Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for the week commencing 29 April will be:
Monday 29 April—A motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the Chemical Weapons (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 618), followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the Zimbabwe (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 604), followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the Republic of Belarus (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 600), followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the Syria (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 792), followed by a motion relating to the membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
Tuesday 30 April—Second Reading of the National Insurance Contributions (Termination Payments and Sporting Testimonials) Bill.
Wednesday 1 May—Opposition day (19th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.
Thursday 2 May—A general debate on World Immunisation Week.
Friday 3 May—The House will not be sitting.
I welcome all staff and Members of this House back to Parliament after Easter. First, I want to echo the sentiment expressed yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions by paying tribute to Lyra McKee. We send our deepest sympathies to her friends and family, and in this House we will always stand against those who committed such a horrendous act.
The whole House was shocked and appalled at the attacks on three Christian churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. We send our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and who have been affected by that atrocity.
This month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, a valuable opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the millions of people who are affected by this terrible disease, and to help ensure a future when nobody needs to die of bowel cancer.
Finally, I wish all those standing in next week’s local elections all the best for the final week of campaigning. We should continue to encourage anyone with an interest in serving their community to stand for election, and we should do everything to encourage anyone with an interest in serving their community to stand for election, and we should do everything possible to protect our democracy from unacceptable abuse and intimidation.
I finish by paying tribute to all of those who are willing to put themselves forward for public service.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and for our second Opposition day. We ask for one and two come along—a bit like buses, which is quite interesting because the Labour party is announcing £1.3 billion-worth of investment to reverse the Government cuts to 3,000 bus routes. That is a lifeline to our pensioners.
It was the Prime Minister herself who announced a two-year parliamentary Session, in mid-June 2017, just after the election. We know that there is not a fixed length of time for Sessions, and that it is usual for the first Session after an election to go to 18 months, but there is correspondence circulating—I say circulating, rather than leaked—which shows that, as I understand it, Whitehall has been told to work towards a new parliamentary Session starting in or around June 2019. What is the Government line on when this Session will end and the new one will begin, because important Bills—the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill, the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill—all need their Report stage?
I have previously raised at business questions the issue of the 17,000 British students who had planned to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from September. The Leader of the House did not respond to that query, so our young people need to know whether their funding is secured. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or for Exiting the European Union—I do not mind which—ensuring that that funding is guaranteed? That is why we need a Queen’s Speech.
In our Queen’s Speech, we would deal with the climate emergency. It was a Labour Government who passed the world’s first Climate Change Act in 2008, and we are the leading country working to achieve the agreements from Kyoto. The Government’s response so far is to expand Heathrow airport and facilitate fracking, and they have a 25-year environment plan—and no statement on a scrappage scheme for diesel cars. By the end of that plan, Greta, who spoke so movingly to all of us, will be 41 years old. I do not think that is what she had in mind when she spoke of the climate emergency.
We need a Queen’s Speech because we need to stop the Department for Work and Pensions’ failing system of assessments. I ask this again, following the tragic death of Stephen Smith, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate that left him in chronic pain, but was deemed fit to work by the DWP. No one should be fighting the DWP from their sickbed.
The Leader of the House is right: our democracy is under threat. At the first meeting of the new Sub-Committee on Disinformation, the Information Commissioner said that she was “surprised and disappointed” by the lack of space given to the regulation of online political campaigns in the Government’s recent Online Harms White Paper, saying that there should be more focus on what she called a “huge societal harm”. The Information Commissioner said that a million people clicked on Facebook adverts paid for by Mainstream Network, with an unknown number going on to email their MP to urge them to reject the Prime Minister’s plans for a Brexit deal. The emails of over a million people who responded to that campaign for a hard Brexit may have been collected.
If we cannot have a Queen’s Speech, could we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on how the Government will regulate online political campaigns? Otherwise, we are in danger of electing a comedian, as they have done in Ukraine.
More important, could we have a debate on early-day motion 2309 on Donald Trump’s proposed state visit, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty)?
[That this House deplores the record of US President Donald Trump, including his misogynism, racism and xenophobia; condemns his previous comments on women, refugees and torture; further condemns his lack of action on climate change and failure to support the Paris Climate Change Deal; further deplores his sharing of online content related to a far-right extremist organisation in the UK; deprecates his comments about the Mayor of London; notes previous motions and debates in the House including on the withholding of the honour of a joint address to the Houses of Parliament; further notes the historical significance and honour that comes with the choice to offer a full state visit to an individual; and calls on the Prime Minister and the Government to rescind the advice to offer a full state visit to President Trump.]
The President, who is entitled to come here on any other visit but not in our name, has spearheaded a dangerous policy of separating migrant children from their families and of banning Muslims from the USA; suggested today that GCHQ spied on his election campaign; referred to nations as “Sh**hole countries”; and called news outlets “fake news” in an attempt to limit the freedom of the press. The report by the Special Counsel says that he has obstructed justice. At least the EDM was transparent and not redacted.
Will the Leader of the House look into something that a colleague has raised and issue some guidance for what colleagues do outside each other’s houses? They should not be tweeting outside people’s homes; that is not acceptable to their families. I will give her the name of the hon. Member later.
Whether it is 359 people, including 48 children, or Lyra McKee, life has needlessly been taken away. As Lyra’s family have said:
“Lyra’s answer would have been simple, the only way to overcome hatred and intolerance is with love, understanding and kindness.”
Murdered on Holy Thursday, she will forever be linked to peace and the Good Friday agreement.
Our thoughts are with the families in Sri Lanka who have been destroyed forever by these events: innocent people enjoying their lives or—as Lyra was—a journalist doing her work. It is our duty and our responsibility to them, as Father Magill said, to work for peace.
I thank the shadow Leader of the House for her remarks about Lyra McKee. It was a fitting tribute that all Members would agree with.
The hon. Lady asked when this parliamentary Session will end. As ever, it is subject to the progress of parliamentary business, and an announcement will be made in the usual way at the appropriate moment. She asked about Erasmus+. She will be aware that, while we remain a member of the European Union, students will continue to be part of the Erasmus arrangements. Under the withdrawal agreement and future economic partnership with the EU, new arrangements will be put in place, but it is this Government’s ambition to seize many new opportunities for young people to study overseas and form links around the world. We have Education questions on Monday 29 April, and she may wish to raise her specific question then.
The hon. Lady asked about climate change and the climate crisis. I would like to pay tribute to all those who have done so much to peacefully share their views about the importance of addressing climate change. She will be aware that it was this Government who ratified the Paris agreement in November 2016. I was proud to be part of that team when I was Energy Minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. It was the first truly global legally binding agreement to tackle climate change, and I know that all Members support it.
In the UK, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25% since 2010, and UK carbon dioxide emissions have fallen for six years in a row—the longest streak on record. The hon. Lady is right to mention our 25-year environment plan, which pledges to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. I banned plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. It is important that we do everything we can to protect our marine environment. Air pollution has also been reduced significantly since 2010, and we have put in place a clean air strategy and a clean growth strategy, both of which aim to ensure that we lead the world in decarbonisation—something that matters a great deal to all of us.
The hon. Lady raised the tragic case of Stephen Smith. I have seen on social media that his was a most appalling situation. I am not aware of the exact circumstances surrounding his tragic death, but it was a very harrowing story. The Government spend £55 billion a year to support disabled people and people with health conditions, which is up £10 billion in real terms since 2010, and we do everything in our power to ensure that we prioritise the wellbeing of people with disabilities.
The hon. Lady also asked about online harms and in particular what we can do to ensure proper protection of people’s data and protection from the abuse that we see all too often. She will be aware that the Online Harms White Paper sets out our plans for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, overseen by an independent regulator, and we will make a further announcement on that in due course.
Finally, the hon. Lady mentioned the state visit from the President of the United States. All Members will be aware that the UK has a special and enduring relationship with the United States, based on our long history and commitment to shared values. The upcoming visit will be an opportunity to strengthen our already close relationship—one based on a frank exchange of views and, where we disagree, making our disagreements frankly known. It will also be an opportunity to discuss how we can build on our close ties with the United States in the years ahead.
I chair the all-party parliamentary group on building communities, and on Tuesday we launched our inquiry into how we can build not only more housing units in this country but the infrastructure to make homes fit to live in, so that we build communities rather than just empty shells. May we have a debate in Government time on how to change this country’s infrastructure to encourage the building of communities, rather than just putting up houses that are soulless and that people do not want to live in?
My hon. Friend makes a really important point. We are trying not only to build houses—that is a top domestic priority for the Government, to ensure that everybody has a safe and secure home of their own—but to ensure that they are in proper communities with the right level of infrastructure. I encourage him to seek a Westminster Hall or Backbench debate, so that all Members can share their experiences and views.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week, and I echo the tributes to Lyra McKee and the victims of the appalling slaughter in Sri Lanka.
It is good to be back, but it almost feels as though we have not been away at all. We have still not left the EU, surprise, surprise. The Prime Minister is still in office—just—and we are still all looking forward to the European elections, which I know Government Members are looking forward to as much as we in Scotland are looking forward to Prime Minister Boris. Can we have a debate on why the good citizens of the United Kingdom should get out there and exercise their right to vote in those crucial elections? There is such a variety of choice. They could choose, like 40% of Conservative councillors, to vote for the Farage vanity party or the Kippers. They could vote for leave Labour or remain Labour, or some combination of the two. And then there are the Change UK TIGgers. The wonderful thing about them is that, thankfully, they are the only ones. Can we have a debate about that, to get some excitement into the European elections?
The only item of business that the Government want is another shot at their thrice-defeated withdrawal agreement. According to our friends in the press, that might happen as soon as next week. Apparently, the talks with Labour are going both disastrously and really well, according to who we speak to and what time of the day it is. Can the Leader of the House furnish us with her thinking on the withdrawal agreement, when we might expect to see it back and whether it meets the strictures laid down by you, Mr Speaker?
Lastly, we on the SNP Benches might not be sticking around here for much longer. Scotland is looking at this Brexit freak show and increasingly saying, “Naw, no thank you.” Imagine being in Scotland and thinking that the isolating ugliness of this disastrous Brexit is the best that Scotland could ever be or aspire to. That is why there will be another referendum on our independence, and Scotland will be saying, “It’s been good to know you, but we think we’ll manage on our own, thank you very much.”
Well, obviously, we would miss our resident rock star, should the hon. Gentleman choose to leave us, but I can safely say that we will not miss his terrible jokes. As for him saying that the TIGgers are the only ones, I do not think that that is their aspiration. They hope to grow in number, and I am not sure whether he wishes them success or disaster; we will see.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the European elections. He will be aware that the Commons rejection of the withdrawal agreement on 29 March is the reason why we now face European elections. We in the Government have explored every avenue to find ways to avoid fighting the European parliamentary elections. After all, a majority of people in the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union. It is absolutely unacceptable that, three years on, we face the need to fight European elections because this House has not found it in its heart to allow us to fulfil the will of the people. That is a great shame, and I am personally extremely upset about it. It is vital that we bring in the withdrawal agreement Bill, to give the House the opportunity to make progress on delivering on the will of the people.
Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman, as he so often does, shows his determination to ignore the result of not only the referendum of 2016 but the referendum of 2014. His party is determined to ask people the question again because it did not like the answer, and that is not the way for a proper democracy in the western world to go about its business.
Order. A further 33 Members are seeking to catch my eye, and as colleagues know, it is my usual practice to seek to accommodate everybody. However, I have a responsibility to protect the Backbench Business Committee debates as well, and I must advise the House that the first of those two debates, on school funding, has no fewer than 23 would-be contributors. I cannot guarantee that everybody will be called, and there is a premium upon extreme brevity from now on.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on clinical commissioning groups restricting access to treatments formally approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NHS England and other health authorities? I was shocked to learn that Southend CCG is restricting cataract, hernia and knee and hip replacement operations by putting them on a list of procedures of limited proven value.
I am very sorry to hear of this situation, but as my hon. Friend will know, blanket restrictions on effective treatments are unacceptable. NHS England should take action if there is evidence of rationing of care, and if the CCG is breaching its statutory responsibility to provide services to the local population. He may like to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can raise this matter directly with a Health Minister.
Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking the brave firefighters and emergency workers who have been dealing with the fires on Ilkley moor and other moors nearby? They are overstretched, and working hard in extremely difficult conditions to bring these damaging and dangerous fires under control. May we have a debate on properly funding our fire services and, crucially, on the importance of informing the public about fire prevention?
I certainly join the hon. Lady in thanking and paying tribute to all those firefighters working so hard to put out wildfires, which are a problem right across the UK. She is right that we should do everything possible to ensure the public are aware of the risk of these wildfires, and I encourage her to seek an Adjournment debate.
On 11 April, the statutory instrument was tabled to extend the period before we leave the European Union to 31 October, and it was rushed through this House during the afternoon following the Council meeting attended by the Prime Minister. Eighty Members of Parliament have signed my prayer for the annulment of that statutory instrument, which we regard as ultra vires and void. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is very soon a debate on that statutory instrument and, naturally, on the issues at stake? We believe that that debate should be held on the Floor of the House.
My hon. Friend will be aware that rejecting this SI would not change exit day as set out in international law, but instead create legal chaos as our domestic statute book would not reflect our current status with the EU. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend has made representations for a debate on this subject, and I am pleased to be able to tell him that I will be able to grant a debate on this statutory instrument in due course.
I, too, welcome the return of Opposition days to the Order Paper, although it would be even more welcome if the Government started to pay some heed to what the House says on these occasions. However, may I say to the Leader of the House that there is now a multiplicity of voices on the Opposition Benches? We have a Member of Parliament elected to represent the interests of the Green party; we have a number of non-aligned Members of Parliament; and the Independent Group is now constituted formally as a political party. In the interests of all voices being heard, the Independent Group Members in particular should be entitled to time, and I very much look forward to pursuing matters of common interest to my party and theirs if they were to get it.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, which I will take away and consider carefully. I am grateful to him for raising this point. This gives me an opportunity to raise one other issue he mentioned, which is whether the Government choose to vote on any Opposition day. Hon. Members will be aware that that is decided on a case-by-case basis, and they will also be aware that Standing Orders are very clear that there is no requirement on any Member of Parliament to vote on any motion.
What I can inform the House of—this may be of help to the House—is my response to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s recent report on resolutions of the House of Commons. I have set out a motion under which, if an Opposition party motion is approved by the House, the relevant Minister will respond to that resolution of the House by making a statement no more than 12 weeks after the debate. I have now shortened that to eight weeks after the debate, which I hope will give Members the opportunity to hear a faster statement by the Government on what action we plan to take, while still allowing proper time for consideration of the resolution passed by the House.
When the French potentate Napoleon described our kingdom as “a nation of shopkeepers”, doubtless he had in mind the panoply of family grocers, butchers and bakers that once populated almost every part of our isles. Now, sadly, they are too often replaced by monolithic superstores or identikit high streets dominated by a handful of soulless supermarkets. Given that the Competition and Markets Authority has today ruled out the amalgamation of two of these greedy giants, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in this House on how the Government can stand up for the independent, family-run small businesses that our constituents enjoy, and against the cold-hearted, capricious corporate conglomerates that crush competition and curtail the quality of life of our constituents?
Fantastic—and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question. Of course, he is absolutely right that we want thriving high streets. Britain’s retailers are a crucial part of our economy, supporting over 3 million jobs and contributing over £90 billion to our economy. The Competition and Markets Authority is independent, and it has made its assessment. People have different views on that, but my right hon. Friend makes a good case for a debate on what more we can do to support our high streets, and I recommend that he go to the Backbench Business Committee to seek such a debate.
Please can we have a debate on the Government’s EU settlement scheme? I know constituents who are struggling with the online process, and people who have been here for many years are finding it difficult to supply the documents. We still have no news from the Government about when there may be funding for support services in the community. The Government need to get this right quickly.
The hon. Lady raises a very important point. In fact, the EU settlement scheme is being well used. As I understand it, several hundred thousand settlement arrangements have already been agreed. I am sure the Government will be very keen to hear feedback on any areas of concern for right hon. and hon. Members. I suggest that this is raised at the next Exiting the European Union questions, so that she can raise this issue directly with Ministers.
It is just a matter of fact that the United Kingdom would have left the European Union either on 29 March or on 12 April except for the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister alone, going to Brussels and asking for an extension, so to say that the reason there are European elections is down to not passing the Government’s atrocious withdrawal Bill is wrong. Will the Leader of the House make that point clear, and will she also confirm that we will not only debate what my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has suggested, but vote on it?
My hon. Friend is very well aware that it is the Government’s policy to leave the European Union in an orderly way, and that means leaving with a deal. He will also be aware that the decision of this House not to support that deal, and indeed to require an extension to article 50, is the reason why such an extension has been agreed. I have made it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) that we will be able to grant a debate on the statutory instrument he has prayed against.
Over the bank holiday period, there were two major moorland fires close to my constituency and one major fire in my constituency. One heroic firefighter took to social media to air his concerns, saying that despite their best efforts, mother nature had beaten them. He had begged for further resources and was told that none was available. Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins), may we have an urgent debate in Government time to discuss the resources available to our beleaguered fire services?
Again, I pay tribute to the amazing work of firefighters. Particularly at this time of year and as we get to the summer, moorland fires and forest fires are a real problem and a challenge for them. I encourage the hon. Lady to seek a Westminster Hall debate so that she can raise her concern about resources directly with a Minister.
Given the enormous environmental concerns, may we have a debate in Government time about the enormous success of Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council’s recycling and rubbish collection services? It would focus on four specific issues: the amazing combined dry recycling bin service introduced last year; the green waste collection service for 30,000 households; the total fleet replacement; and the additional vehicle for the commercial collection service. Does the Leader of the House realise that this Conservative-controlled council is one of the leading councils in the midlands, and will she look kindly on my request for a debate?
I commend my hon. Friend for raising that issue and I pay tribute to the impressive performance of his excellent Conservative Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council. We are committed to increasing the quality and quantity of recycling and to ensuring that it is easier for everyone. Local authorities play a vital role in waste collection and recycling and we are consulting on how we can help them to improve services. That consultation closes on 13 May, which is in fact my birthday.
Following the Windrush scandal, my constituent was plunged into financial difficulties. He was unable to see his father before he died because he could not afford the return flight to Barbados. He spent the last of his money on a one-way ticket to attend the funeral, but he is now stranded there. His request for an exceptional payment has rolled on for months while he has been plunged into poverty. May we have a debate in Government time about the effectiveness of the compensation scheme for Windrush victims?
I am genuinely sorry to hear about the situation of the hon. Lady’s constituent. As she will know, Ministers have apologised for the mistakes that were made. Windrush citizens are British and deserve to be treated as such, and a dedicated taskforce set up to handle those cases has so far helped more than 2,400 people to get the documentation they need. She will be aware that there is also a compensation scheme and, if she wants to write to me following business questions, I will raise her particular issue directly with Ministers.
May we have a debate about equipping young people for the world of work? This evening, I will be joining graduates and supporters of Career Ready in Moray to celebrate their achievements over the last year. They include a national winner, Lee Scott from Keith Grammar School, who was engineering student of the year. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating everyone involved with the Moray Career Ready programme on what it does for young people and the businesses involved?
I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Lee and all those involved with the Moray Career Ready programme. Preparing students for adult life is one of the Government’s top priorities. The Careers and Enterprise Company, which has provided funding to Career Ready, links employers with schools and colleges and improves opportunities for young people to learn about the world of work. I congratulate everyone involved and wish them an enjoyable evening to celebrate their achievements.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on foodbanks? Today, the Trussell Trust announced that Wales has received more than 100,000 referrals to foodbanks over the last year and there has been a 43% rise in food parcels in the last five years. A third of all referrals have been down to benefit payments coming in late, and 51% of all referrals were made because of a delay in the payment of benefits linked to universal credit. Most concerningly, a spokes- person from the Department for Work and Pensions said that it is a challenge and that it is not correct to link the rise in foodbanks to the roll-out of universal credit. However, the Work and Pensions Secretary stood at the Dispatch Box and said that there is a link. May we have a statement or debate about that, and will the DWP clarify what is causing that rise in referrals, as the Department’s spokespeople clearly do not agree with the Secretary of State?
Foodbanks represent an impressive response by civil society and faith groups to supporting vulnerable people and we should thank them for all they do. The hon. Gentleman is making a serious point about the Trussell Trust report. The previous Government did not allow jobcentres to point people towards foodbanks but, since 2010, the Government have encouraged people and signposted them so that they can seek help. Universal credit is a far simpler measure to provide people with support to get into work, and some of the work in the Trussell Trust report predates changes that have been made to universal credit to ensure that people can get a whole month of payments upfront and do not need to wait. There are also measures to introduce a two-week overlap of housing benefit payments to ensure that people do not have to wait for money. I believe that the situation he describes has been significantly improved by measures that have already been taken to tighten up payments for universal credit.
Despite Scotland’s NHS, schools and transport system failing, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, announced yesterday that she will push ahead with a second referendum to break up the United Kingdom. May we have a debate to discuss the need to respect the results of referendums? Will the Leader of the House join me in reminding the leader of the SNP in Scotland that Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and does not want another divisive referendum? Nicola Sturgeon should get on with her day job.
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. It is extraordinary that, although there was a referendum only in 2014, with an overwhelming majority for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, rather than focusing on improving Scotland’s economy and schools, the Scottish nationalists are determined to ask people again because they did not get the result they wanted. We urge the Scottish nationalists to focus on delivering for the people of Scotland. May I also wish my hon. Friend the best of success in running the London marathon this weekend?
I call Dr Paul Williams—another very fit fellow.
I am also running the London marathon this weekend, Mr Speaker. Residents and businesses in Thornaby in my constituency are becoming increasingly concerned about rising levels of antisocial behaviour. They see people on the street acting with impunity because the police simply do not have the resources adequately to police the area. I know that tackling ASB involves more than just police, but the community I represent does not feel safe and needs serious Government action. Can the Leader of the House help me to get it?
I also wish the hon. Gentleman every success in running the London marathon. I think 16 Members are tackling it, so good luck to all of them. Perhaps they could carry me and I could join in. I certainly could not run it, but I wish them great success.
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important point about antisocial behaviour and the appalling impact it has on communities. I encourage him to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can discuss what more can be done to address the concerns in his community directly with Ministers.
Neighbourhood plans have been around for a long time—indeed, since I helped to invent them in 2011—so may we have a debate to discuss what they have been able to achieve for communities?
I am glad my hon. Friend reminds us that he was instrumental in writing those local plans. In my constituency, local people have very much welcomed the opportunity to determine what happens, and where and how new development takes place. That is crucial if we are to meet our ambition of ensuring that everybody has a safe and secure home of their own. I encourage him to seek a Backbench Business Committee debate so that all hon. Members can share their views and experiences.
I thought I would start by asking a question that was sent to me on Twitter by @Bravespace3:
“Where is @edwardtimpson review on school exclusions which was supposed to be released last autumn? It could help @sajidjavid understand that a #publichealth approach to violence is about more than blaming overworked professionals. @vickyfoxcroft do you know when it’s published?”
Well, @Bravespace3, I have asked eight times and I am really hoping that the Leader of the House will update us today.
As I said to the hon. Lady last week, my right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards would be delighted to meet her to discuss that issue. I hope she has taken him up on that offer.
Order. Sixteen more colleagues wish to contribute, and I would like to move on no later than 1.15 pm. Let us see what we can do.
It has been many weeks since the Prime Minister’s knife crime summit and in the meantime the wave of violence and knife crime continues to sweep London and other parts of Britain. Last night there was a double stabbing in my constituency, close to my office. When will the Home Secretary come to the Chamber, report on the summit and outline his plans?
I am sorry to hear about the latest stabbings in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and I know he has raised this issue in the Chamber on a number of occasions. He will be aware that the Government take this issue incredibly seriously. We have announced up to £970 million extra investment in the policing system for next year, as well as in the spring statement £100 million of immediate funding to enable police and crime commissioners to put further police officers on the streets to try to tackle the immediate problems. However, this is a much bigger issue than that. Our Offensive Weapons Bill has brought forward the means to restrict the sale of knives online and the introduction of knife crime prevention orders, and our £200 million youth endowment fund seeks to get young people away from being tempted into a life of knife crime and serious violence.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer), I think everybody is asking, “Where is the Home Secretary with respect to knife crime?” The Leader of the House has said week after week that she is asking him to come to make a statement. He obviously got confused because he did make a statement on knife crime but not to the House of Commons; on 16 April, I think, he announced all sorts of policies to tackle this. Only today, we see why Member after Member raises this issue. The Office for National Statistics published figures today that show homicides at record levels and that knife crime offences are at the highest they have been since records began—and the Home Secretary does not appear at the Dispatch Box. Will she go back again and ask him where he is?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have had a number of debates, urgent questions and statements in recent months on serious violence. The Prime Minister has held a summit to try to tackle this very serious issue, looking at how we can bring in all stakeholders in the NHS, education and different local government services. In addition, the Government are investing significant sums in community schemes that are trying to get young people away from gang crime and knife crime. The Government are doing everything in their power to tackle this appalling issue, but I have taken away his concerns and raised with the Home Office the desire of many hon. Members for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to come to the House to make a further statement.
Largs foodbank in my constituency has experienced significantly increased usage since November 2018: an increase of between 200% and 300% on the same period in the previous year. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out her concerns that too many people are struggling to put food on the table? In-work poverty is a disgrace and we need to do more to ensure that everyone has enough to eat.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that, in this country, nobody should go hungry. The Government have invested significant time, energy, effort and money into ensuring that universal credit replaces an old system where many people did not get the benefits they were entitled to because the system was so complicated. The new system of universal credit helps people into work and supports them to meet their own needs for as long a time as necessary while they find work for themselves and their families.
This Sunday, 28 April, marks International Workers’ Memorial Day, supported by the trade unions. Many trade union councils up and down the country will be holding events. What are the Government doing to remember the dead and to fight for the living, and to remember the workers who have died at work?
The hon. Gentleman raises a really important point. It is vital that we remember all those who have lost their lives through work, sometimes through negligence but often through accidents and so on. He may wish to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can put on the record his views and some of the reminiscences and memories of those who have lost loved ones.
May I echo the calls for a debate on the EU settlement scheme? I have a Spanish constituent who has made her home here for 46 years, but it seems that because she registered in the 1970s for indefinite leave she is being told she has to apply for a biometric permit rather than the settlement scheme. That is costing her time, money and unnecessary stress. When can a Minister come to the House to explain why EU citizens still seem to be experiencing a hostile environment?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the EU settlement scheme is being well used. It has been well established and the feedback seems to be generally positive. I am very happy, as always, to take up a specific issue on his behalf, if he would like to write to me after business questions. If it is a more general concern that he wants to raise, perhaps he could bring it up with Exiting the European Union Ministers at the next oral questions.
Thank goodness the fire at Notre Dame led to no loss of life, but if we were to have a fire in this building, parts of which are considerably older than Notre Dame, we might not be so lucky because there are 9,000 people who work here every day. Is it not time that we use this as a wake-up call? I know the Leader of the House agrees with me, but will she put on her hobnail boots, storm over to Downing Street, stamp her feet and force the Prime Minister to bring forward the parliamentary buildings Bill as fast as possible? We cannot have the French rebuild Notre Dame in five years and us still thinking about leaving 10 years later.
I am extremely sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s request. He might find traces of my hobnail boots on their way over to No. 10 over the past week or so. That prospect was not lost on me either. I was so sorry to see the terrible fire at Notre Dame. It was an absolute tragedy for the world. He is of course absolutely right that we have to ensure that we do everything possible to bring forward our own restoration and renewal Bill as soon as possible. Watch this space.
The only 24-hour ATM in Ferguslie Park in my constituency charges 95 pence per withdrawal. The ATM is outside LINK’s financial inclusion subsidy criteria, despite Ferguslie Park being the most deprived area in Scotland. May we have a debate on ATM charges and fair access to cash?
The hon. Gentleman raises a very concerning issue. I must admit that I had understood that most ATMs in deprived areas were now required not to charge for services. I recommend that he raises his particular question at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions on Tuesday 30 April directly with Ministers.
The Trussell Trust army of volunteers were shamefully forced to provide 1.6 million packages of support last year, including for 600,000 children. Southwark saw an extra 1,000 people, a rise of 25%, including for many with persistent universal credit problems. When will the Government allow time to debate the grotesque reliance on food banks that Ministers have created since 2010?
I just do not agree with the hon. Gentleman’s assessment. In fact, while it is absolutely unacceptable that people have to go hungry at any time, the Government’s policy has been to introduce universal credit as a means to help people. Some 2.4 million households will be better off as a result of changes we made at Budget. We always provide a strong safety net through the welfare system for those who need extra support. What is absolutely vital is that universal credit itself is a much simpler system that is enabling people, who previously were losing through the complexity of the many different facets of the old welfare system, to get the money they are entitled to. That is absolutely vital.
Further to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), Change UK is now a political party and we have 11 Members. Together we certainly are, I would suggest, entitled to an Opposition day debate and we would like to have it on the people’s vote. I and others would be very happy to meet the Leader to discuss how we can ensure we now have Opposition day debates that reflect the real representation across the Chamber.
I am always happy to meet right hon. and hon. Members who want to propose procedural changes and that would be the case in the right hon. Lady’s situation.
Can I say to the Government that there is a crime crisis in this country? In Greater Manchester, it is evident to every single person who lives in our community. Every single day, 600 crimes in Greater Manchester are not even investigated because the police do not, after a cut of £183 million a year, have the resources to deal with them. We are now at the stage where local communities are actively pursuing setting up private security companies to police our communities. How can that be right and fair, and what does it do for the future of policing in this country?
The hon. Gentleman raises an incredibly important point. It is absolutely right that we do everything we can to ensure we keep our communities safe. That is why the Government have provided an extra £970 million of investment in the policing system next year. It is the case that the Opposition voted against that. They need to answer the question as to why they did that. It is vital that police and crime commissioners have the resources they need to deal not only with the problems of serious violence and knife crime, but the rising levels of cyber-crime, drug-related crime and so on. That is why the Government have prioritised extra resources for the police system.
A report produced recently by Christian Solidarity Worldwide states that in certain parts of Mexico, members of religious minority groups are often pressured by local authorities either to convert to the majority faith or to participate in activities such as religious festivals that are linked to the majority faith. If they refuse, local leaders often strip them of basic services such as education by barring their children from school. In extreme cases, discrimination results in forced displacement, and children are left fully deprived of their right to education. Will the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate on this important matter?
As ever, the hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point. We are committed to freedom of religious belief, and are very concerned about the severity and scale of violations of that freedom of belief in many parts of the world.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, on 4 July 2018 the Prime Minister announced that Lord Ahmad would be the special envoy on freedom of religious belief, and on 26 December the Foreign Secretary announced an independent review of the persecution of Christians. The review will be conducted by the Bishop of Truro, and will make recommendations on additional practical steps that the Foreign Office can take to support persecuted Christians. The bishop will publish a report by the summer.
On Tuesday I will launch an all-party parliamentary group on towing and trailer safety, following the tragic death of a toddler in my constituency in 2014. I am grateful for the Government’s support for the work that I have been doing on trailer safety, and for the support of Members on both sides of the House for the APPG. May I ask the Leader of the House to support the work that we all try to do in APPGs as a good way of highlighting safety issues that are vital to our constituents?
I am delighted to commend and pay tribute to all APPGs, and in particular the one on trailer safety to which the hon. Lady has referred. Issues that crop up in our own constituencies—often, unfortunately, as a result of tragedies involving our constituents—can lead to real change.
I am proud that so many of my fellow residents and friends have been in London with Extinction Rebellion, although I shall welcome them back home after today. Given the words of Greta Thunberg—and, more particularly in my case, Polly Higgins, the great campaigner for a law on ecocide who sadly died earlier this week—will the Government now introduce their environment Bill? We do not seem to be doing much else at the moment, and saving the planet from climate change is one valuable thing that they could seek to do.
We certainly share a passionate desire to tackle the issue of global climate change and protect our planet for future generations. We understand the concerns of those who are protesting, but we are interested in solutions, not disruption.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are working hard on what is the first environment Bill in over 20 years, but that is not the only thing we are doing to improve our contribution to reducing global emissions. As I said earlier, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions in this country by 25% since 2010, and air pollution has been reduced significantly since then. Emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides have fallen by 29%, and are at their lowest level since records began. There is more to do, but a great deal is already being achieved.
The fabulous Etape Loch Ness event will take place this Sunday, when nearly 6,000 people will get on their bikes and cycle around Loch Ness. May we have a debate in Government time on how to encourage more cycling across the board and, in particular, how to learn from the successful outcome in Scotland, where, for example, a Sustrans project has led to a 300% increase in the number of girls cycling since 2009?
I thought the hon. Gentleman was going to ask me whether I believed in the Loch Ness monster, but his question was much more serious than that. Cycling is absolutely to be recommended—it is fantastic for our health, and for reducing emissions—and it is great that so many of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents are taking part in that bike ride.
Millions of people are not on the electoral register. There is anecdotal evidence that providing the necessary national insurance information could be part of the problem, especially for young people. May we have a statement about the sharing of data between public agencies to increase voter registration and help to boost our democracy?
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important issue. We want to increase voter registration and ensure that as many people as possible participate in our democracy. Questions to the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission will take place on 9 May, and the hon. Gentleman may think it worth raising the point then to see what more can be done.
Would the Leader of the House consider arranging a debate in Government time on levels of support for black and minority ethnic women, particularly those with refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds? During the Easter recess I had the great privilege of attending the opening of a childcare and learning centre in my constituency by Saheliya, a charity that does fantastic work to empower such women, and to see how it is transforming lives. Will the Leader of the House commend its work, and also consider how it could provide an exemplar for the rest of the country?
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has seen fit to raise this issue, and delighted by his happiness about the work that his constituents are doing. It is vital for us all to do everything we can to support refugees who have come to this country, particularly black and ethnic-minority women—and men as well, but it is often the women who have suffered so much. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue, and to praise that charity for what it is doing to highlight the need for further support.