Will the Leader of the House give the forthcoming business?
The business for the week commencing 1 November will include:
Monday 1 November—Continuation of the Budget debate.
Tuesday 2 November—Conclusion of the Budget debate.
Wednesday 3 November—Motion relating to the third report of Session 2021-22 from the Committee on Standards, followed by Second Reading of the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill, followed by a motion relating to the membership of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.
Thursday 4 November—General debate on a proposal for an inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the NATO-led mission to Afghanistan, followed by a general debate on the use of medical cannabis for the alleviation of health conditions. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 5 November—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 8 November will include:
Monday 8 November—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Environment Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Telecommunications (Security) Bill, followed by an Opposition day (7th allotted day—second part). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition, subject to be announced.
Tuesday 9 November—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
At the conclusion of business on Tuesday 9 November, the House will rise for the November recess and return on Monday 15 November.
If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to correct a figure I gave last week that was out of date, for which I apologise. I said to the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), who is in her place, that 650,000 fewer children were living in workless households than in 2010; the latest figure, from 29 September, which I apologise for having missed, is 580,000. I am glad the hon. Lady is in her place and I have therefore had the opportunity to correct the information I gave her.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving the forthcoming business. On behalf of the many staff as well as colleagues who have asked to be able to plan for next year, will the Leader of the House please next week give the recess dates for 2022?
I am relieved that the motion on the report from the Standards Committee that was published this week into the conduct of a Member is in the business statement. If any Members have not yet read it, I urge them to keep an open mind and to read it before the motion is debated.
It was good to see that yesterday almost all the Cabinet took the Health Secretary’s advice to wear masks, but I note that the Leader of the House did not; he still appears to think that a “convivial, fraternal spirit” will protect him from covid. Meanwhile, in the real world covid rates are still high, and apparently largely unhindered by the £37 billion that the Government spent on their Test and Trace programme. According to the Public Accounts Committee report published yesterday, this was “muddled” and “overstated” and the expense “eye watering”. It failed on its main objective to prevent lockdowns and get normality back, and just 14% of 691 million tests have been registered. So much for world-beating. Will the Leader of the House ask the Health Secretary, not a junior Minister, to come here and explain why the Government are wasting our constituents’ money with crony contracts filling mates’ pockets?
Yesterday, we had what I can only describe as the remainder of the Budget, given that we had had five days of Treasury announcements—we cannot really call them leaks—in the press. The Chancellor seems to have forgotten that the Government’s own ministerial code says:
“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament.”
I know the Leader of the House has a very strong commitment to the primacy of Parliament, so will he—once again, I am afraid—please remind his colleagues that Parliament, not the press, is the place for policy announcements?
While I am on the subject of the ministerial code, Lord Geidt was appointed in April as the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests, but six months later we still do not have an updated code, which we were expecting. Will the Leader of the House please confirm when that will be published?
We are days—hours now, really—away from what should and could be the most important environmental summit in history. As host nation in Glasgow, we have an incredible, one-time chance to change the course of history. To make the summit a success, the Government need to lead by example. They should be demonstrating ambition for a more hopeful future, a clean environment, warm homes, good jobs and protection for nature. Politicians from around the world are watching this Government’s deeds and words and calibrating their ambitions accordingly, but unfortunately it seems that the Government are treating COP26 as nothing more than a photo opportunity.
Just last week, politicians from around the world will have seen the uninspiring sight of this Government voting for feeble legal limits on air pollution and less regulation for bee-killing pesticides, and just yesterday the Chancellor announced that he was slashing air passenger duty to incentivise short-haul domestic flights. That is embarrassing as we go into COP26. We should be projecting an open, optimistic, global vision to the world, yet the Government—working with the SNP Scottish Government, I am afraid to say—seem to be supporting new oilfields in the North sea. Will the Leader of the House ask the Business Secretary to come to the House and explain why the Government are saying that we must move beyond fossil fuels but meanwhile opening the new Cambo oilfield?
Finally, on COP26, I make this urgent plea, via the Leader of the House, to the Prime Minister and other world leaders in Glasgow: please, get this right. We cannot waste this opportunity to save our climate and save our planet.
The recess dates will be announced in the normal way, subject to the progress of Government business, but I am well aware that it is convenient for Members and staff to know as soon as possible.
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s approval of the standards debate. I, too, encourage Members to read the report; I think that is always essential. It is quite a long report, but the weekend is looming and that will be an opportunity to read it.
As regards masks, I remind the hon. Lady about the Daily Mirror party at the socialists’ conference, which I have heard more about since last week. Not only was it a maskless-fest, where alcoholic beverages, which will probably be cheaper in the future thanks to the marvellous Budget yesterday, were imbibed, but Mr Speaker, I hear there was dancing—maskless dancing. Now, can you think? We are not doing that in here, are we, Mr Speaker? No dancing, I am glad to say, on the Floor of the House of Commons.
However, I would say that the Government guidance is absolutely clear: masks are not compulsory in workplaces, and masks are not compulsory when we are with people whom we regularly meet. It is a matter of personal choice. I would also, if I may, give a reassurance to the hon. Lady that there is the lateral flow test, which she was rather disobliging about. Having taken one—having taken more than one over the weeks and months that have gone past—I can assure her that I am negative and therefore I am not going to be spewing covid around the Chamber, because I have taken a negative lateral flow test. I do have a concern, obviously, as all of us do, to limit the spread of this disease. I think that that is just as safe a procedure to take.
As regards the contracts, it was of the utmost importance that things were rolled out swiftly. They were not given to mates; indeed, even Labour supporters, or companies associated with Labour supporters, got contracts. It had to be done quickly. Every criticism that is made of Test and Trace should be applied equally to the vaccine process; we see that the success of the vaccine process was dependent upon exactly the same processes, to do things quickly—to make decisions fast, to award contracts urgently—to ensure that we had a response to the crisis. That is what the Government did, it is what any wise Government would have done, and it is fortunate that the do-nothing socialists—the Captain Hindsights of socialism—were not in charge during the course of the pandemic.
The hon. Lady raises an important point, as you have Mr Speaker and as has the Chairman of Ways and Means, about information not being given to this House first. The “Ministerial Code” is absolutely clear that important announcements must be made to the House first. We have a right to expect that, as representatives of our constituents, and that is why we here: to hold the Government to account. There is sometimes a debate about what is important and occasionally, Mr Speaker, you and I have not taken the same view on importance. However, I can assure the House that after every business questions I write to every Secretary of State and other Cabinet Members on the issues that have been raised, so the point the hon. Lady makes will be raised with the Chancellor, as, I believe, Mr Speaker, it has been raised by you. It is a fundamental constitutional right that this House should be told things first, although I would note that there was lots in the Budget yesterday, including the most important announcement of the cut in the withdrawal rate from 63p in the pound to 55p in the pound, which had not been whispered abroad before it was announced here.
The hon. Lady finished on the question of COP26. I set out once again what the Government’s targets are, which I think the hon. Lady will find agreement with: to secure global net zero by the middle of the century and keep 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, within reach; adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; mobilise finance, whereby developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020; work together to finalise the Paris rulebook; and accelerate action to tackle the climate crisis through collaboration between Governments, businesses and civil society.
The Government’s vision is one based on improving people’s standards of living. That is what the Budget was about yesterday and it is what the green policy is about. It is not about cave dwelling. It is not hairshirt greenery. We are not becoming Adullamites. What we are in favour of is having higher standards of living based on the new technologies. All sorts of exciting things are happening, including with hydrogen, which will make that possible. There is not, I think, a market for going back to the stone age—some hon. Members may think I have never really emerged from the stone age—but we want to ensure that the standard of living of our constituents improves.
The hon. Lady rightly mentions air pollution. One of the great scandals of recent decades is that we promoted diesel in this country. The Labour Government, then in charge, promoted diesel, which led to tens of thousands of early deaths because of particulates. That was done on the encouragement of the European Union in support of German car manufacturers. It is one of the great scandals that has been put right by this Government. We have seen air quality improve since 2010.
As regards air passenger duty, it has gone up on the longest, greatest emitting flights, but of course we should be free to travel around our own United Kingdom, our own country. That is a perfectly right thing to do. We have to remember that the target for net zero is by 2050. We are going to need to use fossil fuels in the interim and it is fanciful to think otherwise. If we are going to use them, we want them to be economic. We need to ensure our constituents have a rising standard of living.
Yesterday, the Chancellor announced £300 million of support for children in the first 1,001 days of their lives. May we have a debate on the meaning of that phrase, bearing in mind that the excellent report by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Dame Andrea Leadsom), which informed the Chancellor’s decision, refers to the first 1,001 days as being from conception to aged two?
May I begin by thanking my hon. Friend for the tremendous work she has done since her election in 2010 to support the family and all life from the point of conception through to the point of natural death? She is heroic in what she has done. The first 1,001 days is a very important staging post. The work of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire has brought that to people’s attention. She has campaigned for and succeeded in making the funding available. In terms of a debate, I am going to slightly cop out and point to the Budget debate that is carrying on later today, which will be a great opportunity to raise the issue further.
The Leader of the House should be thoroughly embarrassed about his ridiculous comments from business questions last week, when he suggested that Tory MPs are protected from covid because they have
“a more convivial, fraternal spirit”.——[Official Report, 21 October 2021; Vol. 701, c. 945.]
It is so convivial that several of them are now off having caught covid, along with the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Whip of the Scottish National party.
Tory MPs are not immune. Staff and visitors are now obliged to wear face masks but MPs are not in a “Do as we say” edict. But progress has been made and my campaign to get them to mask up is beginning to bear fruit. More of them are actually starting to care about colleagues and members of staff by wearing a face mask, and I welcome that, but I note that the Leader of the House’s fizzog remains unadorned from this modest, disease-stopping piece of cloth. He has a perfectly good Union Jack face covering; for goodness’ sake, man, put it on! Be the Leader of the House, not the libertarian of the House.
I want to support you, Mr Speaker, in your campaign to make sure that important announcements are made in this House first. The pre-announcing of the Budget was an absolute disgrace, designed to soften up the press and the public. I like the idea of Ministers being forced to resign if they break the trust of Parliament. I suggested bringing them to the Bar of the House last week, but let us maybe have a debate and see what we could do. We could have a prize for the most creative and inventive sanction that could be applied to Ministers that break the trust of the House.
Lastly, COP comes to Scotland next week and our beautiful country will be on show to the world. Scotland leads the UK in renewables and climate change legislation and we will be a good host of the summit. The world will also see a nation ready to take its own place in the world. The Leader of the House knows that debate is coming soon. He knows it is coming. Let us get on with it.
One does like to think sometimes of what dinner must be like in the household of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), because everything is “a disgrace”, it is “an outrage”, it is “shocking”. The sound and fury that enthuses him whenever he gets to the Chamber allows no time for nuance, for things being degrees of acceptableness or not being favourable. It is always this absolute outrage, which fortunately, I answered entirely in my answer to the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), the shadow Leader of the House.
Following the recent conviction of the hon. Member for Leicester East (Claudia Webbe) and the strong possibility of a by-election in the seat, the rumours are swirling in the fair county of Leicestershire that the previous incumbent may seek a return to this place. Given that he received a six-month ban from the House of Commons in 2019 following the cocaine and rent boys scandal, which he avoided by standing down, will the Leader of the House give a statement to the House where, hopefully, he will confirm that if Mr Vaz were to return to this place, he would have to serve his punishment outstanding in full?
I will confirm the precise opposite. The House agreed to a six-month suspension for Mr Vaz on 31 October 2019, but Parliament was then dissolved on 6 November for a general election. A suspension cannot carry across into a new Parliament, so that ended Mr Vaz’s suspension. The recall petition process was also terminated by the election, as provided for under section 13 of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. But this is right, because we are here by virtue of our electorate, and the electorate is free to send here whomsoever they choose. I know my hon. Friend will not be happy with that answer, but I remind him about John Wilkes and the Middlesex election. It has not always been the case that this House has acted wisely in whom it has sought to expel, but the electors have had a right to send that person back. Although this may be a difficult case and although this may be disagreeable to my hon. Friend, these constitutional principles are fundamentally important and should not be changed for individual cases.
I thank the Leader of the House for the reference to a debate on 4 November about Afghanistan, but is he aware of reports that journalists in Afghanistan who have previously worked for the BBC are now subject to grave risks? A number of examples have been highlighted by the National Union of Journalists. One such example, Abdul Malik Asem, survived an attack after armed men opened fire on him at his sister’s home just a few days ago, injuring his 20-year-old nephew, who is seriously ill in hospital. Can we therefore have a debate in Government time to discuss what actions can be taken urgently to ensure that such journalists can be safely evacuated?
The Government are doing what we can to help refugees from Afghanistan. I recently visited the RAF base at Brize Norton, whose staff have worked incredibly hard around the clock to evacuate people. People who are now able to get out of Afghanistan into other countries do have a route through. In the first year, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme will welcome to the UK up to 5,000 vulnerable Afghans who have been forced to flee their country, with up to a total of 20,000 over a five-year period. The scheme will provide protection for vulnerable people and those identified as at risk, including women and girls and members of minority groups. The Government are doing what we can; there is a programme, and there is funding behind it.
Ystradgynlais Community Welfare Ground Association is working hard to raise £100,000 to secure a 50-year lease on the playing fields in Ystradgynlais, so that the rugby club and other community groups can continue to use the facility and grassroots Welsh rugby can continue to thrive. I will be submitting a bid to the UK Government’s community ownership fund and will urge Powys County Council to step in as well.
With Wales set to start its Autumn Internationals campaign on Saturday, will the Leader of the House, who I know has Welsh connections, wish Wales good luck against New Zealand? Will he consider granting time for a debate on how we can secure the future of Ystradgynlais Community Welfare Ground Association’s playing fields?
I am delighted to wish Wales luck against New Zealand. I am looking forward to an heroic victory of our fellow countrymen that will inspire many across the country.
I also wish my hon. Friend every success in her campaign for funding for her rugby club, which I know is an important community facility. There are opportunities to apply for money, and she is very good at working out which ones to pursue. I cannot commit Her Majesty’s Treasury, but I encourage my hon. Friend to keep on pushing. Perhaps, Mr Speaker, in your benignity, you might grant an Adjournment debate so that the issue may be discussed further.
Especially if they play rugby league as well.
In recent weeks, Bath and North East Somerset have had some of the highest covid rates in England, as the Leader of the House, my constituency neighbour, will know. Despite No. 10’s claims to the contrary, experts have linked the rise in cases to the month-long error at the Immensa lab in Wolverhampton, which caused false negative test results. It has now been reported that the lab is still processing and profiting from travel PCR tests.
This is nothing short of a scandal. We need a statement from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to explain why the Government are using these private companies to profit from testing our communities, when they operate with virtually no oversight and their failures could mean an increase in deaths.
There was obviously a failure in a testing centre; that is a serious matter, and it is something that the Department of Health and Social Care acted on. Buying in services is a perfectly normal and sensible thing for the health service to do, and has allowed the enormous amount of testing that has taken place. Right hon. and hon. Members may remember my right hon. Friend the Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock), the then Health Secretary, saying that we needed to get to 100,000 tests a day. We can now do far more than that—the availability is enormous. It is important, of course, that they be right, but where something went wrong, the Department of Health and Social Care has intervened.
Last week, I raised the plight of Hindu minorities in Bangladesh. I thank my right hon. Friend for raising the matter with the Foreign Secretary.
This week, I refer to the notorious hate preacher Mizanur Rahman Azhari. Unbelievably, having been banned in Bangladesh and having fled for his safety, he has been invited to address the London Islamic conference this Sunday at the Royal Regency. I understand that he is in Qatar right now, attempting to gain entry to the UK. Alternatively, he may be invited to stream online to people in this country his message of hatred against Jews and Hindus. Will the Leader of the House take action with the Home Secretary to make sure that that is not allowed to happen? Can we have a debate in Government time on what we can do to prevent these hate preachers from misinforming the vast majority of Muslims in this country, who are actually peaceful people?
My hon. Friend has raised a very important point. It is crucial that the law is enforced. Stirring up hatred is, in certain circumstances, an offence for which people can be prosecuted, and it is right that that should happen. We do not want to allow into this country people who will stir up hatred. I will not comment on the individual case, because it is not for me to do so, but as a general rule we want to ensure that there is a sensible tone of debate and discussion, and that those who stir up hatred are fully deterred. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s comments to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Last night many young women in Nottingham were having a “girls’ night in” as part of the national protest against the epidemic of male violence that they face in bars and nightclubs. In particular, there are extremely worrying reports of spiking by injection. The issue was raised with the Leader of the House last week, and with the Prime Minister yesterday. Is it not time that we had a statement from the Home Secretary about what she is now doing to ensure that young women can live their lives without fear?
The hon. Lady is right to raise this, because it is an issue of the greatest concern. Everyone should be able to go out and go about their lawful business feeling safe, and the fact that young women do not feel safe is a blot on the safety that we expect in this nation.
I assure the hon. Lady that these matters are taken extremely seriously by the Home Office and by the Home Secretary, who has asked the police for an update. The police are now conducting inquiries. Criminal offences must be investigated, and offenders must be charged and prosecuted. People who spike women’s drinks should find themselves facing the full force of the law, women going out for drinks should feel safe, and bars have a strong responsibility to ensure the safety of their own premises.
As everyone in the House will know, next week is Parliament Week, and I am very pleased and excited to be talking to my local Guides and Scouts and to pupils at Strand Primary Academy in Strand Street and Littlecoates Primary Academy. Great Grimsby sent two burgesses to the new model Parliament in 1295. Would the Leader of the House like to talk a little bit to young people in Great Grimsby, and across the UK, about the importance of our Parliament and our democracy?
I was not at the Parliament in 1295, I am sorry to say. I clearly missed a treat.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that she is doing in Great Grimsby to highlight Parliament during Parliament week, which follows Hallowe’en. I do not know whether we should read anything into that; perhaps people will be tucking into pumpkin soup made from the leftover pumpkins.
It is so important that we engage everyone with Parliament and the work that we do. One thing that should always concern us, as hon. and right hon. Members, is who does not come to see us, and who does not know that they can seek redress of grievance through their Member of Parliament. Most of the time when something has gone wrong and we take it up on behalf of a constituent, it can be put right. We want to ensure that more people know that, and we want to encourage, for instance, the brilliant pupils in my hon. Friend’s constituency to stand for Parliament so that they can go forth and become involved in the democratic process.
I shall certainly be active during Parliament Week, but although it is no competition, Mr Speaker, I have a feeling that you will be even more active than me.
Some important amendments have been tabled to the Elections Bill, which is due to come back to us on Report. They include new clause 1, which would give the House the chance to decide on lowering the voting age to 16. Will the Leader of the House revisit the programme motion to ensure that there is proper, protected time rather a risk of the debate being squeezed and finishing at the moment of interruption? I think it important for the Bill, given its constitutional significance, to be given a full airing on the Floor of the House.
I am very sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I think that one of our main tasks here—indeed, our main main task—is the scrutiny of legislation. Unfortunately, the House does not always seem to agree with me. I was slightly surprised that the Second Reading of the Judicial Review and Courts Bill fell slightly short, even though it had lost time because of the earlier debate on the remaining stages of the Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill.
It ends up being a balance, depending on what Members want—how many urgent questions they ask for earlier in the day, for instance, and what statements are called. This goes back to the issue of making announcements to the Chamber first. We must strike a balance between the legislative business carried out by the House and the other important matters that are brought to it. So I am not unsympathetic, but I think that this is one of those things that are simply a question of balance, and for the House to decide for itself.
Can we have a debate on which is the true workers’ party of the United Kingdom, given the Budget yesterday with the huge increase in the living wage of 6.6%, the reduction in the taper rate that in essence gives a tax cut to millions of lower earners, the fuel duty freeze and the 42% increase in the skills budget? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is the party on this side of the House that represents the workers of the United Kingdom?
For once, I am going to have to disappoint my right hon. Friend. We could not possibly have a debate on that, because there is nothing to debate. This is clearly the party that supports the workers and that has taken steps to improve their living standards, whereas all that the Opposition do is support the trade unions and the union barons. Labour is the party of the barons; we are the party of the workers. My right hon. Friend’s campaigns over the years to save motorists billions of pounds through a freeze in fuel duty have put more money into people’s pockets year in, year out and continue to do so. People may say that it has cost the Treasury money, but actually it has helped the economy to grow, boom and flourish and has allowed us our motoring freedom. I commend my right hon. Friend for what he does, and yes, we are the workers’ party. There is nothing to debate.
Following on from the Leader of the House’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris), is he aware that many Afghanis who supported our armed forces and who have fled to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy and other schemes are facing long waits for biometric residency permits? Family members of my constituents are finding themselves stuck in bridging hotels for months because local authorities are unable to see whether they have any funding to house them. Please can we press Ministers on this, because those people have suffered enough already?
I am more than willing to take up individual cases, as I have done, of people who do not seem to be getting the answers that they should get. That is one of the roles of this House. There is a big programme, as I mentioned to the hon. Member for Easington earlier, and that will continue. It is also important to ensure that the right information is gathered and the right processes are followed, but if the hon. Lady would like to point out any particular cases to my office, I will take them up with the Home Office for her.
Earlier this week, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici), I met representatives of UK Fisheries. They expressed a number of concerns regarding the work of the Marine Management Organisation, the amount of red tape they have to deal with and the ongoing trade negotiations with Greenland and other nations. Could my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on the work of the Marine Management Organisation and on the wider interests of the fishing industry?
There has already been an urgent question on fishing, and it ranged quite widely. This is a matter of concern to the Government, and we are keen to support the fishing industry. This tempts me to say that this is obviously the right “plaice” for such a debate because we are the “sole” of democratic engagement in this House—[Interruption.] Somebody got it, slowly but surely! Although I cannot promise a debate in Government time, I think that raising the issue in a Backbench Business debate would command widespread support.
Two community councils in my constituency, Cambuslang and Halfway, have created the Cambuslang COP26 campaign. It encourages pupils from local schools to pick up 26 bags of litter for 26 days in the run-up to COP26. It has been a great initiative, and it tackles one of my biggest bugbears: litter. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating them and schedule a debate in Government time to celebrate these community-led initiatives and their positive impact?
What a brilliant thing for the schools in the hon. Lady’s constituency to be doing. Yes, I congratulate them wholeheartedly. To pick up 26 bags of litter is a real effort, and to do it on 26 days is a consistent effort. It is clearly not just been done for a quick photo opportunity; it is being done as a real effort to beautify a beautiful country. I wish them well on that, and I hope that other schools will follow in their footsteps.
Although bonfire night is fast approaching, many of my constituents are plagued by fireworks being let off at all hours of the night throughout the calendar year. I have even had it reiterated to me that fireworks are often used as a signal for drugs being dropped. May we have an urgent debate in Government time to discuss the licensing provisions on the sale of fireworks and to have a frank discussion on how local enforcement can clamp down on this antisocial behaviour?
Unfortunately I find myself in a degree of disagreement with my hon. Friend. I think fireworks are a little bit of harmless fun. People enjoy them, and we should not take every enjoyment out of people’s lives with endless licensing and regulation. Conservatives are meant to be cautious about excessive regulation and giving power to bureaucracies. I am afraid I am unsympathetic to his request.
Can we have a debate on the Government’s environmental illiteracy and the impact on people in Bristol South and indeed Somerset? This morning people can buy a flight from Bristol to Edinburgh for £29.99, but the train journey is £97.20. Individuals in Bristol South are making their contribution towards COP26, but the Government are not making theirs. Reducing air passenger duty and the delays to the Portishead line mean the Government are not helping, and that is something we need to debate.
I will continue my disagreeable line, as I disagree with the hon. Lady, too. I sometimes find myself in a surprising degree of agreement with her on local matters but, no, this Government want to keep the cost of living down. We want people to enjoy travelling around our great country. If it is £29.99 to fly from Bristol to Edinburgh or Glasgow, that is great for our constituents, and I hope they enjoy their trip.
May I suggest that resilience is an issue for the Leader of the House to consider? We have considerable resilience issues in this country, as we have seen with personal protective equipment and vaccines. We are now seeing it with energy supply, and we see it all the time with flooding and coastal defence issues on the Isle of Wight. Although it is not a specific departmental responsibility, resilience is a key overall responsibility of the Government. I will be talking to the Backbench Business Committee about a resilience debate but, given the work being done by the Government on resilience, will the Leader of the House also keep an eye on it?
This is a very important point. The civil contingencies secretariat in the Cabinet Office makes preparations for the unexpected. The difficulty is that the unexpected we expect sometimes turns out not to be the unexpected that eventually happens, and therefore the planning does not always directly answer the difficulty that arises. The more one thinks about it, the more one debates it and the more one works out what the risks are, the better prepared one is likely to be.
This weekend will mark 140,000 people dying from covid. Every public health measure taken helps save lives. As a result, it is crucial that face masks are worn, social distancing is maintained and high hygiene standards are met, in addition to testing. Will the Leader of the House talk to his director of public health to learn more about public health measures so that he can model them? Can we also have an urgent statement on Monday so that we can discuss the tragedy that is still unfurling?
Nobody denies the great tragedy of 140,000 deaths from covid and the sadness for every single one of those families and for the friends of those who have died. There is a plan B, which includes going back to masks, but we also have to get back to normal. That is what the vaccines and lateral flow tests have allowed us to do. We have to ensure that life returns to normal and that we carry on with our business.
We also have to deal with the other consequences of the various lockdowns: the mental health issues, the disruption to children’s health and the economic consequences. Lower economic growth has health consequences, too, as is well known and well established. Plan B is there if things get worse during the winter, but we should stick to plan A. That is the right thing to do. Normalisation is where we want to get to.
We all know that the production of single-use plastics produces a variety of toxic emissions that pollute our environment. To combat this, Rowena Academy in my constituency has stopped using single-use plastics. I hope schools across the country will follow that move. Following the “Panorama” episode on the 100 billion plastic bottle problem, and with COP26 just around the corner, does the Leader of the House believe that we should follow the lead set by Rowena Academy and stop using single-use plastics in the Chamber?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important issue and congratulate Rowena Academy on the work it is doing. His specific request is a matter for the House authorities, but it is important to limit single-use plastics. I have never been a great one for plastic coffee cups; I think a nice china cup, preferably with a saucer underneath it, is infinitely preferable, and I encourage other right hon. and hon. Members to think the same. Thinking of Hallowe’en, we should all say to our children that when they go round trick or treating, they should use a paper bag, rather than a plastic bag, to collect their Haribos—although I sometimes think that the quantities and the generosity of neighbours are such that they will need hessian mail sacks to carry the booty away.
Across my constituency in North Ayrshire and Arran, and indeed throughout Scotland, many householders are living in dread of bonfire night, as it means fireworks causing widespread disruption and distress to communities, the elderly and pets. While the use of fireworks is a devolved matter, control of the regulation of the sale of fireworks is reserved to the UK Government. The Leader of the House indicated earlier today that he is opposed to tighter regulation of fireworks; will he make a statement setting out why he believes the Scottish Parliament is apparently unfit to regulate the sale of fireworks in Scotland, so we can properly deal with the safety hazards and antisocial misuse of fireworks in Scotland at source, by restricting their sale?
I say to the hon. Lady: don’t be such a killjoy. It is fun having bonfire night. We will be having fireworks in West Harptree; we will even have a Guy put on a bonfire and it will go up in flame. It will be fun for the children and even for the adults, who may sip a glass of mulled cider while watching this going on. We do not want to be a Parliament of the kind that Oliver Cromwell would have enjoyed, cracking down on every possible bit of fun that people have, so no, let us keep on enjoying our fireworks and have a jolly time on 5 November. Madam Deputy Speaker:
“Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”
As a Member new to the House, I did not know Sir David Amess for as long as others, but when we worked together on the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety and rescue, I got to experience the warmth and kindness that others have talked about. After his tragic killing, I saw that he used to hold an annual tea party for 100-year-olds in his constituency; I am going to try to do the same, as my way of honouring his kindness to me. Will the Leader of the House, and perhaps the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), meet me to discuss how we could support Members throughout the country to do the same to honour Sir David?
That would be a very fine tribute to our late hon. Friend, and I thank my hon. Friend for his tribute to Sir David. I would very much enjoy having a meeting with my hon. Friend, because that would be a good thing to do. It is beneficial to involve the elderly in society more, and to have a tea party for centenarians who have probably done so much for their country is a noble cause.
Will the Leader of the House consider providing time for a debate on the terrible situation facing refugees fleeing Afghanistan? The resettlement scheme must be opened as soon as possible, with the relevant mechanisms in place to ensure that religious or belief minorities who live in fear of their lives after the Taliban takeover receive adequate assistance, support and priority in the scheme, and Government aid for other countries to assist with the influx of refugees from Afghanistan should be given when our Government are certain that such assistance will reach those who are at risk.
As so often, the hon. Gentleman raises an issue of concern across the House, which fits in with concerns expressed by several other Members. I have already mentioned the fact that the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme will welcome more than 20,000 people over a five-year period. The scheme will provide protection for vulnerable people. The Home Office will announce further details, including eligibility criteria, in due course. I will of course take the matter up with the Home Secretary after this session. The amount of humanitarian aid is being doubled to £286 million this year, plus £30 million of life-saving aid for Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries to support new and existing refugees and host communities, as part of the Government’s effort to support regional stability. Things are being done, then, but I understand that there is a feeling that they should be done more urgently.
This weekend, we will be unveiling a plaque to commemorate Cuthbert Taylor, a boxer from Merthyr Tydfil, who was a victim of the British Boxing Board of Control’s colour bar rule, which prevented boxers from competing for professional titles because of the colour of their skin. This blatantly racist, discriminatory and shameful policy prevented many people from achieving their potential and, unbelievably, the British Boxing Board of Control has yet to apologise. Will the Leader of the House encourage the British Boxing Board of Control to apologise and finally expunge this racist stain from British boxing, and will he find Government time to debate this historical wrong?
I find myself in complete agreement with the hon. Gentleman. It is not something that I was aware of. I was not aware of Cuthbert Taylor, but that he should have been banned for his colour at any point in our history is simply monstrous, and any organisation that was involved with that ought to try to right a wrong. As it is a very specific issue, it is very suitable for an Adjournment debate, but as it is a very serious issue I hope it will be an Adjournment debate in the Chamber.
The prize for perseverance and patience goes to Olivia Blake.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Parents and carers up and down the country will be really worried about what climate catastrophe will mean for young people. Ahead of COP26, will the Leader of the House join me in celebrating the great work of Voices for Action, a group of mums and children from Hallam Primary School who have recorded a song to celebrate COP26 and to highlight the issues that worry mums?
What a pleasure it is to congratulate Voices for Action and mothers and children getting together to develop a song. I do not know the song. I think it was St Winifred’s school choir that sang, “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma”, and we know the power that song can have, particularly when it involves small children. May I suggest that the hon. Lady intervenes on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who, because of his responsibilities, knows a great deal more than I do about environmental matters, and who may be able to give her more information?