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Business of the House

Volume 709: debated on Thursday 24 February 2022

I would be delighted to. The business for the week commencing 28 February will include:

Monday 28 February—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Tuesday 1 March—Remaining stages of the Professional Qualifications Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the National Insurance Contributions Bill, followed by a motion to approve the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation etc.) (Revocation) (England) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 161).

Wednesday 2 March—Opposition day (14th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 3 March—General debate on Welsh affairs. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 4 March—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 March will include:

Monday 7 March—General debate on the Ukraine, followed by remaining stages of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [Lords].

A general debate on Ukraine. I thank the hon. Member for his assistance.

Tuesday 8 March—Opposition day (15th allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 9 March—Estimates day (3rd allotted day). At 7 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 10 March—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill, followed by a general debate on International Women’s Day. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 11 March—The House will not be sitting.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business, and I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your reminder about conduct.

The Leader of the House said that there will be a debate on Ukraine on 7 March. Seriously, whatever happens in the next few days, I ask him to consider whether it could be moved up the Order Paper, because it seems an awfully long way away. I appreciate that things might change rapidly over the next few days.

We have woken up to the grim but unfortunately predictable news that Russia has mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Government must urgently reinforce our NATO allies and take the hardest possible sanctions against all those linked to Putin. The influence of Russian money must be extricated from the UK. The House agreed to our Opposition day motion yesterday, so will the Leader of the House confirm when the Foreign Secretary will be implementing, in full, the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report? The report was published nearly two years ago, and it really should not take a war to clean up. The Opposition stand ready to work together on this in a bipartisan way.

Economic crime now runs to an estimated £100 billion a year, a huge cost to taxpayers. Earlier this month, the Treasury Committee concluded that the Government are still not prioritising economic crime. It said that, since the Government launched their economic crime plan two years ago,

“economic crime has not reduced but has instead continued on an upward trend.”

Again, this is relevant to the current situation. Will the Leader of the House press his Treasury colleagues to report on actions to stem the flow of dirty money and corruption?

The Prime Minister commented yesterday that the long-promised economic crime Bill will make an appearance, but not until the next Session. I am afraid that rather proves the Treasury Committee’s point. We all want to tackle economic crime, and we will work with the Government to pass this vital and urgent Bill, so will the Leader of the House find time to introduce it in this Session?

The Government first promised a registration of overseas entities Bill five years ago—it is a similar theme—to begin tackling corruption and money laundering. We need transparency, and it is crucial that overseas companies make the same level of disclosures on their beneficiaries as UK companies do. We have had prelegislative scrutiny, but I am afraid to say—again, this is a pattern—there is no Bill. The Minister for Security and Borders could not say yesterday when the Bill will be introduced, so will the Leader of the House please help?

It has been clear for years that Companies House has not done the job it needs to do. Unfortunately, urgent reform is needed so that UK companies can no longer be used as laundromats for dirty money. There are countless examples of UK-registered companies with fake directors.

Not only does a weak Companies House enable international economic fraud, but its inadequate powers, resources and remit enable domestic fraud, too. This is part of the cause of the extensive covid-19 business support fraud, and the Government have written off at least £4.3 billion of taxpayers’ money. That money went straight into the hands of fraudsters, so can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on when reforms to Companies House will be brought forward? Can we also have a statement from the Chancellor on why the Government are continuing with this policy?

Finally, we need to take urgent steps to close the loophole that allows foreign money to be donated to UK political parties. Yesterday the Prime Minister appeared to refuse to commit to this. Labour’s amendments to the Elections Bill would prevent the use of shell companies to hide the true source of donations to political parties by foreign actors, and they would prevent non-residents, including people who live in tax havens to avoid paying tax here, from donating to political parties. Will the Leader of the House please explain why we would not want to make it harder for foreign money and donors to infiltrate UK politics? Will he please find time to persuade the Prime Minister of the value of Labour’s amendments to the Elections Bill?

Today of all days, the Government must send a strong, unequivocal message to the world that the UK is not a haven for corrupt money, especially not from Russia. We stand ready to work with the Government on this. They must act, and they must act now.

It is a pleasure to present business questions in conjunction with the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). I hear the hon. Lady’s plea about 7 March. Clearly, there will be a debate on Ukraine on 7 March, but that will not be the only opportunity for the House to debate these important issues. Just this week, we have had not only Defence questions, but two statements on Ukraine; three hours of debate on Russia sanctions; Prime Minister’s questions, where the Leader of the Opposition raised the matter; and an Opposition day debate on Russian aggression. We are also going to have a Backbench Business debate this afternoon on the UK’s relationship with Russia and China. The House has debated this matter an awful lot this week and there will be more opportunities coming forward, so I think she will support us in that matter. Clearly, this is a huge problem.

The hon. Lady mentioned economic crime, and it is worth pointing out that already we have published this landmark economic crime plan in 2019, increased the number of investigations into corrupt elites, established a new economic crime centre, passed the Criminal Finances Act 2017, and become the first major economy in the world to implement a public register of beneficial ownership of domestic companies. We are going to go further and continue to push on. We will bring forward the economic crime Bill. I know that she wants that as soon as possible and says she wants it in this Session, not the next. My constituents and hers do not necessarily understand the concept of this Session or the next Session; they just want this very soon, and the next Session is coming very soon, so that Bill will be coming forward very quickly.

Turning to covid procurement matters, it is very easy to look back through the prism of hindsight and criticise decisions made at the beginning of a very intense pandemic. This country was trying to procure as much PPE as possible in a very challenging market. The global market was trying to secure as much PPE as it could and we had to make very rapid decisions. Mistakes will have been made, but the Opposition were screaming like mad at the time for the Government to get on and buy PPE from any source they could procure it from. It is rough to look back through the prism of hindsight and criticise those decisions, which were made in the best interests of the country at that moment. I think history will judge the Government’s performance on covid pretty well; when we consider all the big decisions made at the time by the Prime Minister—on going into lockdown, on delivering the vaccine, and on delivering the booster programme and getting us out of covid faster than any other country in the G7—we see a record to be enormously proud of.

Finally, the hon. Lady mentioned foreign donations to political parties. The policy that someone has to be a UK-registered voter in order to be able to donate to a political party is right, but the answer is sunlight—it is transparency. So anyone who donates to a political party should register that donation and we should all be able to view that.

May I start by welcoming the Leader of the House to his place? Will he find time for a debate on the scope of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991? Currently, it does not recognise dog-on-dog attacks as an offence unless the dog under attack is an assistance dog. Consequently, owners of dangerous dogs are not prosecuted unless another human fears injury or is injured. My constituent’s beloved dog Millie was recently mauled to death and no action has been taken against the owner of the dog involved.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. First, let me welcome my hon. Friend to her place; it is a pleasure to see her at business questions. She carries on a great tradition from her predecessor, who loved business questions and was a regular at this session. I understand that there are existing powers to allow dog-on-dog attacks to be tackled effectively, including through the issue of a community protection notice and the prosecution of offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Dogs Act 1871. It is for the Crown Prosecution Service to assess on a case-by-case basis whether to proceed with a prosecution under the legislation. However, my hon. Friend asks for a debate, and I hope that she will take her request to the Backbench Business Committee or to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on 10 March, where she may wish to ask Ministers directly.

I think the whole world shook just a little on its axis this morning as all our worst fears were realised with the invasion of Ukraine. Even though it has been fully expected, the full horror of what has happened this morning has been quite difficult to comprehend and process. We are grateful for the Prime Minister’s statement, which I understand will be at 5 o’clock today, but will the Leader of the House assure us that it will be the first of many Prime Minister’s statements and that he will promise to keep the House updated on any progress or development?

I welcome the Leader of the House’s words about being flexible with the business, but we need to hear more about that. I am sure he will agree with me and the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), that any legislation required to make the toughest of sanctions must take priority over any other business announced for next week.

We are hoping to hear that the Prime Minister will at last take the firm, decisive action that we have all been calling for and that is now required. Will the Leader of the House tell us what type of legislation might be required for the toughest of sanctions? How long might it take to get through the House? The minimalist measures are proving to be totally inadequate and ineffective; we now need to sanction to the max and end the City of London being Putin’s financial laundromat of choice.

We also need a statement about Russian propaganda. We need to prevent Russian propaganda from being pumped 24/7 into the houses of the UK. The Prime Minister has said it would require an intervention from Ofcom to take RT off air, but does he not now agree that that is a technicality the time of which has passed? I should also say to the Leader of the House that RT contributor Alex Salmond is as much a member of the SNP as the UK Independence party’s Neil Hamilton is a member of his Conservative party. Such petty point scoring should now come to an end, because the Ukrainian people want to see the unity in this House.

This a dark day for Ukraine and for the whole of Europe, but if the Leader of the House brings forward the decisive, hard measures, he will get our support.

I genuinely thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. The uniting of this House in its objection to Russian aggression is fundamental to our response. A unified House means that we can present ourselves, along with our international colleagues, in a way that sends a strong message to the Russian President.

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that the Government and the Prime Minister have kept the House up to speed, and that will continue to happen, not least at 5 o’clock this afternoon when the Prime Minister will come to the House.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to assisting with legislation; the speed of the progress of legislation is assisted by cross-party and cross-House unity. I am sure that, together, we can send strong messages and try to assist the people of Ukraine at this very dark hour.

The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), who is the Minister responsible for water, visited Montgomeryshire and stood with me at Clywedog reservoir, noticing that it was quite full, with three storms heading our way. I am unhappy to report to the House that the River Vyrnwy and then the River Severn hit record, historic peaks. Will the Leader of the House facilitate a debate on cross-border water policy? Most water does not respect the border between England and Wales, and the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales must work together on flood prevention as well as drought prevention.

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the necessity of cross-border co-operation: it is vital that colleagues in the Welsh Assembly co-operate with the Environment Agency and our friends in DEFRA. My hon. Friend is an assiduous campaigner on this matter and I am sure he will find a way to raise it in the House regularly.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business, particularly the Welsh affairs debate on 3 March and the International Women’s Day debate on 10 March. May I give him advance notice that we have an application for a debate on the Irish in Britain on St Patrick’s Day, 17 March? That is already on the stocks.

Members will have noticed in the statement that the Leader of the House referred to estimates day, the third allotted day. The House will be asked to agree all the outstanding estimates at 7 pm that day, but applications for the subjects of those debates need to be sent to the Backbench Business Committee by no later than 2.30 pm tomorrow. In particular, if Select Committee Chairs want the spending of the Department that they oversee to be the subject of those debates, they should please submit their applications by tomorrow.

The Backbench Business Committee has only eight members—eight hard-working members who are very diligent in their activities. Unusually, though, the Committee has a quorum of four. At the moment, we are two members down because they have been promoted by Her Majesty’s Government to be Parliamentary Private Secretaries and we have one Member on outstanding long leave, so we currently have five active members and a quorum of four, which makes life a little difficult. Will the Leader of the House look again at the following options: increasing the size of the Committee; reducing the quorum of the Committee; or getting his party to appoint some members to the Committee?

I hear the hon. Gentleman’s plea for St Patrick’s Day, which I am sure will be considered in due course. It is worth recognising that a number of my Conservative colleagues will have seen that two members of his Committee have been promoted—that is the route to promotion, clearly—and I am sure there will be a clamour to join his Committee to get on the promotion ladder in due course.

Yesterday, the Government announced that both Hyndburn and Rossendale have been identified as two of the 109 places for levelling up for culture, meaning that they are a priority for additional investment for our fantastic arts, culture and heritage across Hyndburn and Haslingden. Does the Leader of the House agree that this is exactly what we mean by levelling up and putting Hyndburn and Haslingden back on the map? Will he allow a debate in Government time on how we make sure that places such as Hyndburn and east Lancashire are at the heart of the Government’s levelling-up agenda?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. It is vital that we recognise the enormous amount of culture that exists not just in London, which is a great city recognised internationally, but across the country, and she is right to highlight that. She should pursue either an Adjournment debate or a Westminster Hall debate to make sure that she can spread that message to as many people as possible.

Can we have a debate on the operation of tier 1 visas, following on from some of the reports in The Sun and other newspapers today? I have hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office, which says in relation to Mr Abramovich:

“As part of HMG’s Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices. An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence. Therefore, HMG is focused on ensuring individuals linked to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal (including immigration powers) to prevent this.”

That was nearly three years ago, and yet remarkably little has been done. Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country. Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets, including his £152 million home, and making sure that other people who have had tier 1 visas like this are not engaged in malign activity in the UK.

The hon. Gentleman will know that, under the statutory instrument passed in the House this week, there is the opportunity for the Government to take very strong action against high-profile Russian individuals who are of concern. He will be aware that the Home Secretary will be at this Dispatch Box next Monday for Home Office questions, and I am sure that he will be able to challenge her directly.

As my right hon. Friend knows, Southport was the recipient of a £38.5 million town deal to drive jobs, growth and investment. One of these investments is the £75 million Southport surf cove. Yet Labour-controlled Sefton Council is embarking on another consultation about some more unwanted road-blocking cycle lanes. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State outlining that jobs, growth and investment should not be impeded by unwanted vanity projects such as cycle lanes in areas that have been given town deal money by this Government?

My hon. Friend is a great campaigner for Southport and has secured millions of pounds for his constituents. It is right that he continues to hold the local council to account for how it spends that money. The potential for jobs, growth and investment is a key driver of the towns fund, which is a crucial part of the Government’s commitment to levelling up. I am sure his constituents will recognise that he is standing up for their best interests.

Last month, the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill containing powers to extend the line to Manchester was published and presented to this House. Hidden in it is a proposal to sever the Metrolink line to Ashton-under-Lyne, which runs through my constituency. The line would be mothballed and HS2 would run bus services instead. Can the Leader of the House indicate when Second Reading will be and can he, through his good offices, put in a request to the Transport Secretary to meet the three Tameside MPs to try to find a solution before then?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The business will be announced in the usual way and he will be updated at that moment. On 17 March, however, there is the opportunity for Transport questions; I am sure he will be present in the Chamber and able to ask the Secretary of State for Transport directly what his constituents want to hear.

Through the Derwent valley mills world heritage site, Derbyshire’s industrial heritage has been rightly recognised by UNESCO for its international importance. That brings value and visitors to Derbyshire, but I am concerned about the state of disrepair the historic mills are in. The owner has had them for more than 20 years and spent virtually nothing on them. I showed the mills to the Heritage Minister during recess, but can we have a debate on preserving our nation’s historic world heritage sites and their value to local communities?

It is important that we protect our nation’s cultural heritage for everyone to enjoy. Certainly those in Derbyshire, like the rest of the 33 designated world heritage sites across the UK, are some of the finest examples and are recognised at a global level by UNESCO. Derwent valley mills, like many other sites, has faced challenges in striking a balance and reconciling heritage and conservation with economic development. I strongly encourage all those responsible for conservation of the site to work in partnership and take their obligations under world heritage conservation seriously.

Last night, I attended a town hall meeting at St Anselm’s church in Kennington in my constituency to speak about the aftermath of and the momentum built around COP26. With the relentless news cycle at the moment demanding our attention in so many areas, it is vital that we stay focused on this important issue. Will the Leader of the House please relay that to his colleagues in government and ensure that there is regular and sufficient time to consider the climate emergency?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight our commitment to dealing with the environment and progressing with our COP commitments. COP questions will be next Thursday, and I am sure she will be present in the Chamber to ask about that. However, I compliment her on ensuring that her constituents are engaged in this process and informed at the same time.

Opposition Members quite rightly like to remind us that we should be careful about the sources of money coming to this country. Does the Leader of the House agree that we should gently remind the Opposition that we should also consider moneys from China, and that maybe we should have a wider debate about where moneys come from?

I think it is important that we have a system of political donations that the general public have confidence in and that is open and transparent. Anyone seeking to make a donation to a political party should register that and should be publicly accountable for that donation.

This week, the all-party parliamentary group on ending the need for food banks, which I co-chair, and the APPG on debt and personal finance, chaired by the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue), met to discuss research from the Trussell Trust showing that nearly half of all people referred to a food bank in its network owed money to the Department for Work and Pensions. The Cabinet Office carried out a consultation on fairness in Government debt management in the summer of 2020, but 18 months later the webpage says the responses are still being analysed. In the meantime, thousands of people have been pushed into destitution. Can the Leader of the House update the House on when that consultation will report and commit to giving the House time to debate this vital issue?

I am sure there will be many opportunities to debate such issues. The Government’s record on the cost of living is a good one. I know that the hon. Lady will hold Government Ministers to account and I am sure she will be present at DWP questions to put her questions directly to the Secretary of State.

I am always cautious about what I read in the papers, but if the Government have reached a conclusion on extending the covid regulation on the receipt of pills for abortion at home, can I gently remind the Leader of the House that in a parliamentary democracy it is better to have the debate before the decision?

I think I am confident in saying that the Department of Health has issued a statement this morning setting out its extension of the scheme for six months. This is a temporary extension. However, I know my right hon. Friend will continue to raise the matter in this House.

Further to that question, this morning’s written ministerial statement clearly says that it is a six-month extension and then we will return to the original legislation around abortion. I understand that that is a retrograde step by the Government. The alliance of organisations that are opposed to tele-medicine for abortion services being removed include the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of General Practitioners, Mumsnet and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. The written ministerial statement says that the policy will be kept under review. Could we have a debate on how that review will take place and how we can feed into it so that the right decision can be made for women accessing essential healthcare services?

I recognise the right hon. Lady’s contribution on this matter and her interest in it. She is a vociferous campaigner on that side of the argument. She will understand the sensitivities of this discussion and the desire of the House to have a say on the situation. As she says, there is a temporary extension of six months. There will be Health questions in the House next Tuesday, when it would be worth raising the matter with the Secretary of State for Health.

Last night’s “Panorama” programme was harrowing viewing about the loss and harm of babies under Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust care going back decades. Much of this was revealed through the Ockenden inquiry, which was launched by the then Health Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt) at the request and through the tenacity of my then constituents Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton, who featured in the programme and suffered their own tragedy that they wished to see no other parents go through. The programme alleged that a culture existed promoting normal birth practices so that the trust had the lowest rate of C-section interventions in the country. Those who raised patient safety concerns were not taken sufficiently seriously and were apparently subject to bullying. I know that the trust has taken significant steps to improve its practices and acted on all recommendations that Donna Ockenden produced in her initial report in December 2020, since when about 4,000 babies have been delivered safely under the trust’s care. Her final report is expected later this month. Will the Leader of the House ensure that a full response is made to the conclusions of that report in this House so that the Government take heed of the lessons to be learned not just in SATH but across maternity services throughout the NHS?

I know that my right hon. Friend is a long-standing campaigner on this matter, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Telford (Lucy Allan). The Ockenden review is assessing the quality of investigations relating to cases of newborn, infant and maternal harm at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Donna Ockenden is finalising her second report, as he said, and it is due to be published in March 2022—very shortly. We have Health questions next Tuesday, and I am sure the Department will want to update the House on this matter at the earliest opportunity.

Yesterday one of my constituents, Anish Subramaniam, visited Parliament in his role as the youth ambassador for ONE, which, along with ActionAid, was making the case for vaccine equity. Will the Leader of the House make time for Parliament to debate how we can do more to ensure that everyone, everywhere in the world, receives a covid-19 vaccine?

The hon. Lady raises an important issue. We have a proud record in the United Kingdom of supporting the world in getting vaccinated. I think we have done more than 1 billion doses of vaccine through COVAX, and it is important that we continue to do more. She is right to highlight the fact that in dealing with a global pandemic, we need to make sure that the world—the globe—is vaccinated, and I acknowledge her raising this matter.

Further to the question from my neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne), may I ask that the Minister who comes to the House to make the statement on the Ockenden review be the Secretary of State? I am in awe of the women who have come forward to that review, and it would be appropriate that it is the Secretary of State who makes the statement to the House.

I pay tribute once again to the work that my hon. Friend has done in raising this issue on many occasions. Obviously I cannot commit the Secretary of State to personally make that statement, if one is forthcoming, but I know that the Department will be keen to put it on the record and to give colleagues the opportunity to ask questions and challenge the response.

May I inform the Leader of the House that coming into Parliament this week, I was approached by a large number of women waving placards? They were the loveliest people. They were campaigning on women teachers’ pensions, and I promised that I would call for a debate on pensions in the education sector: in the university sector, in the early years sector and across the sector. Many people—particularly women, but it is not entirely women—are very worried about their pensions and the future.

This is the first chance I have had to say how much we miss Sir Richard Shepherd. He was a great parliamentarian and a great friend of mine. He used to be my pair when we all could pair. He was at the London School of Economics with me, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge), Frank Dobson and Mick Jagger. It was an illustrious year.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments about Sir Richard Shepherd, the former Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. He was a great man and will be sadly missed. The hon. Gentleman can do better than ask for a debate; he could apply for one. He could apply for a BackBench Business debate or an Adjournment debate. He knows those routes are available to him, and I wish him luck in the ballot.

In recent months, branches of HSBC and Barclays have closed on Brent Street in Hendon, in addition to the closure of branches of Lloyds and NatWest at Hendon Central. All four branches have taken with them the free-to-use ATMs. Will a Treasury Minister come to the House to make a statement to say what representations the Government are making to the banks to ensure that my constituents can access their money without having to pay a fee?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that it is difficult, certainly in rural communities, to get access to cash through cash machines. It will be Treasury questions on 15 March, and I am sure he will be able to raise the matter there. There are other avenues available to him, too: perhaps he would like to apply for an Adjournment debate or even a Westminster Hall debate on the matter.

Inflation is due to reach an eye-watering 7%, yet this week the Government have recommended a maximum pay rise of 3% for those NHS workers who risked their lives for us throughout the pandemic. Can we have an urgent debate on why this Government hold our indispensable NHS workforce in such contempt?

This Government do not hold our NHS workers in contempt. We value the contribution that those people make to our society. It is not just NHS workers, however; people up and down this country are contributing to the economy and working very hard, and the Government have to strike the right balance between making sure we reward those people who certainly deserve a pay increase and supporting those who are vulnerable with the cost of living as it increases. We recognise the challenge that inflation brings, but there are enormous global pressures on the economy at this time, and the Government are doing their best to manage those.

I never thought that I would wake up one morning to find that a democratic independent European country had been invaded by a bigger country. I am grateful for the Prime Minister coming to the House so often to keep us updated, and I know that he is coming this evening, but could the Leader of the House arrange for tomorrow’s business to be changed so that we can have a full-scale debate on Ukraine and what the Prime Minister says in his statement? He will undoubtedly bring forward further sanctions and maybe even break off diplomatic relations with Russia. I am very much in favour of private Members’ business, but surely we should change tomorrow’s business and have private Members’ business next Friday.

As my hon. Friend will recognise, there have been a number of occasions this week to discuss a rapidly changing situation. I hear his plea. There will be an opportunity for an urgent question to be submitted tomorrow. The Prime Minister will update the House at 5 pm, and of course that will not be the last occasion on which the House is updated on the situation in Ukraine. We will continue to keep the House informed as the situation develops.

Can we have a debate about why Vnesheconombank was not sanctioned this week? As the Leader will know, its deputy governor was appointed by Vladimir Putin in 1999. On 29 April 2016, that deputy governor was given $8 million by a sanctioned individual, Suleiman Kerimov. Shortly thereafter, Lubov Chernukhin—wife of Vladimir—transferred £1.5 million to the Conservative party. Missing from the sanctions list this week was that deputy governor’s bank. The Government will want to avoid any suspicion that they were paid to look the other way, and I do not want to apply for an unexplained wealth order against the Conservative party, so can we have a debate to clear that up once and for all?

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. He will be aware that the statutory instrument that was introduced this week allows for high-net-worth individuals associated with the Russian regime to be sanctioned. I know that my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office are looking at a number of high-wealth individuals who will be subject to that sanctions regime. We have announced some names already and I am sure that others are being looked at as we speak.

The communities of Ynys Môn are facing a new and real threat from the constant battering of the weather. The 2.4 km Victorian breakwater, which is the longest breakwater in Europe and which protects Holyhead and the UK’s second-busiest ro-ro port, is in urgent need of large-scale refurbishment. Will the Leader of the House commit to working with me, the port authority Stena Line and the Welsh Government to support that vital refurbishment? Will he pack his wellies, accept my invitation to visit Ynys Môn and walk along the longest breakwater in Europe?

I thank my hon. Friend for the question. I pay tribute to the community of Ynys Môn for its resilience. Holyhead is an important gateway to the UK and we note the value of its ongoing operations locally and nationally. As a devolved policy area, that is primarily an issue for the Welsh Government, but I know that the maritime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), would be happy to meet her and the other parties involved to understand the issues further.

We awoke this morning to a very dark day and a barrage of distressing images and videos showing the devastating aftermath of Russia bombing Ukraine in an unprovoked and unjustifiable attack. Those images also show Ukrainian citizens fleeing for their lives. I am proud to say that they would be welcome in Wales, which is a nation of sanctuary for refugees. Can we have a statement on what the Government will do to help the 2.9 million people already in need of humanitarian aid and those who will be displaced if Russia continues this abhorrent power grab?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight that issue. It is important to respond with our international colleagues, such as the EU, the US and those across the world, to ensure that we have an international response. The UK has a proud record of welcoming refugees and of supporting people in those circumstances. She is right to highlight that and I am sure that, working with our international colleagues, we can assist those affected by the humanitarian disaster that will ensue from Russian aggression.

Following my question to the Prime Minister on his statement on Ukraine earlier in the week, can we have an urgent statement from a Government Minister on the impact of the cost of living on people up and down the country? Following the Russian invasion, oil prices have gone up to more than $100 a barrel and energy prices are rocketing, which will have an impact on millions of people across the country and make petrol and energy even more unaffordable.

My right hon. Friend is right to draw attention to this issue. Clearly, the conflict in Ukraine between Russia and Ukraine will have an impact not only on global fuel prices, but on global food prices. Ukraine is an enormous supplier of food—wheat and bread—and this is something the UK Government will monitor and of course assist with, through our work to try to lessen the burden of the cost of living.

A desperate—truly desperate—constituent has just contacted my constituency office as his wife and daughters are still in Ukraine. They have no visas, but the consulate has now closed and moved closer to western Ukraine. We have tried contacting the Home Office this morning, but there are no updates. He could get them out using an organisation called Project Dynamo—that is not absolutely certain, but it is a possibility—but they are likely to be turned back when they arrive here as they have no visas. Could the Leader of the House please help me? Could he give me advice, and could we have a statement immediately—urgently—from the Home Office about what is going to happen to people such as my constituent’s family?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and the direct answer is yes, we can assist. I will put her in contact with the right people at the Foreign Office, who will be able to assist her and her constituents.

Now then, the Leader of the House will be aware of the ongoing issues that we have at Ashfield District Council. The latest shenanigans is that the environmental health department is investigating a private rented home where the landlord is actually the council leader. I think any investigation should be done independently. Does my right hon. Friend think there is enough in the levelling-up White Paper to tackle rogue landlords in this situation, or do we need a debate in this House?

Now then—[Laughter]—there has never been a better campaigner for Ashfield than my hon. Friend. I have to say that he is campaigning for his constituents, and it is disappointing to hear about the standards of the rented accommodation he describes. Everyone has the right to a safe and habitable home, and all social housing should meet the required standards. Landlords should be carrying out planned maintenance and responsive repairs to keep their homes well maintained. My hon. Friend is right to draw this important matter to the attention of the House, and it is important that council leaders practise what they preach.

Next Monday, 28 February, is international Rare Disease Day, and yesterday I met representatives of patient groups at our Rare Disease Day UK reception. It is important that we ensure that people with rare diseases receive the diagnosis and the treatment that they need, so can we have a debate in Government time on the importance of implementing the rare diseases framework?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Fortunately, rare diseases are rare, but she is right to highlight the fact that people who suffer from rare diseases are often late to be diagnosed, and that the symptoms are often not spotted or associated with the disease they have. She is right to highlight that, and I think she should apply for an Adjournment debate, but she will have an opportunity to ask Health Ministers about it at the next Health questions.

Residents of Rother Valley are becoming more and more concerned about the safety of the Kingsforth Lane-Cumwell Lane road that links Thurcroft and Hellaby, and many of my constituents refuse to travel on the route as it is far too dangerous. Over the last couple of years, several people have lost their lives on it and, tragically, most recently—on 11 February—a 30-year-old man was killed. Despite calls from me and local councillor Simon Ball, Rotherham council seems to be dragging its heels on implementing much-needed safety measures such as speed cameras, barriers and lowering the speed limit. What steps can the Government take to get Rotherham council to act swiftly to ensure that no more lives are needlessly lost?

I am sorry to hear about my hon. Friend’s constituent. He raises an extremely serious matter, and I would be happy to pass on his concerns to Ministers in the Department for Transport. Local traffic authorities have responsibility for making decisions about the roads in their care, including setting local speed limits and introducing traffic-calming measures such as speed cameras and speed-activated warning signs.

This week a much beloved actress, Anna Karen, who lived in my constituency, tragically died in a fire not far from my constituency office. Anna was well renowned for her role on the series “On the Buses”, and its spinoff film, which was the biggest British box office hit of 1971. She also appeared on “EastEnders” between 1996 and 2017. She was much beloved of my constituents, many of whom will be heartbroken to hear this tragic news. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate about the contribution of soap operas to the British world, and to pay tribute to London Fire Brigade, who tackled the awful blaze so heroically earlier this week?

I read that news in the paper this morning, and I was very sorry to hear about the actress who played Olive in “On the Buses”. It highlights the importance of ensuring that people have an active and working smoke alarm, and I say to anybody who is watching this sitting of Parliament today, that once they have finished watching, they should go to their smoke alarm, press the button, and check that the battery is working and operational, as that could genuinely save their life. The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fact that the London Fire Brigade is brave in tackling such fires, and it is sad that we have lost a great actress from the United Kingdom.

On this dark day for Ukraine, Europe and the world, may I join colleagues throughout the House in expressing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this dreadful time, and in condemning this abhorrent invasion by Russia? My thoughts and prayers go out especially to the civilians in Ukraine who face terrifying and awful choices as they try to protect their families. I note the comments by the Leader of the House about the upcoming business, but will he reassure colleagues that there will be sufficient parliamentary time to consider the UK’s international actions and also, importantly, our domestic resilience preparations?

My hon. Friend will recognise that the Prime Minister will be in the Chamber at 5 pm, and that will be his first opportunity to question our right hon. Friend. I have not announced further business other than a debate on Ukraine on 7 March, but I think the Government’s record of giving Members many opportunities this week to discuss this matter will be an indication of how we will proceed going forward.

If we are to make sanctions stick and deal with dirty money being laundered through the City of London, enforcement and regulatory bodies need proper resourcing. Companies House says that it often cannot take on Russian oligarchs, because they are very wealthy and use lawyers that it cannot access because it does not have the resources. Similarly, the mining company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation has taken the Serious Fraud Office to court for having the audacity to investigate it. It makes in a week what the SFO spends in an entire year. May we have a statement on the resources given to those enforcement and regulatory bodies, so that we can impose these sanctions and deal with the dirty money being laundered through the City of London?

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to that matter. The statutory instrument that we passed earlier this week is very robust and allows for strong action to be taken against those individuals. It gives the Government enormous power to tackle them, but it is not the end of the process. I am sure there is more that we can do, and the Prime Minister will update the House at 5 pm today on further matters and measures that will be taken.

My constituents have woken up to news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I put on record both their and my own full support for and solidarity with the Ukrainian people. This conflict will impact on global energy prices. Given that the energy price cap rise will be devastating for those on the lowest incomes, who will have to choose whether to heat their homes or feed themselves and their families, many will be fearing further pressure on their bills. May we have an urgent statement to assure my constituents in Dundee West that there will be no further raising of the energy price cap, and that an emergency financial package to support the most vulnerable will be introduced?

Among the hon. Gentleman’s constituents in Dundee, as with my constituents and those of Members throughout the House, there is recognition of the challenge that we face due to global energy prices. I encourage him to look at what the Government have done to try to help families with their household bills, including the £150 council tax rebate for those in bands A to D, the £500 million household support fund, the maintaining of the energy price cap to protect consumers from the cost spike, the £140 rebate and seasonal cold weather payments—the list of assistance that the Government give to people goes on and on. We recognise the challenges, and we are working to ensure that they are mitigated.

This week, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) and I, as co-chairs of the all-party parliamentary group on tackling loneliness and connected communities, were delighted to host a meeting in Parliament with the Danish Minister for social affairs and senior citizens to discuss our two nations’ strategies for tackling loneliness. Strong, well connected and resilient communities have an enormous role to play in tackling loneliness and isolation as well as in promoting community cohesion, transforming our towns, preventing extremism and supporting health and wellbeing. For me, building such communities should be a fundamental part of the levelling-up agenda and of covid recovery. Will the Leader of the House therefore grant Government time to discuss this important topic and outline how the Government are working across Departments to build well connected, resilient and vibrant communities throughout the UK?

The hon. Member is right to highlight that. We often do not understand or appreciate the impact of loneliness until we meet or know someone suffering from a lack of contact with others. The work that she and other Members across the House are doing to build that resilience in our communities is worthy of praise. I congratulate her on her work.

There have been many debates and statements on the genocide against Rohingya and other minority groups, but that has not stopped the Myanmar military from carrying out atrocities. Will the Leader of the House encourage a Minister or Secretary of State to make a statement about the International Court of Justice case assessing whether Myanmar’s military carried out genocide against Rohingya and other minority groups?

The hon. Member will have the opportunity at Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office questions on 8 March to put that to the Foreign Secretary. I know that he is a long-time campaigner on the rights of many suppressed communities across the world as well as an experienced parliamentarian, so he will know of many other routes by which he can raise the matter, and I suspect that he will do so.

The Government say that they want to be a world leader on animal welfare. However, despite a ban on the production of animal fur products and foie gras in the UK, there is, as of yet, no ban on imports of these horrifically cruel and completely unnecessary products. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out his opposition to importing those products into the UK? Will he introduce legislation ensuring that such imports, which allow the UK simply to outsource its animal cruelty, are banned as soon as possible?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight that issue. In a former life I was a UK farmer and I am enormously proud of the United Kingdom’s fantastic record on animal welfare. We have made manifesto commitments to introduce such legislation and I see no reason why that will not be forthcoming. Indeed, in the business today I announced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which is an example of such legislation being introduced by the Government.

An unspeakable human tragedy is unfolding in front of our eyes. We must stand with the people of Ukraine. Colleagues in the other place have scrapped tomorrow’s business to give a full day’s debate on the urgent business of Ukraine. May I reflect views from across the House and insist that, to unleash the UK’s most punitive sanctions on Russia, the Leader of the House immediately announces a special sitting of Parliament tomorrow to accelerate legislation against the Russian regime? That legislation must include the register of beneficial ownership Bill, which we know is ready to go, and sanction measures that enable us to go after all of Putin’s associates as well as disrupt all business currently benefiting the Putin regime.

I can do better than tomorrow; I can do five o’clock tonight, when the Prime Minister will stand at the Dispatch Box to update the House. The hon. Member should be here to question the Prime Minister and get the reassurances that she seeks. It is worth putting on record that that will be the eighth moment this week alone that the House has had the opportunity to debate the crisis in Ukraine. I see no reason why that level of activity would diminish in the days and weeks to come.

My constituents in Newcastle, like those of Members across the House, are horrified to see ordinary working Ukrainian people waking to Putin’s invading forces. Generous Geordies will want to help. Can we have a debate on how local communities such as mine in Newcastle can help and support Ukrainian people and how the Government can root out Russia’s dirty money and provide clean, good money for humanitarian support?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight the generosity of the British people. In such serious times and in past conflicts, the UK has always stepped up to support the most vulnerable in the challenges that they face. I commend her for drawing attention to it.

My team work hard to do their best for my constituents, but it is frustrating when Departments take too long to respond. The Home Office in particular is a repeat offender, with some cases hitting the six-month mark before we get a reply. Will the Leader of the House encourage his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that Departments meet their service level agreement targets?

The hon. Member is right to highlight that. As a constituency MP, I have also suffered with long times before I get a decent reply. If she is waiting on a specific matter that she wants to raise with a Department, I would be more than happy to take that up on her behalf and try to assist her.

Royal Assent

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Finance Act 2022

Advanced Research and Invention Agency Act 2022

Dormant Assets Act 2022

Charities Act 2022.