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Business of the House

Volume 672: debated on Thursday 27 February 2020

The business for the week commencing 2 March will include:

Monday 2 March—Second Reading of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, followed by a procedural motion relating to the High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill, after which the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Tuesday 3 March—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, followed by the Committee and remaining stages of the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 and the draft Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020.

Wednesday 4 March—Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on flooding, followed by a debate on health inequalities. Both debates will arise on a motion in the name of the official Opposition.

Thursday 5 March—General debate on International Women’s Day.

Friday 6 March—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 9 March will include:

Monday 9 March—Second Reading of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 10 March—Remaining stages of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill.

Wednesday 11 March—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement.

Thursday 12 March—Continuation of the Budget debate.

Friday 13 March—Private Members’ Bills.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I am pleased to see that the Committee of Selection has now met and that the Select Committees are on the Order Paper. Just to clarify, the situation had nothing to do with the Labour party; it was in fact the Government who were delaying it. I hope that there will be motions on the Order Paper on Monday for the House to approve.

Will the Leader of the House provide the list of ministerial responsibilities? There have been a lot of new appointments.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that any of the new recruits who come into No. 10—particularly in the light of the statement by the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) and the replacement of his staff—who have not been security vetted will not be given security briefings? I understand that someone who was recently removed from No. 10 had not been security vetted. These staff need to go through the proper Cabinet Office procedures.

I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware, but this morning the Court of Appeal gave its judgment on Heathrow airport. Will the Leader of the House find time for a statement on Heathrow expansion? If he does not, there will probably be an urgent question, so he might as well arrange for a statement to be made.

As Cabinet Office briefing room A, Cabinet Office briefing room B and the Prime Minister’s wellingtons lie unused, the climate emergency is taking its toll on our citizens. They are watching their furniture go down the river. We had a record 632 flood alerts on one day alone. The statement on Monday by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said nothing about repairing flood defences. The Labour Government increased funding by 10% a year, but under the Tories that was cut to 1.2%. The Labour Government in Wales are looking after the distressed folk by giving the affected households £500, and up to £1,000 if they do not have insurance. That is practical help. Will the Leader of the House perhaps ask the Secretary of State for Wales, who is coming to the Chamber later, about the one-off £10 million infrastructure payment that the Government of Wales require? I am sure the Leader of the House will want to provide time for an updated statement after the Prime Minister visits Shrewsbury this weekend.

No debate on the Marmot report is scheduled in Government time. Professor Marmot said that the past decade has seen those in disadvantaged areas face declining health, with life expectancy falling, especially for women. He called the damage to the nation’s health “shocking” and said:

“If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving.”

The Leader of House cannot dismiss Professor Marmot because the Prime Minister himself said yesterday that he worked with him.

Professor Marmot also said that good employment is important. While the Government boast about more employment, there has been a massive increase in people on zero-hours contracts, with 1 million people—and 9% of those under 25—now on these contracts. Other countries have banned zero-hours contracts; when will the Government have a debate on the perniciousness of zero-hours contracts? For people on these contracts, it is like walking a tightrope without a safety net. That that is not fair or right. People having to resort to volunteer food banks is not a safety net.

Why have we not had a debate on the £7 million contract for private US firms so that they can screen what they are calling our most expensive patients? Will the Leader of the House rule out people being denied treatment—or are we getting into questions of the deserving and undeserving? The next step is going to be screening people out; what is the Government’s obsession with screening people out? May we have a debate on that? I hope the Select Committees will be up and running; perhaps they will be able to report to the House.

We have the absurd situation in which the Deputy Health Minister in Iran has covid-19 and British citizens are lying in jail having done nothing. Nazanin, Anousheh and Kylie need to come home. They need proper treatment. An Iranian MP has said that they should be released on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. Perhaps this is a job for the United Nations or the World Health Organisation, or perhaps even for the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith), who did a fantastic job on Northern Ireland. Perhaps he can do some negotiating as the Government do not want to do that on behalf of their British citizens.

Will the Leader of the House please clarify a point made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford)? She asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about those who self-isolate, and urged the Government to make it clear that those who do so should not be penalised in terms of their employment rights. The Secretary of State said that only those who self-isolate on medical advice will be protected. We have many people on zero-hours contracts, and they will not be protected. They are self-isolating to protect our citizens. May we have clarification that everyone, whether they get medical advice or not, will be protected and have their employment rights protected? There was a helpful email from the House authorities on covid-19 and on what Members can do. Will the Leader of House please ensure that up-to-date hand gel is available for public areas, such as the Public Gallery, and for those staff who are interfacing with the public, so that they are also safe?

The Speaker’s Chaplain held a service for Ash Wednesday in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft with Canon Pat Browne. We are pleased to welcome Canon Patricia Hillas, who will be inaugurated next week. Finally, I wish everybody —Welsh or not—a happy St David’s Day on Sunday.

I notice that when the shadow Leader of the House stand up, my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) whoops in delight, which he does not do when I get up, so clearly the right hon. Lady is doing something right.

I am glad to report that the Select Committees will be set up. It has taken longer than anticipated. Inevitably, a reshuffle in the midst of it meant that there were some changes as to who would be on the Committees, but that is now going ahead and the Government are very keen to get that scrutiny up and running.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for asking for the list of ministerial responsibilities, because it helps me to extract it from the place where it is kept, and that is a useful service to the House, so I appreciate that.

As regards the vetting of new recruits, I am glad to say that those are security matters on which the Government do not go into detail. They never have done so whatever their colour—whether they have been red or blue, or, in the dim and distant past, even yellow. Therefore, we would not break from that precedent and tradition.

The right hon. Lady is right to ask for the Governments position on Heathrow Airport, to be made clear, and there will be a written statement imminently. It may even come out while I am still speaking. I cannot promise that, but it will certainly come out today.

Then there is this fascination—a sort of obsession—with committee rooms in the Cabinet Office and which ones are being used for which particular purpose. There are many rooms—it reminds me of the line in the Gospel about there being many houses. Leaving that to one side, there are many rooms that are used.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be visiting Shrewsbury today. The Government are not just one person; they are a whole team of people. We are governed by Cabinet government in this country, and the work is being done by the people whose responsibility it is. The Government have done a great deal to protect more than 200,000 properties from flooding. That is a very important safeguard, because, for the people affected by floods, it is a terrible experience. Therefore, to have protected 200,000 homes is an achievement. Some £4 billion will be spent in this area. The Environment Agency has in its bank account, I believe, £2.7 billion of taxpayers’ funds to disburse, so work is going on and things are being done to help those affected. That includes £5,000 per household to put in flood defences, and £500 to help people immediately.

With regard to the Marmot report, the Prime Minister, who spoke about this yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions, said that the discrepancy in life expectancy in this country is a disgrace. It is an effort of this Government to level up, and that includes levelling up life expectancy. It is worth noting that the Marmot report also welcomes the record level of employment that we have achieved, because the best way out of poverty is always through employment, and that is something to which the Government are committed and on which they have an incredibly good track record.

As for zero-hours contracts, they are a small portion of the total employment in this country. They provide a flexibility that is welcome to many employees and employers. None the less, it is important to bear in mind that most of the new jobs created since 2010 have been full-time jobs.

The right hon. Lady knows that I share her concern about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It is a particular concern that the coronavirus has been rumoured—I emphasise rumoured and not confirmed—to be in the prison in Evin where Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held. The UK ambassador to Iran has raised the matter with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we are in contact with our international partners on this issue. The Iranian authorities have denied this at the moment, but I must confess that I, for one, would not always take as authoritative denials issued by the Iranian Government. I thank the right hon. Lady for raising this matter again. The Government are trying to do what they can in this very serious situation.

With regard to the preparedness of the House of Commons and the provision of sanitising hand gel for people meeting the public, that is a matter for the House of Commons Commission, on which both the right hon. Lady and I serve, so at our next meeting, which I think is Monday week, we will no doubt have a report on quite what the state of affairs is.

Given my right hon. Friend’s encyclopaedic and diligent understanding of the particular concerns of Members, he will know that I am patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association. Those veterans are the young men and women who were sent to the south Pacific in the 1950s to witness the first nuclear tests, at great risk to them and with severe consequences subsequently. When my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson) was Secretary of State for Defence, I took a delegation to see him and he agreed to look into having a medal for those veterans. May we therefore have a statement on whether such a medal will be issued? Surely it is time to be generous to those who gave so much.

Of course we should be generous to those who have served the country. Medals do not fall within my immediate area of responsibility, but I will raise the matter directly with the Secretary of State for Defence on behalf of my right hon. Friend.

The schedule that the Leader of the House has presented today takes us to a date that is precisely three months since the general election, but I have to say that I am still finding the pace of the agenda he puts before us rather sedate. I am left wondering when this Government will get into gear, and whether their proposals for radical reform are not nearly as expansive as their public relations department would have us believe.

This week both the Scottish Government and the UK Government are hosting major events on the drugs crisis afflicting every part of this Union. There is a growing awareness in this Chamber that the law needs to change in order to allow more effective interventions that can save lives. Will the Government therefore bring forward a debate on the drugs crisis in the United Kingdom so that we can look at changes to both secondary and primary legislation?

I also want to talk about the procedures for English votes for English laws and for the estimates. The Leader of the House may remember that when EVEL was introduced my party made the argument that many of the matters that are reserved to England and Wales have consequences through the Barnett formula for the funding of services in Scotland. We were told at the time that because Barnett was essentially about money rather than policy, the proper time to debate it would be when the House considers the estimates.

We have a bizarre situation coming up next week, when the House will be asked to approve hundreds of billions of pounds for public expenditure without any debate at all. I know that is because the Liaison Committee has not yet met, but that is hardly our responsibility. Will the Government therefore make arrangements to allow the House to debate the estimates, and to enable us to move amendments about the consequences they will have for public services in Scotland?

Finally, I gently say to the Leader of the House that the fact that he will not answer my question does not make it go away, so I will ask him again. When will the Government bring forward proposals to deal with the fact that they do not have a mandate north of the Scottish border? I say that in a week when another opinion poll has been published, this time asking people whether they wish to have a referendum on the question, and 55% of the Scottish public now want a referendum within the lifetime of this Parliament. When will the Government stop ignoring that and deal with it?

I will deal with the hon. Gentleman’s last point first. He makes a typical confusion. When an answer is given that is not the answer that is wanted, that does not mean that the question has not been answered; those are two separate concepts. I refer him to the answer I have given previously from the Dispatch Box.

With regard to the speed with which the Government have got off the starting blocks, we are the Lamborghini of Governments, or the Ferrari of Governments—I have never known nought to 60 to be achieved faster. If Members prefer, we are the Aston Martin of Governments. I was quite tempted to say that we are the Bentley of Governments, but my 1936 Bentley takes so long to get to 60 mph that that would not necessarily be the right comparison. Bear in mind that within a few weeks of the general election we had legislated to leave the European Union, and that was perhaps the most fundamental piece of legislation we could have passed.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the important issue of the drugs conference that is happening in Scotland today. We are concerned about the rate of drug deaths in Scotland, which is three times higher than the UK average, so it is quite right the conference is taking place in Scotland. There needs to be a balanced policy, involving a mix of enforcement—some dozens of people were arrested yesterday alone in a number of raids over the county lines problem—and treatment. Working out precisely where policy should go is the right thing to do, and I am sure that there will be statements and debates in this place once that is done.

As regards estimates and EVEL, I have sympathy for what the hon. Gentleman is saying. There are deadlines by which the estimates have to be approved, but the Government are conscious that they owe the Liaison Committee and the Backbench Business Committee time to consider these issues. That will be an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman and his party to debate the matters that they wish to bring forward.

Order. I intend these proceedings to run until about 12.15 pm. I will try to get everybody in, but that depends on questions and answers being very short.

The Government have rightly committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The plan includes phasing out petrol and diesel cars by 2035, which is going to mean a huge increase in demand for critical minerals such as lithium. The Leader of the House may be aware that Cornwall is rich in lithium and many other minerals used for the motor industry, so can we have a statement from the Government about their strategy on securing a supply of these critical minerals—and, where possible, a domestic supply—for the industry?

Cornwall is rich in many things, not least in its brilliant Members of Parliament. Our approach to ensuring that UK industrial consumers have continued access to the critical technology metals that they need is firmly based on free, fair and open international trade on a global level. This has served the UK well, and we have not received any signals from companies or the markets that our policy should change. We will monitor the situation closely and continue to engage with UK industry on this genuinely important matter.

I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), for mentioning the Marmot report, because Labour Members have all been concerned about the disparity in public health since the Black report and the Townsend report, and the Marmot report follows up on the issue. It now seems that health inequalities are getting worse in this country for the first time in decades, so can we have a full debate in Government time about what we can do to tackle those real and worsening health inequalities?

I also support my right hon. Friend’s point about sanitising hand gel. This House welcomes thousands of people every day from all over the country and beyond. I would hate to see it become a method for spreading a serious virus around the country. The House of Commons Commission might be meeting in 10 days’ time, but to me that lacks urgency. Sanitising hand gel should be available because people touch doors and door handles, and that is how the virus is being transmitted. That will happen much in this House if we do not provide hand gel very quickly.

There is a debate next week on health inequalities, brought forward in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

But that is the point of Opposition days—so that the Opposition can debate the issues that members of the Opposition wish to debate. That is why they exist. I therefore believe that that request is being met.

As regards responsibilities of the House authorities, they are thoroughly being met and hand gel is available, particularly for the security staff. It is worth reiterating the Government’s advice, which is that people should wash their hands regularly and use a Kleenex when they cough or blow their nose.

As my right hon. Friend knows, for those furthest from the job market, good employment means good training and upskilling. Will he join me in congratulating North Staffordshire Engineering Group Training Association—which I visited recently—on its excellent academy, which places 98% of the people it trains from the most disadvantaged backgrounds into local engineering companies?

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work she has been doing on this and absolutely congratulate North Staffordshire Engineering Group Training Association? It is so important to help people to get the skills they need. That is a main focus of Government policy, and it has long been championed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon).

Over the past few days, Delhi has been burning at the hands of Hindu extremism. Twenty-four people have been deemed dead so far and hundreds have been injured in this extreme violence. The Indian Government have enacted the citizenship law, which has also produced concentration camps to house people who have lived in India for years. There is communal violence against Muslims day in, day out. Summary beatings, torture and deaths are taking place on the streets, as well as the oppression of the Kashmiri people. Will the Leader of the House please find time to get the Government to make a statement or have a debate in Government time so as to have a serious discussion about human rights and civil liberties under the Indian Government?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this pressing matter. We are deeply concerned at the severity and scale of violations of freedom of religious belief in many parts of the world. In December, the Foreign Secretary announced an independent review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office support for persecuted Christians overseas, and there was debate on the persecution of Christians on 6 February. However, this does not mean that we are not concerned about the persecution of other religions across the world. I urge the hon. Gentleman to raise this matter at next month’s Foreign Office questions, but the seriousness of what he has mentioned in the House today has not passed the Government by.

May I congratulate the Government on the statement that has been made with regard to the future relationship with the EU? Would the Leader of the House note that the European Scrutiny Committee will be fully engaged in this? It is being set up now. The questions of sovereignty and of the vital national interests of the United Kingdom are matters within our remit, and we will be giving them our absolute and total attention in future.

May I ask a question about the procedural motion on high-speed rail? What is this for? Is it not simply to provide for a carry-over motion? Should not phase 2a be rolled into phase 2b?

We are back to 2b or not 2b, which seems to be my hon. Friend’s question. It is a procedural motion of a standard and routine kind that we need for the progression of business.

I am delighted that the European Scrutiny Committee will be bringing its eagle eye to look at the questions of sovereignty. My hon. Friend chairs that Committee with such brilliance. When I served on it for some years, it was one of the best Committees possible to be on. The diligence he applies to this is a model for us all.

According to estimates by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, there are up to 90 reports a day of online harms—that is one every 16 minutes. Given that the 13 voluntary codes of social media regulation appear to have failed, may we have a statement or debate on online harms regulations, so that we can get commitments from Ministers about Ofcom’s proposed enforcement powers?

The online harms White Paper sets out our plans for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. Ahead of that legislation, the Government will publish interim codes of practice on tackling the use of the internet by terrorists and those engaged in child sexual abuse and exploitation. This will ensure that companies take action now to tackle content that threatens our national security and the physical safety of children. These matters will obviously be discussed in this House.

Will the Leader of the House set aside time for this House to debate the College of Policing’s hate crime operational guidance to remove the requirement that police forces have to record non-crime hate incidents? I believe that the current system is open to abuse by politically motivated individuals who seek to smear people they disagree with. Earlier this morning, I was with Harry Miller discussing this very case.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Harry Miller last night at an event in support of free speech. Free speech is fundamental to this nation. Of course the Government have heard the very powerful judgment of the High Court in his case. The Home Secretary made it extremely clear yesterday that she will hold the police in this country to account for reducing crime, because that is the job of our wonderful police.

During National Apprenticeship Week, I visited a number of excellent local businesses in my constituency and met apprentices, who told me about the opportunities that their apprenticeship provides, but there are concerns from many, including the Education Secretary, that the apprenticeship levy is not working as it should, with too much focus on already highly skilled workers, not on those with no or low skills. May we have a debate in Government time on much-needed reforms to the apprenticeship levy?

I seem to remember that the apprenticeship levy came out of a Budget. We will have the Budget debate fairly shortly, which would be a suitable time to raise that important issue.

May we have a statement next week—preferably on Wednesday—on celebrating United Nations Public Service Day, so that we can show our support for the police, the NHS and everyone who works in the public service? Can the Leader of the House tell me how we will celebrate that day? Why not have a bank holiday closest to that date?

My hon. Friend’s desired bank holidays would mean that none of us would ever be working. As a general rule, the Government try to avoid too many statements on Opposition days, as a courtesy to the Opposition, so the day that he suggests may not be ideal, but I pay tribute to our hard-working civil servants, particularly those in the Lord President of the Council’s office.

If we are not to have an oral statement on the Heathrow judgment, and given that the Government have decided not to appeal it, will the Leader of the House take this opportunity to confirm that the Government do not intend to keep the disastrous third runway scheme alive?

It would be wrong of me to pre-empt the written ministerial statement that will be laid before the House today. There are already four oral statements today, with an important debate on St David’s day to follow. We have to be courteous towards the House, and it is unusual for an oral statement to be announced after the start of business, though not unprecedented.

The port of Grimsby, part of which falls in my constituency, is the country’s major centre for service and maintenance in the offshore energy industry. In view of the Government’s desire to move civil servants out of London, will my right hon. Friend ask the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to look at relocating the policy team and some of the officials who deal with regulation of the offshore sector to the Grimsby-Cleethorpes area? Could he arrange for a statement on that?

By the time my hon. Friend has finished with his demands for rail, road and ports, Cleethorpes will be the new metropolis of the world, and everybody will be moving there. How fortunate the good people of Cleethorpes are to have my hon. Friend as their representative!

My Scottish constituent is approaching her 16th birthday, but as her parents had French nationality when she was born—despite the fact that her mum now has UK citizenship—she will have to pay £1,000 to get UK citizenship, which is unaffordable at her age. The fees are a rip-off, given that the Home Office uses the income to pay for other funds. May we have a debate in Government time on fair fees and what can be done to help my constituent get UK citizenship, so that she can go to college?

I once again congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the way he brings forward his constituents’ cases in the Chamber. I think everyone will have sympathy with the case that he raises, and I will be more than happy to take that up with the Home Office on his behalf. Fees ought to be fair, reasonable and proportionate, and I hope the House will remember that the application for settled status for European nationals is free.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the vote to set up the steering group to deal with complaints and grievances in Parliament. Will the Leader of the House update us on the latest developments on implementing Cox 3?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point, because that is open for consultation at the moment and may be of interest to many Members. The Cox 3 recommendation was about how we deal with complaints of bullying and harassment against Members of Parliament in an independent fashion. The proposal being consulted on is that it should be done by a wholly independent panel, but that if a sanction of suspension or expulsion from the House were to be recommended, that would have to be voted upon by the House. I strongly encourage all Members to make their views known while the consultation is live, rather than raising questions with me after it has happened, which is one of the risks of public life.

Following on from the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), may we have a statement on vetting processes for officials? I hear what the Leader of the House said about security issues. However, the notion that we had a man working at the heart of government who believes in eugenics and racial supremacy is deeply alarming and, I hope, unprecedented. May we have a statement?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to what I said earlier about vetting. However, I would say that my own view about eugenics—as far as I am aware, this is the Prime Minister’s view too, as he stated yesterday—is that it is the most dreadful belief and, to my mind, fundamentally ungodly.

On 19 April, we will commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in the Punjab in India. Last year, I led a debate in Westminster Hall, as we approached the centenary, and asked the Government to apologise. May we now have a debate in Government time and an opportunity for the Government to apologise on behalf of the British people for the massacre in India?

From memory, Winston Churchill was himself very clear at the time about the appallingness of what happened 101 years ago. A debate was held last year, and the 100th anniversary was the right time to do it. I urge my hon. Friend to raise this matter in Foreign Office questions next month.

Last week, I met a Coventry business that is owed a significant amount of money by contractors who have poor payment practices and have gone into administration. This company may now be forced to lay off workers. Will the Leader of the House grant Government time to discuss how contractors drive local companies out of business, not based on their performance but because their payments have been withheld?

This is an important issue, which is often raised in this House. I urge the hon. Lady to seek an Adjournment debate on the specific issues affecting contractors in her constituency. However, the Government have codes of conduct, and as the Government, we try to ensure that we pay contractors promptly.

Given the current focus on the imminent strategic defence and security review, will the Leader of the House agree to a much-needed debate on defence?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. The Backbench Business Committee, when it was set up, was given four or possibly five days in its total allocation that were meant to be for defence, so that should be raised with the Backbench Business Committee in about a week’s time.

I am currently waiting for a response to a public petition that I submitted on behalf of Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages campaign relating to high energy costs of as much as £150 per week. Will the Leader of the House assist in moving this issue forward by securing a debate in Government time on fuel poverty and energy price caps?

If any hon. Member has not received a response from a Department in a reasonable amount of time, I am more than happy to facilitate that, but I think that debate is probably one for the Backbench Business Committee.

I bring good news from Kettering, where last night Kettering Borough Council, of which I have the privilege to be a member, voted for the 10th year in a row—in the teeth of opposition from independent, Lib Dem and Labour councillors—to freeze its share of the council tax. It has done this at the same time as maintaining frontline public services, as well as maintaining financial support for the voluntary sector. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House seek information from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about whether any other district or borough council has managed such a fine record? Will he take this opportunity to congratulate the inspirational leader of Kettering Borough Council, Councillor Russell Roberts, on this fine achievement?

I think a statue should be erected to Councillor Russell Roberts for this achievement. It would come out of public subscription, and I would be more than happy to make a modest contribution. It is exactly how government should operate at all levels. I am full of admiration—unbounded—for Kettering Council and for my hon. Friend in ensuring that Kettering is kept in good order.

May we have a debate about the role of private sector train companies that manage train stations and provide substandard facilities for passengers? In Hull, TransPennine Express built new toilets and a waiting room in 2018, but by April they were seen to be botched. The toilets smell of urine and the waiting room is not suitable. I was told in December 2018 that they would be fixed by 2019, but we are now at the end of February 2020—and no action.

The hon. Lady, as always, raises an important point about her constituents. She has raised the matter publicly, and I hope that the operating company is duly shamed by the smell that is coming from the toilets in Hull. When money is spent it should be spent properly, and people should be held to account for the way they spend it.

To follow the theme set by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), in Carlisle we have part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—namely the Rural Payments Agency. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on the likelihood of further relocation of the activities of that Department, and would he support such a move to Carlisle?

My hon. Friend tempts me beyond my brief—one never knows: I might start advocating for all those agencies to move to North East Somerset rather than to the constituencies of my hon. Friends. The point has been made and heard, and I will ensure that it is passed on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

May I bring the House’s attention to early-day motion 220 on the harassment of trade unionists at London City airport?

[That this House reaffirms the right of workers to organise collectively into trade unions; stipulates that this right includes workers at London City Airport; notes that a Unite the Union activist, was suspended and had disciplinary proceedings brought against them less than two weeks after the airport received an official request for union recognition in August 2019; recalls that in 2012 an Employment Tribunal found in an interim relief test in London City Airport Ltd v Chacko that another trade union representative had been similarly suspended by City Airport three days after the announcement of a recognition ballot; states that such intimidation is unacceptable; and calls on City Airport to end harassment of trade unionists and enable its workers to decide upon how they wish to be represented.]

Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate or statement about what has gone on at London City airport? Surely a Government who claim to be on the side of the workers will want to make time for that, so that Members can hear that such things will not be allowed to continue. One of my constituents has been sacked from their job, specifically for trade union activities.

Everybody should feel content in their place of work. The House of Commons has set up the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme to deal with complaints, and we urge other employers to have similar arrangements in place. I tend to think that such specific issues are well handled by Adjournment debates, which bring them to the right level of attention.

My constituent was employed by a recruitment agency but had to leave her job for health reasons. Despite a promise that she would be put on garden leave to help her recuperate, and paid for her two-week notice period, she has still not received the money that she is due for the work carried out. May we have a debate in Government time on the exploitation of workers in the gig economy?

People who are contractually owed money must be paid, and the hon. Lady is right to raise that issue. A debate on such matters is not necessarily the right way to go about things, but it is right to raise that particular case. I hope that the company will be shamed into making payments, and I feel great sympathy for the hon. Lady’s constituent who ought to be paid if she has done the work.

On 9 January the Leader of the House advised me to ask the Secretary of State for Education for a meeting about Lydiate Primary School, and to come back to him if such a meeting was not forthcoming. Seven weeks later, that meeting has not been offered by Ministers. Will the Leader of the House please intervene, not on my behalf, but on that of the children and staff of Lydiate Primary School, which is unsafe and unsuitable for education?

My hard-working civil servants have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I will make sure that that is followed up with the Department for Education immediately after this statement.

Bank of Scotland recently announced a series of branch closures around Scotland, including in Loanhead in my constituency. Midlothian is often referred to as one of the fastest growing communities in Scotland, yet it is now left without a branch of that bank, which was the final one. Despite meeting Bank of Scotland immediately after that announcement, I have had no further answers to my questions. May we have a debate in Government time on what we can do to consider the impact on a community when the final branch of a bank is closed?

This issue is raised regularly in these sessions, and I have arranged meetings with the relevant Minister. It is important to recognise that these are commercial decisions, and the Government cannot intervene in them individually. Banks must balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial interests when taking their decisions. Since May 2017, high street banks have signed up to the Access to Banking Standard, which commits them to working with customers and communities to minimise the impact of branch closures. If that is not happening, the Government will have to look at that very carefully.

In June last year, the Home Office consultation on tackling violence against shopworkers ended. I know the Leader of the House will agree that there is never any excuse for abuse towards shopworkers and will welcome the work being done by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers to protect shopworkers. Will he ask Home Office Ministers to come to the Floor of the House to make a statement, so we can start to tackle these abuses?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There is no excuse for abusing people who work in shops. It is quite improper behaviour. I cannot promise a statement, but I will raise his question with the Home Office to see what the response is to the report.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), the shadow Leader of the House, I was pleased to notice the motions for the constitution of most Select Committees. However, they did not include motions in relation to the Committee on Standards and the Privileges Committee, both of which have a long legacy of work left over from the previous Parliament. Will the Leader advise me when he expects those motions to be tabled?

The hon. Lady is right to emphasise the importance of those Committees. Motions will be brought forward as soon as is reasonably practical.

With further international discussions taking place in May in New York, will the Leader of the House make a statement explaining the UK Government’s hostility to the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons? Does he not appreciate that that hostility towards prohibition is inconsistent with the UK’s strategic objectives and its obligations under article 6 of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to make attempts in good faith to move towards the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons programmes?

I think we have to be realistic and recognise that the world is the world that we live in and that nuclear weapons are around. It is in the UK’s national interest to maintain our nuclear deterrent.

I was confused by the answer the Leader of the House gave to the hon. Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland), who is no longer in his place, about the security and defence review. The Prime Minister put out a written statement yesterday, but he intimated that there would be an oral statement or a debate—and not one in Backbench Business time. Can the Leader of the House tell us when that will take place, and will the Intelligence and Security Committee have been reformed by then so we can consider the Russia report as a part of that?

As the Prime Minister has said, “Don’t get too excited about the Russian report.” While it is not released, the conspiracy theorists are having a whale of a time. When it comes out, I think they will be sadly disappointed. The point I was making is that the Backbench Business Committee was given responsibility, under its brief when it was set up, for defence debates. Of course, if the Government bring forward specific statements, questions will follow those statements.

On Tuesday, the Mayors of Salford, Manchester and London came together outside Parliament to hear from victims of the cladding scandal. They heard terrible stories from leaseholders trapped in properties about the financial ruin they face and the mental torment of going to sleep every night in a flat that they know could be a death trap. There is clearly a need for some time for a debate on the Floor of the House, and for clarity and leadership from the Government. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the right hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) is sat next to the Leader of the House on the Treasury Bench. Can he guarantee that we will get that time as a matter of urgency?

The hon. Gentleman’s question is very well timed, with my right hon. Friend the Housing Secretary sitting next to me. I can assure the House that my right hon. Friend takes this matter with the utmost seriousness. Some £600 million of taxpayers’ money is being committed to removing dangerous cladding. The Government, and particularly my right hon. Friend, are ensuring that the dangerous cladding is removed, and that houses and flats are being made safe for people. If I may say while he is sitting here, the number of times my right hon. Friend has raised this issue with other Ministers, and is pushing for it as hard as possible, can give the hon. Gentleman confidence.

Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board has announced a temporary suspension of evening and weekend GP out-of-hours services in Vale of Leven Hospital in my constituency, giving the reason that GPs are affected by UK changes to pensions. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners have highlighted the drastic problems posed to the NHS workforce by current pension tax policy. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is now time, before the Budget, for a statement on what action the Government are taking to tackle this issue, which has far-ranging consequences for the whole of the UK?

The hon. Gentleman very cleverly answers his own question when he says, “before the Budget”. These are matters for the Budget, but I think there is a lot of sympathy with what he is saying.

In India, attacks by Hindus on Christians and Muslims have increased and there is evidence that the police are turning a blind eye. Hundreds have been killed, thousands have been injured and chaos reigns, all because of the new citizenship law that disenfranchises Christians and Muslims. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on this urgent and very disturbing matter?

The hon. Gentleman may well have heard my earlier answer to a similar question. I do not want to repeat all of that, other than to reiterate the point that the Government take this matter extremely seriously. I urge the hon. Gentleman to raise it at next month’s Foreign Office questions. It is a very serious matter.