House of Commons
Thursday 12 July 2018
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The Secretary of State was asked—
Protected Geographical Indications: Export Value
I have regular discussions with the Secretary of State for International Trade and others on promoting the UK’s food and drink abroad, including those foods with geographical indications. Food and drink with GIs represents about 25% of UK food and drink exports by value, with Scotch whisky being the largest by far. Those play an important role as exemplars of quality British produce.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Arbroath Smokies, Stornoway black pudding and Scotch whisky are all key products in maintaining a high profile for Scottish food and drink. When he comes to agree trade deals post Brexit, will he be consulting and involving the Scottish Government in these discussions to make sure that all brands are protected?
I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that we are clear that initially, through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, all of our protected food names will come across and be protected in UK law. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that we maintain all our protected food names, and we have some 70 right across the country. I know that some, particularly salmon and Scotch whisky, are incredibly important to Scotland, and of course we will be working with our devolved Administrations and with our MPs in this House to make sure we protect those foods.
As well as working with the Scottish Government, does the Minister agree that the Scotch Whisky Association has done an incredible amount of work on this issue, which is hugely important for that industry? Will he give further assurance that he is working across government—not just in his Department, but with every Department—to ensure that everyone knows how important the GIs are?
Yes, and I would like to pay tribute to the work that the Scottish Conservative MPs have done to highlight these important issues. On Scotch whisky, we, along with the Department for International Trade, have done a lot of work with other Departments to ensure that we highlight the importance of these vital brands.
The Secretary of State was explicit that
“market access for fisheries products is separate to the question of fishing opportunities and access to waters.”
But what use are fishing opportunities and access to waters if your product risks being held up in customs? For industries such as the live shellfish industry of Orkney this is literally a life-and-death situation, for should one of these shellfish perish, the whole tank is lost. Has the Minister had conversations about the difficulty we may have in the near future?
I am not aware there is a precedent anywhere else in the world of giving a country access to your waters—to your own resources—in return for trade agreements. That is just not the way it works. There will be a discussion and an agreement on the management of shared fisheries stocks, and we are clear in our White Paper that we will manage our own exclusive economic zone and control access to it. Then there is a separate discussion to be had on trade, and the EU wants access to the UK market, too.
It is a great pleasure to welcome the hon. Lady back to the House.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a great pleasure to be back, and I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) for the fantastic work he did.
Last year, we were listening to hon. Members and the industry, which is why we changed the criteria for the woodland carbon fund and the woodland creation planning grant to make them more attractive to applicants. I am pleased to say that countryside stewardship applications have increased; we have established a large-scale woodland creation unit; we are providing funding to kick-start the northern forest; and we have appointed the national tree champion, Sir William Worsley, to help drive the growth in forestry.
May I, too, say how wonderful it is to see the Minister back in her place? But while back in her place, can she reassure me that a pilot forestry investment zone will be launched this summer and that its sole focus will be on delivering the productive softwood planting that the forestry industry, including sawmills in my constituency, so desperately needs?
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield did announce that the first forestry investment zone will be in Cumbria. I cannot give my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Chris Davies) an assurance that it will solely focus on softwood planting, but we are recruiting the person to lead that zone and I am confident they will be in place before the end of year.
I welcome the Minister back, but will she give that Secretary of State of hers a good thump in the direction of taking trees seriously? There is a close relationship between trees and the quality of air that we breathe in our country, and this Government only plan to sort out clean air by 2040. Can we not have more trees, as under the northern forest initiative and the white rose initiative? Will she get that man next to her to do something and do it now?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is exceptionally passionate about trees; I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the Secretary of State’s constituency has the highest concentration of trees in the country. This issue is not always straightforward. I was at the planting of the first Lowther park estate, where 230,000 trees are due to be planted, and there is more happening up on Doddington moor. Through things such as the woodland creation grant and the creation unit, we will continue to work to get more parts of the country planting quickly.
Mr Speaker, I am sure that in your constituency and mine there will be a lot of tree planting to replace the trees that have to be felled for the construction of High Speed 2. I welcome the Minister back to her role. Will she give serious consideration to the proposal for a new national park at the heart of the west midlands conurbation, so that the biodiversity lost can be offset at scale?
The Department for Transport has already issued a grant so that tree planting can start, so that is already under way. Julian Glover is undertaking a review of national parks and we want to understand the future perspective. I am sure that my right hon. Friend’s application will be considered carefully.
The right hon. Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman) may not know this, because she does not have eyes in the back of her head, but I can advise her that she has now thoroughly wound up the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan).
Pursuant to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman), I remind the Minister that HS2 will go through Buckinghamshire and the Chiltern hills. Is she aware that we are contemplating applying for national park status for the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty? That would help to protect what ancient woodland and trees are left after HS2 has gone through the middle of Buckinghamshire.
I am sure that that consideration will be given serious attention in due course.
Oh, very well; I call Mr Philip Dunne.
I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister back to her place. On the proper stewardship of trees, is she satisfied that the existing arrangements between the Forest Holidays group and the Forestry Commission fully accord with the commission’s statutory objectives?
We are not happy about the arrangement that the Forestry Commission has entered into with Forest Holidays, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has asked Colin Day—the Department’s non-executive director and chair of its audit and risk committee—to undertake a review. He will be investigating the matter carefully.[Official Report, 16 July 2018, Vol. 645, c. 2MC.]
Leaving the EU: UK Fish Exports
We want to secure an agreement with the European Union that ensures tariff-free and frictionless market access for fisheries products. That is of course a separate negotiation from those on fishing opportunities and access to waters, which will be founded on the UK’s legal status as an independent coastal state and will be consistent with fisheries agreements internationally.
Commiserations on the tennis, Mr Speaker.
And the football.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s belated recognition that we cannot have frictionless exports to the European Union for our fish and agriculture products if we are not in a single market, as the Chequers agreement recognises. Will he explain why his fellow hard-Brexiteers do not seem to grasp that simple truth? Do they just not care about our fish and agricultural exports?
It would be wrong to say that the position put forward in the Chequers agreement is analogous to membership of the single market or the European economic area. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that membership of the European economic area and the single market does not guarantee entirely frictionless access to the European Union for fisheries or other products.
Many fisheries and seafood-processing companies in my constituency have come together with other businesses to express interest in the concept of a free port, post-Brexit. Will the Secretary of State assure them that the Government will agree to nothing that would prevent a future Government from designating free ports?
It would be reckless of any Government to do anything that would imperil the ambitions and aspirations exhibited by the exemplary constituents whom my hon. Friend serves so well.
The White Paper makes it clear that the Government do not intend to change the method for allocating existing quotas. Two thirds of UK fish quotas are controlled by three huge companies, and small boats are being squeezed. Is it not time for the Government to admit that Scotland’s fishermen will see absolutely no benefit from Brexit, but will lose access to the world’s biggest marketplace?
Almost everything in that question was wrong, but that does not surprise me because almost everything in the Scottish National party’s position on fisheries is wrong. It wants to stay in the European Union and therefore in the common fisheries policy and yet it wants Scotland’s fishermen to enjoy all the advantages of being outside the common fisheries policy. Some Members of this House have been accused of wanting to have their cake and eat it. I am afraid that SNP Members want to have a whole chain of bakeries and eat everything in them. If hypocrisy were a term that was allowed to be used in this House, then it would fit the Scottish National party like a bunnet.
There is no prohibition on the use of the term. It can apply to a collective, but not to an individual. The judgment as to whether the Minister is on the right side of the line falls to me. Happily, from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman, he has not erred.
Persuade me that the common rulebook is not the acquis by another name.
The acquis is, of course, a French term and the common rulebook is an Anglo-Saxon one, and therefore they are happily distinct. I know that my right hon. Friend is fond of Anglo-Saxon terms and pithy ones at that. One thing I would say about the common rulebook is that it governs goods and it governs agri-foods only in so far as is necessary to have free and frictionless access. In that respect, we remain, and will be, a sovereign nation.
Leaving the EU: Agriculture and Fisheries Management
Mr Speaker, thank you for your indulgence on the line call earlier in saying that the ball was in.
The Government’s consultation setting out the policy framework for agriculture in England after the UK leaves the EU closed on 8 May. All responses have been analysed and will be used to inform future policy. A report of the findings will be published in due course. Plans for the reform of fisheries management when the UK leaves the EU were set out in the “Sustainable fisheries for future generations” White Paper, which was published on 4 July.
What post-Brexit safeguards are being put in place to stop EU vessels registering in the UK simply to farm our waters of fish, as happened in the Factortame case, if there is to be a common rulebook in the agriculture and food sector?
The hon. Lady raises some very important points. The first thing to say is that the Factortame case was a case that relied on the supremacy of the European Court of Justice. The supremacy of the European Court of Justice will end under the Government’s proposals for leaving the European Union; that is quite clear. The second thing is that the common rulebook on agri-food applies only to those sanitary and phytosanitary requirements that allow us frictionless access to the EU. That means that we will be outside the common agricultural policy and outside the common fisheries policy. It is also the case that economic link conditions can be reformed in such a way to meet the needs that she points out.
What consideration has been given to changing the fishing-quota-based system post Brexit to either a percentage-based system or a days-at-sea-based system, which would significantly help my fishermen in Newhaven?
My hon. Friend stands up very well for the fisher people of Newhaven. One thing we can do outside the common fisheries policy, as the fisheries White Paper spells out, is reallocate additional quota and we can also—and we propose to do this—pilot days-at-sea or effort-based methods of fisheries control. We hope to work with inshore fishermen such as those whom she represents so well.
The truth is that the Government could be taking action today to support the UK’s catching sector. Instead, they are sending the most lucrative licences out of the UK. Why?
Well, we are in the European Union at the moment and governed by its rules and that is why the people of Grimsby voted to leave.
When will the farmers and crofters in my constituency know the shape and content of the UK-wide framework for the payment of agricultural support post Brexit?
There are many important things for the farmers whom the right hon. Gentleman represents, but the details of how payments will be paid have been laid out by the Scottish Government, by the relevant Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, and I know that he is consulting on those proposals.
As my right hon. Friend will be profoundly aware, the EU Commission wishes to maintain guaranteed and continued access to UK waters even after we leave the EU and the common fisheries policy. I am pleased that, in the fisheries White Paper published last week and in discussions with fishermen during his visit to Peterhead in my constituency last week, he confirmed that that is not the position of this Government. Will he confirm again today that, as negotiations with the EU continue, this Government will not allow the Commission to conflate its access to British waters with our access to EU markets?
My hon. Friend puts the case absolutely correctly.
It is a delight to see the DEFRA team still in their place, but may I offer a special welcome to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), who we have missed? We hope that she enjoys her time back as part of the team.
Will the Government tell us exactly who they can sign a free trade deal with, apart from the EU, whereby we do not degrade either environmental protection or animal welfare standards?
Lots of countries.
Monopoly Water Providers: Senior Executive Pay
On 1 March I set out the need for water companies to respond to public concerns over executive pay and a number of other practices. The Government fully support Ofwat’s reforms that require water companies to ensure that executive pay is linked to customer service.
The chief executive of Severn Trent earned £2.45 million last year. As a Wrexham customer I have to contribute to that salary, following the hostile takeover of our local water company. Does the Secretary of State, in his new progressive form, agree that Severn Trent should follow the example of the John Lewis Partnership and link the pay of its highest paid chief executives to those within the business who are lower paid?
It will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to know that I am a huge fan of the John Lewis Partnership and the leadership that its executives have shown. This Government and this DEFRA team have taken stronger action than previous Governments and previous teams have done in order to ensure that water companies smarten up their act, that they deal not just with executive pay, but with some of the byzantine financial structures that have not worked in consumer interests in the past, and that they invest more in improving the environment and keeping bills low.
Far too much water in this country is wasted by it leaking out of water pipes. Why on earth can we not link the pay of senior water company executives to their achievement of leakage reduction targets?
Ofwat, the regulator, has been stringent in the steps that it has taken in order to ensure that performance will be linked to pay in the future.
Mr Speaker, may I first join you and others in welcoming back the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), to her rightful place at the Dispatch Box?
I am afraid that prior to the “beast from the east” Ofwat made it perfectly clear that it had no interest in taking direct action on executive pay, tax structures or dividends. May I say how delighted Labour Members are that, after months of raising this very issue, Ofwat has finally U-turned on its position? Will the Secretary of State explain why it has taken Ofwat so long to take this action and tighten up the weak regulation that has let customers down so badly?
I am so glad that the hon. Lady welcomes the action that Ofwat is taking. Ofwat has superb leadership and I am four-square behind that leadership in ensuring that we get a better deal from water companies.
Since 2014, the Government have given the Environment Agency an extra £60 million to tackle waste crime, as well as additional powers to take stronger enforcement action. This year we consulted on further measures to prevent crime at waste sites and I have commissioned a review of serious and organised crime in the sector. The review’s recommendations will inform our strategic approach to waste crime in the forthcoming resources and waste strategy.
One area about which I get considerable correspondence from my constituents is that of fly-tipping. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is not only morally reprehensible, but a threat to the environment and our wildlife? Will he also outline what the Government are doing to tackle fly-tipping, particularly in the countryside?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; fly-tipping is morally reprehensible and does have environmental costs. That is why a review, being led by Lizzie Noel, one of the non-executive directors at DEFRA, and supported by Chris Salmon, former police and crime commissioner for Dyfed-Powys, will look at exactly what powers and sanctions are required to deal effectively with this scourge.
Fly-tipping in all its forms is unacceptable, but it is particularly unacceptable when businesses try to avoid costs by dumping commercial waste on unauthorised sites. In such circumstances, does the Secretary of State feel that those businesses should have their vehicles confiscated, alongside any other assets that they use to facilitate this unacceptable practice?
The hon. Gentleman, like me, is tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Therefore, we will give consideration to his recommendation in the review that is being led by Lizzie Noel.
Plastic Waste Recycling
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimates that in 2017 there were exports of 661,000 tonnes, compared with 790,000 the year before. Since China banned imports of certain plastic waste at the start of this year, exports to China have fallen significantly, but exports to other countries have risen. We want to ensure more and better-quality plastic recycling in the UK, and we will set out measures for this in our resources and waste strategy later this year.
Will the Minister give the House more detail on the likely impact on UK plastic pollution of China’s and Thailand’s decision to restrict UK dry recycling imports?
As I said, exports to China have fallen drastically, but other countries such as Turkey and Vietnam have taken on more of the plastic waste. Our issue has been more with the paper waste that China used to take from us. It is proving a challenge to get the price that it used to attract.
Wales has the best recycling rate in the UK and the second best in Europe, and the Welsh Labour Government have the stated aim of being the first “refill nation”. Could not the Department learn a lot from Wales, including on plastics that we send abroad, and incorporate that in the upcoming resources and waste strategy for England?
Indeed. I give credit to the Welsh Government for their progress, as I have at the EU Environment Council in the past, and I assure the hon. Lady that we have been looking carefully at what they are doing.
It is vital that we recycle more of our plastic waste here at home and create jobs and growth in every nation and region of this great country. I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to my Committee yesterday to recycle half of England’s 35 million asthma inhalers by 2020, not only because of the damaging plastic but because of the damaging fluorinated gases—greenhouse gases—that they release into the atmosphere. Will the Minister enshrine the principle of extended producer responsibility into law through the waste strategy so that more producers are responsible for the waste they produce?
Extended producer responsibility is already part of the legal framework that exists today. I assure the hon. Lady that EPR and the PRN—packaging recovery note—are being very carefully looked at, but she will have to wait until later in the year.
Farming: Environmentally Sustainable Produce
The Government have pledged to work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain to devise a new agri-environment scheme to be introduced in the next Parliament.
What provisions is my right hon. Friend’s Department making to maintain high environmental standards in farming in case of no deal?
The Department is undertaking significant steps to ensure that high environmental standards are maintained not just in farming but across the piece in the event of the country leaving the European Union in March 2019 without a deal, but of course it remains the commitment of this Government to secure the best possible deal for Britain.
Will the Secretary of State support the recommendations of the agroforestry review by the Soil Association and the Woodland Trust and put on-farm tree planting at the centre of any environmental land management scheme?
We absolutely recognise the vital importance of integrating forestry with farming on appropriate sites and at appropriate times.
Leaving the EU: Food Quality Standards
As a country, we are proud of our high food safety and animal welfare standards, and we have no intention of undermining our reputation for quality by lowering our food and animal welfare standards in pursuit of trade deals.
The Government are demonstrating today that they are happy to roll out the red carpet for unpalatable arrivals from the US, so can the Minister confirm that the Prime Minister’s Chequers agreement means that we will hold a stronger line when it comes to rejecting chlorinated chicken imports?
The existing food safety provisions on issues such as chlorinated chicken will come across through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. We have always been clear that we will not water down our standards in pursuit of trade deals. The general approach is that if one is a guest in another country seeking to do business there, then one should adopt and abide by the customs and rules in those markets. That is what we do when we seek access to foreign markets, and that is what countries will have to do when they seek access to our markets.
Air pollution and climate change are closely linked. Our strategy for cleaner air recognises that our “road to zero” strategy tackles several of the issues that were raised in the report. In addition, our future energy, heat and industrial policies, including phasing out coal-fired power stations and improving energy efficiency, show that we can do stuff by working together for air quality and climate change.
The Committee on Climate Change has been scathing about the Government’s abysmal response to the UK’s seriously poor air quality, citing the fact that we are now on course to miss the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. Many of us struggle to breathe due to air pollution, and around 50,000 people die prematurely each year, while the Government have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds defending their record in the courts. When will they get a grip and put forward a workable and funded air quality strategy for the sake of my residents in York?
Overall air quality has actually been improving, and the hon. Lady will be aware that our legal challenge is on roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration. I am sure she will want to respond to the clean air strategy, which is ambitious and will achieve a lot of the outcomes we all want, wherever we live in this country, so that we have better air.
The Government’s “road to zero” strategy, published earlier this week, provides clarity on the role that cleaner diesel vehicles can play in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and meeting ever more stringent air quality standards. My hon. Friend will be aware that we continue to have the policy to end the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040.
I am not aware of that call about the national parks, but I am sure that the hon. Lady recognises the £3.5 billion being invested in improving air quality—a lot of it in changing transport mode to more buses, which I know she is a fan of, and through more cycling and walking. We continue to want to implement that.
The tragic death of a nine-year-old is the first death to be directly linked to illegal levels of air pollution. The lawyer representing the family has said:
“The Government has willingly presided over illegal EU air quality limits since 2010 and this ongoing failure is costing lives.”
Does the Secretary of State agree?
The death from asthma of Ella Kissi-Debrah is absolutely tragic. It is important to say that this is part of an ongoing legal assessment, and it has not yet been conclusively linked to air pollution, but I am fully aware of the impact that poor air quality can have, and that is why this Government are acting on it.
According to UNICEF, more than 4.5 million children in the UK are growing up in areas with toxic levels of air pollution. It is unacceptable that the most vulnerable members of society, who contribute the least to air pollution, are the ones suffering most from its effect. Will the Minister accept that this is a children’s health crisis? What urgent targeted action and funding to reduce child exposure have the Government committed to?
I recognise that this is a challenge, and that is why the Government are addressing it so clearly. The clean air strategy has come out, and the issue that UNICEF refers to is particulate matter. Under current EU rules, we are not in any way breaching the levels set out, but we have recognised that we have to take action. Some 40% of particulate matter comes from domestic burning, which is why we will be consulting on measures later this summer.
The future of food production has to be at the heart of DEFRA’s work. That is why I am very pleased that, in conversations I have been having over the past two weeks with our lead non-executive director, Henry Dimbleby, he says he is drawing up plans to envisage how a food strategy can operate across Government. I look forward to updating colleagues on the progress of that work.
I very much welcome the appointment of Julian Glover to do a review of national parks. Will my right hon. Friend say when he expects that review to report? Does he agree that it is very important that national parks are not held back to become museums, but become thriving places for people to invest and develop houses in the right places?
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. He is absolutely right; Julian Glover is an outstanding individual who I know will conduct a superb piece of work, which we expect to publish in the latter half of next year. My right hon. Friend is also right to say that the reason our national parks are so successful is that they are not museums; they are active, working places, and individuals make sure that they are places of beauty that draw so many visitors, but are also places of food production and economic activity.
The Environment Agency is the regulator in this regard, and operators are bound to ensure that what is exported gets recycled appropriately. I have not looked at that report yet, but I am happy to look into this and write to the hon. Gentleman.
I remember my visit to Wales with affection, and I am very much looking forward to revisiting my hon. Friend’s constituency, I hope, in under a fortnight’s time for the royal Welsh show. Those young farmers are outstanding young men and women, and it is my responsibility to make sure that their commitment both to food production and to high environmental standards is supported at every level. May I also congratulate the Welsh Government on their proposals for providing support for farming in the future? I look forward to working with them.
The Secretary of State scored a major coup in being the first to interview President-elect Trump. As the Secretary of State has since become a born-again green and the President will touch down on these shores today, will the Secretary of State use all his famous skills of tact and persuasion, as well as that pre-existing special relationship, to impress on the President that climate change is an existential threat to our planet and to persuade him to reverse his disastrous decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accords?
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for being so generous about some of the activities I undertook when I had a sabbatical from the Front Bench earlier in this Parliament. Of course, she is very flattering. I do not know that I have the diplomatic skills to bring the President of the United States into the same space that she and I are in when it comes to fighting climate change, but believe me, I will do my best.
The Secretary of State should not undersell himself; he really should not. Do not break the habit of a lifetime.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Earlier this year, we invited calls to a small grants scheme to promote farm productivity. It was over-subscribed, so we have put in an additional £7 million, making a total of £23 million. We intend to have additional calls later this year.
Yesterday, senior industry leaders were in Westminster as part of the Prince of Wales’s corporate leaders group, which is facilitated by the Cambridge-based Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Industry will be key in tackling the environmental challenges of the future, but when will the Government acknowledge that far from being a burden, intelligent regulation is the key to environmental innovation?
I think the Government have always acknowledged that. In the spirit of your comments about not underselling myself, Mr Speaker, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the speech I gave at the Policy Exchange four weeks ago on the need to reform capitalism. I am afraid that that is something only the Conservatives would undertake, because while we can reform capitalism in the interests of the country, the hon. Gentleman’s right hon. Friend the leader of the Labour party would destroy capitalism and, with it, torpedo this country’s prosperity.
The joint air quality unit provides advice to councils that are seeking support. I suggest that councils have many powers already, but this will largely be a case of working closely with the county council to try to make sure that the traffic flows, and I am sure that that will improve air quality in my hon. Friend’s area.
It seems only right, in Environment questions, to call someone called Mr Ben Lake.
Diolch, Mr Speaker.
What consideration has the Secretary of State made of ways in which the UK Government might intervene to alleviate the pressures faced by farmers across Wales as a consequence of the recent dry weather, particularly the pressures on the already dwindling fodder reserves?
We will hold discussions with our colleagues in the devolved Administrations on those issues. Only a few months ago we sought and achieved a derogation from the EU linked to wet weather. I am now aware that in many parts of the country, including England and Wales, there are issues linked to dry weather, and we are considering seeking derogations from certain schemes to take account of that problem.
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his tenacity and success in ensuring that service animals will be better protected as a result of the Bill that he is bringing forward. We want to ensure better protection for all God’s creatures, which is why we will bring forward proposals to increase the sentences available to the courts for those who commit the most extreme acts of animal cruelty.
Has the Secretary of State made any progress in understanding what is happening on our farming land and in our countryside that causes so many species of birds and other animals to disappear?
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. The farmland bird index shows that over the past 30 or 40 years there has been a precipitous decline in some species, although there has been an increase in others. Many factors are at work—sometimes the way the land has been farmed has had an impact, but there are also other factors, including climate change. At the Environmental Audit Committee yesterday the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) raised a number of issues that we need to address, including through education, to ensure that conservation, biodiversity and environmental enhancement are valued not just by the Government but by us all.
In a rural area such as west Oxfordshire, the livelihood of farmers is of enormous importance, as is leaving our environment in a better state than we found it. What are Ministers doing to ensure that farmers are protected while improving our environment?
My Department and Ministers personally carry out extensive consultation with farmers and those who work alongside them. In the agricultural shows that I have had the opportunity to visit over the course of this summer, and in meetings with the National Farmers Union and others, I have been struck by the commitment that farmers have not just to food production, but to the highest environmental standards for the future.
I do not know whether the Environment Secretary has had a chance to look at Oxfam’s excellent new report, “Behind the Barcode”, which looks at modern slavery and human rights abuses in the food supply chain. I know that it is not his primary responsibility to consider issues such as modern slavery, but given that it is so prevalent in our food system, what conversations has he had with his colleagues about trying to stamp it out?
I have had conversations with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Home Secretary about ensuring that high standards are maintained—not just environmental standards, but also social and labour protection standards—at every stage in the food chain. I will endeavour to look at that report and ensure that my colleagues across Government are acquainted with its contents.
What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the current weather on farmers across the country, on future food prices, and particularly on the viability of small farms?
As I said earlier, there have been challenges with the dry weather, particularly for cereal crops that in some cases are having to be harvested early. There may be a knock-on impact on the availability of winter forage and straw, so we continue to monitor the situation closely. Farmers are used to weather events, which are a common feature of agriculture. Just a few months ago we had too much wet weather, and we now face problems with dry weather.
The plastics industry in Corby is not only a significant employer but it is keen to engage with the Government and try to identify solutions and innovate around the issue of non-recyclable plastics. What steps will the Government take to foster that engagement?
I and my officials have met a variety of companies to discuss this issue, and if they feel that they have not yet been consulted, I would be more than happy to hear from them.
The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
I would first like to congratulate all those ordained deacon or priest last month. Within the hon. Lady’s diocese of York, four women and three men were ordained priest, alongside eight women and two men who were ordained deacon. Nationally, the Church of England is on target to increase the number of people who are recommended for training in 2020 by 50%.
I thank the right hon. Lady for that answer—it is good to hear that the stained glass ceiling is being well and truly smashed. However, is it not about time that, in the evolution of the established Church of England, the special arrangements that were put in place for those who do not accept the equality and ministry of women were abandoned?
The Church has come to an accommodation on that issue. I think that the gradual increase in the number of women who are coming into ministry, and people’s experience of being ministered to by a female priest, is in itself changing social attitudes in a holistic way. I expect to see more and more women coming into post, and therefore more and more people getting used to seeing them there.
What are the main barriers to women becoming ordinands in the Church of England?
There are no barriers to women becoming ordinands in the Church of England. As I have just explained, there has been a sharp increase in the number of women coming into ministry, and the overall number of ordinands entering training has increased by 14% over the past two years. The number of women under the age of 32 entering training has actually increased by 27%, which shows that it is an increasingly attractive vocation for younger women who look forward to a career in the Church as a female priest.
I hear what the right hon. Lady says, but will she also consider the impact of the number of churches that new ordinands have to look after? It is a real worry, given the pressure we are putting on these poor people, particularly if they are not full time, in order to carry out their ministry.
It is obviously a pressure for male and female priests, who might find themselves in charge of eight or 10 very small, rural ministries. The Church has looked at how sustainable that is, and the status of some churches has been changed to that of festival churches, which are open only on the high days and holy days of Christmas and Easter, to try to ensure that the workload is sustainable. It is something the Church Commissioners have very much in mind, alongside training more ordinands.
House of Commons Commission
The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—
Electronic Voting Systems
The Commission has received various oral representations in previous Question Times. At its meeting on 14 May 2018, and in the absence of any House determination of a change in voting procedure, the Commission endorsed a plan for a House of Commons decant that envisages a Commons decant Chamber and two Division Lobbies, on the basis of a like-for-like layout, with adjustments to improve accessibility for Members and visitors to the Public Gallery. It will be a matter for the shadow sponsor board, once appointed, to consult on the requirements of the Palace. The procedures of the House remain the responsibility of the House itself.
Last week MPs were concerned that multiple votes interrupted their watching of the England match, but the more fundamental issue is that multiple votes eat into valuable debating time, as happened with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. We were left only 15 minutes for a so-called debate on the UK Government’s power grab. Surely it is time to consider electronic voting, and the decant could be the first step in that process, instead of having a like-for-like, outdated set-up.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I remind the House that it is a matter for the Procedure Committee. Members who ask me this question should perhaps make a submission to the Procedure Committee so that it can consider their proposal.
Is the opportunity of Government Back Benchers to have a cosy chat in the Division Lobby with Ministers a good enough reason to maintain the antiquated voting system, which costs not only a huge amount of money but a great deal of valuable parliamentary time?
I suppose that matter would be entirely appropriate for him to include in the submission to the Procedure Committee as perhaps a reason why the House might want to change its procedures on this issue.
Palace of Westminster: Repair and Refurbishment
The Commission has made no such estimate. It will be for the sponsor board and delivery authority, which the two Houses agreed earlier this year to establish, to develop a proposed scope of works and budget for agreement by Parliament.
With the eye-watering bill estimated so far for here, the similarly-eye watering bill for Buckingham Palace, and the biggest bill of all, the bill we will pay for Brexit, is it any wonder that the public are losing confidence in politicians? Is there not still time to decide to move out of London to a purpose-built modern Parliament with sensible things such as electronic voting? If not, is there at least a team looking at how to cut the cost of this nonsense?
I am sure that the hon. Lady will be aware that the possibility of moving out of London has been considered. The joint Commission that was set up through both Houses looked at that matter and dismissed it as a proposal. The sponsor body and the delivery authority will have responsibility for making sure that the costs of the project are kept to a minimum while delivering a prestigious project on a world heritage building.
Is that not exactly the point? This is a world heritage building and if it was in the ownership of any individual, the state would require them to keep it up to a certain standard. That is exactly what we have to do as the owners of this building.
Of course we have to. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will want to ensure that the sponsor body and the delivery authority between them deliver exactly the sort of project that the right hon. Gentleman set out.
Electoral Commission Committee
The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—
After the June 2016 referendum, the Electoral Commission recommended improvements to modernise electoral law. Recommendations covered the consolidation of referendum legislation, the regulated period, rules for campaigning and sanctions. The Commission also recently recommended changes to improve the transparency of digital campaigning at future referendums and elections. Further details can be found on its website.
I thank the hon. Lady for that answer. She is obviously aware that questions surrounding changes to the rules on elections and referendums are at the heart of some of the political reform debates that are currently occurring here and around the world. Is she aware that this week, the University College London Constitution Unit, under the leadership of Professor Meg Russell and Dr Alan Renwick, has published the results of the Independent Commission on Referendums, which has been sitting for the last nine months? Will the hon. Lady look at the recommendations in the report and see whether she can add those to the list of reforms that this House must consider before another referendum is held?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady for raising this issue. The Electoral Commission welcomes the report that she refers to and shares the view that the Government must take steps to modernise electoral law, especially on transparency and digital campaigning. It chimes with the Electoral Commission’s report on digital campaigning concerning areas such as misinformation, the misuse of personal data and overseas influence. I am sure that she will continue to impress on Ministers the need for action.
If the ultimate findings of the Electoral Commission investigation into law-breaking by the leave campaign are as serious as the version that was leaked disgracefully by the leave campaign, will my hon. Friend make it absolutely clear to the Electoral Commission that this House and the public will expect full criminal investigations by the police and the National Crime Agency into this alleged wrongdoing, so that the public can have confidence in the integrity of our referendum and electoral system?
The Commission has repeatedly called for an increase to the maximum penalty that it can impose on political parties and other campaigners for a breach of the rules. On the investigation that my right hon. Friend refers to, the Vote Leave organisation took an unusual step in sharing its views on the Electoral Commission’s initial findings. The Commission will give due consideration to any further representations made and will, at the earliest opportunity, publish a thorough and detailed closing report to provide a full and balanced account both to the public and to Parliament.
The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Church of England Schools: Creative Learning
As the largest provider of education in England, with 4,700 schools, the Church’s “Vision for Education” sets out a commitment to educate the whole child. That includes nurturing
“academic habits and skills…and creativity across the whole range of school subjects”.
This involves a commitment to educating for character rather than a sole focus on academic subjects.
Those are words that give me great encouragement, but is the right hon. Lady aware that in many schools the art of creating and making things has almost disappeared with the abolition of design and technology from the curriculum? Will she look into the Victoria and Albert museum’s new education foundation? It is doing very interesting work on making things in schools—and, of course, it is led by a chap called Tristram Hunt.
That is a name with which we are all familiar. I found that the only way of maintaining any sort of control in a Sunday school class was to do arts and crafts, which seemed to absorb everyone. I am a strong advocate of that kind of practical creativity, but I will certainly look into what the V&A is advocating.
Modern Day Slavery
I am very grateful for that question, because it allows me to pay tribute to the work of the Bishop of Derby, who has just announced his retirement, but who has been the Church of England lead in the House of Lords in tackling modern-day slavery. It was Bishop Alastair who pioneered the idea of creating an information pack for children in schools so that they could understand the horror of the history of slavery and this country’s involvement in it. He did that in the diocese of Derby, but we have learnt a great deal from it, and the scale of the initiative will now be extended.
On a recent visit to Romania, the ministry in charge of Romanians abroad was very concerned about the number of women who were being trafficked for sexual purposes across the European Union and the number of children who were being forced into modern-day slavery. What more can the Church do to highlight the problem and combat it?
The Church of England has always had a great heart for the marginalised, the excluded and the vulnerable. Through the “We see you” campaign, we are starting to raise awareness in society of what we often do not see around us. The Church is working in all schools to raise children’s awareness of this modern form of slavery, together with the charity Just Enough UK—as much as anything, to help them to protect themselves from becoming victims.
My personal view is that the approach taken by countries such as Sweden, Norway and, more recently, Canada and Ireland to outlaw paying for sex is a policy worth looking at, and is infinitely preferable to the approach taken in countries such as Germany, which has liberalised prostitution. That is a personal view and not necessarily the view of the Church of England, but it can have escaped no one that sexual exploitation is a horrific aggravation of the crime of modern slavery.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne) wants to ask about the Clewer initiative, on which he has a related question which might otherwise not be reached. I am all agog. Let us hear the fellow.
My hon. Friend is an assiduous member of the Environmental Audit Committee, which has launched an inquiry into abuses in unregulated car washes, and I can only commend his work and that of the Committee. Hopefully, in return, he can commend the ingenuity of the Church of England in making a leap into the digital age and developing an app that helps all of us to identify circumstances which we suspect may involve slavery or exploitation. That is but one example, and I imagine that other apps could be created that would really help us to stamp out modern-day slavery in our society.
Churches: Metal Theft
Since I last answered a question on this subject in April the largest concentration of reported attacks on churches for metal theft has been in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. While we are starting to see small numbers of people being prosecuted for these crimes, the value of the thefts is considerable and the cost of replacement and repair is high.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm what partners the Church of England is working with to tackle metal thefts across its parishes?
The Church cannot do this on its own, and it works very closely with Historic England, the police and its insurers alongside the Home Office in order to provide advice and guidance to its parishes. All dioceses now advise their churches to install deterrents such as alarms and cameras. I am pleased to say that the Church in Wales similarly endorsed Historic England’s metal theft guidance.
The Church of England continues to take active steps at local and international level to promote inter-faith dialogue. The Church works through organisations like the Council of Christians and Jews and the Christian Muslim Forum alongside close working with the Office of the Chief Rabbi and senior Muslim clerics.
Does the right hon. Lady agree that many Church schools, both C of E and Catholic, with multi-faith intakes, such as Our Lady of Victories Catholic School Keighley, pupils from which came down to Parliament last week, including many Muslim pupils, bind our communities together from a young age and teach respect for others?
I could not agree more. Church of England schools are open to the whole community and reflect the demographic profile of the community they serve. Thus in some parts of the country 80% or 90% of pupils in a Church of England school may be Muslim. If you will forgive me, Mr Speaker, I would like to commend what the new Home Secretary had to say about his own education as a Muslim in a Church of England school, and how important a part of his own upbringing was an awareness of religious literacy in our world today.
It might be thought to be a helpful prompt if I advise the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) that inter-faith dialogue can embrace the subject of the evils of modern-day slavery, in which I know she has an intense interest.
I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend’s response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson). Does she agree that trafficking women into prostitution is a most heinous form of violence against women and girls and that, if we are to review the law on prostitution, a priority must be to improve exit strategies for these exploited women?
And one would assume that it was a matter that fell within the rubric of inter-faith dialogue.
We need to understand, in the world today more than ever, the different faiths of the world and their tenets, and be respectful of the fact that 84% of the world’s population adhere to one of the great religions of the world. By working through religious institutions in all these countries, which should all condemn outright slavery in all its forms, I hope that we can work together internationally to bring an end to the terrible exploitation to which my hon. Friend refers.
This is a bit of good news. The Church Commissioners have made £27 million available for the creation of up to 100 new churches. I am pleased to say that eight new churches are to be created across all the London diocese, and already 100 new worshipping communities meet outside formal church buildings in a fresh expression of “church.”
Will the right hon. Lady confirm that the Church of England is now building its first new church buildings in London since the 1950s to accommodate not decline, which is widely understood to be what is going on, but a very sharp increase in the number of people attending public worship?
I can do a bit of myth busting here. The Church is not in fact closing more churches than it is opening; interestingly, it is opening almost as many new ones as we are needing to close older ones. But that is often to serve gaps in provision and new communities. At the recent Synod I attended over the weekend in York there was an interesting fringe meeting about the planting of new churches on estates and evangelism on estates. We often build new housing developments, but we do not put a church community building in the heart of those communities. That is why the commissioners have seen fit to make extra resources available for the creation of new churches in areas where demand is high.
Immigration: Pausing the Hostile Environment
(Urgent Question): May I ask the Minister of State if she will make a statement on the decision to pause the hostile environment and to slip that information out during the World cup last night?
One is supposed to read out the precise terms of the question, but the right hon. Gentleman indulged in a degree of poetic licence before I had the chance to stop him. Very good.
I welcome the opportunity to respond to this question, and I want to make our position very clear. We have put in place additional safeguards to ensure that legal migrants are not inadvertently caught up by measures designed to tackle illegal migration. It is right that we make a clear distinction between those who are here legally and those who are not. We have made it clear that it is not acceptable that those of the Windrush generation have been impacted negatively, and this Government have apologised.
We are keeping under constant review the safeguards that were immediately put in place. We have introduced a temporary pause in the proactive sharing of Home Office data with other organisations, including banks and building societies, for the purpose of controlling access to services. Data on persons over 30 has been excluded from sharing, to ensure that members of the Windrush generation are not inadvertently affected. This is a temporary measure. We are also providing additional support to landlords, employers and public service providers through the Home Office checking service to ensure that we are not impacting the Windrush generation. We have issued new guidance that encourages employers and landlords to get in touch with the Home Office checking service if a Commonwealth citizen does not have the documents they need to demonstrate their status. We have issued similar guidance to other Government Departments providing public services.
The Home Secretary has said that it is his top priority to right the wrongs that have occurred. A lessons learned review, which will have independent oversight, will help to ensure that we have a clear picture of what went wrong and of how we should take this forward. We are carrying out a historical review of removals and detentions. At the same time, our taskforce is helping to ensure that those who have struggled to demonstrate their right to be here are supported to do so, and we have committed to setting up a compensation scheme.
It is important to put on record the fact that immigration has brought considerable benefits to this country. We saw last night in England’s World Cup team 11 of the players from black or mixed-race heritage backgrounds. That is a tribute to the modern diversity of this country. When the Secretary of State took up his position a few weeks ago, he said that he wanted a decent system, a fair system and a system that treated people with respect. Is it respectful to slip out this information during yesterday’s World Cup spectacle? Is it respectful for the Minister’s Department still not to be able to tell us how many people have been detained? Is it respectful not to have any information about a transparent hardship scheme for those who are still in trouble? Is it respectful to have said nothing about whether the Minister is going to allow for a proper appeals system?
Will the Minister confirm that these changes are not just for the Windrush generation and that they are in fact for everyone who has been affected by the hostile environment? She talks about a “pause”, but why not scrap the hostile environment that is bringing this country into disrepute? Will she also confirm that we will no longer be asking teachers, nurses, doctors and landlords to act as the country’s border enforcement in the months and years ahead?
The right hon. Gentleman has raised a number of important points. First, I want to make it clear that it was the former Home Secretary who requested the pausing of proactive data sharing with other Government Departments, and that that started in April. That is a temporary measure. However, the data sharing cannot be recommenced without my ministerial consent, and it is certainly not something that we will begin again until we are confident that we will not be impacting members of the Windrush generation further.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned hardship, and of course our first priority has been to help people to secure their status through the taskforce. We have put in place a dedicated team for vulnerable people, whom we are linking up with other public sector bodies to ensure that they get the support they need. I chaired a cross-ministerial group early on in all this, and I was impressed by the steps that the Department for Work and Pensions in particular had taken to ensure that those affected would be able to have their benefits reinstated, indeed retrospectively, from the moment that they demonstrated that they had an appointment with the Windrush taskforce.
When conducting our review of those who may have been detained, it is important that we are meticulous. It would be wrong to come out with a number that we were not confident about and we will ensure that, as soon as we have figures that we are content are accurate, which will go through the same independent assurance process that we used for removals, they will be made available to the House.
The taskforce’s first priority is to ensure that those who are assisted achieve status, and that has happened in the vast majority of cases. Those over whom some question remains will have access to an administrative review and, in due course, could proceed to a judicial review if that were appropriate. Obviously, we do not want it to come to that.
As I have said previously and as the Home Secretary has made clear, we have sought to ensure that mitigations are in place for the measures that are within the compliant environment that have impacted the Windrush generation. As I said earlier, we have paused proactive data sharing for all nationalities for people over 30. However, it is important to reflect that compliant environment policies commenced a significant time ago under a previous Labour Administration, and it is also important that this Government have ways of identifying those who are actively accessing services in this country to which they are not entitled.
The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) deserves the praise and has the admiration of the whole House for how he has championed the Windrush generation, and he is of course right that this was an outrage. However, does the Minister appreciate that that generation, who came here believing this to be, in the words of the shadow Home Secretary, their “mother country” and who are proud patriots, take just as dim a view as any of the rest of us of those who behave illegally or improperly? The point is that the Windrush generation were not illegal or improper and that they do not condone illegality. In doing right by the Windrush generation and being unrelenting in their defence, will the Minister be equally unrelenting in dealing with people who abuse the system and try to cheat them and us?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He and the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) have been right to pay tribute to the immigrants who have come to this country and contributed so much to our society and way of life, giving us the multicultural Britain that we enjoy today. However, my right hon. Friend is right to point out that this Government continue to be determined to take action against people who are here illegally, and the suite of measures that enables us to do that remains in place.
The Opposition welcome the limited measures that have been announced, including the temporary end to data sharing and further advice for employers and landlords. However, I have met with a number of members of the Windrush generation who have been caught up in the Government’s net, both at meetings that I have organised and at meetings organised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), and Ministers do not understand that many of them have got into considerable debt because they did not get the benefits to which they are entitled and found themselves paying for medical treatment.
If the Government are serious about at least helping the Windrush generation, I urge them to look again at setting up a hardship fund. After all, we are talking about people in their 60s and over who have had to borrow or be lent money by relatives. If the Government want to be seen to be acting in good faith, they must review their decision not to have a proper hardship fund and set one up as a matter of urgency.
I welcome the limited measures announced, but the Opposition believe that there needs to be a total review of the hostile environment. I am not pretending that some elements of it—particularly in relation to the NHS—were not introduced by a Labour Government, but, unless we review it in total, the Windrush generation will not be the end of it in terms of unfairness and cruelty. We have to review it and see what is necessary to stop people abusing public services, but take out those elements that have caused so much misery to people who are actually British citizens. Ministers have to understand that this will not stop with the current cohort of largely West Indians. As time goes on, there will be cohorts from all over the Commonwealth, including south Asia and west Africa, caught up in the net of the hostile environment.
Finally, I repeat my request for more information: figures on deportations, on Windrush generation persons in immigration detention and on members of the Windrush generation who went back to the Caribbean—for a funeral or a holiday—and then were refused re-entry. Until we have the figures and the Minister sets up a proper hardship fund, members of the Windrush generation will be entitled to think that this is words, not action.
As the right hon. Lady will know, Martin Forde QC has been appointed as the independent adviser to the compensation scheme. His call for evidence has closed and has greatly informed the shape of the consultation, which will be forthcoming very soon. She raised the compliant environment controls, which have been introduced over many years: right to work checks in 1997; controls on benefits in 1999 and on social care in 2002; civil penalties for employers of illegal workers in 2008; and more recent measures, including on the private rented sector, bank accounts and driving licences in the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016.
The right hon. Lady raised the issue of people who have been in detention and those who may have been removed from the country. The Home Secretary provided information when he appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee and confirmed that current indications were that 63 people had been removed, but those figures are subject to the independent oversight that we will put in place in due course, and that will of course be properly independent. As I said in my answer to the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), we will not come forward with the numbers of people detained until we are confident, through the manual review of all cases, that we have the right numbers.
It is with great sadness on both sides of the House that we reflect on how some people from the Windrush generation have been treated and seriously let down by our immigration system, whether it has been a Labour, a Conservative or a coalition Government in office. I am pleased that the Minister is now trying to bring transparency and compassion to this area, but will she confirm that people who made their lives here but have now retired back to their country of origin are free to return to this country at any time?
Absolutely yes. This is one of the areas we have considered, and we have made it clear that those who have retired overseas can return and that those who simply wish to come back and visit would have easy access to visitor visas. The most humbling meeting I have had in my role as Immigration Minister was in Southampton, where members of the Windrush generation set up a meeting that Home Office officials attended to talk to them about their experiences and to help those who needed to go through the taskforce. I know that many Members across the country have set up similar meetings, and I pay tribute to them all for the work they are doing to help to provide reassurance and to make sure that this wrong is righted.
This pause is a small, welcome step, but it is nothing more than that. Finally, it is an admission of the hostile environment that the Government have created, about which they were in denial.
What is the Minister actually doing to scrap the right to rent scheme? The scheme requires landlords to carry out immigration checks, and it has led to half of landlords being reluctant to rent to people without a UK passport. Will she confirm this insidious measure will not be rolled out in Scotland? Will she commit to a broader review of the hostile environment policies, as called for by the Home Affairs Committee? If not, tens of thousands of EU citizens who are not registered as having settled status in time will be among the next victims of this Government.
What is being done to prevent the next Windrush scandal, with thousands of children in the UK being priced out of access to citizenship documentation? Finally, when will the Government ditch their bogus immigration targets? Those false targets and false promises led to the hostile environment policies in the first place.
The compliant environment is part of the Government’s drive to address illegal migration, to tackle those who seek to profit from it and to encourage migrants to comply with the rules and laws of the United Kingdom. The public expect us to enforce immigration laws, which have been approved by Parliament, as a matter of fairness to those who abide by the rules.
Members of the Windrush generation are in their 70s and 80s, and many of them feel extremely vulnerable. One concern that has been expressed to me by my constituents is that they may suddenly face deportation. What words of reassurance can my right hon. Friend give them that they should report their position, make sure their position is regularised and fulfil their destiny as British citizens, as they chose way back in the 1950s?
It is an important point that we must provide reassurance and ensure that as many people as possible make contact with the taskforce. That is why we have been working closely with communities to make sure it is very clear that the taskforce has an attitude of helping individuals. I have been to the centre in Sheffield, and I heard people talking through individual phone calls. I listened both to the questions asked and to the very supportive responses given.
It is imperative that we focus on the numbers that have made contact. The taskforce has successfully responded to well over 8,000 calls, and more than 2,000 people have now secured their documentary status. In many cases, and we have seen some incredible stories on the news, those who have been through the process have found it helpful and have been able to provide reassurance to their family and friends. In many cases, those who have been through the process are the best advocates.
I welcome this urgent question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), and I agree with the shadow Home Secretary on the need for a hardship fund, which the Home Affairs Committee has twice recommended because we have seen cases of people with huge debts who have been wronged by the British state and who cannot wait for the compensation scheme.
The Minister has referred to data sharing, but she did not refer to the police. Will she look again at the obligation on the police to report victims of crime? The Committee has raised serious concern that this is deterring victims of domestic violence and slavery from coming forward to report to the police, and it is allowing dangerous criminals to get away with it.
The right hon. Lady is right to indicate that we do not want any dangerous criminals to get away with anything. Where there are safeguarding issues, it is important that data can be shared, but we should be careful to do so on a proportionate basis.
On the hardship fund, I was particularly struck when I chaired the cross-departmental meeting by how proactive the DWP was being. I am very conscious that some people may well have been deprived of their benefits, and the DWP was immediately reinstating the benefits of those who have confirmed status or who have confirmed an appointment with the Windrush taskforce, but of course the DWP also has a duty to make sure that any back payments that are owed are also reinstated.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on how she is getting on top of this very important issue. She said that 2,000 people who have contacted the Windrush taskforce have received documents confirming the legality of their immigration status, but how many people in total have contacted the taskforce? For what proportion have we now established the correct documentation?
So 2,125 individuals have had confirmation of status, which is done via a biometric residence permit. Many of them will then move on to apply for citizenship, and 584 individuals have been granted that to date. The taskforce has taken many thousands of telephone calls. Well over 8,000 call-backs have been made to people who have made contact in the first instance. I can confirm that more than 94% of people who have provided their information have had their status confirmed within the 14-day target, with many having this on the same day.
I, too, want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) for his question. We have all seen the disastrous impact that the Government’s hostile environment policies have had on British citizens, so why are the Government just pausing these policies? Why are they not abandoning them? I want to echo my hon. Friends in saying that these people need a hardship fund and the Government must act to introduce it.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. A lessons learned review, to be headed by Wendy Williams, has already been announced, and its terms of reference will be published. It will give independent oversight, which will help us to ensure that we have a clear picture of what went wrong and how we should take this forward. In the meantime, as Members have heard this morning, we are reviewing existing safeguards to make sure that those who are here lawfully are not inadvertently disadvantaged by measures put in place to tackle illegal migration. I have already made it clear that the Department for Work and Pensions is the lead Department in making sure that those who are in hardship have benefits both reinstated and backdated, but of course the compensation scheme will be the main mechanism via which individuals will be able to make sure that any compensation they are due is paid.
I welcome the statement from the Minister and the Home Office today. She will be aware that the Windrush scandal is exactly that—a scandal. Those of us on the Select Committee on Home Affairs have questioned several Ministers on why it was allowed to occur without it being highlighted by the Home Office’s internal systems. There was a trend happening that seemed to go unnoticed by the Home Office and officials within it. Will she update the House on what is being done to ensure that future trends are noted far earlier, rather than having to be established through media requests and so on, as in the Windrush case?
I thank my hon. Friend for the question. The lessons learned review is an important part of that, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been very clear that there is, and will be, a cultural change at the Home Office. We have to make sure that we are better at identifying such situations and responding with the appropriate speed. The lessons learned review will help us to understand what went wrong, and we most certainly are learning those lessons.
The hostile environment has particular consequences for refugees, especially as the Liberal Democrat and Tory coalition Government scrapped the national refugee integration service, which had been set up by the previous Labour Government. Refugees have fled conflicts and war, and they deserve help, not hostility. So will the Minister agree to restore a national refugee strategy and service, and allow applicants the right to work if the Home Office fails to meet its own six-month service standard?
The hon. Lady will, of course, be aware of the integration Green Paper, which is being led by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. In the past few weeks, I have had a number of meetings and conversations with leading charities working in the refugee sector. I am very conscious of the need for us to make sure that refugee communities are given the support—the English language teaching—that they need to be able to integrate. I have a particular focus on the measures we must take to help those with status into work.
I thank the Minister for the statement. Will she update the House on the work of the independently overseen review?
Wendy Williams has been appointed to the lessons learned review, and I am optimistic that the terms of reference will be forthcoming very shortly indeed. It is an important review and its findings will be published. I am absolutely confident that Wendy Williams will bring integrity to the review and give it the external scrutiny that it requires.
The hostile environment is just one indication of the negative mindset that has shaped Home Office policy and thinking on immigration for years now. We have seen the cost of visa applications going through the roof, the very poor standard of first-instance decision making and the removal of rights of appeal. During this pause, will the Government look at immigration policies in the round and ensure that we have a more constructive and positive debate in future on the contribution that immigration can make to our economy?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. Too often, the discussions around immigration are steered by the tabloid press. In due course, both a White Paper and a Bill on immigration will come forward. I sincerely hope that we will be able to have reasoned and intelligent debates in this House, because it is important that we have an immigration system that works in the interests of not only our economy but our society and, most importantly, people.
Yesterday, I met representatives of Roma support groups who advised me of circumstances in which Roma are being encouraged—sometimes financially induced or pressured—to leave the country because they have no fixed abode or cannot produce a residence card. The Minister will know that they have every right to be here under EU freedom of movement rules. Will she take steps to ensure that this practice is ceased immediately?
The hon. Lady raises a really important point. She will be absolutely conscious, as I am, that EU citizens have every right to be here under free movement rules. I am conscious that we need to focus our efforts on those who do not have a legal right to be here and make sure that those who are inadvertently caught up in any policy are given absolutely the right assistance and information that they need. There are particular challenges regarding those who may be homeless. An excellent cross-departmental taskforce, led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, is currently working on homelessness. It is important that we get our policies right in that respect.
If the Government are not trying to avoid setting up a hardship fund, why the delay?
The Government are setting up a compensation scheme and it is absolutely right that we consult on that before so doing. Martin Forde’s call for evidence received a great deal of information—in excess of 600 pieces of evidence. As I have already said, the DWP is the lead Department for making sure that those who were entitled to benefits and may have been denied them have them not only reinstated immediately but backdated.
The Minister might not know that we have a substantial Caribbean community in Huddersfield, mainly from Grenada and Jamaica—indeed, some of my Opposition colleagues have links to the community. Two people from that community came to see me in the House of Commons yesterday. They are very concerned, and not only about the insecurity that many of the older generation feel. A lot of fly-by-night lawyers and so-called experts are able to charge a lot of money to intercede, because many of these people are frightened of coming to their Member of Parliament in case information goes back and they are picked out and picked on. Will the Minister assure my constituents and the people up and down the country who are worried about this issue that the best place to go to sort it out is to their Member of Parliament?
The hon. Gentleman is always a forceful advocate for his own constituents. Throughout the Windrush crisis, I have seen Members of Parliament from all parties interceding and acting with great speed and compassion. It is essential that we convey a message of reassurance, which is what I sought to do when I attended a drop-in surgery with members of the Caribbean community in Southampton. Individual Members of Parliament are very well placed to do that, but it is absolutely the case that individuals can contact the taskforce without any need to approach immigration lawyers or advisers. I strongly recommend that they do that rather than approach a lawyer.
Do we not need to learn a much bigger lesson? Mr Speaker is descended from Romanian Jews. The former Foreign Secretary’s great grandfather was Turkish. The Agars, the Jardines, the Poulters and the Villiers all came over with the Normans. The de Bois and the Corbyns came over with the Huguenots. The Gillans, the Bryants, the Brennans, the Keegans, the Donelans and many others are, frankly, in the end Irish. Is not the truth of the matter that not a single Member of this House has pure, pure, pure British blood and that we should rejoice in the fact that we are all the children of immigrants?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I am sure that he was desperately trying to work out where Nokes came from. [Interruption.] I do not know. It is my ex-husband’s name. It is really important that we acknowledge, celebrate and recognise the contribution that immigrants have made to our country, to our community and to our society, and I do that. I hope that, over the coming months when we get to debate the immigration Bill, people will remember that.
Many of my constituents in Lewisham and Deptford have been victims of the hostile environment for far too long, waiting years for visas, not having service standards met and not being able to get any sort of update from the Home Office. Does the Minister accept that pausing the hostile environment is far too little and too late for many of my constituents, and should not the Government now be ending it for good?
The compliant environment provides some important policies that enable us to distinguish between those who are here legally and those who are not. As I said in response to an earlier question, this was something that commenced many years ago, under a different Government, and it is absolutely right that we should be able to check that those who are accessing benefits and services have the right to do so.
In 2014-15, more than 40,000 overseas students lost their leave to remain in the UK because an American testing firm alleged that they had cheated in their English language test. Many of them were plunged into great hardship. It is now becoming clear that a significant proportion of those allegations were without foundation. Will the Minister now offer those students who, remarkably, have managed to stay here, a large group of whom were in the House yesterday, a new secure English test to establish fairly whether they can now resume their studies?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that question. It is, of course, an issue that we are considering very carefully.
This is not the only pause that the Immigration Minister has tried to sneak out in the past month. She admitted to me in a written answer on 4 June that she had paused deportation flights to the Caribbean. She said in her answer that this was because of the need for “added levels of assurance”. Some 991 flights were booked in the past year to deport individuals to the Caribbean. Why did she pause the flights? Will they remain paused? And how many of those 991 individuals does she now believe were deported wrongly?
It is absolutely right that, at a time when we were looking very closely at whether anybody of the Windrush cohort had been negatively impacted, we paused flights to the Caribbean. It is important, going forward, that we look at those flights with utmost rigour, and we are determined to do so.
In a Westminster Hall debate on 13 June, the Minister said that no one had successfully judicially reviewed the Government under paragraph 3225 of the immigration rules. Was that accurate, and have any cases been settled out of court?
If the hon. Gentleman looks in the Library, he will find that I have provided clarification on that matter.
Can the Minister say whether she has issued any guidance to entry clearance officers about visitor visas? I have seen an upsurge in people who have been refused visitor visas. They have all the documentary evidence to fulfil the requirements of the immigration rules, but the disbelief of the entry clearance officer that they will not return to their home country seems to be the prevailing issue.
It is important that entry clearance officers consider applications for visitor visas with the utmost rigour. Every year, we issue in the region of 3 million visas—I think that the figure is 2.7 million visas. As I said in Westminster Hall quite recently, I do not believe that we get the answer right in every case, but in the vast majority we do.
One aspect of the hostile environment that sets the UK apart is the overdependence on the use of immigration detention—in particular, the lack of a time limit on detention. This House endorsed a recommendation from a cross-party inquiry seeking an end to indefinite detention and a greater use of community-based alternatives. What consideration is the Minister giving to that recommendation? Will she confirm that the much-delayed further review on detention conditions, being carried out by Stephen Shaw, will be published before the recess?
The use of immigration and removal centres was, in fact, down by 8% last year. The hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the figures that have already been made public—that 63% of detainees are released within 28 days and that in the region of 92% or 93% of detainees are released within four months. Obviously, individuals have the right to apply for immigration bail at any time, and that happens automatically after four months. We expect to publish the response to the Stephen Shaw report in very short order indeed.
In my first year as a Member of Parliament, I have been shocked at the level of the hostile environment as it manifests itself in my constituency. Just two weeks ago, the Kamil family in my constituency went on hunger strike outside the Home Office in Glasgow, having been kept in limbo for 18 years, waiting for their asylum application to be assessed. They are Iraqi-Kurdish refugees. How on earth was this able to happen? Eighteen years is worse than a life sentence. Their children were forced into a situation where they were not able to leave the country. Will the Minister commit to investigating this case as part of a wider review?
I am happy to look at this individual case if the hon. Gentleman provides me with the details. I am conscious that we need to do better when it comes to the speed of assessing asylum cases and in ensuring that people receive their decisions in a timely manner.
Visit of President Trump: Policing
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department—or another Minister, if they care to turn up—to make a statement on policing during the visit of President Trump.
Has there been a change of plan or anything?
No change of plan; none at all.
No change of plan. My office was advised that Minister Hurd would be responding to the urgent question. [Interruption.] He is here now. May I just say to the Minister, while he recovers his breath, that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) has just put the question? I do not think that the Minister requires it to be repeated; I think that he knows the substance of the matter. I trust that the hon. Lady is content that she has put the question, and we look forward to the initial reply of the Minister.
Let me first apologise to the hon. Lady for not being in the Chamber when she put the question. I also apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House.
The visit to the UK of any President of the United States of America is, of course, a significant and historic event. I reassure the House that the police have developed robust plans to ensure the safety and security of the visit. The three main forces involved are the Metropolitan Police Service, Thames Valley police and Essex police. Nearly all forces in England and Wales are providing officers and resources to assist with policing plans. This is happening under existing mutual aid arrangements and is being co-ordinated by the National Police Co-ordination Centre.
It is a long-standing tradition in this country that people are free to gather together and demonstrate their views. The police are aware of a number of protests planned across the country and will be working to manage them. The Metropolitan Police Service anticipates protests in London, including two large-scale protests—tomorrow and on Saturday. Proportionate policing plans are in place to support these. This is a significant policing operation and comes, as the House knows, at a time when police resources are also focused on investigating the incidents in Salisbury, protecting us against terrorist attacks and delivering on their own local policing plans. We will consider any request for special grant funding in line with our normal processes.
Let me conclude by stating for the record something I am sure that the whole House feels, which is our appreciation for the incredible hard work that our police officers and their partners are doing to facilitate this visit successfully, coming on top of the work they do every day in every community to protect the public.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.
Last weekend saw areas as disparate as the west midlands and Dorset receiving the highest ever numbers of 999 calls. This weekend, police forces are preparing for one of the biggest mobilisations in their history. Every force in the country is sending officers to protect the President and to safeguard the democratic right to protest, which I hope will be fully respected by the Metropolitan police tomorrow. West Yorkshire police, for example, are sending 296 officers while themselves contending with an English Defence League march in their own force area.
Initially, requests were made for 300 police support units, each comprising an inspector, three sergeants and 18 police constables, but this request had to be negotiated down to 130 because forces simply could not provide 300. Is the Minister assured that the Trump visit will be adequately policed given the significant reduction in the numbers originally asked for? Does he believe that policing needs elsewhere in the country will be met? Is he satisfied that our policing system, having lost over 21,000 officers, is resilient enough to cope with the additional demand this weekend?
The Government have provided a commitment that Police Scotland will receive £5 million to cover the costs of President Trump’s golfing trip, but English and Welsh forces have been told to apply for a special grant, with no guarantee that the additional costs required will be fully met. Will the Minister commit today to fully reimbursing the costs of the visit? What is his estimation of the total cost for all forces?
Rest days for our police officers are now being cancelled at a phenomenal rate, and the number of officers on long-term sick leave is rocketing. It is simply dangerous to keep asking our officers to do more and more without giving them the time they need to recuperate. What measures will the Minister take to assist forces in allowing officers to take back the cancelled rest days that they are experiencing this weekend? This visit will have a huge knock-on effect well into the summer.
It has emerged overnight that officers being accommodated in Essex are sleeping on cots in squash courts, with 100 female officers with four toilets between them likely to be sleeping on mats tonight, and 300 male officers with five toilets between them, no access to power, and no hot running water. In the run-up to these deployments, it was not clear whether these officers would even be paid their overnight allowance. Is it any wonder then that so many forces struggle to fill their requirements through volunteers, or any wonder that many officers are considering ripping up their police support unit ticket?
Tonight, the Minister and I will both be presenting at the national police bravery awards. Surely he cannot agree that this is any way to treat our overstretched officers. The time for warm words is over. The Government must now provide the police with the support they desperately need.
I thank the hon. Lady for those questions. I will give her some assurances on some of the specifics she raised.
The hon. Lady asked whether the right to peaceful protest will be respected, particularly in London. I can assure her of that, having spoken to the gold commander today specifically on that point. The police have been working closely with the protesters and they resent any suggestion to the contrary in this regard. The right to protest is fundamental for us and it needs to be respected.
The hon. Lady raised concerns about accommodation for officers in Essex. She is right to do so. Those concerns have been raised directly with Essex police and are being managed.
The hon. Lady asked whether there were sufficient police resources to support the security of the visit in an effective way. Again, I have had the assurance from the gold commander in charge of this operation that that is the case. They are extremely comfortable about the situation. In fact, the number of police officers required for this operation has fallen significantly in the past two weeks.
The hon. Lady asked about how exceptional costs will be met. We have the special grant, which we increased in the 2018-19 settlement and is designed specifically to help meet exceptional costs. I signalled in my response to her question that that pot of grant money is open for business in relation to this very significant policing event.
The hon. Lady’s fundamental point was around whether the police have the resources they need under very stretched circumstances. We have had this debate many times, and she knows that I have been extremely candid in my view, shared by the Home Secretary, that the police are very stretched, and they deserve additional support. That is why we took action in the last funding settlement to increase public investment in our police system by £460 million this year—a funding settlement that her party opposed.
I commend the work of our police and the way in which they keep us safe, no matter what demands are placed on their time. I particularly commend my police force, the Thames Valley police force, which has a lot of extra duties in guarding not only politicians and visiting politicians but also our royal family. It does that without complaint and in an exceedingly good fashion. I am pleased to hear that a special grant will be available to supplement the funding to the Thames Valley police, but can the Minister tell me whether that will be forthcoming immediately? Will there be any contribution at all from the US Government to the high cost of this presidential visit?
I join my right hon. Friend in placing on record my admiration of and thanks to Thames Valley police force for the work it is doing in the context of this visit and the wider work it does to support and protect her constituents. This is an opportunity to again place on record our cross-party admiration of and support for the police and the work they are doing under, admittedly and frankly, very stretching circumstances at this moment in time. She asked about the exceptional grant. We increased the size of that pot significantly this year to support police forces in this type of situation, and as I said, that pot is open for business.
Let me first echo the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. Rather than the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland rolling out the red carpet, they should be focusing on challenging President Trump on his abysmal record on human rights, women and minorities.
The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice has been making commendable efforts since his appointment to prepare for this business, but getting any co-operation from the UK Government has been like pulling teeth. Why did the Justice Minister have to reach out to receive an assurance that, with Trump being a guest of the UK Government, the UK Government will be covering the policing bill for his time in Scotland? Why was that assurance not given from the outset? Similarly, why has the Justice Minister been required to request what one would expect to be basic information from the UK Government, such as where President Trump is expected to be and when? Does the Minister believe that effective planning can take place without that information being known in advance?
I have not been privy to those conversations, but it is clear that the funding issue has been settled, and I understand that the policing plans for the Scottish leg of the President’s visit are in good order.
It seems to me that there are two fundamentally different parts of the security costs: there are the security costs for the protection of the President in various locations, and there are the costs of policing the demonstrations in London. London has lots of big demonstrations every year. Does the Policing Minister have any estimate of the cost for the Metropolitan police of policing demonstrations throughout the year? What is his working assumption about the cost of policing these two days of demonstrations for the President’s visit?
My hon. Friend is entirely right to distinguish between the effective policing of the President’s itinerary and the policing of protests in London and other parts of the country. The police expect more than 100 protests across the country, and there are separate policing plans within one strategy. He is also right to point out that the policing of major events in London is regular business for the Metropolitan police, with significant costs attached, which we support through Home Office grants and mechanisms such as the exceptional funding grant pot that I mentioned. The cost of this operation will run into the millions.
The Policing Minister will know how overstretched many parts of our police forces are now, with rising serious violent crime, increasing 999 calls, mental health cases and serious investigations such as Amesbury and Salisbury. He will also know that short-term emergency funding does not actually help to solve the problem of officers being overstretched because the police cannot recruit new officers just to cover short-term incidents. Will he tell me both what he is doing on the long-term funding of policing, and whether the agreement on short-term funds will follow the same principles as the agreement he has already made with Police Scotland or will be different?
I understand fully the point that the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee is making, although I believe there needs to be room for short-term funding mechanisms to deal with crises and exceptional events, which is why the exceptional grant pot is extremely important. Any bids from police forces involved in this policing operation will be judged according to the existing criteria for that pot of money.
The right hon. Lady asked about arrangements for long-term funding. She and I have had a number of exchanges on this through the Committee and on the Floor of the House. She will know the backdrop, which is that we as a country are investing £1 billion more in our police system than we were three years ago. We have a funding settlement for 2019-20 that will come before the House for debate in November or December, and I am doing exactly what she would expect me to do in engaging with police chiefs and police and crime commissioners to get the most up-to-date view on demand and resilience and to make sure that what we bring forward in November or December is fit for purpose and attuned to the reality of modern-day policing.
I am very proud to declare that I love America. My wife is American, my son was born in America, my daughter has a US passport, and I lived and worked in America for more than 10 years. I love America and Americans, but I sometimes feel I am almost the only one in this place to do so. [Interruption.] Does the Minister agree that the visit of a US President is symbolic of our overall relationship with our most important ally, and that people can protest respectfully and demonstrate peacefully while doing so in a manner that does not overburden the British taxpayer?
I am not going to get into a debate about whether my hon. Friend looks American, but he makes a fundamental point: any visit by any President of the United States of America is a significant and historic event for this country. The reality, although I detect some discomfort about this among Opposition Members, is that President Trump is the democratically elected leader of our most important ally and this relationship has enormous consequences for the security and prosperity of all our constituents. Of course we should welcome him. We should also be absolutely professional, as everyone would expect, in making sure that the security arrangements for such an important visit are robust and fit for purpose, and I am satisfied that they are.
The chief constable of South Yorkshire police—it should be congratulated on being the most improved police service in the country—has advised me that the cost of officers deployed to other parts of the country will be covered by the Government. However, where those officers have to be covered back in South Yorkshire, with overtime and rest day working, the costs will not be covered, and the chief constable has had to cancel all weekly leave, with the disruption that that will bring to services in South Yorkshire. Would it not be better if the Government just agreed to cover all the costs of the visit? After all, they invited President Trump.
First, I congratulate South Yorkshire police force on the fantastic progress it is making, and it is important that we should recognise that. I am very aware that this is a very significant policing operation, which has significant short-term costs but also has implications for the force management of local forces for some time. We do have a mechanism to help with the short-term costs. As I said to the Chairman of the Select Committee, we are doing serious work on the funding requirements for local police forces, and we will bring that back to the House for debate in late November or December.
I welcome the earlier announcement by the UK Government that they will support the policing of this visit in Scotland to the tune of £5 million. Will the Policing Minister confirm that, despite what the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) said, there has been full co-operation with Police Scotland in preparing for the visit to ensure the safety of those on the visit, the protesters and, importantly, the policemen and women who will be at the forefront of the operation in Scotland?
I certainly am satisfied of that. I suspect that is the usual scaremongering from the SNP, because as far as I understand it, the funding is settled and the police plan is robust.
What on earth are the Government playing at by inviting a fascist like Trump to come to Britain and cause all the mayhem that we have heard about from Labour Members, requiring police from every part of the British Isles? Do the Government, and in particular the Prime Minister, want to hold his hand again? Is that what it is all about? They are making a rod for their own back.
The hon. Gentleman, as always, is entitled to his own robust views, but the fact of the matter is that President Trump is the democratically elected leader of the United States of America, which is historically, and currently, our most important ally. It is a hugely important relationship for the security and prosperity of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and those of all Members of the House. We should make the President welcome.
“Together against Trump” has organised an important protest against this most divisive global figure for tomorrow afternoon. It is usual for those who gather at Portland Place to be able to hear speeches. Why on this occasion has the Metropolitan Police said, unusually, that it will not allow a stand, which would enable those gathered to hear people speak before they begin their march?
I have spoken to the gold commander of this operation, and she is adamant that the police have worked closely with the organisers of the protest. The police are determined to respect people’s fundamental right in this country to peaceful protest, but they also have the right to impose some conditions on protests in the interests of public safety. I am not aware of the specific details to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but I am happy to ask and furnish him with a response.
As one of many Members of the House who love America, may I ask the Minister why so much money—£5 million in Scotland—is being spent to protect the President at a time when we are so badly stretched and when, in effect, the President is going to play golf on his own golf course?
It is a lot of money and resources are tight, but the President of the United States is here on an official visit. It is our responsibility to ensure that appropriate security arrangements are in place, and that is what we are doing.
I do not have the numbers for Durham, but I know that 100 officers have been requested from Northumbria police at a time when a great many events are taking place in the region, not least the excellent Durham miners’ gala in my constituency. It is important that the police have enough resources to keep people in the region safe as well. Will the Minister take that on board, and will he speak to his colleagues so that we know what the total cost of this visit will be, including the cost of policing, and how it will be met? I am sure that, like me, a lot of people will be asking: is it worth it?
I understand the hon. Lady’s point about police resources in Durham. Arrangements for these events have historically relied on good mutual arrangements, and they are the subject of frank conversations between those co-ordinating events in gold command and the co-ordination centre, and local police chiefs who obviously have to make decisions based on local policing needs at that time. On the basis of what I have heard, I am satisfied that those conversations have taken place in the right way, and that the outcomes are satisfactory for all concerned. We will not know the total cost of the visit until it has concluded, but it will run into millions, and of course it will be disclosed.
The photos of the accommodation in Essex that awaits officers who have been drafted to the capital are shameful. I have no doubt that in an emergency situation our brave officers would not think twice about using such accommodation, but this is not an emergency and planning for this visit has taken place over three months. The Minister said that the situation is being managed, but can he assure officers that they will not be sleeping on mats in sports halls this evening?
That is certainly not my wish. The comments I have seen from the National Police Chiefs Council make it quite clear that it considers the situation to be unacceptable, and Essex police are working on a better solution.
Just to be clear, I love America and Americans. Indeed, my grandfather was a GI in the second world war. This President is racist, divisive and sexist, and if we were not rolling out the red carpet for him in so many locations, we would not have these costs and pressures on the police. I have a very serious question about far right activity. The President has shared content from a vile fascist organisation whose leaders have now been jailed. What assessment has the Minister made of the potential for far right groups to use the visit as a rallying opportunity?
The police have made an assessment of all the protests. As I have said, they estimate that there will be more than 100 protests across the country. Their biggest concern, with regard to what they call “spiky activity,” is about two protests in London on Saturday by groups that have different views on the subject. They are managing the risks in the professional way that we would all expect, including by imposing some conditions on the route of the marches in order to keep the protesters separate and reduce the risk of confrontation.
Like the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), I have a wife who is a US citizen. She does not welcome the UK Government rolling out the red carpet for Trump. We have already heard that Police Scotland and the Scottish Government cannot plan properly for Trump’s visit to Scotland because the UK Government will not co-operate or even tell us which golf course he will visit. Is that secrecy the result of wilful arrogance on the part of the UK Government, or conditions imposed by Trump to try to stifle demonstrations?
The Scottish National party keeps poking away at this. I have seen absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is any problem with the policing plan for Scotland, which is sorted. I cannot help what individual Members of Parliament or their wives think about President Trump, but he is the democratically elected leader of our most important ally. It is our responsibility to ensure that this historic visit is policed in the most professional way.
People are protesting against President Trump’s visit because they want to demonstrate their opposition to his bigotry and racism—his comparing migrants to poisonous snakes, and Mexicans to murderers and rapists, and state-sanctioned child abuse—and that is their right. For the Metropolitan police to decide not to allow a platform for speakers at the protest in central London tomorrow is an absolute disgrace. The Minister must intervene immediately to put that right. Failure to do so will leave a permanent stain on our democratic right to freedom of speech.
I will defend to the hilt the right to peaceful protest, which is absolutely fundamental. I completely understand the strength of opinion on President Trump’s visit. The police have to base their operational decisions on their assessment of risk. Having spoken to the gold commander, I know that she is extremely keen to ensure that the police respect the right to peaceful protest, but I have undertaken to speak to her again in the light of the question from the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy).
This year I am taking part in the police service parliamentary scheme, which I recommend to all hon. Members. I recently visited the counter-terrorism unit, and I have spent a lot of time with Avon and Somerset police. Avon and Somerset police last year produced a report called “The Tipping Point”, which was about analysing demand using a very high-tech computer system. I do not think the Minister has seen that system, so I encourage him to visit so that he really understands the demand and the high-tech solutions that that police force has to offer.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on taking part in the police service parliamentary scheme, which is a fantastic thing to do—I know that other Members have benefited hugely from it. I have to correct her on one point, because I have visited Avon and Somerset police and sat down with the officers managing their data system, which I would describe as best in class. It helps them to manage demand more effectively, which is a fundamental challenge for every police force across the country. They are showing the way, using existing data and the latest technology in a smart way to make an enormous difference in how precious police officer time is managed. I congratulate them on their leadership.
While recognising the real importance of our relationship with the United States and the deep bonds that we have with the American people, should we not be celebrating the fact that so many people across the country are preparing to take a stand against this President, his views and his policies? On the question of policing, I have met South Yorkshire police leadership twice over the last fortnight and on both occasions, they have expressed concern about the impact of deploying 160 officers when their resources have been reduced by so much. Is not the real problem that this Government and their immediate predecessor have brought down policing numbers to virtually unsustainable levels?
I share the hon. Gentleman’s passion for protecting the right to peaceful protest. It is fundamental to our democracy, so there is nothing between us on that, nor is there anything between us on the importance that we attach to our relationship with the United States of America. On his point about police funding, I come back to what I said before: as a country, under this Government we are spending £1 billion more this year on our police system than we were three years ago. There is £460 million more this year through the police funding settlement that he and other Labour MPs voted against.
I understand that Greater Manchester police have been asked to contribute 250 officers to policing President Trump’s visit around the country, but as the Minister noted, demonstrations will take place in other parts of the country, including in Manchester tomorrow evening. I know because I intend to attend that protest. Will he assure me that Greater Manchester police will be able to prioritise meeting our local policing needs and not have other officers pulled away to help elsewhere, leaving us exposed at our own demonstration?
Let me say two things in reply. First, I place on record my thanks to Greater Manchester officers and officers from South Yorkshire and other parts of the country who have stepped up to help police this very significant occasion. They are very hard-worked and overstretched at the moment anyway, so I am extremely grateful to them for doing it. Secondly, Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of Greater Manchester police, will have done his job of assessing any requests for support and balancing them with what he needs to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe. His job is to strike the right balance. I also note that the demand on officers from other forces has reduced significantly over the last two weeks as the plans have become clear.
Will the Minister confirm that West Yorkshire police are providing nearly 300 officers, even though there is a planned English Defence League demo in our region? Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), will he therefore absolutely guarantee the safety of local people during that demo, when so many of our officers will be deployed elsewhere?
I will give the hon. Lady a similar answer to the one before. Almost every police force is contributing officers, but the numbers have significantly reduced in the last two weeks, so I do not know whether the 300 number that she cites is accurate. However, on the police’s decisions about how resources are allocated to police this significant occasion, I come back to the point that these are local operating decisions that the local chief and the local police and crime commissioner need to take in co-ordination with the National Police Co-ordination Centre to make sure that they are not taking unnecessary risks in their home base.
Of course we need to keep President Trump safe, but equally, my constituents need to be safe, and Humberside police are overstretched at the moment. We have higher than ever levels of antisocial behaviour on Princes Avenue, Newland Avenue and the North Hull estate, including from motorbike yobs. My constituents will be furious to know that inspectors, sergeants and police constables are going down to keep President Trump safe. Does this not show that the hollowing out of police numbers across this country has repercussions for local communities?
I think that people understand and share the hon. Lady’s hope—people expect us to do a professional job on the security around such an historic and significant visit. On local police resources, again I have said that we are putting more money into local policing. We continue to keep that under review. We have made it quite clear that funding for police is a priority for us, and I hope she would recognise that additional money has gone into Humberside police through a police funding settlement that she voted against.
May I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) said? The Humberside police force has been cut to the bone over the years. It was asked for three police support units but could cobble together only two, and even that was a result of the cancellation of officers’ annual leave. I should like to know whether an assessment has been made of the impact of the cancelled annual leave on those officers’ mental health, and on their diligence while they are on duty.
I fully recognise that our police forces are stretched, and I have done so from this Dispatch Box. That is why we have given them additional resources. As for the hon. Lady’s point about distress and the impact on wellbeing, we have committed taxpayers’ money to the development of a national welfare programme for police officers, because we recognise that the issue is hugely important. That is all part of our police funding settlement, which has put an additional £460 million into the police system, including additional money for Humberside, but which the hon. Lady and others voted against.
The Greater Manchester force has lost 2,000 officers since 2010, and it is clear from my case load that it is already struggling to cope with the workload. Now 250 of the remaining officers are being called in to police the Trump visit. Does the Minister accept that if the Government are going to rely on calling in officers from local forces, they should fully reinstate the funding for Greater Manchester police and other local forces so that they have enough officers to cope?
Let me make two points in answer to that question. First, the structure of mutual aid to police significant events is well established. It is a highly sensible, smart system enabling us to make the best possible use of the resources that we have. It has been a fact of life under successive Governments for a long time, and there is nothing new in it at all. As for the hon. Gentleman’s general point about police resources, I have already responded to it. The Government are putting more money into local policing, including in Greater Manchester, and we keep the position under review. That, too, is all part of the police funding settlement, which put more money into policing and which the hon. Gentleman voted against.
Business of the House
Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 16 July—Remaining stages of the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, followed by a motion to approve Standing Orders relating to the European Statutory Instruments Committee.
Tuesday 17 July—Remaining stages of the Trade Bill, followed by a motion to approve a Ways and Means resolution on the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill.
Wednesday 18 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill, followed by a general debate on the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Thursday 19 July—Debate on a motion on the independent complaints and grievance policy, followed by a general debate on the tobacco control plan.
Friday 20 July—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 23 July will include the following:
Monday 23 July—A general debate, subject to be announced.
Tuesday 24 July—A general debate on matters to be considered before the forthcoming adjournment.
I am sure that the whole House will have enjoyed marking the 100th birthday of our fantastic Royal Air Force. The celebrations culminated in a spectacular flypast, and gave us a good opportunity to thank the RAF for its service. We also had the superb, heartwarming news this week that the 12 Thai boys and their football coach had all been successfully rescued by a Thai-led international team, including British expert divers. We wish them all a full and speedy recovery.
Finally, it was not to be, but we are all incredibly proud of the efforts of our England football team and the wonderful Gareth Southgate in the World cup. That bodes very well for a bright future for the team.
I am not quite sure whether I should thank the Leader of the House for the future business, because it is an absolute outrage that an Opposition day that was allocated for Wednesday has been taken away. Will the Leader of the House please explain why we have lost our Opposition day? This is a cynical move by the Government—a Government who are in a minority—and an abuse of power. I am apoplectic with rage, and there is more to come.
The White Paper that was supposed to be published today was given to the press at 9 am, in lockdown. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) went to the Vote Office and was told that it would not be available until 1 pm. There is to be a statement, and Members will have to come to the House to speak about the White Paper. Worse still, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Exiting the European Union Secretary will get the White Paper only half an hour before the statement. This is outrageous. I know this is a back-of-the-envelope Government; that is the business they are in—they are certainly not in the business of a democratic Parliament and allowing Parliament to decide what it should ask the Secretary of State. We are not in a position to do that. This is an outrage. Will the Leader of the House make a statement either later today or on Monday explaining why there was this shambles about the White Paper? It has taken the Government two years—[Interruption.] Would you like me to sit down, Mr Speaker? You look poised to say something.
As is not uncommon, I was just conferring with the chief procedural adviser, the Clerk of the House, but I am now all ears. I am always listening to the hon. Lady, and this morning is no exception; please continue.
Thank you, Mr Speaker; I wish the Government were all ears, but they are not. It has taken them two years to agree a position, and now it seems that there may be two White Papers: the ex-DExEU Secretary apparently produced a White Paper at Chequers. So we need to know about this; we need to have a proper debate on whether the Government’s White Paper is the settled position. This is typical of the new DExEU Secretary; welcome to his world—authoritarian and cynical.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said he hoped that the agriculture Bill would be published before the recess. Will it? And when will the migration and fisheries and the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bills be published?
As the rest of the world is moving forward, the Government are moving backwards. There is a remake of “Oceans 8” with women in the lead, but not for the reshuffle: the new positions are all filled by men, and we need to congratulate, I suppose, the heckler-in-chief the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) who is now a DExEU Minister.
The Leader of the House may want to correct the record. In a BBC “Newsnight” interview on Tuesday she said that as Leader of the House she took the withdrawal Bill through Parliament. I think it is clear that she did not: it was the DExEU team that did that. She also said that
“who we should all be pointing our guns on is those negotiators in the EU”.
Will she retract that inflammatory statement, particularly as this is a negotiation, not a battle?
The Leader of the House seems to be picking up the inflammatory statements of the President of the United States. As he lands in the UK, children are still being reunited with their parents. CNN has footage of reunion between a child and her mother after being separated for 55 days and toddlers going to court without representation; we are reminded what a cruel policy this is. The person who instigated that policy will be meeting our sovereign. And let us also remember that that person is not a native American. He is not one of the First Nations; he was an immigrant himself.
As this seems still to be unclear following the urgent question of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), will the Leader of the House place in the Library the total costs of policing the visit, for all the places, including under the devolved Administrations, that the President is going to for his business interests and leisure?
We know that the President has had private discussions with various Members about our leaving the EU, but there is more work to be done. This is a complicated process; it is not just “yes” or “no” on a ballot paper. According to the House of Commons Library, the UK will leave up to 1,256 international agreements to which the EU is party, and the Financial Times has reported that the UK will need to renegotiate 759 separate EU agreements with 168 countries. The International Trade Committee said that the number of EU trade and trade-related agreements
“appears to be a matter of some uncertainty”
and warned of trade with 70 nations
“falling off a cliff edge”
if the Government did not act quickly enough to roll over the EU trade deals. May we have a debate to update the House on what the Government have in place to ensure that the UK’s international agreements continue to apply as we leave the EU?
Further to the urgent question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), may we have an urgent debate on an apparent change of Government policy and whether the hostile environment policy has ended? It seems that we only found out after Kieran Trippier’s goal—and I join the Leader of the House in thanking the England team; we dared to hope.
I also thank one of our amazing public servants, Sir David Behan, who stepped down as chief executive of the Care Quality Commission yesterday. He served six years in post and had a distinguished career in the health and social care sectors spanning over 40 years. He took over the CQC and managed to turn it around; I know many hon. Members will receive alerts on any institutions inspected by it, and they are very helpful. We wish him well, and hope that he can use his expertise to train further public servants.
All of us in my office had an outing to see that amazing moment in history, the fly-past that took place this week. On behalf of the Opposition, I want to wish the RAF and all who have served in it a very happy 100 years.
Finally, we have some good news. The first parliamentary baby has been born. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) has given birth to Elijah, and we send our good wishes to her and to Ben and Eli. We hope that Eli and all the other babies will enjoy the baby blimp that is soon going to be flying over London.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for telling us about the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) and her new arrival, Elijah. That is great news for the whole House. We should also celebrate the news from our Liberal Democrat colleague, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), who has given birth to Gabriel. So we have some great prophets coming along, and I hope that they will be the foretellers of a fantastic future—
Angels and prophets, indeed. This is a wonderful precedent for this place.
The hon. Lady asked about the business. She will be aware that provisional business is announced for the future, and the business that was announced last week was indeed provisional. The Standing Orders set out that there will be 20 Opposition days, with 17 for the largest party. The Government have a good record on providing Opposition days, and we will continue to do that. I am always happy to consider all reasonable requests.
The hon. Lady asked about the Brexit negotiations. These are complex negotiations, as she has just acknowledged. The White Paper will set out the clear way in which we will give effect to the Cabinet agreement at Chequers. The intention is to stick with the red lines that were set out by the Brexit referendum—that we will be leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, that we will no longer be paying our EU subscription, that we will be ending free movement, that we will be leaving the single market, the customs union, the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, and that we will be able to trade freely with the rest of the world. This is a complicated negotiation, and we are determined to achieve success in it. What this proposal will set out to achieve is that we meet our red lines while also addressing those of the European Union. It is fully our intention that the EU will come to the table and start negotiating with the same level of sincere co-operation that we are all signed up to as members of the EU.
The hon. Lady mentioned by name the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), and not in the most charming of terms. I hope that she warned him she was going to mention him. Perhaps she would like to pay tribute to his years as a Member of the European Parliament, which have given him unique insight into the managing of the day one preparations. That will be vital for our country.
The hon. Lady also mentioned the visit of the President of the United States. Is it not fantastic that we live in a free democracy where we are free to set out our own thoughts? Is it not also great that our Prime Minister is meeting the President in order to set out those areas where we want to collaborate and also those areas where we disagree? We made it very clear at the time that we did not agree with the idea of separating children from their parents, and we were pleased that the President signed an Executive order to put a stop to that. That was very important.
The hon. Lady asked whether we could have a debate on free trade deals. Yes, we can—on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week. I hope that she is pleased with that. She also asked whether we could have some Home Office questions answered. We have Home Office questions on Monday. I therefore hope that she is happy with the progress that is being made.
I thank the England team for making us roar again, because football does matter and they certainly exceeded our wildest expectations. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the “do not resuscitate”—DNR—protocols? It can often be traumatic when someone is called to a hospital and asked whether they want their loved one to be resuscitated. This is a profound and dark subject, but it is certainly one that Parliament should consider.
DNR decisions are traumatic and distressing, so my hon. Friend is right to raise them for consideration. Resuscitation guidance is produced jointly by the Resuscitation Council, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing, and it suggests that decisions should be made only after sensitive discussions between healthcare professionals and those close to the patient. However, the Select Committee on Health and Social Care may be interested in considering the topic, so I encourage my hon. Friend to take up how we can improve awareness of and guidance on DNR decisions.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. As the nation awoke with a collective hangover this morning, we can only wonder what could have been. If only David Cameron had not used a vote on EU membership as a means to unite a divided Conservative party! But well done Gareth Southgate, who has done what this miserable Government could never do: unite England under one true leader.
At last, the long-awaited White Paper is being launched this morning, and it probably represents the last chance for this divided shambles of a Government to take forward their chaotic Brexit. It has been launched in the usual shambolic way, however. I just received word that we received the White Paper at 11.53 am, and I presume that that was the same for the Labour Front-Bench team, too. That is no way to progress such important business in the House and shows great disrespect to Members. I hope that the Leader of the House can give some account of what has happened this morning because she failed to respond to the shadow Leader of the House.
There is some good news for the Leader of the House; she is a reasonable shot at 12:1 to take over from the beleaguered Prime Minister, but she is somewhat behind the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), who comes in at 5:1. I think it is accepted that this Prime Minister is but one more resignation away from a leadership challenge, so I say to the Leader of the House, without cliché, that if the call of history comes, it is who dares that wins.
I think the nation is appalled by the arrangements for the visit of President Trump. This is a man who demonstrates the worst attributes of misogyny. He scapegoats migrants and displays appalling Islamophobia, yet the Government are rolling out the red carpet. Scotland will be protesting his visit based on what his presidency represents, not our friendship with the United States. Perhaps we can have some sort of debate about what he means for relations between this country and the United States.
Finally, Mr Speaker, you may have seen some delightful children with Scottish accents running around the place this week. That is because their parents are Members of Parliament and the Scottish school holidays have started. Surely we can design a recess that takes account of all summer holidays throughout the UK. Please, make this the last year that this happens.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the White Paper, and I am sure that he will be delighted, as will all hon. Members, that the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will be making a statement following business questions; there will be the opportunity to ask questions then. In addition, there will be a general debate on the White Paper next week.
Turning to the visit of the US President, I want to make it clear to all colleagues that the objectives of the visit are to recognise and celebrate the unique and close bond between our two countries, to strengthen our bilateral relationship across prosperity, trade, security and defence and to have open, frank discussions on key issues. Opposition Members may like to think that we should simply turn our backs and have nothing to do with the US President, but that means never being able to put our point across. A responsible Government always seek to maintain a close relationship—one where the Prime Minister or the President can pick up the phone at short notice or meet in person to make their case. That was demonstrated emphatically when President Trump strongly supported our response to the Salisbury attack, expelling 60 Russian intelligence officers and encouraging other allies to join our co-ordinated response. The relationship is vital for open and frank engagement.
On childcare, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I, too, have children who have been running around this place. It is not only Scottish MPs who have childcare issues to resolve; parents right across the United Kingdom have to deal with the school holidays. The whole of Parliament cannot possibly go into recess for the entirety of all the school holidays in order to facilitate childcare arrangements. That is not acceptable to the people of this country, who expect to see their elected politicians working pretty much 24/7 to represent their interests. That said, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that I had a very productive meeting with the SNP Chief Whip and I have agreed to try to facilitate arrangements that will suit SNP Members during the October recess, which is a particular problem for them. I look forward to making progress on that.
I note from the exchanges that the White Paper has been made available to those on the Front Benches. I must say that those on the Back Benches have an equal interest and it is a matter of great regret that we have not seen it yet, although I understand the point about the statement that is about to be made. It raises very serious questions. Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that we have a proper dialogue, not merely a listening process, because this matter affects the whole of our democratic self-government into the future? Will she also take account of the fact that the European Scrutiny Committee yesterday issued a summons to Mr Oliver Robbins to appear before it on 24 July at an appropriate time? I thought it would be useful to make that clear to the House.
My hon. Friend has been truly assiduous in his scrutiny of all things to do with the UK’s relationship with the EU over many years. The House owes him a debt of gratitude for his careful consideration of these issues. As he would expect, the House will have the opportunity to debate and listen carefully to views right across the House, as happened with the EU withdrawal Bill, on which we had 290 hours of debate and 1,400 amendments were tabled and considered. There will be a general debate on the White Paper next week and further debates and opportunities to discuss the Government’s proposals in the White Paper, including in the statement to follow.
I have to admit to being slightly puzzled, bemused, perplexed and mystified by the Leader of the House’s business statement this morning, because it seems that the business on the 19th and the 24th is business that was determined by the Backbench Business Committee but is no longer under the aegis of the Committee; it looks like the Government have taken back those dates and put on general debates, but on the topics determined by the Committee. I feel a bit perplexed about that. It means that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) will not be able to lead off in the debate on the tobacco control plan and that the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) will not be able to lead off in the debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment, if the Government take back control. I do not know why they have done that.
Also, there is an anomaly with the timing of business in this place. When we return on 4 September, the business of the Chamber will begin on Monday hours, at 2.30 pm, but business in Westminster Hall, where there is scheduled to be a Backbench Business Committee debate, will begin on Tuesday hours, at 9.30 am. That makes life extremely difficult for Members travelling from further afield. I am writing to the Chairman of Ways and Means to see whether we can alter the time in Westminster Hall to reflect Monday hours, not Tuesday hours, so that business can start at the same time across the House.
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman’s point about Westminster Hall—it does sound quite difficult to manage—and would be happy to help him if I can. On the debates on tobacco and the pre-recess Adjournment, I think he can celebrate the fact that it means he will have extra Back-Bench business days while also having debates that the Committee was keen to have.
I went along to the Vote Office at the same time as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David), and there was no EU White Paper there. It is strange that the press had it at 9 o’clock in the morning. That is not how this place should be run. Referring to “the White Paper” is a bit confusing, however, because we now know there are two White Papers. The first was developed by Ministers and officials and sent to all Departments for comment and was in line with the Government’s policy at the time, which united 98% of Conservative MPs. We now know there is a second White Paper, developed by officials and Spads in No. 10 and which none of the Ministers saw. If we are to have a general debate next week, it would be really useful if both White Papers were presented. Maybe the House could then divide on which one it prefers.
My hon. Friend is always full of great ideas for how to proceed. I suggest that he takes this up with the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in the statement to follow.
Here is the problem: the Government do not have a majority, there is a majority against every single option that has thus far been presented on Brexit and trying simply to unite the Conservative party will, in the end, fail. If the Government are to act in the national interest, rather than in just the party interest, they will have to stop all this jiggery-pokery about trying to hide things from the rest of the House by presenting the White Paper only when the Minister sits down after talking about it. All of that has to stop. The House has to act in the national interest, and the Government have to stop all the nonsense and start bringing all of us on board, otherwise they will be relying on emergency powers to take us through the next year.