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Business of the House

Volume 644: debated on Thursday 5 July 2018

The business for next week will include:

Monday 9 July—Consideration of a business of the House motion, followed by proceedings on the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a money resolution on the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill.

Tuesday 10 July—Consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill, followed by motion to approve Standing Orders relating to the European Statutory Instruments Committee, followed by Opposition day (unallotted half day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats, subject to be announced, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the appointment of external members to the House of Commons Commission.

Wednesday 11 July—Opposition day (16th allotted day). There will be a debate entitled “Build it in Britain shipbuilding”, followed by a debate on blue light emergency services. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 12 July—Debate on a motion on the practice of forced adoption in the UK, followed by general debate on lessons from the collapse of Carillion. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 13 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 16 July will include:

Monday 16 July—Remaining stages of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill.

Tuesday 17 July—Remaining stages of the Trade Bill.

Wednesday 18 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill, followed by Opposition day (15th allotted half day, part 2). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Thursday 19 July—Debate on a motion on the independent complaints and grievance policy, followed by business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 20 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 23 July will include:

Monday 23 July—General debate, subject to be announced.

Tuesday 24 July—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

I am delighted to wish the NHS a very happy 70th birthday. We are building an NHS for the future, ensuring it will be there for all of our children and grandchildren, just as it has been there for us. Today, we thank all the nurses and doctors, and all of our hard-working NHS staff for the extraordinary work they do, helping more people to live longer, healthier lives.

I am sure that everyone will want to join me in sending our best wishes to all who are taking part in the Pride celebrations in London this weekend.

Although I am a bit suspicious that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) may be practising his Swedish, I am hopeful that the whole House will join me in wishing England the very best of luck in their quarter final against Sweden on Saturday.

Finally, I am immensely proud that in my own constituency this weekend is the world-famous British grand prix at Silverstone. I wish all the teams and drivers the very best.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, which I think takes us up to the recess, and for the two Opposition days. I suppose it is too cheeky and too early to ask for the Easter recess dates, but perhaps the Leader of the House could say when the next Queen’s Speech will be.

Given that Defence Question Time was moved, without the courtesy of letting business managers know, from its slot after the NATO summit and the publication of the modernising defence programme reports, may we have a debate on the summit and the reports? Or should we ring the Secretary of State for Defence so that he can ask Siri?

We now have a third option for the post-Brexit arrangement, although there was no clue in the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday as to what it is and how it will work. It will be an interesting house party tomorrow—I assume the Leader of the House will also be there—and they may end up playing Cluedo. It will be a Cabinet Minister, in the dining room, with the White Paper. [Interruption.] Those who have played it will know. Presumably, one side will take Sharpies to redact it and the other side will take highlighters to accept the good parts.

Yet again, the House is the last to know about the business. On Monday, a journalist tweeted about the publication of the White Paper, saying that

“it looks like the White Paper has been pencilled in for July 12th, the very day that Donald Trump arrives in the UK.”

Again, the courtesies to the House are not being followed. None of the Opposition business managers knew when the White Paper was going to be published. Will the Leader of the House confirm when it will be published and may we have a statement on it? Might I suggest the 23 July, when it seems there is a spare slot for a general debate? It would be possible to debate the White Paper then.

It is not clear how this third way will affect the Irish border and what will happen in respect of alignment. The Prime Minister is yet to visit the border; perhaps the away-day party could go there en masse. I met a farmer at the farmers market in Parliament last week, and he told me that his farm straddles the north and the Republic; what will happen to him? The Prime Minister said on Monday:

“In a no-deal situation, it will of course be up to the United Kingdom to determine what it does in relation to the border in Northern Ireland.”—[Official Report, 2 July 2018; Vol. 644, c. 59.]

That is not correct: there is more than one party on either side of the border and more than one party in the negotiations.

The Leader of the House congratulated the NHS on its 70th anniversary, and we do, too. It was the courage of Nye Bevan and the determination of a Labour Government that saw the birth of the NHS, which has completely transformed social justice in this country.

Why did the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care not come to the House to give a list of the 17 operations that are to be cancelled? I am sure that Members have read that list. I have had carpal tunnel syndrome—what would have happened to me? Would I not have been allowed to have that operation? Would I have had to ask for it? The Secretary of State is hiding behind the head of NHS England. May we have a statement from him on another step to privatisation and to explain the reasons why those 17 operations are on that list? Perhaps he could extend the consultation period over the summer.

While the Conservatives are dining at the Hurlingham Club, the country is falling apart on their watch. I am not going to go over the urgent question on universal credit, but suffice it to say that, as the National Audit Office said, the Government’s flagship universal credit programme has not delivered value for money, and it is impossible to know whether it will help to get people off benefits and into work. We need a proper debate so that we can find out who said what to whom and who understood what about the report. We need that debate, so may we have it as soon as possible?

What about a debate on the Public Accounts Committee report that said:

“After seven years of government funding reductions totalling nearly 50% and rising demand for services, local authorities are under real strain. Key services that support vulnerable people, such as social care and housing, are now under enormous pressure.”

Funding cuts have reduced public services such as libraries, waste collection and bus services. Our high streets are dying. Marks & Spencer and Poundworld are leaving Walsall town centre. High street names are either closing stores, or they are in administration.

What about students? Again, I raise the plight of our poor students. The House of Commons Library provided my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd) with some analysis that showed that the Government are causing more debt to students because of their use of the retail price index to apply interest to their student loans. Switching to CPI would result in £16,000 less interest being added over 30 years. We need a statement on what the Government will do to alleviate this debt.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) told me that there will be a memorial event in the Piper Alpha memorial garden in Hazelhead park on Friday evening. It is the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha explosion. The names of the 167 people who died in that explosion will be read out. Frank Doran, the former Labour MP for Aberdeen North, was assiduous in fighting for improved safety standards in the North sea.

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing the Library to use Speaker’s House last Monday. There was a fantastic celebration of 200 years of the Library, and fantastic memorabilia were on display. I thank Penny Young and all her staff for the fabulous work that they put in there. I also thank other Members of the House: EqualiTeas has recorded 107,000 people taking part and 3,000 tea parties—that is an average of 4.5 tea parties per constituency. The pack was brilliant. David Clark, the head of education and engagement, and his team of Michelle, Rob, Beryl, Emma and Charles should be congratulated. It is an excellent and inspiring way to engage the public in celebrating Parliament and equality.

I start by absolutely agreeing with the hon. Lady that the EqualiTeas effort has been fantastic. We are all thoroughly enjoying it. I very much enjoyed cutting the first cake, which had this wonderful teapot on the top. It is wonderful to think of those very smartly dressed ladies 100 years ago primly having tea, but plotting on how to get the vote. It shows what can be done when we really try.

I also join the hon. Lady in commemorating the awful Piper Alpha disaster. It is right that we should remember it. I remember going on to a North sea oil rig when I was Energy Minister and realising how very vulnerable I was, so I absolutely join with her in that commemoration. She asked about future dates, and, of course, I will bring them forward as soon as I can. She also asked about defence questions being moved with Home Office questions. I sincerely apologise if she felt that there was any attempt to mislead in any way. The new oral questions rota was issued more than a fortnight ago, which I do consider is sufficient time for hon. Members to familiarise themselves with it. It was felt to be important that Defence Ministers were able to attend the opening day of the Farnborough air show, which is a very important day in the calendar for the Defence Department.

The hon. Lady asked about the Cabinet away-day. I can tell her that I am very much looking forward to it. I do not think there will be time for Cluedo, but I expect that there will be some very interesting discussions. The White Paper she mentioned will, of course, be brought forward just as soon as it can be. The Prime Minister has said before the summer recess; that is not too long to go. The hon. Lady asked about the Irish border. I also do not think that we will have time to go to the Irish border during the course of the day tomorrow. It was a good suggestion, but, possibly, without our broomsticks we might struggle to get there in time. None the less, she raises very important points about Northern Ireland and the Republic. It is vital that we keep to our red line of not allowing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and that remains absolutely the Government’s position.

The hon. Lady asked about universal credit. As she knows, we have just had an urgent question on that topic, so I do not propose to spend a lot of time on it other than to say that universal credit is intended to be a much simpler and more effective benefit. It does work for people. The Leader of the Opposition likes to use examples, so let me say that Nayim from Lancashire has said, “Universal credit gave me the flexibility to take on additional hours without the stress of thinking that this might stop my benefit straight away.” Roberta from Yorkshire, who had mental health issues, is now in work and loving it, and says, “My work coach helped turn my life around. He tailored his support to my situation and thanks to him I have found my dream job.” Real people’s lives are being improved by universal credit, and that is absolutely the point of it.

The hon. Lady said that local authorities are under strain. She will appreciate that this Government have sought since 2010 to get to a point where our economy is again living within its means and is succeeding. Just last week, BAE Systems won a £20 billion contract to build nine top warships for Australia. A business survey shows that we remain the No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment in Europe. Tech businesses attracted nearly $8 billion of funding last year—double the amount received in 2016. Employment is up to another record high, real wages are growing and the OECD is upgrading our growth forecast. What further evidence does the hon. Lady need to see that it is this Government who are taking the steps necessary to turn around our economy, and ensure that we can survive and thrive?

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the inequalities of the provision of personal independence payments for blind people? There seems to be a disparity in the age at which the payments can be made.

My hon. Friend is mentioning an important and serious question, and mentions disparities about the age at which payments can be made to blind people. I assure him that new claims for PIP are available for claimants aged between 16 and 64, regardless of their health condition or disability. Where a claimant is in receipt of PIP, they can continue to receive it after the age of 65, providing that they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week, and join in with the 70th birthday wishes to our amazing national health service. I am particularly proud that in Scotland we have the best performing NHS in the whole United Kingdom. I also note what the shadow Leader of the House said about the Piper Alpha disaster 30 years ago today; it is an event that we should remember.

To the Leader of the House, “Heja Sverige!” We were brought up in the ’60s and ’70s in Scotland at the height of Jimmy Hill-ism, and it is really hard to love the English football team because of that particular experience.

I do not know whether the Leader of the House is down as an “accept” at the Chequers get-together tomorrow, but I have a sneaking suspicion about which side she is on in this great Cabinet battle of Brexit. It is now open warfare, with the Brexiteers lining up to rubbish the latest delusional proposal. I am just wondering whether the House will get the opportunity to debate this fantastical “third way” solution that the Prime Minister is promoting before the EU27 once again reject it out of hand.

Surely it is now time for electronic voting. I understand that some of my Conservative friends got just a wee bit upset on Tuesday evening about having to vote on our estimates process. Apparently, just doing their job got in the way of being able to cheer on the English national football team. Apparently it was all the fault of us nasty Scots Nats for daring to vote in a parliamentary democracy. How dare we? Well, salvation is on its way and there is a solution available for my footy-fixated Tory friends: stop wandering round and round aimlessly for 20 minutes in a headcount in stuffed Division Lobbies, introduce some modern voting facilities and come into the 21st century. That would save England having to be eliminated on penalties so that Conservative Members can continue to do their business in this Parliament.

Lastly, this Tory dark money scandal is simply not going away. We now know the address of the murky Scottish Unionist Association Trust and we know its trustees, but we still do not know how it got its money, where that money was invested and why it was not properly registered with the Electoral Commission. It stinks to high heaven and the Scottish Tories are going to have to come clean some time very soon.

I can absolutely assure the hon. Gentleman that the side that I am on—at Chequers or anywhere—is the side of the United Kingdom. May I gently ask the hon. Gentleman whose side he is on? That is the question that he and his colleagues need to answer.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman’s question about electronic voting, I would observe that Scottish National party Members certainly should not be playing in the World cup due to the slowness of the 33 of them going through the Lobby—they showed no ability to sprint. It is entirely in order for them to vote at all times, as was pointed out on the day. Nevertheless, the Serjeant at Arms having to go twice into the Lobby to find out what was causing such a delay in the 33 of them staggering through prevented not only those in the Chamber who wanted to watch the football from doing so, but the Doorkeepers and the many other staff who support us. It was just plain mean to do that.

In response to the hon. Gentleman’s point about donations, I can tell him that the Scottish Conservative party has recorded all donations in line with the law.

The current legal framework on referendums was based on two reports—the Nairn commission report on the conduct of referendums in 1996 and the report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1998. The rules on referendums have not been updated for 20 years. Will the Leader of the House consider giving us a debate on the rules on referendums, particularly in the light of the fact that on Monday the report of the Independent Commission on Referendums, which I have been pleased to play a part in, is coming out? It was put together by the UCL constitution unit under the leadership of Meg Russell. We will have an opportunity to look at some of the suggestions on updating the rules on referendums, particularly with regard to social media and all the reports of people interfering with the process. I hope that she will take this request seriously and that we can have a detailed debate on the potential new rules that we could have surrounding this important part of our democracy.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her contribution to that debate. I certainly look forward to seeing the report. She may wish to raise her specific issue at Electoral Commission questions next Thursday.

I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business right up until the recess on 24 July. I can let the House know that we have already pre-determined that on 19 July the business nominated by the Backbench Business Committee will be the first anniversary of the tobacco control plan and smoking policy. I suspect that our determination of the business for 24 July will come this Tuesday. I hope that the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) will be happy with the outcome of that.

Yesterday in Prime Minister’s questions, my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) invited the Prime Minister to Newcastle for the great exhibition of the north. Of course, that is in both Newcastle and Gateshead, so I would like to extend that invitation to all Members to visit Newcastle and Gateshead for the great exhibition of the north. On the Gateshead side of the river, they can visit the Baltic Centre, the Sage Gateshead and the By the River Brew Co., all of which can be accessed via the Gateshead Millennium bridge—so welcome to Gateshead as well.

As ever, we all love to celebrate the great exhibition of the north and seize the opportunities to visit when we can. I am certainly looking into whether I could possibly get there; I would very much like to do so.

My constituents are currently being denied their legal rights to inspect the accounts of their local authority. Taunton Deane Borough Council’s spending data is currently a whole year out of date. My constituents have only a 30-day period in which to inspect the accounts. The council has blamed—believe it or not—a computer error. I am afraid that this is outrageous. The chief executive and the leader are wholly responsible, but the Government do have a duty on this. May we please have a debate in Government time on the ability of local councils to fulfil their statutory obligations to my constituents and many others?

My hon. Friend raises a very important and detailed point. I recommend that he raise it directly with Ministers or at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on 23 July.

The national lottery is not fit for purpose. How can it be right that, in the same year, Ashfield gets £900,000, while a city constituency a few miles down the road gets £64 million? May we have a debate in Government time on how to ensure that our former coalfield communities get their fair share from the lottery?

I would like to pay tribute to all those who buy lottery tickets and to the amazing achievements of the lottery in supporting good causes around the country. The hon. Lady makes an important point, and I suggest she seek an Adjournment debate, so that she can raise that matter.

Sylvia Plath, speaking of her beloved son, said:

“There is no guile or warp in him. May he keep so.”

In our time, our children are being warped by online gambling. The Gambling Commission reports that 25,000 children in Britain are problem gamblers and that a number of online gambling vehicles are predatory, using techniques to make children spend. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a Minister to make a statement or perhaps even hold a debate, to ensure that we take seriously this great menace? Graham Greene said:

“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”

We can condemn our children to a future that is bitter and bleak, or we can craft a future that is joyful, hopeful and wonderful.

The right hon. Gentleman’s book learning is legendary, as is his willingness generously to share it with us.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this appalling situation. I have seen myself with my own kids that when young children are playing a game, they are encouraged not to use actual money, because they do not have any, but to get addicted to the idea of buying some extra beads or something else to enable them to play that game even better. I have experience of that, and I share his grave concern. He will be aware that Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Ministers are determined to keep children safe online and are doing all they can to tackle the issue. He may wish to seek a Backbench Business debate to look at what more can be done to protect young children.

In the southern part of Syria at this moment, over a quarter of a million civilians are being bombed and attacked by Russia’s air force and the Assad regime. Is it not time we had another debate in this House on the crimes that are going on in Syria and the failure of the international community, including this country, to do anything about it?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that this is an ongoing catastrophe. The conflict is now in its eighth year, and the UN estimates that more than 400,000 people have been killed and over half the population has been displaced. He is right to raise that, and he may well wish to take it up with Defence Ministers on Monday during oral questions. The UK can be very proud that we are the second largest bilateral donor to the humanitarian response in Syria. We have now committed more than £2.7 billion to the Syria crisis since 2012, which is our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

On pages 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 of today’s Order Paper, there are more than 60 private Members’ Bills listed for Friday from 20 right hon. and hon. Members. The vast majority of those Bills will be objected to by a senior Whip on Friday. Can we have, for transparency’s sake, a statement tomorrow morning listing all the Bills that the senior Whip will object to on Friday, so that the House knows which ones to concentrate on?

My hon. Friend will know that the Government have always maintained the view that private Members’ Bills serve a very important function. They are an invaluable opportunity for Members to promote legislation on the causes they support. The Government have been keen to support a number of private Members’ Bills—I will not go into them now—and there are some excellent ones coming forward. I can also tell him that the number of private Members’ Bills passed under the Government in the 2010 Parliament was 31, versus only 22 in the 2005 Parliament. This Government have a very good record of supporting and enabling Back-Bench business to get on to the statute book.

I think that it is widely recognised across the House that, in the past few months, there has been a rise in violent crime, particularly in London. The police are stretched to the limit and are using reserve powers repeatedly, particularly in my constituency, where section 60 powers have been used a lot. I know that we recently had a debate on crime, but the Security Minister really needs to come to the House to make a statement on the situation that London is now in.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the issue of serious violence. It is a grave concern, particularly, as he points out, in urban areas. Our serious violence strategy is focused on steering young people away from crime and putting in place measures to tackle the root causes. He will be aware that, with our Offensive Weapons Bill, we are seeking to make it much harder for people to gain access to the dangerous weapons that fuel the problem with violence we are experiencing at the moment.

May we have a statement early next week from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government arising from his statement to the Local Government Association conference this week, where he said he had

“no intention of forcing reorganisation on local government where it isn’t wanted or needed”?

As you know, Mr Speaker, reorganisation is neither wanted nor needed in Christchurch, where 17,676 people voted against it in a local referendum. If the Secretary of State came to the House to make a statement, it would give him an opportunity to withdraw the opposition he continues to make in the High Court to Christchurch’s case against the Government. If the Government now withdraw their opposition to Christchurch, we could all live happily.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this constituency issue again. He will be aware that Housing, Communities and Local Government questions will take place on Monday 23 July, and that is obviously a question that is best directed straight to the Secretary of State.

Mr Speaker, some years ago, you and I visited southern Sudan. When the country of South Sudan obtained independence, we hoped it would have a better future. Sadly, a crisis of biblical proportions is going on there, with famine, warfare and everything else. Will the Leader of the House call an urgent debate on South Sudan, so that we can raise the implications of the latest failure of the peace talks, with all its repercussions?

The hon. Gentleman refers to another humanitarian crisis in a part of the world that the UK is strongly seeking to support and in which the UK is endeavouring to find peaceful ways forward. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss progress directly with a Foreign Office Minister.

I am delighted to inform the House that Erewash has topped the Which? magazine food hygiene survey, with 97% of medium and high-risk food retailers now compliant. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a significant achievement both for the food inspection and enforcement team at Erewash Borough Council and for local food retailers in my constituency? Will she consider holding a debate in Government time to highlight the important contribution that the food sector makes to our high streets?

I am very pleased to congratulate Erewash on this achievement. It is fantastic for my hon. Friend’s local council, but also for local food retailers. She is right to point out that local authorities across the UK are responsible for regulating food businesses to make sure that the food we eat is safe. She is also right that the sector makes a huge contribution to our high streets, and I encourage her to apply for a Westminster Hall debate or an Adjournment debate to raise further the contribution it makes.

May we have a debate on ministerial accountability? Many of my constituents who claim universal credit or other benefits but innocently get it wrong are sanctioned. Why do they think there is one rule for the Minister responsible for this and another rule for them?

I again say that universal credit is designed to be a better, much simpler benefit that enables more people to get into work. The Department for Work and Pensions has sought to listen to all the views expressed on both sides of the House over many months and to ensure wherever we can that we improve the service to claimants to make the experience for them much better. We will continue to listen to the experience and feedback and to improve the system so that it helps more people to get back into work.

Headteachers in my constituency and representatives from Anglia Ruskin University have raised multiple concerns about unconditional offers being given to students, irrespective of their A-level results. They believe that such offers manipulate student choices and leave students ill-equipped to cope with rigorous undergraduate programmes. May we have a Back-Bench debate to explore that issue further?

My hon. Friend raises an important and serious issue, and the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation has been clear about the need for rigorous standards. Universities and the entire higher education sector should do all they can to encourage a diverse range of people to access the higher education system, and my hon. Friend might wish to raise her specific point through an Adjournment debate.

The welcome Gilligan report on cycling came out this week and included recommendations for major investment in Oxford. May we please have a debate on that important issue?

I know how important cycling infrastructure is to the hon. Lady’s constituency, and the Government welcome Andrew Gilligan’s report for the National Infrastructure Commission on that subject. We want cycling and walking to become the natural choice of transport for people of all ages and backgrounds, particularly in urban areas, and we are determined to make it safer and easier. I would recommend that the hon. Lady apply for an Adjournment debate, but I understand she has already done so.

The whole country has rightly been celebrating three Tottenham players putting four penalties past an Arsenal goalkeeper this week. May I draw the House’s attention to the fact that the European Parliament is today debating the EU copyright directive, which will have incredible implications for internet users and also protect artists’ copyright? Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate in the House on that issue, which is of the utmost importance to our future?

Would you like to confirm your delight at the performance of those Spurs players, Mr Speaker? Not sure. On my hon. Friend’s substantive question, that is indeed an important topic, and having heard from the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, I suspect there will be the opportunity to raise such a matter for debate in the pre-recess Adjournment debate.

On 10 May, I asked the Leader of the House, on behalf of my constituent, Heather Cameron, for a debate on pensions. Heather Cameron is in the Gallery today, so may I ask the right hon. Lady whether there will be time before the summer recess for a binding vote to secure justice for those women born in the 1950s who have been robbed of their state pensions?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I have just read out the business up to the summer recess. There will be opportunities for Adjournment debates and Westminster Hall debates in the usual way, and I encourage him to seek such a debate. I also encourage him to bear in mind that the Government have already sought to minimise the impact of these measures on the personal pensions of women born during the 1950s.

May we have a debate on the NHS? As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS, Moray has received a bitter blow. NHS Grampian has said that maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin will be downgraded for up to 18 months, so hundreds of pregnant women will have to travel to Aberdeen or Inverness to give birth, rather than do so locally in Moray. Does my right hon. Friend agree with local campaigns, such as the Keep MUM campaign, which says that the proposals raise grave concerns about the safety of pregnant women, babies and sick children?

My hon. Friend is right, of course, to raise the importance of having local, good-quality care for pregnant mums, and the opportunity for women to deliver their babies safely and close to home is key. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his determination to campaign for such things in his constituency, and I wish him and the Keep MUM campaign every success.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of when my secretary, Linda Spencer, first came to work at the House of Commons. I would like to thank Linda for all her hard work on my behalf and that of former colleagues, Gisela Stuart and the late John Fraser. Does the Leader of the House think she might find time for a short debate in which we can pay tribute to the hard work of all the staff—cleaners, catering staff, secretaries, researchers, admin workers, doormen and women, Hansard reporters, Clerks, librarians, maintenance workers, and police and security staff—because without their hard work, we could not possibly carry out our duties on behalf of our constituents?

Order. I just say to the hon. Gentleman that I am very much aware of this matter and that a letter from me will be winging its way to Linda Spencer today.

I join you, Mr Speaker, in paying tribute to her for her many long years of service. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise the fact that all the support staff right across the Palace of Westminster enable us to do our work and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. I encourage him to make his points more fully in the pre-recess Adjournment debate.

Last weekend, I attended an excellent EqualiTeas event organised by Bramhall and Woodford guides. I discovered that across my constituency hundreds of children are waiting to go into guides and scouts, but that a lack of volunteers is preventing them from doing so. Will my right hon. Friend join me, as a former beaver leader, in recognising the importance of the valuable work scouting and guiding volunteers do? Perhaps there could be a debate on this.

Yes. My hon. Friend raises the absolutely vital work of volunteers in all sorts of youth groups—beavers is just one of them. There is no doubt that across all our communities volunteering enables young people to have different opportunities and experiences, and that is very much appreciated. I certainly encourage my hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate, so she can pay her own tribute to them.

The drug death figures for Scotland have just come out and they are absolutely shocking: they have increased since the 2016 figures. Will the Government arrange for a debate in Government time on their failing drug strategy, which is not supporting my constituents or people in Scotland?

I am incredibly sorry to hear about the drug statistics. I am not aware of them, but the hon. Lady might like to raise this matter directly with the Secretary of State for Scotland at Scotland questions next week. I can certainly assure her that the Government are very conscious of the need to get rid of the scourge of illegal drug-taking and the massive damage it causes to people’s lives.

Mr Speaker, I know you have been a great supporter of Guide Dogs. Many right hon. and hon. Members will have seen its stand just off the Committee Corridor recently. Its big campaign is to try to make kerb parking illegal, as it is and has been in London since 1974. I know the roads Minister is looking at this issue, but perhaps a debate in Government time might persuade the Minister that it is about time those powers were extended outside London.

My hon. Friend is right that there was a fantastic exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall. He is absolutely right that the big problem of pavement parking causes real challenges for people with visual impairments. I certainly encourage him, if he did not already raise this at Transport questions today, to raise it directly with Ministers, perhaps through an Adjournment debate.

On 5 June, The Yorkshire Post and other great northern newspapers wrote to the Prime Minister about their “One North” campaign in relation to the rail timetable shambles and their request for Transport for the North to get additional powers over transport in the north. It is now a month on and they have not had a response from the Prime Minister, so I wondered if the Leader could do her best to get a response to those newspapers.

If the hon. Lady wants to write to me, I can find out what has happened to the response she is looking for. She will be aware, though, that it was this Government who created the great north rail project, which intends to provide investment of well over £1 billion by 2020 to provide space for more than 40,000 more passengers. It is designed to provide big improvements for rail passengers in the north.

Fly-tipping is no longer a minor nuisance in Beckenham, and it is reaching almost endemic proportions in some places. The cost of dealing with even just one instance of it can run into thousands of pounds, not including checking it for hazardous waste and then trying to get evidence for prosecutions. Can we have a debate on the current level of financial support offered by the Treasury to local authorities to address the scourge of fly-tipping?

There is no doubt that the problem of fly-tipping has increased. My hon. Friend will be aware that as a Government, we are intending to reduce fly-tipping through better prevention, detection and risk-based enforcement. The National Fly-tipping Prevention Group promotes good practice and we are cracking down on offenders by strengthening the Sentencing Council’s guideline for environmental offences. We are also giving stronger powers for suspected fly-tippers’ vehicles to be seized and destroyed. There is no doubt that there is more to do but it is a priority for the Government, and he might like to seek an Adjournment debate to discuss it further.

On this, the 70th anniversary of the NHS, colleagues might be surprised to hear of the £3.5 billion cost that alcohol causes to the NHS every year. That is enough to pay for the salaries of some 58,000 hospital doctors or more than 117,000 hospital nurses. With this in mind, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in Government time, as this is important to every party in the House, on the harms and the cost of alcohol not only to health, but to our whole nation, as well as on the solutions we can use to address this problem?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important matter. The Government fully recognise the devastating impact that alcohol misuse can have on individuals and their families, as well as the costs to our health service, which in Northern Ireland, are up to £900 million each year. We are developing a new cross-Government strategy for alcohol, which, among a number of measures, will invest £6 million over three years to support vulnerable children living with alcohol-dependent parents. However, he is absolutely right: as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, we have to consider the big challenges that it continues to face, such as tackling the damage of alcoholism.

Can we have an urgent debate on providing relief to communities whose lives and homes are being ruined by inappropriately routed traffic? The residents of Hockliffe have put up with days of really unacceptable disturbance. They want the A5 going through the village detrunked and a heavy goods vehicle ban, and this is entirely achievable as an acceptable alternative route exists.

I am sorry to hear about my hon. Friend’s problems with his A5. I have similar problems with an A5 in my constituency, and I am sure that all hon. Members suffer considerable problems with particular roads. The Government are investing £15 billion in the strategic road network between 2015 and 2021 to improve its performance for users and those who are affected by it, such as, as he points out, the residents of Hockliffe. If he was not able to raise this in Transport questions earlier, I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate, or if he wants to write to me, I can take up his particular question with the Department for Transport.

Many of my constituents worked at the Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil until it closed, except for distribution, in 2009, and they paid into what was a highly regarded pension fund. Despite the fund showing huge surpluses in past years, which paid into Her Majesty’s Treasury and the company, the pension pot is now in deficit and is being transferred to the Pension Protection Fund. Many of those who contributed the most risk having a 10% cut to their pension. With other companies taking this option, can we have a debate to consider the fairness of companies transferring their liabilities and pensioners losing out?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. Clearly, we have seen examples right across the country of companies that have effectively removed assets from their pension funds—it is completely unacceptable. The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), would be happy to meet him to discuss this particular issue, or indeed, he could seek an Adjournment debate to discuss it directly with Ministers.

New rolling stock—refurbished class 170s—are starting to appear on the Harrogate and Knaresborough line. I have had much positive feedback from constituents on this, and they can see the end in sight for Pacers. These trains are a significant upgrade. On top of that, we will see the first newly built stock arriving into the franchise from the manufacturer this month, so can we have a statement from the transport team on the progress that is being made on bringing new rolling stock into the railways of Yorkshire?

I am really pleased to hear that my hon. Friend’s constituents have seen the improved quality that the class 170 trains are beginning to provide for passengers. Production of the new trains is well under way, with 14 trains already built. As he knows, this is part of a major programme, and both Northern and TransPennine will have bigger train fleets, all of which will be either brand new or fully refurbished. And, as he points out, this will mean the end of the unpopular Pacer trains.

Loraine Farren from the Red Box Project and Sarah Watkinson from Mirfield Winter Warmers are doing tremendous work in my constituency collecting and distributing menstrual products for girls in schools and young women who cannot afford to buy them for themselves. I am pleased to say that my office will be a collection point for anyone who wishes to drop off such products, and I hope that other MPs will be able to do the same at their constituency offices. May we have a further debate on period poverty?

The hon. Lady raises a really important issue, and I am pleased to tell the House that I was at a Youth Democracy Week event only this week where a young man raised exactly the same point. He asked why, when young men are being offered free condoms, young women cannot be offered free sanitary protection. I told him I completely agreed with him, and said that this would be exactly the sort of campaign that young people such as himself could use to raise the profile of this issue. The hon. Lady is also absolutely right to raise this, and I would be delighted to see her seek an Adjournment debate or indeed a Backbench Business debate so that this subject can be discussed more fully.

May we please have a debate on what is being done to support our high streets? They represent an important part of our towns, and it would be useful to have a debate on this matter.

My hon. Friend might have seen the Grimsey report, which promotes the idea of local leadership on the high street. He is right to say that high streets are vital to thriving communities, and as people change the way in which they shop, it is important that we do more at local level to ensure that we keep the heart of our communities going.

Order. I am keen to accommodate remaining colleagues, but there should be a contract between us. Under the terms of the contract, colleagues should undertake to ask a question that does not exceed a sentence. If they do that, I will be able to get everybody in.

What a test, Mr Speaker! May we have a statement on the inadequacy of personal independence payment assessments for people with acquired brain injury? My constituent has contacted me to say that his nerves are shattered and that he is now on anti-depressants because, although his neurology report has clearly stated that he will never work again due to the severity and impact of his brain injury, he has been assessed as ineligible for this benefit.

I am truly sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s constituent’s case. I encourage her to take it up directly with Ministers, or if she wants to write to me, I will do that for her.

Hot, dry weather is normally something to be celebrated, but it has led to, and sustained, a huge fire on Winter Hill overlooking my constituency. I pay tribute to the contribution of the fire brigade in controlling the fire, but may we have a debate on the contribution of the voluntary sector, and especially the Bolton mountain rescue team, in dealing with this crisis?

I think all hon. Members will want to join my hon. Friend in praising the efforts of the firefighters and the military who are really working hard to try to get these fires under control. I am sure he will want to seek an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate on this, so that there can be further discussion of the problems and the potential criminality that is causing the fires in the first place.

A recent report found that 40% of the Government’s top 100 suppliers failed to meet the basic legal requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. May we have a debate on modern slavery in supply chains, and on what progress the Government are making on ending extreme labour exploitation here and overseas?

The hon. Lady is right to raise the issue of modern slavery. I am sure she will recognise that this Government have done a huge amount to try to tackle this scourge with the first ever Modern Slavery Act. She is right to raise the problem of continued slavery within the supply chain. We have Home Office questions on Monday 16 July, and she might want to seek a further update on progress at those oral questions.

Our all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking reports next week on dispute resolution, so that businesses that have been mistreated by their banks will be able to find justice for the first time. Bearing in mind that the kick-off for our event is 7 o’clock next Wednesday, would my right hon. Friend be willing to offer some Government time to enable these matters to be properly debated?

I first pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his assiduous efforts to ensure better banking that is fair to consumers and businesses—he has really fought hard on this topic—and I would certainly support the idea of a debate in this place. He might want to seek a Back-Bench debate, given that the issue is of great interest right across the House and that many Members have constituency cases of their own.

May we have a debate in Government time about how long it takes Ministers to respond to letters? I wrote to the Home Office about my Easterhouse constituent, Mr Kasharfeh, eight months ago, and I have only just had a holding reply. Does the Leader of the House think that is really good enough?

I am sorry to hear about that delay. I am sure there is a reason for it. As he will know, there are standard turnaround times for Departments to respond to correspondence, but occasionally letters do go astray. We have Home Office questions on 16 July, but if he wants to write to me, I can chase it up for him.

Could the Leader of the House look at the policy of flying the England flag on match days? It is obviously fantastic news that the England men’s football team have been so successful, but on Sunday the England women’s cricket team defeated New Zealand in the final of the three nations series—Australia, New Zealand and England—and they go into the world cup this winter as the hot favourites. Please can we fly the flag for women and men equally?

My hon. Friend should be reassured to know that the Prime Minister made clear her determination to fly the England flag for England’s women as much as England’s men, and indeed for all nations of the United Kingdom. We support our sporting teams. It is a great pleasure that we all come together to share the enjoyment of our national sporting teams.

After suffering domestic abuse and with the support of the police, my constituent was able to leave the home she shared with her partner, but the bank refused to allow her to take her name off the mortgage without his permission. Of course, he would not give permission and he blocked the sale of the house. After five years of her not paying the mortgage, the bank repossessed and sold below the market rate, leaving her with a £35,000 debt. Can we have a statement outlining what help can be given to my constituent and what can be done to make banks fulfil their moral duty as well as their legal duty?

I have a vague recollection that the hon. Gentleman has raised exactly this point before about dual signatures—

No? Well, certainly another Member has. I am extremely sympathetic to the need to ensure that co-signatories in an abusive relationship can separate. It is unacceptable otherwise. If he wants to write to me with the details of the case, I can forward them to the Department for a substantive reply.

As the Leader of the House will know, small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of my local economy. What opportunities will there be in the near future to discuss the opportunities they will have in a post-Brexit Britain?

I hope my hon. Friend will recognise that we have had one or two debates on the UK’s prospects as we seek to leave the EU; there will be many more opportunities, but I just remind all hon. Members that we had 37 days of debate on the withdrawal Bill and five Westminster Hall debates in the last month on Brexit and the opportunities arising from it. He is absolutely right, though, that we need to consider the opportunities and not just the negotiations. There are significant chances, particularly given that many UK companies do not do business with the EU but still have to abide by regulations that for many small and medium-sized enterprises can really hamper progress. I am very optimistic about their future, and I am sure he will find plenty of chances in the coming weeks to put forward his views on the opportunities that will arise.

Refugee families with young children settled in schools in Cardiff Central are being moved hundreds of miles around the country with just a few days’ notice because of a shortage of outsourced Home Office accommodation, which undoes all the good work that teachers and teaching assistants do to help these most vulnerable of children. Please can we have a statement from the Home Secretary about the expensive, shoddy and dysfunctional Home Office accommodation contracts?

The hon. Lady will be aware that this country has been incredibly generous and very careful in the way that it treats refugees who come to this country to seek asylum and to escape from appalling experiences overseas. However, she may wish to raise her specific concerns during Home Office questions, which will take place on 16 July.

On Tuesday a member of staff at the Countess of Chester hospital was arrested following the investigation of a number of unexplained deaths in the neonatal unit. Anyone who has attended baby loss debates in the House will know that it is impossible to overestimate how traumatic the loss of a newborn is, which is why I was so disgusted to hear of the doorstepping of my constituents by members of the press following the news. May we please have a debate on how we can stop this disgusting, immoral practice?

We have all been horrified to hear about the problem of unexplained deaths in that hospital, and I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s disgust at the doorstepping of people who have suffered the appalling loss of a baby. It is utterly unacceptable. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to take this up directly with Ministers, or perhaps to seek a Westminster Hall debate in order to discuss the issue of intrusion in such very sensitive cases.

After 17 months of dithering, delays and doubts, the UK Government have still not made a full commitment to the Tay cities deal. They have not said how much they will provide and when they will provide it. The people of Dundee have a right to know, and they need to know now. May we have an urgent statement, most properly from the Treasury but perhaps from the Secretary of State for Scotland, about the progress of the deal and when it will finally be delivered?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, Scotland questions will take place next Wednesday, and I am sure that Ministers will be able to give him the answer then. However, I am also sure he will be delighted that four city region deals have already been arranged in Glasgow, Inverness and the Highlands, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh and south-east Scotland. So progress is being made, and the Government have shown their commitment to providing greater devolution so that local communities can make their own progress in the way that is most appropriate for them.

This week The Guardian revealed that the Government are spending some of the £1.3 billion aid budget of the conflict, stability and security fund on promoting austerity with Saatchi and Saatchi in Tunisia. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has said that the fund is badly managed, and the International Development Committee has asked for an immediate review of it. When will the Secretary of State for International Development come to the House and make a statement about how that review will take place?

I am afraid I am not aware of the report that the hon. Gentleman has cited. I suggest he take it up either by means of a written question or directly with International Development Ministers, so that he can be given an answer that is to his satisfaction.