Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
The business for the week commencing 20 July will include:
Monday 20 July—Remaining stages of the Trade Bill.
Tuesday 21 July—Remaining stages of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.
Wednesday 22 July—Matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.
At the conclusion of business, the House will rise for the summer recess and return on Tuesday 1 September.
The business for the week commencing 31 August will include:
Monday 31 August—The House will not be sitting.
Tuesday 1 September—Second Reading of the Fisheries Bill [Lords].
Wednesday 2 September—Second reading of the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill [Lords].
Thursday 3 September—Consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill.
Friday 4 September—The House will not be sitting.
For the convenience of the House—[Laughter.]—I can confirm that, following correspondence from the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, I will be tabling motions on Monday’s Order Paper to give the House the opportunity to agree an extension to the current proxy voting arrangements until 28 September.
In addition, I am aware of the understandable desire for Members from all parties to see the return of business to Westminster Hall. It may help if I update the House by saying that discussions are already taking place with the House authorities with a view to Westminster Hall debates resuming as soon as practicable. I understand from the House authorities that the aim is for business to resume from 5 October, if possible.
Now that we have flushed that through, we will go back to Valerie Vaz.
I am going to stay away from the lavatory jokes.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week and the first week of September. The first thing I am going to ask for is a list of updated ministerial responsibilities, please—perhaps we could have that next week.
In his response on Nazanin last week, the Leader of the House missed out Anousheh, and there was no mention of Luke Symons. None of them have done anything wrong. The Leader of the House said that Nazanin’s case is a top priority, but there was also no response to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq), who made a separate but important point about Iran.
My colleagues and I are extremely concerned that the responses from Ministers to our letters are falling somewhat below what should be expected. Ministers are obliged to provide meaningful responses. It is quite an easy phrase: “Ministers’ meaningful responses”—MMR—so it would be quite good if we could give them a poke by thinking of it as an injection. Perhaps we can send copies of all the letters that we have received to the Leader of the House so that he can have a look at them. I received one from the civil servants—this is nothing to do with the civil servants—that was a generalist response and contained nothing about the case that I had raised.
The Leader of the House keeps talking about the accountability of this Government, and he ended the virtual Parliament. He wanted us to come back, he said, because it keeps Ministers accountable, so let’s have it. What about the accountability for the purchase of 27 acres near Ashford in Kent, without the knowledge of the local MP and without the people who live near this lorry park even knowing it would be based there? The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the House that there were no plans to build a lorry park in Dover. What he failed to go on to say was that it would be in Ashford. In his statement he mentioned technology, but there were no details of the technology, how it would work or how it would be used for border checks. Can we have an urgent statement on the delivery plans for these borders and all EU-facing ports and also a statement on the border with Ireland, which the Minister said he would make later this month? Well, the House will not be sitting, so can we have an urgent statement on the plans for a border with the island of Ireland?
The Secretary of State for International Trade needs to make an updated statement, too. She has now put together a Trade and Agriculture Commission, which she announced on Sunday by press release, but not to this House. Will the Leader of the House confirm that there will be regular updates to the House? I know that the commission will be reporting to the Secretary of State, but hon. Members would also like to know what it does.
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be making a statement later. I cannot ask a question, so will the Leader of the House ask him why Walsall Council cannot use its full discretionary grant for local authorities of £7.6 million? BEIS officials have capped it at £2 million and stopped it using the balance. We are the neighbour to Birmingham and we are just a tiny place, so it is really important to keep our local economy going. The head of Blue Coat School has asked why Walsall libraries are not open, so can the Leader of the House confirm that Government guidance was that pubs and libraries could open from 4 July?
Will the Leader of the House join me in commending the education service, and all hon. Members of Parliament, for their efforts on Parliament Week, which is at the beginning of November? David Clark said that 4,192 organisations have signed up for it. Last year, more than a million people took part, and there were 11,000 activities. North East Somerset came 11th and Walsall came 17th, so we are hoping to beat you this year. Congratulations to everyone—hon. Members and the Parliament team—on raising awareness of Parliament at this important time.
I have a further quick point. Depending on what happens in September and how the Procedure Committee reports on its inquiry, can the Leader of the House think about whether we could have an Aye queue and a No queue when we are voting? It would mean that we did not need to have the Whip standing in the middle. Perhaps we could have the Aye queue out of the Members’ Lobby and down those stairs, and the No queue through Central Lobby and down to St Stephen’s stairs. That would mean that the queues would be separate in Westminster Hall and we would know which queue to go to.
Mr Speaker, I join you in congratulating Rui Duarte on his 44 years of service and his retirement. Every event I have attended has always run smoothly in this House. We wish him a well-deserved retirement.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I thank you, your deputies and everyone who works in this House. They have got together to use their talents, their abilities and their skills—that includes Members and our staff. We had the first virtual Parliament in the world. I want to wish everyone well, thank them all for their work, and tell them to stay safe.
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right, as you are, Mr Speaker, to thank Rui Duarte for his amazing service to the House. It is illustrative of how fortunate we are as parliamentarians to have this support. There have been 150,000 functions with one man to oversee them. That is quite phenomenal. We are served so well.
As we come to the end of this Session—these are the last business questions before the end of the Session—the right hon. Lady is also right to thank the staff of this House in all sorts of areas, both seen and unseen, for the work that has been done to ensure that Parliament continued doing its job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. This covers such a wide range of staff. It is the cleaners who have been ensuring that it was safe to come back. It is the organisation of the House that has ensured that the lines are put out so that we can sit in a covid-safe manner. It is the Doorkeepers who constantly work to ensure that everything runs smoothly and that the right number of Members are in the Chamber. I see the Clerk of the House sitting at the Table—the team he leads has done a phenomenal job under his inspired leadership, so we are very lucky.
Mr Speaker, I see your own secretary standing next to you. Her work has been absolutely invaluable in making sure that everything works well and, from the Leader of the House’s Office, she is an absolute pleasure to deal with. I fear that the honourable lady is going red as I say this, but the tribute is, none the less, greatly deserved.
I wish to address the points the right hon. Lady raises on Nazanin, Anousheh, and Luke. I can reassure her that consular efforts are being made in all those cases and that support is also being given to Mr Ashoori, supporting the family. It is really important that this support is given and takes place. Consular access to British nationals in Yemen is extremely difficult, given that our embassy operations are suspended, but we continue to press the Houthis to release Luke on humanitarian grounds. The efforts are being made, and the right hon. Lady is right to raise this issue every week.
On ministerial responsibilities, the right hon. Lady knows that this list is always produced in as reasonably timely manner as can possibly be achieved, but ensuring that it is accurate and kept up to date is a complex and time-consuming process, and therefore the list will be provided in due course—in the fullness of time. She is right to raise the point about letters from Ministers; I have received complaints from across the House. Ministers are aware that it is a basic courtesy that replies come from Ministers, not from officials, and I am reminding Ministers of that. We hold the Government to account, not officials to account. That is our role, and I will remind people about that. However, on the accountability point, since we have been back accountability in the Chamber has improved enormously, with a full hour of Question Time.
The right hon. Lady complains that there was no holding to account about the buying of land in the Ashford constituency, but that is exactly what she was doing: she was raising the point and trying to hold me to account for a decision made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. So proper accountability is taking place, and I am delighted that she is so assiduous in ensuring that we are held to account, as she is doing on the issue of the Irish border. The thing to remember on that issue is that there will be no obstacle to trade from Northern Ireland coming to Great Britain, that Great Britain and Northern Ireland remain in a single customs area, and that the UK will not be divided by any agreements made with the European Union.
As regards the trade and agricultural commission, the Agriculture Bill is in the other place, having completed its passage here. The commission will be set up, and it seems to me an extremely sensible way to proceed.
On the opening of libraries, not everything that can be opened has been opened. Some people, be they councils or businesses, have decided, for their own private reasons, not to open immediately they have been allowed to do so. The right hon. Lady will notice that in central Westminster not every restaurant has reopened since it has been allowed to do so, and that is a decision for the individual businesses.
I am delighted to discover that we in North East Somerset won the competition against Walsall South in regards to Parliament Week, but I do not think that that is a reflection on the individual Members of Parliament for those constituencies—it was merely good luck. It is a great event, and I certainly encourage participation in it this year.
Finally, on the issue of the Aye queue and No queue, I initially thought that the right hon. Lady was referring to the intelligence level of Members on her side of the House, which I think is extraordinarily high but misguided, whereas on our side of the House the level is extraordinarily high and rightly guided. However, her suggestion will be borne in mind, and I am sure that the Procedure Committee will take it up with interest.
This Government have given unprecedented amounts of financial support to businesses and local authorities throughout the covid pandemic, but many businesses in my constituency are saying that urgent reform needs to happen on local authority parking charges, which are stopping many people coming into our town and inhibiting their shopping habits. So will my right hon. Friend commit himself to a debate in Government time on this issue?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. As we try to encourage people back on to our high streets, we of course want to make it as easy as possible for them to get there to support local businesses. Obviously, local authorities have the power to make decisions on parking charges and need to balance the interests of local people, but I am sure we agree that it would be wrong for local government to use parking charges as cash cows without considering the wider effects on local businesses. My hon. Friend may wish to return to this matter in the pre-recess Adjournment debate.
Good morning, Mr Speaker. Those who observe these Thursday morning exchanges will know that I have tried, over the past few weeks, to secure a debate on the fiscal framework within which the devolved Administrations are constrained. It was not designed to deal with a global pandemic and it is hindering the Scottish Government’s ability to respond. As I have made clear consistently, this is an argument not about the amount of money but about what can be done with it. The Leader of the House has consistently evaded my questions, referring instead to the sums involved. I think I now know the reason for that evasion: it seems that, far from enhancing the competence of the Scottish Government, the Tory Cabinet is now determined to constrain it further.
This week, there has been a three-pronged attack on devolution. An announcement on state aid made it clear that Westminster will overrule Holyrood when it comes to providing support for our businesses to recover from this crisis, and that was followed by a statement on the so-called shared prosperity fund, which made it clear that the Scottish Government will have no control over whatever funding replaces EU structural funds. The biggest assault will be announced here shortly: a Government press release tells us that the UK will seek to override and set aside decisions by the Scottish Parliament if they feel those decisions affect UK trade. Were this already in force, it could have overturned decisions on free university tuition, smoking bans or minimum alcohol pricing.
This is a major attack on devolution, taking power away from Scotland, but the details are unclear, so I have three specific questions for the Leader of the House. Is it true that the Government will establish an unelected quango to override the decisions of the Scottish Parliament? Do the UK Government intend to force this on the devolved Administrations if they do not consent? Will these measures require new legislation, and if so, when will this be introduced, and what will happen if it cannot be passed before the end of the transition period? I would appreciate straight answers to these questions, perhaps this time without personal references to my appearance or demeanour.
Finally, since this may be our last business statement before the recess, may I take this opportunity to wish you a good summer break, Mr Speaker? I am sorry we were unable to get you up to the Edinburgh Festival fringe this year as planned, but I hope we can do so in 2021.
Thank you, Tommy.
As always, the hon. Gentleman brings a little ray of sunshine into the Chamber, and we are grateful for that. A light shineth in the darkness. To come to his point, there is a difference between a question not being answered and his being given an answer that he does not like. That does not mean the question has not been answered.
I will therefore remind the hon. Gentleman that some £4.6 billion has gone to Scotland under Barnett consequentials from the UK taxpayer. Without the UK taxpayer, the Scottish Government would find it very hard to make ends meet. That has provided support for 146,000 self-employed people, and 628,000 people have joined the furlough scheme, so a very large number of people—more than 750,000 Scottish people—have been helped because they belong to the United Kingdom, and that is something of which we should all be proud.
The hon. Gentleman mentions the devolution settlement, and it has to be said here that the position of the Scottish Government and Scottish nationalists is bizarre. They want the powers to be with Brussels. There are no powers being taken away from the devolved authorities. What is happening is that power is returning to the United Kingdom. We will have the authority to decide for ourselves these issues with regard to things that affect trade. Subsidies will be a matter for the UK Parliament rather than unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. We have the separatists in Scotland and we have their leader, who wishes to build a metaphorical wall against England and wishes to do all sorts of things that are not in the interests of the people of the United Kingdom or the people of Scotland and wishes to kowtow to Brussels. We wish to make a strong United Kingdom, which has £4.6 billion with which to help the Scottish economy.
Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. It leads to a range of long-term health conditions that adversely affect life chances and life expectancy, particularly in less affluent constituencies such as Stoke-on-Trent Central. The impact of health inequalities has been highlighted by the covid pandemic. Will my right hon. Friend be so kind as to agree to hold a debate in Government time on how we can best tackle childhood obesity and the underlying issues such as food poverty?
My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. The relationship between obesity and other comorbidities and covid-19 has been much discussed in recent months, and the Government are looking at it closely. The Prime Minister has expressed personal interest in tackling childhood obesity. The Government have been clear that every single one of us, no matter who we are, where we live or our social circumstances, deserves the chance to lead a long and healthy life.
Public Health England has emphasised that we must do more to level up health across the country and reduce health inequalities, something that the Government have already committed to in our manifesto, and we are working closely with local authorities to enable them to do that. In addition to what we are already doing, we are keen to ensure that good health is integrated into all facets of life, including housing, transport, education, welfare and the economy, because we all know that preventing ill health—mental and physical—and improving health outcomes is about more than just healthcare.
I thank the Leader of the House for his response to my letter, although I am afraid to say that I was a little disappointed with his attitude towards not protecting the time for the estimates day debates. The Backbench Business Committee has 30 unaired debates on our waiting list. They range across a number of subjects, including very important ones such as redundancies in, and the future of, the aviation sector; support for the self-employed and freelance workers in the aftermath of the covid virus pandemic; support for the tourism industry; mental health support for frontline workers; and, going further afield, the plight of Rohingya, the situation in, and plight of, the people of Yemen and the situation between Israel and Palestine—and many more. I note in the Leader’s response to the question about businesses that there is an intention to try to get Westminster Hall reopened, but can that not be done sooner than the beginning of October?
Given all those unaired debates, I cannot help but note that we have a general debate on restoration and renewal this afternoon. I think that the vast majority of Members on both sides of the House would say that that subject is not filling up their casework inboxes. There is also a general debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment. We have an awful lot of disgruntled Back Benchers with very important debates waiting to happen. I appeal again to the Leader of the House to get us some time for Back-Bench business as soon as possible after the summer recess.
The hon. Gentleman mentions protected time. It is always a difficult balance in this House to ensure that time is available, and it depends on what other Members ask for and are given, but a lot of right hon. and hon. Members value the certainty of a set end point for the day’s business. I absolutely understand his concern about the 30 important issues before the Backbench Business Committee. The pre-recess Adjournment debate will provide an opportunity for Members to raise all those points, so it is an extremely useful opportunity for issues that have not been raised so far to be brought forward. The Government have ensured that the priorities of Back Benchers have been brought forward, both before and after the Backbench Business Committee was established, with supply days being made available and with time being made available to the Petitions Committee and, indeed, for restoration and renewal, a subject that is of great interest to a number of Back Benchers. Time has been facilitated as far as possible, but it is obviously my hope that we can get back to giving the Backbench Business Committee the time that it is entitled to which under Standing Orders.
May I have a statement on the public scrutiny of planning applications? Understandably, the opportunity for public meetings has been curtailed during the covid pandemic, but I have a number of controversial large housing applications, including ones at Netherthong and Netherton. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that local residents must be heard when their communities will be hugely impacted by developments of that kind.
I think there is not a single Member of this House who has not had, in his or her constituency, an issue raised of a planning kind that is of great importance to local constituents. It is important that local views are made known and that facilities have been kept during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that virtual planning committees, with local planning authorities across the country, are implementing planning decisions. However, they are also still required to consult on and publicise planning applications to get the views of local communities. I think that is the right way to proceed.
I want to support the comments of the shadow Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), on the lack of accountability. Throughout this crisis I have received a very high level of casework, with many issues raised by constituents about the lack of financial support for them from Government schemes, but, having written to Ministers, I have often received template replies from correspondence officers rather than from the Ministers themselves. Those replies merely restate details of existing schemes, rather than dealing with my constituents’ concerns. The Leader of the House talks of courtesy, but can he tell me what he will do to ensure that I get full responses from Ministers when I raise constituents’ issues? Anything less than that is a betrayal of the democratic role we play.
The hon. Lady is right. Responses from correspondents in Departments are not the correct way to treat Members of Parliament. If I may make a brief defence of Departments that did that at the height of the pandemic, I think they were almost overwhelmed with correspondence at that time, and I had a certain sympathy with them. However, I think that time has passed and that we have a right to expect proper answers. What have I done? Well, as of yesterday I wrote to one Minister. I raised, jointly with the Leader of the House of Lords, the issue of responses to written questions with Ministers some weeks ago. I will take up, and have taken up, individual cases of poor answers for individual Members of Parliament. If the hon. Lady would like me to take up any cases on her behalf, I will happily do that. It is essential and a key part of holding the Government to account that correspondence is responded to in a timely way by a Minister.
May I associate myself, Mr Speaker, with your kind words to Rui, and to the House staff for all they have done over the past few months?
In September, children in this country will be returning to their schools. Around the world, it is estimated that over 1 billion children have not been in school during the covid-19 crisis. The Malala Fund this week estimates that in September there will be some 10 million children, mainly girls, who will never return to school. May we have a debate in Government time in September to mark that milestone, and to talk about the Government’s own pledge of 12 years of quality education for every child in the world?
My hon. Friend raises a very important matter. Standing up for the right of 12 years of quality education for all girls is the top development priority for this Government. The UK is a world leader in supporting girls’ education around the world. Between 2015 and 2019, the Department for International Development supported 14.3 million children to gain a decent education, of whom at least 5.8 million were girls. There will be an opportunity to debate these issues in the pre-recess Adjournment debate, but the figure my hon. Friend has cited of 1 billion children losing out on education is one that should concern us all. It will be important to try to make up what has been lost in future months and years.
There has been a significant increase in the number of individuals in Vietnam imprisoned for non-violent expression of their beliefs, with as many as 251 prisoners of conscience being held in 2019 alone, according to a new report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Many of them are Christians who have also seen a worrying increase in persecution. For example, the family of imprisoned pastor Nguyen Trung Ton was recently subject to violence and detention by Vietnamese authorities. Will the Leader of the House—he is always very helpful—agree to a statement or a debate on these ongoing developments?
The hon. Gentleman is an absolute champion of freedom of conscience, and has brought before this House on a number of occasions scandals from across the world where people have not been allowed to express their views and their beliefs or have been punished for doing so. This is a matter of concern to the Government, and the Foreign Office continues to take it up. I will bring the Foreign Office’s attention to the 251 prisoners of conscience held in Vietnam to whom he refers.
Alcohol addiction can not only destroy lives but end lives. Five years ago, I lost my older brother Mark to alcohol addiction. Trying to find services and help for him at the time was extremely difficult and, indeed, a postcode lottery. Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate in Government time to discuss drug and alcohol rehabilitation and addiction, and the need for a Government strategy on alcohol to help to ensure that no one else needlessly loses a loved one?
My hon. Friend raises a very difficult issue. It is true to say that overall alcohol consumption has fallen over the past 13 to 14 years, but the harms associated with alcohol remain too high, and every death caused by alcohol misuse is a tragedy—and a terrible family tragedy, particularly. The Government are committed to tackling health harms from alcohol and supporting the most vulnerable to risk from alcohol misuse. We do aim to publish a new UK-wide cross-Government addiction strategy that will include alcohol. We have the best health service in the world, and we need to marshal those resources to help people suffering from addiction, particularly addiction to alcohol.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders described the Government’s target to ban the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035 as a “date without a plan”. With only 147 battery electric vehicles licensed to addresses in my constituency, we need to work faster and do more to support zero-emissions vehicles, so can the Leader of the House ensure a debate in Government time about how the required market transformation for these vehicles can take place?
Huge advances are being made in the ability to provide zero-emissions cars, and market forces are coming to work. The Government have been enormously supportive of those and have set an ambitious date for the removal of petrol and diesel cars. That has been a very sensible approach, and we are seeing companies across the world developing cars that are able to operate with zero emissions.
Under current Government and parliamentary procurement rules, purchases of less than £10,000 do not require an open tendering process. This freezes out many local ceramic companies in Stoke-on-Trent, such as Steelite and Churchill China, from the possibility of supplying high-quality, English-made tableware in Government Departments or at Chequers, the countryside residence of the Prime Minister. Could my right hon. Friend advise me on how best to ensure that Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic companies get a fair crack of the whip in supplying Government with their world-beating products?
It is very important that companies such as Churchill China and Steelite have the opportunity to supply the Government and to make a success of their businesses. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his question. He is a wonderful campaigner for the businesses of Stoke-on-Trent. Supporting high-quality small businesses through the procurement system is something that many Members want to see realised. As we return powers from the European Union, the Government are interested in looking at how public procurement works and how it can be improved. As regards purchases for Chequers, I think that is a matter for a private trust. However, I am sure that with his indefatigable charms, my hon. Friend will make sure that the trust that runs Chequers knows where china can come from.
The House rises next Wednesday, but just two weeks later, on 5 August, it will be one year since the Indian Government revoked article 370 of the constitution and the people of Jammu and Kashmir were locked down. Human rights were attacked, and subsequent violence has resulted in many deaths. The Backbench Business Committee had listed a debate on human rights abuses in Kashmir on 23 March, and then on 26 April, but, as the Leader of the House is aware, debates were cancelled owing to covid-19. The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is of urgent importance to many of my constituents in Luton South and those of other Members, so will he ensure that time is found early in September for a debate on human rights abuses in the region?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to ask for a debate on this issue, and I note what she says about the Backbench Business Committee’s willingness to provide her with one. It will of course be possible to raise this at the pre-recess Adjournment debate, when a Minister will be answering, and I would encourage her to do that. We expect Westminster Hall to reopen from 5 October, so that will provide the opportunity for more debates. I hope that it will be possible to facilitate Backbench Business Committee debates once we are back after the recess.
May I echo the call of the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), in appealing to the Leader of the House to grant more time for Back-Bench business debates? The first debate the hon. Gentleman mentioned, on aviation and redundancies, is in my name and has been signed by more than 150 MPs from across this place. I think we all see in our inboxes a real desire from employees for MPs to stand up and give them their voice, and I would like to do so but cannot because that time has not been granted. May I please appeal to the Leader of the House, who always stood up for Back Benchers when he was sitting very close to where I am standing now, to give us more time to debate these important matters?
I hear some heckling that suggests I was sometimes accused of reclining when I was sitting in that corner, but my backbone has now been stiffened by joining the Front Bench.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) phrases himself brilliantly, because he says it has been impossible to raise these issues in the House, and then raises them in the House with great panache. He is absolutely right to do so; we have all had correspondence from constituents on aviation redundancies. These companies are vital to the economy, and they are being supported in a number of ways by the Government with the time to pay scheme. The demand for debates will be met when we are fully back to normal, and we get back to normal step by step.
The Conservative manifesto at the last election promised a fan-led review of governance of football. As we emerge from covid, many clubs are going to fall into financial difficulties. My local club in the royal borough of Greenwich, Charlton Athletic football club, is currently in that situation. Some dubious characters have got involved with the club, separating the ownership of the ground and the training ground, which is in my constituency, and undermining the future of the club. We need the Government to make an urgent statement about reviewing the governance of football to stop these bad actors getting into the game, and we need them to do that before the recess, because the season is going to end and many clubs are going to find themselves in difficulties—so we need that urgent statement.
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman paid such close attention to the Conservative party manifesto; I hope it influenced his vote in the right direction. He is obviously right to raise the point, as other hon. Members across the House have, about the difficulties football teams face in the current environment. I refer him once again to the pre-recess debate, which is an opportunity to air this issue.
I am very grateful to the Leader of the House for announcing the recommencing of Westminster Hall debates, but, like the Chairs of the Backbench Business and Transport Committees, I would be grateful for reconsideration and for those debates to start in September. As the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer, I have been unsuccessful in securing Adjournment debates, and therefore would put in a request for such a debate at the earliest opportunity.
My hon. Friend raises an important point and he is right to ask for those debates. As I say, we cannot manage it before 5 October. The House authorities have been very pressed with all the commitments that they have to ensure that Select Committees are running, that Bill Committees are running and that the Chamber is running within the constraints of people’s still being asked to work from home, the pressures on the broadcasting team and so on, but it is important that this comes back so that hon. Members can raise issues such as the one that he mentioned, blood cancer.
Is it not time that we had a debate on the appalling performance of the Health and Safety Executive? Cranswick Foods in Wombwell has had numerous cases of covid-19 and three deaths, yet it took the Health and Safety Executive three months to visit the factory and I am yet to receive a response to my letter. It clearly has no interest in health and no interest in safety, so will this Executive abolish the HSE and finally put workers first?
We had questions earlier about Ministers not responding to letters. I think that for public bodies to fail to respond to letters is an even greater discourtesy, because they are funded out of Parliament and they are ultimately responsible to Members of Parliament. Therefore, if the hon. Lady would like me to take this up with her and with the HSE to ensure that she gets a response, I would be more than happy to do so.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the illegal harvesting of shellfish? He will recall only too well that 21 undocumented migrants tragically lost their lives in Morecambe bay—a place where I did a charity walk, and which is very dangerous—and last year 39 people lost their lives being trafficked into Essex. Activity is going on illegally off the coast of Southend. I want to avoid another tragedy happening.
My hon. Friend raises an important and tragic issue. The Morecambe bay tragedy shone a light on the appalling practices in the employment of many trafficked people in this country, and is one of those disasters that will not be forgotten by anybody who was reading newspapers at that time or who heard of the terrible events that occurred there. Governments of both parties, from that time onwards, have made great progress in tackling these abuses, but I am aware there is more to be done. If my hon. Friend knows of specific instances, I would urge him to report them to the police. The legislation to tackle modern slavery is there to try to eliminate these abuses, not just in terms of shellfish, but following the recent revelations from Leicester.
The first line of a new report warning of up to 120,000 additional coronavirus deaths this winter states:
“July and August must be a period of intense preparation”
to prevent such a scenario. Will the Government schedule an urgent debate so that the public can know if the Government are undertaking such intense preparation, and to show they have learned the lessons from their handling of this so far, which has led to one of the highest death tolls in the world?
The hon. Gentleman may want to go on to MemberHub in a moment, because he could apply to put a question to the Health Secretary who will be making a statement at 5 o’clock.
My right hon. Friend knows how good Sedgemoor District Council is, but I do not know whether he is aware that it has just approved the imaginative plans for the Gravity site, on the M5, of 600 acres, which even Elon Musk, I believe, has been down to see. This will create 4,000 jobs. May we please have a debate in Government time on the importance of enterprise sites, of which this is one, and their role in creating opportunities for all of the United Kingdom, but especially where district councils should be praised for the imaginative work of making sure they create jobs in their areas?
It is wonderful to see somebody from God’s own county. The more we hear from Somerset and about Somerset, the better, and I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Sedgemoor District Council. It is actually a rare treat to have Members come in and praise their local councils; normally, it is a litany of woes where local councils are concerned. However, 4,000 jobs is a great achievement, and enterprise sites are a very good way of encouraging business. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting the success of Somerset, which goes from strength to strength.
May I ask the Leader of the House for an update on the integrated review? In welcoming the decision to remove Huawei from our critical national infrastructure, we must brace ourselves for both covert and overt repercussions. We are now recognising that China has not matured into the global citizen that we want it to be; indeed, it is pursuing a very different and competing geopolitical agenda. We do need a full foreign policy reset on China, and the vehicle for that is the integrated review.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said that he is having a deep dive into foreign policy in relation to China. The behaviour of the Chinese Government with regard to the joint declaration and their failure to follow that is a matter of great concern, because it is fundamentally a matter of trust. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, as a distinguished chairman of a Select Committee, will ensure that these issues are properly scrutinised and followed.
May I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Edmonton (Kate Osamor) and for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) for acting as my proxy after I was lucky enough to become a mum in February?
During this pandemic, the world of work has changed for many people. This place should seize this moment as an opportunity to modernise Parliament further and to set an example to other employers. Will the Leader of the House commit himself to gathering feedback from MPs who have benefited from proxy votes for new parents and, now, from the hybrid Parliament, so that he can make this House more accessible to people from a wider range of backgrounds and circumstances, including those without a family nanny?
May I congratulate the hon. Lady on the birth of her child in February? There is no greater joy than a new life coming into the world. As regards how this House operates, the Procedure Committee is looking at the issue of proxy voting for maternity and paternity leave, which seems to be a scheme that has worked well. I know that the hon. Lady gave evidence to the Procedure Committee recently on that subject. Ultimately, though, Parliament must be a coming together of Members from across the country physically, and as soon as it is safe to have it entirely physical once again, that is what we must get back to.
May I make a controversial statement—that we live in a parliamentary democracy? As regards wearing face masks, I do not think that there will be time, because the order has not been laid, to have a debate. Surely the Leader of the House—and indeed, the Government—in a matter as controversial as the enforced wearing of face masks from an increasingly authoritarian Executive, know that there should be a debate here and a vote. After all, this is highly controversial and everybody in the country has a view. Up to 70 million people will be affected by it. Lincolnshire has an infection rate of 150 in 150,000, so we have natural social distancing anyway. Why can we not just have more democracy and less authoritarianism from this Government?
As I understand it—although I will be corrected if this is not right—it is a made affirmative statutory instrument that will have to come to the House in due course, in accordance with the normal procedures. But my right hon. Friend is absolutely right; we are a parliamentary democracy, so decisions made by the Government have to be supported by this House. It is worth bearing in mind that the House passed the emergency legislation which provided the powers for these things to happen.
Further to the comments of the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, may I say to the Leader of the House that it is deeply regrettable that we will, even for the first week back, not have had an opportunity in this Chamber to discuss the proposals by Israel to annex the Occupied Palestinian Territories? It is a matter on which this House should express a view, as we have historic obligations in the region. May I gently say to him that perhaps it might have taken precedence, in terms of the time available in the Chamber, over the rating arrangements for public lavatories, which could be dealt with in Committee—for everyone’s convenience?
On the issue of Israel, the Government remain committed to a two-state solution. Any moves towards annexation would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law. We have conveyed our opposition to Prime Minister Netanyahu on multiple occasions, and reiterated this message in a statement to the UN Security Council on 24 June.
The remaining stages of the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill—without making any more puns on that issue—have to be taken on the Floor of the House. Report stage and Third Reading need to be completed as well as Committee stage, although I do not imagine that proceedings in Committee will take up a great deal of time.
Yesterday the Intelligence and Security Committee elected my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) as its Chair. He is exceptionally well qualified and will do an excellent job. However, some in No. 10 seem to be having a huge hissy fit about the decision. Will the Leader of the House confirm that he will not bring forward a motion to remove my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East from the ISC?
The right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) was playing ducks and drakes with the Labour party, and that is why the Whip has been withdrawn.
It is with deep sadness that my work over the last few weeks has exposed the significant risks of covid-19 to those in care homes in York: no PPE; no family visits; no GP visits; no Care Quality Commission inspections; agency staff not knowing residents; and poor oversight by the local authority. This has exposed and exacerbated the risk to the most vulnerable members of our community, increasing infection and mortality, which is very serious. Can we have a debate in Government time, before the recess, about social care during the pandemic, including a review of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and, most urgently, the way in which deaths are reported and recorded?
There will obviously be an opportunity for the hon. Lady to raise this matter during the Adjournment debate pre-recess, but with regard to care homes it is worth reiterating that every death from this virus is a tragedy. Care homes have worked incredibly hard under very difficult circumstances. The Government have set out their comprehensive plan to support adult social care in England throughout the coronavirus outbreak. They have provided £3.7 billion to local authorities in un-ring-fenced form, plus £600 million for infection control. They have overhauled how PPE is delivered to care homes. Considerable efforts have been made under difficult circumstances to help the people running care homes, who have done incredibly well in the most trying circumstances.
The Cumberlege review said that the Primodos drug should have been taken off the market in 1967, that the harm caused to the victim was “avoidable” and that a discretionary financial scheme should be set up for all three affected groups to help them cope with life, so imagine my disappointment when the Minister, whenever she was asked about Primodos last week, quoted legal privilege. The Government can set up a discretionary scheme, with a clear caveat that that does not constitute an admission of liability. Will the Leader of the House ask the Minister to come back to the House to make a statement as to why she has taken that view and why a discretionary scheme cannot be set up? The Leader of the House knows I am not giving up on this.
The hon. Lady gives me the opportunity to congratulate her personally, or as personally as one can in this virtual setting, on the work she did in regard to Primodos and the Cumberlege review, and the comfort she has brought to thousands of families across the country, who knew that something had gone wrong and now have a report that accepts that what they were saying was true and that it should have been known by the powers that be. The work she has done is admirable and a model of how an MP should hold Parliament to account. She knows of my sympathy with her, because I served on her all-party parliamentary group. I will therefore more than happily take the matter up directly with the Minister and try to get her a fuller response.
The Leader of the House did not answer the question from the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), who asked whether it was his intention to bring forward a motion to remove the newly elected Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee from that Committee. What is the answer?
I announced the business forthcoming at the beginning of the statement.
My right hon. Friend will be only too aware of the recent Turkish ruling that Hagia Sophia, that Byzantine masterpiece inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list, should be turned into a mosque. This architectural wonder was built by Justinian the Great, then turned into a mosque and finally dedicated as a secular museum by the great reformer Atatürk. It now risks having its beautiful murals, mosaics and frescoes damaged or destroyed. That would be a loss to the whole world and, furthermore, would exacerbate community tensions. Will my right hon. Friend hold a debate in Government time on Turkey’s actions, UNESCO’s response and the protection of this important world heritage site?
We have noted President Erdoğan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, and while that has caused concern internationally—I particularly note the comments of the Holy Father—the Government regard this as a sovereign matter for Turkey. However, we would expect that Hagia Sophia, as part of a UNESCO world heritage site, remains accessible to all, as a testament to Turkey’s rich and diverse historical and cultural legacy, and that its precious artefacts are preserved. We therefore welcome the public statements by Turkish leaders that this historic building will continue to be accessible to people of all faiths and nationalities, which is consistent with the Turkish constitution’s provision for freedom of conscience and religion for all.
It is for states party to the world heritage convention to ensure that their designated world heritage sites comply with the terms of the convention. We work closely with UNESCO, its advisory body and partner Governments to promote the highest standards of heritage protection. That will ensure that designated sites are protected effectively for the whole of humanity and for future generations.
“Business needs certainty” appears to be the Government’s default response when they have nothing of substance or clarity to offer. Despite the Paymaster General’s recent assurances that answers would be made available soon, businesses in my constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and elsewhere still lack any certainty on tariffs, regulations, customs processes, cross-border arrangements or the recognition of professional qualifications such as the validity of pilots’ licences from next January. This matter was brought sharply into focus by the International Trade Secretary’s assessment that current plans could lead to smuggling—
Order. Leader of the House.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Government are still in negotiations with the European Union about how things will work out after 1 January, but businesses should naturally prepare themselves for a variety of eventualities.
I want to get through the list. If we speed up, we will get through it.
Our key workers have kept the nation going throughout lockdown and I want to see local and national celebration of that. In Harrogate, a local electrical firm and a private donor have paid for a set of rainbow-coloured lights on the side of the Stray parkland to be a permanent tribute. May we have a debate on how we can celebrate key workers, both locally and nationally?
May I begin by commending the local electrical firm for doing that? I wholeheartedly agree that we should pay tribute to all those people who helped keep the country running throughout the peak of the crisis, from doctors and nurses to police officers, bus drivers, cleaners, caterers and, of course, supermarket workers. Those people, along with millions of others, deserve our respect and heartfelt thanks.
British Airways has treated its workers disgracefully, threatening to fire all 42,000 and rehire around two thirds on terms and pay that will set people back decades. It is frustrating that the Prime Minister has not yet made clear what consequences BA will face, including for its favourable landing slot allocation. Will the Leader of the House therefore invite the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House before the recess on exactly what action the Government will take to halt BA’s shocking behaviour?
That ties in with the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) about a debate on the aviation industry more generally. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman raises the matter in the pre-recess Adjournment debate.
Our pilots and cabin crew have been through a difficult number of months, but many have focused their efforts on helping others, including Moray-based Captain Emma Henderson, the co-founder of Project Wingman. That sees thousands of cabin crew, in hospitals across the UK including Dr Gray’s Hospital in Moray, helping our dedicated NHS staff by giving them a first-class experience. May we have a debate in Parliament to congratulate Emma Henderson, Dave Fielding and everyone involved with Project Wingman?
My hon. Friend has managed to convey congratulations. He is right to do so. I hope he will give the people he mentioned a framed copy of Hansard showing how much the House of Commons appreciates the work that they have done.
The Government sat on the Dame Mary Ney review of the funding oversight of our further education colleges for nine months. The written statement that the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills provided could have been written in nine minutes. May we have a proper debate and statement on the findings of that review, which exposes how the job cuts throughout the civil service in the Education and Skills Funding Agency have prevented the Government from having proper oversight of our further education sector?
The Chancellor made announcements with regard to the additional funding that will be made available to further education. The Government have shown their absolute commitment to ensuring that further education is as good as it can possibly be and to improving standards. I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I have said to others, that there will be an opportunity to raise such matters specifically in the pre-recess Adjournment debate.
May we have a statement from a Minister in the Department for Transport on the operation of local transport schemes? Harrow Council intends to close several roads, which will severely inconvenience the residents who live in those areas and force them to travel on congested roads, and blames the Government for making it happen. If we can clarify the matter through a statement, everyone will be clear about whose responsibility this is.
My hon. Friend raises a crucial question. Local authorities have changed their traffic rules, and some may have worked, but others have caused real irritation, annoyance and increased congestion. The Department for Transport published statutory guidance to local authorities, providing advice on the changes the Government expect them to make to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians, but it is important that motorists’ interests are not ignored.
We said that others would follow if action was not taken following the British Airways fire and rehire announcement, and so it has proven, with Centrica, easyJet and Menzies Aviation all engaging in that disgraceful behaviour. My Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill has been delayed, so will the Leader of the House help to facilitate a meeting between me and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy so we can work together to improve employment and employment law and protect workers?
One of my roles is always to try to facilitate meetings between Members of this House and Ministers. If the hon. Gentleman has not done so already, I urge him to start the process by correspondence, but if that does not achieve the result he requires, then if he comes to my office, I will do what I can.
My constituents are starting to get a little impatient because some key public services are not reopening and there is no set date for them to do so—for example, for interviews for new passports. Could the Leader of the House find time for a statement before the recess so we can have a road map of when everything will reopen, as long as the virus stays under control?
Things are reopening in a staged way to try to ensure that they can reopen in a way that does not take any unnecessary risks. We see that across the country. My hon. Friend is right to say that there is more to be done, but I am sure that announcements will be made in the normal way as more things open up.
I thank the Leader of the House. The House is suspended.