There is something of the groundhog day about this. The business for the week commencing 14 May will include:
Monday 14 May—Second Reading of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords].
Tuesday 15 May—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by the remaining stages of the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill, followed by a general debate on housing and homes.
Wednesday 16 May—Opposition day (11th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 17 May—Debate on a motion on plastic bottles and coffee cups, followed by a general debate on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 18 May—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 21 May will include:
Monday 21 May—Consideration of Lords amendments, followed by Second Reading of the Tenant Fees Bill.
You were kind enough, Mr Speaker, to host the Grenfell survivors in Speaker’s House this week. I pay tribute to their courage in sharing their personal stories with us. None of us can imagine the pain and suffering experienced by all those caught up in that tragic event last year, and I reiterate the commitment of the Government and Parliament to doing everything we can to ensure that such a terrible tragedy never happens again.
Yesterday was important for two reasons. First, it was Teacher Appreciation Day, so I would like to say a big thank you to all the hard-working teachers and school staff who make such a difference to the lives of young people every single day. Secondly, it was also Europe Day. As a proud European myself, I join the millions across our continent celebrating our strong ties of friendship and shared history.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business. I am not going to ask her for a money resolution for the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan), because we have had that debate, but is it too much to hope that the amendments coming back from the Lords next week will have anything to do with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill? The Bill has been given such thoughtful consideration by the other place, so will the Leader of the House confirm that the House will be able to debate the amendments soon? If not, will she confirm whether the reports in the press that the EU withdrawal Bill will not come before the House again until after negotiations are complete in the autumn are accurate?
When will the so-called customs Bill—the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill—and the Trade Bill have their Report stage and Third Reading, and, more importantly, when will the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill be introduced? Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government are not being cynical and parking the Trade Bill, the customs Bill and the EU withdrawal Bill, and introducing the legislation to enact EU law under the withdrawal and implementation Bill after the negotiations are complete so as to avoid any rebellions? She will know that all this legislation can return at any time before the end of the Session, which is now May 2019. This is unprecedented, and the Government are effectively subverting democracy. They said that they wanted to extend the Session of Parliament owing to a heavy burden of legislation, yet they are not tabling any important legislation.
The subversion of democracy continued, and showed its true colours, in the local elections. The pilot areas trialling controversial voter ID checks have been a shambles. Early estimates show that nearly 4,000 people were turned away from voting in the local elections. In one case that I know of, someone was actually told that his polling station had moved and he could not vote at all. Analysis by the Electoral Reform Society said that millions of people could be disenfranchised if the scheme is rolled out across the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), the shadow Minister for voter engagement, warned of this before the pilot was rolled out. She would like to see the report come back before she goes on maternity leave.
You were in the Chamber, Mr Speaker, when the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) raised a point of order, again on the subversion of democracy, about a dysfunctional Government and their malfunctioning email address for a consultation that closes on 25 May. Will the Leader of the House look into this to see whether the email address now works and to ensure that the people of Buckinghamshire have a say? It is nothing personal, Mr Speaker, but the Government do not seem to want to hear from you or your constituents.
As there is hardly any Government business, or rather the Government do not wish to table any legislation relating to the EU, will the Leader of the House find time to debate the statutory instrument prayed against by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan)? It relates to the treatment of victims of torture and other vulnerable people in immigration detention centres and is the subject of early-day motion 1200, which was signed by 110 Members.
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Immigration (Guidance on Detention of Vulnerable Persons) Regulations 2018 (S.I., 2018, No. 410), dated 22 March 2018, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27 March, be annulled.]
In addition, EDM 1202 was signed by 107 Members.
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Detention Centre (Amendment) Rules 2018 (S.I., 2018, No. 411), dated 22 March 2018, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27 March, be annulled.]
May we have a debate on racism in the Tory party? I have to read this out, Mr Speaker, because it is so obnoxious. A councillor posted this:
“I took my dog to the dole office to see what he was entitled to. The bloke behind the counter said ‘you idiot, we don’t give benefits to dogs’. I argued ‘why not? He’s brown, he stinks, he’s never worked”
“day in his life & he can’t speak”
“word of English’. The man replied: ‘His first payment will be Monday’.”
That councillor has been allowed back on to the council so that the Tory party can retain its power in Pendle. What is the position on Pendle council? Is the councillor a full member of the council and the Tory group? Where are the Government voices of condemnation, and when can we have that debate on racism?
On restoration and renewal, last week the Leader of the House said that the Commission decided on governance arrangements. She actually misses the point. It is not about us on the Commission; it is about Members knowing what is going on. Members are not aware of these agreed arrangements. The Leader of the House said during the debate on 31 January:
“This is a matter for Parliament”.—[Official Report, 31 January 2018; Vol. 635, c. 888.]
All the Commission published online was a simple sentence saying that it has
“agreed the proposed governance arrangements for the R&R Programme”,
but the details are not given. A written statement published on 28 February does not give the full details of what was announced in the article in The House magazine. When will she make a statement to the House on the proposals for restoration and renewal?
I join you, Mr Speaker, in wishing the Leader of the House a very happy birthday. She mentioned that it was Europe Day yesterday, but there was no mention of that by the Prime Minister. We know that Europe stands for peace, co-operation, opportunity and respect for the human rights of everyone. In or out, that is how we in the Opposition mark Europe Day. I wish everyone a belated happy Europe Day, and the Leader of the House a very happy birthday on Sunday.
First, the hon. Lady asks about progress of Brexit legislation. Third Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will take place in the other House next week, and then we will bring that Bill back to this place, to look at the amendments. The Government are obviously looking closely at the proposals made in the other House, as we have done with all those made in this House. Other Brexit Bills will be coming forward in due course. There is no hold-up. As all hon. Members will appreciate, very complex negotiations are under way, and it is right that we bring forward these Bills at the appropriate time, as indeed we will do.
The hon. Lady asks about voter ID. Voter ID was successfully tested at the local elections on 3 May in five local authorities, each of which had signed up to it. The data so far and statements by the respective returning officers point towards the pilots successfully testing voter ID and the experience being overwhelmingly positive. It is important to note that it cannot be the case that we have to provide ID to pick up a parcel but not to cast our democratic vote. It is vital that we protect our democracy from potential fraud, and we will obviously look at all lessons learned from that.
The hon. Lady asked about the Home Secretary’s email address. I am not sure that that is within my brief, but if email addresses now come under the remit of the Leader of the House, I am happy to take that up if she writes to me about it.
The hon. Lady asked about statutory instruments that the Opposition have prayed against. It is parliamentary convention that, where a reasonable request for a debate is made, time will be allowed for a debate, and in line with that, the Government have sought to accommodate reasonable requests from the Opposition. There have been a couple of debates on statutory instruments only this week, and more Government time has been given for debates on statutory instruments prayed against by the Opposition than at any time since 1997. I hope she will acknowledge that the Government are doing everything they can to accommodate Opposition views.
The hon. Lady asked about the issue of racism in Pendle. I am horrified to hear that story, and I certainly share her absolute rejection of any form of racism. As I understand it, direct action was taken—suspension, training, apologies and so on—but I am not completely aware of the situation. I am sure she will acknowledge that if people who do something in very bad taste have received their punishment, they should be capable of being reinstated. I am not sure of the case, but like her, I utterly reject any form of racism.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked about restoration and renewal. We have a House of Commons Commission meeting on Monday evening, where there will be further discussions. I am always happy to update the House, and perhaps we can discuss how we can facilitate that.
Mr Speaker, given your manifesto commitment to go by 22 June, may we have a debate in Government time about what we want from a Speaker and what type of Speaker we want, before we move to a secondary discussion about who we want to replace you?
I very gently say to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), in terms which are very straightforward and which I know he will be fully able to understand, that after each general election, the proposition about the Speaker returning to the Chair is put, and it is then voted upon by the House. He will recall that I indicated my willingness to continue in the Chair in June of last year. That proposition was put to the House, and it was accepted unanimously. If he had wanted to oppose it, he could have done so, but simply as a matter of fact—I am not making any criticism, nor favourable comment—I remind the House that he did not.
Long may that proposition continue, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. As she is always so generous in wishing us all a happy birthday, I wish her a boundary- free birthday, and a signed copy of the MP4 CD is on its way.
It has been a crazy old week for the Government. Apparently, the customs partnership favoured by the Prime Minister is not the preferred option of the Foreign Secretary, who has used characteristically conciliatory language to express his concern. He could have called the customs plan clueless, delusional or unworkable, but, no; for him, it is just plain crazy. I had a look at the dictionary definition of “crazy”, and apparently it means deranged, demented, non compos mentis, unhinged or as mad as a hatter. I think the Foreign Secretary might be on to something here. However, can we have a statement to clarify exactly what someone has to say now to be sacked as Foreign Secretary?
You know, Mr Speaker, that I am not the greatest fan of our undemocratic be-ermined friends down the corridor, and, okay, I have called them a few things in the past—donors, cronies, placemen, aristocrats—but even I have never stooped so low as to call them traitors, as happened on the front page of the Tories’ favourite rag, the obnoxious Daily Mail. May we have a statement on what type of language we could use to describe what goes on in our political life?
It looks like it is the beginning of the end for our lordships—not for being an unelected embarrassment, but for doing the right thing. So I say to the Lords, the Government are probably going to abolish you now, so stand up to them. When it gets to ping-pong, do your own thing. Go down fighting, and make that ermine count for something!
First, I must say that I would be so thrilled with a copy of MP4’s latest disc or cassette—what would it be? I am also slightly hearing from the hon. Gentleman that he is now after a seat in the other place—I am detecting a level of warmth towards it that I have never seen from him before.
Seriously, however, there is a concern. The other place provides a fantastic revising House to improve legislation, and it has made significant improvements to the EU withdrawal Bill, which the Government have willingly accepted, including on looking at the Bill as it relates to the devolved nations. It is very important that we have done that, and it is great to see the progress with the Welsh Government, who have been willing to accept the latest proposals, although it is a great shame the Scottish Government have not been willing to do so, and we hope they will be able to in due course. The purpose of the other place is not to undermine the will of this House or, very importantly, the will of the majority of people in this country who voted for the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
Most people would think it is absolutely pathetic that a picture of the Prime Minister was removed from a wall at one of our leading universities that showed women of achievement. Will my right hon. Friend please find time for a wider debate on issues surrounding freedom of expression and freedom of speech in our universities, on whose rock a more tolerant society should be built?
My hon. Friend’s description of that as pathetic is just about right. I could not believe that a university would seek to remove a photograph of one of its most successful alumni—that is absolutely appalling. Universities have a statutory duty to ensure free speech for staff, students and visiting speakers. Institutions should ensure that there is no unlawful harassment, intimidation or threats of violence, but anything else is legal free speech. I certainly think all women in our country should be proud of the fact that we have our second female Prime Minister, regardless of whether they agree with her policies.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement. May I, too, wish her a very happy birthday for Sunday? I am sure the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) will also send her a Betamax video tape of MP4 playing, along with the cassette that he is going to send.
Will we be getting Thursday 24 May for Backbench Business? We have business that could fill the slots then, if they are available. Last week, I also mentioned 14 June, which would be in the week leading up to the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush. It is proposed that a debate on Windrush would happen on that date in Backbench time, if time was available.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for so robustly defending the rights of Back Benchers on both sides of the House. Will my right hon. Friend postpone the sitting, scheduled for Monday, of the Delegated Legislation Committee at which the Government propose to abolish Christchurch Borough Council, against the will of the citizens of Christchurch? I ask my right hon. Friend to do so because Christchurch Borough Council, on the advice of leading counsel, has issued a letter before action against the Government, and the Government have asked for extra time in which to respond to that letter. It seems to me that it is reasonable for us to see the Government’s written response to the letter before action before Back Benchers are asked to vote on this issue, and I hope she will agree that that is a perfectly reasonable request. The Government cannot have it both ways: they cannot delay issuing a decision while at the same time asserting that what they are doing is absolutely right.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House, although I was not looking to come in on this matter. The timing on this subject—in terms of where the power lies—is a matter for the Government. Ultimately, it is for the Leader of the House and others to make a judgment about what seems right and reasonable, in the light of the prospective legal action and of the view, just put, of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope). The Chair would not seek to intercede.
May I gently correct the Leader of the House? She described this as groundhog day, but as you will know, Mr Speaker, groundhog day is actually on 2 February. It is a superstition that if the groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees a shadow, then winter continues for a further six weeks. The Trade Bill and the customs Bill—the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill—emerged from their burrows in Committee on 1 February, well over six weeks ago, so even if we were working on the groundhog principle, we should have had them back on the Floor of the House by now. When are we going to see them?
I really enjoyed the film of that title, which was about the day repeating itself. [Interruption.] Yes, it probably was on video tape at the time.
In answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s very clear question, a very complex negotiation is under way, as he will know, and at the same time there is a necessity to legislate. We look very carefully at all amendments that are brought forward, and we try to make sure that we do not get ahead of the negotiation or indeed of policy proposals coming from the Government. The timing is therefore very much subject to the overall consideration of the best way in which we can leave the European Union with a good deal for both the United Kingdom and for our EU friends and neighbours.
We plant trees for those born later—they are totems of enduring certainty—so the whole House will have been alarmed to hear that Network Rail is to spend £800 million felling 1 million of them. Trees have adorned railway lines, providing a habitat for wildlife and adding to the aesthetic efficacy of journeys, since the time of Stephenson. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement by the Environment Secretary or perhaps by the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), who has helpfully delayed this, so that Network Rail can reconsider this violent decision, which is either careless or crass? Those born later deserve better.
I completely share my right hon. Friend’s love of trees. I understand that Ministers have called for a review of the decision to fell this number of trees. I also understand that Network Rail is responsible for some 13 million trees and that it is seeking to ensure maximum safety for rail passengers. Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend makes a very good point, and he will be aware that Ministers are already looking into this matter.
The Leader of the House will agree that a key part of the northern powerhouse involves equipping our young people with the skills and qualifications they need for the new industries that we have been attracting to Hull, particularly the renewables industry. Hull College is currently experiencing strike action over so-called “fresh start” plans to cut courses, reduce student tuition time and axe 231 jobs to address a £10 million deficit. May we have a debate on the distribution of further education funding and whether that is helping or hindering the objectives of the northern powerhouse?
I entirely support and share the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm for the superb actions taking place in Hull and other nearby areas regarding renewables, and particularly in getting young people the skills they need to have a worthwhile career in that area. The Government have sought to make it easier for more young people to go into higher and further education by removing the cap on further education numbers. The specific point raised by the hon. Lady would lend itself to an Adjournment debate, so that she can raise those problems directly with Ministers.
This is a very harrowing case, and our thoughts are with Leah Sharibu and her family. The Government of Nigeria have assured the public that all efforts are being deployed to secure her return. The Foreign Secretary spoke to the Nigerian Vice-President on 26 February and offered additional UK assistance, following the abductions from Dapchi. We continue to call for the release of the remaining Chibok girls and all those abducted by Boko Haram. Attacks on schools and abductions of children are abhorrent and must stop.
I have recently been made aware of an indefensible situation in my constituency. It concerns a young couple—he is aged 25, and she is 17. Because she is only 17, she does not qualify for universal credit, yet her partner cannot include her in his claim. However, since she has a part-time job, that reduces his claim. That is completely unacceptable. It is grossly unfair if a person is denied access to support because of their age, and it is also unfair to expect their income to reduce their partner’s claim. May we have a debate in Government time to discuss young people and their place within the welfare system? We must end this unfair treatment and ensure that common sense prevails in such cases.
The hon. Lady raises an important constituency case, and she will be aware that the Government have been trying to promote apprenticeships and higher education for young people, to enable them to get the skills to have a good career with a decent income and to provide for themselves and their families. She raises a specific point about universal credit and its application to young people, and she might like to raise her constituency case during questions to the Department for Work and Pensions on 21 May.
My constituents in Stirling are concerned about the state of Scotland’s economy, and this week it was revealed that the SNP Scottish Government have missed five major economic targets—targets they set for themselves—which has cost Scotland more than £80 billion. May we have a debate on the prosperity of the nations and regions of the United Kingdom?
My hon. Friend rightly raises the important issue of the comparative performance of Scotland under the Scottish nationalists versus the performance of England. Our Budget delivered a £2 billion boost to the Scottish Government’s budget, so that by 2020 the block grant will have grown to more than £31 billion before adjustments for tax devolution. That is a real-terms increase, and I encourage my hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can tackle his concerns head-on.
May we debate discrimination against women in golf clubs? My constituent Lowri Roberts wanted to play golf on a Saturday, but she was banned from doing so because she was a woman. After she complained in the media, she was suspended from Cottrell Park golf course in the Vale of Glamorgan. Is that not an absolute disgrace in this day and age?
After this harsh winter, the menace of potholes is becoming much more than a minor nuisance in West Oxfordshire, and not just on the A40, which in any event requires major upgrades, but across the whole of my rural area. Oxfordshire County Council is fixing tens of thousands of potholes a year, but has the time not come for a full debate across the whole House to discuss the way forward?
My hon. Friend is a great champion for his constituency and I congratulate him on his work both on congestion and potholes in his area. I am sure he will be as delighted as I am that he and his colleagues, including my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), have managed to achieve nearly £500,000 in extra pothole action funding for 2018-19 in Oxfordshire. Nevertheless, he is right to raise this issue and I suggest he perhaps seeks a Backbench business debate, because potholes are a menace everywhere.
Is it not time for the Government to have a binding vote to address the injustice of 1950s-born women, like my constituent Heather Cameron, a teacher who has had to retire early? Does the Leader of the House not agree that it is now time to put this injustice to bed?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there have been a number of debates on this subject and the Government have moved significantly to restrict any losses suffered by women who were born at that particular time. If he wants to raise a further debate on the subject, I encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall debate.
As the Leader of the House is aware, Public Works Loan Board funds can be used by local councils to borrow money at a very cheap rate. Taunton Deane Borough Council is borrowing £16 million to build a brand new hotel with no operator. We must have an urgent debate on cheap borrowing and the way that Government funds are being used to prop up local government.
As recently as the past weekend, there have been reports of armed Fulani herders committing violent attacks in Nigeria. According to the African Centre for Strategic Studies, over 60,000 people have died in Fulani herder-related violence since 2001. Over the past three years, the Fulani herder militia is thought to have killed more people than Boko Haram. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on this very pressing issue as soon as possible?
A constituent of mine has raised the issue of price manipulation of gold and silver bullion. There have been several cases in the United States which have resulted in considerable fines on banks. May we have a debate on this very important issue, because gold and silver are not merely a store of value, but have extremely important uses in manufacturing and, in the case of silver, as a kind of antibiotic?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. I absolutely sympathise with the fact that it is vital that we do not allow the manipulation of any particular markets. I encourage him to take this issue up directly, perhaps at Treasury questions on 22 May.
In this year as we celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage, will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating my constituent Masudah Ali on being voted 12th in the top future 100 women across UK universities? Will she agree to have a debate on talented young women and the role they can play in public life?
I completely join my hon. Friend in congratulating Masudah Ali, her constituent. That is fantastic. To be predicted to be one of the future 100 female leaders is an amazing thing to achieve—all congratulations to her. I think there will be many opportunities this year to debate the achievements and the prospects for women in this 100 years of female suffrage.
Will the Leader of the House join me in welcoming the Tour Series bike race to Redditch this evening? It is a testament to the hard work of Worcestershire County Council and Redditch Borough Council, which, as she will be aware, has converted to Conservative control this year after a historic victory. As we work to further unlock Redditch’s potential, does she agree that our record of hosting world-class sporting events means that we are well placed to benefit from the Commonwealth games, which are taking place in Birmingham, just up the road from us? May we have a debate in this place about how we spread the benefits of hosting the Commonwealth games across the whole west midlands area?
I congratulate my hon. Friend again on her triumph at the local elections—it was great news for her and for her constituents. I am sure that getting that particular cycling event into her area was in part due to her work, so I congratulate her on that. She is right to raise the question how the benefits from the arrival of the Commonwealth games can be spread across the whole area, and I encourage her to perhaps seek an Adjournment debate or to raise the matter with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to make sure that everybody benefits from the fantastic hosting of those games.
I have met a number of constituents who have been subject to online abuse, including one woman who spoke about resorting to using a food bank on the BBC’s “Question Time” and was hounded online. May we have an urgent debate in Government time about how we tackle the vile practice of online abuse?
I am really sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s constituent. That is absolutely appalling, and unfortunately it is all too regular an occurrence. I agree that it would be a good thing for this House to debate; she might like to seek a Backbench business debate. She will be aware that the Government are taking action through the Law Commission review to ensure that everything that is illegal offline is also illegal online.
Notable among the successful candidates in the North East Lincolnshire Council elections were Callum Procter and Oliver Freeston, because of their relative youth. Indeed, the Grimsby Telegraph reports that Oliver Freeston is the youngest councillor in the country—he now represents Croft Baker ward in Cleethorpes. May we a debate in Government time to look at how we encourage young people to stand for elected office?
Congratulations to Oliver Freeston and to my hon. Friend on the success in the local elections. He is exactly right: we do want to encourage more people to come into Parliament. As we often discuss, it is vital to ensure that people feel that they can be respected and are not threatened or abused online or in person when they decide that they want to put themselves forward to support and represent their constituents and to make this world of ours a better place.
When will we see a Government decision on the maximum stakes for fixed odds betting terminals? The Times reports today that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has stymied progress on dealing with these addictive betting machines.
As my right hon. Friend may be aware, Angus Council is due to remove Stracathro Primary School from the consultation on the closure of rural schools. This is in no small part down to the vibrant campaign by my local constituents and parents from the school, and I fully endorse that campaign. Will my right hon. Friend agree to a debate in this House about the importance of community engagement?
May we have an urgent debate on the provision of extra care housing? Tory-controlled Nottinghamshire County Council has just announced the closure of five of its care homes across the whole of the county, including one, Leivers Court, in Arnold in my constituency. This is at a time when there is a shortage of such housing. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the country are in hospitals because they are unable to be discharged into these types of facilities. It is a real problem, and the reason that the county council is doing this is that it saves it £4.3 million.
I am very concerned to hear about that. The hon. Gentleman may wish to seek an Adjournment debate to raise it directly with Ministers. As he knows, however, the Prime Minister’s personal domestic priority is new housing for all types of people, whether they need extra care or are just starting out on the housing ladder. That is a top priority for the Government, and we are making progress with it.
Your own Speaker’s whisky, Mr Speaker, is distilled in Speyside, in my constituency. We recently had another very successful Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, at which 116 events were sold out within 24 hours. May we have a debate on whisky tourism? That would allow me to thank the chairman of the festival, James Campbell, for the excellent work that he and others do and to congratulate all the award winners, including Ian Urquhart and Laurie Piper.
Let me extend my congratulations to Ian Urquhart and Laurie Piper on their successes and congratulate my hon. Friend on raising a very important issue. The whisky industry is the United Kingdom’s largest single food and drink sector and accounts for 80% of Scottish food and drink exports. Having had the great pleasure of touring some of Scotland’s finest food and drink businesses, including a visit to the Scotch Whisky Association, I absolutely concur with him that these superb products are vital to the UK economy.
In Swansea, the UK Government have cut £1.7 billion of rail investment, breaking David Cameron’s promise to invest in rail electrification. As a result, the Virgin Media centre has closed, and 470 jobs have moved to Manchester because of HS2. When will we have a debate particularly on investment in areas that have convergence funding and that stand to lose that money because of Brexit, at a time when we need vital investment in, for instance, rail and the tidal lagoon?
Order. As colleagues will know, there is a statement to follow. I have no idea how well subscribed it will be, but it is on an important matter. Moreover, the first, in particular, of the two Backbench Business debates is very well subscribed. I would like to accommodate remaining colleagues, but I should be very grateful if they felt able to be especially pithy today.
I recently visited the charity Carers’ Resource in Bradford. That charity, along with the 7 million unpaid carers for both the young and old across the UK, have been waiting since 2016 for the Government to publish a national carers strategy and action plan. Can the Leader of the House tell us when that report will be published, and will she grant Government time for us to discuss these important issues on the Floor of the House?
In my constituency last year, mum of three Hamida Sidat had her life brutally taken away from her when she was hit by an unlicensed, uninsured driver who left the scene of the accident. He was later sentenced to two years in jail. May we have a debate on when the Government will introduce the Bill to increase the sentences given to those who are found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving, which they promised to introduce in October 2017?
May we have an oral statement from the Cabinet Office on why the devolution guidance notes relating to Wales, and Wales alone, in respect of withdrawal from the European Union have been changed and no longer presume that legislative consent is required for changes in devolved competence? That fundamentally undermines the Welsh constitution, which has been endorsed in two separate referendums.
I am feeling extremely frustrated. There were two shootings in my constituency this weekend. What are the Government doing about this? They say they have published a serious violence strategy, yet time and again we have asked questions here about when we will be able to debate that strategy. So my question is very simple: when will we have that promised debate here?
First, I thank the hon. Lady for all the work she does. She has raised this issue a number of times. I am looking to provide a slot. There are many competing priorities for time in this Chamber, as she will appreciate, but I am aware of the appalling violence that took place over the weekend, some of it in her constituency. The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world and we are determined to keep it that way. We have already consulted on new laws on offensive and dangerous weapons and we will bring forward further measures as soon as we are able to do so.
Community transport is vital to many of my older and disabled constituents, but proposed changes by the Department for Transport risk imposing huge costs on local providers, including Wandsworth Community Transport. May we have a debate in Government time to discuss this important issue and the potential impact and loss of transport services for older and disabled people?
Eight weeks today, we will be marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS. How will the House be marking that and will the Leader of the House make sure that there is significant Government time to debate the serious challenges now facing the NHS?
I know that we will all want to celebrate the amazing achievements of the NHS. A lot of consideration is being given now to exactly how we can celebrate it. The hon. Lady may be aware that there will be a debate next Wednesday, 16 May, on the 70th anniversary of the NHS and public health, which she might want to attend. I am delighted that the Government have provided over £14 billion more to spend on caring for people than in 2010 and that there are almost 42,500 more clinical staff looking after patients than in 2010.
The Leader of the House may be aware that in many of our businesses and shopping centres across the UK there is a distinct lack of changing places such as slightly larger disabled toilets with facilities mainly for adults and children in wheelchairs. Will she find time for a debate in Government time on this important subject and try to encourage businesses to invest in their services to ensure people have these much needed changing areas?
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman raising this point. I agree that it is vital that there are places for people to change, whether they have babies or are people with disabilities. I encourage him to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate so he can take it up directly with Ministers.
The other week, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) led a very successful debate in Westminster Hall on the work of the Council of Europe, in which the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) called for an annual debate in this Chamber on that topic in Government time. That was unanimously supported, so will the Leader of the House look at this proposal seriously and report back to tell us her view?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. It has been suggested that the Council of Europe may become increasingly important and relevant as we seek to leave the European Union. I am always happy to hear suggestions from the House and to consider them seriously.
A constituent of mine has now twice been refused a visitor visa for her mother, once after her infant child died in 2016 from the rare genetic condition GM1 gangliosidosis, and recently again when she applied for her mother to come and visit her son, who, sadly, has the same genetic progressive disorder. May we have a debate in Government time about compassion in the Home Office because it is sorely needed?
The hon. Lady will be aware that the Home Office is looking carefully at ensuring the right level of sympathy and empathy in particular cases. She raises an important constituency case that I suggest she take up directly with Home Office Ministers, or if she writes to me, I can take it up with them on her behalf.
Two weeks ago, I asked the Leader of the House for a statement on whether the long-overdue NHS pay award for staff would be fully funded, and she advised me to bring it up in Health questions. I tried to do that on Tuesday but unfortunately was not chosen. Can she advise me on how I might obtain either a statement or a debate on whether the pay award will be fully funded?
I suggest that the hon. Lady table a parliamentary written question, which would get her the answer she seeks, but I think we can all celebrate the fact that more than 1 million NHS workers will benefit from the new pay deal. In particular, the lowest starting salary in the NHS will increase from £15,404 to £18,000 in 2020-21.
This week, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Welsh Affairs Committee held a joint hearing on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. In Swansea and Gower, we are absolutely desperate for some good news, following the tragic job losses this week. Please can we have some good news for south Wales, and please will the Leader of the House find time to discuss the urgency of a decision on the tidal lagoon?
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s request. As she will know, there has been a lengthy discussion, particularly about the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, on the grounds that it is a very expensive and complex project. Nevertheless, I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can take up directly with a Minister what the progress is on that important project.
Scottish Gas Networks installed a gas meter in my constituent’s property, and it did it such that the on-off metal lever was cutting into an electric cable, which is an obvious danger. It has been rectified, but he feels that Gas Safe, the body that holds gas registrations, has not investigated properly. I have asked an inspector to get in touch with my office, but he has ignored me. I wrote to the chief executive at the end of March but have not even had an acknowledgement. Can we have a statement on how I can hold this body to account and how my constituent can get answers about this dangerous installation?
A few weeks ago, I and over 50 colleagues from across the House wrote to the Foreign Secretary about the Polish holocaust law. I have not had a response, but I have since learnt that the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum has had thousands of hate-filled emails and communications and holocaust denials. The law was passed by the Law and Justice party, a sister party of the Conservative party. May we have an urgent debate in this place about the Polish holocaust law?
My constituents Mr and Mrs Owen are law-abiding citizens with a strong interest in animal welfare, and as such have reported illegal hunting activities to Cheshire police several times, but one day they found themselves visited by officers from the counter-terrorism unit. We have never had a straight answer about how they ended up coming to the unit’s attention. Can we have a debate please on greater transparency within the police?
Some 50% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s will go on to suffer from depression, anxiety and hallucinations. Yesterday, the all-party group on Parkinson’s, which I chair along with Baroness Gale, and Parkinson’s UK published a report, “Mental health matters too”. One fifth of people with Parkinson’s will not gain access to mental health services. Can we have a statement from the Government on how they intend to ensure that people with Parkinson’s have an equal right to mental health support?
The hon. Lady raises an incredibly important point. There is an increasing awareness that many long-term conditions have mental health problems associated with them. The Government are committed to achieving greater parity of esteem between physical and mental health and are putting significant new funding into expanding mental health services. I encourage her to seek a further debate so that she can raise this particular issue directly with Ministers.
Last night, Basford United completed an unforgettable league and cup double and secured yet another promotion. This is a well-run football club that makes a real impact on the pitch, but also off the pitch by sharing its facilities with the rest of our community. May we have a debate in Government time on the impact of non-league football?
May I first congratulate the hon. Gentleman’s team? I also pay tribute to its desire to share its facilities with the community. That is incredibly important. I am sure that there would be plenty of support for a Backbench business debate on the contribution of football teams such as his, if he were to seek one.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for disability, I should particularly like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for all your work on disability inclusion, which has been invaluable. May we have a debate on the inadequacy of personal independence payment and employment and support allowance assessments for individuals with brain injury? Research by Headway has found that 76% of respondents said that it was difficult to explain the effects of brain injury due to the nature of the forms, and 71% felt that the assessors did not understand their brain injury. We are failing a very vulnerable group.
The hon. Lady raises an important issue. The matter of brain injury is raised quite frequently in this Chamber, and I know that a good meeting took place yesterday with the Brain Injury Association. She will be aware that we have Department for Work and Pensions oral questions on 21 May. I urge her to raise this matter directly with Ministers then.
May we have a debate on the impact of rail franchising on passengers? The service provided by Northern Rail through my constituency has been appalling for months and hit new lows this week. I think my constituents would very much appreciate a full debate on this matter.
I am genuinely sorry to hear that. The hon. Lady might like to seek an Adjournment debate to talk about her particular constituency experiences. I can say to her, however, that we are making a huge investment in the railways, with around £48 billion to be spent between 2019 and 2024. We want to make that funding count and ensure that we take advantage of the best technologies, with the specific desire to give passengers a better journey experience as a result.
I should like to thank you, Mr Speaker, and your colleagues for your attendance at our predecessor Michael Martin’s requiem mass in Glasgow yesterday. I am sure you will remember how poignant Michael’s effort was to promote social housing construction in Glasgow over many years, and I was delighted to learn last night that one of the housing associations that he was closely involved with, Hawthorn Housing Co-operative, had been awarded a platinum Investors in People award as well as a gold Investors in Young People award. That is a great testament to his legacy of promoting social housing in Glasgow. However, social housing problems are as critical and acute as they ever were, in the city of Glasgow and all around the UK, so please will the Leader of the House arrange a debate in Government time on the critical issue of providing more social housing for the people of this country?
I join the hon. Gentleman in again paying tribute to the ex-Speaker, Michael Martin, and I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your effort to go there and be part of his funeral. I am sure that that was appreciated by his family and friends. I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman’s constituency business on receiving those fantastic awards and on all it is doing for social housing. I can tell him that it is the Prime Minister’s personal priority to address all areas of our housing shortage across the United Kingdom. In terms of affordable and social housing, a further £2 billion is now going into affordable homes, which brings the Government’s commitment to social, council and low-cost homes up to more than £9 billion, which we believe will make a significant difference.
Please may we have a debate on what more the Government can do to support our steel industry, not least because this week Tata announced plans to sell part of its UK business, including Cogent in my constituency? We need a sector deal for steel.
This is an important industry for the United Kingdom, and I know that all right hon. and hon. Members want to ensure that we continue to have a thriving steel sector. The hon. Lady has spoken about this a number of times, and she is right to do so. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can talk directly to Ministers about what more can be done to defend the sector.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on Virgin Media’s decision to close its flagship site in my constituency? There are currently 772 jobs at risk, but Virgin Media’s management are being obstructive by denying Assembly Members and Members of Parliament access to the staff.
Tomorrow evening, Cardiff Blues will play in the final of the European challenge cup. Will the Leader of the House join me in wishing them luck and in congratulating Cardiff City on winning promotion to the premier league and Cardiff Devils on winning the ice hockey elite league? May we have a debate on the great sporting successes of Cardiff?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Antisocial behaviour is a big issue in my constituency. The vandalism, nuisance neighbours and repeated aggressive behaviour are often described as low level but they can make life a living hell for the victims. May we have a debate on whether the existing tools are tough enough?
The hon. Lady is exactly right. Antisocial behaviour is a real blight on people’s lives and I am sure that we have all had constituency cases involving people who simply cannot cope with these levels of antisocial behaviour. A lot has been done to give the police more powers to tackle this, but I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate or perhaps a Backbench business debate, so that all Members can share their views with Ministers.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This arises directly from business questions, during which we made reference to the Delegated Legislation Committee that is due to sit on Monday afternoon to discuss the abolition of Christchurch Borough Council. Because this hybrid instrument affects Christchurch exclusively, I applied to serve on the Committee that will consider it—I made my application to the Selection Committee. I hoped that I would then be able to raise in Committee the criticism that has been made from the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, as well as issues relating to the instrument being a retrospective measure, which, as I said, is the subject of potential legal proceedings. What can be done to reverse the Selection Committee’s decision that I should not be allowed to be a full member of the Delegated Legislation Committee? It is surely right that minority interests, particularly when one constituency is uniquely affected, should be able to be fully represented on a Committee. Obviously, I can attend the Committee, but I cannot participate fully in it. Is there any remedy available through which I can try to get myself on to that Committee?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, may I say that no one in this House has worked harder on the issue than he has? He is the local Member, and he has fought almost a one-man campaign. It defies logic and belief that he is the one person who should be excluded from the Committee. He has a right to be heard.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Christchurch and to his hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough, who has just spoken in his support. My response is as follows. There is nothing whatsoever to prevent the hon. Member for Christchurch from attending the Committee. Moreover, if he wishes to speak in the proceedings of the Committee, he will be eligible to do so, and I am sure that, under any fair-minded Chair, he will have the opportunity to do that. I accept that the non-appointment of the hon. Gentleman to the Committee is an important detriment so far as he is concerned, but it simply means that although he can attend and speak, he cannot vote if he is not a member of the Committee.
Secondly, no obvious means occur to me whereby the decision can be reversed. There is no procedural opportunity via the Chair, for example, or initiated by anyone other than the Government via the Chamber. Some people might think—I think this is the gravamen of the point raised by the hon. Member for Gainsborough—that it is perhaps less than collegiate, kind or courteous on the part of the powers that be knowingly and deliberately to exclude the hon. Member for Christchurch from the Committee. Unfortunately, in matters of this kind, the Chair has no responsibility for collegiality, courtesy or kindness. The Leader of the House, however, is an extremely senior figure in our political system. As she has pointed out, she is well aware that she is not just the Government’s representative in the House, but the House’s representative in the Government. She may feel that she does have such a role, and she may or may not wish to be sensitive to the concerns that her hon. Friends have raised, but that has to be a matter for her. I might suggest that perhaps she and the hon. Gentleman have a cup of tea together. I have known the hon. Gentleman for over 30 years, and he is a formidable parliamentarian. Certainly, he should be treated accordingly.