The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 21 January—Remaining stages of the Healthcare (International) Arrangements Bill.
Tuesday 22 January—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill.
Wednesday 23 January—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Tenant Fees Bill, followed by a motion relating to private Members’ Bills.
Thursday 24 January—A general debate on Holocaust Memorial Day 2019, followed by a debate on a motion relating to appropriate ME treatment. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 25 January—The House will not be sitting.
I can confirm to the House that a statement and a motion on the Government’s next steps under section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will be tabled on Monday. A full day’s debate on the motion will take place on Tuesday 29 January, subject to the agreement of the House.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
Let me say, on the eve of A.A. Milne’s birthday, that that is one of my favourite quotes from “Winnie-the-Pooh”—and, as Eeyore said:
“It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine.”
May I wish you, Mr Speaker, a very happy birthday for Saturday?
Finally, I leave the House with an uplifting and rather wise thought from “Winnie-the-Pooh”:
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
May I associate myself with the Leader of the House’s good wishes to you, Mr Speaker? I am not quite sure about the bit about the fluff in the ear. I do not know whether she suspects that you are not listening to what she says.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for next week. I am pleased that she said that the Prime Minister would make a statement on Monday. The Prime Minister said that the motion would be amendable. Can the Leader of the House confirm that it will be, and can she also confirm what the Government Chief Whip said when he jumped up to the Dispatch Box—he said that 90 minutes was not enough to debate such an important issue and that the Government would provide reasonable time to hold the debate and vote by 30 January?
This is the first Government to be held in contempt of Parliament. The Prime Minister has had a vote of no confidence from within her own party. There was a vote of no confidence in the Government yesterday, which the Government won because they have a confidence and supply agreement. Yet again, however, a record was broken: 432 hon. and right hon. Members voted against the Prime Minister’s deal. That was the biggest defeat of a Government in history.
The Leader of the House said in an interview on BBC Radio 4:
“The Government has been collaborating across the House ever since the beginning of this Parliament.”
Can she say with whom? The Leader of the House also said that the Prime Minister will be “speaking with senior parliamentarians”. Can she say with whom—can she publish a list of those favoured ones, or is this another case of divide and rule? The Leader of the House will note that the House voted against a no-deal scenario. That must be off the table, so could she confirm that that is off the table in any starting point for discussions?
This Opposition and Parliament have been working on behalf of the people. Pressure from Her Majesty’s Opposition led to a meaningful vote, a term coined by 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), and it took a Humble Address for Parliament to be given the impact assessments.
How can we have confidence in the referendum when the donor of the largest political donation in history is being investigated by the National Crime Agency? The leave campaign has been found to have broken electoral law, whistleblowers and journalists have raised alarms about the legality of the campaign, and the previous Government said no analysis of the impact should be given out by our independent civil service.
Yes, the people have voted, but it is our job as elected representatives to look at the evidence of the impact on the country, and not rely on the campaign rhetoric, which we now know to be based on falsehoods. We must rely on the evidence and the facts. So can the Leader of the House confirm whether she will move the business motion to extend article 50 in time? I know friends of the Leader of the House have said she might resign if she had to do that.
The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) has asked the DExEU Minister to explain why the Government thought it appropriate as a matter of law to proceed under regulation 32, for reasons of urgency, extreme urgency and unforeseeable events, when they handed the contract of £14 million to Seaborne Freight, a company with no ships, no ports and no employees. Can the Leader of the House publish a list of all the contracts that have been awarded under this regulation by any Government Department?
As of last Friday, 73% of the time available for the Government to lay their Brexit statutory instruments has elapsed, but only 51% of SIs have been laid. A previous shadow Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Lord Cunningham, said in the House of Lords that there is a Brexit SI that is 630 pages long, 2.54 kg in weight and includes 11 disparate subjects. The Government are clearly doing all they can to avoid proper scrutiny. Baroness Smith, shadow Leader of the Lords, says that she holds both of them in both hands so she does not have to go to the gym. Can the Leader of the House update the House on the progress of the Brexit SIs that need to be laid before the UK exits the EU?
In yesterday’s confidence vote debate the Prime Minister said:
“when you have worked hard all your life, you will get a good pension and security and dignity in your old age”.
Not if you are a WASPI woman, and not if you are a couple where only one of you is over pensionable age, because a written statement on Monday showed that there would be a £7,000 pension cut for the poorest elderly couples. The Prime Minister said:
“where growing up you will get the best possible education, not because your parents can afford to pay for it but because that is what every local school provides”.
Not according to new analysis by the House of Commons Library, showing that total education spending, including spending on schools and colleges, in the UK has fallen by over £7 billion in real terms since 2010. The Prime Minister said:
“where, when you have children of your own, you will be able to rely on our world-class NHS”.—[Official Report, 16 January 2019; Vol. 652, c. 1185.]
But not if you are on NHS waiting lists, which have grown to 4.3 million. The number of people waiting longer than two months for cancer treatment has almost doubled since 2010 and £7 billion has been cut from adult social care since 2010, leaving 1.4 million elderly and vulnerable people without care and support. The Prime Minister needs to come to the House and correct the record. It is no wonder that, in his speech, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs focused on the Leader of the Opposition rather than on confidence in his own Government.
May I also ask the Leader of the House if she will in principle talk to the usual channels about proxy voting? I do not want to discuss individual cases, just the principle of proxy voting. What is the timetable for coming back to the House and ensuring that is put in place?
The Leader of the House mentioned the Holocaust Memorial Day debate. The book will be available to sign next week; it was opened this week. On Monday, it is Martin Luther King Day, whose words we must remember:
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all”.
I hope that we all heed those words as we work towards tolerance, mutual respect, justice and opportunity and as we work to find a solution.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her various comments. I can confirm that the debate on Tuesday 29 January will not be limited to 90 minutes. The Government will ensure that sufficient time is available so the House can fully consider the matter for the whole day. The arrangements for the debate are subject to the House agreeing those arrangements, and it will be brought forward as a business of the House motion, which will be amendable and debatable.
The hon. Lady asks about my claim that there have been discussions across the House. She will appreciate that the Government have brought forward 46 Bills, 33 of which have received Royal Assent, and that in a hung Parliament there is considerable collaboration. Nearly 1,500 amendments were tabled to the EU withdrawal Bill, and on many of them the Government sought to do cross-party deals to ensure we could get the business through. By definition, given that 33 Bills have received Royal Assent, there has been a great deal of cross-party collaboration. It is important that she accepts that. Those are the facts. That is the truth of the matter.
The hon. Lady asks what the position is on a no-deal Brexit. She will be aware that, Parliament having passed the EU withdrawal Act, the legal default is that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March and, if a deal has not been voted for, it will be with no deal, unless alternative arrangements are put in place.
The hon. Lady says that the people have spoken and she is absolutely right—the people did speak. She then suggested it is up to Members of Parliament to decide what we do in response. I would slightly disagree with her. The people have spoken and it is our job to fulfil that, in line with the requirements of the people. This House is a servant of the people of this country—the entire United Kingdom.
The hon. Lady asks about progress on Brexit SIs. She will appreciate we have gone further than any previous Government in being open and transparent about the plans for secondary legislation. I remain confident that all required statutory instruments that need to be will be brought forward in time for exit day. I have recently exchanged letters with the Chairman of the sifting Committee to clarify some of the affirmative SIs that need to be brought forward in Committee. More than 300 Brexit SIs have now been laid, which is more than half the SIs we anticipate will be required by exit day and, as I say, we remain confident.
The hon. Lady makes various assertions about what the Prime Minister said. I gently say that from the Dispatch Box the hon. Lady could welcome, as I do, the fact that the economy is 18% bigger than it was in 2010 and has grown for eight consecutive years, that wages have outstripped inflation for eight consecutive months, and that median household incomes are up by £1,400 in real terms since 2010. She should celebrate the fact that more people are in work than ever before, that wages are growing at their fastest rate for a decade, that 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and that this Government have committed a bigger investment in the NHS than ever before in its entire history. She should celebrate those things, but I fear she does not.
The hon. Lady made a point about proxy voting. It is a serious point, and the whole House knows my view. It is vital that families get the opportunity to spend time with their new babies. I will be bringing forward a motion as soon as I can on this subject. As all hon. Members will appreciate, there are no clear-cut views—for example, on how far it should extend and to what sort of motions it should apply—but I have been consulting broadly on the matter, and I hope to bring that forward as soon as possible.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on laws governing local authority employees standing in parliamentary elections? At the moment, they are banned from standing for the authority for which they work but can stand in parliamentary elections. That may not be a problem for the House, but personally I think the law rather strange.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. The present law excludes local council employees who hold a politically restricted post, as defined in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, from standing in both parliamentary and local authority elections. He may like to raise the matter with Cabinet Office Ministers, perhaps in an Adjournment debate, so that he can seek further information.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, and may I wish you a happy birthday for Saturday from everyone on the SNP Benches? Perhaps you can get a game of tennis in if you get the chance. I also thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week.
Well, we are all still here! I congratulate the Leader of the House and her Government on winning the no-confidence vote last night. At least they can still win one vote, and the nation is grateful—or perhaps not. Amazingly, this is a Government who treat the biggest defeat in parliamentary history as a mere flesh wound. Like Monty Python’s Black Knight, they fight on, armless and legless, prepared to bite the nation into submission. With similar delusion, they fight on as though nothing has happened. The red lines remain in place, there is no sense that other options are being considered seriously, and the Government still believe that a little bit of tinkering around the edges of their deal will be enough to make everything all right. The Government need to start to get real about their position and demonstrate that they are prepared to take Tuesday’s defeat seriously. May we have a statement, to show good will towards the House, to say that the Government will stop the clock and ensure that no deal is taken off the table? That would be the best way to engage with the other parties in this House.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for clarifying the situation around the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday and the debate a week on Tuesday. However, the business statement did not cover the fact that, according to the amended business motion approved by the House relating to the meaningful vote, the Government have three days to bring forward that debate, so why is the debate coming seven days after the statement? Next week’s business is important, but the debate could be held next week. The clock is ticking, and we do not need to wait until Tuesday week. The Leader of the House did not quite confirm this to the shadow Leader of the House, so will she ensure that any motion is fully debatable and amendable and that all options will be considered?
Lastly, this has been raised previously, but we need to review the House’s appalling voting arrangements. Tuesday night was awful, with cramped conditions no better than a cattle wagon while Members of Parliament vote. What will have to happen before we decide to do something? Does somebody have to give birth in a Lobby before the matter is tackled seriously? This is the 21st century, and our voting arrangements should match the times in which we live. Get shot of these ridiculous voting arrangements.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his insight and for his encouragement of electronic voting. I fear that there is no clear view on that and that it may even prove more controversial in this House than leaving the European Union, which is one of the extraordinary things about the Houses of Parliament. Nevertheless, I am always willing to talk to him about such things. Of course, when we decant from this place into temporary arrangements, it might be possible to trial different alternatives if the House wants to do so—[Hon. Members: “No!”] As the hon. Gentleman can hear, it is a controversial thought.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether no deal can be taken off the table, but he must surely appreciate that doing that and then stopping preparations for no deal would be a totally incompetent thing for a sensible Government to do. The Government must continue to prepare for all eventualities, including no deal. It is not possible to remove no deal from the table and still abide by the will of the people, as expressed in the referendum.
The hon. Gentleman asks about next week’s motion. I again confirm, as I thought I already had, that it is debatable, amendable and subject to agreement by this House, on a motion that will be tabled on Monday; the statement and motion will be tabled on Monday. I offer the hon. Gentleman a bit of advice from “Winnie-the-Pooh” that I have been dying to give him:
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
May we have an early debate on collective Cabinet responsibility and what it means in the current circumstances? Will my right hon. Friend undertake to lead that debate, so that she can explain to the House the frustration that we all feel on her behalf at having the 2017 Conservative party manifesto, which she supported on the “Today” programme this week, undermined by treacherous comments from our own Cabinet colleagues?
My hon. Friend is really tempting me, but I shall resist. All my Cabinet colleagues are absolutely in agreement that we will deliver on the will of the people as expressed in the referendum of 2016. We will be leaving the European Union on 29 March. That remains Government policy and we will continue to prepare for all eventualities.
I add my personal good wishes to you, Mr Speaker, and wish you a happy birthday on Saturday. I hope Saturday also brings you three points from your game with Chelsea at the Emirates.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing that next Thursday will be Backbench Business Committee business, with the Holocaust Memorial Day debate and a debate on appropriate treatment for myalgic encephalomyelitis—ME. That will free up the time in Westminster Hall that we had put aside for the Holocaust Memorial Day debate, and Westminster Hall will now host a debate on Home Office resourcing for policing and tackling knife crime, particularly in London, on that Thursday afternoon.
I really welcome the House’s debating Holocaust Memorial Day. Members might not be aware that I represent and live in the midst of a large orthodox Haredi Jewish community in Gateshead. They are my neighbours and friends. Many of them come from families that fled to Gateshead in the 1920s and the 1930s, and that is obviously something that hits home when we remember the Holocaust on that day. I also remind the Government that the Haredi Jewish community, being very orthodox and having its own particular way of living within its culture and creed, has been hit rather hard by the two-child limit on benefits. That is something that we should be aware of across this House, because that limit is having an impact on culturally religious communities.
The Leader of the House talks about the many things she believes the Government have done well, but I am afraid that in my constituency unemployment in December was 1,060 higher than in the same month in the previous year. Everything in the garden is not rosy everywhere.
I totally respect the hon. Gentleman, and I thank him for his remarks about the Jewish community in his constituency. I think all hon. Members appreciate the contribution that they make to our society. I would certainly encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss the specific issues and problems.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for explaining when the Government’s motion will be debated. Will she be arranging the business of the House on that occasion in such a way that there will be an opportunity, if Mr Speaker selects a large number of amendments and if they are pressed to a vote, to vote on each of them sequentially?
I should like to declare an interest. Some years ago, when we were in a minority Government, I was in our Whips Office. Since then, for some five years, I was either shadow Leader of the House or Leader of the House. I feel an old-fashioned sense of unease when I hear people exploring options that might lead to the Government reducing or losing their control of the business of the House. However, that is of course entirely unnecessary. It is within the remit of the Government, using their access to the Order Paper, to facilitate exploration of where the will of the House lies. I strongly urge the Leader of the House to consider and explore, in consultation with colleagues, ways in which the Government might do that in order to facilitate the House’s expression of its wishes—the Prime Minister says she wants it to come to a decision—rather than, as has perhaps inadvertently happened in the past, almost obstructing the expression of the will of the House.
Order. When the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) served as Leader of the House, she was such a good Leader of the House and so popular and respected on both sides that I recall from 20 years ago that when we feared from press reports that her role as Leader of the House was at risk, the right hon. Members for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne), for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and for Buckingham (John Bercow) all sprang to our feet during business questions to insist that she must remain in her place.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) for her suggestion. She will equally appreciate that when, under her Government, indicative voting was attempted on House of Lords reform, it did not come up with a clear solution—that is the other side of the argument. Nevertheless, I am grateful for her remarks and suggestions.
Following on from the previous question, the Procedure Committee met yesterday and we are holding an urgent inquiry on these issues and on the recent rulings from the Chair. May I encourage the Leader of the House, the shadow Leader of the House and you, Mr Speaker, to come to our Committee, if you are invited?
As the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) just said, there is a point about such precedents. The shadow Leader of the House hopes soon to be in government, and it would be quite a dangerous precedent if Back Benchers were given precedence over the Government in introducing business. These are major constitutional issues, and we should not play this on the hoof or approach it from our being pro-Brexit or anti-Brexit. We should try to come to some sort of consensus.
My right hon. Friend’s final point is exactly right. There are some very serious issues about the way the House conducts its business and, indeed, about the way our democracy is managed, and we need to consider those very carefully and soberly, although I agree with you, Mr Speaker. I would not storm the Procedure Committee’s meeting uninvited but, if invited, I would of course be available to come along.
Transport for London is in the process of phasing out existing rolling stock on the Barking-Gospel Oak line, which runs through my constituency, but TfL has done it without making sure that new trains will be in place. That means we will have a few weeks, perhaps longer, in which there will not be any trains on one of the big commuter lines across north London. Even for TfL this is incompetence of a pretty high order. Can we have a debate on transport, and particularly trains, so I can get a few more things off my chest?
There will be many hon. and right hon. Members who completely sympathise with the hon. Gentleman. The situation sounds appalling, and he might want to seek an urgent Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate, because many colleagues are frustrated about issues with rolling stock.
Many charities across the United Kingdom benefit from national lottery funding, including charities in my Angus constituency such as the Forfar Musical Society and the Brechin Photographic Society. I am hosting an event in my constituency on 22 February to show other charities the funding that is available. Can we have a debate in this place on the outstanding contribution of charities in our constituencies and on how they can access further support?
I am sure many hon. Members would agree with my hon. Friend that many charities benefit from national lottery grants, and I commend her for suggesting a public meeting to spread the news about what is available. Last year, the Big Lottery Fund distributed more than 11,000 grants across the UK including, in her constituency of Angus, to charities as diverse as HOPE organic garden, Keptie Friends, the Brechin Photographic Society, the Forfar Musical Society and Strathmore rugby football club. Congratulations to all of them. I encourage my hon. Friend to seek a Westminster Hall debate at least, because I am sure many Members would like to participate in such a debate.
The Leader of the House will be aware of the deteriorating and serious situation in Zimbabwe: the internet was deliberately stopped by the Government for three days; roads, schools and banks are closed; hundreds of people have been arrested; and there is complete silence, as people cannot communicate with each other. Will she ask the Foreign Secretary to make a statement? I have tried to get an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate, and I will continue to do so, but this is serious and we must not forget what is happening in that wonderful country.
I absolutely share the hon. Lady’s concern. We all had such high hopes for Zimbabwe’s recovery, and what is happening is very concerning. We have Foreign Office questions next Tuesday, and I encourage her to raise this directly with the Secretary of State then.
Every day, crime blights lives. Those just about managing in hard-pressed communities particularly suffer, as burglars steal prized possessions and trash homes; small shops are regularly burgled, with thieves making life a misery for the shopkeepers; and neighbours, through disorder and threats, spoil people’s peace. Yet we hear that the Government now plan to send fewer thieves and thugs to prison. That might appeal to bleeding-heart liberals who live gated lives in leafy enclaves and see things through the prism of privilege, but it will disadvantage the police, disempower magistrates and disappoint the public. A visit from Ministers will allow them to defend this perverse plan, say why they will not defend those who suffer and give Members a chance to give a voice to victims.
My right hon. Friend raises an incredibly serious issue. He will be aware that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee has just announced a debate in Westminster Hall next Thursday afternoon in which my right hon. Friend might like to take part. I agree with him that prisons are there to punish offenders and keep the public safe, but they must also help people to turn their lives around. There is a balance to be struck, but I am sure that the Government will continue to consider the issue carefully.
Many happy returns for when your birthday comes, Mr Speaker.
I make no apology for raising this issue yet again. I had long and successful treatment for claustrophobia shortly after I joined this House. On Tuesday night, I had to be assisted through the Lobby by a right hon. Member—he is not in his place, so I will not name him—because although I did not have a panic attack, I felt very uncomfortable. I know what a claustrophobia panic attack is like, because I have suffered such attacks in the past. I assure Members that I would have caused havoc in the Lobby had I had an attack on Tuesday night. I plead with the authorities, with the Chair of the Procedure Committee and anyone else who is listening to consider having a debate in which we can put forward these points, so that the House can really look at the health and safety issues involved in the nonsense that happened in the Lobby on Tuesday evening.
First, I am really sorry to hear about the experience that the hon. Lady had; that is not acceptable and I am happy to meet her to discuss what more we might be able to do. I do not think it necessarily means changing procedures, but there certainly could be other ways to facilitate her particular situation.
May we have a debate on reducing waiting times? Is the Leader of the House aware that during a lifetime the average motorist will spend approximately six months waiting at red traffic lights? May we have a national audit of our use of traffic lights in this country to see how many of them can be safely turned off?
That could be a very popular debate indeed, and my right hon. Friend raises an important issue. Traffic is not only frustrating for motorists, but harmful to our economic prosperity. I can tell him that we have seen more than a quarter of a trillion pounds of infrastructure investment, public and private, since 2010. A huge amount of money is going into new road building, and trying to re-work towns and cities so that the traffic keeps flowing better. There is a long way to go. He might well want to seek a Backbench Business Committee debate on this subject.
Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. This week I received correspondence from Cardtronics, which is ending free-to-access ATMs in my and another three constituencies. We have had a Backbench Business debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Ged Killen) has a ten-minute rule Bill. May I urge the Leader of the House to work with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and to allow a debate in Government time on the subject of the ten-minute rule Bill, so that we can tackle the scourge of paid- for money?
I am extremely sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s point. It is really problematic that people are not able to access their own money because of charges that they simply cannot afford. This House has looked at the issue a number of times and I encourage her to raise it directly with Ministers at Treasury questions on 29 January.
Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. May we have an urgent statement on changes by Barclays bank to its charges for community groups? Previously, anyone with assets worth more than £100,000 would have free banking, but the bank is now going to subject charities and community groups with assets worth more than £100,000 to very expensive charges. That will have a devastating effect on charities in Harlow, such as the Harlow food bank and the Michael Roberts Charitable Trust. May we have an urgent statement from the Government and can we take action to deal with the issue?
I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has raised this point. Charities should not be placed on the same commercial playing field as businesses, and it is right that the money they raise can be spent on their charitable work. The decision taken by the bank is disappointing. I am a big fan of bank account number portability and have campaigned for it in the past. I would, therefore, make a suggestion to charities in Harlow that are concerned about this: vote with your feet and switch your account to a provider that will provide free banking. I hope that the bank concerned will have heard my right hon. Friend’s question, and I suggest that he raises the issue again in an Adjournment debate.
International Christian Concern has reported that Vietnamese Government officials arrested and threatened 33 Christians in Phá Lóm village last November. Police reportedly tried to force the Christians to abandon their faith and worship a statute of the Buddha instead. Four of the group were arrested and beaten after they refused to do so, and Government officials continued to harass Christians in several other raids throughout November and December. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on this very important issue?
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) about the issue of making up this House’s rules on the hoof. There is a very strong case for a business of the House committee, which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House supported in a Conservative manifesto some time ago.
The Leader of the House has referred to next week’s motion on private Members’ Bills. She, my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) and I signed a motion that would have provided extra days—one of which would have been this Friday—but it was blocked by the Labour Chief Whip. Does the Leader of the House still plan to give us those extra days, or is there going to be a reduction in their number?
I have announced that the House will have an opportunity next Wednesday to debate additional days for private Members’ Bills. I have listened carefully to representations made by colleagues, and I will table a motion ahead of that debate so that we can continue to make good progress on private Members’ Bills in this Session.
On Sunday evening, 23-year-old Nicole Newman was killed crossing the road in Penge, and her eight-month-old baby remains in a critical condition in hospital. I am sure that the Leader of the House will want to join me in offering condolences to her family, including her partner Charlie. While there has been no suggestion that the driver was speeding, our council in Bromley has failed to implement 20 mph speed limits in residential areas, despite pressure from Labour councillors to do so. Can we please therefore have a debate in Government time on speed limits in residential areas?
May I first say that that is an absolute tragedy? I am sure that all hon. Members will want to send their deep condolences to the family. The hon. Lady raises a very important point about speed limits. She will be aware that it is possible for local authorities to lower or indeed raise limits where that is felt suitable. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can discuss the details of this tragic case.
Staffordshire police, in order better to investigate and prosecute online child sexual exploitation, has taken on some world-leading software from Semantics 21, which was developed in my own Stafford constituency. This software has been sold around the world—in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and to police forces in Europe as well—yet it seems very difficult to get police forces in the UK, even those that would like to do it, to take it up. Will she see how we can have a debate or a statement on whether we can use world-leading software developed in the United Kingdom in UK police forces?
I commend my hon. Friend for raising the possibility of this software, and I absolutely agree that something that is created in the United Kingdom that saves police officers having to spend their time trawling through horrific images is a very good idea indeed. I encourage him to take it up directly with Home Office Ministers so that he can discuss with them what more can be done.
Yesterday, Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman launched new guidelines for Ofsted. If adopted, the new proposals would mean that schools practising off-rolling would be punished by inspectors. I am glad to see that the proposals were welcomed by the Government, but will they provide a statement on how they intend to support schools with more resources to meet the new criteria?
I am very pleased to see that the hon. Lady has an Adjournment debate scheduled soon to discuss this directly with Ministers. She is extremely diligent in the way that she tackles this issue and she is right to do that. She will appreciate that Ofsted plays a critical role in our system and its inspection of schools, colleges and early-years providers has helped to drive up education standards right across the country. The Government are working closely with Ofsted as it develops its new framework, and will continue to do so to make sure that we keep raising standards while ensuring that the balance is right between improving school standards and protecting against exclusions.
May I join others, Mr Speaker, in wishing you a happy birthday for tomorrow, and, unusually for me, in hoping that you watch Arsenal win, particularly as they are playing Chelsea?
Across the country, a spate of local authorities is embarking on very dodgy financial deals. In particular, Harrow Council has wasted £25 million on a failed regeneration scheme and is trying to hush it up. Can we therefore have a debate in Government time on the limits on local authorities to borrow and invest in regeneration schemes?
I am sorry to hear of my hon. Friend’s concern about this particular investment by his local council. I encourage him to take it up either in an Adjournment debate or, indeed, at Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday 28 January.
I congratulate the Leader of the House on her note of whimsy as she opened proceedings today. It was much appreciated. A new harmony seems to be breaking out, which many of us, on all Benches, will welcome.
On a very serious point, as a Member of Parliament for West Yorkshire, I was deeply disappointed to see, yet again, police arrests of gangs suspected of grooming young girls and children. This is possibly the 14th town, city or urban area with such a case. Can we not have a debate on the need to look at the causes and what has been happening in our towns and cities so that we can really understand what has been going on and how we stop it?
I understand that the hon. Gentleman works with my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis) on a cross-party group that is looking into the issue. It is right that we do that and I commend him on trying to find a way forward. I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business Committee debate so that that discussion can take place directly with Ministers. It is incredibly important that we do all we can to find out what is causing this problem of grooming young children and that we put a stop to it as soon as possible.
An NCP car park in the centre of Crawley has been sending motorists fines, even though it has not obtained the correct planning permission for signage. I seek assurances from the Government that the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) that is currently in the other place will receive Royal Assent at the earliest possible opportunity.
My hon. Friend raises a point that concerns not just his constituents in Crawley, but many others around the country. Drivers expect NCP to play by the rules and erect clear signage, making them aware of any charges. The private Member’s Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) has gathered support across the House and with industry trade bodies, creating a single code of practice that applies to all private parking operators. This will be a significant step towards greater fairness, and I look forward to its swift passage through the Lords.
Can we have an urgent statement on the north Wales growth deal that was announced in the autumn Budget? This morning’s announcement by Hitachi concerning Wylfa power station takes away a £20 billion investment in north Wales and completely alters the premise on which the growth deal was introduced. We urgently need to discuss this, as it is a major infrastructure project not just for north Wales and north-west England, but right across the UK.
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. I was a big fan of that project and am disappointed to see what is happening now. He will appreciate that there is a statement following business questions and I encourage him to take this up with Ministers then.
Will the Leader of the House bring forward a debate in Government time for the House to discuss enshrining in law the rights of the 3.2 million EU nationals living in the UK now so that, regardless of whether or not a deal can be finalised by 29 March, our great nation’s commitment to these EU citizens—our friends and neighbours—is absolute?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this important issue. All EU citizens who have come to the UK to make their lives here and contribute to our economy and society are very welcome, and they will remain welcome under all circumstances, whether we leave the European Union with or without a deal.
The outstanding Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, in conjunction with our local health services and my own Rebalancing charity, are bringing lung scans to Aspley, Bilborough and Strelley this month, following our very successful roll-out in Bulwell last year that detected cancers and saved lives. Might we have a debate in Government time about the importance of lung health and the benefits of rolling out lung health screening across the country?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and his constituents on their excellent and incredibly important work in lung screening. I agree with him about the importance of such screening. He will be pleased to know that the new NHS 10-year plan includes a much greater focus on early detection and prevention, with the aspiration of many more people surviving cancers in the future. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise these issues directly with Ministers.
Could we have a debate about local hospitals? This year is the 200th anniversary of Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin. Despite being the smallest district general hospital anywhere in Scotland, the 550 staff provide outstanding care for local constituents. Would the Leader of the House accept my invitation to visit Dr Gray’s to meet the local staff, who provide outstanding care in the hospital?
As ever, my hon. Friend is a strong voice for his constituents, and I congratulate Dr Gray’s hospital on its anniversary. I know that he has been working hard to support the “Keep MUM” campaign to reverse the downgrading of the maternity unit at the hospital—an issue that he has raised at business questions previously. I would love to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency if I can find a slot in my diary; he has raised so many fascinating stories about his constituency that I think it would be a truly interesting visit.
I have been shocked at times by the attitudes that are displayed in this House. When I was a Government Whip, I remember being particularly shocked by a Tory Opposition Whip who refused to nod through the Lobby a recently delivered mother—a nursing mother. I think that this week many of us in this House are ashamed of the position that one of our colleagues has been put in simply to register her vote on the most important thing that probably any of us will be voting on during our time in this place, whereby she had to put her health into second place in order to do that. I think that many of us feel ashamed. That is not the way, in 2019, that we should treat each other in any workplace. Because we will now be having a series of other very important votes, may I ask the Leader of the House when we will actually see the proposal for proxy voting implemented so that Members are not put in that position ever again?
May I say that I have the greatest regard for the hon. Lady? She raises very important issues in this place and she is right to do so. She is raising the issue of one of our colleagues who chose to come to the House to vote. The usual channels will all confirm, and indeed the Speaker confirmed yesterday, that a pair was offered. That is the normal arrangement for somebody who cannot be present. It was offered well in advance and that offer remains open to her. I myself am extremely concerned about the hon. Lady’s welfare and wish her all health and happiness with her new baby. I do personally wish that she would follow the advice of her doctors. I genuinely do not believe that any of her constituents would possibly require her to turn up here in a wheelchair when it was perfectly possible to have received what is the normal arrangement in this place for people with conditions—and there were others, with long-term health conditions, who were paired on that same day. I really do wish that she would accept that offer.
I thank the hon. Lady for her question and the Leader of the House for what she has said. Of course, as we discovered last summer, it is possible for the credibility of the pairing system to be damaged, perhaps irreparably, when it is abused or dishonoured. Moreover, as hon. and right hon. Members are aware, the House has twice debated the matter of proxy voting in circumstances of baby leave, and on both occasions the will of the House in support of such a system was made clear. Therefore, it is imperative, following those two debates in February and September of last year, that effect is given to the will of the House. It would of course be intolerable—literally intolerable—if, for example, a Whips Office, because of its own opposition to such a change, were to frustrate the will of the House. That simply cannot happen, and I very much doubt that Members will be tolerant of it for any length of time. The House has spoken and change must happen. It is a lamentable failure of leadership thus far that it has not done so.
I do not mean to labour the point, Mr Speaker, but I think it utterly incredible that in our employment as Members of Parliament we are treated differently from anybody else across the UK or beyond. There is no other job anywhere where someone would be asked to, and put in the position where they have to, choose to come to work the day before they give birth or to delay the birth of their child. I am sorry, but I am fed up with hearing excuses from the Leader of the House and ridiculous arguments about not putting in place proxy voting, baby leave, and, frankly, electronic voting. We only need to look to Wales and Scotland, where we have Parliaments that have seats for every Member and electronic voting. For goodness’ sake, this is the 21st century—what are this Government doing? It is about time they sorted this out so that we can enjoy a proper status and be able to consider having children. I do not have any children but I may consider having some at some point, and I do not know how that would be manageable in the current circumstance.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments, and I am listening very carefully. She will appreciate that what happens in this place is a matter for Members. A number of Members have raised with me the need for those with long-term illnesses, family emergencies and so on to be accommodated, but I have heard from other Members that that would not command the support of the House. I am seeking to provide a solution that can command the support of the House.
The hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) was able to be nodded through. If it was a matter of having her vote recorded—[Interruption.] Members are shaking their heads. The usual channels agreed that she could come to this place at any moment on that day and be nodded through, to have her vote recorded. On this occasion, until we have finalised the way forward, that is my strong recommendation. I hope that the hon. Lady will take medical advice and not come into the House unnecessarily.
I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) has had to raise this and that the Government Whips Office is blocking progress on this matter, but let us hope that some progress will be made before too long. [Interruption.] Well, that is the situation—that is the reality, and that is the evidence. It is very clear; there is no doubt about it.
Penblwydd hapus, Mr Speaker, as we say in Wales.
In 1991, 9 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants. By 2016, that figure had gone up to 65 million. In 2004, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended and approved the science of mindfulness for the treatment of repeat episodes of depression. Can the Leader of the House guarantee a debate in Government time on why the use of antidepressants has shot up over that period, while mindfulness has just bubbled along?
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important point. I certainly was not aware of the shocking rise in the use of antidepressants. He will be aware that mindfulness courses are offered in this place. I have tried to attend one, but due to the busyness of this place, I have not managed to get there yet. I certainly agree that we could all do with some mindfulness at this time.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government are investing significant sums in improving mental health and making good on the pledge for parity of esteem between physical and mental health. We will see many more people able to access talking therapies and the kind of support he is talking about, but I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business Committee debate, because I am sure that many Members would want to contribute to it.
There is a great deal of ambiguity about state pensions for 1950s women, now that the legal challenge by the campaign group BackTo60 is in the High Court. Can the Leader of the House advise whether parliamentarians can continue to discuss and make representations in the House about this very important issue and, more importantly, whether the Government will respond?
I can assure the hon. Lady that Members can always continue to raise issues and concerns in this place. She will be aware that the Government do not comment on judicial reviews that are under way, due to the separation of powers. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate, so that she and other Members can discuss, as we have on many an occasion, the real concerns about the WASPI women.
I echo the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Tonia Antoniazzi). On a slightly different point, I have a constituent who entered into two contracts relating to machinery for cosmetic laser treatment. The contract for the training and asset, neither of which were particularly effective, cost my constituent a great deal of money. In addition, great concern was expressed after the training about the value of it and whether it was in fact safe to carry out the procedure. Can we have a debate in Government time on the use of health equipment for cosmetic purposes and companies’ use of dual contracts to, in essence, entrap people to spend money on a product that does not appear to be worth it?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. We are all aware of stories of unnecessary procedures and the inappropriate use of so-called medical interventions. He is absolutely right to raise that, and I encourage him to seek either an Adjournment debate on the specific case he wants to raise, or perhaps a Westminster Hall debate so that hon. Members can contribute with their own experiences.
The Leader of the House does not need mindfulness; she should just carry on reading “Winnie-the-Pooh”. For when she sends her card—signed, “Love, Andrea”—to you, Mr Speaker, I would remind her that when Piglet asked Pooh:
“How do you spell ‘love’?”,
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.”
Even a bear of very little brain knows that this House wants to rule out a no-deal Brexit. When is the Leader of the House going to give us an opportunity to do just that?
I am just too tempted, Mr Speaker; you are going to love this. I say in response to the hon. Gentleman:
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
On the hon. Gentleman’s point, a competent Government have to continue to prepare for all eventualities. That is just the reality.
Coventry’s year-long reign as the European city of sport is officially under way. Our city will use the year not only to promote and celebrate the benefits of sport and physical activity, but to act as a catalyst for a fitter, healthier and happier Coventry. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating my city on securing European city of sport status, and will she also arrange a debate in Government time on the positive impact that sport can have on individuals and the wider society?
First, I thoroughly congratulate all in Coventry on the fantastic start to their year as city of sport. We all wish them well. It is a brilliant role model for all of us who want to see more activity in schools. In our own lives, we should all get out there and do sporting activities when we can. I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising that in the Chamber, and I will certainly look at whether we can facilitate Government time for such a debate.
The Bridge of Weir village post office in my constituency is run by the community for the community, but it is not recognised as a community post office. It is therefore unable to access the funds set aside to secure the future of village post offices, due to rules set by the Government on distance to retailers and other post offices. However, no other retailer is interested in taking on the franchise, and there is very limited public transport to the next village post office. May we have a debate on the importance of community post offices and the rules surrounding them, particularly in the light of many bank branches closing and people relying on post offices?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of community post offices. They do a fantastic job, and they are often the only retail outlet as well as the only financial services outlet. As he knows, the post office network has agreed to provide basic banking services for communities, which is absolutely vital. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate, so that he can raise his thoughts directly with a Minister.
Last April, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a children’s funeral fund in memory of my son, Martin. Nine months later, we have still not seen it. That means that nearly 3,000 families have had to pay to bury their children. In November, I and other Members from across this House wrote to the Prime Minister and asked for an update. We have not received a response. Will the Leader of the House advise me where else I can go to make sure that Martin’s fund becomes a reality?
May we please have an urgent debate on the disposal of local authority public assets? We are seeing an industrial-scale sell-off. It is clear that certain local councils, such as local Warwick District Council, are entering into deals with private companies, such as Public Sector plc, without even going out to tender. Those companies are profiting greatly, as are the Guernsey-based private equity companies that are helping to finance the deals. I am extremely concerned that we are on the verge of a Carillion-style risk, given the concentration of these deals with one company such as PSP.
Before 29 March, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must get through something like 80 statutory instruments, and the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill will come back on Report and Third Reading. The Leader of the House might be Superwoman, but how will she do that?
I am absolutely not Superwoman, but I consider the matter carefully on a regular basis—indeed, I consider daily the priorities for legislation and the time available. Obviously we are not flush with time, but I believe we have enough to get all our secondary legislation through, as well as the primary legislation that needs Royal Assent by departure date. I will continue to keep such matters under review, and they will require the co-operation and support of the House.
The National Police Air Service helicopter has been called out 1,044 times by Humberside police in the past year, and deployed only 593 times. May we have a debate in Government time about the need for and availability of shared policing resources, to ensure that areas such as Grimsby get the community safety they deserve?
The hon. Lady raises an important point, and it is vital that resources are shared appropriately when they can be, to ensure that all our citizens receive appropriate levels of support from our police and other emergency services. I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate so that she can raise the matter directly with Ministers.
The Leader of the House’s responsibilities for the restoration and renewal project mean that she has a great opportunity to shape one of the biggest public sector procurement exercises over the next generation. With that in mind, how will she ensure that once this palace is renewed, it is stuffed to the rafters with the best of British manufacturing? When it comes to ceramics—[Laughter.] Yes, I am predictable, but my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) and I would be more than happy to facilitate conversations between the ceramics industry and architects here to ensure that, whether for pipes, plates, teapots or tiles, Stoke-on-Trent has its place in the new palace.
The hon. Gentleman got a resoundingly popular response to that. Of course, there is a long way to go with the restoration and renewal of the palace. We have made good progress, and the legislation is now under joint scrutiny under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman). Once that has taken place, we can start considering procurement procedures. There is already a commitment to look carefully at maximising the use of UK producers as far as possible, and there will be plenty of opportunities for all sorts of small and medium-sized enterprises in our constituencies.
Ellis, who is the grandson of my constituent Eleanor Haining, has a rare and life-threatening brain disease—indeed, he has the only known case in the world with such early symptoms. As can be imagined, he needs a lot of specialist equipment to get him from home to hospital, and his family urgently need a larger car. The disability living allowance mobility component cannot be accessed until a child reaches three years of age, so may we have a Government statement to address that anomaly and say whether specific exemptions could be applied in such circumstances?
The hon. Gentleman rightly raises a serious constituency issue, and if he would like to write to me with the details I will take it up with the Department for Work and Pensions on his behalf. I am sure that if he raises it with Ministers they will also be happy to deal with him directly.
I thank the Leader of the House and everybody who has made it possible to debate knife crime next Thursday. This is a serious issue, and I believe that last week, on 9 January, there was a meeting of the serious violence taskforce. I will not stop saying that the Home Secretary should come to the Chamber to make a regular statement to the House about what is happening with respect to knife crime and other serious violence on our streets. Debates are fine, but we need regular statements. Will the Leader of the House speak to the Home Secretary about that so that we get regular updates? I think all Members of the House would appreciate that enormously.
The hon. Gentleman has raised this very serious issue on a number of occasions at business questions, and he is absolutely right to do so. He knows that I share his grave concern about what is happening on our streets. He is also aware that the serious violence strategy and taskforce, the Offensive Weapons Bill, and the various community projects to encourage young people away from an appalling life of crime, pain and death are a real focus for the Government. I can assure him that I will write to the Home Secretary following our exchange today and pass on his concerns.
All the best for your birthday on Saturday, Mr Speaker. I do not know about you, but in my experience it is a very fine week to have a birthday, and this year has been more memorable than most.
It was a great pleasure last week to visit Members of the 277th Boys’ Brigade in my constituency, who attend each week at St Monica’s primary school in Milton. I presented them with badges for all their work during UK Parliament Week on the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which led to women’s suffrage. They did a lot of work on that, so it was great to present them with the badges.
Will the Leader of the House consider holding a debate in Government time on the excellent work of youth organisations such as the Boys’ Brigade, which was founded in Glasgow by William Alexander Smith in 1883 at Woodside hall, just a small distance away from where the Boys’ Brigade in my constituency meets today? Today, the Boys’ Brigade has over 750,000 members in more than 60 countries around the world. That is a huge achievement and a huge opportunity. Will the Leader of the House consider calling a debate in Government time on that wonderful achievement?
First, may I congratulate the Boys’ Brigade in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency? It is the most amazing youth movement right across the world and it really is an example of what can be done to encourage young people to engage with the world around them, particularly during Parliament Week. Just last year, we celebrated 100 years since some women got the vote. Congratulations to everyone on their work. I do think there would be popular calls from hon. Members to discuss this issue, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to talk to the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee to see whether it could facilitate such a debate.
The Greater Manchester spatial framework is causing a great deal of anxiety in my constituency. The plan, with a Government-imposed housing target, will mean a net loss of green-belt land. At the same time, insufficient funding is in place to redevelop brownfield sites that the community is desperate to see redeveloped. How can it be right that landowners, through no positive action on their part, can be made millionaires overnight through a simple change in land use policy, when brownfield sites, which are desperate for funding from the Government, are being left to rot? How can that be a fair settlement for the community?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious point. We all recognise the urgent need for much, much more house building, so that more people can meet the aspiration of owning their own home or being in secure living accommodation. It is vital that we do that, but the way in which we do it is incredibly important. Local Government questions are on Monday 28 January, and I encourage him to raise that with Ministers then.
Indeed, Mr Speaker.
The Leader of the House will be aware of my ongoing work to try to tackle the impact of social media, especially cyber-bullying, on the mental health of young people. The inquiry I chaired has recently concluded and we hope to bring a report forward this spring. What is clear from the early findings, including from young people who have given reams of oral and written evidence, is that the Government need to do more to start to tackle the problems relating to the effect of social media on young people’s mental health. May we have a debate soon, so that we can debate these important issues and the Government can start responding to the very real problems that young people are facing across social media platforms?
I have something in common with the hon. Gentleman, as my mum also has her birthday in January—as of course does A. A. Milne, who has been the theme of today’s business questions. Indeed, A. A. Milne’s birthday is tomorrow.
The hon. Gentleman is raising a very serious point about the harm being done to young people’s mental health, not necessarily only by cyber-bullying and online trolling and abuse, but also by the overuse of social media, which militates against them having an outdoor life whereby people say, “Go outside and play if you’re bored.” A lot needs to be done not only by the social media giants, which have to come to the table and sort out some of the problems we have, but by society generally to make it less acceptable to spend hours and hours online instead of doing other things. The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and I pay tribute to him for doing so. I encourage him perhaps to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that all Members can share their experiences.
May we have a debate on pension credit and universal credit? Will the Leader of the House say what justification there can be for forcing some older couples to claim universal credit instead of pension credit, thus cutting £7,000 from those low-income households?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have had quite a lot of urgent questions and statements on universal credit, and I hope he has taken the opportunity to raise the issue then. I reassure him that the Government are committed to ensuring that the roll-out of universal credit is fair. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has already put in place some changes. If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise a further issue, I encourage him perhaps to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise it directly with Ministers.