House of Commons
Thursday 3 May 2018
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Exiting the European Union
The Secretary of State was asked—
Clearly, great minds think alike today, Mr Speaker.
We have made significant progress in negotiating our exit by agreeing on the terms of a time-limited implementation period and locking down entire chapters on the financial settlement and citizens’ rights. Negotiations are ongoing. My officials are in Brussels this week, discussing a number of issues, including issues in the agreement such as Euratom, data and intellectual property rights and the future partnership. They are discussing how we should progress the future economic partnership and how we can progress the negotiations swiftly and in parallel. Northern Ireland—particularly human rights, state aid and, to some extent, agriculture—is also being discussed. Today, in Brussels my officials are discussing the future of the security partnership.
There is now a clear consensus in this Parliament that, at the very least, the United Kingdom should enter into a customs arrangement with the EU post Brexit, but after another indecisive Brexit Cabinet Sub-Committee meeting, the Government, after two years, have still failed to reach an agreed position on the customs issue. Every 42 days, the Government lose a Cabinet Minister, and the Secretary of State is 6:1 third favourite to be the next to go. Those are good odds, if you ask me. If the eventual will of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister is to seek a customs arrangement with the EU, will the Secretary of State resign?
I am not sure whether it is constitutional to discuss my resignation, but I will say that I do not take it to be imminent.
The simple truth is that this is a complex and important issue, which will affect our country for generations. It has a direct effect on the sensitive issue of Northern Ireland and the peace process there, which we are committed to protecting at all costs. It is therefore no surprise that it will take some time to nail down the policy.
Conservative Members are confident that my right hon. Friend will achieve the best possible outcome for this country in the negotiations and will continue to serve this country for a long time thereafter. Will he confirm, however, that his task will not be made any easier—indeed, it will be made considerably harder—by some of the amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that have been passed in the other place? Does he agree that they will need to be repealed when they come back to this House and that the Lords will press them at their peril?
I have some much more pertinent things than that to frame, Mr Speaker.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is essential and is in the national interest. Some of the amendments passed in the upper House—and the upper House does a very important job, as a reviewing House, in improving the quality of legislation—could have the effect of undermining the negotiation. That is a matter of critical national interest, and we will have to deal with it accordingly.
We have said categorically that there will be no physical infrastructure or related checks and controls at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. We have set out clear commitments in relation to the border and have put forward two potential customs models, to which the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) alluded.
I have always said that the best solution to the Northern Ireland border issue will be reached through the deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the European Union, recognising the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. As the European Commission has itself acknowledged, solutions to the border issue cannot be based on precedent.
Given the fankle that the Secretary of State and the Government have got themselves into in the other place, have not the EU negotiations now descended into a game show parody? The question is, is it “Deal or No Deal”, or has the whole situation just become a bit “Pointless”?
The Secretary of State will be aware that universities in the UK punch well above their weight in terms of research funding, not least the universities of Dundee and St Andrews. Given that universities across Europe are planning for the next framework programme, what plans has he to ensure that those in the UK will have access to the same levels of funding on 1 January 2021?
The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), has visited Dundee and is very much across that issue. We have given undertakings in relation to guaranteeing the funding of the universities, but if the hon. Gentleman is interested, he can certainly discuss this with me explicitly, so that we can deal directly with the issue of the universities in his constituency.
Let me make a serious point here. The issue of leaving the customs union plays directly to the issue of how we manage our future export and trade arrangements. Almost 60% of our exports are now going to the rest of the world. That is not surprising because both the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission itself have said that the vast majority of growth in world trade will come from outside the European Union. It is our explicit aim to make the most of that, and that means we have to leave the customs union.
Will the Secretary of State set out for the House the characteristics of the customs partnership that he is discussing with his right hon. Friends, and given that according to reports that is the Prime Minister’s preferred way forward, what are the reasons for holding back on it?
There are two models. The streamline model essentially uses conventional techniques used around the rest of the world, including electronic pre-notification, the use of authorised economic operators and a whole series of other technical mechanisms. The alternative proposal—the new customs partnership—is a brand-new idea; it has never been tested anywhere in the world and involves, essentially, charging the common external tariff when goods enter the country and then rebating that. Both approaches have merits and virtues, and both have some drawbacks, and that is why we are taking our time over this discussion.
Given that membership of the European Union necessarily means being in the single market and the customs union under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, does my right hon. Friend agree that, to keep faith with the British people, this Parliament has a positive duty to ensure that upon withdrawal we cease to be subject to all those arrangements?
My right hon. Friend is correct: what we are doing, after all, is carrying out the judgment of the referendum, which was to take back control of borders, laws and money. During the referendum, both sides made it very plain that real removal from the EU means real removal from the customs union and the single market.
They might be over-represented in the Secretary of State’s ministerial team, but supporters of the European Research Group constitute less than 10% of the membership of this House. Why are the Government putting their red lines before the interests of the country?
I wish the hon. Gentleman a happy May Day this week, but he is basically putting—how can I express this in parliamentary language?—a non-fact in front of the House. The case is very simple: the Government are deciding on the future customs arrangements on the basis of the best interests of the United Kingdom.
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s May Day wishes, and I am sure that he will be celebrating as well. The Engineering Employers Federation says that being outside a customs union
“would condemn the manufacturing sector to a painful and costly Brexit.”
Does he really think that is a price worth paying to keep the ERG happy?
I am not going to take lectures from a party that has had 11 different positions on this so far and whose own—[Interruption.] I am speaking through the Speaker, thank you very much. And a party whose own policy has been roundly criticised in singularly unparliamentary language by its own shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner).
The UK space industry is a global success story, leveraging our expertise and talent to deliver ground-breaking products and services, and we want a UK space industry that captures 10% of the global market by 2030, creating 100,000 new jobs—astronomical levels! Ministers from across the Government have carried out extensive engagement on EU exit, and this has included engagement with the space sector. We have been clear in our desire to continue our involvement in EU space programmes, including Galileo, provided that the UK and UK companies can continue to participate on a fair and open basis.
I thank the Minister for her answer. Whatever the future holds for us in the UK, we are going to have to play to all our strengths, intellectually and economically. She will be aware that Her Majesty’s Government are currently considering the northern part of Sutherland in my constituency as a possible space launch site. Jobs do not exactly grow on the trees in that part of the world, and I would warmly encourage the Government to go down the route of developing the site there. It would mean a great deal to me, to my constituents and to an area that needs the help.
The hon. Gentleman raises a crucial point relating to the development of our domestic space strategy, and Scotland has a strong heritage in the sector. For example, Glasgow has built more satellites in the past two years compared with other European cities, and we also have the Prestwick aerospace park, Strathclyde University and many companies breaking new frontiers. We want the UK to reach space from our own shores, and we recently passed the Space Industry Act 2018, which is the first key step towards licensing the first missions from the UK into space. Brexit will not pose a barrier to our journey into space.
The ancients named the planets after their gods. In affirming that the United Kingdom will continue to lead geo-galactic enterprise and innovation across the continent, will the Minister explain how, goddess-like, she changed her name and tell us what role she intends to play in promoting the United Kingdom in this place, in the Government, on earth and across the cosmos?
My right hon. Friend sets the bar very high. I thank him for his question, for his stellar contributions and his work with the space sector, and particularly for his work on the Space Industry Act, which, as I said, has paved the way for our domestic policy. His reference to my goddess-like status is slightly exaggerated, but I would expect nothing less of him. Even in this space age, it takes a brave woman to follow tradition and change her name following marriage. He is right to suggest that the UK’s historic strength in the space sector will be secured as we leave the European Union and develop our own new partnership with our allies across the channel. It is in that spirit, boldly going where no woman has gone before, that I can tell the House from the Dispatch Box that, as of today, I am pleased to be known as Suella Braverman.
We are delighted for the hon. Lady, and we congratulate her on that. I would also say that, in the 25 years that I have known the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), he has always inhabited his own galaxy and been the most shining star in it.
I should like to add my congratulations to the Minister. With regard to the Galileo programme, it is reported that the procurement process will freeze out UK participation in the programme. I know that the Science Minister met representatives of the European Space Agency on Monday. Will the Minister provide an update on efforts to freeze the procurement and sort out this mess, because 400 jobs in this country are dependent on getting it sorted out?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The Government have been clear that there is mutual benefit in the UK’s involvement in Galileo, and we are working hard with our European partners to deliver this outcome. However, as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made clear in his letter to Ministers in the other 27 EU member states on 19 April, that involvement must be on terms that the UK considers acceptable, including being fair and open to the UK and UK industry. That is why the Prime Minister has announced that she will task engineering and space experts in the UK to develop options for a British global navigation satellite system that would safeguard our position in terms of navigation and timing information.
Successful space businesses such as Airbus provide thousands of jobs in the UK, and their success has been built on an open, free supply-chain system with the EU. How will the Minister obtain the agreement of EU partners for the continuation of that system?
There has been considerable engagement with Airbus. The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), has met representatives from Airbus, and I have visited its site in Portsmouth. We want full access to Galileo, including the crucial secure elements that will help to guide British missiles should they be needed to keep us all safe. This is a commercial matter for Airbus, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment, but I can say that the Government have been in close contact and will continue to work with the entire UK space sector to do all that we can to ensure that the UK is able to contribute fully to the Galileo programme.
Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland Border
Officials are undertaking an intensive work programme with the European Commission and the Republic of Ireland to negotiate in detail all the issues and scenarios set out in the joint report at the March Council. As the Government made clear in the joint report published in December, we are absolutely committed to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, including any related checks and controls, as the UK leaves the EU.
At the previous DExEU questions, my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) and I generously invited the Secretary of State to visit Northern Ireland. It was a bitter blow that he refused our offer, but we were pleased that he did manage to visit. Will he or the Minister tell us what people on the border thought about his proposed solution?
As the hon. Lady acknowledged, the Secretary of State did indeed visit Northern Ireland last week, as did the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister. I have also visited on several occasions, including visiting the border and speaking to cross-border businesses. Everyone understands the importance of having frictionless movement of people and goods across that border. That is the aspiration of both the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and it is something that we will continue to pursue through the talks.
Monsieur Barnier was at the border last week, and I am afraid that his diplomatic skills were found wanting yet again. Does the Minister agree that Monsieur Barnier should, in the intensive discussions that he is having, take some time to look at the massive hole that will be left in the EU budget after we leave and perhaps turn his mind to the political problems that there will be in Hungary, France, Germany, Poland and elsewhere, with the far right turning away from Europe, after he is done with ours?
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. We need to ensure that we progress the negotiations in the interests of the United Kingdom and have a strong, friendly partnership with the EU after we leave. That should be our focus, and issues relating to the Irish border are a key part of that engagement.
It is now over 15 months since the Prime Minister promised that the Government would as a priority bring forward a practical solution to the question of the Irish border. Will the Minister enlighten us on when we might get that practical solution to consider?
We have put forward several proposals, which we are still in the process of discussing with the Commission. It is vital that we have agreed on a number of key areas in the joint report, such as the common travel area, the single electricity market and funding in Ireland, and it is right that we get the talks right so that the right language is written into law at the end of the process for both sides to follow.
The Minister and his colleagues are good at telling us what the Irish border will not be, but we are still no closer to having any idea about what it will be. This question could easily have been linked to the previous one, because the Government’s proposed solution still belongs in the realms of science fiction. If the Minister cannot tell us when we will get to see the practical solution that was promised as a priority, will he at least give us an end date—an absolute guarantee—by which, as a matter of confidence, the Government will have brought forward something that is practical or, at the very least, credible?
Sixty Conservative MPs are attempting to determine the outcome of this decision. They are attempting to bully the Prime Minister into their preferred option. Will the Minister, who I know approaches this issue with particular care, take this opportunity to explain to his colleagues why their preferred option, the so-called “max fac” or maximum facilitation option, is not suitable?
I simply do not recognise the hon. Lady’s characterisation of the discussion. The reality is that we have put forward two options in the customs paper, both of which are designed to facilitate the most frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The max fac option, combined with issues such as the local trade exemption, could provide a solution in that respect. As the Secretary of State has said, both options are still under consideration.
Non-UK EU Citizens
As hon. Members will be aware, we have reached a reciprocal agreement with the EU that safeguards the rights of EU citizens in the UK and the rights of UK nationals in the EU. This agreement, highlighted green in the withdrawal agreement, means that citizens who are resident before the end of the implementation period will be able to continue living their lives broadly as they do now. The Government are now focusing on the successful domestic implementation of this agreement, and we are seeking further details on the steps that member states are taking to protect the status of UK nationals resident in the EU.
Following yesterday’s debate about the Windrush generation and the Prime Minister’s decision to hide the whole business behind a cloak of secrecy, what plans does the Minister have to talk to the Home Secretary to ensure that the process to deal with EU nationals will be open and transparent, and to ensure that their right to remain is fully protected, so they do not fear removal at some unknown date in the future?
Like the new Home Secretary’s parents, my parents came to this country in the 1960s as immigrants from Commonwealth countries, and they too could have been caught up in the Windrush episode. I would not be standing here as a proud Member of the Conservative party and of this Government if I had any doubt whatsoever about the commitment of the Prime Minister and the Government to resolving this issue quickly and ensuring it is not repeated.
It is with that confidence that we are learning and implementing the settlement scheme for EU citizens, which will be efficient, simple, user friendly and reliable, to ensure that the rights of EU citizens post Brexit are safeguarded rigorously and robustly.
I admire the Minister’s confidence, but I wonder whether she has had conversations with her colleagues in the Home Office, which has now declared an amnesty on Commonwealth citizens and is having to implement a helpline and support for the Windrush generation. That will extend to others, and the Home Office is also having to introduce, by November, the new fast-route EU citizens settlement programme. Does she seriously believe that, practically, the Home Office and the Government have the resources to deal with this, and can she reassure my constituents?
The UK has been clear that EU citizens in the UK will be able to enforce their rights directly in UK courts, and that will be fully incorporated into UK law in the withdrawal agreement. We have also agreed there will be an independent monitoring authority to oversee the implementation and application of citizens’ rights and of that agreement in the UK. The authority will be able to receive complaints from EU citizens and their family members, and it will be able to conduct inquiries. Those robust mechanisms, rights and frameworks will be given legal status in the withdrawal agreement and in the implementation Bill.
As an EU national married to a UK citizen, if she has been here for the requisite number of years before the implementation period, her rights will be broadly the same as they are now. We want to ensure that she will have the same abilities and rights as she is able to enjoy today.
We continue to have regular conversations with ministerial colleagues across Government on all aspects of exiting the EU, including on fisheries policy. The Government have been absolutely clear that when we leave the EU, and at the end of the implementation period, we will be an independent coastal state, managing our fisheries and controlling access to our own waters.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his response. He will have seen the joint statement released by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations earlier this week. Will he join me in backing the clear, clean and achievable goals that the UK-wide fishing industry is united behind?
I can tell my hon. Friend that I have read that statement with care and that we do share its ambitions. Ministers fully understand and recognise that fishing is of totemic importance to not just the fishing community but the UK as a whole—this goes way beyond its contribution to GDP. We take that knowledge forward as we go into these negotiations, working to deliver that status as an independent coastal state, with all that that entails.
Notwithstanding what the Minister has just said and his colleagues have repeated many times, there are lingering doubts among the fishing community in my constituency and in neighbouring Grimsby. Can he give an absolute assurance that no further concessions will be made?
My hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) are both fierce champions of the fishing cause, and I am sure that they will continue to hold us to account. I say to them that the Government fully understand and recognise the totemic importance of fishing. We will take that understanding forward to negotiations, as we work to become an independent coastal state. I very much look forward to my colleagues on this side of the House perhaps one day standing here as fisheries Ministers, operating our own independent fishing policy.
I know my hon. Friend the Minister will recognise that the common fisheries policy has been a disaster for the south-west fishing industry over the past 45 years—it has declined to the point where even if quotas were repatriated, we probably could not actually use them. Will he reassure me that in his discussions with his colleagues he is making sure that we will rebuild the industry, providing the support to do so, to ensure that when powers are repatriated we can actually take advantage of them?
We will certainly work to take advantage of new powers as they are repatriated. After we have left the common fisheries policy, its two main pillars—mutual access to waters and the EU allocation of quota—will fall away. Once we have taken back control, I look forward to the regrowth of our own fishing industry, particularly as I originally hail from Cornwall.
We have been clear that we are leaving the EU’s customs union and single market in March 2019. Only by doing so will we be able to set out own tariffs on goods, deliver our own trade policy with the rest of the world and open markets for UK businesses. All of these are golden opportunities for our nation that will enable more growth, prosperity and jobs—I am sure my hon. Friend will be looking forward to this opportunity.
I am delighted I have got the services of the dynamic new young Minister. I am very grateful to her for reinforcing the point that if we stay in the customs union, that will mean that Brussels retains control of our trade policy. Will she tell the House and explain to me why, given that we have the sixth largest economy in the world and English is the language of international trade, some people are so nervous about the UK having its own trade policy?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We have so many strengths in our country, which make us well placed for our future outside the EU and its customs union. Some 90% of future global growth will come from outside the EU. We had record high foreign direct investment last year and exports up by 10%, with unemployment down, inflation down and growth up—all of this is despite Brexit.
Does the Minister agree with this from the Institute for Fiscal Studies:
“Get a sense of scale, throw in some simple arithmetic and sprinkle a basic understanding of trade and it is obvious that the economic costs of leaving the customs union must outweigh the benefits”?
Will the excellent Minister explain something to me? Say we have our own trade policy with Nigeria, or another developing country, and its food is coming into this country with no tariff. If that country is suddenly told that it has to pay a tariff of 30%, 40% or 50% because that is the EU external policy, but that it might get that back at some time in future, is this new customs partnership a good idea?
The Government set out the two options in our policy papers last summer, and one of those options will be adopted in due course. Free trade has brought unprecedented prosperity to some of the poorest countries in the world. My hon. Friend referred to developing countries: free trade has lifted more than 1 billion people out of poverty by increasing choice and lowering prices for consumers. It will enable us to forge trade agreements with some of the poorer countries in the world, thereby incentivising them to capitalise and industrialise, and to be sustainable and not dependent on aid. This is a great opportunity.
Is not the reality that trade deals with, for instance, the US and Australia would require concessions on regulatory standards that would create impenetrable trade barriers with Europe? When it comes to trade policy, surely one bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.
By leaving the single market, we will regain control of our laws and regulatory regimes, which will enable us—Parliament and the Government—to set the terms on which we negotiate any future trade deals with other countries. Let us be clear: we have a trade surplus with countries outside the EU. There is excessive and impressive demand for British goods out there. We need to open our markets so that our businesses can expand their sales and capitalise on this opportunity.
It is one thing to negotiate free trade agreements—I very much support that ambition—but it is a completely different thing to benefit from them. To do that, we need a much stronger trade network around the world, particularly throughout Africa, where that network is potentially declining. Will my hon. Friend speak to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Trade to ensure that our international trade network is enhanced and not diminished?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. All those who work at the Department for International Trade are highly focused on how we can forge better links with new markets and new partners through our trade envoys and working groups. This heralds a new beginning and new opportunities for our country; I cannot understand why the Opposition will not welcome it.
Research into the Government’s own EU exit analysis was carried out last month by the House of Commons Library, and it suggests that leaving the customs union and ruling out a new comprehensive EU-UK customs union will create new customs barriers that could cost the economy billions over the next 15 years. Does the Minister accept that assessment? If not, what does the Department now put the cost at?
That analysis does not represent Government policy—it does not assess the Government’s preferred objectives. We are working towards a free trade agreement with the EU that will be as frictionless as possible, so that our businesses can continue to trade with and sell their goods into the EU, and vice versa. That is going to be good for the economy, good for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and good for the country.
We continue to work closely with Ministers and officials from all Departments, including DEFRA, to further our preparations for our exit from and new partnership with the EU. The Secretary of State continues to have regular conversations with his Cabinet colleagues on all aspects of exiting the EU, including agriculture. All Ministers are clear that leaving the EU means leaving the common agricultural policy and making our own decisions for our own farmers’ benefit, for the first time in around half a century.
I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I regularly meet farmers in Corby and east Northamptonshire who are excited about the opportunities ahead to redefine and reshape our agricultural policy. Can the Minister confirm that they will be directly involved in that process?
Yes, I can. If we are to redesign our country’s agricultural policy, it is of course right that we seek input from our farmers. Our consultation paper, which can be found on the Government’s website, seeks views on plans for a more dynamic and self-reliant agriculture industry, as we continue to compete on the world stage, supplying products of the highest standards to the domestic market and increasing exports. I strongly encourage not only farmers but everyone who cares about the food that we eat to contribute before the consultation closes next Tuesday.
The food and farming industry is already facing challenges in recruiting the skills and labour needed to keep that sector going. What will the Government do to ensure that those skills are there and that the labour force is there through and beyond Brexit?
We are taking back control of our borders, but we should always welcome people who come here to contribute to our economy. We have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look carefully at how we can reach this goal. Its report is due in September and it would be wrong to pre-empt it.
At the moment, farmers have access to European economic area migrants. I look forward to the Migration Advisory Committee’s report. The Home Office is of course perfectly capable of instituting a seasonal workers scheme, should one be necessary, in due course.
Internal UK Trade
In December, the joint report of the UK and the EU reached a balanced set of commitments that reiterate both our commitment to avoiding a hard border and our clear position on preserving the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom. Internal trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is of critical importance to Northern Ireland’s economy. In 2015, goods sold from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK stood at £10.7 billion.
It is essential to the integrity of the United Kingdom that there are no barriers to internal UK trade, including between Northern Ireland and our biggest market, Great Britain. Can the Minister confirm that, for this Government, this is an absolute red line in all of the negotiations?
I agree with the hon. Lady: we have absolutely set out that we will not accept any internal barriers within the internal market of the United Kingdom. It is important, in that respect, that the UK Government have been able to reach a deal with the Welsh Government to work together to make sure that we are able to implement frameworks. I welcome the fact that that deal is open to the Scottish Government and to a restored Executive in Northern Ireland.
Does not the integrity of the UK depend on the Good Friday agreement and the Good Friday agreement on the consent of the people on both sides of the border, both of whom voted to remain in the European Union? That consent, therefore, is dependent on an open border, and that open border can be maintained only by our continuing membership of the customs union. Is not that the irresistible logic of the position?
No, it is not, and the hon. Gentleman’s former party leader has pointed out that the customs union is not the determinant of addressing the border. We are very clear in our commitments, both to the Good Friday agreement and to there being no hard border on the island of Ireland, and we are also very clear in our commitment to the principle of consent, to which he referred. That principle of consent must be respected by both sides in this negotiation.
Since the last departmental questions, the Government have been making progress towards our aim of securing a deep and special partnership with the European Union. Our aims and objectives for this agreement our clear: respecting the referendum and the need to keep control of our borders, money and laws; ensuring that our relationship endures and does not need to be constantly revisited; protecting jobs and security; demonstrating our values and the kind of country that we want to be; and strengthening the union of nations and the people who make up the United Kingdom.
The joint report in December talked about a mapping exercise with regard to cross-border co-operation. I asked the Prime Minister, and I have written to her, to understand what this mapping exercise demonstrated. I have had a letter this week from Minister Baker telling me that I cannot have the list of those 140 areas in the mapping exercise. Mr Speaker, what do I, as a Member of this Parliament, have to do to understand what those 140 areas are? I could go to the EU, I could go to the Irish Government, and I could perhaps even stand on the border and conduct my own survey. It is absolutely unacceptable for me as a Member of Parliament to receive this letter.
The hon. Lady should have kept up with some of the events that have been happening over the past week or two. The Chairman of the Brexit Committee wrote to me and asked—and indeed asked me again when I appeared in front of the Committee—whether the Committee could have that list and the support for it. We have said, yes, as soon as it is complete, as soon as we have cleared the release of it with the European Union—which has, by the way, turned down freedom of information requests on the subject. That list will be available as soon as it is complete.
My hon. Friend will have heard my earlier answer. We are clear that future negotiations over trade must be separate from negotiations over access to waters. There would be no precedent to link the two, and we will continue to take this position in our negotiations on the economic partnership with the EU. The joint statement from the SFF and NFFO that was mentioned earlier made the normal position clear—that total allowable catches, quota shares and access arrangements should ordinarily be agreed through annual bilateral agreements.
When I was reading the Sunday newspapers over the weekend, I was not entirely sure that we would see the Secretary of State in his place today. This morning he says that his resignation is not imminent—I am not sure what message he is sending to his colleagues—but can I assume that his presence signals that he thinks that he won the argument with the Prime Minister yesterday and that a customs partnership with the EU has now been taken off the table?
My first advice to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not to believe everything he reads in the papers—even about himself, let alone about me. Secondly, I made it clear earlier that the Government are spending some time, rightly, on ensuring that we get absolutely the best outcome that will preserve the United Kingdom without creating internal borders, and that will deliver the best outcome in retaining the trade that we have with the European Union and opening up opportunities with the rest of the world. That is why we are taking time to get this right.
Let me take that discussion to Northern Ireland. In December the Prime Minister made a solemn promise that there would be no hard border in Northern Ireland. That was spelled out as no infrastructure, no checks and no controls, and I know that the Secretary of State and his team take that seriously. If, on serious and sober analysis, the only conclusion is that delivering on that solemn promise requires the UK to be in a customs union with the EU, does the Secretary of State agree that that would therefore be the only position for any responsible Government to take?
The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), gave Labour Members some guidance on that earlier when he cited their former leader, who has taken a lot of interest in this issue, bearing in mind that he oversaw the last part of the peace process and takes it very seriously. In March this year, he said of the customs union:
“the truth is that doesn’t really resolve your problems. By the way, it doesn’t really resolve your problems in Northern Ireland, either.”
David Trimble, who was made Nobel laureate for his part in the peace process, also said that in pretty stark terms.
As we design our independent trade policy, we have the chance to explore many options all around the world. Asia-Pacific is a region of great economic importance for the UK, and the Department for International Trade is closely following the progress of the comprehensive and progressive Trans-Pacific partnership.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman’s first statement. We have negotiated to ensure that we will be able to continue to work with agencies including the EMA during the implementation period. The EU has included specific language about being able to call on UK expertise, so we intend to continue co-ordination. As the Prime Minister has also set out, we are seeking, as part of our future partnership, a strong relationship with the EMA beyond our exit from the EU.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when the so-called WAIB—withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill—becomes law, we will be committing ourselves to a financial settlement that will be binding in international law? Does he therefore agree that we should seek to obtain as much detail as possible in the political declaration while we still have that leverage?
I wonder whether the Secretary of State has ever reflected on the fact that if David Cameron had kept his promise of staying in office, implementing the views of the British people and triggering article 50 immediately after the referendum, we would nearly be coming out of the EU now, and I would probably be arranging having a statue of David Cameron in my constituency. Does the Secretary of State get the feeling that the public are fed up with how long this process is taking and wish we could just get on with it a bit quicker?
I have been asked today to give careers advice to myself and now to past Prime Ministers, from which I will demur. Had we triggered article 50 immediately after the referendum, we would have had to absorb 40 years of European Union law into British law almost in a geological nanosecond—a very, very short time. It would not have been easy to do. Although my hon. Friend is right about the departure date, it might have been a lot more uncomfortable than it is going to be.
The hon. Lady makes a very important point. It is important that we continue to look at all the investment in technology that we can make to ensure that our trade with the wider world is as frictionless as possible, and we need to look at these solutions with regard to the deal between the UK and the EU as well.
No; the House of Lords is a revising Chamber and it does a very important job that I have, in my past, depended on from time to time. I agree, however, that some of the proposals—for example, to put timetables into the negotiating arrangements, at which point control is taken away from the Government—would be a gift to the negotiators on the other side.
The hon. and learned Lady raises an important point. There has been extensive consultation, dialogue and discussion between Ministers at the Department for Exiting the EU and diaspora groups. I met members of the Romanian diaspora at the Romanian embassy, and the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), has recently met members of the French diaspora. We have this engagement, and it is important. People can rest assured that the position of EU citizens will be safeguarded through the legislation due to come through Parliament in the autumn.
I declare an interest as a trustee of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Post-doctoral research fellows are a vital part of this country’s research base, and they come from all over the world, including from the EU. What discussions are my right hon. and hon. Friends having with the Home Office to ensure that our future immigration policy is based not on salaries—post-docs often receive pretty miserly salaries compared with their qualifications—but on the skills that we really need in this country?
I regularly attend the higher education and science working group chaired by my hon. Friend the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, where we discuss these issues, and we have been feeding into the work being done by the Migration Advisory Committee and the Home Office on that front. The Prime Minister made it clear that we will want to continue to attract key talent from around the world, and Britain will want to continue to be a scientific superpower in the years to come. It is essential that we get our policies right on this.
The Government’s own analysis shows that if we leave the customs union, unemployment in the north-east will go up to 200,000, so why did the Secretary of State argue against a customs partnership yesterday afternoon and what is he going to say to the 160,000 people who lose their jobs?
I have two points in response to that. First, the hon. Lady is presuming what my arguments were yesterday at the Cabinet Committee. As far as I am aware, the minutes are not published. Secondly, what she refers to is not Government policy or indeed Government estimates.
To follow on from the previous question, the thousands of families in my constituency whose income and prosperity rely on the Ford engine plant are also deeply alarmed about the refusal to remain in the customs union. A large number of parts come in from Europe to create the engines built in Bridgend, which are then exported to Europe. How does the Minister envisage those supply chain needs and Ford’s just-in-time policy being met?
Both sides have agreed that we wish to have tariff-free access to each other’s markets. The hon. Member for Belfast South (Emma Little Pengelly) referred to the tiny proportion of our imports that need to be physically checked. With a degree of mutual recognition, which has been outlined by the Prime Minister, these things can be delivered through the terms of our future economic partnership, and I am confident that it is in both sides’ interest to ensure that supply chains can continue uninterrupted.
Businesses in my constituency tell me that they need the preferential trade rates with 88% of countries in the rest of the world that they currently enjoy as part of the EU. How do the Government propose to equal or exceed those preferential rates before our businesses lose contracts to EU competitors?
The EU currently has many international agreements with third countries, and it is the policy, agreed in the withdrawal agreement, that we will adopt a continuity approach, so that all those international agreements to which we are party by virtue of our membership of the EU will continue to apply after we leave the EU.
In Corby and East Northamptonshire, people voted overwhelmingly to leave and therefore to control our own borders, spend our own money, make our own laws and determine our own trade destiny. At this stage, how would my right hon. Friend judge the negotiations against that scorecard?
What my hon. Friend has described is the exact purpose of the negotiations. We are seeking to retain as much as possible of the existing European market, and at the same time open up all the rest of the world. If I may, I will refer back to the question asked earlier about Ford. One of the companies that we visited in North America, on the Canadian border, was Ford, because it is state of the art in dealing with cross-border component traffic to support car manufacturing. It is very good at that, and it will be in Europe too.
Can the Secretary of State explain to the House how the transitional arrangements he has negotiated for our fishing industry will work in relation to the renegotiation of the EU-Norway-Faroes deal on mackerel? Can he tell the House who will lead the negotiations and when that will happen?
During the implementation period, for the whole of 2019, we will apply the agreement reached at the Fisheries Council in December 2018, where we would be fully involved in that agreement as a former member state. For the 2019 negotiations, which apply to 2020, we have agreed a process of bilateral consultation between the UK and the EU ahead of negotiations with coastal states in the Fisheries Council. From December 2020, we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state.
The Prime Minister has set out that she believes there are great opportunities to continue to co-operate together on education and culture. We will of course need to look at what the next stage of the Erasmus+ scheme covers, but we see enormous benefits from it for students from the UK, so it is an area in which we are likely to seek further collaboration.
British Governments have repeatedly, and quite rightly, gone to European Council meetings and come back having persuaded their colleagues in other countries in favour of strong sanctions against Russia and the Putin regime. How will we be able to do that in the future when we are no longer sitting at the table or in the room?
As the Prime Minister made clear in her speech in Munich, our commitment to collaboration and partnership with our European partners on security and defence is unwavering. We have made it clear that we want to develop a new framework with the EU that ensures we can continue to work together to combat the common threats that we face. Our position in NATO obviously remains unchanged, and that underpins our worldwide influence in security and defence.
One of the key players in discussing and settling the EU financial settlement is the European Court of Auditors. As a member state, we have Phil Wynn Owen as our representative, but as it stands, he is set to leave the European Court of Auditors come 29 March 2019. Will the Secretary of State add to his negotiating list the need to make sure we have a full British representative on the European Court of Auditors during the transition period?
The European Union set out a very clear negotiating position at the beginning of this exercise. The Government are still being undermined by their inability to make up their mind, and the Secretary of State has told us that it is going to take a bit longer to decide about customs. The whole negotiation is supposed to be concluded by October. How many weeks longer will it be before our Government have a clear position on customs?
The clarity of the position of not being a member of the customs union is absolute, and has been since the beginning, unlike the right hon. Gentleman’s party, which has had a number of different positions on this matter. Frankly, it is incredibly important that we get this right—not just for trade, which is massively important, but for the extremely sensitive issue of maintaining the peace process in Northern Ireland—and I do not undertake to put an artificial deadline on something so important.
People from the EU27 working in my constituency and Bristol West constituents living and working in the EU27 tell me that they are worried about their pensions post-Brexit. What are the Government doing to protect my constituents’ pensions?
The citizens’ rights element of the withdrawal agreement that we have reached in its entirety with the EU covers the continuity of pension provisions and the accumulation of contributions between member states. This is an issue on which we have reached agreement, and we look forward to being able to provide full certainty to all those constituents.
Our future trading relations are subject to negotiation, as the hon. Gentleman knows, but I have no doubt that it is in all our interests to work together on free trade agreements, working against anti-competitive distortions and having a fair trade defence regime. One of the reasons why we need to leave the customs union is of course so that we can have our own trade defence regime, and I feel quite sure we will continue to work with our partners and our neighbours to ensure that we take care of these issues.
Business of the House
The business for the week commencing 7 May will be as follows:
Monday 7 May—The House will not be sitting.
Tuesday 8 May—Remaining stages of the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, followed by motion relating to a statutory instrument on criminal legal aid.
Wednesday 9 May—Remaining stages of the Data Protection Bill [Lords] followed by motion relating to a statutory instrument on education (student support).
Thursday 10 May—Debate on a motion on redress for victims of banking misconduct and the FCA, followed by debate on a motion on compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 1 May—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 14 May will include:
Monday 14 May—Second Reading of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords].
It does not happen often, but today it appears that there is competition for the highlight of the week that is business questions, and some Members seem to think they should be elsewhere. Voters across England will be casting their votes in council and mayoral elections, and we should celebrate again our vibrant democracy. All of us in this place know how much courage it takes to put oneself forward for election, and I am sure the whole House will want to join me in wishing good luck to all candidates today. I also say a big thank you to all the volunteers who man the phone banks and do the leafleting and canvassing. They do so much to support free and fair elections in the United Kingdom.
I thank the Leader of the House and associate myself with her comments about all those public servants out there. I am not sure what is happening in Northamptonshire, but I do not think they are having elections. I also thank her for presenting the forthcoming business, but we still get only a week and a day. As I am sure she will agree, it is very beneficial to Members to know what is coming up, because they want to prepare.
I wanted to make a point of order about this, Mr Speaker, but I did not want to misuse the system: many people are upset about what the Leader of the House said last week about the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. At business questions, she accused the Opposition of being “tardy” in making a request for the debate on the statutory instrument
“having prayed against the SI one month after it was laid.”
In reality, however, it was prayed against well within time. She also wrongly claimed that it had been
“too late to schedule a debate within the praying period without changing last week’s business”.—[Official Report, 26 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 1030.]
But she and I both know that we have done that many times, and sometimes I have been monosyllabic in agreeing with the change of business.
At Justice questions last week the Lord Chancellor said that the Government are waiting for information from the Labour party. Will the Leader of the House please correct the record and say that the Opposition had prayed against the regulations, and that there was nothing else that we needed to do? They were prayed against on 22 March, and the praying period ended on 20 April. The Opposition were waiting for action from the Government. She will know that time stops on a statutory instrument when the House is not sitting for more than four days, so perhaps there was some confusion about that. Will the Leader of the House please correct the record and say that that had nothing to do with the Opposition?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) has prayed against the Immigration (Guidance on Detention of Vulnerable Persons) Regulations 2018, No. 410, and the Detention Centre (Amendment) Rules 2018, No. 411. When will that debate be scheduled? The statutory instruments were laid two days before the Easter recess.
It seems that the Government are playing KerPlunk with our money resolutions, pulling out Bills at will—[Interruption.] Hon. Members remember it! The Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill has got its money resolution, but there is nothing about the Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill, which was ahead of that Bill. When will we have a money resolution on the boundaries Bill?
I thank the Leader of the House for her letter on the statutory instrument tracker. She has made good progress on that, but the Hansard Society got in touch with me and said that it took them about seven years to get a unique statutory instrument tracker. It is very good and people have used it, so I wonder if there could be co-ordination between the two so we can do what you want to do, Mr Speaker, which is to make the House open, accessible and transparent to everyone.
I do not think the Leader mentioned the debate on nurses’ bursaries on Wednesday. I hope that is still on, because it is a vital debate. We are against the abolition of postgraduate nurses’ bursaries, which are so important to upskilling people and dealing with the skills shortage. A debate would be timely, because a Macmillan Cancer Support report published on Monday revealed that hospitals in England have vacancies for more than 400 cancer nursing specialists. Macmillan’s chief of nursing, Dr Karen Roberts, is concerned that cancer nurses are being run ragged and that some patients may not be receiving the specialist care they need. We all know someone who has been through the whole process—I know of two friends—and cancer nursing specialists are absolutely fantastic when people are going through such a difficult time. They need help and support, and we cannot have them doing two or three jobs at the same time. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health on the problems facing the NHS cancer workforce?
The breast cancer screening scandal is taking place on the Health Secretary’s watch, and according to the King’s Fund, there is a £2.5 billion funding gap in social care. There has been no statement on the collapse of Allied Healthcare, which is one of the biggest providers for the elderly and the vulnerable. We need to know what impact assessment has been made, because the company is currently in a voluntary arrangement that means that it does not have to pay into the pension fund. May we have an urgent statement on that next week?
Last week I raised the article in The House magazine on restoration and renewal, which announced that the shadow sponsor board should have 12 members, with five external members, including the chair, but a majority of parliamentarians representing the main parties of both Houses. External members of the board will be appointed and a former first civil servant commissioner will chair the panel. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House could say when that decision was made and who made it. She will know that the Olympic sponsor body was chaired by the noble Baroness Jowell, so there was always accountability to Parliament. Representatives of all the main parties chair Select Committees and carry out their roles with distinction. A non-parliamentarian chairing the sponsor body is not recommended in the joint report and was not in the motion, so will she please make a statement to update the House on what has actually been agreed on restoration and renewal?
The Leader of the House may have some influence over the members of the Brexit Cabinet Committee, so will she suggest that, instead of just talking in that Committee and positioning themselves as the next Prime Minister, they actually visit the borders in Ireland and Dover? They could practice their power stance—you can’t see it, Mr Speaker, but I am doing it right now and it is quite scary—and we could enjoy our bank holiday. The Leader of the House and I have scheduled a sunny day for the spring bank holiday—we wish everyone a very happy and restful weekend.
The hon. Lady raises a number of issues, and I will try to address each one.
As the hon. Lady will know, it is perfectly normal for the Government to give as much notice as possible of future business while still being able to meet the changing schedule.
I am glad the hon. Lady is pleased that the Government have brought forward time to debate negative statutory instruments that have been prayed against. She asks specifically about the statutory instrument on nursing bursaries. That has been brought forward for discussion next Wednesday. She says that the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 were not too late in being brought forward. I gently remind her that the convention is that where a reasonable request has been made for Government time for a statutory instrument that has been prayed against, the Government will seek to give that time. These are all parliamentary conventions, but she will appreciate that there was not much time and it would have required an emergency change to the business for me to have been able to comply. I hope that that settles that issue.
The hon. Lady asks about money resolutions on private Members’ Bills. I was delighted to bring forward for debate the money resolutions on various private Members’ Bills, and others will be coming forward in due course.
The hon. Lady asks about the statutory instrument tracker. As she acknowledges, I wrote to her telling her about the tracker, which the Parliamentary Digital Service is bringing forward to enable Members to have more information in a more timely fashion about statutory instruments, and I am glad she welcomes it.
The hon. Lady asks about nursing. I am delighted, as I am sure she is, that there are 12,900 more nurses on our wards than there were in 2010 and that the Government have introduced the nursing associate role and the nursing degree apprenticeship, both of which routes mean that people can train and earn as they learn. We have committed to training up to 5,000 nursing associates in 2018 and up to 7,500 in 2019. That is good news for our fantastic NHS and will provide more support for our hard-working nurses, who are under pressure.
The hon. Lady raises the issue of breast screening. She will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health came to the House yesterday to make a statement—as soon as he found out what had happened—and has commissioned an independent review of the NHS breast screening programme to look at these and other issues, including processes, IT systems and further changes and improvements that could be made to the system to minimise the risk of this happening again. The review is expected to report in six months, and as she will know, my right hon. Friend has also promised that every woman failed through this error, if registered with a GP, will be contacted by May. It is incredibly important that we put this right.
Finally, the hon. Lady asks about restoration and renewal. A paper on governance went to the House of Commons Commission a couple of months ago. She was at the meeting of the Commission where the papers were circulated, discussed and agreed to. The Commission has, therefore, agreed the governance arrangements.
Will the Leader of the House arrange an urgent debate on the need to take immigration issues out of the Home Office and establish a new Department to deal with them? These issues go back to the hangover from the end of empire and go forward to the development of a robust and effective programme after Brexit that is consistent with an open and confident Britain, and to the introduction of a digital identity platform. Does she agree that this is first-order business and requires serious consideration?
My right hon. Friend raises the very important issue of the immigration system. He will be aware that the Prime Minister and the previous Home Secretary have apologised unreservedly for the mistakes made in the case of the Windrush generation. It is incredibly important, as was made clear in yesterday’s Opposition day debate, that we improve the systems, and very often changes to Government can actually hold us back. The package of measures to bring greater transparency for Members and constituents includes monthly updates to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee with the latest position on detention, removals and deportations. There is also the independent external oversight and challenge of a lessons-learned review that is already under way to establish how members of the Windrush generation came to be entangled in measures designed for illegal immigrants, why that was not spotted sooner and whether the right corrective measures are now in place. As he will be aware, the new Home Secretary has asked for a report and will bring it back to the House before the summer recess.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.
I cannot believe how busy it is around here today—haven’t you all got local elections to attend to? I wish all the candidates in today’s local elections in England all the very best. There is a titanic struggle going on between the party of Brexit and the, um, other party of Brexit. There is another titanic struggle going on this country—around the Cabinet table, between those who are opposed to a customs union and those who are really, really opposed to a customs union. Meanwhile, our heroes in ermine continue to thwart the Government on the repeal Bill. The people’s aristocrats—the people’s donors and cronies—are showing a great example of what taking back control looks like. Will the Leader of the House tell us how much time she is prepared to set aside for Lords amendments? There are now 10 for us to address. Is she prepared at this stage to look at using the Parliament Act if the people’s peers continue to defy the Government?
And well done to the Government—they actually came out to play yesterday in an Opposition day vote. They bravely trooped through the Lobby to stop the Government disclosing details about the Windrush victims. Well done the Conservative party! Are we now going to see a new approach from the Government? Are they now prepared to play a proper democratic role in Parliament and vote on all Opposition debates when Divisions are called? It is called “democracy”, Leader of the House, and it is a vital component and cog in what is called “a Parliament”.
Lastly, we are not what I would call inundated with critical Government business. We are grateful that the Leader of the House will look at some of the money resolutions for private Members’ Bills, but is there not a case for having more time available for some of the private Members’ Bills that we are considering? Some excellent Bills are kicking around, particularly the one presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil). Let us give them some more time—let us see if we can find a bit more parliamentary time to progress these Bills. It would be a popular move; will the Leader of the House support it?
It is fantastic to see so many of our Scottish colleagues across the House here today, more than punching above their weight, as they always do. The hon. Gentleman is having his usual dig at the other place, which does not surprise me. Nevertheless, although he will appreciate that I may not agree with them, I certainly uphold its right to improve and scrutinise legislation. Their lordships fulfil a very important role, and of course, we will ensure that there is a good and appropriate amount of time for this House to scrutinise the amendments that they have put forward.
The hon. Gentleman talks about the fact that the Government voted yesterday. I remind all Members, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, that putting right the very seriousness unfairness to the Windrush generation must not mean taking resources away from the teams who are working very hard in the Home Office to help those who have been affected. That is why the Opposition’s motion was rejected; it was a deliberate party political attempt to distract the Home Office from putting right what is a great unfairness. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from that work.
The hon. Gentleman raises the legislative programme. I can tell him and all hon. Members that so far, we have introduced 27 Bills. In fact, it may even be 28—that number might be one out of date; I need to track down that last introduction. That is a very good number of Bills this far along in a Session. Eleven Bills have already been sent for Royal Assent. We have passed hundreds of statutory instruments in each House and seven draft Bills have been published. In addition, there are six Brexit Bills before Parliament, with others to come, so I simply do not accept that there is any lack in the legislative programme. We look forward to bringing forward further Bills in due course.
On the hon. Gentleman’s point about private Members’ Bills, I point out that there has been some great progress, including last week in the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill from the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed). The money resolution has been agreed for the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill—another very important Bill—and I congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), whose Bill completed its House of Commons stages last Friday with Government support. Of course, the Government are delighted with the proposals from the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) on their Bills as they approach Committee stage. There is a lot more to be done, but we are making progress on some very good private Members’ Bills.
May we have a debate on the Career Ready scheme? That would allow me to highlight the fact that, at the recent UK national awards, not one but two of the winners were from Moray. Jennifer Walker from Milne’s High School won the UK science, technology, engineering and maths award, following an internship with Chivas Brothers, and she is now looking to have a career in the distilling industry. We are also extremely proud in Moray to have the overall UK winner, Kiara Ross, from Elgin High School. She had a troubled early period at school—she was excluded several times—and was about to leave education altogether. Following her involvement with Career Ready, she now has four offers for university and is looking to pursue a career in law. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Kiara and Jennifer on their outstanding successes and everyone in Moray who is involved in the Career Ready project? We can see that it really does transform lives.
Those are brilliant achievements by Jennifer and Kiara, and I am delighted to extend my sincere congratulations to them. My hon. Friend often brings the successes of his constituents to this place, and he is an excellent champion for Moray.
Career Ready’s annual awards recognise individuals who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the Career Ready programme, including the programme in Scotland. Having had seven apprentices myself during my seven years in Parliament, I have loved being able to help smart and committed young people to get as much as possible out of their apprenticeships before graduating to an exciting role in life.
As you will remember, Mr Speaker, last Thursday, a Backbench Business Committee debate had to be withdrawn because of pressure on time resulting from statements and urgent questions. The debate had been nominated by the Liaison Committee, and I hope that it will be possible to reschedule it as soon as possible. The subject was the use of plastics.
I echo the warm wishes expressed by the Leader of the House for people who are standing in local elections today. Before first coming to the House, I served on Gateshead Council for 27 years, being elected and re-elected on nine occasions, so I know about the stresses that candidates undergo on days such as today. I wish them all the very best, particularly my own party’s candidates in Gateshead.
There has been an application to the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on 14 June, which will be time-sensitive. I will write to the Leader of the House about it, but I hope that it will be possible for her to think ahead so that a debate can be secured on that day.
Let me say first that 27 years on a local council is a fantastic record. Many people in the country have achieved enormous public service, and we salute them all.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the rescheduling of debates. Last week, he asked me if we could secure time for the “third time lucky” debate on the treatment of small businesses. I am delighted to see that the Backbench Business Committee has now rescheduled that debate. I look forward to receiving the hon. Gentleman’s letter about the sensitive nature of 14 June.
May I also wish candidates luck today? Most of them will lose. The first time I stood for Parliament, I lost by a mere 36,000 votes to Mr Neil Kinnock, so my message to them is “Keep trying”.
Money resolutions should follow Second Readings as night follows day. A sitting of the Public Bill Committee considering the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill is scheduled for next week, but it will go nowhere, because we have no money resolution. The Leader of the House said that we would have money resolutions “shortly”. To ensure that Parliament is transparent, may we have some clarification of these terms? Does “shortly” mean within the next six months; does “soon” mean within the next 12 months; and does “the autumn” mean some period before 31 July?
As my hon. Friend is aware, the House has approved 13 sitting Fridays for private Members’ Bills in the current Session, in line with Standing Orders. During a debate on 17 July 2017, I said:
“Given that we have…announced that this will be an extended Session, we will… expect to provide additional days”.—[Official Report, 17 July 2017; Vol. 627, c. 636.]
I pointed out that in the extended parliamentary Session of 2010-12, the House had agreed to four extra days for private Members’ Bills, which were approved “at a later date”, during 2011. In line with Standing Orders, remaining stages of Bills will be given priority over Second Reading debates on any additional days provided for private Members’ Bills. I am already discussing with business managers when those proposals can be presented, and will let the House know in due course.
Yesterday, I met the Minister for Employment and asked him whether the Department for Work and Pensions had any plans to consider automatic split payments of universal credit. I did not receive a positive response, but this is a serious issue for my constituents and for many charities that work with the victims of domestic abuse. I am sure that the Department would benefit from hearing voices on both sides of the House. May we have a debate on the issue, in Government time?
I am sympathetic to what the hon. Lady says, and many Members have raised issues and concerns about UC. I encourage her to raise the specific point about split payments at the next opportunity at Department for Work and Pensions questions, or indeed to seek an Adjournment debate as it is a specific proposal for improving fairness, particularly to women suffering domestic violence.
I was lucky enough to attend the NHS Borders Celebrating Excellence awards in Kelso on Saturday evening; it was a wonderful event, paying tribute to the dedicated hard-working NHS staff across the Scottish borders. Will the Leader of the House allow a debate to pay tribute not only to those who were nominated and won awards at that event, but to the NHS staff across Scotland and the United Kingdom who work so hard to keep us fit and healthy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I congratulate all the winners and nominees of the Celebrating Excellence awards in Kelso. He mentions the debt of gratitude we owe to all NHS workers, and I am sure that all of us in the House would agree that our doctors, nurses and carers do so much for us and we must always be grateful to them. We are pleased that the latest NHS staff survey shows that more staff would recommend the care their organisation provides to their own family and friends than ever before, which is good news for morale within our NHS.
My constituent Malcom Richards was the victim of a financial scam advertised on the internet, losing £39,000 in a bitcoin scam that purported to be backed by members of “Dragons’ Den”. This is a similar issue to that raised by Martin Lewis in his challenge to Facebook. May we have a debate in this House to highlight such cases and make sure that internet-based companies that take paid advertising know that they have to take their responsibility for protecting the public seriously?
The hon. Lady raises a very important issue. The problem of financial scams is persistent, and it seems that the scammers constantly find new ways to attack people. I encourage the hon. Lady to write to the Financial Conduct Authority on this point and to raise it at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions on 10 May to find out what more can be done to ensure that these companies play their part in not allowing these scams to be put on to their platforms.
The new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government clearly has some quite big decisions to make in respect of Northamptonshire County Council and particularly the way forward in restructuring local government, which to my mind needs to be led by the existing local authorities engaging thoroughly with the communities they represent. Has the Leader of the House had any indication that there will be a statement next week?
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the new Secretary of State has had quite a significant task in getting his feet under the table, but I know he is determined to come forward with a new proposal, and he will be doing so in due course, as soon as he can once he has been able to consider the options.
May we have a debate on Finn’s law, which would protect service animals harmed in the line of duty? Finn was a police dog who sustained multiple stab wounds from an assailant and saved his owner’s life in the line of duty. However, little can be done currently under the law as dogs are seen as property. So may we have this urgent debate to change the law and protect the service animals that serve us so well?
The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue, and I know that all Members will be very sympathetic to the subject she raises. We are a nation of animal lovers, and do so much in their duty to help and support us. I encourage the hon. Lady to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise this issue directly with Ministers, to see what more can be done to protect service animals.
May we have a debate on the urgent need for new clean diesel cars to play a full part in the medium term in this nation’s transport needs, especially in the light of the recent 1,000 contract worker job losses at Jaguar Land Rover in my constituency?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. We need to protect the quality of our air in the United Kingdom, and he will be aware that the Treasury has brought forward proposals to promote cleaner fuels as well as to eradicate the use of fossil fuels in transport altogether. Nevertheless, he is right to point out—as he often does—the need to support those who did the right thing, as they were encouraged to do by the last Labour Government, in turning to diesel. Of course we are now dealing with the consequences and the impact on air quality in this country.
I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, for the kind words that you, the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House have said about our predecessor, Michael Martin, this week. I know that those words have meant a lot to his family at this difficult time. In the best tradition of my predecessor, I want to raise a constituency issue. I should like to congratulate City Building, based in the heart of my constituency, which is now one of Scotland’s largest construction companies and operates the largest apprenticeship programme in Scotland. I congratulate the company on achieving the Queen’s award for enterprise in the sustainable development category. It is the only company in Scotland to achieve that award this year. Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate in Government time to celebrate and debate the great companies that have won the Queen’s award for industry, to help to promote those companies internationally?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on again paying tribute to his constituency predecessor, who served the House very well over a long period. I am also delighted to join him in congratulating the firm in his constituency on its award and all those companies that achieve the Queen’s award for industry and contribute so much to the strength of our economy. Finally, I would like to mention this Government’s target of 3 million apprentices during this Parliament. We already have 1.2 million new apprentices, which is giving many more young people the chance to have a decent career.
May we have a debate on flexibility in our mental health services? The Government are rightly committed to increasing resources in those services, but that needs to happen alongside flexibility. A constituent of mine finds it incredibly difficult to get appointments at the time of day that is suitable for her condition, which tends to mean in the afternoon. She is almost always offered appointments in the morning. May we have a debate on this, because it is vital that we not only commit more resources to mental health services but ensure that those resources are sufficiently flexible for the needs of patients?
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important point, and I am sure he will welcome the fact that this Government are committed to parity of esteem between mental and physical health. Spending on mental health has increased to a record £11.86 billion, with a further £1 billion on top of that by 2021. Nevertheless, he is right to say that we need to look at flexibility and access, and I can tell him that, by 2020, every patient arriving at A&E experiencing a mental health crisis will have access to psychiatric liaison, so that they can get to the right treatment as quickly as possible, which of course includes flexibility in timetabling.
We had an excellent debate in Westminster Hall yesterday on the subject of plastics in our oceans. The one point on which there was unanimous agreement among the 17 Members who took part was that it was ridiculous for us to be debating the reduction of plastic waste when we ourselves were surrounded by the little plastic cups that we use in Westminster Hall and in Committee rooms. Surely, it must be possible for Members in Westminster Hall and on the Committee corridor to be given proper glasses. That would make us feel as though we were just as good as the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman is exactly right to raise this issue. I can tell him that a number of Members decided to give up plastic for Lent, which was quite a challenge in this place, as he rightly suggests. Before Lent, they wrote to the Administration Committee asking it to look into eliminating single-use plastics, and it has committed to doing that. As I understand it, we are now using up existing supplies before moving to new arrangements, so I think progress is being made. I should also like to take this opportunity to point out that, later this year, we will publish a new resources and waste strategy setting out how we will work towards eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2050.
Last week, the Public Accounts Committee described the Government’s management of the rail franchises as a
“multi-faceted shambles causing untold misery for passengers.”
May we have a debate in Government time about ending passenger misery on Europe’s most expensive railways and bringing them back into public ownership?
Franchising has seen £6 billion of private investment put into our railways, but rail passenger numbers have doubled since 1997-98. The Government are committed to investing nearly £48 billion on maintenance, modernisation and renewal to deliver better journeys and fewer disruptions. The railways have never been so popular, and the Government are doing everything we can to improve the system. The hon. Lady’s solution of taking over the railways is no solution whatsoever. She might not, but I can certainly remember the days of enormous delays and appalling service. Her solution does not propose how services would be paid for or improved or how to deal with the demands of modern passengers, but the Government’s proposals do.
May we have a statement from the Government on the current Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency dispute regarding changes to the driving test and the appropriate risk assessments? Does the Leader of the House believe that it is acceptable for the DVSA to reject Department for Transport advice and refuse ACAS talks to resolve the dispute?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. If I remember rightly, there is a big employment issue in his constituency with DVLA staff. [Interruption.] Perhaps that is not correct. Well, I encourage the hon. Gentleman to take up the issue, perhaps in an Adjournment debate, but I have every sympathy for what he says.
I am so chuffed that the Government are now adopting all my legislative proposals that I have another one. We should have an acquired brain injury Bill to guarantee that anybody who has a traumatic brain injury and receives hospital treatment then gets a rehabilitation prescription, so that they can be brought back to as full a life as possible. I know that the Leader of the House is sympathetic, but if she is not quite convinced of my Bill, perhaps she could come to the meeting on concussion in sport on Tuesday morning that has been organised by the all-party parliamentary group on acquired brain injury or to the lobby meeting that we are organising on Wednesday afternoon in Committee Room 17 after Prime Minister’s questions—I know she is free—to push for this change.
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is delighted with the progress of his private Member’s Bill. He has raised the important issue of acquired brain injuries before, and ABI can be devastating not only for the victim but for their family and friends. He is right to keeping pressing for a change, and I am very sympathetic. If he wants to bring forward specific proposals, I am sure that Ministers would be keen to hear them.
North Lincolnshire Council is removing its core funding grant for Citizens Advice North Lincolnshire at short notice, thus jeopardising the excellent work that it does locally. May we have a debate on the value of Citizens Advice and the importance of local councils supporting their citizens advice bureaux?
I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating citizens advice bureaux on their amazing work. In my constituency, they provide advice on how to switch energy supplier or how to claim to benefits. They really do go above and beyond, and I know that many people heavily rely on them. As it is a specific constituency issue, I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise the matter at departmental questions or to seek an Adjournment debate.
Mr Speaker, you may have noticed that Liverpool made the champions league final last night and, indeed, Arsenal may make another European final tonight. However, because both those European events are not listed, nobody will be able to view them on free-to-air television. Only those with BT Sport or, as in my case, those who are travelling to Kiev on 26 May will be able to watch. In congratulating Liverpool and, hopefully, Arsenal, will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate to ensure that we can widen the listing for such events?
The right hon. Gentleman points out that some major sporting events are on free-to-air television, but the champions league is not one of them. I certainly encourage him to seek ways to raise and promote the idea that such things should be included on free-to-view TV. Having stood for election in Knowsley South in 2005 and having had the great pleasure of meeting the great Stevie G, who is sadly no longer in the team, Liverpool has been my football team, but I must yet again point out to you, Mr Speaker, that rugby is the best game as far as the Leadsom household is concerned.
I raised this in my maiden speech, and the issue remains the same today. Far too many of my constituents are having enormous problems accessing adequate broadband connectivity. A group of constituents living near the Queen Mother’s old holiday home, the castle of Mey, came to see me last weekend about this very problem.
It would be churlish of me to point the finger at the Scottish Government, and of course I will not do so today, but let me put it this way: somewhere in the interface between the Scottish Government and the UK Government things are not right, and far too many of my constituents are losing out. Does the Leader of the House agree that broadband is for all the UK, regardless of which part of the UK we live in, and borders are completely pointless? Does she agree we should have a debate on this important issue?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the delivery of broadband is key to modern infrastructure. He will be aware that, only recently, there has been a debate on the roll-out in Scotland. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport originally provided funding through the Scottish Government for the roll-out in Scotland, but it has decided to go via local councils in the next wave of funding to try to improve and speed up the roll-out of broadband. I completely agree that the delivery of broadband is essential, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek the co-operation and urgent attention of the Scottish Government.
Last Saturday, I met a group of constituents who have bought homes on a new estate. They are now being charged huge and spiralling maintenance fees by a firm called Gateway, which was founded by the developer Persimmon. I understand this is happening on thousands of new estates across the country, so may we have a debate in Government time on what we can do about it?
The hon. Lady raises an issue that affects many, and I am also aware of the problem of these fees being charged completely unfairly. The Government are looking closely at this, but she might wish to seek an Adjournment debate to ensure the matter has the urgent focus it deserves.
My constituent Yvonne Sommerville is a special operations paramedic and an RAF reservist. Because of a medical condition, which does not affect her vision, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has refused to renew her public service vehicle licence, taking away her right to drive ambulances. Despite that, her employer—the Scottish NHS—and specialist consultants say she is fit to drive. This is putting a personal strain on her and is having an impact on the NHS, although she is still allowed to drive paramedic vehicles. Of course, she is now not allowed to drive buses for the RAF. May we have a Government statement on how we can tackle and challenge such DVLA decisions and standards?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very concerning constituency issue, and I am sure he will appreciate that safety, and therefore taking a cautious approach, is vital in all these matters. We have Health and Social Care questions on 8 May, where he might want to raise the difference of opinion between the organisation offering the licence and the organisation requiring the services of his constituent. I entirely sympathise that this is a difficult issue for his constituent.
Mr Speaker, I am sure you will share my horror that this year’s Kidney Cancer UK patient survey found that over 51% of kidney cancers are diagnosed as a result of an unrelated scan. There is a huge problem with GPs not identifying and finding early treatment for kidney cancers, some of the photographs of which are pretty horrific. May we have a statement about what the Government are doing to raise awareness of kidney cancer and to develop a simple, cheap and effective test that will give early diagnoses and allow treatment to take place?
This is, of course, an incredibly important health issue. The hon. Lady will be aware of the enormous advances in cancer care, both from a medical point of view, and with the Government’s commitment to the cancer drugs fund and to improving the speed of diagnosis and treatment of different cancers. She is highlighting a specific cancer, a subject that would lend itself very much to an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate, so that hon. Members who have similar constituency concerns can raise them.
May we have a debate in Government time about how the Department for Work and Pensions treats people? My Shettleston constituent Ciara Steel was diagnosed with Asperger’s at 15 and a half, but now that she is over 16 she has been called back again for an assessment to check that she still has it. May we have a debate about this very serious issue?
I am very sympathetic to the issue the hon. Gentleman raises. Of course, we look carefully at ensuring that checks on people who have ongoing conditions are not unnecessarily burdensome, but he raises an important specific point, which he might want to raise at Health questions.
My constituents are very concerned about matters relating to immigration: they are concerned about what will happen to EU27 citizens post-Brexit and to UK citizens working in the EU post-Brexit; they are concerned about immigration law relating to those who have arrived from the Commonwealth between 1948 and 1973; and they are concerned about refugee rights. Will the Leader of the House have a word with her newly appointed Home Secretary colleague to ask him whether he will bring forward the White Paper on the immigration Bill sooner rather than later? Will there be proper time for debate on the immigration Bill, so that we can debate these issues properly in this place?
I am sure all hon. Members will be pleased to see that the new Home Secretary is the son of immigrants to this country and has made clear his personal commitment, based on his own experiences, to ensuring fair and sympathetic immigration procedures.
On the hon. Lady’s specific question, we are considering a range of options for the future immigration system, and based on evidence we will set out initial plans and publish a White Paper in the coming months, with a Bill to follow. That new system will be based on evidence, including from the Migration Advisory Committee, and on engagement with a range of stakeholders, including businesses, universities, the devolved Administrations and NHS leaders. It is clear that people in the UK want this Westminster Government to be in charge of our borders, but to have a sympathetic and fair-to-all immigration system, and that is what we intend to have.
This afternoon’s Order Paper shows a Westminster Hall Back-Bench debate on the impact of social care on NHS provision. Members got barely 24 hours’ notice that this debate was going to be held, which obviously made it difficult for the Whips Offices to arrange speakers—yes, I was one of those who succumbed to the charms of those in the Whips Office and agreed to speak. Ironically, given that it looks as though the main Chamber business will finish well ahead of schedule, h