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Business of the House

Volume 719: debated on Thursday 22 September 2022

Madam Deputy Speaker, before I give the business, I hope you will permit me to place on the record my admiration and thanks for all those who enabled the mourning of Her late Majesty to be so exquisite, including the general public. It was done so well and with much love. We did her proud.

Subject to the House’s agreement of the motion on today’s order paper, the business for Friday 23 September will be:

Friday 23 September—The Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a statement on the Government’s plans for growth. Subject to the House’s agreement, the House will then rise for the conference recess and return on Tuesday 11 October.

The business for the week commencing 10 October will include:

Tuesday 11 October—Consideration of an allocation of time motion followed by all stages of the Health and Social Care Levy (Repeal) Bill.

Wednesday 12 October—Second Reading of the Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords], followed by a motion relating to the Procedure Committee’s recommendations on proxy voting.

Thursday 13 October—Second Reading of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.

Friday 14 October—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 17 October will include:

Monday 17 October—Remaining Stages of the Public Order Bill.

I thank the Leader of the House for giving the forthcoming business. I join her in commending the House, Members’ staff and Members across the House for working so hard, both on the lying- in-state and on the tributes to the late Queen. I agree that we did Her late Majesty proud. It was an honour to close the tributes with the right hon. Lady.

May I also commend the right hon. Lady for taking up her role as Lord President of the Council so impeccably and so swiftly? She became the first woman to proclaim a new monarch, and she did so with great poise.

I welcomed the Leader of the House’s response to my question two weeks ago about the appointment of a new Government ethics adviser. She said then that the Prime Minister would get around to it “swiftly”—well, at least she is planning to appoint one. The Government have been missing an ethics adviser for months now, so where is the urgency? Can the Leader of the House tell us exactly where the appointment ranks on the Prime Minister’s to-do list?

An ethics adviser could have offered guidance to the Cabinet Office, which seems to think it appropriate to assist the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) by commissioning legal advice on his behalf. Does the Leader of the House think that what looks like interference in the Privileges Committee inquiry was appropriate? Does she expect the right hon. Gentleman to repay any money that was spent by taxpayers?

On legislation, I do not see in the business statement any listing for legislation on the energy bills crisis, and there does not yet seem to be a Bill. Will there be legislation, when will we see it, and when will we debate and vote on it?

On legislation that the Government seem to be planning to bin in their bonfire of Bills, the Prime Minster indicated that the Bill of Rights Bill and the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill will be scrapped, and apparently the Business Secretary has told officials to stop work on the Energy Bill. Can the Leader of the House clarify that by confirming whether the Government plan to drop those Bills?

While we are on broken manifesto promises, we are now told that there is no chance of a trade deal with the US any time soon, despite the fact that it was a No. 1 priority in 2019, that it was then given a deadline of mid-2021, and that there was, apparently, significant progress last summer. I wonder who was the Trade Secretary then, and who was the Foreign Secretary who seems to have messed this up so badly.

I also wish to ask about the swerving of scrutiny. The Business Secretary yesterday announced the fuel bill relief scheme before coming to the House—as previous Prime Ministers and Ministers did—which Mr Speaker had specifically asked the new Prime Minister not to do. Instead of voluntarily providing a ministerial statement, the Business Secretary had to be dragged to Parliament to face questions. Could the Leader of the House have a word with him, please?

The Leader of the House also announced that the Chancellor will make a statement tomorrow—a so-called “mini Budget”—yet it looks as though Members will have only a few hours to scrutinise it, and there are no accompanying briefings from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Just changing the name does not change what the statement is or the need for those economic briefings. What are the Government seeking to hide? Can the Leader of the House tell us why we are getting only half a day, and will any economic forecasts be made tomorrow?

At the end of the day, politics is about choices. This Prime Minister is choosing lifting the cap on investment bankers’ bonuses over putting money back into working people’s pockets. By lifting the ban on fracking, she is choosing to back the fossil fuel lobby over investing in renewable energy. She is choosing to make the British people pay for her energy policy with debt piling up into the future. Labour’s plan to make sure people do not have to pay a penny more this winter would have been funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies’ windfall profits. When it comes to choices, the Tories are choosing to side with bankers and oil and gas giants, while Labour is choosing to side with everybody else.

I start by thanking the hon. Lady for her kind remarks. It was a privilege to preside over the Accession Council.

The Government have set out clearly their immediate priorities. The Prime Minister will get to the matter of an ethics adviser, but her priorities, as she has stated, have been ensuring that people in this country can see a doctor and a dentist. Members will not have to wait very long to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health on that matter. Our priority is also about getting growth back into our economy and building a modern economy through supply-side reform—again, the House will not have long to wait to hear about that plan directly from the Chancellor and to question him on the legislative programme that will follow—and dealing with the cost of living issues, which are of major concern to households and businesses. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy gave us his time this morning to talk through his proposals.

Those are the Government’s priorities, and we are acting on them. It was right that we observed a period of mourning for Her late Majesty. This week is the first opportunity we have had to bring these measures forward and present them to the House, and we are doing so. Those are the priorities of the Prime Minister and her Government.

The shadow Leader of the House raised the question of a trade deal with the United States. There is good news and there is bad news. We wanted a tariff arrangement faster than the US was prepared to move, but we will continue to press it on that. The Opposition can help us in that by outlining to their friends in the Democratic party why this is a good idea for both the UK and the US. We have not been idle in the meantime. She will know that we have been pursuing state-level arrangements on removing non-tariff barriers to trade. We have signed two, with a further 25 states interested, and the first eight that we sign will be equivalent to 20% of the US economy. That is the bad news. The good news is that at long last the Labour party supports a trade deal with the United States, and I am delighted to hear that.

Regarding the handling of business, it is incredibly important that the House hears things first. We want to ensure that the House has the time it needs both to question Ministers in statements and to scrutinise legislation. A wise man once said:

“It is a fundamental constitutional right that this House should be told things first”—[Official Report, 28 October 2021; Vol. 702, c. 407.]

That was the former Leader of the House, who is now the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and I will hold him to it.

We have some major challenges facing this country because of the war in Ukraine and an incredibly volatile economy. I do hope we can take the mood of unity and co-operation that has been the flavour of this House in recent days and apply it to these problems together, for the benefit of all the people we serve.

Will the Government allow us an early debate on their growth strategy, which will be most welcome, so that Parliament can have an opportunity to put forward good ideas on the obstacles and barriers to better-paid jobs and more investment that still exist under our current panoply of laws?

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising these issues. The Chancellor will be making a statement tomorrow, but my right hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate on all these issues. It is important that we consult and listen to businesses and our constituents. Governments’ best ideas come from people who are doing those jobs and taking those risks, and who want to put growth back into our economy.

I thank the Leader of the House for her statement. I, too, pay tribute, on behalf of my SNP colleagues and myself, to the staff of these Houses of Parliament for their exceptional work in preparing and carrying out the various ceremonies and duties required after the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth. They were outstanding.

I welcome very much the content of the statutory instruments that we will be debating this afternoon to tighten the sanctions against Putin and his supporters, particularly after his recent threats. I see recently, though, that US intelligence estimates that more than $300 million dollars of Russian money has been ploughed into influencing politicians in more than 24 countries. It is suggested that that is just the tip of the iceberg, so can we have a debate in Government time about thwarting possible Russian influence on UK politics to reassure the public?

Is it not extraordinary that despite only sitting a handful of times since the end of July, and our constituents facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades, Members are about to trot off for conference recess rather than debating these problems fully here and now. We can at least expect a short fiscal statement before then, elements of which have been trailed in the media—this Government displaying their customary almost casual disrespect for this place. We have seen some of the rabbits the Chancellor likely intends to pull out of his hat on Friday, but so far they look awfully like leftovers from the discredited trickle-down economics theory that is so beloved of the right wing, but that, as President Biden pointed out recently, has never worked.

I hear, too, that the Government are today lodging their Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, or, as it was formerly known, the comically named Brexit freedoms Bill. I say comical, but the prospect of this House and the devolved Parliaments being bogged down again for many months in secondary legislation as the zealots on the Government Benches try to extinguish every trace of the EU from UK legislation— threatening protections for workers’ rights and food standards, among so many other things—is far from funny. Can the Leader of the House indicate when that Bill will come to the House for debate?

Finally, it is no wonder that data from the latest British social attitudes survey, which is out today, shows that support in Scotland for the Union continues to drop like a stone, as more and more folk recognise that only independence offers them hope and a progressive future.

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks to all who contributed to the mourning of our late Queen. I know that the House authorities are considering how Members can express their gratitude towards staff for what they have done, perhaps using the intranet, so that all staff can read how we feel and how proud we are of what they have done.

Our Prime Minister has recommitted us at the UN General Assembly and sent a message to the world that our resolve towards Ukraine will not waver, and that we will continue to lead the charge on combating Russian aggression. That includes the financial measures that we have pioneered and on which we have led others. That will continue, and there will be time for Members to raise this in the general debate today. I reassure the hon. Lady that I, the Chief Whip and others have ensured that the time we have rightly taken to mourn Her late Majesty does not slow down our legislative programme. We are confident that whether it is on the cost of living, on sanctions or on any other matter, there will be no real-world delay to the introduction of those measures.

The hon. Lady asked specifically about the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. We will bring that forward for First Reading on 11 October, and we will continue to push and speed up legislation, whether it is on growth or on the other measures that we are bringing to the Floor of the House.

I think all the four nations of our United Kingdom have shown over the last few weeks the strength that there is in unity. It has been the most tremendous event—a tremendous coming together and a tremendous welcoming of our new King, King Charles III. I am absolutely confident that public opinion and the strength of the United Kingdom will remain strong in all four nations of this United Kingdom.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her new role and join her in the tributes that she paid to the staff and others in this place who made the lying in state such a special occasion. She was new to the job, and she acted with incredible dignity and grace throughout.

As Chair of the Procedure Committee, I extend to her a warm welcome to come in front of the Committee on many occasions during her tenure as Lord President of the Council. I thank her for announcing that the Procedure Committee’s report on proxy voting will be subject to a vote when we return from the conference recess. Can she confirm that there will be time for a debate on that motion, and will we revert to the traditional way of voting on these matters whereby this is a free vote and a matter for the House to decide?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her kind remarks. I confirm that we have undertaken to allow a debate on that on 12 October—that is our plan. Clearly, that is a matter for the House and should be subject to a free vote.

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement. Obviously, what has been happening in the last few weeks is completely beyond her control, but a significant amount of parliamentary time, and Back-Bench time, has been lost, so it is disappointing that there is no Back-Bench time in the first week back after the conference recess. I understand that the Government want to get on with their agenda, but I gently remind her that enshrined in the Standing Orders is a requirement for a certain number of days of Back-Bench time. I also remind hon. Members on both sides of the House that we very much welcome applications for Westminster Hall debates, for which we can allocate time as the Backbench Business Committee.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that. I know that it is incredibly important to give good notice not just for allocating time but of when that will be so that his Committee can plan. I am pushing to be able to give him some information in very short order.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her new responsibilities. I welcome, too, that at the last Prime Minister’s questions, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government would be bringing back the Online Safety Bill. I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House two things. First, can she make sure that that happens urgently? The Bill has been carried over once already and there is a considerable need to get on with it. Secondly, without wishing to cut across the first point, can she make sure that if the “tweaks” to the Bill that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to are more than cosmetic, hon. Members in this House can see them before the Bill goes to the other place?

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for raising those two important points. I know that the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking with great urgency at the legislation she wants to bring forward. She will have heard his remarks today, but I shall also write to raise those issues and to ask her to get in touch with him, as he is very knowledgeable about such matters.

Many households in my constituency have seen their energy bills go up by more than 500% because they are on heat networks that are not regulated by Ofgem. The Energy Bill would make Ofgem the regulator and introduce a price cap, but there have been reports that the Prime Minister is set to pause the Bill or scrap it entirely. Can the Leader of the House reassure the House and my constituents that the Bill will not be scrapped and that a price cap will be introduced?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising those important points. Business will be announced in the normal way, but I will be happy to raise those points with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and ask that he contact her office.

Can we have an urgent debate on Hinduphobic hate crime? Recent days have seen a number of appalling acts of intimidation and harassment directed against the Hindu community, including a violent mob targeting a temple and tearing down a flag with spiritual significance. It is important that those disgraceful episodes are discussed by Parliament.

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that. We have all seen reported in the news the sad sight of the tensions, particularly in Leicester—a city that does not have a history of that nature; it has a reputation for being a harmonious place. She can apply for debates in the normal way. The policing issues are a local matter, but I know that the Home Secretary is being kept informed. All that, of course, has played out against the backdrop of national unity, which makes the events even more sad.

I join hon. Members on both sides of the House in congratulating everybody who contributed to the outstanding arrangement of events in this House following Her late Majesty’s death.

Parents on universal credit who are full-time carers for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions rely on a series of additional benefits that stop immediately if a child sadly dies. That places a heavy financial burden and hardship on parents who are already suffering from extreme stress and grief, as happened to one of my constituents. Will the Government make time for a debate to discuss bereavement support for parents who have been full-time carers for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks about staff and others who enabled those amazing events to occur in the last few weeks and for raising this incredibly important issue. She will know that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has held that portfolio in the Department and was concerned with all aspects of bereavement and ensuring that the welfare system supports people at the right time and is considerate of the grief that they are experiencing. I will raise the hon. Lady’s remarks with the Secretary of State and make sure that she has heard them, and the hon. Lady can also raise the issue at the next Question Time that arises.

This week, at the United Nations General Assembly, President Biden hosted the seventh replenishment conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Unfortunately, the United Kingdom Government were unable to make a pledge. As a former International Development Secretary, my right hon. Friend will know the impact of the Global Fund on the eradication of HIV, TB and malaria. Will she therefore ensure that the United Kingdom Government come forward as soon as possible with a statement on their intention to contribute to that replenishment fund?

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising the profile of the Global Fund, which does tremendous work. The UK has been a leader in ensuring that it has the funds to carry out that work, which benefits us all, as well as the countries on which it is particularly focused. During that replenishment conference, the Minister for Development restated the UK’s strong commitment to the fund. We continue to be committed to it and we will be making an announcement on our pledge in the coming weeks.

The Leader of the House will be aware that there have been a number of hospital rebuilds in the pipeline for a long time, but the money does not seem to be forthcoming from the Treasury. The hold-up has been going on for years. There may be some reference to that in tomorrow’s statement, but I do not think that is likely. If there is not, can we have a statement from a Health Minister or a Treasury Minister?

The hon. Gentleman can have a statement from a Health Minister in nanoseconds. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will be at the Dispatch Box and he should feel free to raise those issues with her. If he has any difficulty in obtaining clarity—no doubt he is interested in local schemes—I will of course assist him in getting those answers.

Next Tuesday 27 September, I am holding the Erewash jobs and community fair 2022. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, it is an in-person event with local and regional businesses attending to promote their job vacancies and apprenticeship opportunities. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must use whatever levers we have, including job fairs, to promote the importance of a healthy and productive workforce? Can we have a debate in Government time to explore other levers that we can use to ensure that we have the workforce that we need for productivity?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important issue. We have a great track record in this area: we have very low unemployment, we have 2 million more women in work than in 2010, and we have halved the disability employment gap. In addition to the work that the Department for Work and Pensions and other Government Departments have been doing, that is down to local engagement, such as job fairs. I thank her for all the work that she has done in her constituency to support her constituents to find jobs and get into work—sometimes for the first time.

I also welcome the right hon. Lady to her new role. In the light of the leaks to the media over the last few days, could we have a debate to find out why this Government believe that to make the poor work harder or try harder we should cut their benefits, but that to get wealthy bankers to work harder we should increase their bonuses?

The Chancellor will be in this place tomorrow, and Members will be able to question him on what his policies are rather than speculating about what has or has not been in the media. I hope that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and Mr Speaker would approve of that.

Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we have witnessed an extraordinary nationwide and, indeed, kingdom-wide response: a moving mix of sorrow and celebration—sorrow at our loss and celebration of a life of remarkable service. So that that mood is marked forever and remembrance can last for generations to come, a fitting national memorial needs to be established. Does the Leader of the House therefore agree that a statement should be made to this House on what form that memorial might take? For me, a statue on the final plinth in Trafalgar Square would be ideal.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his suggestion. Clearly, these matters will concern many Members, but they will also involve other bodies outside this House. However, I shall certainly raise it with the DCMS Secretary and ensure that she properly consults Members on their wishes as plans are taken forward.

Evidence of the physical and mental health benefits of greater access to the countryside is overwhelming, yet we have a legal right to roam on only 8% of English land and 3% of rivers. Could we have a debate in Government time on the need to expand the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to cover rivers, woods and green belt, and will the Government support my private Member’s Bill—the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (Amendment) Bill—published today, which would succeed in doing exactly that?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising these issues. I hope, subject to the motion on the Order Paper agreeing recess dates, to be able very swiftly to publish the next schedule of departmental questions to enable hon. Members to raise these issues directly with Departments. I thank her for making us aware of her private Member’s Bill.

On page 31 of the Conservative party manifesto, the Government pledge to protect greenfield sites and prioritise brownfield sites for development, yet in practice planning inspectors are overturning local democratic planning authorities’ decisions to refuse building on greenfield sites—most recently at South Road in Wivelsfield in my constituency, while Nolands Farm in Plumpton and Mornings Mill in Polegate are facing a similar fate. Can we have a debate in Government time about the Government’s commitment to their pledge in the manifesto, the promise made by the Prime Minister to the Father of the House recently, and the role of planning inspectors in overturning these democratic decisions?

Order. Before I call the Leader of the House, let me say that I want to get everybody in, so it is quite important that questions are brief.

During the recent leadership contest, the Prime Minister restated her commitment both to empowering local people and to keeping our promises in our manifesto. I hope that will give my hon. Friend some comfort, but she will obviously be able to question the Prime Minister in the usual way, and her voice will have been heard today.

I welcome the new Leader of the House, and I look forward to our meeting every week. Could she very quickly make a statement to the House about the welfare of the people who work here? Increasingly, the Members of Parliament who are wearing air quality detectors are picking up that this is not a safe environment to work in, and something should be done about it.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue, and I look forward to our weekly meetings that he promises. I shall certainly take up the issue he raises with the House authorities.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on becoming not only Leader of the House, but Lord President of the Council. In that latter capacity, will she urge the Privy Council not to agree to the proposed change in name of Linacre College, Oxford to that of a Vietnamese billionaire who is proposing to give £155 million to the college? If we want to clean up the dirty money and dodgy donations in this country, that would be a good place to start.

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this matter. I will ensure that the Department for Education has heard what he says. I suspect that that is the more appropriate and swiftest way of resolving the issues of concern to him.

Can we have a debate on the treatment of British citizens in Spanish prisons? My Livingston constituent Jamielee Fielding is nearly seven months pregnant and has gestational diabetes, but despite having paid the fine, the Spanish authorities in Tenerife are holding her, removing vital food and medication, and breaching her human rights. She has a very short window to get home to have her baby. Would the Leader of the House press the Foreign Secretary to help get Jamielee home, and to meet me so that I can do everything I can to make sure that she is safe, healthy and home as soon as possible?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising the plight of her constituent, and I will certainly do that. I will raise it with the Foreign Office and urge it to be in touch with the hon. Lady.

I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) in condemning the violent attacks on Hindu temples in Leicester and Smethwick only last night. Next week, the Hindu festival of Navaratri begins, on 24 October we will celebrate Diwali, and the following day is Hindu new year. The Hindu community in this country are seriously concerned about their safety in going about their celebrations, so could my right hon. Friend arrange for an urgent statement to be made by the new Home Secretary on what arrangements will be made to make sure that our Hindu friends and neighbours are able to celebrate their religion in peace and harmony, as they have always done?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. As he stresses, this is also a very timely issue, and I will certainly take it up with the Home Secretary.

This week, the Government’s £150 cost of living payment to disabled people started to go out, but unpaid carers such as Katy Styles have said that that amount “won’t…scratch the surface” of what is needed. Katy’s husband, Mark Styles, has a rare form of motor neurone disease and, like many disabled people, relies on equipment that uses electricity and on his home being kept warmer so that he does not get chest infections. This is a widespread issue for disabled people and their unpaid family carers, so can we have a debate in Government time so that we can raise these issues with Ministers?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important issue. It is a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions, and also for the Department of Health and Social Care. The Secretary of State for the latter Department will be in the House shortly, and the hon. Lady should raise that with her, or in the usual way. However, I shall certainly make sure that both Departments are aware of her concerns.

I agree with my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken in praise of the extraordinary scenes we have seen over the past two weeks—nowhere more so, of course, than in my constituency of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine when the world saw the community of Royal Deeside pay tribute to Her late Majesty as she was taken from Balmoral on her final journey. A lot of the ceremony of those two weeks was organised by lords lieutenant across the country, who remain unpaid, so would my right hon. Friend agree to a debate in Government time on the Scottish National party Government’s austerity agenda? It is slashing not only millions of pounds from education in Scotland and from local government in Scotland, but tens of millions pounds from the budgets of the lords lieutenant who play such a crucial role in our national life, as has been proven over the past two weeks.

The Scottish National party is clearly obsessed with issues that are of little concern to the people of Scotland—public services, their ability to access healthcare or get their bins emptied, or any of the other things on which the party is dropping the ball. However, I do think that the services provided—focal points for communities and the link to our royal family—are incredibly important and should be preserved and cherished.

The Leader of the House must be alarmed about what happened in Hong Kong on Monday evening, when a citizen who paid their respects to Her late Majesty the Queen was arrested under the sedition laws. Have any representations been made by this Government to the Chinese embassy about what seems to be a terrible way to treat a citizen in Hong Kong?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that appalling event, which I am sure will have dismayed every Member of this House. I shall ask the Foreign Office to contact him to confirm what has been done in the wake of that event.

I add my thanks to those of all Members of the House for the brilliant national commemorative events, and I wish also to thank those who worked so hard to make our local events in Southend West so dignified—the mayor, council officers, community groups, church leaders, police and the scouts. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) who asked for a national debate on a permanent tribute to Her late Majesty. Does the Leader of the House agree with Chalkwell Lifeguards who are already suggesting a Queen Elizabeth II lifesaving award in honour of their late patron?

I join my hon. Friend in thanking everyone across the country who did so much to enable all our communities properly to pay tribute to and mourn the loss of our great Queen. She is gone, but her values remain with us, and there will be huge interest not just in a permanent memorial to her, but in many schemes that strengthen our communities and bring people together, as she did in life.

Many of my constituents in Lewisham East live in buildings with district heating networks. They are not covered by the energy price cap, and some are paying 13 times the energy cap. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), I was alarmed by reports that the Energy Bill, which could put in place regulation for heating networks, may be halted or dropped. Will the Leader of the House ask the Business Secretary to come to the Floor of the House to clarify the future of that Bill, and specifically that issue?

Many hon. Members put questions to the Business Secretary earlier today. I will raise that specific issue with him, and business will be announced in the usual way.

Does my right hon. Friend share my deep concern about the decision of PayPal, the online payments company, to cancel the accounts of certain organisations, including UsForThem, which campaigned against the covid lockdowns and—perhaps most ironically—the Free Speech Union, which appears to have been targeted because of its views on sex and gender? As we move towards a cashless economy, those companies form part of the essential infrastructure of ordinary life. Will the Government take steps to ensure that such companies cannot discriminate against individuals or organisations on the basis of perfectly legal political views?

My hon. Friend may have more information than I do about why PayPal has cancelled those accounts and removed that facility from the organisations he mentioned. From what I understand, the Free Speech Union and other organisations are still in the dark about exactly why they have had those services removed, despite making great efforts to find out. That is a common theme in the casework of many Members of the House, whether that is cancelling contracts or trying to get an error resolved with firms, and it is difficult for people to speak directly to someone to try to get a situation resolved, or to reorganise how they will make those payments. That is a good topic for debate, and I encourage hon. Members who are concerned about customer services in some of these organisations to bring the issue forward and ask for a debate in the usual way.

Some 6.7 million households across the UK already live in fuel poverty, with a current cap price of £1,971. Will the Leader of the House make a statement to set out whether she believes that the energy cap rising by another £600 will help householders such as those in my constituency who already cannot afford to pay their energy bills, as well as those who will shortly find themselves adding to the soaring numbers of those in fuel poverty as a direct result of the new increase in the price cap?

The hon. Lady will know that we have acted swiftly to bring forward measures to help households and businesses with the rising cost of energy. The Government will also address the underlying issues that are exacerbating the problem. One of those has been announced today, and the Business Secretary has answered an urgent question on that. I urge all Members of the House to concentrate on issues that will help us to increase supply of energy, as well as controlling the costs.

The air ambulance is a vital service for many areas of the United Kingdom, and none more so than the rural areas of mid-Wales. Wales Air Ambulance is a great charity that is very dear to the hearts of my constituents, and something we support all year round. The bases are being reconfigured, however, and the air ambulance at Welshpool airport, of which we are very proud, looks to be moved further north. May we have a debate in Government time on the funding and coverage of air ambulances? The service is incredibly important to rural Wales, and we must keep it.

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important issue. We often forget that that incredible service is provided across the country by many organisations that are, in fact, charities. It is right that local people have input into how such services are run in their area, and he will know that the Government have changed their treatment of air ambulances to ensure that they are able to thrive financially.

Do the Government still intend to bring forward legislation in this Parliament to amend, repeal or replace the Human Rights Act, or to constrain the independence of the judiciary by further restricting judicial review?

Historic Boars Hill in my Oxford constituency is facing the prospect of a grossly inappropriate development. Peking University HSBC Business School, which is owned by the Chinese Communist party, has submitted a planning application to expand vastly the campus at Foxcombe Hall. The planning committee narrowly approved the application, weighing economic benefit against the loss of the green belt. As far as I can see, however, the main beneficiary of any economic activity is the Chinese state, not the local area. Our hope now sits with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who has the right to call in the application, but with recesses, no questions and many letters written, I am desperate for a meeting with him and his officials to explain why this is the wrong choice both locally and nationally.

I am aware that the hon. Lady has made a formal request for the planning application to be called in for consideration by the Secretary of State, and that may limit some of the conversations she might be able to have with him. I will write to him seeking guidance from his Department about the most appropriate way for the hon. Lady to engage with this matter. Further to the comments I made earlier to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), she should also raise the matter with the Department for Education.

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff has been interviewed by the FBI in connection with electoral bribery in Puerto Rico. May we have a Government statement on that to consider whether any UK laws may have been broken, whether the FBI interview has affected the chief of staff’s security status, and whether the Prime Minister was informed of the FBI interview before her chief of staff’s appointment was confirmed?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to statements that have been issued on this matter. I do not think it an issue that should be debated at length on the Floor of this House. I assure him that everything he would expect to be done is being done, but it is not a matter for debate here.

Trussell Trust figures from this summer show that four in 10 of those on universal credit were already skipping meals. Given that there will be another price hike in the next few days, does the Leader of the House expect to be timetabling in yet another fiscal statement, or does she expect our constituents to simply starve?

I suggest that the hon. Lady comes to the House tomorrow and raises those issues directly with the Chancellor. I know it is his intention to set out the plan for growth and how that will assist her constituents, and she will have ample time to question him then and in the future.

I would like to ask about the Government’s commitment to transparency and the protection of whistleblowers. Whistleblowers such as my constituent Paul Calvert are being left in limbo and suffering great stress. Many bereaved families are questioning the decision to appoint NHS insider Dame Marianne Griffiths to lead the review of systematic cover-ups by the North East Ambulance Service. Can we have a statement or a general debate in Government time on the whistleblower protection and ensuring transparency in the public service, so that we can learn any lessons that need to be learned?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important constituency matter, which I will be happy to raise with the Secretary of State for Health, but he is right: we owe whistleblowers a huge debt, and they need to be protected.

There used to be two trains an hour from Penge West and Anerley stations in my constituency to London Bridge. Now there are none, and the number from Sydenham and Forest Hill stations has halved. Govia Thameslink tells me that, due to a reduction of Government funding in the 2021 spending review, it has had to cut capacity, but that is having a huge impact on my constituents’ ability to access employment, education and healthcare. Can we please have a debate in Government time about support for regional rail networks?

This Government have done a huge amount, not just to support existing rail but to build new schemes and help our towns and cities to connect in ways that they have not before. I would urge the hon. Lady to raise this at the next Transport questions, on 13 October.

Several of my constituents have contacted me to complain that the Financial Conduct Authority has failed to protect them from false investment scams, including so-called mini-bonds, despite flags being raised. The FCA has accredited and listed companies despite their directors not being real people. The FCA rules are clearly unfit for purpose. Can we have a debate in Government time on how to reform the rules and provide genuine protection for those who have been targeted?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue that I am sure will be of concern to many Members in this House. I would urge him to raise this at the next Treasury questions, on 11 October, and I shall certainly make sure that the Treasury has heard what he has said today.

The Leader of the House will be aware that thousands of constituents in Cardiff South and Penarth live in apartment blocks that are affected by fire and building safety defects. As well as needing to get the defects fixed, many are unfortunately facing spiralling insurance costs and also a failure by lenders to implement the Government’s guidance, which affects their ability to get mortgages and so on. May we have an urgent statement from the new Minister for Housing or one of the Treasury Ministers so that we can debate these important issues?

I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise that matter with both Departments, but some of the issues that he touches on are devolved.

The death of Mahsa Amini in Iran for allegedly breaking hijab rules was shocking, as was the Iranian authorities’ response to the subsequent protests. Can we have a statement from the Government on the support they are providing to human rights activists in Iran, including those who have to seek asylum here in the UK?

I am sure that all Members of this House would want to echo the hon. Lady’s comments. It was the most barbaric and appalling act and has caused huge amounts of disquiet, and clearly repercussions are now unfurling in Iran. I shall make sure that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office responds to the hon. Lady’s concerns, and I would encourage all Members who want to put a spotlight on what is going on, and to send a message to people who are struggling against a very repressive regime, to apply for a debate in the usual way.

The Leader of the House may be aware that there have been almost 3,600 cases of monkeypox in the UK, one of the highest numbers in Europe. Experts, including the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and PrEPster, have said that, without urgent action, monkeypox could become endemic in the UK. The Government’s public health response has been far too slow. Can we have an urgent statement so that we can get a grip on the situation and ensure that no one is left behind?

I shall certainly make sure that the Secretary of State for Health hears what the hon. Lady has said. The Government have clearly done some things on this matter, in particular to try to raise awareness and give health advice, but I shall raise it with the relevant Department and ask the new Secretary of State to get in touch with the hon. Lady.

Another couple of weeks have elapsed, so can I ask the Leader of the House when the Government intend to lay a second remedial order on bereavement support payments for cohabiting couples? Given that the courts decided four years ago that these payments should happen, will that remedial order be laid before recess tomorrow?

I have raised this matter, from memory, with the relevant Department. I will follow that up and make sure that the Department is in touch with the hon. Gentleman’s office.

May I welcome the Leader of the House to her new position and urge her to use it to secure a debate in Government time on levelling up? It was the mantra of the previous Administration, and those of us with local authorities that have bid for the latest round of the levelling-up fund are keen to be able to promote our schemes. In particular, I want to promote Tameside Council’s scheme for Denton, Denton, Denton, so can we get that chance?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman for doing precisely that this afternoon. He will know that the Prime Minister is still committed to this agenda, and he will have an opportunity tomorrow to raise any issues he wishes with the Chancellor, because clearly this is also about growth.

A survey by Child Poverty Action Group has found that scrapping the benefit cap is twice as popular as scrapping the cap on bankers’ bonuses. Axing the benefit cap, which has been frozen since 2016, would put an average of £65 per week in families’ pockets. Can we have a debate in Government time on the importance of supporting struggling families in Glasgow Central, rather than the Tories helping their wealthy banker pals in the City of London?

Again, I would encourage the hon. Lady to show up tomorrow and put her questions directly to the Chancellor. I would also urge all hon. Members not to get too excited about things they read in the press, but to wait till they hear what the Chancellor has to say.

A 1993 rule introduced by the then Government said that inheritance tax does not have to be paid on the transfer of assets from one sovereign to another. At the time, the then Leader of the Opposition, the late John Smith, asked:

“although it is accepted that assets held by the Queen as sovereign should not be liable to inheritance tax, will the Prime Minister explain why all private assets passing from one sovereign to the next should also be exempt?”—[Official Report, 11 February 1993; Vol. 218, c. 1114.]

This remains a legitimate question, so would the Leader of the House allow time for discussion on this matter?

If the hon. Gentleman would like to write to me with the specifics of what he is concerned about, I would be happy to find the best way that we could raise this as an issue and give him some certainty, so that he can apply for a debate.

The Conservative manifesto promoted levelling up, but now the Government seem, without a mandate, to be pivoting their focus to trickle-down economics. Given that the International Monetary Fund has said that making the rich richer does not drive growth and that President Biden has tweeted:

“I am sick and tired of trickle-down economics. It has never worked”,

can we have a debate on the utter failure of trickle-down economics, as favoured by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher?

I would point, first, to our £37 billion support package to enable people to cope with the cost of living, which could not be described as a trickle in any respect. I think that, rather than a lot of commentary about economic plans, what the people of this country want to see is action, and that is what they will get tomorrow, and I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to come to the House and listen to the Chancellor.

The sharp rise in short-term holiday lets over the last few years, and particularly the last few months, is fuelling the housing crisis in York and also the cost of living crisis. Can we have a debate to discuss the licensing that needs to be introduced to curb the industry and ensure that our constituents have preferential access to housing?

I will certainly raise this with the relevant Department. I would encourage the hon. Lady, when the next schedule of questions is published, to come to the House and ask the Secretary of State.

I welcome the confirmation from the Leader of the House that a statement on the UK’s contribution to the Global Fund will be forthcoming, but I wonder whether we could have a wider debate on UK aid spending, in particular on the pressures on the budget, given the decision to go from 0.7% to 0.5%, and on how we can ensure support for Ukraine is additional to, not instead of, existing aid plans.

Again, the hon. Member has an opportunity tomorrow to raise those issues directly with the Chancellor. We have had fairly recent debates on the aid budget, but I am sure that, when the announcement, which is imminent, on the Global Fund is made, there will be further opportunities to question Ministers about that.

The Edenfield Centre mental health unit in Prestwich in my constituency is to be subject to a police investigation following a “Panorama” investigation due to the mistreatment of patients. Following those devastating announcements, will the Leader of the House be able to arrange for either a statement from the Health Secretary or a meeting with me, so I can discuss those concerns moving forward?

The hon. Member raises a very important point. The Department of Health and Social Care has done a lot of work in recent weeks on ensuring care settings for individuals are appropriate for them. Clearly, this is an immediate case for him and I urge him to raise it directly with the Secretary of State. I shall make sure that she is aware of his concerns.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and I am grateful to Members across the House who have signed my early-day motion noting that. It is unsurprising that they have done so, because this issue, sadly, affects every constituency in Scotland and across the UK. There have been improvements in outcomes for children with cancer, but they have not been significant enough and some treatments have not advanced in 40 years. Can we therefore have a debate in Government time on how the UK Government can support the improvement in, and increase in, levels of research, and whether Members across the House will support Wear It Gold Day tomorrow to support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising awareness of that important day. I am sure all Members will want to support the aims she sets out. The Government have clearly done a huge amount to advance partnerships in life science involving academic institutes but also the charitable sector, for example, with reforms on shared intellectual property. We will continue to do that as part of our growth plan.

I welcome the right hon. Lady to her new position and hope that the last few months of inertia will finally be behind us. Among the many important issues committed to in the Government’s 2019 manifesto, but on which we have seen scant sign of any progress, is the long promised employment Bill. Can the Leader of the House outline when we can expect to see this important legislation timetabled, so we can end the race to the bottom in employment rights in this country, exacerbated by our current economic crisis?

First, I challenge what the hon. Lady says about this country’s record on employment rights. We have tended to lead the world, and certainly Europe, on that. I also challenge her description of a summer of inertia. On the first occasion possible, we have brought forward measures on the cost of living and tackling the cost of energy, she will shortly hear a statement from the new Secretary of State for Health on our plans to assist health and social care, and the plan for growth will be unveiled by the new Chancellor tomorrow. That has not just been pulled out of a hat. A huge amount of work has been done across the summer, including by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and it will be announced in the normal way.

I thank the Leader of the House for making time today to debate the situation in Ukraine, but in the last few weeks we have seen an escalation in military violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and on the border between Kosovo and Serbia. We know there has been some Russian involvement, although not directly, in those conflicts. Will the Leader of the House make time to debate wider conflict zones in Europe and central Asia?

I am sure all hon. Members will have been very disturbed by the reports of violence but also violation of dead bodies—very horrific things. I shall certainly make sure that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is aware of Members’ concerns and I encourage the hon. Member to put those questions directly to the new Foreign Secretary.

Verified videos by Human Rights Watch graphically illustrate the brutality and barbarism of Azerbaijan’s recent attack on Armenia, showing an elderly Armenian civilian decapitated with a knife and his head mounted on the carcass of a pig, and the mutilated corpse of a female Armenian soldier, with her eyes gauged out and replaced by stones. It should be noted that Azerbaijan is also backed heavily by NATO member Turkey, with one Turkish political leader stating last week:

“I remind you once again the Turkish nation has the power to erase Armenia from history and geography.”

Can we have an urgent debate in Government time on the illegal attacks by Azerbaijan on the democracy of Armenia and a statement from the UK Government condemning all those who support those horrific actions and hate speech?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for being the second Member to raise those issues. I will certainly take that up with the new Foreign Secretary.

Today, the National Education Union and the Daily Mirror have relaunched their “No child left behind” campaign, which calls for urgent action on child poverty. Will the Leader of the House call on the Secretary of State for Education to roll out free universal school meals to at least all children in primary schools, to prevent children from going hungry?

I will certainly raise what the hon. Lady says with the new Secretary of State. I also encourage her to put those questions directly to him at the next round of questions.

In the light of the Bank of England’s statement this morning that interest rates are to go up again, food inflation going through the roof and the burgeoning Government debt, which is dragging us all down, will the Leader of the House make it a priority for us to debate in Government time how we are going to pay this debt back? Will it be our grandchildren, or the grandchildren of our grand- children who will be able to pay back the enormous debts that the Government are accruing this week through their decisions?

The hon. Lady will know that the Chancellor will be here tomorrow to take questions from all Members in this House. In addition to the very considerable support packages that have been put in place for both households and businesses, the answer to the problems she raises is about getting growth back into our economy. That is what the Government will be focused on and what she will hear from the Chancellor tomorrow.

I know the Leader of the House shares my appreciation and gratitude for the life of service given by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth. She was a lady of great faith who greatly respected people of other faiths. Will the Leader of the House provide time for a statement on what our Government plan to do to advance the rights to freedom of religion or belief, the interconnectedness of freedom of religion or belief to all human rights and its relevance to foreign policy and trade?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important matter. Yes, Her late Majesty the Queen was a beacon for that not just within the United Kingdom but throughout the Commonwealth and the wider world. I shall certainly encourage the Foreign Secretary to get in touch with him on how we can continue the work of the envoy we have appointed on religious freedom and the FCDO’s other programmes.

Back in June, the Leader of the House’s predecessor joined me in congratulating a teen boxer from Blantyre in my constituency. Will the Leader join me in congratulating young Jacob Naismith again after his historic win in the 46 kg EUBC schools boxing championships in Turkey this summer, making him the youngest competitor ever to win that crown? Can we have a debate in Government time on the importance of local youth sporting groups in our communities across the UK?

I am delighted to be able to join the hon. Lady in congratulating Jacob on his achievements in one of the toughest sports going. The new Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is very passionate about the sporting agenda, particularly for young people and children, and will want to ensure we are building and bringing forward schemes to encourage physical activity and excellence in sport.