Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business next week will be as follows:
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, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.
Friday 2 November—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 5 November will include the following:
Monday 5 November—A general debate on the Dame Laura Cox report on the bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff, followed by a general debate on road safety.
Tuesday 6 November—A general debate on the centenary of the armistice.
May I start by sending the very best wishes of the House to Sir Jeremy Heywood, a man whose public service we have been so lucky and thankful to have?
Today we celebrate the coming into force 50 years ago of the Race Relations Act 1965, a critical piece of legislation that made the United Kingdom a better place in which to live and work. As Black History Month enters its final week, we acknowledge the extraordinary contribution to the United Kingdom that is made by all our black and minority ethnic communities. Finally, as we approach the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, may I draw all colleagues’ attention to the concert in Westminster Hall being performed by the Parliament choir and the Bundestag choir at 7.30 pm on 31 October? I plan to attend and hope that many colleagues will be able to join what I am sure will be a fantastic event.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business—although it is still only for a week and two days. At last week’s business questions the Leader of the House said I was complaining when I asked for the dates of the Easter recess, but I am going to try again as she has not announced them, and I do not think that is a very nice way of describing what I asked for—I was just doing my job. Maybe unconsciously the right hon. Lady is irritated by my questions, but this is business questions not business discussions. Members, staff and the House need the dates in order to plan ahead.
I note that there has been no rescheduling of time for the Offensive Weapons Bill. It is a very important Bill: it covers the sale and delivery of corrosive substances, possession of dangerous knives, possession of offensive weapons. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) and other hon. Members have consistently asked the Government for action on this to protect the public. The last time the Bill was scheduled to be discussed the Government put on three statements, and the next time there were two urgent questions and then a statement by the Prime Minister. When will we have the Report stage and Third Reading?
The right hon. Lady mentioned race relations and the anniversary of the passing of the Race Relations Act 1965—by a Labour Government. A point of order was raised yesterday by the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald). He said a person was welcomed for lunch on the parliamentary estate; at rallies this person’s supporters have been pictured performing Nazi salutes. Will the Leader of the House join me in opposing far-right extremists being invited on to the parliamentary estate? Does the Leader of the House know if he read the behaviour code?
Also last week I asked about the statutory instrument on managing migration on to universal credit, saying it should be taken on the Floor of the House. I have asked for this twice, and the right hon. Lady has not given me a yes or no answer. Can she just say, “Yes it will”? We know how to pray against it; we just need a confirmation and reassurance from her that we can debate it on the Floor of the House.
Again last week I asked about Northamptonshire County Council-owned NEA Properties. The Leader of the House again did not answer the question and say what happened to £1.5 million of public money spent on unspecified projects. Will she ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to update the House?
The Government seem to be profligate with public money and state assets, because apparently the UK equity firm Cerberus misled the Government in the biggest sale of state assets in UK history. The company told the Government it was planning to offer homeowners better mortgage deals before its £13 billion purchase of former Northern Rock mortgages. It has not provided any new mortgages and 65,000 homeowners are still trapped on high interest rates. May we have a statement on the sale of the loan book from UK Asset Resolution, which was set up by the Treasury?
On the EU, can the Leader of the House clarify either now or in a letter to me—and the House—what has actually been agreed in the negotiations? In her statement on Monday, the Prime Minister said that
“95% of the withdrawal agreement and its protocols are now settled.”—[Official Report, 22 October 2018; Vol. 648, c. 47.]
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that 90% was resolved. Which is it? The Prime Minister said that the Irish border was still a “considerable sticking point”, and the European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt agrees, as he said yesterday that “progress is at 0%” until the Irish border issue is solved. The EU offered to convene a special summit in November to help the Prime Minister, but it seems that that has now been withdrawn and that the special summit will now be in December. Do the Government have any idea when Parliament can express its view on the terms of the deal? We also heard from the almost millions of people who took to the streets of London last week to give us their view.
Will the Leader of the House say whether the Finance Bill vote will be in November? Will it be before the vote on the final deal, or after? We need to know because the Procedure Committee has to respond to the letter of the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), of 23 October in which he asked that the business motion allow for multiple amendments to be tabled, selected and voted on before the main motion. This is a sovereign Parliament, not a supine Parliament.
While the Government’s negotiating strategy is in chaos, what are they saying to Sir Paul Nurse and other Nobel prizewinners about the effect on science of our leaving the EU? What are they saying to the CBI, 80% of whose members say that uncertainty has had a great impact on their investment decisions? What are the Government doing following the freedom of information request that revealed that most NHS trusts have made no preparations for Brexit, despite worries about the effect on staffing and the availability of drugs? We could have a statement on this, but better still, could the Government update the sectoral analysis on how much money they are going to give to each sector?
I, too, want to join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in sending my good wishes to Sir Jeremy Heywood. He has spent 35 years in the civil service as Cabinet Secretary, permanent secretary to two Prime Ministers at No. 10 and, among other jobs, principal private secretary to two Chancellors. His first job in the civil service was as an economic adviser to the Health and Safety Executive. We wish him all the best; we have lost a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge.
I also want to send my good wishes to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray), my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who have all taken a tumble recently. We wish them a speedy recovery.
I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that some of our colleagues seem to have been a bit accident prone recently. I would add my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) to that list, and I wish them all a speedy recovery.
The hon. Lady asked for recess dates. As she will be aware, we are rising for the November recess on 6 November and returning on 12 November. We rise for the Christmas recess on 20 December and return on 7 January. We rise at the close of business on Thursday 14 February and return on Monday 25 February. I will give recess dates for the Easter break as soon as I can.
The hon. Lady asked about the Offensive Weapons Bill. The Government have tried twice to debate the next stage of that Bill, but I think all hon. Members will appreciate that there have been some important statements. This week, we had the Prime Minister’s statement on the EU Council, and I believe that more than 100 questions were asked of her. We also had an important Government statement on the untimely death of Mr Khashoggi, an absolutely shocking situation that all hon. Members will have wanted to hear about. Mr Speaker also granted two urgent questions, which made it clear that, for the second time, it would not be possible to do justice to the many amendments that Members wanted to discuss within the time agreed by the House for the debate. Unfortunately, we therefore had to delay that business again, but we will reschedule it as soon as we can.
The hon. Lady mentioned the visit to Parliament of a certain individual. I think that all hon. Members would abhor the comments and views of that individual, but I also think that they would uphold the right to free speech. This is a dilemma, and we all need to be careful about how we address it. Nevertheless, I share the hon. Lady’s concern about the views of that individual.
The hon. Lady asked about the statutory instrument on universal credit that is being prayed against by the Opposition. The Government have already scheduled more negative SIs for debate on the Floor of the House than in any Session since 1997. It is a matter of parliamentary convention that, where a reasonable request for a debate has been made, time should be allowed for that debate. I think that we have demonstrated in this Session that the Government are willing to provide time in line with that convention and to accede to reasonable requests made by the Opposition, and we will continue to do so.
The hon. Lady then raised a number of questions that are rightly for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. If she wishes to raise specific points, I can direct them to MHCLG on her behalf, or she can await MHCLG questions. She could also encourage hon. Members who want to have specific questions answered to submit written questions. I am happy to facilitate obtaining those answers for her.
With regard to Brexit, the Prime Minister made it very clear in her statement on the state of the preparations on Monday that there had been extraordinary progress. She also went through a number of areas of concern to the House, such as the outstanding issues on Gibraltar, on EU citizens’ rights here and UK citizens’ rights in the EU, and on financial payments. There has been a huge amount of progress.
The PM also made it clear that there is a serious sticking point around Northern Ireland and the EU’s desire for a backstop whereby Northern Ireland is kept within the customs union. That would lead to a border down the Irish sea, which would be unacceptable to any UK Government—I am sure that all hon. Members would agree with that. There has been great progress, but some sticking points remain.
The hon. Lady mentioned last weekend’s march for a second referendum, so it would be interesting if the Opposition made it clear whether they support a second referendum. The Government have made it clear that we absolutely do not support such a move, and we fully intend to respect the view of the people, as expressed in the 2016 referendum.
The hon. Lady asked about the meaningful vote but, as I hoped that I had explained last week, 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, and Parliament will have the choice to accept or reject that deal. The House will already be well aware that whether debate ought to be organised through a business of the House motion, and the form of any such motion, will ultimately be in the hands of the House itself, which has the power to amend, approve or reject such a motion.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked about the Government’s Brexit preparations. I absolutely reassure all hon. Members that the Government are preparing for all eventualities, including a no-deal Brexit. I sit on a committee that looks at least once a week at different aspects of the no-deal preparations, which are far advanced.
My constituent Amanda Kopel from Kirriemuir has been a tireless campaigner for Frank’s law—which will support thousands across Scotland who are suffering with dementia—after losing her husband Frank to the disease at the age of 65. Amanda is now hosting a fundraising dinner on Saturday at Frank’s old football ground, Dundee United’s Tannadice Park. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should champion those who give so much to ensure that no one goes through what they have been through? May we have a debate to celebrate people such as Amanda?
I congratulate Amanda on a fantastic achievement and wish her great success with the event. My hon. Friend is right to highlight our gratitude for the work of volunteers, fundraisers and campaigners and some of the things that make us one of the most generous countries in the world. Through the Government’s “Challenge on Dementia 2020”, we are working towards a society in which every person with dementia receives high-quality, compassionate care from diagnosis through to end of life. My parliamentary office staff and I have all undertaken dementia-friendly training in the past couple of weeks, and I recommend it to all hon. Members. It really is a fantastic way for all of us to be more attuned to the needs of those with dementia and their carers.
I endorse that call. My own office undertook that training over a year ago—I cannot remember exactly when, but it was well over a year ago—and it is a very good training programme and well worth enjoying—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) does not need to be frivolous about it; it is in fact a serious point.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. It has been a depressing and dispiriting few weeks for those of us who are concerned about workplace bullying in this place, and Dame Laura Cox’s report contains a damning litany of the scale of the problem. The Leader of the House has been an effective champion in tackling the problem, and I am glad to see that a debate on Dame Laura’s report has been scheduled for a week on Monday.
We know that the report will be implemented in full, but it is time to challenge the ingrained culture of and the power relationships within this House, and an easy start would be to tackle the deference. That means no more “hon. Gentlemen”, no more swords, no more spying strangers or segregated areas. For goodness’ sake, it should really mean the end of people calling themselves Lords on the parliamentary estate. If we are serious about changing the workplace culture and environment, we must challenge those symbols and power relationships, and I hope that we can include that as part of our ongoing work.
Simply appalling remarks were made in the Scottish Parliament yesterday when the Conservative social security spokesperson, a Ms Michelle Ballantyne, said about the two-child benefit cap:
“It is fair that people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like”.—[Scottish Parliament Official Report, 24 October 2018; c. 52.]
That comment has shocked and appalled mainstream opinion in Scotland. We do not want those 19th-century Tory Victorian values in Scotland. We want a social security system designed with dignity and respect at its heart. Can we have a debate on further devolution of social security so that the views of people such as Ms Ballantyne hold no sway in our nation?
Lastly, Mr Speaker, we are very grateful to you for allowing MP4 to use Speaker’s House tonight for the launch of our new single. We have teamed up with Musicians Against Homelessness and Crisis to draw cross-party attention to homelessness throughout the UK. I do not think we will bother the charts, and we are not seriously considering giving up the day job, but I hope the Leader of the House might be among the first to download the single this evening.
MP4 are a great band and, as the hon. Gentleman will recall, they have performed in my constituency—I have very fond memories of that experience. The band have been in Speaker’s House before, and I am keen that they should come again and again.
Mr Speaker, I completely share your enthusiasm for MP4. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) might want to think about a cover version of a well-known song: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. I will leave that thought with him.
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman: his personal involvement in the establishment of the complaints procedure and his absolute commitment to stamping out bullying and harassment wherever we see it are completely united with those of the entire working group. This was a fantastic piece of cross-party work, and there can be no doubt that all hon. and right hon. Members want to see change in this place.
The hon. Gentleman raises some interesting suggestions, and I have a lot of sympathy for what he says. I am therefore delighted to provide a debate on Monday 5 November so that we can hear from all hon. Members about the changes they want to see. I would prefer to see structural changes, rather than superficial changes to titles—perhaps something a little more deep and meaningful. I hope that on that Monday we will also be able to discuss what structural changes could be made.
The hon. Gentleman mentions the Scottish Parliament and further devolution. Of course funding for the Scottish Government, the block grant, will have grown to more than £31 billion by 2020, a real-terms increase over the current spending review period. It is for the Scottish Government to make some of their own decisions, rather than just looking to the UK Parliament to resolve those issues for them.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on childhood cancers? My constituent Mrs Lorraine Mitchell tragically lost her young, much-loved son Finn in June 2018. The family are still very raw about it and, although they do not wish to blame anyone for his death, they feel there is a lack of awareness of the symptoms of childhood cancer.
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Finn. I am sure the whole House will want to send our sincere condolences to Lorraine and her family. Cancer is a terrible disease but, thankfully, survival rates have been improving year on year. For childhood cancers, 82% of children now survive for five years or more, but of course there is so much more to do and that figure will be no consolation to Lorraine and her family.
This month the Prime Minister has made it clear that she is determined to introduce a package of measures to invest in state-of-the-art technology to transform how we diagnose cancers, as well as to boost research and innovation. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) is right that it is also vital to raise awareness among doctors, who often do not expect to see cancers in the very young, so that we do not miss out on early diagnosis.
I am also grateful to the Leader of the House for the business statement. I assure her that the Backbench Business Committee is still here and that we have managed to timetable debates in Westminster Hall—they are on today’s Order Paper— for 6, 15, 20, 22 and 27 November and 4 December. I remind her that, by the week beginning 12 November, it will have been four parliamentary weeks since the Committee has had any time in the Chamber. I ask her to look favourably on our getting some time in the week beginning 12 November, because we are starting to build up a backlog of unheard debates that require Chamber time for votable motions. I would appreciate her giving that some consideration.
As ever, I am keen to support the Backbench Business Committee. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Standing Orders specify that it is allocated 35 days each Session. So far in this Session more days than that have already been provided—[Interruption.] He says it is a longer Session, and I absolutely accept that, but I hope he will appreciate that he was asking for a debate on folic acid, which takes place later on today, and a debate on it being 100 years since the armistice, and that debate is also being provided. So I think that we are aligned on trying to get these debates, but I hear what he is saying and will endeavour to ensure we have time allocated.
In a world that is frail, faulted and fallen, lives that might otherwise be made brutish, nasty and even short are prevented from being so by our police forces, which stand between us and disorder. Yet, as you know, Mr Speaker, the hot-off-the-press Home Affairs Committee report I have here paints a sorry picture of overstretched police forces, rising rates of crime and fewer people brought to justice. My own county of Lincolnshire is particularly affected, with our force being one of the poorest-funded in the country. The report goes on to say that a fundamental change to the funding formula is required. I hope a Minister might come to the House by order of the Leader of the House to explain to us when an urgent review of the police funding formula is going to take place to benefit counties such as Lincolnshire and others. This is a choice: between chaos and order; between penny pinchers and the people; and between what is easy and what is right.
We can all enjoy my right hon. Friend’s way of putting his question. I would be delighted if I were able to do things by the order of the Leader of the House, but, sadly, that is not really open to me. He might be aware that in December 2017 the Home Office did make it clear that it would revisit plans to change the funding formula at the time of the next spending review. There is a statement from the Home Office to follow this, and indeed we have the Budget debate next week, so he has opportunities to raise this issue. There is some good news: following the 2018-19 police funding settlement, most police and crime commissioners have set out plans to either protect or increase frontline policing next year; and the police workforce has grown by 1% over the past year, following the Government’s decision to protect police funding at the 2015 spending review.
In March, NHS England changed its guidance on conditions for which over-the-counter items should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, with one being head lice. An average bottle of head lice shampoo costs between £10 and £12, which is a significant sum for parents in the most deprived areas. The charity Community Hygiene Concern fears that that decision will lead to an epidemic in schools and communities. Please may we have a debate, in Government time, about the effects of that change in NHS guidance?
I was not aware of that and I share the hon. Lady’s concern; I remember the nightmare of trying to get rid of head lice when my kids were young, and I am sure all hon. Members will have their own horror stories of how persistent head lice are. I am very sympathetic about this, and if she wishes to write to me, I will be able to take it up with the Department of Health and Social Care. Alternatively, I encourage her to put in a written question to see whether she can get an answer directly.
May we have a debate on the 384 bus, so that hon. Members can urge the Mayor and Transport for London to drop their plans to remove this much-valued bus route from many roads in New Barnet?
We are all big bus fans, although, sadly, I do not think I have ever taken that bus. My right hon. Friend should certainly challenge any reduction in bus services, and I thoroughly recommend that she raises the matter directly with Ministers to see what pressures can be brought to bear on the Mayor.
The Leader of the House knows that we produced a report on acquired brain injury recently. One of the new statistics is that about 60% of people going into prison, when they have been properly screened, have had a brain injury; many of them did not know that. In January, we are going to have a brain screening session for all Members of Parliament. I wonder whether she could make a room available so that every Member of Parliament can go through the screening that we would like to see for prisoners.
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his work in this area; he really has brought this issue to the House’s attention in a significant way. I absolutely support him in his desire to make that facility available to all Members. From my own passion for early brain development, I know just how profound the effect of the development of the brain and any subsequent brain injury can be on personality, character and outcomes for human beings.
A key policy currently pursued by Sussex police and crime commissioner, Katy Bourne, is the recruitment of 200 additional officers between now and 2022. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary on the importance of supporting frontline community policing?
I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend’s news about the Sussex PCC’s policy. As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, a number of PCCs have decided to increase the number of frontline police officers in their areas. We should pay tribute to all police officers and staff, who do a fantastic job every day to keep us safe. I am glad that Crawley will benefit from more officers on the beat. I encourage my hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss with Ministers this issue, and in particular how other areas can benefit from the sensible decision of his local PCC.
The provision of in vitro fertilisation treatment on the NHS is currently a postcode lottery, with some areas offering an entitlement to three fully funded IVF cycles while others offer just one, and there are areas where people are not offered any at all. May we have a debate in Government time on regional variations in IVF provision and the steps that the Government are taking to ensure that all clinical commissioning groups give this treatment the priority that it deserves, in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this issue. I have had constituents come to me who have had different experiences with one CCG versus another, and who have found for themselves, at the sharp end, that there really is a postcode lottery, so I am really sympathetic to the hon. Lady for pointing this out. I encourage her to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that she and others can talk directly to Ministers about what more can be done to provide fairness and equality for all those who seek IVF support.
May we have a debate to celebrate the many local fireworks displays that will occur in the next two weeks? Tomorrow evening, the Portgordon fireworks display will put on a spectacular show for people who come from near and far. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Kenny Gunn and his team of volunteers? This year’s event is the 25th anniversary of the fantastic show that they put on for the local community.
I know that my hon. Friend has volunteered at the event for many years, and I understand that everyone who helps out is treated to a feast of stovies or macaroni in the village hall after the display. I absolutely join him in congratulating Kenny Gunn and all the volunteers for everything that they do to make the event bigger and better every year. Fireworks night has a particular historic resonance for us in Parliament, so it is rather fitting to be talking about it at a time when we could say that the debate here has been quite explosive on a few different fronts.
That was terrible! Resign. Instantly. [Laughter.]
Thank you for that.
As the Leader of the House will no doubt be aware, off-grid gas and heating oils, which are essential in rural communities such as those in the highlands, are unregulated, and there is no way for Ofgem to intervene where there is a monopoly. Will she allow a debate in Government time on the regulation of off-grid fuel and end the great winter rural fuel rip-off?
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman, because this is an ongoing problem for those who are off grid. I encourage him to seek a debate, perhaps in Westminster Hall, so that other Members who represent rural areas with similar problems can share their concerns. The Government have made great efforts to try to get people on to the grid and to try to regulate better the prices that are charged, but it is an ongoing problem.
The crisis around Crossrail seems to worsen every single day, with the project delayed by nine months and having overspent by £600 million. Contradictory evidence seems to be being created by the Mayor of London and the Department for Transport, so may we have a Government statement on what is happening to get the project back on track and within budget?
My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. We have all been concerned to hear of the delays to Crossrail. I encourage him to raise it in the Budget debate next week where he can ask Treasury Ministers exactly what steps can be taken.
The Civil Aviation Authority has just published its response to a consultation on flight paths, and it has ignored thousands of my constituents and those in other constituencies by insisting on narrowed flight paths with all the consequences that flow from that. It has also indicated, in an official document, that I did not present to it the petition signed by thousands of my constituents. As I have photographs of me presenting that petition, it means either that it is incompetent or that it is misleading the Government. Either way, it is pretty worrying for all of us. May we have a debate, or at least a statement, on the CAA and flight paths?
I am sorry to hear about the hon. Gentleman’s experience. If he wants to write to me, I can take that up with the Department for Transport on his behalf.
I commend the Government for their investment in road infrastructure and their commitment to spend £23 billion by the end of 2020 on improving roads around the country. However, road improvements come with unforeseen consequences. Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate in Government time to discuss the upgrading to smart motorways and the impact that closer running lanes have on existing communities along the line of the motorways?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. Smart motorways increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve the reliability of journey times by making the hard shoulder available as a traffic lane and by using variable speed limits to smooth traffic flow, which, of course, then supports economic growth because there are fewer queues. Almost a billion journeys have been made on smart motorways. In 2017, Highways England completed a three-year study on the M25 that shows that it is as safe as other motorways. However, if she does have specific concerns, I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate about the impact on her own community.
Last week a constituent of mine was tragically murdered outside his home. Yesterday, I held a meeting for the community so that people could voice their concerns, and the community was clear that, for too long, it has been neglected by the local council and by Government. Youth and community services have been cut and police officers taken off our streets. The Home Affairs Committee report today warned that cuts are making policing irrelevant. May we have a debate in Government time to discuss this dire consequence of police cuts?
I am very sorry to hear about the death of the hon. Lady’s constituent. All too often, the rise in serious violence, particularly in knife crime, has had terrible consequences for too many people, especially young people. We are determined to tackle this issue, which is why we have introduced a new £40 million serious violence strategy that will help to tackle the changing nature of crime, and we are giving extra powers to the police to tackle knife crime through the Offensive Weapons Bill. We want to reach a place where every member of the public is served by a force that is rated at least good. Currently, nearly a third of forces are not, so standards do need to be raised and be more consistent to keep our communities safe.
Yesterday, the loan charge action group lobbied Parliament. It represent 100,000 families, including those of nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers and contractors. Retrospective taxation by this Government going back 20 years means that many of these families will lose their home and be forced into bankruptcy and, I am afraid, some will commit suicide. That cannot have been the intention of the Government. May we have a statement from the Financial Secretary next week so that we can ask him questions about something that I am sure the Government did not intend to happen?
I was aware yesterday of a lobby here in Parliament of those affected by the loan charge issue. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise it. I encourage him to seek an opportunity to raise it during the Budget debate next week where Treasury Ministers will be available, or indeed on 6 November in Treasury questions.
My constituent, Mavis Walton, is 99 years old. In her early years, she worked in munitions, building the bombs that served our country. These canary girls have never had the recognition that they deserve. I am sure that the Leader of the House understands the urgency of this question. With Remembrance Sunday just around the corner, could we have a statement from the relevant Minister, announcing medals for these women? It is the least that they deserve.
May I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to her constituent on reaching the age of 99, as well as the work she did as one of the canary girls? It is the most amazing story of self-sacrifice and contribution to keeping our nation safe. There is a debate a week on Tuesday—not on the canary girls, but on the Armistice centenary—so the hon. Lady might choose that opportunity to raise this issue more fully, but there will certainly be other chances to pay tribute to all those who gave such great service to our country.
We have recently returned from a very important—if not tumultuous—meeting of the Council of Europe. Is not it time that we had a debate on the activities and future of the Council of Europe?
My hon. Friend has raised this issue with me previously and I am sympathetic to the idea. We have a lot of discussions about Europe at the moment, but I am keen to consider this matter and to give it time when we can.
I think it is true to say that all Members of the House believe that veterans and ex-servicemen and women deserve the very best care that the state can possibly offer, but it would also be true to say that that is just not happening. It is a scandal that the Ministry of Defence does not record suicides among ex-servicemen and women. This happens in many other countries and we should make it happen here. May we have a debate on the issue?
The hon. Gentleman is right to ask what more we can do to support our armed forces and the amazing work that they do on our behalf. He will be aware that this Government introduced the armed forces covenant into law to improve support for our armed forces, but he has raised an interesting question that I encourage him to raise directly with Ministers at the next Defence questions.
My right hon. Friend has mentioned the parliamentary concert next week, when the Parliament choir will sing—together with the German Bundestag choir—Mozart’s “Mass in C Minor” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. Perhaps we could have a debate on or consider mentioning —as I am sure you will be at the concert next week, Mr Speaker—the conflict between Britain and Germany that occurred at the same time in east Africa. I speak as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Tanzania. Hundreds of thousands of Tanganyikans died in the conflict as a result of either the violence or the resulting famine, yet they are hardly ever remembered in these circumstances. It would be a great honour to those people, who gave their lives in a conflict that was nothing to do with them, if we were to remember them as well.
My hon. Friend is quite right to mention the appalling events that took place in the great war. Of course, a week on Tuesday we will have a debate on the centenary of the Armistice, which would be a good opportunity to raise all the appalling events and to commemorate the sacrifice of so many right around the world.
In September, I met London Members of the Youth Parliament to discuss the recommendations of the Youth Violence Commission. I was pleased that they had all read the report and understood the importance of adopting a public health approach. I have to be honest; I worry that too many politicians, including the Home Secretary, bandy around the words and do not really understand them. So, for the third time, has the Leader of the House spoken with the Home Secretary to agree when we will debate this very important issue?
I have written to the Minister concerned seeking advice on the next steps, in response to the hon. Lady’s request that I do so. As she will know, there is now a new £22 million early intervention youth fund and a new £3.6 million national county lines co-ordination centre was launched last month. There is a lot more to do and I hope to have an answer for her shortly regarding the next steps.
Last weekend, Ben McAulay from Galashiels in my constituency led a sponsored walk in the borders to thank medical staff from the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow who treated him after he was born with a hole in the heart. Ben is just two years old. Will the Government find time to debate the efforts of local fundraisers, and to congratulate Ben and his family, and all those who took part in Toddle Around Tweedbank?
As always, my hon. Friend raises a really important issue for his constituency. Many of us are aware of the heroic efforts by our constituents to raise money, awareness or support for excellent causes. I am delighted to join him in congratulating Ben, his family, and all those who took part in Toddle Around Tweedbank last week.
Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the cricketing community at Hanging Heaton cricket club on the edge of my constituency? In the past two years, under the chairmanship of John Carruthers and the captaincy of Gary Fellows, they have won no less than seven trophies, including the Heavy Woollen cup, which is England’s oldest competition, and they are the first Yorkshire team to win the national Twenty20 cup. May we have a debate on the contributions that sporting clubs make in our local communities?
The hon. Lady raises a very significant achievement by that cricket club, and I absolutely join her in congratulating it on all its efforts and achievements. She is right to raise the amazing contribution of sports clubs to life in our communities through keeping people fit and outside, where they can enjoy the fresh air and have a bit of fun. I join her in paying tribute to them. She might well like to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can share her experience with Ministers directly.
Last year, three cyclists died on the roads of Lincolnshire and seven children on bicycles were seriously injured. We would all like to see more people cycling—in my flat part of Lincolnshire, it is very easy—so may we have a debate on what more we can do to make cycling safer and more attractive, and also to work on road safety?
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Government have introduced a £1.2 billion cycling and walking investment strategy to encourage more people to get on their bike or to walk, and also to make roads safer for vulnerable users. We have also invested £7 million in making cycling the natural transport choice in cities right across the UK. That is very important so that we reduce emissions, leaving a cleaner and greener Britain for our children. I absolutely applaud him for raising this important issue. I encourage him to seek a Back-Bench debate, because there are very strong advantages to encouraging more people to get out of their cars and on to the roads on their bicycles, or on to the pavements on their feet.
The Leader of the House will have seen reports in the Yorkshire Post that for large parts of 2019 and into 2020, east coast main line trains from the north to London will terminate an hour outside London, at Peterborough. This is due to remodelling work at King’s Cross station, with another £250 million to be spent on top of the £500 million already spent. In Hull, we are used to timetabling chaos and trains terminating early, and we are certainly not used to money being spent on our station. With major disruption planned for next year and into 2020, may we have a statement from the Transport Secretary about how this will affect all our constituents?
The hon. Lady is quite right to raise this issue affecting her constituents. I was not aware of those reports. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate, because it is right that she should raise this issue directly with Transport Ministers.
The Debenhams store at the heart of Torquay’s harbourside has been an anchor retailer for Torquay for many years, so this morning’s news that 50 stores might close will of course be causing considerable concern back in my constituency. May we have a statement on what actions the Government are taking in response to this news, what reassurances they can offer, and what action will be taken to mitigate the consequences in towns where stores do close?
I realise that this will be a stressful and uncertain time for affected employees. Debenhams has confirmed that it plans to close up to 50 of its stores over the next three to five years following the announcement of the company’s preliminary end-of-year results to the stock market. The company has not specified the number of jobs that will be affected or, indeed, which stores will be closed. However, I can certainly confirm that Jobcentre Plus, through the rapid response service, will be ready to support any employee affected by this announcement.
Last week I raised with the Leader of the House the fact that Facebook is only paying £7.4 million in tax. Today, the Information Commissioner has fined Facebook the maximum amount of £500,000 for sharing our data without our consent. The Leader of the House may be aware that the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg) and I are leading an inquiry into the impact of social media on people’s mental health. Will she find time for a debate on the impact that social media platforms are having on tax, information and public health?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that issue again. The impact of the online harm that is being tolerated by social media giants is a grave concern to the Government. We are working towards the publication this winter of the online harms White Paper, which will set out measures to tackle online harms and clear responsibilities for tech firms to keep citizens safe. Social media firms must take far more responsibility for illegal and harmful content on their platforms, with robust processes in place for removing content—he is absolutely right about that.
A large number of young people in my constituency have contacted me this week to encourage me to support the private Member’s Bill tomorrow on lowering the voting age to 16. Unfortunately, that Bill is 17th on the list and therefore will not be heard. May we have another debate or statement from the Government on their plans to modernise the private Members’ Bills system so that such Bills can be debated in the House and voted upon?
As I have indicated on a number of occasions, we are extremely pleased with the progress of a number of private Members’ Bills in the House during this Session. In fact, more private Members’ Bills are progressing to Royal Assent than in previous Sessions. Such Bills include some very important measures, such as that which became the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, as well as the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill and the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which will be considered tomorrow. Some very important private Members’ Bills are coming forward, and it is right that the House needs to support those Bills. We continue to look at the process for the consideration of private Members’ Bills. I am always happy to look at proposals from the Procedure Committee, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to put forward alternative solutions, I encourage him to speak to the Procedure Committee about them.
May I add the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray) to the list of those who have fallen in the House? He missed the Trafalgar night dinner on Wednesday because of a fall and is no longer fit to do duty here.
May we have a debate on automated gates? They are increasingly being used to provide security in schools, businesses and housing estates, yet no qualification, inspection or registration regime is required for them. They are classed as machinery and are dangerous and hazardous if not correctly installed and maintained, so can that be looked at?
I join the hon. Lady in wishing my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire a speedy recovery. This is an appalling time of year for slips and trips.
The hon. Lady raises an important issue that is certainly worth raising directly with Department for Education Ministers, perhaps in an Adjournment debate, so that we can get a clear picture.
May we have a debate in Government time on fuel poverty? The warm homes programme was scrapped in 2010, and the take-up of the energy company obligation grant and loans is very poor. The weather has certainly turned in my constituency. We have had universal credit for a year now, and many people are presenting needing food bank vouchers and fuel vouchers. We need Ministers to come to the House to explain how families can meet the costs of basic essentials while they are pushed below the breadline by changes to universal credit.
I am very sympathetic to the problem of fuel poverty. We know that “eating or heating” can be a real challenge for families right across the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Government have introduced the energy price cap Act to ensure that consumers are not ripped off due to their loyalty to their energy provider. We have also strengthened the energy company obligation to ensure that companies support people who are struggling to meet their heating bills. Since the scheme was launched in 2013, more than one in 16 homes have benefited from over 2.2 million improvements to insulation and so on. We have a target to improve energy efficiency in 2.5 million homes by 2030, and under the warm home discount scheme, more than 2 million low-income and vulnerable households are provided with a £140 rebate off their energy bill each winter.
One of the Leader of the House’s predecessors told this House that English votes for English laws was necessary to eliminate the anomaly whereby Scottish MPs in Westminster can vote on matters affecting England but English MPs cannot do likewise on issues devolved to the Scottish Parliament. He went on to call English votes for English laws England’s
“own piece of the devolution settlement”.—[Official Report, 22 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 1184.]
Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out her view of Tory MPs representing Scottish constituencies continuing to vote on England-only matters, and also of elected Tory representatives in Scotland viciously and cynically attacking SNP MPs for not voting on England-only matters?
I entirely agree with the views of my predecessor on the purpose and value of the English votes for English laws changes, which I think have proven to be successful. As to the other point that the hon. Lady makes, this is the first time that she has raised it with me and I would be very happy to discuss it with her.
The Leader of the House has already heard about the news of the Debenhams store closures. May we have a debate about her Government’s persistent failure to deal with tax avoidance by online retail giants, which is not just decimating our city centres and high streets, but causing very significant job losses?
The hon. Lady should welcome the fact that the Chancellor made it clear only recently that he will seek to find a means to ensure that online giants pay their fair share of tax. She will appreciate, as I am sure all hon. Members who care about the economy in this country will appreciate, that we do not want to drive online businesses overseas, where they can be subject to cheaper rates. This is therefore an international challenge, and the Chancellor has made clear his determination to resolve it. I am very sympathetic to what she says. Equally, she should pay tribute to the efforts of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which has closed the tax gap considerably and clamped down on tax avoidance and tax evasion since 2010 in a way that was never achieved when the previous Labour Government were in office.
I am pleased to hear the statements this morning in support of implementing the Cox report. Anyone who heard Lisette Whittaker’s testimony on Sky News yesterday will understand how important it is that this place is seen to clean up its act. I appreciate that the Leader of the House has scheduled some time in a week or two for a debate on this, but it seems to me that if we are to have a truly independent arbitration process—one that has the confidence of both parties and that is seen to be robust—we may well need legislation. Will the Leader of the House commit to securing enough time to implement such legislation during this Session?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman fully appreciates that I cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and determine legislation right now with no thought of either what the House wants to do, or what those we would wish to consult—the victims—would like to happen. However, I can absolutely assure him that I am determined to grasp this awful problem and to stamp out bullying and harassment once and for all, wherever we see it in this place.
My Kilmarnock constituent Maureen Patterson had a number of issues with her employment and support allowance claim. In her opinion, during one phone call with a decision maker, the person on the phone was rude and disrespectful and used inappropriate language, which upset her. When that was followed up with a complaint, the call could not be checked, because the Department for Work and Pensions does not routinely record outbound calls—we can only guess why. May we therefore have a Government statement about the DWP making a simple procedural change to record all calls, not just incoming ones, to provide protection for vulnerable constituents?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He could raise it with DWP Ministers directly in a parliamentary question, or if he wants to write to me, I can raise it on his behalf.
The Invictus games reminds me of Steve Jones, a former Royal Air Force technician and son of Blaenau Gwent. Steve held the British marathon record for 33 years and won the London, New York, Toronto and Chicago marathons. May we have a Government statement on how we can properly recognise Steve Jones’s contribution to world athletics and to public life in south Wales?
I think that the hon. Gentleman has just neatly paid his own tribute to his constituent. All hon. Members will have great examples of constituents who have contributed enormously to the sporting life of this great country. I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can pay full tribute within the hearing of Ministers.
Fireworks season is upon us, which will bring pleasure to lots of people, but anxiety to our nation’s pets. I am campaigning with the Dogs Trust to raise awareness of how people can enjoy fireworks without causing unnecessary anxiety to our animals. May we have a debate in Government time about how we can best do this?
I think the hon. Gentleman can hear he has a lot of support from right across the House. We all like a good fireworks night but, of course, it is a real problem for pets and a real challenge to ensure that we do not cause harm, damage and fear to the nation’s pets. He is absolutely right to raise this point. I would encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall or Adjournment debate so that he can make his thoughts clear, as I am sure he would have a lot of support.