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House of Commons Hansard
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Business of the House
11 July 2019
Volume 663

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Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?

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The business for the week commencing 15 July will include:

Monday 15 July—Remaining stages of the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019.

Tuesday 16 July—Second Reading of the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill [Lords], followed by a debate on a motion relating to the inter-ministerial group on early years family support. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Wednesday 17 July—Second Reading of the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill [Lords], followed by a general debate on the Gemma White report, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the changes to the independent complaints and grievance scheme.

Thursday 18 July—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by a debate on a motion on the Bishop of Truro’s review on persecution of Christians overseas, followed by a general debate on the spending of the Department of Health and Social Care on non-invasive precision therapies. The subjects for these debates were recommended by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 19 July—The House will not be sitting.

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I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for next week. I note that the Government have found time for the debate on the Gemma White, QC, report and the amendment to the independent complaints and grievance procedure. The report came out at 10 am today. I have not had an opportunity to look at it in detail, but Labour Members wish to thank Gemma White, QC, for the time and effort she has put into her report. We will look seriously at the detail of the recommendations and work on a cross-party basis to make Parliament a modern workplace, and I encourage all Members to undertake the Valuing Everyone training, as it is a very good training session.

Just two weeks are left until this House rises for the summer recess, but we still do not have the conference recess dates. Can the Leader of the House give us any advance on returning on 3 September? Will he give an undertaking that when a new Cabinet is formed, on 24 July, a new list of ministerial responsibilities will be published as soon as possible? The last one was published in December 2018.

I am sure the Leader of the House would like to correct the record: last week, when I raised the Conservative candidates’ spending spree, which totals £100 billion—these are uncosted policy changes—he claimed that the Labour Opposition are spending “£1 trillion”. As a former Financial Secretary, he can do better than just pulling figures out of thin air. He will know that Labour’s 2017 manifesto was the only one that was costed. I would be happy to arrange a meeting for him with the shadow Chancellor to go through all the costings.

What chaos: a future Prime Minister refusing to support his own ambassador in the face of verbal abuse. It is disgraceful that there was a malicious leak of emails. Sir Kim Darroch was doing his job. The Secretary of State for International Trade vowed to apologise to the President’s daughter, an unelected representative. What on earth is he doing meeting the President’s daughter, and why is he apologising to her and not to Sir Kim Darroch? Was this an official visit, when he met the President’s daughter, and was Sir Kim excluded from that meeting? Was the abuse of our ambassador about removing an obstacle because they would rather negotiate in a golden lift away from those who serve our country and want the best for our country? As the head of the diplomatic service has said, we stand in solidarity with Sir Kim Darroch.

On Monday, the Leader of the House said that he would “take on board” my request to find time for a debate on the message from the House of Lords on setting up a Joint Select Committee, and that he would give it “further thought.” Does he have any further thoughts? We are happy to debate it on an Opposition day, if he will give us one. I do not think that it is for the Opposition to go to the Backbench Business Committee to request time for a Backbench Business debate.

The Leader of the House will know that the Bank of England estimates that a worst-case Brexit will involve border delays and markets losing confidence in Britain, which could shock the economy into a 5% contraction within a year—nearly as much as during the global financial crisis. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, raised the “ugly prospect” of customs checks and political instability in Northern Ireland in a no-deal situation, which he said would

“put many businesses and many people under a great deal of strain”.

Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, said this week that

“everybody should be worried about what happens in a no-deal situation. We would be taking a step into the unknown.”

Mr Rycroft said that leaving with no deal would be “fraught with difficulty”.

The economy is going backwards: we have now had a third quarter of falling productivity, which decreased by 0.2%, and manufacturing has hit a six-month low. Deutsche Bank is sending people home with boxes; the last time we saw that was in the global financial crisis of 2008. Before the Leader of the House says anything, let me remind him that it was not Labour brothers who did that; Lehman Brothers was responsible. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) has repeatedly refused to rule out no deal, so I ask again: please will the Leader of the House give us time to debate the Lords message?

Will the Government explicitly rule out proroguing Parliament to force a no-deal Brexit? The Opposition stand with Sir John Major, who said that he would seek a judicial review in the courts if the new Prime Minister tried to suspend Parliament to deliver a no-deal Brexit. The former Attorney General, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), said that, were that to happen, it would be

“the end of parliamentary democracy”.

Yesterday, United Nations experts voiced their “deep concern” over Iran’s “consistent pattern” of denying life-saving medical treatment to detainees, and the UN said that the continued detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a mockery of justice. Will the Leader of the House update the House on what steps the Government have taken this week to free Nazanin?

Finally, the UK Parliament newsletter reminds us that on 11 July 1859, Big Ben rang out for the first time. We wish to hear him or her again.

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I echo the hon. Lady’s comments on Gemma White, whom I thank for that report. As the hon. Lady pointed out, we received it only at 10 o’clock this morning so, as you will appreciate, Mr Speaker, I have not had time fully to digest the full findings of the Gemma White report on the bullying and harassment of MPs’ parliamentary staff, but I am sure that Members from all parties will share my concern at the initial reports, at least. Let me be clear that there should be absolutely no place for bullying and harassment in this place. We all bear a responsibility to uphold the proper standards of dignity and respect in Parliament.

As you know, Mr Speaker, over the past year, we have made significant progress that will help to bring about meaningful culture change, but more remains to be done. Indeed, as I have announced today, we are bringing forward a motion that will implement the important recommendation in Dame Laura Cox’s report that historic cases should be in scope as part of the independent complaints and grievance scheme. Our Parliament must be a safe place, free of bullying and harassment, and I am determined to play my part in delivering that.

The hon. Lady raises a number of other points. First, I thank her for welcoming the three hours of protected time that we have set aside to debate the Gemma Wright report on Wednesday next week. That will be followed immediately by one hour of protected time to cover the motion that will be tabled on the Laura Cox 2 recommendation.

The hon. Lady rightly raises the importance of the Valuing Everyone training. I urge everybody in the House to go on that training course. It is relatively short, but extremely important. I have written to all my Conservative colleagues in this House to urge them to take on that training, and I raised the importance of it at—let me just say—a very senior level of government.

The hon. Lady asks about the recess. The answer is that we will come back in due course with an announcement on the recess arrangements post the recess when the House rises on 25 July. She raises—as I think she did with my predecessor, to be fair—the publication of ministerial responsibilities. I will look into that and undertake to come back to her very quickly with an answer on when we expect that to be updated online.

The hon. Lady raises the profligacy—although she did not term it in that way—of the Labour party’s spending commitments and my £1 trillion price tag. I think that I will decline the invitation to meet the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter, because I have a volume of information that supports the assertions that I have made in this respect, not least, I believe, the £175 billion price tag on the nationalisations of the various utilities that the Labour party has in its sights.

The hon. Lady raises the important matter of Sir Kim Darroch. The Minister of State has clearly just answered an urgent question very thoroughly on that matter and put forward the Government’s very firm and resolute view on what has happened. She raised specifically the conversations that the Secretary of State for International Trade has had with members of the White House, and I know that he will be aware of the comments that she has made.

The hon. Lady raises the Joint Select Committee and the message from the Lords that we have received and asks when we will be responding to that. I am keen that we do so this side of the recess, and I am in discussions currently with our end of the usual channels in that regard.

The hon. Lady raises the matter of Deutsche Bank. I think that some 18,000 job losses are anticipated there, although it should be pointed out that this is a global retrenchment, not just one that affects the City of London. The Government’s record on employment is, of course, exemplary. We have the highest employment in our history and the lowest unemployment since 1974.

Once again, the hon. Lady also raises the issue of proroguing Parliament. The main thrust of her point was that this should not be used as a device for us to go into a no-deal situation without Parliament expressing its opinion on the matter. As I have said from this Dispatch Box in the past, I do not believe that that would be a desirable situation. The Government do not believe that that would be a desirable situation, not least because it would put the monarch in the awkward position of being involved in what is essentially a political decision given that it is Prorogation based on the advice of the Prime Minister, but ultimately granted by the Queen. I will also say, as I think you have suggested, Mr Speaker, that it seems inconceivable that Parliament will not have its opportunity to ensure that it has appropriate time to debate at the appropriate time these very, very important matters for our country.

The hon. Lady returns to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I can assure her that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains very robustly engaged with the Iranian authorities, and I have now taken it upon myself to ensure that my office keeps closely in touch with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in that regard, as indeed it has done very recently, particularly and not least because of the totally understandable concern that I share with the hon. Lady about her welfare and the desire that we all have in this House that she be released as quickly as possible.

Finally, Big Ben was mentioned. May I share the hon. Lady’s joy in referencing 11 July 1859? We do want to hear the bells again. An interesting fact that not many people may know is that this bell can actually be heard all around the world because the World Service has a live feed of it when it chimes, and that is the live bell that we hear when Big Ben is alive and whole.

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Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the report issued by the Centre for Responsible Credit? It highlights a consumer debt crisis and recommends that the Financial Conduct Authority put a cap on the credit card market, similar to the cap on payday loan costs.

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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is typical of him that he should go out to bat for those who are least able to afford the consequences of high interest rates. The FCA has—or we have, as a Government—already placed a limit on payday lending. The FCA has particularly expressed concerns about the volume of credit that is being taken on to credit cards. In February 2018 it announced a package of remedies related to giving customers more control over credit card limits, encouraging customers to repay more quickly and other measures.

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I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the next episode in the not-so-thrilling franchise, “Business for next week”. Thank goodness there are only two weeks left to endure this purgatory. I have to say that the Leader of the House’s holiday bus gets more and more appealing and alluring, and I would even be prepared to endure all his rotten jokes if we could just escape this oblivion for the summer.

Thankfully, the Tories’ pointless leadership contest is at last coming to an end, as the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) will soon secure his coronation. Last week both candidates were in Perth in my constituency telling me that they were going to put me on the run and take the run out of Runrig. The only thing running in Perthshire are the votes of soft Tory voters and Tory remainers, appalled at the prospect of this buffoon’s Brexit.

Mr Speaker, we are now at least on our way to stopping them proroguing Parliament and suspending democracy to get their no-deal Brexit through. The Government are now obliged to issue a bi-weekly report to Parliament from October, and that should just about be enough to see off these democracy-wreckers. We have Lords amendments scheduled for next Thursday, and I think we are all anticipating the Government to get up to their usual tricks and try and thwart that progress, but my plea to the Leader of the House is: just leave it alone. Let’s do what we can to stop the suspension of democracy and deny them the opportunity to suspend Parliament. Democracy must triumph, and if the Government do try to thwart that progress, we will find other ways to ensure that this Parliament is sovereign and retains its say.

Lastly, we do not have the business for the next two weeks any more, as was usual—a feature that I think should be returned—so we do not know whether in the last week the Prime Minister will be able to test whether he has the confidence of this House. I am just about to introduce a Bill that would mean that it was this House that would confirm the new Prime Minister and test whether he did indeed have the confidence of this House. Surely it should be this Parliament that decides the next Prime Minister, not 100,000 Tory members with all their curious and right-wing views. It is what we do in Scotland, and it should happen here.

Week by week, this House drifts further away from democracy. It is time that this House started to take back control.

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Well, it is the same old tune from the hon. Gentleman. When it comes to music he is highly accomplished, but once again he has blown his own trumpet and tried to bang the drum for independence, but ended up just dropping another clanger, not least by drawing attention to his slim majority—a very unwise thing to do in this place. I think his majority is 20 or thereabouts, but I suppose 20 is enough. I am pleased, though, that he offered to join me on the bus trip. It is more like a car trip at the moment—[Interruption.] I have been deserted by just about everybody I have offered that opportunity to, but if it is just the two of us, so be it; I will look forward to it.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of Prorogation. I refer him to my earlier comments, in which I was clear as to where the Government stand on that matter. However, I am intrigued to hear about the Bill that he is bringing forward for the appointment of the Prime Minister from this House, because it reveals, nakedly, the hon. Gentleman’s ambition. At one point he issued a manifesto to become Speaker, Mr Speaker, and now we find that he clearly has designs on being held aloft and marched to Downing Street, on a majority vote of this House. He might be slightly delusional but, were that to happen, the ultimate and rather beautiful irony would be that he would, of course, become Prime Minister of our wonderful United Kingdom.

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You know, I must say to the Leader of the House, I always thought that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) was very content in his existing role as Scottish National party shadow Leader of the House and as a magnificent practitioner on the keyboards in that illustrious parliamentary rock band, MP4, which it has been my great privilege to host in Speaker’s House and which has performed with panache and aplomb in the Buckingham parliamentary constituency, but obviously his ambitions extend further.

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Like Members across this Chamber, I hold regular surgeries at which I try to give advice and assistance to constituents on any number of sensitive, emotionally charged, and for them, very often, vital, life-changing issues. So it is with GPs. For all of our lifetimes, we have gone to see doctors, sometimes in very harrowing circumstances, sometimes for minor conditions—but no longer, it seems. We are now being told that rather than that kind of personal and very private interface with a real person, we are going to have a virtual doctor. We are being told to ask Alexa—whoever it, she or he might be. This is a breach of the personal relationship that everyone deserves to have with their local doctor, and it has been described by one critic as a

“data protection disaster waiting to happen”.

Patients’ groups, doctors and privacy campaigners have said that this is a bad idea, and once the Secretary of State for Health thought so too—he said that we needed to preserve the “essential humanity” of that relationship. Now he says that we should embrace the technology of the information age. Well, T. S. Eliot said:

“Where is the wisdom...lost in information?”

He might say now, “Where is the wisdom lost in Government?”

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I know that the Secretary of State will have heard my right hon. Friend’s comments about the importance of, as I might express it, the human touch in the interaction between patients and GPs, and the dangers of the use of technology. As a rejoinder to his poetic contribution, let me perhaps reach to paraphrase John Donne, the great metaphysical poet—

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And MP.

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Yes, and MP. He said, on this issue of us being connected to humanity: “No man is an island entire of itself; any man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind; therefore do not send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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Well, well, well—previously hidden talents of the Leader of the House. One wonders whether he will regard as the litmus test of his poetical arrival being able to quote poetry on the scale and with the eloquence of the late Denis Healey. That was an experience to behold, I can tell you.

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I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week—in particular, the Backbench business for Tuesday and Thursday. I also thank him for the very constructive meeting that we had on Monday to discuss how we can try to get some Backbench time if Government business in particular looks a little light. Can I be cheeky, though? The Backbench Business Committee has had a very good run of getting time, but we have already pre-allocated time for Thursday the 25th, should that come our way, when we would have debates on motions on women’s mental health and on the role and sufficiency of youth work.

My constituency of Gateshead is a place where asylum seekers and refugees are sent by the Home Office for settlement and the National Asylum Support Service finds them somewhere to live, so I have an awful lot of immigration cases. Can we have a debate in Government time about those who are refused the right to remain but whose countries are regarded by the Foreign Office as too dangerous to send them back to, so they are left in places like Gateshead without any support whatsoever? They are not going to be deported but not going to be assisted. Can we have a debate about that, because it is of very grave concern and not right?

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Likewise, I thank the hon. Gentleman for the very constructive meeting we had recently. I reiterate what I said to him then: my door remains entirely open at any time that he wishes to raise any matter with me. I have noted his cheeky bid for a debate on 25 July, on the very important matter of women’s mental health, and his suggestion of a debate on immigration, particularly the right to remain. I will consider those.

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Will the Leader of the House note concerns about legislation that affects the lives of many people going through this House without adequate parliamentary time for scrutiny? We have seen examples this week. Will he comment on the progress of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill? The Bill’s Second Reading took place in only a short time. Line-by-line consideration in Committee took about 47 minutes. This is a piece of primary legislation potentially affecting the lives of millions. Will he ensure that there is proper parliamentary time for scrutiny in the Bill’s remaining stages?

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I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She and I have discussed that Bill. She makes reference to the time in which it went through Committee. There was an evidence session as part of its Committee stage. Time is also available for the tabling of amendments and further debate on Report but, if she would like to make any further points to me outside of this questions session, I would be happy to discuss those.

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Will the Leader of the House join me in commending Zainab Gulamali, who last week won the accolade of “inspiring role model” at the House of Commons diversity and inclusion awards? Zainab is known to the former Leader of the House through her work on the independent complaints and grievance scheme. Sadly, Zainab is leaving Plaid Cymru’s office after three extraordinary years, but she came to us through the excellent Speaker’s internship scheme. Could we have time for a debate on how to continue to create opportunities to gain experience of working here for people who would not normally have either the access or the means?

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I congratulate Ms Gulamali on achieving that award and wish her all the best, and I recognise the importance of the Speaker’s internship scheme, which is both popular and extremely helpful. I wonder whether the right hon. Lady might consider approaching the Speaker’s Office about an Adjournment debate, where she can raise that issue with a particular Minister.

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I am afraid to tell the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) that introducing his Bill today is a waste of time. Because we are in this exceptionally long Session of Parliament, there are no more private Members’ Bills days. Will the Leader of the House tell us when this Session is going to end, so that we can get a Queen’s Speech and, more importantly, get private Members’ Bills back on the agenda?

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My hon. Friend raises the important matter of private Members’ Bills. I should point out that in this Session—albeit it is a very long one—we have had the highest total of private Members’ Bills receiving Royal Assent since 2003. He asked me when the Session will end. I think the answer to that will become clearer when we have a new Prime Minister in place.

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I know that the Leader of the House is a man who believes in innovation. It worries me that we are coming to a long recess, and over that time really important issues are not going to go away. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still in prison, and we will not have the ability to debate that over the summer. The other Sunday morning, I stood outside the Iranian embassy to protest about that, and shortly I will be standing outside the Japanese embassy to protest about the disgraceful decision to kill hundreds of whales, many of which are endangered species.

I have an idea: we could run Westminster Hall as a place for debate on special issues in recess. We already have the petitions system. If we kept that little part of Parliament running through the recess, we could keep the campaign going on issues like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment and the poor whales being exterminated.

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The first point I would make to the hon. Gentleman is that when the recess actually occurs is of course a matter for the House, and it was subject to a motion that the House has agreed to. He makes a specific point about Westminster Hall and the use of Westminster Hall facilities for the purposes of debate during the recess. I think it is fair to say that it is a fairly radical idea, but that does not necessarily mean that it should not be fully and carefully considered. If he would like to write to me, or indeed come to see me for a cup of tea, we can talk about it. The final point I would make is that of course the work of government never stops, whether there is a recess or otherwise.

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Over 800 bikes and thousands of visitors descended on my home town of Brechin for the Harley-Davidson in the City festival last weekend to celebrate the birthplace of this iconic bike. The Leader of the House would be very welcome to look out his leathers and join us for the festival next year. Ahead of that, may we have a debate in this place about support for the people who put on these very important festivals, such as Bill Sturrock, the chair of the committee, as well as Angus Council and local stakeholders, because without them we would not be able to celebrate these successes?

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I call the Leader of the House.

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Leader of the Pack!

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The Leader of the Pack, indeed. I think my hon. Friend’s question is just a cunning attempt to see me in leathers, isn’t it? That is probably what this is all about. However, I should declare a personal interest in that, well before I had my mid-life crisis, I used to own and cherish a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which, sadly, I no longer have.

My hon. Friend raises an important point. I know that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has taken a number of steps in recent years to support festivals of various kinds, particularly through the national Heritage Lottery Fund—specifically, for example, celebrating Shakespeare in Birmingham and Alfred Hitchcock in Walthamstow.

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The conflict in Kashmir is now in its 72nd year. This is a great concern to many of my constituents. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on this important subject, so that we can try to stop this senseless loss of life?

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The hon. Lady raises a very important issue. She is right that, for very many decades now, there has in effect been a frozen conflict in that particular part of the world. As to a debate, this may be something that would lend itself to an Adjournment debate to which a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister can reply.

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My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be aware that I am very grateful to have secured a debate next Wednesday in Westminster on the value of aquaculture to the UK economy. In advance of that debate, will he join me in celebrating the launch of the world’s first sustainable, land-based, clean water prawn farm in Balfron in my Stirling constituency? From this summer, Great British Prawns in Balfron will be delivering prawns in the UK, saving them a 6,000 mile frozen journey from the far east and central America, and thereby slashing their carbon footprint.

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing his Westminster Hall debate, and I look forward with great interest to reading it in Hansard. He raises the specific achievement of the work of the first land-based, clean water prawn farm. I wish it success, and it is good to know that prawn food miles are being kept to a minimum, as he has outlined.

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We had a Westminster Hall debate on Monday on the Government’s proposal to increase the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years’ imprisonment to life. The debate highlighted a clear cross-party consensus for the change in the law, with an unambiguous message: introduce this much-needed legislation immediately and it will be straightforward to implement, with a clear, unimpeded passage through the House. Unfortunately, the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, ignored that message in the debate and failed to set out a timetable for introducing the Bill. Will the Leader of the House speak with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and urge them to bring forward a short Bill simply to raise the maximum sentence without further delay and assure them that parliamentary time will be made available?

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The hon. Lady raises an extremely important matter. It was good to see the debate, as well as the cross-party support for the measures that she is keen to see introduced. I am not familiar with the intricacies of her dealings with the Ministry of Justice, but if she would like me to assist in facilitating contact and further discussions with the Department, I would be happy to do so.

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It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have raised the issue of HELMS— Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems—and green deal mis-selling time and time again in this place. Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Ministers have promised me that they would intervene to ensure that investigations into victims’ cases would be expedited. As my constituent Lynne McLellan and many others can testify, that simply is not happening. May we have a statement on this issue to allow us to interrogate Ministers about why that is the case?

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The hon. Gentleman raises a specific point, relevant to one of his constituents. I would say two things. If he would like to write to me or discuss it with me, I would be happy to see what I can do to assist him with his endeavour. I would also point him to BEIS questions, which is next week, on Tuesday 16 July.

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Yesterday it was my pleasure to meet Gary, the head porter at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to congratulate him on his imminent visit to Buckingham Palace to collect his MBE, which was awarded for services to the Foreign Office. Yet Gary was forced to take strike action yesterday, fighting for proper pay, terms and conditions, and recognition of his trade union, the Public and Commercial Services Union. May we have an urgent statement from the Foreign Secretary setting out what action he will take to force Interserve, to which portering, estates and cleaning services in his Department are outsourced, to treat these valuable and loyal staff in a proper manner?

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I join the hon. Lady in congratulating Gary on his award of an MBE and wish him all the very best for that special day and special moment when he goes to Buckingham Palace to receive that award. As to the employment issues that she raises, I know that Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers will have heard her comments.

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London City airport plans to massively increase the number of flights going in and out of east London over the next few months. This will profoundly affect a great arc of east London, going across the river, particularly in my constituency, yet London City airport is refusing to hold a consultation, which it is bound to carry out, in Redbridge and Waltham Forest, about which there is a great deal of anger. May we have a statement from a Transport Minister?

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The hon. Gentleman raises the issue of the frequency and volume of flights from London City airport. I would point him to Transport questions, which will be held on Thursday.

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Six months ago today, I visited my GP with a small mole on the back of my head. I was very fortunate that the GP passed me straight on to the dermatologist and everything happened quickly, but since then I have met dozens and dozens of people for whom the most galling thing about their cancer diagnosis is being told that is quite late—stage 3 or 4. I have met young women who have lost their mother, including one last week who was still in tears, because she felt that if only the diagnosis had been faster, they would have been able to save her life. Yet 97% of pathology units in England say that they are understaffed, we have about 600 too few dermatologists in the country, and in Wales we have 22 consultant pathologist posts empty. How can we make sure that we save people’s lives if we do not have enough staff? Can we have a debate on this?

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I join the whole House in saying how pleased we are that the hon. Gentleman received prompt and appropriate treatment, and that he has had a full recovery. The Government’s record on cancer survival rates generally is good, but there is always room for improvement. What is really important is the additional funds being put into the national health service: £84 billion over the next five years, the largest single cash investment in its history. Cancer features prominently in the NHS 10-year plan, both in terms of getting survival rates up still further and ensuring we prevent cancers in the first place, and, as he rightly points out, in early diagnosis of cancer in all its forms.

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Today, the Government announced that they will be reviewing the benefits system for terminally ill people. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) has worked tirelessly on this issue for many years. Instead of taking more time, why do the Government not simply adopt her Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill and the comprehensive research already conducted by the all-party group for terminal illness, which is supported by Marie Curie and the Motor Neurone Disease Association?

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The hon. Lady raises a very important matter. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has written movingly about this particular issue and the availability of benefits for those who have little time remaining. I know the review will be thorough. I think the hon. Lady can take comfort from the fact that the Secretary of State has personal and powerful feelings about the importance of these matters. We should allow the review to take place and see what the conclusions are.

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Earlier this week, the Secretary of State for Defence confirmed that her Department’s policy on intelligence-sharing that has derived from torture or could lead to torture has changed after it was revealed six weeks ago that the Ministry of Defence internal guidance was potentially illegal. She also announced to the media new troop deployments to Syria. May we have a statement on both those matters at the earliest convenience?

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The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. As he will know, the Prime Minister requested that the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, Sir Adrian Fulford, review Government policy in this area. That review has now concluded and there will be an announcement to the House in due course. The Ministry of Defence will continue to be fully aligned with that, and any future, guidance.

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Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Dr Jennifer Garden, who won the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Fellowship for her work on finding alternative sustainable uses for polymers and plastics? May we have an urgent debate or statement from the Government on how better we can support innovative research and development that will help our climate?

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I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Dr Jennifer Garden on her achievement and her important work, and on serving as an exemplar for other women. We wish to encourage more women to work in science, not least in the area of the environment. He will know that we are leading the pack in the world on getting to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which we have legislated for in this House. This would be an excellent matter for debate, perhaps in Westminster Hall.

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This August bank holiday weekend, the north of England plays host to the Ashes at Headingley, the Ebor festival at York racecourse and the Leeds festival. Meanwhile, rugby league fans will be heading to Wembley for the Challenge cup final. On the same weekend, Network Rail has chosen to shut the east coast main line for engineering works. This baffling decision, with such short notice, will cause misery to thousands of northerners. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a Minister to make a statement on this decision as a matter of urgency?

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May I first say how delighted I am that so many of our important sporting events are held in the north of our country, where there is a huge and enduring tradition of exactly that? On the rugby and the matter of trains, I point the hon. Lady to Department for Transport questions on Thursday 18 July.

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The Leader of the House might be aware that there have been a number of deaths on the Clyde in recent weeks. It is to the frustration of many people—the council, campaigners and the Glasgow Humane Society, which has spent 229 years campaigning to save lives on the Clyde—that signs recently installed to discourage people from tampering with and damaging water safety equipment have themselves been damaged. Will he agree to a debate on tampering with water safety equipment? Does he agree with the campaign that “Taking a lifebelt is taking a life”?

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The hon. Lady makes an important point: nobody wants to see anyone behaving dangerously or recklessly around water. I commend all the efforts that have been made, particularly on the Clyde, to ensure that such instances are minimised. Perhaps an Adjournment debate would be appropriate.

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The St Rollox railway works in my constituency are due to close permanently on 26 July, ending 163 years of continuous railway engineering excellence in Springburn. Time is of the essence to find a solution and save hundreds of jobs at the site. I urge the Leader of the House to communicate with his Scotland Office colleagues to see what opportunities might be available to the UK Government, in collaboration with the Scottish Government. In particular, there is a proposal to bring a heritage steam locomotive back to the site so that the workforce could be temporarily engaged in a project to restore it, which would get around the impediment of state aid restrictions under EU rules. Will he please do everything in his power?

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Clearly, this is a matter for the Scotland Office and perhaps other Departments. The most useful thing I can do is extend an invitation to the hon. Gentleman to meet me and talk about this in a little more detail. I will see what I can do to ensure that doors are opened for him to have the discussions across Government that are needed to maximise the opportunities and move forward in a positive way.

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Next Tuesday, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough clinical commissioning group will hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to meet its current deficit of £33 million a year. It will consider cuts to early intervention, the Alzheimer’s Society, carers organisations and the Stroke Association. May we have a debate in Government time on how it is that when the Government claim there is more money for the national health service, there seems to be less money for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

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In the first instance, I direct the hon. Gentleman to Health and Social Care questions, which are next Tuesday. On the general issue of funding, as I have already said in answer to a previous question, we are the Government who have now put more money, in cash terms, into the national health service than at any point in its history, and certainly more than was suggested in the Labour party’s last manifesto.

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Dewsbury Memories, a group that helps older sports fans who are suffering with dementia, was established by Allison Simpson after her beloved dad, Tony Boothroyd, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Although Tony could barely remember current events, he was in his element when recalling the great sporting events of his past. Sadly, Tony has since passed away, but Allison is absolutely determined to keep growing the group. Will the Leader of the House allow Government time for a debate so that we could encourage others to take up these opportunities and discuss how such volunteer organisations provide so much for our society?

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I welcome the hon. Lady’s contribution, because I totally recognise that dementia is an increasing issue for the health of our nation and—although she did not express this—the cruel nature of the condition. I know that a huge amount of work is being done, particularly by volunteers: through memory cafés, for example—like me, she probably has some in her constituency. They do such wonderful work to find those areas where people with dementia can remember, enjoy and reflect. It might be a rather good subject for a Westminster Hall debate.

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May we please have a debate on the responsibility of the Post Office to engage with the communities it is supposed to serve? Hope Farm Road post office in my constituency has been shut at random times without explanation, and the other day I heard on the grapevine that the post office in Willaston, which is an isolated, rural community, is being shut next month, with no consultation or forewarning. How are communities expected to access these vital services if there is no dialogue?

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Post offices are absolutely vital. I think that, in terms of national affection, they rank second only to the national health service in the passion that people feel about what is almost an institution. That is for good reason, particularly in rural areas, because post offices often provide services, including banking services, to local traders and residents that would otherwise have been hollowed out and become unavailable due to the absence of banks.

I take the issue extremely seriously. The Government have generally protected the size of the post office network; there are nearly 13,000 branches across the country, and the vast majority of people live within 1 mile of a branch. How the Post Office is handling that network might be a rather good subject for a Westminster Hall debate.

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A number of my constituents transferred from AstraZeneca to Avara Pharmaceuticals when the Avalon Pharmaceuticals site north of Bristol was sold. They did so because they were promised that if the business failed, they would still be entitled to their full AstraZeneca redundancy package. That has not happened and those workers are now being made redundant on statutory pay only, although AstraZeneca still has a legal contract with Avara to enforce that right, which expires in October. I have written to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and received a wholly unsatisfactory answer, and I have applied for an Adjournment debate four weeks in a row without success. Does the Leader of the House agree that the matter deserves ministerial attention, and that that should be given before the summer recess?

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Clearly I am not in a position to comment on the specifics of the hon. Gentleman’s experience with BEIS Ministers, but I accept that it is very important that he has appropriate contact with them and a proper opportunity to explain the situation fully and see whether something can be done to help. I have two points to make. First, BEIS questions are on Tuesday 16 July, and I think that would be an excellent matter to raise then—I recommend that he give the Department advance notice of his question, if he intends to raise it in topical questions. Secondly, if he would like to meet me to have a quick discussion about the matter, I would be happy to do so, to see how I could otherwise assist.

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I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that, despite the chaos and paralysis of Brexit, there are new opportunities ahead of us. In that spirit, will he make a statement setting out the need for whoever is our next Prime Minister to take the opportunity to put in place very much needed transitional arrangement payments for women born in the 1950s who have been robbed of their pensions and, as a result, thrown into unexpected hardship and poverty?

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With regard to the pension arrangements to which the hon. Lady alludes, the Government have already provided £1.1 billion for the introduction of transitional arrangements, but I know that the Department for Work and Pensions and other Departments will have heard her comments.

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Last Friday, at my advice surgery, Polly Davies and five of her friends from Nantymoel Primary School in the Ogmore valley in my constituency came to lobby me on the reduction, and hopefully the removal, of single-use plastics from society, and on their particular concerns about plastic in our rivers and oceans. They are also working on a scheme to try to get rid of single-use milk bottles from their school. I promised Polly and her friends that I would ask the Leader of the House for a debate on getting rid of single-use plastics from society, so will he oblige and guarantee us a debate before the recess?

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I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Polly and all those at her school for all the work they are doing to try to see an end to single-use plastics. I point to our own record in this respect: the use of single-use plastic carrier bags has fallen by 86% as a consequence of the charges we have levied. As he will know, we are now looking to go further still by ensuring that we rid our country of single-use plastics as quickly as possible. An Adjournment debate might be a useful avenue for him to pursue.

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And the prize for patience and perseverance goes to Hugh Gaffney.

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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House will be aware that PCS members who work in the Foreign Office took another round of action this week. These are dedicated, hard-working staff who face financial hardship because of the actions of the contractor, Interserve. Cleaners who work at the Foreign Office have seen their guaranteed overtime removed with no warnings or consultation. Will the Leader of the House urge the Foreign Secretary to intervene and support the work of his own Department, and to come back here with a statement?

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I think the hon. Gentleman has shown his tenacity by waiting to be the last Member to be called and by raising this issue over time in the way that he has. I know that his words will have been heard by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Departments.

Bill presented

Prime Minister (Nomination) and Cabinet (Appointment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Pete Wishart, supported by Deidre Brock, Tommy Sheppard, Gavin Newlands and Patrick Grady, presented a Bill to make provision for the House of Commons to nominate the Prime Minister and approve appointments to the Cabinet; to establish the office of Acting Prime Minister; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 420).