The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 20 January—Conclusion of the debate on the Queen’s Speech on the economy and jobs.
Tuesday 21 January—Second Reading of the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill, followed by a general debate on the Grenfell Tower inquiry’s phase 1 report.
Wednesday 22 January—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments, followed by Second Reading of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.
Thursday 23 January—General debate on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Friday 24 January—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the following week will include:
Monday 27 January—Second Reading of the NHS Funding Bill.
Tuesday 28 January—Committee and remaining stages of the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill.
Wednesday 29 January—Opposition day (1st allotted day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition.
Thursday 30 January—General debate. Subject to be confirmed.
Friday 31 January—The House will not be sitting.
I thank the Leader of the House for the business until 31 January and for the Opposition day. I know sitting Fridays are referred to on today’s Order Paper. After the right hon. Gentleman’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) last week, we had to do a quadratic equation to work out the length of the Session. The Leader of the House knows that there is a strong constitutional convention that Sessions usually last about a year.
Mr Speaker, it was helpful last week that you gave a time limit for the business, as you have done again today. However, I gently refer the Leader of the House to columns 630 and 634 of the Official Report on Thursday 9 January, where he simply repeats ministerial statements. That does not leave enough time for hon. Members to ask questions.
I know that the Leader of the House is keen on doing the right thing, whatever century we are in, and he knows that Ministers have to abide by the ministerial code. I therefore point him to section 6, which is entitled, “Ministers’ Constituency and Party Interests”. The general principle states:
“Ministers are provided with facilities at Government expense to enable them to carry out their official duties. These facilities should not generally be used for Party or constituency activities.”
I wonder whether the Leader of the House thinks that it is a breach of the ministerial code if a Minister uses ministerial facilities to go into another hon. Member’s constituency—for example, to visit a hospital—does not invite the constituency Member but invites the Member for the neighbouring constituency, who is a member of the Minister’s party. I have an example of that and I know that other hon. Members do, too. Will the Leader of the House say something about that?
Will the Leader of the House comment on a breach of public expenditure rules? The Commission’s statement on Big Ben is helpful for hon. Members—some may not have seen it. It states:
“There has been a suggestion that the cost of striking the Bell could be covered by donations made by the public. This would be an unprecedented approach. The House of Commons has well established means of voting through the expenditure required to allow it to function, and to preserve its constitutional position in relation to Government. Any novel form of funding would need to be consistent with principles of propriety and proper oversight of public expenditure.”
Will the Leader of House pass that on to the Prime Minister? I suppose that it was better to talk about that than the A&E figures, which are the worst ever. They are so bad that the targets are going to be scrapped. The Government cannot blame the last Government, because they were the last Government.
This seems to be a bung-a-bob Government. Bung a bob to Flybe and let it defer its tax payment—we would all like to do that. How can a Government bung a bob to a private company and not provide personal independence payments to my constituents and to those of other Members who are on palliative care and cannot access PIP? Can we have an urgent statement from the Work and Pensions Secretary as to why dying people are denied PIP?
I hope that there will be a full statement next week on exactly what the terms are for Flybe, because the accountability of Ministers and the Prime Minister coming to the House appears to be missing with this Government: bung a bob for Flybe; warm words and meetings for the steel industry.
Is the Leader of the House aware that the leader of Walsall Council said that families are suffering from food poverty because they are having more children than they can afford to raise? He was referring to families in Palfrey in my constituency, and saying that if someone is poor and from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, they should not be having children, so it is okay for rich people to have children. There was nothing about the root causes of social and economic injustice. My constituents in that area are sometimes working two and three jobs. Does the Leader of the House agree with those words, or does he think that the leader of Walsall Council should apologise and resign? This is unacceptable.
Last week, I asked when the Prime Minister was going to update the House on his talks with the EU President. Can he please do that now? The Prime Minister may not want to come to Parliament, but at least the Iranian ambassador was interviewed by Jon Snow on Channel 4. The door seems to be opening for Nazanin and other dual nationals to return. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could help out. He, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) and others in this House, has done a brilliant job of bringing accountability to Northern Ireland. I am sure that he has found that job easier than being Chief Whip.
The Holocaust memorial book is open next week in the Members’ Cloakroom, and I urge hon. Members to sign it. Let us all try to bring forward that new world, which is based on tolerance and self-respect.
I am well aware of the constitutional convention regarding the length of a Session, and the Session, as with all Sessions, will depend on the progress of business, but as this one has only just started, it is perhaps a bit premature to see its ending.
With regard to the ministerial code and courtesy, the normal courtesy is that a Member informs another Member of a visit to a constituency, but not necessarily invites another Member to attend the event. It is a notification rather than an invitation, so I do not think one should extend the normal courtesies and expect there to be an invitation.
I note what the right hon. Lady says about Big Ben. However, it seems to me that, with regard to bunging a bob for Big Ben bongs, one should not look gift horses in the mouth. If people wish to pay for things, that should be considered as part of their public spiritedness rather than that they should feel that everything should always fall on the hard-pressed taxpayer, but then, as a Conservative, I do not think that things should always fall on hard-pressed taxpayers if that can be avoided.
With regard to accident and emergency figures, there have been record numbers going through this year. The health service has coped extremely well with a difficult winter. The Government’s proposals for funding the health service will be coming into law following a Second Reading debate on Monday 27 January, so the commitment of this Government to the health service is absolutely second to none. It is a very impressive record and one of which the Conservatives, and indeed the country, can be proud.
With regard to Flybe, there was an urgent question on that, and the House will continue to be updated. The role of this House is always to scrutinise how public funds are used, and I am sure the House will be diligent in doing that. There will be Transport questions on Thursday 30 January, where the matter can be raised further.
With regard to the number of children people have, I am not one to lecture anybody. I am all in favour of large families; I have six children of my own. I would always discourage people from being disobliging towards people who have large families, because I think they are absolutely splendid—the more children, the merrier.
The right hon. Lady quite rightly continues to raise every week in these sessions the case of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The Prime Minister spoke to the Iranian President on 9 January; the Foreign Secretary did so on 6 January. The matter continues to be pursued, but the right hon. Lady is right to continue to raise it, because putting pressure on the Government and holding them to account is part of what this House does.
I endorse the right hon. Lady’s suggestion that Members sign the Holocaust memorial book. I am pleased that we are having the debate next Thursday, and that, prior to the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee, the Government have found time to ensure that it will take place.
Can we have a debate on my Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, which became law in March last year? Indeed, the Leader of the House supported the measure when he was a Back Bencher. The purpose of the debate would be to find out why the Government are still dragging their feet in introducing the code of practice mandated by that Act.
When I was a Back Bencher, I thought it was the most brilliant private Member’s Bill ever introduced. I am concerned that there is an allegation of foot dragging. Feet should not be dragged by Governments; Governments should be fleet of foot. I will therefore take up this matter on behalf of my right hon. Friend, although there will also be an opportunity to do so at Transport questions. It may also be something, Mr Speaker, that you would consider for an urgent question or an Adjournment debate, or—heaven forfend—a debate under Standing Order No. 24; we have not had one of those recently.
I note that we are to begin Opposition day debates again, and ask the Leader of the House to recognise that the Scottish National party suffered something of a disadvantage in the last Parliament, in as much as there were about one and a half days of time that we ought to have been allocated, but were not. I hope, therefore, that the third party of the House will be granted an Opposition day in the short term.
I understand that NHS Funding Bill was in the Government’s manifesto, and they made a big feature of the issue in their election campaign, but it really is a political stunt of the greatest order. Notwithstanding that, I understand that we are talking about large sums of money, and it is inconceivable that this would not have consequences for Scotland through the Barnett formula. Therefore may I ask whether this Bill is to be considered in Legislative Grand Committee, either instead of or as well as in Bill Committee? If it is, what opportunity would Scottish representatives have to put forward their views and vote on these matters? If the answer is that they will have none, is this not an unnecessary evil and is it not time, at the start of this Parliament, to reconsider these ill-advised measures that were brought in by David Cameron?
I did not receive a satisfactory response to this question last time, so I ask again: when will the Government bring forward proposals so that this House can consider the fact that it does not have a mandate in Scotland? For the first time in this Union Parliament, the two principal countries have a different political mandate on the question of the constitution. That is not something that this Government should ignore, and it is certainly not something that this Parliament can ignore. If Parliament does ignore it, it will suffer consequences for its integrity. Are the Government going to ignore this, or will they do something about it?
Finally, it would help me to frame future questions if I could ask the Leader of the House personally: is he committed to the claim of right for Scotland, which says that the people of Scotland have the sovereign right to determine the form of government best suited to their needs?
May I answer the last question first? Of course I believe in that sovereign right, but the hon. Gentleman’s memory is a little short. The people of Scotland exercised their sovereign right in 2014, and they decided to remain part of the United Kingdom. SNP Members may not like the decision made by the people of Scotland in their wisdom, but that is the decision that was made, and that is why there is a mandate for this Government in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland—because they are all part of the United Kingdom. It would be like saying that when there is a socialist Government, but Conservative MPs in Somerset, there is no right to rule Somerset. It is not the way a democracy works and I am sorry to say that the point is fundamentally flawed.
Let me come to an area of greater consensus. I am very well aware of how well the Scottish National party did in terms of representation in the local elections—[Interruption.] Sorry, I mean in the general election. I therefore recognise the importance of ensuring that Opposition days are fairly given and that the third party is recognised. The balance between it and the Official Opposition has changed, and that right must be borne in mind in the allocation of Opposition days. On the one and a half days, I kept begging the SNP to take up one of those with a no confidence motion, but it was reluctant to do so in the end, so it was not entirely the Government’s fault that the SNP did not get its full allocation.
On the NHS Funding Bill, I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that I have raised the question of Barnett consequentials, and they apply to the Bill, so it will benefit Scotland. Certification under the EVEL Standing Orders is a matter for you, Mr Speaker, and will come at a later stage. If it were to be so certified, all Members would vote on Second Reading, Report and Third Reading, so opportunities would be available for Opposition Members from all parts of the country to vote on the Bill in its entirety.
Over the past year, train services from my constituency have significantly improved following previous industrial action and timetable problems, but in recent weeks train services have started to deteriorate significantly. May we have a statement from the Transport Secretary on the need to improve network functionality?
I am conscious that last week questions on rail services predominated and were the main issue of concern for Members. That has been taken up with the Department, which is cautious about making a statement at this stage because of issues of commercial confidentiality. However, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), will hold meetings for all Members who wish to discuss specific rail issues in their constituencies. If Members do not receive an invitation, I ask them please to request one, and that applies to Members from all parties if they wish to discuss the issues that they have. It is a good way to deal with the many issues that Members have.
I am not currently the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee as it has not been re-established, but I have been asked by Members on both sides of the House about the possibility of having debates in Government time in the Chamber or Westminster Hall. I have also been asked when the Committee will be re-established so that Members can submit bids for debates about their concerns. As the Order Paper includes a list of Select Committees today, what is the timetable for their re-establishment—I know that the Chairs have been allocated to the different parties—and will the Backbench Business Committee be on a similar timetable?
If there is any time available in the Chamber or Westminster Hall, I have written to the Leader of the House about several debates that Members keep reminding me to bring to the attention of the Government.
Thank you for that very helpful point, Mr Speaker.
The establishment of Select Committees is set out in Standing Orders. The motions will be put down tonight and, assuming they pass, the elections will take place in 14 days’ time for the Chairmen. After that, the Committees will be set up once the parties decide on their nominees for the positions. It will take place in the normal timeframe, but I am conscious of the need to get the Backbench Business Committee up and running. The Government are listening to requests for debates, hence the debate on Holocaust Memorial Day next week—although that was also desired by the Government.
As the Leader of the House will have seen from questions today, poor broadband and lack of mobile coverage are major issues for many Members and their constituents, including mine in Meon Valley. Can he timetable a debate on the subject so that we can all put our concerns to the Government and the providers?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on her return to this place, which is particularly welcome. I represent a rural constituency, so I sympathise with the representations on broadband. The Prime Minister answered a question on it yesterday and £5 billion will be made ready. He promised broadband for the Cotswolds and I hope that that promise will extend to Somerset, Hampshire and other distinguished counties across the country. It is an issue that is raised constantly, and it may well be suitable for a Westminster Hall debate to continue the pressure.
My constituents—like, I am sure, the constituents of Members across the House—are concerned about reaching net carbon zero as quickly as possible. Could we have a debate in Government time about getting this place and all Government Departments to net carbon zero considerably sooner than 2050?
The hon. Lady raises a very valid point, but there was a debate on all these issues yesterday as part of the Queen’s Speech debate, and it would have been possible to incorporate it in that. Time is limited, so when we have just had time for something, I cannot promise it immediately afterwards.
A society’s humanity is marked and gauged by how the fortunate protect and promote those who are less so, in which spirit the Prime Minister last week promised to tackle the issue of those with learning difficulties and mental health problems in care who have suffered inadequate, inappropriate and sometimes scandalous treatment. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be brought so that we can know when, how and what will be done to tackle this issue? Our duty—our mission, indeed—is to care for those at risk.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend is alluding to the very troubling reports from Manchester about the abuse of children in care and the apparent failure of the authorities to deal with it effectively. This is a matter that should concern us all greatly; it certainly concerns the Prime Minister. A crime prevention strategy is being developed by the Home Office that will cover these very, very important issues.
The UK Government have rejected a declaratory system, and that will inevitably mean that tens—perhaps hundreds—of thousands of EU citizens will lose rights overnight unless they have what the Home Office deems to be a reasonable excuse. We are still completely in the dark about how that will operate. When will the Government clarify this issue?
The system, so far, has been stunningly successful—an absolute triumph, for once, of Government IT. Some 2.5 million people have already registered successfully. The system is more generous than required by the withdrawal agreement with the European Union. If anyone wants further details, there is a brilliant and inspired piece by the Minister responsible in The Times’s “Red Box” this morning.
Can I ask the Leader of the House whether we can have a debate that we had in the last Parliament that got cross-party consensus, on the prescribed medical use of cannabis? This Government—the previous Government as well—changed the law so that medical use of cannabis could be prescribed by consultants. However, the situation today is that if someone can pay for it, they get it; if they rely on the NHS, they do not.
I know that this issue concerns many right hon. and hon. Members, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising it with me. There will be an opportunity to raise it in Health questions on Tuesday 28th, although alternatively I may suggest that he ask for an Adjournment debate.
After months of worry, just before Christmas Npower announced its intention to close the Rainton Bridge customer service centre in my constituency, and there will be 4,500 job losses nationally. This was terrible news for many people in my community and right across the north-east. While trade unions are doing all they can to support staff at this time, would the Leader of the House be able to arrange for me to meet a Minister to discuss what additional Government resources could be made available to support Npower workers at this time?
Will my right hon. Friend please grant a debate on the procurement of NHS orthodontic services in this country, and indeed in Hertfordshire? A dental clinic in my constituency called Orthoclinic, which is a brilliant clinic, has had its contract unnecessarily, and completely without reason, taken away by the NHS. I believe that this is a very important issue and it is happening in other places in the country as well.
My hon. Friend raises a point that may or may not have wider resonance in the House; it is not an issue I have previously heard about. I would therefore suggest that he use the normal mechanisms for getting debates. If there turns out to be widespread concern, it is an issue that other Members will want to take up with the Health Secretary.
The Leader of the House may be aware that yesterday the Internet Watch Foundation released alarming new data highlighting the rise in the number of sexual abuse images of children reported to the charity last year. He may also be aware that I chair the all-party parliamentary group on social media; I was pleased to be re-elected this week. I will be holding an inquiry into this issue, working with the charity. Can we have either a statement or time for a debate, to ensure that the Government are working with every organisation to protect children from these heinous crimes and that social media providers are tackling this issue head-on?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the work he does in this incredibly difficult area and the people in the police force who work on it, because it must be some of the most distressing work that people have to do. The Government have a clear plan to ensure better enforcement in this area and continued rigour and are conscious of the responsibilities of media providers, be they online or offline. It is something that the Government will seek to take seriously. He is right to raise it in the Chamber. I cannot promise an immediate debate, but there were Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions previously, and I encourage him to continue raising it.
At charter renewal, the BBC gained various concessions. It got an annual inflation-linked increase in the licence fee and an extension to the charter period, and it is no longer asked to fund the roll-out of superfast broadband. My proposals for the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee were also dropped in return for the BBC agreeing to fund the universal over-75s licence fee concession.
Given that the BBC now seems intent on reneging on that promise to our over-75s, and noting the comments of the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time to revisit decriminalisation as a method of protecting the poor and vulnerable from this most regressive of taxes? When will the Government find time to debate that matter?
It is worth pointing out that the criminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee falls particularly heavily on women, who are the ones most often found guilty of this offence. My hon. Friend’s point is well made, but I think the Prime Minister has heard it, because he has made indications that this matter may be considered. My hon. Friend, in raising it and campaigning for it, is doing a public service.
We await a statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland momentarily. The Leader of the House will be acutely aware that the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement contains commitments to legislation that will need to go through this House, not least my private Member’s Bill from the last Session, which introduces a UK-wide statutory duty to adhere to the armed forces covenant. That is great news. Has the Leader of the House had any discussions with either the Ministry of Defence or the Northern Ireland Secretary about when that legislation will be brought forward?
Commuters in High Peak continue to experience train delays, cancellations and overcrowded carriages. A lot has been said, quite rightly, about the performance of Northern Rail, but franchising is only part of the problem. Can we have a debate on the Treasury rules, so that we can get the railway infrastructure investment that we need in the north, especially on the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield?
My hon. Friend raises an important point, because the investment rules are at the heart of how these issues are determined. They are under discussion, to see whether business cases can be looked at in other ways, which will inform a final investment decision in his case by the autumn. I mentioned earlier the meetings that the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), will hold with MPs, and it is well worth taking him up on that offer to discuss specific cases.
On behalf of constituents who are contractors hit by the IR35 changes, may I ask for a quick debate on that issue so that we can impress on Ministers the need to get on with the review? April is very fast approaching, and this is causing huge uncertainty for those affected.
In my view, it is a basic principle of good government that people should know what taxes they are expected to pay, and that they should know them before the start of the financial year in which they may be expected to pay them. The review is taking place, and it will take place as quickly as it can be held. I think the hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fundamental fairness that people should know their tax position.
There are communities and even large towns up and down our country where bank closures have left thousands of people without easy access to a bank or businesses unable to deposit their takings easily. The post office network is a part of the solution in maintaining access, but more can be done to help people and businesses—and in a way that is efficient and profitable for sub-postmasters. Please may we have a debate about what can be done to maintain access to financial services and the post office?
This is an issue of great concern to many communities, particularly rural communities where the provision of banking services and post office services has declined. It is important to ensure that the post office is able to help. Banking decisions are of course financial decisions for banking institutions, but banking institutions and all businesses do have a wider community responsibility as well. I suggest that an application for a Westminster Hall debate would be the right step in the first instance.
Ironically, it is now more than six months since the right hon. Gentleman’s Government promised to review the arbitrary six-month rule facing terminally ill people trying to access universal credit. During that time, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Marie Curie estimate that more than 2,000 people have died while waiting to access their benefits. The Government have had all the evidence. The Scottish Government, with limited powers, have shown the way by removing the rule for the personal independence payment. When will we see an end to this injustice? Can we have a statement on when this will end?
It was announced last night that a review of avoidable maternity deaths at my local hospital trust is now increasing its scope from 23 cases to 900. This is deeply shocking news. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State on this issue?
My hon. Friend had an Adjournment debate on this issue last night, so it has been aired. It is a matter of the deepest concern that the number of cases has gone up so much, and it is important that exactly what happened is fully understood. The review will be carried out, and this House will no doubt have an opportunity to debate its findings once they come through.
Last year, the NG11 Clifton and Wilford volunteer clean champions collected 700 bags of litter in their local area. Will the Leader of the House congratulate Alma Davies and the team on their efforts? Does he agree that the Government should set out the action that they are taking to prevent and deter littering and fly-tipping and to ensure that public bodies, such as Highways England, play their part in improving the local environment so that those local volunteers feel properly supported?
I am speechless with admiration for those members in the hon. Lady’s constituency—Members may be delighted that I am speechless, if only momentarily —and of course I congratulate them. It is so wonderful and inspiring to see people doing good in their communities. I see it in North East Somerset with people going out on Sunday mornings and picking up litter from the hedgerows. It is a reminder that we all have a duty not to drop litter in the first place; it starts with the individual. There is also a role for enforcement—one increasingly sees signs saying, “Don’t drop litter: CCTV is in the area watching you”—and ensuring there is enforcement, perhaps most particularly of fly-tipping, where people who think they can get away with it fiddle the whole system and undercut honest businesses at the same time.
Each week, 12 young people aged between 14 and 35 die in the UK due to undiagnosed heart conditions. A Harlow constituent of mine suffered a tragic unexpected loss when her daughter passed away aged just 25, and simple cardiac screening would have saved her life. Can we have an urgent debate on the need for mandatory cardiac screenings of all young people in the United Kingdom?
There is always a deeper tragedy about a young death that was avoidable. The case raised by my right hon. Friend is one of great sadness, and where the Government can help, they ought to. He has the right to put his question directly to the Health Secretary during Health questions on 28 January, and I urge him to do so. It is not really my business, but if you are feeling so inclined, Mr Speaker, may I encourage you to notice my right hon. Friend when he bobs on that occasion to raise this important issue? Perhaps he would also like to seek an Adjournment debate.
The closure of rural bank branches is a massive issue in my constituency, and we now have only one bank branch in the vast county of Sutherland. I have met some of the UK’s clearing banks, which have said they will consider developing banking hubs, and working together to provide one-stop shops. In order to do so, however, they would like to work with the Government. May I make a plea to the Leader of the House: will he ensure that I can meet the appropriate Ministers, to see how we can sort out this desperate situation?
May we have a statement on the Government’s plans to relocate Departments and quangos to the north of England and the midlands? That is something I very much support— not least so that I can extol the virtues of St George’s warehouse in Huddersfield, Globe Mills in Slaithwaite, and Crowther Mills in Marsden, all of which would be fantastic locations for those Departments. They would also be affordable, not least because they are ideally located on the TransPennine rail route.
The Government are keen to level up across the whole country. That is an important ambition, and a demand of the British people, as we saw at the last general election. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s request for more detailed information about the Government’s plans. As levelling up is something we will be very proud of, I am sure the Government will endeavour to make everybody fully aware of it.
Having previously thanked the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments for Martin’s funeral fund, I wish to add my thanks to the Government of Northern Ireland, who introduced it after the reconvening of Stormont. The Children’s Funeral Fund is now in every corner of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, when I was burying my son, parents who had stillbirth babies did not have the opportunity to bury their children. Many parents have come to me asking whether we can help them to trace the graves of their children—nobody knows where they are—so that they may also commemorate their loss. May we have a debate in Government time about what we in Parliament can do to help those bereaved parents?
The hon. Lady is very generous, because it is thanks to her that the fund is now available across the whole country. Without her having campaigned and got a lot of support from across the House that would not have happened, and the House ought to acknowledge her role, as well as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who agreed to it. It shows how effective the House can be in campaigning. [Interruption.] Without my right hon. Friend it would not have happened—the power of Prime Ministers when being lobbied is important. Ministers know that the hon. Lady is a formidable campaigner; when she raises an issue of this kind, there will be a natural sympathy across the House. I expect she will be successful.
Near the start of the general election campaign, the Government made a statement that appeared to accept the recommendation in the Defence Committee’s report of 22 July about a qualified statute of limitation for Northern Ireland veteran service personnel. When will there be a Government response to that report, as the conventional two months for such a response have long since elapsed?
Things change at a Dissolution, and the responses are done on a different basis. There is consultation between the new Committee and the Government on its outstanding reports. Having thanked my right hon. Friend for his fantastic work as Chair of the Defence Committee, the Ministry of Defence is working on its responses. It cannot respond until there is a Committee to respond to, and the motion to select the Committee Chairs is set down on today’s Order Paper.
This year, 4 March marks the 50th anniversary of the successful Black Arrow satellite carrier rocket launch, which was the first and only UK rocket to reach orbit. Companies like Skyrora in my constituency are doing massive innovative work to develop new rocket technology. What plans do the Government have to mark this 50th anniversary to further encourage new developments?
The Government, or at least this part of the Government, were unaware of this terrific anniversary until this moment, but I am all in favour of marking anniversaries. I will pass it on to the relevant ministry and see if we can have something exciting like Big Ben bonging to celebrate it.
Last August, on Indian Independence Day, and then again on 2 October last year, violent protests were held outside the Indian high commission by pro-Pakistani groups. Following the intervention of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister, policing was put in place to prevent those groups getting anywhere near the Indian high commission. A week on Sunday, we have India Republic Day and the self-same groups are threatening violent demonstrations outside the Indian high commission. May we therefore have a statement from the Home Secretary on what action can be taken to ensure we not only safeguard the Indian high commission, but all embassies and commissions against violent demonstrators?
I think this is primarily an operational matter for the Metropolitan police. There is always a balance to be struck between allowing non-violent protest, which is a legitimate activity in a democracy, and preventing violence from taking place, but I will ensure that my hon. Friend’s question is passed on to the Home Secretary so that she is aware of his concern.
From next week, the number 22 bus service will no longer travel through Willaston, which is a rural community with a lot of elderly residents who will be more isolated as a result. It seems that every couple of months we have to go into battle with bus companies who change their routes or stop them altogether at a moment’s notice without any thought for the impact on my constituents. May we have a statement from a Transport Minister about when we can take back control of our buses?
Will my right hon. Friend make time available for a debate on the roads infrastructure of east Kent? It is welcome news that the Operation Brock contraflow on the M20 is being dismantled, as we are getting Brexit done. However, the dualling of the A2 needs to be completed and the Whitfield roundabout is so overloaded that villagers are up in arms. The lorries travelling through our port are the beating heart of our national economy, yet the lorry parks that were promised long ago have yet to be delivered. Does he not agree that making time for such a debate is a matter of concern not simply for the people of east Kent, but for the beating economic heart of the nation as a whole?
May I congratulate my hon. Friend on her election? Her question shows that she is going to be as tough a campaigner for Dover as the previous Member of that distinguished constituency. The points she raises are important and the fact that Brexit is being delivered on 31 January is a relevant consideration. I would suggest that, as it is a specific constituency matter, it is worth applying for an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate at this stage.
May we have an early debate on the excellent plastic bag tax, which raises huge amounts of money? We all thought that the money would flow into good environmental work in the community, but nobody seems to know what happens to it. As it is likely to double, it is a treasure trove for changing the environment locally.
The plastic bag tax has led to a 90% reduction in the use of plastic bags. The cause and effect has been quite striking. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the question of where the money goes and what charities benefit. I am sure he can raise the issue in Treasury questions in due course.
At Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions earlier this morning we were pleased to see the Secretary of State watching proceedings from the Gallery. However, I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that it is not common at departmental questions for a Secretary of State to be in a position from which they can be seen but not heard. Although the Select Committee will be able to question the Secretary of State, I wonder whether the office of the Leader of the House has given any previous consideration to what to do in such a situation. For example, might we from time to time have a special session in Westminster Hall, during which Members could question Secretaries of State who sit in the House of Lords? Will he allow time for a debate to see whether this House could support such an innovation?
The Procedure Committee produced a report on this matter a few years ago. It is perfectly normal to have departmental Ministers in the House of Lords—it is something that both Houses have coped with over many centuries. With regard to reforming our procedures, it is for the Procedure Committee to look into that again, but there are many means by which Ministers and the Government can be held to account. [Interruption.] Yes, absolutely in this House. As my hon. Friend said, the Secretary of State will appear before his Select Committee, which will be one way of doing it, and a full Bench of Ministers were here to respond to oral questions earlier.