration Act 2014 that said that Ministers would not have been required to sign off the impact assessment. Is it the case that under this Government Ministers will introduce Bills into the business of the House of Commons without knowing what their impact is?
I did not read the article in the Daily Mail that the hon. Gentleman mentions. My understanding, having been a Minister for some four years, is that Ministers sign off on impact assessments, but whether there are some that they do not sign off I am genuinely not aware, so I will write to him.
May we have an urgent statement from the Government urging people to get behind London marathon runners this weekend, of which I am one? Will the Leader of the House join me in praising the work of Glasgow EastEnd Community Carers and encourage generous Glaswegians to get right behind me and donate—and will she possibly donate herself?
I believe that the hon. Gentleman is now known as Legs Linden—is that it? I encourage him to go for it; we are proud of him and all colleagues taking part in the London marathon, particularly for such a great cause. I encourage the hon. Gentleman’s charity in all it does to try to help people.
On Monday, I had great pleasure in attending Channel 4’s announcement of the biggest restructuring of the channel in its 35-year history, with the “4 all the UK” programme to disperse its headquarters out of London to different cities around the UK. I have every confidence that my city of Glasgow, with its excellent strengths in broadcast media, production and education in media, will have a good strong chance of securing one of those headquarter facilities. Will the Leader of the House consider calling a debate so that MPs from across the UK can advocate for their constituencies to be the home of the Channel 4 headquarters?
I am certainly glad that the hon. Gentleman has made that early pitch for Glasgow. I am sure that plenty of people will have heard it and I am sure that all hon. Members will find their own way of putting their pitch forward so that their cities can take part in Channel 4’s dispersion arrangements.
I associate myself with the question asked by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) about the loss of the Backbench Business Committee-sponsored debate on the banks on Tuesday, for very important reasons. Many thousands of our constituents are waiting for the debate. They are waiting to hear answers to questions that they have raised over many years. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House indicated if the Government might be able to facilitate three hours, ideally on a Tuesday, for the debate to take place.
As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), I apologise for the circumstances that led to the Backbench Business Committee deciding not to hold that debate and further apologise for the fact that that was the second time it happened. I absolutely recognise the importance of the debate. We need to have it and, as I said to my hon. Friend, I will take it away and see whether we can offer Government time while appreciating, as I know hon. Members do, that there is a premium on legislative priorities.
Following a freedom of information request from the GMB union, shipbuilders in Scotland have learned that the Government are putting out the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships to international tender. That is despite the fact that the Government do not have to do so, despite the fact that they could secure almost 7,000 jobs here and despite the fact they could generate millions of pounds for the Exchequer. May we have an urgent statement, not leaving it to Defence questions on Monday, so that the Defence Secretary can give a proper explanation of himself?
I am not aware of that freedom of information request, but I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise it at Defence questions—it is only on Monday, so it is not too long to wait—so he can raise it directly with the Secretary of State.
May we have a debate on the “really hostile environment” the Prime Minister has created for migrants to the UK? Almost half of my constituents were born outside the UK. Many face harassment by the Home Office, and 40% of my EU citizens report negative experiences following the Brexit vote. It is not only the Windrush generation but more recent migrants who are suffering victimisation and discrimination by this Government.
This country is incredibly welcoming to immigrants. We have one of the broadest ranges of people coming to this country from across the world to make their life here. This country is, in fact, very welcoming to immigrants. The Prime Minister herself has carried out the first ever race disparity audit to look at the areas where integration has been more difficult and to take action in those areas. I simply do not recognise what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the Government’s policy.
Claims helplines are supposed to be free phone numbers. In answer to a written parliamentary question, the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed that the employment and support allowance helpline became a free phone number on 7 December, but the most prominent number available online is an 0843 number, which is chargeable. Last month one of my constituents was charged £72 over the month for phone calls made to that number. Will the Leader of the House make a statement outlining what the Government will do to make sure that only free phone numbers are used and that information on those numbers is widely available online? Does she agree that my constituent should get a refund from the DWP?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. If he writes to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, I am sure she will respond. If he wants to do that through me, I am happy to take it up with my right hon. Friend on his behalf.
My constituents, Mr and Mrs Dodd, face losing their home next month as a result of a personal guarantee they signed with Goldcrest Distribution Ltd. The case highlights the lack of safeguards for individuals who sign such agreements and the unreasonable way that finance companies pursue such debts. An offer to repay nearly double the loan amount was rejected, and the debt continues to increase at a rate of over £300 a day, thanks to interest rates at which even Wonga would blush. Please can we have a debate on more protection for individuals in these circumstances?
That is a particularly awful story. Having been City Minister some time ago, I have heard similar stories of the appalling way that some individuals are treated by finance companies. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue, and I encourage him to write to the Financial Conduct Authority to see whether it can take action on behalf of his constituents.
Despite this horrendous heatwave, I am still looking forward to joining 17 colleagues on both sides of the House in trying to complete the marathon on Sunday. I will be raising money for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland. On that note, may we have a debate in Government time on why they continue to resist calls from the Food Standards Agency, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and others for the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid? It has been shown in other countries that fortification can significantly reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman. An impressive set of colleagues are taking part in the marathon. Let us hope it is just cool enough for them all to finish.
I also pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for raising money for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland, which is a vital charity. He has campaigned on this subject for some time, and I encourage him to continue raising this issue with Ministers.