Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for next week will include:
Monday 10 February—Second Reading of the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill, followed by a motion to approve the draft Social Security Benefits Up-Rating Order 2020, followed by a motion to approve the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2020.
Tuesday 11 February—Second Reading of the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill, followed by Opposition half day (3rd allotted day—1st part). There will be a debate on migration and Scotland on a motion in the name of the Scottish National party.
Wednesday 12 February—Motions relating to the Police Grant and Local Government Finance Reports.
Thursday 13 February—General debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.
Friday 14 February—The House will not be sitting.
The provision business for the week commencing 24 February will include:
Monday 24 February—Second Reading of a Bill.
Tuesday 25 February—Second Reading of a Bill.
Wednesday 26 February—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition.
Thursday 27 February—General debate on a subject to be announced.
Friday 28 February—The House will not be sitting.
The House will be aware of the remarks made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor during his statement on the evil attack in Streatham last Sunday. It is the responsibility of politicians from all political parties to play their part in keeping our constituents and the general public safe. To that end, the Government will bring forward the necessary legislation to stop the automatic early release of prisoners convicted of terrorist offences. This legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity, and it is with that in mind that I may need to return to the House early next week to make a further business statement.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business and for giving me notice, albeit at 10.31 am, of his statement. After the terrible events in Streatham, we think of those who were injured and hope they make a full recovery physically and mentally and again thank our outstanding emergency services who responded so swiftly. The Opposition say that terrorist prisoners should not be automatically released but should be subject to parole board assessment before release, during their sentences. We will look carefully at the Government proposals and work with them, on a cross-party basis and in the national interest, to protect our citizens. I hope the Leader of the House will convey that to the relevant Minister. He says he will find time for the draft legislation. I hope he will also give the Opposition time to look at it.
We have our nominees for Select Committees. The Leader of the House mentioned to me that he was waiting for the Labour party, but he is not; we have all ours in place. I should have mentioned that this was the last time at the Dispatch Box for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), as he is moving to a Select Committee. We have our Select Committee nominees. We are just waiting for the Leader of the House. Perhaps there will be some fallout from the reshuffle—who knows? When is he likely to introduce the motion on Select Committees? Will it be before or after the recess?
The Leader of the House will know that the European Scrutiny Committee needs to be set up under Standing Order 143. It has a statutory function under section 13A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which was inserted by section 29 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, and that statutory role will continue during the transition. Given that talks start on 3 May, and we need that scrutiny, will he say when it is likely to be set up?
We need more scrutiny, not less, and it is not right what the Leader of the House said last week about the Prime Minister coming to the House for 30 minutes being sufficient. He knows that that is just plain wrong. One Department has already been abolished. Scrutiny is important.
Is the Leader of the House not concerned about the events that took place at Downing Street this week and the way journalists were treated? Despite an urgent question that you granted, Mr Speaker, there was no explanation of whether special advisers overrode the civil service. Did they? Was there a breach of the civil service code, or is there a new civil service code? There was no explanation about who was allowed to stay. It cannot be right that a special adviser can decide whether one journalist is clever enough to take a technical briefing and another is not. It feels like a case of “Four legs good, two legs bad.” The Leader of the House knows more than anyone, with his background, that this is totally unacceptable, so can he find time for a fuller statement on the events that took place around the exclusion of journalists?
More Government shambles; the chief executive sacked and no one to replace Claire O’Neill. Is this the face of global Britain, which we debated last week—an absolute shambles? Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) held a meeting with the Nobel prize nominee Chief Raoni Metuktire and other indigenous leaders from the Amazon. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), the Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was there, as was I, but Australia, the Amazon, Bangladesh and the young people in Friday’s climate change strike all understand the urgency. When will the new chief executive be announced for COP26?
The Government may be reducing the amount of information given to journalists, but is the Leader of the House aware that more than 400 local authorities allow at least one third party to track individuals who visit their website? The data includes when people seek help for financial services or even for disabilities. Almost 7 million people are affected when they click on those websites. One data company, LiveRamp, is part of the group that sells profiles to Cambridge Analytica. Council websites perform a specific public service. Can we have a debate on the misuse of personal data on council websites and, if necessary, whether the Information Commissioner requires further powers?
It has been two weeks since Richard Ratcliffe and Gabriella met the Prime Minister to raise the cases of Nazanin, Anousheh and Kylie. Will the Leader of the House say what the purpose of their incarceration is and what will happen next?
Finally, I want to pay tribute to one of the Doorkeepers, Paul Kehoe, who has been here for 40 years. The Clerk of the House has recognised his 40 years’ service, which also gives us an opportunity to thank Phil Howse, the Serjeant at Arms and all the Doorkeepers for looking after us. They do an excellent job.
May I reiterate the thanks to Paul Kehoe? I have been holding roundtables with new Members, and I have said to them all when they have come to see me that if they want to know what is really going on in this Chamber, they should ask the Doorkeepers, because they are always better informed than anybody else— certainly better informed than me and, dare I whisper it quietly, sometimes even the Whips. We are very lucky to be so well served by a fantastic team of endlessly courteous and patient people who take such delight in their service to our Parliament. We are really privileged.
May I also reiterate the right hon. Lady’s thanks to the emergency services for their response in Streatham? I share her concern for the people who have been injured, both psychologically and physically, and thank her for the promise of co-operation in ensuring that the legislation can be brought forward effectively and swiftly. I assure her that the Government wish to work with the Opposition on this and that therefore her offer is received in the spirit in which is in intended. We will make every effort to ensure that the Opposition are satisfied with the way that we respond.
As to Select Committees, the European Scrutiny Committee will be set up at the same time as all the other Committees, which will be done as soon as is practicable. We attach great importance to proper scrutiny.
The right hon. Lady asked me about events at Downing Street and the briefings that have been given, and referred kindly to my antecedents in this area. With reference to my antecedents in this area, it is perfectly normal for journalists to be given different briefings. Sometimes some journalists are briefed, sometimes specific journalists are briefed, and sometimes there is a general lobby briefing. That has been going on since my father joined the lobby in the 1950s, which really is a reasonably long time ago—although not quite as long ago as when my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) was referring to in earlier proceedings. What went on was perfectly normal. David Frost is a special adviser, it is routine for special advisers to give briefings to specialist journalists, and that was precisely what was happening.
As for COP26, the Prime Minister is taking a personal interest in this. It is a matter to which he is personally deeply committed. He gave detailed responses yesterday in response to six questions from the Leader of the Opposition, and it would seem, dare I say it, otiose for me to repeat the wise words of the Prime Minister.
I am very interested in what the right hon. Lady said about local authorities and the use of personal data, and I share her concern, although I must confess that I was previously unaware of this issue. Local authorities have a duty to be careful about the personal data they pass on, and I think this is a matter for the Information Commissioner.
With regard to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the junior Minister in the Foreign Office spoke to the Iranian embassy earlier in the week. There is a continued correspondence flow of representations, but we must always remember that the Iranian Government are behaving unlawfully under international law in holding Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. We have to keep on pressing, but when a state of that kind refuses to follow international norms, there are limits to what the Government can do. I deeply regret that, but I assure the right hon. Lady that the Government will continue to press, and I hope that the Iranian Government will eventually be shamed into behaving properly.
The Oxford to Cambridge expressway proposal is a hugely controversial issue in my constituency that would devastate the Buckinghamshire countryside, and would achieve little that cannot be achieved through improving existing roads and delivering, for example, a bypass around the village of Wing. During the general election, the Transport Secretary pledged a priority review into this scheme. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on this matter, so that the folly of this scheme can be fully explored?
My hon. Friend’s constituency is exceptionally beautiful and attractive—just for the record, it is not quite as beautiful as Somerset, but none the less—and I understand completely the concerns about the possible implications of development in the Oxford to Cambridge arc, and particularly about proposals for a new road link between Oxford and Milton Keynes. The Government will provide an update in due course on whether the Oxford to Cambridge expressway project should continue, but I recommend that my hon. Friend raises the issue prior to the recess in the debate on matters to be considered before the forthcoming Adjournment, because that is exactly what that occasion is designed for.
I have two questions for the Leader of the House this week. The first is: when can we expect the Government to bring forward proposals to scrap the English votes for English laws procedure, which is now an embarrassment to this Parliament and everyone in it? I ask because this week saw the outrageous spectacle of Scottish Members of Parliament being denied the opportunity to participate at Committee stage in legislation that would have a direct and material effect on the people they represent. The NHS Funding Bill will have an effect on the Scottish block grant, and it will therefore have an effect on the money available for my constituents. As much as the Government may try to laugh it off, this is actually a very serious matter that should be of concern to anyone who calls themselves a democrat.
My second question relates again to the Scottish claim of right. When I last asked the Leader of the House when he would bring forward legislation so that the Government might recognise and deal with the fact that they do not have a mandate in Scotland, he gave me a rather flippant response. In order to understand the Government’s motivation, let me ask him again: does he agree with the concept of the claim of right for Scotland, and does he agree that it is something that continues to exist, after 18 September 2014? I ask that question because not once, not twice, but three times since we last discussed it opinion polls have been published in Scotland that give an indication to the thinking of people in that country, and every single one shows that there is now a majority of people who wish Scotland to become an independent country. I congratulate the Government, because that rise in public opinion for independence is entirely their responsibility and entirely their contribution. I assure the Leader of the House that, when we in the SNP get started on our campaign, that figure will rise even further. If the Government really want to do something about the integrity of the Union, surely it is time for them to recognise the different situation that pertains in Scotland.
With regard to the English votes for English laws issue, I remind the hon. Gentleman that his party did not oppose the programme motion, which led to there being no Report stage, during which it would have been possible to move amendments. However, all Standing Orders of the House are considered and are open to discussion through the Procedure Committee. A new Procedure Committee is in the process of being established—the Chair has been elected—and although it would not be for me to tell the Committee what its business ought to be, this may well be a matter that it would like to look at.
As regards the Scottish claim of right, the decision was made in 2014. The right was debated, the vote was held, and the SNP lost. Sometimes it is hard to accept a defeat, but that is what happened. The people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom. Dare I say it, but on the first Opposition day offered to the SNP, did SNP Members go for the subject that they raise all the time, that comes up at business questions week after week, and that they constantly want to discuss? When they get their half day, do they decide to debate the claim of right? No, they think of something else.
I am aiming to run this until around quarter to 12, so it would therefore be helpful if we could have briefer questions and answers.
The Leader of the House said that he was very much in favour of scrutiny, as I am sure he is. Standing Orders require us to have 13 days for private Members’ Bills in a Session, but when a Session is more than a year, as this one is going to be, the Government have usually provided additional days. Could we have a statement on when these Bills are going to be debated?
My hon. Friend is slightly putting the cart before the horse in that we will need to see the length of the Session before we decide on the additional days—although I do wonder why he wants them. Is it merely so that he can filibuster a greater number of Bills?
Does the Leader of the House recognise that Vauxhall has a proud and long history with the LGBTQI community? Does he agree that we should have a debate, during this LGBT History Month, to celebrate their fantastic contribution to the UK?
I was unaware of Vauxhall’s history in that regard, so I am better informed thanks to the hon. Lady. Vauxhall is not a million miles from here, but I am grateful to her for raising that point. I would have thought that as it relates specifically to one area—to her constituency—it is worth making an application to Mr Speaker and raising it in an Adjournment debate.
I can assure the shadow Leader of the House that we are taking the responsibility of getting our Select Committee nominees very seriously—but we have such a huge number of colleagues to satisfy.
Could we have a debate in Government time on the Government’s decisions on the London plan? There are serious objections in relation to the green belt, parking issues, industrial land, density of housing, and back-garden developments. This does not just affect London; it affects the whole of the south-east. So could we have a debate in Government time on this pernicious plan put forward by the do-nothing Mayor of London?
I think we may be getting into the London mayoral elections in that question, and not unreasonably so. It is quite right that all levels of government, local as well as national, are held to account via this Parliament. I am sure that the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee has heard my hon. Friend’s request, as I think it is more suitable to Back-Bench business time than to Government time.
Speaking of which, I call Ian Mearns.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the House is very kind, and I am very grateful to the House for re-electing me unopposed as Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, but I am currently a Chair without a Committee, and that does have implications for the business of the House. The Leader of the House has announced a general debate, subject to be announced, on Thursday 27 February. If we had been able to get the Committee up and running, had the Government party got its nominations together in a bit more of a timely fashion, we could be dealing with things like the applications for estimates day debates, which it now seems might not happen.
The hon. Gentleman’s point reminds me of what Robert Maxwell—a former Labour Member of Parliament for Buckingham—said about the ideal Committee. He said that a Committee should be an odd number and that three was too many, so it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is in the position that Robert Maxwell always aspired to. I appreciate his point. We are very keen for the Backbench Business Committee to be set up, but the debates later this afternoon are ones that were put forward to the Backbench Business Committee.
One effect of EU membership has been the way in which rights are granted, the extent of which are then litigated in court rather than debated in this place. That has led to an explosion of judicial activism through the medium of judicial review, which has meant that the focus has moved away from this place to the courts. Can we have a debate on how we can restore this place to its proper position as the truly sovereign source of law?
My hon. Friend’s point of view is widely shared, and the Prime Minister referred to that yesterday in Prime Minister’s questions. Judicial review is a vital part of our legal system and must be protected, but we should also ensure that it is not abused to conduct politics by other means or to create needless delay. It is worth noting that one reason for there being so much judicial review is that, while the UK was a member of the European Union, law made by this Parliament could be superseded by law made in another jurisdiction. That is no longer the case. Since 31 January, our law and this Parliament are supreme, which I hope will lead to judicial review not being used as politics by another name.
Last month, it was reported that Justice Tolson, the senior family judge in London’s central family court, found that a woman had not been raped because she had not taken sufficient physical steps to protect herself. The Court of Appeal found that his judgment was
“manifestly at odds with current jurisprudence”
and based on “obsolescent concepts” about consent. Justice Tolson is still overseeing cases of domestic abuse and rape in the family court, and just this Monday, despite the Court of Appeal judgment, he made the same ruling again. Complaints have been made to the judicial ombudsman, and it is obviously right that this is handled completely independently of this place, but does the Leader of the House agree that the judge should immediately recuse himself from all cases involving domestic abuse and rape and that the Ministry of Justice’s review should be published urgently, to ensure that victims of rape and domestic abuse are not re-traumatised by the family justice system?
I absolutely hear and understand what the hon. Lady says. Her last point—that witnesses should not be re-traumatised—is right and fundamental. Victims ought to be at the heart of our justice system and protected. I am very limited as to what I can say about individual judges. If I may give her a steer, it is perfectly legitimate for this House to debate the behaviour and conduct of judges according to a specific motion, but not, unfortunately, to do so in the back and forth of questions.
We should not name somebody in the House in asking for that debate, but a substantive motion may be a way forward, which I am sure is what the hon. Lady was hoping for.
Can we have a debate on the merits of cadets and the University Officers’ Training Corps? I read with dismay that Cambridge University students’ union has banned the officers’ training corps from operating in the freshers’ fair. I declare an interest: I was the proud president of my students’ union at the academically superior Loughborough University. That idea was quickly kicked into touch when it was suggested. Does my right hon. Friend agree that officers’ training corps represent an important symbiotic bond between our civilian and military communities and provide a good education on what our proud armed forces do?
First, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on succeeding in becoming Chairman of the Defence Committee? I have a feeling that there may be a report coming on that important matter. I share his views entirely in relation to officers’ training corps, which are a useful means of bringing the civilian and military population together. However, dare I say, it was Cambridge after all—I am sure Oxford would not do anything so silly.
Following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), can we get the Backbench Business Committee up and running as soon as possible? There is now a huge queue of requests for debates. For instance, a number of Opposition Members want to apply for a debate on homelessness and housing, but we cannot yet make that application.
There was a debate on that last week, so these issues are being debated. The Government are trying to facilitate debates in the days we have available prior to the Backbench Business Committee’s setting up, to ensure that issues raised by Back Benchers are given an airing, and we will continue to do so, but of course we want the Committee to be set up as soon as is practicable.
Yesterday, mums and dads, grandparents and loved ones of more than 20 young children who have epileptic seizures came to this House to ask for medical cannabis to be prescribed by their consultants free on the NHS. I ask again, as I have asked the Leader of the House several times, for a debate on the Floor of this House—not in Westminster Hall, and not through the Backbench Business Committee, although I am sure it would grant one—so that we can hold Ministers to account for why those who get a private subscription and can pay for it, get medical cannabis, but those who cannot pay for it are second-class citizens?
That issue was raised with the Prime Minister recently, and I know that the Health Secretary is well aware of it and pushing forward to ensure that matters are taken to a satisfactory conclusion. I understand my right hon. Friend’s desire for a debate, but I would suggest to him that this is an issue that can be very suitably raised during the pre-recess Adjournment debate, and if a number of other Members raise it at the same point, that will ensure that the issue is thoroughly discussed.
I understand that the census order in Scotland was laid on 23 January 2020, and 10 years ago the census order was laid on 21 October 2009. In December 2018, we were promised that the order would be laid in autumn 2019, but we are still waiting. Can the Leader of the House tell Parliament when we can expect the census order to be laid?
There was a general election in December, and that slightly interrupted the normal proceedings of business. However, yes of course it is important that the census orders are laid in a timely fashion, and that will happen.
May we have a debate in Government time on compensation for Equitable Life policyholders? Previously, a Conservative Chancellor accepted the ombudsman’s report in full and the differences between what policyholders would have received from their policies and what they received from elsewhere. On that shortfall, £1.5 billion has currently been paid out, but it is calculated that the actual loss was £4.3 billion. When will policyholders actually receive justice?
I was on the all-party group on Equitable Life and, like many Members, I had constituents affected by this, but I think the Government have done what is reasonable to put this right. In 2011, they established the Equitable Life payment scheme and have paid out over £1.2 billion to nearly 1 million policyholders. The scheme was wound down in 2016, but there are no plans to reopen this scheme or to revisit any of the previous policy decisions.
I understand that there are some who are disappointed that the taxpayer could not fund the full £4.1 billion relative losses suffered by policyholders, but there are always constraints on Government expenditure. It is worth bearing in mind that, at the point at which this scheme came out, we were running a budget deficit of about £150 billion a year. Within those limits, I think the scheme was reasonable. Up to £1.5 billion tax-free was provided for the scheme because some of the most vulnerable did receive 100% of their losses.
Last week, alongside many colleagues from across the House, including the Prime Minister, I attended the excellent Keep Britain Tidy event. Littering and fly-tipping is of huge concern to my constituents as it adversely affects not only our environment, but the wellbeing of local residents. May we have a debate on the powers of local authorities to tackle this blight? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as well as issuing fixed penalty fines, a fitting punishment would be requiring perpetrators to undertake supervised litter picking in their local community? That would be a better form of retribution and also act as a very strong deterrent.
It was marvellous to see the Wombles coming from Wimbledon all the way to Westminster—the Wombles of Westminster—ensuring that we try to keep Britain tidy. I think the punishment of offenders is probably a matter for the Lord Chancellor, but I will pass on the representations of my hon. Friend.
It seemed earlier this week that this place had become a very England-centric Parliament, but given the uncertainty we have around Brexit and the Government’s desire to level up the economy in Scotland and the north, will the Leader of the House meet me to discuss how we could reconstitute the Scottish Grand Committee to allow a full, focused and respectful discussion about matters important to Scotland and to the UK?
I am always open to meetings with all right hon. and hon. Members, and if the hon. Gentleman would like to be in touch with me, of course I would be delighted to meet him.
I am very proud of the vibrant Muslim community in Newport West and the fantastic interfaith community work they do to support local people of all faiths and none, so can the Leader of the House tell us when the Government plan to adopt the all-party group on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia, and can we have a debate in Government time on the contribution of the Muslim community to public life in the UK?
I was absolutely delighted earlier this week to be able to go to the Muslims for Britain party celebrating the role the Muslim community played in the debate relating to the referendum in 2016. It is important that we recognise the commitment and the contribution made to our society by all communities and all religions. As regards a debate in Government time, I am not sure that that is going to be easy to arrange.
The terrorist outrage last week reminds us of Burke’s wisdom that
“Good order is the foundation of all things”,
and further to the question raised at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman) and today by my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), will the Leader of the House look at judicial activism? We do need a statement not just on the escape from the clutches of the European Union but on rights legislation which is used to justify the unjustifiable and defend the indefensible. It is in the authority of this place that the people’s power resides.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: the power rests with this place and it is up to us to exercise it. The only constraints on this House and what it does have been placed on it by this House and, if this House wishes to review those constraints, it is entitled to do so. But the democratic will is exercised through Parliament and that is a fundamental constitutional principle.
I was very interested in the Leader of the House’s response to the questions about compensation for the Equitable Life pensioners. It may be opportune to have a general debate in Government time on justice for pensioners. That would allow us to discuss the WASPI women—the 1950s women—and, just as importantly for my constituents, when the mineworkers and their widows can expect pensions justice. That would not cost the Government a penny; it is the miners’ own money.
On the WASPI women, there has been considerable effort to ease the very difficult problem that involved raising the pension age. Nobody has had their retirement age increased by more than 18 months and seven years’ notice was given of the changes, although I understand the distress that this has caused to some people. The issue the hon. Gentleman raises regarding the miners is of considerable importance. I will pass it on to the relevant Minister on his behalf and see if I can get him a fuller answer.
On 30 April this year, one of the UK’s biggest cycling races, the Tour de Yorkshire, comes to Marske and Redcar for the first time. May we have a debate in Government time on the excellence of Yorkshire cycling?
The excellence of Yorkshire cycling is clearly known across the world. I believe that there is a second-tier event that takes place on the continent, which has nothing like the magnificence of the Tour de Yorkshire. I congratulate my hon. Friend, but I am afraid to say that I am going to puncture his enthusiasm because I am not going to be able to offer him a debate in Government time.
In October 2017, the Government announced plans to increase the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving to life imprisonment; it is now 2020 and we are still waiting. While the Government dither, families continue to see the killers of their loved ones receive paltry prison sentences, which simply adds to their sense of injustice. Can the Leader of the House arrange for a Minister from the MOJ to make a statement to the House to confirm when the Government will bring forward these important proposals?
Those proposals remain Government policy and a sentencing Bill will, I believe, be coming forward. There are Justice questions on 25 February and I encourage the hon. Lady to raise this important matter, which has considerable cross-party support, on that occasion.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on how we can encourage our constituents, no matter their background, sex, age or disability, to participate in organised grassroots sport as part of the campaign to encourage healthier lifestyles, and how important community assets, such as Bury football club and its Gigg Lane home, can be the drivers for such positive change?
May I reiterate my congratulations to my hon. Friend on his campaign for Bury football club, which he is absolutely assiduous about? Never having had great sporting prowess myself, I have always been a bit nervous about trying to enforce on others that which I would not particularly wish to do, but the more cricketers we have in this country the better.
Scientists tell us that we need to protect about 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 by placing areas of oceans off limits to human activity. For the first time ever, a global ocean treaty being negotiated by the UN could make that possible. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out how the UK Government will contribute to the global ocean treaty negotiations, and can he confirm that the most senior members of his Government will participate fully in the negotiations to ensure as robust a treaty as possible to protect oceans?
I keep on reminding hon. Members that it is not my Government—it is Her Majesty’s. That may be a particularly good thing to remind people of as today is the 68th anniversary of her accession. However, the Government take the matter of oceans very seriously. Hon. Members will be aware that large areas of sea under the control of Her Majesty’s Government have been protected. I am therefore sure that the Government will, at the most senior level, be involved in those discussions.
May we have a debate on neighbourhood watch schemes? Local people in my Colne Valley constituency are rightly worried after a series of car break-ins and burglaries. I very much welcome West Yorkshire police recruiting hundreds of new police officers this year, but neighbourhood watch schemes also have an important role to play, providing intelligence to the local police and helping to make our local communities feel safer.
Indeed. Preventing neighbourhood crimes, such as burglary and car theft, is a priority for this Government. Just last week, the Government opened up a £25 million safer street fund for local police and crime commissioners to bid for resources to invest in crime prevention measures, such as improved street lighting and expanding neighbourhood watch. My hon. Friend will be delighted to know that, for the part of policing that is actually done by the police, there will be a further 256 officers in West Yorkshire police in year one of the Government’s police uplift, supported by an increase of £36.7 million in 2021. There is good news for policing in West Yorkshire.
The current Chancellor, when he was Home Secretary, suggested that the time had come when the Government might reconsider the current ban on asylum seekers working on their arrival in this country. Will the Leader please update the House on whether the Government are considering bringing forward some sort of review or change in the law on that aspect?
There are Home Office questions on Monday. I think that would be the right time to raise that important question.
Can the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State to come to the House to make a statement about flood defences? There has been a lot of focus, rightly, on places such as Fishlake, which suffered terribly from floods just before the general election, but my constituents are still waiting for improved flood defences from the Boxing Day floods in 2015. Perhaps the Secretary of State could come to the House to tell us when my constituents will get the flood defences they both deserve and need.
It is obviously very important that flood defences are put in place. The Government have a programme of improving flood defences, including expenditure of considerable amounts of taxpayers’ money, but I will of course pass on my hon. Friend’s question to the relevant Secretary of State to ensure he receives a fuller answer.
Junk food adverts drive childhood obesity, but the Government still have not banned them from before the 9 o’clock watershed. May we have a statement from the Government confirming when they will bring in this common-sense change?
There is always a balance with these things. By and large, people do not want the nanny state, however keen they may be on nannies. Before I get heckled by Opposition Members, let me say that nannies are splendid, the nanny state a little bit less so. There are Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions next Thursday, but it is a balance between free speech and the ability of businesses to carry on their business, and protecting young people.
I was tempted to ask if the legislation on the release of terrorist prisoners should be made retrospective in Northern Ireland, but that would probably be a bit cruel on the Government. Lord Dunlop was asked to write a report on promoting the Union. When will that report be published? Will it be published? Will its findings be debated and will there be a debate on the benefits of the Union?
I think we see the benefits of the Union every day, not least in the contribution the hon. Gentleman makes to our debates—and indeed in the contribution of our friends on the SNP Benches. Despite the fact they do not really approve of this place, they make a wonderful contribution and keep our debates going extraordinarily well. The Union is at the heart of our nation. The Prime Minister has made himself Minister for the Union and I share my right hon. Friend’s desire to promote the Union at every possible occasion.
The mineworkers’ pension scheme really needs review now. Since 1994, the Government have taken £4.4 billion out of the surplus—50% of it—and frankly, a much greater proportion should be going to the miners and their widows. There are miners’ widows in my constituency who are surviving on virtual pittances. It really is time for a proper review and the trustees fully support having one. Will the Government look at this as a matter of urgency and will the right hon. Gentleman personally introduce the debate?
That is not within my purview—it is not my responsibility—but I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago to the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris). This is an important issue and I will take it up with the relevant Minister on both their behalves.
I am glad that the Leader of the House values the contribution of Select Committees. I am sure he agrees that they must look and feel like the areas that they are there to serve. Last Session, the Scottish Affairs Committee was particularly effective because all its members were from Scottish constituencies and it felt a bit like the Scotland that we were elected from. Does he agree that as we go forward, it is important that we have the same type of representation on the Scottish Affairs Committee, that it must feel a bit like Scotland and that it must have Scottish-based Members on it?
A moment ago, our friends on the SNP Benches were complaining that the English were voting on things exclusively and that that was a bad idea. They are now saying that there should be a Committee that is exclusively made up of people from Scotland—I am not sure the two arguments go together.
When will the Government re-establish the Intelligence and Security Committee so that it can resume its very important work, including publishing the much-awaited Russia report? Will the Leader of the House assure me that it will not take the Government five months, as it did after the previous election?
The progress on setting up Committees is continuing, as I mentioned, and they will all be established as soon as is reasonably practical, but I heard the Prime Minister say yesterday that the excitement over the Russia report is really rather overdone.
Hammersmith suspension bridge is a national treasure, built in 1824. Its necessary closure for repair works has caused chaos across south-west London. There are additional vehicles on roads that are already congested, people are spending an hour extra each way to get to work on buses, and people are unable to get to hospitals—we do not have an A&E in Putney. Will the Government make time to debate Hammersmith bridge and especially funding? The lack of funding will stop the repairs going on, but a debate could unlock the funding and open the bridge.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on standing up for her constituents, and many people who drive through London, on this considerable inconvenience, which has affected so many. The bridge is owned by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and it is for the borough to maintain and repair the bridge, but the Government are considering a proposal submitted by Transport for London on behalf of the borough for funding to repair the bridge and intend to respond in due course. I cannot promise a debate until after that response has been given, but I strongly encourage her to carry on making representations on this, because nagging away in this House can be very effective.
My constituent has been awaiting an appeal on a personal independence payment claim since 11 June last year. She has now been told that it may be heard in March, which would mean she has been waiting for a decision on a PIP claim for a full nine months. Will the Leader of the House bring forward a statement or a debate to tell us what the Government will do to address this wholly unacceptable situation?
I will make sure that that constituent’s concerns are passed on to the Department.
Women across the nations of the UK coping with the menopause are suffering from the overall shortage of hormone replacement therapy medicines. Can we have a statement on what work is under way to end the crisis and what joint work is being undertaken with the Scottish Government?
I understand that there is a global shortage and that it is therefore not under the control even of our great Secretary of State.
Ahead of the Windrush debate on Monday, will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on how many people have died waiting for the compensation that they were rightfully owed? I have a constituent who was told by the Home Office, before he died in July, that his application had been concluded in his favour. He did not get the compensation before he died. His family still do not know what is going on, even though they have been told that they will get it. Will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to update us on exactly what is happening with those who have died?
The Windrush scandal is a serious blot on the nation’s escutcheon. We should all be deeply concerned about the way in which it has affected individual constituents; that should never have been allowed to occur. Monday is the occasion to question the Home Office in relation to this, and I am glad that the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill will be coming forward.
It is more than two and half years since the House debated the then new drugs strategy. Given that our drugs policy is failing the most vulnerable in our communities, may we have a debate on an update of the strategy?
The drugs strategy is a matter of enormous importance to this country, and there are issues surrounding it and its enforcement. The Government have been pursuing the county lines issue and the policing of it, and have been quite successful in bringing people to justice. That must continue, and the drugs policy must be pursued vigorously.
The right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) was absolutely right to mention the people and families who came to the House yesterday, including my constituent Rachel Rankmore. Her son Bailey’s symptoms have been greatly alleviated by the use of medical cannabis, but it is costing £2,000 a month, which is unacceptable. Why can we not just have that debate and resolve this matter quickly?
I have very little to add to what I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead a few moments ago, but I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate before the recess.
When I was a councillor, the then Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, wrote to all councillors reminding them of their obligations and responsibilities as corporate parents. We know that children in care are over-represented in the prison and homeless populations, and as users of mental health services. In the light of the appalling findings in a report on children’s social care services in Hull which was published morning, may we please have a debate about how the Government can strengthen political accountability for those children who have no voice? The director of children’s services has gone. The chief executive of the council is saying that we cannot put the failings down wholly to the cuts, which have been enormous, but I think it is time for the holder of the education portfolio to consider his position.
The House has always taken the safety and wellbeing of children very seriously, and obviously the Government do as well. Extra funds are being made available: £410 million is being invested this year and next in social care, including social care for children, along with £84 million over five years to enable more children to stay at home safely. When issues involving child safety arise, it is the responsibility of the House and the Government to look into them carefully, and to see what can be done to ensure that children are safe and proper measures are in place. The Government are certainly trying to do that, but this is one of those areas in which one can never do enough, and we must carry on doing more.
We now come to Jim Shannon.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. You almost cut me out there, you know.
The Leader of the House and the Government are well aware of the issue of invasive alien plants, animals and birds, such as mink, grey squirrels and signal crayfish, and of the problems caused by ash dieback and moth caterpillars. It is time to put the balance back into nature. There are now more parakeets than owls and kingfishers in Great Britain. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on this matter?
My right hon. Friend the Chief Whip has just whispered to me that he is very concerned about Japanese knotweed.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this important issue. The Government will shortly respond to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on invasive species, and it may be a good subject for a debate once the response is published. We are committed to being leaders in tackling invasive species, and our 25-year environment plan commits us to enhancing the biosecurity of the country even further. I note that the Committee of one that is currently the Backbench Business Committee heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say, and I therefore think that a debate on this subject may conceivably be forthcoming.