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Business of the House

Volume 641: debated on Thursday 17 May 2018

The business for the week commencing 21 May will include:

Monday 21 May—Second Reading of the Tenant Fees Bill followed by motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill.

Tuesday 22 May—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments followed by general debate on serious violence strategy followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Wednesday 23 May—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments followed by Opposition day (12th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced, followed by, if necessary, further consideration of Lords amendments.

Thursday 24 May—Debate on a motion on the persecution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee

Friday 25 May—The House will not be sitting.

Today is International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a day that is now celebrated in more than 130 countries and which unites millions of people in support of the recognition of human rights for all, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. This week is also Mental Health Awareness Week. Two thirds of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime, and my greatest passion is that we do everything we can to improve mental health, especially in the earliest years, to give every baby the best start in life. I know that many Members have also worked hard to raise awareness of the appalling impact of brain injuries, and I congratulate all those holding fundraising events this weekend during Action for Brain Injury Week.

Finally, I am sure the whole House will want to join me in sending our best wishes to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for their wedding on Saturday and all the very best for a long and happy life together.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, but I note, again, that we have only four days of it. Will she tell us what we are doing on 4 June please? She knows that the Procedure Committee has produced a report, “Proxy voting and parental absence”, and we look forward to its being discussed. When will we have time to debate it?

I have to raise breaches of conventions of the House and the way we work together based on trust. The Parliament website states:

“Money resolutions…are normally put to the House for agreement immediately after the Bill has passed its Second reading in the Commons.”

I asked the Leader of the House last week what was abnormal about the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill—the boundaries Bill being promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan)—that it should not have received a money resolution after its Second Reading, but she did not reply, so I will try again. I understand that consideration of the Bill in Committee was adjourned again. Have the Government decided not to follow convention any more, and is the Parliament website wrong?

The Leader of the House has just announced that the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill will be given its money resolution on Monday.

Lucky you.

That Bill was the 94th Bill presented in the Session. The Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill was the ninth Bill presented, but it still has not had its money resolution. Why are these Bills being taken out of order? Are the Government now going against custom and practice, and deciding which Bill is worthy? Will the Leader of the House give us a reason today or in writing later?

There was another even more alarming issue this week, as raised yesterday in a point of order by the Opposition Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown). The Statement by the Secretary of State for Transport was wrong on two counts: first, Her Majesty’s Opposition were not given any notice of the statement, which might well be in breach of the ministerial code; secondly, the statement was given on an Opposition day.

It took great pressure—from an Opposition day debate and a petition—for the Government to announce a U-turn on Grenfell. In a written statement last Friday, it was announced that two extra experts would sit on the inquiry panel. Scheduling the statement yesterday was a huge discourtesy to the 71 bereaved families who were waiting for that debate. The bereaved just want to get on with their lives, rather than having constantly to lobby the Government for justice.

Will the Leader of the House, as the representative of the House in the Cabinet, raise this breach of convention with the Cabinet and update the House as to whether statements will no longer be given in Opposition time and that we will be given advance notice of statements?

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office said that she is

“very pleased and grateful to the House of Lords for the consideration that it has given to the EU withdrawal Bill”.—[Official Report, 16 May 2018; Vol. 641, c. 260.]

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the amendments have now been agreed, and that the Bill will be brought back to this House next week?

I ask again about the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, which is known as the customs Bill. When will it come to the House on Report and Third Reading? The animal welfare Bill, the immigration Bill and the fisheries Bill have not yet been published. I know that the Leader of the House is interested in the agriculture White Paper, which has been published, so will she tell us when the agriculture Bill will be published?

We now have Sub-Committee A and Sub-Committee B, which are negotiating. Thank goodness we have a free press, because we now know that Conservative Members have been walking into No. 10 and the Prime Minister is also negotiating—that is Sub-Committee C. There are 10 months to go before we leave the European Union, and the Government are still negotiating about the negotiations. With the Scottish Parliament voting against the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, our island’s story has become a re-run of the Picts and the Scots, the Angles and the Scots, or perhaps the EVEL and the Scots.

This Government are incompetent and divided. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is negotiating on a customs arrangement instead of responding to the Joint Select Committee report on Carillion. The report, which will be presented later, said that the Government failed to spot the risks because of their “semi-professional part-time” system of oversight. When will we have an updated statement on the fall-out from Carillion’s collapse?

It is National Epilepsy Week, so will the Leader of the House use her good offices to ask the Home Secretary whether he has signed the licence for Alfie Dingley’s medication? The House will remember that Alfie had 150 seizures a month, but the medicine brought that figure down to one.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Baroness Jowell, who served 23 years in this House and two years in the other place—a glittering career in public service. This week is National Mental Health Awareness Week, so we should also mention that she was a former officer of Mind, the mental health charity. The House paid tribute to her, but most of us will remember her kindness to us personally. She sent an email to every single person who stood at the Bar of the House of Lords to hear her final speech. She sought me out when I was a new Member in 2010 to give me some support. Her achievements will live on. She used her time in this place not to destroy other people’s lives, but to make a huge difference to them, and she has shown that in the change that she has made. No one will ever forget how our country was brought together in 2012.

Finally, we all saw Prince Harry make that long walk behind his mother’s coffin. Now he will walk down the aisle of St George’s Chapel. Diana, Princess of Wales would have been proud of him. We wish Prince Harry and Meghan Markle all the very best for their wedding and their life together.

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and questions. First, I join her in paying tribute to Dame Tessa Jowell. She and I had many conversations about what I think was her most amazing achievement, which was the implementation of Sure Start. We shared a passion for the earliest years and a desire to see all babies given the best start in life. I pay tribute to her.

The hon. Lady asked about baby leave. As I have said on many occasions, it is absolutely right that we do all we can in the House to ensure that new parents, whether of naturally born babies or adoptive children or babies, have that vital time with them. We need to find a way to do that. We will look at the Procedure Committee’s report and respond in due course.

The hon. Lady asked about private Members’ Bills. I take very seriously my duty to safeguard the rights of those in this Chamber. I hear carefully all the representations made by hon. and right hon. Members across the House. I would like to point out that some very important private Members’ Bills have made good progress. Those include the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)—all of us want to see the eradication of violent attacks on people who are trying to help us—and the superb Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), which will ensure vital support for parents who have suffered the tragedy of the death of a baby or child. The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed), is also making progress; it is vital that those with mental health issues are properly treated. There is good progress of private Members’ Bills.

The hon. Lady asked about the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill. She will recall that we had an urgent question on that issue last week, when I sought to set out clearly that the money resolution for the Bill will be reviewed once the Boundary Commission review has taken place. It is important to understand that these things are expensive. The Boundary Commission review will cost taxpayers something in the order of £12 million, and it cannot be right that further money, to the tune of more than £5 million, be made available to a completely separate Bill when that work is under way. This is a postponement, and we will come back to it, but in the meantime all hon. Members should be pleased to see the progress of private Members’ Bills on very important subjects.

The hon. Lady asked about the east coast main line statement yesterday. She will appreciate that the Government endeavour at all times to protect the Opposition’s time and to schedule oral statements on alternative days as far as possible. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport outlined yesterday, his statement contained commercially sensitive information, so the Government needed to update the House at the earliest opportunity. On her more general point, I fully agree with the need to provide advance sight of statements in good time, and I will certainly remind my colleagues of the House’s expectations.

The hon. Lady asked about the progress of other legislation. We have six Brexit Bills before Parliament: the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, the Trade Bill, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, and the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill. Some 28 Bills have been introduced so far, and 14 have had Royal Assent. Hundreds of statutory instruments have been passed by the House, and seven draft Bills have been published. The Government are progressing with their legislative programme, and the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will return once we have had the opportunity to fully consider and take into account the views expressed by the other place and what that will mean in this House. We will bring that forward in due course.

The hon. Lady asked about the lessons learned from the collapse of Carillion. She, and I think all hon. Members, will be aware that the Government’s priority has been the continued safe running of public services and to minimise the impact of Carillion’s insolvency. The plans we put in place have ensured that. However, the Government fully recognise and welcome the report of the joint inquiry of the Work and Pensions Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, and we will respond fully in due course.

Finally, the hon. Lady raised the harrowing case of those who suffer from severe epilepsy and who it is believed would benefit from cannabis-based drugs. The current situation, as she knows, is that outside of research, we will not issue licences for the personal consumption of cannabis because it is listed as a schedule 1 drug. We are aware of differing approaches in other countries and continue to monitor the World Health Organisation’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, which has committed to review the use of medicinal cannabis. We will keep that under review.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the availability of properties to rent in the private sector that have been adapted for people with disabilities? It is difficult enough for able-bodied people to find properties to rent. That debate would reassure those with disabilities that the House has not forgotten their situation.

As ever, my hon. Friend raises an incredibly important matter, and I assure him that the Government take it very seriously. Tenants living in privately rented properties can ask their landlords to agree to carry out adaptations, and landlords should not unreasonably withhold consent. Since 2012, the Government have invested almost £1.7 billion in disabled facilities grant funding, which is a capital grant paid to local authorities in England to contribute towards the cost of adapting a disabled person’s property. About 250,000 adaptations will have been provided by the end of this year.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. I, too, welcome the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and of course Mental Health Awareness Week.

In Scotland last week, we had the tragic death of Scott Hutchison, the lead singer of the wonderful Frightened Rabbit. His loss has galvanised all of Scotland and has helped to re-focus attention on young male suicide. Scotland has lost too many of its great artists to suicide. Scott, thank you for your wonderful, inspiring music. You will be sorely missed.

We are going to have to find an awful lot of time for the Lords amendments to the repeal Bill. The Government have been defeated an unprecedented 15 times at the hands of the gallant troops in ermine down the corridor. Can we get some sort of assurance that all these amendments will not simply be lumped together? I hear that the Government have considered that. It is important that no debate is curtailed. These Government defeats mean that for the first time we in this House will have meaningful votes on the single market and the Government’s proposed customs arrangements. What we do not want is this Government reverting to type in trying to close down debate and stop votes happening in this House. We need a guarantee and certainty, today, that that will not happen.

On that theme, I totally agree with the shadow Leader of the House about the progress of the boundaries Bill. After an uncomfortable outing for the Leader of the House last week in trying to defend this situation, it is now time to ensure that we get that money resolution. This issue is not going to go away for this Government.

It is very surprising that we have had no statement from the Government on the Scottish Parliament withholding its legislative consent on the repeal Bill. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the Conservatives were totally isolated in the 1990s in opposing the development and creation of the Scottish Parliament, and today they are totally isolated in refusing to defend its powers. Just look at them: Ruth’s Scottish Tories have now become Theresa’s hard-Brexit, devolution-threatening, Lobby-fodder Tories. It is absolutely no wonder and no surprise that there are now all sorts of predictions of another wipe-out and the demise of the Scottish Conservatives.

Let me start by absolutely sharing in the hon. Gentleman’s sadness at the suicide of the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit. That was a great tragedy that demonstrates and highlights the fact that one of the biggest killers of younger men is suicide, and more needs to be done. I absolutely share in his sorrow at that news.

I do love the way that the hon. Gentleman’s fondness for the other place moves in direct proportion to the amount of amendments that it brings forward. It is a delight to see. As I said last week, I suspect that he is secretly hankering after a job in the other place, and I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members would be delighted to see that outcome for him.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that when the EU withdrawal Bill comes back to this place, ample time will be given, as has been the case all the way through, for all right hon. and hon. Members to make their views fully known. The Government are taking account of all the different proposals to improve the legislation, as we have been all the way through. I think that all hon. Members would accept that the Bill now looks very different from how it did when it started in this place. The amendments and the improvements made to it have very much been taken into account by the Government wherever possible.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman raises the issue of the legislative consent motion and the vote in the Scottish Parliament. It is of course true that we are very disappointed that the Scottish Parliament has declined to give the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill legislative consent. We have been very clear that our preferred way forward is with the agreement of the Scottish Parliament. We have made a considerable offer to try to accommodate all the views of the devolved Administrations, and we are delighted that the Welsh Assembly confirmed its acceptance on Tuesday.

The Bill has some further stages to go in the UK Parliament, and we still hope that the Scottish Government will come on board. Our door remains open, and I urge the hon. Gentleman to use his good offices to try to persuade his hon. Friends in the Scottish Parliament to provide legislative consent.

Many of us are increasingly concerned by threats to Britain’s native flora from imported diseases, so may we have a debate in Government time on biosecurity?

My right hon. Friend raises an issue that is dear to my heart. He is absolutely right that we should do everything we can to protect our own wildlife—our fauna and flora—from the threats of imported disease. I know he will be reassured that our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is fully committed to that and is looking at further ways in which we can protect our own environment even better once we leave the EU than we do today.

The Leader of the House said in her statement that she would make every effort to protect Opposition time when Opposition days occur. May I ask her to try to do the same for Back-Bench time? There are two Government statements today, which I anticipate will take up significant time, but there are also two Backbench Business Committee debates this afternoon. The one on plastic bottles and coffee cups, nominated by the Liaison Committee, is important, but the second debate is time-sensitive, because today is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, so it is really important that that debate is aired this afternoon.

I absolutely understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern about protected time. He will of course appreciate that there is a fine balance between making sure that the Government provide timely statements to the House, so that all key announcements are made here, and protecting time for what, as he rightly points out, are two very important debates this afternoon. I would seize this moment to mention to all hon. Members that, if they look at the update in the House news this week, they will see that Parliament has committed to eradicating single-use plastics and being the change we want to see, so the debate on plastic eradication is very timely.

Rough sleeping is a stain on our communities, and as a London MP I am continually frustrated by the inactivity of the Mayor. May I ask the Leader of the House for a statement on the measures the Government are taking so that the Mayor could learn some lessons?

My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important issue. It is vital that we take steps to eradicate rough sleeping. We are fully committed to making sure that everyone has a roof over their head and, importantly, the security they need in their home. That is why we pledged in our manifesto to eliminate rough sleeping by 2027, and to at least halve it by 2022. We have committed £1 billion to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness, but this is not only about money. We are changing how councils approach the issue, so we are implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017—a superb private Member’s Bill introduced by our hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman)—to help more people get tailored support sooner when they are at risk of homelessness.

The Leader of the House will know that I have raised the issue of antisocial behaviour on a number of occasions, particularly the scourge of motorbikes being used for antisocial behaviour. May we have a debate to look at what other measures we can introduce to deal with that, and in particular whether we can get all petrol stations to stop selling petrol to people driving motorbikes illegally and looking suspicious—as has happened in Hull with Operation Yellowfin, where 12 responsible petrol stations have agreed that they will not serve petrol—as one of the measures to try to tackle it?

I commend the hon. Lady for raising this issue again. She brings up antisocial behaviour regularly, and she is right to do so because it is a scourge on many communities. She raises the interesting question of whether those selling fuel could do more, and I urge her to raise that issue at Home Office questions on Monday 4 June.

If we are to secure economic regeneration for our provincial towns, and particularly our coastal communities, local leadership and the powers available to local authorities are important. We currently have a disproportionate system in which some authorities with Mayors have greater powers and resources, and if areas such as northern Lincolnshire are to compete with them, they will need similar resources. Could we have a debate on that in Government time, so that the Government can lay before the House their long-term plans for local government?

My hon. Friend is a great champion for his constituency, and he raises an important point about greater local devolution. He knows that a core part of the Government’s plans is to put local people more in charge of the area around them. I recommend that he seeks an Adjournment debate so that he can raise specific issues for his constituents.

Is it time for a general debate on the defence of parliamentary privilege? I understand that Mr Christopher Chandler has threatened six Select Committee Chairs with proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights if they dare to probe his links with President Putin. I happen to believe that if a New Zealander who is based in Dubai with acquired Maltese citizenship and a think-tank in Mayfair has suspect links, we should raise questions. Is it time to send a message from this House that we will not be bullied or intimidated by anyone, no matter what their wealth?

I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s basic premise that nobody in this place should be bullied, and where we believe that there is wrongdoing, we should be free to investigate it. If he would like to write to me about his specific point, I will look at what more can be done.

Pursuant to what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) has just said and the response of the Leader of the House, let me say that I have been approached about this matter in writing. I do not intend now to vouchsafe the details of that correspondence, but suffice it to say this: the principle of parliamentary privilege is extremely important to Members individually, and to the House institutionally. It is sometimes mistakenly thought that it is for the Chair to intervene and seek to prevent a Member from exercising that privilege. That, as a matter of constitutional and procedural fact, is incorrect. I always urge Members who use privilege to make allegations to do so with care and responsibility, and in respect of the recent examples to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, I know for a fact—I was in the Chair—that such care and responsibility was exercised by Members from all sides of the House. I will always defend the right of Members to use that privilege, and I do not care who writes to me to exhort me to prevent or limit that right. It will make not the blindest bit of difference.

I was grateful for the most important announcement made by the Leader of the House about the money motion for the Health and Social Care (National Data Guardian) Bill, which has support across the House—I noticed that the Chief Whip came in for that, and the deputy Chief Whip is in his place.

I am also pursuing another private Member’s Bill about a bank holiday in June. The country works very hard and we have few bank holidays relative to Europe. It seems to me that we should have a bank holiday in June, as close as possible to 23 June. The trouble is that I am seeking a name for that day. Does the Leader of the House—or anyone else in the House or across the United Kingdom—have any suggestions? The working title for the 23 June bank holiday is “Independence Day”, but I also seek other alternatives.

I am personally sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s suggestion, and perhaps his birthday could be an alternative day. I am always happy to take up suggestions, and if he would like to write to me I will see whether I can make any further progress.

May we have a debate in Government time on rail franchising and the problems it is now clearly causing for commuters and passengers on long-distance journeys? I asked the Leader of the House about that last week in respect of the experience of my own constituents, and she kindly suggested that I apply for an Adjournment debate. It is quite clear to me, however, from the statement we received from the Transport Secretary yesterday, that this is a much more widespread problem than one just affecting my constituents, so may we have a debate?

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. She will be aware that since franchising began there has been £6 billion of private investment in our railways and that passenger numbers have doubled since 1997-98. We are spending almost £48 billion on maintenance, modernisation and renewal to deliver better journeys and fewer disruptions. It is the view of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport that franchising is absolutely key to ensuring a better experience for rail passengers.

May we have an urgent debate on the general data protection regulation? There has been some confusion about how it is to be implemented, not least among Members of Parliament and, importantly, our staff. This is so important, because it involves our constituents and their data. Will the Leader of the House update us, please?

I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised this point. I have had a number of representations from Members right across the House on this subject. On 15 May, I wrote a “Dear colleague” letter to all colleagues. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members received it—they will have received it, but I just hope that it is in their inbox and has not been deleted. As I outlined in my letter, the House authorities continue to work closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that Members are well supported on the new regulations. Training and a help desk are available, and there is a set of frequently asked questions on the intranet. All that information is available in my letter. I urge all right hon. and hon. Members, if they have any further problems, to please contact my office.

Yesterday I launched the all-party group on domestic violence perpetrators, and the launch was well attended by Members from all parts of both Houses. However, the question was raised: what has happened to the domestic violence Bill? It was promised in the Queen’s Speech. Can we have it before the end of this year, and will the Leader of the House please press her colleagues to get the Bill to the House as soon as possible?

I am delighted to hear about the hon. Lady’s new all-party group. This is a really important subject, and we are bringing forward a new domestic abuse Bill with an ambition for legislation that will be truly groundbreaking. We have launched a consultation on that Bill. We want to hear from experts, charities and frontline professionals, and, just as importantly, from survivors and those with experience of such abuse.

What I can say to the hon. Lady is that since 2010 we have strengthened the law on violence against women. We have introduced a new offence of domestic abuse and another of failing to protect a girl from female genital mutilation. We have created two new stalking offences. We have criminalised force marriage, introduced lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage and FGM, and introduced a new mandatory reporting duty on FGM. As the hon. Lady will know, we have also introduced in the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill new protections for people fleeing from domestic violence. We take this matter incredibly seriously, and there will be further progress in due course.

My right hon. Friend has risen to the challenge I set her at Business questions, when I and other Members from across the Chamber asked for a debate on violent crime. I note from her statement that we are to have one. None the less, buoyed by that achievement and spurred by success, I must demand more. She has also received a missive from me and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for a specific debate on acquired brain injury. It affects very large numbers of people: 1 million people are living with its effects, with nearly 350,000 a year admitted to hospital. She mentioned acquired brain injury earlier, so I am encouraged that this first success will lead to many, many more.

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend is delighted that we have been able to bring forward Government time for a debate on serious violence. It is an incredibly concerning matter—right hon. and hon. Members across the House have raised it with me on a number of occasions—so I am very pleased that we will be debating that subject. As to his second request, I am aware of the letter from him and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). Although there is a great deal of competing demand for time in the Chamber, I will consider it very seriously.

My constituent Ramatoulie is a British citizen who was born in the Gambia. She recently discovered her birth certificate, issued in the Gambia in the 1950s, which showed that she was five years older than she had previously thought. When she informed British Government agencies, all accepted the new age except UK Visas and Immigration. The Passport Office is now refusing to issue a new passport to her. For the past three years I have spoken to every Immigration Minister and I have written to Government Departments more than a dozen times, but she is still in limbo with no ID and no passport, unable to travel. Will the Leader of the House grant a debate on the issue or bring Ministers here to explain what has gone wrong, how many other people are affected and when Ramatoulie can get her passport?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very concerning and important issue. He will be aware that there are Home Office questions on 4 June. Equally, if he wants to write to me, I can take it up directly with Home Office Ministers. I have to say to hon. Members, though, that someone discovering that they are five years older than they thought they were would be troubling enough without the further problems that his constituent has had to suffer.

Will the Leader of the House join me in paying tribute to the outstanding service offered to Members by the counter staff of the post office in the Members Library? Does she share my concern that it is impending that this service will be withdrawn, and should not Members be consulted more widely before that happens?

My right hon. Friend has raised this issue with me directly. I have written to the Chairman of the Administration Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford), who has written back to him informing him of the decision that was taken by the Committee to change the opening hours. I absolutely agree about our great gratitude to the staff of the post office counter. I have put my right hon. Friend in contact with the Chairman of the Administration Committee, and I have urged the House authorities to make every effort to consult all Members, particularly through the regular House updates, so that they all have the opportunity to have input into any changes to important services in this place.

Not only am I a member of the Procedure Committee, which produced an excellent report on proxy voting and MPs’ baby leave, but my wife Roslyn is expecting our second child in the autumn. May I therefore ask when the Government will schedule time to debate the report? Is it likely that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have proxy voting in place after the summer?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman in advance—that is very exciting news—and I completely understand. A number of Members are expecting babies in the near future, so I will work at pace on this issue. He will appreciate that proxy voting has considerable constitutional implications and there are various factors to take into account, but I will be working on it as fast as I can.

May we have a debate on parental alienation, which is a growing problem in this country? Parents who are resident with their children are in effect turning their children away from the absent parent, and it is causing a great deal of heartache for many families. It is one of the causes of the suicide rates that my right hon. Friend talked about earlier and is, in effect, a form of child cruelty. Can we do something about this, because it is causing misery for thousands of families up and down the country?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that. I am sure that we have all had people coming to see us in our constituency surgeries who are quite clearly determined to turn their own children against the non-resident partner. It is an absolute tragedy, and the losers are the children. I am totally sympathetic to my hon. Friend, and I encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that all hon. Members can share their thoughts on this.

Will the Leader of the House welcome the launch of my new campaign to eradicate litter? I am encouraging schoolchildren in my constituency to devise a poster or a campaign. Can we have a debate in this place on the blight of litter and plastic waste in our constituencies?

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her campaign. It is fantastic to see Members tackling this problem head-on in their constituencies. In March I had the great pleasure of clearing up litter in Towcester with a great group of local volunteers, and we had the great plastic clean-up last weekend, in which the Prime Minister herself took part. It is vital that we continue to raise the issue. The hon. Lady might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can discuss it with Ministers, and discuss more specifically what can be done to encourage people to stop littering.

Recently, during Prime Minister’s Question Time, I raised the subject of the fatal shooting at Queensbury station. Following that, there has been armed confrontation in the Harrow Weald ward, in my constituency, and three young boys have been shot in Wealdstone high street in broad daylight. One, aged 12, was being escorted by his parents. On Monday, there was another shooting incident in the constituency of my neighbour, the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner).

I am delighted that there is finally to be a debate on the serious violence strategy, but given that on the same day we are also considering Lords amendments to the Data Protection Bill—and, possibly, other Lords amendments—can my right hon. Friend ensure that the debate is given protected time so that all Members have an opportunity to raise these very serious issues, which are blighting London in particular?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend about the appalling occurrences that have taken place in the last few weeks. Over the bank holiday weekend there were some terrible instances of shootings and knife crime, particularly in London, which were appalling for families and friends and, of course, for the victims themselves. I am very sympathetic to my hon. Friend, and I will find out whether we can indeed provide protected time. I recognise the urgency of the need for that debate.

The Government are currently consulting on a new franchise for South Eastern which will result in the removal of the Victoria service on the Bexleyheath line, apparently because it would be too confusing for service providers to have trains crossing over west of Lewisham. This weekend, however, a new timetable will come into force which says that they can only go to Victoria on a Sunday. It seems that the service is being run for the providers and not for the customers. May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) in calling for a debate in Government time on rail franchising, so that we can expose the fact that the trains are being run for service providers rather than passengers?

I am genuinely sorry to hear about the problems that the hon. Gentleman has raised. He will be aware that Transport questions will take place on Thursday 24 May and he may well want to raise those specific issues then. I hope that he participated in the questions on yesterday’s statement, when there were opportunities to speak to the Secretary of State for Transport directly.

I was going to ask for a debate on the excellent small charities challenge fund, managed by the Department for International Development. However, an urgent situation is developing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Ebola has raised its ugly head again and has now spread to the city of Mbandaka. Given the work that the United Kingdom and others did in 2014 and 2015 to help to stop the spread, may we have an urgent debate on the matter, and on how the United Kingdom and its allies can support the people of the DRC and their excellent health services in bringing this outbreak to an end?

My hon. Friend has rightly raised an issue that is of great concern to all Members. The return of Ebola is horrifying: the last outbreak was unbearable for so many people. I encourage him to raise the issue directly with Ministers during International Development questions on Wednesday 23 May.

In this morning’s newspapers, my constituent Marie McCourt tells of her anguish that her daughter’s killer has been granted temporary release from prison. I have asked the Justice Secretary to intervene, but will the Government now introduce legislation—“Helen’s Law”—to ensure that this man, and other murderers who do not reveal the location of their victims’ remains, stay where they belong, in prison?

The hon. Gentleman raises an appalling situation and I can absolutely sympathise with anybody in that position, where the offender is allowed to get out of prison early. I am totally sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s desire to see that change. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise the particular circumstances of that case with Ministers.

Channel 4 has announced the creation of regional hubs and news bureaux. May we have a debate in Government time on why Colchester, as the creative capital of the eastern region and with a world-class university, would be a perfect location for such a site?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on making his pitch very publicly here today. I certainly think that there will be plenty of opportunities for this discussion as the time approaches for a decision to be made.

May we have a debate in Government time on the impact of cuts to community pharmacies on their ability to carry out their pivotal role at the heart of the health service?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the incredibly valuable role of community pharmacies. He may want to raise that in an Adjournment debate so he can discuss with Ministers precisely what steps he thinks they should take to protect that incredibly valuable role.

A few weeks ago Councillor David Slater, a sitting county and borough councillor and the former, and longest-serving, leader of Charnwood Borough Council, passed away. David was a selfless and dedicated public servant. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to David’s work and the work done every day across this country by elected local councillors, regardless of party, and may we have a debate on the value that that brings to our communities?

I think we all know of people who go above and beyond the call of duty in serving the people of this country in councils across the United Kingdom. I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to his constituent. He may wish to seek a Backbench Business debate so that all Members can pay tribute to those who do such good work in their own areas.

May we have a debate on the crucial matter of mobility benefits for infants with life-threatening conditions? There is currently an anomaly in the system in that they must be aged three to qualify, despite medical assessments being able to be undertaken well before this time. May we have that debate so that children’s lives and the quality of their lives are paramount and their families do not have to spend what is precious time battling the system?

I am very sympathetic to what the hon. Lady says. It is vital that young children are able to live as normal a life as possible regardless of their disability. She may wish to raise that at Work and Pensions questions on 21 May.

Last Sunday, the annual Crazy Hats walk took place in Northamptonshire, when we remember those who have tragically lost their lives to breast cancer and raise funds to support those affected by this dreadful disease. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the remarkable Glennis Hooper, the founder of the charity, who has raised millions of pounds for care in Northamptonshire, and may we have a debate next week on the important role that these charities play in supporting NHS care?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to pay tribute to all those who do so much to support cancer care of all types, and particularly breast cancer care. I have a number of family members who have suffered from this awful disease, which takes far too many lives and damages so many lives. I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all who are raising funds to support cancer charities.

The Financial Conduct Authority is currently considering whether to extend regulations that have been successfully applied to payday loan providers to doorstep lenders. This is an important issue for financial inclusion. Could we debate it please in Government time?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. The behaviour of payday lenders and other high-cost lenders is a scourge for people on low incomes often who cannot afford their incredibly high interest rates. He is right to raise that matter. The FCA has within its remit the ability to look further into this. He may wish to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise directly with Ministers the progress of the FCA’s review of the cost of payday lending.

France, Germany, Italy and Spain have built their auxiliary tanker and support ships in domestic yards. May we have a debate on the value of the Ministry of Defence commissioning our three new fleet solid support ships using British yards, British steel and British jobs, which would bring tax and national insurance contributions in excess of £350 million into the Treasury?

The hon. Lady raises the important matter of how we spend our defence budget, and she is right to ask what more could be done to ensure that British firms benefit from those contracts. She will be aware that the Ministry of Defence seeks wherever possible to ensure that UK companies get the best chance to bid for that business, but that it will nevertheless seek the best value for the taxpayer at the same time as committing to a thriving UK defence industry.

My hon. Friend and I share a passion for the importance of a secure early bond between babies and their parents, and she rightly raises the need to ensure that all mums have the right level of support, both physically and mentally, in those crucial early years. I am very sympathetic to the idea of a Back-Bench debate or a Westminster Hall debate on this, so that hon. Members can put forward their own thoughts on what more support could be provided to new mums.

Since our exchange last week, Cottrell Park golf course has written to the Leader of the House and to me to say that it is happy for women to play golf competitively on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, my constituent, Lowri Roberts, remains suspended from the course for having spoken out on this matter. Does the Leader of the House agree that we should have a debate on the issue? If we want women and girls to participate in sport, this kind of thing has to stop.

The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to see that the Sports Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), has walked into the Chamber just at the right moment, and that she heard what he said. I saw the letter from the golf course, and I join him in believing that women and girls should be encouraged to play all sports, including golf, on Saturdays, Sundays and every other day of the week—provided of course that they are getting all their school work done.

Supporting the high street is now more pertinent than ever, and a proven key way of helping to do that is to lower parking charges. Will the Leader of the House support a debate on the impact of lowering parking charges, to encourage Wiltshire County Council and others to recognise the merits of doing that?

A big issue in all our constituencies is the question of whether we should have parking charges that raise revenues or no parking charges, which helps the high street to thrive. I am sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s request. She might like to raise the matter directly with Ministers at Transport questions on 24 May.

Order. In response to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), the Leader of the House made the point, perfectly reasonably, that the Government have to balance the rights of Back-Bench Members against the sometimes necessary delivery of ministerial statements. There is not necessarily a perfect balance, but I entirely accept that the Government have to make a judgment on that matter. The House will know that I, too, have to make a judgment about the allocation of time. This is supposed to be a Backbench Business Committee day, and there are two Backbench Business Committee debates, the first of which was lost a few weeks ago, and the merits of which will not be disputed. The Leader of the House herself has referred to the important issue of plastics. The second of those debates, in the name of the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), is time-sensitive; it needs to take place today.

However, the Government have chosen to put on two ministerial statements today, which I accept is their right, procedurally, although whether that is altogether popular with the Backbench Business Committee is another matter. I have to make a judgment about balance, and I accept that the statements must take place and that there is interest in them, but we must get on to the Backbench Business Committee debates. More than my recent predecessors, I have tended to try to call everybody on statements, including at business questions; the record proves that beyond peradventure. Sadly, today is an exception, and that is the consequence of the management of the business, which is not in the hands of the Chair. I am trying to fight to defend the rights of Back-Bench Members, and I will always do so. I apologise to disappointed colleagues; they can try another time.

I think the hon. Gentleman’s point of order flows specifically from earlier exchanges and therefore, exceptionally, I will take it now if it is brief.

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. At oral questions this morning, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Karen Lee), the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), advised the House that all export licences for military and dual-use goods are examined and issued on a case-by-case basis. In fact, his own Department’s website clearly shows that a considerable number of such goods are exported under open general export licences that specifically exempt the exporter from applying on a case-by-case basis. Have you received any request from the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade to come back to the House to correct the record following what I am sure was an inadvertent mistake?

The hon. Gentleman, the shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, has an air of expectation and a plaintive appeal etched on the contours of his face. The short answer is that I have received no such indication from a Minister, and the hon. Gentleman will not take offence if I say that, on this occasion, I think he was at least as interested in giving his views to the House as in hearing any views put to him. He has placed his concern firmly on the record and, having known the hon. Gentleman for over two decades, I can predict with confidence that he will pursue it with a terrier-like pertinacity.

If there are no further points of order—in fact, there cannot be—we come now to the oral statement from the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.