It will be a pleasure. The business for the week commencing 13 June will include:
Monday 13 June—Remaining stages of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.
Tuesday 14 June—Opposition day (2nd allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.
Wednesday 15 June—Second Reading of the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill.
Thursday 16 June—General debate on the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, followed by general debate on abuse of short-term letting and the sharing economy. The subjects for these dates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 17 June—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 20 June will include:
Monday 20 June—Second Reading of a Bill.
Tuesday 21 June—Opposition day (3nd allotted day). Debate on a motion in the name of the official Opposition. Subject to be announced.
Right hon. and hon. Members may also wish to note that a motion for the House to agree this Session’s sitting Fridays has been tabled for the remaining Orders.
It is good hear the hon. Member’s delight at the scheduling of private Members’ Bills.
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business, but I have to say: what has happened to the Government’s Queen’s Speech? Have they lost it down the back of a sofa? Where are all those Bills we were promised? While I am on it, can the Leader of the House tell me why the Public Advocate Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) was not even mentioned in the Queen’s Speech; and why, a year after the collapse of the criminal trials, there is still no Government response to the 2017 report on the lessons learned from the Hillsborough disaster?
Whether it is cancer waiting times, long waits for passports and driving licences or queues at airports, we are in backlog Britain, and the Leader of the House’s statement does nothing to deal with that either. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister seems to be once again embarking on yet another attempt to reset his premiership. But there are only so many times you can try turning something off and then on again, only to find it is still broken and you just need to get rid. Tory MPs have made their choice, though.
At the start of so-called health week, the Culture Secretary admitted what Labour has known all along—that underfunding and Tory mismanagement left the health service “wanting” and “inadequate” as we went into the pandemic. When asked about this yesterday, the Prime Minister did not deny it. With so many lives lost, Members must be given the chance to question the Secretary of State on the lessons learned. Will the Leader of the House ask the Health Secretary to make a statement clarifying this?
Yesterday, the report on health and social care leadership was published. In his statement to the House, the Health Secretary did not seem to have any idea of whether or when the Government would implement the report’s recommendations. Too often, this Government commission a review and then drag their feet when it comes to implementation. Could the Leader of the House give us a firm date for when the Government will publish their plan to sort this out?
On Tuesday, Labour’s Opposition day motion gave the Government the chance to start putting right months of Tory sleaze. Our motion backed the crucial reforms put forward by the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life. But not a single Tory MP bothered to turn up. The Government have clearly given up on listening to Parliament because Ministers do not like the outcome when they do. Picking and choosing which votes they will respect and which they will ignore is no way to run a Government, and it is disrespectful to this House and our constituents. After Labour’s success in winning that vote, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will now introduce these vital proposals on standards in public life?
Meanwhile, the recommendations of the Standards Committee, so ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), on strengthening the code of conduct for MPs are a very welcome step. The Leader of the House is nodding. So will he allow time, in Government time, for these recommendations to be debated as soon as possible? Labour has long called for transparency of Members’ interests and for a ban on paid consultancy work, but we would like the Government to go further. There is a clear need for stronger enforcement of the rules. Will the Leader of the House bring forward the time for that debate but also support Labour’s proposals for the establishment of an integrity and ethics commission?
Backlog Britain is evident even in the Government’s own Departments. I know that the Leader of the House is sympathetic to this: it is about the late, tardy or even no responses to ministerial letters and written parliamentary questions. Pressure from Labour means that new data has been published, and some response times are improving, but unfortunately some are not improving or getting worse. The Department of Health responded to only a third of correspondence on time. Even timely responses from the Government’s flagship Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Department have plummeted. We know from our staff, mine in Bristol West and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), the huge amount of time that is being wasted on hold—there are the phone bills as well—to Government hotlines, or standing, sitting or whatever in slow queues in Portcullis House, lasting for hours, for the Home Office hub. Please, does the Leader of the House have a plan for dealing with backlog Britain in Parliament?
The Government argue that we must move on from partygate and from 148 of their MPs voting against their own leader, but it is evident that this Conservative party cannot govern, has no answers to backlog Britain, and has no plan to deal with the Tory cost of living crisis, whereas Labour does have a plan to get money back in people’s pockets, to bring down bills, to deliver a new generation of well-paid jobs right across the country, and to get the economy firing on all cylinders. Frankly, it cannot come too soon.
I thank the hon. Lady for her series of questions. Of course, Mr Speaker, I should apologise for not announcing a significant political event taking place tomorrow: your birthday. I am sure the whole House will celebrate as you reach another significant milestone in your way through life. I trust you will have a good day.
The Queen’s Speech is rammed full of Bills, and they are coming forward. We have some time to deliver on them, so the hon. Lady should be patient. I am sure we will munch our way through that huge legislative agenda. We have already begun, with a number of Bills having started their journey through Parliament, and it is an ambitious programme, which we will deliver on behalf of the British people.
The Government recognise the challenges the health service is facing. That is why, coming out of the global pandemic, we introduced the health and social care levy to support the health service as it tries to deal with those challenges. That is a huge cash investment in our health service, and I am sorry that the hon. Lady found herself incapable of voting for and supporting it. If she compares how the health service is run in England and in Wales, she will see that there are significant advantages to being poorly in England. The health service here will diagnose people quicker, put them back on their feet quicker and get them back to their lives quicker.
Of course standards in public life are important. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and the Privileges Committee for the work they have done. The Government are considering the Committee’s report. I think it is important that we reflect and take our time giving this big and important report our full consideration, and that we move forward on a cross-party basis.
We are looking at it. We will come back in due course on how we deliver and give the House the opportunity to debate and vote on it.
The hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) knows I am sympathetic to the plight of Back Benchers when it comes to written questions, but to use health service and Department of Health and Social Care data from the period of covid—[Interruption.] We are not in the period of covid today, but the statistics she quoted were from that period. It is easy to comprehend that at that time the Department was busy and focused on dealing with covid rather than other things. Now that we are out of that period, I expect the next set of statistics to prove that the Department is responding more quickly, and I will do all I can to make sure that Departments respond as quickly as possible.
I admire the hon. Lady. We do not agree on everything, but every week she comes here and presents her case with enthusiasm and supports her constituents. I can only imagine her frustration that the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Levelling-Up Secretary did not mention the unions that are about to cause misery to our constituents up and down the country. In fact, the shadow Levelling-Up Secretary, the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), said that she is on the side of the unions. They are going to cause misery for commuters trying to get to work and students to their exams; they are risking empty shelves and chaos for the Great British public. We on this side of the House are on the side of commuters and hard-working people, not on the side of the big unions and their paymasters.
The 5p reduction in fuel duty was very welcome, but a coach operator in my constituency contacted me yesterday to say that it has seen a 10p a litre increase this week, which makes their weekly fuel bill £3,500 more than in January. Can we have an urgent debate to ensure that this House has fully explored the impact on business of the unacceptably high proportion of tax on a tank of fuel, and look at ways to alleviate it?
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that the global fight against inflation is causing huge challenges for our constituents, which is why at the spring statement, the Government cut fuel duty by 5p for 12 months—the largest ever cash-terms cut of fuel duty rates. Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have all committed to passing on that tax cut. All taxes, including fuel duty, remain under review and I expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to continue his enormous level of support for people as we battle global inflation.
It has been an interesting week, and certainly bumpy at the start, not just for the Leader of the House. There was much to-ing and fro-ing, pushing and pulling—and that was just the tug of war on Tuesday night. I congratulate him on his expert coaching of the men’s MP team in their success over the lords at the annual Macmillan tug of war. I also congratulate the women’s MP team on their success over the baronesses. Such events are often a bit of fun, but they give us an opportunity to support and highlight the extremely important work that groups such as Macmillan Cancer Support do and to do our wee bit to help with that.
I echo the comments of the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire). After weeks of hold-ups and delays, we have constituents who are desperate to secure their passports but who are coming up against brick wall after brick wall. Members and their staff are doing everything they can to try to help and support them, including sitting in queues in Portcullis House for days on end to try to get answers. That is not good enough. We are quickly approaching the school holidays, which are only three weeks away in Scotland, and we expect demand for such things to be exceptionally high. Can we please have a further statement on what more can be done to address those delays? Folk have been waiting for years to get away and have a break. It is not too much to ask that they should be able to do that in a sensible way.
I agree with the hon. Member for Buckingham (Greg Smith) about the urgent need for further action to address the cost of living crisis. Prices are going in only one direction. I recognise that the Government have taken some action, but a lot more clearly needs to be done.
Finally, will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Allyson Dobson of Dalkeith High School, who was named headteacher of the year 2022 this week at the Scottish Education Awards? That is brilliant recognition of her work. Teachers across the board play such an important role in all our lives, as we grow up and beyond, so it is brilliant to see such recognition and I congratulate Allyson on that achievement.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support in the tug of war team; he is certainly a huge part of that team. [Interruption.] As am I, I hasten to add. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) says that he was sacked from the team, but other weighty individuals were available in his stead. As the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) said, it was important to support Macmillan Cancer Support. It was a cross-party event and it was great fun, as well as being for a very good cause.
The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about passports, which is another important issue. I understand that people are stressing about the summer holidays. They have a right to a summer holiday; we are coming out of covid and people want to get away. That is why we have employed 650 additional staff since April, with 550 more arriving by the summer. The good news is that the vast majority of passport applications—91.2%—are being processed within six weeks or less, but that does leave some people waiting. If he has individual cases that he needs me to highlight with the Home Office, of course I will do that.
The hon. Gentleman went on to mention that the Government have, I think he said, given some support to people with the cost of living challenge. I think £37 billion is some support, and I hope he would recognise that that is a huge package, brought forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to support people. We are in a global fight against inflation, following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and we will continue to wrap our arms around and support people through the challenges we face.
Finally, of course I join the hon. Gentleman in supporting his headteacher, Allyson Dobson. I pay tribute not only to her, but to teachers up and down the country who are doing great work to educate the next generation.
Would my right hon. Friend make time for a debate to both celebrate and highlight the incredible work of community groups and the voluntary sector throughout the country? Individuals such as Gem, Sherridan and Liz of the Fishpool, Goshen, Redvales and Springs community hub are changing people’s lives every day. There is a debate to be had in this House about how the state can support individuals such as Gem, Sherridan and Liz, and many others in my constituency and throughout the country, to continue with their brilliant work.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and of course I join him in celebrating all that those in the voluntary sector do and his constituents who are assisting. I think a series of Governments have worked well with the voluntary sector. It does enormous amounts of work, and we should always take the opportunity to praise it whenever we can.
Can I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing the Backbench Business debates for 16 June?
Mr Speaker, can I wish you a very happy birthday for tomorrow? As I can testify, being born in 1957 makes you no age whatsoever.
Mr Speaker, you may not have noticed, not coming from the north-east, but today is 9 June, which is a day of celebration for the Geordie nation, as Geordies across the world celebrate Blaydon Races Day. This year is the 160th anniversary of that event famed in tune:
“Aa went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the ninth of Joon,
Eiteen hundred an’ sixty-two, on a summer’s efternoon;
Aa tyuk the ‘bus frae Balmbra’s, an’ she wis heavy laden,
Away we went ‘lang Collin’wood Street, that’s on the road to Blaydon.”
So happy Blaydon Races Day to the entire Geordie nation.
I think I understood most of that. I am the beneficiary of having a Geordie in the office, who keeps me informed of all matters that are pro-Geordie and anti-Mackem. We are grateful that the hon. Member’s Backbench Business Committee continues to do the work it is doing. He raises important topics every week. I know that colleagues across the House appreciate the efforts of his Committee and will continue to support him.
A constituent of mine who is a park home owner has asked for clarification about the £400 that he is entitled to under the Government energy bills support scheme. As a park home owner, he pays the park site owner for the electricity and does not have a personal account with an electricity provider, the organisation tasked with making that available. The explainer from the Government says this area of policy is being developed, but to provide comfort to my constituent and the 180,000 other park home owners, many of whom are pensioners in need of this support, might we have a statement?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and of course he is right to highlight that topic. I know that people will be concerned. That is why we are working to make the energy bills support scheme as robust as possible. The issue of households that do not receive electricity through a domestic electricity supply contract, such as residents of park homes, was covered in the Government’s technical consultation, which concluded on 23 May. The Government’s response to that consultation will be issued later this summer, but we are exploring options and other ways in which we can support households that might receive similar support.
This week is Volunteers Week, and I would like to say a huge thank you to the many volunteers working across my Blaydon constituency who play such a huge part in supporting our community. But to continue a theme—“Ah me lads”—today is 9 June, the day of the famous Blaydon race. I will not be home in time to see them
“Gannin’ alang the Scotswood Road”,
but I would like to say a special thank you to all those volunteers who make the race possible. Can we have a debate in Government time on the involvement of volunteers in community sports, please?
That would make an excellent Backbench Business debate and I am sure the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee may be sympathetic to a debate on such a topic. I pay tribute to all the volunteers across the hon. Lady’s constituency and others who do all that work. As we continue to debate Geordie culture, I can feel a question or two coming from Sunderland at some point in the future.
Can we have a debate on the positive impact that angling has on participants’ mental health and wellbeing and, during that debate, can we celebrate those enlightened wildlife trusts that promote angling and can we call out those such as the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, which states on its website that it has a long-standing policy of not allowing angling on any land for which it holds the angling rights? That recently brought it into conflict with the Nottinghamshire Anglers Association, which last week was banned from the Attenborough nature reserve. Anglers like me love our rivers and streams as much as football fans love their clubs. It is a visceral relationship and wildlife trusts should not get in between it.
I am disappointed to hear that Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is taking that approach towards the angling community. Angling is one of the largest participation sports in the country and anglers have a self-interest in making sure our rivers and fish are healthy and plentiful. I hope that the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust will reflect on that. On my hon. Friend’s behalf, I will certainly pursue the matter directly with my hon. Friends the Members for Broxtowe (Darren Henry) and for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), whose constituencies border Attenborough nature reserve.
Some 85,000 households in England live in park homes. In Bath, residents in Quarry Rock Gardens are worried about soaring costs. These residents face minimum protections from sky-high pitch fees and rogue site owners because pitch fees are linked to the retail price index, rather than the lower consumer price index. The Government have committed to reforming pitch fees so they increase with that index, but after four years they have still done nothing. Can we have a statement from the relevant Department on when these changes will come forward?
I am wondering which Department that may fall to and whether it is the local government Department or the Treasury directly. I will make sure, however, that I discover which Department is responsible for that. I know it is an important issue up and down the country. I certainly have residents in park homes who share the concerns the hon. Member has raised. I will make sure the right Department responds in due course.
Could we have a debate on the Mayor of London’s plans to extend the ultra low emission zone to the Greater London boundary and introduce pay-per-mile driving charges, because I am deeply worried about the impact of these new charges on my constituents at a time of rising inflation?
It almost feels like the Mayor of London is launching a war against commuters. Extending ULEZ to the boundary and working with the union bosses to cause misery through tube strikes is going to cause commuters coming in and out of London huge challenges. He should be supporting people coming in and out of this great city to work, not making their lives more difficult.
Could we have an urgent statement from the Home Secretary regarding the general competence level of the Home Office, especially in relation to Homes for Ukraine? Youngsters are missing out on the education they could be receiving here through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Families are desperate to accept these youngsters, but there is a problem around their travelling not with a parent but with a legal guardian, and there is enormous delay. Please will the Leader of the House urgently communicate that to the Home Office?
Home Office questions are on 20 June and I hope the hon. Lady will be in her place to challenge the Home Secretary directly, but I should say that we have already granted 120,000 visas through the two uncapped humanitarian routes, and 65,000 Ukrainians have already arrived. The UK is making huge efforts and is opening its arms to thousands of Ukrainians. I am sure we can improve that system and the Home Secretary is committed to doing so. I hope the hon. Lady will be in her place on 20 June to ask the Home Secretary about this directly.
Parliament decides the laws. The court interprets them. I understand that the flights to Rwanda with economic migrants, which were passed as lawful by this House, are being challenged in the court. Can I ask the Leader of the House an actual business question? If the court decides that, somewhere, the legislation is wrong, will he immediately introduce new legislation to fix it, so that we can end the people smuggling across the English channel?
Of course, my hon. Friend is right that we have to wait until there is an interpretation by those courts that are looking at that. He will be reassured by the Home Secretary’s commitment to ensuring that we stop the exploitation of people being ferried across the channel. He will have the opportunity on 20 June at Home Office questions to ask her about that directly, and on 5 July at Justice questions to make sure he gets the reassurance he requires.
One of my constituents should have been off on a cruise today, but he is missing his holiday because his new passport has not been issued. Another young constituent has already waited 13 weeks for her new passport. I am grateful to the Passport Office staff here in Parliament, but she and her parents now face an anxious week waiting for a promised phone call 24 to 48 hours before their holiday to tell them that they can make the 110-mile round trip to Peterborough to collect her passport. It is wholly unacceptable. Can the Leader of the House please clarify how many of the staff being belatedly recruited will be processing applications and not just trying to respond to anxious phone calls from my constituents and my staff?
As I said, another 550 staff are going to arrive before the summer, but we have already recruited another 650; they are now in place and have come in since April 2021. As I said, I understand that more than 90% of cases now are being processed within six weeks, but that leaves the 9% that are not. I understand that there are challenges there. But if the hon. Member wants to pass those specific cases to me, I will pursue the Home Secretary on her behalf.
We subsidised the rail industry to the tune of £16 billion during the pandemic because people had stopped using the trains. I represent a commuter belt constituency and, while I am very angry that the upcoming train strikes will cause yet more misery to my commuters, I am particularly angry that this is not good for rail workers. Disrupting train services will reduce train revenues and ultimately lead to job losses and reduced pay for those rail workers. Can we have a debate on this important issue?
My hon. Friend is of course right to raise that. We will have Transport questions on 30 June and I am sure that she will be in her place to ask the Secretary of State for Transport about that. She is right that commuters and taxpayers have the right to know that their money is being invested and looked after properly, and the unions should reflect long and hard before they make commuters’ lives miserable and stop them getting to and from work.
Will the Leader of the House take the opportunity to congratulate Michael Dunlop on his 20th Isle of Man TT victory, putting him in the top three racers ever to perform on the Isle of Man?
I turn the Leader of the House’s attention to another island: the island of Rathlin in my constituency, which has a wonderful puffin sanctuary. On 20 June, it will be cutting a sod for 10 new housing units, showing that the population of that little island is expanding wonderfully. However, I notice five words that interest me in the business for 20 June: Second Reading of a Bill. Should I be in my place here on 20 June? Will that Bill be relevant to Northern Ireland, or should I visit Rathlin island that day?
The hon. Gentleman is always relevant to parliamentary debates, and he should most definitely be in his place to contribute on whatever Bill comes forward on that day. As I said, there are 38 Bills in the Queen’s Speech and we will decide and announce in the usual way from the Dispatch Box.
I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Michael Dunlop. I took the trouble to watch some of the footage of the TT racers and the speed and professionalism of those motorcyclists is awe-inspiring.
My right hon. Friend will be well aware of the Prime Minister’s leading and significant role in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression, but this is an ever-evolving situation that changes daily and there is a need to constantly review and always do as much as we possibly can, with our western allies, to support Ukraine. Will he agree to a debate on Ukraine, in which we can also consider how to best access grain, because of the potential catastrophic consequences for global food supplies if we do not manage to get access?
There will be an opportunity at Defence questions next week to continue to ask the Secretary of State for Defence what support we are offering to the Ukraine Government. There has been a huge amount of opportunity to debate Ukraine in the Chamber. Already, we have had 11 oral statements, seven urgent questions, three Opposition debates, three general debates, a general debate on NATO, a Backbench Business debate on Russia and China, a debate on Russian sanctions, and departmental oral questions on top of that, so we have debated this issue a huge amount. With the support of colleagues, such as my right hon. Friend, we will continue to ensure the Government are doing all they can to support the Ukrainian people.
My constituent Clare-Anna Mitchell has worked tirelessly to provide vital medicines to be sent to Ukraine through fundraising from my generous constituents in Gower and Swansea. The latest delivery she arranged arrived at the depot in Dnipro just 20 minutes after the compound was bombed. Ten people died in that attack and all the medical supplies in the stores were destroyed. Had the Welsh delivery drivers arrived any earlier, they too may have lost their lives. Will the Government put aside time to discuss this issue, and can the right hon. Gentleman give me and my constituent, Clare-Anna Mitchell, any advice on what Government resources are available so she can continue to provide this vital medical aid to Ukraine?
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s constituents and to people up and down the country who are putting in an enormous effort to support people in Ukraine. Defence questions are next week, so she should be in her place to ask the Secretary of State for Defence what we can do to support people who go to Ukraine. I will, of course, link up and make sure she gets the right information, so that her constituents can be supported and as safe as possible when putting themselves in harm’s way to support what is a desperate situation. Of course, the only person who can actually resolve this challenge is President Putin. He could withdraw his troops from Ukraine, stop bombing innocent people and return the borders of Ukraine to what was internationally agreed.
May we have a debate please on local banking services? In the last two weeks alone, both NatWest and Barclays have announced that they are closing their doors in Leigh-on-Sea, causing great distress to businesses, charities and people, especially the elderly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must champion and support the excellent post office community banking hub model across the country?
Such a debate would receive a lot of support across the House, so I encourage my hon. Friend to apply for a Westminster Hall debate or even a Backbench Business debate. This issue certainly affects rural constituencies a great deal. I also take the opportunity to celebrate all that is the post office. The post office is a great public service in which people can access cash. I encourage her and her constituents to make use of our post offices, so they remain buoyant for the future.
I, too, extend my birthday greetings to you, Mr Speaker. The recent support announced by the Chancellor to help with energy bills was welcome as far as it goes. However, I and my constituents are increasingly concerned that those who live in park homes, who are off grid and who rely on heating oil will not receive the same level of support provided to every other household. Will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out his commitment to do all he can to ensure that no one unfairly misses out on the support for their energy bills, no matter how or where they access their energy supply?
We have made the calculations on electricity prices so that those who are off-grid do not lose out. The hon. Lady makes passing reference to the support that the Government are offering. We unveiled another £15 billion of support recently, on top of the £37 billion that we are spending this year alone. That is a huge amount of taxpayer support for people. I hear what she says about those in park homes, and I referred to that issue in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey). The Government are looking at that and I will make sure that the relevant Minister responds to her directly.
I wish you a very happy birthday for tomorrow, Mr Speaker. As a number of us in this House reflect on having been elected on this day 39 years ago, will my right hon. Friend make time for a debate on how the role of Members of Parliament has changed in the intervening period? That would enable us to reflect on the fact that, in those days, we Members of Parliament did not spend all our time trying to chase incompetent government, because we had a competent Government with a smaller and more efficient civil service. That meant that we in this House could concentrate on issues of policy, rather than administration. I am disappointed that my right hon. Friend seems so complacent about the chaos that is affecting our constituents in relation to so many public services that are currently beyond inefficient. It is absolutely an outrage that people have to wait so long. My staff are having to wait ages on the phone or in the queue in Portcullis House, and so on. It is intolerable.
I celebrate the 39 years that my hon. Friend has been sitting there holding the Government to account. I and the Government recognise the huge challenges—as we come out of a global pandemic, post-covid—in the NHS and other Departments that we are catching up with. I hear what my hon. Friend says. That is why the Government are focused on getting rid of those backlogs, are up for the challenge and are delivering.
My constituents, Mr Emmerson and Mr Kimber, receive oxygen deliveries through Dolby Vivisol, which has been given a contract with the NHS. Deliveries are not coming or they are coming late, or the order is short, or the cylinders simply do not work. I am sure that the Leader of the House will understand that being unable to breathe can be terrifying. Can we have an urgent debate about why the Government continually allow private profit to come before patient healthcare?
I do not accept the premise of what the hon. Lady suggests, but I am sympathetic to her constituents, who deserve a level of service from the Department of Health and Social Care. If they are not getting that, she will have the opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at Health questions next week. However, if she writes to me directly about that case, I will personally raise it with him.
However much the band in Speaker’s Court cost you this week, Mr Speaker—I do not know whether it related to your birthday—it was well worth it.
Traditionally, we always stand up and ask the Leader of the House for debates, and I am happy to have debates—I want a debate on clean air next week because it will be Clean Air Day, and I want an urgent debate on the Amazonian rainforest. However, our real job is accountability. The economy is in freefall, there is a war in Europe and we will go into recess. What will we do to make sure that we can hold Ministers to account week by week, day by day, when we go on the long recess?
The recess dates have been announced, but, of course, the Government do not stop functioning during those recesses while the hon. Member is working hard in Huddersfield. The Government continue to work very hard to deal with the challenges that we face. Requesting debates is an important way of holding Government to account and scrutinising what we do. That is how our democracy works. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured, however, that while he is working hard in Huddersfield for his constituents, the Government continue to drive the agenda very hard.
Because no one responsible for the 97 unlawful killings at Hillsborough has ever been held to account, the same slurs used by South Yorkshire police to deflect blame from their criminal incompetence in 1989 are now being adopted by the French Government and UEFA to deflect blame from their responsibility for the chaos in Paris at the champions league final. As the shadow Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), pointed out, we have still not had a Government response to Bishop James Jones’s 2017 report on the lessons to be learned from Hillsborough, despite the criminal cases collapsing almost a year ago. When will we get a response? Can we please have a debate about how the Government will ensure that blameless Liverpool fans are protected from being wrongly traduced by UEFA and French authorities? The authorities are seeking to deflect their own responsibility, but what they are actually doing is bringing back traumatic memories of Hillsborough for thousands of people in Liverpool and Liverpool fans.
I pay tribute to the work that the hon. Lady has done over a number of years to support victims of the Hillsborough disaster. At the other end of the ground were Nottingham Forest, a club that I am associated with. It was clearly a very traumatic event. I think UEFA has apologised this week for its miscalling, and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has condemned the way in which Liverpool fans were treated. Home Office questions are on 20 June; I hope that the hon. Lady will take the opportunity to question the Home Secretary on when the Hillsborough report will come forward.
I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Will the Leader of the House grant a debate in Government time on the loss of the hundreds of skilled and dedicated British Council staff who face compulsory redundancy as a result of the programme of cuts, closures and outsourcing? With PCS members set to take a further three days of industrial action next week in opposition to those plans, will he urge the Foreign Secretary to urgently renegotiate the repayment terms on the loan that her Department made to the British Council so that skills and expertise vital to its success can be maintained into the future?
Foreign Office questions are on 21 June, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be in his place to question the Foreign Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron), who is not in his place today, has raised the same topic. It is important that the UK taxpayer is given a service overseas that is efficient and delivers for UK trade and UK interests; I know that the Foreign Secretary is committed to that, and I am sure that on 21 June she will be able to give the hon. Gentleman the answers that he requires.
Failures in the Passport Office are having a huge impact on my constituents and those of Members across the House. Many cannot get through on the phone or get cut off when they do. The office lost my constituent’s old passport and then told them that their application would be closed unless they submitted it. The link sent to another constituent to confirm their identity did not work; their application was closed due to inactivity. I listened to what the Leader of the House said to the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), but it is simply unacceptable. Can we please have a statement from the Home Secretary on what the Government are doing to address the shambles in the Passport Office?
The Home Secretary will be at the Dispatch Box on 20 June, but the hon. Lady can rest assured that in 91% of cases there is now a rapid and improved response. [Hon. Members: “Really?”] Those are publicly available statistics. However, I recognise, and the Home Office recognises, that that means that 9% of people are not getting the level of service that they should expect. There are routes through Portcullis House for hon. Members to raise individual cases, and I encourage them to do so, but if the hon. Lady writes to me with the specific case that she raises, I will write directly to the Home Secretary on her behalf.
Dom Phillips, a British journalist, has been missing in the Amazon for more than three days with his Brazilian colleague Bruno Pereira. Will the Leader of the House raise the matter with Foreign Office Ministers? Will he urge them to contact the Bolsonaro Government and urge them to act very fast to help to track him down and put every effort into finding him? Will he get them to write to all Members of the House to explain what actions they have taken to support finding Dom Phillips?
I know that the Brazilian authorities are currently trying to find the gentleman to whom the hon. Lady has referred, but I will of course raise the issue directly with the Foreign Secretary as a matter of urgency. The sooner we can find that gentleman, the better.
Even as we speak, agents of foreign Governments are seeking to influence Parliament in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In some instances that is perfectly legitimate, transparent and open, but in many cases it is being done on behalf of authoritarian regimes such as China and Russia, and it is sometimes done in very invidious, insidious and untransparent ways. The Parliamentary Security Director is already very concerned about it and about the way in which it works through all-party parliamentary groups—as are you, Mr Speaker, and the Lord Speaker.
I hope that the Government will be able to address some of this under the foreign agent registration scheme that they want to introduce, but they have said that because the scheme is not yet ready they are going to dump the measure in the National Security Bill during its Committee stage. However, I think that it should be dealt with on the Floor of the House. Many Members on both sides of the House want to make sure that we get this right, so that we protect democracy in this country and foreign agents and espionage are dealt with properly. Will the Leader of the House undertake to ensure that that part of the Bill will be dealt with on the Floor of the House? It is a constitutional matter.
If people are indeed trying to influence our democracy, we should all take that very seriously. The Home Secretary and security services will certainly take it seriously, and you, Mr Speaker, have taken action on it directly.
As for the Bill that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, there will in any case be an opportunity to debate these matters on Report, but I hear what he says and I shall pass his comments directly to the Minister in charge of the Bill.
Almost every Member will have a constituent who has been affected by the contaminated blood scandal. It is several years since we have had an opportunity to debate the issue or to question Ministers about the Government’s approach, and Members who entered the House in 2019 have had no opportunity at all. On Tuesday a written ministerial statement was laid, so again there was no opportunity to question the Government on the work of Sir Robert Francis, whose compensation study will inform the Government’s approach to the findings of the infected blood inquiry, due next year.
Might the Leader of the House find time for a statement in the House so that we can question a Minister on what is actually happening and on the Government’s approach, especially given that two people affected by the contaminated blood scandal are dying every week? We need this to be debated on the Floor of the House, quickly.
I pay tribute to the work that the right hon. Lady has done on this matter for a number of years; her pursuit on behalf of victims of the scandal can only be admired. Sir Robert will present his evidence to the public inquiry in, I believe, mid-July. The Government have published their response to his framework, which has just been announced. I think that once he has presented his evidence directly to the inquiry, the Government will be in a position to comment.
May we have a statement from the Health Secretary on when the go-ahead will be given for the construction of the new Leeds children’s hospital and adult hospital buildings? The Government have repeatedly expressed support for the project, the site will be cleared by the end of the month, and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is raring to go with a project that will bring not only world-class health facilities to my constituents, but wider economic benefits in the form of jobs for the city.
I celebrate the right hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for the Government’s investment in the health service. I am sure that the Health Secretary will be able to respond directly to his question about the timetable during Health questions next week, but the Government are committed to building 40 new hospitals, and I am sure that Leeds is a huge part of that investment programme.
Happy birthday for tomorrow, Mr Speaker. I hope that you and the Leader of the House, and indeed the whole House, will join me in offering huge congratulations to Bradford on becoming the UK City of Culture 2025. Bradford’s win offers a transformational opportunity to unlock the huge cultural and economic potential in our young and ambitious city, to begin a new chapter in our story, and to celebrate all that Bradford has to offer.
Will the Leader of the House join me in celebrating Bradford and thanking all those who worked so hard to put the City of Culture bid together? May we have a debate in Government time on the importance of culture?
I pay tribute to the city of Bradford and all the Bradford MPs who supported the bid, and I commiserate with those who were not as successful as Bradford this time. This will be a huge opportunity to celebrate all that is great about that part of West Yorkshire and I encourage people up and down the country to come and join in the celebrations that Bradford will undoubtedly lay on.
Can we have a debate on consumer rights? I have been written to by one of my constituents who you, Mr Speaker, and other Members will know well. Her name is Ann Clwyd and she used to sit right next to me here on these Back Benches. She purchased a vehicle from the Ford motor company, a Ford Kuga, and there has been a huge fault with it in terms of leaks. She has discovered that this is a general problem and that lots of other consumers are suffering from it too. In a letter to me, she says:
“I have written to Ford on three occasions. Each time I have received a brush off and a refusal to acknowledge this is a problem with the model.”
If the Ford motor company thinks that that is the end of the matter, they obviously know nothing about Ann Clwyd. What can the Government do to give more opportunities for consumers to exercise their rights, and to stop companies such as Ford from treating customers in this way?
I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the former Member—[Interruption.] I hear cries of “Great woman” from Members on this side as well, and I sympathise with the Ford motor company over the tornado that is about to hit it. I think it would be wise to settle with the former Member as quickly as possible, but I will raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Transport on the hon. Gentleman’s behalf and make sure that he raises the matter when he meets the Ford motor company.
Covid restrictions were lifted on 24 February and many of us have gone back to near-normal living, but although living with covid is a reality for most of us, for a small number of people—the clinically vulnerable, the clinically extremely vulnerable and the immunocompromised—covid is still deadly and they are still effectively locked down.
I know that there will be Health questions next week, but can we also have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health so that all Members can challenge this Government on why they have not yet rolled out Evusheld —a drug that would be transformational for this group of people and allow them to live with covid too?
I praise the hon. Gentleman’s knowledge of the Order Paper in recognising that he will have an opportunity to ask that question directly at Health questions next week. I know that Evusheld is being looked at closely by the authorities to try to get it to licence as soon as possible. We recognise the challenge that those people who are immunosuppressed face during covid and we have not forgotten their plight.
I would like to draw the Leader of the House’s attention to early-day motion 143.
[That this House congratulates Dunoon Grammar School on being the only Scottish school shortlisted in the Community Collaboration category for the World’s Best Schools Prizes 2022; commends this remarkable achievement and recognises it as just reward for a school which has, under the leadership of Head Teacher David Mitchell, the tremendous work of the teaching staff and the dedication of its pupils, become a cornerstone of the wider Cowal community; applauds the commitment Dunoon Grammar School has shown to working with and for the benefit of their local community and for striving so hard to produce active, responsible, caring and engaged young citizens; and wishes Dunoon Grammar School the very best of luck with the next round of the World’s Best School Prizes and thanks them sincerely for their dedication to exceptional learning and to building a better community.]
The motion was published this morning to congratulate Dunoon Grammar School in my constituency, which has just been shortlisted in the community collaboration category in the 2022 World’s Best Schools prizes. Would the Leader of the House like to join me and others in sending congratulations to the headteacher, David Mitchell, his remarkable staff and the fantastic pupils of Dunoon Grammar School on this magnificent achievement?
I should confess that I have not had the opportunity to read early-day motion 143 yet, but I will make sure I do after this session. Of course I join the hon. Gentleman in praising David Mitchell and all the teachers at the school, as well as the teachers up and down the country who work tirelessly to make sure that the next generation of people are engaged and stimulated by our education service.
Last week I visited Meet and 2 Veg in Cambuslang, which was started by my constituent Jane Bainbridge, supported by Jan Ritchie. The project reduces food waste by giving away food nearing its expiry date collected from supermarkets and other food outlets. It started in Jane’s kitchen after she was horrified at the amount of food going to landfill. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Jane and Jan on their efforts and schedule a debate in Government time on food waste?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Of course I join her in congratulating her constituents. Food waste should be avoided if at all possible, but when it does arise it should be recycled as efficiently as possible and energy recovered from it if at all possible. The hard work of her constituents and others throughout the country is highlighting that challenge, and I am sure she will continue to work with her constituents to improve food waste efficiency.
Mr Speaker, may I, on behalf of myself and my party, offer you many happy returns for tomorrow? We are of a similar vintage. We do not count the years, but instead we make the years count, which is an important thing to do, you know? [Hon. Members: “Wise words!”]
Following her visit to China, United Nations high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet, disappointingly, failed to condemn human rights violations perpetrated by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghurs. In light of that disappointing news, and the Chinese authorities’ continued targeting of Buddhist, Catholic, Falun Gong, Muslim, Protestant and other communities, will the Leader of the House provide time for a ministerial statement or debate on China’s human rights violations, which are legion?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and for the work that he does in this area. It is Foreign Office questions on 21 June and I am sure he will be in his place to raise the matter again. The Government take very seriously the fact that so many people around the world are persecuted for their religion, and I know that there is no greater champion than the hon. Gentleman for people in such a plight.