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Business of the House

Volume 654: debated on Thursday 7 February 2019

The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 11 February—Second Reading of the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 12 February—Remaining stages of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 13 February—Tributes to the Clerk of the House, followed by a motion relating to the Securitisation Regulations 2018, followed by a general debate on connecting communities by supporting charities and volunteers.

Thursday 14 February—Debate on a motion relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Friday 15 February—The House will not be sitting.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said to the House on 29 January, we will bring a revised deal back to this House for a second meaningful vote as soon as we possibly can. Should that not be possible by 13 February, the Government will table an amendable motion for debate on 14 February. Hon. and right hon. Members will know that the Prime Minister is currently negotiating a revised deal for the UK’s departure from the EU. She will provide an update to this House next week and I will make a further business statement if necessary as a consequence of her statement. I will make my usual business statement next Thursday confirming the business for the week commencing 18 February, which will include key Brexit-related statutory instruments.

February is LGBT History Month, during which more than 1,500 events will be taking place across the country—an opportunity to raise awareness and to promote equality and diversity. Finally, for those who follow closely the activities of regular pizza eaters, may I wish everyone a very enjoyable National Pizza Day for Saturday?

I am not sure who was eating pizza yesterday at 3.29 pm when the House rose, but I thank the Leader of the House for the business—as I keep saying every week, I think I should thank her, but I am not sure, because there is nothing for the week after, apart from Brexit SIs.

On Wednesday, there will be a general debate, so I am going to ask the Leader of the House if we can have an Opposition day; we certainly deserve one and we could have had one yesterday. But I also want to pay tribute because next Wednesday we are all going to pay tribute to Sir David Natzler, Clerk of the House, and thank him for his 43 years of public service. We welcome the news that our Gracious Sovereign has agreed to the appointment of Dr John Benger as the 51st Clerk of the House. I know that Dr Benger’s commitment and that of all the senior Clerks will continue the good work of Sir David in bringing Parliament into the 21st century.

I agree with the Leader of the House: on 29 January, the Prime Minister said:

“if we have not brought a revised deal back to this House by Wednesday 13 February, we will make a statement and, again, table an amendable motion for debate the next day.”—[Official Report, 29 January 2019; Vol. 653, c. 671.]

The Leader of the House has not quite confirmed this—she could have mentioned it in the business statement. Could she say whether the Prime Minister will be coming back on Wednesday to make a statement? Will this motion be amendable and voteable on?

I am not sure what happens when the Prime Minister is away because they get up to all sorts of Brexit chaos. On zero tariffs, we had the Secretary of State for International Trade saying first that he was going to lay an SI, then he didn’t, then he said he was going to discuss it with the Cabinet, then he decided he wasn’t going to lay the SI, then he suggested it was going to be added to the Trade Bill. This is the Trade Bill that gives powers to Ministers but there is no policy framework set out in that. The Business Secretary said he would not welcome zero tariffs for all industries, so the two Secretaries of State are saying two different things. Can we have clarity? Which Secretary of State is right? The shadow Secretary of State for International Trade said:

“the Secretary of State appears not to understand the basic logic of trade”


“If you have already reduced all your tariffs to zero you have nothing to negotiate with.”

Which Secretary of State is right? Could we have a statement from both, or either, on what exactly the Government policy is?

Mr Speaker, I was here earlier and listened to the urgent question you granted on the SI on mobile roaming. I think there is a change in policy because the SI has been laid and the Government impact assessment says that, unless there is a deal, the UK Government cannot unilaterally guarantee surcharge-free roaming for UK consumers travelling to the EU without exposing UK operators to the risk of being obliged to provide roaming services at a loss. So this Government are listening to the mobile phone operators, not to the consumers. I do not recall seeing that on the side of the bus. This is the important bit because there is a slight change of policy. Given that the SI comes into effect the day after exit day, or the day after it is made, can the Leader of the House ensure that the SI is debated on the Floor of the House, and can she guarantee that, if there is no deal, mobile phone operators cannot instigate charges immediately?

It is Time to Talk Day. Everyone should be able to have a conversation about mental health. A YouGov survey for the Prince’s Trust has found that the number of young people in the UK who say they do not believe that life is worth living has doubled in the last decade. In the first analysis of its kind, a study published in the journal Psychiatry Research found that young people were three to four times more likely to have depression at 18 if they had been exposed to dirtier air at the age of 12. For their sakes, we must act on air quality, which even in Walsall South is over the limit. And may I just ask if the Leader of the House could ask the ministerial cars not to keep their engines running—not to idle while they are waiting for Ministers? This is alarming as 75% of mental health problems begin in childhood or adolescence.

On Monday, we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Both Rosalind Franklin and Jocelyn Bell Burnell made important contributions to science and they were not awarded Nobel prizes, even though they did the work. It is LGBT History Month and those of us who were councillors in 1988 remember section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, under which we could not publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality. That was repealed in 2003. At the same time, members of Sinn Féin had to have their voices dubbed by actors when they were interviewed. We have moved on since then, which is why I agreed with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, when he said:

“The EU itself is first and foremost a peace project”,

and guaranteed the peace process and the Good Friday agreement. Over the last 21 years, a generation of young people have lived in peace in Ireland. There is a special place in heaven for those who want to promote peace—blessed are the peacemakers.

I do not know whether you know this, Mr Speaker, but there is a space on the Government Benches for the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). He is not in his place because he is at the palace, receiving his knighthood. It is a fantastic story because he started life on a council estate in Woolwich and will now become a knight of the realm. We wish him and his family a very happy day.

The right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) is unfailingly courteous. He has, in fact, written to me to explain—movingly and manifestly with some regret—his absence from business questions today. He felt that he would have been able to provide the House with a question that was important in terms of substance and beautifully delivered—something that I would not for one moment contradict. We wish him well today, but we hope that he will be back with us next week. I am not sure that we can bear his absence much longer.

I think that everybody would concur; we cannot possibly miss my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) for a further week. I also pass to him our very best wishes and congratulations on becoming a knight of the realm. He is a very good fellow in this place, and a very loyal attendee at business questions.

The hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) asks about the general debate next week. She will have observed that I announced business on the Securitisation Regulations 2018 next Wednesday. That was a request from the Opposition, so I hope that she is pleased that I have been able to find Government time for that debate in the Chamber.

I also congratulate John Benger on his appointment. I was delighted, along with Mr Speaker and the hon. Lady, to be part of the selection panel. We all agree that he will do an excellent job.

The hon. Lady asks about the next steps on Brexit, particularly whether the motion next week will be amendable and voteable. I do want to help the House on this, so let me be absolutely clear: if a deal is brought back for a meaningful vote, yes, the vote to approve the deal with be a motion under section 13(1)(b) of the EU withdrawal Act, and it will be an amendable motion, as it was in January. If we are not able to bring back the revised deal for that second meaningful vote, the business for Thursday, as I announced earlier, will be a debate on a motion relating to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The Prime Minister will provide an update to the House next week. If necessary, I will then make a further business statement as a consequence of her statement. As the Prime Minister has said, the motion next week will not be brought back under section 13—there is not a legal requirement to do so—but it is a commitment that the Government have made outside the statutory framework of the EU withdrawal Act. The Government always take seriously the views of this House, and that remains the case on the motion next week, whether it passes with or without amendments. I hope it is clear that, as of now, we will be providing for the House to have a debate next Thursday, whether it is on a meaningful vote or on an amendable, neutral motion.

The hon. Lady asks about the issue of tariffs in a no-deal Brexit. We have just had International Trade questions. I am sure that she will have raised her questions there via Opposition colleagues and received a response. She also mentioned the urgent question on roaming that just took place and has put in a request for that statutory instrument to be debated on the Floor of the House. As always, if she wants to make her request through the usual channels, the Government have been very keen to provide time where there is a reasonable request.

The hon. Lady mentioned the appalling problem of mental health issues among the young, and she is absolutely right to do so, with issues ranging from clean air to excessive use of social media—we have seen only recently the appalling effect that that can have on young people. The Government are committed to doing everything possible to try to resolve the problem of spiralling mental health problems in young people. She specifically asked about ministerial cars’ engines running. Ministerial cars’ engines are not meant to be kept running, and if hon. Members find that they are, then they should challenge that.

The hon. Lady mentioned that the EU is committed to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. I would say to her that the United Kingdom is absolutely committed to strengthening further the bonds between all of the four nations of the United Kingdom, and it is this Government who are determined to do everything possible to maintain the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

Order. I thank the Leader of the House both for her opening statement and for her response to the shadow Leader of the House. I think the position is clear, but this is of course very important in relation to Brexit business, and the right hon. Lady has been, I think, most solicitous in trying to attend to the concerns of the House. Last night, I received notice of the draft business for next week, and I noted with dismay that the scheduled debate on an amendable motion had been removed and that we were in fact due to have a debate on Back-Bench business on Thursday the 14th. I confess that I was very alarmed by that. In so far as that has now been reversed, as in the statement that the Leader of the House has announced, and the debate on an amendable motion will take place, I am greatly heartened by that.

I just want to say to the House, because I think it is very important that there is clarity, that I hope the position reflects—I think it does—the commitments made in the Chamber. On 29 January, at column 671, the Prime Minister said:

“Furthermore, if we have not brought a revised deal back to this House by Wednesday 13 February, we will make a statement and, again, table an amendable motion for debate the next day.”—[Official Report, 29 January 2019; Vol. 653, c. 671.]

Two days later, at the business question, the Leader of the House—responding, I believe, to the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan)—reiterated the position by saying:

“We will, of course, have the opportunity to enjoy the Prime Minister coming back for a second meaningful vote as soon as possible. Just to be clear, if we have not brought a revised deal back to this House by Wednesday 13 February, we will make a statement and again table an amendable motion for debate the next day.”—[Official Report, 31 January 2019; Vol. 653, c. 975.]

As recently as yesterday, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), deputising for the Prime Minister, said very specifically:


the Prime Minister—

“said that the meaningful vote itself would be brought back as soon as possible, and if it were not possible to bring it back by the 13th, next Wednesday, the Government would then make a statement and table a motion for debate the next day.”—[Official Report, 6 February 2019; Vol. 654, c. 322.]

So I think we have the commitment that had previously been made, and I believe that it is the full intention of the Government to honour that commitment. But the dependability of statements made and commitments given, whatever people’s views on the merits of the issues, is absolutely critical if we are to retain or, where lost, to restore trust, so there can of course be no resiling from the commitment which I think is explicit and which has been made: no dubiety, no backsliding, no doubt. I think that is clear.

It seems clear to me that we are simply not going to be able to get the primary and secondary legislation required through by 29 March. However, could we, as soon as time allows, have a debate on the operation of Home Office rules on TB certification and access to approved testing clinics? A young family in my constituency are facing imminently being torn apart because of entirely illogical and unreasonable application of these rules. Despite my constituent having had an X-ray and obtained a TB certificate, at her expense, at a UK hospital, she has been told that it will not count because it is not an approved centre, but the Home Office is telling her that there are no approved centres within the United Kingdom. To add further illogicality, if she returned to her home country of Canada to reapply, she would not need a TB certificate because it is more than six months since she was in a TB-prone country. I am very grateful to a Home Office team for agreeing to meet me to look at this case in detail. However, I do think that it raises a wider issue about applications and access to TB centres in the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend raises a very concerning case on her constituent’s behalf, and I have great sympathy for her constituent in that situation. I understand that my hon. Friend has rightly written to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration, asking her to look into the matter. I understand that my right hon. Friend is seeking an urgent clarification of the situation, and of course if I can be of any help, my hon. Friend can always write to me.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. Unusually, there has been quite a bit of excitement about the contents of today’s business statement, with the expectation of an announcement of what happens next in this chaotic Brexit process. The Leader of the House has not disappointed; we will now have the motion on Thursday.

However, I share your concerns, Mr Speaker, because my expectation would be that there would be a statement on Wednesday leading to an amendable motion and a meaningful vote. It is almost certain that that will not be that case—that there will be a general debate, unless the Prime Minister returns with new commitments, as she said, from the European Union. There is as much chance of that happening as of a snowball in hell, so the expectation must surely be that there will be another one of those amendable motions where the Government will simply accept outcomes and decisions of this House that they like and ignore decisions and outcomes that they do not like.

The question therefore is, when will we have meaningful vote 2? When will we be deciding on this? We are out of the European Union in 50 days’ time, and we do not know on what basis and whether we are going to have a deal at all. So it is incumbent on the Leader of the House to be abundantly clear today: when is meaningful vote 2, and when will this House decide?

Such were the demands on the working arrangements of the House that yesterday we finished before half-past 3. The rest of next week’s business is a curious assortment of uncontentious legislation and general debates. The Leader of the House cancelled the February recess because of what she said were the demands of critical Brexit legislation. Where is the critical Brexit legislation? It is beginning to look more and more as though the cancelling of the February recess was nothing more than a stunt. Countless Tory MPs have been slipped to go on their mid-term holidays. So can the Leader of the House tell us what we will be considering in the week when we were supposed to have the recess?

Lastly, may we have a debate about hell—specifically, on what basis parts of it will be reserved for certain people? If a special place in hell is to be reserved for clueless Brexiteers, Satan is seriously going to have to get into the real estate business. Does this not all just show that the infinite patience demonstrated by the EU in the face of this cluelessness is running out, as the Prime Minister is certain to find out today? We are now 50 days from the departure date and we do not know on what basis we are leaving. No wonder Satan is sharpening those pitchforks.

I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman takes these things so seriously; obviously it is a very serious matter, and if he feels it is appropriate to be determining who is going to hell over it, obviously that is a matter for him. I personally do not find it incredibly amusing. I think it is vital that people treat each other personally with courtesy and respect. I have always said that; I continue to think that. It is just not a laughing matter; it is actually rather hateful.

The hon. Gentleman asked some very important questions, and I think I have just set out precisely what is the case, but I will do so again. I think it is unfortunate, Mr Speaker, that you somewhat muddied the waters by unresponding to the Business of the House statement. I had made it perfectly clear what was the case, and I am perfectly able to do that for myself. I will set it out again for the hon. Gentleman. The Prime Minister is currently—[Interruption.] If hon. Members wish to know, they might like to listen. On the other hand, if they want to just yell, that is also fine. The hon. Gentleman asked a question. The Prime Minister is currently negotiating a revised deal, and she will update the House next week—okay? Is that clear? Next week. If necessary, I will make a further business statement, but today’s statement is clear that we will meet our commitment—the Prime Minister’s commitment—to deliver a debate on an amendable motion next week. If the hon. Gentleman listened to the business statement, he will know that that will be on Thursday.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about this week’s business and said that we did not discuss anything. I would just like to point out to him that we had an excellent debate on Monday, when 39 individual Members talked about the importance of sport right across our country in relation to issues such as mental health, reducing obesity and general wellbeing, which are all important matters. On Tuesday, the House debated the police grant and local government finance reports. He may not consider that to be relevant business, but we voted on them and those extremely significant motions have an impact on people in England and right across the United Kingdom. We also discussed some vital subjects in relation to compensation payments for those suffering from mesothelioma and pneumoconiosis. The hon. Gentleman is simply not right to say that we did nothing this week.

The hon. Gentleman is also not right to say that we will be doing nothing during the recess week. He asked again what we will be doing during the period that would have been recess. As I have already said, the business includes some key statutory instruments that are to be debated in the Chamber. He will be aware that Brexit legislation is not a matter only of primary legislation; there are up to 600 pieces of secondary legislation. The House is dealing with those in good order. Over 400 have now been laid, and we remain confident of getting all the statutory instruments that need to be finalised by Brexit day done by then. He should take reassurance from that.

Colleagues—I address my remarks to colleagues—for the avoidance of doubt, I have not muddied any waters. What I have done is to quote the factual position. Very specifically, I have quoted statements from the Treasury Bench on 29 January, 31 January and 6 February. I know the Leader of the House will be interested in this, because she has just talked about the importance of treating colleagues with respect, which presumably applies to listening to them when they are speaking. The position is extremely clear. I do not try to tell the right hon. Lady how to do her job. I treat her with great courtesy, and I will continue to do so. Nobody is going to tell this Speaker how to stand up for and persistently champion the rights of Parliament. I have done it, I am doing it and I will go on doing it. I could not care less who tries to obstruct me. That is the fact, that is the reality and that is the mission and responsibility of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Now for something completely different, Mr Speaker. [Laughter.]

Eastgate, Blackbrook and Holway are names that will not be known to the Leader of the House, but I can tell her that they have the most appalling crime statistics in Somerset, and they come within the county town of Taunton. We need to have a debate on this. There were 5,000 recorded crimes last year, of which very few were cleared up. Half of those crimes are violent and sexual crimes, and the other half involve antisocial behaviour. This affects my constituency enormously. Having had the police figures out this week, may we please have time to debate hotspots that are turning into crime-ridden ghettoes before it is too late?

My hon. Friend has raised an incredibly important issue. There is a debate this afternoon on antisocial behaviour, during which I certainly hope he will share his concerns directly with Ministers. He will be aware that there are very concerning rises in certain types of crime, while in other areas the police are doing an excellent job in reducing some of the traditional crimes. Nevertheless, what is important is that the police grant settlement for next year is a significant one, and I hope that he will welcome that news.

I hope I can crave your indulgence, Mr Speaker, because as you will be aware, Back-Bench business and the debates secured by Back Benchers are a highly delicious but very moveable feast. Given the constraints of time today, the second debate scheduled for today on beer taxation and pubs, sponsored by the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood), has unfortunately had to be withdrawn in order to create time for the first debate.

I would like to give the Leader of the House advance notice that a debate application has been submitted for the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Macpherson inquiry report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which is on 24 February. If the House is sitting, a debate on 21 February, if possible, would be very welcome. Additionally, may I remind the Leader of the House that 28 February is the day before St David’s Day? If possible, a debate on Welsh affairs on 28 February would be very welcome. Also, 7 March is the day before International Women’s Day, and we have a very heavily subscribed application for an International Women’s Day debate.

Mr Speaker, the Backbench Business Committee has been forced to press the pause button. This is not about article 50; this is about applications for debates on supplementary estimates. The supplementary estimates have not yet been published, and we can hardly invite people to apply for a debate on something that has not yet occurred. We anticipate that the supplementary estimates will be published on 11 February, and we are therefore extending the deadline for applications on supplementary estimates debates to 15 February.

May I crave the indulgence of the House, and the Leader of the House, again? I have a constituent with a complex variety of significant health issues. Her name is Ms Christine Carr of Dunston, Gateshead. On 14 January I wrote to a Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions about Ms Carr not having received any benefits since 9 January, and she is still not in receipt of those benefits, despite the DWP being subject to a court order ordering it not to bother her any more for at least a year after her previous employment and support allowance assessment. She has all those complex medical needs, and has been without money since 9 January. Please will the Leader of the House intervene with the Minister of State at the DWP on my behalf?

First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, because he always comes to the Chamber with a clear and marshalled list, which is incredibly helpful when trying to decide on the business. I am incredibly sympathetic to his request for a debate on the Macpherson report, and for debates on Welsh affairs and International Women’s Day, and I will certainly try to accommodate him.

The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important constituency issue. He will know that oral questions to the Department for Work and Pensions are next Monday, but if he wishes to write to me with the details of his constituency case, I will be happy to take it up with the Department.

The Leader of the House referred to a statement next week from the Prime Minister, followed by a supplementary business statement on an amendable motion. I guess that the Business of the House motion could not be moved until Wednesday afternoon, which gives very little time for amendments to be tabled for debate on Thursday. Will there be other arrangements so that amendments can be tabled in advance?

I always listen carefully to the views of right hon. and hon. Members, but as people will appreciate, we have set out that there will be an amendable motion, and we will bring that forward as soon as possible to enable amendments to be tabled.

Can the Leader of the House elaborate further on the good point raised by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone)? She will know that, to be frank, there have been trust issues with the Government on this, and opportunities for debate have been tabled and then pulled. Can she pin this down precisely? She is not saying that this will be a 90-minute motion in the standard form of a normal Government motion, so presumably the debate will be all day on 14 February. If so, will she confirm that the business of the House motion necessary to enable that will be tabled on Wednesday 13 February? If not on Wednesday, then when?

As I have tried to set out, if we are able to bring back a second meaningful vote, the vote to approve the deal will be on a motion under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and it will be an amendable motion, as it was in January. Any business motion that may be necessary will be tabled in the usual way, and will be debatable and amendable in accordance with the usual rules of the House. If there is no revised deal, the Prime Minister has set out that she will provide an update to the House next week, and if necessary I will provide a revised business statement. If there is not a meaningful vote, the debate next week will not be on a motion under section 13, but because of a commitment that the Government have made outside the statutory framework of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Any motion brought forward then will be tabled in good time for right hon. and hon. Members to amend it.

At the recent British Education Awards, a student from Harrow College in my constituency, Venelina Urlachka, was awarded one of the top prizes. She achieved an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Business with a distinction. She has now not only gone on to an internship but a job. May we have a debate in Government time on the importance of further education in encouraging and enabling young people, who possibly do not want to go to university, to further their careers and ensure that they get a decent education and good job opportunities in later life?

I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituent. That sounds like an excellent achievement. He is absolutely right. The Government want to support those who wish to go on to university and those who prefer to go on to an apprenticeship or further education in an FE college. It is fantastic to see that not only are there record rates of 18-year-olds getting into university, but that we are committing millions of extra money to help teachers and leaders prepare to deliver T-levels, which will give young people the choice of a more academic or technical-based education.

Last night there was a very substantial explosion in Batley, resulting in the attendance of 10 fire engines and a tri-service response. Five people are currently in hospital receiving treatment. Is it possible to have a debate on developing further capacity for West Yorkshire fire and rescue when responding to large-scale emergencies, against an uncertain financial backdrop post 2020?

I am sure all hon. Members were very sorry to hear about that explosion. We should all pay tribute to those who go out and deal with the consequences, and send our very best wishes to those still recovering from that explosion. The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We owe a great debt to our fire and rescue services. They do a fantastic job. She might like to seek an Adjournment debate so she can talk about the specific requirements in her fire and rescue area.

My constituency is just down the road from Birmingham. It has very strong links with the West Midlands Combined Authority, the wider region and the city of Birmingham. May we have a debate about the regeneration of the area under the Conservative Mayor, Andy Street? Can we include in that debate the role of the Commonwealth games? I am a newly elected vice-chair for the all-party group on the Commonwealth games, and we want to see how the games can advance this agenda.

First, I wish my hon. Friend every success with the new all-party group. I think there will be great interest in it. It is fantastic that in Birmingham company formations have risen by 10%. The city is thriving under the new Conservative Mayor, Andy Street. There is a new headquarters for HSBC. Birmingham is the test city for the 5G mobile network and, as my hon. Friend says, it will be the host of the 2022 Commonwealth games. I know she and I share the Government’s belief in extending growth and opportunity right across the United Kingdom.

May we have a debate on Facebook? This week we learned that the brilliant political comedian Matt Forde had his ads banned from Facebook because his show is called “Brexit through the gift shop”. Should Facebook not be more concerned with blocking the fake news and Russian bots that are undermining our democracy, rather than being a slave to an algorithm that cannot recognise a simple joke?

The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point. We are all so deeply concerned about the way that social media giants are pushing harmful content to those who really must not see it. They should be doing the exact opposite to that. Yet, at the same time, because of the technical way in which these things work, they are unable to tell the difference between a joke and a piece of serious content. The Government are clear that much more needs to be done to tackle online harms. We are committed to introducing legislation. He will be aware that we will be bringing forward a White Paper soon to look very closely at what more needs to be done. In the meantime, the social media giants are being told very firmly that they need to take more responsibility for what they allow.

Since 2010, the national ophthalmology database has analysed the outcomes of cataract surgery—the most commonly performed operation in the NHS. The NOD enables a cataract surgeon to compare performances and allows the patients to do the same, while driving continuous improvement. The funding for that, from the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership, will cease in August 2019. The NOD currently costs £400,000 per year and requires an additional £100,000 to include age-related macular degradation and glaucoma. Will a Minister come to the Dispatch Box to answer the request from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists for direct funding from NHS England to allow the NOD to deliver on the aim of the NHS’s big data, driving the transformation of healthcare in the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend raises a very important subject. He will be aware that more than 300,000 cataract operations are carried out every year in England alone. He will appreciate that NHS England’s funding decisions are a matter for it, but I certainly welcome all action to improve outcomes for patients, including in the very important area of eye disease. I strongly recommend that he seeks an Adjournment debate so that he can raise this really important issue directly with Ministers.

Further to the question from the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger), I and others were granted a Backbench business debate in Westminster Hall two weeks ago on knife crime, but the demand for time way outstripped supply. There were lots of speakers who could not be called or who could not attend the debate. Like the hon. Gentleman, I think that there should be a full debate in Government time specifically on violent crime and knife crime, but failing that, could we have a statement from the Home Secretary on this wave of violent crime, which has swept London and the rest of England?

The hon. Gentleman raises one of the most significant issues that is raised at Business questions every week, and he is absolutely right to do so. The appalling problem of knife crime is something that the Government are absolutely committed to tackling. He will have seen that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins)—the crime and vulnerabilities Minister—has just taken her place and has heard what he had to say. I know that she has undertaken to update the House on a regular basis.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have published the serious violence strategy and established a serious violence taskforce, and that the Offensive Weapons Bill is passing through Parliament in order that we can do much more to try to keep young people away from a life of gang and knife crime, which leads to such appalling outcomes for them and their families.

I understand that the Government will shortly be publishing their proposed schedule of tariffs in the event of no deal. Does my right hon. Friend anticipate that that would be accompanied, if not at least by an oral statement, by a general debate? Whatever one thinks of the desirability of that outcome, I am sure that she agrees that for our business, farmers and consumers, it raises incredibly complex logistical questions to which we would all like answers.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that this is an incredibly important area. He will be aware that we have just had Department for International Trade questions at which the subject was raised. There will be a further opportunity next Thursday, when we have the debate on withdrawal from the European Union, and I encourage him to raise it again then.

I understand that the Leader of the House’s job is to look after Government business and represent the Government’s view in the House of Commons, so will she guide me? I want an early debate where I can vote on the future existence of the Bank of England, because I have tried in two Question Times to get the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade even to mention the fact that the Bank of England has done a really thorough report stating that every region—every town and city in this country—will be dramatically poorer outside Europe. I want a debate on that so that we can grassroot the penalties of leaving Europe and have that clear, and have a Minister who would talk about the Bank of England. If it is not good enough to write independent reports, we should get rid of it.

First, I think the Bank of England is an incredibly valuable and valued institution. Its role, of course, is to prepare for all eventualities, as indeed is the job of Government—to be prepared for all eventualities. What the Bank of England does in its forecast is look at different outcomes in order that it can take measures as necessary to protect the UK economy and UK jobs and prosperity, and it is right that it does that. The hon. Gentleman will, of course, have the opportunity to raise the question of Bank of England forecasts in the debate next Thursday.

A couple of years ago, Bolton Council’s Labour leadership handed over £300,000 of taxpayers’ money to now bankrupt Asons Solicitors. For the second year running, Labour has chosen to dodge auditing that handover of cash and a vast swathe of other moneys. Can we have a debate on the council’s lack of openness over how it handles taxpayers’ money?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the need for local authority finances to be properly interrogated and for councils to take swift action to address any issues raised by auditors, but, as he will be aware, internal audit arrangements are a matter for each council to consider as part of its own governance arrangements. I am sure he will agree, however, that elected councillors must be transparent about financial arrangements, which are integral to local accountability, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate or to raise his concerns directly with Ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The Government’s negative resolution statutory instrument on human medicines contains a serious shortage protocol to allow pharmacists to dispense a completely different drug in times of shortage but—critically—without consulting the prescriber, as is the rule now. It is clearly to prepare for drug shortages after Brexit. Does the Leader of the House not agree that such a radical change of medical responsibility requires debate and scrutiny?

The hon. Lady raises an important point, and I am aware of this long-standing protocol. She might be aware that the official Opposition have prayed against the human medicines regulations 2019 and that therefore there will almost certainly be the opportunity to debate them. She could also raise the matter at Health and Social Care questions on Tuesday 19 February.

Last week, the Harlow Star newspaper closed its doors for the last time, meaning that for the first time since 1953 our town does not have a local newspaper. Can we have an urgent statement on the support for and revival of local newspapers? Thousands of elderly people will now be disfranchised from local news, despite there being an excellent online newspaper called Your Harlow.

My right hon. Friend raises an important matter on behalf of his constituents, and I am sure many hon. Members will have a lot of sympathy. High-quality journalism is vital to our democracy, and I am very sorry to hear about the closure of the Harlow Star. He might be aware that the Government have commissioned Dame Frances Cairncross, supported by an expert advisory panel, to conduct an independent review of press sustainability, and we expect the report to be published soon. Once it has been published, the Government will respond in due course.

When we finish early, as we did yesterday, it raises the question of whether the Government are using the time available effectively. Can we have a statement on how the cancelling of the recess has affected staff and impacted on their caring responsibilities and other reasonable plans? What support and mitigation are the authorities putting in place to support the staff who do so much to support us?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise that question. I am assured that the House staff—those who provide us with a range of support in this place, from Clerk advice and digital support to support in the Tea Rooms, cleaning and so on—are almost all unaffected. If they have holidays booked or childcare or other arrangements they need to make, they will be able to continue to fulfil their responsibilities, so I am reassured by the House authorities that it will not impact significantly on the day-to-day work of those who support us.

At the recent Council of Europe meeting, we heard details of how sharia law courts are being used in the UK to dispense alternative dispute resolutions, which particularly disadvantage women. Can we have a debate on that to determine how to deal with it without driving them underground?

That sounds very concerning. I encourage my hon. Friend to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise the issue directly with Ministers.

On Tuesday evening, a 19-year-old was fatally stabbed on the Surrey Lane estate in Battersea. That was another life lost, and another tragic example of how our young people are being failed. Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics show that the level of fatal knife crime is at its highest since records began. We cannot escape the fact that cuts in police, youth services and education budgets are feeding this rise in knife crime. In Wandsworth, the Tory council has cut youth services by just under £2 million. These cuts have consequences. May we have an urgent statement from the Home Secretary on the record rise in violent crime?

First, let me say how sorry I am to hear about yet another tragic knife-related death. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise it here, and she will know that the Government are doing everything possible to try to tackle the increase in knife crime. She will be aware of, for example, the recently announced £200 million youth endowment fund to support children and young people at risk, and the significant new early intervention youth fund to encourage young people away from a life of knife crime and gang membership. However, she also raised the issue of police funding. She must ask herself why she did not support the additional funds—up to £970 million—for police budgets. If she feels that this is such a significant issue, she and her party must support increased resources for policing.

Given the pressures on today’s Order Paper to which the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) referred, might the Leader of the House find an opportunity—the earliest opportunity—for a general debate on beer taxation and pubs?

I believe that my hon. Friend chairs the all-party parliamentary beer group, so I well understand his disappointment at the decision to postpone that debate. I assure him that I will seek another opportunity for a debate on the subject.

Delays in pension reforms will mean that low-paid workers, typically women with multiple part-time jobs, will be worse off in retirement by tens of thousands of pounds. In 2017, the Government promised to boost the pensions of low-paid earners by scrapping the lower earnings limit, but they have given no concrete date for the change. May we have a debate in Government time on bringing forward that change?

The hon. Lady will be aware that the Government have sought to improve the incomes of pensioners and those on fixed lower incomes. She will also be aware that questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will take place on Monday 11 February, and I suggest that she raises her point then.

Yesterday, the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), was unable to tell the Procedure Committee whether we would scrutinise 50 or 100 affirmative procedure statutory instruments. The front page of the Financial Times says that businesses are up in arms because the Government have failed to get the trade treaties through. And where is the Agriculture Bill? Its Committee stage ended before Christmas, and massive uncertainty is being created for farmers.

As I explained to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), we have laid more than 400 of the up to 600 statutory instruments that need to be delivered by 29 March, and we are confident that all of them will be completed by Brexit day.

The hon. Lady also asked about Brexit primary legislation. All the Bills that need Royal Assent by the date of our leaving the EU will achieve it, and the Bills that do not will achieve it within the timescales that are required for them. All those Bills continue their passage through both Houses, and I remain confident that we shall have passed all the necessary legislation by the date of leaving the EU.

There have been several major and, indeed, tragic fires in recent days. Has the Leader of the House had any indication from Ministers at the Home Office, which is responsible for fire policy, or at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for building regulations, that they may wish to make a statement or, better still, find time for a debate on the value and advantages of fire sprinkler systems?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have had a number of debates in which the merits of fire sprinkler systems have been discussed, and there is no clear picture. In some cases they are incredibly helpful; in others they are not. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate so that Ministers can update him on exactly what the thinking is now.

Last month I secured a Westminster Hall debate on social mobility to which the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), responded. During that debate, it became increasingly clear that if we are to transform the life chances of people in my town and others, there must be a whole-system, whole-Government approach. Social mobility is not just about schools; it is relevant to the remits of the Department for Transport, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. May we have a debate in Government time on the cross-departmental organisation of social mobility to help areas to develop their local action plans?

The hon. Lady has raised the incredibly important—if not the most important—issue of how we can tackle and improve levels of social mobility. I am currently chairing an interministerial cross-Whitehall group that is considering the early years—the period between conception and the age of two—which is often held to be one of the most critical periods in which subsequent social mobility can be determined. The hon. Lady raises a valuable issue, and I encourage her to seek a Westminster Hall or Back-Bench debate so that all Members can present their own proposals.

As the House will know, I have never shied away from dealing with issues that some people might consider taboo, and today I want to talk about incontinence. Last Friday, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), I met Martin Kilgallon, who represents The Whole Autism Family. He told us that some parents face severe hardship because if their children need to use incontinence pads, they are allowed a maximum of four per day. There are limits to the number of pads that people can receive, largely owing to funding constraints. May we have a debate in Government time on that issue, and on maintaining the dignity of people who need incontinence aids?

The hon. Lady raises an issue that is critical for those who suffer from incontinence—it is the most awful thing to experience. She is absolutely right to say that we need to do everything we can to support those people. As she will know, Health and Social Care questions will take place on 19 February. I urge her to raise the issue directly with Ministers then, or perhaps to seek an Adjournment debate.

I often refer to matters of worldwide importance in the House, sometimes during business questions. It seems that every week we bring to the House something new and, unfortunately, something very tragic.

On Monday morning, Amnesty International reported that Boko Haram had killed at least 60 people in a “devastating” attack on the north-eastern Nigerian town of Rann. Fighters on motorcycles drove through the town setting houses on fire, randomly shooting and killing people who had been left behind. Amnesty described the attack as one of the deadliest assaults by the extremist group in its almost decade-long insurgency. Given the importance of the matter, may we have a debate or a statement?

The hon. Gentleman has raised a horrifying problem. He often refers to the abuse of people across the world for their racial or religious beliefs, and he is absolutely right to do so. I pay tribute to Amnesty for its work in highlighting such problems, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise this awful situation directly with Ministers.

The Leader of the House will know that I have been pressing her on missing legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) has already mentioned the missing Agriculture Bill, and the Fisheries Bill is also missing, but what about those statutory instruments? The right hon. Lady says that she is confident of getting through 200 of them before Brexit day, but even with my simple mathematical skills, I can work out that that would involve getting through about seven per sitting day. The SIs are overwhelmingly concentrated in four Departments, and as Opposition Whip for one of those Departments, I can tell her that I have several box files of SIs that have yet to be scheduled. Why is she so confident that we are going to manage to do this, with proper scrutiny, in time for 29 March?

I say again that we have up to 600 Brexit SIs. In this Session we have introduced a whole new system of monitoring, specifically to ensure that we are in control of the order and flow of SIs, that we get the job done in time, that the quality of impact assessments and explanatory memorandums is absolutely right, and that the SIs get the required scrutiny of this House. I can only reiterate that we are confident that we will be able to get the necessary legislation through by 29 March.

It is worrying but necessary that all horse-racing in Britain has been cancelled today after vaccinated horses were found to have equine influenza. Will the Leader of the House join me in commending the British Horseracing Authority for its swift action, and can she assure me that Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are treating this as a priority and will come to the House to make a statement if necessary?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to pay tribute to the British Horseracing Authority. It has taken swift action following this concerning development, and it was right to cancel all horse-racing today. I can tell him that DEFRA is of course monitoring the situation carefully, and I will certainly pass on his view that a Minister might need to make a statement to the House, should there be any further developments.

An increasing number of my constituents are contacting me to express their concern about the potential disruption to essential medical supplies post Brexit. The Leader of the House will be aware that there are now only 50 days until our exit date, so will she make a statement on what contingency plans are in place if supply chains should fail, and on what steps are being taken to ensure that pharmaceutical companies are adequately prepared?

The hon. Lady is quite right to raise this issue. She will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has made it clear on a number of occasions that measures are in place to deal with all outcomes, including a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. We have Health questions on Tuesday 19 February, and I encourage her to seek to have her question answered directly by the Minister again then.

Can the Leader of the House confirm that the only reason for the light business and the extremely early rising of the House yesterday was that she and other Ministers had somewhere else to be—namely, going cap in hand to the dodgy Russian oligarchs and City hedge fund billionaires who are now the main source of finance for the Conservative party?

The hon. Gentleman is denigrating this House. Yesterday, we were talking about compensation payments for people who have suffered from asbestosis and other appalling conditions. The Government seek to provide adequate time for such debates, but we do not then take people by the scruff of the neck and insist that they speak in them. If individual Members choose not to contribute to those debates, that is not the fault of the Government. The Government provided time for some very important statutory instruments to be debated yesterday. I also think that it is extremely offensive of the hon. Gentleman to make the assertions that he does. I can tell him that I was in a meeting until 7 o’clock last night.

Is the Leader of the House aware that 150 job losses at Babcock in Rosyth have been announced today following the Queen Elizabeth contracts coming to an end? Would she consider granting a debate in Government time on why the national shipbuilding strategy is not working for the industry, for my constituents or for the country?

I am very sorry to hear about the job losses in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I know that the Jobcentre Plus rapid support teams will certainly be available to help those who are looking to redeploy. He will be aware that the Government have a clear shipbuilding strategy to try to ensure that we have a thriving pipeline of future business, and I encourage him to raise his specific concerns at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions on Tuesday 12 February.

Please may we have a debate on the situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey? I ask this question on behalf of Imam Sis in my constituency, who is currently on hunger strike, along with hundreds of people around the world, to raise awareness of the persecution of the Kurds.

I know that many hon. and right hon. Members are very concerned about the plight of the Kurds, and the hon. Lady is quite right to raise this matter. I suggest that she seeks an Adjournment debate so that she can get a rapid answer from Ministers as to what the UK’s position is and what we are doing to offer support in these cases.

I want to start by thanking the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) for agreeing to the postponement of his Back-Bench business debate later this afternoon in order to allow the antisocial behaviour debate to go ahead and have sufficient time. However, this does raise the issue of the allocation of time for these important bread-and-butter debates that Members want to have in the House. Like many other Members, I was disappointed when the House rose early yesterday. I thought it might have happened because people had to go and get their posh frocks on for the event that has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), but I am reassured by the Leader of the House saying that that was not the case. Will she, however, ensure that sufficient time is made available for Members to debate these important issues? We know that Brexit is important, but these other issues that we want to debate are important as well.

I am incredibly sympathetic to the hon. Lady, and I pay tribute to her because I genuinely think that she is one of the hardest working Members in this place. She raises many varied and vital issues in business questions and at all other opportunities, and she is quite right to do so. I want to reassure her and the House once again that yesterday’s business was a function of the number of Members who wanted to speak in those debates, and that there was certainly no attempt on the part of the Government or anyone else to try to finish the business early. It is vital that Members should be aware of that. I was also disappointed to see that today’s second debate had been postponed, and, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South, I will seek a further opportunity for it to be held.

May we have a debate on financial barriers to accessing continuing healthcare? My constituents who receive cancer treatment at Castle Hill Hospital across the river in Hull get toll-free crossings until their chemo or radiotherapy ends, but when they go for all their follow-up checks, they have to travel for nearly an hour and pay for their petrol and parking, and they also have the additional cost of the bridge toll, which does not seem very fair or equitable for residents across the Humber area.

The hon. Lady raises an important constituency issue, and she is absolutely right to do so. I was not made aware of that particular concern in advance, but I encourage her to raise it with Health Ministers at oral questions on 19 February.

Will the Leader of the House recognise the amazing work of Donnie Shaw, the butcher in Wallacewell Road in Balornock in my constituency? He has fundraised with the community to install a community defibrillator on his premises, and it was installed in September last year. It has already been put into action, in January, in response to a 999 call when someone took unwell outside his shop, and it potentially saved that person’s life. Community defibrillators can make the difference between life and death in many situations, as they can make a vital difference in those seconds before the first responders come along. The butcher is at the heart of the wider community activity, and the defibrillator is named in memory of a 19-year-old man, Marc Hegarty, who died in June 2018. This has been an amazing initiative, so may we have a debate in Government time on the vital role that community defibrillators can play and on what Government funding might be available to support such initiatives?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the importance of defibrillators; he is absolutely right to say that they can save lives. The more community and school-based defibrillators we have, the better, and I should like to join him in congratulating Donnie Shaw on his work to make this happen. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have Government time for a debate on connecting communities by supporting charities and volunteers on Wednesday afternoon next week, and I hope that he will raise this issue then.

The Coventry and Warwickshire year of wellbeing 2019 is now very much under way and was inspired by a unique partnership between Coventry and Warwickshire’s health and wellbeing boards. The aim of the joint initiative is to emphasise the importance of positive action to safeguard health and wellbeing and of working collectively to address the challenges that affect us all, such as the rise in mental ill health, physical inactivity and less tangible problems, such as loneliness and social isolation. We are all guilty of taking the importance of wellbeing for granted—especially in this place—so may we have a debate in Government time on how to inspire everyone to recognise, celebrate and improve wellbeing?

All colleagues can be reassured by the hon. Lady’s commitment to general wellbeing. She has previously asked for a debate in Government time on sport, which I was pleased to grant, and mentioned wellbeing and the health of the nation in so doing, for which I commend her. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will be greatly interested in her thoughts on how the new initiative will help with general wellbeing, so I encourage her to raise the matter directly with Ministers.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 2025 in the name of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), signed by me and 58 other Members, about rates of pay for security staff on the parliamentary estate?

[That this House notes the valuable work done by security staff on the parliamentary estate; further notes the current dispute between security staff represented by the PCS union and the House authorities concerning overtime rates; believes that security staff recruited in summer 2016 should be paid in line with the original rates offered and not the incorrect ones specified in their terms and conditions; further believes that the decision to correct the rates for staff employed thereafter but not do the same for the staff already employed breaches basic principles of fairness; urges the Director of Security for Parliament to look again at this matter and bring the rates of pay for the cohort of staff affected by this error in line with the original offer on overtime rates; and calls on the House authorities to lead by example when it comes to the employment of security staff.]

Has the Leader of the House considered the impact on the programme of House business if those staff take industrial action? Will she join me in encouraging the House authorities to resolve the dispute as a matter of great urgency?

I regularly meet the director general, and I received an update quite recently on this potential industrial action. I am assured that all steps are being taken to ensure that we are all kept safe and that actions are taken to reduce the concerns of members of staff.

The Leader of the House and I share a strong interest in early years and ensuring the best start in life, and she is doing tremendous work chairing the inter-departmental ministerial group. Will she give a progress report on the work of that group and perhaps provide time for this House to debate its findings?

My hon. Friend is right that he and I have for many years shared a huge interest in support for the early years, and I pay tribute to him for his work on the “1001 Critical Days” campaign. The ministerial group has conducted a significant amount of information gathering, and I had a fantastic visit to Manchester with the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) just a couple of weeks ago to look at the excellent work being done in children’s centres in her constituency. We are continuing to gather data and hope to come forward with recommendations in the next couple of months.

Will the Leader of the House categorically assure the House that our statute book will be ready for exit day?

While kicking and screaming, Gloucestershire County Council has had dragged out of it the true cost of the incinerator to be imposed on my constituency at Javelin Park. It now appears that there was some impropriety in the way in which the information was brought forward. Will the Leader of the House organise an urgent debate on how local authorities handle big contracts to ensure that proper checks and balances are in place?

The hon. Gentleman has raised this matter in the Chamber before, and I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can find out from Ministers whether some rules may have been breached.