Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for next week will include the following:
Monday 22 October—Remaining stages of the Offensive Weapons Bill.
Tuesday 23 October—Remaining stages of the Civil Liability Bill [Lords].
Wednesday 24 October—Consideration of a Business of the House motion, followed by all stages of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill.
Thursday 25 October—General debate on folic acid fortification, followed by a general debate on the inclusive transport strategy.
Friday 26 October—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 29 October will include the following:
Monday 29 October—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement.
Tuesday 30 October—Continuation of the Budget debate.
Wednesday 31 October—Continuation of the Budget debate.
Thursday 1 November—Conclusion of the Budget debate.
Friday 2 November—The House will not be sitting.
Colleagues will also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise at the close of business on Thursday 14 February and return on Monday 25 February.
Today the restoration and renewal Bill will be published in draft, and I think the House should be proud that progress is at last being made on proposals that will safeguard Parliament for generations to come. Today is also World Menopause Day. Greater awareness of the impact on millions of women is important if we are to ensure that women at all ages and stages can lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Finally, I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate you, Sir Lindsay, on your visit to Buckingham Place yesterday to receive your knighthood.
Congratulations from our side of the House too, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business. Let me start by paying tribute to Patricia Hollis, who has sadly died. She made an incredible contribution to public life. I know that she will be missed by the Labour party, but I also know that the whole country is at a loss without her amazing talents.
I am pleased to learn that the Offensive Weapons Bill will be back on Monday, but I think that it would have been helpful if the Government had informed the Opposition in time. There were three statements last Monday, and two points of order on the change of business. There were also three hours remaining, during which we could have debated the Bill, but the House rose early, at 7 pm. Will the Leader of the House ensure that all parties are told of any change of business as soon as possible?
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the February recess dates. It is half-term for many parents. May I try again, and ask her to discuss the Easter recess dates with her colleagues?
The Leader of the House said that on Wednesday the House would debate the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill. Will she join me in welcoming members of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, which will hold its 57th plenary session this weekend? They will come to Parliament next Tuesday, and will meet Mr Speaker—and hopefully you as well, Mr Deputy Speaker. Both the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) have worked hard to promote co-operation between the UK and Irish Parliaments, which will be very important in the forthcoming months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) is the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking and modern slavery, and wanted to remind us that today is Anti-slavery Day. The Walk Free Foundation estimates that there are 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK; in 2014 there were 13,000. The charity Anti-Slavery International estimates that there are 2,118 children identified as potential victims of child trafficking in the UK, a 66% increase on the year before. But the charity has said that the UK Government do not have a coherent plan for preventing child trafficking. May we have a statement on what the Government are doing to tackle modern slavery in the UK?
It is Black History Month and tomorrow is wear red day, a campaign by Show Racism the Red Card. I and many other hon. Members signed a petition for the removal of a sociology textbook approved by the exam board AQA, which is presumably also approved by the Department for Education, which perpetuated an untrue racial stereotype about African-Caribbean men. The book has now been withdrawn.
Why does it take a petition or legal action by the Child Poverty Action Group about employment and support allowance underpayments for vulnerable people to get the money to which they are entitled? Now, after pressure, universal credit has also been delayed. We needed the reassurances that the Leader of the House gave last week that we can debate regulations on the Floor of the House in the usual way, but I want more than that from her—I want to be told that we are going to debate the managed migration to UC, whenever that happens, on the Floor of the House and have a vote.
The Government clearly cannot manage their Departments, nor, it seems, can they be fiscally credible unless they are taking money from the vulnerable. We have seen that in Tory-controlled Northampton. The shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has asked about this: can the Leader of the House say what NEA Properties, a company owned by cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council, spent £1.5 million on? Nobody knows what that is about. It is said it was spent on unspecified “projects”; there were no external checks.
Turning to the European Union, can the Leader of the House update the House on whether the Government are on top of the 800 statutory instruments that need to be laid before Parliament before the UK exits the EU? The Journal Office has said that only 33 negative SIs relating to the UK’s exit from the EU have been laid and only 46 proposed SIs are currently going through the European Statutory Instruments Committee. Last week a Delegated Legislation Committee sadly took one hour to discuss one SI, and the Minister present did not even have the necessary information about the impact of the SI, nor whether the Government had conducted an equalities assessment. Can the Leader of the House give us a timetable for when the EU SIs will be laid and the affirmative ones debated?
Is Parliament sovereign? Last night we learned that the Prime Minister cannot win in a straight vote without fixing the rules. The Government have fought at every stage to avoid a vote on a final meaningful deal. Our clever shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union added those words for a reason—“a meaningful vote”, he said, not a meaningless vote. Has anyone checked with “Dicey on the Constitution”? Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government are not using the Procedure Committee to take sovereignty away from Parliament by not giving Parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal? This is not a minority dictatorship; this is a parliamentary democracy, and Parliament is sovereign. This is the most outrageous power grab by the Government that has ever been seen. Will the Leader of the House make a statement to the House on the constitutional position of not allowing an amendable motion, and will she do her constitutional duty of being the House’s representative in Cabinet?
Staying with the EU, there is good news: we congratulate England on beating Spain, in Spain, for the first time in 38 years. Who says you can’t win with kids? And it seems that the full English special is back on the menu, and in Climate Change Week, the “fracking three” are free. We have had “Girl with Balloon” shredded, and now it seems that Banksy’s latest is “Woman with Chequers Plan shredded.”
I should like to start by agreeing with the hon. Lady about Baroness Hollis, who has passed away—she will be much missed. The House owes her a great debt of gratitude for her campaigning on behalf of the poor and vulnerable in our society.
The hon. Lady asked about Monday’s business on the Offensive Weapons Bill. As was explained at the time, a group of important amendments was tabled, but a knife had already been agreed for 7 pm, which would have allowed less than half an hour to debate those amendments. It was felt better to reschedule the debate and, as she will have noticed, I have indeed rescheduled it for next week.
The hon. Lady mentioned the Easter recess. I am pleased to hear that she is happy about the February recess, but I am not surprised to hear that she has something else to complain about. That is par for the course for her, I am sorry to say.
I completely echo the hon. Lady’s welcome for the members of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. We look forward to hearing what they have to say, and we all celebrate the co-operation between the British and Irish groups.
The hon. Lady highlighted the importance of Anti-slavery Day, and she is absolutely right to say that it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the scale of modern slavery in the United Kingdom and abroad. There are an estimated 40 million victims worldwide, which shows that these crimes are far from having been consigned to the history books. As she will know, the Government have made tackling modern slavery a top domestic and foreign policy priority, including by introducing the first Modern Slavery Act in 2015, which was introduced by the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary. This is an important priority for the Government.
The hon. Lady mentioned Black History Month. She might be delighted, as I was, to read in the press that more is being done to ensure that more of the history of black races in the world is being brought into our history books. That is incredibly important, as the history books have been far too white-focused, and it will be interesting to see how that imbalance is addressed.
The hon. Lady asked about debating statutory instruments on the Floor of the House. She knows that it is a matter of parliamentary convention that when the Opposition make a reasonable request for a debate on an SI on the Floor of the House, time is allowed for such a debate. I think the Government have demonstrated in this Session that we have been willing to provide such time. In fact, we have agreed to more such requests from the Opposition than at any time since 1997.
The hon. Lady mentioned Northamptonshire County Council. She will be aware that that is my own local county council, and this is an issue that I am incredibly concerned about. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has brought in commissioners to deal with the specific issues of Northamptonshire County Council, and the local councillors are making proposals on how to ensure that my constituents and all other Northamptonshire residents get the best value for money as well as good services.
The hon. Lady asked specifically about the statutory instruments relating to the Brexit process. I had a very good informal meeting with the sifting Committee yesterday, and I was able to assure its members that we will be giving them as much information as possible on the flow of statutory instruments relating to Brexit, and that, having changed the process for monitoring the flow and quality of SIs, I am confident that this will be manageable, that it is in line with other parliamentary Sessions, and that all those SIs will be brought forward in good time for exit day.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked about the meaningful vote. The letter that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union wrote to the Procedure Committee on 10 October was in response to a letter from the Committee to the Prime Minister asking for views on the meaningful vote. The House will be aware that the question of whether such debates should be organised through a business of the House motion, and the form of any such motion, will be in the hands of the House itself, which has the power to amend, approve or reject such a motion. It is also important to recognise the need for the House to consider the question that will in reality be before the United Kingdom, which is whether or not to accept the deal that the Government have negotiated with the European Union. I encourage all hon. Members to look at the incoming letter from the Procedure Committee dated 17 September and the response from the Secretary of State, as well as, importantly, the appendix that sets out the legal position.
The news of Wednesday’s business is most welcome, but will the Leader of the House say why it is necessary to conclude all stages of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill in one day? The matter to which it relates now dates from January 2017, and it is vital to get things right.
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Bill will address certain pressing matters, so a swift process has been considered necessary, but there will be an opportunity to debate that next Wednesday.
I call Pete Wishart.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. We welcome your knighthood and heartily congratulate you on surviving the sword to the shoulders without any mishap.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. She has certainly been busy this week, has she not? It was she who hosted the pizza putsch—the Cabinet’s calzone coup—where the Brexit mutineers ensured over garlic bread that whatever the Prime Minister cobbles together will be wood-fired. Amid all this Margherita madness, nothing changes, and this whole disastrous Brexit is approaching its depressing end game. There are no good toppings left—just the anchovies and the pineapple. Whether Brexit is crispy or deep pan, it is already unpalatable to the EU, to this House, and most definitely to the pizza-munching Cabinet mutineers.
The Leader of the House clarified a couple of things about the meaningful vote. We are grateful that the motion will be amendable, but there must be no suggestion that there will be a binary choice between a disastrous Brexit and the horrors of no deal. This was all about taking back control and the sovereignty of this House, so it must be up to the House to determine the biggest decision that it has made for a few decades. We must be reassured here and today that there will not be a binary choice.
Finally, who once said:
“I don’t think the UK should leave the EU. It would be a disaster for our economy”?
Was it Michel Barnier, Pete Wishart, or Andrea Leadsom? May we have a debate on cognitive memory recall, and perhaps ask the Leader of the House to lead for us on that one?
I love the hon. Gentleman’s interventions. I must say that I am really grateful to the many right hon. and hon. Members and members of the press who have been so determined to find out exactly what went on in the Leader of the House’s office on Monday night, and I think I can fully reassure all colleagues on three very important points: first, we went for a thin and crispy base; secondly, there were absolutely no cheesy bites; and, thirdly, I made sure that there were fresh carrot sticks for all my guests. I hope that I have now cleared that up.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the meaningful vote—he is right to do so. On the one hand, anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal will bring huge uncertainty for businesses, consumers and citizens but, on the other hand, any motion of the House is a matter for the House to decide. As we have noted on many occasions, the Speaker will decide whether to accept amendments in the usual way.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about my comments, which I did anticipate, because he tweeted that he was going to ask me—[Interruption.] Yes, it was helpful. I want to address the matter seriously, because a lot of people are concerned. When I was a Back Bencher, I established with Conservative colleagues something called the Fresh Start Project, which was about seeking fundamental reform of the European Union, and it could be said that we really took our duties seriously. We travelled the EU and met like-minded politicians from both sides of the political spectrum. We really did our homework, and proposed a profound, fundamental set of reforms right across all areas of the EU, with a genuine desire to see a reformed EU that the UK would remain in. As someone who grew up as a member of the EU, as an awful lot of people in this country did, it seemed that reform was the No. 1 priority.
It became apparent during the discussions between the previous Prime Minister and the EU, however, that reform is simply not on the table. That was very clear, and that was when my opinion changed. The European Union cannot expect to trap countries into its ambitions, which is why I am a very proud Brexiteer and very keen to promote the superb future that the UK will have once we leave the European Union next March.
There was misreporting about our Procedure Committee yesterday. We wrote to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and on no occasion did he ask us to change the rules. The situation, as outlined by the Clerks, is very clear: if there is no deal, the Government must lay a motion in neutral terms under section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Such a motion is unamendable, and attempts to politicise the office of the Speaker are completely outwith our rules and procedures. If there is a deal, there will be a vote under section 13(1) on an amendable motion, but if the Government are defeated in that vote, it defeats the deal.
In either case, Brexit proceeds under our procedure. It is now unstoppable and nobody in Parliament—[Interruption.] No, under the existing Act, nobody in Parliament can stop it, except the Government. Will the Government give me a categorical assurance that, whether or not there is a deal, or whether a deal is defeated, Brexit proceeds at the end of March and the Government will not delay it by a single day?
The United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019. To clarify again: once a deal with the EU has been agreed, Parliament will have a vote on the withdrawal agreement and the terms of our future partnership. Parliament will have the choice to accept or reject that deal. If Parliament accepts the deal, we will introduce an EU withdrawal agreement Bill to implement the agreement in domestic legislation; if Parliament chooses to reject the deal, the Government will be unable to ratify the agreement.
I am surprised by the revelation that the Leader of the House provides carrot sticks to her guests—carrot and stick all in one handy bite.
I am also a little surprised that the Leader of the House did not announce the provisional business for the short week commencing 5 November, which will be the last opportunity to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the great war before 11 November 2018. I had hoped for some clarity on that.
I welcome the fact that the first debate on Thursday 25 October will be on folic acid fortification, which was the subject of a Backbench Business Committee application by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) to commemorate Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Awareness Week. I hope that the Chair will look favourably on him and call him early in the debate.
I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I do not like to abuse my position as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, but may we have a debate in Government time on local government finance? The Government have, over the past eight years, incrementally withdrawn the revenue support grant from local authorities, and they continue to do so, but they have done nothing to rectify the other side of the equation, which is council tax, the council tax base and how council tax is raised. The situation is having a much more detrimental impact in some councils than others. We need to air that in a debate so we can see how to get a real solution, which will benefit councils that have experienced the greatest losses.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for lobbying for a debate to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. I have had representations from many hon. Members and I seek to find time for such a debate. I will make an announcement on that next week.
The hon. Gentleman asks for a debate in Government time on local government finance, and he might find time to raise that issue during the Budget debates.
May I also congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your richly deserved great honour? Tomorrow is breast cancer care day, and we will all be wearing something pink. Some of us look nicer in pink than others, but it is an important day as we highlight breast cancer, which is still a killer for so many of our constituents.
May I declare an interest and request a debate on the persecution of veterans who served in Northern Ireland, as I did through the ’70s and ’80s and in Operation Banner? It is fundamentally wrong that our ex-servicemen are being treated like terrorists. It is scaring them to death to be dragged into a judicial process that was resolved years and years ago. They have been forgotten, I am afraid, by Governments of parties on both sides of the House. They did not ask to go to Northern Ireland; they were sent. There were sent to do a job to keep the peace, and it is fundamentally wrong that they are being prosecuted today.
I am extremely sympathetic to my right hon. Friend’s comments. Without any doubt, we owe a vast debt of gratitude to the heroism and bravery of all our soldiers and police officers who upheld the rule of law and were themselves accountable to it. He will appreciate that the current system in Northern Ireland is not working well for soldiers, police officers or victims. I encourage him to raise his question directly with Ministers during Defence questions on Monday 22 October or Northern Ireland questions on Wednesday 31 October.
Yesterday the chair of the inquiry into infected blood, Sir Brian Langstaff, published a letter to the Cabinet Office in which he calls for decisive action on the financial support available to those infected and those affected. The inquiry is likely to take several years to reach its conclusions, but people do not have financial security at the moment and there is different support in the different nations of the United Kingdom. I wonder whether we might have a statement from the Cabinet Office in response to Sir Brian’s letter.
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who has been tireless in looking into this issue and raising it in this place. Some of my constituents have suffered due to this appalling contaminated blood problem, and she is absolutely right to raise it. If she wants to write to me, I can take up the matter directly with the Cabinet Office on her behalf.
David Thompson started wearing women’s clothes and a wig and changed his name to Karen White so that he could be moved to a female prison. Unbelievably he was, from where he sexually abused four female prisoners. His conviction was confirmed in the courts last week. Please may we have a debate on how we can stop this madness, which created four unnecessary female victims of crime? If it is not stopped, we will create further unnecessary victims of crime. This is putting women at risk, so please may we have a debate to find out how we can stop it from ever happening again?
My hon. Friend raises an incredibly important issue. The subject of the abuse of legal gender recognition processes has been raised a number of times in several different ways. The Government want to make the legal gender recognition process less intrusive and bureaucratic for transgender people, but at the same time to ensure that we protect women from abuse. As I understand it, the consultation is ongoing until tomorrow and I encourage my hon. Friend to feed his concerns into that.
On 1 November, importantly, cannabis-based medicines will be able to be prescribed without licence, but some patients, including Bailey Williams, a young boy from my constituency whose mother is Rachel Rankmore, have consultants who appear to be unwilling under any circumstances to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. May we have a statement from the Health Secretary about whether we can make available to these patients NHS facilities and consultants who would be willing to consider prescribing such medicines in order to relieve terrible suffering and save lives?
I am very sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman says. As he will know, the Home Secretary acted very quickly to ensure that cannabis for medicinal purposes could be made available very quickly and he has taken steps to do that. However, I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise any specific concerns he has about NHS professionals who may be unwilling to prescribe directly at Health and Social Care questions next Tuesday.
Lincolnshire’s excellent police and crime commissioner, Marc Jones, has alerted me to an organised, ruthless and serious network of foreign criminals who have established the illegal supply of tobacco and alcohol on an industrial scale. These illegal cigarettes have already led to fires and fatalities in my constituency. Will the Leader of the House ask a Treasury Minister to come here, so that we can ensure that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is looking at the way these things are supplied—shops exist solely for the purposes of money laundering—and a Home Office Minister to come here, so that we can make sure that, post Brexit, with the end of free movement, these people are deported posthaste?
My right hon. Friend is raising a very serious issue—the rise in organised crime—which I know will be of concern to many hon. Members. He will be aware that the Government have invested significantly in new cyber techniques in order to be able to catch, trap and round up these organised crime gangs. He is right to raise this point and I encourage him to raise it directly with Home Office Ministers on Monday week, 29 October.
In response to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), the Leader of the House gave us the menu for the pizza meeting last Monday night, but she did not say whether she had any champagne. Now to get serious, Orbit, a housing association, has houses in my constituency, but when I correspond with it, it uses the Data Protection Act to deny me answers on behalf of my constituents. What are we going to do about that? May we have a debate, some sort of statement or an amendment to the legislation, because this really is not good enough, as it is distancing Members from their constituents?
The hon. Gentleman is raising an important point about the responses that MPs, who are there to represent and support their constituents, receive from social housing and other public sector organisations, which might, on occasion, be seen to hide behind data protection rules. He is right to raise the matter. There should not be any limits for Members of Parliament who are legitimately representing the interests of their constituents, and I suggest he raises the issue at Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions, which will take place on Thursday 1 November.
Genomics England, a company wholly owned by the NHS, is carrying out its 100,000 genomes project, the largest of its kind in the world. It is sequencing the genomes of NHS patients with rare diseases and cancer. It is a nationwide project, but my local trust, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, is participating in it. The project is designed to develop a new genomics service for the NHS and boost medical research. Please may we have a statement from a Health and Social Care Minister on this excellent project and how it will contribute to transforming the care that patients will receive?
My hon. Friend is raising an incredibly important development in the world of genomics and big data and how we can transform healthcare. This is a very exciting time and I encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall debate, because it is important that all right hon. and hon. Members get the chance not only to feed in their views, but to be informed about some of the amazing advances that are coming down the track.
I call Ian Murray.
Thank you very much, Sir Deputy Speaker. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.] It is always good to crawl. The Leader of the House said to the shadow Leader of the House that the EU withdrawal Bill could be amended, rejected or accepted, but in the answer to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), when she read her notes, she omitted the word “amended”. So may we have a meaningful debate on the meaning of the word “meaningful”? Will she confirm that the Government’s EU withdrawal deal will be amendable?
I say again that the House will be well aware of the fact that whether or not debate ought to be organised through a business of the House motion, and the form of any such motion, is ultimately in the hands of the House itself. The House has the power to amend, approve or reject such a motion, but it is also very important to recognise the need for the House to consider the question that is before the United Kingdom, which is whether or not to accept the deal that the Government have negotiated with the EU. Anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal would lead to great uncertainty for businesses and citizens, because any changes might mean that the Government are not in a position to ratify the deal.
A constituent of mine was mis-sold an interest-rate hedge by Barclays bank. He was eventually paid back the money that he had paid and offered compensation of £37.50. He was then forced to sell his properties at well below their market value, despite my asking for a bit of time so that they could be sold at a reasonable price. I have written to Barclays twice to ask it to look again at the case because of the situation that they put my constituents in, but the bank has not replied to my letters. May we have a debate on banks and other institutions that simply do not respect MPs who are trying to do something on behalf of their constituents?
My hon. Friend raises such an important point. As a member of the Treasury Committee and then as the City Minister, I was absolutely disgusted to see some of the really harrowing stories about businesspeople who lost their livelihoods and years and years of work because of the mis-selling of all sorts of interest-rate products, including interest-rate swaps. It really was disgraceful behaviour. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Financial Conduct Authority has looked into this issue and there have been several reviews, but I absolutely agree with him that it is not acceptable for a bank simply not to reply to his request for further investigation. The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), was looking interestedly at my hon. Friend when he asked his question, so I gently suggest that it would be a good subject for a lengthy Back-Bench debate. I am very happy to provide the time for that and would very much like to take part in such a debate myself.
Will the Leader of the House allocate Government time for a debate on the future of the post office network? We have seen accelerated bank closures, and ATMs are disappearing in towns and villages throughout the country. The Government, and the coalition Government before it, boasted about the resource that they put into the network, but that resource has been used to close it down. We need a vision and a Government who allocate the time to direct that vision.
I hope I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the overall number of post offices is not reducing. On 11 October, the Post Office announced that 40 post offices—[Interruption.] Do hon. Members want to hear the answer? Perhaps they just like to shout me down. I am trying to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. The overall number of post offices is not reducing. On 11 October, the Post Office announced plans to relocate 40 post offices into WHSmith stores in 2019, and WHSmith will also move to a franchise arrangement for 33 post offices that are already sited in its stores, taking the total number of post offices operated by WHSmith in its stores to more than 200.
A separate issue is when sub-postmasters decide to retire and there is a problem with finding somebody to take over the post office, but I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the change and the relocations into WHSmith stores are intended to maintain a good service for all our constituents, who often find that the opening hours of their village post office are better than those of a high street bank, and that is of benefit to them.
Stirling is an epicentre of volunteering. I am proud to tell the House that Stirling is the sole UK city candidate to be Europe’s capital of volunteering in 2020. Will the Leader of the House join me in paying tribute to the volunteers in Stirling and up and down the United Kingdom who give so freely of their time, talent and means to serve in our communities? Will she support Stirling’s candidacy? May we have a debate to celebrate the massive contribution that volunteers make to the life of our country?
My hon. Friend raises an excellent point. I would love to join him in paying tribute to the fantastic volunteers in Stirling and right up and down the country. The Government do recognise the huge importance of volunteering and we continue to support and encourage it. We have recently published our civil society strategy, which sets out our aim to enable everyone to provide their own voluntary contributions throughout their lives. I wish Stirling great success with its candidacy for Europe’s capital of volunteering in 2020.
As we speak, Possibilities for Each and Every Kid in Glasgow is about to celebrate its 18th birthday. This year, it was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its work encouraging young people into volunteering, outdoor play and creative arts. It has also done lots of work in schools, transforming breakfast clubs in schools such as Dalmarnock Primary. May we have a debate on the contribution of organisations such as PEEK to young people’s health and wellbeing?
I am delighted to join the hon. Lady in congratulating that organisation on its excellent work and wishing it the best on its 18th birthday. She is right, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), to raise the important work that volunteers do right up and down the country. I share her pleasure in celebrating its success and encourage Members to seek opportunities, perhaps through a Westminster Hall debate, so that we can all share in some of the local successes in our constituencies.
On Monday, I met representatives from the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and they echoed the concerns of shopkeepers in my Cleethorpes constituency that retail crime is not being prioritised by some police forces. They also expressed concern that, with the growing demands on the police, perhaps from the further extension of hate crime legislation, retail crime might slip even further down the list of priorities. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on retail crime and on how the police will respond to it?
My hon. Friend is right that our high streets need as much support as possible and that includes protecting them from crime. All incidents should be reported to the police to enable them to gather the intelligence necessary to be able to deal with these criminals. Often, the police are concerned that these crimes go unreported, so I encourage all those experiencing retail trade crime to report it. I can tell him that we are working hard with industry and the police, through the national retail crime steering group, to make sure that retailers have the tools that they need to prevent and manage particularly violent incidents and to allow the police to target their resources appropriately.
The Home Affairs Committee has rightly criticised the Home Office for its data handling and for losing people’s immigration documents. Can we have a chance to scrutinise Ministers on this? I say that on behalf of a constituent who now has to replace two passports, four birth certificates, three DNA tests and a marriage certificate.
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s point. It is unacceptable when documents get lost in that way. I encourage her to take up her constituent’s issues at Home Office questions, which are on Monday 29 October.
Today is the last day of Navaratri and those of us who have been dancing the Garba and Dandiya raas feel healthier and fitter as a result. I say to colleagues not to despair because Sharad Purnima and Diwali are coming up, so there is still more chance for greater fitness. Will my right hon. Friend join me in wishing Hindus, Sikhs and Jains happy Navami as we celebrate the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil? Can we have a debate in Government time on how we can use the benefits of dance to overcome childhood obesity?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I join him in wishing his constituents and others around the country happy Navami. With my own pizza-eating habits, I shall certainly be needing to take advantage of any dancing opportunities that I find.
Last week, I asked the Leader of the House when we would have a debate on the public health model that the Home Office announced we would be adopting to reduce youth violence. She helpfully said that she would consult with Home Office colleagues. Will she update the House on how those discussions went and when we are likely to have this extremely important debate?
I have taken up this issue with Home Office colleagues. I believe that I asked the hon. Lady to write to me if she had a specific question that she wanted me to raise with them. It is Home Office questions on 29 October, so I encourage her to raise the issue directly with the Department then.
Can we have Government statement about payday lending and the role of the Financial Conduct Authority? A recent BBC piece told the story of Danny Cheetham, whose initial £100 loan spiralled to a debt of £19,000. Many constituents have written to me with concerns about this issue, so please can we have a statement from the Economic Secretary to the Treasury about the role of the FCA, which appears to be asleep at the wheel?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that a cap was put on payday lending interest rates, although I would sympathise with him if he were to say that it is still too high; this is a genuine problem. The Government has done as much as possible to facilitate new entrants to the lending market. The Budget debate will be a good opportunity to raise this matter directly with Ministers, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to do so.
Many constituents have raised with me in recent days their dismay at the amount of tax being paid by online giants, with reports suggesting that Facebook will only be paying £7.4 million in tax. My constituents and the constituents of the Leader of the House all pay their tax, so can we have an urgent debate to ensure that these online giants start paying their taxes? Will she also press the Chancellor to ensure that he addresses this matter in the Budget in 10 days’ time?
All hon. Members will be very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s point. We all agree that it is only fair that online businesses pay their fair share of taxes. The Chancellor has already made some warm noises towards addressing this issue, and I will remind him that the hon. Gentleman has raised it today.
Can we have a debate in Government time on the application of section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, because it is being used in a cavalier and callous fashion? There is a cowboy company operating in Derby known as Enabling Homes, but it is actually enabling homelessness. Last week, it completed a purchase on a block of flats in Mackworth in my constituency, and the very next day it issued section 21 notices to the tenants, evicting them in two months’ time—just in time for Christmas. This is a scandal, so can we please have a debate?
I am very concerned to hear the hon. Gentleman’s story. I agree that he should look into this matter very carefully, and I am sure that he will do so. Perhaps he will apply for an Adjournment debate on that specific issue, but I also encourage him to take it up directly with Ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that there is not some fundamental problem that needs to be addressed.
The Civil Nuclear Constabulary is a specialist armed police force dedicated to protecting civil nuclear sites across the UK, such as Hunterston in my constituency. The Civil Nuclear Constabulary will
“deter any attacker whose intent is the theft or sabotage of nuclear material whether static or in transit”,
potentially risking their own lives for our safety. Can we have a statement on the great concern caused by the fact that raising the retirement age of these officers to 67 and 68 will render their service “unsustainable”, according to the chief constable of the constabulary?
I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Having been an energy Minister myself, I have met some officers so I know that they take high risks and have to be very carefully trained. It is important that we recognise the fact that people are living longer and that public sector workers are all working for longer periods. Some of these officers are redeployed into other areas as they reach the end of their working lives, but the hon. Lady may well wish to raise the matter directly with Ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. If she wants to write to me, I can take it up with them on her behalf.
There are fresh reports in the press today about contamination of Pret a Manger products—in this case, seafood, which can be a serious allergen in vegetarian flatbread. These serious breaches of safety have killed people, including my constituent Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, but nothing is happening in Government. We have been told there is a review, but can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about what is being reviewed, the terms of reference and when it will report, before more people die?
First, may I say how sorry everybody was to hear of the death of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. It was a terribly tragic event, and we send our deepest sympathies to her family. He is right to raise the importance of the accuracy of food labelling. I believe a statement was made at the time, and we have just had DEFRA questions, at which I hope he was able to raise this directly with Ministers. If he wants to write to me, I can take it up with them on his behalf.
Every year in the UK, about 1,300 blood cancer patients need a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor in order to save their lives. It is possible to join the stem cell donor register at 16, but I am concerned to learn from the charity Anthony Nolan that young people often do not know about the register or hold misconceptions about stem cell donation. May we have a debate about adding stem cell donation, alongside organ and blood donation, to the statutory guidance on health education for secondary school pupils?
The hon. Lady makes an excellent suggestion, and one that I personally would support. I was delighted recently when in my own constituency we achieved one of the largest groups of donors in the country. She is absolutely right, however, that we need to do more to make people aware of what donation means physically and what it could mean for those they help. I would certainly support that, and I encourage her to take it up at Health questions next week.
Can we have an urgent statement on the assistance the Government can offer to those communities devastated by Storm Callum at the weekend and the possibility of drawing down support from the EU solidarity fund? Towns and villages in the south of Ceredigion and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) were particularly impacted by unprecedented levels of flooding, and assistance with the clean-up and the reconstruction costs is urgently needed.
I am aware that the hon. Gentleman sought an urgent question on this subject, and I think we were all horrified at the photos in the news of the appalling flooding in his area. It is Welsh questions next week, and I encourage him to take up that matter directly with Ministers.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us an insight into “The Italian Job” meeting that took place, but I should manage expectations: it is going to take a hell of a lot of carrots to see though this darkness.
It is half-term next week and the week after, and some MPs will be taking charge of their children while also coming into the House to vote. Can we look at the arrangements whereby our children have to go through security screening coming into the building, in a way that MPs do not?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point—not the first point; the second one. I am meeting the head of security in Parliament this afternoon to raise a number of issues, including the security arrangements. Obviously, we have to take security very seriously—we cannot cut corners—but there has to be a balance between enabling people such as Members’ children to come in, as well as young work experience students and so on, and protecting everyone who works in this place. I plan to raise that this afternoon.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), the closure of York’s only Crown post office, which has been based at 22 Lendal since 1884, was announced last Thursday, without any consultation with key stakeholders, including the high street. Clearly this will have a devastating impact on our city centre. Given the lack of statement from a Minister, may we have a debate in Government time to discuss the future of our high streets and post offices?
I am sorry to hear about the post office closure in the centre of York. Obviously I do not know the precise circumstances or whether there are other post offices—I am sure there must be—in York. [Interruption.] No post office counters whatsoever? Well, I am genuinely sorry to hear that, and I encourage the hon. Lady to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise the matter directly with Ministers.
I am sure that the right hon. Lady is an avid reader of the Grimsby Telegraph, as everybody in the House will be—if not, they should be—and will have seen this week a really dreadful story about an attack on police officers. A young man of 25, Josse Jackson, has been sentenced to 12 weeks for attacking two police officers, including a policewoman, spitting blood-filled spit at them, saying that he had AIDS and hepatitis C, and threatening to bite them. He got only a 12-week sentence. The chief constable and the Labour police and crime commissioner, Keith Hunter, have called for stronger sentences for these kinds of attacks, following a weekend when 11 police officers were injured. May we have a statement or debate about professional impact statements, looking at the experiences of people who work in the public sector, on the frontline, to see how that can improve the strength of our sentencing?
All hon. Members will be disgusted to hear of the event that the hon. Lady talks about—it is really horrifying, and no police officer should have to tolerate such awful abuse. I am very sympathetic to the points that she makes. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who is here on the Front Bench, has heard what the hon. Lady said and would be very happy to meet her to talk about this further.
On 23 May, I asked the Prime Minister about the proposed sale of Wembley stadium, and she told me that it was not a matter for Government. Yesterday it was announced that the sale is not going ahead, and the Sports Minister expressed disappointment. I have been applying for a debate on this matter every week for about six months, because there are important questions involved, not least the Government’s position. If the sale goes ahead, there are questions about securing fans’ interests for the future. Critically, now that the sale is not proceeding, what is the strategy for investment in grassroots football that was predicated on it? May we have a statement from the Government on all these very important issues?
I well understand that the hon. Gentleman has grave concerns about the future of Wembley. We have Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions on Thursday 1 November, which is just over a week away, and I encourage him to raise the issue directly with Ministers then.
The Leader of the House may be aware that Traidcraft, the fair trade company based in Team Valley in Gateshead, is going through difficult times. It is important that we keep fair trade organisations such as Traidcraft running and healthy. Will she arrange a debate in Government time on the importance of fair trade so that the House can discuss this matter, and will she join me in encouraging colleagues to buy something from the Traidcraft catalogue for Christmas in order to help it?
I am very happy to join the hon. Lady in encouraging hon. Members to buy from fair trade catalogues. I think we all support fair trade with developing nations, and it is important that we continue to do that. The hon. Lady might like to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise directly with Ministers what more can be done to support this area.
Will the Leader of the House be kind enough to join me in welcoming the family and friends of John Pitcairn Mackintosh, a former MP for Berwick and East Lothian? The Speaker has allowed us the use of his premises tonight to celebrate John Pitcairn’s life, which was cut so tragically short 40 years ago this year. May we have a debate in Government time to celebrate the former parliamentarians of this House and take the opportunity to learn from their experiences in the decisions that we need to make in the near future?
I am very happy to join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming the family to the Speaker’s apartments today. I also agree entirely that it is only by studying the past that we learn the lessons for the future. We would all do well to remember that.
I call Judith Cummins.
Thank you, and congratulations, Mr Deputy Speaker.
We are one year on from the Government announcing tougher sentences for dangerous drivers, but despite repeated calls from across the House for the legislation to be brought into force, we are still no further forward. One family member of a victim said:
“The Government’s delay in implementing tougher penalties has denied my family the justice that we need.”
Will the Leader of the House tell us when these families can expect the justice that they deserve?
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her campaigning on this subject. I know that it means a great deal to her, and the whole House appreciates the work she has done. I do not have a further update for her right now, but if she would like to write to me, I can take it up with the Department on her behalf.
I call Thangam Debbonaire.
Thank you, Mr Sir Deputy Speaker, or however we are supposed to say it, and congratulations.
On 3 May, 12 July and 6 September, I asked the Leader of the House for the whereabouts of the immigration Bill, which we must have before 29 March. On 6 September, she said that it would be published after the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee report “and in good time”. That report was published on 11 September. It is now 18 October. Where is the immigration Bill? Does the Leader of the House see any sign of it coming this side of the new year?
The hon. Lady is a member of the Opposition Whips Office, and obviously she always has the usual channels in order to raise these issues. I say to her again, as I have said before, that all legislation is being brought forward in good time and as necessary to prepare for the United Kingdom leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.
Earlier in the week, the Home Office published data that shows that there has been a huge surge in hate crime directed at people in England and Wales because of their religious beliefs. Figures recorded by the police show that over 8,000 incidents of this type of hate crime were recorded in 2017-18—up by a whopping 40% on 2016-17. Only yesterday, our noble Friends in the House of Lords had a debate to discuss this growing religious prejudice and intolerance in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Will the Leader of the House agree to a similar debate, in Government time, on this pressing issue?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that all forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable. As he will be aware, the Government’s hate crime action plan has improved the response to all forms of hate crime. The refresh that was published yesterday ensures a renewed commitment to victims remaining at the heart of our work. As part of that refresh, we have committed additional funding to continue to protect places of worship, alongside just over £1.5 million for projects to tackle racially and religiously motivated hatred. In addition, we have asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of the coverage and approach of current hate crime legislative provisions. Later this year, we will launch a wide-ranging national hate crime public awareness campaign to address the issue. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing a debate on 25 October on the subject of International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day.
I think colleagues have suggested that Mr Doughty come last, so thank you for that. I call Stephen Doughty.
Thank you, Sir Lindsay.
On Brexit and the business of the House, the Leader of the House’s suggestion of a simple binary choice and, indeed, the attempts by the Government to choke off the control of this House over the Brexit decision are unacceptable, as the many thousands of people who will be marching through London on Saturday know all too well. But the Brexit mess has also impacted on important business on the Offensive Weapons Bill. I was pleased to hear her say that the Bill is coming back on Monday. Will she ensure that we have adequate time to debate new clause 1 on attacks on shopkeepers and retail workers, many of whom are suffering horrific attacks with knives and guns? The new clause is supported by many Co-operative MPs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (David Hanson), and others. It is a very important matter, so will she ensure we have time to discuss it?
Absolutely. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the reason the business was pulled on Monday was precisely because we were concerned that there would not be sufficient time to discuss some of these very important issues, such as the one he raises. To be very clear again with regard to the meaningful vote, once the deal with the EU has been agreed, Parliament will have a vote on the withdrawal agreement and the terms of our future partnership. Parliament will have the choice of accepting or rejecting that deal, and, as we have said before, the Speaker will decide on whether to accept amendments to the motion in the usual way.
Can I just say thank you very much for all the kind words and kind comments—it is much appreciated and I do take it on board. To be quite honest, just to add to the pizza story, I tripped over the boxes and there was none left whatsoever.