The business for the week commencing 28 June will include:
Monday 28 June—Second Reading of the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill, followed by motion relating to the appointment of lay members to the Committee on Standards, followed by motion relating to the membership of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body.
Tuesday 29 June—Estimates day (1st allotted day). There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Education; and on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Wednesday 30 June—Estimates day (2nd allotted day). There will be a debate on an estimate relating to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. At 7 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.
Thursday 1 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill, followed by general debate on Windrush Day, followed by general debate on Pride Month. The subjects for these debates were recommended by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 2 July—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 5 July will include:
Monday 5 July—Remaining stages of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Tuesday 6 July—Second Reading of the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill.
Wednesday 7 July—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Scottish National party. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 8 July—General debate on fuel poverty, followed by debate on a motion relating to the implementation of the recommendations of the independent medicines and medical devices safety review. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 9 July—The House will not be sitting.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business.
It is stretching the bounds of my football knowledge to know to send Scotland commiserations and to wish Wales and England good luck, but it is heartfelt. Meanwhile, in my own game of choice and on my own patch, Gloucestershire county cricket ground welcomed the Indian and English cricket teams last week, and the women really showed just how exciting the beautiful game can be.
I thank the Leader of the House for working constructively with me on repairing the inconsistency between the independent complaints and grievance process and the parliamentary Committee on Standards for triggering recall for MPs. I hope that the Member currently suspended recognises that these changes would have applied to him. Given that his constituents cannot currently remove him, he should do the decent thing by staff, Members and the public and resign.
The Government are letting people down. They use covid as an excuse for problems that they promised to fix years ago. They cannot blame all this on the past 18 months. They have had four years since Grenfell to fix the cladding and fire safety crisis affecting millions of innocent residents, many with Tory MPs. Why are the Government letting them down? It is nearly two years since the Government announced their review on support for terminally ill people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) said last week, thousands have died since then waiting for a decision. Why are the Government letting them down?
It is nearly two years since the Prime Minister said that he already had a plan to fix social care. Since then, thousands of people have had to sell their homes to pay for care, and millions have been turned down for support. Why are the Government letting them down? It is three years since the Windrush scandal broke; yet victims still wait for compensation and some have died waiting. Why are the Government letting them down? Then there is the harm facing the world’s poorest people, with cuts to aid commitments made before the pandemic. Lives will be lost. Why are the Government letting them down?
The Government have blamed waiting times in the NHS on covid, but before the pandemic more than one in six patients were already waiting more than 18 weeks for a routine treatment. Why are the Government letting them down? Climate change has been around for a while; yet the Government are all mouth and no delivery. The Committee on Climate Change is sounding alarm bells. Why are the Government letting us all down?
The Government are letting down rape victims, with conviction rates plummeting for years before the pandemic. At Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, the Prime Minister appeared not to understand the anger of rape victims such as those who have told me of appalling delays from before the pandemic, and the anger of those of us who represent them. Ministers mention £4 million for advocates for sexual violence victims, but that is just £15 per reported rape victim per year. They refer to police officers being recruited, but they have cut more than 20,000 experienced skilled officers over the past decade.
Recruiting new police now does not help rape victims who have already waited years, unable to move on with their lives. In the final insult, the Prime Minister flipped away from the subject and back to his scripted-for-clipping punchline, referring to the Opposition as jabbering while the Government jabs—after my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) had asked about rape. Why are the Government letting rape survivors down?
Here is a list of questions for the Leader of the House. Will the Government sort out the cladding crisis once and for all, and bring that plan to estimates day next Tuesday? Will the Leader ask the Prime Minister to find his plan for social care, wherever he has mislaid it? Will the Leader ask the Home Secretary to apologise to victims of the Windrush scandal who have still not received compensation?
Will the Leader ask the Health Secretary to come to the House with a plan to give the NHS the resources that it needs? Will he ask the Chancellor to present a funded plan for the essential measures to tackle climate change? Will the Government give us a vote on aid cuts? Will the Leader ask the Cabinet to do the right thing by rape victims and support Labour’s Bill on violence against women? Will the Government stop letting people down?
Finally, Ministers are fond of pivoting to “But the vaccine!” to divert attention. I have news for them: British people are not stupid. They know when the Government are pulling a fast one. They know that it was scientists who researched the vaccine, and it is the NHS that vaccinates. British people deserve better. They deserve the best. The Government, who should be getting on with learning the lessons of the covid crisis by launching an inquiry urgently, are instead shamefully using it as cover for all the ways that they are letting the British people down.
I am, as always, very grateful to the hon. Lady for her list of questions, which she was kind enough to give to the House twice—once in her long list and then in a shorter list of much the same questions.
The hon. Lady mentioned the football. I am very sorry that Scotland is no longer in. As I said last week, I had a vested interest in that, but I wish England and Wales well. Let us hope that we have a final, if this is possible—I do not know how the draw will work—between England and Wales. Then we will all be on the edge of our seat, some of us not knowing which part of our heritage to back. There was a very interesting cricket match between New Zealand and India and I congratulate New Zealand on winning the first multinational Test series to make them world Test champions.
I agree with the hon. Lady about the hon. Member for Delyn (Rob Roberts), who is currently suspended. As I have said before, I think that a Member in such a situation should resign. I would not criticise his constituents for feeling that someone who had been found guilty of something so serious was not an ideal representative.
The hon. Lady accused the Government of pulling a fast one with the vaccine. I agree—it was remarkably fast: an incredibly fast delivery and service of a vaccine that means that millions of people have now received both doses. I think that that applies to over 60% of the country and all the highest risk categories have had the opportunity to get both jabs. That is a success of the NHS—indeed, the NHS that has been properly funded by the Conservatives since we have been in office, effectively since 2010. It is a great achievement, for which the British people, in their wisdom—as the hon. Lady rightly said—will thank Her Majesty’s Government, under the inspired leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
We come to the variety of issues that the hon. Lady raised. I think she is trying to show up the Leader of the Opposition for not asking such a range of questions and sticking rigorously to one subject on Wednesdays. On building safety and cladding, £5.1 billion of taxpayers’ money has been provided to fund the cost of remediating unsafe cladding for leaseholders. The remediation works are either completed or under way on 96% of the high-risk residential buildings that were identified at the start of last year. That is important and continues to be rolled out. It is right that that is being done, and the Building Safety Bill will provide further details on how we deal with the remaining problem. A great deal of work has already been done, and not all forms of cladding and not all high-rise buildings are dangerous.
The hon. Lady referred to climate change. The Government have a most remarkable and successful record on climate change. From 1990 to 2020, there has been a 43% cut in emissions with 75% economic growth. This is the key. We are not going to be Adullamites; we are not going to be cave dwellers. We are not going to make constituents have miserable lives. We are going to improve the standard of living of the people of this country, and make the country greener, too. That is why Her Majesty’s Government is the first major economy to commit in law to net zero by 2050, with the target of cutting emissions by 2035 by 78% on their 1990 levels.
The Committee on Climate Change does not want us to eat meat. I disagree with them. I like eating meat and my constituents like eating meat, and I will not be told by fanatics not to eat meat. Let us be meat eaters. Let us support our agriculture. The Opposition always go on about the need to protect our farmers, then they join forces with the anti-meat brigade. There is a discontinuity in that approach.
As regards Windrush, 13,000 documents have been provided so far and £20 million out of £30 million of compensation has been paid. The Prime Minister apologised yesterday for the terrible situation that was created, but I thought what he said was inspiring: that we should think of Windrush as the Mayflower; as an occasion when something great happened to our nation—something really important when people came—that we should celebrate and rejoice, rather than its being something that is thought about in terms of failure.
On aid, the hon. Lady asks and I give. I do my best as Leader of the House, and on the second allotted estimates day:
“There will be a debate on an estimate relating to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.”
A vote will take place if people shout, “No.” There are votes on estimates if people want them. It is a matter for the hon. Lady and the Opposition Whips to decide whether they wish to divide the House.
The Government introduced the end-to-end rape review because of the failures that had become apparent and the need to make things better. It is worth pointing out that the Leader of the Opposition was Director of Public Prosecutions for quite a time, so one would hope that the fact that there are problems in the Crown Prosecution Service does not come as news to him. It is clear that too many victims of rape and sexual violence have been denied the justice they deserve as a result of systemic failings. That is why an action plan has been set out with clear measures for police, prosecutors and courts in order to return the volume of rape cases going through the courts to at least 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament, with steps to improve the quality of investigations, improve the culture of joint working and, for the first time, make sure that each part of the criminal justice system will be held to account through performance scorecards.
This is what the Government are doing—it is real and genuine action—and then we get the cheap point about gibbering and jabbering and drooling Opposition. That is what the Opposition do: they gibber and jabber and drool, and they do this the whole time on all sorts of subjects. The Prime Minister gave full and comprehensive answers on rape yesterday—I heard him; I was listening to him—but then he made the general point about the vacuity of Opposition. The hon. Lady sometimes manages to prove my right hon. Friend’s points.
I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware that the town of Marlborough in my constituency has the widest high street of any town in England. This proved very helpful on Monday, when I boarded a coach at one end of the high street, which drove me down to the other end and then performed a, frankly hardly necessary, three-point turn before coming back and depositing me outside the iconic Polly Tea Rooms, where I presented the mayor with a certificate confirming Marlborough’s status as a coach-friendly town. Will he join me in congratulating the town on this and particularly Belinda Richardson, the brilliant tourism officer for the area, and join me in urging the Government to support not just international tourism, which badly needs more help and sector-specific support, but our domestic tourism industry?
Very much so. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Belinda Richardson on the work she does for tourism in Wiltshire. Dare I say it, but my general view of Wiltshire is that it is a very nice place to pass through before one gets to Somerset, but I would recommend that people take the opportunity to ask their charabancs to stop, and get out and use the tea rooms in Marlborough. It is of course on the old A4—the old coaching route through to Bath—and they can then go on to Bath, passing through my constituency into the constituency of the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), who I can see is in her usual place. The city she represents is one of the most beautiful in the world.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Free at last, and it is good to be back. Can I thank the Leader of the House for his support and understanding during my long confinement, and my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) for standing in for me so stoutly, as he always does? Now I am back, I have of course one simple task: to secure something for the Scottish press by gently encouraging the Leader of the House to say something provocative and inflammatory about Scotland. Knowing the Leader of the House as I do, I know that he will oblige me in giving me the headline I seek.
Can I sincerely congratulate the England team on progressing to their historic place and getting beat by Germany on penalties? I also congratulate the Welsh team. It is of course a fantastic feat to get through to the last 16 again. I know the tartan army’s most unlikely new recruit will be gutted at Scotland’s departure. Apparently, he is to go to the Caledonia bar in Leicester Square, where he has left a “See You Jimmy” wig. It is known to be his because it is attached to a top hat, so I hope he will be dispatched soon to reclaim it.
Will the Leader of the House now bring forward the necessary changes to Standing Orders to rid this place once and for all of the total disaster and absolute waste of time that is English votes for English laws? This piece of uselessness has been in abeyance for over a year, and such is the impact that the quasi-English Parliament has made on this House that nobody even knows it is not in operation any more. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said that EVEL is a hindrance to the Union, so what better incentive than that to get rid of it once and for all.
Lastly—and this is where I hope the Leader of the House helps me out and obliges me—we need a debate about strengthening the Union, because the Government are simply all over the place and seemingly doing everything possible to help our cause. In one week—this week—they tried to gerrymander the franchise before ruling out once again a vote in which they seek to cheat their way to victory, while the strains of “Strong Britain, great nation” bellow out from the children of England in a gesture that is not in the least bit creepy, ominous or embarrassing, so can I thank him for all his efforts in the course of the past week? As the red wall languishes in ruins and the blue wall is breached, the SNP tartan wall stands strong, impregnable and reinforced by the right hon. Gentleman.
It is a pleasure to have the hon. Gentleman back, as he has shown with his stylish question. I am all in favour of strengthening the Union and I am glad he is too. I used to think there should be a special seat preserved invariably, as it is in law, for the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), as he is such an ornament to the Union Parliament. I am beginning to think that something similar should be done for the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), because we have missed him and his style is very welcome in this House.
The Union has been fundamental to the success of the roll-out of the vaccine and, indeed, in dealing with the pandemic, as we have benefited from the furlough payments. It has shown that as one country we are genuinely better together. I think the hon. Gentleman is a little mean, uncharacteristically, about a children’s song. He and I are both old enough to remember “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma”, which was No. 1 on the hit parade in 1980, when I was an 11-year-old. These charming, sweet-natured songs are a feature of public life which pop up every so often, and I think it should be welcomed and one should suffer the little children to come unto us, rather than being a bit miserable about it.
As regards EVEL, evil is to be opposed in favour of good as a general rule, but if we are to take the alternative spelling, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: it has been suspended for the past year and nobody has noticed. There is a fundamental principle, where I share his view, of the absolute equality of every Member of this House, be they Front Bench, Back Bench, Minister, non-Minister or even the Speaker. One of the great advantages of our system of not having a special Speaker’s seat is that the Speaker is one of us, even though primus inter pares. That principle is of the greatest importance. I will be appearing before the Procedure Committee on Monday and I imagine this will be an important part of the discussion. I want to hear its views, but what was reported about my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s views is not a million miles from my own.
May I, too, wish the Welsh team good luck on Saturday? I have a Welsh grandfather and a Welsh father, and my family will be cheering loudly. Does the Leader of the House agree that Wales desperately needs a freeport to boost jobs and investment, and that the Welsh Labour Government continue to stall, dither and delay, while opportunities to bring an economic renaissance to Wales and, I hope, to my constituency of Anglesey are squandered?
I agree with my hon. Friend that freeports are very important; the programme will be of great value to the whole UK. I am sorry that the Welsh Government, of course a socialist Government, are dragging their feet on the issue. One would have thought that they would want to encourage innovation, free trade, competition and the prosperity of the whole nation. As highlighted in our “Plan for Wales”, published in May, the Government remain committed to establishing at least one freeport in Wales as soon as possible, to attract new businesses and investment, and create jobs and opportunity in areas that need them the most. I recall that she has raised this matter with me before and I will take up her concerns with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Wales and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
I am very grateful to you, as always, Mr Speaker.
May I welcome the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) back to his place? He is truly, in so many different ways, top of the Scots’ pops.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business, and I hope he will use his best endeavours to give the Backbench Business Committee as much time as he can before the summer recess. We have a range of applications and they are still coming in. Subjects we would like to try to get debates on include: giving babies the best start in life; the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on personal and household debt; the Timpson review and the effect of school exclusions; the failures in the criminal justice system highlighted by the collapse of the trial regarding the Hillsborough disaster; COP26; and progress towards the national ambition to reduce baby loss. And there are many, many more.
May I also let the Leader of the House know that I am, among other things, chair of the all-party group on parental participation in education—Parentkind. I wonder whether he will join me in welcoming this week as the first National Parent Teacher Association Week, which seeks to promote and celebrate the hugely positive impact parents can make in assisting schools in the education of their community’s children?
I hear the hon. Gentleman’s request for time before the recess. I always try to do my best to facilitate Backbench Business and, indeed, Opposition days, but there is a lot of Government business as well. I note that it will be Parent Teacher Associations Week. The work done between parents and teachers to improve schools is important, and I thank him for his work on that.
I join other colleagues in saluting the work of children’s hospices, such as Little Havens in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris). Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the full resumption of face-to-face consultations with general practitioners? They have done magnificent work in challenging times. It is good that more than half of face-to-face consultations have been resumed but, judging by my constituents’ emails and letters, they really miss seeing their GP in person.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the fact that it is Children’s Hospice Week. The work that people do in children’s hospices is truly remarkable. It must be such hard work for the carers to do.
To come to my hon. Friend’s question, NHS England and NHS Improvement have regularly issued guidance on the importance of continuing to offer face-to-face appointments. All practices should offer face-to-face consultations where appropriate—I reiterate, all practices. There will be a role for telephone calls and virtual consultations, but face to face, if needed, must happen. The figures are more encouraging. In March 2021, an estimated 28.6 million appointments were booked in general practice in England, of which 15.8 million were face to face, so 55.7% of all appointments.
The Leader of the House will be aware of the continued internment, persecution and torture of Chinese Muslims at the hands of the state in that country. This is not a criticism of the Foreign Secretary, because he has come to this House and made a number of statements on the situation there, but not for quite a while, and on the basis that the situation in China is not only not getting any better but certainly getting worse, from everything that we can gather, may we have a statement or even a debate before the summer recess?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, as I think it is one of the greatest seriousness. The Government have announced measures to ensure that no British organisations are complicit in human rights violations in Xinjiang, including through supply chains. Alongside 44 countries, on 22 June the UK issued a joint statement at the UN General Assembly Human Rights Council expressing deep concern at the situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet. Unfortunately, the Chinese Government are behaving badly in all those areas.
The raid on Apple Daily, the independent newspaper in Hong Kong, is something we should be very concerned about, because of the guarantees that were given in the joint declaration to the people of Hong Kong. I will raise the hon. Gentleman’s point with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I cannot promise a statement, but the hon. Gentleman is right to keep the pressure up on this Government about our relations with China, which are of fundamental importance.
My right hon. Friend is among the most forthright defenders of the rights of this House and an eloquent supporter—perhaps the most eloquent supporter in this House—of the democratic principle, so when will he respond positively to the statement that you, Mr Speaker, made from your Chair at 3.30 pm on 14 June, when you instructed the Government to bring forward a vote on the breaking of our promise on the 0.7% commitment?
My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that the estimates are not the right route—the estimates have never been voted down—and, in that connection, I refer him to a speech made from that Dispatch Box on 24 July 1905 by the then Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, which set out the position on estimates very clearly. In forthright defence of this House, will my right hon. Friend ensure that before the summer there is a vote on this terrible decision that was made by the Government, which has done such damage to our international reputation and which is leading to the avoidable death of more than 100,000 people?
The estimates are voteable. There will be a full day’s debate on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which will be an opportunity for my right hon. Friend to raise any issues that he wishes to on that occasion. There can be votes on estimates, and there have been votes on estimates. It is a perfectly reasonable parliamentary procedure to use. So the Government are facilitating the debate that my right hon. Friend asks for, but we are also following the law that he will be aware of that was passed in relation to the 0.7% commitment, which requires that a statement be laid before this House if that target is not met in a particular calendar year. The Government are following and will follow—have every intention of following—the law that was passed by Parliament; that is what Her Majesty’s Government do.
But in these financial circumstances it is absolutely right that we are reducing our overseas aid commitments. We have seen a significant decline in our national income. We have faced £407 billion being needed within this country to maintain the economy during the pandemic. We remain one of the most generous donors in the world, with a level of overseas aid higher than that which any socialist Government in this country’s history have achieved—something that they carp about now but when in office did nothing about.
So we are delivering; we have delivered, we are right to do so, and there will be a debate, because it is always the right of this House to debate the subjects that it sees fit to debate. If the Opposition want other debates they can have them on Opposition days; there have been no such Opposition day debates, so clearly the Opposition do not want to be saying to the people in Batley and Spen that they want to spend their money abroad, do they? So they are running away from it, and the Backbench Business Committee has not had a debate either, but the Government are providing one in due course.
May I add to the shadow Leader of the House’s list of ways in which this Government are letting people down by saying that health and care workers in Wales were given a very well-deserved bonus by the Welsh Labour Government in recognition of their service and sacrifice during the pandemic, but this Government have chosen to take most of it away from those on the lowest incomes by reducing their universal credit? So may we have an opportunity to convey to Department for Work and Pensions Ministers just what a disgrace this is?
The pay rise in the NHS and the public sector generally is more generous for the lowest-paid workers, and that is obviously right, but as I was saying to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), there are limited resources and we have to be realistic about this. Our national debt has been growing at a very rapid rate because of the funding needed to pay for the pandemic, and this country—this nation—has to live within its means. I am afraid the socialists always forget that they eventually run out of other people’s money.
In January the Foreign Secretary said that the Government intend to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act 2015; can the Leader of the House update the House as to when we might get the opportunity to debate that, and does he agree that one way in which we could strengthen the Act is by tackling inadvertent exposure to modern slavery in investment portfolios?
The Government are committed to introducing financial penalties for organisations that fail to meet their legal obligations under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act; that will require changes to primary legislation, which will be introduced when parliamentary time allows. In March 2021 the Government launched an online modern slavery statement registry, and we are now encouraging all organisations in the scope of the legislation to submit their statement to the registry, but in future we will mandate organisations in scope of section 54 of the Act to submit their statement to the registry as part of the planned changes to strengthen the legislation. I will of course pass on my hon. Friend’s concerns to the Home Secretary.
The Leader of the House has accused the Opposition of moaning and complaining. Let us just call that opposition—and clearly he is not suggesting that a one-party state is a better system, although I sometimes wonder.
Because the Government have changed the pre-covid target for patient care volumes, many of my constituents have found it very hard to get NHS dentist treatments; they can get a check-up but they cannot get the treatment. What was a difficult situation has been made worse and lots of people go untreated. These changes have meant that many dentists are only able to offer treatment privately, which is simply unaffordable for many of my constituents. Can we have a statement from the relevant Minister on what the Government are doing to support dental practices that offer NHS services?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The job of the Opposition to oppose, but that does not always mean that such opposition is well informed or particularly enlightening. I think it is fair for the Government to point that out. For the record, no, I would not want a one-party state; I happen to think that good opposition leads to better government. If only we actually—no, I will not go into that. I would like to come to the hon. Lady’s question, because it is of fundamental importance.
I think all of us, as constituency MPs, have been in touch with our local dentistry services, which have been finding things difficult. The Government are continuing to work closely with the NHS to increase access to dental services while protecting staff and patients from covid-19 infection.
The latest published annual figures show an increase in the number of dentists delivering NHS services. Nearly 7,000 NHS dental providers in England have received over 400 million free personal protective equipment items via a dedicated PPE portal, which is helping to ensure safe treatment. We are maintaining exemptions from NHS dental charges for the most vulnerable and nearly half of all dental treatments—over 17 million—were provided free of charge in the latest year. There is obviously more to be done, but, in these very difficult circumstances, headway is being made. I will however pass the hon. Lady’s comments on to my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Canons Drive in my constituency is part of a conservation area with 300-year-old trees. There are unique examples of wellingtonia, redwood and cedar trees. Harrow Council is considering an application to remove the tree preservation orders on the trees, which would eventually lead to them being felled because insurance companies are claiming that they are causing damage to the neighbouring housing. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on protecting tree preservation orders and preventing the felling of these unique specimens that were part of the Duke of Chandos’s historical estate?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. Is it not right for me to comment on individual cases, but as a general principle, trees are objects of great beauty and their antiquity tells us something. It reminds us of our nation’s history and our island’s story. It is obviously for councils to make such decisions, but damage being caused by a protected tree is not in itself a justification for felling that tree. In the first instance, my hon. Friend might want to apply for an Adjournment debate on these three particular trees.
The Trussell Trust’s “State of Hunger” report has found that the pandemic has plunged people into even deeper forms of debt, with almost 95% of those referred to food banks experiencing destitution and unable to afford the essentials. May we have a statement or even a debate in Government time to consider what plan we have to prioritise and tackle this scandalous need for food in the 21st century rather than talking about more royal yachts?
May I thank the hon. Gentleman for continuing to come to business questions even when he is not formally representing his party? It was a great pleasure to cross swords with him in the last few weeks.
The Government are making great efforts and have made great efforts over the last decade to help families in poverty. Since 2010, a full-time living wage employee is now £5,400 better off. Just before the pandemic in 2019-20, household income saw its strongest annual growth for nearly 20 years. Inevitably, it has been set back by the pandemic, but the uplift in universal credit has been a help. The figures on total people in poverty, children in poverty and pensioners in poverty are all very significantly improved on 2010. I accept that there is more work to be done, but the picture is not all doom and gloom.
Last Saturday morning, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici), I attended an event organised by the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Water Rats, who, along with other things, run a junior relay team who at this very moment—if all has gone to plan—are involved in a cross-channel swim. We were joined by Brenda Fisher BEM, one of Grimsby’s famous daughters, who swam the channel in 1951. Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate in Government time in which we can consider the work of such voluntary organisations that organise structured, disciplined routines for our young people and provide so much for our local communities?
First, I congratulate the Grimsby and Cleethorpes water rats on their brave and bold endeavour and Brenda Fisher on what she did 70 years ago. Of course, my hon. Friend will not be taking part personally, I believe, because it is widely known in Cleethorpes that he walks on water and therefore does not need to swim the channel. He is absolutely right to highlight the good work done by voluntary organisations and I am grateful to him for doing so at business questions.
My constituent Alex recently received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions with a personal independence payment review form requesting supporting evidence that is difficult to acquire under pandemic conditions due to a lack of regular GP appointments. This is not long after he received a PIP extension. According to the benefits advice service Benefits and Work, this has been a persistent issue in recent months, with many PIP claimants reporting similar problems across the UK. Will the Leader of the House schedule a debate or a statement in Government time on the execution of PIP reviews during the pandemic?
I am always happy to facilitate right hon. and hon. Members’ inquiries about individual constituents, so if the hon. Lady wants to send me the details of Alex, I will ensure that they go to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The answer that I gave earlier about GP appointments applied to England, because this is obviously a devolved matter, but I reiterate that face-to-face appointments are available if needed and appointments more generally are available, so I do not think that that should be, at this stage in the pandemic, an obstacle to getting any information that is necessary. On the hon. Lady’s general point on PIP reviews, I think that DWP has worked extraordinarily well during the pandemic to make sure that people who need money have got it in a timely fashion.
The Climate Change Committee’s annual report published today is stark. It mentions serious gaps in policy and strategy, lack of detail around key areas such as planning, decarbonisation of homes, oil and gas and even failing to produce a net zero strategy in the year that we host COP. This is a Government who are quick to promise but fail at every turn to deliver, and the longer that they delay, the more severe and irreversible the damage becomes and the more likely it is that we suffer serious drought, heatwaves and floods, with the immense impact that has on people and livelihoods. To ensure that climate action is at the heart of all policies and all Departments, will the Leader of the House agree to allowing for far more time for this Parliament to debate the report and to scrutinise and properly hold this failing Government to account?
As I said earlier, I am not interested in eating less meat; I want to eat more meat and I want my constituents to be able to as well. The Government’s record since 2010 is formidable. They have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 26% between 2010 and 2019. Renewable electricity generation has more than quadrupled since 2010. The year 2019 was the cleanest on record with more than half of UK electricity coming from low-carbon technologies. As I said earlier, we have cut emissions by 43% since 1990, with 75% economic growth. We are targeting a reduction in emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels. We are on the right path to net zero by 2050, but we have to do this with economic growth. We are not fanatics; we are sensible and proportionate in what we are trying to do and we have been doing it with considerable success since 2010.
Some us have noticed that the English votes for English laws provisions have been suspended and we regret that they still are, but will the Leader of the House at least commit to keeping his promise that the changes introduced to respond to the pandemic will be temporary and will be reversed, and, if he wishes to change the EVEL rules, that there will be a vote in this Parliament to do so?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Any change to EVEL Standing Orders—and it is worth bearing in mind that the EVEL Standing Orders take up slightly over 10% of all our Standing Orders. They are particularly impenetrable. The learned Clerks never struggle, but if it were not for the fact that the learned Clerks never struggle, even they might struggle with the intricacies of EVEL. But my hon. Friend is absolutely spot on: these changes could not take place without the support of the House.
Yesterday, I met my constituent Anthony at the travel day of action. His business, like many others in the sector, has been extremely hard hit by the Government’s failure to stand up for the travel sector. He told me that we urgently need greater clarity on how countries can be added to the green list, more information on the transatlantic taskforce and a proper package of financial support. Can we have a debate in Government time on what the Government will do to save the travel industry?
As I have said before, if the hon. Lady wishes to raise specific points about Anthony, her constituent, I will always try to facilitate those being taken up with the right Government Minister. The Opposition are slightly inconsistent on this, because on the one hand they complained bitterly that the border was not closed fast enough, and on the other hand, they want the travel industry to be supported. Those are two conflicting objectives. I point out that there has been very significant support for all industry, including £407 billion of taxpayers’ money. We have protected 14 million jobs and people through the furlough and self-employment schemes at a cost of £88.5 billion, and the travel industry is obviously eligible for those. Everyone wants to get back to normal—to normal travel and normal routines—but the pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world, and it has to be done in a proportionate way.
Current covid policy dictates that if a single child tests positive for coronavirus at school, the entire class is sent home and forced to isolate for 10 days. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is risk aversion gone mad and that we owe it to our children to get back to normal? Will he please raise this as a matter of urgency with No. 10 and the Department of Health and Social Care?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he was kind enough to warn me of his question and therefore I have had the opportunity to find out what the precise policy is and put it on the record. While in some cases a whole class might be required to isolate, we know that many settings are using seating plans and other means to identify close contacts and minimise the number of individuals who need to isolate, so it is not an absolute rule, but a matter of judgment. I hope people will use their judgment wisely.
Further to the question from the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), no one is taken in by the Leader of the House’s sophistry on this subject. Everybody knows that he is seeking to avoid giving the House a meaningful vote on whether it agrees with the Government’s decision temporarily to reduce the amount of aid being sent to the poorest countries in the world. There is no need for him to dilate widely on this; he used to occupy a semi-recumbent position over there and regularly criticised the Executive for exactly this kind of jiggery-pokery. Why does he not come clean with his own side and allow a proper vote—not one rolled up with all such other expenditure in the estimates, but one that would truly meet the test set for him by Mr Speaker?
I object to what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Trivialising the estimates does not understand their importance. One of the fundamental things that this House does is approve the expenditure proposed by the Government. It is lost in the mists of constitutional time. It is a debate on the whole of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s budget, and it is possible to vote against it. It is a full day’s debate, but I challenge the Opposition again: if they want to debate this so much, we have given them lots of Opposition days, so why have they not used one on it? It is because they do not really want to get this message across to their voters, because it is a policy that has enormous support with the electorate. Our ultimate bosses like this policy. They back this policy and they think it is proportionate under the economic circumstances. The law set out very clearly what the requirements were with the 0.7%: if the target is not met, a statement must be laid before this House. If the hon. Gentleman does not like the law, he should have put down an amendment when the Bill was passed.
I had expected that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would by now have come to the House to set out the balance of arguments over covid status certification and the ethics, practicality or necessity of such a project. Does my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House share my view that if terminus day is to live up to its name, there will be no need for this scheme to go ahead?
As I said last week, the terminus is Paddington, not Crewe. It is the end of the line, not an interchange, and that must be the key part of terminus day. Lots of evidence has been gathered in relation to covid status certificates. Final decisions have not been made, but the Government will update the House on the road map as it continues. My hon. Friend’s point on terminus is right; it is an end point, and so it should be.
Yesterday in the news, we found out that this Government used taxpayers’ money that should have been spent on covid recovery on polling on independence. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) had a two-year battle with the Government and they are now having to release information on secret polling. This Government are also attempting to change the franchise on who can vote in an independence referendum. Then, on Friday, we had the song, “One Britain One Nation” that young people across the country are supposed to be going to sing, but in fact many Scottish schoolkids will not even be at school. I request that my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) does not remove the Whip from me, but it is actually quite a catchy song, I must admit. I am sorry, but I do not actually have a question, only a request—that the Leader of the House comes to Scotland to visit my constituency of Airdrie and Shotts. I extend that invite to all Government Members, because it turns out that they are fantastic advocates for Scottish independence.
It is an offer too good to refuse, Mr Speaker. I very much hope that I shall be able to visit the hon. Lady’s constituency. The work undertaken on attitudes to the Union was a reasonable thing to poll on. It is really important when developing a communication strategy to work out how it will land most effectively. There was a great deal of work to be done to communicate the messages about staying at home, working from home, wearing facemasks, and so on and so forth. I think this was completely proper and justifiable and I imagine that other Governments in similar circumstances would have done much the same.
A couple of weeks ago, at my new constituency office in the heart of Bolsover town centre, I was delighted to launch the Bolsover high street taskforce. Along with local stakeholders, I look forward to helping to unleash Bolsover’s tourism potential and delivering a town centre that all residents can be proud of for many decades to come. With that in mind, can we have a debate in Government time on the importance of supporting businesses in our high streets and making sure that we have sustainable high streets for many decades to come?
I think the knowledge that my hon. Friend will be in Bolsover high street will have the crowds flocking there for selfies and autographs, and to deliver some election literature in due course. The high streets taskforce has meant that 70 local authorities will receive targeted, in-person support as they battle against changing consumer habits, and I am delighted that Bolsover is benefiting from this. In addition, 57 local areas have been confirmed as recipients of our £830 million future high streets fund, which will support local areas to prepare long-term strategies for their high streets and town centres. Generally speaking, if MPs are in their high streets, that does encourage people to visit them, and they can do little constituency surgeries there, Mr Speaker—I am sure that happens in Chorley all the time.
Schools spend the pupil premium on things like extra teaching staff, breakfast clubs, laptops, and tailoring support to their most disadvantaged pupils. However, due to the Government’s inexplicable decision to base pupil premium funding for the next financial year on data from October rather than using the up-to-date January figures as usual, north-east schools could lose out on up to £7.6 million for the 5,700 north-east pupils who became eligible for free school meals between October and January. The Education Secretary has ignored pleas from the North East Child Poverty Commission and others to put this right. May I urge the Leader of the House to make time for a debate in Government time on ensuring that schools in regions such as the north-east that have experienced some of worst learning loss do not lose out on even more funding?
The hon. Lady missed a chance to question the Secretary of State for Education, who was here on Monday. Obviously there always have to be cut-off dates to allow for figures to be run and for decisions to be made, and after those cut-off dates there will then be the next year’s figures to work on for future years. All government depends on data on particular dates, and this is not unreasonable.
At half-past 3 last Sunday morning, police officers responded to a call about a man vandalising a bus stop in Kettering town centre. Officers were surrounded by a gang as they arrived at the scene, and an unruly mob turned on them. A 22-year-old man was arrested for attempting to kick one of the officers; a 21-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of assault. That sort of violence against police officers going about their duty in difficult circumstances to protect the public is completely unacceptable, but sadly it is a growing problem. I know that the Government have recently increased the penalties for assaults on emergency workers, but may we have a statement from the Government that the courts will not shy away from applying those stiffer sentences when perpetrators are brought before them?
My hon. Friend raises a very serious and troubling matter. It is disgraceful that these attacks on the police should take place. As he knows, clause 2 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will increase the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency worker from 12 months’ to two years’ imprisonment. The aim is to ensure that the law provides emergency workers with sufficient protection to enable them to carry out their duties and that the options available to the courts to sentence offenders who assault emergency workers are proportionate, reflect the seriousness of the offences committed and provide the victims with a sense that justice has been done.
Naturally, the courts are independent, but it is right that my hon. Friend raises the matter in the House so that the general public concern is taken on board across the nation. He may want to raise the issue again at Justice questions on Monday, but I will certainly pass on his concerns to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor.
There is a crisis in the haulage industry, with a chronic driver shortage that the Government have been warned about time and again. Martin Reid, the Scottish director of the Road Haulage Association, has said:
“For a long time, we have been running short of the numbers required for haulage drivers, so throwing Covid-19, Brexit and recent tax procedures into the mix has created a perfect storm.”
There is a very real concern that the sector will be unable to maintain integrated supply chains this summer and beyond, so can we have a debate on promoting careers in driving and on what contingency plans may be required in the short term?
It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman has just missed Transport questions, where he might have got a more comprehensive answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. [Interruption.] He was there, so he could have asked the Secretary of State.
Obviously it is important that we have the right training in place and that we have efficiency in driving tests. There is a backlog with driving tests for all motorists, and it is important that that is made up as soon as is practical.
When my constituent Bas Breeze visited the National Memorial Arboretum, he was very disappointed that among the many monuments there was none to the territorial soldier. He rightly makes the point that these volunteers have made a huge contribution to the British Army’s efforts, particularly in the world wars. Will my right hon. Friend please secure a statement on whether that might be rectified so that their contribution can be recognised?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter, especially in the same week as Armed Forces Day. The Territorial Force, as it was in the first world war, the Territorial Army, as it was in the second world war, and the reserves, as they are today, are commemorated at the National Memorial Arboretum. Territorial Force, Territorial Army and reserve units are integral to the same regiment or corps as their regular counterparts and are therefore commemorated equally with those individual regiments and corps memorials. For example, the Royal Artillery memorial garden at the NMA commemorates all those who have served with the Royal Regiment of Artillery, be they regular, territorial, conscript or reserve; no distinction is made. If my hon. Friend wishes to raise the matter further, Defence questions are on 5 July.
Since the Conservative party came into power in 2010, per-pupil school funding has been cut by nearly 10%, more than 750 youth centres have been closed, more than 800 public libraries have been closed, more than 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres have been closed, the education maintenance allowance has been scrapped, university maintenance grants have been scrapped, tuition fees have trebled, a two-child welfare cap has been introduced and more than £34 billion has been cut from social security. It was not the phrase “white privilege” that did this; it was the Conservative party. Will the Leader of the House give Government time to discuss the real causes of working class kids—white, black and brown alike—being neglected, not the nonsense that his colleagues are spouting this week?
It is worth reading paragraph 29 of the excellent report by the Education Committee. It says:
“Schools should consider whether the promotion of politically controversial terminology, including White Privilege, is consistent with their duties under the Equality Act 2010. The Department should take steps to ensure that young people are not inadvertently being inducted into political movements when what is required is balanced, age-appropriate discussion and a curriculum that equips young people to thrive in diverse and multi-cultural communities throughout their lives and work. The Department should issue clear guidance for schools and other Department-affiliated organisations receiving grants from the Department on how to deliver teaching on these complex issues in a balanced, impartial and age-appropriate way.”
The Government’s record is a remarkably successful one. We have committed more than £3 billion to education recovery. Some £1.4 billion has been announced recently, including £1 billion for tutoring and £400 million for teacher training. That is on top of a £14.4 billion three-year school funding settlement, which will see a rise of more than £840 per pupil by 2022-23, compared with 2019-20. The pupil premium will increase to more than £2.5 billion this year, which will enable schools to support pupils with extra teaching, academic support or activities such as breakfast clubs. This is a proud record. The work done by the Education Committee has been extremely helpful in highlighting the fact that those who have really been left behind have not been left behind because of racial consequences, and that they need more support. It is also worth noting that, since 2010, the number of children in absolute poverty has fallen by 100,000, so, overall, it is a way of seeing things forward and ensuring that children get the education and support that they need.
I recently spent a sunny Saturday afternoon at Charlesworth & Chisworth Cricket Club on verification duty for a world-record attempt, as James Butterworth ran the longest-ever bowling run-up: over 5 km, going through two different parliamentary constituencies. After all that, thankfully, he did not bowl a wide. This was all done in in aid of raising funds for new practice nets for the club. With that in mind, can we have a debate on grassroots sports and support for them in this country, so that fantastic clubs such as Charlesworth & Chisworth can get the equipment they need to produce the next generation of first class test cricketers?
I believe that it is Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week, so it is a good occasion on which to be raising this matter. The previous recordholder was Sameer Khan Yousufee, who ran two and a half miles before getting to bowl. I am a bit worried about the over rates—if they keep on bowling at that rate the dismal rates that we get in test matches will be even slower, though I do wonder quite how fast Wes Hall or Michael Holding might have bowled had their run-ups been even longer than they were. I am also quite intrigued by the commentary. How would even Henry Blofeld keep going for the quarter of an hour or so—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) heckles me to say that she is sure he would. She is probably right, but it would be quite a challenge to keep it up for all that time. It is absolutely brilliant that we should have this record. I am glad that a wide was not bowled and hope that it was not a no ball either. We should do everything we can to encourage grassroots cricket; it is part of our nation’s story, something that we can be proud of and one of our great exports to the rest of the world.
That is the most incomprehensible answer that I have ever heard the Lord President give, but I appreciate that that is my failing, not his, in an understanding of the subject. I will now suspend the House for three minutes, so that preparations can be made for the next item of business.