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Business of the House

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 23 May 2019

Although the House will realise that I am not the Leader of the House, I welcome the opportunity on behalf of the Government to set out the business and to take questions from colleagues today. Mr Speaker, it is a pleasure once again to have my voice heard within this Chamber, without being chastised by you for doing so.

The business for the week commencing 3 June will include:

Monday 3 June—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 4 June—Remaining stages of the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill, followed by a debate on a motion on the mineworkers’ pension scheme. The subject of this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Wednesday 5 June—Motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2019, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019, followed by a general debate on invisible disabilities and accessibility challenges. The subject of this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Thursday 6 June—General debate on the response to the Grenfell Tower fire, followed by a debate on a motion on mortgage prisoners and vulture funds. The subjects of these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 7 June—The House will not be sitting.

We will update the House on the publication and introduction of the withdrawal agreement Bill on our return from the Whitsun recess.

Before I sit down, I would like to pay tribute to a superb outgoing Leader of the House. I think the whole House, across all Benches, will agree with me that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) was a dedicated Leader of the House who was passionate about her responsibilities in this Chamber. She made a real difference during her time in post. As the Prime Minister recognised yesterday, she leaves a legacy of championing reform in this House. She was unfailingly dedicated to changing the culture within Westminster. She introduced a new complaints system to this House, was pivotal to the introduction of proxy voting and took on the challenge of setting the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster in train. She is an excellent colleague, she was a formidable Leader of the House and I wish her the very best for the future.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for stepping up and giving us the forthcoming business. I do not know what I have done wrong, but it seems there is some sort of relationship with my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who has got two extra Back-Bench days; I am obviously going to ask for our Opposition day back.

I, too, want to place on record my thanks to the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), whom I have shadowed for I think nearly two years. She has made a huge contribution in pulling together new policies on bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, with the establishment of the independent complaints and grievance scheme, and in working with all colleagues across the House and across parties to ensure the system for the first proxy votes for our colleagues has been put in place.

The right hon. Lady’s commitment to the restoration and renewal programme culminated in the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill, which passed its Second Reading on Tuesday. I want to place on record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami), who made a wonderful debut at the Dispatch Box, for opening and closing the debate for Her Majesty’s Opposition; I had a long-standing personal commitment, which involved wearing a hat. I also want to thank the deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who has also enabled us to get to this place on restoration and renewal. The non-execs are always going on at us that we and our staff do not do the fire safety and safety training, so I encourage all Members to do that, and also—as the outgoing Leader of the House would say —the training on the behaviour code.

We are in “Brexit paralysis”—the words of a Government Minister. The Government have had three years, with five major speeches and red lines which never changed, and that have brought us to this position. Yesterday, the Prime Minister told the House that the Second Reading of the withdrawal agreement Bill would be in the week commencing 3 June; we now hear it is not, so in less than 24 hours the Prime Minister has broken her word. This is yet another broken promise by the Prime Minister on Brexit. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm why the Bill is not coming forward for its Second Reading as promised, and when is it likely to do so? Why is the Prime Minister incapable of keeping her word? Will it actually be published on 24 May, as the Prime Minister told the Commons yesterday, or will this be another broken promise? Why did the Prime Minister raise the issue of EU election purdah, when last week the Leader of the House said that there was no such issue and that the Government had received advice to that effect? Will the Bill be published in draft form so that hon. Members can amend it? When will it receive its First Reading? How long will we have to debate it, and how many days will it be in Committee, if it achieves its Second Reading?

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Prime Minister has become part of the problem? Even Ministers in her Cabinet know that she must go. Yet again, she has put her own political survival ahead of the national interest. It is clear that she does not command a majority for her approach to Brexit, and she has failed to accept that political reality. The Prime Minister has failed in the central policy of her Government, and the continuation of the current political situation leaves our country without the leadership it needs. The country cannot continue without an effective Government, and a fresh approach to leadership is clearly required.

It is not just with Brexit that there is paralysis—there is paralysis everywhere else. British Steel is among the UK’s most important manufacturers. It is one of Network Rail’s largest suppliers, and 95% of rails are supplied by the Scunthorpe plant. More importantly, this is about the lives of nearly 4,500 people and their families, mainly in Scunthorpe but also at the Teesside plants, and there are as many as 20,000 more people in the supply chain. This issue will not just affect people now—it will affect future generations. My hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) asked whether the company is a good steward for that vital business, and the Government are in paralysis, which will affect future generations.

In the run-up to International Children’s Day on 1 June, two alarming reports have highlighted that the Government are failing in their duty to protect the most vulnerable children. The report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, is entitled “Who are they? Where are they? Children locked up”, and for the first time it gathers together all the data about children living in children’s homes, youth justice settings, mental health wards, and other residential placements. In England, 1,465 children were detained in 2018, and the report found that an additional 211 children were locked away and their whereabouts in the system is invisible.

In 2016 the Health Committee, of which I was a member, produced a report on this issue, but no action has been taken. A Care Quality Commission report published this week found that 62 people are living in segregation in mental health settings, and 20 of those are children or young people. In 16 cases people had spent more than a year in isolation, with children and young people staying for up to two and a half years. The Minister said earlier that the Government are setting up a taskforce. Will he come to the House and update it on what is going on?

Human Rights Watch has said that the Government are breaching their international duty to keep people from hunger by pursuing “cruel and harmful polices” with no regard for the impact on children living in poverty. The United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, published his final report, stating that child poverty in Britain today is

“not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”

If the Government are challenging that, why can we not have a debate in Government time to consider those statistics and hear about their next steps? Those are independent reports.

This week we heard harrowing testimony about the London attacks, and about the heroic actions of doctors and nurses, and of people helping each other, including Ignacio Echeverría, who went towards the attackers with his skateboard trying to save lives. It is also the second anniversary of the Manchester bombings and those young people who went to a concert. At a concert, and on a Saturday night out, that loss of innocent lives will never be forgotten.

Finally, Philippa, thank you very much, and good luck.

I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments about the former Leader of the House. They enjoyed a sparky relationship across the Dispatch Box, but I know it was one of mutual respect. My right hon. Friend has a great deal of respect for the hon. Lady, and she enjoyed her time opposing her at the Dispatch Box.

We plan to publish the withdrawal agreement Bill in the week commencing 3 June. We had hoped it would have its Second Reading on Friday 7 June, but at the moment we have not secured agreement for that through the usual channels. We will, of course, update the House when we return from recess.

The hon. Lady is right to draw the attention of the House to the steel industry. Hon. Members from across the Chamber will have listened to the urgent question and ministerial statement this week. The Business Secretary is currently engaged with Greybull and British Steel to try to find a resolution. The Government recognise the importance of that and recognise that our constituents’ jobs and livelihoods depend on it. We will do all we can to assist and try to secure a way forward.

On vulnerable children, the hon. Lady is right to draw the attention of the House to this challenge. The Government recognise that we need to find a way forward. We need to work together and continue the battle against poverty. We need to drive in the right direction as fast we can, but we can only do that if we have economic success. We need to use the economic success the Government have created to resource and move forward.

Turning to the rapporteur the hon. Lady referred to, I wholly reject that report. The report actually talks about Governments from the second world war onward, including Governments that Opposition Members were members of. I reject the notion that this country since the second world war has not made significant progress. Governments of all colours have tried to tackle these issues and move forward. This Government continue in that direction and are doing all they can to move forward.

The hon. Lady made reference to the Manchester bombing. That was a terrible event and I think that is one topic that unites the whole House. When children and young adults go out to a concert they expect to do so in safety and for someone to commit an abhorrent act, as they did on that evening, is beyond words. We should be grateful to the emergency services who have to deal with the aftermath of such events and pay tribute to them.

Before I sit down I would like to add my voice to those who have paid tribute to the retiring Principal Clerk of the Table Office, Philippa Helme. I wish Colin Lee success as he takes over the role.

I join you, Mr Speaker, and others in paying tribute to our retiring Clerk, Philippa Helme. She and I joined the House at roughly the same time. Throughout her time here she has given wise advice. If only it had been taken by everyone. I wish her a happy retirement sailing and with her dogs. The tragedy, Mr Speaker, is that she leaves this place when in my judgment Parliament is at an all-time low.

Moving on to more pleasant things, will my hon. Friend or whoever will be Leader of the House find time for a debate—there is plenty of time for a debate on anything and everything—on the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Protection against Cruel Tethering Act 1988, of which I was the promoter? I find it very disappointing that a number of local authorities do not, for whatever reason, employ animal welfare inspectors. There is no earthly good this place legislating unless our laws are enforced by someone.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is a vociferous campaigner on animal rights. The Government uphold our high standards on welfare, including in relation to tethering. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is an offence to fail to provide for an animal’s welfare or to cause it unnecessary suffering. If anybody is concerned about the way in which an animal has been tethered or treated, they can report that to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or World Horse Welfare. They can investigate and, if necessary, take out prosecutions. This topic would make an excellent suggestion for an Adjournment debate. I am sure that Mr Speaker would be sympathetic to such an appeal.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for announcing the business for the week that we come back. May I too wish you, Philippa, all the very best in your retirement? Enjoy yourself. You deserve it.

I was not sure whether there would even be a business statement this morning and it is certainly a novelty to have business questions without a Leader of the House, but may I start by wishing the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) all the best? I enjoyed our banter on Thursday mornings. I think we will all miss her good-natured and convivial approach at business questions. I think we should all thank her for the very determined leadership she offered on a whole range of issues across the House, from tackling bullying and sexual harassment to proxy voting for baby leave. We wish her all the best.

I, Mr Speaker, will now be going on to my fourth Leader of the House in four years. I am looking forward to seeing who will be at the Dispatch Box when we return, but it has to be asked: who would want the job? We have a Prime Minister hanging on by her fingertips, barricaded into No. 10, and a Government collapsing around her ears, as we speak.

Just what on earth is this so-called business for the week after next? We were promised the withdrawal agreement Bill on the Tuesday and Wednesday that we return. Unless it has been renamed the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill, which was always quite likely, I am afraid I do not see it anywhere in the business statement. Can the temporary Leader of the House tell us when we will see the withdrawal agreement Bill? I heard him say something about a Friday, which I did not quite understand. Perhaps he can flesh that out a little, because the House wants to know when and if we are going to have it.

The business is all Backbench business. The Government should make my friend the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) the new Leader of the House, given that they are taking all their business to him. He would make a very good job of it, too. [Interruption.] He says, “Taking coals to Newcastle”—indeed. What is intriguing about the withdrawal agreement Bill is that it seems to offer the prospect of a second referendum. The Tories in Scotland are running around today saying that they are the party that is resolutely against any future referendums, so what has happened with the withdrawal agreement Bill is that the Government have deprived these one-trick ponies of their one trick.

It is hard to believe that we are having an EU election today, but the Government should be commended for one thing: the Tories’ attempts to make sure that no one votes for them look like being extremely successful. But in Scotland it is entirely different: people can vote to keep Scotland in the European Union and to make our decisions for ourselves—and they will get that when they vote SNP today.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his warm words about the former Leader of the House. I know that she enjoyed the sparky relationship that she had diagonally across the Chamber with him.

We are hoping to publish the withdrawal agreement Bill in the week commencing 3 June. During discussions with the usual channels, we will see when that comes forward, but at the moment we have not secured agreement through the usual channels and we will update the House when we return after recess. The hon. Gentleman is able to feed into the usual channels and I am sure that he will use his influence to do so. I also say to him that he jumps in and starts to condemn the withdrawal agreement Bill before he has even read it. He should wait until it is published. He can take the opportunity to read through it and then form his opinion, instead of jumping the gun and deciding that he is going to oppose it.

Of course, I wish all the candidates standing in the European elections the very best for election day today. I hope that everybody will go out and vote. I have voted Conservative already and I hope that many other people will do the same.

I welcome the excellent acting Leader of the House to the Dispatch Box; his clarity on these occasions is up to the previous Leader’s clarity. Will he explain to us how the usual channels have anything to do with when a Government Bill is debated in the Chamber? I just do not follow that. However, my main question to the excellent acting Leader of the House is this: there is some speculation, however remote, that the Prime Minister might resign tomorrow. Could we have a statement on what mechanism there is to recall the House? Surely whether the House is recalled during the recess should be up to the House, and not up to the Government.

My hon. Friend will be aware that any decision to recall the House is a procedure that is set out and which everybody understands. There are currently no plans to recall the House at any point in the future. I am sure that he will be engaging with all the usual channels, including the Whips Office, to make sure that his views are listened to and heard. I am sure that he will take every opportunity to make sure that his vociferous and well known views are taken fully into account.

I thank the acting Leader of the House for announcing the very first Backbench business week in this place—it is very welcome. With the assistance of the Clerks and members of the Backbench Business Committee, we managed at very short notice to pull together business to fill the void that the Government highlighted to us, so that there are debates to be had on the 4 and 5 June. There are still significant concerns among Members and we have a long list of unheard Backbench business debates.

May I echo your comments, Mr Speaker, about Philippa Helme? Philippa, I wish you a long, healthy and happy retirement. It is undoubtedly deserved and you go with my very best wishes.

I also echo the comments that have been made about the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom). In my role as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, she has always been a pleasure to work with. She has been approachable and open to discussion about developing Backbench business as an entity within this House, and I thank her for that.

I support the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the retiring Clerk. I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would be a little more grateful: I have been in this role for nearly 20 minutes and I have already secured him three debates. He turns up every week asking for more time for Backbench business debates and when he gets it he is still not happy. We can only provide that service to him. I know that Backbench business debates are valued across the House, and he does a fine job of making sure that we get the right topics at the right moment.

It is good to hear a Nottinghamshire accent at the Dispatch Box—almost as good as a Lincolnshire one. You and I know, Mr Speaker, that levity is sometimes virtuous here, as it lightens the burden of the work we do, but it is with a heavy heart today that I must challenge the flawed decisions of the perverse Parole Board that let vicious criminals—indeed, heartless murderers—back on to our streets. The Government promised to act to introduce a reconsideration mechanism by which victims’ families could ask for a review, but that has not yet come in. Will my hon. Friend therefore ask the Law Officers to enact an immediate review of all Parole Board decisions? It is vital that the liberal establishment grasps what our constituents know: that there is a world of difference between kind hearts and soft heads.

My right hon. Friend is a long-standing campaigner on matters of law and order. I know that he will take the opportunity to raise his concerns at Justice questions on 4 June, when a Minister will be able to respond to him directly.

Brixham Trawler Agents in my constituency recently invested £107,000 in rooftop solar for the fish market. It applied in good faith and in advance of the deadline, but unfortunately fell the wrong side of the cap. It therefore faces considerable unexpected costs. Given that the House has now declared a climate and environment emergency, may we have a debate about how we can properly reward those who are doing the right thing by trying to reduce their carbon footprint and serve their communities?

Before I finish, I join others in thanking Philippa Helme for the remarkable work she has done. I thank her personally and on behalf of Select Committees for everything, and I wish her a long and happy retirement. Will the Minister also send my personal good wishes to the retiring Leader of the House? I thank her for the constructive work she has done to support Select Committees.

Of course I will pass on the hon. Lady’s good wishes to the former Leader of the House. In January, the Government published a consultation, “The future for small-scale low-carbon generation”, on a smart export guarantee to follow the feed-in tariff scheme, which closed to new products on 31 March, with some limited grace periods and extensions. The SEG will ensure that small-scale generators, including those using solar, can export to the grid and receive payment. We are analysing the results of the consultation and aim to publish the Government response in due course.

I shall be seeing the Azerbaijan ambassador later today, and I will pass on the views of the House to him about the situation with Chelsea and Arsenal fans, and Arsenal players.

We have just witnessed in India the historic, landslide re-election of the BJP, and Shri Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating him on his re-election? Can we have a debate in Government time on our relationship with India and how we have forged this friendship that goes back over 300 years?

My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to what is, I think, the largest democratic vote in the world. I congratulate the new Prime Minister of the Indian state. This would be an excellent topic for an Adjournment debate or a Backbench business debate. I encourage him to take the opportunity to make representations to the Backbench Business Committee so that we can all celebrate our relationship with the Indian state.

Last Saturday, I attended a community iftar at the Salfia centre in Dewsbury. It was a fabulous evening with people from all walks of life coming together to understand and celebrate Ramadan with our Muslim friends. At a time when it feels like division and hatred are on the rise, does the hon. Gentleman agree that these events are more important than ever? May we have a debate on how we promote love and understanding among our neighbours?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I think she is actually out there doing the job herself in attending such events. In raising this topic in the House today, she has almost started that process. Again, it is an ideal topic for an Adjournment debate to draw people’s attention to how we all need to co-operate and get on with each other. Such community events are a great way to assist with that process.

This weekend, thousands of football fans will be heading to Wembley for the football league play-off finals. As a fellow east midlands MP, I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to wish Derby County every success in their match against Aston Villa. Many supporters will be travelling by train. Will he consider a debate in Government time about the capacity of the rail network and how HS2 will benefit football fans in future?

As a committed Nottingham Forest fan, I can honestly say that in all my time as Leader of the House, that is the worst question I have had. The fans who are travelling to Wembley clearly need to get there in good time—they do not want to miss the match—and those train links are absolutely vital. I know that my hon. Friend has been vociferous in pursuing improved links to Derbyshire for her constituents. I take this opportunity to wish those supporting Aston Villa all the best.

May I add my congratulations to Philippa, who is retiring? I have known her for all her career here. She is a wonderful woman because she can combine ruthless efficiency with being really kind, pleasant and supportive. That is a very interesting synthesis. I thank her for all her work and all the help she has given me.

I had an eerie feeling after the two Front Benchers had spoken, because the E-word was not mentioned. Here we are in this democratically elected House, but no one seemed to have the courage to mention that the European elections are taking place today. [Interruption.] In response to SNP Members, it was mentioned by their spokesman. Could we have an early debate on how we tackle the issue of democratic participation in this country? Even in a good year, the turn-out in European elections is poor. The turn-out in general elections is not that good. Some people argue for compulsory voting. It is a very important day today. People should go out and vote, because when they do not, good people do not get elected, and nasty and even nastier people do get elected. Let us have a good democratic vote today, and let us have a good discussion about how we increase participation in democracy.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we have a responsibility as politicians to make sure that as many people as possible engage in the political process—I have certainly done my bit by voting today. I hope the colour of the hon. Gentleman’s tie does not indicate a change of political allegiance—he is looking very green. A Westminster Hall debate might be the ideal vehicle to discuss these issues, and I know that Members on both sides of the House would want to join in trying to find a solution to get more people engaged in politics and democracy.

One of the many things that I would like to thank the former Leader of the House for was her passionate support for the “give up plastic for Lent” campaign, with the leadership she gave and the game way in which she took that on. One of the campaign’s recommendations was the ban on straws, stirrers and cotton buds that came into effect yesterday, although sadly other news might have overtaken that. While this is a busy time in Westminster, can we make absolutely sure that our focus on the environment is not second stage and that proper time continues to be made available for debates about the environment and how we all can build a cleaner, greener planet?

My hon. Friend often champions environmental issues and she is right to draw the House’s attention to the recent progress that has been made. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is committed to improving the conditions for generations to come, and my hon. Friend is right to call for a debate along those lines to once again highlight the environmental improvements that this Government continue to make.

Now that we are going to get a new Leader of the House, perhaps we can have another look at the proposals to refurbish the parliamentary estate, because I think people will think we have gone mad if we are to spend billions of pounds refurbishing this place. I was shocked to discover we are going to spend £1.5 billion on a fancy new Chamber at Richmond House. Imagine the impact that money would have in a community in the Black Country that sorely needs extra investment in schools, housing, roads, the police and so much more. Let us have another look at this proposal. I think we should take the opportunity to move Parliament out of London to the midlands, preferably the Black Country—to somewhere in the middle of the country. [Interruption.] This is a serious proposal. Let us do something radical and ensure that the metropolitan London-based elite running this country finds out what life is like in the rest of Britain. Unlike any other country, we have Government, politics, the media, finance and business all concentrated in the capital. Let us take this opportunity to move Government and Parliament out of London and rebalance our country and economy.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important issue. Of course, we had a vigorous debate about this only on Tuesday and I hope he took the opportunity to engage in it. The future of this building is important to the nation. I think that people recognise the iconic status of this building as not only the home of Parliament, but a treasure for the nation. We have a responsibility, as the incumbents of the House, to make sure it is maintained for many generations to come. I hope the hon. Gentleman will continue to engage in this debate. He is one of a number of colleagues who have made representations to move Parliament to their own constituency, but the House has decided that the best course of action is to remain here, within this secure area, and we have to move forward in that direction.

The residents of North Hykeham have to put up with terrible traffic congestion. Does my hon. Friend agree that what is needed is the completion of the Lincoln bypass and that that should be a priority for the Government? May we have a debate on that matter?

My hon. Friend will be aware that Transport questions are on 13 June, when she will have the opportunity to raise that directly with the relevant Minister. I know she is a campaigner for the people of North Hykeham and that they will be delighted that she has taken the trouble to raise the Lincoln relief road here today. She continues to represent her constituents very well.

Imam Şiş, a member of the Kurdish community in Newport, is on day 158 of a hunger strike, along with thousands of others around the world. We understand that the Turkish Government might be moving on some of the campaign demands, so please may we have an urgent statement from a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister on what the Government understand the current situation to be?

I am very sorry to hear that that gentleman finds himself with no option but to pursue that course of action. I know that the hon. Lady will want to represent the ongoing campaign directly with the Foreign Secretary, and if she would like me to assist in that process of direct communication with the Foreign Secretary, I will do all I can to help her to register the points that she wants to raise.

In Redditch, we are proud of our heritage. We make needles, fish hooks and springs, and we have led the world in those industries, but Members might not know that we are also famous for Royal Enfield motorbikes. Will the Minister pay tribute to Royal Enfield for returning to Redditch, and will he thank the borough council for all the work it has done to secure this historic achievement? Will he also push his friends in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to look again at how business rates can be used to support such projects in order to revitalise our high streets?

I pay tribute to all those in Redditch. This demonstrates that, with the right support and by working with local authorities, we can help and support the high street and manufacturing so that we retain jobs and keep the economy moving forward, meaning that we can generate tax and spend it on the nice things we want to spend it on, such as more doctors, nurses and police officers.

May we have an urgent statement on the Government’s policy regarding the surveying of coastal areas for potential oil and gas deposits? This is in the light of widespread concern at a proposal to conduct seismic surveys in areas of Cardigan bay, which is home to the largest resident population of dolphins and porpoises in the UK. A statement clarifying that the Government do not support such a venture would be welcome, and it would also demonstrate the integrity of the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important issue. I know that seismic surveys—certainly for shale gas—are a topic that many colleagues want to engage in. It is vital that any such survey is regulated by the Environment Agency, that there is scrutiny of all the issues as plans are moved forward, and that the planning process is completely robust so that his constituents can be confident that the right process will take place and no environmental damage will be committed.

“Channel 4 News” has revealed that in the past two years the Northern Ireland Office has spent just £318 on advancing LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, a part of the UK where people are still denied the right to marry if they are in a same-sex relationship. I do not think that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has done anything on this since she took office. May we have a statement from her in which she can explain exactly what action she is taking to advance LGBT rights in Northern Ireland?

I know that the hon. Gentleman is a renowned campaigner on these issues—I pay tribute to him for that. The Secretary of State does take these issues seriously, and I suggest that he writes directly to her to express his views and to hold her to account.

First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well-deserved meteoric rise. I want to ask a question following a meeting that I had with a constituent last week. He has been a victim of fraud and, over several months, he has been sending information to the police about the circumstances behind that. However, he has now been told that the police are not going to investigate the alleged offence because they do not have the resources to do so. In fact, they have a policy that they do not investigate allegations of fraud under £15 million, which is absolutely disgraceful. Is this something that the Government endorse? Will the Home Secretary make a statement to clarify whether this is now Government policy?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words about my trajectory, but of course what goes up must come down—I think that if he watches this space, it will come down quite rapidly. We will have Justice questions on 4 June, and I know that he will be in the Chamber to try to raise that topic again. I am also informed that the Treasury Committee is looking into the issue. I would ask him to submit any evidence to that Committee to ensure that it is as fully informed about that investigation as possible.

The dwindling ranks of the Conservative party membership will soon elect a Prime Minister with no public mandate to lead a Government without a majority to try to enforce a policy that is way past its sell-by date. With House business now in suspended animation, does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the people of the United Kingdom deserve an urgent statement from what remains of the Government to tell them exactly what the hell is going on in this place?

The one thing that the hon. Gentleman cannot accuse the Prime Minister of is not keeping this House informed. No one has stood at this Dispatch Box more than the Prime Minister; she has always kept the House informed about the progress being made. Of course the hon. Gentleman is completely within his rights to make any party political point that he wants, but we need to work together as a House of Commons to find a solution to deliver on the Brexit challenge we face, and I would expect him to approach that in a mature and co-operative way if we are to try to assist our constituents.

My constituency has a high-rise tower block called Lydstep Flats. Its cladding was recently removed, and the residents are living in fear of their health because no one is taking responsibility to re-clad it. The UK Government recently announced funding for English residences and high rises, so will the Minister assure me and the Welsh Government that there will be fair funding so that my residents do not have to live in fear of their health?

The hon. Lady is right to draw the House’s attention to the matter. Some people living in high-rise blocks clearly have great concerns about their safety, and the Government are doing a great deal to try to solve that challenge in the aftermath of the terrible Grenfell fire. I know that the hon. Lady will take part in the Grenfell Tower debate on 6 June, which presents an ideal opportunity to make such points and to register her concerns, which she rightly highlights on behalf of her constituents.

I join colleagues in paying tribute to Philippa Helme for the advice she has given and wish her a happy retirement.

Many people who turn up at polling stations today will be told that they are not able to vote. Even though they are legally entitled to vote, they will have not received postal vote envelopes from their local authorities in time, or they may be EU nationals who have not been able to get the extra form that they are required to sign. Postal voters living in France, Spain and other parts of the world are also not entitled to vote because they have not received their postal vote forms in time because of the incompetence of some local authorities. May we have an early debate on the role and responsibilities of the Government, the Electoral Commission and local authorities in ensuring that people who are legally entitled to vote are able to do so?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw the House’s attention to that important matter. As I said earlier, we have a vital responsibility to ensure that people are able to engage in the political process. He will be pleased to know that Cabinet Office questions will be on Wednesday 5 June as they are the ideal opportunity for him to raise the matter directly with Ministers. I am sure that he will continue to champion the cause of all those who want to participate in our democratic process.

Will the Minister consider holding a debate in Government time on the important role of community-led master planning in charting the future of our communities? In Glasgow North East, the Springburn regeneration charrette took place in March and over 1,000 people in the community were involved in looking at master planning. It was masterminded by Helen Carroll and the Springburn Community Council, and there has been a great effort to try to achieve the regeneration of our community. Will the Minister commend that work and the work of architects Kevin Murray Associates? I hope that the report, which will be published next week, will offer a great way forward for the rebuilding of the community of Springburn.

I would welcome that. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for trying to engage in that process and for ensuring that his constituents have the opportunity to make representations about the development of their community. The towns and villages in which we live have developed over hundreds of years, and the more that we can engage people in that process, the more ownership and pride they will feel in their communities. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for all the work that he is doing.