The business for next week will be:
Monday 25 June—Debate on a motion relating to a national policy statement on airports.
Tuesday 26 June—Motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Canada Trade Agreement) Order 2018 followed by motion to approve European documents relating to EU trade agreements: EU-Japan economic partnership agreement followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill followed by remaining stages of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords].
Wednesday 27 June—Second Reading of the Offensive Weapons Bill.
Thursday 28 June—Debate on a motion on improving air quality followed by debate on a motion on the role and effectiveness of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 29 June—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 2 July will include:
Monday 2 July—Estimates day (day 1). There will be a debate on estimates relating to the Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Tuesday 3 July—Estimates day (day 2). There will be a debate on estimates relating to the Department for Education and Her Majesty’s Treasury that relate to grants to the devolved institutions.
At 7 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.
Wednesday 4 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill followed by remaining stages of the Ivory Bill.
Thursday 5 July—General debate on the principle of proxy voting followed by business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 6 July—Private Members’ Bills.
I was delighted to launch EqualiTeas this week in Parliament, celebrating 100 years of some women getting the vote. I wish the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) and all those taking part in the Great Exhibition of the North all the best for a successful 80 days of amazing exhibitions, artwork and live performances. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush on 22 June, we reflect on the huge contribution made by the Windrush generation to rebuilding the country following the war. Finally, I am sure the whole House will welcome the introduction of the Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill this afternoon. I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) for her excellent work on this matter.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I note that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is away on Committee business and I welcome the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) to these proceedings.
I am pleased that we have the business for the next two weeks. It is very interesting and very important, but there must be some mistake; I am sure that the Leader of the House will notice that there is a mistake. On 5 July, it is Back-Bench business.
The Secretary of State for Health wears the badges to remind everyone that he is the Secretary of State for Health. The Government make a big announcement just before the Brexit vote and then they do not schedule a debate on the 70th anniversary, celebrating 70 years of the NHS. I wonder whether that is because it was a Labour Government who innovated the NHS, a Labour Government who enacted it, and there have been record levels of investment by Labour Governments since 1997—nothing from the Government. There is no Brexit dividend because the Minister confirmed yesterday that the money will come from taxes. Does the Leader of the House agree with the Minister? Will she schedule a debate in Government time to congratulate the NHS because the shadow Health Secretary has many unanswered questions following the statement?
The Government criticise, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, the health service in Labour Wales, yet since 2010 they have cut back the block grant and reduced the capital grant by 10% and the revenue grant by 6%. They are also thwarting economic growth by stalling on a decision on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. When will the Government make a statement on the decision on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon?
I note and welcome the Government’s move, under Standing Orders 57 and 9(6), to present the Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill and introduce the Second Reading of the Bill—there is a business of the House motion at the end of the day—but can the Leader of the House confirm that the Bill will have all its stages before the start of the festival season? My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) has asked that question. With regard to the Edinburgh festival, I hope that the Bill will apply to everyone—men, including men in kilts, and women. It is good to see that the Government are using Standing Orders, but it is a pity that they have not applied that to money resolutions on private Members’ Bills.
Despite the written statement by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, hon. Members wanted to include the “meaningful vote” in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, because it appears that the Government are flouting conventions; they are changing the convention on Committees of the House. They gave themselves a majority on the Selection Committee, even though, by convention, they should not have a majority without an overall majority in the House.
Yesterday, I was standing right next to my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) when he asked, as late as 3 pm, whether the Government were nodding through. He was told that the Government were not, which resulted in hon. Members being forced to attend to vote when they were sick. I gave evidence to the Procedure Committee mentioning this process and its members nodded in agreement, as this is a convention that is based on trust. It seems that the Government do not trust Members on their own side and told them to be here. All the trust and conventions that enable us to carry out our work here appear to have broken down. I thank the Doorkeepers, who, when I asked for a wheelchair, found one and delivered it in time for my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) to vote. Can the Leader of the House ensure, through discussions with the usual channels, that the nodding through process will continue to be the convention in the House and that Government Whips cannot break it at their whim?
This Government appear to lack moral authority. They have lost their place in the world as a moral force. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) asked the Prime Minister: what does it take to withdraw the invitation to the President of the United States, whose policy is to separate children from their parents and make them sleep under foil? The Prime Minister could have telephoned the President and told him that this is barbaric and inhumane. This country was one of the founding framers of the European convention on human rights and the League of Nations and the birthplace of Mary Wollstonecraft, Tom Paine and others. The policy may have changed, but can the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister, on behalf of the citizens of the United Kingdom, to tell the President that that was not and never will be acceptable?
Will the Leader of the House ask the Foreign Secretary on behalf of four-year-old Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had her birthday last week and has been separated from her mother, when we will see the release of Nazanin? Today marks 810 days of her imprisonment on spurious charges.
Finally, I want to send Heidi Alexander all good wishes for her new post. She will use her talents in Mayor Khan’s office, and we welcome the talents of her successor. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft), who was the candidate support, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) will continue her parents’ tradition of brilliantly serving our country.
First, I share the hon. Lady’s excitement on behalf of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who is at the highland games. I said to him yesterday that I was a bit suspicious he might be nursing a hangover from attending the Rolling Stones concert on Tuesday night, which I was pleased to also be at; we had that in common. He told me that he was in the backing group for the Rolling Stones once—absolute respect; that is amazing. I hope he has a great time at the games, and I welcome the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) to his place.
The hon. Lady asked about the NHS and made some claims. I am sure she will be delighted to welcome the announcement of a growth in health funding of 3.4% on average each year, taking it up to £20.5 billion per year by 2023. That is superb news for the NHS.
In terms of the Brexit dividend, at the moment, the United Kingdom gives between £8 billion and £10 billion each year to the European Union that we do not get back in either a rebate or payment for things such as farming or structural funds. When we leave the EU, we will not be making those net contributions of £8 billion to £10 billion each year, so the truth is that there will be money available for other priorities. The Opposition can say, “Well, that’s all spent because of what happens to the economy,” but that is for another day. What happens to the economy is business as usual. The fact is that money currently paid to the EU will not be in the future.
The hon. Lady asked about Swansea bay. We want to ensure that the UK has a diverse, secure and affordable energy mix for not just the next few years but generations to come. She will be aware that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy continues to consider value for money with the Welsh devolved Administration and will make an announcement soon on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon.
The hon. Lady asked about the withdrawal Bill and suggested that there is some kind of confusion over what has been agreed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union outlined in his letter to the Chair of the Procedure Committee:
“Under the Standing Orders of the House of Commons it will be for the Speaker to determine whether a motion when it is introduced by the Government under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is or is not in fact cast in neutral terms and hence whether the motion is or is not amendable.”
I hope that that clarifies it.
The hon. Lady asked about nodding through. She is right that the convention is for Members to be nodded through when there is reasonable notice and serious illness. I was particularly sorry to see that the hon. Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) was forced to come and vote here while she was unwell, but the fact that she had to come all the way from Bradford when she was so unwell is clearly a matter for her party. It is simply not right to accuse the Government of putting her in that position when the first notice the Government were given was just before midday. Her party should have sorted out an arrangement in much better time. I am not personally privy to those discussions, but communication clearly needs to improve, and that should be resolved privately.
The hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) talked about moral authority and the issue of separating children—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The hon. Member for Walsall South raised the serious point about children being separated from their parents, and she is right to do so. It is appalling and absolutely wrong, and I was certainly relieved to see the Executive order signed yesterday by the President of the United States. However, we must not mix that up with the importance of the relationship we have with the United States, one of our key strategic relationships. It is important that we continue to deal with the office of the presidency of the United States, regardless of what our views are on particular decisions.
The hon. Lady mentioned Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s fourth birthday. I absolutely agree that it is appalling that this poor child continues to be separated from her mother. I absolutely assure the hon. Lady that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary does everything he can to continue to raise this matter and to plead for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
It is a delusion of Whiggish modernists that they know the worst of mankind has been consigned to the past. Cicero said, “Know thyself,” and in our time in this place, some local authorities are holding what have been dubbed “Dickensian” paupers’ funerals. The relatives of the deceased are banned from them. They are even prohibited from receiving their loved ones’ remains. Will the Leader of the House ask a Minister to come to make an urgent statement confirming that statutory guidance will be issued assuring that all those who grieve are treated with decency and dignity? You know, Mr Speaker, that when Mozart died, his body was cast into a mass paupers’ grave. If his work was the rhythm of heaven, these paupers’ funerals are now the rhyme of hell.
My right hon. Friend raises a very serious issue. He will be aware that every local authority in the UK has a statutory duty to make arrangements for these so-called paupers’ funerals, when a person has died in circumstances where the family cannot be traced or when no funeral arrangements have been made for that person. He is right to point out that these are no frills funerals and there are limitations to the involvement of families, unless the families get involved in arranging, for example, for a religious minister or a civil celebrant to be present at the funeral. I encourage my right hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can ask Ministers directly about what more could be done.
I think the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) will get such a debate. As the Leader of the House says, he has raised an extremely serious matter, but it is no bad thing that he has done so, characteristically, with the eloquence of Cicero.
My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is at the royal highland show, a large gathering full of braying animal noises and dubious atmospheric conditions—he is missing the House of Commons already.
I should say that SNP Members fully support the voyeurism Bill, but upskirting and, indeed, upkilting has already been outlawed by the Scottish Parliament, so I do not know how much we will be able to participate in the proceedings if they fall under the English votes for English laws procedure.
The participation of Scottish Members in legislation has been a bit of a hot topic. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill has completed its parliamentary stages in the face of the Scottish Parliament’s refusal to grant a legislative consent motion. Will the Leader of the House confirm what the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for the Cabinet Office have not confirmed, which is that the Bill will not be sent for Royal Assent until agreement has been reached with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, because those are the terms of the Sewel convention? If she cannot do so, will she tell us when the Privy Council will be meeting to grant Royal Assent, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), the Leader of the SNP Members, may like to attend those proceedings?
We are grateful to have notice of two weeks of business—it is a refreshing change—but I notice that no Opposition day is scheduled during the next fortnight. Given that the last SNP Opposition day was in November, I think the third party in this House is a bit overdue another one.
In that context, will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government policy on voting on Opposition days has changed again? We went through the Lobbies twice on Tuesday, after months of Government abstention, and I do not know why the Opposition parties should have to find arcane parliamentary procedures simply to force the Government into the Lobby. If they disagree with a motion, they should have the guts to put it to the House.
Finally on Divisions, surely it is time for change. The sight of seriously ill Members being pushed through and of heavily pregnant Members being forced through the Lobbies is totally unedifying to this place. The usual channels, nodding through and so on simply will not cut it any more. As I said to the Leader of the House last week, it is simply not safe, and it is time for change, so when will we have a proper review of the voting procedures?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman who is replacing the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire. First—the hon. Member for Walsall South asked me about this but I did not answer—the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill will, of course, include upkilting. That might not be a matter for the hon. Gentleman in Scotland, but it will be in England in future.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the Sewel convention, and he will be aware that the Government have followed the spirit and letter of the devolution settlement at every stage of the process. The Sewel convention states that the UK Parliament will not normally legislate in areas of devolved competence without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman should look again at the statement by the Scottish Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, who said that these are “not normal times”. The Government continue to seek to collaborate with the devolved Administration, but it is important that no nation of the United Kingdom can be allowed to have a veto, thereby undermining the UK single market, which is worth £46 billion to the Scottish economy.
The hon. Gentleman asked about an Opposition day for the Scottish National party, and that will be considered and announced through the usual channels. He asked also about the policy on votes on Opposition days, but, as he is aware, I have been clear that there is no policy for such votes. If there is a decision by the House to support a motion but the Government decide not to vote, they will come forward with a statement within 12 weeks to set out clearly how they intend to address the issues that were raised and agreed on by the House. There will be a clear response whether or not the Government vote, and in the meantime the Government continue to take part fully in every Opposition day debate.
The hon. Gentleman asked about electronic voting. He will be aware that that is a matter for the House. Procedures are reviewed on an ongoing basis, but that issue is not something the House is currently considering. On issues of pregnancy and nodding through MPs, I tabled a debate on proxy voting for 5 July because I believe it is vital that new parents have the opportunity to form that secure early bond with their babies, and we must facilitate that. All Members should have the opportunity to discuss and debate how we do that, and to give their views. Let me be clear that all those who are currently pregnant and imminently expecting babies have been offered a pair. That has been committed to, and will continue to be available.
Everyone should have a roof over their head, and the Government are tackling homelessness with a range of measures. Last week Wiltshire was awarded an additional £312,000 to tackle the issue. May we have a statement in the House to summarise the range of measures that this Government are taking to tackle homelessness?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. No one should ever have to sleep rough, and the Government are taking significant action. We are working to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and to end it completely by 2027. Some new measures include a £30 million fund for 2018-19, targeted at those local authorities that have high numbers of people sleeping rough. More than £600 million is available for use by local government to prevent homelessness, instead of just responding to it. Our new rough sleeping team is made up of homelessness experts who can provide ideas on what more can be done, and the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 takes a completely different approach to trying to eliminate this appalling problem.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the Regulator of Social Housing’s regulatory notice that was issued yesterday to Knowsley Housing Trust, highlighting its failure to keep fire safety information up to date, thereby putting tenants at risk? Such a debate would give me the opportunity to urge those in senior executive and board positions in that organisation to take responsibility for their part in those failures, and to consider their positions.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise that concerning issue. I had the great pleasure of campaigning for the seat of Knowsley South back in 2005, and I well remember some of the housing in Knowsley that could be liable to the risk of fire if not properly protected. He will know that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to all non-domestic premises and to those areas used in common in multi-occupied residential buildings. Under that order, the responsible person must undertake, and regularly review, the fire risk assessment and put in place adequate and appropriate fire precautions.
May we please have a debate about how councils deal with Travellers? This week, we have had an enormous invasion in Taunton, which affects my constituency because it is a joint council, at a company called Summerfield. They mucked up the park and ride in another part of the town and have now set up home in the council’s old headquarters, which is costing £11 million to refurbish. We must have a debate on this situation, which is getting worse across councils. May we have time to discuss this thorny issue?
I am aware that many hon. and right hon. Members frequently raise the problem of Travellers. My hon. Friend will be aware that we recently had a debate on this very problematic area. The Government are looking at whether there is in fact a weakness in the regulation or whether more could be done to enforce what are already very strong rules around Travellers.
I was disappointed with what the Leader of the House said about the nodding through problem yesterday, because it did not marry with my understanding of the facts of the situation in terms of how I was supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah). I am, however, pleased that the right hon. Lady announced a debate on proxy voting on 5 July. Will it include consideration of the Procedure Committee’s report on this issue? If not, why not? While considering the Procedure Committee’s work, she might look back at the report on private Members’ Bills, which, had it been accepted, would have prevented the fracas around upskirting on Friday.
I say again that it is vital that we enable new parents to spend the critical early periods of time with their new baby. I am absolutely supportive of that. In response to the hon. Gentleman’s specific question, yes the debate is deliberately timed. As he will recall, I asked the Procedure Committee last November to look into proxy voting. I was delighted with the Committee’s work in producing a report. My Government response to it is due on 15 July. I wanted to have that general debate, so that the constitutional implications of proxy voting, as opposed to other forms of formalised pairing, for example, and who should operate proxy voting if it were to be introduced and so on, can be properly aired in this place before I give a considered response to the work of the Procedure Committee, for which I am very grateful.
My right hon. Friend has already rightly mentioned the importance of the early bond between parents and babies. Unfortunately, in Staffordshire we are seeing a reduction in the number of health visitors, who are absolutely key to that. I know that the county council and the NHS have been working hard to try to resolve this, but does the Leader of the House agree it is important that we have a debate on how vital health visitors are to assist parents and work with them as they create that bond with their children?
Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must do everything we can to support those critical early days. I am delighted that the Department of Health and Social Care is committed to providing continuity of carer, through a continued midwifery team that the mother and father-to-be get to know during the course of the pregnancy, and committed to training many more midwives with mental health qualifications to support vulnerable parents. He is right to raise the issue of health visitors, who provide such invaluable support in the early days. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate, so he can raise the issue directly with Ministers.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and, in particular, for her good wishes for the Great Exhibition of the North, the 80-day festival celebrating the whole of the north of England and all it has to offer. The launch event is tomorrow evening and I will be attending, if I am spared that long.
A significant number of Back Benchers are waiting with applications for debates in this House through the Backbench Business Committee. I very much welcome the general debate on proxy voting on 5 July and the half-day of Backbench Business on that day, but I hope the Leader of the House can find a way of securing 12 and 19 July for the Backbench Business Committee. The anniversary debate for the tobacco control plan will take place on 19 July if we are allocated that time. Lastly, I note with interest that the Leader of the House attended the Rolling Stones concert on Tuesday evening. I hope it is not the last time and that she got some satisfaction.
Watching Mick Jagger doing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was pretty impressive actually—I was thinking that I am not sure I would even remember the words, let alone how to jump around on stage like that. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his bids for Back-Bench time. Of course, they will always be very carefully considered, and we always do seek to give Back-Bench time in response to reasonable requests. I am sure that he will be spared and wish him the most successful Great Exhibition of the North; I hope he sincerely enjoys it.
It is clearly excellent news that the NHS is going to get additional funding, but can I urge my right hon. Friend to stage a debate in Government time so that we can explore not only what the priorities will be for the national health service, but how savings can be made by using such opportunities as International Yoga Day, which is today? I remind colleagues that there are sessions in Victoria Tower Gardens at 2 o’clock, and at 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock in Committee Room 14, to celebrate.
My hon. Friend does a good job of promoting his own events, as I am sure you would agree, Mr Speaker. He will be aware that the House has had a number of recent opportunities to debate matters relating to health, including an Opposition day just before the recess. We have had very good Westminster Hall debates on the 70th anniversary of the NHS and on raising standards of infection prevention and control. We have Health and Social Care questions next week, and I encourage him to ask Ministers directly then what can be done so that all Members can discuss what the health priorities should be as we approach the 70th anniversary.
Again, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, because she has played an enormous part and made a huge contribution to the Government’s work on the serious violence strategy. She will be aware that we will be bringing forward the Offensive Weapons Bill, which will seek to make it even more difficult for people to access things such as knives and corrosive substances. That will be a very important part of this, but specifically on the serious violence strategy, there will continue to be regular meetings of Ministers, different community groups and the police, and I am sure that Ministers will come to this place to keep the House updated on the progress against their targets.
Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Nicki Regan and Ashleigh McArthur of Zoo Hair & Beauty in Stirling on being named Britain’s bridal make-up specialists of the year? Zoo Hair & Beauty is a small business success story. May we have a debate in Government time on the importance of the enterprise economy, and specifically on small and medium-sized businesses such as that of my award-winning constituents?
I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating his constituents at Zoo Hair & Beauty. What a fantastic tribute. I am sure that all of us love a good wedding and we will all be queuing up, if we know of anyone, to seize their services. I am absolutely delighted on their behalf.
Will the Leader of the House make time available for a debate, to be led by the Treasury, on the mythical Brexit dividend? This would enable the Chancellor to set out in clear and simple words, for the benefit of serial offenders such as the Foreign Secretary, why any Brexit dividend has been more than washed away by the ongoing payments that are going to be made to the EU and a slowdown in the UK economy, and that any increase in NHS investment will come from tax increases and not the so-called Brexit dividend.
The right hon. Gentleman is a bit of an Eeyore on this subject, is he not? Let us be honest. He asks for a Treasury Minister to come and set out what is happening to the economy. He will no doubt be delighted to know that employment is at a record high, real wages are up, the OECD has upgraded growth forecasts for this year and next, and a business survey shows that we remain the No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment in Europe. He will also no doubt be delighted to know that our day-to-day spending is in surplus for the first time in 16 years, and our net borrowing is at its lowest for over a decade. As for his point about the Brexit dividend, I am sure that his maths is good enough for him to work out that when you stop paying between £8 billion and £10 billion net for something, that money is then available to you. He may choose to say that it will all be eaten up by a slowdown in the economy, but that, if I may say so, is his crystal ball gazing.
The Leader of the House will be aware that today is the summer solstice, but she may not be aware that it also marks the end of the great British asparagus festival, held largely in my constituency. Does she agree that the best asparagus in the world comes from the Vale of Evesham—it even has EU protected status—and may we have a debate in Government time to celebrate great British farming and great British food produce?
I can certainly agree with my hon. Friend that he thinks that asparagus grown in the Vale of Evesham is the best in the world. Perhaps I can leave it there, so as not to offend any other Members. I absolutely join him in applauding the superb British food produce and great British farming. No doubt he looks forward, as I do, to the introduction of the agriculture Bill later in the Session.
One of my constituents paid to park, but mistakenly gave the wrong car registration number. Excel Parking refused to accept his reasonable explanation. That is bad practice on the part of Excel and its director, Simon Renshaw-Smith. May we have a Government statement about it, and action by the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency to deal with this modern-day Artful Dodger?
I think we can all give examples of constituents who have been treated very badly after making genuine errors, and I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s constituent’s problem. Transport questions will take place on 5 July, and he may wish to raise his specific point then to see what more can be done by Ministers to ensure that companies are fair to those who make genuine mistakes.
Maternity services at the Horton hospital and Chipping Norton are of paramount importance to my constituents in west Oxfordshire. May we have a Government statement on future services, so that my constituents can be assured of their bright future?
I am sure my hon. Friend will welcome the news of the Prime Minister’s commitment to increase funds for the NHS by £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24. I know that he cares deeply about services at the Horton and in the wider Oxfordshire area, as indeed do I and my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis). The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has recently reviewed the concerns raised by Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and has asked the NHS locally to work with stakeholders—including us as local MPs—to address them.
The Leader of the House said that an announcement about the Swansea bay tidal lagoon would be made “soon”, which I do not think is good enough for the thousands of manufacturing and highly skilled technical jobs across south Wales and the west country. Moreover, renewable energy is the energy of the future: it will power our future manufacturing industries. May we have a debate in Government time about the renewable energy industry?
As the hon. Lady will know, we are ensuring that the UK has a diverse, secure and affordable energy mix. We are looking carefully at the potential to harness the UK’s natural resources to make our energy mix sustainable and affordable for the future. Through competition and innovation, the leadership that we have shown has resulted in dramatic reductions in the cost of renewable energy projects. Over the last two years, for example, the cost of offshore wind has halved, which means that we can secure a larger amount of electricity generation for every pound of bill payers’ money. That is absolutely essential. The UK is doing incredibly well in renewables, in both European and world terms.
As I have said, Ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy continue to look at the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project with Welsh devolved Administration Ministers, and they will come forward as soon as they can.
The menopause is a natural stage of life that affects every woman, and also every man who lives or works with a woman, but I have not heard it talked about in this place since I have been a Member. May we have a debate on this extremely important issue? More specifically, how can we encourage clinical commissioning groups to implement the important guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, so that every woman can have the treatment that she needs to enjoy this stage of her life?
My hon. Friend raises an important and valid point. I was interested to hear yesterday of a report that found that in our 50s we enter perhaps the most happy time of our life, which those suffering under menopause might challenge. I encourage my hon. Friend to raise this at a future Equalities questions, and ask Ministers if something on it could be forthcoming for this Chamber.
Countries including Israel and Spain have relatively recently introduced legislation to prohibit organ tourism in China in response to persistent and credible reports of systematic state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including Falun Gong practitioners and other religious and ethnic minority groups. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate or statement on this important matter?
The hon. Gentleman raises a horrific issue by which I am sure all hon. Members will be appalled. I encourage him to raise it at Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs questions next Tuesday, when he can ask Ministers what the UK can do to try to put a stop to this appalling practice.
The Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Glasgow School of Art both recently suffered devastating fires while undergoing renovation. Will my right hon. Friend consider making a statement about what lessons have been learned from that, so that when hon. Members move out of here, that is not the moment when this place goes up in smoke?
My hon. Friend raises an important point, and he will be aware that in this place not only are we looking very carefully at the programme for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, but we are also looking on a daily basis at the current health and safety risks, including fire risks, and strong steps are being taken now by the House authorities to minimise the risk of fire. I had a recent exchange of letters with the chief executive of the House which I placed in the Library, but my hon. Friend is right to raise this point and I will certainly consider it further.
Further to previous questions, the reality is that ending nodding through was done unilaterally with no notice whatsoever. As the nearest thing that the parliamentary Labour party has to a shop steward, I must tell the Government that they will be putting people’s lives and health at risk if this system continues.
The convention is for Members to be nodded through when there is reasonable notice and where there is serious illness. Yesterday at 11.55 am Labour asked for six Members to be nodded through. The Government made efforts to make what arrangements they could in that short time provided. As the hon. Gentleman will know, this is a usual channels matter for my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and the Opposition Chief Whip.
Several constituents have recently come to me to request help with reconsiderations and appeals of Department for Work and Pensions decisions to stop their benefits. Many of these constituents have trouble filling out the forms because of learning disabilities. When may we have a debate specifically about the accessibility and appropriateness of DWP appeal procedures?
Dorset and Somerset are now reorganising their local government, which in the south-west leaves Gloucestershire and Devon as the only authorities yet to undergo reform towards becoming unitary authorities. Will the Leader of the House ask the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to instigate a debate so we can see how we can follow suit in Gloucestershire, let alone Devon?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We have sought to ensure that local communities make these decisions for themselves, but I encourage him to take this up directly with HCLG Ministers so that he can be advised by them on what steps he can take.
The Leader of the House has this morning confirmed that the Government will lay their version of my Voyeurism (Offences) Bill before Parliament. I thank the Government for moving as swiftly as they have this week and hope we will now secure this uncontroversial but essential change in the law. I thank everybody for the cross-party support this matter has received. I hope the House will later today unanimously support the Government’s motion to continue our important work on Second Reading. The hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) has asked this question but it was unanswered, so I will ask it again: can the Leader of the House confirm the timetable for Second Reading, Committee and remaining stages in the Commons of the Bill, and will she do everything she can to ensure that the Bill progresses with the full support of both Houses?
I thank the hon. Lady on behalf of the whole House for her assiduous work. She will realise that the Bill has cross-House support, and the Government were pleased to bring it forward in Government time as urgently as possible. As for her specific question, I will write to her with an indication of when we expect the Bill to achieve all its stages.
I draw the Leader of the House’s attention to my early-day motion 1401.
[That this House congratulates the Year 6 students of South Hetton Primary School for using their Go Givers class project to create a PPP Campaign to raise the issue of period problems and poverty; commends the Year 6 students at that school for collecting donations of sanitary items to create pants packs to help women and girls who are homeless or in poverty to meet their sanitary needs; also thanks the local community for donating to the campaign that will continue until the end of the summer term; believes access to sanitary products is a basic human right and welcomes the initiatives in Scotland and Wales to provide free sanitary products to low income families; and calls on the Government to adopt a similar initiative for England to end period poverty in the UK.]
Does the Leader of the House agree that the Government should be doing more to address period poverty? Will she join me in commending the work of year 6 staff and students at South Hetton Primary School in my constituency and their efforts at raising awareness of the issue by creating “pants packs” to help families who are unable to afford proper sanitary products?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising an issue that does not often get mentioned in the Chamber. It is vital that all girls and young women are able to provide themselves with proper sanitary protection, and being unable to deal with menstruation is humiliating for a young person. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate to ask Ministers directly what more we can do to ensure that no girl or young woman needs to suffer the absolute embarrassment of being unable to afford sanitary protection.
My two young constituents Somer and Areeb Bakhsh are 15 and 13 years old respectively, and I was delighted to present them with academic excellence awards at Springburn Academy just a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, they face deportation to Pakistan because their family’s asylum application was rejected on the basis that they are a Christian family and would not face persecution in Pakistan, despite clear death threats being made to them. Will the Leader of the House call for a statement from the Immigration Minister on the threats facing religious minorities in Pakistan?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important constituency matter, and I congratulate his two young constituents on their academic excellence awards. On his specific point about the threat of deportation, I encourage him to communicate directly with Home Office Ministers, who will be able to look into it for him.
One of my constituents recently had a visa refused. They sent all the supporting documentation to UK Visas and Immigration, which looked at it and replied to say that my constituent had sent only one payslip, yet the reply included all the payslips that my constituent had sent in. That is not an isolated incident. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Minister responsible for UKVI makes a statement to the House on these screw-ups and how they can be avoided?
The hon. Lady raises another important constituency point. There can be no excuse for administrative errors that cause people real problems. She will be aware that the Immigration Minister will be here later today for a statement, so she may want to raise that point directly with her, or if she wants to write to me, I can take it up with the Minister on her behalf.
My constituent Yaser has been living, working and training as a GP in south Manchester for nine years, but he has been told that no local surgery can afford to sponsor his visa renewal application. As a result, he will be forced to go back to Canada in August instead of serving the community in which he was trained. May we have a debate on what more we can do to support GP surgeries in recruiting much-needed doctors from abroad?
We are all incredibly grateful to those who come here from other countries to work in our health service and provide us with so much support. The hon. Gentleman raises another important Home Office issue, so I encourage him to raise it with the Immigration Minister during the statement later today, or if he wants to write to me, I can take up the matter on his behalf.
Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, located on the site of Erskine Hospital in my constituency, is a social enterprise that proudly provides employment opportunities for veterans. The Scottish Government’s veterans fund has provided substantial financial backing, allowing it to recruit more former servicemen and women. Can we have a debate on employment opportunities open to ex-service personnel and on the struggles many face in attempting to secure employment?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We all know that life can often be quite difficult for veterans of our armed forces, and we know homelessness and a lot of other problems can ensue. I commend his constituency’s social mission to try to improve the work prospects for veterans. I recommend that he seeks an Adjournment debate to raise directly with Ministers what more can be done to provide for our armed forces personnel as they leave the services.
Antisocial behaviour is the top issue in my constituency, and it is one I have raised with the Leader of the House on a number of occasions. Today BBC Radio Humberside is running a story about the aggressive begging, shoplifting, drug taking and drunkenness on Newland Avenue in my constituency. With a background of cuts to addiction services, cuts to police budgets, cuts to council budgets and the houses in multiple occupation by vulnerable people who do not get the support they need, can we please have a debate in Government time? I do not think this perfect storm is just in Hull; I think it is in many constituencies across the country.
The hon. Lady raises the issue of antisocial behaviour quite frequently, and she is right to do so. I am very sorry to hear about the problems her constituents in Hull are experiencing. She will be aware that, including from council tax, there will be up to £450 million of additional investment in policing in 2018-19. It is for police and crime commissioners to look at how they can best deal with the challenges faced in their local communities, but I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so she can raise the particular issues facing Hull.
I am sure the Leader of the House knows that Coventry will be the city of culture in 2021. Having said that, library budgets are being cut and it does not look very good for libraries in the city of culture to be cut as a result of Government cuts. She will know that libraries are often a gateway for people to learn about culture in the first place.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the city of culture status that Coventry will have, and I applaud him for raising the issue of libraries. He will know that, right across the country, there is a transformation in libraries. Many are coming under community ownership, as local authorities seek to improve the use of local funding. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so he can raise the issue for Coventry directly with Ministers.
A more enlightened US President, John F. Kennedy, once said that
“the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
Can we have a debate in Government time to discuss the US Government’s decision to abandon the United Nations Human Rights Council, so cynically announced on World Refugee Day, and to allow Members to register their abhorrence at the Trump Administration’s decision to detain children and babies in camps, separate from their parents, on the US-Mexico border?
As I have said, the separation of babies and children from their parents is absolutely unacceptable, and we were all glad to see the executive order that was signed yesterday. On the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Human Rights Council, the UK’s position is that we want to see reform of the Human Rights Council but we are committed to working to strengthen it from within. Our support for the Human Rights Council remains steadfast. It is the best tool the international community has to address impunity in an imperfect world and to advance many of our international goals, so we deeply regret the decision made by the United States.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I ask the Leader of the House to correct the record, because she seemed to indicate that pairing and slipping arrangements were available, but they were not? As I said, I was there when such an arrangement was requested for a certain hon. Member—I do not want to go into too much detail about individuals—but it was not granted. A pair was available for only one hon. Member who was about to give birth. The Leader of the House may want to take advice on this and perhaps write to me, but will she correct the record, because what she said earlier was wrong?
I absolutely stand by what I said, which is that pairs had been committed to for all those who are in late stages of pregnancy. It is a convention for Members to be nodded through where reasonable notice is given and where there is serious illness. Yesterday at 11.55 am, Labour requested that six Members be nodded through. The Government made efforts to make what arrangements they could in the short time provided. This is a matter for the usual channels, but I stand by what I said.