As a number of hon. and right hon. Members have reminded us, there are just 50 days to go before the end of the transition period. That is why I am pleased to be able to discuss with the CBI and other business representative organisations this afternoon exactly how we can ensure that we are all ready for both the challenges and the opportunities that that will bring.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Even senior Tories are accepting the inevitability of a second referendum. As Parnell once said:
“No man has a right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation.”
Scots have learned, as the Secretary of State will know, from the trickery of 1979 when even the dead were counted against. Does he not then realise that the people of Scotland will not accept political chicanery on the number or the nature of the question to be asked?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. It is vital that we have confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions. That is why the Electoral Commission and other bodies play such an important role. Of course, it is also important that people can have confidence in the promises made by politicians, and it was the case in 2014 that Nicola Sturgeon and leading Scottish nationalists made the point that that referendum was for a generation. Just six years later, I do not believe a generation has passed.
Stoke-on-Trent, Kidsgrove and Talke are rich with industrial heritage, from the pits of Chatterley Whitfield to the pots of Middleport Pottery. We are also a UK-leading city, having installed a full-fibre network that will connect every home and business to gigabit. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are the perfect location for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s new hub?
Yes, my right hon. Friend makes an important point. While taxation matters are questions for the Chancellor, who will be updating the House shortly on a variety of important fiscal matters, it is nevertheless the case that outside the European Union we can lower VAT in a way that we could not within the European Union—one of the many benefits of Brexit.
The right to vote independently and in secret should be enjoyed by every voter at an election. I draw the Minister’s attention to the recent report by the Royal National Institute of Blind People about the last general election that found that just one in 10 blind voters and less than half of partially sighted voters were able to cast their vote independently and in secret. What steps are the Government taking to turn around those terrible statistics so that blind and partially sighted voters can enjoy the right that sighted voters have to vote independently and in secret?
The hon. Lady makes an important point, and it is important that everyone’s vote counts. Those who are living with a disability, blind or partially sighted must feel that they can have confidence in the integrity of our electoral system. We have forthcoming legislation on electoral integrity, and I know that the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), has been working with charities to ensure that we have a fully inclusive and modern voting system.
My hon. Friend does a fantastic job speaking up for the fishermen on both the north and south coasts of Cornwall, and I can absolutely reassure her that in the negotiations we are standing firm on ensuring that her constituents and the coastal communities that she represents can benefit from our exit from the common fisheries policy.
Yes. My hon. Friend makes an important point, and it was one that was emphasised earlier. The relocation of parts of Government to different parts of the United Kingdom is not just about distributing economic opportunity; it is also about ensuring that, as we think about the future, we represent in particular those undervalued communities and overlooked families in coastal communities just like Blackpool, who for generations now have not been at the centre of our thinking about how to ensure that we truly represent every citizen. One of the lessons of the Brexit campaign and its aftermath is that far too many people in the United Kingdom felt that the values and instincts of those who governed them were out of tune with their own sentiments and beliefs, and we have got to ensure, as we restructure government, that their values and instincts are at the heart of everything.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Listening to some of the questions from the other side of the House, you would think that the only way in which we could ever procure vaccines, testing or personal protective equipment was by having some sort of Gosplan Stalinist approach in which no private sector individual or organisation could ever be involved. I think that most people looking at, for example, the contribution of—
Again, my hon. Friend makes an important point. There is no better representation of how we work well together as a country than the shared sacrifices made by those in our military, and they are doing an outstanding job in supporting us in the fight against coronavirus, as they did in all the challenges we have faced in the last 100 years.
As I mentioned earlier, I will be meeting businesses this afternoon to make sure we provide all the support necessary for businesses, in York and elsewhere. The hon. Lady makes an important point about working together, but she prefaced her remarks by reflecting on the length of time from the referendum to the conclusion of the transition period, which would have been shorter had her party been committed to implementing the results of the referendum. I commend to her the words of the hon. Members for Hemsworth (Jon Trickett) and for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery)—wise men indeed.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and he has been a consistent and effective advocate for the rights of older and vulnerable citizens in all his time in the House. We must make sure, both through effective voter registration and through the effective roll-out of our vaccination programme, that older and vulnerable voters are in a position to take part in the democratic process, and I will work with the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution to do just that.